Thursday, 23 June 2011

Musing Robert Frank in my head over coffee....

Elliot Erwitt once said about Robert Frank: "Quality doesn't mean deep blacks and whatever tonal range. That's not quality, that's a kind of quality. The pictures of Robert Frank might strike someone as being sloppy - the tone range isn't right and things like that - but they're far superior to the pictures of Ansel Adams with regard to quality, because the quality of Ansel Adams, if I may say so, is essentially the quality of a postcard. But the quality of Robert Frank is a quality that has something to do with what he's doing, what his mind is. It's not balancing out the sky to the sand and so forth. It's got to do with intention"
This quote made me think. I saw some of Ansel Adams photographs of New Mexico whilst I was in Santa Fe earlier this month. It was beautiful, absolutely like Elliot described as being picture postcard perfect and so far and away different from how I saw New Mexico and the pictures I took. I had wanted to take pictures of New Mexico the way I saw it and in a way that I would feel happy feeling that I had captured it which was different to how he had depicted it. Maybe this was me being stubborn, it was definitely me trying to stubbornly justify myself being at the Review.  It was me trying to see if could capture images in a style that was both me as well as being of visual interest to me, so that it would in some way result in me feeling I should be there at the Review as one of the 100. In capturing New Mexico I hoped to gain an understanding of what it was that got me there in the first place and to stop questioning why I was there and that I was worthy of a place there.  I mean, those photographers are really talented.
I have said before, I take pictures because it is my way of expressing the way I see things.  Whilst I try to take images that I like (isn't that why people take pictures?), being liked by other people too is not what I set out to do.  Yes it is without a doubt hugely flattering, and something I never expected, let alone by people who were professionals in this area, but it was not and is not the driving force behind me taking them.  In reading the comment by Elliot Erwitt on Robert Frank, I wondered whether Robert thought of his work in the way Elliot interpreted, before, after or ever when this was pointed out/said?    
You see, since going to Review Santa Fe, and also since returning, I have been really trying to analyse why I got selected, what was it that the people saw in the images that I take and what it all means.  I have never done anything like this before, but now I have, I want to take things much much further, I want to share and be inspired more! The pictures I take are intentional (isn't that why we take pictures?) and show the mood I am in, how I am feeling. I am not of course saying the images I take are in Robert Frank's league.  What I am trying to understand is if Erwitt was right about Frank?  Was he saying Frank was great because he made the camera convey what he was thinking/feeling in addition to what he was seeing?  Was Frank always intentional in his taking images? My pictures are taken with intent, my interpretation of intent.  Is that what lies at the core of a good image, intent?  Is that the key to what to me is still a mystery, taking great images?


  1. I've been thinking a lot about "eye" and "style" lately. You have a very strong eye - I can tell almost instantly when I see a photo of yours that it comes from you. Its uniquely you. Something I think most photographers dream of figuring out.

  2. I can feel your intention in your photos. All of them evoke a mood. You have a great talent for finding emotions in shadows and light.

  3. Love these images, all of them!

    I think too the RF tried to use his gift to bring some attention to different classes and people too no? So I think he must have known he had a gift for capturing that essence of people...although you never know, eh? He really was able to capture the true spirit of the moment quite incredibly.