Hong Kong

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Hong Kong Abstract; © Ian Poole, 2017

With several visits to this intriguing island destination, I am always struggling to find a definitive viewpoint.  I suspect that this lack is its strength, as well as its weakness.

It can be overwhelming with the huge population jam-packed into towering high rise apartment blocks in such a small space.  But it is the isolated and cropped views that are giving me most reward.

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Apartment; © Ian Poole, 2017

Taking a voyeuristic approach is of some assistance.  But also the method of finding a subject/location and then attempting to isolate as much as possible can work.

For such a busy and active location there are many quiet and simple patterns lending themselves to documentation.

 

 

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Love; © Ian Poole, 2017

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Lovely Self-Portrait; © Ian Poole, 2017

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Contemplation on the Stairs; © Ian Poole, 2017

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Rainbow; © Ian Poole, 2017.

As you can see stairways were becoming a repeating theme.

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Early Morning Pedestrians; © Ian Poole, 2017

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1:5, Beware; © Ian Poole, 2017.

And a monochrome is always a nice way to finish up.


 

 

Amateur or Professional?

‘I am a professional photographer by trade and an amateur photographer by vocation.’   –  Elliot Erwitt

Two moments over the past week or so brought this Elliot Erwitt quote into sharp focus for me.

My current major working task is to unbundle my life’s output of negatives into the local library.  In doing so I was struck by the sheer banality of some of the jobs that I have completed over the years.  Ian-Poole-Brisbane-Photographer Then I reviewed, with some delight, the portfolio of photographs that this worthy journal published in the last edition showcasing some of my far more recent images.

The concept of professional work versus amateur output was starting to take shape in my head.

Whilst there are many descriptors to illustrate the concept of professional photography, they mostly revolve around the concept of creating images in return for money.  There are great professional photographers who are not necessarily great photographers; and there are great photographers who are not necessarily great professionals.

Good professional photographers are often expert at orchestrating a large number of different skilled operations towards the required goal of photographically illustrating a product or concept to the satisfaction of a fee-paying client.  This was the description behind some of the negative files that I was putting into the library’s database last week.  Photographs that had, in their day, totally satisfied the demands and requirements of a client who had then happily paid for that service.  Looking at the images with the 20/20 wisdom of hindsight, they will never be used again in any creative sense, despite totally satisfying the client’s brief when they were created.

On the other hand, surveying my portfolio of photographs in last month’s issue of this magazine, I was just as happy with their publication as I was when I created many of the images.  So using Erwitt’s formula, had I become an amateur photographer?  An amateur photographer is typically seen as someone who takes photos for fun and passion.  The subject, constraint or motivation of money is not a factor.

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Tate Modern; © Ian Poole, London 2016.

We are straying into a discussion which parallels an age old question, that being, what is the main distinction between a chef and a cook?  The chef, being the trained and practising professional (there’s that word again), is someone who prepares food in return for monetary recompense.  On the other hand, the cook, often an amateur, usually prepares food simply for the love of working with good ingredients and enjoying the compliments of satisfied diners, usually family and friends – rather than paying patrons of their kitchen.

Since my earliest days as a working photographer (dare I say professional) I have always had a grudging admiration for the self-proclaimed amateur.  Someone who chooses to embark on a journey to create photographs without the constraints of client demands and direction, cost, budget or time commitment.  One or more of these parameters has always been attached to my professional assignments.  The wedding that is being held on a pre-determined date; the portrait that is to be given as a birthday present; the ship that will enter harbour with the next high tide; the visit by the Governor to open the next sitting of parliament – these definite and precise directions can not be ignored by a professional photographer.  Whereas an amateur may choose to attend and document, or not attend at all, at their whim.

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© Elliott Erwitt

Elliot Erwitt commented that he did not set out to photograph a book of dog photographs – it just so happened that one day he had finally created such a volume of images that Phaidon offered to publish his book DogDogs.  Calling Erwitt an amateur would be misinterpreting, maybe even misrepresenting, a lengthy career as an image maker.  In an interview with Erwitt when he was last in Australia he recalled that his ‘hobby’ of photographing dogs had become a job – suggesting that his keen canine interest was interfering with his ‘real’ job.

That line, the one separating amateur from professional is tenuous at best, and poorly defined most of the time. Sometimes it’s pretty hard to even see where the line is.

Personally, I am more than happy to continue to blur the already soft line between my trade and my vocation. It’s a movable barrier, so why not?


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This essay first appeared in f11 Magazine :: for PHOTOGRAPHERS and AFICIONADOS, p146, issue 58 :: September, 2016.

 

All our own work

An earnest debate amongst Australian professional photographers is currently ensuing online regarding the legitimacy of using second and third party professionals to prepare entries for photography awards.

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Story Bridge + Bird; © Ian Poole, Brisbane, 1995.

In this instance specifically, whether professional retouchers should be able to work on an awards entry and whether the resulting modified photograph still remains within the original photographer’s integrity of ownership.

The debate resonates on many levels.

Firstly, the Australian professional institute has encouraged its members to enter the awards with a view to improving professional standards across the broad range of the industry.  Comparing current entries with those of 30+ years ago, this has been achieved well beyond the imagination of the two or three Australian photography industry founding fathers’ fondest thoughts, wishes or hopes.

Secondly, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of first time professional photographers practising their craft without any degree of formal training.

And thirdly, many of these new industry members are trying their hand at entering professional awards for the first time using photographic images that were commercially sound enough for sale to clients – but then fail to attract high assessments from the panel of judges.  The antipodean professional awards of New Zealand and Australia present some of the highest standards in photography, as evidenced by the success of some of their participants on a world stage, so where does the disconnect occur, and why?

That third point is the basis on which many photographers are now questioning their own poor results and looking for answers in places other than deep introspection. Some are rooting suspicion from their discovery that some entered photographs have received post-production treatment that might not all have been the work of the entrant.  A lack of formal training in photography means that some fundamental knowledge of the history of the art is absent, missing in action, from their perspective.  This colours their judgment, hiding the real issue.

Right from the earliest days of photography there was a dependence on skilled third party assistance for the photographer to be able to produce saleable portrait images.  From the late 19th century through the early 20th century the production methods were similar, albeit the materials used varied.  The photographer (usually a male) exposed sensitised material and worked with the clients in The Gallery and behind the scenes vast numbers of staff (mostly female) worked on the production of the finished product.  Some photos of these areas in very large studios indicate an almost Dickensian workhouse nature. In a very real sense however, both sides of the production process were equally harrowing as work places.

The widespread use of colour materials in the mid-twentieth century brought about a dramatic change to the business model.  A host of colour processing laboratories created a revolution where photographers concentrated on finding clients and taking photographs while relying on their finished print production being entirely done by laboratories.  The resulting images were really only packaged back at the studio for delivery to clients.

This reliance on laboratories by domestic photographers was echoed in the commercial world.  The difference being, that instead of processing negatives these laboratories worked with transparency film and offered additional skills for sale.  Compositing two or more transparencies into one, adding text to a transparency, blending several images to create one finished result – something that any half trained photography student could do today in minutes with Photoshop – had to be sent to an expert or experts (often in another city) for completion.

My personal experience of having seen most of the Australian professional awards judged was that this manner of production was always perfectly acceptable.  Whilst the viewer often marvelled at the technical skill required to achieve some of the effects, nevertheless it was the brilliance of the concept, or the execution of the original exposure, that was being assessed and attributed to the entrant.  Today, the common practice of having one’s award entries printed and finished by a master printer is not only accepted, but tacitly encouraged. Judges don’t expect entrants to be master printers, so why should they expect the same photographers to be master retouchers?

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Tokyo Opera House; © Ian Poole, 2012.

The disappointment some new entrants to the awards system face is the discovery that their ‘successful’ commercial output does not rate highly in a peer review competitive situation.  Money from clients (albeit the most important yardstick for a commercial enterprise) while essential, is also on a par with lavish praise from one’s own mother.  The success of the trans-Tasman competitions is that the quality bar has been raised to a very high level.  Something to be applauded, not dragged down to a lesser level by adding the criterion that if the image was adequate enough to sell, it is therefore good enough to be applauded and awarded by a jury of our peers.

Content, intent, story-telling, description, emotion, memory, originality, technique and many other signifiers are the harbingers of an award winning photograph.  Judges tend to wait and hope, looking for photographs that bring a special message and trusting that they will be able to recognise these images when revealed in the dance of assessment in those quiet rooms.

Long may that expectation reign.


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This essay first appeared in f11 Magazine :: for PHOTOGRAPHERS and AFICIONADOS, p148, issue 57 :: August, 2016.

Portfolio Published in f11

It was with some pleasure when I read the current issue of f11 :: for photographers and aficionados.    With a substantial number of contemporary photographs to view it was a joy to see them presented with such care by Creative Director Tim Steele.

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The process of arriving at this point was both interesting and laborious.  My initial idea of submitting a grab bag of images from a checkered commercial career was ruthlessly rejected  (fortunately) by the editorial board.   I was forced to regroup and reassess the work to be presented and be also constrained by the publishing needs of a journal that is produced eleven times a year.

I am in good company with Stephen Robinson’s delightful memories of vintage New Zealand architecture, the NZIPP Iris Award winners and of course the essay by Tony Bridge and equipment review by Gary Baildon.   I am almost embarrassed to mention a column by yours truly amping up the debate about whether photography award entries should (or should not) be the sole work of the entrant.

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……and one of the photos that didn’t make the cut –

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New Otani; © Ian Poole, 2015.

In Defence of the Cliché

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Louvre Sunrise; © Ian Poole, Paris, 2016

Avoid imitating a cliché – is the oft loudly exclaimed cry from art teachers, creativity lecturers and judges at photographic competitions.  So why should I buck the combined wisdom of teachers and mentors with far greater stature than me?

It was a reluctant first-time visit to the Musée Rodin in Paris that did it for me.  I certainly have no difficulty in recognising that Auguste Rodin was an artist held in the highest regard, but my reluctance to visit it was based on the anticipation of feelings of intense déjà vu.

How could I not be impressed with the image of sculptures as well known as The Thinker or The Kiss?

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Rodin’s Thinker; © Ian Poole, Paris, 2016

When I realised I was comparing the shape of my hand with that of Rodin’s sculptured artwork, I knew that I was hooked and engaged with the artist’s masterpiece.  No catalogue, no wikipedia entry, no poster, was ever going to illustrate the power and emotion that he had crafted into each piece.  And whilst I had never sculpted in my life, I realised that I had photographically mimicked the poses and hand gestures from both pieces without much regard from whence these concepts had come.

After looking first hand at examples of photographs by Ansel Adams and Richard Avedon I started to understand the power contained within the images.  I had always thought that the landscapes of Adams were a case of hard hiking and early mornings, but to my horror I found a conscious thought process underlying his many images.

In the case of Avedon, my cavalier response had been that anyone with a few lucky breaks and access to ‘big’ names as subjects could produce great shots.  How wrong was I?  Avedon had a wonderful knack of reproducing and inserting the soul of his sitter into a photograph. Neither photographer had lucked onto a quick fix.  They had learnt their craft, worked hard within their genre, and consequently produced images that appeared to be effortless when viewed.

Clichéd – almost!

In case there is a misconception out there in reader-land that a rush trip to Paris or New York is required to look at cliché driven images to promote one’s own creativity, examples are happening all around.

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The Wanaka Tree; © Tony Bridge, New Zealand, 2016.

My respected fellow f11 correspondent Tony Bridge has been leading a workshop at the prestigious 27th Wanaka Autumn Art School in New Zealand and he was goaded by some of his friends to lead his group of students to that well-known location, The Wanaka Tree.  Tony’s response was to give his students a master class in landscape creation with a totally new interpretation.  I trust they were impressed, because I certainly was.

A further opportunity exists for some Australian readers to visit the National Gallery of Victoria and view James McNeill Whistler’s Portrait of the Artist’s Mother, 1871  (more commonly referred to as Whistler’s Mother).  This work is currently on loan from the Musée d’Orsay, in Paris.  The portrait painted in a stoic palette of grey and black, portrays a character vastly different to that of the artist – who was noted for his flamboyant dress and outgoing social personality.  The painting, having been mocked and parodied for decades, is still a powerful depiction of personality and emotional representation.

Having viewed photographic interpretations of these (and many other art works) frequently in my career, I am now of the opinion that a greater knowledge of so-called clichéd images is valuable in the extension of one’s creative development.  Studying why such pieces have become so hackneyed, even banal, is a step further in creating a personal style.

Maybe the clichéd road is the road to creativity.


 

The 2015 APPAs

With the sad story of the 2014 Canon AIPP Professional Photography Awards now behind me – well almost!!!  That was the year that the Judges turned their backs on my entries and threw them all into a shredder; but I did front up again for the 2015 event.  For a moment it looked like a repeat of last year with an outrageous non-award “bronze” for the sweet and cute Kewpie Dolls.

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Istanbul Kewpie Dolls; © Ian Poole, Istanbul, 2015 (no award Landscape Category)

Storm Over Constantinople was one of those magic moments that you see shaping up in front of you and you make snap decisions on the fly; and then run like crazy to get out of the rain and the hail.  No raincoats of course!

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Storm Over Constantinople; © Ian Poole, Istanbul, 2015 (Silver Award – Landscape Category)

Le Marais Self-Portrait was the result of sadly looking through the doorway of the Parisian apartment that we were departing after a few glorious days in the city of light.  The passageway that I wanted to photograph could only be seen by using my reflection to mask it – this is how easy it is to find masterstrokes.

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Le Marais Self-Portrait; © Ian Poole, Paris, 2015 (Silver Award – Illustrative Category)

Barbès-Rochechouart was the result of looking for a shot like this at several Parisian stations.  I started to see the theatre of the occasion forming in front of me and so I stayed and shot and shot and shot.  Not being able to art-direct was frustrating, but eventually this tableaux dropped into place.  Speaking French and using a megaphone may have lessened my blood pressure, but patience is essential.

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Barbès-Rochechouart; © Ian Poole, Paris, 2015 (Silver + Distinction – Illustrative Category)

Whilst I did judge in the Illustrative Category it must be declared that I did NOT judge my own work.  The rules are stringent in that regard.   But the judging process that I have enjoyed for so long is just that little bit better by having a few of your own images being considered by my judging peers.  Frustrating sometimes, but still a nice feeling.

And of course John Ansell must be congratulated for his stunning set of tintypes that won him the title of 2015 Canon AIPP Professional Photographer of the Year.


Stories with a similar vein –

The Photograph and Australia

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Ian Poole vs The Photograph and Australia; © Gary Cranitch, Brisbane, 2015.

At the Official Opening of The Photograph and Australia, I should have been concerned when the speakers spent more time defending the curatorial policy rather than lauding the (mostly) fabulous collection of photographs gathered from around the country.

Major photographic exhibitions at the Queensland Art Gallery are few and far between, so this survey production prepared by the Art Gallery of New South Wales is a not to be missed opportunity.  The exhibition’s curator (Judy Annear, Senior Curator Photographs at The Art Gallery of NSW) has an enviable CV from the Australian photographic world.  With the imprimatur of the AGNSW behind her it was a given that collecting this body of work was so successful.

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Tracey Moffatt’s work sits high above historic images of aboriginal Australia. Photo ArtsHub

No, my problem with the show is the layout.

In her catalogue introduction Annear describes the show as taking a conceptual rather than strictly chronological approach to the medium.   This leads to the placement of three photographs, (Beauties, variously 1994/97) by Tracy Moffatt above a case of albums and c1860/80s photographs.  Moffatt’s found photographs have been reprinted in slight colour variations, after the style of Andy Warhol.  Despite a half column of supporting description in the exhibition catalogue it is still difficult to correlate their importance within the show.

The small room full of cartes de visite probably will display more examples of the genre than most viewers will ever see in a lifetime.  Certainly interesting, but obviously AGNSW has a huge enviable collection from which to select.

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Only to Taste the Warmth, the Light, the Wind; Olive Cotton, c1939.  (Major promotional image)

In the absence of Australia possessing a domiciled Julia Margaret Cameron, it was always going to be an historical fact that white Anglo-saxon men would feature in early Australian photographic history.  The placement of 40+ variable quality self portraits by Sue Ford along a single wall is an amazing piece of revisionist feminist photographic history.  Ford has clearly earned her place in Australian photographic history with critically acclaimed output going back to the 1970s, but this token filler in a room containing some solitary iconic images by Max Dupain, Olive Cotton, David Moore, Axel Poignant and Mervyn Bishop beggars belief.

The 1883 astronomy photographs of Joseph Turner illustrated an historical moment for Australia, but the inclusion of the additional later images did nothing for the survey.  Similarly the amazing Charles Bayliss illustrations of the world famous Australian inventor Lawrence Hargrave‘s plane models was of a first time interest to me; but their relevance in Australia’s photographic history is drawing a long bow.

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Out in the blizzard at Cape Denison; © Frank Hurley, 1912 (National Gallery of Australia).

On a positive note!  Following three visits to the exhibition, the purchase of the catalogue, research of many online reviews (positive and negative), and the purchase of Photofile, vol 96, I did manage to maneuver my way through the display space and find many old and new favourites to delight, educate and excite me.  Frank Hurley’s depiction of an Antarctic blizzard has probably never been bettered.  Ignoring the degree of difficulty factor, the composition and emotion contained in this relatively small photo was enhanced on discovering through research, that it was one of Hurley’s personal favorites.

As opposed to the image used for the catalogue cover (Beauties, Moffatt), the use of Olive Cotton’s Only to Taste the Warmth, the Light, the Wind was a master stroke.  It brought to light a photo which was sadly unfamiliar to me.  It has a strong aesthetic, but my long distant commercial background noted that the grain structure held up well in the large format illustrations featured in and around the Gallery.

I was very familiar with the JW Lindt image of the body of Joe Byrne hung on a wall to be photographed, but had never seen an original print.  In what is arguably Australia’s first news photograph it neatly illustrates the then preferred newspaper technique of an artist drawing being superseded by photography.  We see in the left hand bottom corner the bowler hatted artist (drawing pad under arm) walking away from his nemesis JW Lindt.  Lindt also features in a personal favourite – Coontajandra and Sanginguble, 1893.  The tall narrow crop of this carbon print (61×30.5cm) indicates that Lindt recognised an aesthetic contained within the photograph, as well as the strong detail shown in the body scarification.  I compliment Annear for including the most subversive images on show – a series of small postcards making a political statement in 1900 regarding the policy of Federation.  The photos of Thomas Hinton may or may not illustrate someone of an unsound mind, but they probably come close to being the first known Australian “selfies”.

Viewing a good version of Max Dupain’s Sunbaker, 1937; dark, rich, moody and all about the body not the face, was a joy.  Not the pale copies we often see in printed versions.  But where o where are the sporting photographs.  One would assume that the 1956 Olympics recognised a growth spurt and turning point in Australia.  With small exceptions press photographers don’t exist in Annear’s world.  The inclusion of Mervyn Bishop smacks of tokenism in this survey.  Which is sad as Bishop deserves and owns his place in Australian photography, but there are so many other great documentary photographers from Frank Hurley onwards.  Where is a “surf culture” illustrated? (with the exception of Dupain).

I think this leads me to my main criticism.  The Photograph and Australia was too grand a project and of course had a difficulty from its inception.  As someone who has spent a lifetime trying to demystify photography and make it accessible to an everyday viewer, this exhibition is the antithesis of approachable, accessible photography.  It relies heavily on academia and a convoluted rationale so loved by post-graduate students.

Much of the exhibition is wonderful, much of it is valuable beyond words.

It is a must view moment, but in an attempt to display photography as high art it missed a great opportunity.


Seeking the spice and flavors of life

Apertures and shutter speeds are akin to the meat and potatoes of our photographic life, but where do you go to find out about aesthetics, variations, alternatives, adaptations, or new visual choices?  These are the techniques, the sauces, spices and gravies bringing subtleties, flavors and fragrances to lift a meal from basic sustenance to haute cuisine.

There comes a point in your photographic life where you should need to move past the functional production of images to a more nuanced approach to visual recording and documentation.  Whilst a more traditional way was, or still is, to have access to a vast library of books, monographs, texts and journals to peruse and study, this concept seems to have faded a little.  In my case some limitations were brought on by a downsizing of habitat, but these were more than replaced by easy access to vast amounts of content a click or three away on the world wide web.

Allow me to share some of my preferred online delicacies…

Obviously, it goes without saying that this esteemed digital journal is my first source of information and creative encouragement!  I personally reference my fellow correspondents for their alternative and occasionally confronting observations about this great industry.  Amongst others, Tony Bridge, I am looking at you.

Now at a point in my career where words about photography tend to feature more prominently in my research than photographs per se, the top of my go-to list is a former photographic magazine editor, teacher and now blogger – The Online Photographer.

Mike Johnston writes his blog with the dedication that only a seasoned journalist can bring to his craft.  Careful analysis, strong personal opinion and meticulously researched facts.  His appeal to me is that he drifts just as effortlessly across music, coffee, cars and billiards whilst allowing his biases to colour his opinion – all grist to the mill that is my wandering mind.

Stuck in Customs claims 8,401,440 followers and is listed as the #1 Travel Photography Blog on the Internet.  With a close association to Google, the site’s owner Trey Ratcliffe relocated to Queenstown, New Zealand and operates his blog with a world wide vision specialising in the bold colours of High Dynamic Range (HDR) travel photographs.It fulfills the promise of a new shot each day.

I came across Thom Hogan and his byThom blogs, he has several, when I was seeking Nikon information.  He is articulate and knowledgeable and puts forward a strong opinion not only about Nikon DSLR and film equipment, but now has good commentary about mirrorless equipment.

Victoria Cooper+Doug Spowart’s Blog Wotwedid satisfies the inner academic in me, with references to photo books, aesthetic reviews of exhibitions and published articles, as well as carefully produced photographic research.

Petapixel is the first port of call for many photographers with articles, photographs, reviews and good worldwide gossip.  And Strobist also provides some of the aforementioned photographic meat and potatoes, with a strong focus on the area of techniques using portable electronic flash equipment.

Ryan Muirhead provides stimulus for people wanting to re-invent photography by using film.  He breaks my need to seek out photographic text by mostly providing photographs supported by captions or life’s observations.  I also follow him via his Instagram account. In the same genre is Film is Not Dead written exuberantly by Jonathan Canlas.  Canlas writes and lectures with a passion that has brought him a large and loyal following.

This tiny selection represents a small set of websites and blogs that get me thinking, all celebrating, arguing and debating photography and whilst in no way a definitive list, they are a choice as personal as some of the opinions expressed by the various authors.

You’ll have your own list, feel free to share these with me.

Seeking the spice and flavors of life

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 10.06.05 am This essay first appeared in f11 Magazine :: for PHOTOGRAPHERS and AFICIONADOSp144, issue 45, July 2015.

Ballarat International Foto Biennale Print Collection

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Port Fairy Music Festival 2015; © Paul Griggs.

I have written previously about the pleasure I take in supporting an organisation as important as the Ballarat International Foto Biennale and the concept of print swaps where one’s personal collection can be extended, including more formal print swaps like this.

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Arts et Metiers, Paris; © Ian Poole, 2015.

In the recent Red Dot Ballarat Collection I was lucky enough to receive the Paul Griggs‘ photograph shown above.  The nature of the Ballarat fundraising event is that the photographs are sought as a donation from photographers and exhibited anonymously on the walls of Eleven40 Gallery in Melbourne.  A BIG shout out to Eleven40 for their ongoing support over a number of years.  See their web site for a full set of illustrations and authors’ names.

Because I am an interstate supporter and unable to attend, I had sent my list of preferred (anonymous) photographs to Jeff Moorfoot, Creative Director of the Management Team.  I recognised a couple of the images, thought I recognised a couple of others (mostly incorrectly) and lusted after a couple of other shots.     …..and then waited to be told what my Red Dot investment had achieved.

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Sydney Charles Bromley 1969; © Robert Imhoff.

Firstly, it was lovely to be advised that my contribution, Arts et Metiers, Paris, had been red dotted by that doyen of Australian photography, Judy Foreman.  I hope she enjoys the photograph as much as I did taking it on a recent trip to Paris.  Secondly I gained the Port Fairy Music Festival 2015, which was on my list, but not known as a Paul Griggs’ photograph.  I have been a long time admirer of Paul’s work in the wedding arena where he was one of the first practitioners of reportage using black and white, documentary coverage with a Leica camera.  I can recall judging some of his early work in the AIPP’s Award system with great clarity today.  This is a contemporary example of that skill and will hang with pride in my personal gallery.

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Burj Khalfa 2010; © Tim Griffith

Then come the photographs that I DIDN’T get.  I recognised the Imhoff photograph from the cover of Imhoff: a life of grain & pixels lying on my sideboard.  I should have recognised the Tim Griffith’ Burj Khalifa 2010 as being a great example of his architectural oeuvre – but I didn’t!  The Poole Collection is still missing one of his masterpieces.

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Fiordland Diva; © Jackie Ranken

I am very familiar with the work of Jackie Ranken, but she fooled me this time – I missed this one.  I didn’t miss her partner, Mike Langford’s offering, as I had attempted to photograph the same tree with a much, much lessor result.  Maybe I should go back in winter?

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Mataouri Tree; © Mike Langford

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Goroka; © Stephen Dupont

I should have recognised Stephen Dupont’s homage to Irving Penn with his Goroka, and if I had I would have put him closer to the top of my red dot list.

I was taken by the construction of Jack Picone’s Dhows 1 long before I was aware of his name connected with the photograph.  A Master of the documentary craft, it would also have hung with great pride in the Poole Collection.

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Dhows 1; Jack Picone

I did recognise and enjoy my Queensland mate, Gary Cranitch’s Cane, but Roger Garwood’s Fred And Me…Spectators, Coolgardie, 1975 caught me totally by surprise.  Maybe it was because it was an early work a long ways from what I have come to expect from Roger.  I did bid for it, by the way, as I enjoyed the whimsy of the image.

Works by Doc Ross, from earthquake stricken Christchurch (In The Earthquake Gardens) and Charles McKean (The Family Drawers) were noted as possible contenders for the collection.

Oh the wild dreams of building a fantasy photographic collection from the digital world wide web.

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In The Earthquake Gardens; © Doc Ross, Christchurch

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The Family Drawers; © Charles McKean

Comfort Zone

Ole Man Poole has just been put well and truly outside of his comfort zone – musically and photographically.

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Pat Metheny; © Jimmy Dena Katz, 2013.

First, I attended a concert featuring an international jazz guitarist.  Someone with 20 Grammy Awards from 35 nominations in 12 different categories to his name, and a career spanning in excess of 40 years.  The first Grammy Award in 1982.  I booked the tickets on the basis of my limited set of CDs featuring his earlier work, including contemporary covers from the likes of Lennon and McCartney and Paul Simon.

A couple days earlier I had viewed a photographic exhibition by two young Australian photographers, well known for their innovative, trendy and somewhat hip wedding coverage and interpretation.

Pat Metheny has just turned 60 and was touring with a talented group of young musicians who are rapidly approaching his level of skills with their chosen instruments.  What confronted me with some force was the stylistic change in his music and the manner in which he interacted with his ensemble.  I attended the concert with one expectation and came out with my mind raging with questions about what I had just seen and heard – a talented performer collaborating and bouncing off a group of young guys who were not only working with him, but were keeping him honest!

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It has begun! We are on a road to nowhere; © O’Day and Hunter-McGraw, 2013.

Conversely Todd Hunter-McGraw and Dan O’Day had hung their Phase Onesies Exhibition – the like of which I had not seen before.  Large photographic prints that seemed casually executed to the point of carelessness, and hung with a seeming indifference using strips of black gaffer tape across the print corners to fasten them to the walls.

Where am I headed with this?  I have just seen, felt, heard and understood, a mature artist wanting to keep producing work that is relevant and challenging; and two young tyros attempting to brand themselves in a competitive market.

Metheny has surrounded himself with talented performers, eschewing lesser musicians in favour of being challenged and forced to work harder himself.  The net result is that the listener must also work harder in understanding the output.  Not a bad thing if good jazz is to be better understood.

O’Day and McGraw have chosen to throw accepted gallery precepts out the window in an attempt to illustrate the photographic skills they have adopted as their own brand – whimsical, wry and barrier-breaking camera skills out of step with current trends.  In fact setting trends in domestic photography.  The result is that a spontaneous idea has translated into a photographic road trip, a test of a new camera, a series of challenging exposures/locations and a set of huge prints from the resultant files.  The method of display is reminiscent of a teenager’s bedroom wall of favourite movie stars – probably not far from the authors’ thought process.  As a photographic gallery director there might be an uncomfortable lesson here………

Is our own comfort zone where the problem lies?  Should we be looking for the discomfort zone, where great ideas and innovative thought processes rule the roost, challenging the accepted norms?

Is disruption, at least partly, the answer?

 

image00138This essay was published in issue #38       f11 :: for PHOTOGRAPHERS AND AFICIONADOS