We are surrounded by photography.
Someone's selfie on Facebook.
A billboard that shows you how you should smile while drinking Coke.
Some terribly awkward pose on a red carpet.
A wealthy lawyer with harsh lighting and a stern look on his face.
A starving model casually wearing a bikini.
All trying to create some sense of a life that doesn't exist.
But despite the fact that we have high-level technology in our pockets, the prevailing sentiment seems to lean toward making our images look worse in an effort to give them character. Everyone with Instagram seems to be the next Dorothea Lange or Annie Liebowitz.
I sometimes joke that the reason people say that a photograph is worth a thousand words is because that's how many words it takes to get a photographer to shut up about their work.
But the basic truth is that it takes a lot of preparation & thought to know when to press that button. Knowing that the bride walking down the aisle needs to be captured... as well as the groom as he tears up at how beautiful his soon-to-be-wife looks. That grandma and grandpa might need a couple of shots with the first grand baby. That there can be humor in a mixed family. That a widow finding love in a widower deserves as much celebration as young love. And also that dying must be faced with dignity. These secret and beautiful moments deserve the same attention as our posed family shots and photos of wedding rings on joined hands.
While I have made it my education to study the masters of the craft, both commercially and artistically, what I seek is the ability to ignore the fads and capture a timeless record of some of life's most important moments.
I hope we can find some together.
Welcome to the website. Enjoy.
Last weekend, just in the knick of time, I got the wife and the tiny muse out to the Ft. Worth Modern the day before the URBAN THEATER exhibit on the New York art scene in the 80's closed.
I have always had a soft spot for Basquiat and I'd heard that you really had to see Keith Haring's work in person. What I didn't expect was that they would have the amount of photographic work that they did... and also that they would have the work of Satan himself.
When I was a kid, I saw a piece on the news about a horrible man with a camera named ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE, who went about terrorizing nice people with his bullwhip tail and devil horns. (I grew up in East Texas in the 80's. This is what they told us.) It's as if the only apt response was "We are not ready for this. This is bad!". For years that was my impression of the man. If only those protesting could have ignored the controversy and actually looked at his work, they might have seen this pariah was a quiet master of his art form.
In 1988, a year before he died, he took "Self-Portrait". While one of many, this image was memorable for depicting a quite sick Mapplethorpe gripping a cane with a small human skull carved atop it. Understandably, his work had become dark without apology including photographing human skulls. According to his biographer, he considered the skull the "purest sculptural image of all for its clean lines were undisturbed by skin or hair", which to me is just the kind of wry musing one might expect of a dying artist.
The idea of the photo as memento mori makes the narrative of this "Self-Portrait" all the more poignant. Shooting it against a black back-drop in a black turtleneck, he clearly draws the connection between his own appearance and the stark lines of the skull. What I respond to though is the ray of hope in the strength with which his hand clutches the cane, acknowledging its presence, while at the same time, keeping it at bay.
I was remarking to a friend how beautifully clean the whole thing was and I joked (out of awe rather than conceit) that it was so simple it could have been shot in my living room. The image stuck with me over the week and it wasn't until I was trapped in the house yesterday during a frigid morning that I decided to test that out.
I have had a decorative skull that I got a few years ago as a morbid little centerpiece for our dining room and as I walked by it and saw it reflecting the morning light, Mapplethorpe's comment about the perfect sculptural image really resonated.
And so, I present my own tribute to Mapplethorpe's skulls or "A Study On The Effect of Light on a Simultaneously Concave and Convex Reflective Subject"...
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Cameron Cobb Photography
Today, in response to a media query, I was asked to compile a list of tips for using an iPhone as a primary camera for travel. A lot of these are true for phonetography in general, but apply especially when dealing with different cultures and scenic locations. It was fun, so I thought I'd share it with you all. Enjoy!
10 Tips For Travelling With Your iPhone Camera App(s)
1) Always hold your phone sideways. (They don't call it landscape mode for nothing.) The angle of the lens is so wide to begin with that you are able to squeeze much more in the image and in focus than you are when you hold it vertically or "selfie mode". While you may just want to focus on the setting sun in your image, why not include the beach as well? You can always crop it later.
2) Speaking of "selfie mode": Always rely on the lens that is on the BACK of the camera. The difference in quality is astounding. While it may seem easy to snap that pic of you and your travel mate standing at that cool mountaintop vista yourself, turn it around and press the button without looking or ask someone to snap it for you... just make sure there aren't any gypsies or ne'er-do-wells that will run off with your phone.
3) Why just take photos? That sunset in Hawaii is beautiful for twenty minutes. Why not set your phone down and take a quick time-lapse video? It's just a couple of swipes over on your camera menu and when you post it on Facebook, your family and friends will think you are a technical genius.
4) Speaking of your camera menu: Have you tried the HDR function? It basically takes multiple exposures of one photo and blends the best parts of each. Not only will it up your overall photo quality, but it might help fill in some shadows of that shot you got that overcast day at the Scottish Loch... that could finally prove the existence of Nessie.
5) Never zoom. Seriously. You will get a better image if you blink your eye and say "click".
6) Part of the fun of traveling with your phone as your primary camera is
the convenience, both in capturing the image and sharing it in real time (provided you can duck into a bistro with Wi-fi). Don't be that person though that spams everybody with twenty images everyday. Find the best ones and edit. Not only are there great alternatives apps to the native camera on your phone (Camera+ and ProCam are two great ones to play around with) but there are also easy intuitive photo editing apps. I'm not talking about filters that give your photos the same "artsy" feel that everyone on Instagram has. I mean actually going in and adjusting the brightness, contrast, color balance, etc. I like Snapseed for casual use, but Photoshop Express is also an alternative if you really want to go to town.
7) Always remember that one of the great things about life's travels are the people you come across. Yes, I mean that nice couple you met on the cruise, but also those cute kids when you stopped in Jamaica. While some cultures find it invasive to do street-style photography, the camera phone is inconspicuous and non-threatening. So if you see a smiling lady selling her colorful wares that you want to remember, snap away. But always remember, street performers are out there working for tips. While they are more than happy to pose or be photographed doing their job, it is rude not to tip them.
8) Look at all the postcards. They will tell you what every other traveller has photographed. Find a new angle. The reason Anthony Bourdain is so cool is that he takes the plunge. He looks for stuff that is off the map. You may never get back to the locale you are visiting. Take the plunge as well.
That is what will set both your memories and your pictures apart.
9) Try not to delete while on vacation. It's hard to judge what is good or bad while you're in the middle of it. I know that storage is an issue with high-res images on the iPhone, but you never know when that one photo you thought made you look fat ALSO captured that funny Spanish waiter or the name of that amazing restaurant on the coast that you want to remember. Travel photography is as much a journal as anything. Don't judge it while you're experiencing it. (Note: This applies in life as well.)
10) Want to get that awesome shot of your kids in clear blue water of Mexico? Make sure you test your waterproof case before you do it! Or else you may end up with no camera or phone and no record of all those cool shots you got before. I learned this lesson the hard way.