Showing posts with label photography. Show all posts
Showing posts with label photography. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 03, 2017


I want to talk about George Hurrell the photographer who more than anyone else was responsible for inventing the Hollywood glamour portrait. 

Here's (above) a sample of Hurrell's disastrous first photo shoot with Joan Crawford. It was shot with orthochromatic film which Hurrell urged the studio to buy but then quickly grew to abhor.  

The session turned out horrible but Crawford had a good eye for talent and she could see what Hurrell was struggling to achieve. Although she bullied him in that first session she afterward located him in the studio cafeteria and...on bent knee...begged his forgiveness.

 Good for her! What the two would achieve together would be historic.

Hurrell also did good work with Jean Harlow. That was a real challenge because she wasn't naturally photogenic.  Despite her reputation, in real life she was quiet and even rather wholesome, which is not at all the image the studio wanted to project. 

Here she is after Hurrell got hold of her.

What a difference the right photographer makes.

I think we can say that the studio got its money's worth that day.

I love to read about the technical problems Hurrell surmounted. I find it interesting that Hurrell's retoucher actually darkened the busy chair pattern (above) to the left of Crawford's face. I'd have lightened it in order to make the face pop out... and I'd have been wrong.

Hurrell rightly chose the more dramatic alternative where the heroine seems to have a mission...where she bravely confronts the darkness.

There's lots more to say about this, but I'll have to save it for another time.

Friday, May 13, 2016


I hope you're looking at this on a desktop because these photos won't look right if they're reproduced small. Most are by Alex Prager, one of the best contemporary photographers. That's my opinion, anyway. See if you agree.

The beach picture at the very top used models and was taken on a soundstage. Prager spares no expense to get the photos she wants. I read that she used 150 models for one of her shoots. 

Maybe she can afford to do that because her pictures are reproduced large and are sold alongside paintings in fine art galleries. 

Lots of people regard these pictures as paintings.

You can see that Prager was influenced by mid-century Hollywood films. This looks like a scene from "Marnie."

Finding the right model can make a big difference.

A car sinks in Prager's water and the event seems to have great significance. Seeing this makes me aware that my own life will be snuffed out and forgotten just like the car. It's hard to reconcile how important my own life is to me and how little it seems to matter to a vast and indifferent universe.

Veeeeery nice!

You can see a Hopper inluence. Or maybe someone like George Tooker, the guy who paints bleak pictures of subway crowds.

I'm not normally a fan of Bleak Minimalism (my term for it) but I'll make an exception for Prager.

Prager is said to have been influenced by photographer William Eggleston. That's his "Red Ceiling" photo above. Eggleston achieved highly saturated color by printing with a die transfer process.

Above, another Eggleston. His Kodachrome pictures had a great look but the ones I've seen were all taken outdoors. He should have moved inside. You need to be able to control the light to do this kind of thing right.

Sunday, April 24, 2016


Big cities are a gift to photographers. If you have a camera you'll never run out of subjects there.

What do you think of these Manhattan photos taken by photographer Charles H. Traub in the 70s? Wow! He calls these his Lunchtime pictures.

In a big city it's tempting to take pictures of tragic subjects like public alcoholics but Taub prefers to photograph the more ordinary people who thrive there. That's the kind of subject that interests me. I like to see people enjoying the city they built for themselves.

These black and whites weren't by Taub, but I don't know who took them.
They make a powerful argument that cities should legitimize and promote whatever activity looks good in photographs...within reason, I mean.

Sometimes I like the clutter of advertising. It reminds me that one of the purposes of life is to make things that you sell to other people. The fun of commerce is that it connects you with a community of people who all compete to make life more interesting for each other.

Some areas should be zoned to allow advertising to run amuk.

Any excuse for scaffolding and cranes works for me. Seeing Portland's Steel Bridge converted me to the cause of exposed structure.

Monday, January 13, 2014


Yikes! I misspelled "Photographer" in the headline, and I can't change it. I guess I'm stuck with it.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Have you seen the latest Galaxy phone, the S4 model? It has something called
"Drama Shot" which allows for a burst of character exposures, all in the same picture. You get pictures like the one of the dog above, or...

...or like the Playtex Living Girdle ads (above) that were in every bus when I was a kid.

Geez, I wish I had an S4! If I had one maybe I could persuade my friends to smash into the ground for a photo like the kid above.

But the Samsung isn't the only technological marvel. Steve Worth introduced me to a new kind of camera called the Ricoh Theta. It's a $400 camera that takes 360 degree pictures without distortion...well, I should say with a minimum of distortion.

The picture taken by the double fish eye camera comes out distorted like the picture above and an easy-to-use computer program straightens it out and makes it presentable...normal looking, even. On your laptop screen you can scroll right and left or up and down and see everything in all directions that surrounded the camera when the picture was taken.

One use for it might be internet who-dunnits with clues in the pictures. The pictures are pixel hogs, though. One of the pictures Steve showed me was a jpeg and it still took up over 6 MB. Isn't Blogger's limit 10 MB? That would mean only one spherical picture per post.

Last but not least (above), a home virtual reality viewer called "Oculus Rift." It looks like Microsoft has already made a deal with the Oculus people to do an Xbox game in that format.

Here a 90 year-old woman experiences virtual reality for the first time. Imagine that...she  was born into the world of The Charleston and Flappers and now she's looking at a virtual world in our time.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Here's a recent picture of myself, taken in a bathroom mirror. It's not something to write home about, and it won't win any photography awards, but it's pleasant and it doesn't make me look especially old or fat. "So what?" you say.

What makes it worth posting here is that lately I am old and fat....well, sort of. Anyway, you'd think I was if you only saw pictures other people take of me nowadays. What I want to know is, how come I DON'T look that way when I take my own picture, and I DO when somebody else does?

Maybe you've had the same experience. Do pictures of you come out better when you take them yourself? If so, why? I'll take a stab at an answer. 

And here's that answer. What all the pictures in this post have in common is that they were all taken in front of my bathroom mirror. No wonder they look good. Like everybody else I've had years of experience mugging in front of bathroom mirrors, trying out angles and expressions that make me look good. When you take your own picture it's often in a mirror, so you're taking them in a medium you're already familiar with and know how to charm. 

Not only that, but there's usually an artificial light nearby and filtered sunlight coming through the window. If the bathroom has white walls then you have something approaching a photo studio.

Now let's look at your friends. They're handicapped right from the start. They're probably taking your picture outside with no nearby light source and no mirror to allow you to fine tune your expression. Outside you're just a statistic. You're a generic human who exists just to give scale to your environment. 

Even in a living room there's usually no nearby light and no interesting ambient light. Professionals have all sorts of equipment to get around this problem, but if your friend isn't a pro then forget it...he's not going to capture the real, philosophical you. He'd need a studio for that...or a bathroom mirror. Interesting, huh?

BTW, the bottom two pictures were taken late at night with only artificial light. They're grotesque but that's what I was aiming for. I like to imagine that I could pass for Long John Silver or Scrooge or Captain Hook or Uriah Heap (the Dickens character, not the musician). The raspy white crud on the bottom is the residue of post-it reminders. I wish I'd cleaned the mirror first.

Also BTW: How do you like the tiny hair near the tip of the nose? I better cut it off. I have to go to the dentist tomorrow and I'm afraid he'll become fixated on it. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


It seems like almost everybody I know has gotten a new camera lately. A number of them will be at Steve's this weekend, showing off their new equipment and taking pictures of...well, each other, I guess. 

No, come to think of it, there will be one non-photographer there; Steve's housemate, Jo Jo. I guess everybody'll have to make do with taking pictures of him. That's kind of funny, because if you know Jo Jo you know that he never wants to have his picture taken. Never! 

Maybe his phobia is my fault. I bugged him and everybody else I knew when I was taking pictures with my old snapshot camera. What else could I do? I like taking pictures of people:

EDDIE: "Marge, when you scratch again, can you do it with your left hand?  And would you mind sprinkling a few paperclips on the desk? And there's a distracting fuzzball on your sleeve. Would you...."

So what'll Jo Jo do when a whole house full of photographers descends on him on Sunday? He'll probably try to hide, but I don't think that's gonna work.

Photographers are an intrepid lot.

They'll look til they find him.

Sneaking out to the movies won't help.

They'll find the theater.

They'll spare no expense. 

NO expense! 

They'll get him. They always do. 

And when they do..............

PHOTOGRAPHERS: "Jo Jo, you'd be more sympathetic if you ran with something in your arms...maybe a cat."

PHOTOGRAPHERS: "And comb your hair first, only don't make it too neat. It's gotta be believable. And can you straighten the pen in your pocket?"