I found a very cheap roll of mirror sheet and of course I bought it because “I could use it for photos!”, which is basically my go-to excuse when I want something and I don’t need it.
I bought it BECAUSE I knew it would be shit for its intended purpose, but I also knew this meant it would be fun to play with because of deformations.
A quick test on myself before I use it for something more interesting (these are straight out of camera)
and here’s the very fancy set.
Every now and then I run into a photographic project that’s not just “witty” or “cool”, but that seem to resonate a little bit deeper.
That’s what happened when I came across german photographer Kai Wiedenhofer’s work, Wall on Wall.
Based in Berlin, Kai’s work had definitely not gone unnoticed (Leica Medal of Excellence, the Alexia Grant for World Peace and Cultural Understanding, World Press Photo Awards, Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography Carmignac Gestion Photojournalism Award…).
The exhibition, consists of 30 panoramic photographs of the Israeli security wall, but also includes images of the border barriers between the United States and Mexico and Northern Ireland’s religious communities. For seven years Kai travelled the world depicting the effects of border walls on the communities on both sides of these barriers, working with a vintage Fuji GX617 on a tripod (a very different way of approaching a scene, compared to what we usually see when we think “photojournalist”)
“Border walls are not a solution to political problems,” said Wiedenhoefer. “The UN said border walls are illegal. People need to take notice of this.”
Wiedehhoefer is hoping to attach his striking images to the East Side Gallery, a section of the Berlin Wall running along the Spree River. The exhibition will be open for two months, in July and August 2013, and will be open for free to everybody 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is expected that more than 200.000 people will visit that stretch of the Berlin Wall in the central months of the summer.
You can help him to do it by donating to his kickstarted campaign (only 6 days left!) or linking to it.
And even if you don’t care about the exhibition, I’d suggest just taking advantage of the campaign and getting the book: I got a preview of it during a skype call with Kai and it’s definitely something I’ll be happy to have in my library.
As a commercial photographer, there’s always something fascinating behind a project like this, something you do because you think it’s worth saying rather than because someone commissioned you the job. The questions I asked were mainly things I was curious about myself.
Naco, Arizona, USA
Q: Can you imagine a situation in which a wall would make sense?
A: If I get a show! (laughs) I’m joking, you mean a political situation? The basic idea to solve a conflict with a wall doesn’t make sense because it doesn’t show you what’s behind it. The idea you form about the people on the other side, if you don’t get to see them, just blows out of proportions, it has nothing to do with reality. And this makes the solution of a conflict much more difficult
Q: How much being from Berlin influenced your choice of subject?
A: It’s our legacy. The fall of the Berlin Wall, if you think about it, is the only german revolution that ever worked and it was completely peaceful, so I think it’s something people could be very proud of.
Nazlat 'Isa, Palestinian Territories
Q: How seeing the enlarged photos on the wall would be different than seeing them in a book?
A: the camera was specifically chosen because I knew I could make really big enlargements, the nature of this project is really big and I wanted to transport this feeling of greatness. And in a time in which photoshop is so widely used I think it was important to pay attention to the medium you use to transport the images. The photos will not be exactly life size, since every wall has different proportion, but it’s going to be easier to get a sense of the scale
Q: Did you ever feel like you were in danger, working on this project?
A: I was very familiar with the situation in Israel, it’s almost routine for me, it’s probably like waking up and going to work in your studio, for you. I lived in Gaza in ’93 and ’94.
It’s not always the same everywhere of course, in Bagdad you can’t stay long in the place, you always have to cruise around. You can’t be in the same place more than 20 minutes. There I rode with a guy ’cause I wasn’t familiar with the security situation.
In Korea I had a translator, ’cause english will not get you very far with the korean army.
You learn to read the air after a while.
In the american border I had a couple of bad encounters with the board patrol, but it was usually fine. I would usually tell them in advance who I was and that I had already talked to their PR person and what I was doing, it was mostly ok.
Melilla, Spain - Morocco
Q: Did it ever happen that you didn’t feel like you had the photo you had in mind?
A: It happened all the time!
For example there is this little village in the north of Wes Bank and when they built the wall they moved a lot of the olive trees. The palestinian would take these huge olive trees out of the ground and they’d try to rebury them somewhere else. And there was this one guy, he got a probably 2000 years old olive tree that was huge and place it in his garden, probably 5 meters from the wall. I wanted to photograph it, I think I was back there 6 times. It’s really a long drive and you have to go through several checkpoints and I never got the photo I wanted, not once. I was back there again in 2009 and the olive tree wasn’t able to settle down and had died. So there goes my photo. He eventually put some fancy painting up there, and that turned out to be a good picture, but that’s definitely different from what I had in mind.
Q: Do you work with what you find? How much planning goes into finding the shot?
A: Basically you look for places, you shoot them early in the morning, eat something, scout around and that work again in the afternoon. Very rarely you shoot in the middle of the day, usually only if it’s something very far and it’s not worth going back in a different moment. Or if security issues come along, for example working in the US- mexican border in the evening.
There was something my fixer said in Iraq: better life than light. It’s a good point.
Q: There a subtlety in your photos I really appreciate. I can see you point of view, but it’s not too blatant, you leave something to the viewer. Do you think it’s possible to be objective when you shoot? Do you even care?
A: You have to have a position, especially with a project like that.
Now the game is over. If you do reportage you need to have a point of view when you approach a situation. “Being there” is just not enough. You can look at youtube videos from Syria, they’re… let’s say unbelievable. Cameras are everywhere: what would you want to do there, as a photographer? You’re always going to be 10th in place, beaten by a fighter running around with a camera, even if technically they’re not interesting images: they’re just about being there and capturing the moment. So us photographer need to completely reschedule and think about what we’re doing.
I’ve been saying that since the first digital cameras came out.
Belfast - Peace lines
Q: Do you think photography still matters? That it can change the way people look at the world?
A: Photography can show you something and give you something to think about, but it’s still not going to change anything in itself.
Q: Then why do it? What drives you?
A: It’s a way of living. It’s how I experience the world. It’s basically how I can explain and put together things that are happening in the world. And it’s something you do firsthand. I don’t think there’s a separation between the person behind the camera and what’s happening in front of them. Photographing something shapes the way you think, it changes the point of you about what happens at home once you go back, about what actually matters.
Q: Why did you decide to use kickstarter to fund this project?
It has mostly to do with how traditional funding works compared to the potential of the Internet.
Now we have the permission to do this exhibition from the local municipality but the senate of Berlin was running against the exhibition, so next year we might not be able to do it. We have to do it now and if you go to foundations, they usually need to wait the end of the year to decide who to give the money to. It just couldn’t happen the traditional way. I’m not sure we’ll be able to reach the goal, but it’s well worth a try.
(And since I want to get my book, I strongly suggest you help)
Lots of people think the very safest way to package unmounted artwork is in wrapped in archival paper in an oversized tube mailer with foam rolled up in the centre and stiff card around the outside. The truth is, I HATE receiving my prints rolled up and when printing on nice thick Hahnemuhle paper, I always have the impression that stressing the paper fibers isn’t the most clever way to go.
That said, making sure people handling flat prints do not destroy them isn’t always easy and since weight is closely related to shipping costs, is not like you can just place the print between two lead plates and ship it that way.
Over the years I have been experimenting A LOT with several possibilities and this is what works best for me (And since I had a bunch of prints to ship I thought it would be nice to share the process)
Each print is numbered, dated and signed on the back (pet peeve of mine, I just don’t like to sign prints on the front). I then stick the tamper proof corresponding hologram on the back of the print and sign the certificates of autenticity
I wrap the print and certificate in archival tissue paper and use white round stickers to close it. Tape looks horrible.
I then use two pieces of thick corrugated cardboard to protect the print. Cardboard can be super sturdy when it’s layered, so I usually bend it to make sure there are 4 layers protecting the print, with the grain going in two different directions (this is important).
This is how I layer the different pieces
this is how thick it is at the end: it’s still pretty lightweight, but it’s virtually impossible to bend
To close it, I use gaffer tape. I don’t bother using archival tape with low-acid adhesives because it’s definitely not in contact with the print
I’m being paranoid here, but as an added insurance against rabid postmen trying to bend the package, I add two square section PVC rods, each one taped diagonally across the package (if there wasn’t any cardboard in the middle you would see them forming an X)
I prefer to use these because they are really hard to bend, but being hollow they are lighter. To cut them at the right length I just use a saw.
At this point I want to make sure that if the package is dropped in a river or left in the rain, the print is not going to get wet.
Plastic bubble wrap also offers some more protection
Since I always print non-standard sized stuff, I always end up having to build my own box. I suppose non-third world countries have a wider selection of boxes and envelopes, but this is not what happens for me. Oh, well.
I’ve tried jumping on the box, I seriously tried to bend it without any success and the print wasn’t remotely affected by that.
The whole thing was still light enough not to cost me a kidney to ship.
If you have better ideas, I’m all ears. But so far this is the only way that has really worked for me.
Working with Elena is like having a life-sized Barbie doll to play with. She brought to the set a pink plastic wig saying “I know this is going to sound silly, but I thought it would be fun to use it?”
Turns out, a little pink wig and a black and white conversion can turn someone into a movie star from the 50s.
In the meanwhile I’m experimenting with using the LP721 hand grip sliding arm and the LP718 Studio Stand that LumoPro sent me in place of a tripod. I wonder why I didn’t do it sooner! I can move it around, use it as a light stand and wave like the mad italian I am while I explain people what I want from them.
Cover for Vendetta Lookbook
we’re back from a very short (and much needed) holiday in Moena. Spending a couple of days eating good food, reading books and chilling in the spa equals 10 years of theraphy.
Even though, the clichè states that the perfect holiday is somewhere where it’s hot and there’s blue sea and the sand is as white as flour, I’d chose the mountains every time. There’s something about the feeling of being insignificant among all those rocks that just makes me put everything into perspective.
Anyway. I’m still carrying around the x100 wherever I go and for the most part I still suck at being able to think in 35mm. I always expect to be much closer when I pick it up, which is the result of years of working mostly with 85mm and 100mm. Most of my portraits have always been very close, but I’m loving this change of pace, at least for personal photos.
Playing around with the X100, I found out there’s a neat sequence feature.
I asked my students to take 9 pictures of an egg, shooting jpeg and not using photoshop. To demo the fact that there’s a lot to be done, I said I’d shoot 100.
I never changed lens (100mm) and only shot horizontal and tried to keep the framing consistent, for the most part, which means I could have easily gone up to 1000 if I wasn’t a slacker.
It’s cool to go back to basics, every once a while.
2012 for me was the year when I didn’t buy new gear.
I’m still shooting with a Canon 5D MarkII (which has now been discontinued, R.I.P. Mark II), didn’t buy any new lens, didn’t buy new lights (even though I was given a Paul C Buff Einstein and a vagabond and I’m using the shit out of that flash).
I did so as an experiment, because I was starting to get lazy and rely on gadgets a bit too much.
During this year, two things became clear to me:
1. I needed a small camera to carry around because I was just leaving my 5D at home all the time, unless I had a job to do, but I hate point-and-shoots. I have had several of them and I always end up selling them after very little, because I find them frustrating and crap.
The only exception for me was the Canon G9 and when it died after 2 years and I had to replace it with the latest model, I hated the crap out of it. And when operating a camera is unpleasant, I just end up not doing it (duh).
2. Over and over again I found myself thinking that a 50mm lens is too narrow and a 24 too wide. I don’t have a 35mm lens, so I have to shoot with the 24-70 lens, which is a good glass for lazy people, but for some reason I alway do my best work when I use prime lenses.
I have always seen the world in 85mm, I am comfortable between 50 and 100, but lately I feel like I need to take a step back and include a little more context in what I do.
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November definitely knocked the last bit of summer out of the way and instead of being grumpy and sad, I feel all bouncy today, since Magpies is out of the box!
We are still waiting for the iPad app to be approved by Apple, but the no-frills digital version is up for grabs!
I’m a bit anxious too, because it’s always scary to launch a new project into the world, especially something that I’ve been working on for so long. But I do think it’s probably the best thing I ever did, and I’m proud of it. It’s like having a teenage daughter going out on her first date: you just wait home and hope you did all you could to raise her well and she doesn’t come home pregnant.
Like I know anything about raising kids.
Anyway, it’s out and it’s awesome and the best thing is: you get to decide how much you pay for it.
Does this mean I can get it for free, if I want?
Yup. Exactly that. Just type 0 and hit enter and you’ll be e-mailed a link to download the high-resolution DRM-free pdf.
It’s the whole graphic novel, not just a preview. And it’s under a Creative Commons Attribution- Non Commercial- ShareAlike License. So if you want to burn it on a cd and give it to your friends, I’m totally fine with it.
Obviously, you can totally donate a bazillion euros, if you happen to find them and don’t know what to do with it.
Isn’t giving stuff away kind of dumb?
I really don’t think so.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for putting a pricetag on my work, but I also believe getting rich by selling super-protected pdf files to people is not my way of doing things.
I really also do believe that if someone likes the story, he/she will be way more interested in having a printed copy to place on a bookshelf.
If you feel like helping, I’d rather share you the link on twitter, facebook or a public bathroom wall.
Wait, there’s going to be a printed copy?
Maybe. I’d love to self publish a small edition and we are going to launch an Indiegogo campaign on november 7th to cover the expenses. We’ll see how it goes.
But you get to read the whole thing before you decide if you want to contribute, which I think is great.
Why are you asking me for my data?
It’s a fiscal thing. Even if there is no transaction I still need to send you a receipt. And if there is a transaction I’ll need to pay taxes on that, and in Italy we need to file a receipt. My accountant is already banging his head on the table, I’m trying not to make it too hard for him.
Your data will only be used for this purpose. I won’t appear at you doorstep with a suitcase. Pinky Promise.
Allright, cut the crap, where can I get it?
HERE! I hope you enjoy! Let me know what you think about it
By now, everyone in the whole web knows how much I love paper.
But when I discovered Melbourne-based artist Daniel Agdag and his work, I went completely crazy. His new series of work, Sets for a Film I’ll Never Make, features a number of his structural experiments which he refers to simply as “sketching with cardboard”.
Each work is created without detailed plans or drawings and are improvised as he works. I want to live in a world made by this guy.
So it’s my birthday and this is probably the weirdest birthday gift my parents ever came up with. And they usually get me pretty weird stuff.
So yeah. 3kg of pistachios. Which is awesome, since I love pistachios, but also kind of weird.
Guess who’s at page 39 in this month’s issue of Pop Photo Magazine?
First image from the shoot with Bob Rifo wearing the raven Jacket from Vendetta.
I really loved working with him. Fog machine, awesome masked people, liquid latex and feathers? That’s SO up my alley.
The jacket is amazing and they’re giving one away:
VendeTTa are proud to have produced our most successful creation to date, ‘The Raven’ jacket, and for one fan this unique piece will be theirs to own thanks to a special collaboration with Perez Hilton‘s fashion blog Coco Perez. Originally made as a one off creation for Sir Bob Cornelius Rifo aka The Bloody Beetroots to wear on his latest music video and based on a poem by Edgar Allen Poe. The Raven embodies a dark and whimsical undertone whilst maintaining a tailored and elegant feel.
VendeTTa Revenge and go-to fashion portal Coco Perez have teamed up to give away a limited edition, signed and numbered Raven jacket. With an exclusive photo shoot and interview with Sir Bob Cornelius Rifo aka The Bloody Beetroots, as well as interviews with VendeTTa Revenge’s Founder and Creative Director, not only will you have the chance to win your very own piece of the VendeTTa range but you will also have the chance to take a sneak peak into the thoughts and ideas that create the label.
Kicking off on Tuesday 4th September and running until Monday 17th September, your window of opportunity to own this magnificent piece is short. So how do you win? Easy! Simply email firstname.lastname@example.org and finish this sentence “If I was to win ‘The Raven’ I would wear it….” If you’re feeling particularly confident please include your full name and size as well.
“Tapping at my chamber door – Only this, and nothing more.”– The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe
I’ve been spending so much time working in the studio lately that I feel like I’m starting to forget how to take pictures that will remind me of my life, 10 years from now.
Not that I really have a life, to be honest: on most days I wake up, run, work, have lunch, work, have dinner, work and then spend time on the couch watching the first half of a movie.
But this has been one happy summer for many reasons and I don’t want to forget all the small things that are actually making me feel like I am a privileged, lucky bastard. Also, I’m getting so used to working inside a studio that I noticed I’m getting rusty when it comes to guessing exposure in natural light, which pisses me off.
This means that even if I only live a 3 minutes walk away from where I work, I always carry a camera with me and make sure I snap some (very) random pictures. I only use the 50 mm lens and I only operate in manual mode. The other rule I made is that I need to guesstimate the exposure before I take the cap off the lens. It’s been a couple of weeks and I’m finally getting my mojo back (and some pictures for the family album).
Borrow Lenses was gracious enough to think I might pass for a notable storyteller and I decided not to point out the fact that everyone who was featured before me was in a different league.
Taken for Bob Rifo’s latest project.
He’s one of the most eclectic people I have had the pleasure to photograph and even though he was just back from an insane amount of concerts all over the world he switched on the moment we started working.
We shot in complete silence, which is quite fitting with the idea behind his project.
I am lucky enough to work with some truly amazing clients, but some times all my prayer are answered at the same time and someone who’s just the perfect fit for me comes along.
When I was contacted by italian brand Vendetta to shoot their amazing limited edition jackets, I was excited.
When they sent me a folder of reference pictures to give me an idea of their aesthetics (a punk, dark, gothic, glam and post-punk vibe wrapped in clean lines and severity), I think I squealed a little in front of the computer: every picture they sent, I already had in my “favorite” folder.
I really enjoy working with someone who’s heavily detail-oriented and has a crystal clear idea of what they want from me, yet manages to give me complete creative freedom.
They selected two amazing people to model the jackets: italian musician (and supermodel Bianca Balti’s boyfriend) Frances and brazillian model Jessica brought not only stunning looks to the table but also a bucketload of personality.
Some of my favorites shots from the two days are still to be released, but in the meanwhile I get to publish a selection:
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When David Hobby suggested I could write a series on the psychological sides of photographing people for strobist.com I was excited (because it’s basically the thing I love blabbering about the most) and pretty nervous at the same time, because I was asked to “Lock the buttoned-down, writing-for-publication Sara in a closet somewhere and let the obsessive, neurotic, funny, voices-inside-her-head, occasionally profane Sara do this one”.
Which is basically the most awesome editorial policy I’ve ever heard of. But being basically given the permission to be a nutcase in front of such a wide and amazing audience comes with a bit of anxiety: what if I supersuck?.
I must say I had great fun working on this series and I am immensely grateful to strobist for allowing me to publish it over there: the response since yesterday has been amazing and some of the e-mail I got will keep me hyped up for a long time!
You can read it here, if you haven’t already