Saturday 31 December 2011

End of Year Portrait

Sometimes I wonder if the success or failure of a photographic portrait depends entirely in the equipment used or if it is rather the result of the combined use of camera, talent and a good set-up. And of course, the subject.
All this questions come to mind while looking at the present image, taken a few weeks ago by a seventeen year-old student of mine, Josh Goldsmith.
Josh had not seen a medium-format camera in the flesh until given the portrait assignment that led him to this portrait of his teacher.
Many a question may arise from this simple exercise and we can speculate endlessly about the function of lenses, film, subject and lighting and it is possible that we will end up stuck in a dead-end argument.
This is a great portrait taken by a young photographer in the process of discovery. That much we can say.

End of Year 2011

As the year dies, so do the fires...

Friday 30 December 2011

In Praise of Double Exposures

There is always something special about double-exposed images. Some happen by accident and others by design. They all invariably conjure a twisted logic. Whether we want them to be quirky, funny or striking, we must admit there is a certain element of magic in a double exposure, unintended or not. The couple who mingle with another couple inside and outside the reflection of a bakery store's front window; the cars moving closer to us as we stand in the middle of the road to photograph them as they come out, as if they were slowly materializing ghosts dreamed by clouds, or the man who becomes part of a rock and a segment of sky against which he stands, all-consumed in his desire that we appreciate his body in a sunny beach in summer. They all contain an element of the ethereal, they are photographs somewhat untouchable and difficult to define. Sometimes we praise our good fortune when the images turn out to be exciting and not weird concoctions designed by fate. And sometimes we try hard enough to make them as if they were that way designed by nature, as the two lower images are: images produced by putting together two negatives to create an unclassifiable image with which we will try to impress friends and passerby alike.

Tuesday 20 December 2011

En el Sexto Aniversario de Fernell Franco (fragmento)

No es aventurero afirmar que la modernidad se establece en la fotografía colombiana de la mano de Fernell Franco. Nuestra historia artística fotográfica perteneció eminentemente al retratismo y a manifestaciones naturalistas que correspondían al coletazo de influencia con que había finalizado el siglo anterior.
Fernell Franco llega con una visión limpia y libre de prejuicios de academia a declarar patrimonio fotográfico aquello que nuestra inhabilidad de abstracción nos mostraba tan sólo como un montón de ladrillos derrumbados. Habíamos comenzado a ser atropellados por el paso avasallante de la supuesta modernidad urbanizadora que como una aplanadora gigantesca se yergue imponente en la segunda mitad del siglo xx.
Nuestras ciudades cambian de repente, la arquitectura colonial desaparece de los grandes centros urbanos y se producen las expansiones hacia la periferia, al tiempo que el narcotráfico se instaura paralelo a moldear otras facetas de una ya apaleada cultura.
Fernell Franco profundiza sobre lo cotidiano para demostrar esclarecido el significado de aquello que se nos escapaba de las manos: la realidad ignorada que él tuvo incalculable valor de preservar visualmente para la posteridad.
De su obra fotográfica rica en aspectos localistas en su ciudad, Cali, sobresalen la serie “Galladas”, definición en el habla local de pandillas de jóvenes; la serie “Bicicletas” y las de “Interiores” y “Billares”, antes que éstos fueran borrados para siempre de la cultura local.
“Galladas” es una exploración de ciertos aspectos de la vida de barrio en los años setentas, donde muchachos de clases populares aparecen en lo que semeja un eterno domingo en esquinas polvorientas, con sus mejores prendas, los pantalones de bota acampanada, los zapatos de plataforma estrafalarios y pobremente importados a su medio y la actitud en los rostros que dejan entrever la auto-suficiencia propia de la adolescencia y una timidez entre lánguida y dulce.
Son imágenes que pertenecen a un pasado olvidadizo en la memoria de una ciudad con una muy corta capacidad de mirada retroactiva.

Retrato de Fernell Franco © Lalo Borja, Cali 1997

Saturday 17 December 2011

Tom by Neil Sloman

I owe this lovely portrait of Tom of Whitstable's fabulous cheese shop to my dear colleague Neil Sloman, who has very generously given me this great shot so that I can show it here.

The Brownie Six: Viva Filmwasters!

In the past month or so I have become reacquainted with a former student of mine, Leon Taylor ( whom I found quite by chance being interviewed by an art photographer based on Los Angeles. Leon produces and administers an interesting photography blog called Filmwasters, along with a bunch of fellow enthusiasts. They are radical, as things go in the Digital Age, because they do not produce digital images. Leon and his band of film rebels inspired me to look for an old Kodak Brownie camera which I bought three years ago from a second hand shop down the street and which has been gathering dust hanging from a nail on the wall in my messy studio. So I loaded it with HP5 and set out on the Old Faversham Road an early afternoon this past week and these shots I found waiting for me, as the vanishing sun was taking leave of the English countryside. Thank you Leon Taylor for the inspiration and for all your efforts on behalf of film photographers everywhere.

By Jack Peilow, ten years had passed since...

This shot was part of a series that young Jack did at the time and was entirely related to beards.  Jack went around town asking men to pose...