Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Photo Workshop : Paris In The Fall

06/10/09 Update : Ah..Paris!

After a marathon long weekend pounding the streets of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th and 20th arrondissements of Paris, and many kilometres covered in the process, we are now back in our respective home cities. To our participants, thank you for joining Andy and myself in Paris, thank you Vero for the bubbly, Crystele for your company and support in getting some video of us at La Bastille.

Our itinerary on the first day included the atmospheric 'covered passages' in the 1st and 2nd arrondissements, as well as the Palais Royal and a visit to the famous Pere Lachaise cemetery where luminaries such as Chopin, Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde and numerous others were laid to rest. The cemetery is set to the east of the city surrounded by a high wall, on hilly land and is beautifully acacia-tree lined with with crypts and tombs on long avenues, some in desperate state of decay whilst others are brand spanking new.

The second-day we photographed at the Seine, Louvre and Tuileries gardens, Place Vendome before heading back to the Musee d'Orsay for a fabulous lunch stop. We encountered a lone sax player under a road bridge which was just the perfect picture for an urban portrait. Mind you, he was a few Euros richer after our group of photographers passed by!

On Sunday morning, we congregated at the steps of the Bastille to photograph the amazing street market on Boulevard Richard Lenoir, a short stroll away. This amazing Sunday market is one of Paris's finest, offering fresh produce, meats, fruit and veg, cheeses and cooked food.

This group photograph was taken outside the Maison Europeenne de la Photographie
at Le Marais. There were several exhibitions on-going which were well worth seeing, including Ferdinando Scianna's'Geometry and Passion' collection and Ara G├╝ler's amazing vintage photographs of Istanbul taken in the 50'-60s.

30/09/09 : Paris, here we come!

I'm off to Paris on the 09:01 Eurostar tomorrow morning to prepare for our workshop commencing Friday to Sunday evening. Will post updates from the City of Lights.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Beauty and the Beast : Backstage at London Fashion Week

High Fashion always intrigues me, and this year, I attended Ashley Isham's show on the first day of London Fashion Week at the OnOff Venue in The Strand, where I managed to get access backstage.

The amount of preparation that goes into a 10-minute catwalk extravaganza is simply quite astounding. A feat comparable to an 8-second dance of mechanics around an F1 car in a pitstop. The number of people that attend to primping up a model from an anonymous street creature into a radiant 'haute-couture' Lolita is about 10, I can say. There's the hair stylist, assistant, nail woman, dresser, dress coordinator, shoes, make-up artist and the list goes on, not forgetting of course, the designer extraordinaire. Along with the sprinkling of journalists, photographers, videographers, caterers, its no wonder, its a circus. Perhaps there's a lion tamer in all that somewhere. There were certainly no clowns. The show was filled to the brim with guests including Michelle from Destiny's Child and a few 'regular' oddballs in designer drag.

For a video of the show, please go to

Monday, 14 September 2009

Head out onto the streets..

7:30am Les Halles, Paris 2001

My approach to street photography : Part 1

I'll be heading out to Paris in a few weeks to accompany a group of photographers to photograph street and architecture, along with Andy Craggs. Street photography can mean different things to different people and yes, it is one of the most challenging styles of photographs to make and highly rewarding if accomplished well.

Kosovan girl with Stars and Stripes, London, 1999

I started delving into this genre in 1998/9 when I attended my 'first' public rally in Trafalgar Square, photographing the Stop The War campaign in Kosovo. Since then, the street has been my playground, and thus led to my Outside Looking In : Kuala Lumpur book in 2000.

Some ground rules first. Street photography, because of its nature, is basically a beast. It is uncontrollable, a bit haphazard, and oh, yes, there's Lady Luck involved as well. Once you are 'in the zone' so to speak, things will become clearer, as the fog of indecision lifts. Slowly but surely. You begin with a hit rate of zero, and the odds will improve. Shooting digital helps, but not always.

In our image-overkill world of flickr galleries, facebook posts and online slideshows, we seemed hooked onto the 2-dimensionality of photography of the 'instant', constantly sharing our photographs and thoughts on a daily basis. Photography, for many, has become the LCD screen we gaze at, day in day out. Street photography brings us back to reality, where real life exists, and unscripted. The street is where you will engage with people, and existence is fluid and active. The street is your camera's playground.

Let's start with the Rules of Engagement :

Point 1 : Objective

Ask yourself, how are you attracted to street photography. Ah yes, many people will cite HCB, Winogrand or even Moriyama (and dare I say... Araki) or Doisneau's famous 'Hotel De Ville kissing couple'. Elliot Erwitt's dog series? Can you see and photograph what these masters saw in their streets? Can you walk their walk? Forget about it!

Penny for the Guy, Columbia Road Market, London 1998

You shoot your own streets and alleys. Apply your own technique and approach, and you will be rewarded. The important thing to remember is - its only street photography, its not papparazzi-stalking or photojournalism. Its photographing people like yourself, walking about your streets and pavements, your neighbours, your local fishmonger, your local cafe owner don't upset them. Its about documenting a slice of reality which is completely ordinary. Nothing fancy and nothing contrived, like a wedding function. There's no pressure to deliver, or deadlines to meet. You take your own time, go out and sit in a coffee shop and just people watch.

Point 2. Observe, observe, observe

Start with a nice cup of coffee, sit quietly and just observe. See how people behave, families with their kids, mothers with the pushchairs, waiters taking orders, people that pass you by. After a while, you'll see moments or instances that humour you, make you cringe or take you aback. These are the so-called 'decisive moments' that you are subconsciously seeking as you begin to understand the human condition.

Beggar and school kids, Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur, 1999

Take a walk, and observe the passing scenery before you. Because you are now moving, reality is quickly taking on another dimension, it becomes 3D. Your pace and your choice of lens will define the bubble of space or zone that you will encounter people and hence photograph them. Objects, people and scenes will flicker in and out of your space, and it will be at this moment that you begin to see photographs. I recommend a wide angle lens 35mm to 50mm is ideal, and pre-focus to 3m to get real close to your subjects. If you have studied what a 35mm lens will cover at 3m, you will have mindframes in your sight at all times.

Go to Part 2

More later.... (got to go shoot some fashion!)

Monday, 7 September 2009

Out walking on Saturday....

Live male models clad only in Calvin Kleins advertising their products on Oxford Street this Saturday. Oxford Street is a focal point for many shoppers trundling the streets of London in search for bargains, and live models posing have been a common sight, usually in storefronts.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

The Big and The Bold ! : The Notting Hill Carnival 2009


My feet are sore and my ears are ringing. After walking the entire 2 and a half mile parade route backwards at the Adults Day of the Notting Hill Carnival and seeing the many floats and costume dance troupes, samba bands etc, I have never before seen SO many woman with big rear assets in one square mile, and I don't think I ever will, at least until next year. 'Big' is definitely the order of the day. This was a fantastic NHC, although the crowds weren't as large as previous years, it was still loud and colourful.

Click on each photo to 'enlarge'

All Images © S Lee 2009