Suspect Photography

words and images from david george brommer

Tag: milan

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.

Icons

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.

~David

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Finding Photographic Style In Italy

Vespa rider in Milan

Achieving photographic style and understanding the traits that make imagery posses its own distinguishable idiom that resonates with the photographers voice is a daunting and difficult artistic undertaking. As each devotee explores photography and builds their visual vocabulary inevitably certain photographers will rise to the top. Highly crafted and odd works by Joel Peter Witkin, Perfect landscapes of Ansel Adams, snippets of time expertly caught by Bresson, they all share their own unique photographic style that differentiates and identifies the photographer to the photograph. There are many more of course, but those three come to mind as evoking strong, and yet vastly different styles. I’ll invite you later to watch a two hour lecture where I delve deeply into the anatomy of photographic style but this moment I want  to show off an exercise if you will, a self assignment that I give myself every summer for the past decade.

Palazzo Vecchio

Palazzo bucolic, Florence

Every year my wife Barbara and I spend our vacation in Tuscany. We have this wonderful home that was Barbara’s grandmothers and has been in her family ever since. The back room is used as a dark room, and there is even a “camera ready room” for coating cyanotypes, loading film holders, and organizing gear for shoots. This photo “mini” project starts in Milan, and then migrates to a small village below Cortona. For a decade now I have spent weeks of my summer in this bucolic medieval countryside and the narrow streets of hill top towns.  I have shot sun flowers (warning: an August trip is a bit late for sun flowers, if you are into shooting them, then I suggest a early July visit), cipressi trees, castles, farm houses, and graveyards. In many ways it’s a photographic paradise and the hordes of tourists with all manner of cameras will surely stop and shoot these unique characteristics.

Florence Duomo

Florence Duomo or The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore aka Florence Duomo

I am interested in having my vision standing out from the crowd. I seek to create images that capture the subject, yet show it in a way that is uncommon and unique. I have to look deeply into my photographic skill set, decimate the technique, subject matter, capture, post process and imagine a way to complete the project with a single voice. It’s hard work and for me, I had to really delve deeply and think about it.

vicolo in Cortona

VIcolo in Cortona

In the past, I have worked on projects such as “Italy Looking Up” where I only shot aiming the camera upwards. No straight on shooting what so ever. I have shot “Adams” style large formate with my Deardorff 8×10, Lensbaby and 35 mm film, Toy Camera with a Black Bird Fly, Nikon Rangefinder with Ilford XP2, and Hasselblad 2 1/4 color print. The project “Instant Italy” was captured using Fujifilm Instax cameras exclusively. By creating sever restrictions on gear you can emerge with a unique style, simply because your confined to something that allows less visual options.

Cortona

Cortona

This year I resolved to shoot with my new and trusty Fujifilm X Pro 1. I would get a chance to explore the nuances of the 35 mm 1.4 and of course, old faithful, the 18 mm 2.0. On the road to photographic style, shooting with primes or limited focal lengths add a common visual denominator, that of the angel of view. No sloppy zooming back and forth here… its either wide or normal view. If I can’t get close to a detail, then its going to be small in the frame.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan

I also decided to make a dramatic choice that would really effect the way I composed my images, I set the camera aspect ratio to 1:1. I’d be working in square format, like my beloved red Hassy. I would also assign a B &W or monochrome film simulation mode. This also means I would be capturing less information on each picture I took. The files went from being 45.7 megabytes to 15.2 megabytes under these setting parameters. I know, I could shoot Raw and have both the big fat files and also the smaller “assignment style” files, but I like to live on the photographic edge.

Either I make this work or I have nothing. I love drama, so the B&W film mode I used most often was the B&W Red filter.

Snack cart, Milan

Snack cart, Milan

It’s not easy to shoot this way, by not falling back on Raw + Jpeg capture you are showing a level of conviction on shooting using a specific technique. Square and B&W however is an interesting choice, because a perfect square is geometrically pleasing and lets face it, B&W is cool like the Fonzie.

Rock and Roll

Rock and Roll

Time was limited, and I had other projects also on the burner. I thought about how the technique could apply to more specific subject matter, like hands, or people. In Camucia, on Thursday mornings the market attracts lots of genuine local flavor. In particular is a vendor who I call Senor Porchetta. His porchetta wagon always has a long line of bustling Tuscans getting their porchetta fill. He is jovial, equally good with pig or knife and knows his fegatini like Silvio Berlusconi knows a 17 year old.

Senor Porchetta

Senor Porchetta

Hands in the Cortona Market

Hands in the Cortona Market

I can’t recall the name of the photographer who said, “if you’re not sure, get closer”, but they were was certainly on to something. Engage your macro, and come in close. I love the macro on the 18 f2.0 is 7.09″ (18 cm) as compared to the 35 f1.4 which is 11.02″ (28 cm), the 18 lets you get in a little closer, but beware, the lens takes in a lot of the scene.

Detail of locks on the Ponte Vechio, Florence. Shot with 18mm f2.0.

Moms sewing kit in the Casa Tuscana.

Mom’s sewing kit in the Casa Tuscana, 18mm f2.0

Fujifilm also has a macro 60mm 2.4. I’ve yet to test this one, but as I continue to work with the 35 1.4 I’m sure to add it to the arsenal later in the year.

35mm 1.4 with a 200% crop

If you have read this far and are liking these images and wish to develop your style or just hear more ranting from me on style, here is a link to the 2 hour program on Youtube, “Finding Photographic Style” recorded in the B&H Event Space this year.

Cortona Cops

Cortona Cops

I also brought my Speed Graphic 4×5 on this trip loaded with Fujifilm Acros to do some cyanotype work. But thats a post for another day.

Ciao!

~David George Brommer

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