When I lived in Milan, I remember being struck by the enigmatic images of beach scenes, exposed in a gallery on the corner of via Brera and via Monte di Pieta’. These were paintings by Walter Lazzaro, from his series “Silenzi” ( Silences). Lazzaro has been once depicted by an art critic to be “the painter of silence”. But, how does one show silence?
One of the nice aspects of traditional B&W film photography, is the possibility to choose your tools – beginning with the camera lens, the film, the exposure and development technique, as a function of desired image tonality, and contrast. Old school B&W is all about an extended scale of grays, with good shadow detail. While it is fairly easy to vary the exposure/development stage, and great films, like Tri X are still widely available, a lens that is well suited for B&W is always a treasure to behold.
These photographs have been taken with a Bronica RF 65/4 Zenzanon lens.
I wanted to begin the new year, with an image that would transmit a sensation of freedom.
A few weeks ago, on a weekend stroll along the Menton beach, I noticed this gentleman, entangled in strange bright fabric and lots of strings. He was trying to secure with some stones a kite – finally, he extended the strings, and with a single energetic move, freed the kite from the stones and let it be captured by the strong wind. I was at a sizable distance away, and had in hand a camera with a normal lens. It looked, like his kite dance would make an interesting photograph. When I finally edited the image, this is what I got:
I have realized, the image was too bland, and the man flying his kite has disappeared in the surrounding landscape. Fortunately, the shot was made on a 6×4,5 negative, therefore I had some room to crop – but how?
This is how a typical landscape shot gets cropped: the horizon line runs along the longer side of the rectangle, but in this case, I thought that the most important feeling I was trying to transmit, got lost in the process.
I think, this final image is most successfully bridging the gap, between how I felt when shooting this scene, and what can be seen in the final picture. The capacity of the photographer to convey in a photo, in an unmistakable way, the emotion he was experiencing when clicking the shutter, is a difficult art, which we have to learn through years of practice.
We will turn the page again tonight. Another year has gone by. I have had my share of setbacks and advances. Photographically, this year has marked a change of my approach, to a more thoughtful and organized one. Next year, should permit me to put some order in my archive and construct a portfolio. I have outgrown Flickr, and I prefer to stick to my own space for a more methodical showcasing of what I do.
Time is something very difficult to define, yet we all know how it governs our lives. It also governs our photography. As a farewell image of the year, I wanted to show something that sets free our imagination – a cruise ship homing in to Monte Carlo harbour. I believe most of us like to think about a sea voyage as something relaxing and liberating.
The next image has been taken with the lens fully stopped down, what has extended the exposure time 16 fold. Suddenly, everything appears more abstract, and the passage of time becomes the dominant theme.
Yes, I admit having a sweet spot for dogs. It is clear, that dogs have adapted to humans well beyond any other species, and lately some scientists claim, that even the reverse could be true. Perhaps we owe a substantial part of our evolutionary success to them. Photographically, dogs are great subjects: their expression is always “natural” and “sincere”, and people in the company of dogs usually look more relaxed too.
Reflecting on the root causes of my interest in photography, I always come back to the same point: there is some mysterious transformation in the way my brain works, when I look at the world while holding a camera, it is as if I’m becoming my alternative self.
When you leave your busy, everyday mind at rest, and you open up your perception to visual experiences, you suddenly become receptive to what you see, without forcibly analyzing the chain of cause and effect events. In this mental frame, suddenly you notice, that photography can become effortless, because when a worthwhile scene presents itself, you can recognize it instantly, and it feels, like the photograph tells you: “Here I am, take me!”.
This photograph is one of my favourites of 2013. It was just one of these moments of grace, when the light, the background and the subject came together in a magic moment of sheer joy. Taken in Menton.
Monaco is a place with it’s peculiarities, and there are many you would not think about.One of them, is the ubiquitous presence of defibrillators – there are 26 in a country that covers a surface of 2 square km, in other words, on average there is one every 150 meters. Why should it be so? Well, Monaco is a country of extremes. One of these is the life expectancy and median population age. Both are highest in the world at 90 years and 50.5 years respectively. With female life expectancy reaching 94, it is not uncommon to see ladies well over 90 on a stroll along the beach with their little dogs. If you add the fact, that there are lots of stairs to climb here every day, defibrillators can be handy.
Christmas brings to most of us two inevitable associations: family and food. Enjoying a meal in company of your closest relatives is an ancestral ritual aimed at tightening bonds and celebrating prosperity of life. Today we have some rain, but a scene like this could be seen in Nice only a few days ago.
There is a legend in Poland, and likely in some other countries too, which claims, that animals will speak to us once a year, at midnight on Christmas eve. While I have seen no proven cases of this happening, I don’t really think that’s important, because, if you want to listen, animals speak to us all the year round.
As with many other watershed inventions in our history, we owe the development of the capacity to “freeze time” to a case, or actually, more precisely, to a fancy bet.
At the origins, photography was a lengthy affair. The plates and lenses were so slow, that usually exposures running into minutes were necessary, in order to obtain a useful image.
In 1872 an American railroad magnate and horse racing fan Leland Stanford, made a $25.000 bet against Dr. John D. Isaac, that there was a moment, when a horse in full gallop would have all four hooves lifted above the ground, and was advancing in mid air by the sheer force of momentum. The problem was, that unaided human eye was unable to establish if this claim was true, due to inability to observe horse’s motion accurately enough.
Stanford has empowered a known San Francisco photographer, a certain Eadweard Muybridge, to invent a way to prove his point by means of a series of photographic images. Five years later, Muybridge has accomplished the task, and has subsequently combined the images on a spinning disc called Zoopraxiscope, to create the illusion of movement.
The bet has never been played out, however it could be seen, that indeed Stanford was right. As a side effect of this rich man’s caprice, photographers learned, they could “stop the time” , and the basis for the motion pictures industry has been established. Where does this leave us? Freezing of time in a single photographic frame is a self evident fact to anyone shooting pictures with a shutter speed high enough. However, somehow the perception of this “freezing” gets enhanced, when we portray things, that are typically seen in swift motion. What can be more dynamic than birds in flight? Catching birds suspended in mid air, is one of the favourite pastimes of coastal photographers.
There is something fascinating in observing fluid gestures suddenly made still and sculpture like. On the other hand, a tiny amount of blur usually enhances the sensation of movement.
Birds can animate an otherwise static landscape, and add some dynamic and sense of rhythm and proportion. It usually takes some patience and many failed frames to get a worthwhile result.