Rather than doing a traditional year end review I thought that this year I would highlight 21 of my favourite things from 2021. Books I have discovered, YouTubers I’ve come to love, other photographers as well as a few of my own images.
Having decided this year to fully switch to Fujifilm cameras and lenses I finally went ahead and invested in the X-Pro series with the purchase of a Fujifilm X-Pro3. As much as I enjoyed the Fujifilm X100F and X-E4 I decided less was more and traded both these in for an X-Pro3. So far, I have no regrets and feel that this camera has reinvigorated my love for photography in general and street photography in particular.
The problem with owning two of Fujifilm’s best camera bodies (the X-T4 and X-Pro3) is that you need the lenses to match them. Again, in an attempt to rationalise my equipment I have during 2021 traded in three of my prime lenses for the new XF18mm and XF33mm F1.4 primes. Although heavier than the 16mm F2.8 and 35mm F2 primes they replaced the additional weight has been worth it in terms of faster focusing from the linear motors as well as wider maximum apertures. Not only that, when coupled with the X-Pro3 they form, for me, the ideal street kit.
THREE YouTube Videographers
If there is anything about Photoshop that this sites proprietor, Unmesh Dindar, does not know then it is probably not worth knowing. This really is one of the most amazing sources of FREE Photoshop tutorials out there. You may struggle sometimes to keep up with the speed that Unmesh speaks at, so use of pause and rewind are essential to follow along to some of his videos, but I can guarantee that a few hours on this site will result in you coming away with lots of new Photoshop skills.
I know I shouldn’t like this channel. It’s unashamed camera porn where the proprietor (Hugh Brownstone) talks endlessly about the latest and greatest piece of kit he has got hold of. However, there is something about the homespun philosophy provided by Hugh that draws you in and makes you want to come back for more. As a break from the endless camera specs Hugh also offers us some of his own photography from the streets of New York City which makes for pleasant interludes.
I only discovered Tatiana’s site this month (December 2021) and it comes across like a complete blast of fresh air compared with the usual YouTube fare. The site is a wonderful mix of Tatiana’s photographic philosophy, what I would call light touch gear reviews (she’s a film user so no discussion of the latest and greatest digital technology here) as well as short profiles of photographers. These profiles are of both famous photographers (Diane Arbus, Eliott Erwitt) as well as people you may know of, but not as photographers (Bryan Adams, Jessica Lange). Tatiana’s site has been a great find for me and one I will follow with interest in 2022.
Tish Murtha was a British social documentary photographer who documented marginalised communities in the North East of England during the 1980’s. Her work was shown at numerous exhibitions during her lifetime and since her untimely death in 2013 her daughter, Ella, has posthumously published books of her work including Youth Unemployment (2017) and Juvenile Jazz Bands (2020). Ella also curates her ‘mams’ website.
Tish’s work captures a time in the UK (i.e. Thatchers Britain) where industries like coal and steel were decimated driving the unrest and unemployment she documents. You would hope that when looking at Tish’s images we had moved on from this time however, sadly, I fear we have not done so.
I discovered Helena’s work on 500px where her minimalist images and strong colours jump out of the page. Her extensive portfolio includes: street photography, portraits, digital art as well as her minimalist architecture images.
Seamus Murphy’s diverse catalogue of work covers conflict, social documentary and portrait photography as well as films, books and collaborations with the likes of Patti Smith and PJ Harvey. He won seven World Press Photo awards for his Afghanistan, Gaza, Lebanon, Sierra Leone, Peru and Ireland photographs and one of his Afghanistan films was nominated for an Emmy. Seamus’ images do not just capture the battles of war but dig deeper into the human cost, especially its impact on children and women.
Fan Ho is one of those photographers who, when you come across his work, you wonder how you missed it for so long. A Chinese photographer, film director, and actor, Fan was born in Shanghai in 1931 and died in San Jose in 2016. From 1956, he won over 280 awards from international exhibitions and competitions worldwide for his photography.
Photographically he’s probably most famous for his street work taken in Hong Kong during the 1950s and 60s. His images are minimalist and sometimes abstract in nature, playing with shadows and light as people go about their daily lives in and around this bustling cities streets. His work can be viewed at this site managed by the Fan Ho Trust and Estate.
FIVE Books on Photography and Creativity
A book that explores what art is about and why artists do what they do. The book is written by two photographers but is about art in general, not just photography. It uncovers the fears and doubts you may have about your art and looks at how you can find meaning in what you do as well as how to find your own unique artistic path.
“The hardest part about artmaking is living your life in such a way that your work gets done, over and over – and that means, among other things, finding a host of practices that are just plain useful.“David Bayles & Ted Orland
I discovered Sean Tucker a couple of years ago and wrote about him here. In this book Sean goes into depth on his philosophy for leading a creative life and for making art that matters. Many of these topics are covered in his YouTube videos but the book provides more of a background on why he approaches his photography in the way he does. I like in particular what he has to say about finding your own authentic self and not being led by others or pandering to what you believe others may like.
“We won’t produce anything of worth if we are directed by the crowd because they will all want something different from us.“Sean Tucker
Having decided to focus a bit more on my street photography in 2021 this was a must read to add to my ever growing collection of books on this topic. Each of the 20 chapters covers a different approach (e.g. Ch. 7: See With a Child’s Eye) with very specific tips on how to excel in street photography. There are also ample examples of Matt’s own images to illustrate his ideas and his unique style.
“We all take inspiration from photographers who have gone before us, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but absorb it all and then make the pictures only you can make.“Matt Stuart
Joel Meyerowitz is probably one of the most famous living street photographers working today. He’s been making photographs on the streets of NYC, as well as many other locations, for over 55 years and this book is a great summation of his experience to date. In it, Joel analyses his own images, describing how and why he goes about capturing them, as a way of teaching you not just his technique but his whole philosophy on photography.
“You can’t expect to have a great event fall from the sky in front of you every time you go out with your camera. Building on the little events and putting things together that don’t belong is how you make interesting photographs and tune up you intelligence and timing on the street.”Joel Meyerowitz
Around 90 ‘interviews’ with working photographers from around the world, some well known, others less so. Each is asked one simple question: what does photography mean to you? Not only do the answers to this question provide great insight into the individuals thoughts on photography they were, for me, a source of inspiration as well as well as introspection. For each photographer there is a link provided allowing you to explore their work in more detail as well as discover new photographers you had never heard of or knew much about.
“The camera is a powerful tool but it must be used with empathy and compassion whenever necessary.“Cathal McNaughton
Finally, here are my six favourite, personal images from 2021.