Though this chap didn’t really have the flair or perhaps panache of a true barista. Well, he made a good coffee…

Canon F1N, Canon 50mm F1.8 “Chrome Nose”, Kodak Tmax100, (over?)developed for 13:50mins in #D76


Gwarra Gwarra Munisipaliteit – Promo pic

Always nice to see your work in magazines 
This is in the current Huisgenoodt advertising the Munisipaliteit van Gwarra Gwarra, an Afrikaans series I’ve been shooting stills on. Check it out, it’s really good and very funny.
Have you seen the show yet? Tell me your thoughts!
And if you’re interests in tech specs, this was shot on a ‪#‎Leica‬ M4-2, ‪#‎Leitz‬ 50mm f3.5 on ‪#‎Kodak‬ Portra 400

Review – Nelson Mandela Poster Exhibition

On the 17th of July, I attended the opening of the Mandela Poster Project at the University of Pretoria. There was lots of press and so I decided to take a different look at the exhibition: examine not just at the work but also at the people and their interaction with the posters.

Marking the statesman’s 95th birthday, which fell the following day, the exhibition is a collection of excellent work – each submission from a designer somewhere in the world culminating in a body of work rich in difference and held together by a common love and admiration of Nelson Mandela and his life’s work.

There was a curious sense of fate hanging over the display of work due to the timing of the exhibition. Mandela, now supposedly out of the worst of it, has been in hospital under close supervision. Aging noticeably in the last few years, this is no real surprise. Thrilled as I am, and the rest of the world too, that Mandela is doing better, I couldn’t help but wonder if indeed he would make it to the next day and reach his 95th birthday. Sombre I know. But nonetheless…

There were hushed mutterings and quite discussions. People seemed a little afraid to be too exuberant. Video cameras filmed the onlookers and presenters spoke with some of the artists and organizers. Photographers wondered around snapping away at the work and the people. Everyone there had their smart-phones out documenting every moment. They could have been a little part of history. In fact they were, just without much fanfare.

As fate would happily have it, Mandela did reach the milestone. All 95 of the posters sit comfortably representing a year in the great man’s life. Initially, the project orchestrators did not expect the massive response to the call for submissions that came flooding into their inboxes. They should have. Over 700 submissions came in. Awed at the number, the decision was made to organize along with a worldwide roaming exhibition of the 95 finalists, a special showcase of 500 of the total entries.
I spoke with a teacher who was there. He felt, unsurprisingly, that exhibitions like this should be in places where the youth and underprivileged could have access to the posters, so that they could be a part of the celebration and so that they could be educated and inspired. 

One of the artists, Gareth Steele, in front of his submission.
The work is good and a testament to an eminent man. Everyone was keen to get in on the act. The quality of the work was mixed, as it always seems to be at these crowd-sourced things. There was a healthy mix of strong design with clever use of negative space, colours and typography. There was also a smattering of the so-so. But this is not an art exhibition: this is a call for those who wanted to, to create a tribute to a man they revere. In this light, it is a huge success and some of the works are really wonderful pieces of design. 

But, Dear Administrators, marketing still matters. In an age where people expect social media and a famous name to launch an event to the top of the twitter-verse and everyone’s news-feed, the opening was small and sufficient and filled with those who already knew about it long in advance. I was lucky enough to be there, a guest of a Facebook ‘ticket winner’. Plus one for social media. I’d never have known about it otherwise. I just hope that other people, outside of a small room in a University with nice suits and polite opinions, get to see and enjoy the posters.

© D. Rosenthal 2013 All Rights Reserved.

little house BIG HOUSE

little house BIG HOUSE is a project I have been working on for a few months now. Here’s what it’s about:

Johannesburg is a city with high levels of crime. People live in fear and often have tales to back up the terrible and deplorable statistics, the accuracy of which are probably rounded down to censor public opinion. One of the remnants of the Apartheid regime is the massive discrepancy in wealth, education and housing. Johannesburg, just like many big cities in the world, has lush, leafy and exclusive suburbs a short drive away from squalor and decaying shantytowns. This is not unique: many big cities show the inequalities of a country in this crude and shocking way. But, because of South Africa’s past and complex history, it is a unique example of this phenomenon.
The rich live in mansions. The poor live in shacks. The middle class live somewhere in the middle, somewhere far closer to the rich.
Johannesburg’s suburbs, all of them walled, have a strange phenomenon: there are little houses outside the big houses where the poor guard the rich.
Set up as a deterrent to petty crime (and probably in principle but not actually to major crime) they are an effective and laudable effort. They provide jobs in a country with a pathetically high unemployment rate. They give residents a sense of security. But they are also a strange part, both literally and figuratively, of the landscape. They stick out but somehow also blend in.
Often equipped like tiny houses, they stand in stark contrast to the lavish homes they stand in front of. They have little stoves and little heaters for the cold winter and long nights. They have radios for entertainment and plastic chairs for comfort. Some of them even have windows.
But you will not really see the guards spending their time in these houses, or more correctly tiny wooden boxes. They are expected and paid to be guards and to be vigilant. They must patrol the street. Some companies have a system where the guards have to click a time-keeping box on either end of the street to ensure they are walking up and down that street, more chore than vigilance.
But these men, and very occasionally women, are a part of the modern psyche of the South African city. They have become ubiquitous and invisible.
But these are people. People who leave their difficult and unstable homes and communities each day to guard the homes of those more wealthy than themselves. They should not be faceless and nameless. This project is a very small effort to rectify that situation: for me (as a resident of the city), for those featured in this project (as the subjects) and for the viewers (as the audience and other residents of Johannesburg).

Shooting a Canon EOS camera with FD lenses

Lulu. Canon 5Dmk2, FD 50mm 1.8 @ 2.8, Sliver Efex Pro

So I have a niggling frustration. I feel like I may not be alone.

I have a wonderful collection of Canon FD glass built-up over a number of years. It started when my father gave me the beautiful FTb QL with 28, 50 and 135mm lenses. Since then I have grown the system to include the wonderful F1N and lenses from 20mm to 300mm. These are great lenses. I used the 20mm and the FTb to create the images for The Vacant Heart, one of my favorite series of art prints. I often marvel at the detail in these prints. Crisp, beautiful grain in the Ilford XP2 400 Super comes across fantastically in the A2 prints for that series. They were all shot at F4-F5.6.

Rose Silhouette, Canon 5Dmk2, FD 50mm 1.8 @ 2.8 

And so here is my frustration: I cannot really use these lenses on my EOS bodies. This makes me very unhappy. I can only imagine how those people who had built up a really amazing collection of FD lenses felt back in the late 80’s when Canon decided to move to the (incompatible with the FD mount) EOS mount. Me, I’d have lost my cool.

But fast forward to today and we have amazing auto-focus lenses on the EOS system. The FD lenses remain incompatible. They are in fact one of the most difficult lenses to use on a Canon EOS body. Ironic. They have too deep a lens flange distance to fit onto the EOS mount and so can only be used with an adaptor with a glass element to allow the lens to focus to infinity. Without the glass it is like a macro tube, not allowing for infinity focus. With the glass element you are faced with a 1,25 magnification of your chosen lens and quite hazy image quality wide-open.

I got the very nice Hama adaptor and decided to see if it was as dire as the internet had led me to believe. You know what? It’s not. It’s actually great.

Wide open, your lenses will be soft and hazy as reported. Use it as a creative effect I say! But stopped down a couple of clicks, the images are lovely. Unique even.

Self-portrait, Canon 5Dmk2, FD 50mm 1.8 wide open. focus on my eye, nothing is sharp…
Self-portrait, Canon 5Dmk2, FD 50mm 1.8 @ 2.8, focus on front of lens, super sharp, nice rendering of everything else. Must remember to smile in these…

You may not get bitingly sharp images till 5.6 or so, but you are rewarded with gentle and graceful images. In fact, the point of focus at 2.8 on my 50mm lenses is very, very sharp. At any of the lenses optimum apertures they are super sharp. Focus right on the less-than-ideal-for-manual-focus screens on the current EOS bodies and you will be handsomely rewarded. Oh, and focus is really enjoyable on these beautifully made old lenses. You need to invest in Zeiss to get this kind of tactile pleasure on your Canon now-days.

Using these as video lenses is great too.

Tiny Dried Roses, Canon 5Dmk2, Sigma FD 50mm 2.8 Macro.

But now, the manual-focus bug has bit and I may have to force myself to get an off-brand lens and use it with an adaptor that doesn’t even require a little glass element. Like maybe a Leica or a Contax portrait lens. Oh, dear. This may get expensive. But fun.

Or (please listen oh Canon Photo Gods) I will eagerly wait for the impending Canon mirrorless model that will allow use of all these gorgeous old lenses without crippling them. I’ve been waiting on this for years. But it seems the wait might be just about over. Please Canon, really. It’s time. And make it full-frame please.

Pablo, the super cute kitten, Canon 5Dmk2, FD 50mm 1.8 @ 2.8. Whiskers are sharp internet! 
Pablo, the super cute kitten, Canon 5Dmk2, Cosina FD 70-300mm F4.5-5.8 @F8, Even stopped down, this lens shows huge haziness… Whiskers are SUPER sharp though internet!  
50mm Face-off, Canon 5Dmk2, Sigma FD 50mm 2.8 Macro. Huge haze with this wide open but quite sharp…

50mm Face-off, Canon 5Dmk2, Sigma FD 50mm 2.8 Macro.  A bit of exposure, black point and contrast adjustment and things look swell.

Thanks for readin’.


Originally uploaded by Dan Rosenthal

This is my buddy Greg. Him, another friend Craig, and myself went out shooting B&W film in downtown Johannesburg.

I love to go exploring the city on quiet weekend mornings such as this. There’s a wonderful calm to a place that is usually very, very manic. Johannesburg, if you have never been there, is a very unusual city. It was a bustling hub of commerce and industry until about 25 years ago when all the big companies decided it was no longer safe and enticing for consumers and workers and so they all relocated to the place where the wealthy lived: the suburbs. This, coinciding with the social and political upheaval of the dying years of Apartheid, left the city run-down. There were huge pockets of squalor and the city became a dangerous, dark, off-limits place.

In the last decade, all that is changing. It’s still a place that is in need of a lot of love but there has been a resurgence of companies trickling back to the city and vibrant, exciting developments and refurbishments. It is becoming a place for the people again and not just the poor and desperate.

It is invigorating to walk these streets and see people setting up their informal shops selling food and goods on the side of the road in the early morning. It is exciting to experience a place that was in many ways inaccessible to a great many people for so long.

It makes me a proud South African to be living in a time when the city is returning to its former glory, This is a country of tremendous spirit and staying power. It’s quirky, different and energetic.

I love to take pictures of it. I love to document it’s resurgence, I love being a part of it.

Photo taken with a Ricohflex VII on Ilford FP4 125 B&W film.

Big Ben, Cigarette & Conversation

Big Ben, Cigarette & Conversation
Originally uploaded by Dan Rosenthal

Amongst the throngs of people snapping away at Big Ben across the Thames, were these two guys, in solemn debate and enjoying a cigarette. I don’t smoke but, if I was so inclined, this kind of scene would sell me a bunch more tobacco than glamorized and glossy adverts. Relaxation. Addiction too, but relaxation nonetheless… With our heads submerged in cell-phones and tablets, especially in a tourist hub like London – everybody is all to keen to rush to the shops, hit the must-see spots with your camera glued to your eye, frantically check that email, rush, rush, rush – it’s nice to see a little unscripted relaxation amongst the madness.

Canon digital, 50mm @ F1.8