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Thread: Over photography and the convenient tool

  1. #1
    Dirac
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    Over photography and the convenient tool

    Six years ago, I bought myself a digital camera (a "compact" Minolta s404) and I resumed photography, after a 10 years hiatus. Later, I bought a bridge camera and I use now a DSLR. You can see many examples of my production on this website:

    http://www.x1280y1024.net/

    Retrospectively, I would say that it is somewhat in the style of the "objective" photography, extensively defined by Charles Marville痴 work, in the 19th century, and whose the Becher, Thomas Strut or Stephen Shore are contemporary examples.

    After six years in this style, I thought I should evolve. I should complete my "objective" style, by a "subjective" one. I mean, I wanted to reduce the distance between myself and the world. I also wanted to get something more fluid, possibly fragmented, unstable... Finally, I wanted to introduce in my photographs what, most of the time, I strived to avoid: people.

    My first experiments with the DSLR where quite unconvincing. I think I知 so accustomed to use it in one single way, that moving to another one was beyond my capacities. So I decided I should use another photographic tool.

    I chose a Ricoh GRDII. It is a camera that I learned to use long before I actually owned it: two years ago I followed a thread on a French forum (no largely diluted) where people discussed passionately the qualities of the GRD, and the alleged Tri-X appearance of the automatic BW of this camera, at high iso; i.e. grainy high contrast images. I concluded that this camera has flaws and shortcomings, appealing for those who knew how to use them. It is one of the reasons that decided me for the Ricoh, the other one was the extensive controls that gives the camera. As I always shoot RAW (easier PP), I bought the GRDII.

    One or two weeks after I got the camera, I also discovered this very useful forum, and the work of Mitch Alland, that I like a lot. I was sure then I had made the good choice.

    You will find here 75 (!) examples of my production during the first month. It is unfocused enough, but I regard it as normal at this early stage. I wanted to make experiments without restrain. Too much restrain was killing my photography with the DSLR.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/

    Now I need your help. Could you please have the kindness to look at some of my efforts and tell me what you think of it? Honestly, I知 more looking for constructive negative comments than any other ones. Kind of: You often do that, but... There is too much... Not enough... Why do you...

    Here are five examples of my tentative "new style". Thank you in advance.

    People (800 iso). - I was not at all into street photography before, and I had to overcome my pathological shyness to shoot them.







    From a moving train (focus set on infinity):





    Against my hyper-controlled old style (with the GRDII):


  2. #2
    Caer
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    Re: Over photography and the convenient tool

    I really like some of your photos! I get a sense from your post that you're trying to accomplish the same sort of thing as me with the GR-D II. Get close, include people, and not worry so much about technical perfection.

    Looking at your Flickr page, I particularly like the first two I saw: Passagers_0009 and 0001. The first works for me because of the way you have a lady in white on the right, and a man in black on the left, and they're looking in (sort of) opposite directions (up vs down), and they're separated by a grey area with another person in the middle. It's a nice balanced composition.

    The third of the images you posted here is interesting to me too, in much the same way. It has a lot of interesting features, such as the position of the fingers of the man on the right, and the man on the platform outside looking like he's about to go somewhere.

    The second I like because of the way the man is blurred, implying life, while the mannequin is sharp and still.

    In general, I think I like yours Passagers series much more - the compositions work better, and they seem more full of life, and that's interesting to me

  3. #3
    SimonL
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    Re: Over photography and the convenient tool

    It's what I like about 'personal styles' - you can do no wrong. Ok, some may be stronger than others but there's absolutely nothing wrong with them.

    After a while, your intuition as to when a special moment is about to occur or certain people will be in that interesting juxtaposition will become much more finely tuned.

    Your average photo will be stronger and your number of 'keepers' will rise. Looking back you will wonder why you took certain images since they are not up to your current standard but it may help to remember that they helped train your eye and your intuition and developed your perception of the world around you.

  4. #4
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    Re: Over photography and the convenient tool

    i really like the passenger series, especially the black and whites. they work best when some kind of unspoken relationship implied. old film noir movies might be a source of inspiration. keep up the good work. and keep in close. that makes the story pop out of the frame, creates the tension. too far away and it evaporates. very impressive.
    wayne
    Last edited by smokysun; 2nd May 2008 at 09:25.

  5. #5
    Dirac
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    Re: Over photography and the convenient tool

    Hello Andy, Simon and Wayne,

    First of all, I want to tank you for your answers. I appreciate a lot that you had the patience and the kindness to look at my photographs and to comment on them.

    <In general, I think I like yours Passagers series much more...>
    <i really like the passenger series, especially the black and whites.>

    Yes, I agree that this series has the more immediate appeal, and maybe the more strength.

    <they work best when some kind of unspoken relationship implied.>

    Certainly! I also like when there is a tension, nearly a danger in some of the photographs. In the subway train, it arises spontaneously, because it is a socially violent place, with very different people being held together in a confined place. In the train, I got it by going over the limit: I begin in a sly way, pretending to play with my camera aimlessly, or looking at the pictures I previously shot. Then I raise the camera absentmindedly, and I begin the shoot. Gradually, what I知 doing becomes obvious for the people in front of me. But as we are all caught in a social game where we all pretend not to notice what the others are doing, nobody dares to say anything, and the tension grows.



    For this game, the Ricoh is the prefect tool. I can稚 imagine I could raise my DSLR, put it to my eye, and tranquilly shoot the people on the opposite seat, with the loud slap of the mirror confirming I took their picture. The social game would immediately be broken and I would be (deservedly) rudely invited to stop immediately.

    <It's what I like about 'personal styles' - you can do no wrong. Ok, some may be stronger than others but there's absolutely nothing wrong with them.>

    Actually, this is where I begin to worry. When Andy and Wayne say they prefer the Passengers series, I understand what they mean, I tend to agree with them, but I知 concerned because this series is done in a borrowed style. I read how others did with the Ricoh (the French photographers on the Chasseur d段mages forum, the photographers of this forum, and specially Mitch whose some of the photographs are engraved for ever in my memory) and I thought I could deliberately borrow this method, as an experiment to force me out of my habitudes.

    For my other project (www.x1280y1024.net), which is personal, I nearly never get any comment. At most, people are bemused and they laugh in embarrassment. I understand this. A cold report on the banality of the banality (to misquote Hannah Arendt) is uncomfortable. However I wonder if someone ever got my point.

    Probably, what I should do now is to go on with the subway photography and let my personal vision arise with time.

    Olivier

  6. #6
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    Re: Over photography and the convenient tool

    Oliver, I enjoyed your subway shots. The tension in both composition and emotion is appealing.

    Here is a "in your face" shot(GX100) of a man on the side walk talking in a very animated way about his drug addiction and recovery. Just learned this border technique on planetphotoshop and tried it out here.

    I too am experimenting with street shooting. Not sure of a style yet. But I like engaging and shooting (up close) at the same time. As they tell their stories they forget the camera. I do have the advantage of more tele on the GX100 though.

    Hope you don't mind my adding the photo here. This is an interesting thread to explore styles.



    Antara

  7. #7
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    Re: Over photography and the convenient tool

    Olivier,

    I really like your train series! You seem to capture so much personality of the people. I feel like I know what they are like or what they are feeling. The photos are artfully done and full of life.

    Your shots of houses are not for me so successful. I do, however, feel they are artfully done, and I respect their craftmanship. "Banality" does seem to be the point of them which is a little hard. They are also impressively formal. It seems to me that like the train shots you are most interested in the people behind the houses, but you don't allow them in the picture to, in a sense, defend themselves. The people on the train may be caught in lives or at least uncomfortably on the train, but they are full of life in a way their empty houses might not be.

    So I guess I would say, my two cents, keep on taking pictures of people, but also take pictures without people. But, take nature, or something that brings out more of you. Not the absence of other people.

    Your formal artistic abilities are clearly present in the house pictures as well as the people shots! Just relax as you've done with the train shots.

    Hope my long ramble is encouraging. That's my intent. Thanks for showing your pictures.

    Best,

    Mitchell

  8. #8
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    Re: Over photography and the convenient tool

    you may have adopted a style, but you're doing it in a way i haven't seen. you're getting much more tension in the b&w passenger shots, and this must come from you. so i'd say your results are already personal. be interesting to see where it goes from here.
    wayne

  9. #9
    Dirac
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    Re: Over photography and the convenient tool

    Quote Originally Posted by antara View Post
    I enjoyed your subway shots. The tension in both composition and emotion is appealing.
    Thank you and thanks to everybody here who encouraged me to pursue my experiments. I won稚 say it again so as not to bore you, but it is very much appreciated.

    Quote Originally Posted by antara View Post
    I too am experimenting with street shooting. Not sure of a style yet. But I like engaging and shooting (up close) at the same time. As they tell their stories they forget the camera. I do have the advantage of more tele on the GX100 though.
    This technique is interesting and more respectful of people than mine, but impossible for me: my pathological shyness prevents me to engage with people I don稚 know and if I知 talking with someone, I can稚 concentrate on shooting.

    Your photograph is touching. I知 not convinced by the border however. Your picture is good enough to be shown in the nude. :-)

    Quote Originally Posted by antara View Post
    I do have the advantage of more tele on the GX100 though.
    In many circumstances, the 28mm is a very good option because it forces you to get close to your subject. It is an interesting constraint when one begins with street photography. It forced me to overcome my shyness.

    Regarding perspective, I prefer the 40mm extension, which is naturally closer to the way I see and feel the world. However it has so much flare that it can be nearly unusable in a lot of circumstances (sometimes there is flare in circumstances you would never have imagined that they could produce flare I wonder if I didn稚 get a bad copy.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Mitchell View Post
    Your shots of houses are not for me so successful. I do, however, feel they are artfully done, and I respect their craftmanship. "Banality" does seem to be the point of them which is a little hard. They are also impressively formal. It seems to me that like the train shots you are most interested in the people behind the houses, but you don't allow them in the picture to, in a sense, defend themselves.
    I read this paragraph yesterday and it triggered a lot of thoughts since that moment on. Have a seat. ;-)

    A central aspect of my houses shots or more generally sites shots is a question: People spend a huge amount of time, efforts and money to build an environment for their lives, but when you show them the result of those efforts in an objective, unsentimental way, most of the time they (strongly) dislike it. The question is: why?

    After a long reflection, what your post suggest is something like this: I take photographs of those modest and informal sites with the care and the technique that is usually reserved to the 'great', 'knowledgeable' architecture. That way, it is as if I was building a sophisticated pedestal and put on it not a mighty hero, but a modest housewife. She will look terribly awkward. However, what is questionable is not the housewife, it is the situation I built.

    It is only the beginning of my reflection, I spare you the wave of objections and questions that followed it. I just wanted to show you that your commentary didn稚 fall in the desert.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mitchell View Post
    Hope my long ramble is encouraging.
    It was very much, actually, and you can稚 beat me long-ramble-wise. I hope that Guy and Jack won稚 mind if I overuse their precious storage capacities. ;-)

    Quote Originally Posted by smokysun View Post
    you may have adopted a style, but you're doing it in a way i haven't seen. [...] be interesting to see where it goes from here.
    Don稚 know it yet. I have no hindsight yet. Do you know W. Evans subway shots? Anyway, your kind comment encourage me to resume shooting in the train.

  10. #10
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    Re: Over photography and the convenient tool

    dirac,
    yes, i know walker evans pictures, also those of luc delahaye and numerous others. what they generally show is the isolation of individuals and single figures. it's the sense of tension between two or more people that makes yours different. (or between one person and the context.) and i do think b&w fits this. early alfred hitchcock.
    wayne

  11. #11
    Dirac
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    Re: Over photography and the convenient tool

    Quote Originally Posted by smokysun View Post
    yes, i know walker evans pictures, also those of luc delahaye and numerous others.
    It was a stupid question, indeed.

  12. #12
    Dirac
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    Re: Over photography and the convenient tool

    Two more, shot in March.

    In the 'Nomenklatura' series:



    In the 'Passagers' series:



    The girl, at the right side of the picture fascinates me beyond words.

    Best,

    Olivier

  13. #13
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    Re: Over photography and the convenient tool

    hi olivier,
    love these. the first time i wish i could take pictures like someone else (you). a real knack for catching people at that moment of tension and in an telling context. you might make up a series of these in glossy eight by tens, call them 'film stills' (from 'strangers on a train' if you want to steal hitchcock's title). and take them around. with the intense french interest in movies i'd be surprised if you didn't get a positive response.
    keep up the good work.
    wayne
    www.pbase.com/wwp

    "In Turin, at the beginning of his madness, Nietzsche would rush to his mirror, look at himself, turn away, look again. In the train that was taking him to Basel, the one thing he always asked for was a mirror. He no longer knew who he was, kept looking for himself, and this man, so eager to protect his identity, so thirsty for himself, had no instrument at hand but the clumsiest, the most lamentable of expedients."

    E.M. Cioran

  14. #14
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    Re: Over photography and the convenient tool

    Olivier,

    I'm so glad you felt encouraged by my comments, and that it might have been of some use to you. I admire how open you are to our responses.

    I've just returned from my first trip to Paris. The best part of my visit was three days of Monet. I literally cried while looking at his paintings. I'm so interested in my reaction. It seems a mystery how he can evoke such strong feelings with pictures of plants and water. What to call these feelings? My sister says, "He opens your heart."
    That's it. He loves what he paints, and transmits that to the viewer.

    I think there's more love in your pictures of people than of houses.

    The girl on the right side fascinates me too. So many of your people are fascinating. The woman reading the paper and the one next to her comes to mind. Their relationship is so intense.


    Best,

    Mitchell

  15. #15
    Dirac
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    Re: Over photography and the convenient tool

    Quote Originally Posted by smokysun View Post
    love these. the first time i wish i could take pictures like someone else (you). a real knack for catching people at that moment of tension and in an telling context.
    Wayne, you are SO kind that you値l make me afraid of myself.

    Let me disappoint you:

    In the many causes that urged me to seek behind my regular style is my growing interest in a certain kind of cinema.

    Let say I used to be a very formalist teenager and at the age of 43, I知 still that teenager in a sense. This is the side of myself that feels entirely at home with Antonioni, the Antonioni of L但vventura, La Notte, and the stunning and half missed L脱clisse. If you want to know how the most ordinary reality can be pushed to the greatest unease, I urge you to look (again) at L脱clisse. (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056736/)

    Growing in age, I began to be interested in Rohmer痴 work and since I am obsessional, I looked at all of his films and, of course, several times each. My companion is now fed up of Rohmer. The name of Rohmer alone makes her feel queasy. :-) Contrarily to Antonioni who controls everything from the beginning to the end, one could say that Rohmer defines a conceptual frame, a precise 'device', then let (some of) the things freely happen into it, so as the chance has a place in his films.

    This inspired me greatly.

    I知 not fast enough to point something that interests me and shoot it on the fly. Usually, when I think it could be a good picture, people are in my back. :-) So I decided to act as Rohmer: set up a situation first and catch what happens in it. The metro and the train are good situations: people can稚 escape. There is really no more to it than that! No instant d馗isif, no reflex action of a superhero, a spider at the edge of his web. When people rush into the metro, I begin to shoot, concentrated on the LCD. I don稚 have the time or the acuity to see their expressions, only the place of their body, and more or less, the way they fill the frame. The only difficulty resides in the terrible slowness of the GRDII for raw. Two pictures, then stop... Two pictures, then... etc.

    The rest is a question of selection among numerous files. Chance and necessity... That痴 all.

    I hope that you are disappointed and that I can go on taking photographs without fearing to disappoint you more. ;-)

    Actually, you can take the same pictures as me, the keyword is: dare. I looked at your gallery, but I can稚 comment much on your photographs because there is a lot of PP on most of them and PPed pictures are currently not my taste. I hope I値l be able to enjoy this kind of work sooner of later. I only wonder if so much PP is always necessary? Isn稚 it there, sometimes, because you don稚 have enough confidence in the value of your photographs? If so, you are wrong. I can稚 find it back, for the URL, but I saw the photograph of a pretty young girl with a pencil pressed against her lips that is really moving, for example, and a lot of others that show you can do exactly what I do, in your own way.

    I値l answer to Mitchell tomorrow, because I知 slow when I must write in broken English.

    Best,

    Olivier.

    PS: a very nice quote of Cioran, a formalist if ever one. From what book?

    A passenger discovering a quote of Cioran in his favorite newspaper:


  16. #16
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    Re: Over photography and the convenient tool

    hi olivier,
    good gravy, shoot away! consciously or unconsciously you're getting the shots. all that movie training has stood you in good stead. in fact, i was thinking you'd make a fine cinematographer. (sorry your partner can't stand rohmer. i'm a big fan of bergman. that might really make her crazy.)
    as for pp, i've tended to do less and less as you go down the page. not because it isn't fun but it's more difficult to keep a photograph as a photograph and more of a challenge. still, our digital cameras are computers and so the desktop is merely an extension of them. yes, i would love to be a bill brandt who seems to perceive a hidden reality behind the one common to us all.
    anyway, i promise to be disappointed so you can go on shooting as you like. actually, the selection process is as important as the shooting. if you're picking the ones that work, that's all that counts.
    best,
    wayne
    www.pbase.com/wwp
    ps. if you look at the notes of an ansel adams or edward weston they did a tremendously amount of pp in the darkroom, sometimes turning a blah negative into a great print. even hcb cropped the photo of his puddle-jumper as did dorthea lange with her immigrant woman.
    pss. the cioran quote from 'the trouble with being born', or in french, which i don't speak, De l'inconvenient d'entre ne

    "Chance cures us of many faults incurable by reason."

    La Rochefoucauld

    yesterday with the d-lux2 (uncropped)
    Last edited by smokysun; 22nd August 2008 at 18:03.

  17. #17
    Dirac
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    Re: Over photography and the convenient tool

    Quote Originally Posted by smokysun View Post
    as for pp, i've tended to do less and less as you go down the page. not because it isn't fun but it's more difficult to keep a photograph as a photograph and more of a challenge. still, our digital cameras are computers and so the desktop is merely an extension of them.
    I知 not a fundamentalist at all. It痴 me; I don稚 get photographs with a lot of PS, but I agree with everything you said. People that work skilfully with PS are simply creating a form of art that didn稚 exist before, or existed only in an embryonic form. Go on with it!

    Quote Originally Posted by smokysun View Post
    even hcb cropped the photo of his puddle-jumper as did dorthea lange with her immigrant woman.
    I don稚 hesitate to crop: nearly all my 壮treet square formats are cropped afterwards. I began with the 1:1 format of the Ricoh but it was too difficult. The impossibility of continuous shooting AND the 1:1 format were too much for my poor skills of new born street photographer.

    Quote Originally Posted by smokysun View Post
    yesterday with the d-lux2 (uncropped)
    Fantastic: the fitting of the multiple frames, , the use of the panoramic format, the light and your control of it, and last but not least the lonely man with the phone. I love everything.

  18. #18
    Dirac
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    Re: Over photography and the convenient tool

    Quote Originally Posted by Mitchell View Post
    I admire how open you are to our responses.
    Easy, they are kind and sensible. They won稚 change the way I値l work next day. I will keep on shooting coldly all those cold and lonely places, but I know that what you and other people said will help me to evolve in a (yet) unpredictable way.

    Anyway, I don稚 forget this thread was initially intended to be in the continuity of Mitch痴 one, over the use of a DSLR vs. the RICOH for street photography. I tried my DSLR today (Samsung GX10 + Pentax 12-24mm) and I知 not happy at all with the results.

    My difficulties are:

    The DSLR is considerably bulkier and heavier, hence a purely physical, mechanical increase of inertness. Can稚 lift it with one arm in a hurry and get the shot.

    More importantly, I still can稚 overcome my own reluctance to point such a bulky device toward someone I don稚 know. Too violent for me. The Ricoh doesn稚 look like a weapon, it looks like a telephone, with it I don稚 shoot people, I give them the word.

    I see too clearly, and too many things in the DSLR's viewfinder. I have the temptation to study too much my composition. I lose the pace and the place; people look accidental, disposable in those overdone compositions.

    Should I give up? Should I keep the DSLR for architecture, only?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mitchell View Post
    The best part of my visit was three days of Monet. I literally cried while looking at his paintings.
    I envy you. I知 not able to love art with such an intensity anymore. Adulthood as a curse...

  19. #19
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    Re: Over photography and the convenient tool

    hi olivier,
    thanks for the kind words. luck always plays a part, don't you think?
    i agree with your reluctance to point a dslr at unsuspecting people. saturday tried a parade with the digilux 2, using the evf. and i simply don't like the results. an eyepiece works for landscapes, portraits, even theater, but an lcd on a small camera a godsend for streetwork. yes, absolutely everyone is taking cell-phone pics. you become one of the crowd. different tools for different situations.
    wayne
    ps. you could even disguise a compact as a cell-phone or video-game player. now there's an idea.

    "I go with my strengths and forget my weaknesses."

    Willy Mays, baseball-player


    another d-lux 2 pic.
    Last edited by smokysun; 22nd August 2008 at 18:03.

  20. #20
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    Re: Over photography and the convenient tool

    I envy you. I知 not able to love art with such an intensity anymore. Adulthood as a curse...[/QUOTE]


    I'm 60 years old though still maybe not an adult. The intensity may have always been there, but it's been freed up some with time.

    Best,

    Mitchell

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