It’s Still a Busy, Busy World

Black and white BW B&W Hamilton Ontario Canada contemporary street photography

The Barrister

Although I deliberately make some blurred pictures for Hammer Home (somewhat inspired by the almost completely forgotten pictorialist movement) this is one that, for a time, I had wished I had shot it with a much sharper focus. I began believing that its aesthetic quality was so poor because of the lack of crispness that I had pulled it out of the Corktown series for a while.

During the few months that it was absent from the series, I compared it to other street portraits that I had also made around the Main and James intersection, especially “Soldier of Fortune” and “The Gofer”. I shot those with a bokeh applied to the images overall instead of just on the regions of light beyond the depth of field in hopes to convey ideas of the kinds of professionals that commonly work around these crossroads where the city’s four original neighbourhoods meet; a part of Hamilton’s financial district. I want to avoid conveying the idea that these are the roles that the people imaged actually have. These are not meant to be environmental portraits.

“Cities Need Moving People” is another shot from the area in which I took a different approach by shooting into the sun to turn the pedestrians into rim-lit silhouettes. This was more to foster an impression of a city of strangers, not necessarily professional citizens, on their way to affect an urban community. A community is something that makes a city, in whole or in part, sentimentally and socially more than just a designated place to exist in.

“Drenched” was shot similarly to “Cities Need Moving People”, and practically on the same spot of Main Street, but I used the city lights to silhouette the figures that were egressing from where I stood. Again, this image was to convey the lives of people, in general, in the area but this time outside of actual work hours – it was around 6:30 in the morning when I shot it.

“Take a Moment” was composed the most like “Soldier of Fortune”, “The Gofer” and “The Barrister” but with far less professional connotations attached. I saw the chap in that shot more as a citizen impacted in any way by the goings on of the city’s financial district. I leave it to the viewer to determine if the impact is positive, negative or something else entirely.

“Walk Signal” is a shot from this intersection that I left quite sharply focused in totality. It needed to be because of that illuminated walk signal, the man’s interaction with it, and the heavy Main Street traffic before him that he must contend with given his particular circumstances.

I really don’t know if the guy I photographed carrying a box tray full of coffees is typically the gofer in one of the surrounding office buildings, I just know that someone around there will have that duty. I don’t know if the man I shot on Main Street really is a total mercenary when it comes to business or politics but I do believe that such walks of life do work in that area. I can’t be sure if this man I have photographed in this picture is any type of lawyer. I just know that you’re bound to see a barrister that could resemble him around Main and James at some point.

It’s important to me to be able to show the professional aspects of Hamilton’s story because so many think of its citizenry as absolutely nothing more than just a bunch of unemployed, lazy, welfare bums. If that were true, 21st century Hamilton would not even exist.

It’s not just non-residents who are so critical of this town either. A lot of the disdain comes from a large portion of the city. I hear it from a number of people who live on the mountain and actually venture downtown. They suspect everyone they see as being a crackhead, drunk, freeloader, uneducated and unemployable. The situation is worsened by the fact that many small to large sized firm employers have said that the employment pool in the city leaves much to be desired.

While these shots were made around this one intersection, “Soldier of Fortune”, “Walk Signal” and “The Barrister” were the only three, at the time, associated with Corktown for where the subjects were physically at when I pressed the shutter release button. Of the three, only “Soldier of Fortune” and “The Barrister” have the professional connotation with them.

Between all of these pictures I began seeing that the aesthetics are complementary; affecting adequate degrees of anonymity or depersonalization of the figures, and I eventually accepted the blur I had made on this image as correct instead of poorly applied in composition. So, this shot was permanently returned to the monochrome Corktown series.

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5 thoughts on “It’s Still a Busy, Busy World

    • Thank you, Amy.

      Really, it is an unmentioned fact that I typically prefer to shoot in bright, high contrast morning or evening light for a lot of my street photography, whether I use sharp or soft focus. Looking at a collection of images from Hammer Home at once quickly reveals this.

      The main thing for me with this project; however, is capturing the character of Hamilton especially as it tries to modernize without losing it’s roots. I live here but I can’t do this as some supposed expert on this city because I’m not. This is an exploration to discover my home town.

      I’m constantly analyzing what I photograph. I want to know if the things I see really are what they appear to be on the surface or is there more to them latently or even deep down.

      I want to record and show as much of the guts of this city as I possibly can because I think people need to learn about this place, even though they may not know it yet.

      • Having followed you online for a little while now, I find it interesting that you have you used the word “analyzing” as this is a word I would have chosen to describe your work. It does come across in your work that you have thought about it.

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