rise and fall of the fisheye

By | photography

It was January 1970 when suddenly I felt like doing something very seventyish (and that’s what is still feels like). I guess it’s because technical development such as calculating complex lens systems  by using computers became available. The dawning of drugs driven hippie awareness and the need to express accompanying new visual and mental states hitherto unknown somehow helped a great deal in introducing that new phenomenon: the fisheye. I did not really need one, but was eager to explore its possibilities. So I bought one I could afford; it wasn’t very sharp, but did “the magic”.

Thinking back  I recently tried to remember what I used it for. I only remembered a few subjects and in fact no remaining results. So I looked it up in my old negatives. And there it was: believe it or not, the first thing I did was a funeral. Although I was serious about it, I felt uneasy using it, because of all the attention I was getting. The results were eerie, the funeral looked like some incomprehensible happening with extraterrestrians swarming around. Then I photographed caravans near a football stadium: more ET-activities and distorted faces. Then a series of nudes, which turned out more acceptable since that subject historically has had its share of distortion (Kertész, Brandt), offering a way to accentuate shapes and spaces. Fortunately the negatives I have made in London during that period, as well as the Kralingen (Rotterdam) Popfestival are without the fisheye, as are a large series of French gypsies. Some fisheye pictures of architecture, a few sparse portraits and some nature/landscape experiments were the last results before the fiseye was ultimately forgotten. I sold it soon afterwards…

a Bill Brandt interview

By | photography

I looked up this old tape I had with a Bill Brandt interview. The sound had deteriorated some, but then he did not talk much. Bill Brandt, then already an old man, was not just a gentleman, but a gentle man. Soft-spoken, almost shy, he looked at his own photographs as if he had not seen them for a long time, reliving the moments of their taking, but without sentimentality. Looking at each picture for a long time he remembers the circumstances, the light mainly. Composition: that’s how it was, what it looked like – almost an excuse. “Decisive moment?” – there is a naughty boyish smile on his face – “sounds like Cartier-Bresson”, he says, “no, I don’t believe in that.” Several times he remarked that his nudes were his favorite photographs, but at the time nobody liked them. He was fascinated by playing with perspective, such as including the ceilings of rooms and the optical deformation of parts of the female body done with a special camera with a wide-angle lens. He tried color, but did not like it. When the portraits come by, he is surprised by the remark that almost every person is placed very excentrical: “O, really, I hadn’t noticed that” and starts checking. A very modest man indeed.