‘Sense of Time’, Movie on the Great Urban Documentary aka Street Photographer Joel Meyerowitz, is Available for Rent or Purchase at Vimeo

Earlier this year Ralph Goertz of the Institut für Kunstdokumentation und Szenografie (IKS) released what may be the best documentary movie so far about the great urban documentary aka street photographer Joel Meyerowitz and it is available for short-term rental or purchase at Vimeo. 

I highly recommend ‘Sense of Time’ to those interested in the genres of which Mr Meyerowitz has long been a master, urban documentary with small cameras and streetscapes, landscape and portraits with large format cameras. 

“The American photographer Joel Meyerowitz counts as one of the pioneers of street photography and – next to Stephen Shore and William Eggleston – as one of the most significant representatives of the American ‘New Color Photography’ movement since the 1960s.

Next to his early street photographs which he shot both in color and black & white in the early 1960s, he got international attention through his ground breaking series of “Cape Light”, in which he presented his achromatic observations of the light with his 8×10 camera. The book is still an icon for following generations of photographers….”

I came across the documentary when researching for articles on the recently announced Fujifilm Fujinon XF 18mm f/1.4 R WR fast prime lens and it reminded me of just how much I learned from and have been inspired by Joel Meyerowitz’ work over the decades since I discovered it while at art school.

His work pointed the way toward achieving the look and feel I had been after when I was becoming increasingly frustrated by the limitations of 35mm SLR cameras and I soon adopted Leica M-Series rangefinder cameras and then a wooden 4″x5″ sheet film.

My vision was immediately liberated from the constraints of the SLR look, and I began creating images much closer to the detail and emotive colour that is now taken for granted in the digital age.

As demonstrated in ‘Sense of Time’ as well as his many books and the Joel Meyerowitz Masterclass training, Mr Meyerowitz relies on Leica analog and digital cameras equipped with 28mm and 35mm prime lenses for his street photography, and Fujifilm’s release next year of the XF 18mm f/1.4 R WR will bring a professional-quality 28mm equivalent prime lens to the system at long last and after years of requests from users.

fujifilm_fujinonxf18mmf1.4rwr_xsummitomiya2020_01_1024px
The Fujinon XF 18mm f/1.4 R WR being shown onstage at the Fujifilm X-Summit Omiya 2020 event in October 2020.

I hope to add one to my kit and believe it will stand up well against Fujifilm’s current 35mm equivalent lenses, the Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 R and the smaller, “Fujicron”-style, XF 23mm f/2.0 R WR.

Note how Mr Meyerowitz chooses between the two focal lengths depending on how he wishes to relate foreground action to background setting, whether he wants to create a feeling of being deep in the action or slightly removed and more conscious of what surrounds it.

Note also how optical viewfinder cameras affect his vision and the way he uses his camera so rapidly while achieving accuracy in timing and framing sometimes and a looseness of style and framing at others.

Joel Meyerowitz’ small camera work shows that the street can be a rich realm of exploration and image creation provided one eschews cliché and all-too-common street photography tropes for complete openness to the excitement of the unexpected.

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Miami, FL, 1967. #itsasign

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Links

PBS: American Masters: Garry Winogrand: All Things are Photographable (video – regional restrictions apply)

https://www.pbs.org/video/garry-winogrand-all-things-are-photographable-tdq83s/

“Discover the life and work of Garry Winogrand, the epic storyteller in pictures who harnessed the serendipity of the streets to capture the American 1960s-70s. His “snapshot aesthetic” is now the universal language of contemporary image-making. …”

Leica Q (Typ 116) digital camera with 24.2 megapixel 35mm sensor and Leica Summilux 28mm f/1.7 Aspheric lens, perfectly suited to the snapshot aesthetic.

Commentary

American documentary photographer Garry Winogrand was called “the central photographer of his generation” by photography curator, historian, and critic John Szarkowski and this documentary movie  provides some insights into how and why he earned that accolade.

Winogrand was a key member of the generation that established the snapshot aesthetic as applied to photography in public as a genre in its own right, alongside Joel Meyerowitz, Lee Friedlander, Tony Ray-Jones and others, all relying on Leica M-Series rangefinder cameras and often the 28mm focal length.

Now that street photography has become even more established as a genre and in some manifestations as a cult, practitioners would do well to study its beginnings at the hands of artists like Winogrand and his colleagues back in the 1960s and 1970s, starting with Garry Winogrand: All Things are Photographable.

Links

Help support ‘Untitled’

Clicking on the links below and purchasing through them or our affiliate accounts at B&H Photo Video, SmallRig or Think Tank Photo helps us continue our work for ‘Untitled’.

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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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New Book by the Great Joel Meyerowitz, ‘Where I find Myself’, Coming Soon from Publisher Laurance King

The arts often cross-fertilize each other and inspiration is to be gained from anywhere and everywhere in the same way as fertile subjects for photography and moviemaking are often to be found just around the corner. 

Photograph by Joel Meyerowitz, from his website.

The colour and monochrome photographs of Joel Meyerowitz have been major influences on my own photography and moviemaking since seeing some of his colour photographs in a tiny little book decades ago, so it is wonderful to learn that Where I Find Myself, Joel Meyerowitz’s first major retrospective in book form, is due out soon to accompany a major retrospective exhibition in Berlin.

Links

Fujifilm X-Pro2 User Peter Dareth Evans Namechecks Six Photographic Greats with His Seven Excellent JPEG Film Simulation Settings

At the moment I don’t rely on JPEGs from any cameras as my SOOC (straight-out-of-camera) originals for online or print reproduction. Several reasons, prime of which is our lousy national broadband upload speeds and allocations. Then there is the fact that I use and love two different mirrorless camera systems for their different video capabilities and when shooting stills I prefer to edit raw files to colour match projects shot with both. Lastly, I don’t have any clients that demand fast turnaround and online transmission soon after shooting. 

I do, however, like to set custom JPEG and video profiles on each system’s cameras and my preference is looks emulating some of the great analog films of yesteryear. Using as many of them as I could lay hands on, processing and printing my own negatives and transparencies, may have wrecked my health but it exposed me to a vast range of analog tone and colour possibilities that I now apply to visualizing and processing digital images.

Although my workflow does not require film simulation presets when shooting, it is fun to have them in-camera as custom settings. The latest firmware for for Fujifilm’s X-Pro2 and X-T2 permits renaming all seven custom settings. Until Peter Dareth Evans of Pete Takes Pictures shared his custom settings, I had both of Kevin Mullins’ wedding photojournalism customs settings installed but yearned for other looks as well.

Six of the greats plus one

Mr Evans seven custom settings pay homage to some of the greats of photography – William Eggleston, Joel Sternfeld, Mary Ellen Mark, Daido Moriyama, Garry Winogrand and John Bulmer – and one Fujifilm X-Photographer member of the KAGE Collective, Patrick LaRoque.

Those six greats, or at least the photographic schools of thought to which they belong, have been important to my own development as a photographer and moviemaker, so I quickly overwrite my custom settings with them and custom named them according to Mr Evans’ own descriptions.

I am looking forward to putting them to the test with some serious photography soon. Meantime I applied them to some quick and dirty X-Pr02 videos of domestic scenes and was impressed.

The downside of Fujifilm’s implementation of video on the X-Pro2, other than being 1080p only, is that only the film simulation part of the settings apply. Dynamic Range, Grain Effect, Highlight Tone, Shadow Tone, Colour, Noise, Grain, Sharpness settings have no effect on video though they do on JPEGs.

My quick and dirty workaround is to apply a tone recovery LUT from my ever-growing collection of free and paid-for LUTs, in this case FilmContrast_Light.cube from CoreMelt’s LUTx Feature Looks Collection or either of the two recovery LUTs from James Miller’s DeLUTS Fujifilm X-Pro2 LUT set.

Fujifilm, give us exposure zebras on all your cameras PLEASE!

Although Fujifilm continues to improve its cameras’ video capabilities, the company has several blindspots that have me wondering about its commitment to moviemakers using their cameras.

None of Fujifilm’s cameras’ firmware includes exposure zebras, the most essential tool for obtaining correct exposure of video and stills via ETTR – expose to the right. I rely on zebras when shooting video and stills on all my cameras of another mirrorless brand and zebras’ absence from the X-T2 is a major factor in not purchasing one despite its otherwise promising video support.

Crippling the application of custom settings to the X-Pro2’s video capability is deeply disappointing though it did not deter me from purchasing the X-Pro2. I have been yearning for an affordable digital interchangeable lens OVF camera for years now and the X-Pro2 has satisfied that desire for my stills photography work.

Shooting movies with OVF cameras is a passion and pleasure, perhaps peculiar to someone like me who began making short movies with old OVF film cameras. I so wish that the X-Pro2 supported zebras in its EVF, monitor and ERF, and allowed me to fine-tune my custom settings for video in the way that Messers Evans and Mullins do for stills photography.

Credits:

Thanks to Fuji Rumors for sharing This Guy Fine Tuned his Fujifilm Film Simulation Settings Inspired by the Work of Great Film Photographers. See “Chrome Eggleston” & More.

Links:

Help Sasha Waters Freyer Tell the Story of the Greatest Street Photographer Ever, Garry Winogrand

Garry Winogrand, quintessential New York street photographer, is the grandfather of all street photographers in this age that seems to have turned street photography itself into something approaching a cult, with its rules, regulations, expectations, tropes, tricks, judges, juries, fans, heroes and followers many of whom, it appears, have forgotten how it all began or that it even has a history. 

Garry Winogrand, as moviemaker Sasha Waters Freyer states in her Kickstarter campaign to raise finishing funds for her documentary movie Garry Winogrand: All Things are Photographable, was artist, iconoclast, man of his time and the epic photographer of 20th century American life.

More than a street photographer

Just a little bit more than simply a street photographer, methinks. Perhaps Garry Winogrand should be referred to as a great documentary photographer or a brilliant urban documentary photographer or one of the fathers of us all, because that is the depth and breadth of his achievements and influence.

The art of urban documentary is no less than that of depicting the state of humanity in this very moment, so that we, our contemporaries and our descendants may understand this time and us just a little better and perhaps learn from our mistakes and our successes. Even better, avoid repeating those mistakes and understand how to be successful in their own right.

Garry Winogrand died too young to fully experience his own creative success and to be celebrated for his insight into urban America. His life and career followed and overlapped with that of Robert Frank, the photographer who almost singlehandedly kicked off the strand of urban documentary photography that asks questions more than it provides answers.

That is a strand of photography which which I identify, given that no artist can ever claim to have all the answers or even some of them and should not be making such claims. Instead, we can hope to stimulate viewers into asking questions of their own.

The central photographer of his generation

John Szarkowski rightfully hailed Garry Winogrand as “the central photographer of his generation” and what a generation that was, including such leading lights of the photography of everyday life lived out in the streets as Lee Friedlander and Joel Meyerowitz, with whom he often roamed the streets of New York City in the 1960s, crossing paths with Tony Ray-Jones, Tod Papageorge and Diane Arbus.

All were the artistic children of Robert Frank and Joel Meyerowitz was so inspired by watching Frank at work while he, Meyerowitz, was an advertising art director but only one of those creative offspring, Winogrand, had the same toughness and sense of difference from those he photographed.

The others, especially Meyerowitz who was so influenced by William Eggleston’s achievements in colour, possessed a lyricism that Winogrand’s hard-edged directness and desire to see life depicted in new ways mitigated against. Only American expatriate William Klein came close then surpassed that directness through confrontation.

One of Winogrand’s most famous comments on his work is this, quoted in Sean O’Hagan’s article on the then crisis in street photography in The Guardian in 2010, Why street photography is facing a moment of truth:

“When I’m photographing, I see life,” he once said. “That’s what I deal with. I don’t have pictures in my head… I don’t worry about how the picture is going to look. I let that take care of itself… It’s not about making a nice picture. That anyone can do.”

The history and achievements of street photography – or social landscape or urban documentary or what you will – and its most influential practitioners such as Winogrand has yet to be definitely written or delineated in moving images.

It may never be fully so, but at least Sasha Waters Freyer can tell us about the one who is arguably the greatest and we who can should chip in in order to help her do that.