Archive for May 2012
Though Lucie & Simon hardly need me to share their work, in my quest to rediscover what inspires me about photography their short film ‘Silent World’ stirred my curiosity. Years ago I read Alan Weisman’s truly fantastic ‘The World Without Us’ and it left an indelible impression of the crumbling artifacts of human ingenuity and hubris once humans were removed from the equation. There is a similar spirit in ‘Silent World’. Without getting into the what, why and how of ‘Silent World’, what struck me was seeing streets, many I have walked myself, so familiar in appearance, but so totally different in experience.
What happens when you largely remove human beings from the human world, when you remove man from what is man made? Has the scale of our cities become inhuman and is it possible to illustrate that with a camera? What I find most remarkable about “Silent World’ is the disconnect between appearance and experience. Having walked through Paris and New York I recognize these streets, intersections, buildings and landmarks but my experience is remembered as being elbow to elbow wrapped in a cacophonous blanket of noise. Appearance or Experience; what makes a city what it is? This is New York but it is also clearly not the New York that any of us know, and this is the magic of photography.
Check out ‘Silent World’ on Vimeo Here:
Check out more of Lucie & Simon’s work here:
So far this personal work, The Portrait Project, has already proved to be a learning experience. While I am still working on the parameters that will guide this work over the next few years, or it’s duration, I am trying new ways of presenting work both here and on my Facebook page. Years ago while I was an intern at a daily paper in Washington state, an item in the entertainment section popped out at me, it was a quote from actor Edward Norton in which he suggested that as a photographer I can do what I do in my room, but as an actor he required an audience. In no way am I comparing myself to Norton but in truth I haven’t thought as highly of him since. Photographers make images to be seen and shared and spoke about, debated and critiqued beyond measure and praised beyond reason. Photographers seek to share the world. We have forgotten that before the internet the way we imagined the world was informed by photographers and writers traveling and reporting back what they saw and experienced. What if Mark Twain had never left his room, or Steve McCurry had never left his? Could McCurry’s elegant Afghan Girl have been shot in a studio? Would the image and story be as iconic had it not been seen on the cover of National Geographic or through the thousands of times it’s been reprinted or the story retold since it was shot in 1984?
I am not McCurry, Norton or Twain, but these ideas inform my approach to sharing the work that I do. I have been giving some pretty serious thought to keeping everything but “snap shots” from Facebook but in the last few weeks, after posting images from shoots with subjects self conscious about their image, the feedback has been fantastic. As a portrait subject it feels great to hear from your friends and family how great you look, or how much you are missed. So this is the learning process and I will keep posting work to Facebook to share my experiences and I will work to find a template to continue posting here. Photography is meant to be seen and if you can bear with me, I will show you as much as I can. My shoot with Christopher started over coffee pretty early for a Sunday morning in Whistler in the shoulder season. It turns out, surprise or not, early mornings are something that photographers and event managers have in common. Do you like the way I have presented these three images? If so, let me know.
Late last year I was asked to contribute to a project that proved to be deliciously interesting. My friend Hana, whose project is documented here: participatorycookbook.wordpress.com came to me with a request for photos for a project that would become part of her Masters Degree. Over a half dozen shoots, some very styled and others more spontaneous, we shot more than 2000 images, which were edited down to about 300 options. These numbers may sound insane, but this is the luxury that shooting with digital equipment provides. We were able to shoot lots of different combinations, backgrounds and compositions to meet both Hana’s needs and mine as a photographer. Thanks to Hana for inviting me along and to her book designer Chris for his styling contributions. Hana is looking currently considering publishers for her finished project.
There is some challenge in deciding what projects to shoot and for what reason. I enjoy event photography, but if anyone is getting rich doing it, it certainly isn’t someone I know. I’ve started weighing event photo requests along a spectrum of value positions, intrinsic, potential, portfolio and of course financial. I could point you to a thousand posts and pages that discuss the one million reasons why photographers can’t work for free and for the most part they are far more reasonable than photo clients believe. In the past few weeks I’ve shot three events and each one met some part of my criteria. Last week’s Great Salmon Run in Surrey, BC’s Tynehead Regional Park, was a paid contract but it also provided me with a number of intrinsic rewards; I got to work with some great people, I got to shoot in a location that I had never been and I got to make a small contribution to some Environmental Stewardship. Additionally I had fun and enjoyed my time that Saturday morning, in fact, it was the highlight of my weekend. Thanks to Tom and Clif at Canada Running Series and Liana at the City of Surrey for inviting me along for the day.
Photographer Ian Ruther’s Video Silver & Light came up in my Facebook feed a few weeks ago and I was deeply amazed by what I saw. Silver & Light showed up at a time when I was lost in thought about the value of digital photography. In truth nearly every frame I have shot professionally has been shot with a digital camera and saved to a hard drive as a collection of ones and zeros, not a strip of negatives or a slide slipped into a sleeve, into a binder and onto a shelf. I still have a loupe and a collection of cameras which will shoot film if I can find the time to make that happen. Recently I loaded a nearly new, yet ten year old Nikon F100 with a roll of Tri-X with the intention of shooting some portraits. I will get around to this but it seems like one of those things on the get around to it list like hanging a head board, fixing the drawer in the kitchen and shampooing the engine bay of the car I drive. I would like to shoot film, I would like to do it with some regularity before I loose the option, I would like to shoot 36 frames each one deliberate and considered knowing each frame shot to test light or composition is one less that will count in the take.
Silver & Light is a reminder that there was once something magical about photography and the way chemistry, metal, glass and light conspired together to capture the reflected light of our world. Ruther is not a throwback, but rather a Historian practicing Alchemy to preserve a medium and reframe how we see photography. I often wonder if modern photography has become too much about the technology and too little about the methodology, that it has become too easy, too cheap. I just listened to a BBC Podcast in which UK Photojournalist Nick Danziger suggested that limiting digital devices, iPhones, iPads, Mobile Phones to one photograph a day could make the world a more interesting and captivating place. I think Ian Ruther’s work is a perfect embodiment of Danziger’s idea.
Watch the video:
It has been a busy week. Last weekend I spent Saturday afternoon with Sam and Alex followed by an early morning in Stanely Park shooting a running event and the week fell away from me from that point on; I know it was a little over a week ago that these images were made, but it feels like a month. A week later I am coming off another busy weekend having shot and edited images of a press conference for The University of British Columbia Midwifery Program with my photos turning up on UBC & BC Government websites and a cycling event in Coquitlam which raised nearly $100,000 for the local Hospital Foundation. These past two weekends were book ends to a week filled with much thought and conversation about photography, personal projects and reasonable rates to charge new clients. This personal work, these pictures of Sam & Alex and the others before them, is a way for me to investigate and explore the relationship between subject and photographer and how I want to approach portraiture in the future. It is a definitely a process to learn when to direct and when to observe and I have always been stronger at observation than direction. It was great to see my friends warm to having a camera present, from an initial unease, to something more relaxed and comfortable.
I am on the lookout for subjects in the Vancouver area, let me know if you’d like to be part of my personal project.