Simone Barbieri

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© Simone Barbieri

Italian photographer, Simone Barbieri is one of my favourite artists on Flickr. I love his off-kilter, surreal images and the fact he embraces flaws and mistakes. He also curates the brilliant asapmag.tumblr.com. We recently chatted about his work and inspiration.

Hi Simone, please tell me a little about yourself.

My name is Simone, 40 years old from Milano, Italy.

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© Simone Barbieri

How did you develop an interest in photography?

I started to take analog photos more than 20 years ago. I’m influenced by billboards, signs, minimalism and movies. I try to pay attention to portraying subjects within their own atmosphere and to not decontextualize them.

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© Simone Barbieri
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© Simone Barbieri

What cameras do you prefer to use?

Canon at1, Canon Prima Zoon 90u, Olympus Trip 35, Olympus AF10, Olympus Mju II, disposable cameras, Fuji x series and smartphone.

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© Simone Barbieri

Do you have a favourite photographer or artist whose work you admire?

I admire William Eggleston, Luigi Ghirri, Martin Parr, Nan Goldin, Andreas Gursky, Robert Frank and many others.

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© Simone Barbieri

Thanks Simone!

For anyone interested in seeing more of Simone’s work, go check out his Instagram, Tumblr and Flickr.

Artist research

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One of the great things about writing this blog is that it encourages me to learn about different artists.

Until recently, I had no idea that Nan Goldin’s older sister committed suicide at 18 and that her art is a way of coming to terms with this loss. I didn’t know Robert Frank made contact prints of 2 ¼” negatives and glued them onto cards while sequencing The Americans or that Charles Harbutt liked performing magic tricks.

It’s not just the famous ones either, I’m constantly stumbling across inspiring people who take photographs. All of us, for whatever reason, have chosen to look at the world through a viewfinder, and I find this fascinating.

Pablo Cainero

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© Pablo Cainero

I recently chatted with Pablo Cainero, an Argentinian photographer whose work I’ve been following after seeing his evocative street portraits and scenes taken around Santa FE.

Hi Pablo, can you please tell me a little about yourself?

I’m from Santa Fe, a province in Argentina. I was born, live and work in San José del Rincón, a small coastal city of that province. I studied at art school and work as an art teacher, as well as in a ceramics workshop.

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© Pablo Cainero

How did you develop an interest in photography?

I think I became interested in photography when I was an art school student. With my peers, we’d go to different exhibitions of painting and sculpture but I was more attracted to photography. I felt that stories could be made using that medium but I mainly used it as a graphic resource for my illustration work (textures or objects that I then combined digitally). Taking photography classes as an optional workshop of the art school was a good technical and theoretical support on this medium. The photography teacher offered us readings of texts by Susan Sontag and Walter Benjamin and thus expanded our understanding of photography.

One day, in a store, I found a small picture book called The Bridges of Madison County. At that moment I discovered the poetic side of photography because together with the photos there are fragments of phrases, like short reflections. That little book helped me understand the intimate strength of photography. 

In addition, an excellent local photographer called Federico Inchauspe used to recommend me the work of other photographers, like Robert Frank, but I am also inspired by movies and music. In this way, I discovered and appreciated photography more and more.

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© Pablo Cainero
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© Pablo Cainero

What cameras do you prefer to use?

I prefer to use compact cameras. I feel more comfortable with this equipment and also think they’re less invasive when taking pictures in the street or photographing people in different situations.

In the street, I commonly use a Pentax Q, a very small mirrorless camera but I usually also carry a point and shoot analog camera. I almost always use a wide angle lens, which allows me to get close and capture much of the scene. I don’t carry more than two cameras in my bag when outside but this does depend on the situation. For example, at some night events I use DSLR cameras with fixed focal lights and 35mm or 50mm lenses. 

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© Pablo Cainero
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© Pablo Cainero

Do you have a favourite photographer or artist whose work you admire?

Yes, there are several. I could mention some classics like Garry Winogrand, Weegee, Josef Koudelka and other great artists but I feel a deep respect for the work of the photographers I know here, in my town and the city, especially Federico Inchauspe, Gastón Cerbino and Esteban Courtalon.  Maybe the reason I feel influenced by these photographers is because they took as one of their themes the coast of Santa Fe, with its natural and idiosyncratic features.

I don’t know if it’s possible to get to know people through their work (I even think that it is not necessary to know the person) but I do consider direct communication and the exchange of ideas fundamental to learning. In my case, photography is a hobby and an exciting path. It’s not my goal to earn money or build a career. Few things give me as much pleasure as going out and connecting with the world through a camera, then going home to see what I’ve found. There are days with more or less luck, though I usually file those photos, then I go back after a while to review them and end up seeing them differently.

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© Pablo Cainero

Thanks Pablo!

For anyone interested in seeing more of Pablo’s work, go check out his Flickr.

Andrei Tarkovsky

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Polaroid © Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979-84

Never try to convey your idea to the audience – it is a thankless and senseless task. Show them life, and they’ll find within themselves the means to assess and appreciate it.

– Andrei Tarkovsky

Russian filmmaker, Andrei Tarkovsky is often cited as one of the greatest cinematic artists of all time despite directing just seven films. His works are unconventional and often have spiritual or metaphysical themes. In Solaris, psychological dramas take place aboard a space station. Stalker, based on the novel, Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, follows an expedition to a mysterious, restricted site known as the Zone.

Tarkovsky’s intimate Polaroid photographs are less well known. These images, which he took between 1979 and 1984, during his last months in the Soviet Union and while filming in Italy and Sweden, offer rare glimpses into his personal life. The snapshot’s flaws and imperfections create an eerie, haunted feel, echoing the atmosphere so often seen in his films. He was fascinated with childhood, memories and dreams.

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Polaroid © Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979-84
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Polaroid © Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979-84
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Polaroid © Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979-84
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Polaroid © Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979-84
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Polaroid © Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979-84
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Polaroid © Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979-84
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Polaroid © Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979-84
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Polaroid © Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979-84

The camera offered Tarkovsky an antidote to the relentless passing of time. Using the medium of film, he could explore human existence and showed life to be magical, supernatural and incomprehensible.

These images are all the more poignant because in 1985, Tarkovsky was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He died a year later on 29 December 1986 aged just 54.

Some sort of pressure must exist; the artist exists because the world is not perfect. Art would be useless if the world were perfect, as man wouldn’t look for harmony but would simply live in it. Art is born out of an ill-designed world.

– Andrei Tarkovsky

Recommended Reading

Instant Light

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Showcases sixty of Tarkovsky’s beautiful Polaroids selected by his son and the renowned Italian photographer, Giovanni Chiaramonte. Highly recommended.

Charles Harbutt

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Charles Harbutt

Sometimes you don’t see what the picture really is until after you’ve taken it.

– Charles Harbutt

As a kid, Charles Harbutt loved to entertain his friends with magic tricks. His life changed forever though, when he began photographing sporting events for his high school newspaper. It provided him with an excuse to skip sports, but photography would also enable him to explore his life-long fascination with perception and illusion.

His big break came in 1959, when he was invited to document the Cuban Revolution for Fidel Castro’s newspaper, Revolucion. Harbutt jumped at the chance, despite not speaking a word of Spanish. In Havana, during his first few days on assignment, he saw dead bodies and spent a night a prison, but, despite the political turmoil, everyone seemed hopeful and spoke of the positive changes the revolution would bring.

Harbutt was exhilarated and his new found passion for photojournalism would take him all over the world. He would work for major magazines and was twice elected president of Magnum Photos.

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Chocolate Perez, Merida, Yuc. © Charles Harbutt
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Quai Voltaire, Paris © Charles Harbutt
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X-Ray Man, Gare Montparnasse, Paris, 1973 © Charles Harbutt
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Woman & Train, Providence, RI © Charles Harbutt
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Blind Boy, New York, 1961 © Charles Harbutt

In 1981, Harbutt became disenchanted,  leaving Magnum to focus on his personal work. His book, Departures and Arrivals is made up of point and shoot images of people going about their normal, everyday lives. Shapes and reflections interested him, as did the expressions on people’s faces. 

Gradually my pictures became more about what I experienced in my day-to-day wandering and not so much about subject. They started to be about the shapes and forms I was seeing and drawn to, suggesting content different from their subject matter.

– Charles Harbutt

Documenting what he saw while out wandering the streets, his photographs would often surprise him.

Once again, magic was playing its part in his life.

Recommended Reading

Departures and Arrivals

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Affordable volume compiling Charles Harbutt’s favourite photographs taken throughout his career.

Travelog

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Regarded as one of the best books about photography in general due to Harbutt’s insightful writing and observations. Expensive but well worth checking out if you can!

Lee Friedlander

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Lee Friedlander

We photographers don’t really make anything: we peck at the world and try to find something curious or wild or beautiful that might fit into what the medium of photography can hold.

– Lee Friedlander

Lee Friedlander is an American social landscape photographer, best known for his humorous, poignant self-portraits and pictures of everyday people, urban places and objects. In The Little Screens, for example, disembodied heads float on television screens in hotel rooms, while street signs turn into surrealist sculptures.

Friedlander has said he throws photographs into boxes, waits until they’re full, and then revisits them to assess their similarities and potential use in future series. His projects tend to grow organically, a little at a time and can be the culmination of several years of sporadic work.

On the street, almost everything is left to chance, apart from where Friedlander stands and when he clicks the shutter. He is so familiar with his 35mm hand-held Leica camera, square-format Hasselblad Superwide and trademark black and white film, that he barely has to think about using it.

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Route 9W, New York1969 © Lee Frielander

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Washington, D.C.1962 © Lee Frielander
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Detroit1963 © Lee Frielander
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New York City1980 © Lee Frielander
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Aloha, Washington1967 © Lee Frielander

Anything that looks like an idea is probably just something that has accumulated, like dust. It looks like I have ideas because I do books that are all on the same subject. That is just because the pictures have piled up on that subject. Finally I realise that I am really interested in it. The pictures make me realise that I am interested in something.

– Lee Friedlander

Friedlander’s self-portraits are particularly interesting because they aren’t conventional. Overlapping reflections and shadows are often included, and he isn’t afraid to poke fun at himself or to self-deprecate.

Often, he will present huge amounts of information in his frames, due to his preference for wide-angle lenses. He also adds foreground obstructions in a radical break with tradition.

For over 60 years, Friedlander has been taking photographs. Even now, aged 83, he still manages to inspire and innovate.

Recommended Reading

Friedlander: Museum of Modern Art

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Published to accompany Frielander’s retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art. This book includes over 750 photographs grouped by series and is the most comprehensive review of his career to date.

Self-Portrait: Photographs by Lee Friedlander

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Includes an introduction by John Szarkowski and is one of the most creative books about Friedlander’s self-portraits.

Robert Frank

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Robert Frank holding a pre-war Leica camera, 1954

Above all, life for a photographer cannot be a matter of indifference.

– Robert Frank

Robert Frank is a hugely influential film maker and photographer, best known for his seminal photo book, The Americans. One of his greatest loves was putting together handmade volumes of photographs. He enjoyed placing seemingly unrelated images together while creating new meanings and playing with repetition and contrast.

In 1955, Frank secured a Guggenheim grant and used it to travel in the United States for nine months. During the trip, he covered 10,000 miles, taking 28,000 shots and shooting 767 rolls of film. Increasingly, he had begun to see the US as a bleak and lonely place. He wasn’t comfortable with the fast pace of life or mass consumerism. He wanted to photograph feeling and emotion while creating an honest portrayal of what life was really like.

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© Robert Frank, The Americans
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© Robert Frank, The Americans
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© Robert Frank, 40 Fotos
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© Robert Frank, The Americans Contact Sheet
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© Robert Frank, The Americans
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© Robert Frank, The Americans

My photographs are not planned or composed in advance, and I do not anticipate that the onlooker will share my viewpoint. However, I feel that if my photograph leaves an image on his mind, something has been accomplished.

– Robert Frank

Back in New York in 1956, Frank worked on publishing The Americans. First, he selected the frames with the most promise from his contact sheets, then printed them, spreading them out on the floor or pinning them up on the wall. Photographs were grouped by theme (race, religion, politics or the media) and subject (cemeteries, jukeboxes and lunch counters) while he decided on the images to include. 

Frank created clever pairings, mirroring similar images on double page spreads. His starting point method of printing out and grouping photographs enabled him to see reoccurring themes in his work. He would also crop images, drawing directly onto his contact sheets with red grease pencil, and sometimes created vertical prints from horizontal negatives.

The placement of each photograph opposite a blank page seems to make them more powerful and haunting, while the pauses in between pages are meditative and emphasise meaning.

Photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson and Walker Evans had captured America on film but he followed his gut despite treading old ground and in doing so, added his own unique spin.

The Americans is proof that even if a project isn’t original, you can still make it your own.

Recommended Reading

Robert Frank: The Americans

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Robert Frank’s The Americans first published in France in 1958 and in the United States in 1959. This book changed photography forever.

Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans

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Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans is a fascinating in-depth examination of the making of the photographs and the book’s construction. More expensive but contains a huge amount of information, including vintage contact sheets, work prints, and letters.