I’d originally wanted to take a set of images to express some of my own personal political views, and had planned to use a combination of reflections and vortography after seeing some vortographs by Alvin Langdon Coburn. I’d experimented using some images of New York that I’d taken last year and the effect worked reasonably well so I’d been taking images for my assignment with vortography in mind; all my research and thinking was originally centred around that idea. I’ve included the notes and research I completed for the vortographs as I hope that I can revisit the idea when my personal life calms down a little.
Personal circumstances made it difficult for me to get the images I felt I needed in London as I worked on this assignment. I tried to take images as vortographs locally, but I felt that both aesthetically and in terms of communicating the message I’d wanted to get across they just weren’t working. I was expecting to be able to get more images in London nearer to the assignment deadline, but that didn’t happen. I then had to rethink the assignment and take it in a totally different direction, with little time left to research or plan, when I knew the images I’d hoped to create weren’t going to work.
The set of images of The Eiffel Tower in Paris is working with a more traditional idea of view, or perhaps more accurately perspectives, but I didn’t want to get a set of typical views of the Eiffel Tower so I have tried to do something a bit different.
The original purpose of the Eiffel Tower was to suggest and celebrate the power of France, and strong vertical lines suggest links with virility, power and the spirituality that every nation wants to claim for it’s own as a justification for that power.
Like power and spirituality, the tower seems quite elegant from a distance, up close of course there are rivets, rust, and a chaotic feeling from lines of iron leading everywhere and nowhere, but all linked in some mysterious way to create this iconic monument to the industrial power of France. I liked that chaotic idea as it matches my experience of Paris in general, along with the feelings of being in the crowds of people who are visiting the Eiffel Tower, all speaking different languages, all seemingly obeying different cultural rules as they cross each other’s paths.
I tried to vary combinations of focal length, aperture and viewpoint while I took the images, and I ended up with about 300 images in total. However, looking at the images I’ve chosen here I find that my preferred images are mainly taken with a zoom lens and a wide aperture as opposed to the wide angle lens, small aperture and slow shutter speed suggested for views in the course text. I wanted shots that weren’t obvious so this combination has given me the results I wanted. Some shots have the tower totally out of focus, but it’s always there in the background; again, working as a symbol of a power that isn’t always clear but is always present. Because the Eiffel Tower is so iconic, it is still recognisable even when obscured or unfocused. With the exception of image 8, I also wanted to hide views of the works going on around the tower and the vehicles, hoardings and people. However, I didn’t want all of the images to be totally devoid of life, so there are birds, there are some people, there are representations of people and hopefully the movement of the carousel suggests their presence.
Obviously the Eiffel Tower is very iconic, so hopefully that helps the images to work as a set. I decided to use monochrome rather than colour to help too. The light on the day I made the images helped with that decision as it felt monochromatic anyway, the colour of the tower is not particularly attractive, and monochrome helps that feeling of a tradition and structure which is powerful and helps to emphasise and tie in with the ideas of line I’d researched in the run up to this assignment.
I felt that many of the landscape format images were perhaps more successful in some ways, but the feeling of strength is heightened in a portrait format. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to use a tripod and I think it shows in the final images, especially with a long focal length as it was hard to focus and I do realise that it’s something that needs to be improved. My sensor had some dirt on it and I wasn’t able to remove it so that was frustrating as there were images I couldn’t use because of it. I still don’t have a good feel for what a set of images should look like. I am trying to balance variations in view for interest that might end up breaking a set up with avoiding creating a set of images that feels monotonous. In image number 6 I wanted to have a group of people in focus on the tower, and the group in front of the tower out of focus. I’m not sure if it works because the people on the tower are too far away to be clearly noticeable. The first five images are my favourite. I really wasn’t sure about number 7 especially as it’s really echoing ideas from images 2 and 5. I’ve included it as I hope it adds to the feeling of the overall collection. I added the final image as I think it helps to fulfil the idea of lens effects. I like number 9 but I wish I could re-take it with a different aperture and frame it slightly differently as I’m not sure it works.
Sudjic, D. (n.d.). The language of cities.
Webb, J. (2010). Design principles. Lausanne: AVA Academia.
Edwards, P., Antliff, M. and Greene, V. (2010). The Vorticists. London: Tate Publishing.