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Photojournalism: ‘Sincere Art’ and Roiling Egypt

August 16th, 2013 No Comments

Destination Egypt

These days, Egypt is the place to be for any aspiring photojournalist, Urban Photographer, or Combat-Zone aspirant.  American Photo has published a gallery of images of civil disturbances in Cairo and other Egyptian cities.

Right from the word ‘go’ it is clear that a great photojournalistic image must also needs be a great photo.  Luck or skill, the very first photo is well composed, catches the right moment, and tells a story.  The photographer is safe and sound in a tall building yet that angle of elevation lends a detached, in a sense impartial, perspective.

Let alone capturing the right moment, here’s a photo that captures the moment . . . the moment a vehicle is falling off a bridge.

Here’s a particularly alarming photo as it seems that the men are throwing stones at you, the viewer.

The gallery is actually a comparative photo-story, giving a ‘Then-and-Now’ account of Egypt’s experiment with Parliamentary Democracy and elections.  As such, you can view some fine photojournalistic images from two years ago, such as this one of revolutionary fervour.

Credit: Checco

Talk about photojournalism, that’s one of Luciano Checco’s specialities as we see on the Leica Blog.  Given what Checco says about his photographic background and how his first exhibition came about, it’s evident that he is both humble and a natural talent.

And we do mean ‘talent’: having the ‘eye’ and the talent to take so extremely tight a close-up of a homeless mother and boy was a stroke of genius.  Composing it the way it’s composed was another stroke of genius as the viewer can’t help but ping-pong between the two corners with the faces.  It is quite an incredible photo, for it conveys tension though the subjects are asleep.

Here’s more talent: this mysterious photo – ‘shades’ of IR film – is confusing and atmospheric.  It’s unclear how it was shot but it’s pretty clear that Alfred Hitchcock would have loved it on his storyboard.  As would any director planning a The Third Man remake.

Checco is not only a natural talent, the man is something of a photography philosopher.  Consider his pithy rationale for preferring black-and-white, one of the most convincing you’ll find: “I believe that black-and-white photos are abstracts of reality that transport the focus of the viewer toward the essential elements of the subject and the overall graphic composition of the image itself. To me colors are distracting and clearly define the age of the photo whereas black-and-white photos are timeless.”

You will also find considerable technical opinions and expertise disclosed in the interview.

Artistry, however, needs no words.  This simple-seeming photograph was not so simple to conceive as it may seem; a less talented photographer may not have posed his subject as well nor taken the shot from the same angle.  What in other hands may have been soft porn is rendered here as ‘sincere art.’

A Real-Life ‘Q’ and Karl Lagerfeld’s Publisher

August 14th, 2013 No Comments
English: Logo of Steidl Verlag Deutsch: Logo d...

English: Logo of Steidl Verlag Deutsch: Logo des Steidl Verlags (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The ‘Couture’ Photo Book Maker

PDNOnline has just published an article that is as lengthy and detailed as it is interesting and informative; it is an inside look into the world of ‘couture’ photo book publishing.

Why Gerhard Steidl Is a Book Publishing Master by David Walker is about a man dedicated to the art and craft – to the point of being “obsessed” – of designing and publishing photo books that would usually not be published by traditional / major publishers.

Steidl goes so far as to co-design and do proofing with the photographer being a junior partner and with a stake in the process.

These sessions can get a little fraught and emotional; you’ll read about a female photographer who got tetchy one day and slapped Steidl, and found herself thrown out of his shop.  (The article also mentions that the two “made up” after Steidl demonstrated his technical wizardry to her the following day.)

You’ll get to know that Steidl is no ordinary private photo book publisher in any sense of the word: to begin with, his creations are anything but ordinary on top of which he is the commercial printer for Chanel and is the publisher for (besides high-profile photographers) Gunter Grass and Karl Lagerfeld.

A Real-Life ‘Q’

You’ve seen strobe-frozen photos of exploding fruit and droplets in midair countless times.  Head over to PetaPixel to learn about the history and science behind this now-well-known photographic technique.

In an appealing article subtitled Paying a visit to Doc Edgerton’s high speed photography lab, Randall Armor talks about the man who “made flashing light cheap and portable, and found endless applications for it,” Harold E. ‘Doc’ Edgerton.

Edgerton, who passed away in 1990, was an inventor and also a professor at MIT where he worked in a lab, now known as ‘Edgerton Center,’ that is filled with the kind of gadgetry that would probably be of great professional interest to ‘Q’ of Ian Fleming’s James Bond series.

The Edgerton Center is where high velocities, high-powered rifles, and high-speed strobes come together to make for high-tech photography.  This isn’t only about today or yesterday; Edgerton’s high-tech genius goes as far back as the 1950s when he had photographed pioneering high-speed images of nuclear bomb tests.

Read the article to find out what happens (or doesn’t happen) when a bullet goes through a cream doughnut and see an incredible image of a bullet tearing edgewise through a business card.


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The Guardian Presents the Flapper

April 30th, 2013 No Comments

Yesterday The Guardian published an article surrounding one of the most photogenic of all ages: The Roaring Twenties.  Furthermore, this article is expressly about the most photogenic of subjects of an already photogenic age: The Flapper.

In When Flappers Ruled the Earth Judith Mackrell focusses on the Flapperette Revolution as contributing to what eventually became the Women’s Lib movement.  This blog does not concern itself with deep political and sociological issues but with photography and, fortunately, The Guardian has published a mini-gallery to go with its feature article.

(The title of The Guardian’s article is reminiscent of John Danforth’s stop-motion marvel When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth; a film whose miniature-based stop-motion special effects shows up and trumps the computer-generated animation studios are churning out these days, if anyone’s been noticing.  Willis O’Brien, anyone?)

The aptly-named mini-gallery Josephine Baker and the Wild Women of 1920s Dance is not a collection of delightful photographs but a collection of photographs of delightful subjects.  Take the gallery’s photo of the Toast of 1920s Paris, Josephine Baker.  Even today it comes across as sensual and seductive though not remotely lewd.  One can only wonder at the sensation photos like it must have caused in those days, especially in then-prudish swathes of Baker’s home country of America. 

Baker’s costumes and photographic props encouraged a view of black women as, what were then called, ‘Jungle Fantasies’ (indeed, there’s a Duke Ellington composition titled Jungle Fantasy from that same age).  The Guardian’s caption for this photo says “Gaga Who?” probably recognizing the fact that Lady Gaga has drawn at least some of her inspiration from Josephine Baker and the 1920s’ relatively uninhibited flappers.

Baker was, of course, a dancer and performer and not a ‘Society Flapper’, the epitome of which was probably Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald who wrote the defining novel of the 1920s, The Great Gatsby.  Unlike their image of another famous flapper of that era of “wild women,” the Guardian’s photograph of Fitzgerald is an all-too tame portraitHere’s a photograph that better reflects the energy and interests of Mrs. Fitzgerald as well as projecting the flapper ethos of her time.

This mini-gallery is only an appetizer; a search for ‘1920s flapper’ yields countless wonderful images.  With subjects, costumes, and poses like these, the photographers sure had it easy!

The Rock, the Pyramid, and the Survivor

March 27th, 2013 No Comments
An Alcatraz Island Prison prisoner tag

An Alcatraz Island Prison prisoner tag (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The epithet ‘The Rock’ identifies, variously, Rocky Marciano, the promontory of Gibraltar, and Alcatraz Island, and it’s the last definition that’s relevant today: for infamous Alcatraz Prison is the lead story in our weekly three-pack of interesting or eye-popping Photography News.

The Rock

Also the title of a Nicolas Cage – Sean Connery thriller, maximum-security Alcatraz Prison has been boarded up for five decades.  Now a national park with a crumbling penitentiary at its centre, this symbol of American Justice recently made the news because its “final days” were “revealed in new photographs released for 50th anniversary of prison closing its doors for good.”  

Daily Mail’s detailed news story has photographs of the historic photographs as an exhibit on Alcatraz’s walls.  For the actual historic photographs, visit this San Francisco Chronicle page where you can see Alcatraz Island, a latter-day chain gang and mugshots of inmate #85 – Al Capone.

The Pyramid

These Russian risk-takers are evidently not scared of heights: two days back Daily Mail reported that they scaled the Great Pyramid of Giza to its very summit so as to take in ‘the view’ – and what a view it is.

It was – as one might guess – an illicit caper as indicated by a grainy nighttime shot of their getaway.

This story is not about High Art Photography, rather the subject-matter is squarely in the field of Adventure Photography.  However, the illegality of the ‘photo shoot’ seems to have put many people off.  Perhaps this story is grist for the mill for our ‘Controversy of the Week’ post over on BPro’s blog.  Either way, some of the vertiginous photos are breathtaking.

The Survivor

If there was a Survivor-style ‘reality show’ for cameras, Lindsay Scallan’s Canon snapshot camera would win it hands down.  Twenty-four hours ago DPReview posted a story on how Scallan lost her camera while scuba diving.  The kicker is that she lost it off Hawaii in 2007 and the camera was recovered off Taiwan in 2013!

The Good Samaritan who found the camera bobbing on the waves by the Taiwanese coastline took the time and trouble to check the memory card and then track down Scallan using, among other sources, Hawaii’s tourism bureau.

The camera spent six years in the briny yet kept an undamaged memory card!  This makes the episode an adverstising dream for Canon because the camera was “encased in a Canon WP-DC60 all-weather housing;” see it here.

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Rated ‘Triple S’: A Stroll on the Strange Side

March 12th, 2013 No Comments
Lara Zankoul & Naeema Zarif

Lara Zankoul & Naeema Zarif (Photo credit: CC Beirut)

We get the week underway with our weekly Stroll on the Strange Side with this ‘Triple S’ post, beginning with the . . .


Yesterday, ‘confirmation’ of ghostly activity was reported in a tavern in New Jersey.  The connection to this blog is that you can view it!  Click the link to read about and see an ‘orb’ bounce around and run down a hallway.  Make that two – you can see two different videos of orbs on the move.

The writer of the article, Kelly Roncace, is a professional ghostbuster of sorts (“paranormal investigator,” to be politically correct) and she says: “a certain traveling, flashing ball of light that was captured may be the real thing. . . definitely an energy orb.”

We’ll take that with a pinch of something else beginning with ‘S’ . . .


Lara Zankoul ain’t no ghostbuster; however, she must be a devotee of Dali and Magritte, for she’s that rarity among photographers: a Surrealist.

Lebanese newspaper Al-Shorfa ran an interview with the winsome Miss Zankoul but, unfortunately, they do not do her talents justice: only one photograph adorns the interview.

Not a problem: Zankoul has a portfolio online and it’s a Surrealist sensation.

She has a whole section on ‘Tea cups’, a bigger and better one called ‘Expressions’, and a few images of levitating persons and one of a very unfortunate girl who woke up in the wrong place.

Amazingly, Zankoul does all this as a hobby – and, man, that’s just surreal!


Transitioning from colourbursts to shades of grey – make that shades of black, shadow black:–

Photographer Romain Laurent says that his “series is about the ‘surreal impression’ he felt while walking around on pitch black streets for hours over several nights,” in A Study of Shadows in Manhattan During the Blackout

This third element of our weekly ‘triptych’ of a kind unites the first two elements: not only are Laurent’s photographs about ‘surreal impression’, they are downright spooky, showing the ghostly side of what appears to be a modern-day ghost town.

A couple of the photographs here, such as this one, are genuinely top-class, evocative, well-balanced images in their own right and that should not be overlooked as a consequence of their novelty appeal or because they are part of a themed set.

Enjoy our ‘Triple S’ Post!


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Prudery, thy name is FaceBook: The Funny and the Funky

March 6th, 2013 No Comments
Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

Prudery, thy name is FaceBook.  That is how we, with a chuckle and a chortle, begin our weekly installment of what’s funny and funky in the world of photography, leading off with a one-hour-old post and closing with one that’s three years old.

The Banning of Beauty and . . .

About an hour back Gizmodo reported that FaceBook’s censor board had swung into action and blackened out, ah, some female body parts on showy display on many stretches of Biondi Beach.

Brian Barrett’s “gentle reminder to creative types the world around” is worth quoting: “if you try to put breasts on Facebook—even highly artistic breasts—Facebook will Shut. You. Down.”

The victim was France’s Jeu de Paume museum which got its FaceBook page permanently blocked for a day.

Coming soon: FaceBook’s rating system, from ‘G’ to ‘XXX’, devised in conjunction with America’s Hayes Board and longbearded ecclesiastics from the benighted corners of the world . . . 

—the Beast in All His Glory

One would think that a gallery of pin-sharp up-close photographs of elephant seals in all their ugly glory could only be photographed by a big-name wildlife photographer and published in a deluxe book by the likes of Abrams.

What a surprise, then, to encounter said photographs, including an art photo beaut – make that two beauts – in that plaebian’s paper, the Daily Mail, and shot by a chappie named Justin Hofman.

Here’s one of a face-off, and what’s this – a beached whale?  This is a gallery of excellent wildlife photographs of which quite a few are rather amusing!  Worth a view.

Camera-Maker Arithmetic 13 = 4

To round out today’s offbeat post, here’s an equation for you, one that you shouldn’t show to your arithmetic teacher: 13 = 4.

Let’s qualify that: Western 13 = Asian 4.  You can crack this cryptic code by navigating to a three-year PetaPixel post that’s a funky find.  

Suffice it to say that just like many hotel lifts and elevators lack a ‘Floor 13’ button in Western countries, they lack a ‘Floor 4’ button in some Asian countries.  However, with ‘4’, unlike ’13’, coming so early in the number series, it can be the model or edition of many product series, including cameras – or maybe not!  Read  How Number Superstitious Affect Camera Model Numberings to find out how and why . . . .


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A Walk with Polly Borland, the A-Bomb, and Vampires!

February 19th, 2013 No Comments
The "Baker" explosion, part of Opera...

The “Baker” explosion, part of Operation Crossroads, a nuclear weapon test by the United States military at Bikini Atoll, Micronesia, on july 25th 1946. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our once-a-week walk on the quirky and unusual Byways of Photography takes us today to the South Pacific, Vampire Country, and the Land of Oz.

The South Pacific

We often hear the term ‘Mushroom Cloud’; it is improperly applied to most any detonation.  In Photos from the World’s First Underwater Nuclear Explosion, PetaPixel has published a staggering image of a true blue Mushroom Cloud.  Make that several staggering images.

America’s Bikini Atoll tests of nuclear weapons are quite (in)famous and these photos are of an underwater nuclear explosion from those tests.  PetaPixel writes “Due to the unique properties of underwater explosions, the Baker test produced a number of unique photographs that the world had never seen before.”

They forgot to write, “or since!” 

Look at the enlargement to see a ship being blasted into the air, scroll down and take a gander at the initial fireball, and check out the image of seamen looking at the explosion from a distance in what looks like a still from a war movie.

Vampire Country

“In the Serbian mountains near the Bosnian border lays the village of Zarozje” that is classic Vampire Country.  Martin Von Krogh has proven it in his photo story on Agence VU.  It is chock-a-block with grey and gloomy, highly atmospheric photos of a time-frozen land.  The low-contrast B&W photos enhance the effects.

The imagery Von Krogh presents is just perfect for one of those Christopher Lee ‘Dracula’ movies from Hammer Films.

Click on the link and admire photos of mysterious woods, superstitious villagers, forbidding graveyards, and (haunted?) old churchyards.  Brrr!  Wait, hang on—before you click the link, grab a bulb of garlic and a hawthorn stake . . . you just never know . . .

The Land of Oz

Let’s close close to home with a photographer that may have flown under the radar.

Several hours back, The West Australian published a story about the documentary that ABC aired about Borland and her “arresting, unsettling, unforgettable” images.

Borland’s website is confirmation that her images are indeed “arresting, unsettling, unforgettable.”  Here’s arresting, here’s unsettling and you can pick your own ‘unforgettable’.  That said, Borland’s photos are also hip and cool.

The West Australian writes in its story, “the work of Australian photographer Polly Borland is relatively unknown in her home country”.  Not anymore!


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Gehry + Gaudi + Escher + Goldberg = the Land of Kazanjianstan

February 12th, 2013 No Comments

Jim Kazanjian is one of an extremely rare breed in the photographic world: he is a photographic artist without being a photographer, for he “creates eerie landscapes without use of camera,” according to Daily Mail.  One look at the images in question and you’ll know that the Mail’s story title hits the nail right on the head as it calls Kazanjian “a mad architect” who creates “surreal images” “from another world.”  

Our weekly roundup of unusual photography news is on our sister blog this time; however, perhaps today’s post here is just as unusual . . .

Kazanjian’s Brave New Worlds (plural) – the one he has created and his Brave New World of Photographic Art merit an examination not just for their novelty but for their genuine quality and artistry.

As for the range of works, it spans the gamut from Near-Realism to Bizarro-World.  Cannot this little islet be the remains of a vandalized Roman-Era ruin?  Anyhow, this indescribable thingie is surely Bizarro-World incarnate!  Yet both are as appealing to the eye in their artistic quality as is this composite castle-manor-mill which might – just perhaps – actually exist.  (And if it doesn’t someone should really build it.)  

In truth, Kazanjian’s range is even wider: it ranges from realism all the way to Sci-Fi.

Kazanjian’s explosions too are so finely rendered that they could be stills from a Hollywood movie – notice the plumes of smoke and how palpable they are.  Also observe how realistic the ruined and burned material is at the base of the structure – yet with a trace of a dreamlike otherworldliness.  All this probably both implies and reflects the fact that Kazanjian puts together each image from unknown numbers of actual photographs and he has been a commercial CGI artist and worked for the likes of Intel and Adidas.

Welcome, then, to the magical Land of Kazanjianstan:– This is where the architectural brilliance of Frank Gehry, the creative whimsicality of Antonio Gaudi, the surreal unbelievability of M.C. Escher, and the madcap impossibility Rube Goldberg – with a dash of your dreams – intersect!


Some Nice Things we Missed

February 5th, 2013 No Comments
logo of cokin

logo of cokin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes the news flies so thick and fast that items deserving of a look get over-looked.  Let’s take in a few such interesting items from the past week or two.

Dissing Digital

Norman Jean Roy is a fashion photographer ‘on the make’.  He has shot both George Bush and Kate Beckinsale and his images have graced both Vogue and Vanity Fair.  Two weeks back FStoppers published an interview with Jean Roy in which he talks about his philosophy of photography and his take on the camera as a neutral instrument.

Though he shoots digital too, Jean Roy claims to favour film: because it does not have the same instant gratification as digital, it alters for the better the way one approaches a shoot.

Jean Roy says that perfection in photography is destroying it as an art, and he blames digital for introducing the capability of perfecting photographs, ergo digital is killing photography as an art in general and fashion photography in particular.

Rich, Thin Filters

New York socialites say, “You can’t be too rich or too thin.”  Cokin has adopted that battle cry for its Pure Harmonie series of filters: Cokin says they’re the thinnest filters in the world!  Filters available currently are a UV, a Polarizer, and a Variable Density Neutral Gray.

These filters begin at $50 and go up from there.  Just like those New York socialites, these lenses favour those who are . . . ‘rich’! 

Another Type of Filter

We’ll close with the sort of filter that is integrated into most modern cameras; anti-aliasing filters that suppress moire.  Digital imaging has sharply-defined limits of resolution by frequency (as opposed to film) – because, after all, unlike film, the image is resolved on a grid of pixels – therefore, it interprets certain patterns, such as fine checks on clothing, incorrectly and introduces banding effects.

Anti-aliasing filters eliminate moire patterns at some cost to image quality and they’re a standard part and parcel of digital cameras and other digital imaging equipment.

Fujifilm, like Leica, decided that there was a way to eliminate moire without anti-aliasing filters.  This technological step, however, prompted a photographer to compare Fujifilm’s decision to building a sports car without brakes!  Is that a valid comparison or a total exaggeration?


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Of Quirkiness, Popsicles, and Colour-Blind Film

January 31st, 2013 No Comments

We go off on the wayward, weird path, pointing out quirky happenings in the world of Photography no more than once a week.  Well, there’s so much weird, quirky stuff going on that we just have to follow up The Good, the Mad, and the Chuckly from earlier this week with another post treating you to off-the-wall news from yesterday and today.  Aquarius in his first week must be a joker!

Quirky Cerise

PetaPixel even starts the title of a photo-article with the word ‘quirky’: Quirky Portraits of People Surrounded by Swarms of Hanging Objects.  (See how bad things are getting?)  It features the photographs of Cerise Doucède.

Doucède’s photographs are truly, well, quirky, ranging to weird.  They are also reminiscent of surreal painting.  Perfectly natural portraits of persons are offset by a variety of objects in midair in front of and around the subject.  Some persons are clearly put out by said objects while others find them amusing!  Which are you?

Colour-Blind Film

Aquarius is such a bad influence that even staid BJP makes one of our weird-and-quirky posts!  Once upon a time, King Kodak used to produce and “infrared” film called “Aerochrome” that was “intended for various aerial photographic applications, such as vegetation and forestry surveys,” and similar serious applications.  It had the endearing trait of turning cool greens into popping purples.

Now, Lomography is bringing out their “LomoChrome Purple 400 film” which is neither infrared nor meant for aerial and/or serious applications.  It does retain Aerochrome’s endearing trait of converting greens into magentas and purples, however!  Click the link to see a few sample shots and to access a couple more links if you’re into The Colour Purple.

Popsicle-Stick Cameras

It’s the height of summer and popsicles would be most welcome.  What’s more, we should save the popsicle sticks because you can . . . build a camera out of them.

Maxim Grew used a Polaroid film holder, card stock, duct tape, and aforementioned popsicle sticks to build a working camera!  Grew even demonstrates how well his camera works with a photo or two.  In case you’d like to build one, he freely shares his fabrication process and trade secrets.


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