Inspiration : Robert Mapplethorpe

Robert Mapplethorpe was born in 1946 in a quiet suburb of New York, he was the third of six children. He attended the Pratt institute, a prestigious art, architecture and design school. He majored in graphic arts but dropped out before completing his degree.

Self portrait 1975

He met Patti Smith, a musician, author and poet and they lived together from 1967 to 1972. She was his only female lover and they remained lifelong friends.
Robert’s first works included collages and jewellery which he sold . He acquired a Polaroid camera to incorporate them into his mixed media work. His impatient nature was satisfied by the quick results from this camera.

Patti Smith, album cover for Horses.

During this early period, he questioned his religious upbringing and sexual identity. He also experimented with recreational drugs. He became friends with Andy Warhol who had a great influence on him. He lived a bohemian life making art from cheap materials, the relationship with Patti Smith was intense and money was scarce.

In 1971, he met James McKendry, the curator of photography at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The collection of photos was no doubt an inspiration for Mapplethorpe to take photography as a valid medium for art.

Sam Wagstaff

In 1972, he met and art curator called Sam Wagstaff who became his mentor and his lover. Wagstaff gave Robert his “real” camera, a Hasselblad 500. Robert started taking photographs of his entourage, including friends, artists and many famous people. He worked on some commercial projects and around the same time started documenting the New York S&M scene. Wagstaff supported Mapplethorpe financially and introduced him to the glamorous social life of New York.

Brian Ridley and Lyle Heeter, 1979

During the 1970s, Robert Mapplethorpe took his most famous photos of Patti Smith for her debut solo album, Horses. He received recognition and was given assignments for the magazine Interview part owned by Andy Warhol. This enabled him to travel and photograph the rich and famous in the USA and in Europe.

Iggy Pop, 1981

Simultaneously, he continued exploring a darker side of his sexual fantasies. Clubs like the Mine Shaft enabled men to engage in S&M, bondage, role-play, fetish… at a time when homosexuality was a taboo and pretty much forbidden. In 1978, he published “X Portfolio” in which most of the models were men he met at such clubs.

X Photography

His mature work was tripartite : X for the raw sexual imagery, Y for the floral work and Z for the nude portraits of black men. His X photography was shocking at the time and still remains so today. He later commented : “I don’t like that particular word ‘shocking.’ I’m looking for the unexpected. I’m looking for things I’ve never seen before…I was in a position to take those pictures. I felt an obligation to do them.”


Lisa Lyon, 1982

Mapplethorpe’s subject matter evolved to more scultural photos of male and female bodies, but also flowers and some formal portraits. He met a female bodybuilder, Lisa Lyons, in 1979 and they collaborated in many projects. His later experimentations were also in prints and other techniques, like printing on textiles, large platinum prints etc… He was interested in bluring the line between photography, sculpture and painting. He hired assistants for his prints, preferring to give directions rather than prints himself.

Calla Lily, 1988

In 1986, he was diagnosed with AIDS. One year later, Wagstaff died of AIDS and Warhol died too. Mapplethorpe worked furiously and the Whitney Museum of American art did him the honour of a retrospective of his work in 1988. He died in 1989.

Derrick Cross, 1982

His work continued creating controversy after his death. An exhibition was shut down protests concerning some erotic photographs. Right wing politicians question government funding for the arts and tried to impose restrictions on what was funded. For the first time a museum director was accused (but acquitted) of obscenity.

Thomas, 1987

His legacy lives on through the Robert Mapplethorpe foundation which he created a year before his death to protect his work and promote the causes he cared about.

Inspiration : Suzanne Stein

Suzanne Stein in a documentary/street photographer who lives in New York. She started photography in 2015, taking photos of her son with an iphone during a trip to Europe. She bought a “proper” camera on her return and now has a substantial portfolio. She seems to have a special interest in people who live on the streets, the homeless and the desperate. A part of the work she has attracted a lot of interest is her photos taken on Skid Row, a neighbourhood of Los Angeles that contains one of the largest stable populations of homeless people.
Her photography is mainly in colour. She has recently shared her workflow in Lightroom and she slightly desaturates some colours, and adds contrast and clarity in spades.
Suzanne is the “in your face” kind of photographer. Some of her portraits remind me of Bruce Gilden.
I think the main and most important difference is in the approach. Suzanne spends a lot of time roaming around a neighbourhood and engaging with people. She gets to know some people over an extended period of time and returns time and time again to the same places and to the same people.
In her portfolio, some of the galleries bear the name of a particular person : Doreen, Christine, Leanne … and she shows a particular interest in women.Suzanne used some Fujifilm cameras for a while, the x100v (with a 35mm equivalent lens) and an x-pro2 with what seems to be wide angle lenses, maybe a 16mm (24mm equivalent in full-frame terms) She has been using a Sony a7r3 more recently and has been experimenting with a 135mm lens, a short telephoto lens.
Her portfolio is amazing, it is so rich and diverse. I illustrates so well what she says in an interview with the LA Times : “I want many people to see aspects of the world from my perspective. I want very much to have the privilege of creating a window for others to view scenes and people that exist in places that are often ignored or treated dismissively. I am intensely motivated by inequality and the untenable situations that people with mental disabilities face every day and that are not adequately or realistically expressed.”

So what can we learn from Suzanne that can help us with our own street photography ?

1) The approach to the world around us is the main point. Let’s stop being stealthy and pretending we are not there. Engaging with people is a great way to get the pictures we want. That doesn’t mean always asking for permission. It means not hiding, being open minded and sometimes accepting that the photo will not come on its own, you have to go and get it.
I started a project on Flickr called the 100 strangers project : (link here). The aim is to talk to a person on the street and afterwards ask them for a photo. It is a great way to overcome shyness and to learn that most people are open-minded, even talkative and have an inner desire to talk about themselves and their life. I found it very difficult when I started, but now I am less shy and sometimes just talk to people without the aim of a photo.

2) Composition is key : a low angle is very immersive.

3) Portraits taken up close with a wide (or widish) angle lens are very engaging.

4) There are no rules about what you can take, there are no taboos. If you have looked around the internet for guides about street photography, you have probably often seen the “rule” that you should not take photos of homeless people. As a general rule, there needs to be a great respect of the people you photograph, voyeurism is something to avoid at all costs.
Although many of Suzanne’s photos are of people in a desperate situation, her methods and her outlook on humanity is always respectful in the sense that she is curious about people and wants to tell the story of our societies.
Be warned though, it isn’t always safe and Suzanne admits to have being attacked and injured several times, quite severely on some occasions.

Click on any of the images presented here to visit her portfolio. Some other interesting links are :

There are also some interviews on YouTube you can easily find.

Inspiration : Fan Ho

“What is the secret to the art of photography?
It’s experimenting, experimenting and endless experimenting.”

Fan Ho was a Chinese photographer. He was born in 1931 in Shanghai and emigrated with his family to Hong Kong in 1949. He started photography at an early age with a Brownie and later with a Rolleiflex twin-lens. He kept the same camera for his whole life.

He was a self-taught photographer, taking photos of Hong Kong in the 1950s and 1960s. He used the family bathtub to develop his negatives.

He started a career in cinema in 1961 as an assistant on the film “The Swallow” then became a director and made over 20 films. He achieved international recognition, and had three films selected in the Cannes, Berlin and San Fransisco festivals.

His wife and children emigrated to California in 1979 and he followed in 1995 when he retired. During the following years, to relieve his boredom, he started working through the archives of his early photography and and started showing his prints and slides. He was exhibited in 2001 and consequently published some books. His last was A Hong Kong Memoir in 2014.
He died in 2016 at the age of 84.


His most famous photography is “Approaching Shadow”, a picture of his cousin leaning against a wall. The diagonal shadow was added in the darkroom and symbolises the fading of youth.

Why should I care about gear?


Fan Ho used the same Rolleiflex K4A for his entire career. It is a simple camera with one lens to focus and one lens to photograph. The lens is a 75mm f/3.5 and the camera takes 6×6 square negatives (60mm x 60mm). The camera has no metering, no autofocus. It can be set to speeds from 1s to 1/500s.

There is something important to notice about this camera :

  • The negatives are medium format 60mm x 60mm. This is huge compared to modern sensors. The largest digital sensors found in Hasselblad cameras are 54mm x 40mm but most high-end cameras are “full frame” 36mm x 24mm. This means that the Rolleiflex can capture more details and light than modern cameras.
  • The lens has a leaf shutter rather than a focal plane shutter. That means that the shutter is inside the lens and closes in a circular fashion like aperture blades. The shutter is nearly silent and produces very little vibration in the camera body. This allows for the use of slower shutter speeds and also enables flash-sync to any speed.

We have been led to believe by digital camera makers that the most important features of a camera are auto-focus to a ridiculously good precision, the ability to take between 10 to 30 frames per second, stabilised lenses and bodies that allow use to take photos while shaking the body around and that a lens is perfect if it is sharp. These features are great for some types of photography : sport and wildlife.

I feel however it is time to start asking for better images rather than more features, though most gear is reviewed on the internet and these features are a big influence on the commercial success of a brand.

Let’s stop to think, and take into account that I love gear and spend lots of time watching a reading reviews. What if I could get a modern digital camera with a large sensor (I have no idea and no wish to do analog photography) and a good lens that renders “with character”.

  • A Hasselblad camera with a 54mm x 40mm sensor costs more than $30,000. Fujifilm has started a line with a cropped medium size sensor (44mm x 33mm) for a more reasonable $10,000 and recently with the GFX100s at $6,500. That is the direction to go in my opinion.
  • A modern lens needs to be sharp and corrected for chromatic and spherical aberrations. These corrections have an influence on the rendition of the lens in the less sharp areas. Any internet reviewer will be critical with a lens that is not technically perfect, and this can have an influence on sales… and if the focusing motor is not as fast as lightning, you will read that the lens is unusable to take family photos of your children. What ??? So the lenses are more perfect, they are oversized and overpriced… Give me a lens that is sharp enough in the center, with a decent autofocus (yes, I like autofocus too) and with a good fall-off from the sharper areas and I am sold. What about the colour rendition of lenses? Who cares about that? I have read that some Fujifilm lenses are in that category and the 35mm f/1,4 I own is great but this is for a small aps-c camera.

Don’t get me wrong, the idea of shooting in the dark at 12800 ISO with fast autofocus and getting a great file is tempting to me as it is probably to you, but I wish I could get a digital Rolleiflex and be satisfied with it for the rest of my life… dream on!


Enough with the rant and back to Fan-Ho, the master of Light. Notice how he works with the highlights in his pictures, giving a soft, dreamy look with plenty of detail. He doesn’t hesitate either to use pure whites and pure blacks too. Softness and contrast. The Holy Grail of black and white!

Is Photoshop cheating ?

When I hear analog photographers talking about digital image manipulation and the idea of “pure photography”, as in “what I take is what you get”, I think “what a load of rubbish”.
Fan Ho and many other photographers learned the craft of the darkroom, dodging and burning being a minimum. Ansell Adams, the American landscape photographer comes to mind too.
Photography is an art and a craft, like painting. What I love about photography is the duality. Learning how to use a camera and how to process a photo on a computer but also going out and trying to find a scene worth photographing. The shadow in Fan-Ho’s “Approaching Shadow” is entirely created in the darkroom. That is not a small edit! I therefore believe that most of his prints are manipulated in the darkroom to express a vision he had of each scene.


Back to Cartier-Bresson…

Henri Cartier-Bresson is known for the expression “l’instant décisif”, “the “decisive moment”, an expression he did not like that much. It just means for me that each photographer must decide at what exact moment in time he or she presses on the shutter. It is also a craft that needs to be learned whenever we want to capture a moving scene. The position of the camera, metering and shutter speed being set, all that remains is to take the photo. It is not the easiest thing to do in the world. Like any work of art, the positions of the subject(s) relative to each other, relative to the shadows and highlights of the scene, relative to the camera too fundamentally change the result.

Fan Ho proves time and time again that he has a vision of what he wants to show us. Studying the geometry of each photo is worth a few minutes of our time. We have so much to learn.


Let me know in the comments what you think and in the meanwhile, carry on experimenting !

Inspiration : Ernst Haas

Ernst Haas was born in Austria on March 2nd 1921. His parents were educated and he studied in a private school from 1935 to 1938. His education was interrupted by the invasion of Austria by the Nazis and World War II.
After the war, feeling he wanted to help people, he went to medical school but dropped out after a year. He realised he had an interest in art. He spent a lot of time reading and going to museums.

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Photography was not a vocation but it allowed him to combine the two things he wanted to do with his life : travel and paint. He coined the term “painter in a hurry” to describe the interest he found in photography.
It must be added that the idea of photography came from his father, who loved photography and who had encouraged him in his earlier years to try.

He acquired his first camera in 1940 : A Rolleiflex TLR. He then went on to smaller 24×36 Leica cameras : a Leica M3 rangefinder with 50mm and 135mm lenses, then a Leicaflex (reflex camera) with 28mm, 50mm and 90mm lenses.


His first photoshoot was in 1947 at the age of 26. He photographed a series of photos that turned into a photoessay : The return of prisoners of war from Russia. This body of work was a bit of an accident. He enjoyed photographing the area around Vienna, but a friend told him he should concentrate on something more realistic. He was on his was to a fashion shoot when he noticed the station was unusually busy. He forgot about his shoot and went to explore. He came back with many now famous photos of prisoners of war returning home. It was his first published work in the magasine Heute.

He went on to Paris in 1949 to join Magnum and then to New York.
He picked up some colour Kodachrome film and showed his work to Life magasine. It became the first complete photo essay that Life published in colour, “The Magic of the City”
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) showed his work in 1962 with a show nearly entirely in colour. It received favorable press and good criticisms.

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He made an almost full transition to colour photography, favouring dye transfer for his prints. This method allow for very rich colour, without getting gaudy. It is very labour intensive but allows for a lot of possible interpretations of the negative. Nevertheless, he always enjoyed black and white photography.

He went on to photograph film sets, like West Side Story, Little Big Man and the Misfits, to name a few. He was a confident photographer on set, very discrete with the stars and enjoyed friendships with many that lasted throughout his life. He carried on his personal work during the downtimes on set, famously renting a jeep while he was working on the Misfits, and photographing horses. This series of photos is still well known today.


He also did commercial work and advertising. It was a challenge he gladly accepted and a way to help pay the bills.


Ernst Haas is a difficult photographer to place in a particular genre, this is a reason many people probably don’t know about him today. He shows us that it is possible to master many techniques and explore many facets of photography.
For example, he has many photos with blurred motion, made with slow shutter speeds.

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He also enjoyed abstract photography, which took him back to painting. I gather this was his favourite kind of photography, a genre he developed a lot in his later life.


To conclude, Ernst Haas is an artist who turned his creativity towards photography. It is interesting to look at what he focuses on in his photos, his use of depth of field, his interpretation of motion and his use of colour. He is very good in his abstract work in picking an object and transforming it into what he wants it to be. He allows us, like in poetry, to build a relation with what we see.

The mysterious Mr Eggleston.

William Eggleston was born in Memphis, USA in 1939. His family was wealthy and he grew up in a former cotton plantation. He was sent to boarding school and went to university to study art but didn’t seem to really know what to do with his life. A friend encouraged him to buy a camera (a Leica) and he started experimenting.

He says he was influenced by Robert Frank and Henri Cartier-Bresson. He also developed a taste for German expressionism. His first photos were in black and white, but did not really get into street photography like his heroes. Eggleston declared at the time: “I couldn’t imagine doing anything more than making a perfect fake Cartier-Bresson”.

When he was young, he complained there was nothing to photograph in his town, everything was too ugly. His wife responded he should photograph the ugly. This became the trademark of his career. He photographed everyday, man-made objects, the ordinary, the decrepit and started shooting in colour.

<p class="has-text-align-left" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="100">His breakthrough came in 1969 when he met John Szarkowski, the curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. William show John some colour prints he had made and John persuaded the MoMA to buy one of his prints.<br>His breakthrough came in 1969 when he met John Szarkowski, the curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. William show John some colour prints he had made and John persuaded the MoMA to buy one of his prints.


William Eggleston had his first show at MoMA in 1976. Some people say it was the first colour photography exhibition there, but this is not true : Eliot Porter and Ernst Haas had already exhibited colour photos there previously. Eggleston’s exhibition however had a great impact on the photography world and its influence probably changed the course of photography.


We have to understand that “serious” photography was in black and white at the time. Colour was for snapshots and family photos. Ansell Adams visited the exhibition and dismissed it complaining there was no substance, everything was in the colour. . The New York Times called it “the most hated show of the year.” and I heard that Cartier-Bresson dismissed Eggleston’s work too.


One of the important things to understand about Eggleston’s work in the 1970’s is the quality of his prints. He discovered a process called dye-transfer that was used in the advertising and commercial industry. It was expensive (I read that it cost $150 for a print). but the vibrancy of the colours was far beyond what had been done before for “art“. This created a real shock in a way we cannot grasp today. He says today that he has not seen a good print of his work compared to the originals of the 1960’s.

So William Eggleston takes vibrant colour prints of mundane and ordinary. He does not overthink anything and says the there are things
in them people can discover but doesn’t want to over analyse anything.

What should we take away from his work :

  • Composition, sharpness and exposure remove us from what photography really is.
  • We should use our eyes, take pictures with our eyes before lifting the camera and taking a shot. The best tool is not the camera.
  • We should learn how to use colour and get a sense of how colours work together.
  • Our creativity is the path, not the place, not the tools.
  • Don’t put too much pressure on meaning, each person will find some meaning (or not) when they see our photos.

Why not use colour?

When I first started out in photography, I had my fathers Praktika and a 50mm lens. I shot black and white film mostly but as I was a student, I didn’t do much film photography and after a while stopped photography altogether. When I bought my first digital camera (a Canon EOS 400D), I shot family and holiday snapshots in colour.  I started doing more and more photography in different genres : landscapes, long exposures, macro, portraits, high-speed, street… I think I have tried almost everything! Street photography has been growing on me since 2012, slowly but surely. I haven’t really consciously thought about it really but all my street photography has always been in black and white.

My inspiration has come from the French photographers Henri Cartier Bresson, Robert Doisneau, Willy Ronis,  Jacques Henri Lartigue, Sabine Weiss… all who photographed in black and white and often for a good reason!


As I spend time on the internet, I realise that a lot of street photographers use colour for their work but at the same time, that the colour of my own photographs isn’t as compelling or as powerful.

I have put a lot of time and effort into pre-visualising my photos, trying to see the light and the contrasts at the same time as imagining the photo I am about to take, looking at the people around me and trying to predict where they will be and what they will do… Phew! Exhausting!


I need to add to all that to be aware of the colours :  contrasts between colours, complimentary colours…  Even so, when I get in front of my computer and I look at my images, the colours are flat and rather lifeless. Raw files tend to be that way, but I have enough practice now to get a decent black and white image. I know where to go in the software, what to do. I have used Lightroom and now use ON1 photo raw quite a lot and in all honesty, the adjustments are the same, the methods are the same.


To come back to colour, a good starting point seems to be colour grading. There are a lot of useful videos on YouTube that explain what it is and how to do it. Any decent software with a curves adjustment is enough. By shifting separately the red, green and blue curves, it is possible to make subtle changes to the hues in the shadows and highlights that completely change the way the photo looks. I’m not saying that it is enough but it is a start. I have tried and consequently excluded using presets or LUTs to change the colours because I don’t feel I have much control on what I am doing and I don’t think I will learn much.

Queue for luxury

In the photos in this post, I have followed this method. I have also masked out sometimes parts of the photos to keep the original colours and this can make some areas pop!

Queue for luxury

So which do you prefer : the colour version or the b&w version?


It is a path to explore … the only way is forwards!


In these winter months the sun is often hidden behind a thick layer of clouds and the light is ofter soft and cold. This can be great light for portraits, but it is a very difficult light in street photography. Flat light doesn’t create shadows or highlights, the foreground is lit as evenly as the background. The sky is boring, things just don’t stand out very well.

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But when the sun comes out, street photography can be fun! Even in the middle of the day, the sun is quite low on the horizon and the shadows are long. This gives great opportunities to catch a great scene or two.

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In this series, I found a good spot on the tram lines at around 10am in our town centre. I  took a 35mm lens in aperture mode (set at f/4) and set the exposure compensation to -0.7ev. Then I waited for people to pass.

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I then found another spot a bit further on.


The post processing is done in On1 photo raw 2019 which I have been using a lot lately. It is much much better than the 2018 version which is sooo slow. The black and white conversion is fast and easy, I set different values to the colour responses. I also added a bit of glow.


Willy Ronis : what I learned

Photo by Vercoquin on Flickr. (CC BY-NC 2.0)

I visited an exhibition featuring the work of Willy Ronis yesterday.  It is not the exhibition that is featured on the above but I didn’t’t anticipate needing photos for a blog post (I’ll do better next time!) Willy Ronis is a French photographer (1910-2009) whose main body of work was street and documentary photography in and around Paris but also in the south of France. He also did some nude photography. He joint the Rapho photography agency just before the second world war with Brassaï, Robert Doisneau and Ergy Landau. As a left wing sympathiser, he photographed the strikes in the Citroën factory and focused on everyday life for the working classes.

There are no reproductions of photos by Willy Ronis in this article because they are not free of rights. I took a couple of photos to give you an idea of what I saw.

Walking around the exhibition, there were several comments on the photos made by the artist concerning the manner the photo was taken or how it should be printed. These comments can give us some insight and inspiration for our own work. There were three commentaries I took notice of particularly. They were written in French so I’ll give you a quick translation.

“Rue laurence-savart Menilmontant, Paris. 1948”

Have a look at the largest photo.

“A glazier was walking slowly up Rue Laurence Savart , backlit in this winter afternoons sun. His voice had made me leave Rue du retrait where I was looking for a subject and I ran towards him. When a photographer has time in his hunt, he searches for the best place to wait for the unexpected. In the same way, it is necessary, when something appears suddenly to look around the environment quickly to integrate into the frame the  elements that will best enhance the subject. Here it was the reflection of the puddle on the pavement and the stream which balances with the sky and the glass our man was carrying. The print is relatively easy. Don’t over compensate the top to keep a dazzling effect”.

Can you imagine yourself changing pace when you spot a good subject to catch the light ?
Do you take the time to look around the edges of the viewfinder to incorporate or take away some elements of the scene. In some ways a traditional rangefinder has an advantage over the electronic viewfinder or reflex viewfinder because it allows the eye to see out of the frame. If the viewfinder is on the left hand side of the camera and not in the centre, you can take photos with your two eyes open. The fuji x-pro 2 enables this as do the x100 series and also the Leica cameras. On the other hand, the electronic viewfinder gives the exposure and an idea of the contrasts in the photo in real time.

An exercice for the next time I’m out: Use my eyes before using the viewfinder to include interesting elements.

“Place Vendôme, Paris. 1947”

“Place Vendôme, Paris, on a rainy day, probably in the first months of 1947. I was hanging around. Maybe I was coming home from Rapho, the offices were very close. I must have seen a lady striding over the puddle and noticed the reflection of the Colonne Vendôme. By luck it was lunch hour and a group of young girls were leaving their work in the sewing houses nearby. I took several photos of strides and this one is the best. It is a good example of a previsualised photo. For the print, it is useful to keep the upper parts of the street quite light and to darken the blacks of the clothes.”

There is a myth in street photography about the “decisive moment”, a term coined by the American editors of Henri Cartier-Bresson. The original term though is “Images à la sauvette” : “Images on the fly”.  Many people would think that the only way to make street photography is to be in the right place at the right time and press on the shutter in an instant. Obviously, many photographers have practiced this technique with great success.  Willy Ronis shows us that a “decisive moment” may not be unique. He saw the possibility of a photo when he saw the lady step over the puddle but did not walk away. Instead, he waited and found a way to turn the opportunity into a photo. Maybe he tried this method many times and he probably went home empty handed most of the time. His legacy shows what he achieved, not the failures.

An exercice for the next time I’m out:  Look out for the interactions between people and the environment. If something can happen once, it can happen again. Then I can take some time to find the best light and composition before waiting for something to happen.

“Le Béguinage à Bruges, 1951”
Look at the photo on the left.

Copyright Vercoquin. Licence creative commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic.

“It was a grey morning and we were going to the Béguinage of Bruges (it is  house for members of a lay sisterhood). All of a sudden I heard a light and continuous crunching sound. I turned around and it was the sound of a company of Béguines going home after church. I ran. They weren’t far from their house and I wanted to keep some space in front of the group. I even had time to include a tree in the foreground on the left to balance the values and suggest different planes of depth. Needless to say this type of decision is made without thinking.”

Some photos taken with a 35mm or longer lens have a tendency to be flat. The subject appears but there is often little to give a sense of depth unless you are in an open space or looking down a street. The inclusion of an element in the foreground can help achieve this even if it is out of focus.

Parting comments.

Many of the photos I saw were not street photography per say. He took many photos on assignment for news magazines (Life, Regards…). He was also employed for commercial shoots. He also photographed his family in a documentary fashion. I have tried to highlight in this article some insights concerning the days Willy Ronis roamed the streets with his camera as many aspiring street photographers do. It seems important then to underline how many photos he must have taken on a daily basis.

Take-away point : Practice and train your eye. Take photos as often as possible. The cost is next to nothing with digital cameras nowadays but don’t shoot blind. Be aware of composition (The framing and the elements you choose to include or exclude), light and contrasts.

Willy Ronis started with a Rolleiflex (medium format) camera but changed for a rangefinder Foca. The reason he invokes in an interview I saw was that he didn’t want to change film every 12 frames. By the way, what we call “full frame”, the 24×36 sensor, Willy Ronis calls “small format”. (That is for the full frame snobs!). In 1980, he chose a Pentax reflex camera with a zoom. In his life he only used 3 cameras. How many photographers nowadays change camera regularly expecting their photography to improve.

Take-away point : Know your camera! Use the same camera and same lens as often as possible. In that way, the framing of a scene will become more automatic and you can change the necessary settings in the flash. The time you save knowing your camera will be time saved to use your eyes before pressing the shutter button.