Make a Picture, Take a Picture

It’s been chucking it down with rain today – so what better to do than work through a few images taken over the last week.

I’ve been away visiting a friend just outside Liverpool.  I’ve not been there for ages, and my friend is not a photographer.  She came out with me for a couple of walks, but was obviously not interested in what I was doing.  “Let’s go for a coffee…” she said.

Now, I did go to visit her, so the invitation to coffee, was not really that; it was translated loosely as “stop ignoring me, and lets go sit down and talk”…  we sat down and talked.

The next day, we travelled into Liverpool centre to visit the Walker Art Gallery, where there was a Charles Rennie Mackintosh exibition.  He’s a Scottish artist I’d not heard of, but I was assured it was worth the visit, and it was.  It was very much reminicent of the Art Nouveau / deco style.  I loved it.

What interested me too,  was the fact that the gallery welcomed, and in fact encouraged, photography.  Even in the paid exhibit section.  They were asking photographers to share their images on social media, though having looked at their Facebook Page, there doesn’t seem to be any way to do so.

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It was an experience to be able to sit still and gather images together – I’d had a shot like this in mind for some time, but needed the space to do it.

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People watching is one of my favourite pastimes too.  I think the bloke at the back might have spotted what I was up to though.

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Lost in their own worlds.  Totally absorbed in the drawings in the Leonardo Da Vinci section of the gallery.

In the few days of my visit, I was able to take quite a few pictures, and on my return home, make a few as well.

Here’s a final one of a windsurfer on the lake at West Kirby.

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Normal service will be resumed ASAP…..  Enjoy your week…

“I walk & I look, when I find something that interests me, I take a picture. It’s really that simple.”

The above quote is from an Australian Photographer – Steve Coleman – he lives in Sydney, shoots film, and his images are different.  He makes photography sound simple again – and so it should be.

Let’s all go out and shoot something that interests us…. and not something that might be interesting to someone else.

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I’m not a street photographer, but I have the greatest of respect for those who can do it well.  I have a friend locally who is a wonderful street shooter.  I’ve been out with him a few times, and stood next to him as he worked his magic.  I could see the results afterwards, but for the life of me, at the time, could not see what he was waiting for.  He knows exactly what he’s looking for, and has the imagination, and creativity to make those images come to life.

The image above was taken when I was on holiday in Amsterdam.  The weather was terrible, and I just took a set of images in Dam Square because I found this chap (who was feeding the pigeons) interesting.    It’s not often that I let myself go, and just shoot for the sake of it – and it’s a picture that’s been sat on my hard drive for a couple of years.  It’s only recently that I’ve come back to this set of images, and actually processed them up.

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So, next time you’re at a loss for something to do, then have a look through your archive. I bet you’ll be surprised at what you can find.  Technology moves on, and the shots you took years ago, can now be reprocessed into something acceptable.

I sat only this morning, talking to another photographer about images that languish on hard drives – he co-incidentally – was doing the same thing as me, and going through archived images looking for inspiration.  We agreed that images previously thought to be lost, can be revivied.

Don’t forget that photography has to be fun – it has to keep you interested, and for you to be interested, you have to take photographs of things that interest you.

Thank you Mr Steve Coleman for reminding me of this simple fact.

 

 

 

It all takes time!

I think that photography and writing are similar in many ways, in that both need to draw the reader / viewer into the artwork.

A little while ago, I went to a gallery in Manchester to see the Vogue 100 exhibition.  It was very busy, with a lot of people moving around to see the exhibits (which were stunning by the way!)…  I watched the people looking at the photographs there, and in a moment of interest, timed roughly how long on average they were viewed for.  Mostly it was for no more than a few seconds – but for some it was minutes.  Seats were placed for those who wished to ponder, but were mostly a waste of time, as people stood in front of them.

It crossed my mind that each of those images had taken a long time to make – from conception to publication could have been weeks, and here we were now, giving them the most cursory of glances.

Sometime later, with this in mind – I went to see a small exhibition at Cleethorpes library, put on by a friend of mine as part of his degree project.  I had seen some individual images earlier, and hadn’t been very excited by them.  However, seeing them all together, as a collective body of work, tied together by a theme, was enough to make me realise that not all photographs can stand in isolation – they need the rest of the work around them – much like a good novel does.  If the opening chapter doesn’t grab  your attention, you are unlikely to read the rest of the book, or if you do, you do with some small bias.  His body of work, I found extra-ordinary.  Images of paths wandering through trees, with sometimes no way out.  His work, called “Shul” can be found HERE.

Like the writer, the photographer has to have something to say – and it must be compelling enough to keep the viewer engaged.  The measure of success is based on how well the photographer would have you believe in his own world.  Minor White is quoted as advising us “to photograph not only WHAT it is, but what ELSE it is”.

After I had completed my Associateship panel in Bath last month – the judges all left the room to have some discussion…. in that time, a few people turned around to offer congratulations.  However, the first question I was asked, was “How long did it take you to complete the panel?”.  My instant answer was “6  months”, but when I thought about it afterwards I realised that although ‘these’ images had taken 6 months – the actual concept had taken much, much longer.  I had been flirting with multiple exposures for a number of years, and it was only in this year that the project had come together in the way it did.

I feel sure that writers are similar – plots and sub plots must mature in their minds before pen is even put to paper, and once they start, further ideas, will flow, and changes will be made as output increases.

Going back though to the time people spend looking at photographs.  I belong to a tiny group of photographers, who will critique each others images, and spend time looking at them.  Recently, we developed a scheme where we ‘borrow’ each other’s images, so we can spend time at home with them, and I have found that some images ‘grow’ on you with time – rather like music can.

My Associateship panel of 15 images was looked at in detail for about 15 minutes by five people – and I suspect that’s the longest anyone has looked at them, apart from me, and my mentor(s).

Which brings me to the whole point of this blog post – which is about time, and about text and titles.

When I judge photographic competitions (which I love doing), not only do I look at the image, I have to rely on the title the author has given it.  In providing a title, the things photographed can take on an entirely new context.  They can encourage me to view the image in a different way.  This is especially true when the theme of the competition is a complex one.

I’d like to challenge photographers out there, to write a short piece about one of their images – explain why they took it, and what story they are trying to tell. Just a few lines.  I’m totally convinced that photography generally can be improved once people slow down, and think about what they are trying to say with their images.

I’ll start, and it would be nice if anyone commenting on this blog could do the same.Oz 1
Taken recently in Western Australia – where the locals think nothing of driving hundreds of miles to get to the supermarket.  I wanted to show the long straight roads of the country, with nothing there – no traffic.  I wanted the viewer to feel the sense of isolation and remoteness for which WA is known.  It’s about feeling, as much as it is about the view.

Thoughts, as always are welcome.

 

 

Ice Hockey..

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to an Ice Hockey match……  something I’ve only done once before – but this time I was given access to the team tunnel, and the ice.  An amazing experience.  The game was fast, the light was poor, the ISO I was shooting at was incredibly high – so a lot of the images had noise.   I had blurred pictures, over exposed pictures, underexposed pictures, and was generally not a happy bunny.

So, I sat and thought about what I was seeing.

The players faces as they waited their turn on the ice.  The concentration, and the shouting of the team manager taking players off, and putting new ones on the ice was constant.

I moved more slowly, more deliberately, and almost forgot about the frantic movements out on the rink.  I started to enjoy what was presented right in front of me.

I realised that you have to change your attitude to fit what’s going on around you, and not the other way around.

I took a LOT of pictures, and afterwards decided that they would all look better in monochrome.  It somehow fitted the scene better, and in addition disposed of the pretty awful colour cast caused by the lights.

One thing I’ve learned is, that if you are given the opportunity to shoot something new – do it – if you never even use the photographs again, it doesn’t matter – you had the experience.  If you don’t, you will end up kicking yourself for the lost opportunity.  Do not let fear get the better of you, and never ever worry about not getting that ‘winning’ image.  It’s about the learning, the experience, and the test.  Go for it.

Photo Impressionism – Part 2

In my last blog post, I talked about my re-discovery of multiple exposure images.

Since then, I’ve worked on a good number of new photographs using this style, and a refined viewpoint.  I’m also starting to fully understand what works and what doesn’t.

My starting point was the artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler, and his impressionistic painting “Sea and Rain” – The dreamy effect of the lone man, walking along a foggy beach was remincent of views I see fairly regularly along the East Coast of England. It was paintings similar to this that encouraged me on my way to try and re-create photographically this style of art.

There is a book that I’m keen to get a copy of – it’s entitled “The Lens of Impressionism: Photography and Painting Along the Normandy Coast, 1850-1874″ and includes the beautiful mid-19th century photography of Gustave Le Gray, Henri Le Secq, and others.  The Normandy Coast is where Whistler spent time painting, and it is also the time when painters and photographers were trying to capture motion.  Whistler was trying to move away from conventional art, and experimenting with a softer style.

In the time following the invention of photography, there was controversy about whether art could be photographic, or whether photographs were merely recording a scene.  I would say that the photograph of the French Fleet, Cherbourg, taken by Gustave Le Gray in 1858, shows great artistic quality.

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So photography became the ‘new painting’. Did photography influence the painters, or did the painters influence the photography…….?  I don’t know the answer..

A trip to the Science and Media Museum in Bradford revealed images by Frank Eugene (whom I remember from my college days) who scratched his negatives, to give a softer feel.  As far as I know, no-one before him had tried this, and even the ‘purists’ of the day were said to admire his work.

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Nude Man by Frank Eugene

Eugene was one of the founding members of “The Linked Ring” – Also known as “The Brotherhood of the Ring”, a photographic society created to propose and defend that photography was just as much an art as it was a science.

You can access the Linked Ring exhibition catalogues HERE (It can take a while to load even with a fast internet connection, so be careful) – Sadly the photographs themselves are not reproduced, but you can access all the Salon members, and search for their photography.  You can also see many adverts for the various processing labs, and cameras that were available in 1903.

I did try searching for some of the images in the catalogue but without success.

So – to go back to the start, you can find more of my impressionistic images on Flickr, by checking the link on the right hand side of the blog, I do hope you enjoy them.

More to come on this topic.