Trent Parke

While researching for Part 4, Project 2 ‘Layered, complex and mysterious’ I came across Trent Parke. I find his images striking, and am disappointed that the opportunity for hard light and heavy shadows is more limited at this time of year since I would have liked to try this approach for assignment 4.

Park uses hard natural light and high contrast, to create images with striking shadows. In contrast to the work of Sally Mann, Parke’s light emphasises shape and adds drama to his pictures, creating long shadows and dramatic black/white contrasts. He describes ‘exposing for the shadow areas so the rest of the scene is normal, but the people in white are blown out, in an angelic sense.’ (Dreamlives 2002) He is referring to his technique of waiting for someone dressed in white to walk into a strip of light, to create dramatic images:


Image 1

In the Derek Hanlon (2014) film interview  Trent Parke Magnum Photographer on Youtube, Parke describes the ‘incredible light’ in Adelaide;’the light is just amazing – like nowhere else in the world – so sharp’. He says it (light) has always been his inspiration, ‘I don’t set anything up’. He says he waits, waits for that perfect combination where ‘all elements come together for a split second’ (Parke 2014). Parke describes his process for his ‘Moving Bus’ image as including ‘(going) back every day for three months’ until he succeeded in capturing the shot he felt did this:


Image 2

This image uses high contrast: extremes of black and white, to create a dramatic image in which people on a bus are captured in a shaft of light. Here are some more of Parke’s dramatic images that show his use of hard light to capture strong shadows and extreme contrast:




Images 3-5

The contrast provided by the extremes of dark silhouettes and blown out highlights are emphasised by Parke’s use of mono which adds to the sense of the dramatic and emphasises the patterns created by the light.

I was inspired by Parke and Lorelle, in the film Dreamlives (2002). The film shows the couple during a street photography shoot and emphasises their patience in waiting for the perfect shot, the photographers are ‘always looking for the light…using what you’ve been given, which is the sun.’ They observe the light and then wait in position until the right elements of composition appear.

Parke says that his inspiration is drawn from his life experiences, including the death of his mother when he was just thirteen, and his images are intended as emotional rather than physical responses to real life events. He presents single images that appear unconnected, as a sequence of documentary images to turn them into a story (Parke 2014). His projects can take 5 – 10 years. He says that viewing images, as well as taking them, is a personal and emotional response, and the viewer of his images will bring her/his own interpretation based on her/his own life experiences.


Parke, T. (2002) Dreamlives.  Film. Youtube.

Images 1 and 2






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