Sunday, 26 December 2010

A snapshot of Magnum's Bruce Gilden. This week's tutorial is how to look after your memory card.

 Welcome to the 22nd edition.
Bruce Gilden
Is Bruce Gilden a worthy Magnum photographer? His abrasive style of picture making appears to lack grace and subtlety, it is this 'style' that troubles me. The images are attention grabbing but often mixed with a sense of mockery at the people within his frame. The unforgiving use of flash which is cruel and harsh. Flash blur is an interesting technique in the right circumstances and is best used sparingly. Bruce was around many years before the industry took notice of him. Without losing faith or direction he persevered which is a recurring quality in successful photographers.
Diane Arbus
There is without doubt that sense of glimpsing a hidden world in Bruce's photographs that strikes a chord with Diane Arbus's work. This is a compliment for many photographers and I do not make the comparison lightly.  One of his books is in my collection. 'Facing New York.'  If you love the characters in that cosmopolitan city this book is a treat. The 'in yer face' style of Gilden's work brings a grotesque element just like Arbus. Click on the link to see what you think. Gilden's has limited technical skills but this limitation defines his work rather than detracting from it. Lisette Model is similar in her use of drama and urgency in street photography. The photographs that he took after the Haiti earthquake show a more sensitive side demonstrating a mature documentary style. Some photographers make a good living from producing stylised work that never really progress's technically. If you can do this you are fortunate in some respects but the ability to express yourself is restricted as a consequence. During my time I assisted many established photographers and the lighting would never change. The experience that I gained the most knowledge from was working with a still life photographer who always wanted to push the boundaries. This inquisitiveness which was both a technical and creative form of motivation kept us asking questions. Complacency is a photographer's biggest enemy.
Do you think that I am being unfair to Bruce Gilden? I would like to know what you think about his work. The aim of this piece is to bring greater awareness to this less well-known Magnum stalwart and to challenge my own views of what is good documentary photography.

Lith printing and flash blur.
Nicholas Brewer
I printed this a couple of weeks ago and is the first lith print I have made. The exposure was around ninety-seconds and five minutes at least in the dev tray. The dev was a  strong mix but despite this it exhausted quickly. While it is not a fast process it is exciting. The lith reacts differently for each individual print and can add another dimension to the right image. The paper I used was Multigrade warm tone made by Ilford bought from Silver Print. The paper choice will affect your final result so consider your options before buying persihable material.  Naturally the best place to see a lith print is in your hand looking at it in daylight.
The movement in the photograph is created with a technique called 'flash Blur.' I was using an external flashgun fixed to the camera and bracketing at about 1/8 of a second for the shutter. The moment the flash fired I jerked the camera to create the blurring behind the frozen sign. The great thing about it is the randomness of it. With the flash freezing the foreground you can be confident that this will look like it is meant to however; the background is a blur of merging shapes. As it is done in camera it is an exciting / anxious wait until the first contact sheets. It is a very different way of working from a digital camera. Bruce Gilden uses a lot of 'flash blur' in his work and you can see a small hint of it above. The second lady has a slight 'ghosting' behind her head.
Lith developers as originally conceived were designed to develop lith materials to a high contrast, with total elimination of half-tones, an important requirement of the then graphic arts industry. However the industry that used lith films & papers has gone the same way as video recorders and dinosaurs. The other use for lith developers is using them creatively, highly diluted with various papers for continuous tone printing with colour effects as demonstrated above. Click on Silver Print's link as they provide arrange of information about the history of photography and alternative process's that you may find interesting.

"Great photography is about depth of emotion not depth of field." Peter Adams.

How to care for your memory card -

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Pearls of wisdom from Albert Watson

Welcome to the 22nd edition.
Albert Watson
Albert Watson is the greatest photographer of a generation. His images have been influencing style magazines for over twenty-five years. If you are not familiar with his portraits and fashion click on the link. Recently I heard him talk about his work and these pictures. I would like to share some of what he said.
"I just got lucky" Albert Watson said when describing the events leading up to taking this striking image. Shot on location with traditional film and camera long before photoshop was around. It is a double exposure made taking the photograph then printed in a darkroom. Albert Watson prints all his own black and white. The double exposure is created when the camera is stopped down a 1/2 for each one.
The portrait was commissioned by a magazine with the original idea for Mick and the leopard to sit together in an open top car. The wild beast could not contain its natural urge for long and tried to maul the Jagger! While they were building a partition between the drivers seat and the passengers this incredible photograph was taken. The two faces have to be lined up perfectly for this to work. Only one roll was taken with a total of twelve frames. Six of the frames did not have the faces aligned properly leaving six frames that were successful. This presumably is the 'luck' that he was referring to. "The more prepared I am the luckier I get' Albert Watson said later that evening.

Mike Tyson -by- Albert Watson
Albert grew up in Scotland, a tough place were his father was a boxer. He told his son that the neck is the most important part of a fighter and the result, was this picture. A good photographer does research into the subject and location of the shoot. He did take one the right way round so the world could see Mike Tyson's handsome features.....

While I have not learned anything new from hearing Albert Watson two important points are reiterated. Firstly preparation is the key to making our photographic experiences free from unnecessary anxiety. Always double check your equipment and make sure that you have spares of everything if possible. The second point is that portrait photographers need to show leadership and an assured manor when photographing their subjects. No matter what our internal feelings are an impression of everything working out perfectly enables the photographer to remain in control and appear professional even if they do not feel it. Fake it until you make it.

The Darkroom.
Over the past couple of weeks I have re-discovered the joy of the darkroom and I have tried Lith printing for the first time. Zoom In near the Oval cricket ground in London were running a workshop on Lith printing and it was fascinating. Lith is the developer that the fibre based paper is developed in. The paper needs  overexposing by about three stops. I was using Ilford warm tone multi grade that worked successfully. The exposure was F11 at ninety seconds so it is a long exposure in comparison to regular printing. The final tone will depend on a variety of factors including how long it is left in the developer, the ratio which it is mixed to and the temperature of the dev. Lith prints produce amazingly delicate highlights and high contrast in the shadow. Next time you can see the affect.

"The camera is an extention of yourself.... Your story treatment may be subjective, but it is important to remain objective as to truth." Cornell Capa.

Thank you for reading.

Convert digital colour images to black & white -