WIP #4

I went out on this occasion to experiment some more with the placement of people in the scene, making up each composite. I have had some inspiration for this topic when I was reading up on an artist who has inspired me to make composites called Chris Dorley-Brown. He is successful at making images that look realistic yet there are narratives available for the viewer to ingest if they look more closely. These narratives are there because the images are actually made up of parts of many images (composites). This composite approach allows him to pick out interesting parts from certain images and put together these parts to create narratives which are even more interesting. The body of work where Dorley-Brown uses this technique most profusely is The Corners (2009-2017).

I came across an article talking about Dorley-Brown’s The Corners (2009-2017). The article, Surreal shots of East London’s hidden corners (2018), written by Niall Flynn describes Dorley-Brown’s technique for making the composites: ‘Spending up to an hour at each chosen location, the project saw Dorley-Brown making as many as 70 exposures per sitting. After capturing the background ‘raw’ (no pedestrians or cars), he then introduced “the actors” that make up his images. Although the subjects were all present at the location, they may have not been there at the same time.’ – (Flynn, 2018). “Each one is photographed as they walk or pause, and then I choose the ones I like and make up a possible narrative or incident to enhance the mood or atmosphere of the final image.” – (Dorley-Brown, 2018 cited in Flynn, 2018). This technique turns out to be very similar to mine even though I developed my technique through a process of trial and error.

© Chris Dorley-Brown (2017) 'William IV, 2017'
Fig. 1 © Chris Dorley-Brown – ‘William IV, 2017’ (2017)

One composite of the images in the article that caught my eye in particular was called William IV, 2017 (2017). Here, Dorley-Brown employed an intriguing way of arranging the people to give narrative to the image as well as a real sense of tension. He groups the people closely together, taking up a small, central part of the frame which pulls the viewer in and at the same time contrasts them with the buildings surrounding them. I find this clever, if intentional, however I noted it worked especially well within a grander landscape – the buildings surrounding the people in this image seem massive!

I made a note of this style of composition and went out to try and recreate a similar composition in one of Deptford’s settings. My first port of call would have been the same two locations as I had been experimenting with for WIP #2 and WIP #3. However, both these locations were effectively off limits for the purpose of experimenting or photography. The reason for the first location was a massive lorry was parked right in the centre of the frame. In retrospect I should have taken a quick snap to document this as it would have helped with my conceptualisation of thoughts to the viewers of this blog. Likewise, in the second location there was some work going on to the railway line that runs to the left of the frame. The people working were in official suits so I didn’t want to risk setting up my tripod only to be told ‘No photography!’ Again, a small snapshot to document why I couldn’t take photographs at this location might have been beneficial.

WIP - 51º28'45.334"N 0º1'22.217"W, November 2019 - Attention Paid to Central Grouping of People in the Composition
WIP – 51º28’45.334″N 0º1’22.217″W, November 2019 – Attention Paid to Central Grouping of People in the Composition

Instead, I resorted to a third location nearby. This location worked well and I was able to create an interesting shot (in my eyes). Although I was trying to mirror Dorley-Brown’s technique of grouping the people very close together, with my composite the spacing was a bit further apart. I feel there is a sense of narrative developing though through the image, with the two bicycles travelling in different directions and being ridden in very different styles! I think the composite would have been more effective if the spacing was tighter. Altogether I am pleased with the image as there are other sub-plots like the construction workers both in the foreground and middle ground showing redevelopment in the area.

8. 51º28'45.334"N 0º1'22.217"W, June 2019
8. 51º28’45.334″N 0º1’22.217″W, June 2019

I also tried to pay attention to detail in framing the shot as similarly as possible to my previous shot of this location. I am getting better at this even though I have to stand there making adjustments for ten minutes before I can take the first shot. I think this attention to detail is vital in making the composites from different times look the same when compared. This then allows the viewer to immerse themselves in the details which may have changed since rather than the the altered viewpoint.

I am of the opinion that the technique of grouping the people close together would work sometimes for the composites. For instance if I have a grid of four composites for each location, I might use this technique for one of the four composites. In my eyes it is definitely a viable technique to include in my project. I intend to discuss all the different techniques I’ve been experimenting on with my tutor in my upcoming Assignment 3 review.


Fig. 1 Dorley-Brown, C. (2017) William IV, 2017 [Photograph] At: https://www.huckmag.com/art-and-culture/photography-2/surreal-shots-east-londons-hidden-corners/ (Accessed 28/11/2019).

Dorley-Brown, C. (2009-17) The Corners. At: https://modrex.com/photoworks#/the-corners/ (Accessed 28/11/2019).

Flynn, N. (2018) Surreal shots of East London’s hidden corners. At: https://www.huckmag.com/art-and-culture/photography-2/surreal-shots-east-londons-hidden-corners/ (Accessed 28/11/2019).

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