A photographer’s miscellany, for your delectation and delight

She is too fondLouisa May Alcott

This quote always makes me smile – could easily be said about me (and has been).

I’m at a little bit of an impasse with my photography right now, and last week’s post was on the deep side, so I thought this time that I’d just share with you some enjoyable web links that have found their way to me in the last week or two.  They’re not all about photography, but then, neither am I 🙂

Most of my creativity at the moment is going into cooking. We’ve had a change of lifestyle and diet since Geoff was diagnosed diabetic – which, incidentally, has led to both of us losing weight without even trying – and my current passion is for Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbooks.  They’re full of gorgeous pictures of mouth-watering, Middle-Eastern-style meals, most of which I’ll never make but which often act as a springboard for combining certain flavours and textures.  So I was interested when I saw this link to an article called The Pleasures of Reading Recipes, which is largely a review of a book by William Sitwell called A History of Food in 100 Recipes.  The book sounds fascinating, but the article itself is also worth reading, not least for this quote:

Buttered toast is notorious for landing buttered-side down. Likewise, it is said that a cat “if dropped, always lands on its feet.” So, Sitwell asks, “what happens if you tie a slice of buttered toast to the cat’s back? When the cat is dropped, will the two opposing forces of butter and feet cause the cat to hover?”

I’ve been giggling at the thought of this all morning.

If you asked me to name one of my all-time favourite photographers from the past, it would be Andre Kertesz. 10 Lessons Andre Kertesz Has Taught Me About Street Photography is not only an interesting read in its own right, but contains some of my very favourite Kertesz shots.  At the end of the article you’ll also find several videos from a BBC programme about Kertesz.  Haven’t had time to watch them yet, but I’m looking forward to doing so.

Do you use mind maps? I use them all the time, especially for brainstorming new ideas, but I’ve always been slightly intimidated by the beautifully artistic mind maps some people seem to produce.  My own are quite messy and don’t have pictures in them because it would take me far too long if I had to start drawing things.  They are definitely not works of art, but purely practical things that are of no interest to anyone but me.  I do like a pretty mind map, though, so I found this gallery of mind map art rather fascinating and very impressive.

Another blog post made me revisit a photo essay I’ve loved for a long time – Philip Toledano’s Days With My Father I’m not a great one for portraiture, or social documentary, but I find this photographic essay about the last three years of Toledano’s father’s life both extremely touching and, in places, very funny.  It’s the most wonderful memorial to one man’s final few years and the love his son has for him.

I’m always bookmarking the websites of photographers that I find online, and I tend to acquire huge lists of bookmarks that I never get round to going back to.  One of the ones I have revisited lately is that of Sean Kernan.  I particularly like his Secret Books portfolio, in part because I love books and would like to come up with an interesting way of using them in photographs, and partly because these are often quite black, with an ominous quality to them which is miles away from anything pretty-pretty but has its own particular dark beauty.  If you’re intrigued by the Secret Books portfolio, take a moment or two and click on the tab that takes you to Kernan’s writing.  You’ll find there an introduction to the Secret Books images and how he was influenced – without knowing it, to begin with – by Borges’ writing.  Here’s a small extract:

One day during this time I was hanging around my studio with nothing much to do, cleaning up in a desultory way (the only way I ever clean). There was an old book out on a table. I went to put it away, but instead I just opened it and gazed. I looked at the way the sharp metal type cut into the paper, at the blooms of foxing in the margins. I smelled its slight odor of papery rot, caught Latin words here and there and made out that they said something about the spirit and devotion. I stood there for the longest time. The book had stilled me.

On an impulse, I went to the closet where I keep a compost heap of props and got four black stones from a Japanese river. I set them out carefully in a line across the pages of the book. And suddenly it looked to me like…a poem. Or a kind of poem, at least. Maybe a Haiku or something by one of the Imagists, something that didn’t narrate or argue but just placed a few simple things before you and invited you to complete the work. This book with its stones was a pure image, the kind that can move from one mind to another and root there in some mysterious panspermic process. Joining things that didn’t logically go together–Latin meditations and Japanese rivers, black stones and creamy paper–broke apart some notion of what these things should say and set my imagination free to work. I had always wanted my photography to do this, and now I saw this wonderful composition open on the table before me.

I took a picture of this poem. And that was the beginning of these books.

After a while there were enough of them to suggest that they might themselves make a book, and indeed had to be a book. So I began to think about what might be necessary to make this happen. Perhaps it needed the armature of a text, but what that text might be and how it might work to unite the whole wasn’t clear. Then a designer friend, Lana Rigsby, saw the pictures and said they reminded her of Borges.

Kernan had been reading Borges some time before, and instantly saw the connection.  I think this is a good illustration of how we can stumble on something good when we aren’t really looking, and how our stumbling is often a result of things that we’ve absorbed somewhere in the past and that lurk in the corners of our minds, out of awareness.  Do have a look at Kernan’s other portfolios, too I also like his Winter Light portfolio, which is more conventional but which gives a real sense of that cold winter light, and his In Prison series, which contains some strong and powerful images.   I’ve just discovered that Kernan keeps rather a good blog as well.

A while ago I heard about this Random Point Generator. You can enter a placename and specify an area around it and the number of points you want.  Then you hit the Get Random Point(s) button and it will give you both the latitude and longitude of the point(s) and a map of where it is/they are.  I’ve always thought this would be a great photography exercise – generate one or more random points in your locality, go there, and see what you can get from it.  I haven’t tried it yet, and it’s one of those things I always mean to do but will probably never get around to, so I’m handing it to you – if you use it, will you share a link to the results in the comments?

And finally, courtesy of Eileen, a link to this free (until 31st October) software download which will work with Photoshop or Lightroom and also as a standalone program: http://www.dxo.com/intl/sony I’m told there are some very nice colour film presets.