Atmosphere and Series Work

I find that the photographers I am most interested in are those with images that tie together to produce an experience that goes beyond any single image. A good example of this is Hiroshi Sugimoto and his seascapes. Individually, they are all beautiful, but when viewed as one piece of work the consistency and striking minimalist composition makes it even more stunning.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been thinking about Ghosts, which is a series I’ve been working on exploring the streets of York. If you’re interested you can look at the rest of the posts about the series here. With something like this, a single image alone can’t capture the atmosphere. With Ghosts, the aim is to produce something that ties together multiple images to form a single continuous experience. This takes photography beyond the capturing of a single shot – I have to consider how images will look when placed on a page together and how their order will lead the viewer through the series. I find this extra depth fascinating, because while I do still enjoy producing beautiful images that stand on their own, I feel like producing a series like this adds another dimension to the creative process. Today I’d like to show you an image I’ve been deliberating over since I took it on Monday.

By the River Ouse (Flickr).jpg
By the River Ouse

If you look at the previous shots I’ve shared as part of this series, you can see a dramatic change in the look, especially in the lighting. The previous three images were all taken around dawn or dusk, on the streets of inner-city York, while this one was taken after the sun had set, on a quiet path along the River Ouse. The street is lit only by the row of streetlamps along the right of the image, rather than the ambient dusk light of the others, making the scene dark and dramatic. The reason I’d debated including this in the series is because of this drastic difference when compared to the rest of the series. It seems like such a change that it doesn’t fit in the series, but then I thought about what I wanted to achieve with Ghosts and I changed my mind.

The series is not supposed to be homogeneous. If all I did were take 10 images that look similar and put them in a book, I wouldn’t really be saying anything. Here, I am trying to create an experience for the viewer to immerse themselves in. Each image forms part of a guided tour of the city, as seen through my eyes. This image fits perfectly into the series, not because it is visually similar to the others, but because it is a key component of my tour. I could not tell my story of York without this street, and I could not show you this street in any other way. As I’ve said before here, this area is one I visit a lot. When I need some space from the stress of uni life, I come here, to the path along the river, and I take a walk. Late at night there is no-one here, except for the odd dog-walker or cyclist coming home from work. It’s not as well-known as the Shambles or Stonegate, but it is every bit as important to me as any other place in York.

This series is probably going to take a while to complete. I want to produce something with about 20 pages, with some of those pages being images, and some text. So far I have four or five shots that I’d want to include in Ghosts, and considering I’ll be leaving York soon, that number is not going to increase very quickly over the next few months. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my aims for this series, and I hope you enjoy following its development in the months to come!

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