You Are What You Photograph: It’s Not Just All About Exposure
Steichen was always one of my photo heroes. A true Renaissance man, along with Alfred Stieglitz he opened the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession in 1905, won an Academy Award for his World War II film The Fighting Lady, and became director of the Department of Photography at New York’s Museum of Modern Art where he curated the legendary “Family of Man” exhibit that traveled to 69 countries and was seen by 9 million people. A companion book sold 2.5 million copies. Yet, many photographers today don’t even know his name. One of this column’s goals is to bring future “Steichens” to the attention of Shutterbug’s readers and I’m especially proud of the group of photographers that I’ve assembled for this month.
Michael Herb has taken the “picture-a-day” concept to new heights. His goal is to make one “creative and eye-catching” picture a day for an entire year. At the end of the year he plans to produce a coffee-table book featuring each image along with the blog post for that day. As I struggle to make even one new picture each day, Herb is creating mini masterpieces that exhibit a combination of talent in concept, execution, and postproduction. Any photographer would love to have any one of these daily images in their portfolio and Herb is hoping to shoot 365!
As I write this, on his Day 124, the project seems to be wearing and his comments have become highly personal and incisive—much as many of his photographs are. (Profanity Warning.) The breadth of Herb’s work is staggering. From images of “zombies” to a RoboCop homage to experiments with painting with light, all of these images reflect a high-intensity curiosity about what makes a photograph. “Remember when you thought you were invincible?” (Day 64) features an adventurous skateboarder—there’s even a lighting diagram—but it’s as much a self-portrait as it is an action photograph. Yet, Herb has time for what some might call straight portraiture (Day 106) but these strong, even confrontational images reflect an overriding curiosity from Herb about the definition of photography and portraiture in particular. Most—maybe all—of his images feature people but more than just people they are characters on the stage of life. I think that says a lot about who I feel Herb really is; I think he’s this millennium’s Edward Steichen.
The winner of the longest photo URL contest is…Dave Welling. But hey, wait till you get a load of his photographs. What his busy-looking website doesn’t immediately show is the breathtaking scope and astounding—and outstanding—quality of his nature images that range from birds to mammals to drop-dead gorgeous landscapes. You don’t collect this many different photographs or even categories of images by snapping your shutter at the first thing that moves.
Welling’s carefully crafted photographs of birds, for example, include images of northern bobwhites lined up at a watering hole. Hovering your mouse over the image provides detailed information about the bird, including its Latin name, and a bit about the file but little photographic data. Like most of the images in Welling’s massive galleries, each image is plastered with a large but subtle watermark in its middle.
As astonishing as the breadth of his collection of animal photographs may be, his landscapes are even more impressive. Peek into the Panoramic gallery for a look at the four seasons in some of the most and least photographed vistas on the planet. Looking at an image of Canaima National Park in Venezuela is a trip back into time and Welling’s camera is your time machine. His close-up photography found in the Intimate Views of Nature gallery shows he’s not just a “big picture” kind of guy as he captures these quiet images with maximum impact and supreme delicacy, all at the same time. There is so much more to see here that I urge you to take your time and explore.
This month’s featured Shutterbug reader’s website belongs to Orest Macina, a Cleveland photographer whose fascination with shape and texture is on display here. Macina’s images are hosted by RedBubble (www.redbubble.com), a photo-sharing site that helps its members sell framed prints, calendars, canvases, and posters. If you click on his Portfolio link, you’ll see the four galleries where Macina’s work is collected as well as links for prints and greeting cards. It’s really a painless way to sell your work.
The four collections include Rockscapes, Shellscapes, Petalscapes, and Florals, where you’ll experience an explosion of color as the photographer gets up close and personal with all kinds of flowers, creating an immersive experience. There are even some black-and-white images and while I’m usually not a fan of monochrome flower photographs, images such as “Lily” have graphic impact that’s not to be missed. By contrast, Petalscapes takes you inside flowers with an emphasis on shape and color that’s far removed from what is typically seen as “flower photography.” His Shellscapes become color photograms about the tiniest details of seashells, exploring their nooks and crannies as if he were a spelunker. When you get to Rockscapes it’s all about color and texture and if you’ve ever wondered why people are rockhounds, Macina’s photographs tell you why. There is no sense of scale here, merely beautiful colors arranged into miniature landscapes that only the best macro photographers could accomplish.
This month’s Blog-of-the-Month is Dave Powell’s ShootTokyo, a look at daily life in Japan from a decidedly Western perspective. Powell’s camera captures what’s often missing in travel photography of this country and that’s because he lives there and his incisive photographs give you a sense of what that experience is like. One of my favorite aspects of his blog, as well as his approach to photography, is “The 2K Experiment,” which neatly dovetails with the “right in your own backyard” concept I’ve written about from time to time. The idea is to photograph anything within 2 kilometers from your home. Why 2 kilometers? Powell says, “Who doesn’t have time for a 10- or 15-minute walk?” This page has links to some of his 2K walks, so don’t miss a single image. From the beautiful HDR imagery of Yutenji and the Meguro River to the photojournalistic approach found in images of the Meguro Police Station, Powell shows his talents as an observer of the beauty and real life of Tokyo. This is more than a photoblog, so be sure to visit his Portfolio, which includes gee-whiz images not just of Tokyo but, in his Cities collection, other places as well. In the other collections his style varies from reportage to the idealized. His approach to changing styles when changing topics is akin to being a photographic chameleon, but he’s always on the mark.