The beautiful eye

October 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

The first time I saw the photo, I was envious. Then I looked at it again, and my envy turned to burning, green envy with a purplish tint. There was no enjoyment of the image, no appreciation of the slice in time captured in the pixels on my screen, just envy.

‘Cause that’s just the kind of person I am.

I scrolled through the handful of photos he had posted on the gallery. Each one was not better than the one before. They were equals. Toweringly beautifully posed photographs ripped off shutterclick by shutterclick at some insane number of bangs per second, these were the keepers out of how many? A thousand? Five thousand?

“That bastard. That fucking bastard. Fuck. He is good.”

You’re so transparent

When people take pictures, when they write paragraphs, when they paint or sculpt or throw clay, they reveal themselves. The more you know about their craft, they more they show.

This dude’s autobiography was pressed into his gallery of nine images. All I needed to know about him, I learned in the hour or so that I studied those photographs.

Let me tell you these things about him. We’ve never spoken more than a minute or two with each other, and never about his photography.

  • He’s a perfectionist. You won’t see his work until it’s ready. The vast majority of his work, although stunning to you, isn’t good enough for him.
  • His photography doesn’t show people. It shows their character.
  • There’s only one right shot of a given person at a given time doing a given thing. That’s the one he wants.
  • He’s meticulous about his equipment, but he knows that it’s all in the eye.
  • He believes that great photos can only be created with the proper foundation. He prepares and looks and thinks and chooses each vantage point with incredible care, and that’s the foundation upon which he builds each photograph.
  • He hates what’s common.
  • He believes that if you want to show different characters, even from the same person, you have to shoot different perspectives.
  • He can’t take snapshots…he thinks and plans and angles and reflects too much to reflexively point and shoot.
  • Every picture isn’t a painting. It’s a sculpture, crafted laboriously by hand, with much effort and furrowing of the brow.

Danny Munson, photographer to the wankers

If you’ve spent any time on CyclingIllustrated, you’ve seen Dan Munson’s work, and it has left you slack-jawed. The power, the energy, the dynamic pulse of the athlete leaps out from each image so strongly that you can feel the striations in the muscles. If you’ve spent time on his web site, it’s equally amazing. If you’re lucky enough to be his friend on Facebook, your cup runneth over with more than a thousand pictures to browse through, which are worth millions of words.

I’ve been lucky to work with one of the finest photographers anywhere, Ted Eubanks, who also happens to be married to my mom. However good you think you are, you’re not this good. Unless you’re Colin Finlay. Because if you’re Colin Finlay, you’re better than Ted Eubanks…as long as you’re not shooting birds, butterflies, dragonflies, or natural landscapes.

Like Colin, who I’ve never worked with, there’s another giant behind the lens who I’ve actually ridden bikes and drunk coffee with. That’s Greg St. Johns. What he does with a camera is another degree removed, yet again, from what normal people think of when they think of photography. Greg is the head chef at a high end image restaurant; a professional TV cameraman who nails incredible shots of the cast–stars and water carriers alike–in black-and-white when the mood strikes.

I’m going through this mental Rolodex of photographers simply because I put Dan Munson in their sector of the Venn diagram, where the edges of artist, genius, and amazing person all intersect to make a tiny little club built out of photography. The thing about each of these guys is that their photos move, and you’d think that Danny’s job, shooting bikers, would be the easiest one for capturing motion.

But anyone who’s tried to photograph a crit or a road race knows that’s not the case; it’s the opposite, in fact. It takes amazing skill to wind up with anything other than a frozen figure hunched over a bike going nowhere. It takes love and passion and intellect and strategy and compassion and risk to make an office park routine into what it really is: A gladiator’s arena filled with pain, danger, despair, humiliation, elation, risk, defeat, and victory.

He shares all of these things with us, and more. Thanks, dude.

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