One of the most difficult things to do when creating art is to get the hell out of the way. The art of photography has a leg up on, say, writing, when it comes to minimizing editorialization. Many—myself included—would argue art is all about the artist injecting the self into the art. No argument against that here. It’s a question of how much and how well-crafted the editorialization is, and how well it strikes a compelling balance with the subject matter. The success of these two individually and in harmony enable us to love the art or quickly forget the art.
It’s not an unreasonable statement to claim the art of documenting something with a camera lands slightly closer to an idealized bullseye of pure objectivity than interpreting the same thing with dance or music or painting. Photographers have almost countless tools at their command to force a narrative on every image they produce. Whether you are TimWolcott on your hands and knees in a field with a series of framing cards or Mary Ellen Mark directing subjects while street shooting or anyone applying Curves to an image in Photoshop, photographers make viewers see what they want us to see. The very presence of imposing a frame on any scene edits the rest of the world out of the subject matter. This is editorializing the art of taking a photograph, and with that act, the artist has injected their subjectivity into the shot.
Armed with a Mamiya 645, a Phase One digital back, and a 120mm macro lens, Mathers photographed eyes. This project confirms what humans have known since before recorded time: eyes are astounding. In Mathers’ images we can see everything from contact lenses to the stunningly delicate epithelium and stroma, the latter two giving each iris their unique and amazing color variations.
At the conclusion of the video, it’s implied the subjects photographed are photographers themselves. Awesome concept and superb execution, Landon! See more of Mathers’ work at his site.
Photographer Bruno Axhausen recently created a blog post about some film shooting he’d been up to last year. Axhausen was shooting a Mamiya 645 with film, and really enjoying himself. “Falling in love with shooting medium format film,” is how he puts it, and promised more to come.
Way to go, and nice work, Bruno. We look forward to seeing more.
Joey Lawrence was recently covered by The Travel Photographer blog for his work in Ethiopia’s Omo Valley. Often known professionally as Joey L., Lawrence is credited with shooting the Omo Valley Portraits with a Mamiya 645 and an 80mm prime lens.
Known for photographing environmental portraits of native tribes particularly in Africa, Lawrence also shoots commercial work. His blog features three DVDs of behind the scenes and documentary work. Take a look to see some beautiful work.
Orange County, California photographer Craig Norris just posted a cool story about his Christmas present, a Mamiya 645. Within five minutes of getting it, he had it loaded with Fujichrome Provia 400X, and was firing away. He also shoots high ISO Ilford film and Kodak Ektar 100 film, and claims “virtually zero color correction” when he scanned the latter.
He also peppers the post with portraits shot on different films. Nice work, Craig, and enjoy your Mamiya!
Geordie Wood first got his hands on a Mamiya camera while attending the Newhouse School at Syracuse University, beginning his academic career as a Photojournalism major. It was there the Winchester, Massachusetts native used an RZ67 with a Phase One back and a 645 AFD II with a Leaf back. Wood was the winner of a MAC-on-Campus Award while an undergrad. “Eventually, I got more into studio portraiture and fashion photography,” explains Wood. “I started using a Sekonic light meter, and I really fell in love with the timbre and rhythm of working with film. The pacing allows you time to think, which is something I couldn’t do personally with shooting digitally.”
Wood assisted Steve McCurry in New York, photographer of one of the most iconic photographs of the 20th Century, Afghan refugee Sharbat Gula. Wood was influenced by Alex Majoli, Alex Webb, and other Magnum photographers who made excursions into remote parts of the world and came back with rolls of brilliant photographs. He wanted nothing more than to become a photojournalist.
After graduating from Newhouse, he printed for McCurry for five months and acted as his digital coordinator, saving up money for a trip to Nepal. Staying four months and shooting 250 rolls of 220 Kodachrome with his Mamiya 645 and Sekonic meter, he “walked the valley, stayed away from the computer, and made pictures,” he says. When asked about his concentration of portraits taken of the Nepalese, Wood discusses the turning point in his career. “Even though I grew up having great respect for those documentarians and photojournalists, I realized I didn’t want to come back with the stereotypical National Geographic shots. That’s why I made the choice to move toward portraits. I really like working one-on-one with people, talking to them, finding out what their lives are like. I hope, in the end, my photos don’t look like a photographer went to Katmandu Valley and came back with a story about the Katmandu Valley. Instead, I want it to look like I went there and came back with my own perspective on the place and the people I met.” Planning a show of his Katmandu photos in New York, Spring, 2010, Wood printed a test at 36 x 48 inches. “A monster print,” he says, “off a chrome slide from the Mamiya 645. It’s super-crisp, super-clean. I’m really happy with the quality of the images off that camera, which I actually bought for that trip.”
After Nepal, Wood recalibrated his goals from being a photojournalist to more of a portraiture- and fashion-based photographer. ”It took me a while to learn how to have foresight in my photography. It changed the way I took photos. Being able to think critically and use the film and my SekonicL-358 light meter has changed the way I take photos.”
Wood also uses PocketWizardPlus II units which he chose as his prize when winning the MAC on Campus award, and totes all his gear in a Tenba bag.
Wood credits his big break as coming when he was hired by The Fader. “It’s really hip, and I shoot my Mamiya for their assignments,” he says. “They hire me and want me to be exactly the kind of photographer I am.”
As far as advice for other young photographers, Wood says, “In the end, you need to have a really sharp perspective of what’s going on around you. I speak to a lot of other photographers and view a lot of shooters.” He recommends this approach to all who hope to go pro. “Hopefully, at the end of the day you can compile a list of things you want to do and aim in that direction you want to work in.”
Somewhere in London, Paris Seawell is shooting film with his Mamiya, and the world is fortunate for that. Although he paints, creates sculpture, and has made a few short movies (such as This Place) his black and white photography is where his most accomplished artistic vision shines.
Seawell’s series entitled Semblance is a unique vision of distorting the human body with seemingly random but highly controlled projections onto his model, Agata Rybicka. The results range from the horrifying to the sublime, but always remain fascinating and undeniable. Semblance harkens back to André Kertész’s groundbreaking series Distortions, but Seawell doesn’t bend the body’s form with light—he projects a series of images onto it. A fingerprint, marker jottings, splashes, and the initial letters of the four DNA nitrogenous bases (G, C, T and A) are source materials for these projections. His goals are not only to get us to view the body differently, but to think.
Seawell considers himself an artist first and a photographer second, and this makes perfect sense. “To me, large parts of photography are about creating a frame of reference. This is a way of showing people how you think, and in turn, being able to compare that to how other people think,” Seawell says of his vision. Although he does shoot in color, he is more interested in working with shape, tone, form and texture at this time. People and their skin textures in particular are his primary inspiration and subject matter.
Proof of Life is about viewing the body differently, also, although the subjects are not manipulated with props. Scarred bodies themselves are the subjects, yet he consciously works to remove emotion from these photos. This series, he states, has more meaning than Semblance. “There’s more context, thought and philosophy around Proof of Life.” Originally conceived as an antidote to Robert Mapplethorpe’s perfect human forms, Seawell explains, “I don’t want to find the flaw or scar on a perfect body. I wanted to find the perfection in the flaw, and how the flaw can be beautiful.” Pointing to Jeffrey Silverthorne’s morgue photographs, Seawell strives for both stillness and mystery in these images. He’s not striving for romantic images and provides no backstory on his subjects and their wounds. This growing collection currently features an accident victim, an emergency surgery patient, a skin disease sufferer, and a self-harm patient. Other subjects are on the way, including a man aged 55. “These bodies are objects. Bodies are just things. I’m not objectifying the models, but showing the beauty of what and who they are.”
His frankness continues through to the equipment he uses and the photographic process he’s developed. Originally working with a digital SLR, Seawell quickly had a change of heart. “I got bored. It was too easy. I wasn’t learning anything about photography. It was shallow. When I found the Mamiya, it saved photography for me. It breathed life back into the process. It sounds stupid, but it was magic. I was shooting and I thought ‘this is how photography should be.’ I felt like a rockstar—like Avedon shooting Monroe or Leibovitz shooting Lennon. It’s not just nostalgia. A good comparison would be stairs and escalators to film and digital. People will always want to walk at their own pace, as opposed to having the work done for them.” There’s a tactile satisfaction Seawell reports with his Mamiya 645 1000s. “There’s the whirring of the winder and the clunk of the shutter. It’s brilliant. The mechanicalness of it makes you feel you’re accomplishing something.” Currently shooting with an original Mamiya 80mm lens, Seawell eventually wants to acquire a 645 AFD III.
Although the projections and scars may change, Paris Seawell can be counted on for his continuing vision of the uncommon and unspoken. An artist unafraid to show what is typically hidden both inside and out, Seawell plans on bringing us more images of the same. Viewers, no doubt, will continue to attempt to put their own stories to them and roam where Seawell’s textures may lead their eyes.
Miles and miles of heart. And St. Louis-based Dr. Farrin Manian certainly does. His story is certainly extraordinary. Dr. Manian has been taking pictures long before he became a doctor, but it took a few years’ work with indigent AIDS patients to think of a great idea. Instead of conventional fund-raising efforts, he would sell his photographs and the proceeds — 100% — would immediately go towards helping patients who couldn’t afford medical care. He hasn’t raised millions, but so far 40 fortunate patients have received free treatment. He uses the Mamiya 645 for most of his landscape work.