The shots below, of a man brushing his teeth at a public fountain and a baby in a box at a market stand, are from the same walk to a market in Myeik, Myanmar.
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In other words, sometimes it’s better to look more like a tourist than a professional.
I have currently just self published a book and I am setting up talks in both London and Hong Kong. I am hoping my photography can reach a wider audience by being shown in major museums and galleries. I will continue my long-term project for many years to come. Meanwhile, I am hoping to start a new project that deals with other female traditions. Link to your website.
Most great pictures don’t just happen like that. I’ve taken a camera on countless hikes, nights out and trips to the supermarket, and most of the time I come home with nothing. Increase your chances of capturing great pictures by always having your camera on you.
Although interested from an earlier age with playing with the camera, I did not start to focus on my photography until 1998. I was stationed in Hong Kong at that time, and decided to travel to Beijing and Tibet. Once there I could not put the camera down and realized that I had found my true passion.
I am inspired by Mary Ellen Mark, the way she focuses on a specific project and takes photographs of people and places to tell their story. She has a huge body of work which is a testament to her skill and dedication for photography.
The shot above is of members of a military band at a football game in Shiraz, Iran. My friend and I came across Hafezieh Stadium by accident, having followed the noise. Western visitors are rare, and when we walked in, the crowd gave us a warm welcome cheer. After taking photos with many people, we met Pourya, who spotted us in the crowd and invited us to the press stand. We spent the next week on an epic desert road trip with him and his 1979 Chevy Caprice he called Titanic, with its New York state number plates.
Jo Farrell is an award-winning black and white photographer and cultural anthropologist. Born in London, England she has been based in Hong Kong for the past seven years. Her photography work focuses on traditions and cultures that are dying out, including the project “Living History: Bound Feet Women of China.” She has been the recipient of numerous awards for her work on bound feet including a Jacob Riis Award, Black & White Spider Award, Center for Fine Art Photography and Women In Photography International winner juried by Mary Ellen Mark. She has had solo exhibitions in London, San Francisco and Hong Kong and has been included in group shows in New York, LA and Denver, Colorado. Her project has received critical acclaim and has been published internationally including The Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal, BBC, CNN, Stern magazine, Time Out, Fast Co., International Business Times and the Sydney Morning Herald. In early 2015 she will be presenting her work at TEDxWarwick.
Small cameras freak people out less and they are less heavy, so it’s easier to carry them around all day. They tend to raise fewer suspicions from bouncers, security guards and law enforcement, so it’s sometimes easier to get them into places, and it takes longer for you to be kicked out.
Most great documentary photos are the result of preparation, time and relationships. Street photography isn’t about luck; it’s about forcing chance. It’s not enough to have a camera on you. You need to go out of your way, get up early for the sunrise and stay up late for the action. Sometimes you might stand in the rain for hours on some street corner because the reflections are nice and it’s a great backdrop, but you have to wait for the right kind of protagonist to appear and complete the scene.
Shooting real life, as opposed to in a studio or at an on-location shoot, you have little control over colors and lighting. Taking images for black and white can help deal with the difficulties of color composition on the street or in crowds, and in bad artificial lighting.
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Keeping a distance is more polite and more comfortable, especially when you’re with strangers. But the closer you get, the better the pictures. I find it helps if you don’t come with a big DSLR, lights flashing and the sound of the shutter constantly going off.
You have to be open and forward to realize the difference between taking photos at a cafe on Main Street and getting access to people’s homes, weddings or saunas. Make friends, build relationships and say yes if someone invites you along. Even if you don’t speak the language, you can usually get a long way with sign language and silly drawings.
As a teenager I was transfixed by 1940s, 50s and 60s movies filmed in black and white. They told stories through form, shape, texture, light and shadow. I used to collect stills from these movies. Black and white gives more depth to an image, more emotion and requires more use of ones imagination. So often I see colour photographs that just lack composition, without the colour they would be dull and boring.
Biography, Conceptual, Documentary, Featured, Foot Binding, Interview, Jo Farrell, United Kingdom
Where is your photography going? What projects would you like to accomplish?
My long-term project, Living History: Bound Feet Women of China, originally took a lot of preparation to build the foundation of the work. In recent years, I often get on a plane to mainland China with only doing the basics—having my Hasselblad’s cleaned, purchasing film and contacting a translator to see her availability. Once I am there, every day is different and can only be coordinated once on the ground. The women in the project live in rural areas and cannot be contacted in advance. Often I have driven past a woman who has bound feet and have stopped the car to see if they will be included in the project. Finding the participants is word-and-mouth. Having been working on this project for some years, I know the angles I potentially want to take and it’s a matter of studying each woman and location to get their story.
I take most of my photos with the same fixed-lens Fuji X100S, occasionally switching to analog cameras or the even smaller and cheaper Sony DSC RX100, which almost fits in jean pockets. There are limitations in terms of image quality and versatility, but I’ve still never owned a DSLR.
The rest of these shots document a Moravian wine tasting at the Čevela family vineyard in Hodonín, Czech Republic. The damp cellar is lit by two lamps mounted on the ceiling, the kind you might find in a garage or a mineshaft. The plastic shades on the lamps give subjects’ skin an artificial, unhealthy-looking orange. Black and white resolves this problem, giving images a feel that corresponds to the bare, archaic space.
I shot the photo above at 7 a.m. The sun, barely over the horizon, aligned with one of the many alleys of the ancient bazaar in Isfahan, Iran. The place was deserted, with only the occasional pedestrian. Fifteen minutes later, the dramatic light would be gone and the place would be buzzing with people, products and LEDs.
I took the picture above through a window from the street in Budapest, Hungary. It shows a theater audience watching two actors onstage. The street serves as the backdrop; as the audience reacts to me taking pictures from outside, the actors start involving me in the play. Not everything can be planned.
Documentary Photography: The Art of Capturing the World in Black & White Black & White Photography / Photography / Recently On Behind the Shutter
The photo above is from a series that shows people’s emotions close up while they are experiencing the show of Prague’s Astronomical Clock. The show happens every hour, 12 times a day, and larger crowds gather each hour. Statues move about for 13 seconds. I enjoyed capturing the wonder in the faces of people oblivious to their surroundings as they watched, which makes this a prime spot for both photographers and pickpockets. I took the shot from about 4 feet away. If you want to ask for permission, you can always do that after.
How much preparation do you put into taking a photograph/series of photographs?
Location Session: The Ins and Outs of Shooting on Location March 28, 2015 Tips for Tethering: 5 Things You Should Know with Vanessa Joy December 1, 2016 Storytelling in Commercial and Editorial Photography October 1, 2017
In my first photography class in journalism school, our teacher asked us to carry a camera around with us at all times during the semester. I thought this was a bit extreme at first, but in the end, I was one of the only students who really tried. It made me look at the world in terms of motives, frames and potential pictures. It made me think about photography much more, and it forced me to practice. You never know what unexpected event or curious scene you might come across.
Documentary Photography: The Art of Capturing the World in Black & White with Chris Lettner
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