Behind the scenes with Matt Black as he photographs California’s Central Valley


Matt Black has been on my radar a lot recently, not least because of the recent New Yorker piece he did with Ed Kashi (below).

If you don’t know Matt Black’s work yet, you’re missing out. Luckily, the folks at PhotoWings recently caught up with the photographer and followed along as he worked in California’s Central Valley (above). Black talks about his process in covering the story over the years and what he hopes they say in the larger context of the ongoing story of drought and poverty in the area. It’s less than 10 minutes, but offers a telling glimpse of Black’s philosophy and passion not just for this story but for the storytelling power of photography.

If you like the New Yorker’s video featuring Black’s photography above, by the way, there’s supposed to be a nice 8-page spread in this week’s New Yorker. There’s just a single image online right now.

You should also spend some time with his ongoing project, the Geography of Poverty. The project’s Story Map, in particular, is a great way to navigate Black’s work and see how it all fits together.

And be sure to check out Ed Kashi’s first video on agriculture for the New Yorker, that time in partnership with fellow VII member Ashley Gilbertson.

Worth a Look: Adam Magyar’s Stainless

Photographer Adam Magyar, whose slit-camera photographs Scott wrote about in 2009, has a new project called Stainless. It is composed of both massive prints of subway cars and subway riders and innovative slow-motion videos of subway platforms as trains arrive at stations around the world. It is captivating work. And involved a tremendous amount of ingenuity and invention by Magyar to make it possible.

There have been a lot of articles about the work recently so do have a look: Matter has published a feature and interview with Magyar as Einstein’s Camera: How one renegade photographer is hacking the concept of time that I highly recommend. PetaPixel also published a piece about the Stainless videos and followed-up with a link to a fascinating video where Magyar speaks about the technology and code that he developed himself to make these projects work.

Worth a watch: A look at the visual style of The Wire

Style in The Wire from Erlend Lavik on Vimeo.

The Wire (official site) is often held up for as a paragon of modern television, and with good reason, but rarely for its cinematography and visuals. Writers have criticized the show for being so plainly shot (David Bordwell calls The Wire “uninspiringly shot” here, for instance), but the video above by Erlend Lavik, a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Information Science and Media Studies at the University of Bergen, persuasively argues that The Wire’s plain shooting style belies the complexity of visual metaphors, compositions, and camera use throughout the series. The video is worth a watch…I rarely sit through video online, but made it through the 36 minutes of this essay with ease.

Lavik argues that just as the show doesn’t hold the hands of viewers in subject matter, dialog, characterization, and so forth, the cinematography of the show works subtly and effectively to communicate complex ideas in a visual way. Whereas the current crop of “cinematic” television can be quite heavy-handed with visual styling (Breaking Bad’s over-the-top sepia/yellow-toned scenes are a notable example), The Wire deftly uses camera movements and compositions influenced by documentary filmmaking to create a sense of verisimilitude and honesty in the story, all without really drawing attention to its techniques. The series uses wide compositions, frames within frames, lingering shots, a lack of flashbacks, music used only as experienced by characters, and a variety of other techniques to suss out mood, character, and plot, in a way that few other shows have been able to do, even with much flashier visual language.

If you liked the series, watch the video above. If you haven’t watched the series, watch the show, and then watch the video above.

While we’re at it, here’s a thread on reddit in which the supervising sound editor on the show talks about his work for the series; this comment is particularly interesting. And here’s an interesting oral history of the making of The Wire published last year. Matt and I could both go on and on about this show, having watched it as it aired, but that’s enough for now. Oh, an here’s a post from 2009 about the 100 greatest quotes from the show.

(via reddit)