Alexander Benz: Discovering Black and White Urban Geometry in NYC

All images by Alexander Benz. Used with permission.

“Geometry plays an important role in my life.” states photographer Alexander Benz. “I see angles, corners, shapes and curves everywhere. I often use those elements to frame my subjects to create a border other than the border given by the camera.” Mr. Benz could get this unique creative vision from his engineering education. Afterwards, he moved to NYC to study at the International Center of Photography then stuck around to work for various photographers and get a bit more of a taste for the industry. It’s there in NYC where he discovered his affinity for black and white photography and Urban Geometry.

“I often roamed the city at night, always having my camera, a Leica M6 loaded with high speed 3200 ASA film, with me.” explains Mr. Benz about his photographic journey. “Wherever I went I found situations that I had an urge to record. Not necessarily as a memory, but more for the purpose of processing what was going at a later moment.” There are many photographers who do this, actually. It’s how they learn to make sense of the world.

Why is black and white photography important to you?

Black and white photography is very important to me. This kind of photography emphasises shapes and light in a very different way than colour photography. Reducing an image to shapes of grey creates a different focus on the subject and leaves some room to fill in the rest, the way we usually experience our surrounding, by using our imagination.

What inspires you to create photographs?

I have been a photographer for more than 20 years and I love the idea that I can document the world around me by using my camera. It keeps me looking around, looking up, left and right. It is so easy to forget to do that, to let our surrounding fade in to the backdrop of everyday life.

Why is black and white photography so important to our future in the art world?

To me, black and white photography is not necessarily meant to represent reality as is. Of course it can be used in documentary photography where we are reminded what is happening around us every day, but I believe that even there it is used for a different, even if subconsciously, purpose. Black and white somehow separates my work from the everyday iPhone snap shot, from the family photos, and everything else that is meant to serve as a memory of reality. To me, the lack of colours are in a sense the same as the way we remember things. Not perfect, but it leaves room for interpretation, it encourages the viewer to fill in the gaps and draw his/her own conclusions.

Reliable, Mechanical Vintage Cameras You’ll Want to Shoot With

Compact film cameras are a big thing more so now than they have ever been before. But one of the biggest problems with lots of them has to do with the fact that the electronics in them break down after a really long time. In a case like that, it’s sometimes just best to use an all mechanical camera with much better reliability.

So with that said, here are a number of (mostly) mechanical cameras that you’ll surely want to get your hands on.

Continue reading…

The New Leica M Monochrom Limited Edition Jim Marshall Set Looks Like Someone Just Wore Away at the Brass

If you’re a Leica camera fan, then you’re bound to understand the mentality behind the new Leica M Monochrom Limited Edition Jim Marshall Set. Certain Leicas, such as the Leica M6, had black paint on them. And as time went on, the paint wore away as the camera got more and more use. This was and always has been a badge of honor for various photographers as it means that they’ve been shooting with their Leica for a really long time. So with the new Leica M Monochrom Limited Edition Jim Marshall Set, the paint seems to be inspired by this little fact of a Leica photographers’ life.

Oh yeah, and it’s an ode to the great music photographer, of course.

Continue reading…

Review: Zeiss 28mm f2.8 ZM (Leica M Mount)

If you were to consider one lens for street photography and urban geometry, then there isn’t a fantastic reason why the Zeiss 28mm f2.8 ZM lens shouldn’t be on your list. The lens is designed for the Leica M mount, which means that it has a whole lot of versatility when it comes to mounting it to something else. So for the Sony a7 series shooter, it’s a nice addition. But it’s also nice to be in the bag of a Leica M shooter or in my case, with the Leica CL. Zeiss has always made some really stellar lenses, but when you also make them this compact, it’s easy to fall in love with their glass all over again.

Continue reading…

Four Cameras Capable of Making Pleasing, Big Prints at Higher ISOs

One of the problems with digital photography for years has been high ISO output. While it’s become much better when you look at the photos on a screen, it’s still not perfect when it comes to printing. With film, you can tell that you’re looking at film grain when you enlarge and print a photo at something like 17×22 paper. But with digital, you’re bound to find digital looking noise; and it’s very apparent in the color noise, etc. But in the past few years, a few cameras have come around that produce fantastic results at higher ISOs. Here are some of our favorites.

Continue reading…

Why Small Film Cameras Are The Ultimate Every Day Camera

This addiction of mine began a few years ago and continues into today; it helped spur a movement. Remember a few years ago how Fujifilm came onto the scene with cameras that had retro aesthetics, looked gorgeous and actually functioned well while doing it nowhere as expensive as Leica? Then Olympus hopped on board. Then Sony, and the train kept taking off. It got its fundamental start with film cameras and that whole movement. The idea of using a proper dial of some sort and retro-grade ergonomics has continued to enamor photographers everywhere–but no matter what camera manufacturers have done, I think that I can make a very valid argument that they’ve all come very close and done a fantastic job. However nothing fits into your hand or functions just right like some sort of small film camera.

Continue reading…

Lens Review: Leica Summaron-M 28mm F5.6 (Leica M Mount)

The Leica Summaron-M 28mm F5.6 is a lens that in many ways is bound to garner the love of many street photographers out there. One could easily think to themselves: why would someone go crazy over a small, slow prime lens? There are a lot of reasons beyond its more affordable price point. There’s the image quality–which is unlike anything I’ve seen from most modern lenses. Then there are things like the low profile and the fact that the fairly slow speed means that’s all you’re going to be using for street photography anyway. It’s a gorgeous lens if you’re into something smaller and a lot more classic–not only in the quality but also the operation.

And seriously, I have to hand it to Leica. The Leica Summaron-M 28mm f5.6 is designed more for the look: not to appease some DXO overlord.

Continue reading…

Creating the Photograph: Tomasz Kedzierski’s “Tribute to Krzysztof Kieślowski”

Creating the Photograph is an original series where photographers teach you about how they concepted an image, shot it, and edited it. The series has a heavy emphasis on teaching readers how to light. Want to be featured? Email chrisgampat[at]thephoblographer[dot]com.

Photographer Tomasz Kędzierski has been a pretty fantastic and creative analog film photographer for a while. We’ve featured his work a number of times on this website. Besides the Square Lips project, his homemade pinholes and his solarigraphy, he’s done some higher end work too. Most recently, he was working on a shoot where he was shooting with Provia 100, and to ensure that he got the shot right, he used a Leica Sofort first before switching back to his Hasselblad 501C.

Here’s his story.

Continue reading…

Fábio Picarelli: Learning with an Olympus OM-1 and Kodak Tri-X

All images by Fábio Picarelli. Used with permission. 

What makes black and white photography so important to you?

Black and white is unique, when you take out the colors you focus on the basics of what you’re shooting, what’s happening, the people or the place that are in frame. The aesthetics of it is of photography itself, how it begins and how it can always be.

What inspires you to create photographs?

The chance to capture something unique, a moment frozen in time, a moment that will live for ever. It combines a bunch of discipline, art, sociology, politics, anthropology and more.

Why is black and white photography so important to our future in the art world?

Black and white has a history on the world of photography and art. When you think of your favorites photos, most of them are black and white. They are photos that survived the test of time, that are truly art, universal that we can respond to it. Black and white, and film, as parts of our history has this historical context.

Tell us about your images and why you love Kodak Tri-X

Kodak Tri-X is the most famous film of all time, it has a look in it that is easily recognizable. Lots of great shots were shot on Tri-X. I learned to photograph with a Olympus OM-1 and Kodak Tri-X and although I use a lot of different films I always return to it for its quality and its look.

This shoots I shot on the last two years, with a Leica R3 and the Olympus OM-1, in the city that I live, São Paulo, Brazil and one trip to Cuba. All street photography.

Be sure to follow Fábio Picarelli on Instagram too: @picarellifabio

Bashert Jewelry Gives Your Leica a Sterling Silver Soft Shutter Button

Soft shutter releases have been around for a really long time now, but the Bashert Jewelry Sterling Silver Soft Shutter Release Buttons for the Leica M series of cameras are surely taking the cake. For the uninitiated, soft shutter button releases are a very nice and extremely addicting addition for your camera. They often make pressing the shutter a bit better ergonomically speaking. This is fantastic for a series like the Leica M where you need to sometimes stretch your finger a bit to press the shutter if you’ve got smaller hands.

Continue reading…

NY Diary: The City in Glorious, Raw, Gritty Black and White

All images by Federico Chiesa. Used with Creative Commons Permission.

When you think about a lot of the more famous photos of NYC, it’s easy to bring to mind the grit that you’ve known about it. That’s what Federico Chiesa seems to be conveying in his series, NY Diary. While toting along his Leica M9 and a Voigtlander 25mm lens, he documented a lot of happenings in the city while on a trip here.

Many of his images convey the emotions of people and are a play on various factors within a scene. These factors and elements are only brought together better using black and white.

Continue reading…

Sample Image Gallery: Leica 28mm f5.6 (Leica M Mount)

Perhaps one of the more exciting lenses to come from Leica in years isn’t a fast 50, but instead the Leica 28mm f5.6. Now, why is such a slow lens so fascinating? Well for starters, it all has to do with street photography and documentary photography. The Leica 28mm f5.6 is very small and slim. That low profile body lends itself to not giving the camera that it is mated to a “look at me” demeanor. In addition to that, it renders a very classic look. Want some controlled lens flare? You’ve got it. What about a low contrast and not super saturated look? That’s all right here. Additionally, most street photographers are just going to stop the lens down any way. So when you consider the unique look and the fact that you’re not going for beautiful bokeh here, you start to understand why it’s so appealing.

Continue reading…

Review: Lomography XPro Slide 200 Film (35mm Format)

To begin this review, I’m going to say flat out that Lomography XPro Slide 200 film has to, hands down, be the weirdest film I’ve ever worked with. But it’s also been a pleasure and a very fulfilling learning experience in my own pursuits of bettering my photography knowledge. To say this wasn’t a challenge is an extreme understatement. Within three rolls, I tried to “get it right”. Pretty simple you’d think, right? Well, yeah–even I’d sit there and call me a dumbass. Except that Lomography XPro Slide 200 film isn’t a conventional film at all.

Continue reading…

4 Rangefinder Inspired Digital Cameras For Those Tired of The DSLR Lifestyle

What does your camera look like? What does that style and appearance say about you as a person, as a photographer? It is not uncommon to care about what your camera looks like, though this aesthetic preference usually takes a back seat (as it should) to other more important issues with a camera, such as image quality, performance, etc. But assuming your threshold for desired performance is met, what style and design qualities are important to you in your next camera?

For many, the same old SLR/DSLR look and build is boring and uninteresting. Functional and practical, sure, but generally not the most stylish. Rangefinder cameras on the other hand, at least the latest models, have come into their own in terms of style and performance, leading many to ditch their SLR styled cameras in favor of smaller, lighter, and more stylish rangefinder inspired designs.

Let’s take a look at some of the best of these rangefinder inspired cameras that one may like to consider… Continue reading…

4 Fixed Lens Cameras You Can Actually Use As Your Primary Shooter

It’s easy for those of us with interchangeable lens cameras to look at fixed lens cameras with a bit of a scoff as we think to ourselves about how limiting and basic they are. It is true, for a long time fixed lens cameras were very much a staple of the consumer, and therefor less advanced, segment of the camera market. But for a while now there have been some great fixed lens offerings from several manufacturers which offer incredible performance in a small, and portable package.

These are cameras that can produce exceptional, professional quality images, with their only downside (if you see it as one) being their limitation to a single focal length and field of view. If you are someone who constantly changes lenses, or is constantly zooming, a camera like this may not be for you. But if you find yourself utilizing the same lens for long portions of a shoot, and that look happens to be covered by a fixed-lens camera we mention below, then you may just want to pay attention, because these are some killer cameras. Continue reading…

Field Report: 24 Hours with the Ricoh GR II Shooting Candids

Every photographer romanticizes in one way or another years on down the line about a camera they’ve used and loved. For many of us, it’s their first camera. When photographers speak about said camera, they’re describing the equivalent of a sensory experience of sorts. In many ways, when you talk to the photographer about the experience, it’s often a poetic wax of some sort to a more nostalgic time in their lives. For some photographers, that camera is and will be the Ricoh GR II.

Continue reading…

An Inquiry into Digital vs Film – Featuring the M10 vs M9 vs M6

This is a syndicated blog post from Horatio Tan, Street Silhouettes. It and the images here are being republished with an exclusive permission statement.

Modern digital photography gets a bad rap, when it comes to the way we assess the character of digital capture. We think it’s without character.

The problem with digital photography is the uniformity of rendering. But it is understandable why this is the case. In reproducing reality, camera manufacturers endeavor to produce optics and sensors that would optimize capture as close to real life as possible. That has become the yardstick of achievement. That is why digital photography looks more or less the same across different systems.

Continue reading…

Review: Zeiss 35mm f1.4 ZM (Leica M Mount)

Upon purchasing a Leica CL, I figured it was time to dive into reviewing more M Mount glass; and what better place to start than with the Zeiss 35mm f1.4 ZM. For years now, I’ve been smitten with Zeiss lenses and most manual focus glass in general. Their lenses are fantastic, and are often highly regarded even amongst the M mount community of users. Offering a 35mm field of view in addition to being rangefinder coupled, the Zeiss 35mm f1.4 ZM ([amazon_link asins=’B00TDL05XO’ template=’PriceLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’5782977b-fddb-11e6-9692-8d1f0c3f6ca6′]) works well with both mirrorless digital cameras and M mount camera bodies.

Oddly enough, though I’ve always loved Zeiss lenses, they’ve never made a 35mm lens I’ve seriously been smitten by. Upon handling and using this lens though, that has changed.

Continue reading…

Daniel Valledor: Street Photography Inspired by Cinema

All images by Daniel Valledor. Used with permission.

If you were to liken any sort of photography genre to cinema, it would be tough to do so with street photography–but Daniel Valledor is sort of putting that claim to rest. You see, Dan is a photographer and DP based in Madrid. During the day, he’s a Telecom Engineer but he’s worked in advertising and commercial photography. To his extra credit, he’s shot a number of award winning short films and has won over 50 awards and 100 selections in international film festivals.

So when you take a cinematographer and blend his work with street photography you get something with a classic, beautiful feel.

Continue reading…

Vintage Camera Review: Leica CL (Leitz Minolta CL, Minolta CLE)

Years ago, I owned a Leica CL when I was getting into photography. Trying to balance an understanding of both film and digital, I toted this around with my old school Olympus E-510 DSLR. They were perfect together for a college student. But then I needed money, and unfortunately had to sell my Leica. Very recently though, I took the plunge before my 30th birthday and bought myself another one. You see, the Leica CL is the same camera as the Minolta CLE and the Leitz Minolta CL.

Some consider it not a true Leica because it wasn’t made in Germany. Instead, the Leica CL was a collaboration between Minolta and Leica. It was a camera that sold very well and perhaps too well. In fact, it’s rumored that sales were so good that they discontinued the camera because it ate into the sales of the Leica M5.

Continue reading…