Menachem's Writings

Am I Really a Photographer?

This is probably a dangerous blog to write, at least as far what Google is likely to throw up on this screen in the form of advertising. However I think that most of the ad links you'll see here aren't doing my kind of work, so what the heck . . . feel free to click all you want -- each click earns me a few cents, probably more than I'll earn today from selling photographs. Please feel free to compare their work to mine . . .  and let me know what you think. I really want to hear some feedback on my work; I'm a big boy, I can take it.

When people ask me what I do for a crust, I usually do not answer photographer. Why? I guess I feel uneasy about something -- though I am not exactly sure what. It could be symptomatic of something else (a topic for a future blog). What I should say is, "What do I do? . . . I am one of the world's top and most popular fine art photographers . . . just have a look at my diverse photographic output at (or at . . . and see for yourself . . . and also have your credit card number ready . . . . 

In this blog I am going to outline my vision as photography; very pompous. In reality, I'll tell you what bores me about most other people's work and about most of own too.

Technically at least, I am not a very good photographer. For a start I am autodidactic (from the Greek word autodidaktos meaning self-taught -- I love semantics). That term usually means that I think I know everything about the subject but really don't have a clue; that I know better that everyone else; or that I was born with this ingrained talent and don't need to learn from anyone else. [All of the above?]

But I really don't care too much for the technical details. I've developed film and printed my own photographs, in Cibachrome colour and in Black & White. I only used Ilford film, paper and chemicals, never Kodak other than Kodachrome for slides, which once upon a time was the only way to produce "good" colour. (Now I have thousands of slides in boxes, without a clue what is there.)

Why were these my choices? I really don't know, but I was happy with what I produced, so why change?. Today with digital cameras that's all history, but I must admit that it is only recently that I have started working with raw files. Why? I tried it a while back and didn't really see a difference, but suddenly a couple of months ago, I started to the see the difference. Different, but I'm not sure (yet) if better. One advantage of raw is that future software may be able to produce something that today's programs are unable. Sounds good, but storage is getting cheaper.

I find most of the photographs I see to be boring. There is some really beautiful work around, very effective use of light to produce an unforgettable image. But most of what you see is very uninteresting and very forgettable. Technically good, but tiresome. Maybe commercialism is the driving force and everyone is trying achieve magazine advertising quality.

Most photographs are flat, two-dimensional. Beautiful plastic women (no warts or pimples), stunning scenery (I can smell the flowers . . . and the smog too). Do the people who post "stuff" from their mobile cellphones onto Facebook expect me to take their output seriously? Or those compact jobs that you hold three feet in front of you (or four of you are myopic [shortsighted or nearsighted] -- my, why are my arms suddenly so short?). I have enough trouble holding the camera still pushed hard against my head with two hands . . . and that's without any trace of Parkinson's.

I want to see movement, I want to see interesting illumination. I've photographed musicians but find that a straight flash photograph, even with the most ideal lighting, is lifeless. Add some movement and I think you have made a difference. Don't get me wrong about my own work. These's a long way for me to go, but I am experimenting. I was recently at my daughter's cello recital at the local (school aged) conservatorium of music, taking my camera and ancillary equiment along. I sat in the front row (very small audience of parents) and took photographs of what grabbed me. Afterwards the principal came to me and explained that the school's technical guy had gone home early and thus there was no-one there to take photographs of the children; but she noticed I had taken some, so could she have some of them to display. I'm not sure this was what she was expecting.

I love reflections because each photograph displays two or more scenes in one frame. Working out what belongs where makes a picture interesting, cryptic. Just because it is a reflection though doesn't make it a "good" (hate that word) photograph. I have been interested in reflections for many years. Twenty-five years ago I bought a book called Reflections by photographer, David Robinson, with an introduction by Ernst Haas. The pictures were all taken in Italy, at some very exotic sites. I guess I bought the book because I liked the work back then, but now I find 90% or more of the work dull (my opinion -- I just did a web search and found the out-of-print book available on Amazon with a not too sympathetic comment -- what do you think? and let me know). Just because there is a reflection in a frame, doesn't automatically make the photograph interesting!

I want to see something interesting, something new that I haven't seen before, shown from new angles and new perspectives. Does that mean travelling to exotic sites? Sometimes, but there is interest under your windowsill . . . you must open your eyes, you have to look and you have to see.

I'm think of putting out a book call Reflections & Abstractions where I hope to present some of my non classic views. More to come.

Join the Samaritans celebrating Pesach. See the Pascal lamb being sacrificed just like the Jews used to do in Yerushalayim on Passover. Not quite like being there, but enjoy it, especially the blood and the guts. You can almost smell the action.

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