Mountain View, CA 2004

A few weeks back I alluded in passing to my general contempt for the “stand-up” — a modern practice of TV “news reporting” where instead of actually showing you something revealing about a news story, the camera instead simply rests on the “on-air talent” while they stand in front of someplace where actual news and possibly reporting once took place (or maybe just nearby). This month’s digitaljournalist has a story about one news shooter’s experience doing stand-ups here in San Francisco. One local channel (probably others), our NBC affiliate, prides itself on LIVE stand-ups — each evening’s 11 PM newscast is overloaded with reporters standing around in the cold night air, usually in front of a court building or other news-intensive locale that’s been closed for five or six hours already.

It’s hard to imagine the stand-up in any media other than television. Even the old movie newsreels didn’t have it. The appearance and nightly re-appearance of the reporter-as-demi-celebrity is purely a television invention and it doesn’t work anywhere else. No one writes a newspaper headline in first person. We don’t open and close magazine stories with photos of the reporters and photographers. We don’t care what they wear.

3 min read

Problems Remain

(C) 1994, 2004 K. Bjorke

This does seem to be the week for coincidences. Today the coincidences involve a collision between the recent entry Family, Immediate, and Lenswork magazine’s site.

I was browsing Lenswork’s forums and came across this post and its responses — obviously made at the same time (and by the same person) as this post on streetphoto. In both, Jason/Manic worries that if he buys a copy of Sally Mann’s book Immediate Family, the police may show up at his door, sent by some conservative Bible-Belt neighbor, to arrest him for possesion of child pornography.

4 min read

Kevin’s blog

(C) 2004 K Bjorke

Coupla days ago I was pointed at this old link on B&W World, in which Mason Resnick writes his recollections of a 1970’s class with Garry Winogrand. A key lesson: “He told us that the most successful art is almost on the verge of failure.” Not that anyone was asking me, but I couldn’t agree more.

Winogrand also told his class that “without technique you won’t get anything good,” but it’s sad when that fear of technical failure takes over — when people become obsessed with ensuring that every print have at least one point of full white and one of full black, or fretting over blocked-up highlights or maximum sharpness. Everyone obsessed with getting an A for craftsmanship, for managing-away all the elements of risk.

2 min read

Me and my camera

Backlog Three rolls of Tri-X, Rodinal 1+25; three rolls of Tri-X, Rodinal 1+50; six rolls of TMax-100, Rodinal 1+50. You can rinse and rinse and rinse and still that pink stuff never seems to come completely out of TMX.

The latest round of film shooting was launched by the arrival of the RTS and lenses. The lenses, of course, were intended for the Cantax, but the moment I picked up the RTS I knew I’d have to shoot something with it. The finder is huge and luxurious, even compared to my Canon 35mm’s, and far larger than what’s visible in the digitals or the Contax G2. The 28mm felt like a 28mm, wide and with crisply-straight horizontals. It’s a great, sharp normal optic for the digital, but as a 35mm-format wide-angle lens, it’s fantastic. A great complement to its little brother, the 28mm G-Biogon.

I’ve been selling-off my film cameras one by one but am less convinced of the wisdom of moving them all on. Film shooting is different, and no amount of Photoshop tweaking will make it match film in terms of the picture-making experience. It’s a different thing, just as playing the oboe is different from punching-up “oboe” on your Roland keyboard synthesizer. For many purposes — even most purposes — they are equivalent. Digital is better for a lot of things, such as most kinds of journalism. But it’s not the same. I won’t get rid of all the film cameras just yet (though I still have a sweet AE-1 for sale, CLA’d and all), and the differences are enough to keep me occasionally willing to spend time spotting out one dust speck after another…

2 min read

Family, Immediate

(C)2004 K Bjorke

Many, many snaps. Many CDs + duplicates.

I’ve been logging my film processing here in the blog for months, but none of the digital shooting, despite the increasingly-large bulk of the latter. This has been a family weekend, with relatives visiting for the graduation of my sister from Law School. 357 frames yesterday, 238 frames today. Of course most of them are simple family shots, but here and there I got a chance to make a few “for me” — that is, shots that had no specific family interest, just events and strangers that struck me as photo-worthy. And many photos of the family.

The bright sunlight compelled me to use strobe for fill quite a bit — Canon’s 550EX is really quite amazingly good at this, adding just a kiss of fill to bring the faces to the fore. We are so used to seeing photos like this in the media (especially in journalism), we rarely think twice about their lack of “naturalness” — perhaps because photos with bright, visible faces are graphically similar to how we perceive things psychologically — the faces are more luminous in our minds than in mundane reality.

Robert Adams, paraphrasing D.H. Lawrence, said that there is no sensual experience stronger than one in which we feel we are experiencing the truth. I often suspect the opposite is really the case — that our personal sensual experiences are satisfying because they are as True as we can possibly perceive them. Editing can destroy as well as enhance. In these hundreds of photos, cycling as a slideshow on my laptop, it seems so clear to me that the strongest ones are those where I just charged in and made the shot, without concern for formalities like graphic impact or interesting composition, nor worries about making sure everyone was looking forward or smiling. They are direct and impulsive, an impulse fueled by love of subject.

This morning before we went out for the day I found my dad at my desk, watching the cycling random slideshow of photos made just a handful of hours before. I saw him smile gently when a photo of my mom appeared. I’ll take that as one of my favorite reviews, ever.

1 min read