9 Frames by Patrick La Roque

9 Frames by Patrick La Roque

The Medium Format Magazine is not the only publication available to our members. We also publish the PDF Exclusives – high-quality, in-house designed educational and inspirational pieces on a variety of subjects related to medium format film and digital photography. Our subscribers have already downloaded and enjoyed a number of such exclusive publications. Vincent Lions authored one about still life photography and Lloyd Chambers about the technical aspects of shooting digital medium format. The latest production was from Patrick La Roque – the master storyteller and visual virtuoso. In his “9 Frames – On Being Moved and Why” Patrick deciphers nine images and shares his mechanics of seeing and capturing them. It is a revealing and fascinating read. Here is one of the images with accompanying text by Patrick La Roque.

 

A few leaves in a simple space

© Patrick La Roque

For years, I’ve worked with an architecture and design firm that creates stunning spaces. I have a shed load of images from these projects that I’m extremely proud of and could have included here. But I keep coming back to this rather muted image. When I shoot spaces I’m always looking for small vignettes that tell a story beyond any grandeur. Sure, I’ll capture the spectacular super wide frames as part of the job, but I also try to find innocuous views, the kind you’d vaguely notice from a bed or a sofa while reading a book on a lazy afternoon. Because these, to me, feel like life as opposed to stagecraft. And this is one such image: I love the light, the angles, the tones and the leaves on the outside porch. It seems unintentional and real.

A small aside about general technique: 99% of my interior work is shot in available light as in whatever-light-is-part-of-the-space, natural or otherwise. In high-end designs, lighting isn’t random: every lamp, spot and window is intentional. Capturing this intent is something I consider important because it’s part of the initial vision. The trick is to remember that timeis also part of our gear because with a still subject and a tripod, the camera shutter can remain open for as long as it takes. So I keep my ISO low and set the camera to aperture-priority, turning the exposure compensation dial until I get an exposure that provides the look I’m trying to achieve. I use the built-in timer to delay the shutter (to avoid any sort of shake) and click away.

Unless we want to re-lighta space, there’s no need to overcomplicate matters in this type of situation. I do bring a small flash with me just in case and I’ve used it to create different moods. But as I said, this is the exception rather than the rule.

 


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An Interview with Cooper and Gorfer

An Interview with Cooper and Gorfer

Working on an interview with Nina Gorfer and Sarah Cooper, known as Cooper and Gorfer was a truly amazing experience. The imagery is absolutely beautiful, rich in colour and texture but most importantly so abundant in meaning. Sally Jennings, who worked with me on this interview writes in the introduction: These people were real. I felt that this was how we should live. This was who we really were. Instead, we impose on ourselves a world that’s pragmatic and disciplined and mechanical and we ignore the sweeps of our giddy brain. I want to leave my world and enter theirs.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. The body of work produced by Nina and Sarah is remarkable not only in its artistry but also in its intellectual richness. Below please find an excerpt from this interview.

WHO?

Who are Cooper and Gorfer in their own words?

Two women searching and changing, and communicating this through art.

How did you meet, get together?

We met in grad school and over several beers decided to create a book together. This became our first body of work. The rest, of course, is history.

COLLABORATION

Nina – what is so special about Sarah that you decided to work so closely with her?

Sarah and I share a lot of inspiration and often have the same visions. Sarah is a doer. I like her forward energy and drive; she has an ability to make things happen almost effortlessly; it seems to be part of her DNA. She is an incredible artist and creative thinker and one of the best people I know to brainstorm with. She is also one of the most compassionate and positive people I know. We are very similar in many respects, but we also complement each other really well. Most importantly, after 13 years of intense collaboration, we are still best friends.

Sarah – what is so special about Nina that you decided to work so closely with her?

This is an important question to reflect on after over a decade of working together. I’ve joked in the past that Nina is the Mother Ship. And I suppose we have both been each other’s lifeline over the years. But through Nina, I’ve been able to achieve a level of creativity, performance and confidence that I’ve seldom encountered on my own. She has the ability to create an overview of clarity on many of the things we do artistically and strategically. Nina is a person that searches for change, inspiration and knowledge. She pushes you to be your best and, in turn, she gives you her best. I always look forward to our brainstorming sessions or just free-flowing conversations over a long meal. She is fearless with humble vulnerability which is mirrored in my own actions and way of being. She is my friend.    

What are the difficult, surprising or rewarding aspects of your collaboration?

It’s important to keep the friendship alive and remember why you think the other one is so damn cool. The path to success is a tough one and if you aren’t having fun, it can be daunting and simply unbearable. We’ve noticed that the most rewarding aspect of our collaboration is probably this sharing of ideas and the braiding of ambition and competition. But ironically enough, considering that we work so much with issues of identity, it is just this shared identity that can also make things so difficult, where you can almost feel lost. So, as much as we love the joint “No Ownership” aspect of our work, it’s important to regroup and celebrate the individual, our own selves. You have more to give to the pot of ideas, if you have more to give.

PROJECTS

What inspires you? How do you translate that inspiration into your visuals?

This can be different between us. Inspiration comes through learning and reacting to what excites you. At times, it can be more existential and/or personal questions about life, or a fascination with a person’s biography or the arc and energy of a place. Sometimes it is just innocent curiosity about the mundane moment. It can be a great book, a work of art, some fantastic music, or a ridiculous experience. We are collectors.

When we’ve decided a certain theme will be the foundation of our next artwork, we use a rather journalistic research method, including interviews and the gathering and creation of imagery. We create an inspiration pool, a collection which we react to and then execute our artwork.

What visual storytelling techniques do you use as part of your process?

Our books are the brainchild and thesis behind our work. This is where we are able to present the perfect symbiosis of text, research, biography, imagery and flow. For our physical artworks we have used everything from the cinematic progressions of imagery to the compositional iconography of symbols within the work to tell the story.

On your website, you said: “We re-imagine the tradition of portraiture by visually examining and deconstructing the narrative of those you portray.” Could you please expand on that?

Our work is inherently traditional, in that we are portraitists. We are not the first and we won’t be the last. But what we can add is our personal encounter with those we portray. Our images are always based on an interview process where we seek to define a narrative of that person based on their own words or the circumstances that surround them. What we ask and then choose to focus on is subjective and what is shared and remembered by our subject is selective. In the end, it can create multiple ways of defining that narrative and the arc of one’s life. Time is also a factor and as we are dealing with stationary imagery, the artwork is always a collapsing of these many layers in time, and how we choose to see and understand this is also selective. We are inspired by the act of portraying something that is real, but the way in which you define that collection is sensitive to the non-linear memes of memory.

Could you please expand on your idea of hybrid portraits?

We have always felt that our artworks are on the edge of photography and, as a result, have never thought of ourselves as photographers in the traditional sense of the word. Our work is more about enabling the image that we are striving to create to come forward, and we use any means to achieve that. The hybrid refers to this blend. It can be purely technique, the collaborative effort of the portrayed and the portrayer, and the duality of our collaboration as artists.

There is no question that your imagery is grounded in strong research and close cooperation with your subjects. Having said that, there is also a very strong “visual deconstruction” process where your imagination (or may we call it visual intervention) enriches the final imagery. How far are you willing to go with this intervention? Is there a balance between staying close to the story and enriching it through creative means?

Yes, there is definitely a balance. Because our projects involve so many lives, quite literally, there is a struggle to honour the truth. But in the end, it is about giving back a sense of empowerment to those we portray, and a sense of personal wonder or perplexing contemplation for those who encounter our artwork, not a transcript. Our images are about the play between the reliability and unreliability of memory. A visual intervention can sometimes be about destroying the image or distorting the way in which one views the subject and or artwork.

What idea have you tried that you thought would work but, in the end, you decided not to pursue it?

We don’t want to burn any “ideas” at this moment as we are in the middle of a project. We’d say it is more that you put ideas on the shelf. Save them for that day when you feel you have the lust, time and or right circumstances to do it well. Sometimes the idea is good but the subject matter doesn’t suit the technique or vice versa. We always do continuous small experiments. Often, they remain in the understory of a final body of work.

What advice would you give to those who are seeing their own visual voice?

You have to really want it, as it takes a ton of dedication. But try and enjoy the path. It can be interesting to map your goals and pinpoint and envision how you should feel in these goals. Sometimes you won’t always believe in the work or yourself, for that matter, but it’s important to move ahead as if you have blinders on. Our studio tends to be our cave for creation.

WOMEN

Your images are very sensual in a symbolic way, but how do you avoid generic over sensual imagery?

We have alarm bells or one of us will zoom out and remind the other that “that thing you have been working on for the past two weeks, it just isn’t working.” But we try to not think about this too much. We’ve noticed that so long as we as artist or the artwork and/or the process is always grounded in something we are generally interested in (whether subject matter or composition) it leads to some exceptional work. Not everything we do is perfect, and sometimes the artwork is terrible. Creating art is emotional and it’s hard to know how to edit the ideas of your mind, and if you even should.

How do you see women in art and why your imagery is different?

Women in portraiture are in a continually vulnerable state of being looked upon. Our images are about the weakness and wonder humanity has for that which is beautiful, and using it as a tool to attract the viewer. We are women who are artists, portraying other women, and we are constantly subjected to the dilemma of how we choose to see ourselves or others. This is the result of centuries of definition fiascos, instigated by both sexes, ending unfortunately in the marginalization and objectification of women. Our images are often attraction masks for the complexity of what lies beneath. These are not sexualized women, they are empowered, staring back or hovering in a moment of sensitivity. We choose to depict women in the way in which we hope to see ourselves.   

 

MEDIUM FORMAT

You chose a medium format camera to shoot your recent project. Why?

We need quality and Hasselblad completely delivers for our work.

You print large and present your work in print, and then embellish it. Is this where you find the strength of medium format?

Yes. Our work is often oversized and towering. We need a camera that can give us a filmic colour range with high resolution grain. This enables us to create more embroidered imagery without the distraction of digitalness.

Where can we see your exhibitions? 

We will be premiering the full body of work that we are presently working on (Utopia or the Mistake of the Intellect) with Fotografiska at one of their international venues in early 2020.

Other exhibitions:

Interruptions will be shown in Sweden in the autumn of 2019 at Lidköpings Konsthall from19 October to 31 December 2019.

The full The Weather Diaries exhibition (toured by The Nordic House Iceland) will be touring the Baltics throughout 2019 beginning with the Latvian Museum of Art, continuing to the Lithuania Art Museum, and lastly the Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design.

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2019 © OLI Publishing Inc. All rights reserved.

Simple Portrait of Gao Ming Ming

Simple Portrait of Gao Ming Ming

Wayne Gretzky once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Although he was talking about hockey, that is basically my approach in photography.

As a camera user and industrial designer, I use many camera systems with different formats but still experience the same curiosity whenever a new camera is brought out. My primary medium format systems in these digital days are Phase One IQ backs on Hasselblad H camera and Alpa12 and Phase One’s own XF100 for studio work.  When Hasselblad X1D was introduced in 2016 I immediately bought one to use as a portable solution medium format digital system. I prefer it over Fujifilm GFX50S which I found had rather a dated concept although I do not question its capability and image quality. When the 50R model was released I thought it would be a good bet as a street camera with its zoom lens so I got one, along with 45mm, 110mm and 32-64mm zoom lenses.

A couple of days later I met Gao Ming Ming, a young Chinese woman from Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province who was travelling backpack-style in Bangkok, Thailand. I noticed her not just because of her pretty face but her calm and confident manner which I found intriguing, so I started talking to her.

I found Gao was 23 years old and speaks only Chinese. She was on her third day in Thailand. We exchanged names and where we came from and then I asked her why she was in Thailand. I learned that she had been travelling alone in northern India for two months and then in Bangladesh for two weeks before landing in Thailand. She did her travel basically with a smartphone as her travel translator, guidebook and payment system (Chinese WeChat Pay and Alipay) with a 65L backpack and travelled by local bus or train, often on overnight buses between cities. She described them as: “That kind of bus that has endured a war and where every part shakes when it runs and when it is not running all one can smell is the fumes.” She stayed at budget hostels everywhere. I know it is not easy for a woman to travel alone in India and it’s probably tougher in Bangladesh, especially because of the way she travels, so that ignited my interest. I started to think about taking some portraits of her to test my new camera so I asked whether she would be interested in having her photo taken. I told her I am an industrial designer and a photographer and showed her the kind of pictures I would like to take on my smartphone while offering to buy her another cup of coffee. She declined the coffee but accepted my invitation for portraiture.

The pictures I showed her were those I shot at Bangkok Railway Station so I asked her whether it would be okay to meet at the train station at 7:15 am the next morning for coffee. I explained that I wanted to start shooting early because the light would be better and it wouldn’t be as hot then. She took a few seconds to say yes because she probably doesn’t get up that early!

I told her ahead of time that in some situations I might touch her hand or part of her body to adjust her pose to get particular angles and she shouldn’t take it as anything else. Then I asked what she would wear and advised her that anything pastel or with a print doesn’t shoot so well. She told me that she had some dresses from her trip to India and she would pick one in a darker tone. Finally, we exchanged our WeChat ID on the phone and she asked me to send her the location information before I left.  

Kaisern Chen Image Works http://www.kaisernchen.com/blog/

I woke up early the next morning to go to the train station to get some morning shots of travellers. Around 7:05 am my WeChat received a message from Gao saying she was already at the station, so we went to have a coffee before the shoot.

Over coffee, I told her what Wayne Gretzky once said: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” I said I had expected her to say no to my invitation to shoot her because it is the answer I would expect my daughter to make to a stranger. I said I wouldn’t be upset if someone declined my invitation and would only regret not asking at all. And the rest are the pictures.

The shoot in the train station lasted over an hour then we went back to the coffee shop and chatted about her interesting travels and my travels, and then I learned she only chooses to work part-time so she can leave a job easily to go travelling.  She works as a delivery girl for an online food platform “Meituan” in the northern region of Inner Mongolia during the winter to earn money to travel. I told her about Russia, a country I very much enjoy visiting and showed her the pictures I took in Russia before I returned in early November. She said that she once worked on the Chinese/Russian border where the village scenery looked exactly the same and showed me the pictures on her smartphone, including those from northern Inner Mongolia. 

Sometimes we are skeptical about strangers at first and I must admit I am too, particularly regarding such an independent young lady. When she showed me the pictures of where she had been and I saw the travel blog on her WeChat, Gao Ming Ming is even more amazing than she appears in the pictures.

Kaisern Chen Image Works http://www.kaisernchen.com/blog/

Using Fuji GFX50R for these portrait shots ended up being a good decision not only because I wanted to try the new camera but I found the medium format camera to be more methodological to operate, which slows me down. That helps to tackle the fact that not only is Gao Ming Ming not a professional model, but in fact has no experience at all, while her tough independence gained from all her travels gives her the easiness and calmness to help my shoot.  

The image quality from Fuji GFX50R is quite good, as expected, and the RAF format supported by Capture One makes editing easy. As a Leica M camera user, I will not say the GFX50R experience is rangefinder-like, in fact far from it. Fuji is a capable company with brilliant engineers and will not produce a flawed camera but it is a camera with compromises to meet various goals and I have no doubt we will see improvements in future generations of cameras. Until then I am sure I will get used to the camera in my hand even it is not perfect, because no camera is.

Kaisern Chen Image Works http://www.kaisernchen.com/blog/

Kaisern Chen Image Works http://www.kaisernchen.com/blog/

Kaisern Chen Image Works http://www.kaisernchen.com/blog/

Kaisern Chen Image Works http://www.kaisernchen.com/blog/

Kaisern Chen Image Works http://www.kaisernchen.com/blog/

 

Five unexpected side effects of MF

Five unexpected side effects of MF

Since I started shooting with a Phase One medium format camera system, I have experienced a series of quite unexpected and interesting side effects. I thought my testimonial might be helpful to other photographers who are considering making the move. Note: you won’t find any of these side effects listed at the end of the XF user’s guide, or on any equipment review of any photography website.

I had been dreaming of medium format for years. Like many others, I have always considered medium format the ultimate system, the holy grail of cameras. Like many others, I thought it was inaccessible, unaffordable, something I could only dream of. Two years ago, I stopped dreaming and made the move. At last! The main reason was that an upgrade of my system was overdue, but at the time I couldn’t see any new 35mm camera on the market worth the investment. Every new generation of DSLR camera comes with better autofocus, better crazy-fast frame rate, better ISO for low light situations, and better video options. That’s all great for photographers who shoot sports, journalism, wildlife, weddings and so on but with the type of photography I do, I don’t need any of those features. I shoot manual focus 90% of the time, I don’t need many frames per second, I work mostly in the studio with strobes, I shoot at ISO 50-200, and to be honest, I have very little interest in video. Instead I’d rather have better image quality, better colour rendering, higher flash sync speed, better lenses and solid tethering features. I do photography for a living, so overall I want to give my clients the best image quality. The answer to that is simple: it’s called medium format.

@ Vincent Lions

Many articles can be found online on medium format vs. 35mm, with all specs written down. They compare sensor size, pixels, technical aspects, interface, design, all possible features, etc., but none of them really talk about how shooting with a medium format camera affects you. You. The photographer! You are way more important than your camera. How a camera makes you feel and how it affects your work and your approach to photography is what matters the most. It’s not all about AF points or megapixels.

With that in mind, I realized I have experienced a series of quite unexpected and very interesting “side effects” since I’ve been shooting with the Phase One XF. When I shared those thoughts with colleague photographers, I was very happy to hear they felt the same as I do.

Medium format photography will most likely raise your standards. This is actually the most important side effect I’ve noticed: I feel that I always have to be more than good. It is unacceptable to create an average image with such a high-end system. The image quality is so outstanding and the tool is so precise and advanced that I feel like lighting, concept and composition should constantly improve to honour the top-of-the-line equipment I am working with. To be fair, the skills I just mentioned are required regardless of the system used. The truth is that investing in a medium format system doesn’t make you a better photographer the next day, just as buying a better car doesn’t make you a better driver. Or adding a pedal to your pedalboard doesn’t make you a better guitar player. Getting better requires work. I’m now harder on myself than I was before. Between you and me, I’m still capable of shooting a bad image every now and then. I just make sure no one ever sees it!

Loss of interest in other platforms may occur.I have to admit I have completely lost interest in shooting 35mm DSLR. I’m not saying DSLRs are bad. I’m certainly not saying anything negative about the work of other photographers who shoot 35mm either because I absolutely love and respect the work of so many of them! Truth to be told, amazing photographs have been taken with pretty much every camera that ever existed. All I’m saying is that 35mm is not the best fit for me anymore. I kept some of my old gear though and still use it on certain occasions when it is more convenient (travelling, fast-moving subjects, very low light, etc.), but when I do use it, I use it with less excitement. I’m still focused and dedicated to capturing a great image, but something is clearly missing.

© Vincent Lions

The photographer may gain self-confidence.I cannot think of a single client who wouldn’t be happy about receiving higher quality work. I feel I now bring so much more to the table both in assignments and my personal projects. If I do my part right, I know the camera won’t let me down. As a matter of fact, it will exceed my expectations. With that in mind, I feel more confident every time I start a project.

The photographer may feel humbler.I know, I just spoke about self-confidence, but self-confidence and humility are not incompatible. Here’s the thing: the XF camera system is so advanced it offers many features that are beyond my needs and that I’m not familiar with yet. I still have some serious learning to do. It’s a good thing I don’t feel too bad about my visual and creative skills because I must say that in all technical aspects, my camera is smarter than I am (and so are the people who designed it)!

Upgrades may be required. This side effect might affect the photographer’s bank account more than the photographer himself. Some of the equipment I previously thought was okay wasn’t actually good enough. I replaced my tripod with a sturdier one with higher load capacity. I invested in a more precise tripod head and purchased a better (and well-calibrated) screen for editing plus additional hard drives to store larger files, etc. So unless you’re already set, if you’re thinking in investing in a medium format system, don’t forget to include some of these side expenses in your budget.

There is another common side effect that I have heard about many times, which I didn’t mention. Some people say that medium format would slow them down, in a good way. They take more time with each photo, they think more, they reconnect with the gear and appreciate things more, they don’t rush as much. The reason I didn’t mention this side effect is that in my case, it doesn’t apply. I was already doing that. Because of the nature of my work, I have to be patient and precise. I sketch my ideas before I go on set, I shoot tethered with the camera on a tripod and I take the time to compose, light, stage and style, regardless of the equipment I use. So, in a way, now that I think about it, I was actually using my 35mm camera like a medium format camera!

@ Vincent Lions

 

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2018 © MediumFormat. All rights reserved.

It is finally happening!

It is finally happening!

It is finally happening. The Medium Format platform and the accompanying Medium Format Magazine are here!

It was only two years ago that digital medium format photography was the privilege of a very few mostly commercial and fashion photographers who could justify spending the equivalent of a new car to purchase a medium format system.

All those years, most of us could only admire, lust and dream. Whether we admit it or not, the appeal of digital medium format was always there. Now, this fantasy is rapidly changing to reality. The spectral hand of innovation and competition has brought us brand-new medium format tools. In fact, we have reached the point when many of us could sell our collection of lenses and cameras and enter this no longer exclusive world of digital medium format photography.

When I made my own entrance to this exciting new world, one thing struck me right away. I felt lost and deluded. Other than a few occasional articles about digital medium format photography, I couldn’t find any place on the internet or elsewhere which would guide me in those crucial first steps. I needed a place to call home, where I could find like-minded individuals for whom the craft of seeing was no longer just a hobby. Furthermore, the availability of materials to navigate these exciting but very different waters were scarce or non-existent.

I soon found that I wasn’t alone in this search for knowledge, inspiration and companionship. Whether we are seasoned pros, advanced amateurs or beginners, learning about the precision and craftsmanship that medium format demands is something that bonds us together.

This union prompted me to create a new home for medium format photographers like you and me. We knew from the start that the only right name for this new home must be MediumFormat.com. Then the idea of the Medium Format Magazine followed, sort of naturally, not out of necessity but rather as the side-effect of my passion for visuals and words.

Of course, I wouldn’t be able to do it myself. As I talked to numerous industry leaders, writers and photographers the idea became clearer: a clean website with high-quality, curated and exclusive content from the best medium photographers in the world.

At a glance, you notice that there is free content on the website grouped in three sections: NEWS, GEAR and VISION. As we progress, you will find something new, informative and inspiring every week.

However, if you decide to go deeper into the world of medium format photography I urge you to join us and become a member. You will find truly unique and exclusive content. At the centre of this membership community is the monthly Medium Format Magazine. This is not just another online magazine. From the start, we wanted to create a premium publication with exclusive content presented in a clean, beautifully designed format without the clutter of ads and sales pitches.

We also offer our members live and immersive webinars by the best medium format photographers in the world. Already, the first webinar is scheduled for October 20th with Ming Thein.

Then there are the education and inspirational publications, written for and accessed exclusively by the members of our platform, centred on digital medium format photography.

This is just the beginning.

My team and I are looking forward to your feedback, thoughts and suggestions. How can we make this new home for medium format photography welcoming, informative, inspiring, interesting and alive? We will be reading all your emails and considering seriously every suggestion. In fact, if you would like to contribute to the magazine or the website please don’t hesitate to contact us. Let’s build this new world of medium format photography together. Thank you for visiting and I hope you will join our community. Please make sure to leave us your email address so we can stay in touch.

Have great light and seeing,

Yours truly,

Olaf, editor-in-chief