Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Push reset – two ways to rethink your photography

Professional photographers are often on deadline, and complete each project as quickly as possible. Photographic artists on the other hand, have the luxury of planning projects that can last weeks, months or even years.

Two of these artists, Harald Mante and Richard Nagler, have created vastly different books, but both are wonderful inspirations to photographers looking to create something new. The joy of both books is that it matters not what kind of camera you have, and you don’t need to learn software to follow their lead. Both of their techniques simply require subject selection and presentation.


Harald Mante originally trained to be a sign painter and later began to study art where he was influenced by the Bauhaus movement. Both influences are evident in this easy, fun approach to displaying your photos.

In its simplest concept, Serial Photography shows you how to collect “series” of photographs, related by theme, and display them to maximum effect. His finely developed sense of design makes the collection of photos work – in this case – the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

A series can be the same type photos like doors, umbrellas, balloons or manhole covers. A series can also be a collection of different objects related by some theme such as shadows, doubles, glass reflections or blue objects. That’s the beauty of this book, whatever you already have in your collection can get you started and whatever interests you can keep you going.

Some favorite collections are on page 72 – people photographed from behind, page 105 – a geometrically perfect presentation of single front doors of various colors and page 148 – Swarms, a collection of collections.

Through the pages of the book, Harald shows many ways to organize and display series of photos. Tableau form (i.e. 12 identical size photos on one page) may be the simplest way to display a series, but the book is full of other display types. Each double page spread shows collection of photos, both vertical and horizontal, that make wonderful ways to re-energize all those photos presently sitting on your shelves.

Spend an hour with Serial Photography, and if you have half an ounce of artistic desire in your blood, you won’t be able to resist grabbing your camera and heading out to look for more subjects to add to your first serial collection.

Word on the Street by Richard Nagler

“Heyday into California”, an independent, non-profit publisher, released yet another wonderful book late last year. Word on the Street, Richard Nagler’s third book, displays a lifetime of wandering with his camera in a collection of photos from both coasts as well as Paris and Tel Aviv.

What sets this book apart from others is that each photo is an artful juxtaposition of one word and one person. There is no caption – you derive whatever you feel from the photo itself.

By concentrating on just those two elements, word and person, each photo can be seen and interpreted however the viewer wishes.

On page 67, a tired looking old man sits on a board under a sign high above that says “WHY?”
Page 77 shows a woman in a rainbow decorated t-shirt walking past an American flag with the word “PRIDE.”

On page 55 there is a wonderfully complex looking gentleman clothed with a blue knit ski cap, plaid pajama pants, yellow fuzzy socks above combat boots, a multicolored bath robe covered by the American flag, standing with arms outstretched in front of the letters “IS” on a store window.

Many of Nagler’s photos were a matter of serendipitous luck, being in the right place at the right time. Old time photographers refer to it as “f-8 at a 1/250th and Be There.” Other photos were a matter of coming back time and time again looking for just the right person to complete his vision.

In actuality, Nagler had originally planned to collaborate with the great poet Allen Ginsberg on this book, with Allen penning poetic captions for each photo. Due to Ginsberg’s untimely death, the project was not to be. You, dear reader, are now left to create your own captions.

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