Journal

Who's in charge here?
June 23, 2017

The problem with digital cameras is that they automate everything: focus, exposure, in-camera JPG processing. You don’t always know what they are doing.

The problem with manual film cameras is that they will do exactly what you tell them to.

Please don't take that photo
May 23, 2017

There is no object so unimportant, so banal and insignificant but that someone will try to photograph it with their mobile phone.

Making photographs without a camera
April 5, 2016

About a week ago, I received my Kickstarter reward for supporting the New55 film project. I got five sheets of their new positive/negative instant 4×5 black and white film. So, today, I bundled up my camera gear and my Gore-Tex and drove two hours out to Botanical Beach, near Port Renfrew.

The weather was perfect for B&W photos: damp, grey and misty. The tide was too high to see the famous tide pools, but this is still favourite place in the whole world.

With only five sheets of film, I was going to have to plan each shot carefully. I considered a couple of possibilities but dismissed them. Then, I settled on what I thought would be my first shot and started to set up the camera. That’s when I realized that I had forgotten my Polaroid 545 film holder which I need to shoot this film.

So I sort of laughed at myself – what else could I do? I moved up the beach a ways and sat down to have snack. And that’s when I saw the true shot. So for the rest of the outing, I schlepped 25 pounds of camera gear around, unable to make any photographs with it.

But I saw things and I made several very good images today. It’s just that none of them were captured on film.

It looks just like a painting.....
February 18, 2016

I suppose you mean well when you say it, but there is really no worse insult you can offer a photographer than to say that their photograph looks like a painting. As if that somehow legitimizes the image.

The inherent interest of old photographs.
January 7, 2016

Why is a mundane photograph of a person, a street scene, a landscape – anything, really – made in 1973, or any date at least twenty years ago, so interesting to look at? I suppose all I have to do is make a mundane photograph and put it away for twenty years and the effect of compound interest will render it way more interesting.

Is it possible to be good photographer of everything?
December 3, 2015

I envy those photographers who are able to focus themselves completely on one or maybe two subject areas or types of photography. Garry Winogrand and his street photographs come to mind. Yousef Karsh and Arnold Newman for their portaits. Henri Cartier-Bresson is best known for his photojournalism, but he also did some very interesting portraits in a journalistic style.

This type of concentration eventually brings a great mastery to your approach and knowledge.

My problem is that I’m interested in too many things. Except perhaps people – making photographs of people makes me nervous. That’s probably a good reason to force myself to do it.

In the meantime, I’m shooting digital/analogue, film/polaroid, colour/B&W, abstract/realism, pictorial/straight. I find it impossible to commit to any one thing. Is it therefore impossible to master anything?

Why do photographers start giving numbers to their prints?
August 7, 2015

Why do photographers start giving numbers to their prints and limiting print editions? It’s absurd. What do you do when the 20th print has been made? Do you eat the negative? It’s the gimmick of money. How many prints do they think they’re going to sell?

Frankly, the ‘limited edition’ thing is a bit of a scam because the whole history of the concept is based upon ancient technology. After the invention of the printing press when images were printed using wood blocks or metal plates, the first prints were the best quality. As the plate was used, the print quality would deteriorate, so print makers started to number the prints in an edition. This is irrelevant in the context of a photographic print.

“I think a print should be signed. That means a photographer recognizes that the print has been done either by him or according to his own standards. But a print is not like an etching, where the plate wears out. A negative doesn’t wear out.”
– Henri Cartier-Bresson