Snapshots: Celebrations, Records and Ideas

Snapshots: Celebrations, Records and Ideas, is an album of happiness and humour and things I like

Rae at Mandalay Beach, with her Zero 5x4" camera on our first wedding anniversary

Rae at Mandalay Beach, with her Zero 5×4″ camera on our first wedding anniversary

jbaphoto110214A016.mod.smallMy recent seventieth birthday was a kind of way marker for me which showed me it is time to cease my dark environmental work. Especially my work devoted to describing the destruction and defense of our forest. Perhaps the contemplative images of the coast and the engaged Naked Portraits of women will continue for a while, but I think these too will tail off during the next one or two years


Kat over-posing with SinarI have always made snapshots, but he idea for a dedicated portfolio of┬áLeicasnaps (Leica snapshots) came from the results of a day making easy prints from 35mm snaps as a prelude to making of real prints, large prints of real images, from real 10×8 and 5×4 inch negatives. All I thought I was doing at the time was making a few prints for fun, but looking at the prints has raised questions and an idea

jbaphoto130103A12.mod.smallI now see the Leicasnaps is a bigger and more important body of work than I first thought. I had seen these Leicasnaps being for personal consumption by family and friends. When I started to review the negatives and made an initial list for printing the narrative streams in the work were already evident. However, the first day’s negatives were selected on a totally random “how will this look” approach with no thought to chronology, subject area or logic. The print list is already big, several pages in my darkroom work book jbaphoto131107A020.mod.smallThe starting point for this 35mm snapshot portfolio was the arrival of Rae Starr in September 2008. The images are a personal record and the body of the work centres around celebration of Rae, but also the garden, records of making the series of Naked Portraits with big cameras and lots of things that have taken my interest or have good light or refer to ideas for future “real pictures”, or things that get snapped. So the title Snapshots: Celebrations, Records and Ideas . . . jbaphoto131107B034.mod.smallThe size of the prints took a little consideration, image sizes were first 6 x 9 inches, too small, then 10 x 15″, too big and finally settling on 7.3 x 11 inches on 11×14 Fomabrom paper

jbaphoto140108A00.mod.smallThe next printing will be in an ordered way, with images chosen from each year from 2008 and selected with more mindfulness

jbaphoto140922A003.mod.smallBefore going into the darkroom for the next batch of images the question Rae and I are considering is what to do with the prints. To keep them for family and friends, or to publicly show them? Should they be in bound portfolios? Should they be ordered chronologically, or by subject or by other means of classification? Currently I want a wall of them in a grid, but beyond that in random disorder. Random disorder lets the viewer imagine their own narrative sequences of the pictures

Page from notebook, first thoughts on showing prints

Page from notebook, first thoughts on showing prints

These snapshots are decidedly not “street photography. I only very rarely steal images of people without the knowledge, and I feel to do so is theft. My exceptions to this are timber industry workers, too stupid to know what a camera is, timber industry bosses and their politicians and police. These deserve all the abuse they get

Note on Cameras:

As well as the screw mount Leica negs, there are a few images from Leica M2, Nikon F, Voigtlander Vitessa and DeJUR D3 in the mix. M series Leicas, and Ninon Fs are too big to carry, the Voigtlander Vitessa and DeJur D3 too odd and the Rollei 35B is too small, but very nice. I have come to embrace the idiosyncrasies of the LTM Leicas and the re-engagement with the snapshot has partly come from my rediscovery of these cameras and their ease of use, that is ease of use to me, but . . .

Leica Snapshots, some thoughts about . . .



Snapshots and Leicas

John Austin with IIIc

I see my work in two parts, the formal/ist big work made with big cameras, and the snapshots, made with screw mount Leicas. Ending up with Leicas for the current snapshots has been a long process from a Leica IIIb in 1970, sold in 1972, through too many rejected cameras, finally a Leica M2 in the late 2000s. There is something special to me about the screw Leicas, ‘Though when they were cheap in Germany in the very early 1960s I rejected them as old and awkward. They are old and awkward, but give me an immediacy I was not expecting to find. The last of the rejected snapshot cameras I tried was a FED 2 with a 35mm Canon lens I have had for years. On a tactile and mechanical level the FED is a disaster, but it was cheap and did point the way

35mm lenses

My first 35mm lens on 35mm film was a Schneider Alpa Curtagon on a Alpa Reflex 6c, a camera and lens I sold in 1975 and still miss. 35mm became an instant extension of my normal “walking” field of vision. 35mm is also close to the normal 43mm focal length for 35mm format. The logic of this is that the square root of 36 squared plus 24 squared is 43.2 millimetres, not the awkward 50mm too long length wrongly called standard. The standard focal length for a camera format is its diagonal. When I start to work I walk to the correct framing distance for 35mm, with a 50mm lens I feel the need to walk backward, but have the feeling I am pushing myself too far away from the subject. I have come to see my fjords of vision in three angles, 21mm approaches the panic awake full peripheral vision angle, and for this reason was used in my 1990s Western Australian Forest Protest work. 85-105mm is the conversational angle of vision where only a face is concentrated on. To me odd focal lengths like 24, 28 and 50mm don’t fit into these three seeing fields and I am ending up with just 35mm. However, using a 50mm from 35mm distance can be used as it cuts off bits of subject at the edges which gives an awkward tension in some images

I am currently using an old Canon 35mm f2.8 and am looking for the f1.8 version. I have been given an in-bits 35mm f1.7 Cosina Ultron lens which is in Adelaide waiting to be put back together, but I expect that to happen with the second coming. However, as I have already stated, I like the Korean War vintage roughness of the early Canon lenses, so will try to find a wider aperture one contemporary with the one I have. Canon lenses reached their pinnacle at the end of the Canon Leica copy cameras . . . The Ultron will be too sharp for the snapshot work, but may find use for other 35mm projects

(EDIT 30th Sept’ 2014
35mm Canon replaced with a 35mm f2.8 Cosina/Voigtlander Color Skopar, sharp in the middle and with a very smooth quality to the out of focus regions on both sides of the plane of focus)

Snapshot material

As well as documenting the process of the 10×8″ Naked Portraits I use snaps to record daily events, like Rae in the garden or walking on a beach. I now feel that there is a validity to snaps that I did not hold years ago when I took everything too seriously. I know the “use digital point and shoot” argument, but I don’t like them on a tactile level and the compu-electrical complexity causes me to jump up and down on them, something I enjoy doing