My first glimpses of photography inspiration came from books on travel when I was a child and as a result, my interest in photography lies in documentary photography and capturing a place. Although there are variations of this style and I enjoy many styles of photography, my eye is mainly drawn towards the quiet street, usually empty with the architecture and surrounding space and shadows making its own statement. Although I have taken photos of people it is architectural form that I find the most pleasing to photograph. I admire the beauty of the shapes and the atmosphere of a contemporary historical space. I am always photographing streets and buildings aiming to document that single moment in time.
Further Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/alice_lenkiewicz/
As a young girl, I was always fascinated by photography. I have a vague memory of looking at archival images of Egypt and faraway lands, those books that seemed to be sepia and aged and amongst them were photos of the sphinx, pyramids, deserts, mosques and palm trees. It all seemed so exotic to me and interesting.
My grandmother had an old book of these images and I drifted off into a wonderful world of travel and adventure whenever I saw these photos of monuments of ancient Egypt and the Biblical world, images that catered towards tourist travellers, The shapes of the obelisks, tombs, pyramids and buildings were so pleasing to look at. The old pictures of Cairo had a particular interest for me. Frith was an English photographer of the Middle East and many towns in the United Kingdom. I found his photographs exciting and later in years I think I must at times have remembered back to these feelings and been inspired to create exotic images in my own work. This is a photo I took of a view of Palma and Pompeii. I love vast landscapes and views over cities.
Construction and abstraction in photography
As I browsed my grandparent’s 1930s photo album of their lives, I came across some of my grandfather’s engineering, black and white photos of constructions he had built in his youth. Their minimalism and simplicity were rather beautiful. The desolate beauty of industrial urban landscapes interests me. I have always had a fascination for construction and the documentation of architectural forms. I think this links with my interest in found art. Later on, the Bauhaus and photos of architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright intrigued me with their geometric and contrasting shapes against the landscape. I always enjoyed looking at their pamphlets and books on design in art galleries. I enjoyed reading about Cobusier’s interest in form and simplicity.
László Moholy-Nagy was a Hungarian painter and photographer as well as a professor in the Bauhaus school. He was highly influenced by constructivism and a strong advocate of the integration of technology and industry into the arts. Modern architecture always interested me for its bold and defined shapes and shadows. Whenever I travelled away I would see scaffolding and buildings that reminded me of the Bauhaus. I have always been captivated by these images.
This is a photograph of construction works I took in Spain, inspired by the Bauhaus. I love the beauty of the space and the abstraction of interior forms.
Eugene Atget and Berenice Abbott are two of my favourite street photographers. Their beautifully composed photographs of buildings, streets and alleyways emanate calmness, historical accuracy and excitement of the city while also emphasising the beauty of the building in contrast with its surroundings.
Eugène Atget was a French flâneur and a pioneer of documentary photography, noted for his determination to document all of the architecture and street scenes of Paris before their disappearance to modernization. Most of his photographs were first published by Berenice Abbott after his death.
The photographic oeuvre of Eugene Atget (1857-1927) has become a landmark in the history of the medium, and his works are recognized as an integral part of the canon of documentary photography. His subject matter was Paris with its houses, streets, parks, and castles – interior and exterior details of architecture being transformed by modernity. His fame came decades later; however his enduring legacy in the field is still discernible worldwide.
I appreciate the work of. Berenice Abbot, particularly her photos of New York.“The camera alone can catch the swift surfaces of the cities today and speaks a language intelligible to all.” Berenice Abbott
“An American photographer, Berenice Abbott was a central figure in and an important bridge between the photographic circles and cultural hubs of Paris and New York. She was born in Springfield, Ohio, and in 1918 moved to New York, where she studied sculpture independently, meeting and making vital connections with Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray, leaders of the American avant-garde. In 1921.
It was in 1925 at the Man Ray Studio that Abbott first saw photographs by Eugène Atget. After Atget’s death, in 1927, she collaborated with Julien Levy, of New York’s Julien Levy Gallery, to buy most of Atget’s negatives and prints, bringing them back to New York upon her return in 1929. Abbott’s initiative preserved the archive of this fin-de-siècle French photographer’s studio, which, given its influence on the avant-garde, has become an important chapter of Abbott’s legacy.”
Man Ray is an artist whose photographs have always inspired me. The surrealists created thought provoking imagery juxtapositions and dreamlike themes that provided imaginative permission to think about experimenting with photography as a fine art form. I have always been inspired by their strange imagery and the elements of surprise. Glass Tears, 1932 by Man Ray always appealed to me because of its strangeness and challenge towards traditional portraiture.
The Surrealists inspired me with this photo I took of feet with pearls.
I later saw works by Dora Maar, Tina Madotti and Lee Miller. Their works showed a woman’s approach to the subject and provided a new perspective around photography at the time.
In many ways my interest in the surrealists grew out of my early twenties. I always enjoyed film noir and Hollywood photos of actresses with their glamorous makeup and fashions from the thirties and forties.
Set photographers during the “Golden Age” of Hollywood fascinated me, particularly photographs of Garbot, Vivien Laigh, Marilyn Monroe and Jean Harlow. My particular favourite were photos by Cecil Beaton of Greta Garbo poses for her portrait while on the set of Mata Hari (1931).
George Edward Hurrell’s stunning portrait of Jean Harlow always made me feel that was what true glamour portraiture was.
Although my themes have mostly been architecture, I have photographed people over the years in nightlife or everyday jobs. I usually take these photographs of people enjoying nightlife and going out to bars and clubs. This was convenient for me when I also went out to clubs and bars and so I always managed to capture images of people in the nighttime before and after they had finished clubbing.
I was mostly inspired by this theme because I started a project called Gin Lane inspired by the themes of William Hogarth who highlighted the drinking culture of the 1700s.
The photographer Gyula Halász, or Brassaï – the pseudonym by which he has become much better known – is widely celebrated for his signature photographs of Parisian night life, and especially his book of collected photographs, Paris by Night.
Later, I came across the photos of city life by Henri Bresson. His work always fascinated me for its focus on architecture, streets and people and the innovative angles and spontaneous moments he used to express something unusual happening in a moment of time. His photos of streets, alleyways and rooftops had an impact on me and whenever I travelled I began to see the shadows and contrasts of places I visited
Henri Cartier-Bresson was a French photographer who was known for “candid” photography. He was also an early user of 35 mm film. He was born in 1908 and died in 2004. Part of his book, The Decisive Moment, 1952.
He talks about this candid, quick photography in his book The Decisive Moment. He said “There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture.”
An element of photography that I particularly admire is minimalism, focusing on the most important elements in an image bringing shape, colour and simple elements to the fore in colour and black and white photography. One such photographer I admire is Julius Shulman.
A prolific 20th-century architectural photographer, Shulman built up relationships with a number of Modernist architects – particularly California’s Richard Neutra, John Lautner, R M Schindler and Gregory Ain.
Simple forms, pale colours and a sense of space inspired me while taking this photo of a facade and the beach in Fuerteventura.
Minimalism and America
I later began to enjoy the minimalist photography of the American road tour, the abandoned motels, and life through America, its landscape and heritage. Images by photographers such as Stephen Shore and Robert Frank are very inspiring. Mark Haven’s documentary photographs of Wildwood’s motels along the Jersey Shore also intrigue me.
Nature has always been something I have appreciated and documenting the little nature we have left, I feel is vitally important.
I have always enjoyed photographing flowers, butterflies, hills, trees and mountains and, particularly skies and water.I love to photograph reflective water and cloudy skies including the moon and rainbows. I have created documentary images but also abstract images of some of these elements. I am fascinated with water and have always enjoyed looking at photographs of mountains, skies and reflections. Photographs by Ansel Adams are noted for their highly dramatic and beautiful images of mountains and water and are awe inspiring.
This is a photograph I took of the rocks off the island of Capris. I admirer them for their dramatic and primeval presence.
Part of enjoying photographing buildings is intermingled with the idea of preservation and decay. When buildings, particularly historical buildings are pulled down, it is not only emotional but there is a need to record these buildings before they disappear. This kind of photography can be about recording the demolition and the fall of the buildings but also take on another angle, that of the beauty of decay. The documentary photograph can easily transform into a fine art photo. Some of the fine art photos I have seen of decaying and run down buildings are spectacular, rather like stage sets and theatrical. There are others that are also more urban and less decorative.
In the early 2000’s I worked on an exhibition called Rome through Liverpool. Many of the buildings were being torn down at the time and I was fascinated by the structure and decaying innards of many of these old buildings that seemed so ghostly and nostalgic in the way they were being pulled down. I was looking for the classical elements of the city of which I found many in the traditional classical architecture but I also found the classical antiquity in the foundations and the decay of many of the buildings that reminded me of classical Rome. This is an early photograph where I was interested in taking photos of decaying walls and walls that were being taken down.
Matt Emmett’s abandoned buildings are quite incredible and beautiful. Recently I have also discovered the work of Gina Soden which is captivating and also abandoned beauty by Irina Souiki.
Peeling paint, crumpled wallpaper and empty chairs are a few of the unexpected beauties that Irina Souiki has found while photographing abandoned buildings. Her work highlights the small details of degeneration as well as its overall effect on a room’s atmosphere.
Being fond of the surrealists has meant that I have always enjoyed capturing the found art in the city, whether this be graffiti, unusual surfaces, or random objects. I particularly enjoy taking images of graffiti, strange forms and structures, reflections, shadows and found objects and photographing them as art objects and surfaces in their own right. One artist that always intrigued me who documented this raw edgy side aspect of urban space was Martha Cooper, the photographer who introduced graffiti to the world. Martha Cooper’s photographs of New York graffiti in the seventies and eighties helped catapult hip hop around the globe.
Further abstraction of the decaying wall has been captured by photographers such as Robert Polidori whose images become abstracted and fine art. They are a feast for the eye in so many ways through, colour, texture and composition.
I hope this offers you a glimpse into my inspirations and love of photography.