Double Exposure

Double ExposureI had been considering a twin lens medium format camera for a while and finally took the plunge and purchased a Mamiya C220 with a 105mm lens (around 65mm focal length in 35mm terms). I had been intending to get a Yashica tlr, but the Mamiya has interchangeable lens which I think is more practical in terms of servicing and maintaining the camera.

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The Mamiya also has a nice double exposure feature that allows you to quickly flip between ‘single’ and ‘multi’ mode. So simple in fact that I find that I am unintentionally taking multiple exposures without even knowing it. The image here was one of those shots – completely unintended, but a nice surprise when I developed the roll. I took two seperate shots of the two bridges in Fremantle and they overlayed perfectly to give a surreal image that almost looks like a single shot at first glance.

I cropped the image slightly and darkened up the tones using a dark sepia preset in Lightroom/Google Nik. I’m looking forward to getting to know this camera better and exploring the streets of Fremantle with it.

 

 

Faces in the crowd

It is nice to get back into some photography again after concentrating on my painting over winter, and I have been getting comfortable with my new Yashica Electro which I picked up at a second shop for $60. I spotted the camera in a display and asked if I could test it out with a battery and found that the meter appeared to be working correctly and was lucky to take home a perfectly functioning camera. I was a little unsure if the semi-automatic metering would be too limiting but after using it for a couple of months I am really enjoying it. Its perfect for taking quick shots around people without having to fiddle with exposure settings, the viewfinder is nice and bright and focussing quick and accurate.

One photographer I greatly admire is Joel Meyerowitz, and an enduring image of his that I love is Cocktail Party, taken in 1977. Something about the feeling of the connection between the subject and the camera and the separation from everyone else in the scene makes for a captivating image. I used my Yashica Electro recently to capture a few instinctive crowd shots, I often am surprised to see faces staring at me in my images when I am completely oblivious to the looks when I am using the camera. From what I have read Joel Meyerowitz was very aware of the composition while he was shooting, and used large format in many shots – whereas for me I am usually taking shots like these unaware of how they might turn out or what the reactions are of the people in my images. One of the things I am starting to appreciate when using a film camera is the honesty of taking a shot – I feel more comfortable pointing a camera at someone than taking a shot with a mobile phone. Next up I hope to start using my Mamiya C220 medium format camera – even more bulky than my Yashica – I wonder what type of street shots I will get…

 

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Winter

The last few months have been pretty slow when it comes to photography. Maybe due to the lack of good light during our winter but probably more due to my preoccupation with painting. I have an exhibition coming up in September and that is where my energy has been going. You can see my paintings – they are finally complete and almost ready to go.

I’ve only shot 4 films over the last few months and a couple of shots came out ok. Nothing stunning, but I’ve posted them below. However, I hope things are going to change soon, I have purchased a Mamiya C220 Medium Format camera and looking forward to shooting lots of film soon and sharing more shots here.

Another interesting thing I have got into lately is watching Ben Horne’s You Tube channel. Ben is a large format landscape photographer. Polar opposite of street and urban photography in some ways, in other ways though, perhaps there are similarities. I love this guy’s zen-like approach to photography. Anyway, well worth a look.

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Projects

With little motivation to get out and take photos lately I decided to kind of force the issue by setting up a short term photography project – to spend four days taking photos from each corner of a single intersection. I posted one photo each day to our group photo account on Instagram, @thephotomotel. So all of a sudden I was short on time, getting up early and chasing the light over 4 days and getting inspired to spend some time looking through the viewfinder of my Lumix. I was sneaking a few minutes on the way to and from work and making the best of average conditions. Below are a few of my shots. I usually prefer to just take photos when the mood is right, but when that no longer works, maybe a personal project is a good way of providing a kickstart.

 

Familiar Places

I recently spent a week in Bali on a family holiday and made sure I found the time to explore the streets with my Yashica 35. I imagined that the narrow streets, crowded with people and life would provide unlimited opportunities for photography, however I quickly realised that I was getting nowhere with my shots. Even though I was shooting film and could not be sure what the images would be like I instinctively knew that they were going to be disappointing.  As the week went by I continued shooting at every opportunity as we travelled around to new places but continued to feel like I wasn’t getting anywhere. I think photography provides a great excuse to wander the streets and soak in the atmosphere, which at least I was enjoying.

After a few days, I started to notice details about the streets around our villa, places that I walked past everyday that started to interest me. There was a local fresh produce market next door and at the right time in the morning the light was vibrant and matched by the activity of locals streaming in and out on their motor scooters. I started going there first thing to take some photos and felt that finally I was enjoying taking some shots and could see compositions that I wanted to capture on film. Finally I was getting somewhere. And in the afternoon, around dusk, I found an unassuming street corner, about 50 meters from our villa where the light caught the faces of locals as they passed by on their motor scooters that I found captivating – I shot 3 films in that one place over a couple of days, and enjoyed every shot.

Most of my photography at home follows familiar patterns and places, places that I know intimately, how the light falls, perspectives that work well and compositions that always interest me. Although travelling to new places is exciting, I guess that at least for me, a certain familiarity is required, perhaps a certain respect for a place before I feel comfortable with the camera.

So here are a selection of shots, all taken in the last couple of days of our trip, of some familiar places discovered in Bali.

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Bali in b&w 

 

Bali in Colour

 

 

Mirror

I recently captured these moments in Fremantle (my favourite port city) using my Yashica35. I was using Kodak TRI-X 400 Black & White film and for some reason the shots were terribly over exposed and the highlights completely blown out. Possibly I forgot to set my exposure meter to 400 asa (my camera doesn’t have a built in meter) and have been relying a bit too much on guesswork, I might have to take a bit more care from now on.

I have been spending more time painting than photography lately, (I will post some paintings soon) and read something recently that the best photography can do is represent the truth and offer itself as a medium to mirror society and ourselves, while painting can go beyond ‘the appearance of things’. I think that was meant to be a negative comment about photography, but I think using photography as a mirror to society, and our personal perspective, makes it a powerful documentary medium and maybe this is something painting cannot so easily achieve. I’m not really keen on comparing photography to painting as I am happy to do both, however for me the magic of photography is capturing an everyday moment in a single image that reveals far more than what we could have otherwise perceived.  I love to try and capture the way people interact within their environment, both in public and private spaces. These emotions and stories are often lost in the everyday chaos of life.

When I think of paintings that also capture the stillness of a moment in time, faithfully recording not only the appearance of a time and place, but a sense of society and our place in it, Hopper is the one that does this best. In Hopper’s case his paintings examine solitude and isolation and the way people adapted to the shifting roles of public and private spaces at a time when there was significant upheaval in technology, transportation and the role of cities in people’s lives. I have studied Hopper’s painting for many years, the book “The Fall of Public Man” by Richard Sennet provides insights into the demise of public life in society, that perhaps offer a commentary that could accompany many of Hopper’s paintings (although Hopper never offered any personal explanation himself, so we will never know for sure). Photographers, like Gail Halaban seem to be holding up a similar mirror to current day society (has anything really changed?), but to me without the same emotional potency. But maybe thats an unfair comparison, as Hopper was the master.

Anyway, here are a few quiet moments captured in downtown Fremantle.

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dissolving edges

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Clarice BECKETT 1887–1935: Collins Street, evening . 1931

I came across the phrase, ‘dissolving edges’ while reading the book ‘My Beautiful Friend‘, describing a way of seeing in a non literal way. You know that there are hard edges there but I prefer the subtle complexity of seeing light wrap, seep and dissolve. Just squint and you can feel it.  There is something to reflect on if you believe (as I do) that the most successful examples of art capturing that feeling of light is through words (try James Salter – immerse yourself in one of his masterful books,  Light Years or Burning the Days – a wonderful title that evokes so much, and I have borrowed myself) or paintings (The glorious tonal studies by Clarice Beckett are amongst my favourites). While one of the least effective, and most challenging medium, in my opinion, is the photograph – a photo doesn’t lie but but the most literal interpretation of what you see can also be the most soulless. I want to capture the feeling of light that glows, ebbs, and renders hard edges soft.

I spent a few days in Melbourne recently (Clarice Beckett’s home town) and was able to wander the streets at the moments when the light was low and soft, golden and reflecting off the buildings and windows. I was able to burn a few hours chasing reflections and shadows in the early morning and evening light. I turned at times to the old shop windows where images reflected and refracted through the old warped glass adding subtle distortions. While I didn’t really get any decent shots, it is a meadative process spending time on the street, in no particular hurry to get anywhere.

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Melbourne Reflections 3

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Melbourne Glow

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Melbourne Reflections 2

Melbourne Reflections 1

algorithm

Analog reflections and scratches in North Perth

Algorithms are everywhere influencing, or perhaps driving our behaviour when we interact in digital spaces. Maybe its a subtle interaction, but every adjustment we make to our digital images will trigger an algorithm to manipulate pixels, the software on our devices that house these algorithms are identical for every user, the more algorithms we apply, to some extent, the more normalised our digital images become. Its an unsettling thought. Film keeps the unpredictability and uniqueness of every frame alive, I still scan and rely on digitally post-processing for my images, but I hope that the analog heart of the images is retained, and while it is tempting to use digital algorithms to achieve a certain outcome, for me the process of creating an image is more satisfying when the outcomes are less predictable.

“Process is more important than outcome. When the outcome drives the process we will only ever go to where we’ve already been. If process drives outcome we may not know where we’re going, but we will know we want to be there.”

{An Incomplete Manifesto to Growth – Bruce Mau}

pica

A couple of shots using lomography 100 film with my Yashica35 to capture the shadows around Pica in Northbridge, Perth. As summer approaches the morning light is starting to see some nice contrasty shadows which is a nice change from winter grey days.

My Yashica35 is completely manual – it has no exposure meter, I have been using a Lightmeter app. on my mobile created by David Quiles Amat. So far it has been very accurate and easy to use – designed in a nice retro style. At well as using the Lightmeter app. I have also started to guess the exposure settings without any problem. Any exposure adjustments are pretty easy to make digitally if needed.

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