Shooting pictures with an iPhone for some photographers seems to be unprofessional. But in the end its the idea that counts. I often use my cell phone for reference pictures for work I will shoot properly later. But sometimes the phone picture is the final picture for two reasons. The first is the instantaneous nature of being able to pull out a camera immediately. The second is the fact that it is so discreet. Lets face it, when you are in a crowd there are a million people on their phone anyway so the fact that you are doing some street photography goes completely unnoticed. Often in the past I have taken my clunky 35mm out to take pictures and immediately I am asked why am I taking pictures. Once in fact I got chased onto a bus full of people by a man covered in tattoos. He wanted to physically rip the film out of the camera. Another time I photographed some Hell Angels gang members on their Motorcycles only to be told to "F... Off! or I will smash your camera."
But now with social media the flow of photos is so intense that we view the world now more as a stop frame animation, than a series single discerning images. So anyway I just entered the Saatchi Gallery iPhone Self Expression photo competition. There is no surprise that the competion is sponsored by Huwei Cellphones, who surprise surprise make an apparently amazing phone camera that is built by Leica.
The final winner will have a solo show at the Gallery and the pictures will have to taken on their new phone. So fingers crossed and here are a few of my photos, which are part of my Water the Essential series which is no surprise. Check them out and if you have a chance enter.
I am pleased to announce that Leica Switzerland have done a blog on my work. It has been a real pleasure working with Leica equipment and the staff at Leica Switzerland. Here is the link below for those whose read German and for those that don't you can look at the pictures.
I am pleased to announce my online collaboration with the Roomers, which is a fantastic online platform for interior design. They have a fantastic selection of interior design objects to make your home a living dream. Of course coordinating your interior desires with one of my pictures will bring a zen atmosphere to your living space. Please check it out.
The first Leica I ever saw was my grandfather’s when I was a child. This object transformed our family life into memories. He definitely appreciated quality and precision. He also collected rare Italian violins. He died and more than 30 years later I inherited it.
I had bought my first camera when I was fourteen years old and was always taking pictures. At high school I used the dark room and enlarger. One of the greatest surprises was seeing the paper in the developing tray go from white and slowly morph into a crisp black and white photo. All that time from taking the shot till this moment had been worth it.
At university I studied economics but was always curious to do something artistic. After University I went to Los Angeles and studied acting and worked on films. I realised I didn’t want to sit in an office and pour over research. I had to get out and do something creative. When I returned to New Zealand I started a photographic company and worked as a commercial photographer and director of TV commercials and music videos. I also produced and directed a film that never got finished. The first time I used a Leica was for a photo essay on the demolition of a building. I loved the simplicity. It was an old M4 with a 35mm lens. It was especially great for people. They weren’t intimidated by a large camera and after a while they really didn’t notice I was taking their picture.
My book project Water The Essential started as an idea very early in life. I grew up by a beach in New Zealand and the summers were spent swimming, fishing and later windsurfing and sailing. The sea always fascinated me. Water was always this life-giving element that scared me, challenged me but also gave me great pleasure. I remember being in big surf one day and diving under the wave to this place of great tranquillity.
I had spent a number of years painting abstract paintings and this lead me to a new simpler distilled form of photography. Black and white especially distils light into an abstract form. Black and white also creates a timeless quality. I am always seeking a universal truth to a picture that cannot be judged by a time period. Through out history all art forms have used water as a key narrative or the subject of the work. I like the idea that the strength of an image can be seen now and a thousand or more years into the future.
The real core of the project started in 2014 when I was living in Switzerland.
I loved the zen like nature of water as it flowed and weaved its way around the rocks of streams and into the rivers and lakes. As I took more photographs of it I discovered the infinite ways that water behaves. I was also thinking of larger things that are important and realised that really this is absolutely the most important thing that we have. From then I was totally committed to this project.
After all water is in every living organism on this planet. Not just the 7.5 billion humans. I was committed to a project that had substance over style.
As some one who has taken pictures of many subjects as a commercial photographer I realised that focusing on an issue has deeper meaning and ultimately, becomes a change agent.
One of my heroes Sebastiao Selgado, not only takes pictures that are beautiful but also has a larger message behind it. For me doing this project gave me greater meaning to my life and others. Today there is an immense glut of images and literally billions are created every day. What I try to do is to focus on a subject that is important, show it in a unique simple way and to make people think and contemplate the image. It is not easy task being a photographer and it requires real belligerence and persistence. However it has slowly paid off. I now have a number of exhibitions in Switzerland and the United Kingdom. What is also exciting is a book publishing offer. The work is now going to collectors around the world.
So often especially on commercial jobs I have been distracted by the excessive equipment and how to use it when the real value to me as a photographer is what I see and ultimately to the viewer of the photograph. Its as if my brain is directly connected to the image and my subconscious as an artist is opened up. There is no play back only the next picture. So often when I have used digital cameras I go back and look at the image to see if its perfect, in doing so I get out of the moment and miss the next shot. Also I shoot too many pictures and none of them are particularly good.
Its old fashion but I grew up on film and love the discipline of 36 frames. If you cant get the picture in 2 or three frames move on and find a better idea or subject. Also the expense of processing film is a real discipline to really care about the picture you are taking.
What I love about old Leica film cameras is the simplicity and purity of creating an image. With one camera, an R 4 or R8 a 35mm lens and black and film it frees me to focus on the subject. I am not really a technical photographer but with a fantastic lens and the right exposure the results can be stunning. These cameras do not age and like a fine Violin can be passed from one generation to another.
I am still taking pictures with my Grandfather’s Leica with fantastic results.
More than 60 years later, one camera has captured four generations of one family.
Thanks to the Leica Store in Zurich and Leica Switzerland I now have work being exhibited on my project Water the Essential. Please come and see it and contact me personally about using Leica and my project.
I am please to announce my participation in Photo 17 in Zurich. The work that has been selected is about fish. Photo 17 is the premier photo event in Zurich with over 27 000 visitors last year.
Fish Wanted Dead or Alive is the next book project after Water the Essential. It is a continuation of a body of work about the environment. The pictures are of the life and death of fish and man's responsibility to the oceans and lakes and the creatures that live there. The human impact on global fishing has been devastating and it is time to ask questions and encourage debate on how we use the oceans and lakes in a responsible way, whilst respecting the animals that live there.
Through a series of portraits of fish, that are recently dead and others that are alive, he confronts the death of fishes that would otherwise be ignored. So often our food is packaged in away that removes the consumer from the hard truths of the creatures lives. Simply taking something off the supermarket shelf does not reflect the deeper and more complex story of how it got there in the first place.
I would love to see you at photo 17 at the Maaghalle in Zurich from the 6th till the 10th of January 2017
Don’t “like” peoples posts, actually genuinely help them.
A great friend of mine helped me today hang my exhibition. I have helped him and he has helped me. It is a small thing and in a small way it will not help the world from the bigger things, but it is the smaller things that change the world. As an artist we put a smaller “pathetic” word or message out there, that we think is important and we hope there is greater good in the things that we believe in, and that it will reach a larger audience.
The greater message, in the end is that we are all together and that without each other there isn’t much. In the new media world more "likes" are important but they aren’t, it’s the few, that dig deep and support one another. It is the few who take action. So check out my friend Trevor Guthrie’s work .
I started this book project Water the Essential because water is the most precious resource we have. It is in the cell of every living creature and organism on this planet, not just the 7.4 billion humans. It is the blood of this planet.
Every day we become distracted about less important issues. We worry about money, our weight and how many “likes” we get on social media however history has a way of repeating itself and the very success of human existence revolves around the priority of water use and its management.
Throughout history great civilisations have grown due to the efficient use and fallen as a result of the mismanagement of water resources. The purpose of this project is to draw attention to the varied sources of water, which are often unobserved, which are crucial to the balanced management and larger water solutions. It is not just for human condition that we should worry about water, the very life supporting structures and organisms that make our world, depend on water.
Focusing on water opens up bigger discussions on food supplies, weather patterns, resources management and the politics of borders and national welfare. What we squander today is gone tomorrow. If we do not protect it now, it will be lost to many future generations. Indeed if we focus on the quality and management of water, we focus on the very quality of our own lives.
I highly recommend the following book Water the Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power and Civilisation by Steven Solomon
The summer holidays are over and a new season begins. I am now getting ready for my next show in October at Artemide in Zurich . I am combining the magic of water with light. One of the challenges as a photographer is to see something real, then translate it into a photograph and finally to see the image on paper.
While it is exciting to see ones own work in print, sometimes it lacks the lustre and vibrance of the real thing. One of the challenges of photography and painting, is not just to recreate something in two dimensions but to really capture the colours and vibrancy of the real thing. So I am starting to create light boxes of my work. What I love is that an image can be transformed from an abstract representation into something that feels real, as if you are looking through a window. But what is also amazing is when lighting is well designed it takes on a life of its own. It not merely there to see in the dark, but it becomes its own experience. The second picture is from the surface of an over hanging lamp that Artemide designed.
If you would like to see more please come to the show on the 5th and 6th of October at 6pm or pop into the Artemide Store when you are free.
Barengasse 16 8001 Zurich Switzerland
After getting back from London I have been straight into the preparation of another exhibition combining photography with Opera. I have been in the process of shooting and editing a video installation
The contemporary opera is "Pierrot Lunaire",composed in 1912 by Arnold Schöneberg, and performed by the incredibly talented Maria Korovatskaya and a group of very talented musicians, combined with an exhibition of my photographs on Water the Essential and video installation.
It's on Sunday the 29th of May at the Volkshaus in Zurich.
We would love to see you there. You can book on Eventbrite or there are door sales. It starts at 6.30pm.
Vaughan James is a photographer and writer based in Zurich Switzerland