Came across these on tumblr.* Really really like them. Besides the celebrity appeal, the way these are framed so tightly—I’m guessing a portrait lens rather than a normal lens—jumped out at me as being different than the usual candid snapshots as well as being very much the kind of images of my family that I try and shoot.
What began as a photographic romp through a visually compelling landscape slowly shifted toward documenting the landscape’s history and deciphering traces of it evident in my aerial photographs. My aerial images often presented puzzling artifacts and these fueled visits to libraries, map rooms, and local experts. Then it was back to the field for more photographs. After photographing for several years, I came to appreciate that the landscape was still in transition, and rapidly at that, as the salt pond restoration project gained stride. This realization has lent a sense of urgency to the project.
Anyone who’s looked out their airplane window while flying into San Francisco will have noticed the patterns of colored ponds all along the bay. I’ve seen people ask what they are on twitter. It seems most people aren’t aware of the San Francisco salt industry.
Which is too bad since it’s an interesting industry and a vitally important thing to be aware of in terms of the Bay Area’s current development. What to do with the salt ponds—restore or redevelop—given the local housing crunch and impending rising sea levels means this real estate is a big deal.
In any case, for better or for worse, a lot of the ponds are on their way out and it’s nice that people like Cris Benton are documenting the transition. The ponds are indeed beautiful in an abstract strange-nature way.* But they’re also remnants of the built environment which are being replaced by new industry. Not exactly ruins—though there are ruins in them—but decay and renewal. I kind of want to buy the book.
*One of my first jobs involved going out into the ponds and testing the water quality.
Note: The Berkeleyside interview is also good read for anyone interested in kite aerial photography. I especially like the drone vs. kite discussion as it reminds me of digital vs. film discussions.
And just as black families of all incomes remain handicapped by a lack of wealth, so too do they remain handicapped by their restricted choice of neighborhood. Black people with upper-middle-class incomes do not generally live in upper-middle-class neighborhoods. Sharkey’s research shows that black families making $100,000 typically live in the kinds of neighborhoods inhabited by white families making $30,000.
Ortiz’s website suggests that he’s more into social justice photojournalism—lots of people and getting into the thick of things in proper Robert Capa fashion—but these aren’t that kind of photo. Nor are they mining the textures of poverty and decay for superficial appeal and authenticity.
Kalman has a remarkable series of portraits taken in Nicaragua circa 1990, starting 20 years later he went back to photograph the same subjects. Scroll back in his Flickr stream to see these diptychs.
Another series which came over the tumblr wires. This is such a simple, elegant concept. And it’s executed so very well. Click through to read the descriptions on Flickr too. These aren’t just surface treatment, each diptych has a small story about what happened to the sitter during the 20 years between photos.
In celebration of the World Cup, Sports Ilustrated posted a gallery of the 100 best photos in World Cup history. I couldn’t help but click and look at all of them since I’m always interested in looking at sports photography from an art point of view.* I was a bit disappointed with what I found. The gallery is a list of great moments and great players, but most of the photographs are more about documenting the moment rather than anything else.
*I’ve been keeping notes in the comments on that post of examples of sports photography which I also consider art photography.
For me, there were only two which I really liked as photos themselves. Both the Vava photo and the Maradona photos are deserved classics. The Maradona photo gets copied/referenced a lot now in soccer photography anytime a player appears to be taking on a whole group of defenders. The original is a great photo in both its composition and how it allows us to empathize with both Maradona and the outmatched defenders.
The Vava photo is just strikingly lit with not only a great gesture but the rim light and almost-silhouette and shadow anchoring the height of the celebratory jump. Both photos also show how great photos can be when they show the back of the subject.
The Maradona photo is also one of the few action photos which isn’t of a specific moment in the game. Most of the photos are of greta moments—including some truly iconic photos which are recognizable to non-soccer fans. The Hand of God is infamous and the Zidane headbutt occurred in the age of memes. These photos capture the moments at the exact right times and while I can’t call them art, they do count as great photos.
The Maracanaço photo isn’t the iconic image* but it’s a great moment and a great example of a photo which shows two players responding in the exact opposite ways.
A lot of the other photos are reaction photos of either happy winners or distraught losers. Nothing new here and a lot of them are obvious photo opportunities. Many of these require us to know the context of the game to really understand anything more than just the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. It’s nice to see people celebrating and happy but those are also the obvious photos.
I was especially disappointed that the photo of Daniel Passarella wasn’t included here as I think I would include it with the Maradona and Vava photos at the top of this post. His expression is more than just happiness and speaks to how sports matters so much to so many of us.
What interests me most though in looking through these is that it forces me to think about how so many of the iconic photojournalism images are also purely documentary yet we have a tendency to treat them as something higher brow as well.
A lot of this I think is due to the fact that sports is somewhat predictable. You know where the key action will occur and you even know what kind of action to expect.* This isn’t even “ƒ/8 and be there” since the photographers are also all stuck in photographer zones. Unlike news photographs where the photojournalist has to get to the right place at the right time, sports photography just feels (incorrectly I should add) like something you need good gear and access in order to do.
*Although the Zidane photo occurred off the ball and is something which I wouldn’t expect to be photographed even though the photographer was probably following Zidane instead of the ball.
The other thing is that even in an event which occurs once every four years, a lot of these photos are of the same thing. After a while, goal celebrations and even goals look very similar and it’s tough to say that any of them are that much better than the others let alone being the kind of thing that stands out to a non-soccer audience.
Whereas with photojournalism, I think a lot of what we value in the photo is both the uniqueness of the image and the ability of the photographer to both get there and be able to take it. Everything we’re looking at here is technically good, it’s the everything else which makes the difference.