Friday, April 29, 2011

Shooting film for fun – Yashica LM 6x6

000002I’ve been quite busy, and with the barrage of holidays thrown at us, it makes it difficult for a self-employed individual to get to posting blogs on top of getting around to all other things entailed in being a pro shooter. Well, I must be honest, I’ll rather wait for next week and the reality of 5 day weeks to kick in again, before I post something that seems too much like work to you guys. So, I’ll go ahead and post some of the things I do for kicks.

I trained and fell in love with photography long before digital hit. I’m a qualified colour hand printer, black and white printer, large format, medium format etcetera shooter. I still find myself doing +1/3 compensations on readings for the Kodak 100VS tranny film I was so fond of. But truth be told, I don’t miss film as a work medium. I think digital is and will be the only viable medium for work. Also, 11 years after working in a darkroom, I still have issues with damaged skin on my hands due to (negligent) use of argentothyosulphite developers. The digital/film debate was settled in my mind around 2004, I think. I’m not getting into that though, it’s about as exciting as the Canon/Nikon debate to me anyways. Which is just below clipping my toenails.

I have 3 film cameras that I play with. This means: no light-meter, expired, like really ancient film, cheap pharmacy film, Holga-isque shooting techniques, having fun. There’s a saying: film’s not dead it just smells funny. I have a Yashica LM TLR (Bought circa 1998), a Pentax K1000 (my first slr, bought when I was 16) and a Canon AE-1, bought last year for a song.

Today, I’ll be posting images I shot with my Yashica LM TLR camera. It was manufactured between 1958-1962, so it’s kinda, ok, very old. The ‘LM’ stands for ‘light-meter’, which is ironic, as I purposefully don’t use it, and I’m certain it’s broken anyways. Its lens is not sharp anymore, and a bit battered, but I love the box-feel, and I love the rustic, retro vibe of walking around with it, freaking ipod-kids out and then the 6x6 format.


The film: Ilford XP1, expired circa 1993 (seriously), obtained from my old lecturer. About 12 rolls. I still have a couple left. Ilford XP1 was discontinued in 1991 and replaced by XP2. When I started studying in 1997 XP2 was the standard for C41 black and white (chromogenic) films. Which is also useful for me now, as I’m not keen on having to dig out my Patterson tanks and buy Ilford ID-11. 000008

Shooting these images has a lot to do with charm, and the knowledge that I have no, absolutely no, commercial value to these images. It’s out of the box, in the box, through the box, whatever I want, reckless, fun, for me, for kicks… and I love the suspense of processing a bunch of films that I’ve spent 3 months haphazardly filling up. It’s not fun getting to pay it afters. Jeez, I’m glad that part of my life is sort of over! I really love a lot of these images, because I was there and it makes sense to me. Sorry, but I have to allow myself some indulgence.

Since I spend a lot of my free time with my kids, it stands to reason that they’d show up on some of these images. Bear with me.







Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Academia vs Real Life

Who's your daddy? Moi and my wife. I was the last of 691 students on the night to graduate. The last. I waited 2 and a half hours to collect my degree. Last. Like, totally, 690 people before me. As I went up to collect they started to switch off the lights (just kidding about the last bit).

I have mentioned on and off during the last two years, especially when speaking about stock photography, that I'm finishing up my B.Tech degree in Photography at , after getting the diploma in '99. It took 10 years to take the step to do the extra part-time years to get degree, but finally I did.

I'll pop a couple of the images from my final portfolio in here as we go along. All the images are availabe from me directly at or through any of the microstock portals you see on the side here.

My take on the practical? Part of my research was tracking the performance of my own images. How can they fail me if the images are selling commercially? I felt that was a rather fail-safe approach to practical work! I totally shied away from making the "pretty" portfolio, but rather focused on showing a profitable portfolio. Not something that students, or lecturers, except in this case mine, can appreciate. When one is a student, you're bright-eyed and naive about commercial art. We forget that commercial means "to please others enough to give you cash". Most artists find that completely horrible, but me on the other hand, I'm naturally rather fond of seeing people happy around me, and if they're willing to pay me for my personality trait, so be it. I shoot the artsy stuff for myself.

Thoughts on studying and running your own business at the same time?

- Do not kid yourself and think because you work for yourself, you'll suddenly have the ability to study during work-hours. Your clients thinks otherwise. In the two years of study, I was able to study at work once. Another couple of times I was able to push in a couple of hours at a coffee shop, with Philip still working for me, before hitting the studio. Most of the time, after ten at night while the family was sleeping. Much like I'm doing now.
- No amount of book knowledge can make up for the hard-graft knowledge you get by working and earning.
- Don't complain about studying, you wanted it, so finish it. You don't complain about having work, do you? Do you?!
- The internet is a vast source of unverified, spit-balled, contradictory and questionable research material. Wikipedia, especially, is suspect at best. But good for general knowledge. Not submissable as a reference in a bachelors degree course anyways.
- Your lecturer might not understand what your thesis is about, since you've worked in the market much longer than they have. As long as they're enthusiastic and supportive, though, and can read objectively, it's invaluable. Irvine helped me get this one through the ravine. He is not an art-director. Took me time to get used to this again.
- Academia is terribly self-indulgent and idealistic. Commercial photography is about pleasing others.
- Earning a degree will make no difference to what you're earning if you're self-employed. Kinda obvious, that, but I get asked the question quite a bit. I completed it as it was on my bucket-list, basically. Also it gave me and excuse and the tools to research the impact of microstock imagery of commercial photography, and left my wide-eyed in what has happened since the launch of istockphoto in 2001. So in a way, earning this degree has made me aware of the fact that I might be earning less one day. (Unless I get infront of the wave.)

I feel young, but on campus a 32 year-old is old. I got called 'oom' (uncle) by 3 young guys in a 4x4 at the McDonald's today. I wanted to protest, till it dawned on me that I'm probably 14 years older than they are. These were my class-mates basically.


Tuesday, April 05, 2011

CHEFS: Peter Ayub

I'm a believer in personal projects. Just shooting "to be creative" is too wide for me. I need to narrow my focus down to something that I can conceptualise, and more importantly, sustain over months or years. Wax Lyrical is a project on musicians that I've been doing since 2001. I don't shoot for it often, but when I do I enjoy it tremendously. It has spawned two exhibitions in 2001 and 2002.

However, since I've been shooting a lot of food, I've been working with chefs a lot the last decade, and they're every bit as passionate about their game, as musicians are. During my work on "A touch of Rooibos", the idea started to form that I want to do a project just on chefs. Stereotyping of chefs abound, but I found that though they share some similarities, there is so much personality in each one, it's worth a portrait. Also, since cheffing has become quite the celebrity game, people has since also started to like looking at pics of chefs.

So after a couple of years of thinking about it, I went into shoot mode, and chef number one is Peter Ayub, proprietor of , a fine food catering company, also doing fun cooking school evenings. The reason I chose him first is because he is my direct neighbour, for starters, but also, he is bona fide chef. He is passionate about food, and more importantly, brings his own air to the persona of chef. In his case: tattoos, love for Windhoek Lager, Liverpool, and some aggression. The latter you'll find as with most "aggressive" types, is only skin-deep, and his a helluva nice guy to anyone not standing in his way when his cooking. And he refuses to endorse anything if he doesn't really believe in it. No money for package dry herbs ads, thanks.

I asked him to bring along something, maybe a knife, that says something about him, or that he's fond of. He brought a pint of lager.

Below follows some of the outtakes of the shoot at my studio. Final presentation of the project will most probably be web only for now. I still need to shoot so much anyways, that there's no point in worrying about that now. Enjoy.

Watch this space for more info on Chefs.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Wedding: S&M

20101231_0186 Half-way through my holiday in Gansbaai/De Kelders, I had to pop back to Cape Town to shoot two weddings. The first which I blogged about here. The second one, after my Wellington job, started in Camp’s Bay and found its way all the way to Sunset Beach, on the Western parameter of Cape Town, ending off at Bloubergstrand. All these locations spell one thing: wind. But, I like wind in pictures, although I don’t like shooting in it, the final images are always just that much more real. It gives that great wind-swept feel to the dress and the bride’s hair.

The couple had 1 guest, their daughter. The rest of us were a couple of okes from a drum circle, supplying the ambience, myself, the priest, the videographer and the agent. They were tourists from Germany.

When the drum circle supplies music, most of the time, the couple engages afterwards, and in this case it was no different. So afterwards, we all sat in for a 15 minute drumming session, before finishing our champers and heading out to the beach and making great images.

Afterwards (read 7pm), I, windswept and lekker tired, got in my car, fetched my wife (she also came in to work for the day), headed back to De Kelders to go and spend New Year’s with the family, playing pool, having a couple of frosties and eating like kings.

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