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.  

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.

The Importance of the Headshot

Duncan McLeod, South African tech journalist, founder of TechCentral and Sunday Times columnist.

Headshots used to be the reserve of the professional model who needed an eye-catching and breathtaking instant-attention-grabber of an image to nail a job, or of CEO’s and other high-flying executives who need to convey a powerful image, literally, from the About Us section of a website.

Today, thanks to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, headshots are important for just about everyone.

And it’s time to update yours.

Naami Gottlieb, a South African actress and flautist.

All the traditional uses of the headshot are still common today – hi there models and business execs! – but they are now just as important for anyone representing themselves on the internet. Applying for a new job? I do hope your LinkedIn profile has a great, clean modern and engaging profile pic, professionally shot and lit, and not just a snap of you hanging out at a friend’s house after a few too many with a beer welded to your hand…

Branding is real and it’s moved from the concern of big corporates and vibrant start ups to the individual.

Craig Wilson, a good friend and Deputy Editor of Stuff Magazine, writer, speaker and general tech man-about-the-web.

We are all building our brands, everyday, across all the platforms we engage in online as well as little things like what shoes we wear and our choice in haircuts. It’s what Seth Godin refers to as the “story” we are telling. Is your story about fun and enthusiasm? Or is it about professionalism and reliability? These are choices we make and a lot of the time we spend saying and doing things online creates a big part of this story.

What a lot of people neglect, ironically, is the very first impression a lot of people get of us – our profile pic. If you think about how much time and energy we spend making our story and curating our brand, it’s crazy to slap a quick and so-so image up as our profile pic, the thing that most people will look at and make a powerful, and lasting, first judgement about us.

Graeme Sacks, a good friend and brilliant musician.

Another thing that you need to consider is the photographer that you end up choosing to take your headshots. You need to choose someone who does more than just sit you down and rattle off a few frames. You need someone who will connect with you.

One of the things I spend a lot of time doing with people that I photograph, is engaging with them, chatting and getting to know who they are and how to represent them, before even picking up the camera. I have the creative choices of which lens to use and how to shape my lighting to create a certain look to an image and I need to know who you are before I can try show that to the world. This is one of the things that makes portraiture such a hard discipline. Look at some of the great portraits and you’ll see an insight into that person. There is a connection between the photographer and the subject – the magic that happens for a moment during a shoot – that needs to happen and needs to be caught on film or photons.

Sivan Raphaely Patton, a South African actress and singer.

So update your headshot and choose a professional to give you an image that you can show to the world and make that story you’re trying to tell unfold naturally.

Make that first impression a beautiful portrait.

Changing Camera Systems at our Peril

I just answered a question on Quora that I thought would be fun to repost here.

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This was the question:
Has Anyone switched from a Full Frame DSLR Camera to an Micro 4/3 Camera Exclusively? And if so What have been your results? – The 2 cameras I am comparing is the Canon 5dMk3 and the Lumix Gh4 – I am a Fine Art Photographer and I shoot Events as well. (No Sports or Wildlife though)

This was my answer:

Yes, and I regret it, a bit – see below. But your milage may vary depending on needs…

I swapped my Canon 5D mk2 and L lenses for an OMD EM5 and a selection of lenses when it came out. Long story short, I lost money changing systems and have since lost even more rebuilding my Canon system! But the thing is I really wanted and needed a change, a fresh start and changing systems did that. I literally went through a ton of different camera systems in the 3 years since that change and have actually enjoyed the whole journey. I’ve even had times when I only had film cameras and made money with them. The (whole) road looked something like this:

Canon 350D, Canon 20D Canon 30D, Canon 5Dmk2, Olympus OMD EM5, Nikon D300, Sony NEX 5, Pentax K5, Mamiya RB67, Nikon D90, Canon 50D, Canon 5D Classic, Canon FTb, Sony NEX 6, Leica M4-2, Nikon F100, Nikon D80, Mamiya RZ67, Nikon V1, Canon 5D Classic.
Needless to say, my local camera store LOVES me.
But you know the thing that I realised somewhere along the way? The camera didn’t matter. Now I know this gets thrown around a lot but it is quite something to realise it. I looked back at my work and realised that my images had a look, a style and that no matter what system I was using, digital, film whatever, I was producing work that clients were paying for and I was happy to deliver.
The many changes did help me realise what elements are important to my work – control over depth-of-field, haptics, ergonomics, emotion in the tools – and this has given me a better understanding of the work I do.
So go ahead, but be warned: it may be the start of a fun, expensive and rewarding journey, where you try to end up back where you started. A little poorer, but also a little wiser.

Movement

A flourish as the artists leaps up from the bed on which I am about to be tattooed. Colour is reduced to objects. There is power in B&W. It makes the eye pause, slow down it’s movements, allows the brain to reflect, jarred at the abstraction from reality. There is movement in this place. The ink is moved from little bottles to under my skin. The tattoo gun pulsates furiously. The artist’s hand steady yet moving, ever so slowly. The soul moves to a different place as the tattoo becomes real. It can never return. It is changed forever.

The fingers move. The text tells tales to another person, somewhere. The nails are growing, ever so slowly. The cigarette burns. The ash moves achingly toward the filter, a thing which is made to inhibit movement of the smoke and of potential in the lungs. In a moment this scene is over, replaced by a cocktail and the hands relocated and used for other tasks. But not for long, they will return. For that is the pull of the smartphone on our minds and of the tobacco in our brains… From far enough away we could well all be statues.

Ghosts. And people. They talk to one another. The shutter is slow to open and close. My hands move, unsteady. There is an image that may well be just defective or able to see into another dimension. These people are still for now. Perhaps they will take each other home, perhaps they will break apart and never see each other again except for, maybe, a desperate FaceTime call, drunk-dialled a few nights from now, begging the other to take them back. tears will move down cheeks, eyes desperate to hold them back. Drinks are brought up to faces. Kisses are exchanged. Feet shuffle underneath stools, hands are wrapped around valuables in pockets and purses, fearful that they may be stolen as they relax their guard on a night out, looking for love and connection and alcohol. Soon, they will all move away. Go home. Closing time. Alone or with company. Move from this place. Return another night. A city-cycle, a person’s repetition ad nauseum. We choose the places we go and those places choose what to do with us. We move, back and forth, every day, in increments until our lives shift in heavy lunges, like plates crashing against each other and causing earthquakes. Until we are whole. Or close to whole. Then we look for more and move, ever so slowly – like ash on a cigarette, or ink under our skin, or a conversation with a stranger – in that direction.

Different and similar.

These two bikes are as different as they are similar. 
They are both black. They are both motorcycles. They both have a big, fat rear tyre. They are both fast and they can both get you hurt. 
But dig a little deeper and you’ll see that they are worlds apart. One is a Harley Davidson. One is a Honda. One American and the other Japanese. One is designed for speed and handling. The other prizes style and heritage. The people who choose one over the other are equally different. Literally worlds apart. 
The point is, to someone who doesn’t know bikes and doesn’t care, they are just two black bikes that are pretty much the same. People who live and breath motorcycles will see two entirely different worlds, never mind just bikes. 
We are all the person who sees two of the same – we all have our passions and knowledge of them, but we can’t know everything. And thats the key. Realize that and you’ll see more complexity in the world and be aware enough to slow down and dig that little bit deeper. 
Differences and similarities are everywhere. In everything. Just look. 

Urban Rebirth

A refresh, a face-lift, a change for the better.
This is the garage across the road from where I live. It is undergoing some change. I wonder if it will be radical or subtle, garish or beautiful Can a gas station be beautiful?

I love the green and orange. You see these colours in nature, in plants and flowers; on fish in ponds.

It is spring here in Johannesburg and all the trees are starting to bloom. Leaves and flowers after a dry winter. I feel like this rebirth of a garage is the city’s way of being one with the change of seasons.

Buy a print if you like: http://www.danrosenthal.net/36084/buy-prints

Thoughts on a Movie: In Bruges

This is not a movie review as such, more just some ramblings after watching the film for a second time.

Me and my fiancé are planning a trip overseas and are wanting to go to Bruges and so this movie was inevitable fodder and research and on our minds. I always find it interesting how a movie can shape ideas about a place, for better or worse. I’m sure Bruges can thank their lucky stars for the film since it is now a booming tourist hub. It helps when a Hollywood hit shows of the beauty of your previously obscure town. The place is now, happily for us tourists, brimming with hotels. Also, the hotels there seem to be of a high standard, at least if you put any weight in booking.com’s user reviews…
I really loved the score of the film. I was actually listening to it on Grooveshark the other day. Composed by Carter Burwell, is gives a lovely weight to the film and an effortless sense of beauty, melancholy and hope – strong themes in the movie. Also the song selections were equally well chosen and used. It is a pet hate of mine when a movie has a bad score. And by bad I mean overly evocative of the wrong emotions. I mean, the whole point of a score is to enhance the emotions of a film and if it brings up the wrong ones, well then that is just useless. It has surprised me how many films have oddly bad scores. How on earth does that even happen? With the amount of money that goes into a major motion picture, the chances of a less-then-brilliant composer being chosen and then proceeding to get a shitty score past the gatekeepers boggles the mind. Of course, I can’t think of a fitting example right now but I recall my recent shock and murderous rage at how unwatchable the music made what should have been a sad drama completely comical and uncomfortable because of it’s bouncy joviality. It was an odd experience watching that film. Must try think what it was. Anyway…
Another thing that bugs me is shakey camerawork. Yes, I know handheld camerawork is a creative choice but there was too much shake, almost jitter, in places. C’mon people, this is not guerilla film-making. Use a fucking tripod. This was made all the more noticeable when placed amongst stable and beautifully composed shots. A person favorite that my eyes just ate up is the shot of Ralph Fiennes and Brendan Gleeson walk away from the cafe where they were on the edge of klling one another and Gleeson telling Fiennes he’s just a great big massive cunt. Very funny dialogue and beautifully delivered. That scene of them walking away to the town square – with the twinkling lights in the distance, the out of focus flowers in the foreground and the lens just resting on the empty glasses on the table as the two characters walk away from camera to duel to the death – it’s just gorgeous. And not unbearably bloody shakey!
Colin Farrell gives a lovely performance of a man twisted up with grief, regret, violence and self-doubt. I love his jumps from child-like innocence and foolishness to deep self-hatred and confusion then right back to cocky bravado. Brilliant. 
A little sad, a lot of fun and touch of whimsey, this is a great movie. It reminded me a little bit of Sexy Beast: though it is very different indeed, there’s the dark comedy, the hitmen, the delicious british accents and the sense of being dropped into the twisted lives of a few characters only to watch them make a mess of the place and entertain you wonderfully along the way.

The Old Radio and Fake Plants

An old radio that may or may not work, used as display, it’s light glowing gently in the centre of its face. It feels proud but unloved. Probably. On either side, a plat in rich, luscious greens. Fake. The green is unfading forever. Japanese styled images on the pots. Pots that will never hold water and soil. Possibly. There is a Japanese fan, folded. It, unlike the pots and plants, must long for summer. The radio just sits there, glowing gently, waiting for someone to see if it still works.