Bruno Bourel Lovers
35mm, 6x4.5, analogue, black and white, Budapest, documentary, leica, M6, Mamiya, Polaroid, R4, R6, rangefinder, street

Bruno Bourel . Photographer

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Bruno Bourel Lovers (Flirting with the Photographer)

GL: Any image is a record of two roads crossing: the person behind camera walks onto the path of the person in front of it. How did this meeting happen?

BB: This picture was born like many others of mine, like almost all of them. First, I check out if something is happening today in the town (or in the world) I am living in. For the past almost 20 years this city has been Budapest. That day in 2004, Hungary was celebrating joining the European Union. Having lived here – at that time – for more than 10 years, I knew that e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e was waiting for this moment. A huge, festive weekend took place and I was out with friends and kids, strolling on the waterfront, on the Buda side. When I had the feeling that something was about to happen I stopped and waited and told my friends that we’d meet somewhere later. Ninety-eight percent of the time I am alone when I work, but I remember that this day, there were many of us around.

GL: The metaphor we use when talking about ‘capturing a moment’ is misleading in some ways. A moment like this is about the years, months or minutes leading up to it that get you ready, as a photographer, as an observer to capture it.

Bruno_Bourel_Jaszai Mari ter-2BB: This is very difficult to explain. This is maybe the essence of the medium. To reach that rare moment of grace where everything is (?!) or seems to be perfect, seems to fall into place for the structure of the image: light, composition, emotions and above all – for me – the strength of a picture to go beyond time, the particular date or year that it was taken. No relation to time, just an instant extended to a whole lifetime. I think an image could guide or live with you until you die!!!

One has to disappear in front of the model, being at the right time at the right place and being willing to share a human emotion. I think I am walking on a very thin line: many subjects and topics all guided by the light that surrounds me and the goal is to go beyond the surroundings and to show the inner light!!!

And yes this requires concentration, paying attention almost every minute while at work. After all, everything is in front of you, but you do have to pick it up!!!

GL: Technically: what camera did you use?

Bruno_Bourel_nykv-2BB: Technically: I keep it simple, simple, simple. Photography to me is related to what the eye sees and has nothing to do with any technical matter. Your eyes, your emotions. The question is if one has something to say with this medium. Does the photographer really have a ‘world’ to show with this medium?

This takes a life. Who’ s willing to sacrifice one’s life to that? I don’ t have an answer to that.

GL: Film? Digital?

BB: Film. Kodak Tri-X, Ilford HP5. In 1987 I spent a few weeks in Tokyo discovering Fuji black-and-white film. It was very good, still is. My camera is a 20-year-old Leica M6, sometimes an even older Leica R6 or it could be a Mamiya 4.5×6 I bought in Budapest for next to nothing… but it still works perfectly well.

Bruno_Bourel_29Digital or analog? Nonsense. A good picture is not a question of the technology that it comes from. As Lajos Parti Nagy, the Hungarian novelist with whom I have published a book about Budapest (Fényrajzok – Light Drawings) wrote: “Taking pictures is a must. If with the worst rubbish of a camera, then with that.”

This, by now, is and will forever be an aesthetic choice. The richness of silver grains on an acetate base has nothing to do with the world of pixels. But this is very difficult to judge.

GL: What was the original picture format? Did you crop it?

BB: I never crop my pictures, but if I felt that I wanted to crop it I would do it. If it needs to be cropped for one reason or another, it’s okay. I very rarely do any cropping because I started photography in ‘77 with the Polaroid SX70. A whole world in itself with no cropping or retouching whatsoever.

GL: What lens did you use?

Bruno_Bourel_Polaroid SX 70 007-2BB: The lens I have used every day for almost 20 years is a 35mm. When I moved from Polaroid to black-and-white photography I used every day a Leica R4 with a 50mm lens. I still have it but I don’t really use it. But the 50mm was always great for me, half of my Budapest book was shot with it. The ideal would be a 45mm lens – almost the field-of-view of the eyes- but that’s a lens you’ll rarely find.

GL: What were your settings?

BB: I do not remember precisely – it’s been almost 10 years now. But it was in May. A bright, slightly cloudy day – probably 1/250 and f/8.

GL: How do you measure light when taking pictures like this? Manually?

BB: The Leica R and M cameras have a light meter that works more or less fine and I often go for aperture priority.

Bruno_Bourel_Esernyok uj-2It’s very difficult to say how the camera is set up when I leave home. But the one thing that’s certain is that it’s always around my neck or on my shoulder. Light conditions are always changing, e.g. Budapest gets lots of sun and even in the winter you can have very strong light. I just cope with it and setting the camera can be done very quickly.

GL: How do you focus?

BB: My focusing has always been and hopefully will always stay manual!!! The least of an issue for a photographer.

GL: How much do you usually work with your stills in post?

Bruno Bourel Lovers (Flirting with the Photographer, contact sheet)BB: There is never any ‘post’ whatsoever. I have scanned the piece of contact sheet for you to see what was ‘before’ and ‘after’, that should say it all.

There is, of course, plenty to do in the darkroom if some part of the image needs to be worked on. I did lots of practice in the lab and when I started with black-and-white I got used to developing and printing every film and picture. I have to admit that nowadays I give the film to a lab, scan the negative and I see what comes out. But everything is on film.

GL: Most of your images are black-and-white. Do you also shoot some of them on a digital camera?

BB: I have no digital camera, except my telephone which I use more and more. If I could get a digital Leica I would work with it with the same intensity. I think Europe is maybe not really the best place to do colour photography.

What we see today is either a reproduction of the colours around us or a manipulation of them. Very few people have a world of colour to show.

It’s obviously utter nonsense to turn a colour picture into black-and-white with just the push of a button. Digital technology will never help anyone to become a better photographer.

GL: Being from Budapest and looking at your photos, I am amazed how your images often transform the city into Paris. After 20 years, are you still able to see Budapest in this different light?

Bruno_Bourel_16BB: It is difficult to say if I ‘do’ Paris in Budapest. I often meet people who say: “Your work is very Hungarian!” The only fact is that my visual culture was made in Paris.

GL: As I am getting older, I somehow find that photography for me is becoming more and more a question of subject distance, how far away from me that other human being is.

BB: Yes, I try to get closer and closer to my subjects in order to get their emotions. This image is a good example of approaching it successfully.

A photographer must have, more than anything else, a point-of-view and has to show his position regarding the world that surrounds him. Mine was never related to strength, violence, poverty, misery. I do see that every day, but do not feel that I have the right to add my tribute to the flood of images on that subject. And they are easy to do.

I think I have never disturbed anyone and I never will, that is who I am. I am a rather silent man. I have been trying to practice on my piano for 15 years every day now and music is my second passion but someone once said that my photography is silent.

(To see more of Bruno Bourel’s pictures visit his website at www.brunobourel.com. All images © Bruno Bourel and are reproduced with the permission of the author.)

György is a cinematographer also teaching photography courses in London. To book a class or for more information visit www.dslrphotographycourses.com.

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6x4.5, analogue, color, contax, documentary, Massachusetts, Shutesbury

Holly Lynton . Photographer

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L1GHTB1TES has moved. Its new permanent home is at l1ghtb1tes.com. This wordpress site will be discontinued in the coming weeks and will serve only as an archive. Please read this article HERE and visit l1ghtb1tes.com to subscribe and receive regular updates.

Thank you! See you there!

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“Sienna, Turkey Madonna, Shutesbury, Massachusetts”, 2010.

GL: When I saw your picture at the Somerset House in London two things caught my attention: the motion of the flying feathers and the stillness of the girl holding the turkeys.

HL: I arranged to photograph at the farm that raises the turkeys before they were going to be slaughtered for Thanksgiving. I had read a book by Barbara Kingsolver called “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” in which there is a description of a chicken slaughter and all the beauty and chaos in it, so that is what gave me the idea to try to portray something beyond the death. They didn’t want me to photograph the actual slaughter so we agreed to photograph the turkeys on the table beforehand. The turkeys were unsettled so the daughter stepped in to calm them down as she’s very good with all animals. With a cock of her head she was in that pose, and I reacted immediately, telling her not to move so I could make a picture. It was arranged that I would photograph at the farm, but spontaneous as events unfold. I had planned to photograph the mother not the daughter, but we all had to respond to the turkeys.

GL: The act of photography demands a high degree of alertness, of being present and reacting without hesitation.

HL: One of my teachers explained that as a photographer you develop an intuition. Usually moments happen too fast to think them through. You are responding with your gut and your eyes, not your head. You learn how to see when you study photography. You also need to develop your own perspective and hone in on how you specifically see the world and articulate it in your photographs.

Technically, I get ready just by making sure I have a working camera, batteries in my light meter and for my camera, and film. Mentally, I generate an excitement inside, and then I am prepared to wait and let things unfold. I can’t control what happens in my photographs, but if you spend enough time looking for magic, you can find it. I don’t worry about the image being okay technically — you need to check your camera settings most importantly. I’ve had enough experience so that I can judge the light without a light meter, but everyone makes mistakes, and if you start photographing before checking your camera you may accidentally be on the wrong shutter speed or aperture. Happens to everyone once in a while. Film is pretty forgiving though.

HLynton_Fairest

GL: What camera did you use? Film? Digital?

HL: I use a Contax 6 x 4.5 camera, Kodak Portra VC film (now discontinued), 160 ASA. I always use film, and low speed film for sharper grain.

I do not crop my photographs so they are always horizontal rectangles. I used an 80mm lens. I can’t say what my shutter speed and F-stop were, but it was a bit overcast that day, although still quite bright, so maybe f/8 or f/11 and 1/60.

I use film, because it is what I have always used. A digital camera to me is like a computer. It has too much control over the photograph. If I bought a Canon 5D with a good manual lens, it may feel more like my film cameras, but thus far, they feel like two completely different tools. I want to articulate the light, and therefore the world as film depicts it. But the main difference is that I never know how a digital camera (at least my lower-end DSLR) is going to articulate the light. I don’t feel I have as much control over the outcome as I do with film. It feels like the camera is thinking for me and we don’t always agree.

GL: What about your settings?

HL: I adjust my shutter speed and aperture depending on the light and whether my subject is moving so it can vary anywhere from 4 seconds at f/22 to f/5.6 at 1/60 or 1/30. Depends on whether I am using a tripod or not.

For this photograph I was holding the camera. The feathers were moving so there is some softness to them. But I wouldn’t use a slower shutter speed than 1/60, because I wouldn’t have wanted the turkeys or girl to be blurry. I don’t usually go higher than 1/60. Maybe 1/125 sometimes if someone is moving fast. But the motion blur gives you the sense that it a moving scene. It’s a moment after all on a time continuum.

HLynton_Shorn

GL: How do you measure light? Manually? Or do you rather use aperture priority or shutter speed priority?

HL: I measure the light with a hand-held light meter as I have for 20 years. I then set the shutter speed usually at 1/60 and the aperture as it needs to be. I positioned the table at the entrance of the barn as I wanted light on the table, person, and turkeys. The barn behind them was more than 2 stops darker than the foreground, so it went almost black.

GL: How were you focusing? Manually? AF?

HL: I use manual focus.

GL: What do you like about this picture most?

HL: The girl transforms from a teenage girl into a rendition of the Madonna, as she tenderly holds the turkeys that are about to become food, and the basketball hoop is her halo. The question is not what I like about it. But what do you?

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(To see more of Holly Lynton’s pictures visit her website at http://www.hollylynton.com. All images © Holly Lynton and are reproduced with the permission of the author.)

György is a cinematographer teaching photography courses in London. To book a class or for more information visit www.dslrphotographycourses.com.

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