As with everyone else in the world, my plans for this year has been ruined by Covid-19. If all went to plan I would have just finished editing my photos from my planned trip to South Korea, and would be writing about that around this time. Instead, I’m stuck at home trying to fulfill my wanderlust looking at old photos and exploring the world via Google Street View.
So I recently replaced my PC to a desktop, and I’d plugged in my old hard drives from my previous two PCs. While browsing through one of them I found a folder, containing some photos I had taken nearly 7 years ago. These photos were taken during my summer exchange programme in Czech Republic while I was still studying, which was no doubt one of the best solo trips I’ve taken, and these were for my final project for a photography module that I took, so I figured I’ll write a post about this to pass the time while being stuck in Singapore.
Yep the university I attended, Charles University, was awesome enough to have a photography course, and I was lucky enough to participate as I remember some people were rejected due to the class having too many people. The course was geared towards beginners to photography so there were lessons on the basics like exposure and such, and also other useful stuff such as creating a portfolio. As an art course there was also focus on the art aspect of photography and how to tell a story with a photo, and that was the focus for the assignments for this course
This right here is my prof for the course, Jan Stary (hi sir, if you happen to be reading this). Really cool dude, one of the best lecturers I’ve had the pleasure of taking lessons from, though it probably helps that it’s for lessons in photography. He finished off the module by bringing all of us to a pub for drinks for his final lesson, which is an immediate plus in my book. He apparently specializes, or once specialized, in nude photography according to an interview he posted on his website. For anyone interested, here’s his website, though it may not have been updated in a while as it seems the same as when I first visited it all those years ago.
We got to go out to shoot various areas around Prague throughout the course, and we also had about two themed assignments as well. I can’t remember the themes at this point (it’s been 7 years after all) but based on my writeups, it appears the first assignment is somewhere along the lines of “Objective and subjective views of a location”, while my final assessment is probably something like “Photos that showcase the character of a location”. Anyway, for my first assignment I made a trip to Vysehrad, one of the castles areas within Prague, and for my final assessment I ended up deciding on the Prague train station. No point elaborating too much at this point as I’m just going to leave the photos, in the specific order I named them during submission, and without re-edits to preserve authenticity, along with my entire reports which explains the logic and thought process behind the photos. Not my most well edited photos, but for someone 2 years into photography trying to find my way around it was OK I guess.
Assignment 1 – Objective and subjective views of a location (Vysehrad)
The location that I have chosen for this portfolio was the Vysehrad. Objectively, I understand that the Vysehrad is a castle with a very long history. Because of this long history, I felt that this could be best showcased using architecture. The gate was used as the first photo as it was the first part of the building that can be seen upon arrival, while the Rotunda of St. Martin was used next firstly because it is one of the oldest buildings there, and it is also one of the first buildings that can be seen upon entering the gate. The cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul was used next because it is easily the most dominating building in the entire area, and I felt that the spirit of the place would not be effectively captured if a photo of it was not included. The interiors of the cathedral were not used although it would have been good to do so as I felt it would not fit with the general trend of outdoor photos. Keeping in line with the theme of history, I decided to include pictures of the cemetery inside the portfolio as there are graves of many well-known people. I felt that it was not possible to capture the spirit of the place by shooting a general view of the cemetery, therefore the subject matters in the cemetery photos were of single graves. The photo of the grave with the cathedral as the background was placed directly after the cathedral to provide a link between the cathedral and the cemetery. In addition, to showcase the importance of the cemetery, I used a photo of the grave of Antonin Dvorak, who is one of the most famous persons in the Czech Republic.
Subjectively, I see Vysehrad not as a historical site, but rather more of a place of relaxation, where families and friends can gather to bond. Furthermore, it can be observed from the atmosphere that unlike the Prague Castle, people generally visit Vysehrad for relaxation instead of sightseeing purposes. As a result, the subject matters I chose in the subjective photos are of people and the activities they are engaging in over there rather than of the place itself. However, the photos do not show much of the features of the castle as the only distinguishing feature left is the cathedral. Instead, the photos were taken over a wide area which shows Vysehrad as more of a large garden. The photos only contain of either small groups of people or single persons in order to avoid cluttering of the photos. The photos are in an order such that the people are arranged in order of age. This order shows the different activities that people of different ages partake in, and how the activities change as they age, therefore the age groups go through the phases of children, young adults, young families and middle aged to elderly.
Final Assessment – Photos that showcase the character of a location (Prague Train Station)
For the final portfolio I decided to photograph the Prague main railway station. With the high human traffic going through the station every day, I felt the main railway station would be the best way to showcase Prague as a popular travel destination.
It was obvious that the main station is a very busy place where many people pass through every day, therefore I felt it would be the most effective to showcase this feature of the station using motion blur created by people, as I felt motion blur was the best way to show the never-halting movements occurring in the station. In all the photos, there would always be at least one stationary person or object, which was included in order to emphasize the blur by keeping at least one object in focus. One photo was staged by me as it was not in a position where people would be standing around normally, but otherwise all other photos involving stationary people were taken without the subject’s knowledge. Since most photos were not staged, some may be blurred slightly as the main subjects do not know I’m photographing them and tend to move around during the long exposure resulting in an unintended blur.
The order of the photos is made such that it follows a specific sequence from the point where a person enters the station all the way to when the train departs. First, the person reaches the train station (1), and he stops to check the train timings (2). He then proceeds to buy his train tickets (3) and decides to sit down and wait for his train (4). When the train arrives, he heads to the platform (5), boards the train (6), and finally the train departs (7). In some of the photos, the stationary object has nothing to do with the situation I’m trying to emphasize in that image, and were added only to create a contrast between the blurred and the focused parts of the image.
These photos were taken on the day the assignment was given, as I already had a strong image of what I wanted to photograph and wanted to start it while the idea was still fresh in my head. These were taken in the afternoon where there was still enough traffic for the place to be busy, but not to the point where the number of people would be large enough to be distracting like in the morning. Although I thought the blurs could be further emphasized by a larger number of people moving about, I felt that this would result in a higher tendency for them to stand around thus reducing the degree of the blur and increase the number of objects in focus, which would distract the viewers away from the blur.
All my photos have been converted to black and white with increased clarity, but with colours for the stationary subjects. Although colours would have brought out the vibrancy of the location, I felt that black and white would greater emphasize the blurs and reduce any distractions caused by the colours in the background. However, I wanted to show that other than those constantly moving around, there are things that also stop or slow down even in such a crowded area, therefore I used colour for such subjects to show the contrast between these two groups as I felt that a lack of contrast between the moving and stationary objects would not effectively bring out the sort of feel that I get from the place.
I found other photos as well from the module, but those were only like 2-3 photos and I honestly can’t remember what those are about. The above are pretty much the 2 major assignments I remember we have. I got an A for the module, which along with my other module in architecture is sadly the only 2 As I’ve gotten in my entire uni life.
Now that travel plans have been disrupted until next year at the earliest, I might write some stuff about my summer exchange; with a month’s worth of content I believe this should be able to keep myself occupied until the end of the year, or until borders open up and I get to fly again.