Fine Arts Photography Day

Arts on Main
19 October 2013

Fine Art Photography Johannesburg Brick Wall

One of my new year resolutions at the end of 2012 was to get more involved in photography and basically evolve my skills a bit. So after some research I found a course which looked like something I would do, it was the Intermediate Fine Arts course offered by Digital Photography Courses or DPC, an institution literally down the road from me. I had never done any photographic course before, but I had never previously felt the need to, but it was time to venture out into the world where other professionals and fine art photographers get together, so I decided I would attempt it.

In January 2013 I called up DPC and booked my attendance for the February course. Obviously the entire course is after-hours which was my only option anyway, but it did span over a 8 week period so it appeared quite substantial in content. The problem is that soon after I booked my place and paid over my initial deposit it came to light that I would need to travel all over Africa for work. Although I was disappointed that I wouldn't be able to attend and expand on my photography skills, I wasn't going to let the opportunity of travel across Africa slip past me. So I contacted DPC, they were flexible and understanding enough to let me reschedule my attendance to a course later in the year. 

So I travelled across Africa visiting Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Egypt, Zambia and Botswana. When it was July and I still had to visit Zimbabwe, Seychelles and Mozambique, I had to call DPC again and ask if I can reschedule again for the September/October session.

When September arrived the traveling was done, but even if there was more I would have declined, as this was the last Intermediate Fine Arts course of the year. So I paid over the remaining fees and eagerly started attending. 

The course consists of various theory, then a photo shoot, then more theory, then printing of the results of our own work and an exhibition at the end of November. Todays post is about the photo shoot which took place at Arts on Main, in the Johannesburg CBD this past Saturday.

Photography Arts on Main Boxes

I arrived in Fox street on the morning 1 hour before everybody else and took the opportunity to wander around the streets in the vicinity of the location. I took a couple of photos but soon returned to my car as I felt vulnerable walking around there on my own.... so I sat in the car and played with my camera.

Fine Art Street Photography Arts on Main

Fine Art Photography Street Berea

While sitting in my car I started taking photo of the scene behind me through the side mirror of my car and kinda liked the result. The dark and distorted images with faded water marks on the mirror added a mysterious feeling, but when I started seeing some of my fellow classmates wandering around, I packed up and went to meet up with them.

Photography Berea through Mirror

We met up with Danie Bester, the DPC owner, lecturer and established professional photographer and fine arts photographer. We waited around for all others to arrive, and some not to arrive.... who had gotten lost in the streets of Johannesburg, but eventually we all proceeded into Arts on Main through the main gate to start our photographic day.

Danie gave us some lessons and some demonstrations of what we were supposed to do for the day, but the outline was we were going to photograph various objects and subjects in the main building where "Market on Main" is normally held, which is a warehouse type environment. In the afternoon we would venture out into the streets and do some street photography in the neighborhood. Unfortunately I would have to miss the second part of the day as I was attending a friends wedding on the other side of Gauteng later in the afternoon.

Not to give away too much of the course, the morning was split into 2 sections. The idea was that we could photograph whatever we liked but experiment with various techniques, taking into consideration the theory we had learnt in the previous weeks. 

Entering the establishment I was wowed by the building and its interior, it is an old building but spiced up to meet their needs, and still keeping with the rustic feeling. The walls were covered in generations of paintwork some newly painted and some with peeling layers that gives a window to the past.

Fine Art Photography Arts on Main Building

Fine Art Photography Day Berea

The upper level had a couple of wooden boxes scattered around, but initially the room was relatively empty, this combined with multiple smallish skylights all over the place on a day where it was partly cloudy allowed for a perfect day of photography and experimenting.

Fine Art Photography Johannesburg Lines

Arts on Main Photography Day

It wasn't long before I started getting some really interesting photos. The idea was to take a couple of photos and go show and discuss them with Danie and Deon (another professional and experienced photographer from DPC) who was stationed at the coffee shop downstair eating breakfast.

Photography Arts on Main Textures

Photography Johannesburg Berea Textures

Photography White Wall Arts on Main

Fine Art Photography Day Johannesburg

I got lost for a while in the simple patterns and shadows on the walls which to a degree was what we were supposed to do. We were told to experiment with flat surfaces, where words like canvas, two dimensional and flat surfaces were expressed and to avoid the 3D world..... before long I was soon getting lost in the 3D world again.

Photography Arts on Main Boxes

"Market on Main" is a rustic and hip market that is held in this location on certain days in the month and although the market wasn't on, they were busy preparing.... my guess was that the next day would be market day. So there were people carrying box, tables and chairs all over the place. The empty space soon wasn't so empty anymore but along with the boxes came something that really gets me excited photographically..... people.

Photography Boxes Line

Photography Arts on Main Kid

Arts on Main Negritude Photo

Photography Fine Arts 2 Kids

After capturing some interesting people and "concepts" I really needed some coffee, so I packed up my gear and headed to the coffee shop down below where Danie and Deon were having breakfast. I ordered myself a coffee while they checked and commented on my efforts, I was happy with the feedback so downed my coffee and got back to the photography.

Photography Johannesburg Shadows and Light

Fine Art Photography 2 Tone Box

Photography Carpet DOF

I went back to the upper floor and tried some additional stuff. Playing with depth of field, perspective or misleading perspective and light. Eventually I went the macro route and got some close up photos of the things on the wall.

Photography Arts on Main Hanging

Johannesburg Photo Bolt

When I looked around again, there was nobody left on the upper floor and it was just me. I was feeling a bit lonely so I went to see where everybody was. For some reason everybody had migrated to the lower level. With no skylights this floor was darker and more dramatic. I decided I could use this to my advantage, but before I got there I was distracted on the stairs leading down.

Lights on Stairs Photography

Photography Arts on Main Stairs

Arts on Main Steps Photography

I turned around on the stairs and for some reason this angle on the stairs caught my attention so I set up my tripod and angled my camera downwards, I knew that I would have to set my exposure time longer as it was darker down there, and as a result I could expect motion blur if anybody came into the scene. Just then Mark, one of my classmates did exactly that. He was preparing a box at the foot of the stairs for some still photos and I found this to be an ideal opportunity. His bright orange shirt and his position was ideal. I fiddled with my settings and took a couple of photographs trying different exposures, and as a result landed with my favourite photo of the day.

Fine Art Photography Reckless Labour

I processed this image in Lightroom paying special attention to enhancing with small increments as not to alter the overall quality, I then uploaded it to my other site and the photo critic site for DPC. I labelled the photo "Reckless Labour", although he is not a laborer and he actually wasn't being reckless, the curved scratches on the floor leading down and around the stairs, combined with the broken box and aggressive looking motion blur all contribute to a story.... regardless if the story is true or not. I had entered the realm of suggestion. Although I have achieved this before I took the course, this time it was more deliberate. Working with people in a scene especially when they are just part of the scene and they are not directed, has a certain element of luck involved, but I guess it is about being in the right place at the right time and the art becomes a practice of increasing the chance of capturing that "lucky" moment. I prefer the lucky option to the directed one in most cases, emotions are more real and results are more surprising, but this is just my preference. 

Although I have a lot to learn, I feel to some degree I have evolved a little. I have definitely started growing in the direction I was looking for when I first decided on this course in January and this can be mostly be attributed to Danie, Deon, John and all my classmates. Unfortunately it was time for me to leave for the day, I still had to drive all the way home, get changed and prepare for the wedding and then head another 30km to other side of Pretoria to the wedding venue. 


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