Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Artist and photography

click photo to enlarge
On a misty, dull day we headed off for Spalding's civic building called the South Holland Centre. It houses, among other things, an auditorium where live performances and a cinema programme take place. The object of our visit was to see "The Artist", the recent film that is notable for being "silent" and shot in black and white. The fact that it has been garlanded with awards, particularly Oscars, would ordinarily be a reason for either avoiding a film or being wary of it: such things (especially Oscars) are too often conferred on routine rubbish, works that after a few years are forgotten or, at best, become noteworthy for the incredulity that they provoke when it is pointed out they were winners of the coveted award.

"The Artist" is, happily, an exception that proves the rule. In fact, it is a wonderful film, and my thought as I left the cinema was, "I'd like to see that again". Excellent acting, a more complex plot than we'd anticipated, great music, humour, and wonderful photography make it a memorable film. A while ago I wrote a blog piece about how one might convince a doubter of the value of black and white photography. In it I said my first argument would not be the recognised still practitioners but rather the 1946 movie of Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations", a work that won two Oscars for best Art Direction and Best Cinematography. To that I now have to add, "The Artist". Any still photographer looking for great black and white work need look no further than some of the many set-piece shots in this film. I'll mention only one that appealed to me that features the main character drinking too much. We see him and his reflection in the table top, slowly rotating due to camera movement. On to the mirror-like surface he pours the contents of his glass. It is a simple but stunning conception, beautifully executed. If you haven't seen the film, or doubt whether you'd like it, go and see it. I think you'll be glad you did.

I took today's semi-abstract photograph in the cafe as we had a bite to eat before the film. It shows the room's painted concrete columns and concrete ceiling with its decorative circles, coffering and lights. Black and white suits the shot better than colour (as I'm sure is the case with "The Artist"). I also softened the image a little. Looking at my photograph on the computer it brought to mind another film that also won an Oscar for Best Cinematography - "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"!

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 5.1mm (24mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f2
Shutter Speed: 1/100
ISO:80
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

A very nice image and interesting blog.  I agree that certain images are enhanced when devoid of colour.   Particular shapes lend themselves very well for portrayal in black and white, specifically those that make patterns such as spirals, arches, columns, cloud formations and anything which might cast hard shadows.  It's also excellent for some portraits and for creating atmosphere or drama in an image.

  I too consider David Lean's Great Expectations to be a major classic and fully intend to see the Artist as soon as it's available on DVD, although I realise that means waiting for some time.  

At first, I thought your image was that of an artist's palette with light acting as paint, and in a way it was :)
LA

Anonymous said...

Nice one. I can see the alien spaceship's lights and almost hear the musical tones of Close Encounters!

Tony Boughen said...

Thanks for the thoughts LA. Black and white claimed its place in photography and has hung on to it remarkably well during the onslaught of colour. I really like to make use of it where it seems appropriate. I think The Artist is going to be like David Lean's Great Expectations in being the sort of film that bears repeated viewing.

Thanks for the comment Anon. I'd forgotten about the musical tones in Close Encounters!

Regards,
Tony