OK so can’t wait till after Xmas

OK so only a few days ago I told myself and this blog that I would wait, till after Christmas before I started a new module. But I already seem to have bought myself a copy of Photoshop, downloaded  ‘The Digital Photography Workflow Handbook’ to my Kindle and ordered the Digital Photographic Practice module… Happy Christmas! 🙂

Reading..

Been reading a lot again lately, BJP as usual but magazines are very expensive down here, so read the iPad version. I also use an an app called “Readr” (not a typo) for a little over $10 a month I get access the some 10,000 magazines and can download new ones no matter where I am and of course the bulk that I read are on photography. It’s fantastic! There is no other way to be able to read so much up to date content of reasonable quality and gives some great ideas and insight into others work. The publications available cover just about all the notable UK, USA and Asia magazines. The app is free and more than worth a look…

William Eggleston

One of the three recent books that arrived was William Eggleston’s Guide, along with Ansel Adams 400 Photographs and Willam Klein’s ABC.

I have looked and looked again at the images in the book and tried to appreciate their purpose but they do nothing for me, not as individual images or as a whole. I have even gone to the lengths of finding one of his rare public Q&A sessions about his work that is on video. Eggleston seems to have little to say about any of his images and often seemed to be dismissive or worse just get plain cross at what he considers ‘stupid’ questions.

I realise that art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder and subjective. I also realise that I would not like every photographers work that I reviewed, but this is an undertsatement in this case, perhaps I am missing something fundamental and will come to realise I have a lot yet to learn. But I can only give my opinion of now and am surprised at how much I dislike this book. To me this book is like the story of the Emporers Clothes, someone has said it is art and everyone else is afraid to say they are not.

To me there is no redeeming image in the entire book, it is a collection of snaps at best and the shot of the dirty electric oven is the crowning glory. In fact I am so disillusioned with this book and Eggleston’s images that I am not going to talk to a single one. I am surprised that this book has created such a strong reaction with me, I am sure Eggleston is a nice chap and others see great merit in his work. But it’s not for me.

 

Ansel Adams

It would be very easy to get wrapped up in the man and write about nothing else. But what could I write that has not already been written about Ansel Adams. His involvement in the Sierra Club, Group f/64 and drafting its manifesto (which his later work contradicts), his books and teaching, but instead I will (try to) focus just a few of his images and talk to those.

As per a previous post on my blog, I had three books arrive on the same day one on Ansel, the others on William Klien and William Eggleston. The book Ansel Adams 400 Photographs is the one that captured my attention from the off and this interest has not stopped. Now that I have had the book few weeks, I have to be honest and now say that I am officially a fan of Ansel Adams, from being aware of his work as a casual passing observer to now seeking out his images even to the point of looking to see where I can go and see an original print. So on to the images:

monolith-the-face-of-half-dome-yosemite-national-park-1927

Monolith, The Face of the Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California. 1927

Taken in 1927, this is the first image where Adams when interviewed called this his first serious photograph, when he knew what he was doing “I could visualise the image I want, I know my technique, my craft, I can operate the camera use the right filters, exposure and development. And with that whole approach came the zone system.” It is clear that Ansel could recognise the expressive qualities he wished to portray in his images and had the skill to do so. This image was originally taken using a yellow filter, however, not happy with the result Ansel went back and this time used a red filter to enhance the stark rock face and darken the sky even more. This is a very majestic looking photograph, yet the size and placement of the monolith gives an uncomfortable, even menacing aspect to the image.

ansel-adams-landscape-photography-tetons-and-the-snake-river-1942_DxO

Tetons and Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. 1942

Considered by many to be one of Ansel Adams most famous/popular images. From the dark black through to the bright whites, you can see the zone system at work in the exposure. There are 7 easily identifiable zones here at work and more if you take time to look. Despite his famous quote “The so-called rules of photographic composition are, in my opinion, invalid, irrelevant and immaterial”, you can clearly see many a play here. The curve of the river and the thirds proportion of the composition for starters.

moonrise-hernandez-ansel-adams_DxO

Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico. 1941 ‘chance favours the prepared mind’

After an unsuccessful day (by his standards) Ansel was driving home when he came across this scene. Quickly setting-up in the changing light, he was able to make only one exposure before the light changed.  As in all of Ansel’s work the depth of field is considerable in all the images with foreground to background in sharp relief. From his images you can also see that this was not just due to small f stops but also masterful use of the camera movements, such as shift & tilt.

Many of the images where taken at early dawn or dusk, with the shadows bringing the landscape alive, this quality and Ansel’s eye for the correct light is impressive to say the least.

Over the years Ansel (and his assistant) produced many versions of the same prints, either as his darkroom skill improved or as a result of his own personal tastes changing. Often the later images had far harder contrast and often the once light sky’s had turned black. He even had an assistant ‘ink out’ unwanted elements, most notably on ‘Winter Sunrise’ where the initials of the Lone Pine High School are removed from later prints. All clearly at odds with the Group f/64, rather purist manifesto…

New books arrived today…

OK so finally trying to get into other photographers work, I have gone old school, meaning that I have bought books, rather than just look at images over the internet. The images online have helped me choose who to look at, but I want good quality images to review and asses not some low res pixelated copy on the net. So to the books that arrived today are Ansel Adams 400 Photographs, William Klien:ABC and William Eggleston’s Guide.

Ansel Adams 400 Photographs – the one which attracted me right out of the box, a photographer who’s work I have been aware of but never really looked at in detail..but the book I have not put down since it arrived. The book, the writing, the images are just fantastic. I love the graphic quality of black and white, but combined with the majesty of the mountain scenes and the composition of the images are just incredible. If you’re looking for a photographer to review, a good book, or just want to see what truly good Black and White photography looks like, then this has to be top of your list..

I will of course come back around to talk about Ansel’s work in some more detail in due course. As for the two Bills I’ll come back to those at another time…I need to go back to ‘Ansel Adams 400 Photographs’

Atget

Eugene Atget considered by many to be the father of documentary photography, who for the last thirty or so years of his life worked as a commercial photographer in Paris, died an almost unknown figure in the industry. It was only because by chance Man Ray discovered and helped to publicise Atget’s work, the chance being they worked from the same street.

Much of Atget’s work focused on the disappearing areas in Paris, often the poorer areas that where being demolished. His photographs contained few people and even when they did they are often secondary to the subject. 

Man Ray’s purchase of 50 or so of Atgets photographs sparked the initial interest in his work. Though these were of ‘out of place’ or ‘found’ out of context objects of interest to the surrealist movement of the time, which Atget had captured in his many travels (some 10,000 images), it was this catalyst that eventually brought the worlds attention to Agets work combined with Bernice Abbott, who was Man Rays assistant at the time.

During much of Agtet’s photographic career he treated his work as ‘documents’ for reference by artists and cartoonists only in is latter years hid he start to portray the art of the medium. Through out his work Atget used the Alguman print method to produce his work, which even when he started using it was outdated and by the time of his last works was archaic. He was asked why he did not use more modern methods and replied that he would not know how..

Boulevard de Strasbourg 1912

 

A ‘document’ of a shop window selling ladies apparel. The composition appeals to me, with the hint of a building behind reflected in the window and the motion of the hanging garment blurred due to the slow exposure time. It is difficult not to get caught up in the nostalgia of these images.

Notrodame Cathedral 1925

One of his later images, when he seemed to have discovered the ‘art’ of his media. The tree branches across the structure of the cathedral in the background with the silhouetted tree in the foreground drawing a black spiders web across the building, the thicker branches leading your eye to different parts of the structure. The silhouette structure creates a mosaic of the background

Portrait

Atget taken in 1927 and he died shortly afterwards.

I find Atget’s work fascinating, his ‘documents’ have recorded for posterity a Paris that no longer exists in a time of considerable change. His simple approach and style appeals to me and the clean, uncluttered images reflect that approach.