Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

Monthly Archives: March 2016

1930s ‘Killed’ photographs The American Great Depression — excised.

As found on Mashable

The photos look just like the most famous FSA images of Depression-era America. Laborers with weathered faces stare into the distance, sharecropping families stand on splintered porches and rag-clad children play in the dust.

But each picture is haunted by a strange black void. It hangs in the sky like an inverted sun, it eclipses a child’s face, it hovers menacingly in the corner of a room.

The black hole is the handiwork of Roy Stryker, the director of the FSA’s documentary photography program. He was responsible for hiring photographers such as Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Arthur Rothstein and Gordon Parks and dispatching them across the country to document the struggles of the rural poor.

Stryker was a highly educated economist and provided his photographers with extensive research and information to prepare them for each assignment. He was determined to get the best work possible out of his employees — which also made him a bit of a tyrannical editor.

When the photographers returned with their negatives, Stryker or his assistants would edit them ruthlessly. If a photo was not to his liking, he would not simply set it aside — he would puncture the negative with a hole puncher, “killing” it.

killedphotos-22

FSA/8a16000/8a162008a16217a.tif

killedphotos-34

killedphotos-27

killedphotos-8

killedphotos-10

killedphotos-45

see the full article and many more images here

other associated posts

Migrant Mother – Dorothea Lange the story of a picture

Photographing the Great Depression, then and now – Dorothea Lange

Dorothea Lange ……..the greatest American documentary photographer

 

 

Alec Dawson Photographer

In his series of untitled photographs Nobody Claps Anymore, the Mexican-American photographer Alec Dawson portrays ordinary people in their homes in a downbeat, ultra-stylised manner. Nobody Claps Anymore by Alec Dawson is on show at Perugia Social Photo festival, until 28 March, which focuses on photography around social issues – this year with the theme of ‘blindness’ . Dawson, who works as a civil engineer and has no formal training in photography, keeps the houses of his subjects largely unchanged, but brings in cinematic lighting to throw sharp shadows and dramatic highlights on them

The series’ title, Nobody Claps Anymore, was inspired by an emotional realisation that I experienced when my plane landed in Melbourne. Hundreds of tons of metal, carrying hundreds of passengers, silently flared momentarily before the tires collided with the runway. The nose of the plane heaved forward. The reverse thrusters roared and rapidly decelerated the plane. As the plane turned off the runway onto the taxi-way the individual joints in the pavement were perceptible as the plane lumbered to the gate’ Eventually the plane parked and I heard the sounds of belt buckles, zippers, and the rustling of bags. It all happened in silence. Not a word uttered. No applause. The audience had forgotten to clap’

Every so often by wandering around the web something special pops out. Today it was Alec Dawson. I know his work is somehow reminiscent of Gregory Crewdson except that Dawson shoots real people in real situations rather than constructing a set. He just adds dramatic lighting and I don’t doubt manages the location and people a bit. The images are remarkable for that, their reality, is this a truth. The idea that these are true representations forces the question what is truth. Anyway I am always willing to applaud great creativity and just wish I had thought of it first although I doubt Oxfordshire would have presented such characters.

1920 (1)

1890

1920

1920 (4)

1920 (3)

1920 (2)

Originally found in the Guardian, this is a good place to see interesting photography and worth checking on a regular basis. The Guardian Alec Dawson

 

Sony World Photography National Awards

There are many photography awards, the Sony version is not my favourite but with every award or competition there are some that stand out. Here are some from the current national awards

The winners and runners-up in the Sony World Photography National Awards have been revealed. An expert panel selected the best image taken by a photographer from each of the 60 participating countries.

Here is a selection of some of the winners as shown on the BBC website

 

Minh Thanh Ngo, Winner, Vietnam, National Award, 2016 Sony World Photography Awards

Image copyright Minh Thanh NgoImage captionThe winner for Vietnam, Minh Thanh Ngo, focused on the traditional custom of lighting lanterns on the Perfume River in Hue City.

© Pedro Diaz Molins, Winner, Spain, National Award, 2016 Sony World Photography AwardsImage copyrightPedro Diaz MolinsImage captionPedro Diaz Molins took first place for Spain with this image of an old couple on a beach.

© Khairel Anuar Che Ani, Winner, Malaysia, National Award, 2016 Sony World Photography AwardsImage copyrightKhairel Anuar Che AniImage captionWinner for Malaysia was Khairel Anuar Che Ani who captured a tired moment while Rejang dancers wait their turn the during Melasti Festival in Bali, Indonesia.

© Abhuit Banerjee, Winner, India, National Award,2016 Sony World Photography AwardsImage caption Abhijit Banerjee was awarded first place in India with this photograph titled Gangasagar Fair, taken at India’s second-largest fair, which takes place in West Bengal’s Sagar Island.

© Luis Portelles, 3rd place, Canada, National Awards, 2016 Sony World Photography AwardsImage copyrightLuis PortellesImage captionA colourful graphic shot by Luis Portelles was awarded third place for Canada.

Here is the Sony website

The winning images will be shown at Somerset House, London, from 24 April – 10 May.

Pictures of the week 2016-03-19

Just a few of the utterly remarkable images in the Guardian Pictures of the week

5760

 

I knew it was difficult – Animal magic: how to photograph wildlife

So you may have gathered if you are a regular here that I am not bothered about wild life photography. You know they are animals, get over it. But I also understand the pleasure so many people get from taking pictures of animals, I just don’t get it. As for owning animals, just that phrase makes me wonder, why would someone want to own another living being, anyway beyond all that I do admire great animal photography if only for the sheer doggedness of the perpetrators. So when I found this article in the Guardian by  I knew I was on to something, that is something most people would benefit from, how to photograph wildlife by Andrew Forsyth a Wildlife Photographer of the year 2014 finalist. Someone who knows what it takes.

“I want to see you crawling. Get down lower. Crawl!” I am crawling – my elbows hooking uselessly into the large, loose pebbles of Brighton beach, dragging my body another inch forward, while my hands and wrists wobble beneath the weight of a hefty Canon 5D MK III camera. It might look impressive if I wasn’t so embarrassed. Through the unsteady lens, my target bounces about: a flock of seagulls, squatting 10 metres away.

Along the shore people duck and dodge the gulls, which swoop with menacing confidence towards chips, children and ice-cream. Yet, I’m having the opposite problem – every time I get within striking distance of a bird, it soars off into the distance.

I am in Brighton with Andrew Forsyth for a crash course in wildlife photography. In 2014, Andrew was a finalist for the ultra-competitive Wildlife Photographer of the Year for the second time, with an atmospheric photo of Brighton’s starlings swarming above the sea.

46A0238

The first lesson I learn, when Andrew places his huge, heavy, long-lens camera in my hands, is that wildlife photography is tough. When he tells me to take a clean, well-composed portrait of a seagull I think “easy!” but it seems to require the same stealth and effort as photographing a lion in the Sahara. Once you’ve scrambled silently towards your subject, there’s a three-way struggle to focus, compose and shoot before it scarpers.

To improve my chances, he says, I need to know my subject. It took four months for Andrew to take his winning starlings photo, which was one of 25,000 shots. For the first few weeks, he stalked the prom and pier, watching where the birds roosted, how they flew, what time they woke up and went to bed.

“At first the photos were quite conventional, and after a few days of shooting I was sick and tired of it. But I pushed through, and that’s when something interesting happened. I became wildly experimental, trying out whacky things with aperture and shutter speed, more in hope than expectation, but my photographs were more original and exciting.”

For whatever reason, Andrew tells me, it is impossible to jump straight to this wild, creative phase – you always have to push through the slow, methodical bit first.

If you would like to read more of this and get further insights into wildlife photography go to The Guardian here Andrew Forsyth holds one-to-one sessions throughout the year. For details visitthewildlifephotographer.com/workshops

You might also like to see some truly spectacular wildlife photography by Marina Cano go here

Marina Cano Wildlife Photographer

There are many superb wildlife photographers, their work a testament to their skills, patience, understanding and determination. We can wonder at their ability to capture that most elusive of animals, to be there when that special moment happens, we think how lucky they are. In reality the most impressive wild life photographs come not from luck but from exceedingly hard work and hours spent in the most uncomfortable locations. Some photographers specialise in certain animal groups, some in specific locations and some have that thing which sets them apart, style. A photographer who has their own style is memorable. Think of all the great photographers you know and I am sure you could recognise one of their pictures even if you had never seen it before through it’s style. Marina Cano is one of them, she has style. You will have seen her pictures before, they are widely distributed, here is her website in case you need a reminder.

In her own words:

I’m a  Spanish wildlife photographer, based in Cantabria,  Northern Spain. I’ve been taking pictures since I was a teenager, started with my father’s camera. My work has been published around the world and have won international awards. In 2009 I’ve published my first book, Cabárceno, with the pictures I’ve took for three years in the largest park of wildlife in Europe, with the same name. In December 2012 I published my second book: Drama & Intimacy, a carefully selection from the pictures I took in South Africa, Kenya, England and Cabarceno. I’ve also made exhibitions in Cape Town, London, Spain, La Habana, I’m currently exhibiting in Korea. My talks took me to different places like Finland, Cuba, South Africa, Israel, Mexico, Spain, United Kingdom. In 2015 I’ve been finalist of the most prestigious Nature Photography Contest in the world: Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

So as a little Easter gift here are some of her pictures to put a smile on your face

995338_10154061670181018_1135565307174484782_n

MG_7621

33410_OgWc3GEI6R7zrog0_605341

MG_0491a1

marina-cano_12

marina-cano_3

MG_7587

Marina gives talks, has exhibitions, books and guided safari tours all accessible from her website

I hope you enjoyed these

 

Vogue 100: A Century of Style

Photographs from a 100 years of Vogue at the National Portrait Gallery, London

Many of the truly great photographers of the last century contributed to Vogue so just to see the works of some masters would be worth the visit. I do suppose it depends a bit on what you think about fashion in general. I am sure with two minutes to spare I could come up with some pointless cynical views on the subject but no doubt I would be in a minority, which is where I generally prefer to be.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Now as you may imagine I know little about fashion photography so here is a review in Time Out of the exhibition by someone who gives it 5 stars

Not just a pretty face – the style bible is a reflection of our times.

Fashion may be fickle, but the fashion photographer’s lens is also a mirror. ‘Vogue 100: A Century of Style’ is as much a reflection of a hundred years of our history as it is a celebration of the original glossy.

Born in 1916 during WWI, when shipping the US magazine became impossible, BritishVogue has always been more than a fashion mag. And this exhibition is so much more than a collection of pretty models in pretty clothes – Boris Johnson has found his way on to the walls, for goodness’ sake! JG Ballard and Aldous Huxley have both written for Vogue. A pre-fatwa Salmon Rushdie has shared an issue with John Galliano, years before the latter’s fall from grace. Both Queen Elizabeth and her boozy mum have appeared. And, of course, most of the century’s best photographers have shot for its pages. Exhibition curator (and contributing editor to British Vogue) Robin Muir gave Tim Walker, the man responsible for many of today’s most fantastical Vogue shoots, his first job in the 1990s: archiving Cecil Beaton’s work for the magazine from the 1930s.

In this thoughtfully arranged show, it’s the little details that make the difference – from the cocktail style menu of credits in the 1930s room to the wall of seemingly disparate portraits of actress Helena Bonham Carter, milliner Stephen Jones and model Ben Grimes-Viort – united by a colour scheme of feathery pink. A side room shows a series of slides from the ’40s to the ’90s; as though you’re in the cutting room, you watch images go from picture to page.

There’s a charming library of bound copies in which you can survey the century of Vogue as a physical thing. A peek at the pages reveals coverage of major events with far-reaching consequences, like the bloody Alsace campaign at the end of WWII, as reported by Vogue’s very own war correspondent (and former model) Lee Miller. There are also moments of fashion history that reflect societal leaps, such as the launch in 1947 of Christian Dior’s ‘New Look’, which celebrated the end of austerity with its extravagant layers of fabric. Or Donyale Una becoming Vogue’s first black model, gracing the cover in 1968 – a whole ten years before US Vogue would do the same. British Vogue has been around for a century and, in one way or another, it has documented it all in the most beautiful fashion. 

National Portrait Gallery

St Martin’s Place
London
WC2H 0HE
020 7306 0055
Contact us

Opening hours

Daily 10.00 – 18.00
Thursdays and Fridays until 21.00.
Last admission to the exhibition is one hour before the Gallery closes.
Exiting commences ten minutes before the closing time

On until the start of May

 

Saul Leiter: Retrospective

If you don’t know Saul Leiter where have you been? His colour photography has been the delight of many photographers for years. There is a retrospective of his work at The Photographers Gallery but only until April 3rd

It seems an irony that Saul Leiter always considered himself more a painter than a photographer. Firstly, because it was the latter that made his name. Secondly, because he was pretty bad at the former. Leiter moved to New York in the 1940s, soaked up the abstract expressionist scene, and occasionally showed his twitchy, garish, overworked paintings in galleries in the East Village.

Fortunately, alongside the art exhibitions, he also visited a show of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photography in 1947. Soon after, he bought a Leica and started taking pictures on the city’s streets. And out of an alchemical relationship between the two disciplines, there came a long and astonishing body of photographic work defined by a kind of elegant, painterly formalism.

Some people might be drawn to the people in these pictures: the kissing couples, the stooped men in raincoats. But Leiter was always more poet than documentarian. Taking his cues from Mark Rothko’s colour fields, Leiter’s photographs became increasingly defined by broad, abstracted planes of colour. This reached extremes in images like ‘Purple Umbrella’: the webbed rim of the umbrella fills just the upper quarter of the image; the rest is an out-of-focus sidewalk. It’s stark, bold and astounding.

Leiter’s other great achievement was making an aesthetic virtue of all the advertising that filled the Big Apple. Pictures of neon signs shimmering in puddles and billboards reflected in shop fronts make for an exquisite kind of shorthand for the urban experience. It’s never quite a human New York that he captures. But it isn’t half stylish. 

Venue name: Photographers’ Gallery
Contact:
Address: 16-18 Ramillies St
London
W1F 7LW
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 10am-6pm; Thu 10am-8pm; Sun 11.30am-6pm
Transport: Tube: Oxford Circus
Price: £3, adv/concs £2.50, adv concs £2

The 40 best photos of London ever taken from Time Out

This is an interesting and varied mix of images found in Time Out magazine. Hard to know the criteria by which they have been deemed the best images of London ‘ever’ as there seems to be no discernible link or structure to them. In one instance a memorable news picture, Thatcher leaving Downing Street, in the next a man on the underground with nipple clamps. Clearly some have been chosen because they were taken by famous photographers and others because of the moment but the randomness is fun. Have a look, let me know what you think.

London, you’re beautiful. No, scrap that. London, you’re wild. Angry. Delicious. How do you sum up a city that changes its look as often as its underwear and always has plenty to say? That’s the challenge we set ourselves when we decided to draw up a definitive list of the best photographs ever taken of the capital. In making our selection we had help. Serious help: Wolfgang Tillmans, Juergen Teller, Nick Waplington, Dorothy Bohm and Eamonn McCabe are among the world-famous photographers who shaped our selection. We also picked the brains of the top London photography brass at museums including the Tate, V&A, Museum of London and Imperial War Museum. The result: a celebration of London’s architecture, its icons and its geography, but also of us: Londoners at work, at play, protesting, rising to a challenge and always ready for our close-up. 

image

Ken Lennox: Margaret Thatcher leaving Downing Street, 1990

Downing Street has witnessed major political events, of course, but the actual drama mainly happens behind closed doors. Not so with Margaret Thatcher’s tearful, final departure from Number 10 in 1990, when it was hard to know which was more startling: the suddenness of her ousting, or the Iron Lady displaying human emotions.

© Ken Lennox/Mirrorpix

image-2

Mo Farah winning the 5,000 metres at the London Olympic Games, 2012

We screamed a lot during the 2012 London Olympics: at the telly, at home, in pubs, and at each other. But nowhere was the din as loud as in the Olympic Stadium when Mo Farah claimed his second Olympic gold by winning the 5,000 metres. The sound of the 80,000-strong crowd was so loud that the camera at the finish line started to shake, warping the image. ‘Nothing captures the fervour, the noise and the enjoyment of London 2012 more than this image,’ says Time Out photographer Rob Greig. ‘It’s a picture taken by 80,000 people.’

image-5

Bill Brandt: Francis Bacon, 1963

German-born Brandt produced mainly portraits and landscapes – and this study, ostensibly of the painter Francis Bacon, shows his mastery of both. It’s hard to tell which aspect is the most severe, the most sullenly evocative: the dark, stormy sky; the angled stripe of pathway up Primrose Hill; or the glowering snarl across Bacon’s face.

© Bill Brandt Archive

image-1

Tom Hunter: Woman Reading a Possession Order, 1998

Bathed in a beautiful morning light, Tom Hunter’s young woman looks likes she’s stepped out of Johannes Vermeer’s seventeenth-century masterpiece ‘Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window’. The narrative, though, is pure late twentieth-century. Fillipa is a squatter reading an eviction notice from Hackney Council. Hunter, at the time a fellow member of Hackney’s squatter community, shot the image for his ‘Persons Unknown’ series. It went on to win the John Kobal National Portrait award and has shown around the world. ‘I never envisaged this response to a photograph I took of my neighbour and friend in a squat one sunny morning in Hackney,’ he says. ‘But its intimate depiction of the mother and child in a moment of vulnerability seems to resonate in a universal way.’

© Tom Hunter

image-4

Charlie Phillips: Notting Hill Couple, 1967

A cool shot of a stylish couple. What could be simpler? Taken at a party in Notting Hill in 1967, this isn’t the most immediately momentous of Charlie Phillips’s photographs, which include images of global icons such as Muhammad Ali and the first images of a fledgling Notting Hill Carnival, as well as intimate photos of Windrush-generation west Londoners. But it’s a picture that speaks volumes about London living and loving. As Phillips remembers, at the time being in a mixed-race relationship meant you’d get ‘louts shouting “nigger lover” from the windows of their cars as they passed’. Thankfully, those days are gone, but issues of race, visibility and Notting Hill’s heritage still occupy the photographer. ‘What really pisses me off,’ Phillips told us when we spoke to him last year, ‘is when they made that horrible film, “Notting Hill”. There wasn’t even one person of bloody colour in it!’

© Charlie Phillips/www.akehurstcreativemanagement.com

image-6

Eve Arnold: One of Four Girls Sharing an Apartment, 1961

London in the early ’60s, before it began to swing, was really more like the ’50s: a little bit dismal, a bit pokey and dowdy – still dusting itself off from its postwar blues, not yet ready to embrace the Technicolor future. Arnold’s wonderfully moody photograph seems to capture that in-between era perfectly.

© Eve Arnold/Magnum

image-3

Tim Peake: London from Space, 2016

We’ve all been high on a Saturday night but, orbiting 400 kilometres above the earth, British astronaut Major Tim Peake takes the (freeze-dried) biscuit for altitude. Shot from the International Space Station at midnight on Saturday January 31, 2016, his image of London, its skeins of twinkling lights shining brightest around Oxford Street and Regent Street, is the most recent image in our top 40 and the ultimate establishing shot. ‘I’d rather be up here… but only just!! #toughcall,’ Peake told Twitter as he flew past at 17,150 miles per hour.

© ESA/NASA

See the rest of the 40 best ‘ever’ here

This looks more interesting photography in London, exhibitions, competitions etc

The problem with landscape photography is metering

This is a thing I have to say on just about every camera course I teach. It seems everyone likes to take landscapes, not me so much I have to add, (why, oh because they involve so much walking and carrying gear to places that are difficult to get to). As dear old Ansel Adams taught us (he is probably the greatest landscape photographer of all time) metering is the essence of getting a landscape picture right, see this picture of his

Adams_The_Tetons_and_the_Snake_River

So it was with relief that I found this post by  on Lightstalking that address all the issues surrounding metering and landscapes. Just give it time to get past all the jokiness, it is worth the effort.

He proposes that the Zone System, originally developed by Ansel Adams and that involved metering, film development and printing can still be used in digital photography, I agree with this and taught it on our Black and White Digital Photography course. It takes a bit of understanding and careful metering as well as command of Photoshop but is worth the work. The basis of the Zone System was that light meters as you have in your camera provide aperture and shutter combinations that would create a mid grey or 18% tone, understanding this allows you to meter into the darkest shadows/brightest highlights and then adjust your exposure through managing aperture or shutter as you prefer (usually shutter). This may sound complicated but it is the foundation of all photography that relies upon a light meter and should be understood by anyone serious about their photography and especially landscape photography. Here is the summary from Kent but I would recommend that you read the whole article

To properly meter for a landscape photograph consider the following-

24786853083_67b07812c5_c

Illustration by Kent DuFault

  1. Once, you have decided on a scene; evaluate the contrast range with your eyes. Take notes (I do). Note your brightest highlight area that you wish to maintain detail. Note your darkest shadow area that you wish to maintain detail. Note an area that you believe to be a mid-tone (127) area.
  2. Use your longest focal length lens (or a handheld spot meter). Set your metering pattern to “spot”. Take a meter reading of the three areas that you noted in step one. Write down the exposure settings. (For the sake of example- I’ll make some up: Shadow area 1/2 sec at F/1.4: Mid-tone area 1/2 sec at F/8: Highlight area 1/2 sec at f/45) This represents a 10 stop dynamic range. Most DSLR cameras can record a dynamic range of about 5 to 6 stops. The super high-end professional DSLR cameras may go as high as a 10 to 12 stop range. For most of us, we are looking at a 5 to 7 stop range.
  3. Make a determination of where you are willing to lose detail: highlights or shadows? Set your exposure with a bias to the end of the scale that you want to have detail. Using my example meter readings above- if I wanted to bias my exposure maintain detail in the highlights, I would set my camera to 1/2 sec at f/16. If I wanted to bias my exposure for detail in the shadows, I would set my exposure to 1/2 sec at f/4. If I wanted to record as much mid-tone levels as possible, and sacrifice a little detail at both ends of the scale, I would set my exposure to 1/2 sec at f/8. I’m not going to go deeply into this- BUT- you may have heard of “Shooting to the Right”. This refers to biasing exposure to the shadows thus over-exposing the highlights. The theory behind this is that digital cameras, shooting raw files, can recover more detail in the highlight end of the scale- than they can in the shadow end of the scale (in post-production). And while this is true, you should strive for the best exposure setting possible (based on your mind doing its work).
  4. Finally, shoot a picture and look at the histogram on the LCD screen in preview. Are you getting the correct bias that you wanted? For example, if you wanted to maintain detail in the shadows, but the shadows are being clipped off on the “0” end of the scale- you need to increase your exposure. The opposite would be true if you were looking at the highlight end. If they’re being clipped off, you need to reduce exposure.

Illustration by Kent DuFault

SUMMARY

  • Evaluate the tone range of the scene.
  • Make a determination which tone values are most important.
  • Set your equipment to take a meter reading of the smallest area possible (spot setting)- take a meter reading of the shadow, mid-tone, and highlight areas you identified in the previous steps.
  • Determine the dynamic range.
  • Set your exposure using ISO, Aperture, and Shutter speed to place the “window” of dynamic range in the right location on The Zone System Scale.
  • Shoot a test shot.
  • Evaluate the histogram.
  • Adjust exposure as necessary.
  • Enjoy your wonderful results!

Sadly I no longer run the Black and White Digital Photography course due to lack of interest but would be happy to do so again if there were enough interest. If you are interested send me an email

Here are some more Ansel Adams for you

Ansel Adams Wilderness, California. Afternoon Thunderstorm, Garnet Lake.

Ansel Adams Wilderness, California. Afternoon Thunderstorm, Garnet Lake.

ansel-adams-wilderness-1_1600

ansel-adams