Category Archives: Whos Who of photography

Photographs have a life…

The Life of a Photograph is linked to the life of a photographer.

Nothing is more apparent than this fact in this video. The video is a great insight into the life of the National Geographic Photographer Sam Abell. He is a very intense and charismatic man. He is a person who feels everything about his photography. By that I mean he is intimately in contact with every scene as the observer, but also that he is tied to it by the impact it has on him.

Sam Abell has a wonderful eye. The video is a testimony to the depth of his vision, the way he composes his images. Despite that vision, the stunning compositional insights are surpassed by his anticipation. He has an incredible view of the photo he is about to make. Abell describes how he composes and waits. That is an invaluable insight for us as learning photographers.

I can think of no better way to sum up this video than was said by one of the comments made by a previous viewer. He said, “This is incredibly inspiring! This means so much more to my photography than any gear video I could watch”. Abell also has a wonderfully dry wit and that too is a hallmark of this man’s style.

National Geographic Live! : The Life of a Photograph

Uploaded by National Geographic Channel  External link - opens new tab/page to YouTube


By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.


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The father of photo-journalism – photographic heroes (pt 3) – Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson and his work.

Henri Cartier-Bresson and his work.

Henri Cartier-Bresson established a tradition of excellence.

He was regarded by many as the father of photo-journalism. Cartier-Bresson was an innovator and an exceptional practitioner in photography as well as a philosopher of its essence. Here we look into a little of his life and works.

There are some great photographers doing a very poor job in the context of modern journalism. Photo-journalism has been killed by exploitation of photojournalists who are fighting a tide of bad photographs and editors who outsource on the cheap. Reportage has become commercialised and devalued by bottom-feeding organisations and journalists. Photo-journalism is however a laudable and extremely difficult pursuit. It once contributed greatly to the excellence and innovation that has given us modern photographic techniques.

Henri Cartier-Bresson (Aug 22, 1908 – Aug 3, 2004)

Henri Cartier-Bresson is recognised as pioneering candid photography, insightful timings and ‘stories-in-an-image’; disciplines in which he is still unsurpassed in many ways. A Frenchman by birth, in his early career he adopted the 35mm camera format in its infancy. Coming from a wealthy background in textiles his independent means allowed him to establish himself relatively easily. As a young boy he had a Box Brownie camera for snap shots, but he also sketched and took painting lessons from his Uncle who was killed in WWI.

In his twenties Cartier-Bresson received a classical and modernist mixed artistic education. He was fascinated by Renaissance art but remained strongly influenced by modernism. His teacher was a Cubist and attempted to mix older and modern styles. Cartier-Bresson found his teachers rule-laden approach to be too controlling. He mixed with students from other schools of art in Paris, especially the Surrealists where he was impressed with the concepts of immediacy in art.

Cartier-Bresson was frustrated by his own inability to create paintings that reconciled all his interests. He destroyed many of his early works as a result. However, many of his later ideas were matured in the mixed artistic culture of Paris at that time.

In 1928-29 he studied at the University of Cambridge learning English before completing his mandatory army service in France. While on army service he began an intense love affair which, when it ended, caused him to go to Africa to escape the obvious hurt he felt. He survived by hunting and selling the catch, but became ill and returned to Paris the adventure over. He became inspired on his return by a photograph of young black boys frolicking in Lake Tanganyika. The spontaneity and movement stimulated a sudden and inspired uptake of photography. His realisation of the possibilities of an instant story in a picture enabled him to develop the first ideas about street photography. He hunted for the reality of street life right across Europe. On his travels he met up with David Seymour and Robert Capa who both became famous photographers as well. Capa, who was already established mentored Cartier-Bresson and the three shared a studio.

As WWII broke he joined the French army in the Film and Photo Unit. However, in 1940 he was capture and spent two years in prisoner of war camps doing hard labour. A successful third escape attempt saw him returning to France to fight in the Resistance.

In 1947 Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, David Seymour, William Vandivert and George Rodger formed a cooperative picture agency, Magnum Photos. Splitting the world between them Cartier-Bresson took India and China. He went off to India to cover Gandhi’s funeral, the Chinese civil war and the formation of Maoist China. He quickly found his feet on these assignments and won wide acclaim. Magnum was established to meet and disseminate photography in the service of Humanity and to provide arresting and widely viewed images. The agency, still active today and one of the worlds most productive photojournalism organisations, became a phenomenon in a very short time.

Cartier-Bresson had worked in some of the most difficult and trying periods of the mid-20th Century, been educated with some of the most mixed and volatile artistic elements in Europe and suffered great personal hardship at the hands of the Germans. So, his philosophical approach to photography did not fully emerge until 1952. It was then that he published his first book, ‘Images à la sauvette’, (English edition titled ‘The Decisive Moment’). In it the immediacy of the Surrealists and the composition and classical rules of art came together. His idea was that everything had a decisive moment. A moment when the composition, the meaning and the expression of the cameraman all came together in a fraction of a second. He summed it up in 1957…

“Photography is not like painting. There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative,”… “Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever.”
Henri Cartier-Bresson, Washington Post; 1957

Cartier-Bresson retired from active photography to return to painting in the late 1960s. He had spent more than thirty years racing between some of the greatest events and upheavals of the 20th Century. His reportage was superb, his photography extraordinary. Yet he is probably best known for some tiny moments. He is my hero because in all those years of wielding a camera at momentous instants in world history his best photographs document something quite different. With the wide-eyed wonder of a child and the sophistication of a trained artist he captured some of the tiny details of ordinary lives. These were images of people who were experiencing an infinite story in a finite moment. He was simultaneously the master of the moment and the artist of the event. He hunted, as a professional photographer, for the one moment that made an impact and thereby documented a microcosm.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

A brave expression of passion – photographic heroes (pt 2) – Diane Arbus

Photomontage of Diane Arbus and some of her work.

Photomontage of Diane Arbus and some of her work.
“My favorite thing is to go where I’ve never been.” • Diane Arbus
Click to view a range of her work and portraits of her in Google Images.

Swim against the tide!

Your personal mission in life is important and your photography should reflect that. Don’t only transmit passion through your work. Diane Arbus worked in photography but found a rarely paralleled depth of expression in her exploration of a personal passion. She persevered even when that passion took her into domains that the public would rather have left unseen at the time.

Diane Arbus (Mar 14, 1923 – Jul 26, 1971)

The creation of a picture lies within the ability of everyone who holds a camera. Conjuring a meaningful ‘image’ in the mind and creating an enduring memory for the viewer takes a photographer with passion and expression far beyond simple picture taking. Diane Arbus was a phenomenon and a case in point. Throughout her varied career she was able to express her interests in ways that shocked or left people cold.

Born to a wealthy, talented and artistic family Diane Nemerov escaped the worst of the American Depression. Her siblings excelled in art and photography as did her father who retired from the family business to paint. She married at eighteen to Allan Arbus. Both interested in photography, they began a business after WWII in commercial and advertising photography. They were published in a wide range of well known magazines of the time, despite professing their hate of the fashion world.

During the late 1940’s and 1950s the Arbus’ raised two daughters. The couple separated in 1958 and divorced 11 years later. It was the late 1950s and 1960s that saw her unique style coming out. Working with a wider range of client publications she extended her personal ideas and techniques through assignment work. In 1963 she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for a project called “American rites, manners, and customs”. This allowed her to extend her interests and to develop her personal style. While teaching, working on her projects and doing some assignment work the 1960s were a proving ground for her approach. Her commercial work declined as she became better known as an artist.

What made Diane Arbus unique was an exploration of her real interest. She pursued her photography working with “deviant and marginal people”. Her passionate portrayal of dwarfs, giants, transgender people, nudists, circus performers and other “ugly or surreal” people was for the time pretty brave and definitely against the grain of public opinion. Her work in advertising is little known today. Her writing and photographs of people at the margins of society bought her condemnation and severe criticism. Some of her work is still considered to be controversial. Yet, despite open criticism and damaging condemnation of her and her work she stuck to her interests and passionately expressed herself.

Her images are stark and sometimes ugly. However, this was the way she portrayed the world and was consistent in that approach. The extent to which she was a tortured individual is not clear, but she suffered bouts of depression and committed suicide aged 48 in 1971. Her legacy lies in her extraordinary persistence working with people considered to be ‘freaks’ in her contemporary America. She was notable in her success in getting permission from her subjects to publish the photographs. She established close personal relationships with many of her subjects while also portraying their less than ideal circumstances. And, she often returned over many years to take more photographs. Some of her images are shocking and harsh. Yet she seemed intent on hard lines, hard light and portraying people who had hard lives.

She produced a range of iconic images of people in difficult circumstances, against the public wisdom of the time. Diane Arbus remains controversial. But she published both photographs and writings that showed how she understood the nature of her own work and the impact it was having. She is one of my heroes because she stood up for herself and did photography with a passion. She showed important issues for what they were and exposed the underbelly of American culture at that time. Her work is sought-after as collectors items. Auction sales of individual pictures in the last decade have exceeded several hundred thousand dollars. Yet this has not diminished her insight. Important and controversial she may have been, but a powerful photographer with a passionate message she remains today.

Two quotes by Arbus define for me her outlook on her photography…

“Freaks was a thing I photographed a lot . . . . Most people go through life dreading they’ll have a traumatic experience. Freaks were born with their trauma. They’ve already passed their test in life. They’re aristocrats.”
Arbus, Diane. “Diane Arbus”. Millerton, New York: Aperture, 1972. ISBN 0-912334-40-1.

In this quote you can see the passion spilling out of her words…

I do feel I have some slight corner on something about the quality of things. I mean it’s very subtle and a little embarrassing to me, but I really believe there are things which nobody would see unless I photographed them.
Feeney, Mark. “She Opened Our Eyes. Photographer Diane Arbus Presented a New Way of Seeing.” Boston Globe, November 2, 2003.

In my twitter stream (@photokonnexion) I push photographers to ‘do their own thing’ with a passion borne of insight from a personal mission in life. Many contemporary professional photographers fall onto the media bandwagon and get trapped in a cycle of commercial and media ‘art’. As a result they never see their personal development get past commercialism. I would encourage photographers of all types to look for ways to make their own mark in photography. As artists, photographers should be looking to expand their own horizons. I urge you to explore new challenges that define you as a photographer. Diane Arbus was not afraid to go down this route, neither should you.

The following video is the first of four. See all four parts of this video here: Masters of Photography Diane Arbus (Parts 1 to 4)

Masters of Photography Diane Arbus Part 1. By Rangefinder  External link - opens new tab/page

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Three photographic heroes (pt 1) – Ansel Adams

Photo-montage - Portraits of Ansel Adams

Photo-montage – Portraits of Ansel Adams

Its good to have heroes!

In contemporary culture they are often elevated to super-beings. My photographic heroes are of the old school. They’re people to look up to, people who represent thought and development in photography. So here are three photographers who I admire. They have all been influential in my thinking and development as a photographer. In part one of this short series I briefly cover Ansel Adams. I hope you will find his example inspirational as I do.

Ansel Adams (Feb. 20, 1902 – Apr. 22, 1984)

I admire thinking photographers. Adams was definitely a thinker. He is widely quoted both in photographic circles and outside them – his ideas span music, conservation, photography and many other subjects. As a conservationist he was one of the early protectors of the environment and as a photographer he produced some of the most iconic photographs of the national parks in the USA.

In particular Adams brilliant photographs of Yosemite National Park in America captured the imagination of a generation. Adams first went there when he was sixteen and returned to photograph the magnificent scenery on many occasions throughout his sixty year career. He also captured, in fantastic tonal detail, many other of the amazing wilderness locations in the USA. All of this was before these places were subject to the stresses and damage caused by tourism.

While photography was what he was mainly known for, he was only a practising hobbyist until well into his twenties. He intended to be a professional musician and worked hard at it from the time he taught himself the piano aged twelve. His schooling was limited but his concentration on music and photography proved sufficient to sharpen his intellect. He possessed an eidetic memory (or photographic memory) and and this could only have enhanced his excellent understanding of tonal control and landscape structure in his compositions.

Adams is best known for his black and white landscapes, but also produced the first presidential portrait photograph and worked with colour photography. He developed the Zone system in photography – a method of optimal exposure control for photographers. He taught a number of student photographers who went on to become influential themselves. He also developed a number of important photographic and compositional techniques. As a writer and photographer he published a number of books about photography and of his own pictures as well as work about his photographic discoveries.

Adams legacy lies not only in his superb landscape work, but in his tireless work to elevate photography to a true art-form. In his later years he worked with galleries and institutions worldwide to promote and develop photography. He will be remembered mostly for his pictures. But in fact he influenced a generation of photographers and several generations of the public by the work that he did in conservation and art development. Later in his career he was honoured with both photographic and general honours including the highest civilian honour in the USA. He published a number of books and worked with photographers, politicians, academics and publishers to build a better understanding of photography as a public domain. He should be remembered not just for his amazing photographs, but also for establishing photography as a form of public expression and passion. He was a remarkable man who will live on through his pictures.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Learn from the insights of famous photographers

If you want to establish a style, then start here.

Its not easy to know if you have a style as a photographer or not. If you a want to establish a style the one way is to test your skills on the style of other photographers. I have a few heroes – photographers who’s work I admire. I have often tried to follow their style and to be impressive in the same way that they were. I find that trying out the style of other photographers has helped me to confirm my own style. There is something about imitating others that brings your personal understandings and skills to the front.

Henri Cartier-Bresson

If you have been following this blog for a while you will probably recognise that I am intrigued and stimulated by the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. His work is timeless in some ways. He seems to catch the essence of the people he photographs as well as capturing the essential expression of the scene that they are in. His work has an immediacy and raw emotion rarely seen even among the great photographers.

His work is as relevant today as it was when he was working. He seems to focus on street and candid photography for most of his works. In these he brings out the gritty meaning of ordinary peoples lives. In analysing his work, and following his lead my street photography has improved as has my understanding of his insights. Here are some of his works for you to browse…

Developing your own style

If you admire a particular photographer, old or modern, you can gain from their photographic insights. I find that when a photographer likes the photography of another, they often gain from trying out some of the pictures and techniques of their heroes. I have often done this with Henri Cartier-Bresson photographs. I have never perfectly matched a photograph by him. However, the shots that I have produced have helped me to define my own style.

I urge you to make a study of one or two photographers. Get to know their works. Identify some of the pictures you admire most. Analyse them in the context of some of the tools and compositional ideas discussed in this blog. Read books by them, seek out reviews and critiques of their works. Most importantly try to recreate some of their signature photographs in your own way. You will never replicate their work. However, you will establish some elements of your own style in trying to match their style.

Doing work in the style of another helps you to look closely at your own ideas and approach. Try it out – you will enjoy the idea as well as stretch your imagination and skills.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

World class motivational quotes for photographers

Sir Steve Redgrave giving a speech at a regatta

Sir Steve Redgrave giving a speech at a regatta.

Sir Steve Redgrave is an inspirational athlete.

Five times an Olympic Gold Medallist, he has plenty of experience to pass on to people who aspire to great things. He went on to get his fifth medal despite saying he was going to retire. In an article about another great sportsman Redgrave said…

Self-belief is probably the most crucial factor in sporting success. The bodies are roughly equal, the training is similar, the techniques can be copied, what separates the achievers is nothing as tangible as split times or kilograms. It is the iron in the mind, not the supplements, that wins medals.
Sir Steve Redgrave: Winning is all in the mind,
Daily Telegraph: 7:00AM BST 10 Oct 2009

World-class quotes to motivate photographers

“You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.”

    Henry Ford
• Stop talking about it – go take a photograph!

Imagination is more important than knowledge.

    Albert Einstein
• Imagine greater images! Technique will follow.

My secret is practice.

    David Beckham
• Practice, practice, practice, then do more! Your photography will improve!

Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.

    Oprah Winfrey
• Negative people will hold you back. Supporters will maximise your potential.

You miss 100% of the shots you never take.

    Wayne Gretzky
• Always carry a camera! ‘Nuff said!

Imagination is the highest kite one can fly.

    Lauren Bacall
• Using your imagination to pursue great images will yield the greatest satisfaction and deepest meaning.

I was taught that the way of progress is neither swift nor easy.

    Marie Curie
• Learning photography, like anything else, requires time and effort.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

• Do it well and repeat it… you’ll soon become a quality photographer.

The reason why so little is done, is generally because so little is attempted.

    Samuel Smiles
• If you don’t try it, you won’t learn it.

A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.

    Father James Keller
• Teach kids, friends, mother, aunt, enemy… everyone, about photography.

If you don’t have any critics, you probably don’t have any success either.

    Johan Bruynell
• Self assurance will get you past criticism – then move on to success.

Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.

• Dust off and get going again!

Every champion was once a contender that refused to give up.

• You have to start somewhere. Work on it and you’ll get there.

Life is like a camera, focus on what’s important, capture the good times, develop from the negatives, and if things don’t work out, just take another shot.

• That says it all!

A year from now you may wish you had started today.

    Karen Lamb
• Get your camera out. Do it now!

Quotes Starter Photographers Should know

Only a few photographers stand out in the crowd by what they say, as well as by what they photograph.

Only a few photographers stand out in the crowd by what they
say, as well as by what they photograph.

Learn from the words of great photographers

While these photographers inspire by the power of imagery, they also capture the essence of photography in their words. Here are lessons from the great with updated ideas for aspiring digital photographers.

Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.

Henri Cartier-Bresson
Digital photography makes it easy to take pictures. Cartier-Bresson was talking ten thousand photographs in the days when one hundred shots was a major shoot using film. Today we might shoot off a thousand photographs in a day. I bet we don’t have as many quality keepers in that 1000 as he did with his 100!

Think about shooting off 50,000 digital shots and aim for 50 quality images in your portfolio. That may seem a hard target. Yet, if you are thinking, reviewing, reading, experimenting and photographing you will need that time to develop your skills. Good photographs develop from quality reviews of your work, interaction with other artists and critics, learning new techniques and practice, practice, practice. There is a whole lot more to photography than simply shooting lots of photos.

You don’t take a photograph, you make it.

Ansel Adams
How many happy snappers do you know? For the great majority of ‘photographers’ Ansel Adams words are NOT true today. Most people take photographs. Only an experienced and committed photographer makes photos. What Adams says is true IF you have committed yourself. To truly make a photograph you have to be immersed in it, be a part of it, when you press the release button.

If your photos aren’t good enough, then you’re not close enough.

Robert Capa
Great photographers fill the frame with the great things they see. It is a wonderful thing to capture just what is needed to make a great photograph. It is even better to show it bold and big. This is as true today as when Capa spoke the words. However, today it is too easy to crop the shot to suit the frame. Work with your subject to fill the frame in-camera so you don’t have to crop in post-processing. That way your shots will be better composed and the quality of the image will not be degraded by a low resolution crop.

It is more important to click with people than to click the shutter.

Alfred Eisenstaedt
It is a mistake to think that looking through the viewfinder is everything. Good photographers communicate with the people they photograph. If you want your subject to relax, pose naturally, smile and be themselves – work with them. A bad-tempered photographer is no photographer at all! Your passion may be photography, but your connection must be with the people in front of your lens.

Skill in photography is acquired by practice and not by purchase.

Percy W. Harris
Most photographers today are guilty of attempting improvement-by-purchase at some time. The consumer photography market is seductive and fast moving. Resist the temptation to buy your next piece of camera equipment until you know your existing equipment absolutely inside-out. Modern DSLRs, even entry-level ones, are sophisticated enough to take years to learn. Ironically, it is pretty certain many of today’s iconic photographs will be taken on point-and-shoot cameras. Great photographs are not created just because you have a great camera. In 20 years time nobody will ask what camera a shot was taken on. It will be the shot that counts.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

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