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August 10th, 2019

I don't like it anymore

I should actually say ‘I do not like it like this anymore’. Looking at my pictures taken and processed in the past all – or almost all – I can see are my mistakes and shortcomings, as if they were holes in the picture. All that I learned from the last time I worked on those images, post-procession wise, and all I experienced in life slowly changed me and altered my photographic vision as well. I am not entirely sure it is a good idea to return to old images and try to better them – after all if I find faults in them it is almost a given that after some time, if revisiting, I will find them wanting again. So perhaps it is better to wait so more or never try to ‘improve’ old images and just work on new ones like there was not tomorrow?
 
Change and challenge are part and parcel of a learning curve and those who – like me – enjoy the road more than the destination can testify that in fact – as far as photography is concerned – there is no destination, only direction (or directions) we can decide to choose.
 
I imaging that selling a picture is a truly nice moment. It never happens to me and perhaps never will but then again I do not crave it all that much. I remember a painter I hang out with yonks ago and recall the moment he did sell a large picture for what back then seemed a lot of dough. The summer was in full swing, we were enjoying the beauty of a small ancient town and obviously – being young and rather daft – squandered all the money in a matter of a few days. Once the booze and makes were gone, my friend said something that stuck in my head – he said he needs to do another one like the mag he had just sold. 
 
Another one, exactly like that.
 
He might not have had a claim to being a great artist but I still recall the picture and it was, in truth, a very solid piece of art. He knew his craft. Yet, rather than pursue his own path, he chose to please a potential customer and put on the market another superbly executed landshaft.
 
Whether it is the security call or laziness, I cannot tell. Possibly a combination of both. For him tough the challenge ended there and then and was always thinking of what happen to him afterwards. To be precise, I was thinking what happens to an artist who decides not to pick up any new challenges and sticks to what he or she already knows and excels at.
 
At the age of 21 one wild Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud put a  wrecking ball through French and European poetry with his Season in Hell. Shortly after, ending his literary career, he travelled extensively on three continents as a merchant before his death from cancer just after his thirty-seventh birthday. I wonder if he ever wanted to go back to writing poetry but assume not and think of him as a happy person who found a new, satisfying, way of life and if he looked back at his former self it was no more than as if he had been looking at a postcard from a place he once visited.
 
Rimbaud is just a useful distraction here – I am merely trying to say I do not know of any big name artist who would not continue with his art, even if he or she resorted to copying himself. The real question is not if, having made such a drastic choice, one can truly be happy with it (I believe some can) but if one would need to subdue an inner urge to create, and subdue it daily. In other words – is it possible to let your inner artist go, completely.
 
Is the need of challenge a deeper urge than the need of creation? I believe so. Is our urge to create a response to this urge? I guess a part of it is. A change is a useful catalyst for our otherwise hidden creativity to erupt. One of the reasons why I return to my old images and try to update them is to witness the change that happened in me with more tangibility. It is a good feeling to know you are not stuck in the rut and still capable of developing. I may not like what I did some time ago anymore but this feeling I do enjoy and it is what propels me to seek new challenges and keeps me welcome a change with my arms wide open.
Cobham Wood and Mausoleum

May 10th, 2019

Kick that block

I was supposed to write about something very different for this issue but found myself lost somewhere in the middle of creating my composition and after a few days of struggling with the stubborn text decided to abandon the idea and try something completely different.

It turns out ‘different’ is a very powerful word. Of ancient Roman origin, like many other words it slithered its way into the English language from the French and today it carries a handful of meanings including unalike, divergent, contrasting, disparate – but also novel and unusual. Novel pertains to things that are ’interestingly new, unconventional, innovative, unorthodox, groundbreaking, trailblazing, revolutionary’ – this is already a list long enough.

What does I have to do with long exposure photography, or any kind of photography for that matter? My guess is – everything.

Like many before me and surely many after me, I have recently had a fortune of experiencing a little block. Nothing really appealed to me enough to be happy with taking an image of it. All creativity gone. We all know that feeling. It creeps in and then, after some time, surprisingly, it goes away.

Regardless whether you are an artist, a sportsman, airplane pilot or – god forbid – a politician, a block is not a nice feeling to taste. It kind of dims your vision, surrounds you with some sort of invisible smoke that gets more and more dense as time passes and you are bereft of the joy of whatever you like doing. In time like this you could be facing the most astounding view and think nothing of it.

I do not really know how people fight it, or even if they do. I do not get it often enough to have my personal strategy at the ready. This time, not having a better idea, instead of pushing myself to take images, I took a brave decision to wait it out.

Henri Cartier-Bresson said: ‘To take a photograph is to align the head, the eye and the heart.’ I did check – the head, the eye and the heart were all in the right places. My head was thinking, my eyes were seeing and my heart was doing its magnificent job of making blood travel through my body.

If what Henri Cartier-Bresson said is anything to go by it was clear that the alignment was missing.

‘My photographic heart had slipped out of alignment’ I said loudly. Did not help. Alignment is yet another word of French origin, but my command of spoken French is very poor indeed. Then, to commemorate this discovery of almost astronomical proportions, I uttered a certain word, so popular that it does not have real synonymy in English.

Words are no more than sounds with meaning, I thought to give myself a spot of courage. Enough to ask how to re-align my head, my eye and my hearth. Lost as I was, it turned out that the answer was frightfully easy to find.

Have you heard of comfort zone? Of course you have. A cosy, warm sort of space where things goes smoothly and expected results are produce with both ease and precision. It is where you feel at home, undisturbed and – to finally get to my point – unchallenged.

In photographic terms: a perfect equilibrium between your abilities, your every-day expectations and the repetitive outcome of your work.

To call a spade a spade: boredom.

Another word for boredom, and a one lot more descriptive, is ennui. It, once again, is of French origin but it trickled into French from – of course – Latin, where it had a very descriptive meaning: it is hateful to me.

And this is exactly how I felt towards my very own comfort zone, my snug space filled with lack of confrontation.

There is a snowball chance in hell I could become a pilot and I would not wish to become a politician. Something had to be done though, and it was. To cut a few weeks story short things were stirred and – gradually – the block abated. Looking through a viewfinder I can again see images I am happy to devote myself to.

There is usually a moral to a story but in this instance there never was to be one. Just dare yourself – should you feel that your creativity dries up – to go against what you already know. Dare to be different from yourself of yesterday. The boredom you are experiencing is not with the world. It is with yourself.

P.S. Funny how you can say: ‘I found myself lost’. It seems to open an entirely new box of Pandora language possibilities.

Box in distress

April 10th, 2019

Those wonderful mistakes

Have you ever thought of the moment when early humans found out that meat exposed to fire for long enough is way better to that served raw? I have always imagined a group of homo erectus sitting by the fire helping themselves to a raw gazelle or some other kill, and one of them dropping his part into the fire too hot for the meat to be salvaged right away. What follows are cries, hard hits and teeth gnashing. It was only when the fire was subdues and this say, hungry individual was able to retries what was left of his portion, only then did he realise he was the unlikely winner. I imagine it did not take long for other members of his group to eat all their meat cooked, roasted or grilled. By making this mistake humanity made a massive step into our development and growth.
 
Fast forward a few seconds on the universe clock and we find ourselves today – with our highly developed technology, housing and warm coming from radiators. Our fireplace is now called a TV set and our caves are manufactured and assembled by construction companies. We also communicate in a slightly different fashion – instead of short sharp grunts we send short messages via our mobile phones.
 
There are moments which turn out to be big leaps for humanity but there are also moments that change particular lives. In some cases this is when one is gifted with a camera and, often quite incautiously, starts taking pictures. As we all know, in some cases this careless approach to the medium and further pursuing seemingly innocuous activity turns a person into a photographer for life.
 
Whether our ancestors left Africa, crossed into Middle East and spilled across the world in quest for food or a better place to live I am quite positive it was also the curiosity that made them take more steps than it was necessary. Am also convinced that some of those steps turned out to be mistakes, some dreadful and some otherwise. The same relates to our photography journeys – no matter how experienced you are, shooting in the same way for ever will simply not do. The boredom sneaks in quite quickly and curiosity takes the better of us. This is when we venture outside of our comfort zone and make mistakes, some dreadful and some otherwise.
 
As so it was with me all though the last month. Having to sit at home for most of March due to constant rain outside is nothing new (I would like to be able to say ‘nothing new under the Sun’ but the Sun was simply not to be seen) if your house is in London. Small wonder the British have so many expressions to portrait the rain – they must have been awfully bored sitting around on those countless long rainy days of the dim and distant past of no internet.
 
Regrettably, I do not possess the qualities that would allow me to propose new phrases in any language, no matter how hard and long it chucks it down. Instead, I like to set up my tripod in my little studio and photograph a thing or other. For some reason I quite enjoy photographing flowers – I expect it is petals texture and overall shapes that draws me to them. Orchids, sunflowers and tulips are what I mostly try my lack with.
 
Pointing camera at flowers can hardly be classified as a mistake, unless I would be trying to move it further and present it to public. I tell myself that the best policy is to refrain from such a reckless move and my better judgement usually wins. Not this time though.
 
Bored of the rain and cruising my room for a spot of thrill I nicked a bunch of flowers from downstairs and set them on my shooting table in what looked like an acceptable arrangement (funny how it usually looks that way until you see it on the screen on your computer), set up my tripod and camera, looked through a viewfinder and started moving the vase with tulips in search for a better compo.
 
As some point I pressed the shutter. It clicked as it always does but then nothing happened for about ten long seconds. And then it clicked back.
 
It was of course set for a bit longer exposure and never reset after my last trip. I set it now to reflect the current light conditions and took a few test images. After a few minutes I had it all on my screen in front of me. I was slowly scrolling through them. Rubbish, rubbish, rubbish. Delete, delete, delete. All wrong, all no longer speaking to me in any way.
 
The initial ten second image was not deleted. It still sat on the card, not even transferred to Lightroom, and so survived the cull. It was only after a few further failures and deletes that it had its chance to present itself. As soon as it did, I put the dials back and started playing with different times and moving the flowers any way I felt. I found myself on my private route 66, getting my kicks.
 
If any of the images taken that evening should survived, I am not sure. It does not matter much though – it is not every day we produce a masterpiece that will make our name go down in history. The fun I had experimenting and trying to tame the unexpected was in itself enough to turn a drab day into an colourful one. It will surely be a long and winding road but mistakes are only steps on the way to success, the truth that stays with us ever since our distant relative picked the roasted piece of meat from the fire.
Morning tulips

March 10th, 2019

A wonderful journey

Recently I had a pleasure of spending good few hours with a very young person who felt the urge to create something. To be precise, to paint or – at least – to draw something. While staring at a blank A2 sheet of glossy drawing paper which was staring back at her as an artist’s abyss, her biggest problem was that she had no idea what she wanted to paint (or at least draw).
 
In this vexing frustration of a young artist she tried to turn herself to all-encompassing internet in search for guidance and inspiration. As you can imaging, the result was far from encouraging. She found many great images there, almost as many as the lame ones. In the end, she felt more exhausted than before.
 
This was the point when our conversation started. What I tried to put to her in not too many words (it has been a long time now since I discovered that if you are just ten years older kids are somewhat impervious to lengthy lectures from you) was that the only avenue is to put it all away, leave all inspiration behind and just start paining. Anything. Nothing. Does not matter. It will come to you – I said – in time and practice you will find your own way. And whatever happens, whether someone will like it or not, even if others will put it down hard – it will have one wonderful thing about it – it will be truly yours. As this is something that cannot be challenged or ridiculed.
 
It is all very well but I want to paint something of note, she said. Something people will like, or event admire.
 
Don’t we all. 
 
Getting up early before anybody else and driving for miles to reach the location before sunset, choosing the frame that speaks best to you, setting your tripod, camera, preparing freshly cleaned filters and waiting for those few minutes of prefect light – can you honestly tell me that what you want is different to what that little girl wanted at the moment? There is no real pressure to create a masterpiece with every click of the shutter but at the same time the desire is always there – the desire to come back home content with an image, that it will be presentable and – who knows – maybe even sellable.
 
I am right? I am afraid I am. Not that long ago a landscape photographer whose work I greatly respect wrote to me that he is now very busy establishing himself as a professional photographer. In that moment, for a tenth time, I pondered the meaning of the expression. To me ‘professional’ pertains rather to the quality of one’s work than the number of sold copies – but I readily appreciate that ‘professional’ also stands for ‘those who sell’ or ‘those who do not make their living any other way’.
 
Correct me if I am wrong (and I will happily stand corrected) but that is exactly when pressure kicks in. Do not get me wrong – as a very lazy person I worship pressure – as long as it comes in reasonably small amount. A modicum of pressure works wonders: kicks you out of bed on a frosty morning, makes you do the necessary research and all that. It is when it gets to the point of meeting your bills through your art that we risk turning pressure into anxiety – and almost inadvertently into artist’s block.
 
When a prolific and influential composer of the classical era(baptised as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart) wrote his work for Emperor Joseph II as his ‘chamber composer’ it grew on him that although the influential posts provides well for his family, it is nonetheless a certain kind of suppression. Rightly or not, Mozart is understood to be the first of the long line of those who rebelled against the providing patronage in pursuit of artistic freedom (though I trust there have been many before him). Did he fulfil his dream of an artist free of any art-restricting bondage? I do hope so.
 
Almost a hundred years ago Diego Rivera was working in New York City’s Rockefeller Center on a fresco called ‘Man at the Crossroads’. It was originally slated to be installed in the lobby of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the main building of the center. ‘Man at the crossroads’ showed the aspects of contemporary social and scientific culture. As originally installed, it was a three-panelled artwork. A central panel depicted a worker controlling machinery. The central panel was flanked by two other panels, ‘The Frontier of Ethical Evolution’ and ‘The Frontier of Material Development’, which respectively represented socialism and capitalism.
 
Although the Rockefeller family initially approved of the mural, the painting became controversial after Rivera included an image of Vladimir Lenin and a Soviet Russian May Day parade. Nelson Rockefeller – at the time a director of the Rockefeller Center – made repeated requests for Rivera to remove the portrait of Lenin, all of which Rivera refused. In May 1933, Rockefeller ordered the mural to be plastered-over before it was completed. ‘Man at the Crossroads’ was peeled off in 1934 and replaced by a mural from Josep Maria Sert three years later. Only black-and-white photographs exist of the original incomplete mural, taken when Rivera was forced to stop work on it. Using the photographs, Rivera repainted the composition in Mexico under the variant title ‘Man, Controller of the Universe’.
 
Mozart, Riviera, young girl, you, me – we all share the same ambition – to have our work at least accepted. Some of us have the wish granted. Some never do.
 
Over the past six months I had the pleasure of looking at hundreds of images. It is a very dangerous thing to be exposed in such a short period of time to so much of varied works. Every day I find I must take five – or fifteen – to clear my mind for fear of letting a really captivating image go unnoticed.
 
I showed a few of the images I have recently selected to be featured in LEMAG to the little girl. As we were looking at them I told her what drove my choice. In every case, apart from other things, it was the impression they made on me, the difference from all other images from the same place I’ve seen so far. Sometimes it is a minute thing, easy to disregard, that makes all the difference. Browsing though countless pictures from New York, Venice, Lofoten or other locations I am searching for the difference, for the proof that for this person photography is not about technical skills only, not about equipment, not about likes on social media – but a wonderful journey into the world and into him or her self.
 
Emperor Joseph II was, for Mozart, relatively reliable employer. Rockefellers, at least for Diego Riviera, were not. When photographers pursue their dream image the potential admirer or buyer is a big unknown. Whimsical, every changing and picky. As we send ourselves out in the field, we face the same dilemma that made the little girl so anxious. And just like her, we should cast it all aside and purse only this – our own satisfaction, fulfilment and above all – our own voice.
Darnley Mausoleum in Cobham Wood, Kent

February 10th, 2019

Feb is fab

It is an uninviting time, February is. New Year’s Eve reveries are long gone and all that’s left is to wait until the spring starts waking up the world around us and within us again. It can be a very long and a very grey wait.
 
Every now and then there comes a fabulous February, with days brimming with sunshine and evenings full with moist and – what is most important here – mornings milky with fog.
 
We had just one like this a few weeks ago in the UK. For those few days you could set up your alarm clock at an ungodly hour and venture out when all your neighbours were still fast asleep, into the calm and quiet of the last moments of the night, to drive to your destination.
 
To drive dead slow, not quite sure if you were going where you wanted to. To fog was so dense it was impossible to see any further than a few meters ahead. The fog lights helped very little too. And once you got there and parked your car, it was still impossible to tell which way to walk, the fog was still so impenetrable.
 
And so I walked blindly through forest and came across this lake. I could not tell if it was a big one or not – there was no visibility at all and no sounds apart from some birds. It was impossible to decide if I should stay put or keep on mooching, it was everybody’s guess what would be best. I had a strange feeling there is no vicinity – for the fog I could not tell what was around me. It was, to coin a phrase, pitch white.
 
It took more than two hours for the fog to lift enough to see anything. I do not mean ‘see’ in the regular sense of the word and definitely not in Avatar ‘I see you” sense. I imagine it would be much more appropriate if I decided be ‘faintly discern’. I could barely espy something across the water that might be but could not tell how far away it was.
 
A year ago distance would not be a problem. For the past five years I used to walk around with 28-300 mm lens in my bag and used them good few thousand times. I did like the images I took with it yet little by little a dissatisfaction was growing in me, the softness of the images bugged me more and more until a year ago I decided to switch to primes.
 
Old primes, from 1970s to be precise. The bag got lighter (a lot lighter!) and my images got crispier. A lot crispier. The only thing is I now have nothing longer than nifty-fifty.
 
So, if the tree turned out to be too far, I could still take it but then would probably need to crop a lot. In the safety of my bag 24mm, 28mm and 50mm water for the final decision, more patient then me. Should have brought a folded chair or something to bide my time in a more dignify fashion, I though.
 
Unhurriedly, the fog was lifting. I could now see that there were a few tens by the bank with fishing rods pointed out towards the water. Light kissed lake surface few times. Something was stirring in the bush nearby. It was like waiting on a bus with more and more people appearing at the bus shelter but the bus still nowhere in sight.
 
And then, suddenly, it was there, right in front of me. Not too close, not too far – in a perfect distance for 24mm. The light just make its promise to shine from behind the tree later on so I decided to hover there for a bit longer. In the still on the morning I set my tripod up, spread the protective on the muddy ground, put down my bag and opened it slowly. When the camera crowned the tripod I levelled it, framed the image and check what lens will be best. It was just perfect for 24mm lens.
 
A few test shots and histogram checks later all was focused and the only thing to wait for was the decisive moment. It is never sure it will come, is it? This fugitive moment of perfect play of light that makes the image stand out and a photographer come home wearing a beatific smile. That moment when everything just resonates with you. That moment when the only thing you want to do is to press the shutter and have this image.
 
This biding is a lot like waiting for the results of the exam when you know you had done all the necessary preparations but by no means are assured of receiving the desired note.
 
The difference is that now you can once more rethink your approach and perhaps re-frame the shot and rethink the post-production and the final image you set your mind and heart on.
 
The for was lifting and I stared to perceive the branches, birds bobbing around in the water, some more detail further behind. Light metering time came. At f/2.8, ISO 100 it showed 1/160 second. 10-stop filter would make it a mere 5-6 seconds, while 15-stop around 3 minutes, which I decided would be too long. At f/7.1 it gave 60 seconds, just enough to smoothen the water and keep the branches steady.
 
When I take such short exposures I tend to take a few shots with intervals of five minutes, give or take. It was no different this time round. After that I decided to head home as it was quite probable there are some other opportunities to be had on the way.
 
I took a few images along the lake, a few when the forest meets the field, a few at the playground in the city park and then I finally arrive at the spot in the city I currently reside in. The city, although it boasts a thousand years of history is – I will refrain from using words that be too harsh – uninspiring and drearily dull. It boasts to be the birthplace of one of the most famous rock bands and the most infamous – as least in certain circles – prime minister. Its short main street in usually empty, while scores of its borne and bread inhabitants, regardless of the time of the day, can be easily found at the Weatherspoon’s.
 
There is here, however, not an entirely shabby spot of a park and a building that I have always take when enveloped by fog. Now was my chance.
 
The street is quite steep and the building old, with vapidity I expected to work well this morning. Walking towards it I stared encountering the first signs that the city has already awaken. There were a few odd people at the bus stop and further down police patrol was struggling to keep a screaming man down. Soon the fog will be gone, I thought, and made haste.
 
Selecting vintage point was plain sailing so the tripod and camera ware up in no time. Filters on, light reading done and off we go! Five, six shots and job done. Time to head back home and have some good tea.
 
As I was packing, the lads of no more than 14 were passing me by. As soon as they saw me standing in a narrow side street that stood there blocking it for me. For a moment they stood with their backs to me, whispering something to one another. Folding my big, 3.5 kilo tripod (not to mention the head) I was asking myself if they will want to sell me some pot or rather will get a blade out and try to get my back or in most polite of terms ask for some financial contribution to their purse. I will never know. After less than a minute they decided to end the blockade and moved on.
 
I tend not to post many of my images neither in LEMAG FB group nor here. I have not create LEMAG to show of my own work but to propose a platform where artists using this technique could find a welcoming home. This time though I decided to share a few of images from that glorious morning in February and share the wonderful experience of finding interesting spots where I never thought I would.
Misty morning over the lake #1
Misty morning over the lake #2

January 10th, 2019

Which one are you?

Although it is quite clear that we will be returning to images from this wonderful city, I did not mean to write about Venice. After all, it was not that long ago when we devoted most of an issue to its beauty. Not a day goes by when images from this photo hot-spot are posted on our FB wall and we thought it would be enough for now.
 
But then I went to National Gallery in London, where I have not been for a bit more than a while. I used to live just round the corner, amongst the whirl of Soho, where rather less picturesque scenes unfold almost daily – and in the past would visit the Gallery at least once a week. Not to mention that additional irresistible attraction of National Portrait Gallery next door, where one can quite often stand face to face with a set of intriguing images.
 
I did not have much time this time, not more than an hour, to mooch. So, negotiating the usual crowd of tourists, schoolkids, admirers and just curious, I quickly found myself standing in from of a very small painting hung in a niche of the Gallery, the only painting I wanted to look at – An Architectural Caprice by one Francesco Guardi.
 
Francesco Guardi was, after Canaletto, the main painter of views of Venice in the 18th century. His early figurative paintings were carried out in association with his brother, Gian Antonio, but in about 1760 Guardi turned to view painting. Following Canaletto he recorded both the architecture of the city and the celebrations of its inhabitants in interior and exterior scenes. These works brought him great success.
 
He was born in Venice, the son of a minor painter, Domenico Guardi. In 1719 his sister married Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, who may have influenced the vivacity and bright colouring of Guardi’s figures.
 
While Guardi followed Canaletto in producing views or vedute, he soon developed his own style, based on a freer handling of paint. He took particular pleasure in rendering the vibrant atmosphere of Venetian light and its dazzling effect on water. The more ‘impressionistic’ approach of Guardi also found expression in small-scale imaginary scenes or capricci, of which there are many surviving examples, such as ‘An Architectural Caprice’.
 
Giovanni Antonio Canal, known as Canaletto, was also born in Venice, the son of a theatrical scene painter. He was very influential, famed for his precisely depicted and evocative views of the city (vedute). Canaletto’s early pictures for local patrons are his most accomplished: these carefully designed, individual, and atmospheric studies include ‘The Stonemason’s Yard’.
 
He found that providing formulaic paintings for tourists was very lucrative. These, still highly skilled works, were produced by him often in collaboration with an organised workshop. They usually record the lavish Venetian public ceremonies, as in ‘Regatta on the Grand Canal’.
 
Canaletto was favoured by English collectors. He visited England repeatedly between 1746-56, painting works like ‘Eton College’. His most important assistant was his nephew Bellotto, who became an accomplished artist. Canaletto often made meticulous preparatory drawings. He may have used a camera obscura for topographical accuracy in creating some of his designs, but he always remained concerned with satisfying compositional design, not simply slavishly recording views.
 
Bernardo Bellotto, the pupil and nephew of the famous Giovanni Antonio Canal Canaletto, also called himself Canaletto. As a court painter for Poland’s last king Stanisław August Poniatowski, with meticulous details he painted the streets and architecture of 18th century Warsaw, the capitol of my native land. 
 
We learned about him and his paintings a bit in primary school and perhaps this can serve as a bit of explanation way I am interested in this kind of art. ‘Get them when they young’, as some say. 
 
Bellotto died in Warsaw in 1780 and was buried in Capuchin Church at Miodowa (Honey Street).In the 16th century Miodowa Street was famous for its gingerbread shops, hence its name. Bellotto painted it with all its colours and hustle and bustle. It was razed to the ground during Warsaw uprising in 1944 and rebuild after the war.
 
Polish national anthem includes the words ‘from the land of Italy to Poland’ but it has not yet been proven that it has anything to do with this prolific artist.
 
An Architectural Caprice is a quiet little painting. National Gallery does not make a big hullaballoo of having it amongst its possessions. And yet, it captivated me from the moment I saw it – the use of the tonnes and shadows to create and direct views’s interest but even more by the unassuming use of the colonnade and the figure in red cloak. It is obvious that many lesser artist would have taken a few further steps and painted the street only. It is only cores that by not doing so Guardio created a very un-direct scene in which it is almost impossible to say what this image is about. This is a very mych out-of-focus approach or should I perhaps say out-of-popular expectations. Here Guardi plays on what we choose to focus on and dub important. This innocent images is nonetheless peppered with powerful allusions.
 
Perhaps an explanation why I am taking the liberty of writing about this in a photography magazine is the fact that it is perfectly plausible that Venetian masters of vedute, may have used the camera obscura in order to achieve superior precision of urban views. 
 
But we could also relate to those artist by admitting that we just can’t help adore Venice, or that we too found that some formulaic photography is greatly popular with audience and makes our work sell better. Or, like Guardi with his brother-in-law – that certain people have a profound influence on our work and help us better it.
 
So I stood there, scrutinising Guardi’s caprice and though how many of architectural photographer who use LE technique are influenced by old painters who visited and painted Venice, Amsterdam, Rome, Praque, Vienna, Warsaw and other beautiful cities. They did not have filters but it is clear that they too used to smudge clouds, silk water and add some movement to the air. If you compare their paintings to those, say of Picasso or Bosch or Grant Wood it becomes even clearer.
 
Long exposure photography is just one of very many techniques employed by photographers to create works that wold be reflection of their ideas. It is not meant to be serve the purpose of direct representation of reality (which are is?) and those who dab their fingers in it know all sorts of challenges and disappointments it brings.
 
Both Canaletto and Guardi, if little time is allowed for their works scrutiny, seem very much alike. Almost mirroring one another – like we today we our cameras, they both painted the same spots of Venice. And yet it requires only a modicum of attention to see stark differences of approach to their subject. Canalletto is quite realistic while Guardi creations veer off towards more dream-like scenes with his brushstrokes 
 
Michael Levey drew attention to Guardi’s distinctively loose and painterly style, writing: “With time his style increased in allusiveness. The people who had played such a part in Canaletto’s pictures, even when given only the mechanical vivacity of puppets, dwindled in Guardi’s work until they were mere specks of colour, a running squiggle of white paint, a black dot, short-hand to express the population of the most moribund of European states. … Where Canaletto had been particular and specific, Guardi was content with a hieroglyphic symbol.” “… the view is glimpsed in a single coup de l’œil, becoming almost an impression. This ‘impressionism’ has sometimes led to the idea that Guardi anticipated the French Impressionists … and Turner. But Guardi’s handling is really an inspired accident rather than a scientific method of vision, and his attitude to Venice is neither romantic nor sentimental.”
 
I imagine they both visited their spots many a time and took many a drawing before accosting canvases with formulated vision and painting exactly what they wanted to paint. It is what us, photographers, do as well. The question is: am I more of a Canaletto or Guardi? Or perhaps someone else?
Francesco Guardi (1712–93) Bacino di San Marco with San Giorgio and the Giudecca (1770-4)
An Architectural Caprice by one Francesco Guardi
© Derek Michalski Photography