I love the way in which our imagination works. A simple combination of a calm and sunny seashore with a human invention like this, and your mind wanders immediately to exotic holiday destinations , and most likely a smile will appear on your face. Almost all is true in this subtle message, except that I made this photograph while having lunch at one of the beach restaurants in Nice in February.
Thinking about Surrealism, one might think that it has been invented by the likes of Salvador Dali, but I think surrealism is as old as our world. We organize the mental images according to some order, naturally look for patterns that are familiar, and oddly paired circumstances tend to amuse us by default,
If you live in a place constantly filled with tourists, a shoot-the-shooter attitude tends to develop naturally. Sometimes this takes an interesting bend, like in this case, where the shooter might merit to become a model, sometimes it is the other way around.
What always draws my attention, are the shooters with big zoom lenses, who “wear” on top of them a lens shade twisted upside down (= useless).
I find particularly amusing these “pro” looking photographers, who can’t help chimping continuously at the back of their cameras, as if the last snapshot was a candidate for the World Press Photo of the year…
Frankly, I do not remember the last time I had my photo taken – perhaps it was my wife that was testing her smartphone. It sort of does not enter my mind, why people enjoy generating these “proofs of presence”. It gets even worse with the selfies, apparently it can even become a mental disorder.
What makes me appreciate these photographs, is the occasional possibility of fixing in a single image an interplay of contemporaneous behaviours. It sort of recalls the novels with multiple heroes and plots, that finally interweave in a climatic event which unites them all in the same time and place.
The selfies I enjoy most, are like the illustration of the theory of parallel universes. You tend to lose the perception which one is the one you live in.
I like this simple shot of my wife observing a distant sailboat race on one of the rare rainy days that happen in Nice in early spring. It seems a simple excuse in a study of shape and geometry. When you begin observing closely many of the iconic photographs of our time, you are likely to find some geometric order beyond an interesting subject or event. Henri Cartier Bresson, Richard Avedon and Irving Penn have been the most notable masters of form.
The inevitable moment of beginning to post photos without a commentary has arrived. This will become one of the series, like the SINGLE SHOTS, or other occasional themes. It should also permit me to post more often. BTW, there are many photographs, that don’t really need any additional explanation.
I’ve taken this shot on one of occasional escapades to Cannes. It reminds me about the way in which Riviera became fashionable, when the industrial revolution started inflating the wealth of the British good society in the 19th century, and passing the winter months here has become a ritual. At the time, the ideal of beauty was to be pale, so the correct way of enjoying your day close to sea was with your back turned to the sun, just like shown above.
The trend changed only in the twenties of last century, after Coco Chanel has made sun tan fashionable. The official story says, she got accidentally sun burnt in 1923 while on a holiday on the Riviera, and decided to make it a trend when back in Paris. There is a more malign version, ascribing her sudden interest in tanned skin to an affair, that she supposedly had at a time with a beautiful mulatte.
Whatever it has been, I find it was high time to turn around and face the sun and the sea. Contemplating the seascapes while the sun and a light breeze caress your face is one of the greatest pleasures of Riviera life, and the cheapest to boot.
Mike Johnston once wrote a monthly column for the Luminous Landscape site, published on the first Sunday of every month, hence the title: “The Sunday Morning Photographer”. I feel pretty much framed by this definition, as my photographic outings are normally limited to a couple of mornings on the weekends, and I simply always have a camera with me, not that I plan on purpose for making photos. Most of the time though, when I’m confined at home or in the office, I find some time to think about photography, and usually it boils down to looking at other people’s work for inspiration, trying to edit my own stuff, or thinking about what I’d like to photograph in the future. The iconic shot of French life you can see above, is by Elliot Erwitt. I keep on wondering, if it could have been staged – if you chance on meeting Elliot, please, ask him about it on my behalf.
Another intelligent way of killing your time in a photographically useful manner, is to edit your work. As I already said before, two principles are critical: putting time before the shoot and the editing, and then living for a while with the proof prints, to get a better grasp if they have any real merit. I tend to print them on 13x18cm paper, as this format lends itself better to handling in the cramped conditions of Monaco life.
But let’s face it – nothing beats actually taking photographs. What you see above, are in practice the bare essentials for walking out: keys, money, mobile phone, microfiber cloth and camera…
It is a good habit to keep a reliable camera always with you at the ready. After much trial and error, my preferred tool for “wearing” is a 0.85x Leica M7 with the 50/2.8 collapsible Elmar M (the modern version) and a motorized baseplate. This camera is as close to foolproof as possible, the lens is tiny, and it can be retracted, it draws B&W in a sublime way, and the motor winder helps in situations, where some unfolding event in the street might require several shots in close sequence. I usually load it with Tri X and set the EI two notches down to 250. This is as close to photographic nirvana as it gets – at least for me. Note, that I insist on it being an M7 and not M6 or MP, because in my experience, AE is invaluable. When you don’t need it, you can always set the camera on manual.
BTW, these photos were made with a Pentax MX and an old lens that I managed to source after some time – a Takumar 58/2, the shortest SLR Sonnar formula that I know of. It draws very nicely.
As I was posting only photos from my 645 cameras for a while, I noticed now, that I’d missed this shot in the post on Promenade des Anglais a couple of days ago. This couple really looked quite aggressive, as if they were training for some serious high hurdles event.