Monthly Archives: June 2011

Nostalgia

Look what I got:

I was given this camera last weekend by my friend J___ whose father was moving house and reckoned it would make more sense to pass on this old beauty to someone who wouldn’t just keep it in a box on the shelf. Good thought! And thanks!

Miss History here immediately took to the internet to find out more about this piece of gear. “Robot” did not mean anything to me, despite the camera being a German make (as seen on the logo on the back of the camera). The Robot Junior was made between 1954 and 1960 by German camera manufacturer Otto Berning & Co.   The Robots were initially launched in 1935. At the time the Robot was an advanced camera with two major new features: Inventor Heinz Kilfitt had constructed a rotating metal shutter which allowed for quick shooting. Secondly the Robot featured a combined exposure lock and shutter cocking, tightened by a spring mechanism. This effectively was the first modern film advance system. 

The cameras were fitted with top glass from Zeiss and Schneider. This, coupled with the spring-cocked film advancement allowed for taking pictures in quick succession – and is possibly the reason why the Robot became the camera of choice of the German Luftwaffe. In fact, special versions of the Robot were produced for the Luftwaffe.

Essentially this is a 35mm film camera which produces a square 24x24mm image. 35mm is good news for the modern-day photographer. However, the historic camera does not have any provision for rewinding the film back into the canister. Instead it comes with a special take-up cassette that the film is advanced into.

Unfortunately, that is just what is missing from my Robot. So I have not been able to experiment with it just yet. But the internet research has brought up a contact who is dealing with Robot repairs. If I am lucky they have a spare take-up cassette and sell it to me. Otherwise my Robot Junior will simply look good… Nonetheless I am very excited about this gift. Whether I will be able to shoot with it or not – it is a beautiful reminder of the history of photography and the power of film. Long live analog!

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

What’s good, what’s bad, what’s ugly, when it comes to photography? Is there a way of telling – objectively – what is good and what is poo not? Ok, I have eventually progressed from the usual outcry “That’s ART??? *I* could have taken that picture!!” I do understand that it is not about the superficial aesthetics, the perfectly caught rule of thirds, the careful colour balancing or the attractive abstraction of an object. It is as much about the concept as well as the meaning and message. And the originality of the idea. 
I am just flabberghasted, again, at what I recently saw at a rather renowned gallery. The occasion was the annual exhibition of the Royal Hibernian Academy. In recent years, the annual RHA exhibition has been exhibiting an increasing amount of photography. Some of it good, some of it bad, some of it ugly. In any case, an opportunity to gauge what the curating academicians find worthy of displaying. And what is awarded a prize – and therefore deemed art.
 
Let’s start with the good. Photographer Erin Quinn, for instance, was awarded the Curtin O’Donoghue Photography Prize, which carries a hefty € 5000 prize sum. And well deserved. I loved the exhibited image – head-and-shoulders of a woman in a bathtub, immersed in water and shot from straight above. Crystal-clear and crisp, beautiful soft colours, the composition deliberately off-centre. The accompanying artist’s statement, which can be read on Quinn’s website, explains more about the project and adds some depth to it, if you pardon the pun. But even without it, I would have agreed with the jury that this was photography worthy of a prize.
I don’t necessarily want to call the subject of my next review “bad”, suffice to say that it did little for me. Again, a photograph awarded a prestigious and generous prize, Dragana Jurisic received € 2,500 and the Curtin O’Donoghue Emerging Photographic Award for her image of a bend in a country road. My initial reaction was “that’s the sort of image that I take on holidays and then sort out into the bin”. Yes, I am ignorant and not intellectual enough to understand the beauty/message of the mundane. Maybe an artist’s statement would have cleared things up for me a bit? With a little research into Jurisic’s work, particularly her project “Seeing Things” does find my approval. Nonetheless I was intrigued to see that this particular photo (of which I have not found any trace online, so I cannot link to it here, my apologies) obviously wowed the judges. 
Let’s put the cloak of silence over the aforementioned “ugly” and move on to general deliberations. This year’s exhibition was certainly an eye-opener. And last but not least on the display formats of the photographic works shown. The bigger the print, the more impact. And what really works particularly well were those large scale photographs that were dibonded behind acrylic. The colours came out crystal clear, the images almost seemed enlarged by the acrylic cover. Surely not a cheap display option, but one that does add vava to the voom.
My conclusion from perusing the exhibition is – the sky’s the limit, people. The RHA annual exhibition is open for submissions from all visual artists. An entry fee of € 15 is charged per submission, three entries max. So, why not? Judging from what the jury has chosen to display, any subject matter and any technique has a chance of being deemed exhibitionable. And if it is my “bin-lining” images that might have a shot at being chosen, I will dig out my little time-passing exercise from yesterday’s car-journey from the computer’s trash can and slap it on a big piece of aluminium.

Let’s Lower the Tone

Hehe, have I got your attention? As much as I like innuendo, this is actually a rather harmless, G-rated post. All I want to do, is discuss toning on the 5d2. 
Marky Mark is a brilliant toy for passing time. When I found myself at loose ends the other day, I decided to foray into the settings of the 5d2 a bit and see what I could break discover. I had wanted to try out the monochrome settings, anyway, so I fiddled with the menu until I finally happened upon the “Picture Style” settings. Scroll down in that and you get the choice between Standard, Portrait, Landscape… and Monochrome. Tada!! That’s the one that I want. 
Whatever for, I hear you ask. Sure, the safest thing to do is shoot RAW at all times. That preserves all information in a large data file and lets you do all your changes in PS. However, I do sometimes find myself knowing that I want to take a picture only in b/w. It would save you a step in post-production, if you shoot the image with the in-camera monochrome settings, so there. 
Anyhoooooo, I was on my discovery trip through the 5d2 menu and decided to press the buttons as much as I could. And lo and behold, pressing the “Info” button (on marky Mark’s back) while on the monochrome tab, opened up a whole new world of effects. Within the monochrome menu you can set the Sharpness, Contrast, Filter effects and Toning effects. The latter was what caught my attention. And the results of it you can see in the image above – sepia, blue, green and purple.
Yep. Gimmick. I don’t really see myself using green tones on my b/w images, let alone purple. Don’t know what that would be useful for. Sepia is quite nice, but in my case produces a rather yellowy tone which I do not really like. 
But hey, good to know it is there. It doesn’t hurt to try and test it. And here is a little word of warning. If you shoot RAW only with the applied toning effects, your purply shot will not transfer from the camera to the PC. At least not if you are importing via Lightroom. The thumbnail on your camera may show you a monochrome image, but the RAW data file contains all the image information and thus will have recorded the image in all its natural colour glory. Only a JPEG image will be saved as a monochrome (including the chosen toning effect). 
Right, that concludes the lowered tone. Back to high and mighty next time.

Midsummer Nightmare

Oh dear, this is meant to be summer! Midsummer even, the nicest time of year, long days, warm nights, BBQs, sea swimming and dawnchorus. Lovely sunsets and misty dawns, getting up at 4.30 am for early-morning-shoots of empty streets. No such luck! Confined to the house due to rain? Wait a minute, no, you can still go shooting when it’s wet.


Cameras and rain don’t go well together. Having spent big bucks on a marky Mark, I wouldn’t really like to put the 5d2’s weatherproofing to the test. On the other hand I don’t want to be too precious with my camera – it is, first and foremost, a tool, not a precious valuable. According to the spec sheet, the 5d2’s weathersealing is the same as the 1d3. I take it that means it is made from the same magnesium alloy shell as the 1d3 and buttons, switches and external seams are water- and dustproof.


Thus informed, I headed out and defied the rain. Admittedly, I didn’t take any risks, shooting close to the house, but nonetheless catching a good few drops of rain and general dampness on the camera’s body. And marky Mark did fine, I must say – there was no problem with condensation on the lens or water-logged screens.


However, it doesn’t hurt to have a troubleshooting plan, just in case you should ever drop your equipment in a river or get caught in a tropical rainstorm. First thing to do – after recovering the precious camera from the depths of the ocean – is take out CF card and battery to prevent short-circuiting. Clean the camera and lens with a soft cloth as much as you can. Then place the camera near a heatsource in a bowl of rice. The rice will soak up the humidity and help dry the camera.


Alternatively, splash out! *um* that may be the wrong word in this context. So, invest in a waterproof case. Nah, not really – that would set you back one and a half grand. But you could just fashion something from a freezer bag and a few rubber bands. Not ideal, but a work-around just in case…

What’s next???

What’s next??? I keep wondering that myself. I should be bloody busy here – doing prep work for next year in college, practicing photography, organising for the next exhibitions and researching a few projects I have up my sleeve. But I am enjoying the lull of the break. I have been so “lulled” in fact, that I have found it very hard to complete the 31 days project that the Friends of Analog started a month ago. And yet I should feel motivated. 
The last month has been eventful for the Friends. We had our 24 themes project finally up on a public wall at the eleven+ exhibition last week. And secondly we were extremely chuffed to be featured in a magazine with our 24 themes. deinblick, a bimonthly magazine with international focus, dedicated two double spreads to us, showed the grid in its entirety and also picked some highlights from the individual photographers. The spreads were really nicely designed and the fact that individual exposure was given to the photographers, satisfies our egos is an added bonus.
deinblick #4, June/July 2011
For anyone who is interested in photography and/or is looking for a way to start getting noticed published, I would suggest you have a look at the mag. The concept of the magazine is innovative and new: Editor Chris Schiebel sets a topic for each upcoming issue of deinblick and asks the readership for submissions. These can be photographic or in written form – or a combination of both. The editorial team then sifts through the submissions and chooses the best ones for inclusion in the mag. Getting published in deinblick is a great stepping stone – and it doesn’t cost you anything. It is truly international with articles appearing in English and the mothertongue of the writer. The magazine is printed on high quality paper and has a very pleasing, uniform design. And all that for € 5.00 per issue (including postage). A true collector’s item, actually. You can check it out at deinblick.com or on Facebook. Issue # 5’s topic is “wanderlust”, so dig out all your travel photos and submit something NOW! That’s an order!!!
So, now that I have convinced myself how truly great the Friends of Analog are, I shall finish up the current project and take the last two images remaining on my roll of film. Hopefully, we will have as interesting a result as in strike one of the Friends of Analog. After all, my sitting room wall is empty and needs to have something displayed on it, soon!

eleven+ Exhibition

Today is the big day! For the last while we have been busy organising an exhibition in Filmbase, a venue right in the centre of Dublin. Today’s opening is the culmination of several weeks’ work of planning, communicating and executing the plans. And hopefully it will be as good as it looks 😉
The exhibition comprises the work of 15 independent photographers, some from the current BA class (2nd year) in Griffith College, some from last year’s Diploma class in GCD. The reason we are exhibiting together is that we took part in the “Friends of Analog Photography” project in March this year, which will also be exhibited in the same show.
The works exhibited range from original family portraits via landscape photography and documentary all the way to more concept based projects, like the one you can see in the image above. It is Karen Tierney’s project “lenticular”, beautiful macro shots of contact lenses on plants. (In the background you may recognise my own project “Tracing Mainie” in there, too.)
The pictures are all well hung (*fnarrfnarr*), we are ready to rock, basically. All that is missing is YOU – our audience. So come along tonight for the official opening at 7 pm, Filmbase, Curved St, Temple Bar, Dublin.
eleven+
13 – 19 June 2011

London Street Photography

Did I mention I was in London last week? Well, I will make sure that that doesn’t go unnoticed. I intend to milk it as much as I can, because I went to see five fabulous photo exhibitions while I was there. All squished into a mere 36 hour stay, and yet, where there is a will there is a way. I have to admit, however, that the actual reason for my trip was not a round of the current photo exhibitions but an invitation to the taping of Stephen Fry’s hysterically funny quiz show QI. (There, milking another one *haha*. Anyway, click here if you want to see an earlier episode of QI with nearly the same cast, including Jimmy Carr, Alan Davies and Johnny Vegas who were there at the taping on Tuesday.) Anyway, back to the topic in hand, which is photo exhibitions. I already gave you a review of Paul Graham’s unmissable retrospective Photographs 1981-2006 last week, now I’d like to review the current exhibition “London Street Photography” which is currently running in the Museum of London.
Music Lover on Trafalgar Square
Street Photography is not really as old as photography itself. The beginnings of photography were “hampered” by the fact that exposure times for Daguerreotypes or Calotypes were rather long (several minutes, initially) – and thus only really lent themselves for static objects or subjects. Photographing busy street scenes was impossible. In fact, the first instance of street photography, if you want, was an image by Daguerre made in 1838 when the photographer tried to capture a busy Parisian boulevard. The outcome was a picture devoid of people – except for a single man having his shoes shined: The only non-moving subjects caught in the frame while all other moving subjects did not show up in the exposure. (Image here.)
Of course photographers have always had an interest in capturing the world around them. And that included the streets of London. But even if photographers took long exposure times into account and decided to attempt street photography – a concept, by the way, that was not even formulated as such until the 20th century – an essential element of street photography was usually missing: the candidness of the shots. Wherever photographers turned up with their large format cameras, they would sure attract some attention from onlookers and passers-by – and the chances of an unnoticed and unposed shot would be gone. Thus, street photography began in London in the 1890s when an amateur photographer called Paul Martin found a way of hiding his camera in a parcel and went around the streets capturing the scene. His images give interesting insights in the realities of London life. 
London Street Photography from 1930 to 1945 is characterised by the outsiders’ view of London. With the wave of emigrants coming into the British capital from pre-war and then war-torn Continental Europe, a new documentary approach is visible. Photographers such as Hans Casparius, Felix Man, Wolf Suschitzky, Bert Hardy or Laszlo Moholy-Nagy critically looked at the scene – and also brought new aesthetic ideas about framing and modernist photography to the medium. 
The post-war period is characterised by social change in the wake of the war. With the documentary approach firmly in place, photographers such as Roger Mayne, Henry Grant, Jerome Liebling or Lutz Dille focussed on the vanishing traditions particularly in working-class London. Many of the captured street scenes seem very far removed from our contemporary reality indeed, such as Grant’s monkey act in Petticoat Lane Market or the obvious class differences in Liebling’s “Outside Claridge’s Hotel“.
Finally, the examples shown for 1980s to 2000s street photography underline the shift from documentary photography to a more aesthetic, concept-driven approach. Finally, colour has made it into photography, which adds a new layer of realism. With the theories of post-modernism and deconstrunctionism looming over all art, photography becomes more self-referential and critical of itself as a medium of documentary, questioning reality, validity and universality of interpretation. In this context Chris Dorley-Brown’s Photoshopped image combinations are particularly interesting, constructing new realities from a number of documentary images.
The exhibition boasts too many interesting images than to go into all or even a few of them in detail. For anyone interested in London, it gives a short ride through London history. Likewise, anyone interested in photographic art history, this is a nicely illustrated step-by-step time line of the development of (street) photography. However, the exhibition’s strength as a concise historic overview of street photography is also its weakness: There is little space given to the art-theoretical development of photography. The texts displayed beside the images refer to biographical data of the photographers, their place in and take on art theory is duly ignored. And considering that the main drive for a continued development of photography as an art form rather than an informative discipline of social documentary or even journalism happened from the 1960s onward, there is far too much space given to the earlier documents of London Street Photography and not enough focus on contemporary photographic practice. Alas, what can you expect from an exhibition staged in the Museum of London??

London Street Photography 1860 – 2010
Until 24 September 2011