Monday, 31 December 2007

New Year

Check out the happy new year post by Magnum. It contains pictures of new year eve parties in Wales, shot by Bruce Gilden! Now that's a christmas present!

Interview and some pictures with Tom Wood

Includes an essay. Everything is here. It's just a must see. Tom Wood has been for decades documenting daily life in Liverpool, and according to the essay, not getting much recognition to start with. I've heard of him many times referenced as an influence.

Happy new year, by the way!

Monday, 24 December 2007

Merry Christmas...

We are all getting older, fatter and uglier. Some people die and others get sick. Christmas is the time to remind ourselves of how much things can change in a year. And it's usually easier to see how they go wrong if as me you return home only for this time of year. Plus listening to depressive Sibelius christmas carrols doesn't help a lot. So welcome to the time dedicated to think about those you miss, those that departed, those you met again and ponder over and over what the next year will bring as it's getting closer and your pockets are emptier and your belly -filled with vodka and beer- brings you the least glamorous of thoughts.

So, I wish you´re visited by the three ghosts of Dickens and they make you think, overthink, separate the body from the soul, as time for that we don't have everyday. Not at least with this great moody dark nights. Merry christmas. I hope you make up with your past and future, and most importantly, with yourself.

Picture by Raoul Gatepin, who told me to post one of his pictures with my wishes.

Music. If you click on the play button on this page you can listen to "On hanget korkeat, nietokset". My favourite Sibelius carrol.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Spotlight... Igor Moukhin

I´m a big fan of Igor Moukhin´s photography and I casually discovered him through his Flickr page. The reason behind why I like the images seems to be that in a way they are pure photography for me. They are direct, playful and not charged with cliches and artifacts. There´s a certain naturality in them. Igor somehow manages to shoot like a witness of life, that every so often strikes the right key. There is that casual feel about them that I love...

And I have a bad feeling that I´m misrepresenting him when I´m choosing images to show here. I´d rather go and give a visit at his webpages. Ok, back to topic. There´s even an article written about Igor over here with a lot more information in it that I could ever give. For example, I already forgot to say that he´s Russian. And that he´s been documenting the life of his country since the 1980´s. Non stop. I´ll quote: "Born in Moscow in 1961 and Moscow-based ever since, Moukhin was an original member (1989-91) of the influential group Immediate Photography, founded by his contemporary, the artist, teacher, and curator Alexei Shulgin." So yeah, he´s not some random guy you bump into in flickr it seems.

That´s the sort of stuff that makes me want to go out and take pictures. The sense of freedom and immediacy of the 35mm camera. No bullshit. Just reality hitting straight from the world into the film plane. Anywhere, anytime. It´s a pity I don´t have more to say really. I´ve been thinking about posting this for maybe two or three weeks now, and I just don´t have any words to add. Just a few images and reminding that I already used one of his images to start a post about tilted photographs.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Life: largest zombie walk of Wales

"Some may argue the sight of zombies roaming the streets of Cardiff after dark is a common sight." - BBC News.

I ended up at the largest zombie walk of Wales last week with Anthony. I really enjoyed getting my face painted and walk around snapping pictures. Late at night I met David and Nicola as well and we went to drink to The Great Western. It's an amazing place to take pictures. There were some zombies there. There were zombies in McDonalds too. They were everywhere.

Picture by me.


"You mustn't know too much," he says, describing how he captures "the decisive moment" on film. "There's nothing to know. Cats know more than human beings on the subject. Cats sniffle: sniff-sniff. Intuition. People use brains too much. Brains are not used for making love."

Henri Cartier Bresson when interviewed by David Friend.

That does sound to me as the closes you can get to create a novel image. Forget thinking too much and explore the medium. When you explore you make mistakes, and some of them are by far more interesting than the average good shot. It's all about the interesting mistakes and the things that are a bit different. Once you have localized those best mistakes you can follow them, and create a new imaginery out of those new sets of ideas. Bad pictures don't follow the rules, great pictures break them.

"Being a (good) photographer is about taking good pictures, IMO. The bad ones don't matter; you learn from them and edit them out. If you don't allow yourself to risk taking a bad picture, your photographs will be staid, safe, boring. Simply trying not to fail is no way to succeed. It sounds suspiciously like a way of finding comfort by lowering the bar."

I read that here. Makes sense. Unless you make a living out of a formula. Shoot, get it wrong, explore. Later you'll have time to edit out and develop. My next toast will be to anarchy.

Friday, 23 November 2007

The so called tilt

This stunning shot by Igor Moukhin has an equally stunning comment by a viewer in flickr. The text, in its original form says:

The horizon is slanted and that is a NO NO for good photography.
By the way, the lady was shot in a very unfavorable pose. I am sure she
did not like it.

Don't know. If that's a reason to bin the picture, I'm a bit shocked. All that surreality in a single stroke, even the dynamism given by the slight slant of what would be an ordinary line in the image. As usually, after reading such a thing I decided to straighten another picture taken by Garry Winogrand. Lets go for it...



I don't know about you, but the straight image leaves me a bit cold. Yes, anybody could have shot that. Some woman inside a phone booth. One leg up, a bit sexy maybe.

Lets see the original again...

Isn't there something interesting about it? It's sort of 'cheekily wrong' but at the same time it draws you into completely new parts of the image which follow with different ideas. First, I notice the legs a lot more than I did before. The woman suddenly looks as if she's really locked inside the booth. Her legs are the only close-to-vertical pillar that draws my eyes in the image. She's more separated from her context than in the straight image. If that was a real hill you could think that she's standing on the wall of the phone booth. All the people in the background are walking uphill as well and we have that face on the top left corner. If the shot was straight we would have seen too much of the sidewalk on the right, even more people. And I like all those diagonals of the booth, a bit of which covers the face of the girl. Just lovely. The straight one is just boring in comparison.

The whole thing is that the image itself is self contained. When we walk around we can tilt our head in any direction and still everything looks at level with the horizon. I guess that it's not only due to our vestibular system in action, probably we have learned to normalize our horizon when seeing. Photography allows you to put a frame around an image, for the first time creating a tilt that can not be normalized as it's inside a square. This is a whole new world of visual experiences that can be explored. The hard thing is to create an image that in the reference coordinates of the image is balanced and natural, even if it does not agree with the references of the real world. Somewhere the tilted image (relative to world coordinates) has to be 'anchored' well enough for it to not result disturbing.

- What's with the tilt in your pictures?
- What tilt?

Rock on.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Q&A: November 2007

From the keywords through which people got to this blog.

Q: glamorgan staff club
A: It's closed. It used to be great. Maciej has some great shots of it.

Q: cartier bresson cropping
A: He didn't usually crop, but a couple of shots seem to have some, like the one behind the Gare St Lazare.

Q: bruce gilden camera techniques
A: I have a post about that.

Q: cleaner job in cardiff near grangetown
A: Can't help, sorry.

Q: what is a flashgun arbus picture of a flashgun
A: I don't know which one Diane Arbus used, but a flashgun is just a flash. Kick in lots of light into dark places or give an extra bit of exposure to badly lit subjects.

Q: stimulated ovulators
A: Cats, for example.

Q: no robert doisneau man jumping over a puddle
A: No, it's not Robert Doisneau, it's Henri Cartier Bresson. You have the image at the Magnum website.

Q: jonas bendiksen camera and film
A: I'm curious myself. I really like the colours of some of the photos in Satellites, but when I dropped him an email he didn't reply.

Q: how to hold a rangefinder
A: Funny that you ask me, I published a post about how to hold a Leica, which, in essence, is a rangefinder.

Q: how does garry winogrand do it
A: If I knew I wouldn't tell you.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Spotlight: The Park, by Kohei Yoshiyuki

Suppose you come to a typical pub evening to the Central Pub. You wander in like Radek, Pawel, Maciej or Bartek. Not that I'm saying that you need to be Polish, but it does help. Anyhow, you get in there to meet up for a few beers and a chat before going shooting somewhere or just drinking. You feel like going for the menu and you see something like this:

What the fuck? Joni forgot his book somewhere again. (Nicely lit, I must add.) Oh well, what's it this time? So you just get closer to figure the image out.

Wow! A guy sucking dry another guy! And it manages not to be porn! Great. The book is The Park, by Kohei Yoshiyuki. You can see more images at the Yossi Milo gallery. I also enjoyed the analyses by the New York Times and Alec Soth. I think that between them you can see enough images as for satisfying your curiosity.

I'm a bit sorry that I introduced this great book in such a straightforward and kevinsmithesque fashion. The sequencing is by far more subtle and as the same time as it is disturbing, you feel sucked into it. Kohei spent almost a decade shooting parks at night. Kohei spent almost a decade shooting parks at night when they were populated. Kohei did so armed with an infrared flash and infrared film. Kohei was not caught because his characters only saw a tenuous and distant flash of light.

The book opens with a couple lying on grass. In the distance we see the lights of the city. It's as dark as it gets and they don't see us. The next page shows a couple behind a fence. The third, a couple on the grass, she doesn't wear her shoes. All of them are lying back. At the ninth and tenth frame, Kohei gets closer. We can see the couples in foreplay, a hand here, a hand there. Suddenly, this monotony is broken. As a bunch of lions looking for a pray, Kohei introduces us to the watchers. They are behind a bush and we can't see their faces. The next pages approach us to them. We crawl with them, like a pack, towards the unsuspecting victims. The grass is white and bright. We see the couple. And then, the watchers fall on top of them. In some shots it's subtle, a close look, a hand that could be that of the lover. In others, it's just a pack, it's the vulture lifting the rabbit, it's violent.

That's the overall feel of the sequencing. It's monotonous but intense. It's a tune you already know, but it has subtle variations that keep you going. When we change to the second part, all the interactions turn from being between heterosexual to homosexual couples. Here Kohei shows us his best street pictures as well: a simply amazing arrangement of guys in white clothes walking around a park, perfectly placed. This part of the book is also permuated by a zen simplicity. The variations in vegetation and figures are great. That's why I chose the picture that headlines this post: it's fucking simple, but just great. It's sort of explicit (you know what's going on) but yet doesn't show you anything. (No, there's no nudity in this book.) The ground is cut out of the frame. Everything there is are these two central figures that are given a scale by the tree that raises next to them.

Such a strange and obsessive piece of work. I can't think of anything else than Kohei crawling there night after night with the voyeurs, pondering if that last shot of the hand getting into the knickers of the girl was good enough.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Meetups: Cardiff flickr beers

Beer unites!

Not sure if it still should be called a flickr meeting, but for sure it takes part in Cardiff about monthly, and does involve beers. Luckily, Wednesday, when it was held, happened to fall within the beer festival of Wetherspoons. With time it's growing, slowly, but getting a bit of a crew that is usually eager to take part. Announcements are made both on flickr and facebook, so it's easy to catch.

Things that happened this time:

- Bartek Nowicki showed some of his boxing prints, Maciej Dakowicz brought some of his assorted street and documentary classics from around the world, Kirsten McTernan (who arrived in a coat about a foot taller than her) brought a collection of her artwork of artists. I brought the same old pictures of Milan and nightlife.

- The Park by Kohei Yoshiyuki was handed around to raise eyebrows of those taking part in the drinking. Such a unique masterpiece...

- The meeting finished when Metro's closed. Late. David, Kirsten and me left.

Anyhow, very good fun, very good crowd and very lively discussions on all topics. From wedding photography to flashes, film development, music or travelling. Neat.

Picture by Pawel Bogulawski.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Life: motivations

Many times I'm surprised when I hear somebody justifying their intentions when shooting. In some cases it's impossible, and easier to borrow somebody else's words. Finally found some that fit for me:

"The price for license is high: it consists of a forfeit of adulthood. And yet he loved it here. The noise and stirrings represented authentic life. Some people found all this evil: he did not. People who thought that were wrong. The restless, roving banks of males who sought God knew what - they themselves didn't know: their striving was the genuine under-urge of protoplasmic material itself. This irritable ceaseless motion had once carried life right out of the sea and onto land; creatures of the land now, they still roamed on, up one street and down another. And he went along with them."

Those are words from Philip K. Dick describing Tijuana in 2055. I think they fit for what I see in Cardiff now, and what I genuinely can see everywhere when searched for deep enough. Everything else would be giving up life and just being a walking carcass. Maybe this lust for life -always looking for more, now, in the present, even if not knowing what- might seem like a behavioural trait limited to childhood or to the teenage years. I remember in the Staff Club this man, Lewis, 84 years old, injured in the world war fighting in El Alamein, all his sisters dead, living alone without children in Port Talbot show the same lust. A woman, a few decades younger stood up to grab her pint. Lewis seeing this, pinched her ass. No moral question, just the satisfaction of the self. At 84! Without anything to win or lose, just because he wanted to. Not even loneliness, age, health can bring the lust down.

Is then all immoral action a celebration of life? Probably not. I haven't seen many fights in St Mary street surprisingly. But when people are in this state (I hate that people say that I take pictures of people off their faces, which is what I do, in a way) I wonder what we are like. Are we in essence what I see at night or is this what we become? If it did not lead to uttermost chaos and destruction, is this what we should be? Undisturbed free flowing life or illusion? No moral concerns before making an action, no moral remorse of its consequences. The perfect establishment for the self as far as the lack of rules is agreed by all those taking part.

Some more lust for life by Iggy Pop:

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Images: Albany Road

Albany Road is my closest shopping street. I have not taken pictures with any dedication for weeks. I'm writing up my thesis, and the only predictable time I leave home is when I go to drink coffee. I am getting into having a little half an hour stroll around Albany Road when I do so. There's not much going on. People shopping, Tesco eating and spitting people, Iceland all red and charity shops. Sometimes workers giving a new look to a shop or building. The brighter days, at four in the evening the sun starts to elongate the shadows along the pavement. Again at eight in the morning. It's strange to shoot in my neighbourhood as sometimes I bump into people I know (and I'm unable to really stop for a chat).

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Story: the story of Maz

I met Maz at a party. It was sometime in the early Autumn of 2005, maybe September. It was probably before October, I think. Everybody left in October. It was at the house of my friend Petra -when she still was here-, next to the tracks of the train. I spent time picking raspberries in my way there and then we took buckets to go down to the tracks to keep on picking. There was a fire and a barbaque. It was warm for Cardiff. The sun was setting and I picked a guitar and played with this guy that had bongos with him. His name was Maz and he was the boyfriend of this one girl from Swaziland I had met before. The girl was savage -in a nice way-, so straightforward and fun, really lacking that British defect (or barrier) of the Politeness. Once over dinner, when a friend said that she was vegetarian, my Swazi friend replied disgusted: "vegetarian? you're useless!" I really enjoyed that. She was even more surprised when I told her that I ate my meat raw sometimes: "you're evil!" That was great, I love teasing people. Anyhow, we got on well and lots of times spent drinking till late (beer, wine, the bottle of vodka, that bottle of whisky she had at hers when I walked her back with a friend a long long way at night very very late to the residences where the students are so so noisy).

Well, so there was Maz with his bongos, me with a guitar, a fire taking care of the loads of meat, the sunset behind us -making the sky blue and bright like in a summer day- and buckets full of berries. We played I'm Waiting for the Man at least three times; before, while and after drinking, which meant that we never played the same song. It was great, it just got longer and better and more twisted and it had more stories and that drumming got louder and more monotonic and faster till it was part of the night like the stars above us. Which means that nobody cared a shit, excepting Maz and me, of course. Maz told me that he was going to visit Quasi -his girlfriend- in Swaziland. I thought he was mad, just never do those things for a girl unless you really know what you do. We have all been young and mad, which is the reason why we are all old and mad now. And the night turned morning.

I met Maz in the pub. Since that night with the Man and the berries I hadn't seen him or heard from him. My first question was... man, did you really go to Swaziland? He did, he really did. I was amazed. It was one of those places I hadn't heard much about, where white men go with cameras to say they've been there. We kept on chatting about it with a beer, we kept on chatting about it in the urinals with a beer in the hand and then back in the pub. Maz went to Swaziland for a month in a quest of adventure and passion. Brilliant. When he got there he found that she had met another man and this guy was not very happy about Maz being around. None the less he took part of the ritual ceremony in front of the King. I can picture it. This huge flat dusty plain full of men dressed with a piece of animal skin, a shield and a spear. In the middle of it, our white and chubby Maz popping out like a raisin in a scorn. He told me it took a bit to get in synch with all his Swazi, that children all skilled with their spear were giggling at him, but after a while he got into it. "It's all about hitting the shield with the spear" he said and jumping to the sides (Rocky Horror anybody?). There he is, the white man with the shield in the middle of those muscular black bodies dancing in a velvia sunset of reds and purples, almost naked, in a country not of his own, with the trance-like drumming going on for hours, without really a girlfriend anymore and wondering what to do next. I forgot to mention that her parents talked about marriage. Yes, he met them. In the backroom her father said that ten cows would do. Some other girls were more cows, but she was getting a bit old (mid twenties) and had a child, so that seems to give you a bit of a reduced price. But instead of leaving, Maz stayed in Swaziland. And he had fun and adventures for a couple of weeks and he really loved it. He was a bit disappointed about not learning more drumming techniques there. At the end of the day it's an adorable place. He tried to call me but I was in Italy.

I met Maz in the pub. It was about a month ago. We watched rugby. We drank a pint. We drank a couple of pints more. It's a long time since I've touched a bottle of whisky. We talked about music, the Underground, the Pistols. He plays with a band. At some point I got home.

(The image is some random house party I shot before the end of the last term.)

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Life: the end of the Staff Club?

Anthony just sent me an email to this news from the South Wales Echo. It seems to be that the councils have taken action on the club and locked it. There is a note on a window saying:

"Take notice that we, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Bridgend, Caerphilly and Merthyr Tydfil (county borough councils), owners and persons entitled to possession of these premises, have today re-entered thereon in accordance with our power to do so and as a consequence of such re-entry, the premises have been secured."

That sounds quite dramatic. For what I had understood the club had been in a bit of a 'limbo' in terms of who posessed it or who took care of it since Mid Glamorgan was divided in those four councils. In the shadows, in the bottom of some pile of bureacratic scribbling, the club kept on going and eventually managed to be the Real Ale club of the year. The atmosphere is the one of the forgotten club, with the old wallpapers and old customers. Hopefully things change to better in the next days. Fuck, I need a pint. Strong one. Who does serve me now?

(Image is a composition of two slides shot by me. The guy sitting down and smiling is Maciej, the guy standing and shooting is a local with Maciej's camera.)

Monday, 22 October 2007

How far is close enough?

What do these two images (first by Jonas Bendiksen and second by Susan Meiselas) have in common?

Well, believe it or not, both are pictures of somebody stepping on a puddle. I love the colorful and twisted image produced by Bendiksen, the sense of scale... but the first time I saw it I completely missed the girl in the bloody DEAD CENTRE of the frame stepping on a puddle. In this unreal image, a girl in an absolutely deserted street carefully lifts her foot towards the water. What if I had seen it directly, as if we were very close to her? Probably the whole aura of mystery and the game would have died. But what if I never got to see her? I guess I'm lucky to have the book, in which she's a lot easier to see that in this poor jpg...

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Street in the web: Hardcore Street Photography on flickr

I guess that most of the virtual readers of this blog (if there are any) know about the flickr group hardcore street photography that I've been helping to administer for about a month. As an online street photography group is probably one of the biggest and most active that can be found on the net. Many people knew about street on the first place, or learnt to shoot it by reading the threads and looking at the images that make up the pool. This pool grows every day with the addition of an average of five new pictures. This is quite a slow intake if we take in account that the group receives about two hundred submissions and thirty new members a day. The images are sent by all kinds of people: those who give their first steps in street photography and managed to take a good shot and maybe later on manage to make more of a track into it, those who have been shooting street for a while or try ocasionally and even those who have managed to make quite something out of it. In general, a very worthy group to give a look at if you are interested in street photography either for viewing, showing your work or for improving your style. After all, it's an open forum.

Ok, so instead of that much chit chat, lets go to see what the pool looks like. I've selected some shots that came out since I started curating. This is just a personal selection and it's not by any means comprehensive of styles or highlights.

(by james1hour)

Boy, Asilah
(by keith15)

Being a star...
(by Hugo*)

(by buchanear7)

(by | GW |)

(by hinius)

(by shveckle)

(by eyeblink)

(by macskata)

Rio de Janeiro
(by David Solomons)

(by flat5five)

(by rafmad)

(by bennybedlam)

It's nice all that mixture of photographers and formats actually.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Life: going for film to Grangetown

-I was not sure what to write today. A male pagan poledancing? Why three midgets dressed like tomatoes are Marks and Spencer food? A paper about individual differences at different stages of visual processing?-

Today, this evening at twenty past six, I left to Grangetown to get film. Somehow Royal Mail had managed to not deliver it to me and left one of those notes saying "sorry, but you weren't home". I checked redeliveries and the website didn't find my package. So I had to walk to Grangetown, one of those dingy areas of town populated by big huge shops (IKEA, a supermarket, a car dealer), empty roads and ambar coloured street lights. Actually, I took a train from central. It left me in this train station with a small roof and bench in the middle of it. Some blokes run to the departing train shouting something about killing somebody. I walk down the stairs and into the road.

I get my film, unpack it and ditch it in my rucksack. Forty rolls of thirty five mill and thirty rolls of one twenty. Total, a hundred and twenty quid. Better this way than the last one, when my Amazon package of books was left outside the door and somebody had just opened it (sorry pal, it was not a mp3 player).

Back on the station some guys chat under the dim light. Two guys on the stairs smoke and one of them asks the other, "is he foreign?", "no, don't think so". The bunch of people on the bench make me look posh and stylish by comparison. One of them is a woman with a stray dog. Half of the group departs for a train. A man, small, without many teeth turns and asks "what's your names?" and they exchange a few names before he finally jumps on the train. And I still have to wait eight minutes there.

On the way home I stop in Subway for dinner. When I sit down a woman enters and orders her sandwich with double cheese and bacon. Wow, we still have higher classes. I check her out, but the additional money spent doesn't make her any less unattractive.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Spotlight: People I have Asked by stpiduko

Finally a touch of colour in this blog. stpiduko (I call him Eamon) shoots portraits of strangers. He's quick. Approaches a person, asks politely, and has probably shot by when the subject is getting out of the shock. Apart of all the blablabla that he does in the previous blog you can also see his stuff as a more stylish photoblog.

People shot anywhere stopped in the middle of their daily affairs. Something catches our eye in the images. The girl that has been shopping, the dressed up man in a party, somebody's new sunglasses. A very simple cross section of what the street looks like in 2007.

The complete series of People I Have Asked are here. Every now and then there are new images added. I think that Eamon wants to make a thousand...