One of my goals for the blog this year was to share more about some of the photography books that inspire me. Here we are at the end of August and I realized I have been failing miserably in that task. There are a few months left in the year so it's time to play catch-up. I'm passionate about printing photos and few things inspire me more than looking through a good photography monograph. Online feeds a la Instagram, Flickr and the like just don't do it for me. I'll take a book of thoughtfully laid out photos over staring at a display while scrolling through an endless display of sometimes decent but all too often incongruous photos. I really need the tactile experience of a good book.
The other day I was catching up on one of my favorite podcasts, The Candid Frame. If you don't listen to these wonderful conservations with photographers by Ibarionex Perello, you should. Ibarioinex is absolutely brilliant at interviewing photographers and leading them into deep discussions about their art. It's not your typical gear and technique sort of discussion. It's about the stuff that really matters. Ibarionex did a great set of interviews with music photographer Danny Clinch recently. There was so much to talk about that the interview took two episodes of the podcast. I can't remember that happening before. It was that good of a conversation.
Some time back I picked up Danny's book Still Moving. It changed the way I think about photography. Not just music photography - I mean photography in general. It was definitely one of those "ah-ha" moments. You see, I used to really get wrapped up with technical perfection. I hate to think of how many good shots I've discarded because they weren't tack sharp. I used to pixel peep and get upset when I felt like my expensive digital camera wasn't living up to my expectations of "image quality." In other words, I was totally missing the point of good photography.
My obsession with my idea of technical perfection was distracting me from things like passion, feeling, emotion, gesture, motion - the things I saw in this book. One of the things that struck me about this body of work is that Danny puts the capture of a moment ahead of all else. There are photos with motion blur, coarse grain, a bit out of focus, etc. They are great images regardless. You can have technical perfection and still not have captured something worthwhile. This book helped me realize that simple truth.
There is a balance in this monograph of all aspects of Danny's photography of musicians. There are plenty of live shots, of course. There are also portraits and promo shots. I think the best images are the casual images - backstage, in the studio, hotels, or just hanging out. Those sort of images come from having a reputation and a relationship with the musicians. Trust is what it boils down to. Danny's subjects look comfortable in front of his lens. The moments look real because they are. The casual photographer doesn't get stuff like that. It comes from years of being out there in the mix of things and earning that trust.
If you're into music and photography, what are you waiting for? Buy this book.