Sunday, 23 July 2017

Thoughts and Musings 1: Jesse Marlow’s approach

Thanks to +michaels Camera, Video & Digital  who ran their Melbourne Photo Show event, we got to see and hear Jesse Marlow speak on his work. He is/was a photographer on the staff of Melbourne newspaper and has focussed on Street Photography for his own body of work.. His talk was entertaining and he shared some aspects of his approach.

1. He does touch up his photos but isn’t into heavy “working” of his images in computer editing

Coming from a newspaper legacy, he does not remove objects from the scene and stuff like that . If you look at his images, they are “just right”, tonally and exposure wise and do not appear to be heavily tweaked. One very young audience member asked why his images  appeared nice and bright, how/did he use Adobe Lightroom to carry this out.

Ears in the audience must have pricked up. I think there are several approaches:
  • Eschew any post processing and believe in the Holy Grail truth that “it is be straight out of the camera, untouched” or
  • Accept what was there or coax the subject and light to a good position primarily. Do a slight touch up of exposure, tones, to taste. or
  • Apply a signature filter / preset / recipe that colour grades and tones the result image so that it is inescapably, obviously you, or
  • Apply every technique known to mankind, even multiple blended exposures, sharpening and noise reduction recipes, HDR, focus stacking, time lapse, compositing to effect what the creator visualises of the image.
It is often the case that a practitioner of one approach is becomes so obsessed in one approach that the other approaches are somehow inferior, often times, disparagingly so.

My opinion? Each approach is more appropriate to a particular genre – Street Photography shots, from the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson and the Magnum cohort, are not heavily tweaked after the shot. The emphasis is on the moment and the capture – the situation, the composition, the juxtaposition of elements. If you enhance the look too much, you lose that sense of impromptu and immediacy and you leave the genre. How much is too much? Ah, that’s the big question.

2. Jesse doesn’t “go out” to take photos.

He carries his camera with him as part of this urban, city activities and his shots are made from observation, spotting and then patiently waiting for that moment where the subject and drama come together to make the scene.  Again, from his newspaper work and background, I would suppose “going out” is his day to day income activities on behalf of the employer. So for his own body of work, it’s a different activity.

My opinion? It’s been popular to go out alone or with a group of friends on photo walks and encounters – because many of us don’t get out much, so it’s fun to walk with a camera and encounter sights. But don’t let daily happens go by, without a photo device near at hand. It doesn’t have to be a serious camera, it could be a phone camera. (More on that, another day)

Points to reflect on.


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