Camera Position 15 : Moving Camera Position & Moving Your Boundaries

I’ve moved my Camera Position! I’ve abandoned Apple’s “easy but limited” iWeb software and moved over to a WordPress blog. Hopefully, the majority of listeners have made the switch with no problems. There is a new RSS subscription feed (see first post at the top of the page to see the new information). If you’re subscribed to the podcast through iTunes, you should have been directed to the new feed automatically, but if not, you’ll need to resubscribe.

The biggest advantage to the new web presence is the ability to have readers/listeners leave comments, which I hope some of you will do.

For this podcast episode, I want to talk briefly about going outside of your boundaries as a photographer. All photographers are more comfortable with some subjects than with others, but sometimes trying something new opens the door to some really interesting new photographic experiences. This image of Sr. Mazzetti is a case in point. I’ve long made photographs that purposefully eliminated people from the scene in an effort to create a sense of timelessness in my images. My interest has been in the way that centuries of hands have manipulated the landscape and structures of Italy. This past year, I embarked new series of images of people, and have begun to draw a parallel between the people whose lives were devoted to sculpting the land, buildings and objects that surrounded them, and the people who do that same work today. Sr. Mazzetti is a Rameria, or a coppersmith, and this photograph was made in his Bottega del Rame.

Sr. Mazzetti, Ramiera, Montepulciano, 2005

7 thoughts on “Camera Position 15 : Moving Camera Position & Moving Your Boundaries”

  1. Another great podcast, thanks.

    I’ve noticed that all your photographs are in B&W and for most of your images the tonal qualities appear to my amateur eyes as an excellent choice. But I love the color of copper and wondered if this image might be better in color. Do you ever shoot in color and if so what is your process for deciding color vs. B&W?



  2. Hi, Don… thanks for listening and thanks for being my first commenter! Regarding the issue of B&W and color. I wondered when someone might pick that up… you’re the first to ask. I have always been committed to the idea of black and white photography. I think that it helps me (and the viewer) concentrate on the ideas and composition of the image without being impacted by color that has an “emotional” and “memory” response for us. So, for example, the viewer of the coppersmith photograph might find so much to love in the color of the copper that the resolute look on the face of the subject might be overlooked.

    I think it also comes down to the idea of timelessness that has long been important to me in my work. I like the idea that the coppersmith image could have been made last year or 20 or more years ago.

    Over time, I may include some color images that I or other photographers have made, but for now, I’m sticking to B&W


  3. Hi Jeff…another unique and intriguing episode. This one struck a particular chord with me. Most of my images have been nature and landscape related and just recently I have started taking some “urban landscape” photos as well. I have to say that in my 16 years of living here in Western PA I have never seen anyone else taking downtown photos using a tripod so I think I stick out like a sore thumb. At any rate, my recent photos have not been ‘street photography’ per se due to the fact that people have not been an important compositional aspect, but I have been thinking about including or, depending on the situation, even focusing on people as a primary part of the image. However, like it sounds you initially were, I am ‘stuck’, in that I find it VERY difficult to ask someone who I do not know to take their photo.

    I particularly like the type of image that you have presented…that is to say a portrait of someone going about their profession and expressing themselves through that as opposed to a grab shot of something happenening on the street. Perhaps you or others that read this might elaborate on how you ‘broke the ice’ and got to know someone well enough in a very short period of time to not only take their picture, but have them reflect their personality and what they ‘do’ as well as you have. This must have been especially difficult in this situation where the person is working…are other customers coming in that he has to pay attention to etc?, how do you get him not to pose stiffly? Using a large format camera I would imagine that the portrait must have taken some time and not have been a quick event.


  4. Howard…

    Some good questions! Frankly, I’m not sure how it happens that I’ve been able to make photographs of folks I’ve just met. Even more, I’ve not done a whole lot of it yet, so I don’t really know that I *can* do more of it (though I’m going to guess that I can and will). I think there are at least a couple factors at work:

    1) I’m working with a large format camera. The camera has opened a whole lot of doors for me, both literally and figuratively. There is something about the “presence” of the camera that impacts the subject of the photograph. I can even see it when I’m photographing inanimate objects; people who are around me and watching me work are fascinated by the camera and interested in what I’m doing.

    2) The photographs are in Italy of Italian people. In my experience, they are very outgoing, very friendly and very inviting. The portraits I’ve made so far have had a lot to do with the subjects’ openness and willingness to tell me their stories. In a lot of ways, it’s like meeting just about anyone just about anywhere… an airplane seat companion, someone next to you at a ballgame or on the next barstool… asking them to tell you their story is an invitation that says that you care about what they have to say.

    The coppersmith whose photograph is in this podcast is a guy who was interested in telling me his story. He spent easily an hour telling me how he’d learned the trade and about how his pans and other products were made and why they were special and how they were just like the copper pans his grandfather had made in that same shop. It was a great story, and my interest in his story helped him want to tell more of it. Eventually, I got around to explaining my work (I always carry a few sample images with contact info printed on the same page) and then asked if I could make his photograph. He was thrilled to be asked and the two of us came up with the setup you see in the image.

    I suppose it helps that I speak enough Italian to “get by”, but I don’t know that language makes that much difference… what matters is our interest in the subject. Ultimately, I think that’s what makes successful photographs successful; our interest in the subject takes precedence over any motive we might have at making “interesting” photographs. Be genuinely interested in the subject and the subject will give you back that energy in the form of a good photograph.

  5. Thanks for the above comments and advice Jeff…I just saw them as I was out of town for a while. However, I did see a link on this site to The Candid Frame podcast which I downloaded and had a chance to listen to while I was away. Great podcast…very worthwhile. The reason I mention it is that this issue about taking shots of people you don’t know was also commented on by more than one of the photographers who were interviewed as well. Worth a listen if anyone else is trying to grapple with this issue as well.

  6. Howard; The Candid Frame *is* a great podcast! I just became familiar with it recently and have listened to all the episodes just this past week. I agree that it’s well worth listening to. I’ve been corresponding with Ibarionex Perello, who produces The Candid Frame and we may be doing an interview together soon, which is exciting. Look for a new Camera Position this weekend!

  7. Jeff…That would be really great if you did an interview on The Candid Frame. I hope it happens and I would look forward to listening.


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