Eastern Perspectives

In the first half of the last decade in the previous century I was in Prague for six weeks and naturally I visited the few galleries exhibiting photographs. Having recently thrown of the stupefying effects of foreign occupation, photography in Czechoslovakia was in the process of realigning itself with western style aesthetics; however, it had not historically had the same love affair with small format street photography that America had had.

The focus was on medium or large format pieces that explored the intrinsic beauty of the everyday, the tonal ranges between black and white and the way light creates form and dimension in a picture.

Both simple and complex at the same time, they tend to be quiet and meditative. Totally at odds with the freneticism of modern photography.

I have retained a long and enduring love for this type of work -, so much that when I once again picked up my larger format film camera, it was almost a fait accompli that I would begin with this style.

Bronica SQA, 80mm, 1/2sec, +1 filter, Classic Pan 200asa (10 years out of date) developed with Adox Rodinol, diluted 1/50 for 12 minutes

Advertisements

West 43rd Street

Many photographers who shoot in the street like to catch people unawares, the theory being that it gives the image more authenticity. I don’t believe this, in fact I belong to a totally different school of thought. I believe people have the right to know when they’re being photographed and while this can still lead to abuses, it’s usually the photographer who is being abused. It’s this dynamic interplay between the photographer and the street that I believe makes the street photography genre both interesting and exciting. The best example of this school of thought is Dianne Arbus, who went far further than I ever will in engaging with her subjects.

Also, if like me you use a large camera with a waist level viewfinder and a wide-angle lens then you can’t hide and everybody knows what you are doing, which is why I like this format.

 

Bronica SQA, Tri-X 400,

Monuments to Greed

The return to film and specifically medium format film has also meant a reevaluation of many old negs that have been waiting patiently for years for a little recognition.

Often the reason they were left waiting was that I simply had no use for them whereas the net gives so many things a platform for display.

The picture was shot down around Wall Street some time around 2002. The distortion also tells me I used the 50mm wide angle, but that’s basically all I know of the technical stuff as I kept inaccurate records at the time.

I liked the framing of the picture because it shows the monumentality of the architecture in NY’s financial district. Also the central point of interest is offering a graphic metaphor to the avarice that built the district.

Plus, if your in New York, the Empire State Building is always a must to photograph.

Bronica SQa, 50mm, Tri-X 400.

Another Street Sign

With the way the talking heads in the media are ranting and frothing at the mouth about religious fundamentalism you would be pardoned if you thought it was a new phenomenon. Of course it’s not, the ebb and flow of violent pious beliefs is a historical fact.

One day’s crackpot is tomorrow’s martyr.

On a lighter note; a sure way of recognizing a photograph shot with a medium format film camera is the so-called waist-level shot – so named because the camera is held just above the waist and you look down into the viewfinder to focus and a fine example of what happens is this picture.

The picture was shot about 22years ago so it is also a fine example of the continuity of religious bigotry.

If there is one thing that I find exceptionally hard to understand it’s the large swaths of angry people who believe that their belief in a loving god demands that they abuse and persecute those who don’t have the same beliefs, when in fact such overweaning narcissism is an anathema to all religious teaching with the possible exception of Satanism.
Bronica SQA, 80mm, Kodak Tri-x, asa 400

Street Signs

Still with film in the land that time forgot.

Here is a little proof that the Catholic pedophile story was out in the open a long, long time before the early part of this century when the avalanche of abuse stories could no longer be ignored and the world was forced to take notice.

Like yesterday’s photo, this one was also taken in 1994, that’s about seven years before the Australian police and politicians caved in to public pressure and decided they could no longer ignore the fact that boys had been repeatedly abused by the clergy, who under the auspices of the courts had been operating as their legal guardians.

I met and talked to this man after I saw him three days in a row moving slowly up and down a street in Perth, Western Australia. He told me that he was being treated as a crank and trouble maker by the authorities, and while the police at first had tried to stop him from carrying his sign they had soon realized that due to lack of interest from passersby it was easier to just to ignore him.

Castledare, Clontarf, Bindoon and Tardun were all Catholic boys’ schools. All of them had been quietly closed by the 1970s without any priests being charged, that was to come later, much later.

 

Bronica SQA 80mm lens, Kodak Tri-x, asa 400.

On Film, Ism’s and Rituals

Once a site of resistance, the Peace Wall in Prague is now a place where insignificant individuals desecrate symbols of resistance for reasons of narcissism. Let’s face it, the mass of tourists who feel a need to write on walls such as the John Lennon Peace Wall are those who come late to history via a homogenized journey but want others to think they would have risked life and limb if only they had been born earlier, or in a less salubrious location, or under an oppressive regime, or didn’t have to go to uni, or….

The folk law version I heard from the locals back in the mid 1990s was that during the communist era someone did the original graffiti/paintings and the authorities painted over them, and then more were done, the authorities would removed them and back and forth it went. Finally someone who was caught repainting the J.L. mural was badly beaten, which resulted in the violent protests of record.

Ironically, Wikipedia gives a different, more homogenized and palatable version, but by the 1990s tourists had begun to do what organized oppression could not, they were taking the wall away piece by piece, paint chip by paint chip as souvenirs to put away and forget or were tagging what was left with rather stupid minutia.

The wall looks much different today, I guess because it’s now a site of entertainment, an ode to the corrosive power of any dominant ism no matter the label

The reason for these pictures is that I have begun to regress and have once again fallen in love with film. Not for the nostalgic reasons so popular today or because film is better, but for the ritual of loading film, taking light meter readings and being restricted to the amount of shots (12 in the case of this camera) to a roll of film. These actions slow everything down, makes me more selective and contemplative about composition and why I want to shoot the image. It also costs 30 to 50 cents a shot and a lot of work goes into making the final picture so each image is important. The process is therapeutic you might say, in its own odd way.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lennon_Wall

Bronica SQA, 80mm, Ilford HP5, developed in Rodinol. 1994

ANARCHY-PRIDE-HITCHHIKE

ANARCHY-PRIDE-HITCHHIKE

 

If any one thing exemplifies the reason I needed to reorganize my library of images it is today’s post.

Having spent the week moving pictures around and doing very little else I decided that the last post of the week would be a photograph from my favorite shoot of 2015. My memory for pictures is good, but reality and memory are two different animals. The picture is from a large group of individual portraits I did in a single evening. In my memory the shoot took place around February/ March whereas it actually took place in November 2014. As this was a very specific set of pictures I knew where to find the folder but more obscure shoots under the old system would take a lot of looking to find.

It’s easier now, although the filing system can and will be further refined. But it is the sheer volume of images that has surprised me, not that I’m blind to the amount of times I press the shutter release, but the massive amount of people, places and objects that needed to be properly categorized for easy access has been mind bending.

 

This picture was shot with Ilford HP5 6x6cm roll film using a Bronica SQA camera with a 50mm wide-angle lens attached. The film was developed with Adonal (A Rodinol clone) developer and pushed 1 stop to help alleviate anticipated problems with fogging, because the film was very old and very much out of date. It may not have been my favorite shoot from 2015, but it is still one of my favorite shoots in recent years.