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  • Writer's pictureMark Heathcote

More Great Photographs and How They Inspire Me

Updated: Mar 27, 2020

Tony Ray Jones had a note book where he listed all the things he should remember to do when shooting. It included things like:

  • Be more aggressive

  • Be patient

  • Don't take boring pictures

  • Get in closer

There are many more in his notebook (see article), and it is worth checking out. If you are not familiar with TRJ you should google him. He died young, but his work stands out and inspired many to follow his footsteps.

The point is that we all need to be reminded of good practices from time to time, otherwise we shoot aimlessly, with no purpose. This and the previous article are my own notebook, serving as a reminder to myself.

Before heading out, I always try to look at a small selection of great photographs to act as such a reminder and to give me inspiration and ideas. Here are some. All work is used with the kind permission of Magnum Photos .

Slow down, assess
©Alex Webb / Magnum Photos

houston streets lit by the sun
One of mine where I took my time at the scene

For my image in Houston and similar scenes I often dive in, start shooting and get out. But with this type of scene there is no need to rush. It is not a passing moment that will be gone in a fraction of a second, it is possibly a fairly static scene. There is time to absorb and reflect on the options before you start shooting. Alex would have found his scene and worked it for a while to get the amazing shot with the legs hanging down.

Of course, this does mean that you will be seen lingering in the first instance, so how you present yourself and appear to the subjects will be important. In a case like this I may just pretend to be checking out the wall art until they get comfortable with my presence. It is difficult to say how Alex approaches this, but I did read somewhere that he hangs around for a while until people get used to his presence - he does not go in and start shooting straight away. Of course there are times that you need to otherwise a moment is missed.

Be drawn to colour
City street scene
©Harry Gruyaert / Magnum Photos

city of london street scene
My version is rubbish

I have a similar image to Harry's that I took in London. It looks like the same location, but is actually the other side of the world. My image does not work, but his does. I reflected on why this was the case, and really the only difference was the presence of more bold colour and my composition.

The use of colour is necessary to make a colour photograph pop. Sounds pretty obvious but I need to remind myself. This does not mean colour should cover the entire scene, but using objects with bold colours as part of the composition can really make the difference. This reminds me to allow myself to be drawn to colour when I see it on the streets, and then to try to use that colour to create something.

This is particularly important when shooting in London. I find London buildings and clothing generally very grey. Sometimes it is like shooting in monochrome. I will often follow someone if they are wearing something bright and colourful.

Follow the light
window reflection
©Trent Parke / Magnum Photos

coffee shop in london with steamy windows
Less abstract, but my use of reflections to add detail

I am also reminded to allow myself to be drawn to the light. Of course this only really applies on days where there is actually some sunlight. Shooting in the UK makes such days very precious and every advantage should be taken.

This doesn't just mean finding pools of light on the streets though, it means being aware of how light on the street can change window reflections and allow the creation of more abstract street photographs. My example show reflections available even on overcast days if you look for them.

So, having proof read back my own article, I am itching to get back out shooting. Trouble is I am looking out at a grey sky from inside my warm bed whilst suffering a bit of man flu. Definitely tomorrow.

For a stream of my work, follow me on Twitter or Instagram. If you are interested in rapidly improving your street photography, get in touch about my workshops (mainly London). Also open to commissions or editorial of course.


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