Suspect Photography

words and images from david george brommer

Month: September, 2013

The Cucoloris Monster lives in Light and Shadow – Not Sesame Street :-)

Monster Garden, Bomarzo Italy. Fujifilm Xpro 1 35mm 1.4 1/320 f 2.8 iso 200 B&W film sim mode

Monster Garden, Bomarzo Italy. Fujifilm Xpro 1 35mm 1.4 1/320 f 2.8 iso 200 B&W film sim mode


When the light pours through trees it causes a dappling of highlights and shadows on the scene and can create an interesting effect. In the movie business the grip guys use gobos with patterns cut in them and hold them up between the light source and the scene. They also will move them, so in film it appears as if the wind is blowing the foliage. They call them Cucoloris, Kookaloris, or even cookies and are used frequently.

West Village NYC  Ricoh GR IV Digital 1/60th f 5.6 ISO 200

West Village NYC Ricoh GR IV Digital 1/60th f 5.6 ISO 200

In photography we really don’t use them often, even though the same technique the grip guys use could be set up in the studio easily. More often, we run into it when shooting beneath tree cover.  The “cucoloris effect” is best used to create a dance of positive and negative shadow in your image, integrate them into your composition. They can be tricky to expose properly, best to use standard metering and adjust as needed with exposure compensation.

9th avenue NYC Fire Truck Fujifilm Xpro 1 Zeiss Tuoit 12mm 1/250th F 6.3 ISO 200 Film Sim Mode B&W R

9th avenue NYC Fire Truck Fujifilm Xpro 1 Zeiss Tuoit 12mm 1/250th F 6.3 ISO 200 Film Sim Mode B&W R


As I researched this post I realized the phenomenon is not spoken of in photography much at all, but it plays such a large part of the relationship between light and shadow. Embrace the Cucoloris, seek it out and use it to build complexity to your images.



Keep Calm, Carry Cameras. No, Really.

Message Man in Chelsea

After I posted yesterday’s blog on Street Photography as a Genre, I went out for an afternoon walk from Chelsea to Union Sq and back. I got about 2 blocks when I realized as I chose my camera to pack with me for the walk, I forgot my wallet. With a grunt and curse I turned about to return home and then I spied this perfect intersection of light with this well dressed dude in a pose seemingly meant just for me. Thank you sir. As I crossed the street, I drew my Ricoh GR IV, held it up as I slowly walked by and … nailed it.  Best shot I have taken in about a month. Thrilled. No one but the Shutter god and I knew the discreet candid photo was ever taken.

The last post was about Street Photography as genre, so I had this in mind and was playing with the camera in a whimsical “streety” way. Luckily the camera focuses extremely fast and accurately and I can apply some funky contrast B&W styles to the photo. I walked away with a image I can rely on, more confidence that I can shoot street genre, and mostly the reiteration to ALWAYS CARRY A CAMERA.

So the shot is made with Ricoh GR IV Digital and I wrote a review of it here. It’s a fine street shooter.

Genre: Street Photography

Halloween revelers get cash at Citibank.


Everyday, Opportunistic, and Spontaneous

The most popular and widely practiced genre of photography is arguably Street Photography. Street photographers walk around with stealthy cameras ready to grab candid and un-posed images. It takes dedication to build up a body of work, and days and days of shooting can yield little in interesting images and then all of sudden, something with punctum pops into the frame.

 Puppets, Milan Italy. Fujifilm Xpro 1 18mm lens B&W film simulat

In the pantheon of photography, street photographers reign. Known as the father of street photography, Henri Cartier Bresson championed the concept of what he described as, “The Decisive Moment”. This can be summed up from Bresson’s own words, “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.” Bresson’s concept has aged quite well even considering that HD Video and super fast capture rates has fallen in favor even with the still photographers.


Perhaps Street Photography is so widely practiced because it is so readily available. Simply walk out of  any door with your camera ready to go and the world becomes your subject. Practicing street photography can be an exuberant way of displaying photographic style but it’s own ease can be its pitfall too. Photographers run the risk of becoming bored waiting for that “Bresson Moment” to occur and let their guards down and miss the potentially great shot. Street Photography captures fractions of seconds of our society in action and can serve in a documentarian role as well as just making a great photograph. The best street photos are when multiple stories are being told and the entire frame becomes a stage for life unfolding. It is spontaneous, and patience with a camera on a street corner will be rewarded with just the right subject, secondary subjects, and actions occurring with the background you chose.

 Coney Island

Another interesting facet of street photography is that it ages well. While a street filled with current cars becomes mundane, the same street filled with 55 Buicks and 57 Chevy’s all of sudden has a nostalgic boost. The same can be said with fashions and evolving cities in the frame, these images get more interesting with time. This is a reward for those who practice the genre of street photography during thier lifetimes.

Kid on the street. Hi Contrast B&W Ricoh GRD IV

Kid on the street. Hi Contrast B&W Ricoh GRD IV

Skills: Quick Reaction Time

Technique: Zone Focus or Pre Focus

Masters: Robert Frank : Vivian Cherry : Peter Turnley : Harvey Stein : Vivian Maier : Bresson (link above). Yes there are many more, this is broad genre however I picked these to start with for historical reference and also in the case of Peter and Harvey, they are still very active and teach workshops.

Gear: Leica M system, Fujifilm Xpro system, (super high quality and small discrete size) DLSR with fast aperture prime wide lens.

I’ll be honest here, I am challenged by street photography and while I practice it, always armed with a camera when out and about, I find my best work is when I can set the shot up and influence the image.  I respect street shooters and for those just looking to get into the genre, I recommend you look at the following photographers

The above is part of a format for presenting the genre’s of photography in my upcoming book, “Finding and Developing Photographic Style”. The idea is the common genre name, followed by three words that sum up the genre, then a moderately in-depth description with photographs to illustrate. As always, I’ll take any feedback.


911 memorial lights and falls 2008

Casa Toscana and the Object Project


The Object Project:

Things, tokens, neat items, nick knacks, jewelry, ephemera, and other personal treasures or just plain stuff can make a great project with an interesting narrative. Follow your instincts on the selection of items, but make sure a strand of relativity is connecting to each object. Choose a background to photograph the subjects which can be something as simple as a colored seamless background, fabrics, a table or a wall. Use you have access too, even shooting straight down to objects laying on a soft bed of fresh cut grass might be interesting. What ever you choose as your background, make sure you use it for the whole series. Now photograph the items by utilizing a “still life genre” technique.  Feel free to be explorative by adding other elements such as flower petals, rocks, wood, toothpicks, or anything that “works” with the subjects.

Hasselblad 80mm 2.8 Distagon T* 120 Fujifilm 160ns

Hasselblad 80mm 2.8 Distagon T* 120 Fujifilm 160ns

box one from Casa Toscana Project

In my series Casa Toscana, I began by documenting the rooms of our home in Italy. I was enthralled by the light pouring into the rooms at different times of day and got very inspired to capture the nuances of the Casa Toscana. I would photograph the larger objects that were integral to the rooms, such as the vintage refrigerator or furniture. Looking closer I began to inspect drawers and boxes and set up a still life station to photograph these “house treasures” on.


They included a vintage telephone, an old book, a toy. In contrast to the intricate environment of the home, I took these objects and placed them on white poster board and photographed them in indirect available light. I began by taping the poster board to the edge of the table top along a wall, and then taping the top of the board to an outside wall in indirect light. I easily created a “seamless” white background. The objects sit in a neutral white space that was clean and neat. Each object had an unspoken story that it was able to communicate, and also served to break up the projects direction that was a study in rooms, compositions, and light.

the old frigo



When I returned with this work to NYC I had the film developed and scanned. I’m not too thrilled with the scans, but I was able to create a stunning blurb book on the project. The overall idea really turned into something much more than I had planned for. I gave a copy of the book to a few members of Barbara’s family and it brought some to tears to eyes of a special few.  That’s how you know you did a good job, when you make the client cry. Please take a look at my Blurb Book Store to view the book and yes, it is available for purchase. I have a full preview of the book set up, so you can check out the whole story and all the images. The book is 111 pages!


So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start shooting objects… and put it in a project.


All images shot with a Hassy and the 80mm f2.8 or the 50 f4.0. Film was Fujifilm 160NS and scanned at time of development. One note I have to make, I was never happy with the scans and I got lazy and had the lab do them. Normally I would bust out the Epson V750 and do it myself. I learned a lesson, the more you have your hands on it, the better the final result will be.

Film Based Cameras Mean Sh*t. Yea Right.

Louis Mendes outside of B&H Photo NYC 34th Street.

Louis Mendes outside of B&H Photo NYC 34th Street.

Shooting film is rare these days. That is not to say the film-based camera is irrelevant. Quite the opposite actually. The discipline of film has its merits, mostly in the form of personal choice of process than a distinct quality factor. Digital is as good as film, if not better. Film however is tactile and extremely deliberate. The tactile essence plays the human’s desire to make something solid, visible and touchable, because zeroes and ones that make up a digital file are abstract as they reside on a hard drive invisibly to your 5 senses. The negative, for all its flaws can be beheld with out the use of any other technology. Its existence is physically a substantial object and while the negative is not the end, it has a promises that it can create something very special in the form of the print. Holding a gorgeous hand printed image on an exotic paper where texture and the light of day expresses the latent image is a much different feeling than holding an iPad or viewing on a display. I won’t diminish the digital file, I’ll just say it’s an altogether alternate way of viewing the photograph. Certainly the digital file can be printed on a vast amount of papers and styles, so in the end, the way we create our photograph is moot.

Destined to view on a screen or as a print, film and digital are interchangeable. Negatives can be scanned, and digital negatives made as well. How we arrive at the finished photograph and the style of the work is paramount in the pursuit of finding photographic style. Take for instance the NY Photographer Louis Mendes. He excretes photographic style in his choice of camera and the way the image is delivered, (as a 4×5 instant print).

“Louis Mendes is a quintessential street photographer best known for his Speed Graphic camera, blocked hat and consistent suave style dubbed “Shaft with a camera.” Mendes is a staple in New York City to tourists and natives alike. He’s been photographed thousands of times cradling his Speed Graphic as if he were the Statue of Liberty holding her tabula ansata. Portraits of Louis Mendes have won awards internationally and grace the walls of galleries world-wide.”

Louis shoots in a jacket, fedora and with an old skool effeincecny that belies a true professional. Louis is a can do guy, and his smile is wonderful to behold. Read more about Louis and his Speed Graphic here, but his facebook info sums him up nicely:

Now thats photographic style. Cheers Louis.

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