Veni, Vidi, Valori

Randomly seen on my bookshelf this afternoon

The word of the day (well, Sunday) is “valorize,” rarely-seen in America these days and which I encountered twice in the same morning’s reading, in two different (non-American, ahem) texts on related issues, each written some forty years apart.

The older passage came from Pierre Bourdieu’s 1965 Un art moyen: essai sur les usages sociaux de la photographie whose title his American editors provocatively streamlined to Photography: A Middlebrow Art:

3 min read

Billy Jacked

Mortenson-style testing

A couple of years or so back I was browsing at a San Francisco bookstore and came across a book called “Projection Control” by William Mortensen whom I had previously known only as an antagonist to the old f/64 group back in the 1930’s. His pictures seemed oddly modern however, so I read further and found that he was an advocate of what we might think of as a ridiculous method. He developed his film not for minutes but for hours.

1 min read

Carrying Your Own Box

Carrying Your Own Box

Three rolls of Neopan 400 120, three rolls of Acros 120, two rolls of HP5+ 120, two rolls of Ektachrome E100S 120, the B&W in Xtol 1+1, Rodinal 1+50, and in one case, Rodinal 1+100…

You do what you set out to do. Even if you fail, it’s normal to frame the failure in terms of the original goal. Goals can be useful and powerful motivators, but they can also restrict. A common tragedy, told many times, is of a protagonist who pursues a goal only to find, as he approaches it, that it wasn’t what he thought — everything looked perfect, from far away.

2 min read

More Portraits

Paper Cut

Here are a few more portrait gallery additions to the Gray Scale. And some of them aren’t entirely in B&W, given the realities of commercial publication (and the varying tastes of photographers — color isn’t bad, it’s just different). Mona Kuhn, for example, who says in an interview on Lens Culture that she prefers B&W for its “depth,” despite her current fame as a color portraitist.

Why so much emphasis on B&W portraiture? Mostly because I continue to believe that portraiture is one of B&W’s stronger genres, and that portraiture in general is one of the most-difficult forms of photography — despite its universal appeal, look how many sites and portfolios one can find without a single portrait. Instead we see rocks, we see skyscrapers, we see trees and flowers but portraiture… that’s hard. Even most of the portraits that one does find online tend to be driven more by fashionable stylings rather than portraiture’s implicit promise: that through this image you will touch. It will touch you, and perhaps you will even feel the opposite is true as well. Fashion is a mask — portraiture’s revelation tries to find the unmasked individual.

Why then, should B&W be more compelling? Doesn’t B&W also mask, hiding the true colors in favor of stylized ones? Yes, but it strikes us because the color is rarely what we remember about a person. Instead it’s the curve of the eyes, the particular smile, the form — even for a blue-eyed freckled redhead. Instead of seeing the uneven ruddiness & blemishes, what we see in our mind’s eye: the face. And within that, is where the illusion of human connection can be found.

At times I have pointed a link to just part of a site — of course, the purpose for having the following links in the first place is as an invitation to explore:

2 min read