I saw this exhibition at Somerset House London last Thursday, It was pointed out to me by another blogger, who had nothing but high praise for it. The title; “Henri Cartier Bresson – a Question of Colour” holds that name that carries a certain type of weight which may or may not be problematic. I should point out while I respect Henri Cartier Bressons position in the history of photography, I have yet to be totally thrilled by his work. (Is this photography heresy?)
This show plays with the fact Cartier Bresson was unimpressed by colour (yes, I know he did use it on occaision) as a medium for photography. Personally I am passionate about colour photography, perhaps this is one of the reasons I haven’t given him much time.
However “A Question of Colour” is deftly curated to challenge Cartier-Bressons perception of colour, the show presents Cartier Bresson black and white prints (previously unseen in the UK) that display his command of illustrating form, then show those who have been influenced by his work using colour in creative, sorry, exceptionally creative ways. Interestingly this has been put together as a positive. Reinforcing Cartier Bressons influence, and the practice of using colour. Nice.
This is an amazing collection for me in many ways. I am familiar with Saul Leiter, Fred Herzog, Trente Parke (above), Joel Meyerowitz – but it has altered the context of other photographers I know Carolyn Drake, Helen Levitt, and introduced me to some who I can see myself admiring for some time to come, particularly Boris Savelev and Harry Gruyaert. These are truly sophisticated images, rich and descriptive in their use of colour and tone.
My wallet, usually full of dust and cobwebs, was gleefully prized opened to buy a copy of the book that came with this show. The shop assistant told me it had sold out over a week before. SO thats over two weeks before the end of the show? Testimony to how people have enjoyed it, and enough to warrant a reprint… please?
When I saw this show I became really excited, its obvious this is similar to something I am reaching for with my shots, well those that are like this. Which is why, for me, this is the most successful exhibition of the last twelve months. So I emailed the curator, William E. Ewing, to tell him how impressed I was- he mailed back to say hello. Charming fellow.
The show closes this Sunday! But it is free…
If your image is hotlinked above and you’re not happy about it let me know…
Actually pretty quiet from me on the blog front for a few days – why? Well i have been working on a photo shoot for a client covering a playwright competition at the Unicorn Theatre in London. I’m privileged enough to work for them a lot, and they’re really good people – Which is great. The winning play “A concrete Jungle Full of Cars” as shown above was bout three siblings who move from Sierra Leone to London at the time of the civil war. Expressing the culture shock with humour, it also describes some of the issues surrounding civil war with great sensitivity.
Theatre is though – a challenge of low lighting thats can suddenly shift, the speed of the actors, getting everything right for a good pictures. Nonetheless I bring you a couple of shots I have passed on to my clients. I really enjoy this work – Theatre has a buzz about it…
I went to the National Portrait Gallery Lates last Friday . They had a drawing exercise drawing the busts of some ancient famous people, I had to have a go. Don’t know who this guy is, and I wondered how hard it would be to draw a beard.
When I was young my dad ended up with LOTS of paper. I don’t know how. It was 1979. Seems strange to have a heap of paper arrive, but it was normal at the time, when you’re 9 years old you dont really have a yardstick for what normal is – so you just get on with your paper-filled life.
Anyway – my point is I drew, I had been drawing before that, but when the paper came I drew and drew and drew. Dogs, houses, spacecraft, dinosaurs, cowboys and indians – I even did crayon rubbings of the furniture. Mental. It took years for the paper to run out.
Over time I became what the other kids in my first/lower/infants school called “a good drawer”. I entered a National competition, I think it was World Wildlife Fund – I won it, but was sick the day of the award so my dad went to collect it. The prize? £15 worth of book tokens.
Anyway – I kept on drawing and went on a foundation course to build a folio for an arts degree. Looking back I wasn’t really interested in art as concept or what it could say, I just loved drawing so I did it again and again and again. Didn’t want to write, or analyse, I would skip those classes, but stay late for extra life drawing. I just wanted to draw, well by then …draw,get drunk, go to parties and chat-up girls.
So academically I was a bit lazy, when it came to university applications, I didn’t make the cut. Then I got stuck in crappy jobs for 6 years – I had fun otherwise, I had good friends, chatted up girls and went to parties – but working life was boring and it went nowhere. And I stopped drawing.
Its a tragedy – why did I stop? Worried about day to day life I guess, which I did find a REAL shock after being in education for so long.
Eventually I went to University – in 1997, and I could draw again. I wasn’t as polished, but the skills were there.
What’s my point? Well, I have two points:
ONE: National Portrait Gallery invite the public in late on a Friday to draw from paintings, photos or statues – they lay on equipment. The standard of people varies; some are good some are not so good – but it feels great to be in a room where everyone is drawing. If you’re around and you know what I mean by this you’ll go. If you don’t know what I mean, try it anyway – whether you think you’re good at drawing or not – it’s fun, it’s free and it feels good.
TWO: If it’s fun, it’s free and it feels good and its not hurting anybody, don’t have a six-year gap, keep on doing it.
At the end of last year everyone from Martin Parr to the Guardian were compiling their best photobooks of 2012. These books seems to be a growing phenomenon. Visiting London bookshop Claire De Rouen, the volume of both self published photobooks and those from the traditional art publishers (Particularly Dewi Lewis and Steidl/Mack) seems to be increasing. I love how the tradition of ‘self-publish’ that for me started in the 1960′s and 1970′s has more recently embraced desk-top publishing and digital printing to make publishing photobooks a possibility for the individual and collective. Awareness is also driven by institutions such as Self-Publish Be Happy who promote photobooks, extensively showing their content.
It’s the first year I have been involved in photography at a level to buy enough photobooks to compile a list of my own. Okay so a couple of them have publish dates of 2011 – but this is the year I bought them, so my top 5 will follow shortly.
There are a fair few I have missed because of a lack of funds or just the breadth of choice – which sudddenly seems so alarming! Would love a copy of “Afronauts“ – but that will never happen now, I missed the boat there! And “I want to Live Innocent” is on the list – it’s a beautifully executed book where loads of the pictures could stand alone. Also looking at the final book on my list it strikes me as interesting that as someone obsessed with colour photography that three of the books on my list are in black and white.
All images in this post are collected from links – If its your link and you want it removed from here or want a credit let me know.
A bouncer in Cape Towns ‘Catacombs’ night club Billy Monk took pictures of the patrons socialising and drinking together in 1960′s South Africa. This book was also on Martin Parrs recommendations of 2012. It’s beautifully explicit, edited as though a single night progresses from sobriety through to exceptionally drunken.
Monk took the images between 1967 – 69 with the intention to sell on to patrons earning him a little on the side. I’m not sure of its success as a second income, but Monk continued with his photography. The pictures seem to show a side of South Africa previously unseen. It speaks of a Cape Town with a potential for asian/white mixed race relationships, homosexuality and raucous drunken behaviour . Eyeopening as a document, caught with a sense of timing and often a sense of humour it’s a real slice of life – lovely book.
I had to buy this after seeing it as it relates so closely to the commuter project I started early last year and am now continuing. Shubiya is the simplest of all the books to explain on my list; Hinton spent 4 days around Shubiya, the station in Tokyo’s business district, photographing commuters. It began as a photographic project which his (commissioning?) agency offered to publish. He says of the project: “I really just wanted to take interesting images without focusing on some of the issues I usually focus on but according to people who viewed the work it was very much a statement on peoples working lives.” I agree with ‘those who viewed the work’, whether intentionally or not Hinton captures commuters beautifully but his pictures also suggest working life as a difficult experience.
The quality of the images and print in this, the third of Paul Grahams American Trilogy, is amazing (perhaps one day I will manage to collect the rest). Graham captures sequences of people and street scenes as they change from moment to moment. Shifting focus from person to person. The light and scenes are unmistakenly American, taken in New York. But what is he saying? In a an interview in the British Journal of Photography Graham expresses how he challenges photography and what we expect of it as a medium. That people understand how photographer use images to reach for an idea but photography as an art form is something most people don’t ‘get’. I think he’s alluding to how when we name something, ‘photojournalism’ for example, to describe a type of photography – this description ends up dictating the type of photography we expect to see. Which rules out all-sorts of possibilities. I respond to Grahams work more than anyone elses at the moment – To lift a quote from this interview “I don’t get tired of trying to understand and look at the wonderful amazing nature of what’s around us”, I agree with this perspective. It’s amazing work from one of Britains best.
I couldn’t help myself. Despite the fact Moriyama is so prolific, his retrospective at the Tate (finishes 20th Jan!) and current popularity drew my attention to his work and ultimately picking up a inexpensive limited edition book. I wanted to take the time and study Moriyama’s style. I wasn’t disappointed – the images are beautiful. Carried out in the grainy high-contrast style associated with him, It took me a couple of views to realise the binding element was flowers of some kind in every image. Whether a lilly in a toilet bowl, heavily patterned floral bedspreads, blossoms on a tree or fireworks that take the appearance of flower-heads, each image contains a flower.
It’s impressive in two ways; firstly that his photographic style flows between the early and late pictures perfectly – not lost in pockets of different eras as you might expect from a selection of work spanning over 40 years. Secondly that this is clearly a comprehensive study, reaching to find where flowers are, how they’re presented and to reinterpret, re-represent his pictures to us in “Sunflower”.
Strange how publishers sell out of books when they’re still available on amazon. Nonetheless, I’m sure it will sell out soon.
‘Arbeit | Work’ captures England during an enormous period of social change. From 1965 where shipbuilding and coal mining were ‘bread and butter’ industries Killip follows these people and their occupations while these industries are withering away or have already disappeared. He then continues the journey focusing on the people and areas left behind by this industrial change and ignored by economic progress. Killip seems to capture his subject with a depth that news-media often doesn’t manage; his portraits are striking, somehow universal, often desolate and beautifully descriptive of the people left behind.
Londoners live in a beautiful city. Most of us work here, some travel for hours just to get to their jobs. I don’t think we enjoy the city enough, we’re distracted by information, our worries, thoughts about our relationships and careers.
That’s how I felt before I decided to go back to University. And thats why I’m taking pictures of us Londoners in our busy lives. Consumed by our environment we travel like cells flowing through the beating heart of London, losing ourselves in our own thoughts, unaware of its almost organic nature, without witnessing it’s beauty.
There’s already an image from this project on here (winter light I) and large version of other pieces on the front page of my website. The people I have captured have been singled out by sunlight, illuminating their place in their relationship between them and this city. But its not a judgement on Londoners, (i don’t think its easy to be aware of your environment all the time in a city).
Hello, just a quick update on some fantastic resources today. I have collected a bunch of online photography magazines web addresses when on my masters, however I also have just been given a load more by the amazing Photofusion.org.uk. Do note they will have a photojournalism bias, as that what I studied!
These are online publishers only. If anyone has anymore to add please feel free in the comments.
Arthur was talking to me about the issues on his housing estate, the local Borough wanted it to be demolished with a view for redevelopment, this was promoted as a benefit to the residents and had divided the neighbours living there. Arthur was sharp, he knew that this would mean his community would be displaced and rising living costs. It was a serious exchange, I had already taken a ‘straight’ photo of him, on raising the camera to my eye a second time he suddenly pulled this face. It was a project to get a picture with backstory, so this photo didn’t fit my original intention. I love it though.
A lot of exhibitions have points of interest but leave me feeling a little short-changed. I often dont realise this at the time, but occasionally I see something truly inspiring.
The idea behind Everything Was Moving at the Barbican, London, is to collate the work of Independent photographers who were working in the 1960’s and 1970’s, each as a show within a show. Each collection also represents social change, or a perspective of the time. Twelve photographers have been chosen;
True, theres a lot going on, and the exhibition has received criticism for that. It’s boldly curated to describe the period, and the way it illustrates the period of change within different cultures is impressive, as is as the range in styles of photography. It’s also easy to pick and chose what appeals to your sensibilites and take that with you. If you’re interested in photo essays, documentary its a must. Impressive!
In other news I had a momentary cigarette lapse after two months, the day before new year!
I’m being good again but it sucks… these two will explain, though you’ll have to skip to 1 min in for the singing.
EXHIBITION REVIEW : Image credited Bruce Dickinson
For any budding photographers out there who want a starting point for portraiture a a lot of convention says to do the following, it’s a starting point only, modify to suit your conditions and needs:
Basic Portrait Recipe – single sitter:
f/5.6 is a good place to start, (Less will soften the focus – so if you have f/2.8 and focus on the eye of someone facing the camera directly, the tip of the nose will be soft as will the back of the ears(See the image on Part 1) – have more – say F/8.0 and your background will become as sharp as your subject).
Focus on the eye, either the corner or the iris – unless you choose another focus point for a reason
ISO less than 400 – digital grain looks crappy
Use aperture value setting on your camera – if you know what you want to acheive use manual and a light meter.
Dont silhouette your subject – unless you mean to.
If you’re using a flash try to bounce it off a surface, such as a neutral (white / grey) wall.
Window-light is awesome – play around with it.
Match your white balance to your surroundings, if its sunny use the ‘sunny’ setting – if you know how to to take a custom reading do it!
If its noon and sunny you’ll be better off in the shade. you can use wite card or a sheet to reflect light onto your subjects face
Sitter – this is a bit more fluid:
Talk to them – all the time. Let them know what you want – rapport, tell them if you’re test shooting – they can relax.
Avoid interlocking fingers – and beware of peeping fingers if people are folding their arms or have their hands on their hips.
Dipped hips, shoulders or 3/4 shots (not flat on like a passport photo) are often more interesting.
look at a picture you like. Start with that – it doesn’t matter if its Richard Avedon, Irving Penn or from a newspaper – look at the pose. What do you like about it? Is it suitable for your sitter?
When you research other peoples photos try and work out where the light is coming from.
do you want the whole body? The face? The head and shoulders? – and mix it up!
If you have a flash / umbrellas or a softbox look up lighting. Short Lighting, rembrandt, clamshell will do to start with! There are lots of online tutorials and videos.
You can use a little flash in daylight to soften hard shadows.
Remember – THIS IS A STARTING POINT! EXPERIMENT! Mix up your lighting, poses, over and underexposures, and trust that you will know when you like the results. If you look back in six months time at a portrait you liked and you don’t like it anymore WELL DONE! you’re learning and have developed.
Deciding haven’t practiced portraiture enough, I am addressing this by that 2013 for me would be the year of the portrait. Although its more accurate to say I haven’t done as many recently.
Also looking at the definition, as provided by the dictionary on my mac:
portrait |ˈpôrtrət, -ˌtrāt|
1 a painting, drawing, photograph, or engraving of a person, esp. one depicting only the face or head and shoulders.
2 a representation or impression of someone or something in language or on film: the writer builds up a full and fascinating portrait of a community.
I think a lot of my protraits fall into the first part: They’re a picture of someone. Isn’t it more interesting to have a portrait which falls into the second category? Trying to describe an aspect of their personality, the circumstance in which we met, or how it feels to be with them.
So thats one project for next year. If anyone’s in london and wants to volunteer you just let me know!!