Lorenzo & his humble friends

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool

Category: photography

Spettacolo del mondo

Catturare l’immagine di un muro, di un viso, di un gesto che da soli permettono di immaginare una intera città, un paese, il calore del giorno, l’ombra della notte e perfino il modo di vivere o di morire.

Maurice Nadeau, introduzione del volume Ferdinando Scianna per FotoNote/Contrasto.

Siddhartha with a camera

In a book on photography I recently read, the act of taking pictures is described as ‘pleasure, instinct, and freedom‘. If you asked me, I would add ‘contemplation‘. The beauty of photography is that of taking time, going slow, waiting for the right light, and then waiting a few days for the film to be developed – of course, the latter does not apply to modern cameras and phones. The slow rhythm of photography contradicts the imperatives of modern life.

What is more, it seems to me that there are several connections between yoga and photography. The pursuit of abstraction, the importance of being an observer of something bigger going on around you, and the idea that you can find joy simply by taking the time to look around.

Of course, I know little about photography and I know even less about yoga. Take these scattered notes with a pinch of skepticism.

What are you thinking about?

The photos we take reflect the way we look at the world, which is very subjective.

Give a camera to three persons who are looking at the same landscape. They will take completely different photos, even if they have the same technical skills. The first person may want to capture the grey and threatening clouds on the horizon and take a picture in the style of Pentti Sammallahti. The second person could zoom on the thoughtful pedestrian walking with his dog, a much more humanistic approach of the kind of Susan Meseilas. The third may decide to boost the colours, emphasise the contrast between the green pullover of the pedestrian and the red house on the right, creating a magical atmosphere à la Alex Webb’s. Through a camera we decide what we want to see and how we want to portray it.

Much of this craft disappears with modern phones. Their standard images are often beautiful, but less intimate than those you can take with a normal camera by playing around with the exposition, the zoom, the focus, the width…

Bottles make for good photos

About a month ago I took a picture of bottles in the snow. I thought it was a good, playful photo.

Yesterday I discovered that Robert Capa took a similar, better photo when he was on holiday in Zurs in 1950.

AUSTRIA. Zurs. 1949-1950. Ice bar.

Balklanlarda

I was born in 1987. That year, Greek photographer Nikos Economopoulos started to systematically document life in the communist regimes of Albania, Bulgaria, and Romania, in Greece and in Turkey. He wanted “to knit together the skeins of a collective identity in a region whose historical convulsions have made its name a synonym for implacable differences” (source). In 1995, his work was published in the book In the Balkans (in Turkish Balklanlarda).

More of his pictures, and the originals above, are available on Magnum’s website.

Pedalare a Berlino

La cosa divertente è che il giorno dopo la bici non c’era più, ma si vedeva la scia delle ruote di chi, pedalando, se l’era portata via. Chissà…

Different pictures

In Italian I make a picture (‘faccio una foto‘, almost a creation that we build) or we snap it (‘ho scattato una foto‘ and it literally took an instant). In French, like in English, I take a picture (‘je prends une photographie‘ – almost an egoistic gesture). In Spanish (‘saco una fotografia‘) and in Greek (‘βγάζω μια φωτογραφία‘) I take out a picture: maybe a memory of when there was still a film that you had to extract from the camera? In German (‘ein Foto aufnehmen/machen‘) I take up a picture, as if it was a flower hanging there for me.

Anna nella neve

Seminario de Madrid

This is a photo taken in 1960 by Ramón Masatas. Notice the shape of the goalkeeper and the seminarist on the right, the back to the goal, the head turned, almost ready to snap.

When I arrived at the seminary, I was struck by a football match in which the seminarians themselves were playing, despite wearing cassocks. I got behind the lens and watched them play. I asked them if they could stop the game and take some shots at the goalkeeper. They shot 18 or 20 times, until I managed to get this wonderful picture… Was it a goal? Yes, it was a goal, but I didn’t find out until I was able to enlarge the photo to a very large size. I noticed that the ball was behind the priest’s hand. It took me a while to see it. I didn’t find out until 10 or 15 years later.

Pont de Bir-Hakeim

An iconic bridge, which I did not really know until I took the photo below. It crosses the Seine, just steps away from the Tour Eiffel, passing through a small island, the Île aux Cygnes. I sent the photo to Erik, who gave me a few tips on how to improve it. Here is what he said:

A couple of things that comes to my mind. To attract more attention to the silhouettes, it would be best to have just that in the frame. Everything else is a bit of a distraction. In order to get that, you have to have a telelens or crop the picture. Here the blackness of the bridge is the border of your photo, the frame. Alternatively, if you don’t have a telelens, or you really like the bridge to be recognized by the viewer as a bridge, then it is best to show the whole situation. As a viewer I get an understanding of what is going on. And most importantly, some perspective. Because of the foreground, like the tree and the bushes down low. When you only want the silhouettes in frame, there is less need of perspective. Because there is less distraction.

I followed this advice, cropping the picture as suggested. This is the result.