Downtown No.9 - The Story Behind this Photograph.

fine art photography street photography urban photography Jun 06, 2024
The story behind a street photography print collection called Downtown by Martin Osner

When we delve into the definition of fine art, we find that photography is listed as one of its mediums. This inclusion sparks an interesting debate about the nature of photography and its place in the art world. I've recently released a video on YouTube discussing whether photography can be considered fine art, which you can watch here. After watching the video, you'll better understand why the photograph being featured is so relevant within this discussion.

A number of years ago, I discovered an intriguing in-camera function that combined a correctly exposed photograph with underexposed and overexposed frames. This technique, especially when there was subject movement within the frame, created a fascinating effect. Technically, this function, known as HDR (High Dynamic Range), should be used with the camera on a tripod photographing a stationary subject. By using it "incorrectly," it appeared as if the moving subject was caught in their own shadow, creating an almost cubist effect.

Not every subject or composition works with this technique. Typically, it takes twenty to fifty attempts to get one successful shot. Over a few months of street photography, I managed to create eight photographic artworks that I felt worked and called the series "Downtown" as a limited edition collection. This series has since proved to be very popular at our gallery.

Now, a couple of years later, I once again found myself out in the streets photographing and decided to give the technique another go. This image was photographed in a subway where the street art mural added a wonderfully surreal look to the composition as a pedestrian walked past.



I also like the fact that my "Downtown" collection is not "just photography" within the realms of photographic capture. The images celebrate the fact that imperfection is a characteristic within art and should be embraced. Many techniques used within fine art and photography are just that—happy mistakes which, when dialed in, have the power to surprise.

There are several things I like about using this technique. Firstly, it frees you up to experiment. Secondly, when it works, it requires no further art treatment, just normal developing. Thirdly, it creates a realistic photo impression with the inclusion of an art illusion in one composition. I also appreciate its unusual and experimental nature. Not all cameras have this function built-in, but it shows that art often works outside the parameters of the manufacturer's strict instructions.

The notion that imperfection can be a hallmark of great art is not new. As the renowned artist Salvador Dalí once said, "Have no fear of perfection—you'll never reach it." This quote encapsulates the beauty of embracing the unexpected and the imperfect in the creative process. When it comes to my "Downtown" series, each photograph embodies this philosophy, turning potential mistakes into unique visual experiences.

Moreover, experimenting with different techniques can lead to groundbreaking art. Pablo Picasso, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, famously remarked, "I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it." This spirit of continual experimentation and learning is at the heart of my approach to photography. By pushing the boundaries of traditional HDR photography, I was able to discover a new, captivating aesthetic.

Another aspect that excites me about this technique is its ability to blur the lines between reality and illusion. The renowned photographer Ansel Adams once stated, "There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs." This perspective aligns with my own belief that the most compelling images often come from breaking conventional rules and exploring new territories.

The "Downtown" series not only captures the vibrant energy of urban life but also introduces an element of surrealism through the use of HDR in motion. Each photograph tells a story, inviting viewers to look beyond the surface and explore the deeper layers of meaning within the frame. This interplay between the real and the surreal challenges our perceptions and encourages a more nuanced appreciation of the urban environment.

Photography is undoubtedly a wonderful medium to create fine art. Its ability to capture reality while simultaneously allowing for artistic experimentation makes it a unique and valuable art form. As Henri Cartier-Bresson, a pioneer of street photography, once said, "To photograph is to hold one's breath, when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality." Through techniques like HDR in motion, photography continues to evolve, offering endless possibilities for creative expression.

I welcome your feedback.