jonathan pearlman

jonathan pearlman

FINE ART Photography

Photography websites suck....

Here's a link to a favourite blog

Lewis speaks my kind of language - literally and figuratively. I love the way he dismantles those ridiculous web pages that tell us how dreadful we must be at taking photographs. Their advice is mostly rubbish and should be ignored with vigour. 

A friend (also a fan of my work, so yay for me) once asked if I could pass on tips to taking really good photographs (notice how I paraphrased this question? She probably asked how she could take 'good' photographs). I replied that I have just three entries in my photographic rule book: frame it right, keep it simple and as you press the button close your eyes and hold your breath.

A few months ago, I bought a most handsome two volume set of books celebrating Alfred Stieglitz's 'Key Set.'  There, in volume two, are some of his most ground-breaking prints from the series 'Equivalents.' Page after page after page of images of clouds; and as I got impatient and (I hate to admit this) bored, it dawned on me that I was disseminating the images from a most totally ill-informed vantage point. I was looking at Stieglitz prints through the eyes of an adult living in the 21st Century.

Steiglitz's 'Equivalents' was ground-breaking because it was, technically, brilliant; both from his and my time. Now, anyone can take a photograph of clouds. I don't have any issue with this; photography is democratic, and that's my point. But today's Box Brownie is a camera so powerful and so intuitive we have lost sight of what photography is really all about. "You take the photograph, we'll do the rest" was the mantra from Kodak in the early 20th Century.

I am, photographically speaking, illiterate. I have grappled with its mysterious by-ways for over 40 years and I'm now no nearer to fully understanding what I'm doing than I was when I started.  Except for this: I take much better photographs now than when I first started out. I have done my fair share of research, research, research on the 'net and I think I'm fairly intelligent enough to sift the crap from the wheat. But it has taken many years of trial and error and years of self-study to get this far. That I succeed in spite of myself and despite the musings and convolutions over the Internet, is testament to this: that the taking of the image is not, in itself, the finish of the photograph. This was the Stieglitz way - and it pre-dates computer software down through seven generations. But it is in the execution of the three disciplines - taking the photograph, developing the film and fixing the shadows - that the craftsman learns the real art of photography. It is simplicity personified; yet it takes years to master.

Just to emphasise my point: I recall a discussion I once had with a German printer (a man, not a machine by the way). He had been involved in printing photography for over 50 years and told me of many of the greats he had printed for. One thing never ceased to surprise him during his career: that the great and important images he had processed were borne out of generally crap negatives!

The digital age has nicely pulled photography back into the realm of the democrat. Now, Nikon and Canon et al ask that you need do nothing more than take the photograph and they'll do the rest. How much further you need to travel along your learning curve is entirely up to you.  

Which brings me, neatly and unsurprisingly, to my love for the Kiev range of cameras.

The Kiev 60 (the mighty brick) and the Kiev 88 film cameras were designed, I'm sure, with just me in mind. Uncomplicated in a way that loudly and proudly pre-dates the Internet , the cameras are what they are, with all their quirks and their unpredictability and in their simplicity of execution. They are borne from the wells of a most oppressed society and yet are decidedly most democratic.  They speak my language - "click, clunk."

I could never have learned that on the Internet. 


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