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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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….

Follow-up – Mandela Poster Exhibition

I received the following response to the review I wrote about the Mandela Poster Exhibition from one of the organisers, Jacques:

Hi Dan 


Thanks for your review. Our small volunteer team only conceptualised the project two and a half months ago and it is therefore a miracle that we managed to assemble such a large international collection (more than 70 countries) in 60 days.  


The Project made news around the world, with television coverage from all the major international networks and newspapers from six continents paying attention including CNN, BBC, Channel 4, Sky News, Arab News, Fox News, CTV, India Times, Hollywood Reporter and Washington Post to mention just a few. 


The exhibition of 95 curated posters has already started travelling to various venues. By the end of December it would have been shown at UP (Pretoria), Turbine Art Fair (Johannesburg), HP head office (Johannesburg), SA Innovation Summit (IDC Johannesburg), Open Design Expo (Cape Town City Hall), Johannesburg City Library, TEDxSoweto, TEDxJohannesburg, Peacemakers Museum (Sandton), TEDxEuston (London)and the Icograda General Assembly (Montreal). We are currently working with other interested hosts to bring the exhibition to Port Elizabeth, Cairo, Tokyo, New York, Mexico City, Rome and others. We are open to discuss any other exhibition invitations and we would love for it to be shown in rural communities as well. 


Regards

Jacques  

(on behalf of the Mandela Poster Project Collective)


I’m glad to see that the organisers are indeed making sure that the project does the necessary rounds and I appreciate the response from them. If it manages to head all the way to Tokyo, Rome and Mexico City – all the better!


I realise I neglected to link to the official website of the project in the last post. you can see it here.



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.

Quick Review – Thoughts on the Olympus OM-D and 45mm F1.8


Babushka

This is a fine example of the wonderful combination of the Olympus OM-D EM5 and the scintillating little 45mm F1.8. With very few adjustments in Aperture, the colours of the image just sing. There is tons of subtlety in tones and texture. The bokeh is superb and graceful.

When flirting with the idea of whether to change systems from Canon to Olympus, my biggest concern was the portrait focal length. My main work is portraiture and I was very comfortable with the exceptional combination of the 5D Mark 2 and the 100mm F2. Ideally, obviously, I would have just kept both and had two great systems. But I was also looking to simplify. What struck me most about the Olympus set-up was when I held the tiny 45mm in my hand. It was shockingly small. The 100mm Canon is a compact full-frame lens but compared to the 45mm it was like a weapon, a cannonball, compared to an ornament.

I still prefer the 100mm focal length to the 90mm equivalent of the 45mm. But the different is slight. In fact, in getting the same tight framing I so enjoy, I am forced to move a foot closer to my subjects. That and the smallness of the OM-D actually create a sense of intimacy. The 100mm – a huge hunk of glass – mounted on the 5D – a big hunk of camera – was fairly intimidating on subjects. Some of them even said so. And let’s not even go into when I used the 85mm 1.2L of the 70-200 F2.8L… The difference is noticeable. Some for the better and some for the worse. Some people still expect a huge camera to equal good results. For the most part though, I can feel a sense of calm when photographing people. Especially in portrait sittings but also at a wedding. I’ve only used the OM-D as my main camera at one wedding so far, but it was so inconspicuous I felt and looked like a guest watching the proceedings rather than a big, giant distraction to the guests wielding a huge camera and lens with more in tow – a look and presence I’ve seen some event and wedding shooters obviously relish. That’s obnoxious. Don’t do that people…

Back to the lens. The 45mm M.Zuiko is a treat. I’ve never really understood the term ‘gem of a lens’ (even though I used it a lot with the Canon 35mm 1.4L…) till I held and used this lens. It’s like the small rangefinder ‘gems’, I expect: very small and very high quality. If only it was as well made as the 75mm Olympus. And let’s not even get started on Leica build quality…

It really is exceptionally good. All the reviews and discussions on it didn’t actually prepare me for it. It is a lens that is just wonderful. I almost said ‘perfect’ and would have except for the plastic instead of metal construction. It does what it is supposed to do very, very well. It is sharp when you need it to be and graceful when you need it to be. It can throw backgrounds out of focus with subtle, splendid, delightful character or be so damn sharp everywhere it is a recording tool showing every little bit.

I’m gushing. Sorry about that. But I can’t help it.

I feel the same with the OM-D. What a stunning little camera. It really has brought about all the promise of digital – small size, high quality, great noise performance, great lenses. And it brings back some of the delights from the days of film cameras made to last: beautiful build quality and great ergonomics.

But now I want more lenses. I must have them. I want them all.

More to come…

Canon 1nRS – User Review

A few years ago I acquired the marvelous Canon EOS 1nRS. There was not too much information online about this glorious marvel of a camera. This review aims to change that. At least there’ll be one more review than there was…

This, like my other reviews, will be a user’s experience of the camera. Specs are out there if you want em. Google is your friend.

As you might have correctly guessed by now, I friggen love this camera. It is unique and has character – buckets full. The first thing that sets this camera apart is that it has a pellicle mirror, something Canon (I believe) first introduced into the world of photography with the Pellix back in the day and what Sony is now calling it’s Translucent Mirror technology in it’s new SLT cameras like the A99. It is part of the EOS 1n series of professional cameras. There were a few models, some without a grip some with it as an option. This, with the designation RS, was the only model with both the grip permanently attached and with the pellicle mirror.

The reason for this was to allow the 1nRS to shoot at a blistering 10 frames per second. In other words, if you are a film masochist, you can blaze though a roll of 36 exposures in a little over 3 seconds. Wowsers. I’ve needed and used this feature once.

The lovely side effects of this technology gave us what is a gem of a camera: no shutter black-out and no mirror-slap. These are, aside from the lack of previewing the depth of field and having more of the image than is captured in view, the things that people cite when explaining/waxing lyrical about the advantages of rangefinders. Also, rangefinders are teeny-tiny compared to the 1nRS. It’s a hulk. So with no mirror slap you are able to hand-hold this bad-boy at shutter-speeds you really shouldn’t be able to and the fact that the viewfinder doen not black out during exposure lets you actually see what you are capturing. As it happens. Wowsers number 2. Add to this the advantages of an SLR – seeing what is in focus, seeing what your lens choice is doing to the scene, seeing the actual framing, long lenses etc – and you have a truly wonderful tool.

As a portrait shooter, this is a dream camera. The built-in grip makes portrait orientation a natural change in grip rather than sticking your elbow out in the air (waving it around like ya just don’t care), the shutter is soooo quiet and discreet, and you can see your subjects expressions change and quickly grab another shot with the stupid-sensitive shutter, which by the way has one of the lowest lag-times of any camera. Wowsers number 3. Plus, I get to use my dream portrait lens, the Canon 100mm F2,  on this and make utter magic.

The best part of this camera is that it shoots film. you know, that stuff that you used to squeeze into cameras? Kinda smells funny? Colours and contrast and grain that makes you want to do a jig? That’s the stuff. With some of the finest lenses on the planet in full autofocus. It’s almost strange to have this level of refinement in a film camera – we are led to believe that film = old and crusty. Well I got news for you, I sometimes just take out this camera just to touch and caress it. Not so much with my 5D mark 2… The 1nRS is beautiful. Beautiful to hold, a seamless joy to shoot and a pleasure to own.

Enough talkin’. Here’s some photographs taken with my 1nRS whose name, I should add, is Betty. I call her Big Betty. But not to her face.

I love you Betty.

The Revolution Will Not be Televised, Jaffa, Israel. Canon 35mm 1.4L

Hardware Strore Man, Israel. Canon 35mm 1.4L

Wedding Prep, Canon 50mm 1.4

Johan, Canon 50mm 1,4

The Flower with the Hard-to-Spell Name, Canon 50mm 1.4

Scene from a Decor Shoot 1, Canon 35mm 1.4L

Scene from a Decor Shoot 2, Canon 14mm 2.8L