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Author Topic: HC-B's Decisive Moment  (Read 10366 times)
Rob C
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« on: September 15, 2010, 09:56:01 AM »
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Thanks to a link supplied here in the thread on great sites (the rangefinder link), I watched a video interview with the Man. Now, the classic 'moment' depicted in his shot of the puddle-jumper, made through the planks of a fence, was featured during the interview and, guess what: HC-B claims that it was all down to pure luck - a shot in the dark.

The claim, precisely, is that he was able to put the camera lens into the space between planks, but that the viewfinder was blanked out (slr, Henri - even an Exakta?) and he couldn't see a damned thing. The interviewer remarked that it had been amazing luck, to which HC-B replies that it is all pure luck. He goes on to say that he couldn't care less about 'light' and that it is 'geometry' that rings his chimes.

He also states that if you go out looking for something, you won't find it. (Note, all street shooters!) Very interesting, but no, not dumb; was the old gentleman having us all on? Old, but certainly with what seemed an impish sense of humour.

Wish I'd known him.

Rob C
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RSL
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« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2010, 12:48:34 PM »
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Rob, If you've ever done any street shooting you know that he was right on all counts. It certainly is all pure luck, but the trick is to be there when the luck happens. That means spending a lot of time on the street with a camera in your hand. He's also right that if you go out looking for something you won't find it. What you do when you go out is look, and respond reflexively if luck happens. In another book HCB expands on not caring about the light. He doesn't say he doesn't care about the light. He says he prefers diffused light -- overcasts -- because that lets him move around his subject. Makes sense to me.
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Rob C
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« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2010, 02:09:30 PM »
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Rob, If you've ever done any street shooting you know that he was right on all counts. It certainly is all pure luck, but the trick is to be there when the luck happens. That means spending a lot of time on the street with a camera in your hand. He's also right that if you go out looking for something you won't find it. What you do when you go out is look, and respond reflexively if luck happens. In another book HCB expands on not caring about the light. He doesn't say he doesn't care about the light. He says he prefers diffused light -- overcasts -- because that lets him move around his subject. Makes sense to me.


That 'overcast' is what made outdoor fashion quite easy in Scotland; here, in Spain, it would be far more difficult to control. But then, most of us shooting women for cals worked mainly during the magic slot just after sunrise and before sunset, but often, with a heavy load of shots, that just had to be forgotten simply to finish the job. Nothing is easy!

However, I'm feeling that street is not going to be my new interest for the very reason you mentioned: paucity of winning shots. Seems a hell of a price to pay, all that energy and personal risk... Also, I believe increasingly that it's a genre that belongs to the city, not some sleepy little island town. And Palma is too full of gypsies and pickpockets to encourage an old geezer like me to risk it. The damn insurance company only covers stuff if stolen from home! I have started to leave my watch at home whenever I have to go to the big smoke.

Rob C
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« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2010, 06:03:04 PM »
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Rob, Yes, for the most part I like diffused light on the street too. On the street I figure I'm doing pretty well if I get one really fine shot a year, but in spite of that it can be fun. Between my previous post and this one I spent an hour on the street of my not-so-sleepy-during-tourist-season town. Here are three shots from that walk. None of them are especially good, but I enjoyed shooting them anyway. Of course you have to be careful anywhere, but it sounds as if you have to be especially careful in your current environment. I don't leave my watch home, but I have a Seiko that's a couple decades old.
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jeremypayne
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« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2010, 06:23:52 PM »
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I totally agree on geometry vs. light ... shapes and composition catch my eye, not "light" ... and not just on the street.

I appreciate "light" ... but I seek out shapes and lines ...

Like this:

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Rob C
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« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2010, 11:45:50 AM »
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Russ, one fine shot a year is a hell of a reward for a year's work!

I have been thinking a bit more about the HC-B interview where the puddle shot gets put down to luck and I can't really decide if the Man was kidding or just telling the truth. I find it beyond chance that the timing could be down to luck, any more than that the framing was done 'blind' and getting both to happen in one shot stretches my credulity to snap!

With your shots posted just now, I do see what you are doing, but it puts my mind into the old question of the why, that I think I raised in a thread here some time ago.

It also fits the same point that Fred made in the Motivation thread: what would be the point of doing a series of mock fashion shots with an amateur model?

In both disciplines, the only validation I can see is the fact of the assignment, the commission. Not only does that bring home the bacon, which is the prime motivator to doing anything that you use with which to earn your living, but the fact of the assignment massages your ego: somebody thinks you good enough to want to pay you! It's the external validation that is essential. Almost without pause it brings back again the Terence Donovan quotation: the most difficult part of photography for the amateur is finding a reason to make a photograph.

Loving photography does not seem sufficient motive, to me; there needs to be something more.

Rob C
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« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2010, 01:03:45 PM »
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Rob, First, from what I've read, "Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare," which is the title of that shot, wasn't something HCB made by sticking his camera through a fence. His book, Scrapbook, which his second wife, Martine Franck, salvaged, has a more expanded version -- I don't have time to go upstairs and look right now, but I think it's a version of the contact sheet. What that shows is a post off to the left that he didn't have time to move away from. I think he was walking down the alley, saw the guy about to jump off the end of the board, lifted his camera and shot. I've done enough snap shots like that to know exactly what it's like. I can feel what he did. The "luck" he's talking about is the luck you have when suddenly you see something like that. Once you see it, making the shot isn't luck. It requires that you be absolutely familiar with your equipment. If you have to think -- about anything: the camera, the lighting, etc., you've lost the shot.

I agree with Fred. There wouldn't be any point in doing a mock fashion series with an amateur model. But street photography is different. You're not setting anything up. You're looking for something that makes you respond on the spur of the instant. For me, loving it is sufficient. The reason I'm such a lousy marketer is that I just don't give a damn about selling prints. Oh, it's nice when I do, but it's nothing like the rush I get when I catch something I really like. It's pretty easy to put together a collection of shots to send to a contest, but it's a hassle to try to convince a gallery owner that she'd like to carry my stuff on consignment, so I don't do much marketing. I'd much rather spend my time out on the street looking for the year's winner: like "Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare."

But I know that's not for everyone. Most people would rather do things like landscape where they have plenty of time to set everything up, don't have to worry about someone speaking nastily to them, and hope to end up with something pretty to hang on the wall. For the most part my walls have people on them. They're not awfully pretty, but to me they're beautiful. As I've said before, I think people and their artifacts are a hell of a lot more interesting than rocks and vegetables.
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Rob C
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« Reply #7 on: September 16, 2010, 02:13:33 PM »
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That is pretty unsettling then, Russ. In the video he says one thing, which I think I also read in a magazine or book - probably in French PHOTO - and now you have another version, also in print! It leads me to wonder if he even used the odd paid models now and again, though I do accept that most of what I've seen would preclude that. Either way, the touch to getting the image cannot be denied.

Regarding landscape - one of the first problems I'd encounter is that most of the good stuff I've seen comes from mountaineers. Never, in a thousand years! Nuttin' good comes cheap seems to be true; but I'd hate to pay with my neck!

I agree with you that people are probably more interesting - obviously I must - but that's complicated by the fact that I want them to be beautiful, too; I already know what the girls next door looked like, and so does everybody else. One thing I discovered a long time ago is that as a species, we are generally not all cast in the most beautiful of moulds; indeed, it's the very fact that makes the exceptions so different and noticeable. And powerful, should they wish to exercise it.

Rob C
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #8 on: September 16, 2010, 03:02:34 PM »
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... the old question of the why... the only validation I can see is the fact of the assignment, the commission. Not only does that bring home the bacon, which is the prime motivator... but the fact of the assignment massages your ego: somebody thinks you good enough to want to pay you! It's the external validation that is essential...the most difficult part of photography for the amateur is finding a reason to make a photograph...

Rob, the above is dangerously close to the following parallel: the difference between professional and amateur photographers would then be the same as making love to someone you love, and being paid for it. Are you now claiming the title of the oldest profession in the world for professional photographers? Wink
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Slobodan

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« Reply #9 on: September 16, 2010, 04:29:05 PM »
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I agree with you that people are probably more interesting - obviously I must - but that's complicated by the fact that I want them to be beautiful, too; I already know what the girls next door looked like, and so does everybody else. One thing I discovered a long time ago is that as a species, we are generally not all cast in the most beautiful of moulds; indeed, it's the very fact that makes the exceptions so different and noticeable. And powerful, should they wish to exercise it.
Rob C

Rob, I'll see if I can remember to track down the expanded version of HCB's shot in Scrapbook tonight. That's an interesting book by the way, it has some alternative versions -- I guess we could call them outtakes -- of some of his most famout shots.

I like beautiful girls too -- always have. But what I find most interesting in street shots is more than plain beauty. Facial expressions can be interesting and revealing, but even more, interactions between people and people or interactions between people and their environment are what make for good street shots. Here are three from today's walk downtown. Again, they're not particularly good shots, but they help to illustrate what I'm saying. #1 is a pretty girl with friends and a smoke. She strikes me as pretty enough to be a model. But is she as interesting as the guy in #6 who's walking down the street wearing a skirt and packing a 45?, or the bright-looking young man in the middle left of #7? I'll let you decide.
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Rob C
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« Reply #10 on: September 16, 2010, 04:42:26 PM »
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Slobodan, if you mean getting paid for making love to somebody you already love, that wouldn't be prostitution, it would be the icing on the cake.

But, on the other hand, many old pros (photographers, I mean) do think of themselves, in more lucid moments, as old whores; God knows what old paparazzi think of themselves.

But seriously - I assume the point that you raised above was not serious - getting paid is not only about the money and what it can buy, it is also about validation, that pat on the back that you very seldom get directly from a client if only because he fears it will make you more brave next time you quote for a shoot. But his wallet speaks for him.

I guess that for the amateur psychologists here (aren't they all?) it would translate into a need for love; well that's okay too: can't get too much of a thing like that these days. I noted this afternoon that, on the terrace next door, there were four women in their forties. I also noted that that translated into eight breasts and that not even two of anybody's were to be found on my terrace. So yes, there can never be too much love to go around. It never was a fair world, and even the socialists failed to address those problems in their manifesto. If you didn't laugh at life you would end it.

Rob C
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feppe
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« Reply #11 on: September 16, 2010, 04:47:34 PM »
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I noted this afternoon that, on the terrace next door, there were four women in their forties. I also noted that that translated into eight breasts and that not even two of anybody's were to be found on my terrace.

Rob, you truly are a unique snowflake Cheesy
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Rob C
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« Reply #12 on: September 16, 2010, 05:02:48 PM »
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Russ, working backwards, as is my wont, I appreciate the humour in your later caption about the bright-looking young man (I am certain I saw him - or a close relative in that extended family - in Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow one day); the chap in the skirt is obviously looking for you anyway, and the chick in the minidress, sitting like that, is not going to object to the attention!

Okay, I surrender: it can be fun if you find the right people. I suppose I shall have to try again, which is more than I discovered is possible for two friends of a guy I sometimes eat beside. Turns out he had a pilot pal in England who tried to land a Tiger Moth downwind; another one lent his Piper (a twin-engined version) to another pilot, watched him take off with a couple of passengers, watched one engine catch fire and then the pilot try to turn into the bad engine. No, neither were great ideas at the time.

Makes laughing at life even more the only way to fly treat it.

Rob C
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Rob C
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« Reply #13 on: September 16, 2010, 05:08:19 PM »
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Rob, you truly are a unique snowflake Cheesy


On that happy note, as it's already five-past-midnight, I'd better get to bed before I melt.

;-)

Rob C
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #14 on: September 16, 2010, 05:28:22 PM »
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... getting paid for making love to somebody you already love, that wouldn't be prostitution, it would be the icing on the cake....

It is actually known as... marriage, which cynics would call a legalized prostitution anyway Wink
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Slobodan

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Rob C
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« Reply #15 on: September 17, 2010, 02:24:30 AM »
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It is actually known as... marriage, which cynics would call a legalized prostitution anyway Wink


I'm probably as cynical as it gets, but I really can't subscribe to that view of marriage at all. I see where the 'ugly sisters' might use it as an excuse for not having been asked, but otherwise, I can think of nothing better than a good marriage. It's even better than sex.

Rob C
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #16 on: September 17, 2010, 08:10:40 AM »
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... I can think of nothing better than a good marriage...

Granted. Lets just say I was talking more about bad marriages, marriages of convenience, trophy-wife marriages, gold-digging marriages, etc.
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Slobodan

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Rob C
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« Reply #17 on: September 17, 2010, 09:36:42 AM »
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Oh, I'd never marry a woman for her money!

Rob C
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« Reply #18 on: September 17, 2010, 09:45:37 AM »
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I'm probably as cynical as it gets, but I really can't subscribe to that view of marriage at all. I see where the 'ugly sisters' might use it as an excuse for not having been asked, but otherwise, I can think of nothing better than a good marriage. It's even better than sex.

Rob C

Rob, Hear, hear! Marriage is a difficult institution, something a lot of members of our younger set here in the U.S. don't seem to understand. Many of them think Marriage will be all sweetness and light and personal rewards, and when it isn't, instead of accepting the lumps that go with working it out they jump immediately to divorce, leaving the kids in the lurch. What they don't understand is the rewards that accompany the powerful bonds that grow between people who've gone through a lot of little heavens and hells together. In less than a month and a half I'll celebrate my 58th. I wouldn't trade my bonds for anything I can imagine in Heaven or earth. Which is one reason I grieve with you when I think that you've lost your own companion.
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #19 on: September 17, 2010, 11:03:07 AM »
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Oh, I'd never marry a woman for her money!

And that is why amateur photographers do what they to, for the love of it, not money. Amateur = origin from Latin amator ‘lover,’ from amare ‘to love.’

And to respond to Terence Donovan, if amateurs were having such difficult time finding the reason to photograph, they would be extinct by now.

In a broader sense, there are three basic human motivators: achievement, power (often coinciding with money), and social interaction (a version of which you would call external validation). Amateurs are mostly in the first (i.e., achievers) and third category (socializing in camera clubs, competitions, Flickr). Pros would be mostly in the second (money) and third (external validation through fame).

Russ, congrats on your 58th!
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Slobodan

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