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Millenials Exhibition – FotoZA, Rosebank 1-30 June 2017

The Millennials exhibition is currently running till the end of June at FotoZA, a new gallery space in the top floor of the Mall of Rosebank, Johannesburg. The gallery is an extension of Kameraz photography shop, which is on the lower level of the mall. If you don’t know of the shop, Kameraz is my personal favourite camera shop in Joburg with a wonderful rolling stock of used gear digital and film at great prices. Recommended.

 

Millennials is a show meant to showcase the work of ‘the new generation’, my phrase not theirs. It is a collection of 4 works per entrant with their Instagram vital statistics displayed next to their name above their. The cynic in me wants to point out how those statistics are really actually vital to these Millennials. (Oh and I’m a millennial too I guess, so take it with some irony…) Likes, shares, faves, follows – it’s all that matters to some. I hate that and it’s a big problem with social media. But these are for another, longer, rantier post. But briefly lets say that when Instagram started it was about sharing images and your life through the cool iPhone devices changing the landscape of photography. Then it became a bit more of a portfolio showcase for photographers who figured out how to use their real cameras and make their feeds look a whole lot juicier. Now, however, it is a place that is just overwhelmed by people showing off in endlessly repeating video loops and other craptastic forms of making content just to be there and fill space and steal someone on the other side of the planet’s precious mindshare. It is now just like Facebook and Twitter and every other social media site there is and will be that gets big enough to appeal to the masses, be capitalisable by industry and just another place for people to make more noise than signal in their endless watery attempts to gain a foothold long enough to milk 15 minutes of fame and become, literally my worst thing in the world, an influencer. Vomit. Anyway..

Back to the exhibition. What I thought was most interesting was whether the entrants were able to create a good combination of works with the very limited space of just 4 pieces: how well did each complement the others and did they tell a story (however short), was there an overall aesthetic or style visible from the selection, or were these just 4 of their faves? You see, more and more, I believe that curation is become a new, much needed talent. We are inundated with content and we are able to create more content than we know what to do with. Can these young artists and new breed of photographers – as the exhibition wants us to view them – look at their own work critically and put together a powerful statement, even if it is very brief?

There are a few that I thought succeeded in this. Here they are.

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Nkgopoleng Moloi – @nkgopolengmoloi

A lovely study of a local mosque by Nkgopoleng Moloi. The tones and washed-out colours create a lovely, tranquil, if perhaps ominous, mood.

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Shipo Biyam – @iownthesphinx

Kodachrome-esqe colour,  bold compositions and a nice balance between the 4 images makes Sihpo Biyam’s collection very eye-catching. Also, apparently, Sipho owns the Sphinx…

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Armani Quintas – @black_moth_photo

Nicely balanced images and gentle colours hold together well with Armani Quintas’ work, which is like a small story about a girl. We are left wondering who she is. Also, just look at those bokeh balls!

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Sarah Harding – @sarahhardingwhat

There’s something whimsical about Sarah Harding’s 4 images. They are like a cryptic diary entry. We know almost enough to walk away and then we stop, wnting to know more but just can’t…

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Jennifer Wang – @hello_misswang

Fantastic use of double exposure. Jennifer Wang has skill in combining not just the images that make these double exposures work, but also in putting them together with one another. A playful and joyous group of images.

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Overall, a pleasant show, with some really nice images.

Also the coffee is great and the space is ideal to get some work done. Thanks Thandi for the excellent cappuccino.

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Maybe we’re just crazy

I shot a job yesterday. I had to deliver images fast so I shot them on digital. They look great. I also shot some video. I also shot this on digital. But then I also shot a roll, just one, of Portra 400 on the RB67. 
Now I’m up at the crack of dawn, hopping on my scooter and off to the lab to get it developed. I didn’t have to shoot it at all. It’s inconvenient. It’s a little slower. I had to carry a very heavy camera and a couple of giant lenses. All for 10 shots. 
Maybe I’m a little bit crazy. But I love it. 

I love the heavy old camera that takes an age to shoot. I love the cold air in my face as I ride in the fresh morning breeze to drop off my film. I love the wait  to get the scans back. I love the interaction I have with the people who lovingly develop and scan my film. I love the final result. 

Call me crazy then.  

Some overdue HP5

It’s been way too long since I’ve posted on the blog – sorry about that. Got out of the habit and I completely kinda just stopped posting. I want to get back into the swing of it and will try post at least once a month. Just so long as I have something interesting to say 🙂

I’ve been shooting at lot of film again for both personal and paid work and am loving it. Here are some shots taken on a Canon AV-1 (a fantastic and heavily under-rated aperture priority camera) on Ilford HP5.
The first picture is of my neighbor and friend Susie Dinneen who is a great writer and has just had a children’s book published. This is Susie doing a reading at Love Books in Melville of her book Nombulelo and the Moth. It’s a wonderful story, beautifully written and gorgeously illustrated. Here’s a link to it for sale. Highly recommended. This was shot with a FD 28mm f3.5 wide open. I actually have a much better 28mm f2.8 with far better coatings and sharpness, but I really dig this lens with its more basic coatings. The images it produces have a really nice look, softer with lower contrast.
This next picture is inside one of my favorite coffee chains, Seattle Coffee Co. Their coffee is delicious. I adore how the tones came out in this image. HP5 is my favorite B&W film and the contrast and detail here just puts a big ol’ smile on my face. LOVE this photo even though it’s nothing terribly special. That’s the joy of personal work… This was shot with the 50mm, can’t remember the aperture, probably about f4.
Next up is a requisite photo of Pablo. Here he is nice and spaced-out during one of his many daily sun-bathing sessions. I love to have a nap with him in the sun. Freelancing FTMFW man… Love how, even in hard sunlight, HP5 just holds the shadow detail in a black cat’s shiny coat. Awesome. I left the pillow a little blown out. I like the contrast. Such. A. Cute. Cat. 
This next photo is all about texture. Just look at how great the tones and texture in the leaves and the dirt on the window is. Damn. Another reason why I just ADORE film, especially B&W. You just get the most beautiful results and no time spend sliding sliders in Lightroom. I must say, I have been spending many, MANY hours on the computer editing digital images this year and being able to just nail a shot as I see it in my head and get that result back from the lab is a serious joy. I’m getting evangelical here. Can’t help it. Don’t care. 😀 Shot on the 50mm
Lastly, here’s a really lovely family photo of my sister-in-law, husband and baby, Matteo. Capturing family memories on film is just special. I don’t know what it is, but there is just something powerful and memorable about shooting important moments of life on film. I feels more serious and important. Maybe this is all in my head, but it just feels different. Maybe it’s because you have a physical object in the negative that you have to physically store and look after, maybe it’s the process of being more careful when you shoot. I don’t know. But I definitely feel differently about this image compared to one I took on my iPhone or a DSLR, even though there are all lovely. Shot with the 50mm

Thanks for reading. See you soon.

Leave a comment, it’s nice to know you’re out there. 🙂

RIP Michael Reichmann

A very sad day for the photography world. A great writer and photographer, Michael Reichmann has died. His website Luminous Landscape continues to be a superb treasure trove of information and knowledge. I learnt much from MR I am truly saddened by his departure. 
😔
My condolences to the friends and family of Mr Reichmann. May he rest in peace on a hill with a view of the setting sun. 
A lovely tribute by Michael Johnston below:

Too Busy – What’s Busy Anyway?

Lots of people have said similar and I’m not sure where it originally came to be a popular thing to say, but being busy does not equal success.

Seth Godin wrote a nice piece today on the subject (http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2015/12/is-it-too-little-butter-or-too-much-bread.html) and it brought to mind a recent exchange I had with a family member.
This particular family member is very headstrong and a little, OK a lot, old-fashioned. He asked me if I am busy. A simple enough and innocent question that meant nothing other than “Is work going well?”  and was certainly well-intentioned. I have been busy and work has been going well, so I answered “yes, thank you very much”. But what is interesting is that this person, of a slightly older generation than me, equates hard work with success, and the particular flavour of hard work, for him, is lots and lots of that work, filling days and hours.
It struck me because I am in the process of making myself LESS BUSY – streamlining processes, outsourcing work to free up time to snooze and watch YouTube and draw and sip tea staring out the window at the leaves flapping in the wind. It reveals an interesting distinction between how different people see and do work: work hard or work smart. Sometimes they overlap, yes, but for the most part I think it is split between different generations and how we were brought up thinking about work. Of course, making this distinction based on age is crude, but let’s keep it simple and run with that. My parents and certainly their parents felt that you had to put in the hours, you had to slog away at a job, nice-to-five and all that. This says much about the culture I was raised in and western mentality, the dogma of the work-ethic and idea of climbing the ladder. Me, I love the idea of NOT putting in a nice-to-five, of working out ways I can shape my own day and schedule and structure my life. This is one of the attractions and amazing advantages of working for yourself, something that makes more and more sense for a lot of people today, what with the hyper-connected world we live in. Why send an email to someone down on the 3rd floor in the sprawling office-park you have to spend 2 hours commuting to and from every day when you can send that email from your couch at home? Some people just don’t get the distinction, some totally do. This will be the subject of another article…
Anyway, back to busy.
All of this is striking a nerve with me because I wasted a large portion of the year not focusing on working smarter. I had a client who pulled me astray from the life I have spent a long, hard time building. That was a mistake, but unfortunately one of those mistakes that is painfully obvious after the fact and very hard to see when he you’re in the midst of it all. I am focused on addressing this this coming year and making significant changes. Luckily I have another client that is a near-perfect fit for me and how I actually want, and need, to live. Great clients are out there people, just keep swimming to paraphrase from Finding Nemo.
I want to be really very busy this year. But not busy doing just work. I want to be busy working, obviously (and it helps that I love what I do) but I also want to be busy making art (the image at the top of this post is a drawing I made on my iPad a few months ago, part of my never-ending cityscape drawings…), busy eating amazing food with friends at lunchtime in the sun and discovering new wines. I want to be busy hanging out with my fiancé on the couch discussing our wedding plans. I want to be busy reading and expanding my ideas. I want to be busy making, thinking, staring off into space (an overlooked and most important time and activity for the creative person that gets squashed by big business who watch the clock, not the quality of the product). It should be noted that giving yourself the freedom to chase other things you love and spend time nurturing them, really lets you focus on working hard and better when it’s time to knuckle down. When I am working, I’m busting my ass… This is not a manifesto for laziness, quite the opposite – it is a way of life that lets you do as much as you can of what actually important…
All I’m getting at, really, is that we should change how we think about our time and our work and see being busy as more than work. The word business is from what you are literally busy with. But let’s take back what business is. Yes, it’s our work and our main form of how we keep ourselves busy making money to pay the bills and live but it also needs to be the act of living itself. And that needs to be nurtured and cherished.

A Moment Amongst the Creation of Exquisite Coffee

Ben, a South African artist and photographer makes a mean cup of coffee in the La Marzocco machine he rebuilt by hand.

Those unusual cup and saucer holders are fashioned out of steel piping. Ben likes to make stuff. Those giant prints in the background are also some of the things he makes. Those are going to be on show at the Johannesburg Art Fair later this year.

Thanks for the powerful and bracing coffee Ben. Slurp. Smile. Shudder. Repeat.

Harley-Davidson Street 750 – Thoughts and a mini-review

The Harley-Davidson 750 Street is a fun little bike with average finishing and horrible brakes.

As a bike that is designed for the urban rider as Harley are positioning it, it falls short in a lot of areas. It has a nice little engine that likes to rev and likes to go but how they neglected decent brakes on this thing is beyond me. Especially since you’ll be in and around traffic all the time on this (trust me you won’t want to take this on a long trip…) emergency braking should really have been the number one priority on this bike.

It is not. Instead, Harley decided to make it look cool and cut costs. The thing is, this cost cutting is very visible on the controls and finishing and the price isn’t nearly low enough considering the overall package. It’s retailing here in South Africa for just shy of R100,000 without any accessories. I feel this bike is about 30% too expensive.

There are simply better made bikes out there selling for similar prices. Yeah, it’s a Harley, with all the attached mystique and tradition, but I can’t help but feel that Harley are playing a little too strongly on that aspect of their brand. It’s a bit of a dangerous place to put your brand.

The ergonomics are average. The price is a tad high. The overall bike is fun but didn’t spark feelings of lust and desire inside me. It’s just fun for a short spin. I wouldn’t buy one. I was a little disappointed to be honest. But hey, Harley are selling a ton of these, so what do I know…? But, like I say in the video, I had fun and it’s a fun little bike.

Who knows, maybe it will grow on me. Now if I found one used at a decent price and that pipe already fitted….