Suspect Photography

words and images from david george brommer

Category: Fujifilm X Pro 1 Camera

Coney Island Polar Bear New Years Day Swim 2014 : A Guide To Photographing This Tradition


The mad dash to get in the water first. Xpro1 – Zeiss 12mm

Attention Suspect Photography Fans- Finding Photographic Style and Composition in NYC 4 Day Intensive Workshop April 17th to April 20th 2014. Early Registration Discount By March 1st.

The first day of the New Year is celebrated by New Yorkers at Coney Island in the form of a brisk dip in the Atlantic Ocean. This has turned into an event which is organized by the Polar Bear club of Coney Island, an organization  founded in 1903. This year the event drew close to 4000 viewers and 2500 swimmers in an extremely festive environment filled with characters, personalities and lots of photographers. I was actually quite surprised at how many shooters turned out, the day was a who’s who of NY photographers that showed up; from the venerable Harvey Stein, the Daily News veteran  Todd Maisel, iPhone extraordinaire Ben Lowy, man about town Louis Mendez, Brooklyn’s Kevin Downs and a motley assortment of many local photographers. I got the idea to shoot the Polar Bears a few days prior (looking for something cool to do New Year’s Day) and I texted my friend and fellow photographer Brandon Remler to see if he was game for it, and found out he had already plans to go, so I hitched a ride with him (creative minds think alike aye?). The board walk was crawling with photographers when we arrived at 11:30 am.

The seminal NY Street Photographer Louis Mendez covering the event.

The seminal NY Street Photographer Louis Mendez covering the event.

Covering this event to make photographs is exciting, fun and actually fairly difficult. Here is my take: first off, set a parameter. I wanted to capture portraits that resonate with the oddity of the moment,  the anticipation of the action, and the shivering resulting from it. Coney Island is an old place (my Grand Mother and Grand Father met there in the late 1920’s) and has distinctive landmarks that beg to be integrated into the final image.


Characters abound. This is a husband wife Polar Bear team. The wife parked the invisible jet behind the wonder wheel (where else?).

The first part of the day is the action on the Coney Island Boardwalk. The music was provided by a DJ  and the result was a party filled with electric energy of the new year. I slapped on the 35 mm f1.4 for this and opened up between f 4.0 and f1.4 depending on the “width” of the photo. The shot below needed a little more depth of field because I wanted to catch the stuffed polar bear and the lady, and shooting at 1.4 would have given me focus on just one of those elements. I stopped down to f4.0 to capture both.



A very typical character you can find on the board walk of Coney Island. I love the tattered leather and the macbook.


Elements that give a sense of place like the roller coaster are important to keep in the frame. I didn’t expect the tongue, but fired away when she stuck it out.

I love to shoot wide open and blur the background, but essential to this shoot was Coney Islands uniqueness so I was trying to get the parachute jump or the roller coasters in the background. The 35 mm f1.4 destroys backgrounds into a soft bokeh-ness so if I wanted that background to be demonstrative, I would have to really think about how far I was from the subject and carefully position myself to include those elements in the frame.


We’re going to need a bigger camera.

The action is carnival like, and people dressed up and cavorted for the many cameras. It was easy to make a portrait, all you had to do was get their attention and ask for the photo. I found you could also direct them a fair bit and roll out with some nice work. I would wait till the subjects were not being harrangqued by any other photographers so I could get their attention. You can see in their eyes if they are working with you, or the photographer next to them. The lesson here is wait your turn and make the photo yours.


The first wave of Polar Bears head to the cold surf.

The dip in the ocean occurs at 1 pm, so around 12:30 we made our way down to the beach and joined a crush of photographers. The Polar Bear Club makes a channel about 75 feet wide for the swimmers to run down the beach and hit the water. It gets filled up fast, so stake out your spot early. My plan was to shoot wide (Zeiss 12mm), and get in as close to the swimmers as possible. I set the camera for manual focus at f22 and just used zone focus to capture the run. I also put the camera into hi-speed drive mode and shot at 6 frames per second. Editing later on  you can find just the right shot and a lot of ones that clutter up your hard drive.


This is my favorite shot of the day. I love the composition, but I did have to crop heavily, there was a Nikon 70-200 2.8 with lens hood sticking into the frame from the left side.


The police boat on the horizon is an interesting element to include.


I did get tired of the police boat in the background, but the back lit splashes never gets old. One problem was the sun was just above the frame and wreaked havoc with the exposure. I was at +2 Exposure Comp to make this one.

After the swimmers took their dip they returned to the shore and an army of photographers converged on them. They showed great attitude and fortitude and posed for us. But again, you have to be proactive, smile at them and ask for the shot. Subjects looking into your lens will connect far better than subjects looking over you shoulder.


He couldn’t keep his cigar dry, but that didn’t stop him from smoking it.


This girl was skinny, so the cold was electric but look at that smile. A true NY’er and we don’t need the Giants hat to prove it.

This couple had just gotten engaged and were celebrating by taking the dip. I think everyone had a story, but with LBGT rights being the #1 story of 2013 I had a special warm place in my heart for these lovers. The woman on the right is proudly displaying her engagement ring. Let love rule!


How do you celebrate an engagement? In 32 degrees water thats how!

So what does a Coney Island Polar Bear get aside from a jolt of excitement? They get an official certificate stating, “I Did It”! Aside from crazy NY locals, this event also attracts thrill seekers from across the country.


This Polar Bear is loud and proud of her accomplishment.

This family came all the way from Sunny San Diego for the celebration and dip.

This family came all the way from Sunny San Diego for the celebration and dip. The family that freezes together stays together. They could have done this in their home town, but it wouldn’t have been the same.:-)

This work was all shot with the Fujifilm Xpro1 and my trio of favorite lenses, the Zeiss 12mm f2.8, 18mm f2.0 and 35mm f1.4. I was aperture priority and on the beach was always at +1 1/3 exposure compensation. I shot with B&W Yellow filter to bring out a little more contrast in the sky. The entire shoot was processed on my iPad using Snapseed. For those of you who find the FujiFilm Xpro exciting, please visit this blog  that collects all artistic articles about the camera. I also brought along my Fujifilm Instax Neo-Classic Instax camera. I gave away about 15 pictures throughout the day. Like I have written before, this camera just emanates good photo karma and it makes subjects happy when you  hand them an instant photo as a take-away.


I saw Xpans, Graphlex, Hassy, and even a pinhole camera to capture the day with.

I am definitely going again next year, and to make better images I want to try mounting the camera on a pole and shooting remote to get a higher angle. I’ve noticed the press guys had fishing waders on and were in the shallow water making shots. I think this is needed, as I found it very hard to make images without lenses and other non “polar bears” in the image.

and the last image... the lone photographer capturing the surf of a new year. Complete with black fedora.

…and the last image… the lone photographer capturing the surf of a new year. Complete with trench coat and black fedora.

Regards to the brave Polar Bears of Coney Island  and see you next year.


30 Minutes With The New Fujifilm 23mm f1.4

Best of the West Deli Man

Best of the West Deli Man

Since this lens was announced I have begged and cajoled my Fujifilm contact for a test ride to no avail.  Man, I have known better crack dealers that take better care of their clients! Evidently there was a glass gag order to keep the lens under wraps until they could provide the blogosphere at large with samples. Bah I say! I have had to be content with my 12mm 2.8, 18 f2.0, and the awesome 35mm 1.4.


A insiders view of Espositos on 9th ave.

A insiders view of Espositos on 9th ave.

Now if you do the focal conversion this makes my collection of lenses the trifecta of an 18mm, 28mm and 50mm. What’s missing? Well my favorite focal length is 35mm. I little bit wider than the eye perceives, yet extremely natural. While I got used to the 18mm it was always just a tad too wide for tastes. I yearned for the 23 mm focal length.

Taken through a glass window but man, look at those out of focus blurring in the background!

Taken through a glass window but man, look at those out of focus blurring details in the background!

So today I had the opportunity to grab the 23 1.4 which translates to 35mm for a fast half hour. Yup, you heard that right, it was mine! For a half hour at least.  I threw my coat on and walked up 9th Ave around the corner from B&H. You can’t keep a good man from his 23mm, no matter the time constraints. Here are my findings. Oh and one more note, I pretty much shot everything wide open at f 1.4 because that’s how I roll. I love bokeh, and this lens as you can see delivers spectacular bokeh.

1/40 second at 1.4 ISO 320. Now thats low light love.

1/40 second at 1.4 ISO 320. Now thats low light love.

It’s a bit of large lens, but then again, it’s a 1.4 so who can complain. It has a depth of field scale. Lots of you young’ probably don’t know what that is in the age of digital zoomy slacker glass. It’s a scale that tells you what will be in focus based upon the f-stop. A analog scale. Sweet.

Snap! Sharp and zippy this lens simply rocks!

Snap! Sharp and zippy this lens simply rocks!

Very nice to shoot manual focus, you pull the lens back to you and then you access to that DOF scale and it has a good feel, a little loosey goosey, but still better than other AF lenses. I confess, I shot in AF during my short test. I don’t have any problems with the XPro1’s focus.

The legendary Hershel of B&H. Ever wonder who edits the comments on our You Tube videos, well wonder no more. A gentleman among gentleman. Notice the lights in the background, yum.

The legendary Hershel of B&H. Ever wonder who edits the comments on our You Tube videos, well wonder no more. A gentleman among gentleman. Notice the lights in the background, yum.

I’m like Goldilocks, 18 mm to wide, 50 mm to tight, but 35 mm… just right.

Very narrow depth of field, notice his arm out of focus? This lens might just need to be shot at f4.0 or 5.6 if you need a little front and back details to be in the shot.

Very narrow depth of field, notice his arm out of focus? This lens might just need to be shot at f4.0 or 5.6 if you need a little front and back details to be in the shot.

I’m sorry if I didn’t have the time to really put the lens through a more thorough test in different light with more varrying apertures. Truth is, I was just happy to get the short time I had with it. Am I getting one? Yea. Not tomorrow though. I will have to get used to the size, I like to keep it on the smaller tighter side, but dang, I do love me the 35mm effective focal length. I think that this lens will be the lens that sits on the camera 96% of the time once I own it.

Hope you enjoyed this post as much as I did shooting it.



9 Essential Accessories For the Fujifilm X System or Window Washing the Xpro

Window Washing

Attention Suspect Photography Fans- Finding Photographic Style and Composition in NYC 4 Day Intensive Workshop April 17th to April 20th 2014. Early Registration Discount By March 1st.

The Fujifilm Xpro 1 is a superb camera and many photographers are singing its praise while making great images from this unique and high quality digital rangefinder. There are a few pieces of gear that can really enhance the Xpro1 and this post is dedicated them. After using the camera for a year and a half and having a load of friends also indulge in the Xpro1 I built this list with authority. Some of it can apply to the XE1 and XE2 and some can’t, I’ll let you know so all Fujifilm X system shooters can benefit from these suggestions. So here we go, the 9 essentials.

#1 The Domke 1” Gripper Strap with QR. The strap that Fujifilm supplies is worthless. While looking nice and being leather it is too thin and slips off your shoulder every 3 steps you take. The Gripper is thus named because it has two rows of rubber woven into the strap and the rubber keeps the strap from falling off your shoulder.  The Gripper Strap has quick releases so it’s easy to remove for tripod shooting. The finish of the strap is also attractive and stealthy; it looks good and doesn’t get in the way. It comes with leather protectors so it doesn’t scratch the side of the camera and also features a nice leather accent. Anything that is this functional and under $20 bux is a winner. Works with Xpro, XE1 & XE2.

#2 The  Hand Grip HG-Xpro1 This is sort of a no-brainer. It gives you a better grip and brings the tripod socket to the middle of the camera, not off to the side. Yes, it’s a bit annoying to take on and off when you want to access the battery or memory card, but its easy to remove and put back on. I keep it on about 80% of the time for standard walk about shooting and when I want to go low profile (shooting discreet at performances) I simply take it off. It has a nice thick rubberness to it, and when using large lenses such as the Zeiss 12mm, Fujifilm 14 or any of the zooms it simply shines. I like the feel of the camera without it, but really like the feel with it. It also has a rubber bottom so it can’t scratch surfaces when you put the camera down and keeps it from slipping off slick surfaces. Coming in at $79 it wont break the bank either. The link I provided will show you both grips.

#3 Blue LocTite for the Eyepiece. A very small drop of blue Loctight is great to keep the stock eyepiece from falling off. I have replaced mine once already and it’s costly! Don’t use the red Loctight, that’s permanent! The blue is made to resist unscrewing but is not permanent for servicing. Make sure you shake the tube well before application and once again, just a small drop or two. You can find this at your local hardware store. Only Xpro1 users need this, the viewfinder in the XE is cheesy.

#4 Gaffers Tape the hood cap that Fujifilm provides. I lost my hood cap in about.. 12 seconds. Take gaffers tape and line the inside of the hood with about 2 layers of the tape, it just makes the lens cap fit more snug. Besides, you should always have a roll of gaff tape handy for just about anything. Use it to gaff tape the Fujifilm logo when shooting in sketchy locations (an old photojournalist trick).

#5 LCD Screen Protector: Your XPro1 is a constant companion, its right place is around your shoulder going where ever you do. It’s bound to get beat up, and that’s ok, because it’s a tough camera. But man, that LCD cover is soft! Look at it the wrong way and it gets scratched. Get on this one right away and put a cover on it! I know, you’re discerning, so try this Aegis Professional Multi-Coat Glass cover, it’s made from Schott glass and is only $30 bucks! It is easy to install and its tougher than the stock glass on the Xpro1 LCD.

#6 Soft Release Button: Since the Xpro1 has a standard cable release, they can accept a broad range of soft release buttons. Essentially a more ergonomic button that screws into your shutter release they feel nice, and make the camera more sensitive to activate auto focus and

#7 Camera Bags: There are only two to consider. Going stealth and relatively inexpensive the Domke F5XB is your huckleberry. It was designed primarily as a rangefinder bag and can hold the camera with a lens mounted on it and two more lenses. It’s canvas and discreet, you can wear it over shoulder or on the hip with it’s integrated belt loop. I like the black, but you can get it in olive or tan. If you never had a Domke bag you’re in for a treat, they age very well and at $70 dollars, wont break the bank so you can buy more lenses as they are released.


Now if you have some $$$ to spare and are looking for something very special, look no further than the Billingham Hadley Small Shoulder bag. It’s like the Louis Vuitton of camera bags, made with a luxury canvas and gorgeous leather trim this is a camera bag that you can take to museum openings, the opera, or to Pakistan. Easily handles a body with lens and two extra lenses like the Domke, but also has two deep large pockets at the front for important extra stuff such as batteries and a hood loupe. Hiding behind the camera insert is an area that you can fit a iPad tightly or a iPad Mini easily. I personally have owned one for over a decade and while the insert’s Velcro has worn out, I replaced it and gave it new life. I don’t want to sound vain, but the Billingham Hadley really is a classy camera bag and you can be proud to tote it around. Coming in at $240 dollars it’s not cheap, but my daddy says, “good things are not cheap and cheap things are not good”. Hey you only live one. Works with Xpro, XE1 & XE2.

#8 Cable release: It’s not a big deal until you go to need one. Shooting fireworks, long shutter speeds in front of waterfalls, or macro work the cable release is part and parcel to the whole reason to mount the camera on a tripod. Sure you could set the timer to 2 seconds, but nothing connects to you to your camera more than a cloth sheathed 12” of wire. The Nikon AR-3 is a high quality shutter release that has been around for ever, it’s locking so you can keep the shutter open for hours if need be. It’s a simple design, that wont break the bank and once again, it’s proven quality. Works with Xpro, XE1 & XE2.

#9 Extra Battery: Get one. You’re going to need it. The Xpro1 is only good for about 225 to 300 shots before it dies. When it goes, it goes fast. It may read two bars, but that really means you have about 20 shots left. I don’t complain, I just keep an extra battery in my bag. So get one, keep it charged and keep it in your bag. This battery works with Xpro, XE1 & XE2.

I hope this helps. Feel free to share you own suggestions.


Fujifilm X Pro 1 Predictions – No more pro Mirrorless Cameras?

Lady Liberty

It’s Fujifilm X series prediction time. I have my photo tarot cards out and here is what they say. One word first, yes I have industry connections and I respect any NDA and or personal confidential info that comes my way. However this info is just my personal prediction and is not based on any confidential intell I’m privy to. I came down to these conclusions with Moose Peterson and Gabe Biderman in conversations this week.

With Photo Plus East just around the corner, we’re going to see lots of announcements in the upcoming days of October. I’m only interested in what Fujifilm has up thier sleeves, since I believe they are the currently the most interesting and principal driver of new and cool photo gear. Yup, I just said that. Sorry Big C (the good kind) and the camera company who used to “take the worlds greatest pictures”. It’s all about the Fujifilm X system. Here we go…

We won’t see a XPro 2. I don’t think ever. But we will see a XE2. I think that the hybrid finder on the Xpro1 is going to be the last Mirrorless camera made that has it. It’s what set the Xpro1 apart from pretty much the whole rest of the Mirrorless world but it’s going to be a feature of photo goodness past.  Here is a question to all the current users, do you still use the OVF as much as the days when you first had the Xpro? Or do you find yourself using the EVF more? Lets face it, the EVF is not accurate, I’d say it has about a 10% minus factor on what you see as to what you get. Also, two words, Focus Peaking. Yea, I’m using the OVF less these days. And it hurt to just say that. Seems like analog is just slipping further and further away from me. Next I’ll just be like Neo in the Matrix.

The future is fuzzy… and this is just what I feel in my bones and read in the cards so take it with a grain of salt and look forward to more weather proofing and enhanced EVF functions (manual exposure wysiwig and clearer view).

The Above photography is Lady Liberty shot on the Moose Cruise II with Fujifilm Xpro1 w/ 35 1.4 @ 1/64 F 2.0 ISO 200 and processed in Camera Raw (pretty heavily I may add).


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.



The Old Tuscan Farmer and Every Picture Matters Lesson

The Old Tuscan Farmer in the Cortona market

The Old Tuscan Farmer in the Cortona market

On Saturday mornings in Cortona the market comes to the squares. It’s where we buy our produce, and Barbara’s family has been shopping there for seemingly forever. We have a favorite farmer, and when I met him, he was old. Italian countryside old, which means he looks older than he is due to that famous Tuscan sun. Plus farmers always age harder than regular folk do. His stall was attended by his extremely nice wife (equally as old, but very sturdy), and who I think is his daughter in law, along with his son and a few others who might be family but might be farm hands helping to bring the crop to the market. For as long as I have been coming to Cortona, this has been the same. They are very nice, and the old farmer is jolly and congenial, he always has a firm handshake and a grand smile. For the life of me, I have a problem understanding older Italians and we would go back and forth talking and I never really knew what he was saying or if he understood me, but I grew to like him immensely, he became part of what I love about Cortona.

Two years ago he stopped working the main part of the stall, and broke off to the side setting up next to a wall, sitting mostly, and selling herbs in little pots. No more the heavy melons and sacks of tomatoes, this aspect of the business was now delegated to his wife and the kids. His hands would be always wrapped around a cane, and it was understood he was letting the next generation take over and he would just be in charge of a much smaller crop. When asked how he was feeling, he shook his head and said he was fine, but age was taking its toll on the old farmer, and his pride wouldn’t let him stay home, complain, nor stop what he had been doing his whole life. When I was working on my Instant Italy project (shooting Fujifilm Instax photos exclusively) I took a fine photograph of the old farmer and tried to give it to him but he didn’t comprehend an instant photo so I slipped it in his top pocket as the image was developing. I shot a second photograph of him, the one I would keep, but didn’t come out well. Pointing a camera at the old farmer produced a random result because he didn’t keep still and was always in conversation with who ever would be near him. The next year, I came with the Fuji X-Pro 1 and had decided that I would shoot the people I knew, but I would do it unobtrusively and I would focus on thier hands frequently.

I was eager to be shooting him, and as Barbara and mom selected produce I chatted him up and photographed his hands wrapped around his now ever present cane. I made one exposure, that’s all. I didn’t want to be intrusive as he was now engrossed in another conversation. We saw him a few more times that year on following Saturdays but I had my image.

This year we trotted through the market to buy our produce. I looked forward greatly to seeing the old farmer and being in the presence of his smile and hearing his undecipherable Italian. When we turned the corner the herbs where there, in little black plastic pots but he was nowhere to be seen. His wife upon seeing Barbara and mom greeted us, and mom and Barbara had an exchange with her. They asked where he was and I was hoping for another story of what I had already gotten and inkling about. The farmer’s wife looked down, and said something I of course couldn’t follow. Barbara turned slowly to me and lamented, “he’s gone” with a long face confirming what I had already suspected. He had passed 4 months ago, and further details were absent. I hoped it was an easy passing, and I walked away sadly, feeling empty, like a little part of my summer was forever gone, and then I thought about the photo of his hands. Holding on to his cane, and perhaps a grip onto this world for his last year here. The old farmer will live on in my memories and in that photograph, as well as the Fujifilm Instax photo. I don’t have the latter, but I hope his family found it in his belongings and it’s sitting on a hearth in the farmhouse.

Photography is powerful, it can make a man immortal or conjure the emotions of a past moment. As I lamented the passing of my nameless old farmer I knew I would treasure that image for all time. When I made the image I was thinking of how I could elaborate on my style and work that I shoot in Tuscany. When I edited the image I was unimpressed and not too excited about the photograph I had made. Now, with his passing the condition has changed dramatically, the importance of the image magnified.

Never ever take an exposure for granted. What is drab can become brilliant, what is mundane exceptional. Photographs like wine can into something far more important and relevant than what you thought during the 1/60th of a second it took to expose.

Every picture matters.

Image made with Fujifilm XPro1 and 35mm 1.4  shot in film sim B&W Mode 1:1 format. Processed in Snapseed.

The Exhibition at the old Hospital and the Zeiss Touit 12mm for X-Pro1

View of Val di Chiana from the Old Hospital

View of Val di Chiana from the Old Hospital

I’ll be honest, I’m not that much of a super wide guy. My preferred focal length is just a little wider than normal view. The 28mm to 35mm is pretty perfect for me. Back in May, I got two lenses from Zeiss to try out, the 35 1.8 and 12mm 2.8 Touit lenses. I walked with the 35 1.8 around NYC for a few weeks testing the lens before I passed it on to Gabe from Ruinism and wrote about it on my “Part 1” of the Zeiss Touit tests which can be found here in this earlier blog. I then began to shoot with the 12mm and actually had trouble making images I was excited about. It wasn’t that the gorgeous lens was anything less than a great optic, it was I who had issue with the lens. For those who follow my blog, its not just words, the images have to back up what I’m saying. The environments that I was testing the lens in were just not coexisting and the lens wasn’t working for me. Well, all that changed yesterday when I took the 12mm and mounted it on my trusty Fujifilm X-Pro1 with the aim of checking out some exhibitions at the Cortona On the Move Photo Festival in Italy. All of the images are shot using the 12mm 2.8 at ISO Auto 1600, color shots are Velvia Film Sim Mode unless I chose the B&W Y mode (I used film sim bracketing so I was able to capture it all).

Study in the geometry of Composition in Tuscany

Study of the geometry of Composition in Tuscany

This photo festival is really unlike any other that ever existed before. Taking place is Cortona Italy, a hilltop medieval city made famous lately by the Frances Mayes book, “Under the Tuscan Sun” (Mayes tells the tale of being an expat American and finding herself while rebuilding a Tuscan villa) the festival consists of a series of exhibitions that are found in odd locations throughout the city. By using spaces that are currently unused or abandonded, the festival curates photography with a theme of movement, travel and exploration. It’s a super cool way to explore the old city and see some photography and also, gain entry to spaces that would otherwise not be available.

The festival for the second time was able to procure the old hospital and transform it to a gallery featuring edgy and stimulating photographers as well as a retrospective look at the now defunct Newsweek magazine. For me, hospitals are associated with death, and I found it fitting that Newsweek (which ended publication in December of 2012) a perfect fit to showcase multiple news themes that it was known for, along with some of the brightest documentary shooters. Indeed, the exhibition is aptly titled, “An Autopsy”. RIP Newsweek.

Crowd sourced installation where readers of La Republica were asked to submit photos taken prior to 1999

Crowd sourced installation where readers of La Republica were asked to submit photos taken prior to 1999

I have a new hero, Zed Nelson, who over 5 years shot in 18 countries across 5 continents the diaspora of western concepts of beauty being exported as a new manifestation of aesthetic globalization. His work is akin to Lauren Greenfield and Erwin Olaf but has a technical savvy and execution I was moved by. The room that Zed is displayed in has wide-open windows that over look the city and the valley below. Visitors are torn between looking at glass jar containing fat taken during a liposuction procedure and a view to die for. The dichotomy is exquisite.

Sol Neelman is a North West photographer who couldn’t cut it as a jock, and became a photographer. His are larger than life shots of extreme and weird sports. The subject matter is instantly interesting and his timing for the camera frame impeccable. I look forward to purchasing his book of the complete project, the exhibition left me wanting more.

Salvatore Santoro documentary of his childhood home and despotic local of Campania was what I felt the weakest of the exhibitions, yet still the spirit of the festival pervades the curation of work. While Salvatore’s work is solid, the subject matter is sad and the locations simply run down from the effects of mafia and pollution. I preferred to look at weird sports and go back in history with the covers of Newsweek.

The 12mm super wide lets you explore space unlike a normal view.

The 12mm super wide lets you explore space unlike a normal view.

The crazy Italian photographer I met at Photo Show Milan, Antonio Manta led a workshop at the opening of the festival. This wild spirit and master printer always works with a quirky twist on his portraiture and his workshop embodided that spirt. He set up a red carpet with an inspired throne in front of the signature building in Cortona, the Palazo del Comune and had his class photograph tourists and while choosing the theatre location for the Cortonesi (locals) to be photographed. A selection from his class is on exhibit and shows the organic nature of the festival, work from students attending on display.


I loved how with the use of Newsweek large proofs the festival was able to make a political commentary on thier home country and the world at large. Seeing a Tim Hetherington print as well reminded me what a genius we lost in Libya and I lament that we can’t have Tim’s eye look at current events any longer.


Walking the corridors of old hospital and looking at great examples of photography is inspiring, but doing so with the super wide 12mm Zeiss Touit was the icing on the cake. I wanted to take it all in, not just a slice. What better way to examine it all than with a larger than life lens? After all the trying with the lens, I found its home in my bag, as I travel. All the shots in the blog entry are shot with the 12mm, I’ll let the images do the talking.


The super wide is great at taking it all in, and perhaps if Cortona On The Move festival is about travel going places, then its official lens should be the Touit 12mm.

B&W  w/ Yellow Filter Film Sim mode

B&W w/ Yellow Filter Film Sim mode

David Brommer on August 22nd and 23rd will be conducting a Composition seminar in Cortona that is part classroom, part portfolio review, and part photo walk. A trip to the old hospital will be in order!

Steps leading to multiple levels of the exhibition

Steps leading to multiple levels of the exhibition

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