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Photographing old and new bulidings - Ben Boswell explains why ‘Old and New’ is a great abstract idea for a shoot.
Sometimes it is interesting to go out with an abstract idea rather than a specific one, just to see what comes of it. It is a quite different discipline to find subject matter that fits an abstract idea rather than going to a ‘place’ to find inspiration. However, it is often easier to take pictures that illustrate an idea than it is to find a fresh angle on a specific subject. ‘Old and New’ is a great abstract idea for a shoot since it has such an immensely wide spectrum and a day’s photography in almost any environment should be able to produce a range of possible interpretations.
Shooting an abstract concept like ‘old and new’ can be done with absolutely any camera you like and with or without a tripod just as you please. The only essential gear you will need is an open mind and a bit of imagination.
Given how abstract the subject is, it would be difficult to give much guidance on how it should be approached so, as an example, I went out for a day in London and did ‘old and new’ for myself. Soon enough your mind will click into gear and you will find it quite easy to find examples of your own. As a starting point though here are a few thoughts about ‘olds’ and ‘news’ to get you thinking!
- Adjacent buildings
- Reflected buildings
- Young and old people
- New shoots on old plants
- Public art in situ
- Modern shops in old buildings
- Almost any urban building site
- Modern signs on old buildings
- Technologies, for example a person on a mobile phone beside a phonebox
The key is not to have too pre-conceived an idea of the newness or oldness; they might be this year and last year, this century and last century or even the 16th century and the 15th!
Once you have your mind in gear and are seeing ‘Old and New’ just about everywhere you look, you need to concentrate on capturing it in a way that will convey the idea to people looking at the pictures (hopefully without your having to explain in detail what you were getting at). It is easier to do this if your photographs are relatively free of distraction with just the opposing subjects and little or nothing else. In my pictures I concentrated on architecture and reflections which I found to be a particularly rich source of material, though as you can see it was easy to find other examples too.
Even if you don’t like to commit to shooting a particular theme you should try it at least once because it focuses the mind in a way that is quite unexpected; in a way it is like getting rid of the old way and embracing the new!
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