« International Street Photographers Day | Main | 'People Working' Contest Semifinalists, Batch 2 »

Thursday, 22 August 2013


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

They're all good, but the funeral home shot is the one that really grabs me. I like the simplicity.

1. Steel Mill (from France), 2. Funeral Home in Manhattan

No particular order.

I'd like to write big long paragraphs of descriptors and arty critique about what I think makes these photographs stand out, but I will spare you. :)

A compelling first set. At first I was with "RP", the funeral home shot is really, really good. Also the truly working shot of the tear down of the cooling machinery in a building.

But then you reach the end of the post and see that steel mill shot. Wow. It just jumps out from the rest of the already excellent set. The color, composition, and indeed the subject itself is breathtaking. I can feel the heat coming off the screen!

Lots of inspiration for this still learning amateur here. Looking forward to seeing everyone else's take on these.

I love the steel mill photograph. It took me a while for my eye to work out what I might be looking at - the description provided the definitive substance. But I liked the way that picture revealed itself to me. The abstract, almost alien, setting this worker is in coupled with the shapes and colours really work very well.

So well done to that photographer - and the others too for making it though.

Many good images. But a few of them are not 'people working' so clearly disqualified on that ground from this particular competition. Right?

[Well...no, not right. I don't see how any of them don't qualify. Perhaps you should explain? --Mike]

When do we get to see names? I really want to look up more from the photographer responsible for 'Funeral Home Guys'.

I like 'em ! If this is only the first batch, I can't wait to see more.

I would have a hard time choosing between:
#2 - what's not to love about this ?
#4 - I'm a sucker for reflections and lights and this works all around for me.
#6 - the caption is necessary, else it could be a honeymoon boudoir shot (ok, my honeymoon didn't look like that) - like the color
#10 - This one has it all and I think I'd pick this as my favorite of the bunch. Excellent composition; great detail; fits the theme very well; shows something I haven't seen before.

Pity, the majority of those chosen were not taken in those 24 hours you set out and I also realise you didn't ban photos taken before the contest.

The funeral home guys photo stands out the most for me. Clean lines and great tonality. For the rest I'm unconvinced. The little girl is cute but too family snapshottish for me. The Dominican prostitute isn't really working (likewise I fail to see how the b/w picture of the workmen posing from another post would qualify. A picture of an office worker not working surely would not make it past the gate) - great picture though. The Schiphol airport picture is not a photo of someone working - perhaps a photo of a photo of someone working? The steel mill picture has great colours but is, to me, compositionally rather uninteresting.

The quintessential 'men working' photos are excellent. The guys in the parking lot extend that category. But I especially like the breakout to include the sex worker and the ad worker, so that the 'people working' category not only includes 'women working' but also forms of labour often misrecognized as something else entirely.

The steel mill shot is it for me too.

I like the headless prostitute shot best. Certainly grabs one's attention (especially the zipper), and it is no doubt hard work, and the caption is essential to the image.

Many great entries. My favorites are, in no particular order:
1) auto repair shop
2) Dominican prostitute
3) Steel Mill

I understand the point Ikka makes for two photos. The funeral home is a great photo, but I don't see people working. Just two men standing there, could be visitors. The Schiphol Airport photo I don't understand the working part either.

Some very nice work here. The ones that jump out at me are:

- "Funeral Home Guys." I really love this kind of straight-on, uncomplicated, matter-of-fact kind of documentary photograph that in fact has layers of meaning and reference that might not be apparent to everyone.

- "Bankers Life Building." Very reminiscent of industrial labor photographs that were so popular in the 1930s and 40s. The small detail of the worker's hand being blurred shows that this is a photograph of an actual working moment and not a posed photograph such as the ones it references.

- "Dahiana (Dominican Republic)." An excellent portrait of a "working girl." The colors and saturation give it an almost Instagram feel, which puts it very much in the contemporary vernacular, but it is clearly more than a disposable snapshot. The lack of a head is jarring, but appropriate for the subject.

- "Scrap Cutting Operation." Fascinating view on hot and dirty work. I love the gold tones and the reflective mask the worker wears, especially the way it mirrors the huge slab of metal he's working on.

I like the Funeral Home picture. I feel as though there exists a narrative beyond the facts behind this picture.

I vote for the funeral home shot. The contrast of ideas of what is "working" is at play here for me. The two men are just standing around apparently "doing" nothing. That idea goes nicely especially framed in the center of the image with the plain background of a block wall and the empty lot. But what really did it for me though is the white shoes. I think the image is not nearly as strong without them.

The other photos are all interesting as well, but the steel mill shot I feel is just too digital looking if that makes any sense.
Now on Batch 2.

First off, I am peturbed, I really wanted to participate in this, but had to work myself that saturday, and knew I would be unable to devote any serious time to attain anything during that day... if I would have known that someone could just submit a photo from eons ago, I would have more than enough previous work to have participated!

Yes, I know that you stated in the rules that if a photo was more than a year old or more... etc., but, assumed and thought that the purpose was more a challenge to do something THAT DAY, after learning what the theme was, going out and trying to capture it... I am very disheartened, as I would have loved to of participated.

C'est la vie.

Anyway, from this first batch, here are my favorites, which I feel best represent the theme, and I also find wonderful. Listed in the order of which they are presented above:

- Mike Wagner. Just an exquisitely beautiful black and white image
- Dahiana. Though it is a submission, where the caption benefits it
- Steel Mill. The muted colors and tones are just beautiful

The Bankers Life building shot is a fine thing, very Lewis Hines. The prostitute picture has the best explanatory text. I like the funeral home guys, though I think a tighter framing would have been better.

I do not feature the Schipol Airport shot at all; and I think that, while there was surely a photograph in the auto body shop, this one isn't it.

Contrary to most others ..... the young girl painting.

I love the one taken at Bankers Life building. It has a rather compelling 'Lewis Hine' feel to it.

Dang. Again I've picked out one in B&W and taken using film - the Funeral Parlour (I always start reading from the top of the blog...). Nevertheless, I agree with others that the link with "working" is tenuous. Still, a wonderful image to mark "HCB day".

-steel mill
-ammonia compressor
-funeral home

I too admit not reading the original challenge thoroughly, I was under the impression it was a 24 hour challenge, so could not submit because of other obligations that Saturday.

I found the Barber Shop shot particularly compelling, it was a perfect stolen moment. In the interest of full disclosure, I do a lot of shots in this vein, so I may be biased.

The portrait of Dahiana is extremely nice, even though I needed shades to dampen the saturation. "Bankers life" is also a very nice and classic B&W shot (slighty Paul Strand'ish).

I note with interest that 2 of the 10 shots are from Seattle.

What are the odds? :-)

My favorites are the funeral home, the little painter and the prostitute.

Comments for Batch 1, from top of post:

#1 I think you needed to get the guy in the picture more to add more human interest. I realize it's a tight space, but you can barely see the mechanic.

#2 I like, it's simple enough. I think the composition is a little too straight forward though.

#3 Cute kid picture

#4 The reflections ruin this shot for me. They really cut down on the clarity without adding much. Also, it's a little too voyeuristic. I would have prefered a closer shot.

#5 This is probably my favorite of the batch. Only thing I can say is that I wish it were sharper.

#6 Why cut off the face? It seems to dehumanize her even more. Maybe that's the intention, I don't know.

#7 My second favorite of the batch. I like the chaos in the scene. It could use a bit more contrast though.

#8 I don't get all the out of focus elements and reflections. I really don't think they add to the composition.

#9 Mostly a photograph of backs, not that interesting. The only face isn't a live person.

#10 I like this as well, maybe a tie with #7. It's a tad unbalanced though. Maybe it needs some more space at the top.

Was Robert A. Pumphrey's Funeral Home ever in Manhattan? As far as I know, it's always been down the street from me in Bethesda, MD... there's also one in Rockville, MD.

Mike, as I said, many good images, all good in some ways. So absolutely nothing to criticize. But the script is simple: 'people working'. To be fair to those who have read and followed the script I don't think these qualify:
-the funeral workers are standing outside in a car park (?). I dont see them working. Are the taking a break, or waiting or what? But certainly not working.
-the prostitute is not working. She is probably waiting for a customer. But that is not the assignment.
-the airport ad picture. It is a bit hard to understand but the text refers to the woman having fun.. Is it the woman in the ad? The others are just looking at the picture so clearly not working. Yes, she was working when the ad was made, but now it is a picture. Copying a picture of somebody working is hardly 'somebody working'.
I am sure many, maybe yourself included, think this is nitpicking. But as I said, to me the assignment was very clear and in fairness to the participants who followed the script, other pictures no matter how nice should not be qualified unless they meet the very simple and clear script.

[As I said earlier, part of the fun and the challenge is how to interpret the theme--which was up to each participant. I see you have an extremely literal approach to the idea (funeral parlor valets and a trolling prostitute are clearly at work, in my view), and there's nothing wrong with that. But it's not the only way to interpret the theme.

Remember what I said at the outset:

"The theme is 'People Working.' Your perspective on what 'people working' means can be your own—conventional or original, classic or quirky. The picture can be any interpretation of one or more people doing a job, or at work, or working on something."

Thanks for your thoughts, though.


Definitely Funeral Home Guys. Simple and stark.

I like the "ammonia compressor" shot best. The man is clearly dwarfed by the machines that he has been tasked with caring for, yet the viewer can see that he probably knows these machines better than anyone. His posture suggests a long day of work in uncomfortable positions. I like that his tools are visible, further conveying expertise and experience on his part. There is also inherent loneliness in this photograph. The viewer can imagine a cacophony once the machine is up and running, but his maintenance means a brief moment of quiet and solitude. His face, and identity, remain in shadow which accentuates the oval highlights in the machine that look like human heads, a further reminder of his solitary, anonymous nature.

I like pictures with a bit of a social content so my favourite in this batch would be Dahiana, with the mandatory accompanying text.

Interesting selection, and very interesting comments!

I really liked the pictures in Hamburg. I love the contrast and somehow the emptiness of the first picture.

The little girl, for sure. The seminal moment when play becomes work. The "journey may be its own reward" but "work" is a means to an end. The first time this girl is empowered by that thought is captured here.

On a mission to convert a plain beige world to pink!

The Italian steel mill shot is amazing. I see a knight with a proper helmet and greaves and it even looks like he has a lance in his hands.

The young girl painting her room is wonderful; the concentration, and how she's working to handle the large implements with her small hands.

The salon interior with window reflection is actually somewhat interesting, and that's not at all my kind of image. The pointing left finger is what makes it something other than a boring nothing, for me.

The ammonia compressor repair is great; I love that old huge industrial machinery. This is another classic big-industry work photo, taken later in time than most of the famous ones.

I like the scrap cutter in the steel mill best. Looks like another world, and it takes some study to really see all the details.

Runner up is the tear down of the ammonia compressor. Good composition and wonderful tonality.

There are two I really like from this set. The funeral parking lot because it made me smile, the way Elliott Erwitt pictures often do. It has three simple elements that by themselves are unremarkable but together make the image. The sign, the two guys and the negative space around the first two elements. The second image i really like is the shot of the hairdresser. I feel this is an example where colour definitely adds to the image. I just wish the door in the foreground was also in focus.

I do like the ammonia compressor maintenance; it reminds me of those factory shots from the mid 20th century, though with a more modern edge as there is something real going on.

I would buy a print of "Funeral Home Guys. Manhattan, summer of 1975" today. Possibly two, one as a gift for a friend.

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007