Monday, March 29, 2010

Contemporary staged photographic work

So I came by some great contemporary photographers lately.. Thought I'd share some of those works and also discuss them.

Among those photographers are Philippe Ramette and Gregory Crewdson. They have their own very unique set of trademarks.

Ramette's theme is based on defying gravity and he himself models in the photographs. His positioning, angles and setup are so incredible that they look photoshopped, but they are actually not.

Gregory Crewdson's photographs are largely staged and his use of lighting is mysterious, unnatural and eerie at the same time. They portray scenes of American homes and neighborhoods- scenes which are normal scenes, but through subject and lighting he completely turns the tables.

I love these guys' works and they are among my list of favourite photographers. I just have one question mark on my head.. and wanted to hear what everyone had to say on this.

Both these photographers have a team of 10 to 20 people working on their shots- but they do not hold the camera or press the shutter. I do understand both their sides of the story- for example, Ramette himself is the model in the photographs and is taking the risk of doing his anti-gravitational poses- and Gregory is running around because the amount of effort that his shots takes equals that of a film. There's another renowned photographer- Renee Cox, whose photographs are simple but they have a very powerful context and she tries to add a shock value and tries to be controversial- and she models in the photos- but she also does not hold the camera.
So the question I have is- are these photographers not missing out the whole enjoyment/relation to their work by not holding the camera to take the actual photograph?
Yes, the vision, the artistry and idea is theirs- and one cannot imagine the amount of effort put in to bring their vision into these photographs.
It is just that personally, if I was photographing something, I'd like to see it through the viewfinder myself.. I'd like to select my own aperture and shutter speed.. For me, if I have
someone else press the shutter for me, all the joy and fun of holding the camera would be gone!
Anyone want to say anything on this?
P.S. Please don't misunderstand me for accusing these artists, its just a personal question I had!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Spontaneity- or a scene crying to be shot?

One way or the other, all photographers have these spontaneous moments where they get a lucky shot and there's an entire story behind it. I will TRY not to bore you with mine- but rather talk about its fascination.

The photograph of Imran Khan I've put up- I took it when I was at a fundraiser Iftari of his for his hospital (Shaukat Khanum memorial hospital). Basically he was in the same table as me and I happened to have my camera. They were showing a documentary on Shaukat Khanum while he looked at the crowd and carefully looked at who was paying attention and who was not. I caught this interesting expression on his face and captured it.

There are all kinds of photographers.. Fashion photographers, wedding photographers, food photographers, and the list goes on.

And then there are street and documentary photographers. I like to think of myself as one.. Street and documentary photographer is an art of its own.. In fashion photography, everything is set for you.. you can control the light.. you know where to place the strobes and the model and you've got a theme.

When it comes to documentary/street photography, you have no control at all.. everything's played out from the beginning and its your choice however you want to tell the story- through light and placement. This way, I also have a feeling that viewers can somewhat relate to the photograph as it is closer to realism- and it is open to interpretation. That's what I really like about this genre of photography and I hope to do justice to it.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Adventures of the mind- pilot

When I went for my NCA (National College of arts) admission interview back in 2006- I was showing my portfolio during the interview (which mostly consisted of my photography). Mr. Hamid Durrani (a professor at the college) who was a part of the interview panel, asked me if photography can be considered art. Before I could respond, a debate broke out between the panelists. I had a bemused expression on my face but was grateful that somebody else was doing the answering!
In the last few months, I have begun to appreciate not to present a topic or a subject in too literal a manner, but to stimulate the thinking of the observer.

A few years ago, during my visit to the US, an interesting discussion took place on NPR (National public radio). Basically the topic of discussion was that radio was a dying art in place of animation and television. There were three debaters. One of them talked about the powerful message that animation can give; another talked about the fantastic programmes that people enjoy on television; while the third one, a famous radio actor, kept quiet. When they finished talking, the radio actor asked everybody- including the audience and the panelists, to close their eyes and to listen to only what he has to say.

In a very dramatic voice, he described a pleasant scene at Lake Michigan. He described that it was a sunny and a happy day and families were spending time together. He described the sun reflecting on the water- and described every little detail. He then proceeded to narrate the following:
" Suddenly some helicopters started hovering over the lake. Everyone looked up with curious and worried expressions on their faces. The helicopters came down on the lake and sucked the water out of the lake. You could see the weed as the lake emptied up. Everyone panicked and started screaming. There were chaos. Police cars came and the police made arrests. Moments later, the very same helicopters returned- this time they had big tubes. They lowered on the empty lake and started filling it up with whipped cream. The chaos calmed down. Children became overjoyed and started running to the whipped cream amidst cries of their mothers telling them to stay back. The helicopters then started sprinkling chocolate and other flavours on the whipped cream. The children tasted the cream and exclaimed that it was delicious."

The radio actor asked everyone to open their eyes. He said that he does not know what exactly everyone had in mind when picturing whatever he said- but he guaranteed that everyone had a different picture in mind. Their thoughts and imaginations were formed by their own life experiences- who knows some might even had a 'sour' image of the whipped cream?

He then proceeded to ask the two debaters talking about animation and television- that whatever he described- wouldn't it take millions of dollars to produce and formulate all this? Would everyone's imaginations be satisfied? He said that when people see television, films or animations- they are looking at someone else's imagination.

The last trigger came from a friend who commented on the picture of a young boy that I photographed a long time ago. He said, "I wonder what this child must be thinking? Was he fascinated by your camera? Or the car you came in? Or was he curious about the clothes you were wearing? Or was he thinking that you will give him some money? ... Hmm...

How wondrous is the mind. And in this blog, I want you to walk with me and explore and celebrate the adventures of the mind.