“The subject matter is so much more important than the photographer.”
– Gordon Parks, Renaissance man.
If Art is painting with colors, then Photography is surely painting with light. So when we think back on photographs and the technology of yesteryear, we have to understand how important light was to the photographer–it still is. The position of the sun as a point source, and what could be done in terms light and shadow–the emotion photos evoke; and also the limitations of the technology at the time–we can’t forget the ingenuity of pushing the limitations of that technology. This is probably where the saying came from, but you literally had one shot at it. I mean, its hard not to imagine large format 5″ x 7″ cameras with bellows and fabric-covered rangefinders and gun powder flash tray. If you cant imagine that, just take a look at the image on the left. So, how’s that for a little suggestive marketing? take that deep subconscious! Those were indeed the dark(room) ages of photography.
And for fear of “yada-yada-ing” the existence of an entire profession from the darkroom ages to the digital era, I guess now is a great time to mention a few of my favorite photographers. Ezra Stoller, Iwan Baan, Gordon Parks. Both Ezra and Iwan are Architectural Photographer, its almost unfair because so I’m a little swayed towards architecture. Ezra photographed many iconic buildings like the TWA Terminal and some unpublished photos of Frank Lloyd Wrights “Falling Water”–the famous photo went to Stoller’s contemporary: Julius Shulman. If you’ve seen any vintage architectural magazine or publication, chances are you’ve seen an Esto photograph.
Hands down, the coveted raw-emotion awards goes to Iwan Baan’s New York Magazine cover of the super storm Hurricane Sandy in 2012. it was the Wednesday after the storm. Baan is in a helicopter 5,000 feet up in the air taking 2500 photos with a brand new Canon 1D X; a new 24-70mm lens; full open aperture; and ISO setting at 25,000 ISO, with a 1/40th of a second shutter speed–not to mention the helicopter vibration. The result was a the perfect metaphor and simile of what New York faced: lower Manhattan in total darkness and mid and upper Manhattan fully laminated. That picture was 1,000 words.
Gordon Parks is a self taught Photographer, Journalist and Motion picture director. His most notable works are: American Gothic, with Ella Watson; Life magazine’s photographic essays, and directing the 1971 movie Shaft, staring Richard Roundtree. In many circles Parks is known as a street photographer. His early years of getting familiar with the camera Parks chronicled life in Detroit’s south side, taking photos of everyday people.
Just thinking about it, I know that I am In the company of giants–they are all larger than life. Until then, I will parlay the digital age and embrace the tools of the trade. I’m currently shooting with a Nikon D-90 with a CMOS sensor, 23.6 x 15.8 mm (Cropped chip from the full 24 X 36mm) with a 18 – 105 VR Lens. I Shoot RAW and I work in CameraRAW, Lightroom, Bridge and a slew of Adobe programs. I also use Adobe CC. Awesome!