I photographed these black and white double exposures in Paris years ago – back in the day when I still used film and there was no photoshop, no lightroom, no presets and everything was done in camera. I pulled them from the archive because I wanted to do some more double exposures recently and discovered that with digital cameras I can no longer do this!!! It got me thinking about the ‘decisive moment’ and our ability, as photographers, to capture that frame in the split second that it passes across our vision.
I took the colour ‘pool splash’ photo in Cape Town for an editorial where the budget only allowed 2 rolls of film per shot. Shooting medium format it meant I only had 24 frames to nail it. In order to get the water splash back lit against the sky I was shooting directly into the sun. Using the model’s body to partially block the sun, but still allow enough flare to create the shot, I also had to perfectly time it with the assistant throwing a bucket of water off camera.
It’s hard to describe the anticipation of waiting for that ‘decisive moment’ and the exhilaration of just knowing you’ve got it. Instinctively I ‘knew’ the minute I pressed the shutter button, and before I wound the film cartridge on, that I already had the image I wanted. I didn’t need to look at the back of the camera to check – because you couldn’t.
Call me a purist but I’m proud of the fact that I took these shots ‘in camera’. I guess it’s an obsolete skill to have but in the modern photographic world we seem to have forgotten the very basics of photography. The internet is full of second rate photographs taken in terrible light and with no clue as to a half decent composition. The people who take these pictures then blog/brag about how to make them look decent using an array of quick click post production tools.
Actually I admire the honesty of these ‘before and after’ artists. It’s a bit like celebrities who have plastic surgery and don’t try to hide it. I’ve never used more than minimal retouching in my own work – preferring, even now, to get as much as I can ‘in camera’ because I can and because, personally, I think it’s lazy not to.
It’s a skill that’s served me well in motion capture and the move to cinematography and I’m grateful for it.
I find the photographs of Roger Ballen both fascinating and disturbing.
Like the work of Diane Arbus before him it is a contradiction in terms – both compelling and compulsive to look at yet focused on subject matter we all too often want to look away from.
Merging the boundaries between art house and documentary photojournalism he continues to inspires and inform and his ongoing collaboration with Die Antwoord has bought him a new army of followers.
The collaboration is a masterful achievement – more so because it flies in the face of current trends to partner young trendy groups with young, trendy image makers.
Aged 63, Ballen himself says…
“Because photography is such an easy medium to master technically, especially with today’s cameras, people don’t realize that it’s not just being able to pick up a camera.
When I lift that camera up to take a picture, I’ve gone through thousands of steps to get to that point.
That’s what you’re really seeing; it’s a complex view of the world, through my imagination and through my experiences.”
Long may he continue in his search for the photographic truth….
For as long as I can remember I’ve been obsessed with Don McCullin. The bleak, black and white photography of this melancholic man got under my skin somehow and, even now, I have goosebumps just thinking about some of the confrontational images he created. When I was younger I wanted to be just like him but I soon found out I didn’t have what it took to be, as the legendary Harold Evans described him, ‘a conscience with a camera’.
I have two earlier books of his ‘Perspectives’ and ‘Unreasonable Behaviour’ that are like truth seeking missiles in my photographic world – and I take them with me wherever I go.
Throughout time and trends his work endures and this month McCullin – an independent film documenting the life of Britain’s greatest living photographer of war and so much more, is released.
I can’t wait to see it…..
recent stills from photo shoot for Astray Clothing London