The Cut: The Electric Intimacy of Alice Springs

https://www.thecut.com/2019/02/alice-springs-fashion-photographer.html

“It’s a joy to contemplate the photography of June Newton, a.k.a. Alice Springs. The Australian-born Springs is the 95-year-old widow of the provocative fashion photographer Helmut Newton, but that’s the least interesting thing about her.

Under Springs’s gaze, world-famous actresses like Catherine Deneuve, Charlotte Rampling, and Audrey Hepburn look like people, not icons — conversational, intent, their eyes telegraphing depths beneath. Springs respects their beauty, but doesn’t accept it as a mask. There are shadows beneath Deneuve’s perfect features; Hepburn looks gorgeous, but her age….”

Charlotte Rampling. Photo: © Alice Springs / Maconochie Photography

Commentary

While preparing for an extensive documentary portrait photography project on Australian female creatives and innovators, I came across this article about June Newton aka Alice Springs published earlier this year along with a series of links to other articles about her and her work as a photographer and director of the Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin.

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Do Not Bend: The Photographic Life of Bill Jay [video]

“”The fate of photography in this country is at stake. And that is more important than my opinions, or your opinions of me.” Bill Jay – Creative Camera 1969….”

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The New York Times: The First Female Photographers Brought a New Vision to The New York Times [paywall]

“As revolutions go, this one got off to a quiet and unassuming start in the early 1970s. It was achieved slowly, one female photographer at a time, each hired by The New York Times for her talent with a camera and her desire to practice the best journalism possible.

The men who hired the first of those women quite likely weren’t thinking about altering the prevailing concepts of photojournalism. But over time, as more women were hired and gained acceptance, they began to push successfully for publication of images that were different, for the truths they saw in people and events, for assignments that had once been denied them and for assignments that had not been envisioned before….”

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Ivan Joshua Loh: Happy 8th Birthday X100.

https://ivanjoshualoh.com/2019/03/05/happy-8th-birthday-x100/

“My earliest memories of X100 was at a shopping mall. I was walking pass an electronic store and on display was a gorgeous camera. I actually stop and spend a little moment admiring how good looking it was. It was a Fujifilm camera. Wow. I have never own the original X100. I have used a X100s and owned a X100T and now a X100F.

The X100 series is always special to me. I love the design of it. Kudos to the designer; whom I have the privilege to meet on two occasion. Thank you Masazumi Imai; you have design a timeless looking camera that is loved by photographers all over the world….”

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Fujifilm Finepix X100 with lens hood and hand grip, still in use after all these years and still producing great photographs.

Commentary

The X100 was the first camera that showed me I was going to love digital photography, after too many dodgy and disappointing premium compacts, bridge cameras and DSLRs.

I ordered one immediately and have loved it from the day it eventually arrived.

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Design Your Life: Episode 011 with the Douglas Brothers [Podcast]

http://designyourlife.com.au/podcast/ep011-vince-frosts-design-your-life-with-the-douglas-brothers/

“British photographer/director siblings Andrew and Stuart Douglas are renowned creatives, known primarily for their rebellious approach to photography and film direction.

Having grown up in Southend Essex and later, London, the pair’s legacy began in the midst of the London punk movement, where they used their “incorrect” style to snap some of the world’s most iconic figures during their youth, including Richard Gere, Morrissey, Timothy Roth and Tilda Swinton.

Since then, their work has evolved and continued to disrupt the creative and commercial worlds alike, with their left-of-centre work for Adidas, Coco Cola and Hollywood feature-length films.

In this episode, Andrew and Stuart share their personal and professional stories – which are often one in the same.

They recount their origins, moving from stills to videos, how working with your brother can simultaneously result in your best work and decade-long feuds, and ultimately how they “find wellness while keeping the hamster-wheel going.” …”

Daniel Day Lewis, copyright The Douglas Brothers. This was apparently their breakthrough image, the one that established their style, and it was made for US start-up magazine ‘Mirabella’. As ‘Mirabella’ publisher Julie Lewit Nirenberg said after the magazine’s demise in the year 2000, “It had such amazing potential. There was a really wonderful vision behind that magazine.” Been there, done that, saw the same kind of thing occur with ‘not only Black+White’. “It was such a promising magazine.”

Commentary

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The Douglas Brothers for the Gap ‘Individuals of Style’ advertising campaign, photographed in the early 1990s by Annie Leibovitz. Image kindly supplied by the inimitable Dave Dye, formerly of The Leagas Delaney Partnership.

Kudos to Australia-based strategic designer Vince Frost of Frost* collective for recording this podcast with The Douglas Brothers, Andrew and Stuart.

Whether they realized it or not, the Douglas Brothers played an instrumental role in my life when they recommended me to their apparently one and only advertising agency client at the time, the brilliant copywriter Tim Delaney of the then Leagas Delaney Partnership, on the basis of my having come up with the idea of ‘not only Black+White’ magazine.

I had travelled to the UK as the magazine’s European Contributing Editor several years after its founding in order to meet some of the great photographers I had been working on articles with remotely, via telephone, in those days before everyone used email, chat and the World Wide Web as they do now.

I was rewarded with considerable time spent face-to-face with many of them, met plenty more of them and better yet experienced an acceptance and a respect from all entirely unknown to me back in Australia before or since.

My experience with The Douglas Brothers was a standout, and that is saying something.

Their work, their experiences and backgrounds had some key similarities to my own, enough to amply validate a saying I had long shared with my photography students over the years before leaving Western Australia, “Be yourself, only, more so”.

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Self-portrait © by The Douglas Brothers.

The Douglas Brothers’ approach to portrait photography came about through the same lack of time allocated with their subjects, lack of funds available for the best and most versatile equipment and back then a lack of recognition from potential clients able to grant them real money for their work.

That recognition was about to come, though, due to the way that photographers overseas were not locked into career-limiting labels like magazine photographer or newspaper photographer as apparently occurs here in Australia still.

At the time I met them, The Douglas Brothers had begun producing longer-form television commercials, evolving beyond the 10-second spots with which they broke into directing, their TV work possessing as much the unique Douglas Brothers stamp as their photographs.

They truly were being themselves, only, more so, a lesson that should have been well-heeded by the students  mentioned in a comment made by Stuart Douglas in an article for advertising industry bible Campaign:

On their photographic style: ‘We used to see students’ photography portfolios with work that identically copied ours, only it was better. We never knew how to take this,’ Stuart comments.

During the time I worked at The Leagas Delaney Partnership, now simply named Leagas Delaney, I encountered quite a few young photographers toting portfolios of work copying that of their idols though The Douglas Brothers did not count among them.

My advice to those fresh young wannabes?

“Be yourself, only, more so.”

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Bluecoat Press: Elswick Kids, Kickstarter Campaign for Latest Book of Photographs by the Great British Documentary Photographer Tish Murtha

Tish Murtha, one of Magnum photojournalist David Hurn’s first students at the famous School of Documentary Photography in Newport, Wales, in the 1970s, was one of the finest documentary photographers of her generation but, in the all-too-usual manner, was ignored by the photography establishment until recently thanks to the tireless efforts of her daughter Ella Murtha, The Photographers’ Gallery, Bluecoat Press, Café Royal Books and others. 

Commentary

The course at The School of Documentary Photography was unique in Britain at the time and produced many fine photographers, a couple of whom later moved to Australia.

Others went on to fame and fortune, while Tish Murtha seemed to have disappeared into the background after initial early successes and commissions, dying prematurely in 2013.

Given the way female photographers have tended to be ignored and forgotten, it is wonderful to see that Tish Murtha is finally receiving the recognition that she deserved so much in her lifetime.

Photograph from “Elswick Kids’ by the late, great British documentary photographer Tish Murtha.

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The Guardian: The high-fliers club: how Susan Wood captured the original rebel girls

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/sep/28/the-high-fliers-club-how-susan-wood-captured-the-original-rebel-girls

“There’s Jayne Mansfield, striding through New York in a tight dress. There’s fashion designer Diane von Fürstenberg, reclining on a flight with a notepad on her lap. There’s lifestyle icon Martha Stewart, leading ducks round her property dressed in a denim romper suit. They’re all here, along with Susan Sontag, Nora Ephron and countless other celebrities, intellectuals and icons of the 20th century – and all of them women.

Susan Wood, the celebrated photographer who took these shots, found that her subjects all shared certain characteristics. “The first thing is intelligence,” she says. “The second is responsiveness. And they all had tremendous energy, joie de vivre, openness. They could understand things that weren’t quite said.”…”

Women: Portraits 1960-2000, by Susan Wood, published by Pointed Leaf Press, 2018.

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British Journal of Photography: How We See: Photobooks by Women

http://www.bjp-online.com/2018/09/how-we-see-photobooks-by-women/

“History confirms it – the first photobook was made by a woman, with British photographer Anna Atkins publishing Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions in 1843, a year before Henry Fox Talbot’s The Pencil of Nature. Still, many historians, including Allan Porter in his introduction to The Photobook: A History, dismiss Atkins’ work as “photographic prints” rather than photography.

“Unfortunately, this is far too often emblematic of the uphill battle women photobook-makers still encounter when we talk about their history,” says Russet Lederman, co-founder of 10×10 Photobooks. “As we conducted research for the How We See project, we discovered that although women photographers produce relatively equal numbers of photobooks to men, their representation in the higher-profile sectors was, and still is, disappointing.”…”

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The Atlantic: How the 50-mm Lens Became ‘Normal’, by Allan Daigle

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/05/how-the-50-mm-lens-became-normal/560276/

“… One lens in particular—the 50-mm lens—is often seen as the most objective of objectifs, and it is said to be the lens that best approximates human visual perspective. For example, the precision-lens manufacturer Zeiss states that its Planar 50-mm lens is “equal to the human eye.” Many artists have taken up 50-mm lenses to render ordinary, everyday experience….

… But the concept of “normal vision,” let alone the 50-mm lens’s ability to reproduce it, is hardly a given. The idea that a 50-mm best approximates human sight has more to do with the early history of lens production than any essential optical correspondence between the lens and the eye….

… Perhaps the 50-mm communicates an anxiety about whether an individual can understand someone else’s vision. Under the right circumstances, a 50-mm lens does create a perspectival relationship that, more or less, approximates the ways the majority of people see their everyday world. But it’s still relative….”

Commentary

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The legendary Minolta CLE 35mm analog film camera with 40mm f/2.0 perfect normal prime lens, photograph courtesy of Japan Camera Hunter.

The relevance of 50mm focal length in 35mm sensor format being “normal” or “standard” has long been in dispute with opponents often pointing out that the mathematical  definition of “perfect normal” in that sensor format makes it closer to 40mm, hence the 40mm “normal” lens supplied with the Leica CL and its successor, the Minolta CLE.

Viewing the world through the narrower 50mm focal length appears to be more a matter of habituation than human biology, as I deduced many times over when teaching art students new to photography.

Human binocular vision is capable of encompassing a view over 180-degrees when staring directly ahead and without moving the eyes, as indicated by the results of my tests with new photographers, and that instantly opened their eyes to seeing the world beyond the single prime object of interest, rapidly progressing into keenly observing the relationships between near and far, left and right, above and below.

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Photographed with Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 Aspheric lens on Panasonic DMC-GX8 rangefinder-style camera with tilting electronic viewfinder. The 25mm focal length in Micro Four Thirds is equivalent to 35mm in APS-C and 50mm in the 35mm sensor format aka “full format” or “full frame”.

While the 50mm focal length and its equivalents of 25mm in Micro Four Thirds and 35mm in APS-C have their uses, especially in video and portraiture, I recommend considering focal lengths often described as “perfect normal” such as 40mm in 35mm format, 27mm in APS-C and 20mm in Micro Four Thirds, for the way they better embed their prime subject within a field of background relationships with objects, people and places.

I also recommend reading the analog film and digital sensor normal lens tables in Wikipedia at Normal lens for focal lengths derived from actual film and sensor sizes.

Some “Nifty Forty” lenses for 35mm format sensors

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Of all the brands of aluminium and brass step-up rings I have tried, those made by Breakthrough Photography have proven to be the best and are unique in their top quality machining and easy-handling traction frame.

Clicking on these affiliate links and purchasing through them helps us continue our work for ‘Untitled: Stories of Creativity, Innovation, Success’.

  • 40mm prime lensesB&H
  • APS-C Lenses, Focal Length: 35mmB&H – includes Fujifilm and Sony E-Mount
  • Breakthrough Photography UV filters in knurled brass traction framesB&H – I strongly recommend Breakthrough Photography’s knurled brass-framed UV, ND, and CPL filters as well as the company’s excellent brass step-up rings.
  • Chiaro UV filters in knurled brass framesB&H – I also recommend Chiaro’s brass-framed UV filters, especially when the size you need is available in the company’s 99% light transmission brass top and side knurled range for maximum grip and durability.
  • DSLR Lenses, Focal Length: 50mmB&H
  • Heliopan brass step-up ringsB&H – If the step-up ring you need is not available in Breakthrough Photography or Sensei Pro brands, this is my recommended third choice.
  • Micro Four Thirds Lenses, Focal Length: 25mmB&H
  • Mirrorless System Lenses, Focal Length: 50mmB&H
  • Rangefinder Lenses, Focal Length: 50mmB&H
  • Sensei Pro brass step-up ringsB&H – If the step-up ring you need is not available in Breakthrough Photography brand, these are my recommended second choice.