David Gibson is one of the founder members of In-Public, the first modern international collective of street photographers. David has taken street photographs since the early 1990s and is now a highly respected photography tutor, running workshops in London and other cities worldwide. The following project by Gibson offers practical advice on how to ‘double-up’.
Another type of reflection is the mirror or kaleidoscope effect, what might be called simply ‘doubling up’. It is a technique that I have always instinctively used because you cannot always chase the obvious in street photography. You have to look up and down, seek different perspectives from which to shoot and generally search out alternatives.
We are surrounded by surfaces and buildings that are not always opaque backgrounds that stop dead, as it were, for photographs. They can be transparent or half transparent. More significantly, they can reflect back, distort and surprise. We do not always look at this parallel world because we know that it is not real, we take it for granted; but remember the imagination of children and how naturally fascinated they can be when noticing their reflection on the street and how they’ll spontaneously play with it. This is what street photographers do; they understand more than the child but they seek to play with their surroundings. Using reflections to split photographs in half – with one half mimicking the other in reverse – is a trick favoured by many photographers because it can be ingenuous and a little surreal. At ground level you have to position yourself tight against the reflection, so that the split is roughly in the middle. This ‘doubling-up’ image [see above] was taken from a high perspective in Bangkok; it continues the high perspective concept, but the main intrigue here was the cleaner by the side of the glass building. With her blue top, blue bucket and mop, she is central to the series of photographs.
I was struck by her reflected doubling-up shape in the glass wall. Immediately there was a central symmetry that might be added to by the people passing by. I had time and was unseen – always a good combination – and was keen to fill out the corners of the frame, so that everything was balanced but provided a pleasing kaleidoscope shape.
I took 20 frames, which is a reasonable amount, feeling, as I often do, that I’d naturally exhausted most possibilities. How long to linger and at what point does it start to feel strained, with too many pictures? I think that there is some sort of internal nudge that comes into play, almost a reminder to not push your luck. Luck is precious and it should come naturally.
There was plenty of even daylight in this scene and because I wanted the passing figures to be sharp, I had the shutter speed of 1/500 of a second.