07 October 2013

Photographers Who Inspire Me:
Alfred Stieglitz

Alfred Stieglitz (born 1864 in Hoboken, NJ)
(died 1946 in New York, New York)
Alfred Stieglitz was a highly influential figure in the arts at the dawning of the twentieth century, and a vastly significant spokesperson for modern culture. He was a principal advocate of Modernism and arguably had more of an impact on photography than any other artist of his time. His work represents his vision for the future of photography as an art form at the turn of the twentieth century. Through photography, he saw a new vision for a modern world. He made it his life's ambition to teach people how to see. He pushed the technical limitations of photography, often using weather to his advantage in order to create a certain mood or atmosphere. For instance, he spent three hours standing in a blizzard in order to achieve the desired soft-lens effect of one of his most famous photographs, Winter - Fifth Avenue.

Stieglitz was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1864, but his family moved back to Germany in 1881, where he attended school and subsequently first picked up a camera. He returned to the United States in 1890, committed to proving that photography was a medium as relevant as painting or sculpture as a means of artistic expression. He founded Photo-Secession, a prominent group of American photographers who fought to have photography acknowledged as an art form and led the Pictorialist Movement, which promoted the artistic legitimacy of photography in the United States.

Alfred Stieglitz is an inspiration, not only because of his talent and his impressive body of work, but because of his dedication to and advocacy for the medium of photography. His intense passion serves as motivation for me to push the boundaries. I am grateful -- as all photographers should be -- for Alfred Stieglitz.

Mending Nets. 1894. © Alfred Stieglitz Archive
"There are many schools of painting. Why should there not be many schools of photographic art? There is hardly a right and a wrong in these matters, but there is truth, and that should form the basis of all works of art."

Spring. 1905. © Alfred Stieglitz Archive

"In photography there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality."

Snapshot. Paris. 1911. © Alfred Stieglitz Archive
“The camera was waiting for me by predestination and I took to it as a musician takes to the piano or a painter to the canvas. I went to photography really a free soul – and loved it at first sight with a great passion.”


06 October 2013

Photographers Who Inspire Me:
Bill Brandt

Bill Brandt (born Hermann Wilhelm Brandt, 1904, Hamburg, Germany)
(died 1983, London, England)
Although born in Germany, Bill Brandt -- born Hermann Wilhelm Brandt to a British father and German mother -- is considered the quintessential British photographer. He captured all aspects of British life -- from dingy mining communities to high society -- like no other in the twentieth century. In his work, you find the perfect balance of powerful social commentary and ingenious artistic style.

He spent a considerable amount of time being treated for tuberculosis in a Swiss sanatorium, where he first showed an interest in photography. He began his career as a photographer on a 1926 trip to Vienna, where he ended up working and living for the next three years. In 1929 he left Vienna for Paris, where he spent three months working as a studio assistant to surrealist painter and photographer Man Ray. Evidently, he learnt something from the master, because a hint of the surreal permeates so much of his work. In 1932, he moved to London, where he began his lifelong love affair with England. 

It is Brandt's combination of poetic imagery and documentary photography that inspires me. Through his lens, he inspires us all to view the world around us with “a sense of wonder.” His work resonates with me deeply and although I would never attempt to replicate his style, he inspires me to create a style of my own. 

Campden Hill. May 1951. © Bill Brandt Archive
“A photographer must be prepared to catch and hold on to those elements which give distinction to the subject or lend it atmosphere.” 

The English At Home. 1940. © Bill Brandt Archive

"A feeling for composition is a great asset. I think it is very much a matter of instinct. It can perhaps be developed, but I doubt it can be learned. However, to achieve his best work, the young photographer must discover what really excites him visually. He must discover his own world."

Children in Sheffield. 1930. © Bill Brandt Archive
"It is the gift of seeing the life around them clearly and vividly, as something that is exciting in its own right. It is an innate gift, varying in intensity with the individual's temperament and environment."


05 October 2013

Photographers Who Inspire Me:
Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson (born 1908 in Chanteloup-en-Brie, France)
(died 2004 in Montjustin, France)

Henri Cartier-Bresson is considered the pioneer of photojournalism and was regarded as a leading creative force of his time. He coined the term 'the decisive moment' -- that fleeting moment of inspiration that a photographer has to capture an instant in time. His passion and wanderlust took him to the four corners of the earth, where he documented both the great suffering and great joy of humanity. His skill and perseverance helped establish photojournalism as an art form. 

Throughout his childhood, Cartier-Bresson showed a keen interest in the arts. As a young adult, he went on to study painting and literature at Cambridge University, England, which is also where he was introduced to photography. After his studies, he acquired a hand-held Leica camera and photography became his new passion. In 1935, Cartier-Bresson abandoned photography and worked as an assistant to prominent French filmmaker Jean Renoir. He collaborated with the director on several films, including the renowned La règle du jeu (1939). Later, Cartier-Bresson served in the French army and was taken prisoner by the Germans in 1940. After several failed attempts, he finally escaped in 1943 and promptly returned to his photography and film work. He was one of the founders of Magnum Photos, which remains, to this day, one of the leading photo agencies in the world. 

I am profoundly inspired, not only by the humanity shown in Cartier-Bresson's work, but by his precise, geometric framing and his remarkable sense of timing. I aspire to capture moments the way he did and that will take an awful lot of practice, training and courage on my part. Believe me when I say that I am up for the challenge!   

Hyères. France. 1932. © Henri Cartier-Bresson Archive

“To take a photograph is to align the head, the eye and the heart. It's a way of life.”

SPAIN. Andalucia. Seville. 1933. © Henri Cartier-Bresson Archive 

'"For me the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which, in visual terms, questions and decides simultaneously. It is by economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression."

Rue Mouffetard. Paris. 1954. © Henri Cartier-Bresson Archive 

“Of all the means of expression, photography is the only one that fixes a precise moment in time.”


04 October 2013

Photographers Who Inspire Me:
Diane Arbus

Diane Arbus (born 1923 in New York, New York )
(died 1971 in New York, New York)
Diane Arbus is considered one of the most influential photographers of the twentieth century. She is best remembered for her distinct style and passionate dedication to her unique subjects -- marginalized groups and subcultures -- who were generally overlooked by mainstream society. Her work has remained, to this day, highly controversial. Although some criticise her for being a voyeur, others see her as a philanthropist who shed light on the lives of people who most would turn a blind eye to. Personally, I see her as an extremely courageous, creative genius. 

She began her career as a fashion photographer, but later turned to freelance work. She studied under renowned photographer Lisette Model, from whom she learnt her most valuable lessons -- to have confidence in her talent and not to let fear stand in the way of her artistic integrity. Throughout her career, Arbus viewed each photography project as an adventure and viewed the resulting photographs themselves as a sort of recompense for the adventure. Sadly, after battling years of depression, she took her own life in 1971, at the age of 48.

It is my own fear of approaching strangers that attracted me to Diane Arbus's work. Although an extrovert by nature, I am hesitant to take photographs of people I do not know. This is an apprehension I wish to overcome and there are myriad lessons to be learnt from Diane Arbus in this area. I was astonished to learn that she often feared her subjects until she got to know them -- a fact that has deeply inspired me to face my own fears. 

Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park. New York City. 1962.
© Estate of Diane Arbus
"If I were just curious, it would be very hard to
say to someone, "I want to come to your house
and have you talk to me and tell me the story of
your life." I mean people are going to say,
"You're crazy." Plus they're going to keep
mighty guarded. But the camera is a kind of
license. A lot of people, they want to be paid that
much attention and that's a reasonable kind of
attention to be paid."

Hermaphrodite and a dog in a carnival trailer. Maryland. 1970.
© Estate of Diane Arbus

"I work from awkwardness. By that I mean I don't
like to arrange things. If I stand in front of
something, instead of arranging it, I arrange

Identical twins. Roselle, N.J. 1967.
© Estate of Diane Arbus

03 October 2013

Photographers Who Inspire Me: Hiromi Tsuchida

Hiromi Tsuchida (born 1939 in Fukui Prefecture)
Through his photography, Hiromi Tsuchida explores what it means to be Japanese. Throughout his career, he has documented various aspects of Japanese life, including an examination of the role of traditional Japanese customs and rituals in the face of modernization -- Zokushin, Gods of the Earth (1969-1975), an analysis of the evolution of the crowd in Japanese society -- Counting Grains of Sand and New Counting Grains of Sand (1975-1989) and a profound exploration of the impact of the bombing at Hiroshima -- Hiroshima 1975-1978 (1978), Hiroshima (1985), Hiroshima Collection (1995) and Hiroshima Monument II (1995). I believe that his work is both of great artistic and sociological value. 

He earned a degree in engineering at Fukui University before enrolling at the Tokyo College of Photography, where he later became a lecturer (1972) and professor (1993). He began his career as a commercial photographer after graduating in 1966, but soon turned to more meaningful work as he embarked upon a new path and became a freelance photographer in 1971. His first solo exhibit, at the Ginza Nikon Salon, was called Jihei kukan (Autistic Space) (1971) and was an introspective look at Japanese culture. This exhibit paved the way for future projects that would delve deeper into Japanese consciousness. 

I was drawn to Hiromi Tsuchida because of my strong affinity for Japan. I have always been fascinated by Japanese culture. I lived in the rural town of Nakatsu in the Oita Prefecture from February 2004 to August 2005 and it was an experience I will never forget. I established friendships with people who are in my life to this day. I have been fortunate enough to take part in Japanese traditions and ceremonies both whilst living there and when visiting Japan in 2007, twice in 2008 and again in 2012. I have visited both the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and what I saw there will remain with me forever. Japan will always hold a special place in my heart and I hope to return someday. 

Asakusa, Tokyo, 1970 from Zokushin © Hiromi Tsuchida

“I have been wandering these past several years in mountains, villages, towns and cities in pursuit, for the most part, of festivals and religious space.,' he writes. 'My wandering was not in response to a definite plan, in fact it was quite arbitrary. I suppose what I was trying to do was to find myself again as a Japanese.”
Kawasaki. 1981. Counting Grains of Sand. © Hiromi Tsuchida
Untitled. Tottori. 2001. New-Counting Grains of Sand. © Hiromi Tsuchida
"Crowds were no longer seas of people but had become a network of small groups that maintained a certain distance from each other."

Lunch Box. 1970. Hiroshima Collection.
 Reiko Watanabe (15 at the time) was doing fire prevention work under the Student Mobilization Order, at a place 500 meters from the hypocenter. Her lunch box was found by school authorities under a fallen mud wall. Its contents of boiled peas and rice, a rare feast at the time, were completely carbonized. Her body was not found.
© Hiromi Tsuchida
"We can never pretend that what happened at Hiroshima has nothing to do with us."


The History of Japanese Photography
by Anne Wilkes Tucker, Ryuichi Kaneko, Dana Frs-Hansen, Dana Friis-Hansen, Takeba Joe, Iizawa Kotaro (Contributor), Kinoshita Naoyuki (Contributor)

The Independent Administrative Institution - National Museum of Art