Around The World In 400 Websites; I Pick ’Em And You Click ’Em
"Whatever one man is capable of conceiving, other men will be able to achieve."--Jules Verne
Next month begins the 10th year for a column that started out life as "Web Site of the Month" and in September 2000 became "Web Profiles." During that time I've showcased more than 400 photographers and photography-related sites and have intensified my search by always looking for something different, starting with image quality but never overlooking overall design. In order to end up with the four sites each month I review approximately 50 different sites asking, on average, 10 photographers for permission to feature their sites. I'm looking for websites that display more than just pictures of cute kids with puppies; my goal is to share sites created by photographers with a clear view of what they're trying to communicate so that we can all learn something from them. Along the way I've even made a few new friends and that was a pleasant and unexpected surprise of writing this column. As always, I appreciate your help in finding exciting new sites and if you'd like to nominate your own or a favorite, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lyle Owerko is a versatile photographer whose site contains images of adventure travel, editorial illustration, as well as the kind of hard news that appears in his (Violence Advisory) "September 11th" gallery. The contrast between the unsettling images in the latter image collection with the lifestyle photographs in his "Carstyle" gallery could not be more apparent. The dichotomy of pictures of people hurtling to their deaths compared to dramatic photographs of muscle cars tells me Owerko is one complicated dude. Closer examination shows these diverse images do have something in common; a complete control over the technical and craft aspects of image-making.
Yet it is only in his "Africa" portfolios where you get a glimpse of Owerko's soul. "The Samburu" contains dramatic old-school black and white portraits of this tribe of Kenyan "Butterfly People" that alone are worthy of a book. "Millennium Promise" features contemporary portraiture of Africans who are a part of a program to introduce a higher standard of living to the continent. (To learn more, visit www.milleniumpromise.org.) The "Kenya Drilling Crew" portraits show hardworking people drilling not for oil but clean water and form a symbiosis between the previous two galleries. In "Radio Simba," Owerko shifts his imagery to color, showing young African men and their ingenuity in producing boomboxes powered by everything from the sun to car batteries. This is yet another part of Africa we Americans seldom see and Owerko is to be congratulated for using his talents to show us life beyond our borders. His classy-looking site is powered by liveBooks (www.livebooks.com).
In reviewing sites for this column I get to see many from wedding photographers. Some have great images and some have great designs, but Andrew Scalini wins the prize with an innovative site design that's accompanied by dazzling imagery. Instead of showing galleries of photographs and sample wedding albums, you'll see three horizontally scrolling windows that are in constant motion--some at different speeds. You can think of it as the photographic equivalent of the "text scroll" at the bottom of the screen that's used by cable news networks. A delightful Fellini-like musical score accompanies it all. I know music annoys some people (not me) and I couldn't figure out how to turn it off.
The top scroll displays the photographer's name in different forms. The middle and largest section displays photographs. This is not a slide show since you see lots of different photographs at the same time and can click on a specific image to view it larger as the scroll freezes. Scalini's imagery embraces a decidedly romantic approach yet still manages to toss in Italian neorealism stylings for good measure. Using color, monochrome, or a clever blend of the two, Scalini's photography never fails to surprise with striking compositions along with an obvious empathy for his subjects who are alternately oblivious to him or madly in love with his camera. His portraits are pensive, joyful, dramatic, quiet, and exhibit the freshest approach to wedding photography I've seen in a long time.