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Category Archives: photographers
I was enjoying a coffee in Central London when Niall McDiarmid texted me to see if I was available to film a talk Roger Ballen, the acclaimed American photographer, was about to give in London for Independent London Photography. I said yes.
The short film below – shot that evening at the Rudolf Steiner House Theatre in Regent’s Park – encapsulates only a tiny bit of what Roger Ballen talked about. And I won’t pretend it does more than just scratch the suface of the complex and at times dark world of Roger Ballen’s art.
He relocated to Johannesburg, South Africa, several decades ago and initially photographed South African villages (or ‘dorps’ in Afrikaans, hence the title of his 1986 book), and their houses. But, as he himself admitted, he knocked at one of those houses’ doors once and his life changed forever then and there.
He discovered a different world inside, a world which fascinated and inspired him for years. His subsequent works focused on the people who inhabited those dorps, on their relationships with the world around them and with themselves.
While Ballen’s focus might have shifted throughout the decades, his technique has remained constant. As he admits in the video, he is “obsessed with the square format” and believes that every part of the picture has an equal purpose or role to play. Ballen doesn’t believe in photo manipulation or use colour in his photography.
This video should offer a tiny glimpse into his world. It definitely offers the best, and the most succinct advice for photographers of all abilities I’ve ever heard from a seasoned photographer …
If you live, or happen to be, in Manchester before 13 May, you should definitely spend some time at the Manchester Art Gallery, where Roger Ballen’s images are displayed as part of his Shadow Land exhibition.
As promised a few weeks ago, here is another inspirational story on how to become a successful photographer. If you are fascinated by photography and would like to turn pro – but don’t know how – Paul Clarke has a few words of encouragement for you. He features in today’s episode of my “A photographers journey” mini-series.
Paul told me his story and explained how he became a successful and respected event (but not only) photographer. He’d worked on somebody else’s images before he decided to invest in professional gear and take pictures, initially as a hobby, at various events.
But expensive gear again is not a prerequisite for great photography. As you will see in the video below, one of his all-time favourite images was taken with his phone.
What I’ve always liked about Paul’s photography is the fact he makes otherwise bland (in some cases at least) events look human. He himself describes what he does as making “art with suits”. And indeed, his images have a soul: human emotions are present, human flaws are not photoshopped out.
And that’s what – I would imagine – makes Paul popular not just as a photographer, but also as a person in general.
Coming soon in the same series, a brilliant photographer, Niall McDiairmid.
500px, Google+, Flickr, Twitter, Facebook. We’re bombarded by images daily, many of which are superb. Often their creators are not trained or even experienced photographers.
Many of them have done – or still do – something completely different for a living. Others do follow a more traditional path and work as freelance or agency photographers. Some have switched from one style of photography to another over the years. Looking at all those images I’ve been asking myself how people get to where they are now.
For the past few weeks I’ve been asking some London-based photographers about their work, their inspiration – but most importantly, about their journeys. How did they get where they are today? How did they work on their style? Was it a conscious choice or, like many things in life, a happy (or perhaps a more dramatic) coincidence?
The people I’ve asked are my personal choices, photographers I’ve been watching or admiring for a while for various reasons.
The first photographer featured in my new miniseries called “A photographer’s journey” is James M. Barrett. I met James during a monthly photography meet-up in south London and was mesmerised by his unique, very harsh, but also captivating portraits of men of various ages. It turned out that James was not only a photographer, but also an artist and his love for such “ugly beautiful” portraits stems from his knowledge of and love for old paintings.
James invited me to his studio to record his story and film him taking portraits of two very different ‘models’: writer, Rupert Smith, and DJ, Wes Baggaley. It was a privilege to film James and learn his story. I’m hoping that stories like his will help others appreciate what they are doing and encourage them to explore their talents more.
So here is my first photographer’s journey. And if you’d like to be featured or know someone who would be an interesting subject for the series, do let me know. Next month’s journey features Paul Clarke.
Additional thanks to Lawrence Lang for help with this video.
Yesterday, a well-known photographer, Trey Ratcliff, posted his thoughts on watermarking online images. In short, he doesn’t believe in watermarks and he explains why. And it works for him, which I respect.
Others responded by explaining why they do watermark their images. There are multiple reasons for that – commercial, social, ego-driven, etc.
I watermark mine too. Generally, watermarks don’t bother me, unless they are overwhelming, badly applied or extremely distracting. In most cases they aren’t as many photographers rely on software like Lightroom, which enables them to create and compose individual watermarks and control their position, size, transparency and other parameters.
My brain processes the image and ignores the watermark. I can understand that many people’s brains work differently and that’s fine. But that’s not the point of this post.
In his post, Trey Ratcliff explains why he doesn’t watermark his numerous images. He claims that, since they are protected by Creative Commons, people can repost them with attribution (except for commercial purposes) and that – because he registers them with the Copyright Office – any lawsuit will be easy.
I don’t necessarily agree with Trey – I certainly think he is wrong when he says that “legitimate companies do not steal images to use commercially” – but as I said, I respect his choices. In the post he does admit that there will always be those who steal images – he calls it the cost of doing business on the internet.
And, as if to prove his point – less than 12 hours after reading Trey’s post, I came across his images, reposted on Google+ by someone called Art Rudenko (assuming it’s his real profile). Oh, the irony.
Art, whose profile is in Russian (all screengrabs here have been translated into English using Chrome) seems to have a penchant for stolen images. His profile is a loose collection of images, videos etc. collected from all over the web and reposted – without any attribution – under his name. You’ve probably seen many blogs like this on Tumblr.
Trey Ratcliff has become Art’s latest victim. I noticed at least two of Trey’s images on Art’s profile, including one which he subsequently deleted from his profile (see screengrab below)
Exif data from both images confirms without a shadow of a doubt who the original creator was.
Under pressure from a few Google+ users Art eventually added attribution to one of the images and deleted the other one.
But his ‘discussion’ with Google+ users confirms he’s one of the bottom feeders (Trey’s expression) who don’t give a damn about intellectual property, and is likely to continue stealing from others, republishing under his profile and thinking nothing of it.
So here is my point. Most people whose images have been misued (for commercial or non-commercial purposes) don’t have, unlike Trey, 300k+ followers willing to speak up for them. Many of them don’t – or can’t - submit their work to the Copyright Office as they either don’t know of its existence or live outside the US (although the Office does protect “many works of foreign origin“).
Many live in territories where all forms of copyright theft are widespread and they simply feel more vulnerable. Watermark might be a form of security – yes, it’s weak – but it’s some security.
Others have been stung in the past or maybe simply want to discover new talent online.
So, Trey, if you are reading – I assume that you wrote your post simply to share your point of view, and not to lecture. But it was slightly detached from reality. And when it comes from someone with such a huge fan base, it is bound to unleash some criticism.
You may consider them ugly, but for some photographers watermarks are a necessity.
Every now and then comes a photographer who does something new and unique. And every now and then I feature some of them on this blog.
Adde takes street portraits of strangers. But instead of traditional portraits, he creates triptychs, where in one image he combines three close-ups of his subject’s face, hips (or general midriff area) and feet. I couldn’t resist asking Adde a few questions and I started by asking how he came up with the idea for Triptychs of Strangers:
I came up with the idea while looking at normal triptych artworks around an exhibition. I tried and posted the first stranger without a description but with time I developed a writing style too to make those strangers even more unique and to stress what I tried to reveal about their personality in the pictures.
How difficult do you find it to convince people to participate?
Not that difficult. It really depends on your idea, yourself and experience. People are really excited about the idea itself or when I show them a few examples. I end up talking to my strangers for about 20 minutes, sometimes up to two hours. Most of them are flattered if you ask them about how they get along and stuff.
Then comes your experience – don’t push to much. Don’t talk to people in groups (individuals seek group-approval), don’t ask for 10 minutes of their time if it’s raining heavily – and offer to delete the photos in case they don’t like them.
A lot of your images – including this project – are street images. Why street photography?
I would say 99% is street. I love people in the streets – whether you get in touch with your subjects or not. I enjoy these moments in life and photography is a good thing to record them.
How long have you been doing photography?
One year. I was in London a year ago visiting my cousin and the city. Unfortunately his time was rather short, so I had to kill some time. This is how things started.
Image © Adde Adesokan, used with author’s permission
I promised myself to stay away from gigapixel images for a while. I’ve written about so many of them on this blog and it almost feels like a catalogue of the biggest and the most impressive gigapixel images.
The Strahov Library is a very impressive – and historically very important – building in Prague. (I know all that because I Googled it, just to be clear). There are over 200 thousand old prints and manuscripts dating back to the 9th century (yes, Google again).
The image itself, at ‘only’ 40 gigapixels, is half the size of the London photograph Jeffrey took last year, but he captured many of those fine architectural and printed gems in great detail:
As always with those images, you can zoom in on many details – from individual books:
to lovely frescos which – due to their nature – can never be scrutinised in real life for more than a couple of minutes without making you dizzy:
You can read more on the project Jeffrey Martin’s blog.
The 40-gigapixel library image itself is here. Great job, Jeffrey!
And thanks to @anniemole for the tip.
My prayers have been answered. London eventually got its first decent gigapixel image this week. You’ve probably already seen what its creator calls the biggest spherical panoramic image in the world at the moment, the 80-gigapixel picture of London.
It’s an amazing achievement. The level of detail is incredible – you can clearly see individual faces in the street, peer into cluttered offices and count the number of tourists in each of the London Eye’s pods.
Jeffrey Martin who created this image, and who runs 360cities.net, took some time out of his very busy schedule to answer a few questions for this blog. Here’s what he had to say about the image, but also about his other projects, including 3D and timelapse panoramas:
First of all, explain how you took the image(s) and how you worked on the final picture.
I took 4 panoramas (about 30 gigapixels each) from each corner of the Centrepoint skyscraper in London and stitched them teogher into a single 80 gigapixel image.
Many people cannot really imagine such a gigantic image. Could you explain what 80 gigapixels mean in the context of this project.
80 billion pixels is the equivalent of 400,000 x 200,000 pixels. A normal camera might give you a picture that is 4,000 x 3,000 pixels. I joined nearly 8000 images together. If you took this image to the photolab and printed it like you print your holiday photos at the photolab (or on a good inkjet printer at home) the image would be 35m x 17m in size – and not a billboard, which is just dots when you get close to it. this would be something you could press your nose against and still see detail.
So the next obvious question would be about your gear…
I used an 18 megapixel SLR camera (Canon 550D, but they didn’t sponsor this image) and a 400mm lens. I used the 18 megapixel SLR because it has the smallest pixels (highest pixel density) of any digital SLR on the market, allowing the largest possible panorama in terms of pixel count.
I’ve written about many other gigapixel images before – it all started with Dresden and Paris, then there was Dubai and Budapest and many others. Did they inspire you in any way? What did you think about them?
I made another world record image last year, the Prague Gigapixel – http://www.360cities.net/prague-18-gigapixels at about the same time, the Dresden image came out, larger but not a 360. The Paris image is wonderful. Holger who made the Dresden image, and Alexandre Jenny (and his colleagues from Kolor) who took part in the Paris image I have met a few times. They are all great guys, once or twice a year we get a chance to meet at a panoramic photographer conference, and we get to talk about all this geek stuff
What was the most challenging part of the project?
The stress of not knowing if this was going to work at all! These other world record images were shot from a single point, and from that standpoint were much more straightforward to do (I won’t use the word “easy”) This image was shot from 4 quite different viewpoints, but the subject matter was mostly quite distant, but still the way to get them to fit together well is one of my trade secrets I guess.
So we’ve had panoramic images, spherical panoramic images, what’s coming next? 3D? Interactive panoramas?
Some people call spherical panoramas “3D” which they are not – they are 2Dphotos on a spherical surface. You can have 3D spherical panoramas also, and we have some on 360cities.net: www.360cities.net/search/anaglyph (you need red-blue 3D glasses to see these) It is geometrically impossible to make a completely spherical anaglyph panorama because when you look down the 3D effect breaks. But it mostly works. I personally don’t like to wear these red-blue glasses. Until this can be shown without any glasses, I think it is kept to a very tiny niche.
I have dabbled in timelapse spherical panoramas – back in 2005 when I had more time on my hands. I shot 6 spherical panoramas from the *exact* same spot, every few days, for a whole year – there was even a flood! You can see them here. You need the adobe shockwave plugin to see these, and your browser might crash – but it’s worth the risk
It’s fascinating, but tell me a bit more about 360cities.net
I founded 360cities with my brother David, 4 years ago. It grew out of a local project called Prague360.com which I worked on with the supremely talented designer Adam Trachtman (of www.lucidcircus.cz)
After we made the Prague site, google maps came out and we thought “hey, we can clone this for anywhere in the world” so we did just that. I invited other panoramic photography enthusiasts to publish their own images, and it started with 7 cities. And it grew from there. In 2007 we received Angel funding, and it became my full time job (more than fulltime – running a startup is crazy!)
I can imagine. What’s next for you and for the site then? Which city is next and are you hoping to set another world record?
I’d love to keep making world records, it’s fun Next could be Mumbai, or NYC, or Istanbul. Who knows? You’ll be surprised!
All images in this post © Jeffrey Martin, used with permission. Thanks to @anniemole for help
- 80 Gigapixel 360 Degree Panorama of London Largest of Its Kind (petapixel.com)
- “London venue for the world’s largest panoramic photo” and related posts (pocket-lint.com)
- Panoramic pic captures London at 80 gigapixels (news.cnet.com)
Have you backed up your pictures recently? Oh, you don’t bother? You’ll do it next week? You’ve got some on a USB stick? Riiiiight….
Got a few minutes? Then see how Chase Jarvis makes sure ALL his images and videos are backed-up and secure forever.
Impressive stuff. There is more advice on how to back up on his blog.
Just came across a fantastic HD video contest on Vimeo, called The Story Beyond the Still.
It’s sponsored by Canon and the winner can get either Canon 7D or 5D Mark II, there are also other prizes like Canon lenses or a trip to shoot a short film with one of the judges, and the author of the video which opens the series, Vincent Laforet.
So what is it all about?
It’s the first ever user-generated HD Video Contest where photographers become filmmakers, and we all see beyond the still. Last month the contest kicked off when Canon asked photographer, Vincent Laforet, to interpret a still by telling the story that lived beyond it using the Canon EOS 7D.
And here is his video:
And now the story continues. More from the site:
It was the first chapter of seven, ending with a still photograph of its own for the Vimeo community to then interpret. After 112 entries, Josh Thacker was chosen as the very first winner and now, once again the question is posed to you, what do you see beyond this still?
There are six more chapters to come, so really plenty of time to get creative and submit something equally intriguing. Among the judges is the brilliant Phillip Bloom, whose stunning HD videos are always beautifully shot and edited.
If you fancy submitting your video, there are only 4 days left to send the third chapter.