The Thames foreshore was a feature of London most people (especially those visiting as tourists) would overlook – ‘focussing on structures that are often overlooked or dismissed as banal’ – James Smith – BJP Feb 2014.
One observation I’ve made concerning certainly my own photography and other photographers as well is that while a strong foreground element and background element make a good ‘standard’ for a landscape, the foreground is usually the main variable that separates photos from other photographs. The background however remains fairly constant if photographing the same setting. By carefully choosing the composition the photographer is able to suggest conflict or harmony between the background and foreground elements differently in the same setting; mostly down to the foreground. I realise these might seem quite general comments but my point would be that the vantage point and selection (where possible) of the foreground may change (by whim or because of message intended by the photographer) to what was desired to be conveyed to the viewer. Meanwhile, the background (excluding the sky usually) is still recognisable as the same.
An idea because of this observation would be that I could search for something natural as a foreground element in the city. The first element of the city that sprung to mind was the Thames. More specifically and more uncommon was the foreshore of the Thames when the tide was out. While the foreshore did indeed include many man-made components like jetties and wharves, these components were so corroded by the gradual wear of the river that in my eyes at least they almost seemed natural. The Thames foreshore was a feature of London most people (especially those visiting as tourists) would overlook (especially when the tide was in!). This reminded me of a quote I read in the British Journal of Photography (February 2014) by photographer James Smith: – ‘focussing on structures that are often overlooked or dismissed as banal’ – James Smith – British Journal of Photography (February 2014). Coincidentally his approach to landscape photography interested me as well, where: ‘while he focuses on landscape in his work, it’s the built environment and the human response to it that interest him.’ The majority of the urban landscape in London was ‘built environment’ but ironically one of it’s few natural elements – the Thames – holds secret another ‘built environment’ that is only revealed when the tide of the Thames is out – the jetties and wharves of the Thames foreshore. I could potentially suggest a conflict within a modern landscape – the old, slowly corroding jetties and wharves of the foreshore in comparison to the flourishing, contemporary and massive landmarks of London. This contrast would be present in what is deemed a completely urban scene. I would be giving an unconventional perspective (through this historical/natural foreground element) in relation to the more commonplace modern, urban background elements. These backgrounds I thought would work best as being large, famous landmarks of London. My reasoning for this was that many of the landmarks would be known worldwide by tourists and showing the landmarks in a completely different light (at least to my eyes), with unusual foregrounds, would challenge such viewers preconceptions of London. The saying ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ came to mind but the opposite of this might be true with this approach: the sublime is non-negotiably haunting and evocative. Yes, the setting of each photograph was clearly still in London but to my mind it would be such an unusual viewpoint to see London from that prior notions could potentially be altered. This again is similar to the intentions in James Smith’s work described in the British Journal of Photography (February 2014): to encourage viewers to reassess their responses to them [structures that are often overlooked or dismissed as banal], and therefore their own personal assumptions.’ While the contemporary buildings along the The Thames were big and bold, the old and once very important, structures like jetties and wharves immediately beside the Thames were being forgotten.
When taking the photos, maybe take two exposures one 30s, the other fast shutter speed? So I have backup pictures in case my tutor says there was no necessity to making such long exposures?
By naturally being a low viewpoint as the river Thames was of course lower down than the landmark buildings, the photographs would inherently be less objective and detached.
Smith, J. (2014) In. British Journal of Photography (February 2014) Aptitude Media Limited, 9 Beaumont Gate, Shenley Hill, Radlett, Herts, WD7 7AR UK.