Bellamy Hunt over at Japan Camera Hunter has a fascinating account of what it’s like to attend a photography workshop taught by famed street photographer Bruce Gilden, a “famously outspoken photographer who does not mince his words”:
[Gilden] has no love for camera geeks and when he was told I am one he was not overly impressed, as he said “it is merely a tool, a box” [...] Gilden tests you, and when he asked me a question that I was unsure of the answer and tried to bluff my way through to he called me out as a bullsh*tter (true though, my fault really). Gilden likes to ask direct questions, and one of his first was “Do you want to be a photographer?” I replied in the affirmative, to which he said “why?” I was not really able to explain why in a direct manner and he pounced! “So why did you bother coming?” [...] He then told me that if I was looking for inspiration or a kick up the ass then I was in the wrong place as I would not get it from him, it must come from me (which is actually a fair point).
At this point Gilden asked to see my work [...] I had not really been able to put together a coherent selection of my work and Gilden pointed out that fact. In fact I think his words were something to the tune of “Sh*t, sh*t, sh*t. What were you thinking? This is no connection. You are lazy”. At first I was hurt and offended, but after a few minutes of thinking about this (while he tore into someone else) I realised that he was right. I have been lazy and I have not thought out my work properly in the past. I have been coasting along and not putting the effort into it that I could be [...] So after tearing myself and the other students a new one I was set a task by Gilden.
Unless you only shoot in monochrome, color likely plays a huge part in the experience of viewing your photographs. You may be aware of how you use them, but do you know how the colors in your images affect the people that look at them? PBS Off Book put out this fascinating video today that explores just how powerful colors are. Read more…
I was extremely nervous. Since they are gangsters, I thought I should be very careful, in case I shot something I wasn’t supposed to see. But this actually upset the gang. They saw my nervousness as disrespectful. I remember one time early on this guy pulled me aside and said, “You are here to take pictures. Act like a professional.” It turned out they respected me if I was really aggressive about getting a certain shot. To not take photos was a sign of weakness.
As his surname suggests, Kusters is not from Japan (he’s from Belgium). It took 10 months of negotiations before he and his brother were given an unprecedented access into the closed world of Japanese organized crime. Read more…
Earlier this month, when we were exploring why the NASA Curiosity rover’s cameras are so lame, we mentioned that the total amount of data the scientists can transfer on a daily basis is only around 31 megabytes. As anyone with a restrictive cell phone dataplan can attest to, having a small data cap makes you think carefully about the data that you choose to download. Glenn Fleishmann over at The Economist has an interesting writeup that sheds some light on how NASA scientists make their Martian photo shoot decisions:
Every day Justin Maki faces a tricky balancing act. He is one of the boffins at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) responsible, among other things, for deciding what Curiosity photographs each Martian day, or sol, and which pictures it sends back home. “We can always take enough pictures to fill up the downlink,” Dr Maki says. The mission can currently beam at least 30MB a sol, including scientific measurements, engineering data and images, from Mars, via two satellites orbiting the planet, to Earth.
All of the rover’s 17 cameras, seven more than any previous exploratory vehicle, store images in a raw, unprocessed format and initially beam back tiny thumbnails (which NASA uploads as they come in). The scientists working on different aspects of the mission meet daily to determine which of the thumbnails to download in higher resolution. The “health and safety” of the rover takes priority. After the deliberations, which can last over an hour, instructions are dispatched to Mars.
He pulled up to the little media circus and found his three colleagues. No one was sure what was happening. Cars had come and gone all day, the others told Rec. No one knew if Kaczynski was there, or had been taken someplace else.
As they spoke, a white Ford Bronco came out of the trees and passed by.
The windows were tinted and you couldn’t see inside. Two local high school students who were hanging around shouted, “That’s him!” and jumped in their car.
None of the other photographers and journalists at the site took the bait. The four UM students huddled. Ely thought he could make out the silhouette of a man “with hair sticking up all over the place” in the back seat. They decided to break with the pack and follow.
Newsweek ended up purchasing 1-week exclusive rights to their highly sought-after photos for $26,000, and the images have made over $40,000 through the years.
Here’s an oldie but goodie: back in September 2009, photographer Chris Weeks released this documentary about street photography titled Documenting the Human Condition. It’s occasionally preachy and at times feels like a stealthy Leica advertisement, but should be interesting to you if you’re at all interested in the practice of street photography. Read more…
YouTube user Roy Prol created this fascinating animation that imagines what Earth would be like if our planet had Saturn-like rings. In addition to views from space, he show us beautiful renderings of what the rings would look like in landscape photos captured at famous landmarks (e.g. the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro) around the world.
Captured on April 1, 1995 by the Hubble Telescope, the photograph Pillars of Creation is one of the most famous space images ever made. Here’s a crazy fact though: did you know that the “pillars” seen in the photo were already long gone by the time the image was captured? Astronomers have concluded that the pillars — which measure up to 4 light years in length — were destroyed about 6,000 years ago by the shock wave from a supernova. Because of how long it takes light to travel across such vast distances, we can currently see the shock waves approaching the pillars but won’t actually see their destruction for another thousand years or so!
By this point, [Alexey] Brodovitch — the indirect teacher — was very aware of the young photographers work and his growing reputation, and began assigning him regular portrait commissions for Harper’s Bazaar. One of these assignments was to photograph the Russian composer, Igor Stravinsky, which resulted in one of Newman’s most iconic images, although at the time it was rejected for publication. ‘Sometimes, as with his famous image of Stravinsky, he would have to recreate a natural habitat artificially,’ remarks Huxley-Parlour, ‘so he expressed his essence by placing him at a grand piano in an editor’s apartment,’ creating a strong, hard, linear composition, ‘very much like Stravinsky’s music.’
Ever wonder how the photographs found on the pages of National Geographic come together? Here’s a fascinating behind-the-scenes video showing how the images of the 1992 cover story titled “The Sense Of Sight” — photographed by Joe McNally — were shot, edited, and arranged. McNally writes,
And changes. Man, is that an understatement. High res digital cameras have replaced film cameras. Hard drives store pictures, not little yellow boxes. Kodak’s stopped making carousel projectors. Photographers go to the magazine far less often, given digital transmission. Ties and jackets are seen less frequently.
But, the main mission, over time, has remained. Tell a good story in pictures. The major components–photographer, picture editor, designer, magazine editor–are all still in place, and the interplay among them is ongoing and largely unchanged.
The next time you pick up an issue of National Geographic and are tempted to flippantly flip through the images, consider these crazy facts: the 40 page/40 picture story took roughly a year to create from idea to completion and required 1200 rolls of film shot during 6 months of field work!