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Wednesday, 29 December 2021

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Just glanced at those highlights (had somehow missed those in the Guardian). Absolutely cracking. Annoyingly, I've just spent 2 months telling people I don't know what I want for Christmas.

Many thanks to your Australian reader who sent you Peter Adams's book. I clicked on the link and arrived at the Guardian which I read more than any other newspaper. I was surprised to find I had missed this. It has now been remedied; sincere thanks to both of you.

My apologies Mike,
Attending to your print sale was on my list of things to do. However, events, including COVID impacts and work, conspired to thwart my plans for unwinding over the week leading into Xmas. The week just got busier and busier. I spent most of Friday - typically a lazy half-day - on zoom helping put out proverbial fires at work.
Next time!

Another book of photographers is Bill Jay's, "Photographers Photographed".

Based on the samples in the link you provide, I can't say this book appeals to me.

As a photographer who is not all that interested in other, famous (?) photographers, I didn't recognize most of the portraits. I suppose I could say I am more interested in photographs than biographical details of their creators.

The text is generally more informative than the photos. Many of the photos are highly, cleverly, at least to the photographer and/or subject, staged. Thus, they are self-statements, unlikely to give insights.*

To me, that renders the portraits largely superfluous - in a book of portraits. Not that they aren't well done, simply that they don't serve the ostensive purpose — at least to this ignorant viewer.

One of the subjects says it well:

"‘Any photographic attempt to show the complete man is nonsense. We can only show, as best we can, what the outer man reveals. The inner man is seldom revealed to anyone, sometimes not even the man himself.’ - Arnold Newman"

Examples:

Who is Max, how does getting a job teaching math relate to being a photographer? Why should I care?

"I have been told that my portrait of Churchill is an example of this." - Yousuf Karsh

The picture of Mr. Karsh may tell me little or nothing. His statement tells me more. He was a thoughtful, careful fellow. Instead of saying his Churchill portrait is ". . . a single exposure that shows everything about the subject.", he says that other say so.

And I think he is right. I've stood a long time in front of a huge print of that portrait. It does say a lot about the public, great wartime leader. But what of his private life? If a grandchild steals his cigar, how does he look? How does he act?

* OK, perhaps they are better than the standard Artist's Statements in many books and galleries.

Cooking: maybe you just need to change your mindset, Mike. Just think of it a form of analogue photography - but instead of chemically producing output to stimulate your visual sense, you are chemically producing output to stimulate your senses of smell and taste (and maybe visually too). I have a friend who was a top flight academic research scientist at a major university who couldn’t cook at all - I and mean at all; frozen peas were beyond him and he could burn a salad - yet he was capable of devising and implementing the most complex chemistry experiments imaginable, and was more than capable of designing and building all the necessary equipment - including engineering the electronics, programming the software, glass blowing the necessary gear, etc to conduct them. It was only after he was given a copy of Harold McGhee’s ‘On Food and Cooking - the Science and Lore of the Kitchen’ as a gift one year that the lightbulb went off that cooking was just a form of experimental chemistry with a view to producing ingestible chemicals that happened to be nutritious for the human body, and were hopefully appealing to the senses of taste, smell and visually. After that, he didn’t quite turn into Heston Blumenthol but he began to enjoy the process of cooking as something that he understood, and he came to do it quite well. In the case of a photographer: acquiring the ingredients for a meal is preparing to shoot and taking the photo, preparing the food (chopping, measuring, etc) is preparing the darkroom, the cooking itself is the development of the film and the making of prints. Then you just have to clean up the darkroom after you are done. Dispose of or store the leftover chemicals, clean the benches and equipment, etc. Your are then ready to look at your prints - I mean eat your meal. And just like a darkroom, you can make plenty of meals (prints) at once so that you can pull them out later on, because you don’t want to do the whole process every day. Anyway, I’m no great chef just as I’m no great photographer - but the basics ain’t hard to master and although there are bits I enjoy more than others, I find that understanding the process of what I am doing and why (especially the science) makes it more enjoyable for me. And I’m a lot healthier into the bargain.

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