Monday, 25 February 2008

Getting in...

Don't miss the words of Paul D'Amato about his work Barrio. Not only the images of his project are very compelling, his writing also makes you want to get somewhere where you don't belong. In the case of Paul, this was a Mexican community in Chicago, but it could be anywhere. Diane Arbus said that she wanted to be where nobody had been, and that a camera was an excuse or license to get this done. But how cool it is to blend as a stranger were you don't belong, for moments forgetting the difference between you and your surroundings.

My subject isn’t that sensational. It’s more like: this is truly a privilege to see - - - and I know that I have to concentrate like hell because I know I’ll never get an opportunity like this again. I live for these situations where I feel a kind of profund sense of emotional resonance. It takes a lot of looking, clarity and luck. - Paul D'Amato

Technique: the overhead position

Seriously, if you have never shot a twin lens reflex in the overhead position, you haven't lived. I actually shoot in an inverted overhead posture, so my face is pointing in the direction opposite to the lenses. I do this because I find it faster to just flip the camera over my head and keep the right hand index finger on the shutter. Oh well.

Thursday, 21 February 2008


I'm not having great luck with cameras lately. I dropped my XA1 for the thirtieth time a few weeks ago and the cover blew away and I can't get it back in place. A mate gave me a replacement XA1 and last night the shutter simply stopped working. Last week I noticed that the Yashica Mat I've been using on weekends doesn't focus appropiately (I'll have to open it and check the mirror of the focusing lens). Plus my adored OM2 broke a couple of weeks ago, in slow agony. First, frame yes, frame not, the mirror wouldn't return. It doesn't read the batteries anymore so it's limited to B and 1/60. Right now, I have reverted to fully mechanical cameras without lightmeters (and an Olympus XA). Well, that's four cameras less in a month.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Spotlight... Brazil - by David Solomons

Today's spotlight is special due to many reasons. One of them, it's a questions and answers session. Another, that this very set of images was recently published as the first slideshow gallery in hardcore street photography. If you're interested in getting Brazil as a book, don't hesitate in contacting David.

Gareth Jelley: Why Brazil? What led you there? And where would you go tomorrow, if someone told you they could fund you to go anywhere in the world, on the proviso that you had to leave the very next day?

David Solomons: I had wanted to visit latin America for some time and I can speak a little Spanish so Brazil didn't make much sense in that respect. It was mostly on a whim as my father had recently died and I wanted to take more of a vacation than pursue a serious picture story, so I went there as a kind of testing ground to see how I'd cope taking the sort of pictures I was taking in London in another city. I felt Rio was a good choice as I thought I could also do something about its beach culture.

In answer to the second part of the question, I'd have to say Mumbai, simply because I've yet to go there and it's the kind of place I feel I could take pictures for days on end and still find something new and amazing.

GJ: Did you have any aesthetic ideas in your head when you went out shooting, in Brazil, or did certain aesthetic themes and patterns (like the blue, and the strong angles) emerge organically, revealing themselves in the edit?

DS: I had a friend who worked at Geo magazine, which is the UK version of National Geographic, and the beach culture idea was something I thought I could pitch to her if I brought back a good enough set of images. From that perspective I took tranparency film as opposed to colour neg. which is what I'd normally use for my personal use.

The light there was wonderful and I quickly recognized that the combination of that and the transparency film immediately lent itself to a different approach as I'd be exposing for the highlights and allowing the shadow detail to almost disappear. So yes my approach was slightly different in that regard but nothing that I'd consciously thought about, I was just excited to be photographing in a new environment.

GJ: Do you feel, personally, that your photos get under the skin of the place, looking into it rather than just documenting it? Are the shots in that collection shots you don't feel you could have "collected" elsewhere?

DS: I somehow doubt it, I would even go as far as to say I barely sctratched the surface of the place on a social level but that's not to say the pictures are any less valuable for that. It's difficult to say if I could have taken similar shots elsewhere, with some I could others maybe not so. Obviously where you have famous places like Copacabana beach or carnival celebrations, then I think people would recogize that that's where the shots were taken.

Joni Karanka: I've talked about this with you already, so it's like cheating. How did you fit your shooting style with Brazil? You don't show the same that you get out of London. But well, it isn't dull and rainy all the time either.

DS: London is my home town so I feel more like I belong there which maybe allows me to take more liberties as it were. I was a foreigner in Brazil and as such I felt more compelled to respect their cultural sensitivities. Many people there aren't so keen on having their picture taken as they feel they're being exploited by foreigners. Many of the poorer Brazilians are happy to pose for you if you pay them but I found doing the candid type of work I normally do problematic. So yes, I shied away a lot more from the 'in your face' type of shot and took a more wide angle environmental approach instead.

JK: On another note. These don't come through as holiday snapshots. How long you spent there?

DS:I originally only intended to stay for a month but ended up staying 10 weeks as I wanted to stay for the carnivals in Salvador.

JK: Do you feel influenced by any photographers in these images? There's such a large amount of people that have worked in similar conditions of light... Alan Harvey's Cuba or Alex Webb's Under a Grudging Sun pop into mind...

DS: Possibly, it's difficult not to see the similarities and I've certainly been familiar with those photographers' work for a long time. I never go out thinking I've got to do an Alex Webb shot here or a Winogrand shot there, I just see how situations evolve in front of me and I interpret that the best way I can. If they look similar that's okay with me, they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

So, if anybody has more questions, just ask in the comments and I'll do my best to getting them to David.

Friday, 15 February 2008


Via 2point8 I found these street pics of the 70's taken by Robert Johnson. One of them is one of the best dog pictures I've seen for a while:

I find it interesting how dogs on the street are second only to humans in the interests of street photographers. They pop everywhere, but you can't do them often (unless you're Elliot Erwitt, who shoots them all the time). Then go pigeons. A few well known to enjoy:

Josef Koudelka

Richard Kalvar

Elliot Erwitt

Bruce Gilden

Thursday, 14 February 2008


I spent some time in Milano shooting at the end of August and beginning of September (about five days). I edited down those pictures into a short set that I'd say was done in a very direct and fast fashion. I sort of like having worked on something that is fast, dirty, incomplete and superficial. (I say that, but I still think it has a couple of nice shots.) Oh well, so I was looking at images on flickr, and one of my contacts, Luca, had this picture that made me think about the streets I had been wondering in:

So I pointed him out one of my shots of Milano that reminded me of his (he shoots there):

What I was not expecting was his reply, in which he pointed me towards this image he took a couple of weeks ago. I know the locations so and so, so I had a good giggle when I saw...

... mine is the next one...

So, have you ever been influenced by your peers? Do you have an agenda of pictures 'to steal'? (I do have such an agenda of very precise and explicit images, not just overall style, but I never see them emerge in the places I shoot.)

Monday, 11 February 2008


I always wonder what captions are for. I mean, they sort of end up with the ambiguity of some images, but some happen to grow with them. My last favourite caption is in this image by Christopher Anderson:

When I saw it at first I went. Duh, a bearded guy having a good time in a swimming pool, probably after a few margaritas. What's that about? Then I noticed the caption. It reads: "KUWAIT. Kuwait City. 2003. Antonin KRATOCHVIL swimming in the Hilton pool just before the invasion of Iraq."

Woh, now the image completely changes, as Kratochvil is pretty much involved in shooting wars, catastrophes, etc. Suddenly, a nice bite of sarcasm warms my heart. Thanks, mr caption.

What are your favourite captions?

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Life: drugs

I was walking down Queen Street tonight. These street performers gave me a can of Guinness. They were pleased with the acoustic stuff I played and also with the House of the Risin Sun. I said it was shit. Even so, they gave me a can. I kept on walking towards home. I got to the next performance. There was a cute girl next to the guy playing. She didn't kiss me. A guy asked me someting.

- You want a sip? - I ask.
- Yeah.

Bloody bastard gives it a loooooong sip.

- Man, take care.
- What you mean?
- I need to go to bed, that's my valium.
- No, come on.
- Seriously, I assure you I have problems sleeping.
- Man, don't tell me that.
- No, I'm not joking, I can't go to bed before three or so, and that if I'm drunk.
- Come on, I've been taking extasy.
- Well, I've been taking valium.
- No, seriously, how many valiums where in that can?
- Two.
- What? I've been drinking, taking extasy and xxxxx, what's going to happen to me?
- Don't know.
- Fuck you! You didn't tell me there was valium in that can!
- I didn't know you were going to down it...
- Fuck you!
- Seriously.
- Fuck you! I've been taking extasy! Man! I can't mix! Please!
- Hahahaha, come on! I'm just joking!
- And the valium?

I love being a bastard sometimes. I'm not sober, though. But I like it when people give me free beer. Some north waelian people also gave me a fiver tonight for being shooting. Life is weird. People seem to like me even if I'm a cynical bastard.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Elsewhere: art and artlessness

I just read this entry in the B blog (what's with all these letters?). I quite much enjoyed this bit when Blake writes about a group snapshot taken 21 years ago in the small village he is from:

"This particular photo seems to support that idea that the more "artful" a photographer attempts to be --the more referential and self-conscious-- the more quickly it is forgotten, while photographers who record reality in less stylized documentary way eventually gain recognition. Some of the greatest photographers of all time --Watkins, Jackson, Atget, Disfarmer, etc-- didn't think of themselves as artists so much as documentary recorders. The recognition as art came later, as artlessness became arty."

The picture he talks about is actually quite cute. It would be nice to see two dozens on the same line by now... but who knows where they're buried. I guess that with the ability of people to delete the crap from their digital cameras, thousands of potential future artworks are lost every week. Will we never see the proof of people picking their noses in school pictures again? Damn.

Bedtime, I managed to arrange greasy breakfast for tomorrow.