Photographing the middle distance

There's an interesting post on the Muse-ings blog about a photographic concept know as the middle distance.

The post (here) is about the work of the great english photographer Tony Ray Jones but could actually be about the work of many contemporary photographers.

This extract from Tony Ray Jones notebook shows his notes about what kind of photographs he should be pursuing, his ideas on new directions - including a reference to 'the middle distance.'

My take on this idea is that the middle distance is the pictorial space that many photographers position themselves within to take their pictures.
Taken literally, the space could best be described as (a) not too close to the subject and (b) far enough away so that the immediate surroundings and landscape around the subject (i.e. person) can be identified.

Look at many of Henri Cartier-Bresson's classic photographs or pictures taken by his contemporaries (Kertesz, Doisneau etc) and you'll get the general idea.

With the notable exception of practitioners such as Bruce Gilden many photographers seem unquestionably, to work comfortably within this particular 'space.'

Its a fact of life, that the closer you get to a person with a camera (especially if you're taking an unposed photograph) the greater the potential for conflict there is.
So for this undeniably practical reason, as well (of course) as legitimate concerns for personal safety/legal action etc, photographers often take a step back from their immediate subject.

This has the advantage of allowing spatial relationships between the main subject(s) and the camera to become clearer but also allows (literally) more space between subjects and surroundings.

Visiting a popular street photography site like In-Public you can see, that like many photographers of the social landscape, the photographers featured here often (but not always) operate consistently in this space.

I'm not personally against working this way or disapproving of it - just aware that for me photographing anything is about making conscious personal choices about how I take photographs. Tying yourself down to one way of working, one approach seems to me to be an odd way of creating new work - given the many creative choices open to photographers.
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