Posted by: David Vernon | August 11, 2009

A Tuesday Roll

Sunset with Spouse - Lake Michigan

Do you get the feeling there might be a theme to this week? Defining the importance of photography or why we make the image perhaps?

¶ Steve McCurry wrote a nice article about the legacy of landmark photographer W. Eugene Smith. Smith shot for all the big magazines of the day: Newsweek, Look, Life. He covered the Second World War in the Pacific Theatre and is credited “as perhaps the originator and arguably the master of the photo-essay” (from Wikipedia). Smith made a famous image of 20-year old Tomoko Uemura when he did a photo essay on mercury poisoning in Japan. The photo – not generally shown any more – can be seen in the archives at the Masters of Photography website. It is as stunning as it is memorable. McCurry writes:

“During the Minamata project, Smith produced one particularly profound image which anyone who has seen it will never forget. The photograph shows a mother bathing her daughter, a young girl (her name was Tomoko Uemura), who suffered extreme birth defects and mental retardation from the poisoning. The depth of tenderness, compassion and selflessness displayed by the mother is a gift to all who view the image.

To me, that image,  represents Smith’s unique ability to combine the eye of a photographer and the attitude of an artist with raw honesty and uncompromising integrity.”

One of Smith’s quotes summarizes his philosophy:  “What use having a great depth of field, if there is not an adequate depth of feeling?”. Consider that when you press the button.

¶ When we teach the lighting class at the Peoria Art Guild, we spend a few minutes talking about balance. In this case, balance is the relationship between the lit part of the image and the ambient part of the image. It is not atypical to knock the ambient down to draw attention to the subject who is lit. But it is ALSO not atypical to match the ambient with the lit part of the picture, giving the subtle effect that nothing has been lit at all. Photographer Chase Jarvis threw together a great blog post on doing just that. It’s a great introduction to achieving balance within your… balance.

¶ While we’re mentioning the masters of lighting – let’s take a moment to revisit Mr. Dave Hill. Hill has recently redone his website and has just a ton of behind-the-scenes videos. Once you look at his images, and then the BTS stuff – you can start to see the basis for how he covers the great distance from capture to finished image. Worth a look.

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