Someone was saying that there is just a tiny probability a teenager Lartigue and a senior Atget to have known and seen each other shooting at the Bois de Boulogne.
It would have been no way to miss each other today with the infinite availability of everybody's work through modern communication tools.
And still, my ignorance on so many talented photographers has not been getting any better albeit all the accessibility and ease of information.
I am hence not to be forgiven when I prefer to present a picture over so many others apparently better.
Curating is as much a private moment (or even more) as photographing. And I may be alone in describing and decoding Henri-Pierre's image, but I cannot stay indifferent in front of a theatrical scene spontaneously created by life, nevertheless, only acknowledged and captured by the author's keen eye.
Admire the bent legs and pipes, and the lifeless subjects with the strange glances as opposed to the almost alive doll and the perpetual movement of the drawings on the wall.
Even the gestures and the expressions are so forced that we may easily consider that we all are crash-test dummies in an urban test tunnel. LIfe in a lab-tube, in-vitro!
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Witnessing everything around us and having an audience of millions can be the end of creativity or just another beginning. Under the condition to still be able to see under the "tear gas" attack and survive the visual Armageddon.
Yuji is one of the survivors. He also features one of the few signatures I am able to recognize "blindly". I recognize his surroundings, his quality of light, his lens, his eye-level framing.
But beyond lens, light, POV, processing, what else is a personal and recognizable style?
It is not the extreme experimentation, the grotesque (these only have a historical/documentary value).
It is the plan, the ideas, your state of mind, your suffering, your quest of truth, your need of equilibrium. During these moments you have to be highly concentrated in what you feel and think. It is a highly mental exercise and as such you should be away from "noises" and the collective approach.
I chose this picture to demonstrate that there are no predefined recipes in doing something in an original way.
The scene is not original (there are no original scenes, there are original points of view). However the personal choice of the author to include certain elements, to freeze certain gestures, to interprete an ordinary moment through his unique inner algorithm, well all these are truly original.
I am quoting here what I've said in the past about him and the same words pop up over and over again: "Yuji's subjects and street scenes are delivered to us from an eye-level vantage point, with a normal focal and under a typical light. But then, how these pictures are becoming so uncanny? I have no idea of how street life is in Japan but I dare to prefer this hyperreal obsessive look, over Moriyama's (and many others') manneristic ... accidents"
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From the "Get out" movie 2017:
Chris is a photographer. Jim Hudson is a blind art dealer, curator and critic.
JIM: - I am an admirer of your work. You have a great eye. You've got something. The images you capture. So brutal, so melancholic. It's powerful stuff, I think. Believe me, the irony of being a blind art dealer isn't lost on me.
CHRIS: - How'd you do it?
JIM: - My assistant describes the work to me in great detail.
Of course the allusion was that critics are little, if not at all, related to visual faculties. Having said that, and even if it may seem a dull exercise, let's start describing Andreas' picture,
There is this arm and hand with open fingers behind transparent curtains. The light is frontal and the high contrast isolates the arm from the rest of the scene. We then realise that it belongs to a little girl with her profile emerging only as a silhouette.
The scene is set in a house interior with the left side (curtains in contre-jour) replicating in the background using the pattern as connecting thread.
The image is colour but the approach is black and white with only the arm's skin rendered in bright colours and some blue hues here and there …
Description is the first and essential step to arrive at a meaningful judgment. It is the moment when we collect data or facts. We answer the what, the where ... we acknowledge the content and the form.
Decoding pictures is a step further: answering not the What, Who, When and Where but the Why ... (to be continued)
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All has been seen and said under the sun, that's why there was (and still is) a huge trend (Meyerowitz, Leiter, Webb, Manos ... ) in contemporary street photography to harden the shadows, implode the blacks, blow the highlights.
Looks like sometimes it is amusing, or even seemingly original, to dissimulate flaws and underline beauties (or vice-versa). But then what a fragmented representation of our "dear" subjects this is. Life under strong and permanent sunlight, hard shadows, profound blacks and bright faces, is not ourselves.
The persons represented this way are not the ones as we know them or as we meet them fleetingly. The human eye when scanning a scene instantly adapts to the quantity of light around the points of our interest. There is no way to see such clotted blacks or such blown whites with our bare eye (maybe only after getting in and out of a dark room under a summer sun).
There is no doubt that the uncanny effect is welcome but how many extremely high contrasted photographs have survived in time (considering that Man Ray's works were photograms and not photographs). These manierist pictures may look impressive but at the same time this very feature makes them ephemeral. They will perish easily into oblivion. As with all the rest, experiment but don't imitate it for life nor make it a life achievement!
In photography subjects and objects are most honestly represented under a diffuse light. Photographs found in museums are mainly of a delicate and natural palette of shades and contrasts.
That is why you (we) should shoot with care! Use smoothly the contrast cursor (respectively don't over-push your film rolls) and try to include as many details as possible in this precious tiny frame called a photograph. This last bit may be in contradiction with previous ideas (shared also by the undersigned) of using abstraction by reduction and subtraction, of composing by elimination and not by inclusion.
But who told you that photography is not anymore a young child full of enthusiasm for experimentation and contradictions. It still is, for our good luck and awe ...
Antonio who is working obsessively with shadows, geometry and hard light does his outmost to strike the right balance for all the above. The present picture is one more proof of the photographer's struggle to fiddle with Koudelka's dogs, Webb's gorgeous lights, the own fears and the public's … acceptance!
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Robert Frank's "Trolley, New Orleans 1955" was indeed like a contact sheet … a notion that in the digital era has only an archival and historical use (if any). Frank's image was presenting many different frames, stories, emotions put together in a single shot. A political essay and statement on the american society of segregation.
Koushik's picture is the most successful among any conscious or subconscious replications of Frank's iconic picture I have ever seen …
In addition, it is more honest, no declarations, no opinions or judgments … (just observing without judging, dear to a particular eastern philosophy)!
Only one more thing I have to add … Robert Frank's picture was a single shot! Check out the 81 contact sheets from "The Americans": a single shot, exposure 16, of an ISO125 KODAK PLUS-X film!
And that shot was/is the favourite of hundreds of photographers, it made the cover of the book, it made Kerouac write about it …
And my haunting question is: Why on earth we cannot do such pictures anymore? Is it because triggering the shutter means nothing in terms of cost and it won't consume another exposure of the once precious film roll? Is it because no one waits anymore for the meaningful moment to shoot?
Whatever the reason, I think it is time to have every picture accompanied by its subsequent and preceding shots. I need to see what was there before and after. I need a contact sheet. And I need to see why, with all this unbelievable digital gear, we are unable to make a difference, an icon, a meaningful image …
I am taking also the liberty to declare us victims of a technology that has taken over our visual sensibility and it just records randomly and accidentally.
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