Saturday, May 21, 2011

Elliott Erwitt. What makes different a really Great Photographer.

"Photography is not brain surgery. It’s not that complicated. It’s easier now than it was before, but before it wasn’t that hard. It was reasonably easy. It’s not the ease; it’s what you do and how you do it and how you construct your life and your vision.”
 -Elliott Erwitt

Elliott Erwitt is a great example of what it takes for a photographer to be really Great, to be a Master. When asked by TIME to reflect on his favorite photographs in a post honoring his work, he initially pointed to a stack of his published books but paused. Then he replied : "I hope that most of [my favorites] are not in any book and they haven’t been taken yet. But I realize that we can’t show pictures that haven’t been taken.

When you are 83 and busier than ever, When International Center of Photography is choosing to honor you with Lifetime Achievement Infinity Award and you give that kind of answer that the best is yet to come, That is what makes a Great Photographer!!

Speaking of the Lifetime Achievement Infinity Award, Elliott  Erwitt, in his deadpan humor, remarks, “I was very pleased of course, but I must say that I’ve had four lifetime awards in a short period of time…so I guess my life must be over pretty soon.

Lets find out what is his remarks about some of his Great pictures he reflect as favorites
"This picture here of two kids with masks was taken in Paris in 1949. I was in the army at that time and and I was on furlough in Paris. Why is it a meaningful picture to me? It's meaningful because I think it’s a good picture — no particular story in it. It’s a snapshot. In fact, most of my good pictures are snaps."

"Here we have a picture that I’m quite fond of. It was taken in Siberia at a wedding palace and shows a wedding couple and their best man. The best man seems to know something that the wedding couple are timid about. Anyway, it's a picture that’s kind of makes you think. You can supply your own judgment about what is really on the mind of these people. I give this picture to friends of mine that are either getting married or divorced."

"I am an amateur photographer as well as a professional photographer. When I'm in places that are interesting, I whip out my camera and take pictures. One such place is the beach. I love to go to the beach and I love to take pictures there. It’s a wonderful situation — most of the people are exhibitionists and don’t mind being photographed if they notice you. I’ve done a number of books on beaches. This is one of my favorite pictures from Rio de Janeiro."

"This popular picture of mine was taken quite recently around the corner from where I live. A dog walker and his two bull dogs. I walk my dog and so I see him often in the park."

"This is one of my daughters at the Metropolitan Museum. This is daughter number six — Amy is on the right."

"This is my dog. I like this picture because it's at the beach and it's about a dog — the two subjects that are close to me. That's my dog, Sammy, who is blind and deaf but still here. Now he’s almost 17. He was a German dog that came with my wife but he’s lost his language and barks in English now."
"This was a picture that I didn’t know I had until 25 years after I took it...and it become a popular photo for galleries and exhibitions. It's at the end of Route 66 in Santa Monica or Pacific Palisades. It was kind of a place where you went to look at the sunset and muck about."

All photographs ©Elliott Erwitt
"This is my best known photo that was in the Family of Man. It shows my first wife, my first child and my first cat. I know exactly when it was taken 'cause my baby was six days old — 1953. It was in New York in my very first apartment."

What is his Favorite published book?
“I suppose the book that has my favorite photographs is called Personal Best (teNeues). As the title implies, it has my better pictures. This kind of  book is a compendium of my work. Its just going through my checkered career and picking stuff out that seemed to be a good picture or story or good situation and them putting it together in some kind of design-y way — that’s how you do a book. Or at least this kind of book…a retrospective.” 

The difference between a picture and a snapshot?
“There is no difference. A good picture is a good picture. I call them snaps because it’s an appropriate name and it’s something that you do quickly and them move on to the next thing. Go snap and gone…there is no difference. The only difference is between a good and bad picture, or a boring picture. A picture that engages you, that makes you think, that gives you some kind of emotion, makes you laugh or cry. That’s a good picture.”

How does he balance finding the time to make new personal work?
“I use a fast shutter speed.”

You can find more Photos and quotes in  Time LightBox
You can find an interesting interview that gave to his son Misha in New York Times

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Frank Oscar Larson. Is this another Vivian Maier case?

Frank Oscar Larson was born in Greenpoint, Brooklyn in 1896, the son of Swedish immigrants who moved to New York in early 1890's. After serving in World War I as an artilleryman, Frank began working for the Empire Trust Company, a bank in Midtown Manhattan.  He remained employed by Empire Trust from 1920 to 1960, working his way up from auditor to vice-president. Frank passed away in 1964 from a stroke, brought on by lung damage he sustained from exposure to mustard gas in WW1.

Although he was always the family shutterbug, it wasn't until the early 1950's that Frank's passion for photography blossomed.  His weekend excursions around New York with his Rolleiflex camera produced thousands of images, which Frank developed and printed in his basement darkroom. Some he entered in local amateur photographic competitions where he won awards, but the majority of his work remained undiscovered until 2009 when his youngest son's widow found a box of negatives that had been packed away since Frank's death. Those negatives went on to become the images presented in "Reflections of New York" in honor of Frank's memory.

Throughout the latter part of his life, Frank Oscar Larson (1896-1964) would leave his Flushing, Queens home early in the morning with his Rolleiflex camera and embark on photographic expeditions to exotic places in New York City like the Bowery, Chinatown, Hell's Kitchen or Times Square, or to less exotic places like Rockefeller Center, Central Park, and the Cloisters. These photos compiled from negatives recently discovered in an old cardboard box 45 years after Frank's death, shows a unique and moving portrait of New York City in the 1950's.

These are a selection of photos who looks more interesting to me. You can find more in this link of NYTimes as well in the site

Thursday, May 12, 2011

David Gibson. An Interview

Please tell us something about yourself.  When and how did you start photographing? How did you first get started in street photography?

I came to photography relatively late having worked as a shipping clerk and then in social work for a number of years. I had a ‘proper’ camera when I was about 17 but it was more than ten years before an interest in photography became an obsession. My introduction was ‘humanistic photography’ which was mostly the photographers within Magnum such as David Hurn, Marc Riboud, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Elliott Erwitt.  The term ‘street photography’ never really gripped me until much later.

Describe the favorite street photograph you’ve taken. When and where did you take the photo, and why is it special to you?

It’s difficult to choose one absolute favourite photograph but I have to acknowledge ‘Audition’ that was taken as recently as 2008, Having probably learnt the craft of street photography over 20 years I know that the basic elements of luck and practice came together in that image.
I always feel that great street photographs are unearthed or discovered because they are always there. You just have to be ready and on that day - Feb 9th 2008 - just off Shaftsbury Avenue in London I got lucky. Yes, I remember the day because that kind of day does not happen very often. There is a sense of excitement and relief when you ‘get it’.

Street Photography - color or b/w photography? What do you prefer and why? How digital time has influenced your photography?

Always a hard question, an unfair question even because why not both? At the moment I’m still hooked on colour, it seems right to pursue but I love both. I have more books with black and white photographs in them so that might be a clue to my true heart. But there must always be change and a challenge with photography. Digital as with many photographers pushed me towards colour but it surely comes down to whatever inspires you at the time. One point with digital is that so far I have never converted colour to monochrome. I always feel that is somehow ‘wrong’ but that might well change. I know a lot of photographers do that and I’m intrigued by the results

4. You are member of in-public (actually Nick Turpin invited you first of all the rest of the group), can you tell us something about this group?

It’s billed as ‘the home of street photography’ so in a sense it’s a home for all of it’s members. We feel comfortable there. We’ve been going more than 10 years and who knows what will happen but we do have a responsibility to street photography.
And we came into existence as the Internet truly began to enter people’s lives and therefore we’ve reached out to many photographers around the world. That’s what really matters. Nick Turpin and Matt Stuart deserve huge credit for that.

You are featured in the Street Photography Now book. What does that term street Photography  mean to you? How would you define it?

As mentioned previously I do feel a little uneasy about the term. I resist it a little feeling that I’m just a photographer who mostly takes photographs on the street. That’s a contradiction of course and maybe quite futile because it’s good to be known for any type of photography. It’s good to get recognition.
I would define street photography as any photography taken outside your front door, it is not set up and it depicts ordinary people going about their everyday lives. The essential point is that like the very word ‘street’ it has a little bit of attitude, it is real, a little dark, edgy and sometimes funny. It is real.

Street photography has become wildly popular with many exhibitions and documentaries springing up. You were a very active member of the Format festival as a member of in-public, What do you think is the future of street photography?

My description of street photography is hopefully it’s future. Street photography is real and people therefore respond to it. Trends in photography seem to go in cycles but street photography has always been there from the invention of photography itself. The future of street photography looks good, how can such a practice not be?  And the Internet is the future and street photography will inevitably thrive in that arena.

How often are you out on the streets shooting? Do you always have a camera with you and are you photographing on the streets anyway or are you only working with a clear concept or target in mind?  What is your favorite time of the day photographing in the streets?

I am much more selective about when I take street photographs now and I certainly don’t do it all the time. I wait for inspiration but realise that I often have to meet that inspiration half way.  The hardest part of street photography is in my head but I do have a camera with me on most days. Not having a camera with me is a risk.
I tend to avoid bright sunlight – so if I do have a favourite time of day it would probably be late afternoon.

Which contemporary or emerging photographers impress you? Which of the old Masters inspired you the most?

I’m not completely ‘up to date’ and perhaps it’s like music where you feel comfortable – or get stuck – with what you like. It requires effort to be aware of everything but I have become more aware of Alex Webb recently and Pinkhasov is an amazing and distinctive photographer. Blake Andrews of in-public is a fine photographer. His Picture of the Month (for April 2011) on the in-public site is a truly great photograph.
There are some very good Greek photographers of course. Nikos Econompoulos for example but none of these names can really be considered emerging but maybe they are less high profile.
It’s always good to return to the ‘old masters’ and Cartier-Bresson still resonates. I remember feeling the significance of his passing a few years ago but he’s now gone – and he hated colour. We have to move on. That’s the theory anyway but perhaps genius or class is timeless.

How do you define “beauty” when it comes to photography?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder as someone said about women I think…so much the same can be said about photography. Elegance is also beauty. Beauty is everywhere and is something that we should seek out. I much prefer subtle beauty in photography rather than ugliness.

NickTurpin said describing your meeting back in 2000 that your work was witty and carefully observed with an edge of melancholy to many of your images of older people. How do you describe your work now?

An early subject matter was indeed the elderly that certainly had an air of nostalgia or melancholy about it. I think that I have moved away from that now but maybe there are traces of that ‘melancholy’ still there in my photography. I used to photograph a lot of children too when I first started so my subjects have shifted…and become more ‘colourful’ quite literally.

Looking at your photos a viewer can easily observe juxtapositions between subject and background. There are also the use of words and symbols.

Yes, definitely. I’ve always ‘used’ juxtapositions and sometimes they can be very effective. I love words too, always had a fascination for the graphic word and especially where it can act as a ‘subtitle’ in a street photograph.

In late March you led a street photography workshop in Athens. What is your experience from the workshop as well as from shooting on the streets of Athens?

Leading street photography workshops has been a major discovery for me because I never imagined that I would one day ‘teach’ in any way. It has become a source of inspiration and especially so when it is in a foreign city because it is a wonderful way to connect with people.  Athens was particularly satisfying because of the amazing enthusiasm amongst the photographic community there. That in itself was an eye opener and could well lead to more workshop opportunities in other places. The essential experience for me in doing these workshops is the sense of discovery and enthusiasm of the participants. In reality I learn more from them because it reinvigorates my own photography. Inspiration can often work both ways.

All photographs ©David Gibson
I know you planning some new workshops in the near future (London 28th-30th May) There is a lot of people just starting with Street Photography, can you recommend them something for better start?

Be inspired; seek out inspiration from the legacy of all the great street photographers that have gone before – and get connected with other photographers.  We are incredibly fortunate to live in the world of the Internet but don’t forget the pleasure of photographs on the page of a book. You can judge a photographer by their library of photographic books.
It’s essentially a question of soaking up the work of the best photographers and thereby knowing what is possible with your own photography. If you carry a certain standard in your head, then with luck and a lot of wandering…sometimes the magic can happen. I always return to the phrase about street photography that it is mostly about looking for the luck.

Thank you very much for this fantastic interview. It was my pleasure participating in Athens workshop as well wandering with you on the streets of Athens. I think is a privilege for me considering of you as my friend. Thanks David.

David Gibson. A street Photographer

I met David Gibson when he came in Athens in late March for a workshop. When a friend of mine Zisis Kardianos let me know that he is planning a workshop led by David, I was probably the first to join. I knew David from his work in iN-public  as well from participating in flickr. I'm very pleased joining his workshop, wandering with him on the streets of Athens, Knowing better the Man behind these excellent photos.

London, seen through his eyes, is a place of oddity and dark humor, of human stories and graphic compositions endlessly creating and recreating themselves. His images capture "the elegance, and the occasional absurdities, which inhabit the lives of ordinary people", he explains. "I'm one of those people; I'm just hiding behind a camera trying to make sense of it all as much as everyone else"

"Taking street photographs is an instinctive urge, an itch that needs scratching. It’s simply what I do. Some people walk round a golf course, some people take a dog for a walk. I walk with my camera because I’m curious about things and people around me and I want to record some of it. It is my visual diary. I also feel a responsibility to continue doing it.
I live in London and most of my street photographs are taken there. I know London well and although it’s a big, overcrowded city, I can isolate scenes fairly easily. However, somewhere like Oxford Street is too messy and crowded for me. I don’t like clutter in my images. Too many people require a greater orchestration and luck."

David has a particular love of word-image juxtapositions and clever visual puns. These have formed an ongoing theme in his work. "If there is one sound piece of advice, which is to myself as much as anyone else, it is the potential of projects or prolonged themes. It's the equivalent of having a dog that needs to go for a walk. Projects need walking"

"Essentially, I just go looking for ‘my’ photographs. And within the ones that work there are certainly recurring themes and styles. So I seek out elegance, graphic shapes and also often a sense of a story going on. I like photographs that draw you in, that surprise and delight and have you asking ‘what is going on here?"

“I probably spend more time looking at photographs than I do actually taking them. My shelves at home are lined with photography books. The work of the so-called master photographers – and the less heralded – have always been a source of reassurance and stimulation for my own photography."

“Photographers such as Elliott Erwitt, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Mario Giacomelli, Robert Frank, Sylvia Plachy and Tony Ray-Jones, to name but a few. The list is endless and always open to change. Street photography for me is an instinctive urge and after more than twenty years of wandering with my camera, it still remains about staying curious and inspired – and then looking for the luck”

David also acknowledges how much he has benefit from being part of the In-Public street photography collective. "There is a paradox with street photography because it is a singularly solitary pursuit, yet it has the potential to generate exceptional warmth and friendship amongst those who practice or appreciate it. The other photographers from In-Public, especially those in London, have constantly refreshed and challenged me."

"I believe that when shooting there is a mindset or zone, where you’re operating at a heightened state and working instinctively. Getting to that feeling is the difficult bit. Cartier-Bresson interpreted this feeling as something attuned to a Zen-like trance. One can get a little pretentious about such things, but I do get this feeling that something like a doorway does exist. This heightened state is also like a cloak of invisibility and not being overly conscious about being seen is part of the process.
Trying to absolutely describe what I look for is like hunting for the image itself, because it is often elusive. Maybe my themes have shifted over the years but my basic approach has always been ‘I’ll know it when I see it’ and I always take photographs that are pleasing to myself. However I do carry in my head ideas, hopes and a sense of what is possible, what luck might provide."

All photographs ©David Gibson
David Gibson has been taking street photographs for more than twenty years. He is one of the founder members of in-public the international collective of street photographers and his work has been widely published and exhibited. He is commissioned by some of the UK's leading design groups and he supplies several picture libraries with his images. David worked for several years as a Residential Social Worker before pursuing photography full-time in 1994. In 2002 he completed an MA in Photography: History and Culture at the London College of Printing.

Increasingly David is also leading street photography workshops which have included Tate Modern and Photofusion in London and more recently a 5 day workshop in Athens, Greece. More workshops are planed for 2011 in London and beyond. Actually, there is one taking place in  London 28th-30th May . David is based in east London.

His site       
His flickr stream

Monday, May 9, 2011

Ray Metzker

Born in Milwaukee on September 10, 1931, Ray K. Metzker began to photograph at age fourteen, studied art at Beloit College, Wisconsin (BA, 1953), and studied photography at the Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago (MS, 1959). He has taught at the Philadelphia College of Art (1962-1980), the University of New Mexico (1970-1972), and Columbia College Chicago (1980-1983). Metzker left teaching in 1983 in order to photograph full-time.

He is the recipient of two John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowships (1966 and 1979) and two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships (1974 and 1988). Metzker’s photographs have been shown in more than 47 one-person exhibitions. More than 45 collections include his work, among them are the  The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photo; National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Metzker lives in Philadelphia and Moab, Utah.

Ray Metzker’s images question the nature of the photograph and photographic “reality.” Through cropping, multiple imagery, and other formal inventions, his work explores options for transforming the vocabulary of the photograph.

“Untitled” from 1969 illustrates the simple method of manipulating objective information through juxtaposition: two distinct women on the beach enter into a yin-yang relationship of line and gesture. The photograph is part of a series of pictures made from 1968 to 1975 of beach-goers in New Jersey. “The more fashion conscious probably go to other beaches, but what Atlantic City has – and what attracted me to it – is diversity,” Metzker said. Of the content of the pictures and his working method, Metzker added, “What appears in the pictures was the subject’s decision, not mine. I took what they presented – delicate moments – unadorned and unglamorous, yet tender and exquisite.”

 Metzker used a 1975 National Endowment for the Arts fellowship to pull the series together as Sand Creatures, later published as a book in 1979. There are no diptychs such as the one above in the book, though the woman in sunglasses at the bottom of Untitled (1969) is included as a solo picture.

In a July 1992 letter, Metzker wrote the following about two untitled Sand Creatures pictures from 1969: “The photograph of the double image is from the series entitled Couplets and predates the single image by a number of years. Both pictures were made at beaches along the New Jersey coast: the couplet at Atlantic City, the single frame at Cape May. With both, my camera was an Olympus half-frame, a small amateurish piece of equipment that let me move about freely. The choice of the camera was essential to the development of the series.”

Metzker has dedicated his career to exploring the formal potentials of black-and-white photography, but they are not his exclusive concern. “When you look at the multiples, you are aware of patterning and so forth,” he says, “but there is still identifiable subject matter; frequently there are people there; there is a rhythm to those people.”

Metzker’s 1959 thesis project, My Camera and I in the Loop, takes downtown Chicago as its subject, but renders it in experiments that tell more about photography than they do about the city. The pictures from this project were exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago (1959-1960), and included in the issue of Aperture devoted to the students and professors of the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago (1961).
Source: Museum of Contemporary Photography

All photographs ©Ray Metzker

You can find some more photos of Ray Metzker in a gallery Here