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The London Street Scene

April 8th, 2013 No Comments

Is this deeply private photograph – almost an intrusion – posed?  Just what is the couple doing?  All we can tell is that an intense human drama is playing out at a picturesque setting.  Apparently it is not posed and is a spontaneous exposure, for Stewart Marsden is a ‘street shooter’ who documents life in London.  His images were published in The Telegraph earlier this year.

Cartier-Bresson’s “fleeting moment” is on show in this Marsden shot which captures two tableaus.  This exposure recalls to mind another Cartier-Bresson expression as to the photographer having to wait like a “hunter” until the moment arrives.

How much more ‘composed’, in all senses of the word, is this riverscape.  What a picture— we have much-photographed and romanticized Tower Bridge presented in a matter-of-fact manner, unusual in being full side-on, and as the backdrop to a lone youth and barges in the foreground, with construction work and a crane in-frame.  One might call this image an exemplar of the Naturalism or Realism style.  Good eye!

Here are a few people on the fringes of society with a couple of them wearing rather ‘spacy’ looks.  But who’s that in the background?  People smack-dab in the mainstream of society such as commuters waiting for a bus!  Oh, for a shallower perspective (with a longer lens set to a narrow aperture) which would have brought these extremely different classes of Londoners closer to one another to heighten the impact. 

Here’s a fine little slice of life on the sidewalk.  First, is the blonde ignoring that pest Marsden or has she not seen her ‘hunter’ as she claws her hair back?  Second, did Marsden ignore himself or did he not see himself in the window pane?  Either way, ‘it works’.

Check out this lovely image encompassing two of London’s most famous sights.  It is more artistic (note the symmetry and also how Big Ben is framed within the Ferris Wheel and how both are framed within the two buildings on either side and the grimy wall below), more alive, and more genuine than any brochure or postcard photograph of these two sights – don’t you agree?

We’ve covered only a small sampling from the first half of this 30-image gallery.

Marsden’s street shooting is a cut above; many of the photographs make you wonder what’s happening or make you just take in the scene.  They convey both the throb and the tinkle of London’s street scene.


Top Ten Photography Books for 2012

January 18th, 2013 No Comments

England’s The Independent has published a list of its Top Ten Photography Books for 2012.

Probably not surprisingly, a book celebrating the charms of London tops the British daily’s list.  The newspaper’s website incorrectly identifies it as ‘London Street Photography’; the correct title is London, Portrait of a City.  This looks like a gorgeous photo book with images of arguably the world’s premier, most diverse, city so let’s not quibble over this book’s top ranking.

You know about the British Royals and the Swinging Sixties but if you’re curious about “foggy, cobbled streets” and “Hoxton Hipsters,” this picture book’s for you.

What leaps out from the Independent’s list, compiled by Will Coldwell, is the name Franz Lanting, who is at number 3 with OkavangoHere is the publisher’s product page.

Okavango is far from a new book; it was published over a decade back.  The present edition is “updated and expanded” and “further enhanced” and clocks in at 250 pages.  Lanting is the wildlife photographer who manages to bring to the fore a serenity, balance, and an ‘in the greater scheme of things’ feel to wildlife images.

Let’s stay with the odd numbers (like the more hidebound Beethoven fans) and proceed to no. 5, Kodachrome.  Coldwell says: “To mark the 20th anniversary of the death of Italian photographer Luigi Ghirri, Mack has produced a second edition of the first book he self-published in 1978.”

One wonders whether the word ‘death’ so closely following the title ‘Kodachrome’ was a Freudian Slip or well-meant with irony – with a Brit one never knows!  But anniversaries of death may just as well apply to Kodachrome now.

From (unintentional?) irony to strange coincidence: in our post of three days back we had blogged about Steve McCurry and the last roll of Kodachrome, and now on Coldwell’s list we have McCurry following Kodachrome in the next odd-numbered position, 7.  (No, on this blog we’re not in thrall to popular Beethoven doctrine; we believe that the ‘Evens’ are exceptional in their own, less dramatic, but more tranquil and contemplative, fashion.)

McCurry is to people and portraits what Lanting is to wildlife.  His Steve McCurry: The Iconic Photographs is a monster of a book at 380 x 275 mm and 272 pages.  The book’s page on Phaidon’s website contains a slideshow of several captivating people photographs.  Also available is a signed limited edition with a signed print.

Bucking the ‘Odd’ trend, we skip number 9 to jump to number 10, and with good reason: there is no ‘Joy’ a la the Ninth for persons who are hunted like animals by predacious paparazzi, and on tenth spot is a book featuring photos taken by those predators: Famous: Life Through the Lens of the Paparazzi.

The photos may be delightful; the means by which they were taken surely are not; Thames & Hudson’s product page frankly describes the book’s photographs as “a star-studded selection of those who live their lives in the spotlight, sometimes welcoming the camera, sometimes pursued by it.”  

Big game hunters pursue their prey using the barrel of a gun; these hunters do it with the barrel of a telephoto lens.  When you admire their ‘shots’, spare a thought for their prey – may they rest in peace!


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