Trent Parke 1

Award Winning Trent Parke (b. 1971)

EXERCISE 1.6 Light and Shadow

Before you start this exercise, have a look at the work of Trent Parke… Make some notes about how Parke uses high contrast light and shadow to create telling, dramatic compositions.

OCA Foundations in Photography Course Worker Folder pg40

It is quite refreshing to see a photographer who has a distinctive style, one where I can Mmmmm and drool over the images. Parke shoots on film and produces dramatic colour and black and white photographs. His images are dramatic because of the contrast and the way he is able to manipulate the lights and darks around him. Before digital photography, I always shot in black and white film, loving black and white tones far more than colours. For me colours just blanked out details, a photograph was just like the image I was seeing with my eyes. However with black and white you see things differently, small details pop out at you as do shapes and lines. Well at least they do for me.

The famous bus shot

Trent Parke was born in 1971 and raised in Newcastle, New South Wales. Using his mother’s Pentax Spotmatic and the family laundry as a darkroom, he began taking pictures when he was around 12 years old. Today, Parke, the only Australian photographer to be represented by Magnum, works primarily as a street photographer.

magnumphotos.com Trent Parke, Photographer profile, magnum photos

In the interview (link above), Parke tells us that he is a storyteller. He takes many documentary photographs and sequences them as an arrangement of images so that they tell us a story. His works are then presented in his hand-made book.

After watching a couple of YouTube videos, I bought his book ‘Minutes to Midnight,’ and I was not dissapointed!

Trente Parke (2013). Minutes To Midnight. Germany: Steidl Publishers

The work within the book documents Parkes travels across Australia in a time of global change and is a visual record of how these changes impacted people within Australia, the social inequalities, injustices and shows their emotional state. Therefore before we even begin to look at his style and how he uses high contrast light and shadow to produce dramatic, punchy compositions, we are struck by his subject matter. The subject matter and his methods explode together, they are breathtaking to say the least, as gritty life meets gritty techniques.

Notes on Parke’s work

  • Light and dark areas within the image are used to subtract details from the shot, therefore removing distractions and un-needed information. The simplified image then becomes almost abstract and dynamic in its presentation.
  • Using high ISO to produce diffused grain images.
  • Strong shapes, outlines and silhouettes created by both shadows and light.
  • Movement captured and blurred, movement captured and frozen.
  • Uses spot meter to take a reading from the brightest/ darkest areas which bleaches out certain parts of the photograph and subjects within it. Also uses spotlights and flash for bursts of strong light on subjects. When the theme contains people it produces a sense of isolation and our eyes are drawn to the dominant bright area first and then we take in the remaining of the photographs details. Often those images that contain over exposed or under exposed people give a sense of the hidden, or anonymity.
  • Strong, dramatic narrative images which tell a story.
  • The photographs evoke emotions – fear, end of the world, dark beauty, haunting, power, exciting, stimulating – I actually get over stimulated when looking at his work and have to give myself breaks.
  • Differing viewpoints.
Over exposed man created by taking light reading from the shadows.
Use of flash.

YouTube: Book Flip, 2014. Showing the contents within Parke’s book, Minutes To Midnight. I have chosen this video because of the rawness of the background noises, which in someways compliments the energetic bustle of some of Parke’s photographs.


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