Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Me and My Shadow

Normally, I go to great lengths to keep my own shadow or reflection out of my photographs. Traditionally regarded as a cardinal error of photography (along with the blurred thumb, the headless torso, the tree apparently growing out of the subject's head, and the like) one's own shadow or reflection can be used as one of those po-mo "meta" gestures: Hey, look, guess what? This is just a photograph, and it's me that's taking it! In fact, Lee Friedlander put together an entire collection of such witty self-inclusions as long ago as 1970, published as Self Portrait. But, sometimes, as in this one, it is impossible to avoid, and did seem sort of appropriate. I actually wanted the brightly-illuminated brickwork and the markings for possible use in a collage, but the angle of the sun was making it impossible to take any other way. In fact, I quite like the resulting image.

You may have thought you'd spotted me standing reflected within the seated girl in the previous post, but if so you'd be wrong. Look closer:

Blimey, is that guy having a pee against the Social Sciences building opposite? In broad daylight and in plain sight? The stance, the furtive sideways glance, are diagnostic. But, surely not...

In both cases, though, this is a reminder that it would be really handy to have a short telephoto prime lens, something like the good old 135mm that everyone used to have (and rarely used) in their 35mm kit. Personally, I used to love my Olympus Zuiko 135mm f/3.5, with its built-in lens-hood and perfectly-balanced ratio of weight to length. It simply matched the way I saw back then, although it's true my preferred personal angle of view has widened considerably with age. That new-ish Fuji 90mm f/2 would hit the spot nicely, but at £750 exists only in a parallel universe, the one in which my in-town runaround – nothing flashy, just a well-maintained Audi TT Mk. 1 – is parked outside our Chelsea mews pied-à-terre. Perhaps that's where my shadow-self lives.

[cue theme music and opening titles from The Prisoner]


Anonymous said...


was there an Olympus OM system in your past? I had an OM-1n and an OM-3 with a couple of Zuiko primes which I really enjoyed using. I still regret that I sold that kit, but as a graduate student, time in the darkroom became scarcer and scarcer, and I needed money to afford a computer. Even though the files from my current digital Nikons are so much better than 35mm film, I do miss the simplicity and mechanical sophistication of these OM cameras.

Re in a parallel universe: No, you wouldn't buy this 90mm lens - you would wait for the equivalent lens for your GFX-50s ...

Best, Thomas

Mike C. said...


Yes, indeed, bought myself an OM-1n in 1978, once I was in steady employment (in theory it replaced a Russian Fed 3 I'd had since I was 11 or so, although I do still have that). Supplemented it with another body (OM-10 with the auto-exposure adapter) in about 1984. I've kept the bodies, but sold all the lenses bar a 50mm, inc. the 135mm. Although I have to confess my favourite Olympus camera was the original Mju (aka Stylus Epic) -- loved that camera, right down to the way it self-loaded with film.

Even in that parallel universe, I don't think I'd be tempted by the GFX. For years I used a Fuji GS645S as my main "serious" camera, but eventually fell out of love with the constraints of medium format, not least the DOF issues (i'm not a fan of "bokeh") but also the bulk and the inflexibility. And the expense!

You might be interested to know that before he fell for large format, Jem Southam used to use a Plaubel Makina (the wide one, I think, with the 55mm Nikkor lens).