Photographer Profile – Robert Frank
Robert Frank (1924- ) If you haven’t seen his book The Americans, run out an buy a copy or borrow it from the library! It is an amazing collection of photos that has changed the definition of photography in general and more specifically street photography.
Frank is Swiss by birth and has been living in the US most of his life. He emigrated to the US at 22 and became a fashion photographer at Harper’s Bazaar in New York City. But he wanted to do more with his photography. He spent 2 years traveling and took 28,000 photos for The Americans which includes 83 of those photos. It is a series which is iconically American. Perhaps the fact that he was new to America had something to do with his uncanny ability to recognize that which truly is American. We often take for granted the things that seem so familiar to us. To turn the ordinary into the extraordinary is the definition of art.
Many of his photos break some of the unwritten rules of photography. He does things with photography that were new and novel at the time. And his photography is still very relevant. I am always inspired when looking at his work. Oh and by the way, The Americans is published by the incredible Steidl press. You can see a streaming documentary about Steidl which includes segments on working with Robert Frank in creating The Americans as well as a number of other photographers. I hope that you will have a look at his work.
From Issue 9 of the Shoot New York City Newsletter. You can subscribe here
Street Photography Tips – Camera Choice
“A lot of photographers think that if they buy a better camera they’ll be able to take better photographs. A better camera won’t do a thing for you if you don’t have anything in your head or in your heart.” – Arnold Newman
Let’s start from the beginning. The first thing in street photography is your camera. The first thing in any kind of photography is your camera! It’s your tool. You take the photo. Not the camera. Any camera that you are comfortable using is a good choice. I used to use big DSLRs to shoot street photography and they worked really well for me. Many people on my workshops and photo tours shoot with full frame top of the line cameras. Whatever works for you is the best choice. Some people are uncomfortable shooting street photography in general and that is compounded using a larger camera.
My choice to switch to mirrorless cameras is in part because DSLRs became too heavy for me. I don’t mention mobile phone photography because quite frankly I can barely use the camera on my phone and I never like the results. I also don’t plan on getting better at that. That’s not my style. There are people who do some very nice work with mobile phone cameras. Does that make everyone a photographer? In a future issue I will discuss that!
Oh, but film cameras are also very cool and I do still shoot film from time to time. Shooting film is fabulous as it really changes the way that you see things and it really provides perspective on how you shoot with a digital camera. In general, you’re likely to take fewer photos when shooting with a film camera. You have to rely on your mind more than just eye candy. Typically people are more discriminating when shooting with film cameras.
Many decisions go into the choice of camera. They are always personal and not about brand name or cost. How much money you spend on a camera does not guarantee the kind of results that you will get in your photography. People are often made to believe that the more money you spend, the better the photo. Nothing could be farther from the truth. All cameras have limitations. Some are better for certain kinds of photography than others. When it comes to street photography just about any kind of camera works. That said, you may eventually outgrow your camera. If you’re shooting weddings and portraits you may find that the range of cameras gets narrowed down a bit.
Start by becoming comfortable with your camera. Get to the point where your camera is working for you and where you can have a reasonable expectation of getting the desired results. All digital cameras have far more functions than most people will use. Once you become comfortable with your camera you may want to experiment with some of those mysterious other functions in your camera. Happy shooting!
From Issue 35 of the Shoot New York City Newsletter. You can subscribe
Photography is not a Crime. Flashback from 2014.
Seafood. From a recent photo tour in East Harlem.
Wheels in Motion from the 2012 Archives for Flashback Friday.