The (in)decisive moment: Photographers Research – Rob Ball

30th April 2021

From Blackpool to Brighton, and Barry Island to Brightlingsea, these richly-detailed photographs capture the candyfloss colours and faded nostalgia of a seaside culture that is peculiarly (yet wonderfully) British.

Hoxton Mini Press (2021)
Fig. 1 Promenade, Blackpool, 2018

“I like how seafronts have visually rich, brightly coloured signs and buildings, alongside the coffee shops and rubbish bins,” Ball says. He is committed to documenting their evolving look, he says: “Our seaside heritage is vulnerable and it’s important to record it before it changes.”

Ball (2019) cited in The Guardian

In the book’s introduction, Lucy Davies (2019) has written, ‘Everywhere you look, opportunities for mockery or misery are rife. But that’s not Ball’s style. His pictures are less about a point of view, or an event, than an observation.’ When it comes to his images of Great Yarmouth, I have to disagree.

Having purchased and looked through the images in Rob Ball’s book titled ‘Funland’ I am left with a feeling of confusion. I am not sure if it is the way that the images have been presented, in that there are images of the seaside resorts with people in them, mixed amongst images that show barren out of season views. For anyone not knowing about the seasonal differences in footfall at seaside resorts they could easily misinterpret these images as showing the decline of numbers of tourists visiting these areas.

Ball’s content within his series has given me the idea to segregate the people who will be the main subject of my assignment so that the energetic colours and details of the arcades, public houses and cafes will not be contained within the shots. The isolation of the people from a detailed background will mean that I will need to try to capture interesting body positions and language as well as details such as buggies, bags, walking sticks etc.

In the sample work below, which I have sketched from the photograph titled, ‘Torbay Road, Paignton, 2018’, I have analysed the content which I would be interested in for my assignment and the background information is not important. I have found that isolating specific people would enable the viewer’s eye to travel straight to the person. This would enable the viewer to study the human form for longer.


Fig. 2 Analysis of Torbay Road, Paignton, 2018

In the following sketch I have looked closely at groups of people within a photograph. Although their isn’t a busy background to draw the viewer’s eye away from the people in the image, I do find, for me personally, that the people are quite small and lack detail. They remind me of a L.S. Lowry painting where forms and shapes of people are important rather than facial expressions or details within clothes etc.

Fig. 3 Analysis of South Beach, Bridlington

If we look at and compare the two images below, although the clothes and activities differ because of the changes in society and what is perceived as the ‘norm’ for that time, the way the people are recorded from a high perspective from a far is the same. The distance and perspective in the image above and those below, create the sense of a large space filled with small people, as the saying goes, ‘like ants’.

The perspective used for the above images would not work as well for the decisive moment as well as images that focused in on subjects, unless there was a very obvious ‘concept’ being caught for the series.

From looking at the seaside images of Rob Ball, I now have decided on two specific visual features that my composition will use. Firstly, I will be shoot towards the sea which means the background details will not entice the viewers eyes away from the main focus of the image. Secondly, I will use close-up shots to gain as much detail as possible in my subjects as they walk past my camera.

Illustrations

Fig.1 Ball, R. (2019) Promenade, Blackpool, 2018. [Photograph] At: https://www.hoxtonminipress.com/products/funland (Accessed 01.05.2021)

Fig. 2 Tomlin, D. (2021) Analysis of Torbay Road, Paignton, 2018 [Analytical diagram] with cropped insert, Ball. R. (2018) Torbay Road, Paignton. [Photograph] In: Ball, R. Funland: A visual tour of the British seaside. London: Hoxton Mini Press.

Fig. 3 Tomlin, D. (2021) Analysis of South Beach, Bridlington, 2018 [Analytical diagram] with insert, Ball. R. (2018) South Beach, Bridlington. [Photograph] In: Ball, R. Funland: A visual tour of the British seaside. London: Hoxton Mini Press.

Fig. 4 Ball, R. (2014) Viking Bay, Broadstairs, 2014. [Photograph] In: Ball, R. (2019) Funland: A visual tour of the British seaside. London: Hoxton Mini Press.

Fig. 5 Lowry, L.S. (1943) July, The Seaside. [Oil on canvas] At: https://www.artfund.org/whats-on/exhibitions/2015/06/10/lowry-by-the-sea-exhibition (Accessed 02.05.2021)

Bibliography

Hoxton Mini Press (2019) Funland. At: https://www.hoxtonminipress.com/products/funland

Tselova, S. (2019) ‘Rob Ball’s Funland: British seaside towns – in pictures’ In: The Guardian 18.05.2019 At: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2019/may/18/rob-balls-funland-british-seaside-towns-in-pictures (Accessed 01.05.2021)



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