Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Within The Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision

I was very fortunate to win a load of Amazon Vouchers in a photographic contest and so I now have a big stack of books to read and review, that I might otherwise not have. One book that was recommended to me was Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision by David Du Chemin. The book is from the same stable as Joe McNally's Hot Shoe Diaries and had a foreward from the man himself. So I was expecting the book to be good and I wasn't disappointed.

David du Chemin is an award winning travel photographer based in Vancouver and he has worked all over the world producing exquisite photographs, many of which are included in this book. In his introduction David says Within the Frame isn't a book about travel photography, but there is a strong bias towards travel photography, so much so that you would think that's what its all about. But really the book is about photographic vision and the ideas are transferable to photography closer to home. In fact if you apply David's concepts closer to home, you might find that you will look at the place where you live in a completely different way.

One thing that is really refreshing for me about this book is that it doesn't go over the technical aspects of photography in great detail, f-stops and focal lengths are touched on very lightly, only as a means of achieving a specific photographic vision, I think most people who would buy a book like this would already have got beyond the stage of wanting to know how a camera works or what equipment to buy.

What the book does give you, is real practical advice on how to tell a story with a picture. How to put together a photo-essay and communicate ideas. There are little mental exercises he gives you that will help to sharpen your vision before you even step out of the door. One thing that really resonated with me was his advice to get lost. I can attest to the validity of the piece of advice. My project last year to walk every street within a mile of my workplace led me to some interesting locations and I probably would not be reviewing this book right now if I hadn't, because one of the images that won me the Amazon Vouchers came out of that project.

Its a great little book that I think really needs digesting over more than one session. Not because its hard to read, on the contrary, it has an easy conversational style. You'll want to read it over again because there is so much in it. The pictures in it are really lovely too. To me its a great companion to Martin Freeman's The Photographers Eye, which in many ways is a bit geeky telling you how vision works. Whereas Within The Frame tells you how to expand your inner vision. I would recommend Within The Frame to anyone.

You can see more of David's Images and read his blog at www.pixelatedimage.com

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Starting a new project

Tom Janssen

Looking back on the year, I haven't really taken enough photographs, and few of them have been of the style and quality that I want. So I have decided to embark on a new project. The project is in part inspired by one of my own images that I shot a while back, of Tom Janssen. I asked Tom to just play guitar as if I wasn't there. This was partly so I could buy some time to fiddle with my lights and take some set up shots. It was also in lieu of direction on my part and I quite liked the natural way it worked in the picture. Both Tom's concentration and the colours and drama of the lighting create a special mood to the image, that I'm rather proud of. So proud in fact that I entered it into the Taylor Wessing portrait prize, sadly I received the consolation letter today. I, like 6240 others was unsuccessful.

Prizewinning or not, this is the kind of image I want to take, so I wondered how I could turn this into a series. After many nano-seconds of thought, it occurred to me that it was a solo artist performing solo to an audience of one. So I guess that covers the title of the project. I'll call it Solo.

I'm going to scour the internet for solo artists of all kinds and ask them to sit for a portrait. Each photo will have an element of performance to it, whether they are a musician, a writer, a comedian, a poet or a painter. The mood and location will convey the idea that the artist is performing on their own.

The difficult bit is going to be finding people to sit for me and allow me into their homes. So I could end up spending more time in front of a computer looking for people and corresponding. Hopefully as the images roll in, I should build up some momentum and it will get easier to find volunteers.

With any luck I will get a good cohesive series of images some of which may even be worth entering into competitions.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Archeology of Elegance

When searching for inspirational photographers on the net people quite often wheel out the usual suspects when you ask who inspires them. But it sometimes takes a little more effort to find more photographers. Archeology of Elegance is filled with inspirational fashion photographers with photographs from 1980 to 2000, I guess its about a decade out of date, but few of the images look dated.

The written sections of the book offer an insight into the influences of the period but unfortunately is also so full of florid gibberish that I couldn't stomach reading it. Hey but that doesn't matter, what matters is that the book is packed with 215 illustrations from some great photographers. It even has a Terry Richardson photo that I like, which is pretty impressive. It has all the great names but also has a lot of great photographers you may not have heard of. One standout photograph for me was the velvety smooth image of Tyson Balou from the cover of The Face taken by Sølve Sundsbø. The image is retouched to hell and back but looks marvelous. I wasn't able to find an exact copy of the image but have used one from the same set, above.

The book isn't broken down by date as you would expect but it is split into sections based on the types of image. Glamour, Punk Rock, High-Tech and Futurism and Art. It scatters the photos through these sections without a timeline and rather bizarrely also includes some images from the 60s and seventies. There are some stunning images in here and there is a wide varieties of style to choose from.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in fashion photography to use as a basis for further study. I like it very much.