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For your reading pleasure

elitist, moi?

in Book Reviews , Friday, October 09, 2020

Some two years back, news emerged on the intrawebs of a new online magazine called MediumFormat.  This appeared to be a collective effort, with at its core, a terrible trio of Ming Thein, Lloyd Chambers and Patrick LaRoque. My immediate thought ws “there’s no way I’m going to pay money to read the shallow ramblings of these three tedious egomaniacs”, which may be seen as a little harsh, but is pretty much a reflection of my prickly personality. So I ignored it.

Fast forward to lockdown hell, when I was rapidly running out of displacement activities, I saw a reduced price offer on the magazine, giving access to the whole archive. Since it appeared that the influence of the above trinity had dwindled, and under editor Olaf Sztaba there seemed to be some depth of content, I took the plunge.

October2020

It was a good move. MediumFormat has rapidly progressed to become a genuinely interesting and very well curated magazine, with insightful interviews and articles featuring both well and lesser known photographers. It has also moved away from being technology oriented - recent issues have practically no gear content. The latest issue has raised the bar further with an interview with Michael Kenna, and clearly the plan is to carry on at that level.  Early issues confirm my personal opinion of Ming Thein as terminally dull and didactic. Patrick LaRoque continues to come across as somebody creating a stylish echo chamber to provide confirmation bias to insecure owners of Fuji cameras. At best, just an enthusiastic gear head.  However my opinion of Lloyd Chambers was pretty much reversed.  His website remains dreadful, but under a good editor he actually comes across as as a thoughtful, engaging chap and a pretty good photographer.  His technical articles in MediumFormat are genuinely useful, and quite approachable.

In fact MediumFormat puts me in mind of another undeservedly maligned magazine, to which I’ve subscribed for quite some time, LFI (Leica Fotografie International). I do not own any Leica cameras, and have no desire to change this. I have no axe to grind against Leica, but they do not produce any cameras which would comfortably address any needs I have. And in fact, LFI keeps the gear side of things well isolated at the back of the magazine. This part is indeed to be taken with a grain of salt, consisting mainly of hagiographic articles on Leica gear written in complete isolation from the rest of the market. Still, they’re entertaining at some level.

Umschlag EN

The rest of the magazine is something else entirely and comprehensively lays waste to the idea that Leicas are bought only as bling by elderly doctors, dentists or “The Chinese”. The photography portfolios are widely varied but almost always excellent, and come from a wide range of photographers, from legendary to (so far) unknown. The reasons for using Leica seem to be mainly down to usability.

While the linking attribute is the photographers use Leica cameras, this is not pushed at all in the text. Clearly pretty much all of the photography shown could have been taken with devices from other companies, here Leica is essentially used as a filter.  The playing field is also pretty level - certainly the cameras do not have to be current models, nor are more lowly models excluded. Forum trolls who constantly rag on Leica and Leica users could do worse than glance at a few copies of LFI.

I actually had the pleasure to meet some of the LFI editorial team a few years back, all shockingly young and enthusiastic. I mentioned to one that I could never afford a Leica, and the reply was “neither can I, but I love to see the work done by those that can”.

So, there you go. If either of these two magazines are mentioned online, most of the response will in the form of insults hurled at Leica, Hasselblad, etc and (especially) their owners. But if you are more interested in excellent, varied photography than silly partisan fanboy wars, you might like to give these a try.

 

Dumbing down

adieu, et merci pour tous les poissons

in General Rants , Friday, January 30, 2015

I’ve been a faithful reader of Réponses Photo for many, many years, and unlike pretty much all other photography monthlies, it has managed to keep my interest my including a very substantial proportion of cultural and explorative themes alongside the usual gear reviews. It also features regular and very strong portfolios of both unknown and famous photographers, often far from safe, comfortable choices, along with incisively edited interviews. The photo book reviews section is extensive and excellent. Of course, there is an element of the usual monthly photo magazine stuff, and indeed gear (especially the traditional November gear special), but in a remarkable move, a redesign about a year ago shunted all this to the back pages, and move the “arty stuff” to centre stage.

Even the featured reader photography is of a very high standard. Indeed, they rejected a portfolio I sent, so it must be! And in recent years it has gone even further, with the “Hors Series” set of special themed issues, each and everyone a remarkable piece of work, especially given the levels of 90% of the competition.  The driving force behind this marvel is the editorial team of Sylvie Hughes and Jean-Christophe Bechet. Or rather was, because it appears that in late November, the suits from the Mondadori publishing empire (principle shareholder: S. Berlusconi), which bought the title a few years back, summarily fired them.

I had noticed that the December issue was a bit lightweight, but I only skimmed it, being far too busy with other things. Then, the January issue had a sunset on the cover. This should have set alarm bells ringing, but even then it only slowly dawned on me that the editorial byline had changed, and there was no trace of Bechet or Hughes’ trademark style to be found.

Couve RP274

The alarming December issue with the very uncharacteristic “shoot winter light” theme and the downright informercial iPad section

Google searches led me to piece together the information, as there was no announcement. The francophone photoblogosphere is full of pretty angry people. Mondadori apparently want to raise circulation by cutting out all of the character and uniqueness of the magazine, the (relative) edginess and risk-taking, and lowering it to the standards of the rest of the How-To-Shoot-Sunsets-And_Kittens press. This, despite the fact that apparently RP’s circulation figures, while dropping, were performing considerably above market average across the whole print press industry.

The next issue apparently will lead on “How To Photograph Children”. Bugger all use to me, I haven’t got any. As far as I know. While in the past, in these parts at least, issues frequently sold out after a few weeks, I suspect that a very high proportion from now on will be going to the shredder.

This leaves me with one remaining worthwhile newstand-distributed magazine from the three languages I can read well enough: Italy’s Il Fotografo. Let’s hope that Silvio doesn’t get his slimy hands on that.

Cop 24 268

Last man standing ?

There has been no sign so far of what Sylvie Hughes and Jean-Christophe Bechet might, or indeed could, do next, but they certainly have an audience waiting for them. I for one send them my commiserations, thanks for all the great photography they’ve introduced me to, merci très sincèrement, and best wishes for the future.

 

Inspired Eye Issue 12

more self-promotion!

in Photography , Monday, July 28, 2014

I’m very honoured to be able to announce that some of my photography is featured in the latest edition of Inspired Eye, the fantastic eMagazine edited and published by Olivier Duong and Dan Springer. They had already very kindly featured me on the associated blog a little while ago, so this is really great encouragement.

Ieye12

I have to say that when I started subscribing to the Inspired Eye it was because I found it to be a very interesting concept. The standard of photography it presents is very high and frequently original. It is also by far the best designed and edited e-photo-magazine I know of, with strong aesthetic values. But I didn’t expect to be featured myself, apart from anything else because generally the theme is street photography, and generally will a strong story-telling angle.  From early on there has been a regular travel photography feature, but again, featured work has usually had strong authorial strands, tending towards travelogue rather than (or as well as) pretty pictures, which is not something I can lay much claim to. Personally, I was particularly impressed by Jean-Marc Ferriére’s Yemen portfolio in Issue 9.

However, there it is. Olivier suggested the “icescapes” theme, and applied his editorial and layout skills to very flattering effect.  I still wonder what the majority of subscribers will make of this, but then again, the Inspired Eye doesn’t play safe!

Ieye12 2

Needless to say I strongly encourage you to check out the Inspired Eye for yourselves. If you’re interested in photography, and photographers, then really you can’t go wrong. The concept is to publish “unknown” photographers, but it would be patronising to call for support for a good cause: the Inspired Eye doesn’t need patronising, it’s an entreating, thought-provoking, very professional produced and run publication, and excellent value for money.

 

Me & Street Photography

Obviously doing this landscape thing all wrong

in Photography , Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Olivier Duong of the Inspired Eye blog has just published a very nice interview with me about my relationship with Street photography.  I thought I didn’t have one, but in turns out that a little bit of dredging through my Flickr archives could demonstrate that I’m wrong.

Anyway, rather than indulge myself in my usual self-deprecation, I’ll leave it up to the reader to judge.  Olivier certainly made a very good job of selecting the photos, with zero input from my side - a far better job than I could ever do.

INSPIRED EYE | Street Photography An outsider s view

And while you’re there, do check out the rest of the site. It’s well worth it!

 

The Inspired Eye

inspiring reading

in Book Reviews , Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Although I might, I suppose, be classified as a “landscape photographer”, I’m finding published landscape photography more and more tame, repetitive, formulaic and sterile*. Certainly there are people out there pushing boundaries, but very, very rarely am I surprised. So despite being an avid reader, and least so far as online reading is concerned I find myself more attracted to other genres for inspiration. And one monthly digital publication I can strongly recommend is “The Inspired Eye”, now at Issue 6.

Preview

The Inspired Eye is the work of two American photographers, Olivier Duong and Don Springer. And when I say “work”, I mean it. They clearly put the hours on, setting and maintaining very high production values, keeping to a tight schedule, and apart from producing a monthly magazine of well over 100 pages, which quite easily matches the quality of printed publications - they also run a lively blog, podcast and informative email list.

The emphasis is on “street”, and black & white, neither of which are my thing as such, but the variety and quality of the photographers (many if whom are largely unknown) makes for some fascinating reading and some rewarding discoveries. And sometimes some other styles creep in, and sometimes (gasp) some colour, even clearly neither editor is a huge fan of a more polychromatic approach.

But this kind of publication is what is keeping photography, as oppose to camera acquisition, alive these days, and it’s providing some great exposure to some deserving, creative and very interesting characters. It’s gritty, full of life, and if not everything appeals to everyone, well actually that’s good too. And there is very, very little talk about gear (although I imagine you get a discount if you own a Ricoh GR).

At $19.95 for a 6 issue subscription, you’d get an absolute bargain and you’d be supporting a really worthwhile venture.  Give a try, you can even get Issue 1 as as free trial.

Do I need to add “highly recommended” ?

* obviously I include myself in this wild, uninhibited tirade.

 

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