Random Sights and Diversions

Photography Media Reviews Commentary

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Sebastaio Salgado: “The Salt of the Earth”

“The Salt of the Earth” is a new documentary film about Sebastaio Salgado.

If you have been following this blog, you may recall that I wrote very enthusiastically about Sebastaio Salgado, the brilliant Brazilian/French photographer whose black-and-white images of lands, nature, and peoples around the world have created a remarkably moving vision of humanity and Earth and all of the Earth’s creatures. Salgado’s most recent book, Genesis, is a magnificent record of his travels to some of the most remote lands, documenting the beauty of the planet.

The New York Times “Lens Blog” is featuring an interview with Salgado that makes for great reading. We get Salgado’s reflections on how he got into photography, his views about photography and art, the importance of photography, and a host of other insights.

The interview comes on the occasion of the imminent release in theaters of “The Salt of the Earth,” a documentary film on Salgado’s life and work, coproduced by the German director Wim Wenders and Mr. Salgado’s son Juliano Ribeiro Salgado. Here is a trailer for the film.

“Salt of the Earth” is being released by Sony. There are galleries and much more here.

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Update: Vivian Maier, Street Photographer

That is a trailer for the new documentary film, “Finding Vivian Maier.” A couple of years ago, I was visiting Santa Fe when I walked into a gallery off the square and discovered an exhibition of prints by Vivian Maier. I wrote a blog post about it here. At the time, Vivian Maier was only just beginning to be a phenomenon in the photography world; the exhibit I saw in Santa Fe was one of the earliest presentations of her work. In the two years since, interest in Vivian Maier has grown exponentially. More shows are being devoted to showing prints of her work, and her work is getting the critical attention it deserves.

From the Vivian Maier website:

An American of French and Austro-Hungarian extraction, Vivian bounced between Europe and the United States before coming back to New York City in 1951. Having picked up photography just two years earlier, she would comb the streets of the Big Apple refining her artistic craft. By 1956 Vivian left the East Coast for Chicago, where she’d spend most of the rest of her life working as a caregiver. In her leisure Vivian would shoot photos that she zealously hid from the eyes of others. Taking snapshots into the late 1990′s, Maier would leave behind a body of work comprising over 100,000 negatives. Additionally Vivian’s passion for documenting extended to a series of homemade documentary films and audio recordings.

Produced and directed by John Maloof, who has been responsible for getting Maier’s work to the attention of the photo world, the new film, “Finding Vivian Maier”,  is now making the rounds of art house cinemas around the country, distributed by IFC Films. Here is the film website.

There are so many fascinating questions about Vivian Maier’s life and photography. Can work like Maier’s be appreciated or enjoyed apart from the story of her life? Well, yes, but I think so much is lost if we try and do that. Maier’s life and photography are of a whole, and her art encompasses both.

What I find most interesting – even more than the astounding quality and perceptiveness in Maier’s work – is that most of the over 100,000 images she made were never printed during her life. Did she intend for her photography to be seen? Did she expect that it would be? Was she only shooting images for herself? Her street photography developed her art and skill to such a high degree, almost redefining the nature of street photography. Is it art? Can a photographic image be art if it is not exhibited? For what purpose did Maier capture so many incredible scenes of urban life?

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Eliot Porter Birds at MOMA

Eliot Porter. Blue-throated Hummingbird, Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona, May 1959 [Lampornis clemenciae]. 1959. Dye transfer print, 9 5/16 x 7 3/4″ (23.7 x 19.6 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of David H. McAlpin. © 1990 Amon Carter Museum of American Art

Eliot Porter, whose work consisted mainly of color photographs of nature, was one of the leading American photographers of the Twentieth Century. Anyone interested in nature photography who is not familiar with Eliot Porter should certainly make his acquaintance. There is a wonderful exhibit of Porter’s photographs of birds at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). Curated by artist Trisha Donnelly, the exhibition is the latest in MOMA’s series of “Artists Choice” exhibits.

These are wonderful images. All of them were captured in the wild. Some of the images look more like fantastic paintings of birds in striking poses, but all are natural. Porter’s technique, shooting to Kodachrome with a large format view camera, is also remarkable, particularly capturing birds in flight in the days before fast digital photography. According to Donnelly, Porter “had to wait for hours for a bird to come to him. ‘He would stare at trees for an impossible amount of human time,’ says Donnelly … He was obsessed with the microscopic and the universal at once, ideas of chaos and infinity.”(*)

MOMA’s website on the Artist’s Choice series is here. A good review with an excellent selection of images was done by NPR and is here. More information on Eliot Porter here.

The exhibit continues to July 28, 2013.

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Landscapes of the American Southwest

I have not mentioned my book, Landscapes of the American Southwest, recently. So herewith a shameless bit of self-promotion! Landscapes of the American Southwest features some of my best images of California, Arizona, and New Mexico. The book is available in softcover, hardcover, and apple ibook format from Blurb. Here’s a preview…

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Up Close: A Guide to Macro and Close Up Photography

The Latest eBook from David DuChemin’s Craft & Vision: Up Close, by Andrew S. Gibson

Up Close: A Guide to Macro and Close Up PhotographyAlmost anyone who follows this blog knows how much I love macro and closeup photography. I’ve been doing it for years. Going all the way back to the days of film and manual cameras, I’ve done closeup photography using closeup lenses, macro lenses, and extension tubes. Closeup and macro photography – all kinds, but especially flowers, fascinates and intrigues me, and challenges me as well. Over the years, I’ve seen and read many books on the subject. No book has interested me more than the latest ebook from Craft And Vision, Up Close: A Guide to Macro and Close Up Photography, by Andrew S. Gibson.

You can spend a fortune on macro lenses, but you don’t have to. Macro photography can be surprisingly affordable, and Gibson discusses all the different approaches in depth, exploring the advantages and disadvantages of each. Moreover, Gibson doesn’t just discuss equipment or theory but gets into practical techniques for doing closeup photography in different settings. As much closeup phiotography as I’ve done, I learned a great deal from Gibson’s book. He explains differences in magnification – and the effect of DX vs full-format cameras – better than any I’ve read. And there is a wealth of glorious beautiful closeup photography to admire.

Photograph by Andrew S. Gibson

After an Introduction and chapters on Equipment and Technique, Gibson discusses fully something most books gloss over but is critical to closeup and macro phgotography – Lighting. Again, he goes over the available equipment but also explains methods and techniques of different approaches.

Finally, the book concludes with something I wish more photography books included: Two in-depth case studies – Many lovely photographs and commentary by two other photographers specializing in closeup photography, Mandy Disher, who photographs insects and flowers, and Celine Steen, who does food photography.  Throughout, the style is conversational while quite informative. This book is like a private seminar on closeup photography with three expert practitioners of the craft.

Photograph by Mandy Disher

Photograph by Mandy Disher

Photograph by Celine Steen

As I said, this is one of the best books on macro and closeup photography I’ve read. It’s quite suitable for both beginners and experienced photographers. Up Close may be the best ebook to come from Craft & Vision. 88 pages. PDF ebook, available from Craft and Vision for the ridiculous price of $5!

BUT, for the first six days only, if you use the promotional code CLOSE4 when you checkout, you can have the PDF version of Up Close for only $4 OR you can use the code CLOSE20 to get 20% off when you buy 5+ PDF eBooks from the Craft & Vision collection. These codes expire at 11:59pm (PST) June 24, 2012.

Click here to visit Craft And Vision.

Up Close from Craft and Vision

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From Craft & Vision: Making Stronger Photographs with Your Camera Phone

Here is a book we all need! The latest ebook from Craft & Vision: eyePhone – Making Stronger Photographs with Your Camera Phone by Al Smith. This may be the best ebook from Craft & Vision yet!

The cameras in camera phones have gotten so good! With each new iteration of the iPhone, Apple improves the camera. Manufacturers of other smartphones are doing the same. Yet how often are we disappointed with the results we get? Maybe we should add some apps to help with photography. But how choose? There are hundreds – thousands – of photographic apps; how do we pick the ones that will help?

As with all the Craft & Vision books, Al Smith adopts a “Less is more” philosophy. It’s exactly because the cameraphone is a limited tool that Smith finds it useful, and his book shows how to turn the cameraphone’s limitations into assets. It is, in Smith’s words, a “perfect trilogy” – the “right tool, in the right place, at the right time.”

I would argue that less is actually creatively more. The less you have to think about setting up your camera and which piece of gear to use, the better. It lets you apply more brain power to shooting creatively and will speed up your progression as a photographer … This is the beauty of mobile phones. They  are extremely limited in what they do as a camera, but they make you feel completely free in your ability to create images.

But eyephone isn’t just philosophy. Writing in a relaxed conversational style, Smith packs this book with concrete suggestions and helpful hints, techniques and approaches that will help you get better pictures from your iPhone (or whichever cameraphone you use). Smith’s book divides photography with the cameraphone into three stages: Shooting, editing, and sharing. For Smith, the fact that you can do all three on the same device is key. Each topic gets a section of the book devoted to it.  We get suggestions for apps. Ideas about how to use the iPhone to shoot in different settings and situations. Techniques for editing. And how and where (and why) to share our images. Although the book is suitable for all cameraphone users, Smith uses the iPhone and frames the book mostly on that.

eyePhone – Making Stronger Photographs with Your Camera Phone by Al Smith.

This could be one of the most helpful photography books to come along. It’s 45 pages. PDF ebook that can be read on computer, iPad, iPhone or any device that will read a PDF. And it’s up to the overall quality we’ve come to expect from Craft & Vision books.  $5.  BUT, for six days only, use the code EYEPHONE20 and get it for $4. Or buy any five Craft & Vision ebooks and get 20% off. But the code expires at the end of the day (11:59pm PST) on May 27, 2012. Click here to visit Craft And Vision.

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