Monday’s Inspiration – Gustav Le Gray

Gustave Le Gray was referred to as  “the most important French photographer of the nineteenth century” because of his technical innovations in the still new medium of photography, his role as the teacher of other noted photographers, and “the extraordinary imagination he brought to picture making”.

Le Gray was born near Paris where studied painting in the studio of Paul Delaroche, and made his first daguerreotypes by at least 1847. His real contributions—artistically and technically came in the domain of photography, in which he first experimented in 1848. Even before making the marine images, he became one of the most renowned pioneers of the new art. His architectural, landscape and portrait photographs, his writings, teaching and inventions were all highly influential.

He was one of the photographers in those time that believed that photography should be considered as art.

In the 1852 edition of his treatise, Le Gray wrote: “It is my deepest wish that photography, instead of falling within the domain of industry, of commerce, will be included among the arts. That is its sole, true place, and it is in that direction that I shall always endeavor to guide it. It is up to the men devoted to its advancement to set this idea firmly in their minds.” To that end, he established a studio, gave instruction in photography (fifty of Le Gray’s students are known, including major figures such as Charles Nègre, Henri Le Secq, Émile Pécarrère, Olympe Aguado, Nadar, Adrien Tournachon, and Maxime Du Camp), and provided printing services for negatives by other photographers.

Flush with success and armed with 100,000 francs capital from the marquis de Briges, he established “Gustave Le Gray et Cie” in the fall of 1855 and opened a lavishly furnished portrait studio at 35 boulevard des Capucines (a site that would later become the studio of Nadar and the location of the first impressionist exhibition).

However, in 1860, despite his success a steady stream of wealthy clients, he became bankrupt. Abruptly he abandoned his business and his family and left Paris for Italy. He finally settled in Egypt to become a drawing instructor, though he continued to take photographs, and died there in 1882.

The Great Wave, the most dramatic of his seascapes, combines Le Gray’s technical mastery with expressive grandeur. He took the view on the Mediterranean coast near Montpellier. At the horizon, the clouds are cut off where they meet the sea. This indicates the join between two separate negatives. The combination of two negatives allowed Le Gray to achieve tonal balance between sea and sky on the final print. It gives a more truthful sense of how the eye, rather than the camera, perceives nature.

When first shown, the luminous, shimmering effects amid Le Gray’s otherwise dark seascapes were often mistaken for moonlight. It is easy to see why this misconception arose in these monochrome images where darkness encroaches towards the edges of the scene. In fact, he achieved the moonlight effect by pointing the camera in the direction of the sun during daylight.

Below you will find a few of his images. However what strikes me personally is the composition. The minimalist side of it and it reminds me of a lot of the images a lot of photographers opt for when photographing seascapes. I have a feeling that we are imitating what has already been done or these images are just ahead of their time. Isn’t it interesting though that despite all the advanced equipments at our disposal, we are still imitating the Masters.



Monday’s Inspiration – Wolfgang Suschitzky

Wolfgang Suschitzky was a photographer and cinematographer perhaps best known for his collaboration with Paul Rotha in the 1940s and his work on Mike Hodges’ 1971 film Get Carter.

Born in Vienna, trained as a photographer at Hohere Graphische Bundes-Lehr-und Versuchsanstalt. Under the impression of Austro-fascism, emigrated to the Netherlands in 1934 and to London the following year. As an enemy alien, was subject to a temporary ban on working. Co-founded DATA film cooperative in 1944.

As well as being a photographer, Suschitzky was also a prolific cinematographer, working on a bewilderingly varied array of titles, the best – and best known – of which was Get Carter. Working as director of photography on Mike Hodges’ Tyneside-set thriller, starring Michael Caine as a hitman returning home in search of vengeance, he shot a Newcastle that was grimy, poor and flattened spiritually, a far cry from party nights in the Bigg Market and Sir John Hall’s “Geordie nation”.



We need to be better photographers

“What we lack is not better cameras, but better photographers. It’s our turn” – David DuChemin

I’ve just came across this quote on instagram by David Duchemin, a photographer that I greatly admire. There nothing this man can’t do. If you would like to know more about him, please click HERE.

Why am I sharing this quote and what does it say to me?

Ever since I started on this journey, my aim has always been to improve and get better. As you do, you try your hand at every until you find something that you love but then you get restless again which means its time to learn and grow again. The only way I’ve known to do that is to experiment a lot and often. The aim of experimentation is not to copy others but to get out of your comfort zone.

However, we get so caught up with the new lens or new camera out there that we forget we started. I myself have lost interest in whatever new camera is out next in favour of learning and experimenting.

They are a long list of Photography Masters that we need to aspire to be and even to surpass. These men and women that have paved the way for us. Not only have they fought to make photography to be considered an art, it is truly up to us to show to ourselves that our is truly an art and not something to get loads of followers on social media networks.

How do we that?

First by not copying anyone else’s work and creating for ourselves. Create work that matter, work that means something to ourselves, work that tells a story.

Yes I do agree with David Duchemin, we need better photographers and we need to them.

Monday’s Inspiration – Captain Linnaeus Tripe

Captain Linnaeus Tripe  was a British photographer and between 1854 and 1860, Tripe produced an unprecedented series of photographs documenting the landscape and cultural artefacts of south India and Burma. As an officer in the British army, he traveled with diplomatic expeditions, creating a visual inventory of celebrated archaeological sites and monuments, religious and secular buildings—some now destroyed—as well as geological formations and scenic vistas. His training as a military surveyor, where the choice of viewpoint and careful attention to visual details were essential, gave his photographs a striking aesthetic rigour that distinguishes them from the picturesque travel views characteristic of the period.

In March 1857 he became official photographer to the Madras government, taking photographs of objects shown at the Madras exhibition and portraits of Madras residents. In 1858, he took photographs of subjects of architectural or antiquarian interest, and pictures useful from a practical, engineering perspective. He exhibited 50 photographs from this tour in the annual exhibition of the Photographic Society of Madras in 1859. In March 1862 a series of his photographs were exhibited by Professor Archer at a meeting of the Photographic Society showing ‘Poodoocotah, Madura, Ruakotta, Seringham, the Elliot Marbles, &c., &c.’ 

Following the Indian Rebellion, control of India went to the British and in June 1859 Tripe was ordered not to undertake any new work. At the end of that year he was told to close the business and sell off the equipment.

Monday’s Inspiration – Josef Sudek

Josef Sudek was a Czech photographer, best known for his photographs of Prague. Originally a bookbinder, Sudek was badly injured during action by the Hungarian Army on the Italian Front of World War I in 1916. Although he had no experience with photography and was one-handed due to his amputation, he was given a camera and studied photography for two years in Prague under Jaromir Funke.

His Army disability pension gave him leeway to make art, and he worked during the 1920s in the romantic Pictorialist style. Always pushing at the boundaries, a local camera club expelled him for arguing about the need to move forwards from ‘painterly’ photography. Sudek then founded the progressive Czech Photographic Society in 1924. Despite only having one arm, he used large, bulky cameras with the aid of assistants. Primarily, his personal photography is neo-romantic. His early work included many series of light falling in the interior of St. Vitus cathederal. During and after World War II Sudek created haunting night-scapes and panoramas of Prague, photographed the wooded landscape of Bohemia.

I discovered Josef Sudek through the podcast of Ted Forbes on The Art of Photography. Here is a great video of Ted going through some of this artist’s work as well as some of his images below.

Monday’s Inspiration – Gilbert Garcin

Gilbert Garcin  started out as the owner of a lamp manufacturing company in Marseille, France. Following a workshop during the Rencontres Internationales in Arles, under the direction of Pascal Dolemieux, Garcin, at the age of 65, gave up his business and began his photographic career.

Gilbert Garcin work was mainly conceptual. His images shows loads of imagination, creativity and strong skills. In his photographs, Garcin poses as an ordinary ‘Mr. Everybody,’ dressed in an old overcoat. By placing himself, via the character he embodies, in absurd and inextricable situations, he invites us to ponder such philosophical quandaries as time, solitude and the weight of existence.

His work has been exhibited and collected around the globe, which satisfies his goal of sharing his ideas on life and his perspective on the world with the public at large.

Over the past fifteen years, Garcin has published four books and has had numerous international exhibitions. In 2009, he celebrated his 80th birthday with a traveling “Retrospective” exhibition. Garcin’s work is in many private and public collections including: Fonds national pour l’art Contemporain, France; Fonds Communal pour l’art Contemporain de Marseille, Marseille; Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris; Artothèque de Veendam, the Netherlands; Artothèque de Nantes, Nantes; Artothèque de Vitré, Vitré; Médiathèque de Miramas, Miramas; Fondation Regards de Provence, Marseille; Galerie du Château d’Eau, Toulouse; and the West Collection, Philadelphia.



Monday’s Inspiration – Fred Stein

Born in Dresden in1909, Germany, Fred Stein was a very talented photographer. Although not very known, this photographer started out by studying law at the University of Leipzig. He obtained a law degree in an impressively short time, but was denied admission to the German bar by the Nazi government for “racial and political reasons.” The threat of Fascism grew more and more dangerous and after the SS began making inquiries about him, Stein fled to Paris in 1933 with his new wife, under the pretext of taking a honeymoon.

In Paris they were in the center of a circle of expatriates, intellectuals and artists. In the midst of upheaval, gathering war, and personal penury, Stein began taking photographs. He was a pioneer of the small, hand-held camera, and with the Leica which he and his wife had purchased as a joint wedding present, he went into the streets to photograph scenes of life in Paris. He saw hope and beauty where most people would only see despair. He was fascinated with people in all their diversity, from the very fashionable to the suffering poor. His photographs often accuse the cruelty and injustice of the existing social order, and just as often revel in the elegance of a patrician figure. Above all, his sense of beauty and sophisticated composition shine through and elevate the everyday moment. He also became acquainted with and photographed some of the leading personalities of Europe. When Germany declared war on France in 1939, Stein was put in an internment camp for enemy aliens near Paris. He managed to escape, and after a hazardous clandestine journey through the countryside, met his wife and baby girl in Marseilles, where they obtained visas through the efforts of the International Rescue Committee. On May 7, 1941, the three boarded the S.S. Winnipeg, one of the last boats to leave France. They carried only the Leica and some negatives.

New York was a vibrant center of culture, and Stein seized the opportunity. He met and photographed writers, artists, scientists, politicians, and philosophers whose work he knew through his extensive reading and study. This enabled him to engage them in conversation during portrait sessions. He continued his fascination with humanity, walking through the streets of New York, documenting life from Fifth Avenue to Harlem. He worked unobtrusively and quickly, valuing the freedom to capture the telling moment that reveals the subject in its own light, not as incidental material for photographic interpretation. He preferred natural or minimal lighting, and avoided elaborate setups as well as dramatic effects. He did not retouch or manipulate the negative. Stein was a member of the Photo League until he became disenchanted with their pro-Communist sympathies.

Though portraits were his main income-generating work and he photographed many people on commission, he generally worked without assignment, shooting people and scenes that interested him. He would then offer his work to publishers and photo editors of magazines, newspapers, and books. He also lectured and held a number of one-man exhibitions and had several books published.

His career was cut short when he passed away at the age of 58 and it has only been in more recent years that his work is getting the recognition it deserves as an important and insightful record of city-life during a pivotal moment in history.