A.G.:There is a fine line between cinema and photography. Good cinematography and good photography shows when you have a good arrangement of elements such as light, composition, and subject. But more often than not, a cinematographer has total control of everything while the photographer shooting on the streets uses what the streets provide. So when a photographer is able to show cinematic street scenes, that is a feat of skill in itself. That is why you should check out Ms. Helen Hill’s Mis en scene.
Ms. Hill’s photographs conveys this cinematic approach to street photography through high key high contrast black and white images. She exploits her wide angle lens to show the distinct lines that converge to the subject or to capture as much information about the scene in front of her. Those traits are what is commonly seen on Noir movies.
Noir as a style gained popularity in the early days of hollywood that uses the same techniques as what you could see here in Ms. Helen’s photographs. The style is used in many mystery and thriller stories with dark themes. Nowadays, it can be seen in different sub genres like Neo Noir (Bladerunner and Ghost in the Shell) and pop type B rated type flicks like any Quentin Tarantino Movie you will see. It also crossed different mediums such as graphic novels (A History of Violence, Sin City, Road to Perdition), Video Games (L.A.Noire, Max Payne), and of course, here in photography as well.
Ms. Helen’s though remind me of the classical french style. She has the eye for spotting scene that evoke mystery from the billowing smoke from the ground or unusual character she highlights and yet, it looks very optimistic which really goes against the pessimistic atmosphere of Film Noir. The enjoyable nature of her photographs that stems from her whimsical personality paired with a smart arrangement of elements on makes her images a pleasurable viewing experience.
Aside from Ms. Helen’s very active Flickr account , she was also invited in a group exhibition in Spain’s Visual Huesca where they invited 111 photographers and musicians the world over to participate in an initiative titled, The Leap Photographs. Artists were asked to visually interpret texts from Ramon J. Sender’s book, Memorias Bisiestas, to mark the 111th anniversary of his birth. You can view that amazing exhibition here.
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Aside from Noir, there are many other cinematic styles and techniques that one could use. Check out Alex Coghe’s article discussing the matter. And please, do share your thoughts on Ms. Helen’s work below!