Snapshot or not?

One upon a time, there were no 5,5MP cell phones, no digital camera’s.
No Polaroids, or pocket-sized insta-matics.

There was a time when there were normally no snapshots, no slice of life, no “I had too much to drink last night please don’t put that picture of me on Facebook” photos.

And yet, when I look at these, I am wondering. Was there a back timing to these images? Were they planned, premeditated? Or did “the moment” happen, followed by an enthousiastic “Don’t move an inch, I’m going to get my Daguerreotype”?

Snapshot vs Mise en scene… Or harder yet, a mise en scene that can be mistaken for a snapshot.
This could lead to some interesting images where the scene is very likely to be seen as a snapshot except for a few elements that betray the mise en scene. Of course, some fashion editorials are spot on with that sort of photographic essay but they are maybe still too polished for this exercise. And on the other hand, how far does someone like The Sartorialist sets a scene?

With these thoughts in mind, I feel a new project emerging.

These images come from here. An amazing post of 50 unexplainable Black and White photos.

I just can’t help it…

I had to go out in the snow, in the sun, with a camera.
Like so many other people, I find it fascinating. Snow transforms it all, in this case, a rather grey and dull office building park into a winter ‘wonderland’.

But once I was out, I realized there wasn’t much to be done. It all looks breathtaking, but it’s still an office building park. And suddenly I was taken back to my student years where the assignment was to ‘go out and take pictures’. It’s a challenge, to look past the obvious. Try to change the angle, get on your knees, shoot ‘from the hip’… It’s easy of course, breathtaking places bring the most amazing landscape pictures. But try and look at what you have, close to you and try to make it amazing/surprising/new…

With the limited time and space I had, I only found this branch from a plant bathing in the sun, and loved it’s shadow. Not original, I know, but I guess I was just feeling like that plant, cold but enjoying the warmth of the sun.

Blissfully shielded…

When I look for images for professional communications, I usually look on stock photography sites like Getty Images, Corbis, even Shutterstock (for anything but portraits). But you know, today, I searched in Google images again and it wasn’t pretty. When looking for a “team of workers” (yes, I know) I found so many wrong, dubious, completely irrelevant images. A picture of naked team workers (posing to boost morale of the team), one of Mr T, a french pit bull with hair extensions…

If however I would find a suitable image on via Google Images, I’m not sure I’d be able to use it because of copyrights. How do you find the owner of an image posted on the web (loose from any personal Facebook/Flickr/DeviantART/… account)? I have been contacting people in the past years about the use of their images. Most of the time, people are very happy to allow you to use them for a token amount of money. With the prices of the big stock photography site, you shouldn’t hesitate if it’s the image you really want.

On the other side, it made me wish Corbis and the likes had a ‘snapshot’ library for those day to day, good but not that great images. Badly framed, underlit/overlit, wrong composition, wrong people…  Ok, Flickr might be a better place to find those but their search engine is nowhere compared to that of Getty for example (search on viewpoint, number of people, location, …)

To find what I want, I might have to go shoot those snapshots myself. Ah well.
There’s worse things in the world, like some spam e-mail claiming I shouldn’t waist time at University… I wonder why.

On empathy & photography

I’ve seen a lot of different people in front of my lens. Lately, due to the type of work I’m doing, they’re not experienced, therefore not confident.
I can guess that for other photographers, it’s a source of bother but I’m really enjoying this. It requires a lot of empathy and it seems to come as a second nature to me when I’m behind the camera. I love how you need to guide them, show them, bring them over to the fun side of it. Oh, I know it’s not easy. I wouldn’t want to stand on that side of the lens either. Maybe what I say to my models is what I would tell myself if I was in their place. Or what I wish the photographer would say to make me feel better.

When I see them get into it, it’s a glorious feeling of achievement, and I know that the picture will be worth it because the model is enjoying being there and feels at ease.

I’ve heard horrible stories from models, about having hours long shoots and having to do all kinds of ridiculous things for a result of… one good photograph. Come on. When you see the sparkle go out of your model’s eyes, you know you should have quit already.

So this is it. Read your models, feel what they feel and put yourself in their shoes. I believe it works better than the Hollywood stereotype of the “impatient fashion photographer who shouts at everybody on the set”. Of course, if it’s an expensive experienced model who can’t do her job and wastes everybody’s time: I might be like that too.

Whatever works for you of course, for me, I think empathy is a must.

Today on my desk – Moo cards

Being a photographer and an Art Director is not always a good thing.
I’ve been toying with an idea for new business cards for months: choice of paper, choice of font, brand style, minimalistic, perforated, cut, drilled, metallic inks… I couldn’t choose.
And on top of that, I was confronted with the costs too, let’s be reasonable here: I was gonna hand out cards at 3 euros a pop!

So in the end, I asked myself what I wanted people to remember me by. I think my work can be described as very varied, and I think that’s a plus. Is a 3 euro minimalistic business card really reflecting that? I didn’t think so.

I found Moo by accident, but loved their site, tone of voice and products (I found out later that they also have a great customer service).
Moo allows you to print business cards where one side remains constant, while on the other side, you choose how many different images you want. It’s a great idea for a photographer since you can display your work, and let your customer choose their favorite. I’ll be updating my cards on a regular basis, as my portfolio changes.

So today on my desk: my Moo business cards!