Today’s post is the conclusion of part one. The abstraction of man in monochrome continues; my own peculiar brand of anthropological observation/ documentary/ street photography. Call it what you will. Perhaps as a consequence of the medium (format), I feel these images are somewhat more structured, ordered and ‘rigid’ than the previous set; that said, I’ve never felt London to be a particularly liberal place – especially the City or any of its other institutions – so perhaps this is actually somewhat appropriate.
Just a gentle reminder that I’ve got one last spot available for the 2014 Venice Masterclass – it runs from 24-29 November – atmospheric enough to be different, not so cold to be unpleasant, and few enough tourists that we can still make images that are unique – but best of all, is customised for each participant to focus on what you want to learn, and will challenge you photographically in ways you never thought possible. You’ll spend six intense but inspiring days with a group of fellow enthusiasts, solo, and in individual sessions with me; your photographic brain will be rebooted.
More details on the program are here. See these posts on the recent San Francisco and Havana Masterclasses earlier this year. Please email me if you’d like to book, or for more info. Thanks, and looking forward to seeing you all in Venice! MT
The first part of my street photography from London shows life at my favourite 28mm documentary perspective – one I find natural, long enough to be intimate without being too intrusive, but wide enough to take the context of one’s peripheral vision without overly drawing attention to the geometric distortion that happens with even wider lenses. Despite having flirtations with the longer perspective I also carry – in the past 85mm, and now down to 55 or even 40/43mm for medium format – I’ve seldom gone wider than 28mm, just because it’s so instinctive. Or perhaps it’s a product of having spent a year shooting little else, back in 2009.
I admit to having a change of heart. Yes, I was rather lukewarm bout the initial announcement at Photokina; but I do also remember saying that this would be the camera for a lot of people: right size, right price, right spec. It has “enough” resolution; “enough” performance; and isn’t too large or intimidating. In fact, I’d venture to say that it blows way past sufficiency, but then again, the whole idea of sufficiency is relative anyway. In many ways, this purchase is both rationally driven and a form of recognisance on my part. Bottom line: am I happy? Very much so.
The idea of a photograph looking like a painting isn’t a ridiculous one. In fact, I personally find it quite appealing, and a very good solution for the times when you don’t have strong enough light to make something more dynamic. It’s certainly a style I’ve been exploring increasingly – beginning consciously with Havana – but what exactly makes a photograph ‘painterly’?
Every serious photographer has found themselves needing a light meter at some point in their careers – usually an incident one, because most cameras have very good built in reflected spot meters anyway these days. An incident meter is one that measures the amount of light actually falling on your subject; it is of course not always usable simply because you may not be able to go up to your subject to take a reading. But remembering to carry it, or charge it, or how to work it between infrequent uses probably means you don’t use it at all. And if you use an older film camera without meter, I’m sure it’s pretty obvious how a small, unobtrusive one might be useful. Today’s quick review is of the little blob that attaches to a smartphone in the images above – yes, that’s a light meter, and perhaps the most unobtrusive of them all.
Many years ago, I lived in London. I’m always told that it’s most people’s aspiration to go there, but to be honest, it’s a place to visit, not one to live – much the same way I see Tokyo. What’s always struck me about it is despite having somewhere around 12 million inhabitants and what often feels like the most densely packed streets and transport systems on earth, you almost always feel alone. In the five years I spent there, I can count the number of random conversations with strangers I’ve had on less than the fingers of one hand – which is to say, far less than any other city I’ve lived in. People just seem to be not so approachable and lost in their own worlds; much like Tokyo, it seems that the less space you have, the more fiercely protective of that space each individual becomes.
Photokina 2014 saw the release of an updated Leica X model – the typ 113. I’ve decided to review it for two reasons: firstly, to make another attempt at overcoming my personal lack of enthusiasm for the 35mm FOV, and secondly, out of curiosity to see how good the new lens is – it’s now a newly-designed 23/1.7, changed from the previous 23/2.8 which I believe is a derivative of the M-mount design. The sensor remains the same as the X2 at 16MP, and APS-C. Finally, some design updates complete the package – leaving the X looking more like a mini-M than ever.
And now for something a bit different, both from an experiential standpoint and a content one. As part of the Havana Masterclass,
I arranged a massive demonstration of communism to create a realistic photojournalistic scenario we attended the 1st of May parade at Plaza de la Revolucion, Havana – perhaps the biggest socialist event in the entire Cuban calendar. Rather than being observers of the parade, as I’d expected, we got sucked into the enormous number of participants – I would say easily in the hundreds of thousands, covering the entire length and width of Plaza de la Revolucion and beyond. And as you are no doubt aware, the best images are made when you’re not just watching it, but actually in it.
I originally wanted to call this article ‘is anything truly original?’ – however, I think that’s the concluding question I’d like to leave the reader with rather than the opening one. There has been a lot of debate recently – both in the comments here, offline amongst my usual correspondents and in various places on the internet about why a) photography is perhaps not perceived as ‘highly valued’ as other art forms; b) obviously derivative works and the creative value – or lack of – contained therein; and the greater question of whether c) the medium as a legitimate creative art form rather than merely a recording/ documentary one. Perhaps the biggest question is in the title: ‘but is it art?’