Friday, August 31, 2012

Bless Me Barnack (Les)

Morning shipmates - well yer Captain was a tad surprised and disgusted this week with the footage from the Mars Curiosity voyage. 
A mighty and dangerous undertaking across the seas of darkrness, and a solemn and important voyage, yet it was patently obvious those coves at NASA weren't into the music they had to play, but had to show willing. I wonder how many dubloons crossed palms for that . . .
Did ye see the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young fan, trying to stomp his feet in time to some modern homogenised-rap? 

Why they say the sky is the limit
When I’ve seen the footprints on the moon
Why do they say the sky is the limit
When I’ve seen the footprints on the moon
And I know the sky might be high
But baby it ain’t really that high
And I know that Mars might be far
But baby it ain’t really that far

Let’s reach for the stars
Reach for the stars
Let’s reach for the stars
Reach for the stars
Let’s reach for the stars
Reach for the stars
Let’s reach for the stars

(let me see your hands up)
(let me see your hands up)


Can’t nobody hold us back
They can’t hold us down
They can’t keep us trapped
Tie us to the ground
Told your people that we don’t mess around
When we turn it up
Please don’t turn us down
We will turn it up
Louder than we was before
Like the lion out the jungle, you can hear us roar
When I lie in here, it’s like a sonic blaster
Flying just like nasa, out of space master


Hands up, reach for the sky
Hands up, get ‘em up high
Hands up, if you really feel alive
Live it up, live it up


Why they say the sky is the limit
When I’ve seen the footprints on the moon
Why do they say the sky is the limit
When I’ve seen the footprints on the moon
And I know the sky might be high
But baby it ain’t really that high
And I know that Mars might be far
But baby it ain’t really that far


Let’s reach for the stars (reprise)


Oh yus m'dearios, it fairly makes you want to jump into your spacesuit and head off doesn't it. 
I wonder how Cap'n Scott would have felt with an equivalent cranking away on his gramaphone?

And I know that the Pole might be far
But baby it ain’t really that far . . . .


Anyway, even Mog looked up from his plate o'shrimp and flicked his tail in disgust. **
We particularly liked the look on the face of the guy with the mowhawk who looked like he'd been asked to eat a plate of mealy-infested biscuits.
Why would they do that?
That is all I shall say.
Personally I feel a good shanty would have been more appropriate . . something like 'The Sailor Likes His Bottle-O'.
It's got a good beat and ye can tap your toes or haul rigging to it.

The Mate was drunk, and he went below,
To take a swig of his bottle-o
A bottle of rum, and a bottle of gin,
And a bottle of Irish whiskey-o

Chorus:
His bottle, oh, his bottle-o
The sailor likes his bottle-o


Tobaccio, tobacci-o,
The sailor loves tobacci-o,
A cut of the plug, and a cut of the Swiss,
And a cut of hard tobacci-o,

Chorus:

The maidens, oh, the lasses-o
The sailor loves the Judys-o
A gal from Liverpool and a gal from the Tyne
And a lassie so fine and dandy-o

Chorus:

A bloody rough house, a bloody rough house,
The sailor loves a roughhouse-o
A kick in the arse and an all-hands-in,
A bloody good rough-and-tumble-o

Chorus:

So early in the morning
The Sailor likes his bottle-o
A bottle o'rum and a bottle o'gin
and a bottle  o' Irish whiskey-o
So early in the moring
The Sailor likes his bottle-o


So early in the morning
The sailor likes his baccy-o
A packet o' shag and a packet o' twist
and a packet o' Yankee Doodle-o
So early in the morning
The sailor likes his baccy-o


So early in the morning
The sailor likes the lasses-o
The lasses o' Blyth and the lasses o' Shields
and the lasses across the water-o
So early in the morning
The sailor likes the lasses-o


There's a stoke o'sea-farers would agree with me.
Getting the feelings from the Capn's who'd put in that day, we all felt the NASA debacle was a disservice to the memory of the late Mr.Armstrong.
Anyway, in a curved-ball of strangeness, this week Mr.Sheephouse has gone plain off his trumpet, and has written a mighty ode to the legendary Les Dawson.

** yes, we do have a particularly nice and sea-worthy AV system on the Goode Shippe.


***


I have handled quite a few cameras over the years, Rolleiflex, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, Praktika, Minolta, Kodak, Braun, Agfa, Petri, more Nikon, more Pentax, Sinar, Wista and so on, so really it quite unusual for me to be surprised by something, but I have been with a recent purchase.
It took a number of months of saving and selling, but after managing to hold myself back over all the tempting cameras there are out there, I recently purchased a 1954 Leica IIIf (Red Dial, Delayed Action) and to say I am surprised and knocked out would be an underestimate.
It is sitting just next to me as I type this, and I find myself looking at it and wondering about the life it must have had. 
It is in remarkably great condition for a camera that is 7 years older than me, so one can only assume that it was purchased and looked after by someone who wanted to care for their precious possession. It isn't in perfect condition like it has been kept in a cabinet though; no, rather it has the feeling it has been used. 
Back in their heyday and before the Japanese manufacturing machine got into its stride, the Leica was the camera everyone wanted. And it was EXPENSIVE. 
They were available in Britain right through the 1930's, until a certain Mr.Adolf decided to upset the world and then you couldn't get them for love nor money, and even when World War II ended, if you were a British photographer, unless you were professional (and could prove you needed to buy an expensive camera) it was virtually impossible to purchase a Leica. This was due to the post-war import restrictions:

Post-war foreign currency regulations and related import prohibitions made it impossible for amateur photographers in the UK to buy new cameras from other countries if the ex-factory price of the camera (that is, the price the importer or dealer paid, excluding freight charges) was more than a very low figure - from memory I think this was £5.
Only professional photographers, who could prove that they needed an expensive new camera for their work, could obtain an import licence to buy a Leica or Rolleiflex. This rule was the reason for the rise of the British camera industry during the late 1940s and early to mid-1950s, resulting in cameras like the Reid III (a virtual clone of a Leica IIIb), the Ilford Witness (which took Leica lenses), the Periflex (a reflex focusing camera that took Leica lenses) and the MPP Microcord and Microflex, respectively near clones of the Rolleicord and Rolleiflex of the time. Import restrictions were gradually relaxed in the late 1950s, so it became possible for amateurs to buy new cameras like the Retina IIc and IIIc, the Exakta Varex and the Rolleicord. They did not end until 1959/60.
After the Second World War, second-hand Leica prices were very high and few could afford them. In April 1946, RG Lewis advertised in Miniature Camera Magazine a Leica IIIa with f/2 Summar, then about ten years old, for £103 17s. This equates to about £2,650 today, which is a huge sum for a second-hand camera.
I have not been able to find a new price for a Leica IIIf for you in the time available, but to give you an idea, a new Leica M3 with f/2 Summicron was advertised by Wallace Heaton in October 1962 at just under £183. At that time, as an advertising copywriter aged 21, I was earning about £700 per year and was considered well paid, so you could approximate £183 then as being equivalent to about £5,000 today. The IIIf ten years earlier would probably have been in the same general area of price.

From a letter to Amateur Photographer by Ivor Matanle




In the rest of the post-war world there were no such restrictions, but even then, it was still a very considered purchase. For instance, in Germany, a Leica (with lens) was roughly above the higher (Doctors etc) median average average monthly wage which was approximately 300 Deutschmarks.
So, assuming say 325 DM in 1954 (roughly 166 euros) is equal to about £131 today (2112); allow for inflation from 1954 and you reach the staggering equivalent price of £2878!
This is for a light tight box, with a rangefinder, reliable film transport mechanism and a lens. 
In anyone's terms that is a hell of a lot of money.
I think you can safely assume you are looking at a precision piece of work.
I can only assume that mine was either purchased by a professional photographer, or was bought from elsewhere in the world by some enthusiastic amateur and ended up its life in a nice, pipes and slippers, cosy British pub-land where not a lot happens and you can take a few pictures every month or so.
Can you imagine purchasing such an item in the early 1960's?



Possibly the world's worst Leica picture, but it will have to do.
The box by the way is a lacquered Japanese tea box circa 1900.



Even in those days, the Barnack Leica's looked antique next to Leica's then new M-series and the Japanese rangefinders from Canon and Nikon.
So, whoever purchased my camera must have made a decision, and fallen in love.
And it is an easy camera to love.
I pick it up, and can feel the treasuredness of it.
It was made in a long-gone age where a large number of articles were 'hand-made' and robots were definitely not the norm; each camera was built by a human being from carefully made and sourced components. Each human was valued for their skills and abilities.
They took an average of 40 man hours to assemble, which I find extraordinary - basically a whole working week for one camera. 
They are over-engineered really - rather like the Nikon F, but that engineering was there for a simple reason - to make the cameras as robust and reliable as possible, and given the large number still around and in use (compared to their main competitor of the time, the marvellous Zeiss Ikon Contax) that engineering ethos has been proven right. 
Actually you can say the same for Nikon F's and F2's too - reliable brick outhouses is the expression I would use, and their adoption by vast numbers of professional photographers back in the 1960's and 70's (and the fact that many are still eminently usable) is testimony to that. 
So why on earth would I want to buy a camera that was manufactured before I was born? 
Well as previously detailed in FB's, I have a keen interest in mechanical things, even though I am no mechanic myself. My Father was an engineer, as was my Grandfather, and I suppose some of that genetic makeup has helped my fascination with mechanical cameras become a hobby.
Though the bar is raised very high for any newcomers into the Olde Sheephouse Home For Mechanical Marvels:
I hold the Nikon F2 as probably the best mechanical SLR ever made. 
The Rolleiflex range of Twin Lens Reflexes are the most astonishingly well-designed and built cameras. A Rollei's Synchro-Compur is always surprisingly quiet - just a snick on fast speeds and a tiny buzz on longer ones
Up till now though, the best shutter I owned was on a Minolta Autocord - it still functions perfectly (despite the camera having been made in 1958 and obviously having lived a very tough life) with a very quiet and accurate buzzing on longer speeds. 
I have a 1950's Prontor SVS leaf shutter on a Kodak Ektar lens and that too is wonderful considering its age - it buzzes like a fat Bumblebee. 
The Nikon F shutter is something else - quiet and efficient - the original F is actually quieter in action than the F2 or F3.
All of my cameras have buzzed and clicked and snicked and buzzed, and I love them all actually.
But I have to say, now that there is a new shutter in town - that of my Leica.
There are screeds of words written about Leica shutters. The whole field of candid photography was made possible by the invention of it, and the camera that encases it.
It is a relatively simple design, under-stressed and running on the two curtain principle (as do most film-based cameras) however there is just something about it that is so darn spot-on.
It opens and closes with a fluid mechanical sound, a precision burring culminating in a postive stop, rather like a door being closed firmly (but obviously, quietly).
1/1000th and 1/500th of a second have a reassuring positivity to them.
Get down to the slower speeds and the tell-tale 1/15th finishes its run with a good sound rather similar to some small ball-bearings being dropped and bouncing quietly on a hard surface - this is entirely normal for a Leica (and indeed a mechanical Nikon - early F's were essentially copies of Leica shutters apparently) and just indicates that the gear-train is returning and is working correctly.
One second opens and closes with a click-buzz-click, and T (or Timed) is delightful in the way it click-buzzes as the shutter opens, stays totally silent for the duration of your exposure, and then when you are finished and turn the low-speed dial, it does the whole thing in reverse and buzz-clicks as the shutter closes. 
In a word it is a miracle of ingenuity and precision.
It just feels right every time you release the shutter.
I like that.
And call me strange, but I feel like I have to live up to its abilities.
When I hold this svelt chunk of brass and cogs and gears and satin chrome and vulcanite and glass, I can feel the history of it seeping into my bones.
Pick it up and you can feel it.
Fanciful I know, but it is almost like you are being geed along; spurred onwards to be more daring, compose better, make better photographs, concentrate more, make better photographs!
Can inanimate objects be imbued with a soul?
Can they pick up some of the spirit of previous owners and add their own spin on it?
Well, again laugh me right out of the classroom if you like, but yes, I think so.
The 'mechanical' or 'man-made' soul is an airy concept which most people have difficulty with, but I have encountered it on a number of things:

My friend's collection of ancient weapons
A dagger made for a planned escape from a concentration camp
A Buddha made from mammoth ivory
A Victorian barometer
Ancient nails and stone tools and buttons
A Roman alabaster marble found on Dere Street
A Nikomat (early Japanese market Nikkormat)

So yes, my fancy has taken flight again, for I feel it in the Leica. 
There is a definite something there.
I nearly always don't feel this way about things I have purchased though; for instance to illustrate my point, many years ago I owned a Yamaha SG3000 guitar. It was a stunning example of the Japanese luthiers art, and nowadays an extremely rare and collectable guitar.
But you know what, it had absolutely no soul whatsover. I played it and played it and played it, but could I unlock what might or might not have been inside it? Could I hell, so I traded it.
So what is it? Why am I feeling like this?
Could it be my delight in my new purchase is making me lose all sense and rave on?
Well, people would tell you that on most things I am a fairly level headed person. And especially with cameras I can read them quite quickly, from having studied them and handled them and indeed repaired them.
But something is different this time.
Quite different.
Twilight is falling as I write this, and my wee Leica is still sitting there, looking at me, almost saying that I should load some film and go and use it again.
And I will.
It was made to be used, and used well.


***

In use:

If you are from an SLR background (and most people are) you will find using a Barnack the most antiquated, difficult, thought-provoking, hard-to-use camera you have ever encountered.
I'll state that again in different terms:
Unless you are prepared to immerse yourself in the depths of user-operated everything you may well find it a frustrating learning curve, but be heartened . . . whatever doesn't kill us makes us strong . . so be persistent!
Pick one up and study it.
It looks like a camera.
It feels like a (small) camera.
It has weight and solidity.
But what's this? Two dials for shutter speeds? No wind-on lever? A shutter button in a semi-awkward place? No batteries??
Yes. You'll feel like you are holding an antique.
Even loading the film (it has to be trimmed first!) is a tricky manouevre.
Believe me, peering at the very small range finder window, checking it, getting your focus right, then composing your photograph through a separate window, re-checking the focus again and firing the shutter, is not the easiest nor quickest of actions. In fact coming from the luxury of a bright split-image viewfinder on a Nikon, it is a downright pain.
In the various Leica manuals there is an excellent illustration of the correct sequence of events of using the camera. 




One thing that tends to get skirted over is the rangefinder 'telescope' (you can see its lever at the 10 o'clock position next to the knob in Steps 6 and 7 above). Basically this is a variable focus function of the rangefinder itself.
Focus the rangefinder telescope lever at infinity and you have infinity focus and then you can get the two rangefinder images to superimpose for accurate focus. However, what isn't said, is that for anything else up to infinity, it is possible to focus the rangefinder telescope on the object you are interested in.
If you are handling one, try this:
Keep the telescope set on infinity and turn it towards something close.
What you are seeing through the rangefinder telescope  is still visible, but it becomes unclear and definitely isn't in focus.
Adjust the lever backwards towards your face and your subject matter will snap into focus. Then you can focus the lens so that the two rangefinder images coincide.
You can focus very very accurately with this, but it rather makes the whole idea of the decisive moment even more of a marvel!
Fast it is not.
You have to use anticipation at every stage of making photographs with it, and yet, a large number of the most incredible photographs ever made were made with exactly this system.
It is the sort of camera that you need to adjust to, rather than for it adjust to you.
As an experienced photographer, I can honestly say that not one single camera has made me feel more all fingers and thumbs than the Leica, and yet, 6 or 7 frames in, it felt like the most natural camera to use in the world.
This machine, if you decide to go the route of acquiring one, will inspire you and frustrate you, but above all else, it will concentrate you like nothing you've ever experienced.
It could well be the boon your photography has been looking for.
Above all else, it is a wonderful and beautifully made tool.
I would say it is pretty much the epitomy of the camera builders craft.


***

Just to flesh this out a little more, the IIIf was almost the end of a long evolution of cameras designed by Oscar Barnack and built upon by his successors. They were made by the company of Ernst Leitz in the city of Wetzlar in Germany.
Basically Leicas popularized the whole concept of miniature photography, setting the photographer free from the tripod and the plate and the focusing cloth (although to be fair other cameras had done this too, but not with the same sense of style and purpose).
I won't write much about the evolution of the camera. If you find yourself interested there is a ton of information out there, but suffice to say that though the basic design of the Oscar Barnack Leica remained relatively unchanged from the late 1920's, in the 1950's it was looking decidedly old-fashioned. Especially when sat next to its children, the Leitz M-Series. After one last gasp for the screw-mount Leica with the IIIg, the Leitz company decided to concentrate its efforts on the M's and the rest is history.








The above was made with my Leica.
I rather like it.
What you don't see is the fact that I mucked up my concentration and caused the water's horizon to be squint! Lucky for me I can sort that out at the print stage . . .
It was made on Agfa APX 100 at EI 100 and developed in Kodak HC 110 Dilution G for 18 minutes at 21 Centigrade. Agitation was gentle. I used a water-bath to soak the film, poured that out, agitated for the first minute, and then on minute three and every third minute thereafter gave 15 seconds gentle agitation, making my last agitation cycle at 15 minutes. The grain is a bit mushy, and I feel something like dilute Rodinal would be a better developer, but the glow is there and the overall feel too.

A note about the lens:
The observant amongst you will notice that the camera is not fitted with the correct lens, which of course should be either a Leitz Elmar, or a Summicron.
Unfortunately for me, my finances cannot stretch to one of those at the moment, so I purchased a Russian-made Jupiter 8. It was made by the KMZ company in the good old USSR in the 1970's and whilst not the sharpest knife in the drawer it isn't the bluntest either. The Jupiter 8 is a grandchild of the mighty Zeiss Sonnar (my favourite lens) and indeed, it manages to impart some of that glow I associate with the lens, mostly found in the photographs of Mr.Walker Evans and a large number of pre-WII photographers. Apparently the master of the Leica, Mr. Henri Cartier-Bresson, also used Sonnars prior to his receiving a collapsible Summicron from Leitz.
The Sonnar glow can also be found in a number of the Japanese lenses also designed for the L39 mount (Leica 39mm screw mount) namely the Canon f1.8 and the Nikon f2.
The marvellous writer Dante Stella has a good run-down on the Canon line here:

http://www.dantestella.com/technical/canoleic.html

And the other notable writer Stephen Gandy at Cameraquest details lots of others here:

http://www.cameraquest.com/ltmlens.htm


***


Anyway, again, that's me - God bless and thank you for reading.
I'll leave the death of the screw-mount Barnack Leica to a comparison between the photographers from two different Leica manuals, for the IIIf and the M4.



Dig the crazy jumper Dad!
What's that you're shooting?
Snappy.
The Leica M4, because you never know when.


They're the same, yet totally different: cosy jumper for the 1950's IIIf; smart Italian suit for the 1960's M4.
I'm currently with the former, though a trifle beatnikish.


NO LES DAWSON'S WERE HURT DURING THE MAKING OF THIS PROGRAMME

Friday, August 17, 2012

War Pigs (One Picture Is Worth A Thousand Megabytes)

Morning Shipmates - this week has flown by and I was only aware of its passing by the movements of Mog's shadow as he snoozed on the deck, like a big fluffy cat-shaped sundial.
He's fair knackered and glad to be back in that happy ship's cat land where every scrap is a feast and every ship's mouse is now a friend.
Mr.Sheephouse vanished for a large portion of the week, only to appear again on Wednesday speedily propelling his rowboat in our direction like there was no tomorrow.
He climbed aboard in a fluster of cape and swearing, wig threatening to take off, muttering something about deadlines and committment and has posted the below for your delectation.
Personally I think he couldn't be arsed and is making up excuses . . .
But such is the life of a gentleman photographer.
Anyway, enough o' this bilge, the tide's on the turn, so hoist the main sail . . off we go


***


You know, having just watched the closing ceremony of the Olympics, I was taken by how many athletes were filming the whole thing, and I found myself questioning the relevance of photographs.
Is there any point in a single image when everything is captured for digital replay 24/7?
Is it possible to sum up such a momentous occasion with maybe one or two simple photographs?
There were virtually no cameras - it was all either the ubiquitous communication soap bar (iPhone) or a video camera. It's funny, the more I think about it, camera manufacturers seem to be painting themselves into narrower and narrower corners. What's the point in a compact camera these days?
Anyway, as we sat there enjoying the moment with a few glasses of wine, an image popped into my head and lodged there. 
It is a quiet image, but somehow it sums up another similarly momentous occasion, namely the Second World War.
It was made by one of my favourite photographers - Mr.W.Eugene Smith.




Calling For Help - Okinawa 1945

Eugene's images of the closing days of World War II in the Pacific are stunning in their power and relative calm. There are many I could have chosen, but this is the one that popped into my head and inspired this FB, so it is the one I shall use.
To my mind, it seemed to encompass everything one could be feeling being stuck in a crater under heavy fire.
It is known that Eugene did 'set up' photographs and that is quite possibly the case with this, but that doesn't lessen the power. Look at the camera angle. He is above them slightly. He would be more exposed to the incoming fire, but then he could well have been. 
The more I read about Mr.Smith the more I realise that he cared little for his own safety. 
It could well be a snatched shot from a small disctance with a mild telephoto, or a wide angle close-up with him propped against the side of the crater. However he did it, it works.
Would these fleeting looks even have been acknowledged if they had been filmed?
No.
He has used his eye and his skill to single out one small slice of time and render it to permanence.
Genius.


***


When I started thinking about wartime photography, a number of other images also came into my head - each succinct and to a point. Moments in time that could have been nearly meaningless if they had been film footage, but which have stood the test of time in their power.
You see, that is the difference between a photographer and a film maker.
The photographer uses his talents to highlight those moments in life which pass all too fleetingly, and hammer them home (if he or she is good enough) into iconic images.
Hopefully they are of a quality that the more you look and think about them, the more they sum up things in ways that the daily parade of sorrow that passes over our TV screens never could.


***


The next photograph is by Larry Burrows who lost his life in the Vietnam War.
An English photographer, his influence is actually far greater than many people realise.
He is best known for his colour images of the conflict, which often resemble those enormous set-piece battle paintings found in many museums and art galleries, it is well worth searching out his images - they are bloody and sorrowful and epic and strangely compelling.
My chosen image comes from his essay for LIFE magazine:
'One Ride With Yankee Papa 13' 
It manages to say in a few pages what a team of film crews never could with thousands of feet of film or thousands of Terabytes of storage.
It tells the story of  Lance Cpl. James C. Farley and a mission into enemy territory. 
It starts out with a briefing, continues with Farley having happy times on some downtime a couple of days before and then proceeds rapidly into the thick and bloody hopelessness of battle.
It ends with the picture of Farley below.
You simply could never film it.




In a supply shack, hands covering his face, an exhausted, worn James Farley gives way to grief.




You can see the complete sequence here:
Again another extraordinary LIFE photo essay.


***


Another incredible photographer who can say more with one image than you could in a lifetime is Don McCullin, a man blessed with the luck of nine cats. Really. Saved from shrapnel by his Nikon (honest) he has endured probably more conflicts than any other war photographer and still remains alive.
These days his beautifully powerful and quiet landscapes are a complete anathema to the images he is best known for.
The photograph below just says it all.
All the grief and pain.
All the sorrow.
It won him many accolades and ensured he was shipped all over the world to cover conflict.
I personally find the woman's expression just wrenching.




Grieving woman with young boy, Cyprus




It was made during the Cypriot war of 1964.
These days it is hard to imagine now how such a beautiful country, where people go for peace and quiet and relaxation, could have been such a place of pain and death.
It is an awe-inspiring photograph for its sheer humanity in the face of inhumanity.
Just look at that boy and the old lady on the left and especially the woman with child behind.
This is the true story of war.
There is an excellent article on Mr.McCullin here:


***


My final image this week was made by the incredible photographer Lee Miller, who worked (amongst other things in a life of great photography) in that almost unknown field of women war photographers.
Of all the images here, it is the most serene and surreal and yet also I feel the saddest.
It was made at the liberation of Dachau.
Yes, the man was an SS guard at Dachau.
We have no idea whether he was kind or cruel.
He was someone's son though.
Maybe someone's lover.
Someone's Father.
Just following orders?
Or too terrified of the consequences of disobeying?




Dead SS Guard in Canal, Dachau, Germany




The sadness of wasted lives and the futility of war literally seeps out of this photograph.
It seems to matter not whether he was a vehement follower, or a hapless soul caught up in something beyond himself.
He is a dead human being. 
But the brutality of his death, and indeed the horror found at the liberation of Dachau seem to have been transformed by the water. 
All there is, is the world. 
Our shadow plays, though shocking and bloody, terrifying and inhumane are just scree on the glacier of time.
To my mind, this photograph shows that man can transcend war and man can be transformed if he were of a mind to be.
But man never will.
It has taken a woman's touch to show us this in a photograph.
Lee Miller was a remarkable photographer. 
You can find many of her wartime images at her archive:


***

And th-th-th-that's all folks.
I hope is hasn't brought your weekend down too much.
Making statements like this is a dying art. 
You'll soon be connected to your news feed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with no moments free to sit and quietly contemplate a single moment of time, singled out, treated with respect and placed in front of you so that you can reflect and think.
After the (trying and dull [I'm sure they were]) word-fest-FBs of recent weeks, I am going to leave this one here.
It is relatively word-free and hopefully the power of these images that need no description will wend their awful way into your consciousness.
Don't you think it is sad to think that there are men and women and children; troops and civilians; refugees, innocents and the bloody-handed, undergoing these same feelings of grief and terror and pain and sorrow as I write this.
Stay dry mateys.
If you indeed are lucky enough, thank God you live in a country where the play of the greed of mankind has hopefully burnt itself out.
As usual, God bless and thanks for reading.

Friday, August 10, 2012

What A Waste Of Gunpowder And Sky

Morning Landlubbers.
Well today I am heartened by the all the good wishes me old Mog has received after his Olympic defeat. He's in fine fettle actually after a good nap and some boiled chicken.
Meanwhile our erstwhile gentleman photographer, Mr.Sheephouse, has gone off on a ramble the likes of which I have never read before. I am not even sure he understands it himself! He does say though that it is best enjoyed with a glass or three of claret and then it sort of starts to make sense. You're just to see it as the off-kilter ramble of that loony at the back of the bus, super lager in hand, railing against a cold and cruel world.
So, see what's ye make of it.
If he keeps this up we might well have to chuck him overboard.
Stay dry (and sane) m'hearties.


***


Today's The 4th of July
Another June has gone by
And when they light up our town
I just think
What a waste of gunpowder and sky
© Aimee Mann


Perfection comes in many forms but sometimes it seems increasingly harder to find in this crazy world of ours.
For instance as a perfect bit of lyric writing I think Aimee Mann hit the jackpot with the above. It is a beautiful lyric but read deeper and you get disillusionment, violence, and melancholia.
Imagine being able to do that in just twenty seven words!
That's not just someone scribbling some lyrics down on a piece of paper (oh yeah baby, baby baby baby . . .) that is sheer hard graft and craft skill. It is actually, in a strange way, very photographic. She has used her innate abilities to make something you can listen to time and time again and still not tire of, rather in the same way you can look at a pleasing image many times and still get something from it.
To do this though you have to be willing to put in the man hours.
Make no bones about it, life at the coal face is very difficult.
Ever spent a whole day in a darkroom? It is a tiring, wonderful, frustrating, hot, smelly, lonely, enriching, and (occasionally) productive experience.
You think you've nailed a print only to find that you forgot to factor in the dry-down of the paper, or your borders aren't exactly as you would have wished, you've knocked your enlarger every so slightly out, and the focus is a tad off. There are any number of things that can go wrong before you can hold something in your hands that says to you, At LAST! Got it!!
And then there's the next image and the next . . . .
I only ever viewed my images as contact prints (before printing); you sandwich the negatives between a sheet of photographic paper and a sheet of glass, expose to light, develop and fix . . voila .  .images!. But with the advent of a modest scanner I now scan the negatives generally before I make the contact print just because I can - it is quite exciting to see what you captured in positives on screen quickly, without having to set up paper chemicals in the darkroom.
And you know what, in the year or so I have been doing that I haven't had a single productive darkroom session.
This worries me - I am a fine printer, and was properly educated as such by Mr.Joseph McKenzie. So what is going on?
Well, in tandem with something I heard recently about computer over-use actually re-wiring the human brain, I think something has happened within my brain too.


This Chimp is obviously happy with what has happened to his brain. I, however, am not.


Photographers aren't defined by cameras or negatives, they are defined by their images, something of permanence you can hold in your hand. Full stop. End of story.
No images and you are a snapper not a photographer.
There are 20 billion snappers out there, but finding concerned photographers these days who operate in ways familiar to those who worked during the nadir of photography (the 30's, 40's, 50's, 60's  . .you get the idea . . . pre-digital . . . lets call it the Halide-ozoic for want of a better term) is like finding real beef in your Tesco's Savers Corned Beef.
So I think to myself, if I am not making any prints of images at the moment . . . can I still call myself a photographer?
It's funny but as I get older, I fnd myself becoming more averse to the 'modern' world I inhabit, where if you jump onboard the gadget-go-round, you are forced to partake and upgrade all these wondrous things which enhance your life.
Back when the early MIDI-enabled synthesisers were introduced in the early 1980's a term was coined which seemed bizarre then but is now more prescient than any I can think of:
Option Anxiety
Basically, it meant that your new toy had arrived and there were so many new menus and sub-menus for you to try that you spent so much time faffing around with them, that in the end you started to get anxious about the fact you weren't being productive at all.
Here's a little tableaux for you:

Hmmm, what will I use here? 
Fat Bass 1? 
Fat Bass 2? 
Fat Bass 3?
Fat Bass 4 or FB5? 
Some envelope follower and a touch of white noise too? 
Maybe if I dredged up some LFO and added that old Hobbitsneeze patch that is already in there, and maybe some strings on top with a Shakuhachi sample for a bit of a Zen feel? And then a solid 4/4 underneath, but subtle using that jazz drum kit? 
Yeah maybe that'll do? 
But I do worry about using the Shakuhachi as I hear it on everything I hear on the radio . . so maybe we'll drop the Zen feel and go for more of a barnyard stomp and I'll make it a solid banjo with some jug playing in the background . . . ?
But then isn't that in danger of making this track sound like a parody of itself? 
OK then I'll bring back in the Zen, and the Shakuhachi and just use some white noise in the background for a wind sound and drop the drum kit altogether in favour of some Buddhist monk samples . . . ?
Oh shit. It's 11.30 PM, I've been up since 5 AM and I still haven't got anything done. 
Well, maybe if I used that preset I set up the other day and just added the monks sample, or . . . .?

You get my drift
Here's exactly the same thing applied to current camera technology for the Canon EOS 40D - please note all current camera manufacturers are equally as guilty:

Shooting Menu: 

•Quality: Select the image quality setting

•Large/Fine - 10.1 megapixels - approx. 3.5mb
•Large/Normal - 10.1 megapixels - approx. 1.8mb
•Medium/Fine - 5.3 megapixels - approx. 2.1mb
•Medium/Normal - 5.3 megapixels - approx. 1.1mb
•Small/Fine - 2.5 megapixels - approx. 2.1mb
•Small/Normal - 2.5 megapixels - approx. 0.7mb
•RAW - 10.1 megapixels - approx. 7.1mb
•sRAW - 2.5- approx. 3.5mb
Also there are 12 settings that combine RAW or sRaw with Large, Medium or Small JPEG image sizes. Please see the "Approximate Storage Capacity" chart on the Features & Controls (cont.) page.
•Red-eye On/Off - Turn on or off the red eye reduction mode of the built-in flash
•Beep - Enable/disable sounds
•Shoot w/out Card - Enable/disable shutter if no CF card present
•Review Time - Length of time review image is displayed on the LCD
•AEB - Auto exposure bracketing increment (-2 to +2EV)
•White balance - Set white balance to auto, one of 6 presets or manually
•Custom WB - Enables you to set the white balance for a specific light source using a stored image
•WB SHIFT/BKT - Set the step increment for white balance bracketing
•Color Space: Select sRGB or Adobe RGB
•Picture Style: Selects image effects; please see next menu description
•Dust Delete Data - Data can be used by Digital Photo Professional software

YOU CAN EFFECTIVELY IGNORE THE BIT BELOW - I'VE JUST INCLUDED IT TO DEMONSTRATE HOW OUT OF HAND ALL THIS STUFF HAS GOT!

Picture Style Menu
•Standard: For vivid, sharp and crisp images
•Portrait: For nice skin tones, slightly sharp and crisp
•Landscape: For vivid blues and greens, very sharp and crisp images
•Neutral: For natural colors and subdued images; no sharpening applied
•Faithful: For colormetric adjustment of colors of subjects shot under a color temperature of 5200K; no sharpening applied
•Monochrome: For Black and White images
•User Def. 1-3: For user-defined Picture Styles
•Detail set.: For changing parameters of the pre-defined and user-defined Picture Styles 
The numeric parameters (or N) shown for each style are from left to right Sharpness, Contrast, Saturation and Color Tone.
Picture Style Menu - Detail set
Processing parameters for both the pre-defined and user-defined Color Styles are set from the Detail set menu.
•Sharpness: Adjust from 0 (no sharpening) to 7 (maximum sharpening)
•Contrast: Adjust from -4 (low contrast) to +4 (high contrast)
•Saturation: Adjust from -4 (low saturation) to +4 (high saturation)
•Color tone: Adjust from -4 (reddish skin tone) to +4 (Yellowish skin tone) 
The Monochrome Color Style's Sharpness and Contrast can also be adjusted, plus a Filter effect of None, Yellow, Orange, Red or Green, and a Toning effect of None, Sepia, Blue, Purple or Green.
Setup Menu
•Auto Power Off: Sets the amount of inactivity time before the camera automatically turns itself off. (1, 2, 4, 8, 15, 30 mins or Off)
•File Numbering - Sequentially number or auto reset when CF card replaced, or manual reset
•Auto rotate: Enable auto rotation of portrait mode images
•INFO button - Select function of menu button to Normal, Camera settings or Shooting functions
•Format - Format data card
•LCD Brightness: Adjust brightness of color LCD
•Date/Time: Set the time and date and select the desired display format
•Language: Select menu language from 18 choices including English, German, French, Dutch, Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Korean or Japanese
•Video system: NTSC or PAL video output format
•Sensor Cleaning: Sets up the camera for CCD sensor cleaning
•Live View function settings: Enable/disable Live View on LCD
•Flash control: Set built-in and external flash functions
•Camera user settings: Register current setting as C1 - C3 Mode dial settings
•Clear all camera settings - Resets all camera settings, Custom Functions, or registered camera settings to default
•Firmware Ver. Used to update the camera's firmware
Custom Functions Menu
C. Fn I
•1:Exposure level increments - 0 (1/3 stop), 1 (1/2 stop) 
•2:ISO speed setting increments - 0 (1/3 stop), 1 (1 stop) 
•3:ISO expansion - 0 (Off), 1 (On) 
•4:Bracketing auto cancel - 0 (On), 1 (Off) 

•5:Bracketing sequence - 0 (- 0, -, +), 1 (- -, 0, +) 

•6:Safety shift - 0 (Disable), 1 (Enable (Tv/Av)) 

•7:Flash sync speed in Av mode - 0 (Auto), 1 (1/250) 

C. Fn II

•1:Long exposure noise reduction - 0 (Off), 1 (Auto), 2 (On) 
•2:High ISO speed noise reduction - 0 (Off), 1 (On) 
•3:Highlight tone priority - 0 (Disable), 1 (Enable) 
C. Fn III
•1:Lens drive when AF impossible - 0 (Focus search on), 1 (Focus search off) 
•2:Lens AF stop button function - 0 (AF stop), 1 (AF start), 2 (AE lock), 3 (AF point: M - Auto/Auto - center), 4 (ONE SHOT - AI SERVO), 5 (IS start) 
•3:AF point selection method - 0 (Normal), 1 (Multi-controller direct), 2 (Quick Control dial direct) 
•4:Superimposed display - 0 (On), 1 (Off) 

•5:AF-assist beam firing - 0 (enable), 1 (Disable), 2 (Only external flash emits) 

•6:AF during Live View shooting - 0 (Enable), 1 (Disable) 

•7:Mirror lockup - 0 (Enable), 1 (Disable) 

C. Fn IV

•1:Shutter button/AF-ON button - 0 (Metering + AF start) ,1 (Metering + AF start/AF stop), 2 (Metering start/Metering + AF start), 3 (AE lock/Metering + AF start), 4 (Metering + AF start/disable) 
•2:AF-ON/AE lock button switch - 0 (Enable), 1 (Disable) 
•3:SET button when shooting - 0 (Normal (disabled)), 1 (Change quality), 2 (Change Picture Style), 3 (Menu display), 4 (Image replay) 
•4:Dial direction during Tv/Av - 0 (Normal), 1 (Reverse direction) 

•5:Focusing Screen - 0 (Ef-A), 2 (Ef-D), 3 (Ef-S) 
•6:Add original decision data - 0 (Off), 1 (On) 
•7:Live View exposure simulation - 0 (Disable (LCD auto adjust)), 1 (Enable (simulates exposure)




A young photographer being whisked away from the scene of a camera menu crime



Am I the only one that fell asleep during the first paragraph?
Now if you can't see something wrong with that I don't know what is wrong with you.
All I want to do is take a picture!



***



Right - here's a plate of cakes . . . you're going to need something to keep you going for the next bit


Better? On we go!
Someone, somewhere along the way has misplaced the relatively simple holy trinity of making an image, namely focus, shutter speed/aperture and composition.
Nowadays, you are wrestling with all this fluff when a simple click of the shutter should do it.
Yet again, it is another example of the designers of the world (a term I use loosely) thinking that we really do need all this stuff to show that we are getting good VFM from our products.
I guess that is why I found the Olympus Trip 35 such a liberating thing.
It is the essence of photography - you see something, are attracted to photograph it, you focus and click. The image is there for better or worse.
Yeah I know you can set your modern camera and just click away, but autoanything has always seemed just seemed plain wrong to me. I prefer to be as in control as possible . . and I know I sort of lost that control with the Trip, because apart from it judging whether you can take a photograph or not, it is also a zone-focus camera . . . 
But anyway, this is (as usual) moving away from an already very loose FB.
I am not making prints and I am concerned.
I think the reason why this appears to be so is because I am viewing my precious images on a monitor, prior to making a physical contact print for reference.
Methinks this has actually become a very bad habit for the simple reason that my expectations and eye are being destroyed by the removal of surprise.
Oh yes my friends - surprise is at the heart of this wonderful hobby of ours, and it is the thing most ignored these days! Think about it, back in the days when everything you took a picture of was placed safely out of harm's way at the movement of your thumb on the film advance.
Time was wrapped up tight in that little spool of film.
It contained all your hopes and dreams for perfect images.
Surprise was embued into the silver and in the dyes.
Disappointment was there too, but as with all crafts, perfection comes from practice, and lessons for life about persistence and hope were contained in little light-tight canisters marked Ilford and Kodak and Fuji.
Where is surprise these days?
You snap, you check your screen and make instant decisions.
The sweet sweet feeling of the anticipation of being pleasantly and pleasurably surprised by an image of your own making has disappeared.
What a sad world.

***


I learned about the importance of anticipation at a very early age.
The greatest Christmas present I ever received was a guitar from my Mum and Dad.
I was 13, and I had had an enormous urge to make music for a couple of years . .
Initially it had been a banjo . . I did get a very cheap Chinese Ukelele, but it was dreadfully disappointing.
Then it was a saxophone, but the cost of one was far beyond what my poor old Mum and Dad could afford, and I understood . ..
From there it went on to drums .  .I really wanted a set, but again the old finances were nowhere near able to even stretch to a snare! So that went out of the window.
And from there it went onto a guitar.
I pored over an Argos catalogue for months. I think they then realised that that was what I really wanted. They said they'd think about it, so long as I considered getting lessons, to which I consented . . . even though I wanted to be Mick Ralphs (of my favourite band, Mott The Hoople).
And that was it . . . I had no idea I'd get one for Christmas. I hoped I would, really really hoped.
But at that age I had developed a really bad habit, namely searching for Christmas pressies.
Who hasn't done it?
I didn't do it all the time, but that year I was so hungry to know what I was going to get, that I did.
There was nothing in the usual obvious places; I did find a cache of what I knew to be books and so on, but having glimpsed the bag I went no further. It didn't matter what the books were or what they were going to be . . it was sufficient that they were there. There was no guitar though.
I was disappointed.
Now my Mum and Dad never ever let us down at Christmas. We often struggled financially, but at Christmas they always pulled out all stops and we had a thundering good time and never wanted for anything.
Was this to be a year when a grey cloud of disappointment would float down and drape itself upon my shoulders?
Of course I would never say a single word . . that would have meant that I was somehow selfish and gauche, but it would have lodged with me, and I would have thought long and hard about how I would be able to afford to purchase my new guitar when I only earned £1 a week on  my milk round. Time was of the essence, because soon, Ian Hunter, Verden Allen, Pete Watts and Buffin were going to be knocking on my door and asking me to come and replace Mick! **
Anyway, to cut a long and boring story short . . come Christmas morning, what was there at the foot of my bed? You guessed it, a guitar!
I was totally shocked and wonderfully surprised simply because I had no idea it was in the house (Dad had actually hidden it in our loft . . a genius move.)
And as is the way with FB I have actually managed to explain something to myself.
My Christmas nosing around is exactly the same as why I shouldn't scan negatives before studying the contacts.
Everything looks disappointing on a monitor, and negatives really do too.
My viewing of my negatives is entirely equivalent to my searching for Christmas presents and instead of just leaving well alone, actually opening the bags and riffling through the contents too!
Argh!!
Unthinkable.
There is something intangibly wonderful about printing that first negative from a sequence.
You feel the image looks good.
You carefully remove it from its sleeve, dust it down, place it in the negative carrier, lock down the enlarger head, align the easel, focus the image, stop down the lens,  maybe make a test print, develop it and fix it, assess it in normal light, go back, check focus again, load a sheet of paper into the easel,  expose the paper with maybe a bit of dodging and burning, remove paper, develop and fix it, and assess again under normal light; if you are happy you put the print into your washer, if not you still do and then go and make another print with slightly more tweaks.
At the end of this you have a physical object.
Not an image on a monitor, but an actual print that you can look at, or maybe mount, or even give to someone.
It is your hard work.
From cradle to grave.
From a moment in the real world, to two dimensionalism.
Incredible if you think about it, for you have rendered the colourful, physical world around you with all its light and noise, chaos and humanity, into a two dimensional, black and white image. 
And therein lies the tale.
It might not be the best print in the world, it definitely isn't the best image, but it is yours and your take on things. You've put in a lot of hard work to arrive at that point.
It is a craft skill.
So is this the end of scanning for me?
Maybe not, but the thing is I have realised that something has been lost from my natural way of working and for that I am grateful, because I can now work at getting things back to normal.
Anyway at last I can maybe get to the essence of this FB, namely the contact print (Part One . . oh yes there'll be a technical Part Two too).
A good contact print is a thing of beauty.
And I am not aluding to large format contact prints either, I mean a work contact, from your whole roll of film, whether 35mm or medium format.
It is an essential thing, because it shows not only your images and the sequence in which you took them, but other things too: the physicality of you film for a start (I always like seeing the film name on the side of the film); whether your camera is behaving itself (uneven frame spacing can rear its ugly head and give you a warning); how your exposures are; even something like composition can be readily judged from a small contact.
But best of all, what you get is a story made in a short period of time or months.
The story of your life whilst the camera was with you.
In a lot of ways it is better than your brain, because brains are fragile and selective and forgetful, whereas photographs on contact prints are selective and permenent records.
This element of reading a story and reacting to it is entirely what I have missed for the last year.
Sad isn't it.
A convenience becomes a hobble.
But no more. The sleeper awakes! To arms!!
Well something like that anyway . . .


This is from the Trip - made on 3 year expired Kodak TMX 400 rated at EI 320. It's a rubbish contact though - all squinty and 'orrible.

This is a better made contact. Camera was a Nikon F3.

The above are contact prints made on a recent trip to Liverpool.
They are records of what caught my eye, made on two very different cameras carried at the same time - a Nikon F3 with a 35mm f2,8 lens, and an Olympus Trip 35.
Either camera would be a great travel companions, but I found myself being more loose with the Trip as it was so unbotrusive . . .
The Nikon leant itself to a more contemplative and composed form of photography.
Both are good and bad, crass and well-observed, uneven and consistent; but they are part of a story.
My story.


This was taken with the F3. I like the fact that there appear to be some mechanical guts showing. It looks like something from Alien



The was taken with the Trip. I think it says something, but I haven't worked  out quite what yet



Well done for getting this far.
This has been a ramble and I apologise.
Part Two will explain the best way to make a contact print . . but I'll maybe leave that for a couple of weeks so you can recover.
God bless and thanks for reading.


** They never did come knocking . . . but I still love 'em anyway.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Flying In A Blue Dream

Greetings Shipmates.
Well that was a peculiar two weeks.
Me old Mog was soundly beaten in the 100 metre Kattomeat dash by a professional cat.
I thought Olympic sports were set up purely to demonstrate the beauty of amateurism? Certainly these days it seems far far away from the mores of olive eating, hair plaiting, naked men in the baking heat of the Med. For a cat of Mog's years, the competition was just too great and in the end he had no fun and came back to the ship with droopy whiskers and a sodden tail. Meanwhile the sleek, aerodynamic, lycra-clad cats took the prizes.
Mog feels scruffy and old and unloved, but as I said to him, there's no shame in it. If he hadn't held the torch for the Kattomeat dash for all these years, it would have slipped into the mire of bizarre and forgotten cat sports of yore. He felt consoled for a bit.
Then the sun shone and then it didn't and then it did, and we sat and chatted and he felt better.
He was particularly heartened by the massed chanting of:
"Mog-o! Mog-o! Mog-o! Mog-o!"
The Goode Shippe FB is now fully laden with new stores and to be honest yer Cap'n wants to be out and about, plying the seas of ether, discovering new lands for you to enjoy.
You need a break sometimes if only to consol a sad cat.


***


Sometimes things just happen.
I think they happen for a reason, and they can be strangely interlinked.
There I was at work a couple of weeks back handling some re-reissues of classic albums, when what jumps out at me but a photograph. Not just any photograph either. A wonderful, dreamy, gorgeous slice of colour and beauty. It was the cover of Flow Motion by Can and was made by their (now dead) guitarist Michael Karoli. 
Here it is and if this doesn't make yer jaw drop I don't know what will.








Mr. Karoli was not a professional photographer. He was an avid photography buff and above all, a highly influential and passionate musician from arguably one of the most important post-1960's German bands.
I dare you to try and research his photographs though - it is an impossible task.
So how has he got it so right?
I don't know, all I do know is that I would count myself proud to have produced such a work.
Remove the lettering and you have something that would (and should) grace any modern gallery in the world.








This shows an immense ability and an eye for a startling composition don't you think? It is so dreamy, and the use of colour is immensly calming and satisfying. 
It is a precursor of Lomography by some twenty years. I think it is fairly obviously either a double or treble exposure or a composite print as there appear to be three elements: the woman with her hand on her hip and the tree; the silhouette to the right; the overlay of flowing water.
However he made it, it is a masterful photograph and I just think it is incredible.
Isn't life wonderful when you have a serendipitous meeting . . .


***

Anyway, after mentally filing the above as a possible side excursion for a future FB, fast forward a couple of weeks. 
There I was minding my own business browsing the books in Waterstones on a very wet Monday when I encountered Ernst Haas. Not personally you understand as he too has been dead for a number of years. No it was a Thames & Hudson Photofile book.
I was aware of Haas's monochrome work, but not really his colour.
The cover of the book looked intriguing, so for want of something better to look at, I opened it and was punched straight in the face by one of the best colour photographs I had ever seen.





Western Skies Motel, Colorado 1978 - this may not look ideal on your monitor, but believe me, it is beautiful.





I don't know about you, but I am getting strangeness, intrigue and downright beauty off of it.
I am not a colour photographer. At all. It is just something I have never done, and yet now I find myself wanting to scratch that itch.
I've always had a sneaky admiration for some of the groundbreaking colour photographers like (the these days totally ignored) Eliot Porter and the highly regarded Stephen Shore. So why isn't Ernst Haas better known?
Although Kodachrome (slide film) had been around since 1935 and had been widely taken up by the photographer at large, it was difficult to reproduce, and was also virtually always reliant upon being returned to the manufacturer for processing.
The earliest possibilities of colour were pointed out in 1938 in a book called The Leica Book In Colour in which 72 photographs were reproduced, but it wasn't until the introduction in 1942 of Kodacolor (a chromogenic film - basically a mixture of silver halide and dye layers . . . colour negative film as we still know it) that things really started cooking. However, you have to remember that in 1942 the majority of the world was a theatre of War, and what with the privations afterwards, colour film and processing were costly. (Agfa had actually introduced the world's first chromogenic film in 1939, but there was a little matter of it being manufactured in a country trying to achieve world domination!)
Anyway, if you look at the situation thus (and interject the worst human conflict mankind has every known) it is easy to understand the delay in its uptake and what a huge impact affordable colour film and its processing and printing would have had back in the 1950's and 60's.
It wasn't just huge, it was genre changing.
(Just as an aside, even in the 1970's I remember large parts of London where there was nothing but craters surrounded by fencing. I would say it took roughly 30 years for a full state of recovery to occur in the metropolis).
When Mr.Haas started to make his mark, back in the 1950's, monochrome was pretty much the be-all and end-all. It was easy to reproduce and everyone did it, but a huge tidal shift occured (no doubt helped in part by Mr.Haas and other brave photographers [I'm thinking of the wonderous National Geographic guys]). The tidal shift was such that these days colour is the norm and monochrome photography is the unusual thing.
I mean, who takes pictures in black and white? It is as archaic as that black and white TV set your Gran dispensed with in the 1980's, and yet it is as vital and passionate art form as you could ever wish to encounter **
It was a natural shift though - it stands to reason - the world is a colourful place. Why not record it so?
For myself, the problem I find is that pretty much every image I view is colour. It is everything and everywhere. It is all-conquering and commonplace. And it can be (dare I say) a tad boring.
Now to me there is something wrong with that.
Certainly there are any number of colour practitioners out there who would no doubt beg to differ, but I think the problem is that colour has become so incredibly easy, and with that easiness has come familiarity, and we all know what the old saw says that breeds . . . .
Taking your film to be processed at the chemists or your local camera shop, or sending it away and waiting with anticipation for that stiff envelope to return, sort of broke down the mystique of colour, and in recent times, digital has taken away from that even further. You snap, you view on the tiny LCD or on a computer monitor, you delete, you save. Even the difficulty of making a colour print has vanished into the haze of pointless human activity - you can print your holiday snaps whilst yer Ma gets the shopping at Tescos for chrissakes!
Colour printing was difficult. Not only that, but go beyond what used to be 'amateur' additive printing into the heady world of dye transfer prints (which were the pinnacle of colour reproduction and were exhorbitantly prohibitive at the time and have virtually vanished now as Kodak [the only supplier of materials] ceased production of said materials back in the mid-90's) and you were looking at something that cost, not just in man hours but also a big hole in your wallet. With the advent of digital, most (if not all) workers in this time consuming and expensive process moved over to digital *** and the ubiquitous, bloody ink jet print. This being said the quality of colour IJ printing can be wonderful, and even advanced printers who used to practice the dark art of dye transfer now find themselves stating that their IJ prints are almost indistinguishable from the real thing - but they won't have the archival life, nor do they really have that rich other-worldly beauty that set a dye-transfer apart. I also think that the effort involved in DT printing must have embued itself into the final product somehow . . .
And it is now all gone; you just set your profile, load up your printer and click print.
There's as much craft skill as a chimp with a banana.
Everyone does it.
Simple.
And familiar.

***

But all this is rather moving away from my original theme, namely a young Austrian man called Ernst Haas and his powerful vision.
Ernst's big break came when a photo-essay he made on a Rolleiflex was published in the magazine of the occupation forces, called Heute, in August of 1949.
It was entitled  Und Die Frauen Warten . . . (The Women Are Waiting) and was an incredibly moving essay on the repatriation of Austrian troops from the Russian front.
A large spread of 15 photographs over 8 pages culminated in the second photograph below.













It was obvious to all, there was only one way to go for someone with that sort of ability and it was up.
He was accepted that year by Magnum, the famous photographic agency, and moved to New York in 1951, quietly establishing himself as one of the world's foremost photographers. 
His work was widely published in LIFE, Vogue, Look, Esquire, Paris Match, Queen and Stern. 
LIFE printed their first ever colour spread (and a major Haas sequence) in Images Of A Magic City in 1953 - and one cannot underestimate the influence this would have had on the public at large.
Certainly colour had been used for covers and adverts and single images, but a spread like this was new.
Click this link:

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=F0gEAAAAMBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

The magic of Google books will take you to Part One. Page 108!
And the following edition too which continues it and also features a photo essay by my hero W.Eugene Smith:

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=XUIEAAAAMBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=true

Mr.Haas' work continues on Page 118, Eugene's on Page 165.
Now obviously the scans aren't great, but you'll get the idea.
As a small aside, Ernst pretty much only ever used Kodachrome for his colour work, and it shows - the colours the early versions of Kodachrome showed are to me the epitomy of good colour.
His book The Creation which was based upon his work with the director John Huston and the film The Bible, went on to sell 350 000 copies, which is an extraordinary number of books.
LIFE again, in 1958, devoted no less than 36 pages to a sequence of his work called Magic Color In Motion. (Notice too the use again of the word magic. It kind of shows how new and exciting colour was.)
Mr.Haas was the first person to exhibit colour photographs at the Museum Of Modern Art in New York in 1962 - a feat that would not be repeated until the William Egglestone exhibition some 14 years later.
Popular Photography Magazine listed him, in 1958, as one of the world's ten best photographers.
This isn't small potatoes, this is big stuff
Popular and populist, lauded by his peers, and yet now largely unknown (when I say that I mean just not spoken about in the same awed tones of the likes of the over-rated Egglestone). 
So how did this happen?
According to Lenscutlure.com Haas was sidelined by Szarkowski, Steichen's successor as curator at MoMA.

"Though introducing Haas’ work to a large audience and a major milestone in the history of the medium it would not come to have the same effect on the development of the artist’s career. On the contrary: Haas' exhibition though planned by Edward Steichen (renowned photographer and curator of MoMA at the time) was in the end realised by his successor John Szarkowski. With this shift in curatorship, Szarkowski would enforce a different taste. Having the duty to complete Steichen’s idea, but keen to champion his own and dissimilar ideas, Szarkowski’s enthusiasm regarding the artist and the exhibition Ernst Haas - Color Photography was meek, the praise in his accompanying texts all but faint.

Steichen, once in favor of pictorialism, thus a subjective photography, valued Haas’ profound use of the camera, while Szarkowski on the other hand chose to favor a less embellished sentiment; a more hard edge modernist inspired American approach. It was this disregard and clashing of personal agendas that would ultimately and erroneously see Haas excluded from the canon of color photography; his indisputable talent became the victim of the cyclical debate of what art photography should be."

So there you go. An incredible photographer with a gifted vision, sidelined by art-speak and politics. Oh how the world never changes!
Repeatedly down-graded by the photo-cognoscenti, Mr.Haas became almost an after-thought in photographic history.
And yet the power moves on.
Steidl's book Ernst Haas - Color Correction and numerous bods like me on the net, are slowly trying to help his memory gain the reputation it deserves.
He should be uttered in the same breath as Adams and Weston, Steichen and Strand.
His almost surrealistic images and incredible sense of the use of simplicity and complexity in the same image, and above all his sense of colour, are profound.
I don't think I can look at colour photographs in the same light again without holding them up against this un-lauded Master.
Below are some images he made in New York, on Kodachrome, in the 1950's. 
The third of them takes me back to the start of this rather lengthy FB.


















One can never know for sure, but if I were to bet on it, I would say that Mr.Karoli was incredibly influenced by Mr.Haas, and quite possibly by photograph number 3.
But who can say. All I know is that this all reads rather like Shooting the Past **** , and that it has been a pleasure to head off across country like this without anything being planned.
Colour photography can be rich and powerful, sensual and overwhelming, true and false. It can (if used carefully) be an enriching tool for the concerned photographer. You just have to be careful how you use it.
One day soon I will scratch that itch and load some colour film and see what happens, but all the time I will keep at the back of my mind Mr.Ernst Haas as the pinnacle of what you can do with it.
Don't you think he truly deserves to be more highly regarded?
Hope so.
Anyway, as usual, take care and stay dry.
Thanks for reading and as my friend Canadian Bob (who coincidentally grew up in 1950's New York) always says: Watch Out For The Signs.



** You have only to do a bit of a trawl on the 'net to discover that monochrome photography is not only alive and kicking, but is generally regarded as being the only serious form of photography

*** http://www.charlescramer.com/dyetransfer.html Hard. Damn hard!

**** About a photographic archive and starring Timothy Spall, it is one of the best dramas ever made by the BBC http://hmv.com/hmvweb/simpleMultiSearch.do?searchUID=&pGroupID=0&adultFlag=false&simpleSearchString=shooting+the+past&primaryID=0