Interesting Stuff Last Month – March 2014

Amy Powell’s Family Album
“As a teenager, I photographed my parents discussing their divorce, the dirty kitchen, and my mom waving away the car as it was being taken by the repo man. To me, that’s what my real life was. I long to see things, taken by insiders, that are unabashed. Beautifully unabashed.”

Lauren Greenfield Commercial About Skier Heidi Kloser
Photographer and filmmaker Lauren Greenfield made this short commercial from green light to broadcast in just a few days. It is the human story of an athlete injured just before the start of the Olympic games in which she was to compete. Greenfield continues to show she can tell meaningful stories in different formats, even commercial ones.

A Kiss Is Just a Kiss, Unless It’s an Ad for a Clothing Company
A clear look at the video that went viral and the backlash that followed it. Irregardless of it all, the video was fascinating to watch and well-crafted. This wired, social world longs for connection even if it is fleeting, even if we are pushed just over the edge of our regular lives.

Room with a View
Joe McNally selfies are the best. Ahead of the cultural trend, he took his in October 2001 from the very top of the Empire State Building. Beat that.

National Geographic’s Women of Vision Exhibit
A spotlight on several of the women who have contributed exceptional photography to the pages of National Geographic. No doubt you’ll recognize several of the images on display. I certainly did.

14 Female Photographers You Should Know Now
A starting point for looking at some of the best photographers working today. The range of styles and subject matter are linked by the quality of their craft.

Jo Ann Callis’ Color Work
A part of the movement that forced color photography to be taken seriously, this photographer was inspired by Paul Outerbridge and shows the same instinct for personal expression.

Ruven Afandor Photographs Paul Taylor’s “Cloven Kingdom”
Dance photography in black & white that becomes almost abstract yet remains figurative. And there is a wonderful sense of confrontation that must come from the choreography and performance of the piece.

Dreaming of the Pacific, part 2
Steve Lippmann shows light through the ocean waves. The power and rhythm and repetition and variety and constancy of the ocean creates a life long fascination with it.

Instagram Knows More About Photography Than You
“The emergence of data mining in photography is certainly going to change a lot of what we held as golden rules for maybe too long. It will not replace genuine talent, obviously, but certainly help some create better- as in more effective – images. What social media photography is teaching us is to start breaking down the walls of convention and accepted wisdom.”

How SVA Lectures in iTunes U Inspired a Photographer in Kenya
The graduate program in Digital Photography at the School of Visual Arts, regularly invites professionals in the field to give a guest lecture to the students. These lectures are filmed and shared for the rest of us to enjoy and learn from, too. The breadth and depth of the guests involved is staggering and addictive, even for those far from New York.

Spectacular Celebrity Portraits by Victoria Will
It’s nice to see Victoria’s photography getting showcased more and more. Her body of work has been building for years. She is a star finding her voice in a tough field.

Mark Seliger’s Portrait Studio at the Oscars
Even behind the scenes, those celebrities involved seemed to be having fun. Seliger’s simple portrait studio provided a canvas for them to express a range of emotions for his camera and us.

Creating the Photograph: Jenna Martin’s “Purple Cabbage Dress”
Another making of video from photo-illustrator Jenna Martin. This time she is building a dress made of leaves from a purple cabbage. Her results and these short videos continue to impress.

Tim Berners-Lee by Nadav Kander
The creator of the World Wide Web is photographed for Wired by one of the best portrait artists working. The stuff of vision.

Interview with Fashion Retoucher Nick Leadlay
An interview with a photographer that fell into retouching as a profession. Career paths are rarely straightforward in creative fields. Often one thing leads to another.

Fascinating Video Explore’s Wes Anderson’s Masterful Use of Symmetry
By the same guy that did the video of Stanley Kubrick and 1-point perspective. This and other videos like it are really teaching about the effectiveness of composition. There is more to life than the Rule of Thirds.

American Public Libraries Great and Small
The great institution of the American public library has a bumpy relationship with communities that fund and benefit from it. But the libraries are everywhere, expressing the variety of the American character with these familiar buildings.

A Unique Look at New York Architecture
“I’m drawn to the majestic details and materials of classical historical buildings, many of which are hidden from view, tucked behind new architecture. In these instances, a mere sliver of old, of history, is there to be photographed, leaving me to recreate the rest of the building to make it whole again.”

Interesting Stuff Last Month – December 2013

Gracie Hagen – Illusions of the Body
Body language contains many subtle cues for interpretation. Our brains are very tuned to these small gestures. Here’s an interesting series that contrasts two poses by a subject to show how we can view a person differently, just based on body language.

Tender and Playful X-Ray Portraits of Couples
Here’s a great concept that is well executed. I imagine using an x-ray machine to create art of people requires you to really think it through before making the actual capture. The results are stunning.

A Reluctant Subject – Portraits of Samuel Beckett
Perhaps it is that the writer had such character in his face. Perhaps it is because he did not care much about the images. Perhaps it is because he was a very private man so there are so few of photos of him. Whatever the reason, portraits of Samuel Beckett can be very engaging.

Patrick Ecclesine on A Photo Editor
“Personal work. It is an absolute must. It is how you develop a point of view and find your visual integrity.”

Vivian Maier and the Hidden History of Women’s Photography
Here’s a good introduction to a recently discovered photographer, who has been making big splashes in the photo world the past few years. Viviane Maier went from obscurity to celebration very quickly. Unfortunately this all happened after her death.

15 Wise Quotes Every Artist Should Take to Heart
Great quotes from the celebrated art critic Jerry Saltz of New York magazine. Entertaining advice giving insight into the art world’s onion layered looking glass.

Grand Canyon Completely Flooded with Clouds
A rare weather inversion layer caused the Grand Canyon to fill with clouds. For two days, lucky visitors were able to capture this strange event.

Best Space Photos of 2013
Photographs of objects in space and those from space just keep getting more and more interesting. Even scenes that seem common get fresh new takes as the technology improves. The wonders never cease.

Golden Ratio on Film: The Math in There Will Be Blood’s Cinematography
Continuing my own explorations and study of composition, this short film is a marvel. It explores scenes from Paul Thomas Anderson’s film with an eye to explaining the mathematics behind how each are constructed.

How to Make a Globe-Spanning Short Film Using Instagram
A very clever use of Instagram images to make a short film from the posts of over 800 users. Filmmaker Thomas Jullien shows how perspective and lighting can make familiar objects dynamic combing the images of multiple photographers. These kind of short films seem like great starting ideas for more interesting commercial ideas.

Red by Jenna Martin
A short, time-lapse film from an SVA grad as she builds up her photo illustration layer-by-layer. This provides insight into how different photos can be shot, then put together to form a single whole. I love the refinements that happen at the end.

Christopher Walken is the World’s Weirdest Tailor
Imagining Christopher Walken being strange is not hard to do. But someone took his magnificent character and put it in some ads for clothes. If all commercials were this engaging, they would have their own cable TV channel. The stare alone is worth watching all four.

Remembering the Photographers We Lost in 2013
“For photographers, the camera is a tool of existential negotiation. Regardless of the genre in which they work, they use the camera to mediate what is before them with what lies within. The best pictures are not a statement of fact, but a fully formed and articulated opinion.”

Julieanne Kost – Year in Review Video
One of my favorite photographers and people puts together another video showcasing her photos from the year. “I would strongly encourage you to create a collection of your own images for the year -I have found both the process and the results to be very insightful.” I could not agree more and try to do something similar each year.

Time’s Best Portraits of 2013
“In a year when the still image maintained its unparalleled power to inform, to shock and, at times, to delight, TIME’s portraits once again put a human face on many of 2013’s most relevant and gripping stories… as powerful as the grand gesture might be, it is often the quiet, unfiltered gaze of a fellow human being that makes for the most intense, and the most revelatory, of all pictures.”

Interesting Stuff Last Month – November 2013

Far Out on A Limb — Nadav Kander
Portraits of people with their limbs made by Sophie de Oliveira Barata. These prosthetics are incredible and call attention to their amazing design. Perhaps the singularity is not far off. A different view of the photos is here.

Surreal Photo Manipulations by Caras Ionut
Another person doing wonderful photo-illustrations that detour into fantasy. Is there a resurgence of this happening? Or am I just noticing it more? The legacy of Jerry Uelsmann and Maggie Taylor continues to grow.

Just the Two of Us
Portraits of Cosplay Enthusiasts in their Homes by Klaus Pichler. I’m so glad that the digital photography and photo sharing has led to the explosion of cosplay. Everyone has leveled up. Everyone gets to share in the fun.

Guinevere Van Seenus by Erik Madigan Heck
More of the colorful formalism from this amazing photographer of fashion beauty.

Vanishing Tribes Before They Pass Away
Portraits from around the world that show the dignity and differences between various cultures. These color photos compliment and contrast those by Sebastiao Selagado shown in “Genesis”.

A Record Store Rises
As one of my mentors in New York, Stephen Mallon sparked my interest in time lapse photography. He continues to explore this technique for the New York Times magazine. Someday I’ll finish my NYC film and post it.

Act Naturally – The Photographs of Ringo Starr
He was the Beatle in “A Hard Days Night” that went off by himself to take photos. It turns out that he did that in real life, too. Here are a few of his photos.

7 Questions with Tony Corbell
“I was raised inside an apartment in the base of a drive-in movie theater from the time I was born until I was seven years old and somehow it influenced me to watch movies all the time. I see a lot of movies and study the work of great cinematographers and pay close attention, not to see how they did something, but how a scene makes me feel.”

Norman Reedus – Photographer
One of the stars of The Walking Dead is a photographer releasing a book soon. He has an eye for the macabre, but also just some of the strange situations he finds on the set and in real life.

Skate Photography Portfolio by Brian Fick
Skateboard photography captures the surfers of concrete and other textures of suburban life.

Behold the Face of Harassment
Photographer Hannah Price turns the tables of the men catcalling her as she walks down the streets of Philadelphia by asking to take their portraits. The results are surprising and insightful.

Why I Tried and Failed at Instagram
Fine art photographer Brook Shaden explains what happened when she tried to use Instagram. What is important is that she tried and evaluated and made a decision that was correct for her. Not all tools work for everyone.

Why Creative People Sometimes Make No Sense
“As someone paid to be creative, I sometimes feel kaleidoscopic in my views or opinions, and that “multitude” of expressions sometimes confuses those around me. Why does that happen? My thoughts make cohesive sense to me, yet others sometimes feel that I am contradicting myself or switching positions. What is wrong with me?”

The First Instagram Ad “Worked”, But What Do Brands Do Now?
“While brands have been on the social photo network almost since the beginning, until now their accounts were the same as yours. Take photo, filter photo, type caption, post for followers, repeat. Starting with that first Michael Kors sponsored post, brands are now able to pay for the luxury of having their posts pushed out to targeted users who may be interested”

The Great Compositions of Alfred Eisenstaedt
A technical exploration of composition using some famous photos. These provide a way to think about why some photos are more successful than others.

Joe McNally on Gregory Heisler New Book
One master looks up to another. These two are friends. Both have great lessons to teach us about being a working photographer and treating great portraits.

SVA Masters in Digital Photography App for iPad – Free
The photo book from the thesis show for the graduating class from the School of Visual Arts master’s degree program in digital photography.

The Photobook Format Is Up for Grabs
“There are 20 books in the Paris-Photo/Aperture First Book shortlist and 14 of them are self-published. Increasingly, these self-pub books are very sophisticated in their construction and the materials they use.”

The Reluctant Father by Phillip Toledano
Toledano explorers his fresh life as a father, echoing his earlier work of the last days of his father.

Hopper Meditations by Richard Tuschman
This photographer uses the famous painter’s work as a stepping stone to his own work, making for an interpretation that adds nuance to the bleakness and still retain the sadness.

The Challenge of Photography
“None of the non-photo-world people I have talked to over the past years has ever even entertained the idea that their photographs on Instagram, say, would be comparable to photographs produced by professionals. People know the difference between apples and oranges very well. Yet in the world of photography, we seem stuck worrying about how since they’re both round and fruits, they must be the same, right?”

November 22, 1963
A short Errol Morris film on the photo evidence of the Kennedy Assassination

Saul Leiter – Dec. 23, 1923 – Nov. 26, 2013
7 Lessons Saul Leiter Has Taught Me About Street Photography
Stella Kramer on Saul Leiter
Photographers Speak – Saul Leiter
“I didn’t try to communicate any kind of philosophy since I am not a philosopher. I am a photographer. That’s it.”

Side By Side – The Science, Art, and Impact of Digital Cinema

Side by Side is a documentary movie in which Keanu Reeves interviews a bunch of directors and cinematographers and other people involved in the making of movies. He asked them what they think of film vs digital in the world of cinema. Explained along the way are the history of digital video cameras used in movies, as well as digital efex. All are expected topics that are well covered. What was a pleasent surprise was the survey of how digital cameras have changed the aesthetics of cinema and storytelling and the type of scenes you can create. This goes beyond the efex heavy ideas of Hollywood and starts with the ultra pure Dogme 95 movement.

That technology influences the movies is no surprise. It always has from its invention. Rotoscoping, soundtracks, talkies, color, wide screen. Like still photography, the technology of cinema is linked to film history. Changes in technology bring changes in storytelling. When digital video was first introduced, the cameras were much smaller than the film counterparts. This allowed for more handheld shooting and freewheeling scenes. It also allowed for angles that are harder to get with film cameras because of the weights of the cameras.

Digital cameras for longer takes, so scenes could be longer between cuts. The battery and storage has limitations, but they are usually an hour. Film is limited to about 10 minutes because of the physical nature of the film stock itself. This difference not only affects the editing process, but also the acting process. More takes can be done more quickly. Scenes can go longer, requiring more lines spoken and characterizations be maintained for longer. How stories get told can be influenced by the choice of the tool used to tell it.

There is also the matter of the movie’s budget. Digital can be a lot cheaper to shoot. It does not require the expensive cameras and film and development fees. On the other hand, it does require more work on the backend. Sound familiar? The result is that anyone can make a movie now. You do not have to have a Hollywood budget to make a film, or to disturibute it.

The documentary explains the entire filmmaking process from capture to storage. The details of the resolutions of the different videos cameras are shown. Mentioned, but not shown are the differences in color and latitude between film and the various video formats. The differences in quality are part of how the various filmmakers make their choice.

Reeves interviews with the filmmakers is interesting but a bit distracting. He doesn’t always ask insightful questions, and yet he still gets some insightful answers. Better still, the examples the filmmakers are talking about are shown. You can see for yourself the nuances of the different techniques.

In some senses, the debate can break down to one of nostalgia vs progress. But there is more to it than that. There is definitely a transition happening right now. Film is not dead. It is a viable choice with some benefits. But it is also obvious to even the diehard film advocates like Christopher Nolan that the choice is not going to be there in five to ten years.

The debate really starts coming down to the individual artists themselves and what they are hoping to accomplish. What do they need to tell the stories they want in the way they want to do so. All of this debate has been happening in the still world for just as long. All of the problems with stills exist for movies, too. The technological siblings are experiencing similar growing pains. In a way it is telling to see John Knoll interviewed in this film. He works for ILM, but is also co-creator, with his brother Thomas, of Photoshop.

As with some many other areas, digital tools are changing things. What is not changing is the desire to use tools to get the job done. In the end it is the result that is important, not how the result was achieved. How the work is done is the decision of the person doing it. The rest is just debate.