Beverley and I were at design school together, she discovered her inner guru and I discovered those moments that are fleeting just like a cat in your garden… JR
In 2004 I was in The Sudan taking pictures for an international pacifist aid agency.
After taking pictures in IDP camps in Darfur where people who were raped, burned and generally f***ed up by the Sudanese government backed Janjaweed militia sought refuge. I was stopped by security officers at the Nyala Airport on our way back to Khartoum with my camera, detailed notes and the client’s 40 rolls of films… I was allowed onto the flight with the assurance that I would be taken aside by more government men on landing in Khartoum.
While we flew out of Darfur a deep sense of peace descended down over me while sitting in that seat on the Marsland Aviation Tupolev airplane , I prayed to God for a way out, heard a voice saying that I was his loved son had to just accept his peace and walk on… He would position the hole in the net that I was caught in, I just had to walk on and trust him to do the rest.
I looked around the cabin for government agents, I was trying to do things my way and the deep sense of peace lifted up off me with the words “do you want my peace or not?” I re accepted the peace and it fell right down tangibly over me again.
I walked down off the Tupolev on the airport apron with my camera, notebook and film right pass a reception of about 6 men who did nothing to stop me, again in the airport building 2 police officers ran into the terminal building where we landed looking for someone again they ran right straight past me.
A few days later an Italian Roman Catholic nun approached me in the Athbarah Comboni Mission Centre; she said that she just had to hug me because she felt that I needed it; and I did need it after Darfur.
Back at our hotel in Khartoum a journalist from a Nairobi based news service offered to secret my film out of the country with all their camera kit for me…
I believe that God is true to his word; and loves us so deeply and can be trusted. He did position holes right where I needed them and I, my kit and pictures got out of the net that I felt to be caught in in The Sudan and then added a much needed hug because he can.
Jessica on a red sofa and Mark Cook with his private garage sales, 2 environmental portraits by John Robinson.
The environmental portrait is a telling photograph of a person or group of people, it gives the viewer insight into an aspect of these people’s lives. In a FaceBook world of hyper happy selfies the environmental can introduce into the conversation a sense of calm and connection between the Subject and the viewer.
The environmental portrait has always been my first love in photography; and I offer environmental portraits in the Durban area done on A3 cotton rag art paper of yourself and or group for ZAR 1000.00 per print.
The relationship between people and their God is a soulful place, belief is such a strong force; and there is very little that can break that system. I know this from my own relationship with God or Abba Father. I commune and walk in this space too.
To take out a camera in a place of worship is not something I can do lightly, I have to be trusted and walk through these flowers with out a hint of damage, each picture will be seen by those in that place and as a fellow worshipper I am not an outsider that can get away and never come back after the stems are broken and petals crushed.
The moments taken are considered first before committed to a place in the public space. I also know of no better tool then a 35mm film based rangefinder camera for this work, there is no hurry in this way of work; and thus plenty of time for the considering of the fall out from my actions on the day…
Papa, you and I know both know that he doesn’t need to go… Yes M, that is the case and quite frankly I wish he too would soon come to a place where he could just have the freedom to know that I love him no matter. It’s an order M, just keep an eye on him while he is at that Sunday morning meeting, they call it church and anything could happen to my beloved while there…
Yes M, that’s what these people call it now; yes, I know it’s nothing of the sort of what I wanted, but it is what it has become…
But the other ‘messengers’ are all going biking… And some are looking after some beloved in both trenches in that minor war, that’s what I am trained for, it’s what we all are trained for Papa!
Danger is all over M, including this religion thing called church, there is a very real danger in this thing too…
The men are drinking quarts of Black Label upstairs while the woman folk are rubbing down my host’s wife with peanut butter and tomato sauce in the courtyard at the back of the building in a well humoured anticipation of an addition to the host’s family.
The man talk is of a celebrity visit to South Beach; and there are strong views on this issue: will South Beach be graced to this magnitude or will the area once again be left out in the cold?
The blue walls of this building contain dramas that could feed a T.V. series for a season or two. Outside in “piss alley” the road is controlled by the Congolese, inside the building my host’s brother rules the realities of life. The building has about 14 flats rented to people who cannot afford beach front apartments on the golden mile… Little big eyes and her peanut covered mommy come back from the courtyard and her daddy is shocked by what the women have done to his babe.
The fast beats of tech music fill the background of beer and men talk all afternoon, the brothers are close and the under current of the talk is coping with life and concern that hurt is kept away from the family. Hurt and life is interrupted by asking for this or that tune to be played. Our ‘beer talk’ is mixed with two plates of cake, pretzel sticks, sweets and cookies and a bowl of sugared pop corn from the baby shower in the courtyard.
I place a blanket over the little girl who is soon to be ‘big sister,’ not even strange visitors and cartoons on the T.V. can keep her upright. My bicycle ride home is delayed by a swapping of movies and series for .jpg files of family pics I have done for the host in the past.
My ride home on Lady of Loreto, I named my bicycle after a patron saint of flying, is stopped for the fuel of a mutton curry pie on Maydon Road past the back of the Durban Port to my room in Woodlands in south Durban.
Jessica on a red sofa. Photo John Robinson
“There is nothing new in this world” – Ecclesiastes, the preacher, son of David, King in Jerusalem.
When I first got a camera in my hands it was personal; at this point in my life I work well with leather and have started again to make a financial way for myself. Photography has always been a personal thing, now as ever it has always been…
Max and Jason gave me a day job as a leather smith, it’s been a game changer for me I am good at this leather thing and I can get much better too. I feel that where there is leather there is a way forward for me also. I say the following to Max and Jason, “we have a long way together still”.
I have written about perception in the past and it’s personal, now with leather in my picture I am freed to shoot personal, for myself and the best is still to come on all fronts…
I love perspective, photography is also about perspective as it is about cropping, to understand something better I have to sometimes walk across and stand in other shoes. Perspective helps me to to see as other people might have seen.
What is photography?
At the roots of the word photography the words light and drawing lie around. Up to the time of the invention of photography people where painting in multi chrome and drawing in mono chrome; and the pointillists or neo impressionists were beginning to paint with small dots of pure colour that where blended together in the eyes of the viewers of the resulting work not unlike the pixels of modern digital photography.
Their world changed and the new black and white pictures of those first photographers pushed aside the non photographic realist artists of the period as photographers went to the front line of war, adverts begun to employ the photographer rather then the painter and more and more portraits of the famous where done through photography rather then artist and paint brush. There was a time when photography just did realism better then the painter with colour and brush of the time. If the technology of the time had permitted and photographers had started out with colour, we might have been known as photo portraitists rather then photographers.
The realism of that period of photography was backed up by the little slip of plastic covered in emulsion that we call the photographic negative; in the analogue or film age of photography the realness of the photograph could be just broken or backed up by the production of the original negative.
Now in our modern digital photography world news wire services like Reuters ask their Photographers to give in unprocessed .jpg files straight from their cameras because of the eroding of the realness in the public eye by ‘over processing’ of image files in the digital news picture industry and in the modern photography arena in general.
Though I too love the creamy colour of the modern digital photograph, I prefer the crisp image that my rangefinder lens provides me with the no nonsense provability that colour film in my M6 camera still gives me and my readers… JR
I have a thing for thrills.
In the years just before democracy came to South Africa I had a stable job as a lecturer at a design college in the City of Johannesburg; I taught aspects of interior design and also a ‘basics of photography’ course for their graphic design students because I “knew more about photography” then anyone else on the staff at the time. I had the feeling at the time that though I enjoy teaching I was wasting time and there was something all consuming waiting for me – it was the thrill of my narrative photography.
I believe that I have been created to run with this thrill, it is all consuming, I feel most alive when I am on the ‘street’ with my ‘M6 camera. But the ‘thrill of the moment’ only comes later when I am quietly viewing the negatives on the light box in my home office. I don’t trust the thrill of the moment while still out there with my camera, it has often just been the hype of the moment. Until I see the image I just think that I have something special.
I only stop taking photographs when I feel that I have captured the moment adequately.
Too often I have gone home to be disappointed with my images, by mistaking the hype of the moment for the thrill of the moment caught. It takes me a quiet space to really judge the moments caught; and that space is never while still out on a photographic shoot. It does not matter if you shoot a digital or an analogue camera, judge your images only after you have gone from the scene and you just feel that you have captured the moment while there.
View your thrills in a quiet and calm space.
I take ownership of all the images I have taken, there is nothing such as personal images and work images, all perceived by me and all are personal to me photographs. It does not matter if I took them for personal or monetary gain…
A photograph is just the perception of it’s author.
The above moment where a young boy, accompanied by his parents gets to sit with a pilot in a South African Police Services Air Wing helicopter in a Johannesburg park depends on a ‘tripod’ for support. This tripod has the following legs; story, composition and technique.
Every photograph ever taken depends on the same 3 basic legs to get off the ground… It does not matter if you use a cell phone or a DSLR camera, it is also the same for digital and analogue pictures.
Captions are great, they give the reader of the photograph some context, but the picture has a story to tell the readers of itself too. Narrative photography is like that, the photographer catches the moment in a frame and gives it a life of its own in the form of a photographic image that carries on from there, telling others of the photographer’s encounter on that day and in that place.
I see a story of a boy engaging one on one with a man… I see a police pilot giving freely of his day to a member of the public that he serves. I see something of the time of the day and also of the time of the year, in the background I see parents willing to give a son some space to experience a Eurocopter police helicopter for himself.
The above image is also my own perception of the moment as the author of the photograph. It is just as I saw it on a high veld winter late afternoon. The composition is just as I as the photographer liked it on the day. I am also as close as I can be, “it is not good enough if you are not close enough.” I did not ‘see’ the inverted triangle of parents, son and pilot at the time but it gives the picture dynamics. I did see the curves of the joy stick and reflections while concentrating on the moment between man and boy which was paramount in my mind at the time.
My technique is simple, I use a Leica M6 rangefinder camera rather then a DSLR camera, I pre meter for exposure with a hand held incidence light meter. I use a rangefinder camera because it’s less seen by other people then a big black DSLR camera. I pre meter so I can concentrate on the moments in front of me and not on camera technicals.
In the end I let my photographs speak for me, and you as the reader can see the picture as you perceive it for yourself.