Rupert Vandervell's Black & White Street Photography

My current series, Man On Earth, highlights the dramatic contrast between the urban background and the small but important presence of human life and its unique visual characteristics.

In these images I was looking for a sense of isolation. Amongst the hustle, bustle and energy of the city there is an anonymity and perhaps a loneliness. As I took these pictures I wanted to remain distant but I also wanted to intrude very slightly on this solitude and show how fascinating we are in our environment, framed by the big city.




When shooting, the quality of light is, of course, the most important factor, and finding the right balance between light and shade is the main challenge in my pictures. I don't look for detail in the environment—I want that to be quite featureless. The combination of light, shade and form will often be enough to provide interest. It is what might be hidden in the shadows that I find most intriguing and what can heighten the sense of mystery. I want the viewer to have their own input in what they see.

I select my scenes very carefully and will first look for the natural contrast being created by the light. This is key for me—I want as little to do in post as possible. I will move around the area and try to find the right position that will hopefully maximize the lighting conditions. This is important at night where the light may be coming from different sources. Night photography has its own challenges, but a good source of illumination is vital.





I don't think of the image as how it will be in black and white—I think of it as light and dark and where the main point of interest will be. For Man On Earth, the position of the human figure was crucial, and I needed to find where the light's interaction was significant in some way. The posture of the figure was important, and while I had no control over how someone would move, my framing and viewpoint would help capture the right moment. I expose for the highlights, which gives me darker shadows, and I check that there is enough detail in between the two. I'm usually looking for a clean, uncomplicated look.

At the processing stage, any cropping and contrast adjustments were made with particular attention paid to the depth of the shadows and all important highlights.

My main piece of advice would be to shoot when the light is best for your subject. It may sound obvious, but when it comes down to it, it's all about that vital ingredient...light!



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August 2013