In this weekend’s Wall Street Journal, William Meyers briefly reviews Takeshi Shikama‘s exhibition at Alan Klotz Gallery.
Mr. Shikama is a resident of Tokyo who built with his own hands a mountain lodge in a forest with trees he felled. For the past decade, he has sought refuge there to commune with and to photograph nature. Most of these dark, haunted images of trees, woods, fields and flowers are exquisitely printed on 11-by-14-inch hand-coated platinum palladium Gampi paper. The thin, ecru paper is also handmade, and so transparent the images seem to float. Some, like “Mt. Kuromori 6″ (2006), show a dense forest, and some, like “Landscape 18″ (2009), a lone tree. “Landscape 3″ (2009) shows just the shadows of trees. In the “Lotus” series, Mr. Shikama presents this culturally important plant in several aspects; sometimes the flower in different stages, sometimes the leaves, sometimes just the stalks, but always with reverential delicacy.
As much as I have given in to digital photography, there is still a lot about the analog world that I love. Film and its acrid chemicals. I meet them halfway by processing film traditionally and scanning them digitally. On my cameras, I still like knobs and dials better than buttons and on-screen menus. Fuji seems to understand those of us who like to fiddle with camera dials. We do not know yet how well the Fuji FinePix X100 will shoot, but the initial specs already have me coveting one.
* The camera will have both an LCD screen and a hybrid optical / electronic viewfinder. Maybe I am old fashioned, but I like having the option of using a viewfinder.
* Topside, analog style control dials for shutter speed control.
* The fixed lens opens to f2.
* The style is a throwback to the classic rangefinder in size and looks.
Animator / filmmaker Paul Fierlinger on why he has made the move to digital (paperless technology).
Paperless technology cuts away the accumulation of physical tasks associated with the handling of paper down to zero.
That’s a lot of saved time! When you think of all the tasks associated with the handling of paper, when you have to unwrap a bundle, punch holes into every single sheet, which you pick up first on your right and lay down on your left, carry the bundle over to your desk, pick each sheet up on your left and after drawing, erasing, flipping cussing and throwing a few sheets into a wastebasket you lay the good ones down on your right. All along you have to carefully number each sheet and record the numbers into your exposure sheet. There’s a lot of erasing and cussing involved in this task too.
You have to gather the finished drawings, carry them over to your copy machine and cuss and sigh as you slowly feed each sheet through the machine which is connected to your computer. This involves the lifting and laying down of the cover – twice per sheet no less – and after you’re done with that, you still have to empty the wastebasket, wipe the eraser crumbs off your desk and pat attention to this: you haven’t seen a single second of your work run before your eyes, connected to your brain, in real time! I mention the brain because you have learned very little from all that work.
This unproductive handling of paper surely takes up more time per drawing than it takes to put a drawing on that sheet of paper. Without the benefit of instant replay and the real time scrubbing that paperless work affords you, your acting and drawing skills improve very, very slowly. When I look back at my old films I see only small improvements from one to another but when I compare each paperlessly drawn film from one to the next I can see huge leaps of improvements. And that’s the answer to your question how to get money for a feature film – you get it only after you make a few good films. It took me fifty years before anyone would trust me with decent funds for a theatrical feature. You younger people have all this paperless technology available to you and so many of you are wasting precious years of your short lives by still drawing on paper. I don’t get it.
Peter Turnley profiles master printer Voja Mitrovic.
I recently sat down and interviewed Voja Mitrovic for several hours about his experiences as a printer. Several important concepts emerged from this interview. He indicated to me that the three most important things involved in being a great printer are patience, developing a good dialogue and communication with the photographer he is printing for, and knowing how to read a negative. It is most important to know the photographer, to know what he or she wants, and to be able to read the image—like photographers, some people see things, and others don’t! Great printing involves knowing how to choose the right paper, having technical skills, and a strong artistic and aesthetic sense. He feels that it has helped him very much to have been himself a photographer, in order to understand the goal of a photographer.
The New York Times writes about photographer Ted Selby, who is making a name for himself by profiling “cool” people and their personal spaces on his blog theselby.com.
Despite getting work for magazines like Spin and Dazed & Confused, his success was middling. He wanted to do a more personal project; he just wasn’t sure what.
“Usually professional photographers will have a show at a gallery in Chelsea,” he said, “or a photo book from a small art press. That was the traditional way to do it.”
Instead, he took advice from his friend Mark Hunter, who runs thecobrasnake.com, the wildly successful behind-the-scenes party blog.
“I pride myself on marketing,” Mr. Hunter said, “and knowing how to reach an audience and build a following. What I thought would be great for Todd was to create something people would want to share.”
On the Internet, he told his friend, you don’t have to be as selective as at a magazine. Share 20 images instead of one. Break the rules.
Within two months, the site had become so popular that Mr. Selby made it the center of his professional life.
“This is something photographers haven’t caught up to yet,” he said. “When I started in 2001, it was very clear. You start working for magazines, work your way up to the best magazines, the art buyers and art directors see those great magazines and hire you to shoot an ad campaign. Now it’s a totally different game. People who are making decisions about ad campaigns aren’t looking at magazines for inspiration. They’re looking at the Internet.”
I recently watched my son D’s reaction to Suzie Templeton’s Peter and the Wolf as closely as I watched the animated film itself. The 30-minute film is a child’s tale, but there are scenes that might take an older person’s explanation (in the way the Lion King’s “circle of life” could be considered by some parents to be thematically mature). Mainly, though, I wanted to see if the story would help jumpstart his appreciation for classical music in the way it helped me back when I was his age.
When I myself was three years old, my parents took me to see the Philadelphia Orchestra perform Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. I do not know if it was Eugene Ormandy himself who conducted the piece that day, or if it was one of his assistants, but I remember the narrator introducing each of the characters: Peter, his grandfather, a duck, a bird and the wolf, and the instrument that represented each one. To this day, it is the grumpy bassoon of the grandfather and the ominous French horns of the wolf that come most quickly to my mind when you mention Peter and the Wolf.
For those of us who grew up with the Prokofiev music and narration, there are probably some firm ideas on how Peter and the Wolf should look. One of Templeton’s most obvious changes is that she gets rid of the narrator. Templeton says one filmgoer complained that she had spoiled his childhood memories of the story, but many of us will instead be impressed by the meticulousness of the storytelling and the beauty of the filmmaking. The scene with the bird (a Russian crow in this case) attempting to fly with the help of a balloon is humorous and magical. The cat is elephantine. The basic plot remains the same. Peter is forbidden to leave the home of his stern grandfather, who warns him of the dangers of confronting the wolf who inhabits the area. The setting is updated to look like a part of Eastern Europe that has fallen on economic hard times. The audacious Peter is still the story’s hero.
It reportedly took Prokofiev four days back in 1936 to write the musical piece; it took Templeton and her crews, based in Lodz, Poland, five years to make this film interpretation, which they painstakingly pieced together using stop animation. (The formerly disappearing art form has recently been resurrected by filmmakers like Nick Park, who brought us Wallace and Gromit). Templeton made several research trips to places like St. Petersburg to inspire her to create what has been called a very “Russian look” to the film. The puppetmakers were meticulous in creating the details of the characters’ faces and bodies. The grandfather’s face is craggy. Peter looks longingly at the woods with the palest blue eyes. Interestingly, the puppets (which use ball and joint steel armatures) were said to be so complicated that the filmmakers heavily used changes in lighting and camera angles rather than facial manipulations to suggest changes in expression. The sets are elaborate; the filmmakers used hundreds of real trees to create a 60-foot long set for the forest. Templeton also makes some tweaks to Prokofiev’s simple plot: the hunters are bumbling and cruel, for instance. And in this more politically correct era (and film), the wolf is a wild but ambiguous figure. After Peter captures him, he allows the animal to slip away.
Bill Pierce on why it makes sense for some photographers to travel light.
David Alan Harvey works, whenever possible, with a small camera (Leica) and a single lens (35mm). David is one of those people, wise before his time, who realizes photography is about what is in front of the lens, not in back of it. All the equipment in the world can’t save your butt if you can’t observe, deal and, sometimes, even understand your subject. Indeed, all of the equipment in the world, when it is hanging around your neck, can be a real impediment to dealing with your subject.
Mentions Henri Cartier-Bresson (who worked primarily with his Leica rangefinder), Richard Avedon (who mostly works with a twin-lens Rollei and an 8×10) and Arthur Grace (whose book Choose Me was shot with a twin-lens Rollei). Via Ian G., aka 4edges.