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: