Sunday, 29 April 2012

Candids, 'street' and stuff

Yesterday I was at a lure fishing show and bumped into a few people I know, including Eric Weight who commented on my colour and monochrome versions of the portrait in my previous post. Eric said the colour version looked more like a snapshot. Which is one of the problems of colour portraiture noted in the quote I found on the internet some time ago: "When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in Black and white, you photograph their souls!” ― Ted Grant.

 It's difficult to explain this condition. I think it's to do with the removal of one layer of verisimilitude from the image, something that paintings do by the nature of being made from paint and thus not being affected by the colour. A portrait painted in colour works the same way as one drawn in charcoal. Unless it's painted in a photorealist manner in which case it is likely to seem as superficial as a photograph. That's the best explanation I can come up with.

These two photographs were made in my usual way of photographing people. By talking to friends and poking a camera in their face! There's no attention to at composition, and I need to work on the conversions. But they have something going for them. I took plenty more that didn't.

The shots were taken with the X10. Perfect for days when a larger camera would be an inconvenience. Another friend of mine, a professional photographer turned plumber, was interested in the camera. As soon as I handed it to him I was amused to see he instinctively put the viewfinder to his eye! Cameras need viewfinders. They help isolate what is being photographed and concentrate the mind.

One of the benefits of small cameras that received wisdom tells us makes them perfect for 'street' photography is their size. We are told repeatedly that a large DSLR makes people nervous and it's noise alerts them to the photographer's presence. It makes sense. It's reinforced by the Leica school of photographers who maintain that only a rangefinder camera can make great street photographs.

Today I found a link to a video that reinforces this prejudice. I was starting to believe it all. However, this last week I've been using my full frame DSLR while revisiting my old photographs - simply because I can use a 50mm lens to give the same coverage and get me close to the original viewpoint. Naturally I've been making other photos while out and about, and I've found people react no differently to that camera than they do to the compact. It's not the camera that people notice, it's the photographer. The way the person with the camera behaves is what people notice, or don't notice as the case may be.

One of the 'recreations'. Not a fantastic 'street' shot, but nobody in it seems perturbed by the presence of a goon pointing a big camera at them for the few minutes it took to get the shot right.

This got me to thinking about the 'street' genre as it is now carried out. The way there are zealots who say it must be done one way. Before 'street' was a trendy photo-genre nobody mentioned what kind of camera was best, people used what they had. The icons of 'street' used Leicas because there were no SLRs back in the 1930s. They used 50mm lenses because there were no zooms.  It made me titter when it was mentioned in one of the linked to videos that one good reason for using a rangefinder is that artists buck trends and so use Leicas in preference to Canons and Nikons. So they uniformly use Leicas!

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