Photography, at its mid-nineteenth-century beginning, muscled in on painting one precinct at a time. Portraiture, of a solemn, straight-on sort, suggested itself immediately. Its hold-still composition, simple and traditional, met a mechanical necessity of the new art: early studio photographers, at the mercy of long-duration exposure, often steadied the backs of their subjects’ heads with clamps unseen by camera or viewer. Landscapes held still on their own if the wind didn’t blow, so Gustave Le Gray could become an automated Poussin, while Mathew Brady strained to click his way past Gilbert Stuart. History painting—crowded, violent, declamatory—had to postpone its photographic update until smaller cameras made picture-taking portable and fleet. But genre painting, with its casual assemblages of ordinary life, stood ready early on to be appropriated by the new medium.
3Martin Parr’s day at the Chelsea flower show – a photo essay
Just one woman at Chelsea, peering through a thicket of foxgloves with a wry smile on her face, has clocked the quiet man in the brown shirt, owner of the most famously satirical eye in British photography. Martin Parr, she has realised, has invaded one of the most prestigious flower shows in the world.
“It does happen that somebody recognises me, but not often – and certainly not at Chelsea,” Parr says. “It happens if I go to London openings, but these people on the whole don’t go to exhibitions, they just like plants, they only go to gardens.
A photograph of a group of suffering people: We look at them, and from the sadness of their expressions and gestures, we know something awful has happened. But finding out exact details, through the photograph alone, is more difficult. Who these sufferers are, why they suffer, who or what caused the suffering and what ought to be done about it: These are entirely more complex questions, questions hard to answer only by looking at the photograph.
The accounts journalists typically give of their motivations, particularly in photographing violence, aren’t always convincing. Why go off to wars or conflict zones at great personal risk to take pictures of people whose lives are in terrifying states of disarray? The answer is often tautological: The images are physically dangerous and psychologically costly to make, and therefore they must be the right images.
5How Ilford Delta 400 Became My Favorite Film for Street Photography
I wish that when I first started exploring street photography with film that someone had told me all about Ilford Delta 400 before trying to shepherd me into the church of Kodak Tri-X. But back then, years and years of guides online said that it was the absolute only way to go. As time progressed, different voices have arisen and they don’t all say the same thing. My voice, like many others, is the one that fell head over heels for the lineup of Ilford Delta films. To a photographer who grew up knowing digital, but tried to stay away from everything film because it was “hipster”, I regret that my mind was never open to a whole world of photography both I and many others are still only now just exploring–but that those before us probably haven’t explored even fully.
Click and Learn Photography: Hi Frank, first off can you tell us a bit about yourself? How long have you been into photography and what was it that drew you to the art form in the first place?
Frank: I’ve been into photography since around 2003/2004, just as Canon started making consumer DSLRs. I’d used cameras as a kid but it was always just a means to an end, there was never anything creative behind it. But soon after I moved to the US from Edinburgh, Scotland, I got this little 1.3mp camera on eBay and fell in love with it. I wasn’t doing anything great with it, but it removed that cost barrier that exists with shooting film, so I was able to take it everywhere with me.
I think what drew me to photography in the first place was the posterity of it. The ability to see something and keep a visual record of it. I love seeing old photos, especially from the 80s and early 90s that have the time and date stamped on the front. They’re like receipts of extremely specific points in time of someone’s life.
Click and Learn Photography: That’s a really interesting way of looking at it. I like the idea of photographs being receipts of moments in time.
Is that what eventually drew you to street photography? Documenting ordinary moments in an ordinary day of ordinary people, but all in an extraordinary and artistic way?