SHADOW, LIGHT & FORM

I have no doubt that anyone who has followed me for more than the last 6 months has noticed that my style of photography changed pretty drastically from 2017 to 2018. As I’ve said in previous blogs, the aim of launching as Fraser McGee Foto was to develop myself as a photographer and included within this was the process of finding a style for my work. I’ve talked before about the importance of knowing what you want to shoot and why and style plays a major part in this. 

I’ve been shooting for the last 6 years, however, I really only feel like I’ve started to come into my own as a photographer in the last 12 months, in particular in 2018. In part, this is because I have managed to find a style of photography which I am happy with and that I can focus on. In turn, this has broken me out of the cycle of shooting only for Instagram and allowed me to find a level of satisfaction with my work that is based on what I now like.

The big change in my style has been that of a simplification in a way. At the beginning of the year, as I pulled my website together, I went through a process of selecting some images to put on my portfolio landing page. It was through this selection process that the aesthetic of the black and white images in my portfolio at the time grabbed my attention. The simplicity of the palette allowed the composition of shadows, light, and form to take centre stage. 

 Grand Central Shadows. Birmingham, December 2017.

Grand Central Shadows. Birmingham, December 2017.

In this simplicity I recognised that part of my development should focus on the study of these three factors; shadow, light, and form. Trying to master these elements of composition is an important step in improving my work I believe as an image can be elevated through their correct use. While photographers can be thought of as people who paint with light, shadow is also an important tool in their box with negative space often adding much-needed drama to an image. 

The removal of colour from my work, which in the past I would have used as a safety net for a poorly composed image, demands a more brutal discipline with respect to image composition. The lack of color requires the use of shadow, light, and form to be perfect for an image to stand out. This is typical in the early black and white work of Saul Leiter, any of the work by Salgado, and contemporaries such as Walter Rothwell. Get these elements wrong and a black and white image will be unremarkable. 

So what started as a recognition of a development path has now very much grown into a focus and a style. High drama black and white imagery has become an addiction for me. Whether it be in portraiture, landscape, or my now main focus of street photography, this style has been the common thread throughout all of my work. It’s been almost 5 months now of shooting this way and I’m loving it. It is my full intention to limit myself to black and white photography throughout 2018 in an effort to progress my development. 

I am in no way a master of the use of shadow, light, and form in my compositions and I doubt I ever will be. I am hopeful though that by putting such a limitation on my work, my images will become more striking in their composure leading to the further establishment of my photographic style.