Tre Oci Venice - Gianni Berengo Gardin, Elliott Erwitt

13 April 2014

Yesterday I received a mysterious anonymous parcel. And a welcome surprise. "Caffe Florian" by the Italian photographer Gianni Berengo Gardin. This is a subject close to my own heart. So thanks! Whoever you are.

It reminded me that I'd seen his work before at the relatively new Tre Oci gallery in Venice. Dedicated to photography, it is situated in a beautifully restored house in the relative calm of the Giudecca.

Here are some images from two visits I made in the last couple of years

The exhibition of Berengo Gardin's work was called "A photographer's stories". Documentary / street photography in the grand style but with an unmistakable Italian perspective. It makes you wonder how many photographers with great personal and revealing work never make it into your own sphere of vision. Berengo Gardin's work is rooted in Italy - maybe it doesn't travel too well, but I can highly recommend it.

It was also at Tre Oci that I saw Elliott Erwitt's work outside of the confines of a coffee table book, and I was impressed. You have time to linger back and forth in a nice quiet spacious gallery, and it reveals more than mere page turning does. Especially with Erwitt, where if you are not careful it can sometimes seem like an endless sequence of one liners. ONly quibble I had with that show is that some of the images were printed too big.


Venice. San Michele, Lagoon

10 April 2014

Here's a couple of photographs from Venice that were due for destruction, but I had a few minutes waiting for a train so I tried ressurecting them. Did it work?

San Michele, Venice

Probably went a bit too far with the processing..

And on the same trip (if I remember). This one is so out of focus that it only works at small sizes (I blame telephoto lens, boat movement and probably inebriation) but it has a nice feel again.

Venice - lagoon


The 50mm Standard

06 April 2014

While in Gruyères last week I was looking mostly for picture postcard type shots, but I also came away with a few like the following which don't fall into that category. I suppose this is more documentary than picture postcard. It's not a special photo by any means, but the composition is pleasing, it's a quiet moment from what looks like lazy village life. On the other hand these guys could be just about to break into a full scale brawl...

Gruyeres, Switzerland. Leica M9 50mm Summicron

However my main point in showing it is to bring up the subject of using a 50mm (full frame equivalent) so-called standard lens.

Photography is an impossible genre to describe in any sort of general terms, but on the whole I think it steers a course between the visual arts and the field of communication. At one extreme, impact, beauty and quality rule. At the other it is what the photograph shows or tells us that is important.

Personally I lean toward the latter, but photography can communicate and be attractive/striking/shocking at the same time. Usually the impact or success of the message is dependant on the visual aspects of the image.

In my type of photography I want the viewer to be able to step into my shoes - to see what I saw. Ergo the "standard" lens, not restricted to 50mm, but showing a natural point of view. For shots like the above, with the subject at some distance, 50mm is perfect. For closer shots I like 35mm. I don't want to say "this is what you'd have seen if you were there looking through a camera viewfinder with a 21mm attached".

When looking at photographs I'm personally drawn to images that don't don't shout out "guess what focal length I used to make this one!". I want the content to be the first thing that hits my consciousness.

Another consideration when using a standard lens is that you can compose with your eyes, constantly looking for shots, not having to walk around with the camera up to your eye to see what it's going to look like. If you regularly use a particular camera/lens you reach a point where you instinctively know the capabilities and characteristics of the combination and just concentrate on composition and "getting the shot".

Actually, when you look a bit closer, maybe my speculation about a brawl might not be wrong, and one of the guys is a policeman. Just "chewin' the fat" as they say back home though.

Gruyeres, Switzerland. Leica M9 50mm Summicron


Leica M9 - another year on - stock photogrpahy

31 March 2014

A year ago I posted my thoughts about the Leica M9 after using it in the field for a while. This post is just a quick follow-up to that.

Gruyeres, Switzerland. Leica M9 35mm Summicron First of all, I'm still using it, and the points made in the previous post remain largely unchanged. For me, in a time when we've seen a mind-boggling selection of new digital cameras, this remains comforting, even more so than it did 12 months ago. The camera is a regular companion and I don't even think about it any more.

I've started taking it with me more and more when I'm hunting for stock scenery and location photographs. As said before, it has its limitations in this genre, but the nature of it's portability, and the confidence I have in the results, outweighs them.

These images were shot in the Swiss hilltop town of Gruyères at the weekend.

Gruyeres, Switzerland. Leica M9 50mm Summicron

Gruyeres, Switzerland. Leica M9 50mm Summicron


Campari Soda

11 March 2014

Campari and Soda I've always enjoyed Campari - and with good old fashioned soda. None of this Campari/Spritz stuff. With characteristic perversity I've rendered this most colourful of drinks in black and white


Frankie B - 1948-2014

03 March 2014

Frankie B - Niederdorf Zurich

I'm late with this. I hadn't been up to the Niederdorf for a while, and it came as a shock to discover that Frankie B, coiffuer extraordinaire, and one of the Niederdorf's great characters had passed away.

I didn't know Frankie that well, but as co-patrons of the local hostelries we bumped into each other regularly. Every-friendly, ever jovial, and a true original, I don't think we'll see the like of him or his salon again.

I looked out this shot which I took in the salon some years ago. For me it's a good memory.

Cheers, Frankie


Paris - Arc de Triomphe

07 February 2014

Paris is a favourite city of mine - I'm not the only one, although a lot of people unaccountably dismiss it for all sorts of odd reasons. Often a puzzling assertion that the Parisians are unfailingly rude. Even if they were, it would still be a favourite destination for me.

It's a spacious, generously proportioned city, and surprisingly small if you just take the area inside the peripherique. A key feature is that new building and development is located outside this ring, retaining the character, one of wide boulevards and long site lines.

Paris - Arc de Triomphe from La Defense

This is the long view of the Arc de Triomphe, from La Defense (the other Arc). It's a view I find endlessly pleasing.


Zurich Niederdorf

04 February 2014

I don't often do colour photos, even when taken with a camera capable of them! I'm more into tones, shape, proximity, relations, content, blah blah blah. Occasionaly though I do like a colour motif. This one is a little bit threadbare, a bit cliched - a little splash of red on an otherwise monochrome-ish background. It's redeemed a bit by capturing the stride and the glance - bit of luck there - and by the slanty sunlight. It would have been nice to move the "Dolce Vita" sign, but some things you just have to live with.

Zurich colour street photo


Passing the time of day in Venice...

01 February 2014

Venice is a slow city, despite the tourist reputation. No cars. Lots of squares and street corners to stop and pass the time of day

Venice conversations -

Winter is also kind for the photographer, with low light, angles, space etc


Who said film was dead...

17 January 2014

Came across a group of young photographers in Zurich - out in the late afternoon light with a string of Nikon FM slrs. It's amazing how, if you're an old photographer like me, you can spot film SLR's at 100 meters.

Young Swiss film photogrpahers

Anyway, they kindly posed for the photo. Really nice folk - I wish I'd stayed and talked a bit more about their experience with film - I hope it's a positive one (no pun intended!). NB note the two-to-one demographic...