I often ask myself, “When and how it is it that I decided to become a commercial photographer?” The answer to this question is usually a long drawn out tale that goes back to when I was a junior in high school back in Miami. I’ll save you the long story and only share the story of my favorite photography class and assignment and why it was so great.
The Guardian published an article yesterday that features a number of prominent photographers (e.g. Jane Bown, Martin Parr, Terry O’Neil, Platon) sharing about missed photo opportunities and their “worst shots”. Platon has an interesting story regarding photographing Iranian president Ahmadinejad back in 2009 while snapping portraits of world leaders:
Ahmadinejad was the biggest surprise. On the first day, he made one of the most controversial speeches ever given at the UN, and a large proportion of the auditorium walked out. As he left the stage his supporters swarmed him, patting his back and shaking his hand. There were about 150 people pulling him in different directions. I elbowed my way into the middle of the scrum, grabbed both his hands, looked into his eyes and said, “Come with me, I am going to take your picture.” As I gently pulled his hands, miraculously he started to follow me to my studio.
I was expecting to get that dictatorial menace he had shown in his speech. But he suddenly realised that, not only was he about to sit for the most intimate portrait of him ever, the crowd was also watching. They were all cheering; he lost his composure for a second and started to laugh. What I got was him trying to regain his composure. It’s the most sinister leer I’ve caught on film.
It was a missed opportunity, in the sense that he was trying to gather himself and deal with the embarrassment of performing in front of all those people. On the other hand, it gave me something I would never have expected. No one thinks of Ahmadinejad as a man with a hint of a smile.
My best shot: The one that got away [The Guardian]
Every photographer probably has at least one story of a photo opportunity they missed simply because they decided not to press the shutter. Photographs Not Taken is a new book by photographer Will Steacy that offers 62 stories told by photographers around the world about moments that never became photographs. Sean O’Hagan of The Guardian writes that the decision is often an ethical one:
Consider the story related by Sylvia Plachy who, on a street in midtown Manhattan just after the twin towers of the World Trade Centre had collapsed on 9/11, encountered a dust-covered man “who had walked though hell”. He was, says Plachy, “the icon” of the human tragedy. Many people took his photograph. She did not. “I would have had to step in front of him, interrupt his frantic pace,” she writes. “I felt ashamed. I hesitated. I questioned. It didn’t seem right. In an instant he was gone. I didn’t do it.”
Plachy spent the following fortnight roaming the streets of downtown New York looking for another picture as powerful as the one she had not taken. “His image haunts me to this day,” she writes, adding ruefully, “Diane Arbus would have done it.”
This story, it seems to me, gets to the heart of the matter. Many photographers share Arbus’s view that you take the picture whatever the cost – to yourself as well as the subject. I have always been uncomfortable with that notion. It says that nothing is too intimate, too private. It insists, too, on the primacy of the photograph over the experience.
If you have your own stories of times when you couldn’t bring yourself to press the shutter, please share it with us in the comments!
Photographs Not Taken (via The Guardian)
Image credit: Empty Frames by THEfunkyman
Similar to the centenarian portraits we shared earlier today, here’s a beautiful video with moving portraits (both literally and figuratively) of elderly people by photographer Simon Biswas. The piece is titled “The Light of Day”.
(via FlakPhoto via Coudal)
If you look at the Top 100 Movies chart in the iTunes Store, you might not notice anything out of the ordinary, but one of the movies (#43) is actually a no budget film shot using a single Canon 5D Mark II. For Lovers Only” is a romance filmed by Mark Polish and Michael Polish — known as the Polish brothers — over the course of just 12 days with a single actress (Mark himself played the male lead). The film has already generated over $200,000 in profits after being spread through word of mouth via social networks.
The brothers said that their hotels and some meals were comped; they shot and edited with equipment they already owned; and they don’t consider the few grand worth of meals, taxis and the like to be part of an actual budget. “There was not one dime that came out of our pocket specifically for this movie — besides the food we ate, but we had to eat, anyway,” Michael said.
In the end, Michael and Mark even had to make up some names for the film’s title sequence, which they wanted to stretch out to a reasonable length in order to fit the score that had been written by their friend Kubilay Uner. [#]
This is a great example of how the landscape for movie making, distribution and viewing is rapidly changing, allowing anyone armed with a prosumer DSLR and a whole lot of talent to potentially strike it big.
How the Polish Brothers Are Raking It In With a Stealth, No Budget Movie (via planet5D)
The power of the Internet is awesome when it helps reunite people with lost photos, but it’s even cooler when it uses photos to help reconnect people with relatives. That happened recently with a 71-year-old shoe shiner in China named Shufang Zhong. Zhong’s daughter had moved to a far away city five years ago, and although they could speak on the phone, her daughter desperately wanted to see her face. The problem was, Zhong had absolutely no Internet access and no idea how to reach her daughter.
On June 24th, Zhong noticed a man using an iPad and begged him to help her search online for her daughter. There wasn’t Wi-Fi in the area, so the man snapped a photograph of Zhong instead and uploaded it to Chinese microblogging service Weibo (similar to Twitter). Within just a few hours the image had attracted news organizations, celebrities, and over 100,000 “retweets”, and on June 27 the daughter came across the photo online and saw her mother’s face for the first time in five years.
(via Chengdu Daily via VentureBeat)
Update: After some further digging, it appears the story is different than how we initially reported it (and how our source reported it). We’ve updated the post accordingly. Sorry about that.
The Guardian compiled a powerful collection of vignettes by war photographers recounting times when their work almost got them killed.
Anyone who says they aren’t frightened during war is either lying or a fool. It’s about finding a way of dealing with the fear – you have to be very calm. You’re not there to get your rocks off; you’re there because you feel your pictures can make a difference.
– Tom Stoddart
It’s amazing the kinds of dangerous situations photographers place themselves into to serve as the world’s eyes during wars and conflicts.
The shot that nearly killed me (via dvafoto)
When Ria van Dijk of the Netherlands was sixteen years old back in 1936, she visited a shooting gallery in which a camera shutter was triggered every time a target is hit. She fell in love with the gallery, and faithfully visits it each and every year, only missing the years 1939 to 1945 due to WWII. Ria van Dijk is now 88 years old, and still collects a photo of herself hitting the target. The resulting photographs have been compiled into a book titled “In Almost Every Picture 7“.
You can check out an online gallery of her photographs here.
In almost every picture #7 (via Boing Boing)