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Sato Shintaro

Sato Shintaro is a Japanese photographer, who photographs cityscapes at night; particularly in Tokyo, where he was born.  Our course literature refers us to Shintaro’s body of work titled ‘Night Lights’, which was produced between 1997 and 1999 and was published in his first book in 2000.

Night Lights is a vibrant body of work photographing the streets of Tokyo at night; within the entertainment district; clad with neon signs.  Shintaro chose to photograph this district with the aim to ‘capture the peculiar beauty and atmosphere of squalid neighborhoods that are anything but beautiful in the common sense.’ Shintaro. S (s.d.)

When viewing all of Shintaro’s work you are immediately aware of his fascination and love affair with the vibrant colours adorning Tokyo at night.  Shintaro describes this fascination saying:

‘…We can see dark and light at the same time. And color has more variety at night than in the daytime. For example, the sky appears red, dark places like the top of a building has a bluish color, the signboards are more vivid than in the daytime. And from the flow of light or the light coming from each of the windows, we can see signs of life more clearly than we can in the daytime even though actual people cannot be seen in the photos’

Shintaro. S. (2009)

To enable him to capture these busy vibrant street Shintaro would use long exposures of approximately 30 seconds.  However, Shintaro wanted to avoid people within the frame, explaining his view that ‘if people show up in the frame, the viewer sees the people.’  He wanted the viewer to see ‘Just the signs, just light, just colors, just the thing itself.  And the rhythm these things are making’ as he felt that they would be a distraction Shintaro. S. (2009). To ensure that there were no people within this images Shintaro would have to cover his lens when anyone entered the frame, wait for them to disappear and continue with the exposure. Due to this a 30 second exposure would actually take about 30 minutes in reality. 

Juso-Honmachi, Osaka Senju, Tokyo

Fig. 1.

Juso-Honmachi, Osaka Senju, Tokyo

The above image has been taken from the series Night Lights. It is of a narrow street in the entertainment district of Tokyo that is densley clad all around with brightly lit neon signs combined with brightly coloured signage.

When you first view the image there is an onslaught of a myriad of colours overloading the senses, creating a chaotic claustraphobic scene. As your eyes start to settle you start taking in the scene bit by bit, realising that although this is an image of nightlife in Tokyo, there is actually no-one in the image and the claustraphobic reaction begins to ebb away.

The framing of the image pays an important part of the composition. Shintaro has captured a shopfront of a convenience store with flowers sat outside confirming that this is indeed a street and not just a collection of brightly light signs.

The image below is of another neon clad street in the enteratainment district from the peice of work Night Lights. This has a similar effect, but it is not quite as chaotic and is therefore calmer. This has been acheived through the inclusion of an unilluminated frontage presumably because the premises are closed. Shintaro has also used the road as a leading line in the foreground which is clear beside the bycicles parked on each side. Both of these elements have served to open up the space.

Fig. 2.

Nishi-Kamata, Tokyo

Despite the image not being quite as chatic, you still get the feeling of a busy nightlife all around you due to the vibrant lighting and bycicles parked all along the side of the road.

Shintaro continued capturing night lights in his next body of work titled Tokyo Twilight Zone, which he created between 2002 and 2008. It was whilst he was working on Night Lights that he wondered what the streets would like like from afar. For this series Shintaro continued using long exposures to capture his images. He worked during the months of December and January as the sky above Tonkyo at that time of year tends to be clear.

Fig. 3.

Tokyo 2006

In the image above looking down on Tokyo streets at night, you can see how having a clear night compliments and works together with the scene. The clear sky allows clarity and speration to the lights and sunset whereas clouds would reflect and mix the colours. The only reflective surface for the lights is the white buildings and glass panels which take on the colour leaving the space between with a clean white light from the street lighting.

When viewing both bodies of work there is a chaos to them with the buildings towering above the streets densley clad with neon lights and hoarding, but there is also an order, with the clean lines and the defined lights due to the clearness of the air not duffusing or reflecting the lights creating a graduation.

I find the definition, tonal range and clarity allows the colours to pop within the images appealing to me on an aesthetic level rather than its contents.

Bibliography

Fig. 1.
Sato Shintaro
(1999-1997)
Juso-Honmachi, Osaka Senju, Tokyo
[Photograph]
https://sato-shintaro.com/work/night-lights/
(Accessed 18 December 2019)

Fig. 2.
Sato Shintaro
(1999-1997)
Nishi-Kamata, Tokyo
[Photograph]
https://sato-shintaro.com/work/night-lights/
(Accessed 18 December 2019)

Fig. 3.
Sato Shintaro
(2006)
Tokyo 2006
[Photograph]
https://sato-shintaro.com/work/tokyo-twilight-zone/
(Accessed 18 December 2019)

Citations

Santo S
(s.d.)
‘Sato Shintaro Night Lights Statement’
In: Sato Shintaro
[Online]
At: https://sato-shintaro.com/work/night-lights/
Accessed on: 18 December 2019

Santo S
(2009)
‘Photographer Profile Interview with Shintaro Sato’
In: Japan Exposures
[Online]
At: http://www.japanexposures.com/2009/08/25/interview-with-shintaro-sato/
Accessed on: 18 December 2019

Michael Kenna

Michael Kenna is a world-renowned Landscape photographer who exclusive works in Black and White film, using either a Hasselblad medium format camera or a Holga camera. He is still one of the few photographers who opt to develop his films and produce the prints himself. He controls the whole process which allows him the artistic freedom to achieve the exact tonal range and composition he is looking for. This is something that he learnt early on in his career when he worked as an assistant for Ruth Bernhard.

Kenna mainly photographs landscapes at night or dawn, using long exposures which can last up to 10 hours. In an interview with Anne Telford, which was written for Wraparound, Anne asks Kenna what drew him to photograph at night and at dawn.  Kenna responded in detail describing the different qualities of light that can be captured and their effects:

‘I used to only photograph in the early morning… Morning light is often soft and diffused.  It can reduce cluttered background to graduate layers of two dimensional tone…

…During the day, when most photographs are made, scenes are usually viewed from the vantage-point of a fixed single light source, the sun. At night the light can come from unusual and multiple sources. There can be deep shadows which act as catalysts for our imagination. There is often a sense of drama, a story about to be told, secrets revealed, actors about to enter onto the stage. The night has vast potential for creativity.’

Kenna M. (2003)

Some examples of his work are as follows

Fig. 1.

Huangshan Mountains, Study 26, Anhui, China. 2009

The photograph above is of a woodland in China shrouded in mist. There is the glimpse of a path leading down into the woods on the bottom right corner.

Kenna has captured a thin delicate light which has been diffused by the mist creating an enchanting scene that has a pensive/medatative quality.

Fig. 2.

Six Flying Birds, Bath, Avon, England. 1987

This image is of a landscape in Bath obscured by the morning mist. There is a flock of birds flying across the frame from left to right.

There is a soft layered light to this image which is aided by the mist. The further away an object is the less light it is able to reflect back through the mist creating a graduated tone to the buildings and vegitation. The light is also filtered through the mist throwing an even light around the scene devoiding it from any shadows.

There is a simplicity to Kenna’s work that seems effortless as he captures an ethereal light producing elegant and romantic images. It is almost as though he is writing an ode to the Landscape that stands before him.

Bibliography

Fig. 1.
Michael Kenna
(2009)
Huangshan Mountains, Study 26, Anhui, China. 2009
[Photograph]
https://www.michaelkenna.com/gallery.php?id=8
(Accessed 6 November 2019)

Fig. 2.
Michael Kenna
(1987)
Six Flying Birds, Bath, Avon, England. 1987
[Photograph]
https://www.michaelkenna.com/gallery.php?id=3
(Accessed 6 November 2019)

Citation

Kenna M
(2003)
‘Alright in the Dark’
In: Wraparound
[Online]
At: https://www.michaelkenna.com/ivwrap.php
Accessed on: 6 November 2019

Michael Schmidt

After reading an article written for Camera Magazine #3, March, 1979, which was republished on ASX website, we were then directed to look at Schmidts work on Prix Pictet titled ‘Lebensmittel’ (Food). This body of work won him the Prix Pictet in 2014. Sadly, Schmidt passed away three days after it was announced that he had won that years Prix Pictet.

Lebensmittel was Schmidt’s response to the theme of the fifth Prix Pictect; consumption with the ‘mission to bring global attention to what we believe is the greatest challenge facing humankind today: the issue of environmental sustainability.’ Schmidt’s piece of work explored the food and international food production, at a time of over farming and mass food consumerization resulting in an unsustainable system.

Fig.1

Untitled (from Lebensmittel), 2006-2010, installation view “Prix Pictet” exhibition at The Victoria & Albert Museum, London 2014

Prix Pictet have 10 images from Schmidt’s piece of work Lebensmittel on their website, together with a statement from him. The statement is not specifically about the body of work itself, but about his approach to his all work. Schmidt’s explains that when working he embraces failure within the process of his working ethic and work flow saying:

‘That is to say, failure or making mistakes is an integral part of my way of working’

Schmidt M, 2014

By working in this way Schmidt does not duplicate his work, and should he discover a new technic he would prefer to explore this and risk failure, rather than to remain within his normal practice and comfort zone. Due to this way of working it means that it takes Schmidt around four to five years to complete a piece of work.

When viewing the images that Prix Pictet have shown on their website it is noticeable that Schmidt has predominantly worked within his favoured medium of black and white. Schmidt explained an article he wrote, (which was later republished by ASX and my write up of the article can be read here https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/emma519041.wordpress.com/1252) that he prefers the neutrality working in black and white provides.

‘… it guarantees the viewer a maximum amount of neutrality within the limits of the medium. It reduces and neutralizes the coloured world to a finely nuanced range of greys, thus precluding an individual way of seeing (personal colour tastes) by the viewer. This means that the viewer is able to form an objective opinion about the image from a neutral standpoint independent… He is thus not emotionally distracted.’

Schmidt, M 1979

In the same article, which Schmidt originally wrote in 1979, he also informs us that he prefers to work with neutral diffused light saying:

 ‘I prefer to work with neutral diffused light, i.e. to produce an image without noticeable shadows. The viewer must allow the objects portrayed in the photograph to take their effect upon him without being distracted by shadows or other mood effects.’

Schmidt, M 1979

However, Prix Pictet have chosen two colour photographs amongst the ten on their website both of which seem to be the antithesis of Schmidt’s preferences. Not only are they in colour, but the lighting used appears to be a directional light creating shadows. These shadows do not serve to create an emotion other than a potential punctuation.

The image below of an egg box shows that although the use of colour and directional lighting is the antithesis of Schmidt’s preference, it does not always result in a distraction. The image does not contain any contrasting/clash of colour that distracts from content of the image. Furthmore the shadows do not create an emotional response either, leaving the viewer the freedom to collate and establish their own thoughts and opinion.

Michael Schmidt | Prix PictetPrix Pictet | The global award in photography  and sustainability

Fig. 2.

Untitled, 2006-2010, Lebensmittel

When I view the image, it speaks to me of the industrialization of the food chain and production. By using a frame larger than the depth of the egg box Schmidt has ensured that he has captured the join between the egg box and those on either side, informing you that this is a production line with egg boxes going along on a conveyor belt. Knowing that the theme of the fifth Prix Pictet was consumption, there is also a more subtle message in the image for me. By taking a photograph of an empty egg box Schmidt is creating a link to the unsustainable rate of current food production trying to keep up with the demands of current consumerism.

The image below is of three pigs tightly packed together. The photograph does not capture a whole pig within the frame, but it captures enough detail of each to inform you that there are three pigs, with the partial face of one in the bottom right corner. Schmidt has reverted back to his preference in this image of working in black and white combined with using neutral diffused light eliminating any shadows.

Fig. 3.

Untitled, 2006-2010, Lebensmittel

When considering the photograph of the pigs it is easy to see why Schmidt reverted back to his preference. On first glance he has created a clinical image which allows the viewer to form their own opinion without the distraction of any colour or emotional impact that different light and shadows can create. However, the framing of the image has been done in such a way, that in actual fact it ensures an instant emotional reaction, by capturing the pigs eye looking directly down the lens at you the viewer. For me this creates a confronting and uncomfortable image.

In today’s society the food industry speaks to us on a consumer level through the media and advertising campaigns creating the fallacy that animals are left to roam freely prior to entering the food chain. The imageby Schmidt brings you back to the reality that in order to meet the high demands of consumerization battery farms are still used and required. He has captured this showing the pigs stood tightly together.

You could be forgiven for initially feeling indifferent to Schmidt’s work when you first view it due to the lack of an emotional message. However, when you stop and really look at what is in the images there is an intensity to them because he has relied on the contents of the image to speak or itself.

Schmidt’s work can be viewed as a social documentary of the times with less biase from the photographer compared to that of other photographers like Sally Mann who uses the time of day, lighting and weather conditions to communicate an emotion.

Bibliography

Fig. 1.
Galarie Nordenhake
(s.d.)
Untitled (from Lebensmittel), 2006-2010, installation view “Prix Pictet” exhibition at The Victoria & Albert Museum, London 2014.
[Photograph]
https://nordenhake.com/artists/michael-schmidt#titleText
(Accessed 1 November 2019)

Fig. 2.
Michael Schmidt
(2006-2010)
Untitled, 2006-2010, Lebensmittel
[Photograph]
https://www.prixpictet.com/portfolios/consumption-shortlist/michael-schmidt/
(Accessed 1 November 2019)

Fig. 2.
Michael Schmidt
(2006-2010)
Untitled, 2006-2010, Lebensmittel
[Photograph]
https://www.prixpictet.com/portfolios/consumption-shortlist/michael-schmidt/
(Accessed 1 November 2019)

Citation

Schmidt. M
(2014)
Michael Schmidt, Lebensmittel, Artists Statement
https://www.prixpictet.com/portfolios/consumption-shortlist/michael-schmidt/statement/
(Accessed 1 November 2019)

Schmidt. M
(1979)
Michael Schmidt: “Thoughts About My Way of Working” (1979)
https://americansuburbx.com/2010/10/michael-schmidt-thoughts-about-my-way-of-working-1979.html
(Accessed 30 October 2019)

Green Ray by Tacita Dean

Accessed 21st October 2019

The course literature highlights that there ‘is more to daylight for photographers than just the golden hour (or the blue hour, or green ray)’ and refers to a short film ‘green ray’

(cited in Photography 1 Expressing your Vision 2018:88)

The short film ‘green ray’ is set to a recording of the sun setting across clear water. The short film expains that the green ray is the last ray of light to be given off by a setting sun. The ray of light is very allusive and shrouded in superstition with the narrator saying that the green ray ‘came to signify for some great change or fortune in their lives’.

When it comes to photography the last part of the short film resonates with me. The narrator said:

‘Looking for the green ray became about the act of looking itself. About faith and belief in what you see…’

(green ray by tacita dean, 2012)

This is something that is particularly true. You have to really look at what you are taking a photograph of. This ranges from the type of light and its potential colour cast, to the strength of light and direction, all off which which infuences the feeling and message contained within.

Citations

Bloomfield R
(2018)
Photography 1 Expressing your Vision
Barnsley
Open College of Arts

green ray by tacita dean
(2012)
[Short Film]
Fee, V.
https://vimeo.com/38026163
(accessed on 21 October 2019)

Sally Mann – Southern Landscapes

After reading ‘An Exclusive Interview with Sally Mann – “The Touch of an Angel” (2010)’ I looked at her photographic series Southern Landscapes as recommended by the course literature.

Following her Children growing up Sally Mann decided to take a road trip around the south of america exploring the land where she grew up and lived with its rich history. She describes the overall experience of her road trip as follows:

‘I am not a spiritual person at all, but there was something spiritual about that road trip down South. I was by myself for a long stretches of time, driving down these back roads. I think some people might have been afraid to be by themselves in these back roads, but I never was. I was visited by various mysterious feelings. I truly felt as if I was being kept company by departed souls, by ghosts. It was a very affecting trip for me.’

‘On the road, I was mostly thinking about the history of slavery in the South. When you drive through the South, you cannot help but realise that it would not be the way it is now if it hadn’t been for hundreds of thousands of slaves who suffered and died on this land.’

(Mann 2013)

For me the photographic series holds a haunting quiteness and fragility but at the same time managing to keep an element of romance. She has used the mist that you get in the south to diffuse and layer the light punctuating the landscape and its history. On some of the images she has used a dark vignette as if your eyes are closing falling back into a land of old.

Sally Mann uses the light that you get in the South to her advantage to create an emotion within the viewer. She describes the light as follows:

‘the quality of the air and light are so layered, complex, and mysterious, especially in the late afternoon’

(Mann 2013)

Deep_South_Untitled_Dark_Glow_01.jpg
https://www.sallymann.com/southern-landscapes

Fig. 1.

Untitled, 1998

The photograph is of an open piece of land/water lined by bushes and trees. There is a light in the distance shining through creating a silhouette of the tree canopy in the foreground. The image is quite dark and the diffused light through the mist picks up on the highlights of the vegitation.

For me the image creates a different reaction depending on my state of mind. When calm and content it sparks a meditative response. However, when in a slightly more stressed state of mind I feel like I’m falling down a rabbit hole looking back up at the light. The dark vignette creates the illusion of the tunnel, getting lighter as your eye moves towards the brightest point of light. I get a sense of drowning unable to come backup for air.

Deep_South_Untitled_Swamp_Bones_01.jpg
https://www.sallymann.com/southern-landscapes

Fig. 2.

Untitled, 1998

The above photograph is of a foggy landscape with trees standing tall. Towards the ground twisted roots are peaking up through the fog.

Theres a haunting beauty to the above image. The knarled branches pushing through the mist for me represent the knarled, twisted and broken bodies of slaves buckling which the blood soaked land was built on. Even as someone who is uneducated in the history of slavery I find the image confronting as you make the connection between that of the knarled branches to the bodies of slaves.

Of all the images in Sally Mann Southern Landscape series it is the images under the sub heading Deep South that have had a lasting impression on me. Sally Mann describes the conditions she took the photographs in as hot, humid summer days. The closest condions that we have in the UK where I live, occurs on cold crisp autumn mornings when the sun hits the frost creating a mist. This is my favourite time of year due to the mutted bronzed tones softened by morning mist.

Bibliography

Fig. 1.
Mann S
(1998)
Untitled, 1998.
[Photograph]
https://www.sallymann.com/southern-landscapes
(Accessed 7 October 2019)

Fig. 2.
Mann S
(1998)
Untitled, 1998.
[Photograph]
https://www.sallymann.com/southern-landscapes
(Accessed 7 October 2019)

Citations

Mann S
(2013)
‘An Exclusive Interview with Sally Mann – “The Touch of an Angel” (2010)’
In: ASX
[Online]
At: https://americansuburbx.com/2013/01/interview-sally-mann-the-touch-of-an-angel-2010.html
Accessed on: 1 October 2019

Michael Schmidt: “Thoughts About My Way of Working” (1979) – ASX Article

https://americansuburbx.com/2010/10/michael-schmidt-thoughts-about-my-way-of-working-1979.html Accessed 30/10/2019

Our coursebook suggests that we should read the above article which has been replubished by ASX from Camera Magazine #3, March, 1979.

In this article Schmidt explains what photography is to him, his preferences towards the use of colour, and type of light that he uses within his images.

Michael Schmidt starts the article by explaining that photography ‘is an ideal means of documenting our times in a valid and credible form’ (Schmidt 1979) He feels that photography is in a unique position and is a valid and credible way to document reality.

In the article Schmidt reveals that he prefers to capture his images in black and white becuase to him, this ensures neutrality. By using colour the viewer maybe influenced by their ‘colour preferences’ (Shmidt 1979), whereas if the image is in black and white it ensured that this influence does not happen resulting in the viewer having a more objective opinion.

‘…from a neutral standpoint independent of his subjective colour perception. He is thus not emotionally distracted’ (Schmidt 1979)

Schmidt continues in the article to explain that he uses the same reasoning as he does with colour for the type of light that he prefers to work with. Schmidt uses a neutral diffused light so that the image has no noticeable shadows thus continuing the credability and authenticity of the image keeping it aligned to being factual. If the image where to contain shadows Schmidt feels that the way they fall create different moods influencing the viewer.

It was interesting to read how Schmidt would try and produce a clinical image, in the sense that he wanted the scene to speak to the viewer and for them not to be tainted by colour and shadows potentially creating an emotional reaction which may differ from that of the scene he had captured.

Citation

Schmidt. M
(1979)
Michael Schmidt: “Thoughts About My Way of Working” (1979)
https://americansuburbx.com/2010/10/michael-schmidt-thoughts-about-my-way-of-working-1979.html
(Accessed 30 October 2019)

Sally Mann – ‘An Exclusive Interview with Sally Mann – “The Touch of an Angel” (2010)’

http://americansuburbx.com/2013/01/interview-sally-mann-the-touch-of-an-angel-2010.html

Accessed on 01/10/02019

I read ‘An Exclusive Interview with Sally Mann – “The Touch of an Angel” (2010)’ as published by ASX.

I found the article interesting and informative. Sally Mann raises some useful points in photography that are always worth remembering. She highlights the different meanings and perceptions that can be created by using a different angle when taking a photograph. Of her image Easter Dress, Sally Mann explains the different questions that are raised by taking the photograph at an angle rather than face on saying:

‘You could take a flat picture as opposed to a slanted picture, but then it would just be a fact, like “here is a child wearing an Easter dress”. But you have to make the image interesting—complex and peculiar. For example, the dog running in the Easter picture: is that a dangerous dog or a wolf? Why is it running? And why does that man gesture that way? I want my pictures to make people think and question, even if it upsets them.’ (Mann S: 2010)

Easter Dress 1986

Fig. 1.

Sally Mann also goes onto explain that she takes photographs of something that she finds visually interesting and then builds on it together with the surrounding context. She feels that this way her projects find her rather than her going out and finding the project.

When explaining her style of photography she explains that her images contain emotional information within them, as apposed to documentary photography which contains more facts. Sally Mann explains that she feels it is not necessary to have the factual element of the picture in focus because she is able to portray the information by appealing to the viewers emotions instead.

Sally Mann continues the interview by descibing how she tries to tell truths in her picures with ‘a little bit of an edge, or perhaps a “punctum” that catches your gaze’ (Mann 2013). Although some of her images are staged she doesn’t feel that this takes away from the truth of that image because a truth can be told in many different ways. Each frame will capture a different piece of information. A truth is a ‘layered phenomenon’ (Mann 2013) to her. Sally Mann elequantly explains her view as follows:

‘I think truth is a layered phenomenon. There are many truths that accumulate and build up. I am trying to peel back and explore these rich layers of truth. All truths are difficult to reach.’ (Mann 2013)

Each body of work that she has ceated has naturally led onto another body of work, for example her work titled Family Pictures naturally led into a body of work exploring the landscape of South America, which in turn led onto Battlefields:

‘Because many of the family pictures I took used Southern landscapes as the backdrop, it was a very easy shift for me to focus on photographing the South itself…

I am not a spiritual person at all, but there was something spiritual about that road trip down South… I was visited by various mysterious feelings. I truly felt as if I was being kept company by departed souls, by ghosts…

On the road, I was mostly thinking about the history of slavery in the South… you cannot help but realise that it would not be the way it is now if it hadn’t been for hundreds of thousands of slaves who suffered and died on this land.

So going from the Southern landscapes to the Civil War battlefields was an easy mental shift.’ (Mann 2013)

Sally Mann acknowledges that she has created most of her work in the South of America continuing the interview by describing what she sees as the preoccupations of the Southerner, together with how the heat and light has influenced those preoccupations:

‘Southerners are preoccupied with the past, with myth, with family, with death. And, of course, we tend to be a little more romantic…

I guess it’s because of the temperature. Also, the light in the South is so different from the North, where you have this crisp and clear light. There is no mystery in that light. Everything is revealed in the Northern light. You have to live in the South to understand the difference. In summer, the quality of the air and light are so layered, complex, and mysterious, especially in the late afternoon. I was able to catch the quality of that light in a lot of the photos.’ (Mann 2013)

When veiwing her work you can see how she has used the complex light to her advantage in her pictures. I will explore this further in my blog titled Sally Mann, which is to follow.

Bibliography

Fig. 1.
Mann S
(1986)
Easter Dress, 1986
[Photograph]
https://www.mfah.org/exhibitions/sally-mann-a-thousand-crossings
(Accessed 1 October 2019)

Citation

Mann. S
(2013)
An Exclusive Interview with Sally Mann – “The Touch of an Angel” (2010)
http://americansuburbx.com/2013/01/interview-sally-mann-the-touch-of-an-angel-2010.html
(Accessed 1 October 2019)

A Bible For Photographers

Read 1st November 2019

‘A Bible For Photographers’ is an essay written by Clement Cheroux which is issued alongside the the second edition of the Steidl printing of Henri Cartier-Bressions’ book ‘The Decisive Moment’. The Essay analysises the process of making the book through to its contents.

The title for the essay was taken from Robert Capa’s description of the ‘The Decisive Moment’ being “a bible for photographers”. (Capa 1972, cited in Cheroux 2018:3)

Clement Cheroux explains within the essay that Henri Cartier-Bresson preferred the medium of books rather than that of a magazine quoting Henri Cartier-Bresson as saying ‘The words are those of the photographer, but the phrasing is that of the magazine.’ (Cartier-Bresson 1959, cited in Cheroux 2018:3) He also explaines that Henri Cartier-Bresson found it frustrating that he did not have any control over the chosen images, the sequence that they were arranged, and their layout when published in the media.

He then goes on in his essay to detail the attempts that Henri Cartier-Breson made to produce a photography book prioir to ‘The Decisive Moment’ coming to fruition. These attempts went back into his early career to around 1933.

Following this Clement Cheroux details the collaborations that came together in order to make ‘The Decisive Moment’ a reality from Teriade, Armatiage Watkins to Richard L. Simon of Simon and Schuster, together with the support of Magnum Photos and Robert Capa and his family.

Clement Cheroux dedicates a section of the essay to highlight the uniqueness of the physical book itself. The size of the book being 37 x 27.4 cm in order to perfectly accomodate the images contained within, which were taken on 24 x 36 film. This allowed a page to be filled by a single vertical image or two horizontal images with an even border. Alternatively it allowed for a single horizontal image to spread over two pages. Furthermore, the orignal edition was printed by the Dreager Brothers on the highest quality white matte paper encapsulating the book within the realms of Fine Art. The printers were able to obtain a vast tonal range allowing for detail to come through within the shadows. Conversley the highlights worked on the same premise and were not left pure white allowing more of the detail to come through. Care was also taken in the binding of the book allowing for the book to open up flat between the pages.

Clement Cheroux continues the essay by highlighting that the book is effectively split into two parts. The first part mainly compromising of photographs taken prior to the set up of Magnum Photos in 1947 and the second part comprising mainly of photographs taken during his time at Magnum upto 1952.

The Essay continues to explore the uniquness of the book explaining that it was exremely rare for a photographer to write the text contained within the themselves and least of all a ‘How to text’ which Richard L Simon insisted on.

Conclusion

The essay provides a comprehensive and easy to understand insight into the making of ‘The Decisive Moment’ from its conception though to the finished article.

It was interesting to read about all the different collaborations that came togther to make the book a realisation. In addition to the amount of thought put into the whole process from the introduction, layout and physicality of the book itself.

It was also fascinating to learn how rare it was for the photographer to write the Foreward and for this to be a ‘How to’.

All in all this is an interesting read which allowes a better appreciation for the uniqueness of The Decisive Moment.

Bibliography

Clement Cheroux
Published April 2018
A Bible For Photographers
Germany
Steidl

Robert Franks – The Americans

Read 5th November 2019

The Americans is a collection of photographs that Robert Frank took whilst travelling around America.

Robert Franks managed to encapsulate the era of when the images where taken, together with portraying the atmosphere all around him.

Fig. 1.

Parade – Hoboken, New Jersey 1955–56

The above image is of two ladies stood in their windows with the American flag flying between them, looking down watching/waiting for a parade to pass by their windows.

The photograph is a strong image that invokes the feeling of anonymity you experience whilst in a crowd and yet a feeling of inclusivity at the same time, as you stand together experiencing the same moment.

The composition of the two ladies stood in their windows looking out positioned either side of the frame creates the feeling of unity punctuated by the faces being partially obscured disguising their individual identity.

The decisive moment in this image for me is the flag being blown over the window on the right side of the frame completely obscuring the woman’s face, rather than dropping down. This has created a more dramatic image.

Fig. 2.

Movie Premier, Hollywood 1955-56

The photograph is of a crowd of admirers and onlookers watching and waiting for celebrities to walk past on the red carpet at a movie premier in Hollywood.

At first glance the above image appears to be one of glamour and celebrity society, but on closer observation you notice that the star in the foreground is out of focus. The photograph captures the vulnerability of the star being paraded infront of an admiring crowd, expressing that sometimes the lonliest place to be is with others. They see the persona that is portrayed, but not the person; you see me, but you don’t see me.

By focusing on the crowd that had turned up to catch a glimpse of the stars walking the red carpet, Robert Franks has captured two elements. The fascination and excitement that the general public have with fame, which is an obsession that has not changed to this day. In comparison to that of the vulnerability of the stars being paraded to satisify that obsession of the general public.

I would say that the decisive moment in this image is the woman walking into the frame who is out of focus, just as the photograph was being taken.

Fig. 3.

Drug Store, Detroite 1955-56

The image is of a row of men sat at the counter top of a diner with three waitresses working behind the counter at the far end.

You can just imagine how hot and sweaty and noisy the cafe was when this image was captured with every seat taken on the long narrow cafe counter.

Robert Franks has used an angle which creates a leading line out of the all the customers sat at the counter leading you up and down the image. This leading line enables you to exploring the whole cafe briefly stopping at the two gentlemen facing the camera, allowing the eye to move outwards around the waitresses behind the counter serving coffee.

The decisive moment in this image for me is all the seats at the counter being taken up with one man in the foreground leaning into his drink starting off the leading line. The leading line takes you up and down the image, combined with the one man who is dressed in a dark clothing stands out due to the contrast in his clothing to that of the others sat at the counter.

Bibliography

Frank R and Kerouac J
(2017)
The Americans
11th Steidl Edition
Steidl

Fig. 1.
Frank R
(1955)
Parade – Hoboen, New Jersey
[Photograph]
https://www.phillips.com/article/15343481/through-his-lens-robert-frank-s-america
(Accessed 8 November 2019)

Fig. 2.
Frank R
(1955)
Movie Premier, Hollywood 1955-56
[Photograph]
https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/265004
(Accessed 8 November 2019)

Fig. 3.
Frank R
(1955)
Drug Store, Detroite 1955-56
[Photograph]
https://www.artic.edu/artworks/87181/drugstore-detroit
(Accessed 8 November 2019)

Daylight

The quality, intensity and colour of daylight varies throughout the course of the day influenced by the time of day and weather conditions.  When photographing a scene in daylight there are many elements to be considered, which are as follows:

Firstly, you need to consider the time of day which effects the colour temperature of the light dependent on where the sun is in the sky.  There are three colour temperatures to consider, which are as follows:

Cool

The cool temperature is known as the Blue Hour, which relates to Twilight which is usually an hour to two hours before sunrise and after sunset

Neutral

This relates to Midday being the time between sunrise and sunset.

Warm

The warm temperature is known as the Golden Hour and relates to the light temperature given off at sunrise and sunset.

Secondly you need to consider the quality and intensity of light.  This is affected by the time of day combined with the weather.  The higher the intensity and clearer the quality of light, the stronger and more defined the shadows will be; whereas a low quality and low intensity will produce softer shadows with more of a gradient between the shadows and highlights. The quality and intensity can be broken down as follows:

Hard Light

This is a high intensity light which tends to be from noon into the afternoon where the sun is at it’s highest.  The weather would need to be a clear sky allowing as much light to penetrate through the atmosphere with a low pollution count.

A hard light produces strong contrast between the shadows and highlights within your image.  It will emphasize details and enhance textures creating dramatic images.

Soft Light

This is a low intensity light which tends to be produced around sunrise and sunset.  Cloud cover will also soften the light creating more of a gradient between the shadows and highlights.

Diffused Light

 This is where the light is filtered by the weather producing a soft light.  Weather conditions that can produce a diffused light are fog, mist and pollution.

Finally you should consider the direction of the light and its affects. A couple of examples are as follows:

Side Light

This uses the light to highlight one side of your subject whilst the other side remains in the shadows,  Using a side light in your image can create a moody and  atmospheric feel to uour image.

 Dappled light

This is where an object such as a tree breaks up the light to create a pattern with the highlights and shadows.  This is something that you can use creatively to enhance your image.

 Reflected/Bounced Light

Using a reflector to bounce the light allows you to brighten the shaows and create a smoother transition between the lights and shadows.  You can also use  a coloured refelctor to influence the temperature of the light, for example a silver reflector will reproduce a cool light and a gold reflector will produce a warm light.