Hardware fetish (long), was Re: [OM] Jane Bown

Subject: Hardware fetish (long), was Re: [OM] Jane Bown
From: Simon Evans <sje@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 14 Nov 2000 23:22:52 GMT
It was me who first mentioned the subject of Jane Bown. I called in a
newsagent and re-read the article. She doesn't even take a meter most of the
time, and uses 1/60th at f2.8 for nearly everything. She often moves people
to stairs or other places with more available light.

>Her pictures are indeed superb, and in some cases (such as the Samuel
>Beckett portrait) have become the definitive image of their subject. 

While searching for links I found someone on the Leica mailing list had
posted a note saying (s)he found this particular image an inspiration. I
won't argue with that. The discussion of lenses, OM bodies and such things
on this list often distracts from the true goal of the photographer. I know
this is an OM mailing list, but zuikoholism is a bit of a distraction IMHO.
Surely we should be _photoholics_, clutching rolls of film on our way to the
darkroom/chemist/lab, our palms gripping the cassette tightly with
anticipation at the results, rather than spending half a life misting up
shop windows speculating (e.g.) how a camera with multi-spot metering would
inject that missing component of creativity? While one values such tools for
their specific features and characteristics ("optical signatures" was a
phrase Doris used with regard to lenses), they are still only tools.

>I love
>the simplicity of approach (a single lens, no flash) but I strongly suspect
>that she has the kind of talent that makes her achievements look easy. 

Yes, but the old adage of 10% talent and 90% hard graft still holds true.
She reduces the variables (flash, film choice, lenses) and concentrates on
the composition, expression etc. How can you eke a good expression from your
subject if you are constantly distracted by flash settings, zooming in and
out, trying to focus at f4.5, clicking apertures and so on?

Also, the more effort you put into something the more you'll get from it,
whatever your level. You don't have to be talked about in photo magazines to
be successful. I've tried to stop getting bothered that my prints won't ever
look like those of Weston, Adams & a host of others. Yes, I want to learn
more and produce better work (files full of dull trannies and negatives
remind me often), but above all I want to be me. I just want to take
photographs. Success to me is being happy with my images.

Consulting lens tests to identify the 'best' aperture to use on a lens is
getting it the wrong way around. You select the aperture for the subject,
for your choice of DoF or because of a lack of light. Take your lenses out
and use them. If you want to compare two, make photographs of subjects that
interest you, study them in blind tests and see which you prefer. Then
decide which you will use. And why not try breaking the rules? Shoot wide
open with a SC 50/1.4 just to see what happens.

>Somehow I don't see her as a Zuikoholic...

Exactly. She's concentrating on more important issues. What about Don
McCullin, who only used two lenses for most of his images. I have a couple
of superb books by mountaineering photographer Gordon Stainforth. His love
of the mountains shines in his work, and he uses a Hasselblad with 50, 80 &
150 for nearly everything. An article on Chris Bonnington I have from 1992
says he used an OM4Ti below the snowline and an OM1 above. He said, "I tend
to stick with just one lens, usually a 24mm, and take a 35-70 zoom as a
backup". He's used the same film for so long he doesn't need a meter,
particularly at altitude. Someone posted a note a while ago about Jon
Nicholson, a pro using OM kit. He often keeps to just 35 & 50 because they
suit his way of creating photographs.

I know, I'd love to use a 16mm fisheye, an 18mm and so on, but back in the
real world I am most comfortable with my old, well-worn SC 35 f2.8. When I
put that lens or my 50mm on an OM body I feel like I'm 'plugged in' in some
way. Simplicity is the key IMHO.

Re: Edward Weston turning down Ansel Adams' offer of a superior lens. Some
of that may be pride, but I would put good money on the fact that he really
was _happy_ with that inferior lens. This guy was obsessive about his
photography, and if he thought he could get preferable results from a
different lens he would have used it. AA sometimes comes over as being a bit
too much of a technician for me, albeit a superb one. I'm not saying whether
EW would today dig out battered SC lenses for his OM-1 or whatever he would
use, but I reckon that, if he was happy with the battered lens on an OM-1 he
certainly wouldn't spend too long comparing the lens tests to those of some
Leitz wallet-eater or another brand. 

Perhaps I'm on the wrong mailing list...?

Simon E.

< This message was delivered via the Olympus Mailing List >
< For questions, mailto:owner-olympus@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx >
< Web Page: http://Zuiko.sls.bc.ca/swright/olympuslist.html >

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>