By | photography

Heard in a t.v.-program about amateur art: “There’s a difference between amateur and professional art; the amateur makes what he wants to, whereas the professional thinks “what does the gallery or the collector expect from me” (!)

Later in the program one of the members of the jury, who I know from the days that he was still “just” a photographer, showed some of his new projects, photo books with collected anonymous vernacular and advertising type color photographs of categorized and neatly grouped cars, weddings and the like -yawn- made me think of having to look at some uncle’s boring collection of stamps… The presenter of the program asked the perfect (wrong) question “and what do you want to say with this”…silence (!)

By the way, the winner of the amateur artist contest was a man who with uncanny patience (and Photoshop of course) combined deconstructed fragments of his digital photographs into dramatic painterly scenes of floating and tumbling “creatures” in a sort of Hiëronymus Bosch fashion.

photographer 3

By | photography

A good photographer doesn’t usually think long before he takes a photograph, but you bet he will think twice before he publishes it! The point is: why do you want to show it in the first place.

photographer 2

By | photography, street photography

I read an article by somebody who followed classes by Garry Winogrand in 1975. He was asked on one occasion by Garry if he aspired to be a photographer himself. When the man said yes, Garry warned him that “few photographers make any real money in the business, but even if you are broke, it’s worth it.” Certainly in Garry Winogrand’s case it was worth it. He left us an incredible body of work, from which several books have been made, and the images keep inspiring a great number of photographers today.

“Class Time with Garry Winogrand” by O.C.Garza (to be found on the internet)

we now go back to reality

By | photography

“We now go back to reality…” a sports commentator once remarked with some relief in his voice, after what I remember to be a cultural t.v. program. I thought “speak for yourself” (I’m not a sports fan) and instantly realized that this remark says perhaps more about the commentator’s perception of what constitutes reality, than the quality of the previous program. In an era in which digital photography has drawn millions of new enthousiasts to photography in a way that I have not seen for some 50 years, it seems that very few people are interested in the basic questions and what’s more, the artistic possibilities of photography. All internet debates are about pixels, gimmicks and software for tampering with the image. None of it will make a boring picture interesting, and I’m not impressed by what I have seen so far. Just many thousands of more or less pretty pictures, in the best case. Back to reality – mine or theirs?

up 2 U

By | photography

“It is through the most complicated medium of the twentieth century that we commemorate ourselves and will be known to those who come after us. Just how complete a picture that will be, only time will tell.”

Marvin Heiferman: “One Nation, Chiseled in Pictures: The Monumental Nature of American Photography” from The Archive ©1988, Center for Creative Photography, The University of Arizona.

a cosmos of meaning

By | photography

For a photograph to be a true work of art, I think it should be concerned with matters of substance, life and death so to speak. Moreover, it should be self-sufficient, with all of its visual elements contributing towards a completeness of sorts, a balance in what’s shown and suggested, form and content, a small cosmos in itself. This way it becomes not a substitute for experience, but an authentic experience itself.

2 quotes: Winogrand compared to Frank & importance

By | photography, street photography

“Although profoundly influenced by Frank, Winogrand’s work is informed by a more analytical and systematic intelligence than that of his predecessor; this intelligence has allowed Winogrand to deal successfully with experience more complex, subtle and philosophically unresolved -more mysterious- than that described in Frank’s work”

“[ … ]  most issues of importance can not be photographed.”

John Szarkowski, preface from “Mirrors and Windows, American Photography since 1960” © 1978 MoMa New York.

random beginnings

By | photography

When you put a new film into your camera, you take 2 or 3 shots after closing the camera back, to make sure that the piece of film sticking out of the cassette is wound up. No attention was given to the (manual) settings, like exposure or distance, and you pointed mostly to the ground while taking the necessary blind shots. Now a fresh part of film which has not seen any light was ready for the first take. 

After printing the whole film on a contact sheet when I had finished the 36 or so frames, I always looked at those first two unplanned images with wonder. These blind shots showed a strange world with light flares, blurs, unidentifiable objects, often unsharp, or my own feet on a variety of pavements, grass, lights and shadows. It kind of fascinated me always, but something told me not to use any of it, because I felt somehow that I did not really create these pictures.

Still I sometimes printed the occasional mysterious frame which preceded number 1 (which in those days – the 1960’s – came with the intriguing numbers 84 to 88 on Agfa film. If you were lucky it might even have a large film type perforation right through it, adding as it were something of an identification, some importance, to a piece of irrelevant reality that had portrayed itself.

Of course, I wasn’t the only photographer to notice the interesting film beginnings, so one day I saw a collection of prints made by a number of well-known Dutch photographers of such random images that had appeared on their first few frames. The chosen results indicated that not everybody was willing to show completely uncontrolled imagery, however. Some obviously insisted that even their “unintentional” frames were “part of” their output, potentially interesting, or that it looked like their known work, their “normal” photographs, but only a bit “off”…

Giving up all control, and showing the unpersonalised picture must have been asking too much of them. You have to be free and certain about yourself first, to get on friendly terms with coincidence, it seems.

how to find a subject

By | photography, street photography

How do you find your subjects? The question arises when people are really interested in photography, but cannot put themselves in the role of a photographer, especially not a street photographer. When I think about it, I don’t often go look for subjects myself. I go out and come across them sooner or later, if not today maybe another time. Other photographers may do so too. Obviously my all-time favorite Garry Winogrand made good use of what he called the omnivorous nature of the camera, pointing it at every interesting situation involving people, on a daily basis. He started with sports photography, stage photography, he photographed both the politicians of the day and his own family (it is said that he took a picture of his children every day he put them on the school bus, almost a ritual); he photographed festivities, parades, the zoo that he took his children to, and above all, street life: happy, lonely, indifferent passers-by, women, other women and more women, a life-long fascination. Walking the endless pavements downtown, as well as countless suburban streets, carparks, malls, airports, boardwalks, you name it… People blown like bits of paper in the wind through the inhospitable streets of life. People lost in thoughts, in love or phantasies, in pain, looking for meaning. He one of them… You ask me how to find a subject ? If you go out, it stares you right in the eye.