There Is No Substitute

For reasons that will be obvious, there is no picture embedded in this post.

I was at a party about a week ago, at a house where a fair amount on art was posted on the wall, and a piece of art that caught my eye was a black and white photograph of a person on an old deserted city street. I was immediately struck by the quality of the print; the tones were liquid and luminous, inviting me into the print; the tonal range was amazing. In addition the matting, framing and overall presentation of the image was top-notch; putting everything together set a tone and mood that said “Stop. Look at this image. And take your time.”

The sad thing is that so little photography is encountered this way today; even drugstore-quality prints are rarely made these days; we are dominated by vast virtual photo albums on Facebook and yes, Flickr. We see photographs on monitors, the backs of digital cameras or maybe a digital photo frame; in every case the experience is lessened, and so many images deserve more.

On Inside Analog Film Radio, I hear the host say every week “You don’t have a photograph unless you have a print in your hand.” A little overstated perhaps, but there is a lot of truth in that statement; if a photograph never makes it past the virtual, how is it ever different from being a mere single frame from the endless digital movie, barely registering as we drink from the fire hose of inline content?

Here’s an idea: select one of your favourite images that you have never printed, and get it printed as a true photographic print (not a run-of-the-mill inkjet) at a decent size, say 11 x 14 inches.

You’ll be shocked at what you’ve been missing.


True Measures

I created this image in 2004 with my Canon Digital Rebel, in New Brunswick. I got up early to catch the light at the exact right time, and I guess I was successful; I do like this image.

Sunrise On the Rocks

However, this is the kind of subject matter that I find hard to deal with; how does one try to say something new, instead of ending up with a pretty cliche, such as this image?

The true measure of a photographer is what he or she can  do with subject matter that is not pretty. For me, a perfect example of this is Irving Penn’s cigarette butt still life. If an artist can make a cigarette butt interesting, I’d say that’s a pretty good measure of the talent involved.

Concrete and Asphalt

Scarborough, Ontario, has been given (often unfairly) a reputation of being rather bleak. There are many areas of hidden beauty within Scarborough, but there is still plenty of concrete and asphalt, and in this image of the Kennedy Subway station passenger drop-off, it felt to me like a decayed echo of a space age vision; a future which did not gracefully become the present.

Subway Kiss and Ride, Scarborough, Ontario Canada

Nikkormat FT2, 24mm f2.8 lens, Ilford XP2+ film

Timewarp Tuesday: One In a Million?

Today’s image “from the vault” is one I had forgotten about, and it is in so many ways from a different era: first, it is from a Toronto Blue Jays game in the early 1980’s, back when they played at the horrible Exhibition stadium. On the positive side, back then you could get a really good ticket (like I had for this game) for a reasonable price. You could also get a really horrible ticket for $1.50 in the outfield seats.

I was shooting Ektachrome for this game, push processed to either E.I. 400 or 800, and the shot below, snapped just as the bat was about to hit the ball, was one in a million. One advantage of my old Yashica SLR (compared to so many digital cameras) was no shutter lag; shutter lag would have made this picture impossible.

Jays at Exhibition Stadium, 1980's

Getting Inside What is Happening

Another one of those “the best camera is the one you have with you” moments. Yesterday, around 6 pm we were rehearsing for Evensong at St. Thomas’ Church in Toronto, and as we are getting closer to the Fall, the sun is lower in the western sky, and was streaming through a window, illuminating the choir. When the basses (including me) weren’t singing for a moment I pulled out my iPhone and snapped a couple of images.


Many photographers have said that the key to a good photograph is getting closer; I had the good fortune to actually be inside what was happening here.  If I had pulled out a large, loud SLR I’m not too sure the conductor would have been too thrilled though.

A Civil Religious Debate

I was around Yonge and Dundas in Toronto last weekend with my old Nikkormat film camera, when I saw the religious debate pictured below. It was certainly a spirited discussion, but it did not come to blows, or result in any acts of terrorism or wars of aggression.

Given how many places in the world where this kind of discourse would be sadly unthinkable, it’s just one more reason why I am happy to live in Toronto

A Civil Religious Debate