Around The Web In 31 Days: It’s National Photo Month
National Photography Month started in 1984 as the week-long American Photography Celebration but now runs the entire month. May was also the home of “Take Your Camera to Work Day” that was funded out of my own pocket but faded after a few years because of the cost of creating a user-friendly site. If anybody’s interested in helping relaunch the website I could restart it next year, depending on whether the Mayans were wrong or not. May is also my birthday month and I’d like to thank all of Shutterbug’s readers for their support over the years.
I’ve never met Steve Simon but we were once guests on the same podcast and I was struck by this Canadian-born photographer’s eloquence as he talked about making images, but more importantly why he does it. Simon doesn’t just make “pretty pictures,” although sometimes his photographs have an evocative beauty, because they are about something. Simon is a throwback to the classic photojournalist and in looking at the photographs on his website, I feel as if I’m seeing the work of a latter-day W. Eugene Smith. Part of that is because his black-and-white images have a raw intensity, as seen in his photo essay The Republicans made at their last national convention. Yet Simon is a compassionate photographer as you can tell by how Healing Waters examines the pilgrimage of believers to Lac Ste. Anne and where he captured touching images of people looking for spiritual as well as physical renewal. Some of these images are stunning in color, while others in monochrome, such as a kneeling man praying the rosary, recall Gene Smith’s 1951 essay “Spanish Village.”
In Heroines & Heroes Simon takes us to Africa for a look at a people coping with a hard life yet his images are full of passion, exemplified by his choice use of a strong color palette. When switching to black and white his images take on a Pietà-like serenity as seen in his photograph of a young woman suffering from an AIDS-related illness lying in bed. This photograph is a Rorschach test for viewers pondering what this image is really about. There is more in this essay, much of it sad as in photographs of small coffins being made for children, with Simon forcing the viewer out of their comfort zone and off their Barcalounger to face the fact that life is hard for people in places like this and the only way it will change is if people become aware. The photography of Steve Simon is doing its part by raising awareness and sometimes that’s how the greatest art is forged.
Sam Kittner is a photographer in Takoma Park, Maryland, whose work runs the gamut from people and lifestyles to some of the most incredible architectural images I’ve seen on the web. Then he sprinkles in some panoramics of—not just architecture—but landscapes that will leave you breathless in their scope and quiet beauty. This elegant website makes excellent use of a white space design to showcase eight Portfolios, three different Projects, and a series of Interactive Panos.
Looking into the Architecture-Buildings portfolio you’ll see Kittner’s diverse approach to capturing images, some traditional, others that enhance the architect’s vision, and yet others transcending the genre, bending it into the art form of a sort that Julius Shulman created with his photographs of modernist architecture. Kittner seems at his most creative when working at night where many of his buildings take on an otherworldly Blade Runner look. His People-Portraits portfolio is a change of pace and includes warm environmental portraits of subjects from presidents to ice cream vendors. In Lifestyle, his images morph into casual and oft-times eye-popping color portraits of “real people” in parts of Washington, DC, outside the world of tourism or politics, in locations ranging from bike paths to supermarkets. Drop by his blog for updates on his current projects and what you’ll discover is that Sam Kittner is a Renaissance Man with the ability to change gears whether photographing a car dealership at night or the president of the United States, all the while creating images that are both appropriate and appropriately creative.
Talk about fun! Ryan Armbrust’s clever website is the most pleasurable to navigate I’ve run across in a long time. His gallery contains eight collections from Photojournalism to Lifestyle Portraits and since he’s in Louisville there’s one for the Kentucky Derby. When I lived in Baltimore my home was not far from Pimlico, the home of the Preakness. I miss the excitement of the Sport of Kings but Armbrust’s images bring it all back and looking at his skillfully and artfully photographed horse racing images I can almost hear the pounding of the hooves on the track. There are more than horses in this gallery as Armbrust captures all of the glamorous excitement and people involved in making the event that is the Kentucky Derby happen.
Many photographers talk about capturing “lifestyle portraits” but Armbrust delivers the goods with everything from corporate executives in suits to people wearing nothing (advisory: tasteful Nudity) to guys with model railroads and musicians with their instruments to…you name it. Armbrust’s images fit the style to the subject with care, love, and obvious passion. This & That shows his versatility with bread-and-butter commercial images from food photography to PR shots to architecture to junk, all captured with a sense of style and craftsmanship along with a twinkle in his lens. There’s a Nightlife gallery full of pictures that may only be of interest to the participants, but hey, this is the kind of Facebook photography that young people love. It shows that, yes indeed, Ryan Armbrust is a guy who anybody would hire for their professional photography needs because you know he’d be fun to work with.
This month’s Blog-of-the-Month is from John E. Adams, a photographer who combines a depth of knowledge about the technical aspects of digital imaging along with an innate grasp of the aesthetic. He uses both skills to create powerful images of automobiles and motorcycles. Nobody—nobody—does bikes better than Adams as you can tell by clicking on the link to his Blurb book 11th Annual Riding Into History and previewing the breathtaking images on its pages. Adams created his blog using the free Blogger (www.blogger.com) service that lets anybody produce blogs but he adds a sense of style that’s uniquely his own.
Adams Views Imaging follows a more or less standard photoblog format by randomly mixing his memorable photographs with text posts, such as Studio Management on A Budget, that are always worth a read. Many of the captions for his car photographs include history about the specific car. My favorite photograph has to be the red MG Twin-Cam Coupe titled “Taken at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Florida.” If you’re looking to get some insights on the technical details of how he captures his lush HDR photographs be sure to click on Unlimited Exposure Bracketing on a Budget! at the top of the screen. If you think that the path to capturing dramatic HDR images is just setting AEB on your SLR and clicking the shutter, John E. Adams shows how he does it with two different, computerized approaches that are as technically remarkable as his images.