Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Glimpse of the World

FEATURED PHOTOGRAPHER: A Glimpse of the World
Whodunit
I chose this one despite the fact that it's in color, which is unusual for my documentary work. It's made in a largely Tibetan town called Yushu, in western China, and I like it as a piece of theater. There's a lot going on, and that's what I aspire to more an more in my street work, a dynamic element.

Copper Belt
This one was shot in late March in Zambia, and strikes me as a very effective portrait. It's simple, but it speaks, somehow, through the direct gaze, the tones and the way the frame is used. Not to be too grandiose here, but I can feel a bit of Lisa's soul, and it feels good.

1: How long have you been involved in photography?
I've been involved in photography since my childhood. My father built a simple black and white darkroom for my brother and me when I was 10 or 11.

2: Equipment you use?
By this point, I've accumulated quite a bit of equipment, which I'll confess is a bit strange for someone who doesn't believe that gear is the heart of the matter.
The work that can be seen on my Flickr stream can be divided for the most part between my Rolleiflex and my Leica M8. I also own a Canon system built around the 5D Mark II and a host of vintage, manual focus lenses from a variety of manufacturers, especially Pentax and Olympus, that I've adapted for use with a Canon DSLR; a Konica Hexar RF; a Yashica Mat; a Rollei B35; a Holga; two Olympus OM4 Ts and an OM1; a Yashica Electro; many, many lenses; and several other cameras I scarcely use any more.

3: Mac or PC?
I own both Macs and PCs, but all of my photo work is done on Macs. For this purpose I currently use a recent vintage iMac with 8 gig of ram and multiple external hard drives.

4: What inspires you?
I am inspired by life. I've never, ever been bored. I love people. I appreciate the way that every photograph encapsulates and speaks to the transitory nature of all things. Every photograph is a unique document, and there is only one chance to make it, the moment you press the shutter. I am a journalist and a writer, and I think photography is the perfect complement to the written word. The one expresses what the other cannot. I love music, especially Jazz and Blues, and I find the best photography has musical qualities. It sings. It strikes chords. It has movements; a beat.

5: Preferred subject matter?
My subject is people. I love what's commonly called "street." I love portraiture, and I work hard at trying to say something through it. I love the nude. Finally, although I'm still new to it, I am becoming very fond of the landscape. After a few days in the countryside, though, I yearn to photograph people.

6: Name one thing you haven't caught with the camera that you REALLY want to capture.
I live in New York City, and as a lifelong Jazz aficionado, I want to shoot some of my surviving heroes in the business, as well as some of the younger figures coming along. I'd also like to do commissioned portraiture here and more nudes (after having done them intensively for a couple of years in China).

7: When in doubt about your art, who do you confide in?
When I'm in doubt about my art, I sometimes revert to what I know best, rooting myself in an interesting place on the boulevard and working the street, or finding a subject to work portraits or nudes with, or alternatively, I might try some total departure. That's what landscape has been for me. I also sometimes shoot something as fixed and staid as dried flowers, or interiors, just to wipe the slate clean

8: Qualifications/training in anything? ie: Photoshop
I have no qualifications in anything, photo-wise. I'm not particularly skilled at Photoshop. My images are almost all un-cropped. Although I've had exhibitions on four continents, and sold a fair amount of work, I'm still best known as a writer. That's where I'm most "credentialed," still, and perhaps forever. Nothing wrong with that.

9: Plans for the future?
My immediate plans are to spend the summer in Shanghai, where I plan to put the finishing touches on a book project, Disappearing Shanghai. It's a portrait of the Old City there, which is being destroyed in order to make way for the World Expo next year, and to make way for China's modernist vision of its future.

10: In one word, describe your photography.
Real.

Howard also has a website www.howardwfrench.net

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