Blog

This is the Blog of Michael J. Bambuch, conceptual art, fashion and body photographer based in New York and New Jersey.

Making Pictures

I was all set to blog about the last couple of shoots I've partaken in. I had all the images ready to go and hopefully was going to share some images I was really proud of. Like most intentions I seem to have they go out the window.  I was recently able to attend the master works collection of photographer Ansel Adams at the North Carolina Museum of Art, http://ncartmuseum.org/.

Everyone knows Ansel Adams, even if you don't know who he is, you've seen his landscape pictures, most notably the ones featuring a moonlit half dome or El Capitan. I'm sure they have hung in various psychiatrist's offices and accompany positive motivational posters. He is the Beatles or Led Zeppelin of 20th century American-west landscape photography.  I feel because he is so popular he may sometimes gets glossed over. I mean if everyone likes your work, there has to be something annoying about it. I mean, the most popular beer in america is bud light. It's awful. Well, maybe it's the most popular because it's so cheap. I digress. What I am trying to say is sometimes photographers give unsupported hate towards popular things.  Not just photographers, I'm just generalizing the field.

His work astounds me and not because of his ability to capture amazing natural landscapes. I actually kinda hate landscapes. I mean they have their purpose but, bleh. To each their own, right? It's because his system behind making the photographer, yes making, is so operational, it's more than just taking the picture. I explained that very shittily. That's a word, fuck off.  Adams knew what the print was going to look like before he took the photo. His "zone system" for visualizing the tonal range of an image is something photographers (should) still use today.  He understood how the choice of paper would drastically alter shadows and contrast. He spent hours setting up a shot, hiking to a perfect location with a 40lb large format camera. I guess he's a product of the times but I feel like he's also the archetype for a lot of photo making today. Or I should say, should be. 

I've looked at a lot of work lately, I guess in comparison, including mine. The first thing that comes to mind is, carelessness. As photographers we either chose not to or don't have the capability to make sure things are correct. The fashion photographer has a fast prime so they feel, "let's shoot wide open and throw everything out of focus" and people think it's a great picture because of bokeh. Someone sets up lights with a haphazard understanding of ratios or how color temperature works and then they "Fix it in post." I may be seeping into a tangent of distaste I have for the "modern" digital photographer but the same rules apply to everyone. Stop being careless. Stop it. I see so many photographers worried that their camera doesn't have the best iso performance or they want the best autofocus and I can't help but think. How did people do anything for the past 100 years? They obviously got by with more rudimentary tools. Ansel had wood, lens, grounding glass and film. Okay, I could be comparing apples to orangutans but my point is there is a whole facility(your brain and eyes) that is under utilized before making a picture. To Adams, and this is me talking, The photograph was the product of his brain and eyes, his hands were the camera. 

My point is simply, we rely too much on tools that are just tools. Your brain is the tool you need to constantly upgrade, not your camera or lens.  Hopefully this seeps into my work. Shooting people I have always had this animated quality and feverish need to snap snap snap. I can slow it down, I can think. Sometimes I wish memory cards were never invented. The way I treat my film should be replicated in how I treat my sandisk.  I can feel myself getting ever so tangential so I'm going to cease writing. Take a moment to visit the exhibit if you live in the Raleigh metro area or The Triangle, as they call it. Take a moment though when you are there, look at each photo. Go up close, you've paid, inspect the details in the shadows. No Lightroom, No Photoshop. Sure he had a dark room where he did a lot of the techniques now embedded in photoshop but he used his brain, not sliders to get what he wanted.