“Helena” by Jose Ángel González Balsa
( @jagonzalezbalsa on Twitter, and oriaciones sucias on Tumblr )
in the most modern of clichés, I got lazy because of photo-social media. it was not quicksand, but perhaps the fabled grey-goo of “creativity” in these networks. thus, it is that the best way to get back to the ways** of photography within me, rather than sharing, is to log-off Instagram. while the reason to be on Instagram is solely friends, and share some quick snaps/stories there, the fact is that, unlike the flickr days, I cannot be bothered to search for a variety of photographers. yes, this also gets into an aspect of my online photography that is within me: curate photographers. nothing is a greater reminder of this than seeing Jose Ángel González Balsa be posting again to Tumblr. there is much to discover, for this self-professed “can’t get what Street Photography is” person that I am, in his photographs, because of the treatment (as in vision, and execution, not processing) that he gives to his photographs. I have lived with the photographs of Helena since the Flickr days, and they never feel less impactful with time, but quite the contrary: a good photograph is one that breathes with time, and thus keeps the brain alive on what it sees. then, it is time to look through the photos taken in the last 5+ years and give them the inner consumption that they promised. one good thing about this hiatus (not residence!) via Instagram is the further appreciation of video, and that is going to require some work too… something on that on the next post.
** the ways should be: use camera, put photos on computer, look at them carefully, select/kill, process. then, post here (what I call my personal Instagram, where few people see it, and I can let it simmer)… and then post to Instagram to share with friends. after a long while, then there is the collection of photographs onto liminal eye.
 Grey-goo, as explained in PressPausePlay on Vimeo (it may be better to start listening at @25m23s).
I have been pursuing a project in Instagram, under Kerteszian, to bring simplicity onto a photograph with a sense from André Kertész‘s The Polaroids. a kind of emotional Haiku in a simple photo, be it made to look like a Polaroid or BW. the main thing is to reduce the visual noise when looking, before a photograph is taken. aside from the simple composition, there is André Kertész‘s use of shadows. while he was more graphic in the use of shadows, as in not necessarily used to obscure or create a negative space, my use is more into the negative space use of the shadow. none of this quite in the dominant language from Saul Leiter, as his negative space seems to be derived from obstructionism of other objects. (I think that both photographers also strive from that emotional Haiku.) however, it seems that in using too much shadow, the photograph (as shown below) goes to some place between André Kertész‘s and Saul Leiter‘s signatures. (NB: this is not an allusion to a similar quality, as that is not the point of my photos, rather to have an incomplete description as “photograph= photographer1 + photographer2 + « je ne sais quoi » “)
[ link ] Kerteszian on Instagram
[ link ] fernand de Beauvoir on Instagram
the appeal of Street Photography still alludes me, and while I truly admire some of the work/ideas from Henri Cartier-Bresson and Brassaï, I do not find much that captures my appreciation**, never mind the “I wish I could do that”. then there are two books from Alex Webb that hold my attention, and appreciate that Decisive Moment and/or the use of shadows. one such example is shown below, and example of the use of geometry and shadow at the link below, where everything is right… and what finally makes me connect with me is the hand in on the tree. the sails and other hands pointing seem to play on the tree, as other forms of limbs/leaves, and while there are other people in the frame, it is the hand that offers the biggest clue of a human essence. I think that moment, and all else about the photo, which makes it quite brilliant. it was hard to choose one photo, as with his book on Mexico called « La Calle ».
** yes, Saul Leiter is definitely street photography, and my favorite photographer, yet with him, the street is a canvas, not so much within what Street Photography usually conveys with the luminaries in the field.
link: Alex Webb at Magnum Photo, with 120 sample images from The Suffering of Light.
at least the way that I manage to find out about photographers, the Czech contingency is quite the blind spot. luckily, because of first discovering Josef Sudek, and the instant connection it made with me, then I was suggested to look at the work of Jaromír Funke. surely, there is a feeling of German Expressionism to his work, mainly through the work of light and shadows in his still life. though I think the resulting “flattened” perspective of the resulting image has me thinking of Italian Futurism— as the lines in the photo below demonstrate. while his books/work are not easy to find, thanks to the reissues and/or retrospectives, his book Between Construction and Emotion is a favorite one in my collection. I also love this aspect about his short life: « He studied medicine, law, and philosophy at the Charles University in Prague and the University of Bratislava but did not graduate and instead turned to photography. » perhaps a projection of a wish for my life’s path.
links: Between Construction and Emotion (at ArtBook) & Jaroslav Rössler‘s Czech Avant-GardePhotographer (at AbeBooks). a photo gallery and noting the exhibit now in Frankfurt (at L’œil de la Photographie)
one advent of digital photography, mainly as shared online, seems to indicate a love for no-shadows photography. this is also very apparent in the candy-coloured photographs found in modern «New Topographics». yet, obviously, shadows can be embraced and forget about “expose for the shadows” suggestions. one classic example of embracing the shadows right away is the cinematography in The Godfather, which begat the nickname for Gordon Willis as “the prince of darkness”. (the nice anecdote is that, during the remastering of the film, they could not make them brighter for modern tastes because there is nothing in the shadows.) I have personally started to embrace the shape of shadows in the photos I take, and eventually will bring it into portraiture with purpose, versus accident/cliché. as a nice example, there is the work from Marina Lovato, and others will follow.
like many industries, it is difficult to accept changes in fashion photography. yes, fashion is about quarterly/yearly changes to the clothes, though we can see that fashion photography was pretty stale for many years— and that stale view can still be found today. it seems that that Deborah Turbeville was not a fan of the fashion world, still, it may have been this disdain that propelled her to be subversive, in a way, with her photographic work within that industry. « It is the psychological tone and mood that I work for… », she said, and thus it is not only a “lo-fi” approach to otherwise saturated/sharp (and stale) fashion work that was subversive, but also what the fashion photograph should convey: as if she wanted to integrate the scene, and not just differentiate the clothes. in my view, an integrative view of composition and presentation can produce a stronger work, rather than concentrating on equipment and photographic rules/clichés (such as “rules of thirds”, sharpness, small or large DoF gimmickry, and the fads in post-processing). Deborah Turbeville took an assault on fashion photography norms from many different angles which reverberate through today.
info: her fashion photography has been compiled onto the book The Fashion Photographs. for a look at integration versus elimination (differentiation), the article from Malcom Gladwell, for The New Yorker, on the advertising targeting via psychological integration vs differentiation classification can be found at [ summary ]
there seems to be a flood of Polaroid books in recent years, and I personally, have been lowering my threshold of what is a good book to buy. it is not a “pass”, rather, it has to do with an attempt to understand a distortion/transformation (or two). that is, there is the transformation that Polaroids shifts in color relative to the real world, and there is the transformation on the photographer/subject by using the Polaroid equipment. among the early books, themed on Polaroids, that I obtained was from Sibylle Bergemann. I watched the video-review (by Jörg Coldberg), and was hooked— and no, it didn’t require for me to lower my threshold on photo books that I would own. I am glad to see that more of her work is being given a book release, as her talent, demonstrated in The Polaroids, gets an immediate spark of interest on how she saw the world. further to this interest, and despite the fact that I have not taken that many Polaroid photos because I completely avoided it when the company was viable— heck, I even worked a summer at Polaroid near Boston and was not interested in the camera— then, it is strange how much it influences my perception of color in presenting a photo… and perhaps, if I get to understand the second transformation: what a portrait should convey.