The Genius of Photography Part III

T1: What is described as “One of the most familiar concepts in photography”?

This concept is called “the Decisive moment”.


T2: Should you trust a photograph?

“It was probably a huge mistake from the beginning”, according to Philosopher Arthur C. Danto.


T3: What was revolutionary about the Leica in 1925?

The Leica was revolutionary for it’s period because of it’s silent and compact body, enabling photographers to take images that would otherwise have been impossible with view cameras.


T4:  What did George Bernard Shaw say about all the paintings of Christ?

George Bernard Shaw said that he would give all the paintings of Christ for one single snapshot.


T5:  Why were Tony Vaccaros’ negatives destroyed by the army censors?

The negatives were destroyed because they contained images of dead soldiers.


T6: Who was Henryk Ross and what was his job?

Henryk Ross was a polish jew photographer and had the job of documenting the production of goods at a polish nazi ghetto.


T7: Which show was a “sticking plaster for the wounds of the war”, how many people saw it and what “cliché” did it end on?

The show was called “The family of man” and had over 9 million visitors. It concluded with a picture made by W. Eugene  Smith’s of his children walking into the light of his garden.


T8: Why did Joel Meyerowitz photograph ground zero in colour?

Joel Meyerowitz photographed in colour because he didn’t want to keep the event as a tragedy.


The Genius of Photography Part II

T1: What are Typologies?

Typologies are systematic accurate records of people and things.


T2: What was the “Face of the times”?

The “Face of the times” was a selection of portraits published by August Sander in 1929.


T3: Which magazine did Rodchenko design?

Rodchenko designed “USSR in construction”.


T4: What is photo-montage?

Photo-montage was the process of cutting, pasting and retouching photos and artwork together.


T5: Why did Eugene Atget use albumen prints in the 1920’s?

Eugene Atget used albumen prints because he did not know how to use modern techniques.


T6: What is solarisation and how was it discovered?

Solarisation is a photographic process that consists in a short exposure during the print development and was discovered by accident.


T7: What was the relationship between Bernice Abbott and Eugene Atget?

Bernice Abbot was Eugene Atget’s assistant.


T8: Why was Walker Evans fired from the FSA?

Walker Evans was fired because he couldn’t link his own vision with the propaganda display of the FSA.

The Genius of Photography Part I

This term our ITAP lectures consisted of a series of documentaries about both photography and moving-image. At the end of each one we asked to complete several tasks related to each of the documentaries.


T1: What is photography’s “true genius”?

Photography’s “true genius” is it’s ability to show the secret strangeness that lies behind the world of appearances.


T2: Name a proto-photographer.

One of the first proto-photographers was Henry Fox Talbot.


T3: In the 19th century, what term was associated with the daguerreotype?

The daguerreotype was also called a mirror with a memory.


T4: What is the vernacular?

The vernacular is a genre of photography that has other purposes than art (journalistic, medical, scientific, etc).


T5: How do you “Fix the shadows”?

“Fixing the shadows” meant stopping the image from exposing by using a certain chemistry.


T6: What is the “carte de visite”?

“The carte de visite” was a type of photography that meant taking 8 different pictures of a person in rapid sequence that were later used to promote certain businesses throughout the world.


T7: Who was Nadar and why was he so successful?

Nadar was a French-19th century photographer, famous for his authentic and natural portraits of celebrities.


T8: What is pictorialism?

Pictorialism was an artistic current characterised by carefully constructed images that resembled paintings and were against candid photography.


Welcome to medium format

Contact sheet 1

About 2 weeks ago I managed to do a studio session using the Hasselblad 503W, a medium format camera.

Unlike 35mm film, medium format is much larger in size and thus, grain, sharpness and dynamic range are all increased. The Hasselblad uses the 6×6 square ratio and gets me 12 shots per film. The film used is 120 film and I found out that almost all emulsions come in this size.

Loading the film is tricky because it is backed by a black tape, preventing exposure while not in the camera. Loading is on a spiral is even more interesting but with a bit of practice it’s about as easy as with 35mm. What’s interesting is that 120 film (at least the one that came out from my camera) has a lot of space between frames, thus allowing me to give well defined black borders during printing.

The results are significantly better than the ones with 35mm. Grey-shade transitions are much smoother and it’s hard to over or underexpose. Even with an underexposed image I could get wonderful results by slightly increasing the contrast. Sharpness is also very good, I’m guessing because of both the film and the camera w/ Carl Zeiss lenses.

I can’t help but think why people would resort to even bigger formats such as 4×5 or 8×10.

Not posting the images yet because they’re part of a larger project that will hopefully be finished by the end of term, but I will leave you with the contact sheets :D.

Contact sheet 2


Night photography part III

Experiments regarding the use of Ilford PanF+ on capturing a decent moonrise have failed. Although the moon’s intensity was comparable with the Earth’s, PanF is simply too contrasty to capture details.

I might consider resorting to HP5 in a low dilution developer or pulled down to ISO 200 for the job.

Alternatively, I could resort to post-processing by the means of printing down the sky of a dusk scenery in order to suggest the idea of night-time.

Kodak E100G and the problem with slides

Just processed my Kodak E100G slide today.

I would like to share my opinion on this slide and also put into light some dilemmas that have been troubling me for a while.

First off, this new slide (not unlike every new film I try) was a source of both joy and sorrow. The joy consists in the color it gave. Just like the description, “what you see is what you get”. The tones aren’t saturated but are still contrasty enough to give a natural look even in the dullest scenes, like the ones I shot. This gives an edge, especially in portraits, where skin tone is basically the only tone that matters. Unfortunately, the slide does show a blue cast when underexposed; I`m guessing this can be explained by the way the color layers are structured (blue being the first to be hit by light).

Another thing that struck me as being odd was the grain: it`s not nearly as smooth as Kodak suggests, Velvia 100 seems finer. All in all, I think I`ll be using this film again, instead of Provia that didn`t turn out to be so spectacular. Portraits and sunlight should give some stunning results.

It is clear now to me that all color films need plenty of light to show their true colors (literally). Shade is a color killer. Overcast days are another.

What I saw as interesting, and is basically the subject of this post was that this film was really tricky to expose. As I was looking through my bracketed shots, I noticed that only the most exposed ones were fairly accurate. These corresponded to zone 5 of the zone system, being exposed with the spot meter head on. I was underexposing my shots in the hope that I would get more detail. To understand why I was doing this, I must first take you through the “art” of exposing to the right.

Exposing to the right means giving an image more exposure than it actually needs in order to capture more information. It`s simple, have you ever wondered why in a noisy pic taken at a very high ISO there`s no noise in burnt out (white) areas? That`s because white is the sum of all the colors at their max, it is therefore a peak of information. Of course, no sensor or film can contain that amount of information.

Now, exposing to the right means bringing more information to the picture, or negative in our case. Thus, what`s extra and is not needed is burned out in printing by increasing the exposure time or simply adjusted down in an editing tool in the case of digital files.

By the way, it`s called “exposing to the right” because you actually move the contests of the pictures histogram to the right.

You can try this yourself, take a picture at a high ISO (say…800) first using the right exposure and then about a stop higher. Reduce the exposure of the second image in post processing by one stop. Now you will technically have the same exposure in both photographs, only that one will have less noise because it originally had more information in it.

In the case of b&w negatives this method results in further blackening of the film. Because film has better quality when most of it`s grain is exposed to light, this results with information being stored in both highlights and shadows. You then simply increase the exposure time during printing and get a nice, detailed print. It`s the same thing with color film with the exception that it has several layers to be exposed to the right (one for each color).

If you thought negatives were hard to understand, hold on…

Slide film is a more complex type of film. It start’s off a negative as well but undergoes a process called Bleaching. I`m not pretty sure what this process does exactly but I do know that it affects the dyes in the film in such a way that they become positive, cyan becomes red, yellow – blue, magenta – green. The upside to this is a true reproduction of the image’s original colors and a true original. You can actually see on the slide your photo.

The problem comes during printing. With negatives, you can apply the method stated above with both the film and the paper, both of them being negatives. With slides, they are both positive. The paper is initially black (i`ve never printed slides but this should make sense).

Also, it`s slides are in their very nature, contrast-films. They have a very limited exposure range, especially with highlights. More than one stop over and your highlights are blown, contrast decreases and your photo is ruined.

So here’s my dilemma for today: if exposing to the right still works for slides, how can you apply it?

ITAP Lecture 8

The eighth ITAP Lecture took us through the process of Production. It defined production as the last stage of the design process, in which the found solution to a problem is put into practice.

As a first task, we were asked to find out how the first book in Europe got printed.

Johannes Gutenberg

The Gutenberg Bible was the first ever boom to be printed in Europe, or anywhere in the world for that matter. Named after Johannes Gutenberg , a German printer and the one to introduce modern printing, the Bible was the first book to be printed with movable type. It is also called The-42-line Bible because of the 42 lines of text present in each page, a first at that time. However, the first 9 pages and pages 256 to 265 of the Bible have only 40 lines of text each, presumably because they were the first to be printed, before Gutenberg’s change of heart. It is unknown how many copies were sold, probably somewhere between 160 and 185.

Another innovation that the book carried was a new type of ink.

Gutenberg Bible in New York Public Library

Gutenberg used an oil-based ink, instead of the usual watercolor, containing metals such as copper, lead and even titanium. The major improvement of this new ink was in it’s much better adherence to the pages.

The Bible sold out quickly to buyers as far as Hungary. Nowadays, only 21 copies remain complete in museums and libraries around the world in cities such as Vienna, Copenhagen, Munich and Berlin.

Novice-to-Expert Scale

The second task consisted of a self-assesment regarding our level as visual communicators. The Novice-to-Expert scale allowed me to rate myself as Competent.

In developing the Birmingham-based magazine for the first project, I showed some good knowledge regarding my area of expertise by studying some important historical practitioners, also photographs that fitted the purpose of the magazine, though they did lack some refinement. I was able to work without supervision most of the time.

I planned ahead my part of the project by making notes in the RVJ about what could work and what remained possible but not plausible. Many of these ideas were materialized only on paper and some even in the form of images, but were saved as a later project that I might attend to.