Man Ray, Lee Miller, 1930
Lee Miller Archives © Man Ray Trust
I caught the Man Ray Portraits exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery last week, and wow, stunning is the only word I can describe it. This is quite a small exhibition but what was displayed was some of his most known portraits of Paris avant-garde artists of the 1930s, Hollywood actors and of course his muse, lover and student Lee Miller. It was Man Ray and Miller that gave the process of solarisation it’s artistic expression, (apparently, if you watch the video,
it was a rat that caused it). His studio portraits are not as dramatic or polished as as say Karsh or Klein’s but the surrealistic tendencies show through in some. You will see portraits of Marcel Duchamp, Catherine Deneuve, Picasso, Kiki,
Berenice Abbott, Matisse, Virginia Woolf, Henry Miller, several self portraits of himself, amongst many others, including Blanche et Noire study of Kiki (below)
Salvador Dali, 1929
Le Violon d’Ingres, 1924
Man Ray in some respects have been more well known for his photogram images which we are all familiar with and have at some stage in our photographic development, have experimented or copied during our dakroom days, so seeing his signature portraits, like these, including Lee Miller’s studies is so satisfying up close in real prints. Sadly his Glass Tears photograph isn’t on show, as are some of his Surreal and Dada favourites. As a portrait exhibition purely, this is not to be missed. The exhibition set out portraits from his early New York stint, and then when he moved to Paris in the early 1920s, through to his studies with Miller and Kiki, and other Hollywood artists.
Most of the portraits are printed to 11″ x 14″ or smaller, matted and framed in black wooden frames, and is starkly in contrast to modern day prints on aluminium or some fancy medium. This is studio and experimental portrait at it’s simplest form, true to the period of the 2o and 30s. There are some stunning miniature colour prints of Hollywood stars also, his later work.
Seeing one of the most respected and studied masters of photography in a great setting will be a treat. Runs till 27th May, National Portrait Gallery, London.
As we approach the end of 2012, at the cusp of a new year, I always look back through the months to review the images that I have taken to see what has transpired photographically for me, personally. I have selected 20 instead of 15 in 2011, having taken more images this year. I am currently working on a series which I will announce perhaps in the new year, but still lacking in numbers for now, so it is shelved until Spring comes round. Commonscapes, a series of landscapes photographed in close by Wimbledon Common was started when I discovered that I actually like walking, (and contemplating) with dog in tow. I can see myself shooting MF not too long. If only there was a digital square medium format camera to use which doesn’t cost the Earth and more.
Photography today more than ever, takes on a new meaning for me. I still like shooting street images, but because I have seen so many street images that lack intent and story lately, I focus now more on humour and irony rather than drama and contrasts. I go through phases in my photography, like reading books. I am into crime novels at the moment.
2012 has been a challenge in many respects, what, with the rise in prominence of Instagram and smartphone images to a new level, and the slow death of DSLRs caused by the onslaught of compact interchangeable lens formats, will surely be an interesting story to follow. Now that more and more photographers are composing through LCD screens rather than viewfinders, it would be worthwhile to examine if there are any compositional differences that may be gauged collectively in the kind and style of images that are produced throughout the world.
Here are my Top 20 for 2012 :
1. Chinese tourists on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral, London
2. Height of Summer, Hyde Park, London
3. Orang Asli mother and her children, ‘Magick River’, Perak, Malaysia
4. By ‘Magick River’, Perak, Malaysia
5. Butcher, ‘Little Burma’, Kuala Lumpur
6. Cult revelers, Notting Hill Carnival, London
7. Street pose, Notting Hill Carnival, London
8. Christmas display, Kuala Lumpur
9. Waiters waiting, San Marco, Venice
10. Sami, Tunisian, Venice from series Merchants of Venice
11. Wheatfield, Burgundy, France
12. Tourists, Piazza del Campo, Siena, Italy
13. Fairground boy, Wimbledon Common
14. Wild flowers, Tuscany, Italy
15. Dinosaur Coast, Brook Chine, Isle of Wight
16. Wimbledon Common pond, from series Commonscapes
17. Untitled 1 from series Commonscapes
18. Veteran and his medals, Remembrance Sunday, London
19. Winter walkers, Wimbledon Common
20. Volunteer harvester, Bothy Vineyard, Oxford
See my 2011 Review here
Sian and Richard Liwicki runs Bothy Vineyard in the Oxfordshire countryside, a small specialist vineyard producing a variety of award winning wines from five and a half acres. I had the opportunity to visit a harvest this weekend and photograph some volunteers and friends picking the ripe fruit from the vine straight to press. The morning was cold, dank and foggy, just nice for saturated colours of the vine leaves, and no shadow. The misty sky became a large softbox.
As 2011 draw to a close, I have trawled through my archive of close to one thousand photographs made over the last 12 months to see if I could identify the most memorable ones, the best ones or the most striking images. Call them keepers, significant images or gems, whatever, these are the 15 photographs that called out to me as I scrolled through the filmstrip in Lightroom. Memorable may not be the best ones, I have discovered.
I tend to shoot less nowadays, opting for more precisely captured images rather than a ‘trigger happy’ mode. I guess that’s simply down to time. The less time I have to sit in front of the computer editing and deleting wonky shots, the better. I also shot film this year, albeit about 10 rolls of black and white and experimental colour negs 120 in total with my Rolleiflex. I guess, less is still more. One observation is that I have simply taken more images with my phonecam, some significant images too, as I have the phone with me all the time. However, I have left these out in my quest.
I believe this is a good exercise for all you serious photographers out there. Review your work and chuck out all the clutter, free up some hard disc space along the way also. Honestly, you will probably not be viewing all the hundreds of other images stored away on your computer. Save only the best, your best. Reflect on what you could have taken or been, how you could have improved the shot, changed angle perhaps, zoomed in a little? Used a wider aperture perhaps? Tilt your frame a little? Used a wider lens? Once you are conscious of the variability that you can have in making your pictures, it will open a whole new world. You will be in control.
Make a book! With all the online publishing platforms available today like blurb.com or Apple albums, it would be a neat little project to put all your favourite images into a book. The quality is amazing, and you will also have the perfect gift for your friends. That is what I will be doing next year, starting January!
As Erwitt puts it rightly, ..‘Nothing happens when you sit at home. I always make it a point to carry a camera with me at all times…I just shoot at what interests me at that moment. ‘
Lastly, don’t limit yourself to any subject or genre, shoot everything, who knows, you might even enjoy it!
I believe Ansel Adams uttered the phrase ‘Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop’. I guess, in his eyes, I have a bumper harvest.
1. R Chubb & Sons Butcher, 350 Upper Richmond Road West, London SW14 – This was taken last December a couple of weeks before Christmas. A friend who buys her meat from this butcher told me about the pre-Christmas turkey orders which her butchers hand pluck to hang, before customers come to collect. Photographed with a 28mm lens inside the shop, I only had a couple of minutes to grab a few shots, most were blurry, and one was a keeper. The lighting was horribly green due to the mix of fluorescent, and daylight plus a UV lamp by the window. I just love the traditional documentary aspect of this image, the wry smile of the butcher, his sleeves all pulled up, ready for action. These are organically grown birds I suspect, which have been pre-ordered by his discerning customers.
2. Family at the beach, Nice Plage, France - This was taken in late summer on the Cote d”Azur. This time of the year the beaches are empty, the sea is cold, and the light is simply amazing. It was nice to see a family coming together for a picnic and swim in the icy waters. Not the glamour that you would associate here in high Summer, but ordinary folk having a good time.
3. Odd couple, Nice – Also captured in Nice, I find this image reveals the complexity of human emotions, relationships, inner thoughts and the spontaneity which the medium of photography can capture. Deep in thought or idle conversation, the interpretation is left to the viewer to decipher.
4. Pete Irving, Urban Kings gym trainer – taken in an ultra modern boxing gym in Kings Cross. The lighting was a challenge, but the camera handled it well. Handheld at 640ISO with the brilliant little Fujifilm X100.
5. Vuvuzela, Notting Hill Carnival, 2011 - I photograph regularly at the carnival in August, and this year I brought out the Rolleiflex and shot some Lomography 120 Redscale film. This was the first time I was using this special film, I was told it was just standard Superia 100 film wound back to front on the spool. It gives interesting red or green tinted negatives depending on the exposure. Give it a stop under and it goes reddish and vice versa, or was it the other way round. I don’t care but the results are nevertheless interesting.
6. Carnival reveler – I shoot a lot of street photography and urban portraits is one of my favourite subjects. Again, taken with the square Rolleiflex, on Redscale film, I particularly like the blurred background which brings attention to the girl’s cheerful face. Now, what’s wrong with a smiley portrait?
7. Ventnor Beach, Isle of Wight – We were on the Isle of Wight for a SLOW Photography weekend workshop and encountered this lovely restored VW campervan parked on Ventnor esplanade. Might just enlarge this and hang it on my wall.
8. The Royal Wedding, Trafalgar Square – This picture of two brothers sleeping on the ground at Trafalgar Square was simply too good to miss. There had only just been a Royal Wedding, and a huge crowd gathered there to watch the live telecast on giant LCD screens. Tired out or just not interested, they slept peacefully whilst their parents stood over them.
9. Outside 30 Camden Square, London NW1 – Simon McGregor-Wood, anchor of ABC News making a live broadcast outside Amy Winehouse’s home, the day after her sudden death.
10. Second Floor, Eiffel Tower, Paris – Not quite sure why this photograph was screaming out to me, but then it always a special moment to be at the Eiffel Tower and the light was kinda surreal too. Definitely a hanger.
11. Havana, Cuba – Taken in the Cathedral in Central Havana. A tender moment in this photograph of a father explaining the depiction of the Crucifixion to his daughter. A grab shot in all ways, I was there at the right moment. I think I fired off 4 shots but only one was sharp. The first one. Lesson learnt.
12. Malecon, Havana, Cuba – Cuba was the destination of one of our photo workshops. The Malecon is a famous stretch of seafront lining the north coast of the city of Havana with the Florida sea. Just some 90 odd miles away is Florida, where so many Cubans risk their lives to cross over by boat. This photograph was taken in the early evening, where we were walking to our dinner appointment. Four boys fishing in the foreground show the scale of this stretch of coast.
13. Visiting Che, Santa Clara, Cuba – Che Guevara’s monument in Santa Clara is an amazingly stoic place, sparse, all marble and concrete. A group of local women walk past the huge statue of their favorite national hero.
14. Havana, Cuba – A popular pastime for Cubans is to rear birds. I found this interesting wall complete with growing orchids and tropical plants in the rear courtyard of a restaurant where the Buena Vista Social club members were performing. The light was very low, and it was a gamble to take the shot, at 1600ISO.
15. Tottenham, one week after - A significant photograph of a burnt out building, totally destroyed by fire at Ground Zero of the Tottenham riots in August. The trouble in Tottenham sparked a nationwide riot, the worst in UK history, causing millions of pounds of damage and widespread looting, violence and deaths.
Bring on 2012.
NB. Any of these pictures are available to purchase, just send me an email for a quote. This is the first time I’m compiling this, may make it a regular yearly ritual.
I brought along my trusty Rolleiflex 3.5 and several rolls of Lomography 120 film to the Notting Hill Carnival recently and just picked the scans up from the friendly Lomography store in London’s Carnaby Street. I had been trying out their Red Scale 120 films. This is a 200 ISO rated film which has been reverse wound onto the spool. Exposing it at 200 will result in a red and orange tint, whilst giving it more exposure (rating it from 50 to 100 ISO) will result in green or blue tints, depending on the quality of light. It’s a hit and miss result, so there’s no hard and fast rule about your exposure. I guess that it the charm about shooting ‘Lomo’ style pictures. You just don’t know what you are going to get. I like the organic quality of film, the grain and the cross-processed look, which is done chemically rather than through Apps or digital filters.
Urban Kings Gym is a new state of the art martial arts and boxing gym in the heart of Kings Cross. Opened about a year ago, the gym looks more like a lounge club than a typical ‘sweat n sawdust’ fight venue. Andy and I were invited to make some portraits and abstract studies of the staff and management team, which may end up as wall prints or on their website. Bunmi, our contact is running the therapy and massage outfit there and is pretty useful as a boxer too.
These are portrait from a series, which I made of Bruno, the Trainer Manager and Pete Irving who prides himself with his awesome tattoo motifs. He is the BJJ and MMA trainer.
Photographed with the Fuji X100 with the built-in ND filter at 640ISO.
Andy decided to tint a series of portraits in selenium to create a moody and enigmatic feel for his ‘Cubanos’ subjects to avoid being derivative. He photographed mainly with a 80mm F1.2 Nikkor AI manual lens on his D3 body, providing incredible small depth of field, which is his signature style. These intimate portraits were made on the streets and alleys of Havana, Trinidad, and Cienfuegos.
Cubanos by Andy Craggs, 2011
In Jaipur recently, a make-shift portrait session was organised in the village where the Hotla family form the Dhanka tribe lived. We befriended Ram Hotla, our auto-rickshaw driver and he invited our photography group to meet his family and relations. I suggested to capture the portraits of all his family members, and on the 14.11.2010 a Sunday morning, they came out posing. Here is the result of that morning’s shoot.
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