Monthly Archives: March 2013

Fake Format?

The other day I was doing what I always do: I was looking at photographs. Not my own. And in all honesty, it was a drooling exercise, because I was ogling my favourite eyecandy. But what I came across made me gasp out loud – a full-length portrait of said eyecandy. And this time it was not because of eyecandy’s pleasing bone structure, but because for entirely photo-nerdy reasons. The format of the image. I didn’t even have to look at a high-res version of the image to get excited – I knew straight away that it was something special – a LF image.

Or was it? The outward signs were there. The black frame around the image. But then I wondered – it is easy enough to just impose the frame on a digitally taken image in post-production in order to pass it off as LF. Aesthetically, the little black frame has become a bit of an “edgy edge”, I suppose. It adds a certain coolness factor to the image. Hence “frames” like this are now available as options in digital photo enhancement tools or popular filter apps such as instagram etc. How phoney is that? I felt pretty sure, however, that the image I was looking at was the real deal. Not only because the photographer in question is an established photographer who would risk ridicule if he “enhanced” his picture in post-production with a fake frame. But what it clinched it for me was a tiny give-away that convinced me that the image originated on LF film – and that’s what made me gasp as it became apparent to me that this was indeed a genuine LF image: the little clip marks at the side of the frame.


My clips are not as pointy…

A bit of doubt remains, however. The question is – why do photographers “bother” to shoot LF, and more importantly, *on film* at all, in the day and age of digitally wizardry? Maybe the challenges of it are also the benefits: The process of LF photography is more deliberate, lengthy and technically demanding, but that in itself is something that a lot of photographers enjoy. It is going back to the roots of photography. Shooting on film means that you *need* to execute your shot perfectly. It makes you slow down, look properly, think properly, apply your knowledge of photography. I find it far more technical than digital “snapping” and shows a love for the craft of photography. Yes, I’d say that photographers still do this for love of photography. I think I would.

Consolation photography

What do you do when you feel down? When you are bored or when you are largely uninspired? Do you have a go-to topic that you explore when you need consoling? Or is photography the furthest from your mind when you are not in top form?

With me it really depends. Well, obviously – if I am frustrated because of my photography, I would probably not turn to it for consolation. Or maybe I would – and photograph the things that I love photographing. My go-to consolation photography is interior photography. Yup, my guilty pleasure. It just rocks my boat. For starters, it is always available. Well – I live in a house so there’s the ready-made interior location at my disposal. I love that I don’t have to leave my house in order to be creative – I just grab my tripod and off we go in search of an interesting corner.

Interior photography is easy – the object of the shots are stationary and that is half of the shot in the bag. No lengthy explanations to a human model, either, about where to look and how to pose and what to do. No complaints from the photographed subject, either – walls may have ears but they certainly have no mouths…

I can take my time as long as I need, I can photograph the same bloody thing 50 times in a row, bracketing to my hearts’ content without anyone getting impatient. Oh, and I can work on my own, something that I occasionally enjoy, just prancing around alone, most probably with the iPod on, humming along and generally regaining my zzzzzing.

The weird thing is that I am never that pushed to actually look at the images I have produced in my consolation sessions. Sometimes it takes me weeks to have a look at them, edit them and post-produce them. Most of them don’t even get uploaded to a blog, or even Flickr. They have only been used for quick satisfaction of my needs. Consolation photography.

I think I may have just inadvertantly discovered Cubist photography.

Seriously though. Cubist photography. Is it possible? Or is it just a mere rip-off of Cubist painting? I have been thinking about this for a while. Since 1997, actually. That’s when I first became interested in Cubism. But not in its fine arts form. I have never held much interest in the likes of Picasso or Juan Gris. Quite frankly, I never found the Cubist portraits that they produced particularly visually pleasing. That is entirely subjective and individual point of view – I do accept that their art was ground-breaking, original and highly aesthetisized. I just personally would not hang a Cubist painting á la Picasso in my sitting room. It was the Cubist architecture in Prague that actually got me to reconsider. It sounds impossible – how can you break the laws of perspective with a three-dimensional edifice? The buildings are of course conventional in the sense that they are habitable spaces with floors, doors, windows – but the decorative elements are strangely and definitely modern with windows in rhombus shape, rather bulky decorated doorways and pillars, all protruding from the facades and thereby enabling a different shape/view of the building from different perspectives.

I have the good fortune to work in a house that was once the workplace of a Cubist artist, however, and her work has always appealed to me. Mainie Jellett was the first Cubist painter in the British Isles. Despite a rather conventional background, the unmarried artist was able to study in Paris with the likes of Albert Gleizes and André Lhote. Her work is less representational than Picasso’s and based on a stringent theory of shape, light, colour and movement. The abstract quality of it with shifting shapes is what fascinates me, and I have made attempts at recreating that in photography. (See my blogpost here.) But I never got into it because it involves too much Photoshop for my liking.

As I was arsing around with my iPhone today, looking for a suitable picture for my still on-going 365 project (now in its second year), I happened to point it at a disco ball. And this is the result:

This is much more like what I would consider Cubist photography: Straight lines breaking up parts of the image into facets. Together the facets do not represent a seamless bigger picture, but mirror reality broken into pieces. In a way that looks like David Hockney’s photo collages, without being broken into individual photographs. That appeals very much to my laziness. *coughs*

Is there meat in this? Could this be turned into something? For starters, the problem is the obvious presence of the camera in the shot. Could that be avoided by use of a LF camera, for instance, which is able to “shoot around the corner” so to speak? Or is it necessarily a bad thing if the camera appears in-shot, anyway? Isn’t the camera part of the reality that is being represented in the shot – one facet of many?

I am intrigued. I may have to play with this.

Photography – a Sexist’s Paradise?

You wouldn’t think that “women and photography” is an issue worth broaching. The contribution that women photographers have made to photography is undisputed – from early pioneers such as Julia Margaret Cameron, to early art photographers such as Marianne Breslauer, Ilse Bing, early war correspondent Margaret Bourke-White, first woman-member of Magnum Inge Morath or documentary photographer Dorothea Lange. I won’t even mention the countless female photographers who pushed the boundaries of art photography from the 1960s onwards. Actually, I will because I like to name-drop women photographers get brushed aside all too readily still and any opportunity to mention their names must be seized: Diane Arbus, Nan Goldin, Annie Leibovitz, Sally Mann, Hilla Becher, Cindy Sherman, Rijneke Dijkstra… oh, the list goes on and on.

Strange then, that photography seems to be still dominated by men. Strange, but maybe no wonder. Photography is still perceived as a technology-driven medium. It is inhabited by gadget-obsessed males who can spend hours discussing the advantages of Fuji Provia 200 over Kodak Ektachrome 200, tenderly hugging their 5 d iii and comparing the length of their penises lenses. Photography, it is by-and-large accepted, is a weird mixture of art and technology. To be proficient in photography, you cannot just be intuitive, you need to know the workings of the machinery you are using, you have to understand the laws of physics that govern the realm of optics and you have to keep up-to-date with the hardware development. Machinery, physics, hardware. Three keywords that seem to exclude the participation of female enthusiasts. Ok, I am being deliberately provocative here – we *are* living in the age of emancipation and equality and the small(er) number of women photographers may not just be down to the legions of male photographers who are jealously guarding their profession from contamination by female participation. It might be the women themselves who shrink back from photography, for whatever reason. And not all genres of photography are characterised by the dearth of women practicioners. It is safe to say, that within art photography women are well-represented and there is little sexism among art photographers.

In the area of press photography, I am not so sure. This seems to be a part of the industry that is still ruled by testosterone. As was brought home to me recently, when I attended a major, global public relations event in London. I had travelled over there to fangirl at cover the UK launch of “The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey”. At the back of my mind was the tentative idea to wangle my way into the press pit in order to ogle Richard Armitage unrestrictedly get pretty pictures of the main stars. With my press card at the ready, I attempted to secure a place in the cordoned-off press area. Alas – I was too late to be accredited and therefore had to restrict my ogling photography to watching from the sidelines, literally.

This is as close as *I* got to Mr Armitage.
Pretty close, huh?
Am I fooling you?
Ok, didn’t think so – this is Armitage on screen, cropped to within an inch of his life.
Click on pic to see the uncropped original.

In the end, however, I was quite happy to have been excluded from the press area. I had finally positioned myself in a spot from where I had a view of the entrance to the press area. Deliberately so, as I wanted to drool a bit over the photography hardware on view. When the event finally ended after about two and a half hours at -2 degrees Celsius (my dedication to my movie boyfriend craft knows no temperature limits bounds…), I waited with bated breath to see my fellow professionals emerge from behind the barriers. I was not disappointed –  they spilled out in groups of two and three, laden with three or four cameras each, rucksacks full of lenses and other assorted paraphernalia on their backs, the occasional stool and stepladder under their arms, or monopods over their shoulder. I counted 40 press photographers present. But then the shocker: Among them there was just one woman. ONE!

I am not lying when I am saying here that I was shocked. I truly was – I just cannot quite fathom how this area of the industry cannot reflect the gender balance the same way all other areas do. Photography does not demand particular physical strength which might exclude females from practicing the job. Why then are there so few women in this field? Are there socio-cultural reasons? Are male practicioners in press photography more aggressive, therefore get the better shots and are simply more successful than women? Do women not feel wanted in the ranks of press photographers? Do they not have what it takes to get the shots and sell them off? I am genuinely at a loss here – why? Does anyone have any idea? Is photography a sexist’s paradise?

The experience has taught me something. Be early if you want to get a close-up of Armitage. Sexism is somehow alive and kicking in photography. In a day and age where women are train drivers, army officers and carpenters, there can’t be anything that would hold them back to become press photographers. Yes, I know. The mere fact that there are *more* male press photographers than female, is not yet an indication of sexist behaviour and/or attitude of the industry. But there has got to be something at the bottom of this. And it certainly puts me off *big time* – because *I* have not got a long penis lens to compete with.