that time in which Paul Strand backs me up

in the previous entry, I closed with this aphorism:

« quite simply: the idea of the photographs is not to tell a story of the scene, as most people like to praise a photo by such an accolade, but for the photographs to tell a story of how the photographer sees the world. »
— KX

and in the documentary by John Walker Paul Strand: Under the Dark Cloth [ link ], he quotes Paul Strand as saying:

« you have to have to say something about the world. »
Paul Strand

which is a one way to look at why one wants to take a (series of) photograph(s). this also calls for a selfishness which may not suit a social-photo site's best use.

however, there was another comment in the documentary about Strand's photos in Taos, New Mexico. the photos were about the New Mexico light. principal among the photographs from Taos from Strand is the church wall, which I consider among his best and most inspiring.

© Aperture Foundation, Inc., The Paul Strand Archive, Millerton, NY  (via  PRweb )

© Aperture Foundation, Inc., The Paul Strand Archive, Millerton, NY (via PRweb)

Lewis Baltz   © Orange County, 1970   From the series The Prototype Works   Vintage gelatin silver print   (via  Artnews.org )

Lewis Baltz
© Orange County, 1970
From the series The Prototype Works
Vintage gelatin silver print
(via Artnews.org)

the Taos church photograph has some relation to some of the photos presented within the New Topographics genre. many examples can be found within Lewis Baltz's work, in which New Topographics propels the photographer(s) to say something about the world — perhaps in a collective quasi-anonymous sense. the work from Bernd and Hilla Becher also promotes a composition similar to the Strand photo. 

it strikes me that, by looking at many photos in the New Topographics style, that "the light" is not of great concern, and that more commonly, the photo is very bright and shuns the presence of dark shadows, with some shadow welcomed to highlight the geometries present. (examples can be viewed in this tumblr blog
[ link ] .)


the contrast of Strand's "typographic" work to anything similar from New Topographic has been a question that has propelled me to find a way to photograph in that style. particular to their respective styles, Strand's are more emotive — in the same way that Orson Wells and Gregg Toland brought composition to Citizen Kane — while New Topographics are very cold and not engaging, with a heavier emphasis on information.

"mobile photography" was/is a great means to bring out the intuitive ideas, by thinking of disposability and constant access to a camera to enable new styles and ways of seeing the world. while this was done with many phone-snapped photographs.

it was not until a few days in Kyoto (and Tokyo), in which this way of looking at city topographies: combining the idea of the compound of time by manmade, and/or arranged, objects and the proper distance/magnification that a consistent result was to come of it. while mobile photography is meant to be prompt and mobile in its creation, there is also a need to revisit the work after some time, and with greater care. still, the idea is not to linger too much in the processing, and to that end, I used VSCO Film set of presets to carry most of the weight in finishing the work within a short amount of time.

to that end, the photos at VSCO's Grid [ link ] present the mobile-platform work, while the photos with greater consideration are shown at Dunked [ link ]. 

the title for this latter collection Impermanence comes from a Wabi-Sabi notion, and what is seen in the photos. further to this concept of impermanence, it is an attempt to voice the play of this impermanence as it interacts with the surroundings: be they objects or "panels" which co-exists with the main focal object/panel. like with Strand's work, the hope is that the impermanence of the object(s) bring about an "pathos of things" to the viewer.

in the context of Strand's suggestion of "having something to say", this series is not designed to say something about impermanence before they were taken, but rather, like Wabi-Sabi, it is about finding more concises/known terms that describe how I have been seeing things all along and are converging into something more intuitive and innate.


[ ps ] a newer post delves into the work on Impermanence [ link ]

mobile photography: “don’t you worry, I will photograph my way out”

the quote is from Harry Callahan, and it is in the context of working within limitations. in his case,

« the diminution of the silver content in the paper made for, in most peoples’ mind, less beautiful prints — the darks just weren’t there. knowing this, Harry started to making pictures that would exploit the diminished values of the papers commonly available. [ ... ] the point is that when there were limitations, Harry worked right through them. as he said, “don’t you worry, I’ll photograph my way out.” » — Peter MacGill. [1]

in terms of searching for creativity, photographers may seek limitations as a way to notice scenes differently, and thus, promoting a direction to take from their current status: either drastic, or ever so subtle. one can think of instant film as a limiting medium: if one considers the aspect ratio, and colour shifts inherent in instant film, and in some cases the overall softness.

a modern take on these limitations is “phoneography”. by restricting the recording and processing to be within a phone, and a (false) sense of urgency to share a photo, then phoneography definitely can alter a photographer’s way of looking at scenes or moments. while digital, there are the limitations of lighting, dynamic range, long depth of field, and a fixed (typically) 28mm-e focal length. in a way, the phone became one “complete camera,” the way that Polaroid was, and unlike an SLR that requires the uploading of photos to a computer for processing. other advantages for finer work presentation are available with this SLR approach.

while on a recent trip, the narrow streets and the expansive canvas of what I seeing — regardless of camera — translated into an increased frustration with the phone’s camera. the lines were distorted, as the usual way of working with a square-frame restriction was not a good aspect ratio, and working with the more sensible (for these photographs) 16:9 aspect ratio meant that the lines were very distorted. 

the “style” to be pressed upon all that I was seeing was a sense of panels, either geometrically flat, or “3D”. the phone camera became woefully inept at acquiring the proper detail and angles I was seeking. 

however, I still wanted to retain the small-camera size/weight — as I could return later with other cameras to retake the photos — and I wanted to get to the envisioned result with the least amount of hassle. for this, it was still very much appealing to process the photos with the phone and/or tablet. also, the vast number of apps for processing photos was pretty much reduced to two: Snapseed and VSCOcam.

that’s it: I photographed my way out... to what mobile photography should be for me. photograph with a compact — which I had never purchased before — and a sensible speed to sharing results online. though more importantly, a quick route to results that help me consider a more “serious” return to the scene for re-shooting. (it must be said that, by the very nature of the city's layout, and other factors, it was impossible to find my way back to some locations, or they had an ephemeral element to them.)

consequently, two series (so far) stemmed from this pursuit/rework. mainly, the Lines of Japan, which has a result that would have never been possible (for me) from a camera phone like this first photo below...

kyoto, japan

kyoto, japan

and night photography, which otherwise would be riddled with bad results from a camera phone, such as the second photo below. this second photograph is based on a pre-conceived observation that was borne by the constraints of camera phones: New Topographics, in particular, the work from Lewis Baltz [ link ]. these other photos are collected in an on-going project called Topographies of Japan.

Gion District, Kyoto, Japan

Gion District, Kyoto, Japan

another consequence is a shift from 1:1 aspect ratio with camera phones to a predominant 16:9 with this new style of mobile photography.


resources

[1] Harry Callahan Retrospective, Kehrer Verlag, 2013, pg. 13. 
[2] Lines in Japan, mobile photography by Kodiak Xyza [ link to project ]
[3] Topographies of Japan, mobile photography by Kodiak Xyza [ link to project ]

[4] New Topographics photos from Lewis Baltz [ link to image web search ]