Those defining moments in our photographic lives

DownUnder

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A new thread, this. I hope others will come in and contribute. Maybe much good information to be shared and preserved.

Someone has sent me a link to a YouTube interview with the late William Klein.

I had not thought about him or looked at his work for many years, although I did not his passing a few years ago.

This video I found inspiring and stimulating. If I am allowed to do this, I will add a link at the end for those who want to view it.

This has hit home to me for a personal reason.

In 1968 I was a callow youth of 21, freshly out of Canada to continental Europe - I say "continental" as I'd already had several brief tourist-type holidays in England from 1965, in the not-so-good old days when employers especially in the media kept you chained to a desk or on the reporting beat peanuts money and reluctantly gave you a lousy two weeks' vacation from the sweat shot every year, to be taken at a time of their choosing.

Anyway, there I was in Paris, with my Rolleiflex, 20 rolls of film, ten days in France up my sleeve and absolutely no clue (this being long before the era of easily accessed internet info about traveling to anywhere you want to go on this planet and maybe soon to come, well beyond)) about what to do, where to go or, more importantly, how to go about it.

I was in Montmartre, in a quite posh cafe overlooking some unnamed river (I never was much good at geography and at my age my memory is unreliable), with a cafe au laid and something lethally alcoholic in a smal stemmed glass on the street side table in front of me.

Then this urbane gentleman in his early middle years came up and asked, most politely and in a fine New York accent, said, I'm sorry, the cafe is full, may I share your table if you don't mind?

Yes, it was HIM. Even if at the time, I didn't know it.

We got to chatting and he noticed my Rolleiflex and commented on it, not very positively, he said he didn't especially care for the 'polite' (= mannered) views TLRs afforded of the world in general, that and their bulk was limiting to off-the-cuff street photography of the sort he did and I had yet to (and alas, still have not) learned.

We talked about life, being in Paris, getting around, the best way to do things and how to go about paying less than the grope-tour tourists did for all the good things that city had to offer in the '60s. I remember he told me to go to a certain Metro station and in my best French asked for a weekly work commuter ticket (which I did and I got), also about the Two Menu System and now to avoid being given the tourist menu with prices 50%-100% higher. So good advice indeed.

All was positive, open and friendly. Now I am sorry to say, at that time I was stuck into my own immature ego-drive, and I didn't take much of the good advice he gave me to heart, tho' I did get the cheaper ticket on the Metro and better food at cheaper prices. I speak French, which helped. I don't recall if he did or not. All I remember is that superbly urbane New York accent, also his kindness and politeness.

For the record, he did not have his Leica with him that day. Or if he did, it was well hidden away in his shoulder pack.

When we parted he gave me his card, which I kept for many years but have somehow lost (I live in hope that it will turn up one day in one or my archival boxes, but now my time is running short and, well, I don't know). He ordered a second 'apero' for us and he also paid for my coffee and the drinks. So a true gentleman in his generosity and kindness, in the style that so many were back then, but so few are now.

On returning to Canada, time passed, and eventually one of his exhibitions came to Toronto where I was living then, so finally I found out who he was. And was - gobsmacked.

This particular comment (from the video) by him stands out for me - "Almost everything is coincidence and luck and chance."

YouTube and other sites have many good videos on Klein.

Daido Moriyama is another excellent internet 'mentor' to be followed. Klein had great respect for him even if he tended to be somewhat faux-disparaging of his work at times. Do Google him and look him up.

I am sure many others here on RFF have similar experiences to share. We do owe it to posterity to put them into words and post them for others to enjoy and learn from. Please do.

That link now -
 
I met a few… just last month I met Matt Stuart in NYC in the funniest way. His smiling face just suddenly appeared in front of me “hi”
 
I met out the back of where I work a keen eyed retired man who I later found out was the lighting camera man for the BBC art documentaries I watched on TV with my Dad in the ‘70s. He invited me to join the photographic group he was part of. He’s been a great critic and encourager of my photography.

A much younger man meeting someone admired, as you did, not unexpectedly calls up the emotions you vividly record. Too much too early and too little will come of it.

There were two important moments in my photography, one when I was 25 and the other when I was 48. I went on a holiday to Italy without a camera. Within two days I replaced my stolen M4 with an M4-2 and 50 Summicron. I was seeing shots so clearly, it seemed effortless. More than 20 years later I broke some ribs in the surf. Poor sleep and pain had me up early and perhaps more deliberate. I found that with my first roll of Velvia in the camera I was sharper and hungrier and more disciplined and I just tried a whole lot harder with framing and composition and resisting taking an indifferent shot.
 
@DownUnder - terrific anecdote about your encounter with Mr. Klein!

(I only hope you didn't give up on Rolleiflex photography entirely ;>)

Absolutely not. The cost of 120 roll film in Australia undid me in the long term.

An interesting side note. Somewhere in my internet searches I saw an old photo of William Klein on a shoot in the late '40s or early '50s - with a Rolleiflex.

So it goes that he was not as "anti" TLRs as he told me, ever casually, way back then.
 
What an awesome story! I don't have any similar 'meeting with extraordinary men' stories, but I'm wonderfully delighted by yours.

I'm wracking my brain for moments that defined my photographic life, but there's nothing as coincidental and satisfying as yours. But here is my meandering story.

When I was a kid in the early 80s, Dad taught me the basics of photography on his Pentax ME and Minolta SR-T 101. Dad himself had been given a camera by his father, who was reportedly quite a shutterbug, always carrying a Pentax Spotmatic for involved shooting, and a clamshell Olympus in later years. If we had a family gathering in the 80s, there would often be a couple of sets of photos fresh from the one hour store by the end of the day. Not only did he give Dad a camera, but he gave one to all his children, and each of those families has someone who is into photography.

It wasn't until 2002 that my photographic interests really took off - Dad continued to tradition by buying me a digital camera, the Canon S45. Suddenly, it ignited something vital inside me, and I took that little silver brick everywhere, shooting everything I could. Eventually, I moved on to other cameras, including the Canon 30D in 2007, the 5D Mark II in 2009, the Leica M9 in 2010. I became a professional photographer, and I still make regular use of the 5D Mark II and M9 in my work.

Were it not for Dad giving me the S45 twenty two years ago, I may not have found my way into this amazing world, found my true passion in life, my livelihood and the many friends I've made along the way.
 
Archiver, I've long believed that a mentor can be anyone who inspires and influences us to do better. A parent is as good as any other, even a renowned photographer or as in my case, someone world famous I shared a coffee and two drinks with in a Paris cafe almost 60 years ago. It's rather a joke to myself that I was so unworldly at the time, I didn't even realize who William Klein was until one of his exhibitions came to Toronto some years later.

This said, nowadays I look at the lifetime of "mannered" photography - mostly architectural - I've done, and wonder what if any influence Klein had on me - or what he could have had. Part of me wishes I had acted on that day in Paris and worked harder at becoming a more off-the-cuff photographer, done more street work in those long ago days when we could do it without having our lives threatened.

I've had a good life and I've done some okay photography - about 100 of my architectural images have been published in Asia and Europe, so in that sense I'm a commercial success, in a modest way. But then, sadly, for myself I see a missed opportunity, altho' as the saying goes, hindsight is always 20:20...
 
In the early 80's, my wife and our four kids were returning from a family outing one Sunday night. We came across a horrific accident out in the country where a 12 passenger van full of special needs kids had been hit head on about 90 seconds earlier and was starting to burn. I grabbed a camera as we were getting out of our car, then put it back in the bag. We did what we could to get as many of the kids as possible out of the van, being successful with most but not all of them as their van became consumed in flames. I helped direct while our four kids, aged 6 to 14 took care of four of the injured special kids. It took about a half hour before ambulances arrived to transport injured. It was a scenario that none of us have ever forgotten.

Eventually, Mike Brown, one of the staff photographers from the Florida Today newspaper arrived. That paper was the test for what became USA Today and had a great photo department. He recognized me and immediately asked if I had photos. While thinking of my missed opportunity to have a spectacular photo on the front page of a major newspaper, I explained what I had done instead. He had a long pause and finally said "you did the right thing". His validation meant much to me. Now, I have never faced such a major decision such as that in the 40+ years since. But, I have recognized the times I had to decide to act as a human being or for personal gain. I always remember him saying "you did the right thing".
 
My defining moment was really a series of moments from the very beginning of my interest. I came to photography late in life. No one in my family or in our circle of friends was involved in photography. As far as I know no one in my schooI had a camera or cared about taking pictures. Our small country school had no art department so there was no background to guide me. I was 25 when I picked up my first adjustable camera and my interests were kindled. That was the first of many moments. From that point on it was buying my own 35mm camera, reading the photo magazines of the 70s, setting up a darkroom, buying lenses and getting good enough to be hired by a weekly newspaper and then by a daily newspaper. But I was a slow learner and I really didn't get serious about photography as a craft/art/skill/whatever until I stopped doing it as a job and started doing it again as a true amateur. And, of course, every day I realize I really know very little when confronted with the plethora of photography online. I'm looking forward to my next defining moment.
 
I have chance met so many inspiring photographers (and artists, scientists, doers, thinkers, teachers, etc) over the years it is difficult to isolate one person and one meeting as being The One That Changed Things For Me ... They *all* did that! I consider myself more than just lucky in this regard.. And I hope that my own interactions with young people doing photography and other things have had similar effect now and then, although I hardly consider myself particularly famous or inspiring.

Echoing what I told another photographer recently when he was musing about what he ought to do based on what folks have been telling him: 'Just do what you want to do, or what you do anyway, and don't worry too much about what other people suggest you do. What you do already is all good, and the more you do it and stay aware, stay thinking, trying different things, and being critical of your efforts, the better it becomes.'

Keep on going, keep on trying, let the effort pull you to do better. Enjoy it when people praise, consider it dispassionately when people criticize, and don't let yourself be stopped by anything but your own heart and mind.

G
 
In 2004 I was on a few days holidays in Istanbul and there was an exhibition taking place. I visited it together with some other photographers from the Usefilm website (does anyone remember that?) and amongst the people there was Ara Guler also.

I didn't speak to him or anything but it was nice seeing him and being in the same exhibition.
 
The one thing I remember about being inspired about photography was a comment my mother once made to me. I'd shown her a photo I'd taken of my son when he was a little guy. It was taken in her backyard with a camera I'd been wanting to buy a copy of for a long time and had finally purchased a used one.
I had shown her the camera earlier and mentioned that it needed to be looked at, as it had some wear to it that needed to be addressed. When she saw the photo she asked if I'd taken it with the newly purchased camera. When I told her I had she said 'If you can take a picture like this with that camera, in the condition it's in, I'll pay for the work to have it fixed.'
I sent the camera in to Minolta and it came back working like new. I still have it but it hasn't seen film for quite some time.
My second 'epiphany' was when I got my first digital camera. With it, I lost the burden of costs associated with film and was able to shoot away to my hearts content. Never having had a class in photography I'm 'self taught' so to speak. I've done a lot of reading. I've always wondered where I'd be if I had taken a class.
 
My second 'epiphany' was when I got my first digital camera. With it, I lost the burden of costs associated with film and was able to shoot away to my hearts content. Never having had a class in photography I'm 'self taught' so to speak. I've done a lot of reading. I've always wondered where I'd be if I had taken a class.
I'm self taught in the same way, never taking official classes, but constantly experimenting. I read books about photography, from photo books by the masters to instructional books, as well as watch tutorials on YouTube if there's something specific I want to know, like lighting for product photography. Having a digital camera really opened things up, as I could shoot anything and adjust according to the results. What took some time was learning to know what gear and positioning was necessary to capture the idea I had in my mind, or knowing what the gear in my hand was going to produce in a given situation - actually, that's still a work in progress. :LOL:
 
Life is by far the best teacher, especially in a creative art like photography. Not clinging to fixed ideas about one's image-making is important, and I say this as someone who did just that for far too long, and in some ways still struggle with some old fixed notion in my head that "the old way is the best way is the safe way".

One of my very early photo mentors - this in the 1960s when photography was an entirely different universe) - once told me, it's perfectly okay to be human and make as many mistakes as you have to - just try to not repeat the same mistakes too often.

This I've found was by far one of the best 'principles of life' I've ever been given.

Beware also pressures from others around us. Uninformed criticism can be damaging, especially to the young.

My late stepmother had many good qualities but she was afflicted by a neurotic urge for perfection in all things. She would snoop in the prints in my washer ( used the kitchen sink for this as my home darkroom was a converted closet) and find something to criticize about every image. None of her comments were helpful and she made things worse by gossiping on the phone about my photography to her circle of small-town local harpies and to my aunts. Eventually I did a portrait session for a family and her gossiped criticisms got back to the customer who angrily cancelled the order. I decided she had to be confronted with this unacceptable behavior - I was 13 at the time, so this was a brave act on my part - and I did so and politely but firmly asked her to cease and desist. She admitted her fault and backed off. I went on to become the photographer that I did (personally I rate myself as 7.5-8/10) and more importantly she and I had a much better parent-child relationship after that, although she was never able to control her urge to criticize. In her old age she changed most of her negative behavior and became a far better person, so people can and do change. Even me, or at least I still try to...

I still recall Klein's polite (and humorous) disparaging of my Rolleiflex as maybe more a casual comment than advice or criticism. But he was expert at what he did and when I had finally figured out who he was and his place in creative photography, I accepted this as kindly advice from an expert. Sadly, he was never my mentor. My loss entirely.
 
Life is by far the best teacher, especially in a creative art like photography. Not clinging to fixed ideas about one's image-making is important, and I say this as someone who did just that for far too long, and in some ways still struggle with some old fixed notion in my head that "the old way is the best way is the safe way".

One of my very early photo mentors - this in the 1960s when photography was an entirely different universe) - once told me, it's perfectly okay to be human and make as many mistakes as you have to - just try to not repeat the same mistakes too often.

This I've found was by far one of the best 'principles of life' I've ever been given.
I agree with that philosophy soooo much. Similar to, 'anything worth doing is worth doing badly in the beginning'.
Beware also pressures from others around us. Uninformed criticism can be damaging, especially to the young.

My late stepmother had many good qualities but she was afflicted by a neurotic urge for perfection in all things. She would snoop in the prints in my washer ( used the kitchen sink for this as my home darkroom was a converted closet) and find something to criticize about every image. None of her comments were helpful and she made things worse by gossiping on the phone about my photography to her circle of small-town local harpies and to my aunts. Eventually I did a portrait session for a family and her gossiped criticisms got back to the customer who angrily cancelled the order. I decided she had to be confronted with this unacceptable behavior - I was 13 at the time, so this was a brave act on my part - and I did so and politely but firmly asked her to cease and desist. She admitted her fault and backed off. I went on to become the photographer that I did (personally I rate myself as 7.5-8/10) and more importantly she and I had a much better parent-child relationship after that, although she was never able to control her urge to criticize. In her old age she changed most of her negative behavior and became a far better person, so people can and do change. Even me, or at least I still try to...
"My stepmother had many good qualities apart from being a neurotic perfectionist and aggravating criticizer with a pack of gossiping harpies as her echo chamber." :LOL: The classic stereotype of the stay at home parent with nothing going on in their lives, so they pick others to bits, regardless of merit. I feel for you, and I'm glad that you negotiated better behaviour from her. Had she been more narcissistic, she would have defended her actions and claimed she was 'only trying to help', so you were fortunate that she accepted your feedback.
I still recall Klein's polite (and humorous) disparaging of my Rolleiflex as maybe more a casual comment than advice or criticism. But he was expert at what he did and when I had finally figured out who he was and his place in creative photography, I accepted this as kindly advice from an expert. Sadly, he was never my mentor. My loss entirely.
I wonder how far advanced he was in his career at that time, and if he had achieved the sort of acclaim we generally afford him today? He may have just thought of himself as a hustling photographer who was well entrenched in his craft, offering conversation two a nice young fellow with a Rolleiflex.
 
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Regarding Klein and his disparaging remarks about the Rolleiflex: As I recall, Ernst Haas got started with a Rolleiflex and B&W film, but really came into his own with 35mm Kodachrome. I'm sure they started out with what they could get at the time, then moved on to equipment that better suited their evolving approaches to photography.

- Murray
 
I seem to have too much to say in this threat, but then I started it, so hm.

Another meeting that deeply influenced my photography was in the 1990s, during my last visit on my own to France. I had been to Arles, and I was on my meanandering way to Paris by way of wherever the notion took me, as I prefer to travel, when by chance I met I met Roger Hicks and Frances Shultz in a local cafe, they were on their way home.

We had wine (a little too much of it as I recall, but it was a good day and well worth it) and a friendly chat.

Nothing too deep, a few thoughts about photography, Roger's summing up of Arles - he could be critical of some aspects of it, but from his comments I understood he was fond of it and it was an important part of his later career as a photogapher and auteur - and we then went on our separate ways.

My memories of that day were what a highly knowledgable, also an intelligent, kind, thoughtful and worldly person Roger was when one met him in person - there was none of the occasional testiness that could surface at times in his posts - and also how lovely Frances was to talk to and in all other ways, even to only sit and look at, she was such a dazzling individual in her own right and very much a match for her beloved husband.

I had email conversations with Roger in later years, usually about some mundane point or other I couldn't find online information about and contacted him for advice. He was always generous with his responses. In 2010 or 2011 I brazenly asked him to critique six photos for me and he kindly agreed, but I never did send those, having reconsidered and realized it was an imposition on my part.

Both gone now. Sadly missed by me and I am sure, many others here.
 
What an awesome story! I don't have any similar 'meeting with extraordinary men' stories, but I'm wonderfully delighted by yours.

I'm wracking my brain for moments that defined my photographic life, but there's nothing as coincidental and satisfying as yours. But here is my meandering story.

When I was a kid in the early 80s, Dad taught me the basics of photography on his Pentax ME and Minolta SR-T 101. Dad himself had been given a camera by his father, who was reportedly quite a shutterbug, always carrying a Pentax Spotmatic for involved shooting, and a clamshell Olympus in later years. If we had a family gathering in the 80s, there would often be a couple of sets of photos fresh from the one hour store by the end of the day. Not only did he give Dad a camera, but he gave one to all his children, and each of those families has someone who is into photography.

It wasn't until 2002 that my photographic interests really took off - Dad continued to tradition by buying me a digital camera, the Canon S45. Suddenly, it ignited something vital inside me, and I took that little silver brick everywhere, shooting everything I could. Eventually, I moved on to other cameras, including the Canon 30D in 2007, the 5D Mark II in 2009, the Leica M9 in 2010. I became a professional photographer, and I still make regular use of the 5D Mark II and M9 in my work.

Were it not for Dad giving me the S45 twenty two years ago, I may not have found my way into this amazing world, found my true passion in life, my livelihood and the many friends I've made along the way.

This is familiar! My grandfather taught me how to use a camera and to develop and print black and white. We started with a little folding camera and 120 film - the negs are about 2 1/4 by 3 1/2 I think. Later he lent me his 35mm fixed lens (40mm) rangefinder for a couple of years. He had carried that camera all over the IK holidaying with my grandmother. Then he bought me a new Canon AE-1. Throughout my childhood he actively encouraged and taught me to think, do and make.

My Dad also encouraged me, for him taking his camera (a Zenit EM) on walks and holidays was entirely normal and natural. Only in the last few weeks I’ve been through some of the pictures he left from his life with my Mum. They speak of him and his love for both place and nature.

Mike
 
Awesome coincidence!

I respect him for been openminded, telling things as is. No polit correctness. Just facts. And he didn't mind to use strong words.
So, some of his stories are very valuable to understand how west became so f..up now.
 
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