Pleasantly Repeatable Photographic Mistakes
Saturday, November 14, 2020
|Anosh Irani - Writer|
On someday of January 2000 I was having quite a few
photographic sessions with my Japanese Canadian friend H. One day she suggested
that she be photographed with a woman who did Shiatsu. I was to take
photographs that represented accurate Shiatsu applications.
For the shoot I used a Mamiya RB-67 with Ilford FP4-Plus.
For fun I also loaded a Nikon FM2 with Kodak Infrared B+W Film. For extra fun I
decided to use my Profoto ring flash. This expensive piece of equipment which I
had recently purchased by its very nature did not have a modeling light. I
found the idea of purchasing an expensive Profoto pack to use this light a
silly idea. At the time we had a very good photographic light repair man called
Viktor. He modified the ring flash to be plugged into one of my three ancient
Norman 200B battery packs. This meant that I could take my ring flash anywhere and not have
to depend on having nearby electricity.
During the shoot with H, in my preoccupation of making sure
the Nikon lens had the proper deep red filter, I did not notice the camera was
crooked. Since many Japanese are polite H thought the camera was supposed to be
crooked and said nothing. When I printed the contact sheet and saw this
exposure (removed the visible nipple her so as not to offend the cultural
police) I realized I had something good going. In my editorial photography for
many magazines and newspapers I used this technique to convey with some artists
and serious writers that they were avant-garde. It became one of my recipes of
my photographic cookbook. The way to do this is to use a short enough lens that the lens in the crooked position is able to "read" the ring when it flashes. Sometimes when this fails you get this other wonderful effect.
|Emily Lauren - Fuji X-E3|
When I purchased my first digital camera a Fuji X-E1 and
subsequently an X-E3 I did not see why I could not keep on with that successful
The whole idea of my experience in photography is that
mistakes will always be made. If one is methodical in one’s approach, upon
finding a pleasant mistake it will be easy to find out where it was made and to
|Nikon FM2 - Kodak B+W Infrared Film|
Friday, November 13, 2020
For years my mother
told me how my sister Vicky had been born dead. She told me that she had red
hair. I have been interested to the point of obsession in red-haired women
It was sometime in the late 70s when we were living in
Burnaby that a red-haired stewardess contacted me and wanted me to take her
portraits. I do not remember anything (including her name). I photographed her at the Museum of Anthropology at UBC.
I was an amateur colour printer and I have conflicting
memories of going up from my basement darkroom to the outside to check on
prints that I was making of her. To me none of the photographs managed to
accurately show the colour of her skin and that of her hair. I was frustrated
and came to the conclusion that either colour film could not cope with redheads
or I was a terrible printer. Shortly after my Rosemary signed me up for a
colour printing course at Ampro Photo Workshops on Broadway (now gone and until
recently replaced by a store that sold Roman Catholic paraphernalia.
In my many years of having a studio and shooting for
magazines I never did get a red-haired subject. But I noticed that when I used
Ektachrome or any colour negative film, somehow none of my photographs showed
my gray wall as being a neutral gray. The gray had tones of blue, green or cyan
or of all three. I felt it was a failure of film. I may have been right.
As soon as digital cameras came into the mix I noticed that
photographers who were aware of colour and how different light, daylight
(morning, noon, late afternoon), incandescent lights, fluorescent, TV studio
lighting ,etc could be properly corrected to show people’s faces with accuracy
(including gray walls!).
But I have noticed that this whole idea of accuracy in
digital photography colour has been superseded by an interest in bright colours
(over-saturated in a photographer’s parlance) and in sharpness.
It was a few months ago where I photographed my friend and
model Olena in my piano room. I fiddled with the colour temperature setting of
my Fuji X-E3 and low and behold her skin was reproduced on my monitor
(calibrated) and on prints exactly as it is, a pristine whiteness. I believe
that a red-haired person can now be photographed to show that slight blue cast
of their skin as a contrast to the brilliant red of their hair.
Now until today my story of the red-haired stewardess was
just a story. But today I found a contact sheet with colour negatives under a
file called Model in Red. This was a woman I photographed at about that same
time who lived in Burnaby. She was blonde but because I had forgotten her name
I filed her under that name because she wore a brilliant red dress.
And what was in that other negative file?
As they say in Vancouver restaurants, “Enjoy”
I must, still point out that the negatives are at least 40
years old and colour negative has always been unstable. I believe I have
managed to colour correct to my satisfaction two of these photographs of this remarkable
woman. And to finish it seems I was just getting started in asking women to pose on their beds. There was only one and it is below.
Si alguien llama a tu puerta
Thursday, November 12, 2020
Cuando tomé esta foto de Anastasia en ese hotel de mala muerte en Vancouver, el Marble Arch estaba imitando una foto famosa de Helmut Newton. La idea era de mostrar posible violencia. Pero muchos años después ahora veo la fotografía con una sonrisa gracias a la poesía de Gabriel García Márquez
When I took this photograph of Anastasia in that seedy Vancouver hotel, the Marble Arch I was imitating a photograph by Helmut Newton. I wanted to show the idea of impending violence. But now a much older man I can look at this image and smile thanks to the poem by Gabriel García Márquez
alguien llama a tu puerta…»
alguien llama a tu puerta, amiga mía,
en tu sangre late y no reposa
y en su
tallo de agua, temblorosa,
fuente es una líquida armonía.
alguien llama a tu puerta y todavía
tiempo para ser hermosa
todo abril en una rosa
y por la
rosa se desangra el día.
alguien llama a tu puerta una mañana
de palomas y campanas
crees en el dolor y en la poesía.
la vida es verdad y el verso existe.
alguien llama a tu puerta y estás triste,
que es el amor, amiga mía.
García Márquez – 1954
If someone knocks on your door, my friend
And something in your blood beats and does not rest
And on his water stalk, trembling,
the source is a liquid harmony.
If someone knocks on your door and still
you have plenty of time to be beautiful
And all April fits in a rose
and by the rose bleeds the day.
If someone knocks on your door one morning
sound of pigeons and bells
and still believe in pain and poetry.
If still life is true and verse exists.
If someone knocks on your door and you're sad,
open what is love my friend
Rain Drops and Suicide - La lluvia y el suicidio
Wednesday, November 11, 2020
Aquí en Vancouver han llegado las lluvias. Es fácil deprimirse. Pero no me sucede porque en nuestra casita ( cozy como dice nuestra nieta Lauren) tengo a mi Rosemary y a nuestros dos gatos Niño y Niña. Son anaranjados y blancos. Esos de alguna manera me hacen olvidar del gris mojado de afuera.
Here in Vancouver the rains have arrived. It is easy to become depressed. That doesn't happen because in our little cozy house (as our granddaughter Lauren defines it) I have my Rosemary and our two cats, Niño and Niña. Because they are orange and white somehow they make me forget the outside wet gray.
de las gotas de Julio Cortázar (Story in English below)
sé, mira, es terrible cómo llueve. Llueve todo el tiempo, afuera tupido y gris,
aquí contra el balcón con goterones cuajados y duros, que hacen plaf y se
aplastan como bofetadas uno detrás de otro, qué hastío. Ahora aparece una
gotita en lo alto del marco de la ventana; se queda temblequeando contra el
cielo que la triza en mil brillos apagados, va creciendo y se tambalea, ya va a
caer y no se cae, todavía no se cae. Está prendida con todas las uñas, no
quiere caerse y se la ve que se agarra con los dientes, mientras le crece la
barriga; ya es una gotaza que cuelga majestuosa, y de pronto zup, ahí va, plaf,
deshecha, nada, una viscosidad en el mármol.
hay que se suicidan y se entregan enseguida, brotan en el marco y ahí mismo se
tiran; me parece ver la vibración del salto, sus piernitas desprendiéndose y el
grito que las emborracha en esa nada del caer y aniquilarse. Tristes gotas,
redondas inocentes gotas. Adiós gotas. Adiós.” Julio Cortázar.
I don’t know, look, it’s terrible how it’s raining. It’s
raining all the time, dense and gray outside, here drops, dull and hard, come
against the balcony with a splat!, squashing themselves like slaps piling one
onto another, how tedious. Now a droplet
appears just at the top of the window frame;
stays there quivering against the sky, shattered into a thousand subdued
glints, about to fall down but won’t fall, still won’t fall. It holds on tight, all nails, doesn’t want to
fall and it’s clear it grips with its teeth while its belly grows bigger and
bigger; it’s now a majestic drop hanging there, and then plonk, there it goes,
splat, undone, nothing, only a clammy something on the marble.
But there are those that kill themselves and surrender
right away, sprouting in the frame whence they jump off outright; I can even
make out the dive’s vibration, their little legs falling off and the
inebriating scream in the fleetingness of the fall and their annihilation. Sad,
gloomy, despondent drops, plump and gullible drops. Good-bye drops. Good-bye.
Michelle Renee - Renee Michelle & My Dyslexia
Tuesday, November 10, 2020
Dyslexia can be a problem when one of my subjects that I
photographed in my studio sometime in the 90s was named Michelle Renee or was
it Renee Michelle?
She came to one of
our Thursday lunches (writers, illustrators, photographers, journalists,
editors) and somehow I asked her to pose for me.
With the advent of digital photography, where a photographer
might take scads of pictures, can one tell the progression of a session? Here
I shot 28 photographs of Michelle Renee. And here is the
explanation for the scanned contact sheets. At the time one could buy 120 film
(10 shots) or twice as long 220 (20 shots). Because only 9 shots would fit on
an 8x10 sheet of b+w paper sometimes I would not take that tenth shot and
sometimes I did. With 220 film you could fit 18 shots in two contacts and
perhaps sometimes I was disposed to put the other two by themselves on a
separate sheet. The progression is in this order. The first picture above right on the contact is always the first. The last at the bottom left is the last. But in contact number four it is reversed. The last two pictures show Renee (Michelle?) wearing a hat.
Here you can see the progression from the first photograph
(perhaps she had done some preliminary makeup but it seems that by the second
exposure I asked her to look in my direction. I snapped the shutter (a slow one
as I was using available light (the light coming from the windows of my large
studio and in the other shots I used one flash inside a medium sized softbox.) and you can see that either she moved or my camera did. I still like
this exposure to illustrate this blog as it does represent the first portrait I
took of this unusually beautiful woman. The photograph is hard, almost brutal.
I like it.
In those days I was careful about putting my cards on the
table before shooting. Surely I must have asked her to pose undraped. But was I
too shy? Or did I ask and she turned me down?
I am glad that I can show here the whole range of the session without
having to censor any of them.
And note that well before then I had learned to crop with my
6x7cm format camera in the camera and
not in the darkroom. The great advantage of the Mamiya (I own three) is that
the back revolves for vertical and horizontal shots. The backs came in two
types. There were the ones that accepted 120 film and the ones for the longer
220. I have retired the 220 backs as I believe that 220 film will not return.