Review of Anti Manual of Street Photography, v. 2 , written by Michail Moscholios
By Tzen Xing
Finally, there’s someone who cares, thinks and writes deeply about photography today. It’s Michail Moscholios, author of the “Anti Manual of Street Photography, v. 2.” We are living in an unprecedented time when millions of photos are churned out daily online, most of them formulaic, repetitive and forgettable, threatening to drown us all in a tsunami of mediocrity. Michail offers us a helping hand with his Anti Manual. His book, accessible freely online, provides us with many intriguing images and 14 chapters full of revelations, sometimes practical, often provocative, always inspiring, never boring, preachy or pedantic. His writings are an astonishing flow of brilliant insights, visionary thoughts, and intense convictions. Not an easy accomplishment, especially when he tackles the timely and hard questions: What is a good or great photographer? What is a good or great photograph? What is the difference? There are no easy answers, but like a good guide, he maps out the pitfalls and bullshit to avoid.
In Chapter 9, The “Real” Photographer, he advises us not to be shackled by settings, presets, gear, composition, or projects. Instead, shoot like you’re obsessed, like Winogrand, who didn’t give a fuck about talking about photography, or anything else that prevented him from prowling the streets, high on shutter hits. We can be sure that Garry would not have wasted his precious time on Facebook!
This book is not for the faint of heart, the dilettante or the social media addict. So who is it for? Well, anyone who wants to challenge their limitations, or for a breakthrough outside the box rather than a break. It’s for those who choose “madness” over “mediocrity,” which Michail describes as “very easy to achieve. Just let hypocrisy, egotism and conformism invade you.” It’s for the “visionary rebel photographer” who creates images as an act of rebellion. He urges us to resist the enslavement of our creativity to experts, judges, critics, and curators. Run as fast as you can from their dictates about formulas and composition (leading lines, fill the frame, the rule of thirds, sharpness, etc.). Avoid like hell the cliches, pretensions, rules, recipes, comfort zones, me-only narcissism, going viral, and the tyranny of “likes.” He is a fierce advocate for creative freedom, urging us to have faith in our instincts, dreams, feelings and experiences (even failures), instead of following like sheep the latest trends. He has deep empathy for the photographers who create images as an existential struggle against an increasingly oppressive, alienating and prison-like world. He’s on the side of photographers who dare to take the red pill, “when all becomes a paradox” and “what we seek, the real hunt, is the impossible, the invisible, the immaterial, the dream. We want a picture that contains both the tangible and the futile.” (Chp. 12, Revelations).
Unsurprisingly, at this point some of us may despair that the pursuit of a great image is as elusive and challenging as finding the tomb of Genghis Khan. But life is short, there’s no time for regrets, and failures can lead the way to unexpected destinations. Let’s remember Michail’s farewell as we embark on our adventure of a lifetime, “Go shoot and then present your work knowing that you are a hero! Because it takes courage to reveal, to share the intimate moments of a partial failure, to understate that to be a good photographer is not an eternal achievement but just a clandestine touch of genius!”
Today I wanted to talk about the world going into pieces. Not because of the most expensive royal marriage ever, nor because of yet another bloody shooting in f. Texas, but because of my intention to make a review of a transcript of a photographer's speech (Garry Winogrand) on the work of his fellow photographers (Davidson's "garbage", Frank's lessons …) and of his own. How pathetic this would be? (*)
That's why I have changed my mind and I will present you a picture, among many, of the work of Marco Giusfredi (aka Guy le Guiff) on this subject. What subject? What else?
It's enough to have a peek in his cover photos album or just google it, flickr it, IG it, and there they will pop out, permanently self-conscious, casually sophisticated, looking over and through you at the same time. "Women are beautiful" … in Paris too, with an Italian twist "Siamo così, dolcemente complicate, Sempre più emozionate, delicate"
I am curating pictures of his since 2015 but I've only met Marco in an elevator during the Brussels Street Photography Festival last year. We only exchanged a couple of words. It couldn't be otherwise. A worker of photography takes pictures, (s)he doesn't do small talk.
Marco is for Paris what Garry was for New York. An obsessive "hammer and saw" photographing a female population in continuous ebullition.
Garry was a NewYorker, Marco is *not* a Parisien, proof that "Italians do it better".
(*) Nevertheless I will stick to a couple of Garry's phrases:
"A hammer, a saw, a piece of time and space. That’s what a photograph is, nothing else. Alright?"
"It’s a funny business. It’s a compulsion. I wind up, I’m weak, you know, if I see an attractive woman, I'll try to take a picture."
Back in the 70's during a logorrheic speech, G. Winogrand nailed a good one: "The photograph has to be more dramatic than what has been photographed. It's all about drama or nothing!"
Not poetic? Poetry has to be dramatic!
Not narrative? Narration has to be dramatic!
Now, how that works? Can it be constructed? Yes, but the joggling with the documentary authority of the picture should be extremely subtile. As soon as the viewers are confronted with a subjective (staged) picture they lose their interest in resolving any ambiguities present.
The transformation(s) of the content(s) are still there but the need to untangle the puzzling elements disappears.
Nevertheless, the pictures presented here are powerful enough to stand both ways.
The question is: which one is closer to the thin line between objectivity and subjectivity? Which one maintains the documentary authority of an otherwise mechanical process condemned to change into something meaningful or die?
Because mechanical it is (chemical stands no more).
"I’m an eye. A mechanical eye. I, the machine, show you a world the way only I can see it. ! free myself for today and forever from human immobility. I’m in constant movement. I approach and pull away from objects, I creep under them. I move alongside a running horse’s mouth, I fall and rise with the falling and rising bodies. This is I, the machine, manoeuvring in the chaotic movements, recording one movement after another in the most complex combinations, Freed from the boundaries of time and space, I co-ordinate any and all points of the universe, wherever I want them to be. My way leads towards the creation of a fresh perception of the world. Thus I explain in a new way the world unknown to you." - Dziga Vertov, Soviet film director, 1923
"An educated critic should have known the author of the painting." I said to myself.
"Unless it is not a famous one and the painting is only there as the result of a family portrait, another vestige of yet another dethroned aristocrat", was my second thought.
As I am not one of the former, an image search would have helped. "No results! Best guess for this image: crowd!"
Time to ask for a higher resolution of the picture to decipher the mystery. Or should I?
"No need!" I have concluded. Martin got me! In the frame, in the frame of the frame, in the mystery of a mystery, in the secret of a secret.
"Truth is not objectivity, authenticity can stand without veracity" they say. And yet this image beats any logical conclusion drawn from essays on representations in art. It beats any aesthetic argument based on which we may explain (partially by default) its impact.
Because, dear readers, the painting just flowed out and recreated a room where only the blue shirt stayed in place. Even the "obvious" keeper denies her role through her posture.
Everything switches continuously back and forth. The lady into a girl, the walls into screens, the mouldings into puzzle pieces, the floor into Aladdin's magic carpet.
Sometimes (if not always) we should not try to explain nor talk about principles or aesthetics, but this time, for sure.
The image is a cry out: "Purists keep out, pure viewers welcome and step in!"
Do we dream in colour or in B&W?
Backspace, rephrase this! Do we daydream in complementary colours?
And by mentioning complementary I am not referring to the colour theory. Because in theory, complementary colours, when put together they cancel each other out, when put side by side they create the greatest of the clashes.
Close enough but not my idea! The complementary colours I am referring to, are the ones we daydream in. The ones that are carefully hidden from the others, never revealing their and our secrets. And ultimately creating the greatest paradoxes.
People shoot in B&W and with a great dexterity. Iris is one of them. But why? The "why" is the most important question to be answered in photography, in any single image. Why a photograph has been taken? And then, why it has been taken in B&W? Or better, why it has been stripped down to some greys? Superbly rendered, without doubt, but still greys.
I don't have the answer, I can only wonder and ask more questions. This is what I do. And here are my wondering and wandering thoughts.
The photographers that shoot, edit or interpret in B&W are full of colours. But they know by hard experience that these very colours are not seizable in their life time. They can be the destination but never the voyage, not for them.They can be a secret dream but cannot become reality, not for them. And what is bad for them can be good for us, the viewers. Their visual paralysis in front of colour, channels all their talent and energy towards the grey palette. If one day they will find and embrace colour when awake, nothing will be the same anymore.
The present picture, more than its original visual architecture (foreground used as a barrier or an observation point), its symbolic content (horse/freedom, river/life, man/solitude), it bears a powerful narration on rural whereabouts of today .
Imagine this same picture with earth tones, clay shades, dirty blue waters and dead green flora. It would be a betrayal to the eyes of the author. Because, that would be so remote from the secret colours never rendered on a film (or sensor). So remote from the:
"Picture yourself in a boat on a river
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes"
This is the public curated Gallery of the STREET CORE PHOTOGRAPHY Group