Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Don't fancy Leica!

This is a "quick and dirty" translation from Russian of the article I found in the old "Soviet photo" magazine, issue dated Jan 1934 with portrait of Stalin on its cover (of course, what else?):

Re-publishing today a photography article this old deserves at least an explanation, so here it is:
There was a time when 35mm film was rapidly gaining popularity while older types of larger format cameras and films, still in use at the time, were slowly becoming outdated. Most of the new 35mm cameras of the period were extremely expensive and out of reach of regular soviet citizen for the obvious reasons:
  • the production of 35mm Leica copies (FEDs) just started, they were not yet available for order;
  • there was no free trade with abroad;
  • the cameras actually were expensive;
  • the salaries were very low.
But still, part of the soviet elite and professionals who by nature of their work had to use photography were looking to acquire the latest equipment: it was fashionable, it was cool, it was better then the old, and in almost all cases it was (ta-dam) ... Leica! Few examples come to mind:
  • ...poet Bulat Okudjava in his teenage years before WWII imagining himself in "...black pants, white Apache shirt and "Leica" hanging from the shoulder" (see his short story "Certain failures among continuous successes");
  • ...writer Ilya Ilf buying "Leica" using money borrowed from Eugene Petrov, his co-author and friend; Eugene was joking that after this he had "no money no co-author", because Ilf was busy photographing and did not have time to work and earn salary; with this camera Ilf photographed the USA in mid-30s, which resulted in their illustrated book "One-Story America", published in USSR in 1936 and known to English readers as "Little Golden America".
The article below is written by soviet official, Semyon Evgenov, director of SOYUSPHOTO trust. SOYUSPHOTO was created in 1931 by decree of the ruling communist party as the country's main propaganda organization to produce and publish photo-illustrations for Soviet magazines, newspapers and other types of publications, so despite the fact the article was published in the widely distributed photography magazine, it was truly meant to be read and fully understood by the few elite readers, as it was usual for Soviet press of stalin's period. It is poorly written in crude soviet official language I tried to imitate in translation, where photography gear referred as "photography weapons" and photographers as "photo-workers". The author is following his absurd line of reasoning minding his own petty goals -- like saying something bad about some photographers and something good about others (by coincidence, the "others" work for the author in his SOYUSPHOTO trust), but at the same time it is interesting and funny to see the parallels to the 70s photography discussions "automatic vs manual", early 2000s topics "film vs digital" and so on. Well, enough said, here is the article:

Monday, February 18, 2013

Little Havana, backstage

This winter I started walking working class neighborhoods of Little Havana. I liked it better then the Calle Ocho. Yes, it is less iconic, never too crowded and there is nothing here to catch tourist's eye, but I'm not a tourist, more of a local already. Here are the few frames from the last week's wanderings:

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Kill it before it lays eggs

I bought this can of Kodak 35mm cine version of Tri-X film from late 50s in a hope to find it exposed, but it turned out to be not. So I used the opportunity to check my old film development process on it. First, I put it in my FED-2 rangefinder camera and exposed at 50 E.I. (originally it was 320 ASA but 50 ASA is my best guess of what's left of it), I also bracketed with +1 and +2. Then, I used my standard process for developing fresh Tri-X (4.5 min @ 75F/24C in TMax 1:4) and it turned out to be heavily fogged, barely printable/scannable. Then I developed it in 10% HC-110 at 50F/10C for 2.5 minutes (the time had been calculated based on test). It came out ok. Here is how it looked after the development:

Friday, February 1, 2013

TOY WORLD by Victor Ginzburg

I published this book of photographs for my friend Victor Ginzburg.
He is an avid photographer; this is the book he was working on since 2005 and it is very unusual piece, at least for the modern photography book: all film, all square, all color. So, what is it, this book? Well, it has 82 pages and 72 photographs and almost no text in it, and it is clearly an art book, but can it be narrowed to more specific genre or school of photography? Asking myself this question, I had to admit that while I love this book immensely, I do not have the ready answer, at least not the verbal one. It is easier to limit the field by saying what this book is not: while many photographs in the book will qualify as a street photography, the book itself is not. Likewise, while author has traveled the world and many photographs where taken far from New England where he lives, is not about travel. Also it isn't a book about his family and friends despite the fact that many of the photographs are picturing his family and his friends.
So yes, I do not have the full and complete answer...still, I can point to the few clues:

- the color is very important for the book. As a black and white, it would not exist.
- the photography as art often has something of painting's legacy. This one has a lot of it.
- it is centered around humans and sure qualify as human-interest photography.

All in all, it is beautiful piece of art and I happy to have my copy.
The book is not expensive and can be had for ~$20 shipped to US location, see here:


To help you decide, here are the few pages from the book: