Motion Blur

I have been experimenting with motion blur (or intentional camera movement, ICM as it is called) in the past. You achieve this effect by using a relatively long exposure time (1/25 second or slower) and moving your camera in a planned and coordinated way when pressing the shutter release. Technically it is not easy to produce meaningful pictures because you need to calculate the visual path of the camera and the position of the object that you are aiming at. So consequently you often get pictures that do not show what you have envisaged. 

And to be clear. Motion blur does not mean that you shoot randomly into a crowd or at still objects. In order to achieve good pictures you should have a clear idea of what you want to capture and how to move your camera. Otherwise you end up with chaotic pictures that don’t have any meaning or good visual impact. 

In Tokyo I returned to the technique of motion blur. An important reason was that I was not overly happy with the expression of my “still pictures” that I had taken in the first two days in the city. So I decided to take the plunge and shoot ICM only for the rest of my stay. That gave me the opportunity of trying out this technique in many shots and to improve my technique. 

_DSC7436-1*.jpg

To my mind motion blur pictures have a deeper, a different expression than still photos. I find that they reveal a “reality behind the reality” that you can hardly find in the usual images with quick shutter release. Particularly when shooting people I find that their faces show treats that express something of their character that you only find when you use long exposure. 

_DSC6692-1.jpg


As the viewer of these pictures you need to take more time too. Following the lines, looking into each corner of the picture helps you getting the full expression of the picture. Letting the overall impression sink in, letting your subconscious process what you see may indeed reveal a deeper reality. Of course this applies on any photograph, however do I think that in motion blur pictures, patience on the side of the viewer reveals more details and more meaning. It feels as if I as the viewer immerse myself deeper into what is happening in the picture. 

Flickr is not the ideal medium for motion blur. We “flick” through the pictures very rapidly, spending hardly longer than 3 seconds on one image. But maybe sometimes it would be good to slow down and to force ourselves into a deeper experience with the pictures that we regard. Motion blur is a good occasion to start this attempt.


From Snapshot to Metaphor

Recently I went to a party in Invercargill where parents and their children around the age of 15 to 20 celebrated together. It was a nice party and everybody had a lot of fun. I had my iPhone with me and started shooting some pictures of people dancing and I caught a few shots that were a little blurry and grainy due to the low light. All in all they were average party pictures that I did not pay very much attention to.

IMG_1276.JPG

Some weeks later I bumped into these pictures again when reviewing the iPhone shots on my computer. And here I realised that at least some of the pictures had a quality that I had not observed when skimming them superficially. To me it appeared that some of these pictures exuded the essence of what being young means. Being free, being oblivious of the surroundings, just captivated by music and the own movements. The pictures were still not very good snapshots but I could see something deeper in them.

So I took one of these pictures and started processing it. And step by step it changed into what I had seen in it before. To me it became the humble epitome of what being young can mean. Technically this picture has plenty of flaws and I am not even convinced that it is a “good” picture. But to me it has the quality of elevating a mundane scene into a metaphorical quality.

I certainly admit that this is just me, the way my own mind works and that I would not sell this image as a piece of major art. But to me it is a nice example of what we see in a picture and how we are able to transform our vision into something real existing.

IMG_1276-04.jpg

Shooting Musicians

In the past few months I got involved into taking pictures of musicians. Starting point was that I met a group of street musicians in the streets of Athens. I asked them if they were ok with me taking some pictures of them. They agreed and subsequently I met them again, attended some of their scheduled concerts and took some portraits of some of them.

From there on it snowballed and I got deeper involved in the scene with a few musicians being interested in me taking their pictures. A week ago I could attend a radio contest show with the blues guitarist and singer Tom Yosi and his band. I could take pictures of their preparation for the concert and of the event itself. Here is the link to Tom’s Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/thanasis.klabanos

Taking pictures of musicians is special. It is artistically satisfying. And I will tell you why. Musicians live their passion. They love what they do. They love their music and they love the social interaction that ensues from it. And all this shows in their faces. Musicians are people that are ‘easy’ to shoot because they have a lot of expression on their faces.

Tom Yosi in concert at red fm in Athens

Tom Yosi in concert at red fm in Athens

I have made the experience that during concerts musicians live their music. They dive into it. And every twist and turn of the music often shows in their faces. So it is an adventure to follow them during a concert and to capture what the music does to them and to their facial expression.

Ηώ Δάδα singing at Dafni café in Athens

Ηώ Δάδα singing at Dafni café in Athens

Shooting during concerts in cafes and bars (and that is what I do mainly at the moment) is photographically a big challenge. The light is crap (as you see in the picture above), most of the time there is no stage light at all and you can be glad if you find a ceiling light that illuminates the scene in a random way. Not easy to shoot good pictures that way.

With the radio concert it was a little different. This happened on a stage at the broadcast centre where they had professional equipment and also stage light. However the lighting was actually far away from anything you could call professional. This was radio and not a TV show.

Anyway - the experience of getting involved into Athen’s music scene, of having the opportunity of taking pictures of musicians on stage and privately and of encountering their love and passion for their art is providing big joy to me. I hope that this will continue and that I will be able to expand on it. And I also hope that the interruptions by me working (I need to earn money, and I can’t do this with my photography) will not have too bad an influence on this development.

I have been waiting for this kind of photography for years. Now it is happening and I am very happy.



Becoming Pro

I have become Pro. Flickr Pro. This means that I am going to pay 50,- Dollars per year (and a discounted 35,- for the first year) to prevent Flickr from deleting my images that are above the maximum of 1000 that Flickr allows for a free account.

I have been thinking about this for a while. And considering that I am so critical of Flickrs new policy and that I have just written a rant about this a few days ago, you may wonder how this happened. Am I a hypocrite?

Well, I decided to stay with Flickr because it is my social basis for photography. I have met many people here that I communicate with via Flickr. I love the exchange of comments and ideas about pictures. I use Flickr to test my pictures and to see how the response of my followers is (although I have to admit that I often don’t understand their reasoning for faving and not faving pictures, but that is another topic). And I want to maintain the opportunity of interacting with certain people that I like and whose work I want to follow.

Are there alternatives? Yes, theoretically there are alternatives. 500 px provide a very nice platform with high quality photographers posting their pictures there. Instagram has a huge base of people showing their work and posting social news. But on these platforms (that I actually have subscribed to as a free member) I don’t have the social interaction with the people that I “collected” over the past 5 years. And that is the main reason to stay with Flickr.

From a photographic perspective quality is probably better on 500 px. From a social perspective Instagram has probably more diversity. But I won’t find my “old Flickr friends” there. And that is the reason why I am staying.

I still don’t agree with Flickr’s random change of policies. I loathe the fact that they are threatening to delete art. I am worried that my beloved ****Contrasted Gallery is going to die or at least take a severe blow because hundreds of pictures will be deleted from it. And I find it ridiculous that I need to pay a ransom in order to prevent Flickr from deleting parts of my own collection (although I can afford the amount, this is not the reason).

But I am going to stay for at least the next year. I will observe how Flickr develops. I will see if the change of policy causes the expected further drain of creativity from it. And I will re-consider things after one year. I am still pissed off. And I don’t think I am a hypocrite.

Flickr Kills Art

For the last year and a half I have been one of the curators of ****Contrasted Gallery. ****CG is an online project, founded more than 10 years ago by Manuel Diumenjó. He and his co-curators invite on a monthly basis interesting artists to exhibit a collection of their Flickr pictures at ****CG.

Technically ****CG is a Flickr group where only curators have the right to ‘admit’ pictures. We invite artists, discuss with them their work and ask them to chose up to 50 pictures that they want to exhibit for one month. After the show the pictures remain in the gallery so that interested people always have the opportunity of reviewing artistic work that has been accumulated in over 10 years. So it has become a fascinating place where artistic photography is shown.

And now comes Flickr. And threatens to delete all pictures above 1000 of all its members that have not become Pro. Do you have an idea what that means? According to Manuel’s estimation between 60 and 70% of all pictures that have been accumulated at ****CG over the years will be deleted. Gone! Forever!

So Flickr is not only urging people to decide if they want their own collection of pictures to be deleted if they don’t pay the ransom, they also destroy pro-actively art and the work people have put into this over the last decade. This is a scandal!

Art needs to be protected from barbarians of all kind. Art cannot be “deleted”. The attitude behind this is awful. This is close to fascist behaviour. A company that is deleting art has not understood its responsibility.

Here is the link to ****Contrasted Gallery. If you click the links on the left han side you get to the respective exhibition of an artist. https://www.flickr.com/groups/contrasted_gallery/discuss/

If you think that Flickr’s new policy needs a change, particularly in order to prevent the destruction of art, write them, swamp them with requests! Here is the link to the Flickr help page for this topic: www.flickr.com/help/forum/en-us/72157702923034264/ 

About Re-Interpreting Art in Photography

You have a walk through an art exhibition. Let's say the big documenta14 exhibition in Athens. And graciously they allow you to take pictures. "No flash lights!" Of course.

And you take some pictures of work that you find interesting. You take pictures the way you think it represents this art the best way. You chose the POV (point of view), the angle, the exposure to complement the oeuvre.

 

The Chess Society by Bili Bidjocka  documenta14, Athens School of Fine Arts

The Chess Society by Bili Bidjocka  documenta14, Athens School of Fine Arts

 

And whilst you are taking these pictures the piece of art is doing something with you. It makes you aware of its presence. It occupies your mind. You start thinking about the meaning of this piece of art. You start asking how the picture that you are taking interacts with this piece of art. You start interpreting this piece of art by taking a picture. You are getting involved into the process of creating a little piece of art yourself. You create art about art. With the help of photography. With the help of your mind and your camera. So it becomes a little piece of your own. Your own creation.

Does it? Is this picture your own? Do you become the creator of art? By just taking a picture of a piece of art? Can you call yourself an artist because you interpret somebody else's art? I am not sure.

I personally feel that I am changing the perception of this particular piece of art by taking a picture my way. I get into a dialogue with this piece of art. I try to find answers to its message. So from that perspective I regard myself as the creator of a new piece of art.

But am I really? I don't know. I will leave this to you to decide. And maybe you comment on it and tell me your opinion. 

About Darkness in Photography

Shooting light is not possible. Only darkness makes us see. And yet there is the question how much darkness there should be. Do we want light darkness or in other words light greys if we talk about black and white photography? Or do we want deep darkness or in other words strong contrast? Or do we even chose a darkness that leaves barely any light, a darkness that swallows nearly everything? 

What do we want to express? How is our mood? How dark or bright do we perceive our lives and ourselves? Is the use of darkness in photography an expression of how we see life, how we judge the quality of life? Light is life. But darkness is too.

Does darkness represent the demons in us, tamed when we approach them in photography? Or is light in deep darkness maybe the expression of the slightest subtleties of hope and so an expression of vitality and deep positive feelings?

I work with darkness in my photography. I am fascinated by it. I find tiny little bits of light in deep darkness highly attractive. My heart opens when I watch the minimal subtle light that makes us see not more than just the shapes of forms. It makes my phantasy rave, gives me the thrill of the unknown that I can fill with my own thoughts and feelings.

Yes, darkness also has a scary aspect. The darkness of the unknown can be terrorizing. Maybe something evil hides in the darkness that I cannot discern and that jeopardizes me and my life? Maybe the darkness in a picture represents the dark side within myself, in my soul? Maybe I can see the abyss but not gaze to its ground? Darkness can make me shudder. Darkness can be threatening. But by inflicting this threat on us, darkness also exudes a thrill.

It is a game. An experiment. An experiment with our own nature and personality when we take pictures. When we impose our own taste on the frame and what it expresses.

And that is the fascination of processing pictures. When taking the picture with my camera I have a real environment, a scene that allows a limited number of interpretations. Processing a picture gives me the opportunity of widening my options, of adding new meaning by interpreting what I find in my original image. 

Processing is interpretation. Is enhancement. Is adding meaning. And that is when I process a picture into dark. I imprint on this picture my interpretation of a meaning of darkness. And I give others the opportunity of reading me through my picture.

Yes, please read the darkness in my soul. But be aware of the gate keeper.

CURATING

I have been asked to become one of the curators of the online photographic gallery ****Contrasted Gallery on Flickr.  https://www.flickr.com/groups/contrasted_gallery/pool/

Contrasted Gallery is an exhibition project founded by Manuel Diumenjó in 2007. The gallery exhibits interesting artistic pictures by photographers that post their pictures on a Flickr stream. Currently three curators share the task of finding artists and asking them if they are interested in showing their pictures in this online gallery. The curators are free to decide who they invite and which criteria they apply with regard to their choice.

So all of a sudden I find myself in the situation that I need not only to find an artist every three months who wants to exhibit his work but I also (and that is the trickier part) need to define my own criteria of quality that make me approach a photographer and ask him or her.

It is similar to my question in my last blog. What are the criteria for taking or processing a picture? In this case it is the question how I define "artistry" and "well taken" and "interesting". And honestly - I don't know. I have likings and dislikes. I have moments when a picture or a picture gallery appeals to me, speaks to me and other moments when this doesn't happen. As a decision making criteria this doesn't seem very strong.

Yes, criteria like composition and use of light I take into account. Is it a picture that tells a story? Is the whole gallery able to captivate the viewer? Am I interested in watching the next picture and discover what t is all about? Does the photographer communicate with his subjects (and if it is even on a remote and virtual basis)? Does he or she communicate with his viewers?

What I don't apply are criteria of so called "modern photography". I made once in New Zealand an experience with a gallerist that I had approached with the question if he was interested in exhibiting some of my pictures. He declined my request with the reasoning that my pictures did not exude the feel of modern photography and that it was stuck in the 80s. I pondered about this for a long time and I could really, really not find out what exactly he meant. Sure, some photography deals with the latest social and political dvelopments. The photographers that are represented by the Magnum group work that way, and they do it brilliantly. But other photography is timeless, does not refer to certain new socio-geographical developments. I have come to the conclusion that this criterium is nonsense, at least for my own decision making.

So I approach artists whose pictures "speak to me". I apply my subjective criteria. I get into an dialogue with the artist and his work. And if I am able to maintain this dialogue for a while and if the overall work communicates a message that captivates me I invite them.

I am currently working with the Brazilian photographer Zé Lobarto. Zé creates beautiful street photography where each single picture tells a story of light, lines and drama. But I don't want to ramble. I want to attract your attention to this amazing artist and make you follow this link to his Flickr stream. Yes, exactly this one. Click!  https://www.flickr.com/photos/ze_lobato/

And on 10 June, when the exhibition opens I will add here the link to his work at ****Contrasted Gallery.

The first exhibition that I have curated was with pictures of the German photographer Stefan Speidel who has been living in Tokyo for the past 30 years. His strong black and white pictures of Japan and Japanese life and culture give an impression of how life shapes the view of expats who have to embrace their new environment. And external view from inside. I find it fascinating.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/rifugio_bobo

I am captivated. By them. By their work. And by choosing artists and applying my own very subjective criteria. I love it!