Steve – A living legend.

People who know about Steve McCurry, please do not read further as you might have read this earlier. What you are going to read further is an attempt of myself to understand few of his works, as I highly admire his work. Though there are/were many legends in this world, I admire him because of the following reasons. The first being that he has visited India 82 times so far in his life which eventually made him know about India better than any average Indian.  The second being the no. of photographs he included human elements in his photographs, the percentage is more or almost all of them. After all we are humans, we better perceive things if it is related to any human form.

Most of his photographs are highly evocative, in general his processing is a bit of boosting saturation, tonal curve adjustment to give the slight faded look and careful usage of vignette and most importantly his photographs are around half stop underexposed which are his trademarks. Another important thing is he doesn’t convert his photographs in to Monochromes often, very few images have had this transition. Many of his popular photographs have been discussed in many places and umpteen times, I have selected few of his less discussed photographs, at least relatively. His other interesting work is here in his blog.

Look at the harmony and the perfect balance in this photograph, two humans & two ships, two poles near by the persons & two poles where the net tied, everything is two except the umbrella and the net. Importantly the horizon is not at the dead center and his view point is bit off center, may be in order to not interfering the ships by the poles.. Could have been a late evening and drizzling too, careful selection of high f no, he must have boosted ISO for obvious reasons and the grains too are obvious to support in this photograph. Even if these two persons were motionless this photograph could have been a very good one, but he let some action happening between the persons, so that the viewer expands his thoughts. And most importantly Steve chose not to convert it in to a Monochrome which we often choose to do and give a lot of explanation to that. If you look at it in a layer based visualisation, firstly two persons – the distance between them is little. Second the poles, in relation with the persons it is wider. Next in relation with the poles the ships are slightly wider. Who knows? Steve might have different idea altogether and that is what is all about photography or for that matter any form of art. Isn’t it.?
The Tailor
You might have seen this photograph earlier, but let me tell you why this photograph is important. After this photograph published in National Geographic magazine, the sewing machine company found this old man in India all the way from USA and gave him a new sewing machine.! Have a look at this man, he is under crisis, his home must have been devastated by the floods. But he holds a smile with his toothless mouth (may be Steve cracked a joke!). No wonder Steve categorised this photograph under Universal language.
The boy and the foot ball
Sheer power of simple composition – If the kid stands upright, this photograph would be a normal one. The staircase balustrade line, the staircase slab line and the human body inclined with somewhat parallel to the above two lines makes this photograph an interesting one. The ball above his head is adding value and makes sense to his inclination.
Soldiers
Correlation – The soldiers on the wall painting, people inside the bus. Soldiers have gun in their hand, all those people’s hands are either supporting or holding, in other words all the hands are visible to the viewer. And the two ladies on the wall and the two persons outside the bus. The red colour patch on the wall and the red colour band on the bus.
Few of his other works, which I find difficult to write an insight kind of.
Prayer
Hunger

 

All of the above photographs has been taken from his website. If you have an opinion/insight about his above works do share in the comments section. I have made an earlier attempt here. An interesting article here about how digital photographers have fetishized sharpness and detail.
Cheers.
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Inevitable personalities

Sally Mann

Why I like her, because of one photograph she made, the most erotic I have ever seen. None of the nude photographs can come close to this photograph in sense of erotic feeling it creates in a male human’s mind.

Sally mann

The wet cloth, the stickiness of the cloth with the body, a hand with three fingers in the frame which holds the body on the right top of the photograph (obviously male hand), the cleavage, the shrinkage in the cloth due to wetness, the tight crop of the photograph – if you look again there are no space left around the body in the frame, everything made this particular photograph as an outstanding one. Though she made many nude kid photographs and she is controversial too in that regard, this one stands out in her portfolio and one of my favorite.

Steve Mc Curry

One of the well-known personality in photography and without talking about him, compositional topics would never get complete (leave Henri-Cartier at this moment). The below image is one of my most favorite in his gallery.

Steve Mc curry

Two bullock carts parked adjacent to a wall and an another bullock cart about to be parked, the bull shall be untied from the cart in few moments and the bull appears like it is watching the elder woman who is appears to be having a hump as his. The elder woman is walking away from the frame with the help of her walking stick, her left leg stepping forward and her whole weight have been supported by her right leg. All the three legs are visible to the viewer, if you watch again these three legs matches with the three legs of the bull (deliberately avoided the other leg of the bull inside the frame, either while capturing or post capture) is simply sheer brilliance.

Talking about the other features of the photograph would be colour and the overall mood. The green colour door has been complimented by the red colour interior finish inside the right side cart, may be perfect coincidence but it adds value to the photograph. The mood here is slightly esoteric, because of the noise – due to low light ISO boost or deliberate post capture addition, either way it adds value to the photograph. If you look again the photograph,it is underexposed by almost a stop, which again perfect combo with the mood here.

And some interesting things about the master, Steve knows India better than an average Indian knows India, yes he travelled to India 82 times till date and an another interesting thing is he did not locked himself in Black & White images which people tend to give lot of explanations. He took very few photographs in B&W.

 

Michael Freeman.

Couple of months back, I accidentally found his work in internet and are highly impressive. He wrote several books including The Photographer’s eye, The photographer’s mind and I happen to go through those books in a book fair here in Chennai, I have never come across such kind of books, which talks about composition, how a small point/line/spot/anything in any photograph is perceived by human brain with diagrammatic explanations.

Micahel Freeman

The above photograph have been etched in my mind from his work. The first bull from the viewer is looking down and the next one watching straight, but both their horns have placed in such a way that it forms a continuous vertical wavy pattern. If you look at the first bull’s neck where it ends and reaches the hump, from there on the herdsman’s hand takes the curve up and completes itself by keeping his hand on his head. This is the interesting part; the herdsman’s hand and the second bull’s horn bend are somehow parallel to each other and create a balance in the photograph. And the photograph being in Black & White makes all sense together, the first bull’s neck in black colour and herdsman’s shirt being in white colour creates this as a compelling photograph.

After watching different photographs from several masters and reading different books about photography, my conclusion towards a good photograph would be “There cannot be a set of exhaustive compositional rules to make a good photograph, since a unique and good photograph will come with its own rules which may or may not exist before”.

Kindly note all the above three photographs have taken from their websites.

Y Photography.

Have you wondered why there is a sudden spurt of cameras and equipments with almost everyone! And there is nothing harm in that, rather it is a good sign at large.

Digital revolution is though reason behind it, but there is another side which is lack of creative drainage exists in the society for most. Now it is being filled by photography.

In digital photography you can take a picture and show it to the world almost instantly, you can get critics instantly, appreciations instantly – Instant gratification. Is this the only reason? – Yes, No, partially Yes, Whatever. On the other side photography makes you a better person; makes sense towards the societal complexes. Makes sense towards the inner of you. It makes you connect with nature, connect with more no. of different people, connect with the other creatures on this planet, makes sense of your being.

Stay Amateur

Why? The moment you turn in to a professional you are not a photographer alone you are a business man too, ultimately you have to compromise on your uniqueness, which might be the only thing you possess which is directly related to your own creative mind.  Compromising includes bringing down the price you quoted, comparison of your work, forced to do something which you may not wish to etc.,

Being amateur you have the liberty to shoot what you want and wish, you never going to be in a pressure to run a business and its sustainability. You are at your liberty to do which genre you want to choose, what you want to shoot, where you want to travel and whom with you want to travel etc.,

Being amateur is being happy all the times when there is a camera in your hand. It is a lovely thing to have a camera with you, learn about its functionalities, how it functions in a given situation, how you can make a photograph interestingly. Learning is fun, learn it from a senior makes you spend less time on learning, which means you think of making a good photograph alone.

When professional ?

When you cannot afford to go the routine 9 – 5 jobs, the job is not satisfying enough; the job is not stretching your learning curve. The one reason which cannot be is to earn money; rather money can be the side effect of your photography enthusiasm. And most importantly prepare yourself to play a business man role (and I mean it 100%) and a handful of investment for your gears, travel & studio equipment at the initial stage.

Three things

  1. Remember “Composition is the one thing which you will learn till your last photograph” it is a never-ending learning.
  2. Keep on raising your bar, Look at the master’s works. It is beautiful.

         Steve Mc Curry, Henri cartier, Saleh mann, Michael freeman, Ho fan, Nathan wirth,

3.Once the photography bites you, there is less possibility that you can go away from it. So learn, talk with related people. Have fun.  Make meaningful photographs, stay amateur.

Aside

What is photography?

 

I think this is high time that the above question needs to be answered.

Answering straight to the question

  1. If you are able to tell a story /make the viewer to stare at the image for a while / frame an idea, show something really beautiful (Street,Travel)
  2. If you are documenting something (Wildlife, Poverty, Illegal acts, War)
  3. If you are making a concept  (Conceptual , Creative Ads)
  4. If you are showing off something which is not possible to see by the general naked eyes (Macro, Aerial, Underwater)
  5. If you are making something really beautiful (Landscapes, Events, Portfolios,Fashion, Products, etc.,)

1. And why street is on the top

Nothing is in your control; you and your camera only, yet you put an idea, piece of intelligence there between the four lines. Not lighting, not the subjects, nothing is in your control.

2. Here is why Wildlife, War, Poverty – Humanity

You have less control, much more risk in shooting wildlife, sometimes fatal, compromising on your comfort level staying in some remote places where there are no humans, no food, no water yet you loved your camera and went for it, recording the wildlife’s unseen actions and unseen lives.

Likewise you have risked your life for documenting Poverty, Illegal acts, War to bring attention of the common people and governments, activists.

*It is really difficult to classify these two titles in to first & second position, yet I have taken a stand and given importance to photographical point of view.  Do not be very sympathetic, ideas have made us evolved from the invention of stone wheel till cryogenic engines.

3. Conceptual Ads, Creative awareness ad Photography

Everything is under your control, but you have put your intelligence there.

4. Macro, Under water, Aerial Photography

You use so many equipments to capture that outstanding shot, much more planning, taking risk etc.,

5. Landscapes, Events, portfolios

Photographing landscapes is nothing than to take a very beautiful photograph, purely personal satisfaction. Events, portfolios, products all are commercial. Hence last.

Just because you bought an inexpensive or expensive camera, it does not mean that you have to take snapshots. Start respect the master piece of engineering, it will start giving you photographs. Believe me. Start learning, Photography is fun, it is happiness.

Here are few links where either you will learn something or you would be astonished by the masters.

Few iconic images been analyzed by experts here (Check out all the four parts)

Check this master’s images here (Outstanding photographs can be in colour as well)

The above two links are just sample, there are so many masters, start searching.

By writing this article I am not trying to establishing myself as a great photographer or master but I am trying to be one by each time I press the shutter button and most importantly I am learning by day by day. I have taken for granted to write this article assuming that, I am a photographer because one of my photographs went to 2 stories height of printing and one other image is being displayed in an international creative online gallery. Even when these two images are not selected for any display, I would be writing this because I understand what photography is. I am doing wedding photography as my profession.