I suppose a blog ought to have a theme. I am not sure mine does. I started off in no particular direction and I have continued to lurch like W C Fields through the pinball table of my mind. I started today intending to write an erudite analysis of why Cartier Bresson wipes the floor with 99.9% of modern-day would-be street photographers. Present readership excepted of course. I based this highly scientific and deeply researched proposition on flicking through 2 books I bought at the weekend.
I love to browse and I generally head for the photography section of the few surviving bricks and mortar bookshops we have. I also trawl the ‘pets’ section for a book on “how to improve Lulu’s mood swings” but such a narrowly focussed dog book does not yet seem to have been penned. I spy a niche in the market, and, as one of my wise old bosses used to say, if there’s a niche someone will come along and fill it. So pens at the ready please.
To return (briefly) to the point I picked up “Europeans” by Henri Cartier Bresson, reproduced in paperback by Thames & Hudson and “Street Photography Now” (SPN) by Sophie Howarth and Stephen McLaren, also published by T&H. Now the latter book was a veritable curate’s egg. It certainly shed some light on why none of my images would pass muster in the Flickr fora that purport to showcase contemporary street photography. On the other hand 90% of the images I would have been proud not to have taken. Some contributing photographers have it, most manifestly do not. This is of course a personal opinion and feel free to disagree provided you do it calmly and not violently. Rationality need not apply as art is emotionally driven.
As a by the by, I visited one of the websites listed in the book and the sparks were certainly flying over SPN. The site custodian / owner had found in the book certain quotes that had allegedly been lifted from the very same website. Without attribution. Depending on which camp the protagonists sat in, this was either the greatest betrayal since Judas Iscariot or an unfortunate and mildly discourteous oversight. So here we are, the Eurozone imploding, the US deficit wildly out of control, Hereford United only just clear of the relegation zone, the Palestinians and the Israelis still crazy after all these years (Paul Simon?), the war in Afghanistan crawling inexorably on and people think a couple of missed attributions merit a literary lynching. Ah well. I think I shall just crawl back under the duvet and wait for Armageddon to pass.
HCB, (the said M. Bresson and not Hexachlorobenzene), is simply in a different world. Basically one camera, one lens, no cropping, no flash and of course black & white film as his medium. Every one of the 187 reproduced images inspires me. Some are instantly recognizable, others not. If you ever wanted evidence that he remains unparalleled in his field just compare the two books. I say with care in his field as there are clearly other photographers of immense talent, not least Don McCullin, Steve McCurry – you add your own – in different spheres, who deliver quite extraordinary work.
Then I decided not to pursue this avenue. Perhaps another day. Instead I picked a 2006 image of my own to show you. This was taken in New Zealand with an old Canon 30D. The light was going and I make no claims for image quality. But I love it. I have reworked it several times and had another go today. Here it is.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Penguin.