Ancient and Modern

September 05, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

My personal favourite photographer of Paris is Eugène Atget. When one artist admires another, it seems inevitable that imitation becomes the sincerest form of flattery. Without being conscious of the inspiration, when faced with a subject that lends itself to the treatment taught by the mentor, the disciple naturally works in ways that replicate the path trodden by the master. That is how I felt about this image from a recent walk in Montmartre.

 

Hommage To AtgetHommage To AtgetCopyrighted Digital Photograph

 

Smokiness

 

There is something ethereal about Atget’s work, which is not only due to his choices of subject, but, I believe, is also a function of both his technique and the physical environment of his day. I am not expert in early photography techniques, which necessarily resulted in “dusty” final effects, but I also am struck by the impact of the heavily polluted atmosphere of a 19th century European metropolis. Maybe that is also because I was myself born as a direct consequence of a London smog triggering a bronchial crisis in my pregnant mother?

 

The background of this image has that hazy “Atget” effect, derived both from the clouds scuttling by, as well as the slightly fuzzy focus of the distant dome of the Basilica. Clearly, conversion to black and white brings a direct comparison to that proportion of his work that was produced that way, as opposed to sepia.

 

Unchanging Paris

 

Equally, Atget’s city has not all disappeared, it seems. The view captured here may very well have been the same during his lifetime? In truth, perhaps the street furniture has been renewed and/ or modernized, but if so, the municipality has exercised skillful taste and money to ensure that the aesthetic remains in keeping with the history of the place. I would like to think that what is captured here is of the same visual quality that he would have enjoyed.

 

Technical

 

Camera: Nikon D800

Lens:

VR 70-200mm zoom f/2.8G

Focal Length: 116mm

VR: ON

Focus Mode: AF-C

Aperture: f/14

Shutter Speed: 1/1000s

Auto Focus -Area Mode: Single

Exposure Mode: Aperture Priority

Exposure Compensation : -0.7EV

Metering: Matrix

ISO Sensitivity: 400

Mounted on a Monopod

 

 

From the same spot

 

At the same time as having the above-described artistic response to Atget, I was also inspired by my photographer friend Benoit Lapray, whose current, emotive and imaginative “Superhero” series you can view here:

http://petapixel.com/2014/05/09/lonely-outdoor-portraits-superheroes-photographer-benoit-lapray/

 

As I waited for lighting and environmental conditions to offer their serendipitous changes, I paid attention to the silhouettes of visitors passing through the scene I was observing architecturally. A figure appeared that immediately resonated with me as a vision of a “Superhero”, thanks to Benoit, and I chanced the shot.

 

SuperheroSuperheroCopyrighted Digital Photograph

 

Silhouetted tension

 

My response arises from the “toned” silhouette of an athletic body and the tension in the set of his legs and the arms, particularly the detail of his left arm and hand. These seem to endow the scene with a purposed presence monitoring the area with restrained power and a little bit of threat.

 

I would have much preferred that the trio ascending the stairs were out of shot, so as to concentrate on the dynamic stance of the “Superhero”, but this was an example of Cartier Bresson-like patience and acceptance of what circumstances might bring to the scene. Given their presence, I have to imagine some kind of relationship between them, perhaps of a protective nature.

 

Any thoughts?

 

Copyright Paul Grayson 2014


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