Having picked up photography only 2.5 years ago, I cannot claim to have much of a photographic journey. While photographers like David Hobby, David duChemin, Michael Freeman and Scott Kelby have been helpful in the technical aspects of my images, they did not really instill in me any sense of purpose in my craft. I didn’t really have a subject that I was happy with. Most of my shots were human-less pseudo-contemplative images, though only because I was terrified of photographing people.
Many things changed over the past one year. The first, and perhaps most significant, was the procurement of my first (and second) film cameras – a $20 Canon Rebel, and a $150 Pentax Spotmatic F with 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar (way overpriced, but the shop owner, who’s your typical Chinese “Best Price For You” kind of guy, totally fleeced me. Ah… to be young and reckless) in Singapore. That said, she is a beauty.
Unfortunately I have not used it quite as often as I should have, having been distracted by the dozens of cameras that have passed through my hands, but that’s a story for another time.
Anyway, I started developing my own film, and while the images were almost always horrible, the experience was great. It was then that I started thinking about the masters of old – the pioneers of photography, the people who managed to grab such memorable pictures with so primitive a tool(s). The first book I purchased was called LIFE Photographers: What they saw, a collection of interviews conducted in the early 90s by one of their own (John Loengard). This book threw the gate to photography’s history wide open for me, allowing me to, for the first time, put the credits to the images that have been burned into our social consciousness. Photographers like Alfred Eisenstaedt (photographer of the famous V-J kiss at Times Square), Carl and Shelley Mydans (who took pictures of pre-war Singapore), and so many more. Theirs was a fascinating story of adventure, of a world that was hungry for images, and an awakening sense of the power of the still image (and indeed, the enduring impact it has compared with the transience of the moving image, which was to be its replacement). Even more importantly, the book introduced me to the giants of photography: Henri Cartier-Bresson, of Decisive Moment fame; Robert Capa, whose romantic, philandering ways are recorded in a semi-fictional autobiography, Slightly Out of Focus; and the engimatic genius, W. Eugene Smith, and the whole organization of MAGNUM Photos.
This series, as it begins, will focus on the latter three photographers, and evolve as I go along. I hope to include some of their iconic images, and will include more photographers as I become more acquainted with their work. Stay tuned!