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Category Archives: Black and White Photography

Magnum Photos at 70: London Events Program

This year Magnum Photos is celebrating 70 years of contribution to photography and world history with a global events program. Public events across New York, London, Paris and in Asia will give people the opportunity to get closer to Magnum. Through engagement with its archival and contemporary work, the agency is committed to connecting more people to the importance of the image and the need to continue telling the world’s most important stories.

As part of these celebrations, a special fortnight of events will be taking place across London from May 8 to 21, 2017. Ranging from an experimental two-week artist residency to a capsule collection of t-shirts, as well as a series of exhibitions and talks throughout the two weeks. Full details here

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David Hurn The Beatles during filming of ‘A Hard Days Night’. The Beatles film was primarily shot on a moving train. Beatles during shooting. London, England. 1964. © David Hurn | Magnum Photos

Magnum and Me: A Personal View

As the agency turns 70, Magnum’s Executive Director David Kogan offers an intimate perspective on photography and why it matters

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Robert Capa US troops assault Omaha Beach during the D-Day landings (first assault).June 6th, 1944. Normandy, France © Robert Capa © International Center of Photography | Magnum Photos

David Kogan is Magnum’s Executive Director and a collector of photography, most notably of Robert Capa. Today we accompany this article with a collection of Robert Capa prints on the Magnum Shop.

Magnum Photos is 70 this year. Seven decades of great work, arguments, financial chaos, more arguments, loves, hatreds and big egos. It is a miracle of survival and commitment that has supported generations of talented photographers to do their work.

As someone who only joined the agency three years ago I’m often asked what makes Magnum worth it? What’s the point of keeping it going after 70 years in a world when so many images are created everyday?

It’s partially a personal commitment to photography itself. It’s also a belief that Magnum occupies a place of critical importance in the modern world of photography and photojournalism.

I started collecting magazines and newspapers when I was in my teens; reading Picture Post and Life magazines from the 1930s to the 1960s. The use of photography dominates these journals as does the skill of the photographers. However, my interest was the history. You get a true sense of another world by reading and looking at a magazine published months before the Second World War, when the writers and photographers have little idea what is going to happen. One of those Picture Posts in 1938 featured “the world’s greatest photographer,” Robert Capa, who had covered both the flood of refugees from the Spanish Civil War and the Japanese invasion of China. This was nine years before he helped create Magnum…….

So, why Magnum and why now?

People say that the world of photography has been radically altered by the digital revolution. There are billions of images uploaded every year from millions of smart phones. Everyone can be a photographer.

This is nothing new. Since the earliest cheap cameras were produced photography has been a mass medium. In the 1920s and 30s every household recorded family snaps on mass-produced cameras. We shouldn’t be surprised that the desire to see a single moment frozen in time appeals to the human eye and emotion. We all want a record of what is important to us. The image or photo gives us the easiest way to get it.

But if you believe that in a world of mass production there is still room for quality and talent then you will always have the great artists, the great singers and the great photographers whose work is different. It speaks to a higher level.

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Henri Cartier-Bresson Muslim women on the slopes of Hari Parbal Hill, praying toward the sun rising behind the Himalayas. Srinagar. Kashmir, India. 1948. © Henri Cartier-Bresson | Magnum Photos

Go here for full details of these events celebrating Magnum 

Magnum Live Lab (May 8 – 21, 2017)

Magnum Photographers Olivia Arthur, Carl De Keyzer and Mark Power will work alongside each other in a two week residency in the Magnum Print Room, responding to the local area. Transforming the space into a working lab, the resulting work will create an exhibition that stands as a celebration of and an inquiry into the medium of photography and the creative process of making.

Find out more here.

Magnum Photos at 70: 7 Decades of Advertising (May 8 – 20, 2017)

Magnum Photos and G.F Smith Photographic have collaborated to explore Magnum’s long history with the advertising industry, featuring notable archival and contemporary examples of Magnum’s work in this area over the last 70 years. The exhibition will recreate work on corresponding historical papers from G.F Smith and feature work from pioneers of the photographic advertising industry such as Burt Glinn.

Find out more here.

Magnum Photos Now: What is Magnum? (May 10, 2017)

Throughout Magnum’s seventy year history there have been many attempts to define the agency, its members’ vision of photography, its values and its history. This lively discussion chaired by photography critic Sean O’Hagan, and featuring the agency’s Executive Director David Kogan alongside Magnum photographers Jonas Bendiksen, David Hurn and Olivia Arthur, will ask the question, ‘What is Magnum?’ and what is the future of this historic agency?

Find out more here.

70 at 70 in London (May 15 – June 15, 2017)

The 70 at 70 exhibition at London’s Kings Cross charts a potted history of Magnum. The exhibition features 70 pictorial and historical photographic icons, celebrating the diversity of the Magnum Photos agency and how its photographers have borne witness to major events of the last 70 years.

Find out more here.

The Magnum Home (May 17 – 21, 2017)

A London pop-up in collaboration with Plinth and publisher Thames & Hudson will explore youth culture, through an exhibition curated by Ekow Eshun, installations, talks and events, as well as the opportunity to purchase limited-edition products by Plinth that incorporate the work of Magnum photographers.

Find out more here.

Magnum at Photo London (May 17 – 21, 2017)

At this year’s Photo London, Magnum is showing a combination of early and contemporary work. This will include both modern and vintage prints alongside period works from Magnum’s 40th exhibition ‘In Our Time’. Magnum is also presenting a unique installation on Japan by Max Pinckers, in which he juxtaposes his own work with vintage prints by Werner Bischof.

Find out more here.

Magnum Photos x Richardson at Dover Street Market London (May 18 – 21, 2017)

Magnum Photos’ extensive archive has been curated by Andrew Richardson on the theme of resistance and protest to create a project at the intersection between fashion and documentary photography in collaboration with Dover Street Market. The capsule collection of 5 t-shirts will be sold exclusively via Dover Street Market.

Find out more here.

David Hurn’s Swaps (May 18 – 21, 2017)

To celebrate the community of photographers of which he is a part, Magnum’s current President Martin Parr has curated a selection of the print swaps from which David Hurn has built an extraordinary collection for an exhibition at Photo London.

Find out more here.

Join us in celebrating Magnum’s 70th anniversary throughout 2017. Bookmark our anniversary hub to find seminal stories, new work, and discover what Magnum events are happening near you.

View and licence some of the our most iconic pictures from our dedicated 70th anniversary page on Magnum Pro.

 

 

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‘I take portraits of gods’: Nobuyuki Kobayashi

With his gorgeous and patiently realised black and white images, Kobayashi searches for a spiritual dimension in the calm beauty of nature. Using a large-format 8×10 camera, the platinum palladium printing technique and sumptuous paper, Kobayashi fills his nature photography with a deep sensuality. An exhibition of his work, Portraits of Nature: Myriads of Gods, is at Sway Gallery, London, to 28 March. All photos: Nobuyuki Kobayashi

As seen in The Guardian

'I take portraits of gods': the photography of Nobuyuki Kobayashi – in pictures

Kodou Platinum prints allow for deep dark tones and create a beautiful matte finish

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Souzou Kobayashi prints on Hosokawa paper, a product that has been made in the same way since 1642. He says he uses this paper to add a ‘Japanese identity’ to his work

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Zen ‘I just keep walking around until I can find a place that incites my emotions,’ says Kobayashi. ‘I feel as though I am not the one who finds places to shoot but am led there by places’

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Shin ‘Strength, beauty and nobleness: all characteristics reveal themselves to me’

See more here

Better Black and White Photography

from those nice people at Lightstalking

Black and White photography can provide some stunningly beautiful images that have a classic feel if done really well.
Standing stones at Avebury, Wiltshire UK by Keith Barnes

Standing stones at Avebury, Wiltshire UK by Keith Barnes

There was a time when all photographs were done only in black and white, and people were still able to see the different tones (i.e. the tonal range) in black and white. That is immense beauty in black and white photography and it’s important to show tonal variations in black and white too.
This week we’ve got some quick tips for you on how to create beautiful black and white photographs. This applies to both photography and the conversion process.
Quick tip:
Remember an important fact to be kept in mind while using the term monochrome (varying tones of one color); all black and white photographs are monochrome, but not all monochrome images are black and white!
Did you know about the Zone system of exposure that was developed by Ansel Adams and his friend Fred Archer?
Ansel Adams known for his famous black and white landscape photographs, was very particular about capturing as much dynamic range in his images (from the deepest black (shadows) to the brightest whites (highlights)).
So he developed this system for metering and exposure that made him stand out from other photographers of his time.
His images stood out so beautifully because of the range of tones that they had between the color black and white.
Tip Number 1: Learn to use your histogram
Keep a check on your histogram to see that you have a full range of tones before you start the process of black and white conversion, or if you are shooting black and white, make sure that your histogram has enough details for you to bring out the perfect tonal range in your photograph.
Black and white photography is not about capturing just the color black and the color white, but about capturing all the other shades of gray that lie in between black and white!
Look for yourself at the difference in Histograms when you change contrast and exposure in an image.
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Pay close attention to the histogram

And, look at the histogram for the picture with a correct exposure; you see that there are a good range of tonal variations!

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Tip number 2: Understanding Tonality

You need to choose a scene that has contrasting tonal values. Yes, tonality matters. What happens if you disregard this? You’ll simply end up with flat images that will look and feel lifeless with not much to look at.
Truth is, not all images will look good in black and white and you may have to tweak them a bit in the conversion process so that they don’t look flat.

This also tells, do not use automatic black and white settings in your camera, but instead shoot RAW in color and do the conversion manually so that you can tweak up the image later to bring in the tonal range.


What is tonality?
It’s the lightness of the image and is very important while shooting black and white. Colors that look very distinct may actually look the same when converted to black and white!
If you don’t quite understand, look for yourself at the conversions below! Amazing isn’t it? (Basic automatic conversion in Lightroom)

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But a slight variation of the above colors can create good tonal variations as seen below!

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Tip number 3: Choosing a good photograph for conversion to black and white

So from the above two tips, what do you gather? You need a photograph that has plenty of shadows and highlights, good tonal ranges and some textures wouldn’t hurt at all, but create a striking black and white photograph.

So, choosing an image that will create a decent black and white photograph is important and that doesn’t mean that you cannot make a good conversion from other pictures, but it simply means that it will be more difficult to achieve it.

Look at the images below along with a default black and white conversion to see how they turn up!


Check out these examples:

The image on the right has some tonal values and beautiful textures whereas the image on the left, although a beautiful landscape, lacks tonal range and textures!

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If you wish to learn for yourself about the histograms, how the Zone System works for photographs along with useful and step by step illustrations to convert photographs into beautiful black and white pieces of art, you really should check out Kent’s “Better Black and White” premium photography guide.

Lost England – photographs from 1870 to 1930

The Guardian has a rather excellent selection of images from the past.

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

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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-

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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.

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ansel-adams

INTERVIEW: BILLY NAME’S RARE PHOTOS OF ANDY WARHOL’S FACTORY IN THE SILVER AGE

You may be aware that there is an exhibition of Warhol prints at the Ashmolean Museum until May.

This interview in American Photo is with a photographer who worked with Warhol at ‘The Factory’

If you like Warhol this will interest you

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Nico

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Velvet Underground

Billy Name, born William Linich, was a lighting designer living in Lower Manhattan in the early 60s who, in an amphetamine-fueled fugue, ‘redecorated’ his East 5th Street apartment into an art installation. He covering the entirety of his space in silver spray paint and aluminum foil. “I even painted the silverware silver,” he said. When Andy Warhol, who Billy had been seeing at the time, came over for a hair-cutting party, he asked him to do the same to a new loft he bought on East 47th Street, the site of the since-infamous Silver Factory.

Billy went over to give Warhol’s loft the same silver treatment as his own apartment, and ended up staying for several years, developing close relationships with many of the famous Factory denizens. He had never had a camera until one day, Warhol’s 35 mm fell into his lap and the rest became art history. Decades later, nearly every contemporary art museum in the world at any given time has at least some work by Warhol on view, and anything even remotely associated with the artist seems to garner instant attention.

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Edie Sedgewick

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Andy Warhol

Read more of this interview here

INTERVIEW: DUANE MICHALS ON 50 YEARS OF SEQUENCES AND STAGING PHOTOS

From American Photo

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Through February of next year, the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh is hosting the first major survey of the pioneering photographer Duane Michals’ work in more than 20 years. “Storyteller” covers nearly six decades of photographs from his first encounter with the camera in 1958, through his iconic narrative sequences or “mime fables” of the late 60s and 70s, up until the colorful, painted-over tintypes he’s been making in recent years.

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Michals (b. 1932) has continually rebelled against and expanded the documentary and fine art traditions. At the onset, he baffled critics who knew not what to say of his work, rejecting the notion of the “decisive movement,” the supremacy of the sensational singular image, and the glorification of the perfect print. As an expressionist, rather than going out into the world to collect impressions of the eye, he looked inward to construct the images of his mind, exploring the unseeable themes of life, death, sensuality, and innocence.

Shooting mostly Tri-X in available light, he’s maintained a simple process all these years, whether it was for his personal work, or for the commercial work that supported it—the LIFE magazine cover, the ad campaigns for Microsoft and Pampers, an album cover for the Police. Once a radical outlier, now a father of dominant trends, he inspired generations of photographers from Jim Goldberg and Cindy Sherman, to the countless others staging, scribbling over, and painting on their photographs today.

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Read more and see DUANE MICHALS sequences here

These Are the Sounds of Film Photography

The rather amazing gimlet eye of Norman McBeath discovered this and as he and I and many other friends and photographers spent most of our lives with these sounds he thought it worth sharing. If you never visited the original Photographers Workshop or had your own darkroom this will bring back memories, if not this might seem a bit pointless but to all those old enough to have enjoyed the days of darkroom work this will have you sighing.

It’s a 1-minute tour of the different sounds (and sights) that are part of the analog photography process, from opening a new box of film to hanging up film strips to dry after developing them. from Robert Marshall

http://petapixel.com/2015/11/22/these-are-the-sounds-of-film-photography/

Black and White Darkrooms, Photographers Workshop, Oxford

the black and white darkrooms, Photographers Workshop, Oxford 1982

http://www.photographersworkshop.co.uk/

The gallery and finishing area Photographers Workshop Oxford 1982

Photographers Workshop 1982

Photographers Workshop 1982 front door

enlarger, black and white darkroom, Photographers Workshop, 1982

enlarger, black and white darkroom, Photographers Workshop, 1982

 

 

The Salt of the Earth Wim Wenders’s thoughtful portrait of photographer Sebastião Salgado

I know a bit late to alert you to this but better today than tomorrow. The Wim Wenders documentary about Sebastião Salgado is showing for the last time at the UPP on Cowley Road, Oxford tonight, start time is 6.30pm, here is what the Guardian said about the film .

Wim Wenders co-directed this documentary about Sebastião Salgadowith the photographer’s son, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, bringing “an outsider’s view” to a wealth of extant footage and photos. From stunning images of the gold mines of Serra Pelada (“I had travelled to the dawn of time”), to the horrors of famine in the Sahel and genocide in Rwanda (“We humans are a terrible animal… our history is a history of war”), and ultimately to the rebirth of the “Genesis” project, The Salt of the Earth finds Salgado revisiting and confronting his turbulent past.

Speaking to Wenders while gazing at – and sometimes through – his back catalogue, Salgado proves an adept and compassionate storyteller, his training as an economist providing sociopolitical insight into the suffering (manmade rather than natural) that threatens to engulf his work. “Everybody should see this image,” he says at one point, although the unspeakable sights captured by his camera prove so unbearable that one is all but forced to look away. Elsewhere, footage of Salgado with Papua’s Yali tribe or the Amazonian Zo’é of Brazil offer a more uplifting portrait of humanity, while the reforestation of the Instituto Terrasuggests that all may not yet be lost.

Salgado is a photographer we feature in some of our courses notably Composition In Photography – Seeing Pictures and Intermediate Photography

 

Nan Goldin: the fabulous drag queens who launched my career

As found in the Guardian

Before she was the queen of hardcore photography, Nan Goldin was a normal American girl suffocated by the suburbs. As a teenager, she had her first exhibition in her hometown Boston, full of shots of the drag queens she had started hanging out with. Now, she’s opened up her archive to share these unseen early images – the first step in a career defined by shockwaves

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More here

Links

Earlier Posts

A Record Of Real Life: Nan Goldin

Nan Goldin Photographer

Photographer Nan Goldin’s best shots

Tate

Guardian

Interview with The Guardian

Wiki