Friday, October 15, 2010

Nighttime Street Scene In Victoria

This would have been crap in colour, crap during daylight, but nice with a bit of editing and judicious use of two black and white conversion layers to get the two doorways left and right to roughly match in tone. Akvis Enhancer lightened the image and increased local contrast so I darkened it after (after all it was supposed to be a night scene). The sidewalk was way too dark compared to the rest of the image so I lightened it. I opened up the dark upper right corner again to blend well.

Below is the original image as recorded.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Stats On Photographs And Photographers For Book

Here's some statistics for both the photographers and photographs for 'Why Photographs Work'


the youngest photographer is 29, the oldest 85, the majority of the photographers are in their 50's and 60's and several are within 4 years of my age (61), which I didn't find out until after selecting the images. Three were born the same year as me (1949).

I have met only 7 of the photographers.

The newest photograph was made in 2009, the oldest in 1958

11 images were made with 4X5

3 images were made with an 8X10

1 image was made with a 5X12

4 images were made with 35 mm. film

1 image was made with a Polaroid SX70

1 image was made with an iPhone

14 images were made with a digital camera, inclluding one that was medium format digital

13 were made with medium format film

1 was made with 6X17

1 image was made with a flat bed scanner and NO camera (at least in the usual sense)

1 was made with a home made camera AND lens

24 images were made in colour, 28 in black and white

about a third of the photographers have significant musical background, but two thirds DO NOT

most of the photographers make most of their income from photography - either print making or teaching

8 of the photographers are women

countries represented include:

USA, Canada, Mexico, U.K., Germany, Sweden, Bulgaria

14 images include people (if you include ghosts, 13 else)

6 of the images are constructed of multiple images - stitched or placed or overlaid

2 of the images are multiple exposures, both onto film, a third is a sandwich of two 4X5 transparencies.

All of the photographers for this book GAVE their images without charge, also their time and their writing and I am profoundly grateful for their generosity.

Only two photographers had to drop out of the project, one because of other very time consuming commitments, another over a misunderstanding brought about by a lost email. Only one photographer refused outright to participate and to be fair it was his assistant who thought the project unworthy - I think he was wrong. One photographer dropped out when he found that there was already an image using similar techniques to be in the book and he didn't want one of his older images to represent him.

The vast majority of the photographers let me make the entire decision about which image to choose, a few had preferences and NONE dictated which image I should use.

Some of the images are iconic, extremely well known. Others I'd be surprised if you have seen.

Six of the photographers frequently work in platinum/paladium.

A good number of the images are not what I would consider well within my comfort zone, yet each and every one has been fascinating and even the effort to select images and then write about them has broadened my own horizons, widened my tastes.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Why Photographs Work - The Printers Are Rolling

Just heard today, the proofs look great and the printers are cranking up. I'll go into more detail about book content when it actually becomes available, but for now, here is the introduction I wrote for the book explaining the why and the wherefore.

Why Photographs Work
by George Barr


Why this book, why now, and perhaps most importantly why me? Who is (and who isn’t) the book  designed for? How did I select the images and is there a strategy to the book?
I wrote this book for me, as if I could go back in time to when I was starting out as a serious photographer. This is the book I wish had been available then, to explain great photographs, to point out what works and how these images are planned and composed, how tones should be printed, how subjects explored. Not coincidentally, these are the same issues that help someone who already enjoys photographs learn to appreciate them more, and to open themselves to more genres of photography.
Looking At Photographs by John Sarkowski was an important book in my self-education. It is still available and still very worthwhile to read. It does, however, have a couple of shortcomings. It has no color photography, and as a curator and historian of photography, Sarkowski brings to the book a bias toward talking about processes as much as images—useful perhaps for a student of photography, and even a collector, but not as important to someone who simply wants to make or enjoy photographs.
With digital imaging vastly expanding the interest in photography, more people than ever are taking photography seriously. While much of the book is in color, there is still a need to show the power, the subtlety, and the beauty of black-and-white photography to a new crowd whose cameras shoot color by default. There are many ‘how-to’ books and even ‘how I did it’ books. But there are not many books available that discuss why photographs work from a practical rather than theoretical or philosophical point of view.
I’m the one writing the book both because I can and because I feel the need. I can because of the success of my previous two books—the publisher is willing to run with this idea. I can because I have experience writing about photography in clear, relaxed, and comfortable terms—terms that the average person can relate to. I won’t claim there is no art-speak in this book, but I do assure you that you won’t need an art degree to understand, appreciate, and take advantage of it.
This book is for any photographer who wants to make beautiful photographs. And it is for anyone—photographer or viewer—who wants to understand why some photographs stand out from all the others. It can certainly be of value to students of photography, but probably not by those specifically studying photography criticism, where art theory and history, philosophy and culture become more important than whether the photograph is beautiful or powerful or meaningful.
In choosing photographs for this book I used as my own source books (I have more than 100 books of photographs in my personal collection), magazines (hundreds of issues of those magazines which celebrate wonderful images), the internet, and my own life experiences meeting other photographers and hearing their suggestions of still more photographers to consider. As such, it is unashamedly biased toward Canadian and North American photographers simply because I am more familiar with them.
I have tried to push past my own comfort zone in photographic subject and style, being inherently a photographer of fairly conservative tastes. After all, I am a middle aged white guy from Canada. We’re known for our niceness, not our pushing the envelop of modern tastes (OK, we wear weird hats called touques, but I don’t think that counts). I want to open readers to new ideas of photographs that are not ‘traditional’ or ‘straight’.
My own tastes are firmly based in the highest image quality; that concept does not trump craftsmanship; that being radical is not an end in itself but rather a tool to express ideas that are difficult to express in more traditional techniques. I’m an experienced photographer, with high standards for both my own images and the photographs of others. I have had some success being published and in selling my photographs and it is with this background I chose the images for the book.
This book is about great photographs rather than great photographers. Some of the images I have chosen are by relatively unknown or even less experienced photographers. Some of the photographers are famous, others are not. Some of the photographers have literally thousands of strong images and many books to their names, while others have only made a handful of great images but are poised to make many more.
I have made an effort to search out international photographers and there are some, but not as many as I would like. Women photographers are not equally represented simply because I know fewer women photographers. Some of the photographers were completely new to me, and discovering their work has been a delight, while others are long time friends of mine.
The book is about photography as art. Many common genres of photography are either sparsely represented or entirely absent. You will find no sports photography, no wildlife, and almost nothing of reportage. Each of those subjects has certainly been responsible for many great photographs, but in those images, the subject and the story predominate over the image as art, and quite frankly I don’t feel qualified to comment on them.
Enjoy this book as a collection of 51 wonderful photographs. Some you may well know already, but I trust there are enough new images to surprise and delight you. Feel free to flip through the book to simply enjoy the images, but sooner or later, do read about each image, about what I think makes each work, about what the photographer was thinking in making the image, about who the photographer is and how they came to see the way they see.

George Barr, Calgary, July, 2010

Monday, October 11, 2010

And Yes, I Also Did Some Colour

Again, straight from the raw processor. This was a propellor, lying near a path and next to the inlet, large, rusted, covered in graffiti and making for a wonderful hour of working out compositions.

From Trip To Victoria, B.C.

A steel fabricating shop in Victoria, the cutoffs. He was working on the pieces for the bulbous bow of a ferry as I was photographing using a computer driven acetylene cutter, the planned cuts looking like a complicated model. I am informed some of the pieces cut out from these pieces went to make Honda Goldwing Tricycles.

This image has not been edited yet - straight from the raw processor.