Early Color Images of Depression-era America

The Library of Congress is another great resource for studying American history via photographs. The most popular and iconic images of the early 20th century are almost always seen in black and white. Interestingly, though, the Farm Security Administration and the Office of War Information in the 1930s and 1940s actually did have photographers shooting across the country with color film. These depression-era color images are now property of the Library of Congress, and they offer a considerably less abstract glimpse into this tumultuous time in America. The use of black and white film and its inherent abstraction made it somehow more difficult to relate to subjects in photographs. In color, though, the stark reality shines through and makes these images quite powerful. Thanks to the Denver Post for uploading a huge selection of them to its Plog photo blog. blogs.denverpost.com/captured/2010/07/26/captured-america-in-color-from-1939-1943/2363

Photo by Jack Delano, courtesy Library of Congress.

The Library of Congress is another great resource for studying American history via photographs. The most popular and iconic images of the early 20th century are almost always seen in black and white. Interestingly, though, the Farm Security Administration and the Office of War Information in the 1930s and 1940s actually did have photographers shooting... Read more

Behind the Scenes Videos

One of my favorite things about the whole combo photo/video thing that we’ve had going on in recent months is how many photographers are creating behind the scenes videos of their processes for making still photographs. A couple of recent faves include Chase Jarvis’ link to a ìmaking ofî video that gives us a glimpse behind the scenes in a stop-motion stills shoot used as a Levi’s jeans commercial. Inspiring because it’s so simple and so darn great. On the other end of the spectrum is the big budget production, nothing shoestring about it, of a high-fashion photo shoot. That is exactly the video that Rachel Hulin recently linked to via her blog. It shows photographer Craig McDean in studio (well, at least in a makeshift studio via an old warehouse—sufficiently grungy to qualify for fashions requisite juxtaposition duty) working on an Oscar de la Renta shoot. This video is done in a little less of a "how to" fashion, but the artsty clip is still a pretty cool look behind the scenes at the making of a big time fashion spread. Both are inspiring videos and well worth a look. (Got your own favorite behind the scenes video? Let us know about it!)

blog.chasejarvis.com/blog/2010/07/how-to-shoot-a-fancy-stop-motion-commercial-on-the-cheap-ish/
rachelhulin.com/blog/2010/07/in-the-studio-fashion-maven-craig-mcdean.html

One of my favorite things about the whole combo photo/video thing that we’ve had going on in recent months is how many photographers are creating behind the scenes videos of their processes for making still photographs. A couple of recent faves include Chase Jarvis’ link to a ìmaking ofî video that gives us a glimpse behind the scenes in a stop-motion... Read more

The study of great Photography

American Suburb X is a great web site for studying 20th century fine art photography. I was reminded of this by a recent post there about William Eggleston, an American master by anybody’s standard. The site acts sort of like a photoblog, but with a focus on scholarly works and essays about a photographer or particular body of work. A typical post might include several photographs and a lovely written piece of criticism or photographic theory by a renowned scholar or another photographer republished from literally anywhere in history (or at least photographic history). Take, for instance, the reprint of John Szarkowski’s introduction to the work of Eggleston, written for his 1976 book, "William Eggleston’s Guide." This piece also serves as a wonderful entree into the world of Eggleston’s work, which I believe all photographers could benefit from knowing much more intimately. He had such a keen eye and light touch, I aspire to a little bit of Egglestonian insight every time I raise a camera to my eye. For more about the photographer, do visit egglestontrust.com
www.americansuburbx.com/2008/01/theory-introduction-to-william.html

American Suburb X is a great web site for studying 20th century fine art photography. I was reminded of this by a recent post there about William Eggleston, an American master by anybody’s standard. The site acts sort of like a photoblog, but with a focus on scholarly works and essays about a photographer or particular body of work. A typical post... Read more

Toy Camera Controls for Your Computer

Lately I’ve been noticing all sorts of antiqued photos on the internet. Lots of my Facebook friends are uploading photos from their smartphones that look like old Polaroid instant film. Other folks run their snapshots through software to make them look old and worn and, frankly, more interesting. I’d prefer it if people simply made more interesting photographs to start with, but who am I to judge someone who uses any tools at their disposal to create a better photo. Setting the tone with digital trickery is totally fair game. To that end, if you want to make your great digital files look awful, I mean interesting, on purpose, check out the Toy Camera settings for Lightroom as published by Photocritic contributor Haje Jan Kamps. It recreates the effect of a Holga or other plastic toy camera, with funky colors, smudges, light leaks and more. If that’s not exactly what you’re looking for, consider a stand alone shareware program like ToyCamera AnalogColor for the Macintosh platform. I can’t say that I use this program on a regular basis, but it does come in handy on occasion—mostly for having a little lighthearted fun with photos by turning them into faux old film photos. Maybe those should henceforth be known as fauxtos?

photocritic.org/adobe-lightroom-toy-camera
apple.com/downloads/macosx/imaging_3d/toycameraanalogcolor.html

Lately I’ve been noticing all sorts of antiqued photos on the internet. Lots of my Facebook friends are uploading photos from their smartphones that look like old Polaroid instant film. Other folks run their snapshots through software to make them look old and worn and, frankly, more interesting. I’d prefer it if people simply made more... Read more

Love photography? Buy photography!

Not only do I love looking at the work of others to see what I can learn from their photographic technique and style, I love looking at the work of others simply because I love photographs. If you love photography, why not buy photography? You’re supporting the medium, surrounding yourself with work that interests you, and you can actually improve your own abilities in the process. Here are five great resources for finding, browsing and buying fine photographs online.

1. 20×200, www.20×200.com. This unique web site serves up a new image every week—from paintings to drawings to photographs. A variety of sizes are available in limited editions, with the smallest prints at the largest editions selling for only twenty bucks.

2. Contact Editions, www.contacteditions.co.uk. A British site quite similar to 20×200, it specializes in photographs. A wide variety of "30-pound" prints are available. In stronger dollar times that’s a phenomenal deal. As it is, it’s still a heck of an affordable way to own a fine 11×14 print. 

3. Etsy, www.etsy.com. If you haven’t yet blown all your disposable income for the month, chances are you haven’t yet found Etsy. Think of this site as the handmade version of eBay. Artists and craftspeople of all types sell their wares on Etsy, and often it’s quite affordable. There’s hats and vases and buttons and photographs and just about anything else artsy and handmade you can think of. Plus, many photographers find Etsy to be an ideal outlet for their work. One of my personal favorites is Sharon Montrose whose work can be purchased at www.etsy.com/shop/SharonMontrose.

4. eBay, www.ebay.com. I know you think of eBay as the place to buy and sell cameras, not photographs, but there are actually lots of folks selling photography on eBay. The massive reach of the site makes it a popular destination for those looking to buy or sell rare and collectible prints. A lot like a yard sale, though, you have to beware (as with any eBay purchase) that you’re actually getting what you pay for.

5. Artnet, www.artnet.com. Designed to be a more robust art appreciation web site, Artnet also incorporates an online auction service for collectors. The auctions can be sorted by photography only, making it a quick and easy way to begin to build a collection of master photographers. It’s often an affordable way to get into collecting the works of prominent artists, both old and new.

Not only do I love looking at the work of others to see what I can learn from their photographic technique and style, I love looking at the work of others simply because I love photographs. If you love photography, why not buy photography? You’re supporting the medium, surrounding yourself with work that interests you, and you can actually improve... Read more

The Ongoing Saga of Ansel and Uncle Earl

I started thinking about this blog post a week ago when I read about the fortunate soul who discovered a stash of antique glass plate negatives at a yard sale. For the princely sum of $45 this collector believed he’d found what his team of experts ultimately valued at $200 million worth of original Ansel Adams negatives. That would have been quite a story even if the story stopped there. The moral at this point? Perhaps simply to search hard when you’re looking for old photos at flea markets and yard sales.

The next day, however, photographer and blogger Marc Silber spoke with Ansel’s grandson who, in no uncertain terms, questioned the authenticity of the practically priceless pictures. The drama built, and again the story would have been interesting even if everything stopped there. But here’s where Uncle Earl enters. Or, more precisely, Uncle Earl’s niece Miriam, a vigilant senior citizen who saw news of the find and recognized one of the images as belonging to the oeuvre of her photographer uncle. The story surely won’t stop here either, but at this point I’m glad of that. (I wonder if Uncle Earl’s photos are actually old Ansel prints purchased long ago by the amateur in awe of the master?) Either way it’s a fun piece of photographic history unfolding before our eyes. Maybe Uncle Earl will earn a gallery show. Or perhaps the doubters will prove wrong and in fact the collector can get rich from his fortuitous find. Either way, it’s probably going to be fun to watch all this hubbub over just a few photographs.

ricknorsigian.com
silberstudios.tv/blog/
theonlinephotographer.com

I started thinking about this blog post a week ago when I read about the fortunate soul who discovered a stash of antique glass plate negatives at a yard sale. For the princely sum of $45 this collector believed he’d found what his team of experts ultimately valued at $200 million worth of original Ansel Adams negatives. That would have been quite... Read more

Thank you, Rich Clarkson

At the ripe old age of 20 I attended a Rich Clarkson photography workshop in 1994. Along with some of the most prominent sports shooters in the country, Mr. Clarkson brought his Sports Illustrated workshop to the U.S. Olympic Festival in St. Louis, just 20 miles from my hometown. This meant that my family could afford to send me to the workshop for a week, where I rubbed elbows and learned from Mr. Clarkson and many established professional photographers. I remember Dave Black explaining how to photograph gymnastics. Patrick Murphy-Racey taught me to shoot into the sun to create depth while we photographed field hockey. I stood next to Walter Iooss in a group photo and ate lunch with Bill Eppridge and John McDonough. It was an amazing experience working alongside these world-class photographers and working with 600 and 800mm lenses photographing unique sports I’d never shot before (and in some cases since). It was an opportunity I could not have had any other way, and for that I’m indebted to Rich Clarkson and his workshop. It turns out that countless other photographers—many more renowned than I—also owe Mr. Clarkson a debt of thanks. He’s had a tremendous influence over professional photojournalism for a few decades, and that’s quite a feat in itself. NPR recently put together a slideshow and story about him—The Man Behind The Men Behind The Cameras—and it shows just how influential Mr. Clarkson is. He continues to wield his cameras and his influence through a series of ongoing workshops not unlike the one I was fortunate to attend long ago. For information on how you too can learn from Mr. Clarkson and his talented photographic partners, check out the Rich Clarkson and Associates web site. And thanks again, Mr. Clarkson. I learned a lot about photography that I still put to use today.

npr.org/blogs/
richclarkson.com

At the ripe old age of 20 I attended a Rich Clarkson photography workshop in 1994. Along with some of the most prominent sports shooters in the country, Mr. Clarkson brought his Sports Illustrated workshop to the U.S. Olympic Festival in St. Louis, just 20 miles from my hometown. This meant that my family could afford to send me to the workshop for... Read more

It’s not about the camera

Photographer Peter Belanger usually uses a 60-megapixel medium format digital camera to shoot his magazine covers. For this month’s Macworld cover photo of the new iPhone 4, however, Belanger used… the new iPhone 4. He used the camera to shoot the camera, and now that cell phone photo is the cover of a major magazine. Yet more proof that it’s not about the camera—it’s about the photographer, the light, the composition, the talent, the processing… Actually, while all that is definitely true—the light and photographer are much more important than the gear—it must be at least a little about the camera. You’ll notice he didn’t do this with a first-generation iPhone camera, or an old cell phone camera capable only of VGA capture. The point, I think, is that once you reach a certain level of quality—in this case, a level that’s now being reached by the latest and greatest cell phone cameras (mine has 8 megapixels and a fairly decent flash even though it’s mostly a phone)—it stops being about the camera and becomes almost all about those more important aspects of concept, creativity and light. Anyway, forget all of my philosophizing and just check out the behind-the-scenes look at Belanger’s making of a magazine cover, which would be interesting even if it wasn’t shot with a phone.

peterbelanger.com

Photographer Peter Belanger usually uses a 60-megapixel medium format digital camera to shoot his magazine covers. For this month’s Macworld cover photo of the new iPhone 4, however, Belanger used… the new iPhone 4. He used the camera to shoot the camera, and now that cell phone photo is the cover of a major magazine. Yet more proof that it’s... Read more

The Joe McNally Grip

Joe McNally can do it all. It sure seems like it anyway. He’s been a longtime photographer crafting great pictures for National Geographic, LIFE and Sports Illustrated, which would be impressive enough, but in recent years he’s actually become a bit of a minor (heck, in photo circles he’s major) celebrity for his work with small strobe lighting. He’s got books and blogs and sold out lectures… Like I said, the guy can do it all. But I just discovered something else he’s got: his own camera grip. I don’t mean a physical piece of gear that is used to hold a camera, I mean a unique way of handholding a camera to increase endurance and stability and be able to handhold while minimizing shake in low light, slow shutter speed situations. It’s a bit hard to explain, so I’ll let Joe do that via his blog. Suffice it to say it’s unlike any way of handholding a camera you’re probably familiar with. And if Joe says it works, it must. Read about it on his blog, or watch him demonstrate it via YouTube video. I’m looking forward to putting this grip into practice asap. And I’m wondering how come I don’t have my own patented camera grip?

http://www.joemcnally.com/blog/2008/03/10/da-grip/
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDsx3-FWfwk

Joe McNally can do it all. It sure seems like it anyway. He’s been a longtime photographer crafting great pictures for National Geographic, LIFE and Sports Illustrated, which would be impressive enough, but in recent years he’s actually become a bit of a minor (heck, in photo circles he’s major) celebrity for his work with small strobe lighting.... Read more

The Copyright Corner

Michelle Bogre, former chair of the photography department at the renowned Parsons School for Design in New York, stepped down from her position in 2008 to focus on teaching and research. After receiving a grant from The Media Institute, Bogre (an artist with a passion for copyright) created The Copyright Corner, an online resource for artists and publishers of all types who are interested in learning about copyright and implementing it effectively. From both the artist and the end user perspectives, Copyright Corner aims to improve abilities of all parties to effectively license creative works—something all photographers should be keenly aware of. I’m no role model in terms of the effective implementation of copyright with my own work, but I’m trying to get better all the time. And that’s all anybody can ask; keep working to protect your work with every new shoot. That’s what I’m asking here, too: start to learn how to effectively work with copyright and licensing of your own photographs. In the end, no matter whether you’re a brand new amateur or an old-school pro, you’ll be glad you did.
 
thecopyrightcorner.org

Michelle Bogre, former chair of the photography department at the renowned Parsons School for Design in New York, stepped down from her position in 2008 to focus on teaching and research. After receiving a grant from The Media Institute, Bogre (an artist with a passion for copyright) created The Copyright Corner, an online resource for artists and... Read more

Nikons in Space

Eager to showcase the image quality and general cachet of the Nikon D-SLR system, Nikon recently released a series of NASA photographs from the Space Shuttle Discovery and the International Space Station. At web resolution, the images are interesting. But thankfully Nikon released many of the photos in their full 12-megapixel glory, so this glimpse inside the ISS and shuttle is truly awesome. I absolutely love these photographs—and just about every image NASA ever releases—because of the glimpse into another world that they offer. It’s unlike any other. It’s also a good lesson in the importance of perspective; show your viewers something they’ve never seen before, or something requiring special access or a unique vantage point, and you’re bound to impress.
 
robgalbraith.com

Eager to showcase the image quality and general cachet of the Nikon D-SLR system, Nikon recently released a series of NASA photographs from the Space Shuttle Discovery and the International Space Station. At web resolution, the images are interesting. But thankfully Nikon released many of the photos in their full 12-megapixel glory, so this glimpse... Read more

Fashionably Black and White

Last year I had the opportunity to interview fashion photographer Michael Creagh for a profile in Digital Photo Pro magazine. Not only was Michael a great photographer, he was a real pleasure to speak with. The hook for our story was about how he shoots fashion photographs in black and white—not something you see all the time. He relies on digital cameras and a digital workflow to create his black and white look, but the effect is as classic as any darkroom technique could be. For those unfamiliar with his work, not only do I recommend reading that article from DPP, I’d also suggest you check out some of Michael’s newer photographs. On his blog he’s recently published a series of absolutely stunning and innovative fashion photographs involving a "Penn corner," a whole lot of mirrors and his amazing eye. 

digitalphotopro.com
michaelcreagh.wordpress.com

Photograph © Michael Creagh

Last year I had the opportunity to interview fashion photographer Michael Creagh for a profile in Digital Photo Pro magazine. Not only was Michael a great photographer, he was a real pleasure to speak with. The hook for our story was about how he shoots fashion photographs in black and white—not something you see all the time. He relies on digital... Read more
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