Share Your World. The project gained immediate positive following but also eliticted a few questions. So let me try to be more accurate in describing what I’m hoping we can create together 🙂
If you’ve read Marcel Pagnol (an author from Provence that used to be obligatory reading in French schools) you might have wondered what Aubagne – his home town – is like. And Google Street View will show you in a click. Or maybe you’ve read Hotel New Hampshire instead and have wondered what a summer resort hotel in Maine feels like. And Google Street View will show you, in a click. Maybe you’ve seen a photograph of widlife in Antarctica in a post by Dallas Thomas on DS and have wondered what everyday life looks like over there. And, yuup, you guessed it, Google Street View will show you, in a click.
Did you click on any of those links? Curious, at all? We generally are 🙂 That’s what makes us human.
The point is Google has eliminated guesswork from tourism on most of the globe. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Google Street View expand to outerspace before the end of my life. Guesswork is no longer something many of us want to put up with and Google knows better than most how to harness this drive and convert it into advertising. So its presence expands to all places where a profit could possibly be made.
And Google Street View can be a lot of fun. I fondly remember retracing the route in Chris Rea’s wonderful Curse of the Traveler, or engaging in random “drives” around the area, such is my longing for Japan. But the views generally have limited interest. They’re a string of “security” footage that spans the planet. Generally not, interesting or immersive and not particularly beautiful (although you can create very interesting visuals of specific areas, using Street View, see above).
At the other end of the spectrum is the iconic Instagram shot. Often beautiful, sometimes spectacularly so. Rarely relatable. I’d like to show you one of mine but am pathologically incapable of creating viral anything. My guess is that even when I catch the flu, I’m not contageous 😉 😉 Anyhoo, you know what I’m referring to and this, below, comes somewhat close. Yup, that’s from my own Instagram account, proof that I was once young too 😉
Those images are designed to create engagement, wow effect and addiction. They say nothing about the place itself (below, the bar in the TGV fast train, on my then-weekly trips between Paris and Marseilles at sparrow-fart) and are generally all about the photographer. Tech side note : this was made with a Samsung Galaxy S6 phone and the camera on that phone was something else. Absolutely goergeous !!! Of course Samsung ditched it in favour something with more res, DR and utterly lifeless (at least in my current S9) … duh.
Tech rant over, back on track 😉
So, what if we could combine the omniscience of Google Street View, via collaboration, and the personal touch of (good) Instagrammers? What would that look like? Is there any way we could – together – create a repository of selected highlights of places around the world, shown through the eyes of actual photographers, and processed with the viewer in mind?
The first photograph on this page, of Oppede-Le-Vieux, in the Luberon, not far from Avignon, comes close. The conversion to b&w is debatable, but the light can get so harsh in the summer that a colour file might not have looked any more immersive. In a way, I added too much personal PP flavour with the monochrome and the glow (from the Mandler lens and enhanced in Lightroom). But there’s still a sense of being there, which is the most important ingredient for the success of the project.
Getting closer! The long lens above is a personal choice. It compressed the image to a slightly Inception-like vibe but is still very believably Paris. This is a photograph about what appealed to me in that street, not a photograph about me or my worldview. And it’s from my second Instagram account, one created for DearSusan, that even has a quote-on-photograph !!! (barfing allowed 😉 )
It’s a difficult balance to find. The photograph must be triggered by the self and not processed by the ego, dare I suggest. It can’t be documentary in the way a systematic roll of images shot from a car roof by a machine would be. And it can’t be so personal that the viewer would perceive only your personal tastes in processing, viewing angles, focal lengths …
So let me repeat the two most important sentences in the post :
What scenes qualify? I’d say two criteria matter more than others :
The only reason I suggest we photograph our local area rather than our travels is that finding this balance between interesting scene, perfect photography and neutral presentation is hard. And traveling doesn’t allow us second or third attempts in the same way as local scenes do. But, if you’re confident, travel photographs are fine too 🙂
By way of a conclusion, let me end with a HiFi analogy. After spending the best part of 2020 looking for an upgrade to my current setup, investigating DIY (wouldn’t be my first and I’m naturally drawn to building stuff rather than buying), cottage industry tube brands as well as cutting edge tech from much bigger names, bruising my ego against such atrocities as digital streaming and rekindling my love for spinning plastic, I found my freedom on headphone hill. Old Beyerdynamics fed direcly from YouTube on my Mac. (so, streaming for dummies 😉 )
Shame on me. And yeah, Grammarly, Noom, Masterclass and so many other clueless advertisers cut right into the middle of a Gary Clark solo, making me solemnly promise myself never ever ever ever to buy from them ever ever ever. Ultimately, though, watching concerts as I listen to the music is so much more thrilling to me than listening to a studio recording on any HiFi system money can buy! It draws me in so much more. It gives me a feeling of being there, in a way that no amount of expensive HiFi designer post-processing of this music ever will.
That is the goal! What can you photograph of your neighborhood, village, town, city, … that will pull in the viewer with force? And how can you present it so that nothing detracts from that sense of being there? No tech glitches, no fancy PP, no over the top shooting technique …? ‘You in? Will you help us explore your universe?
I, for one, cannot wait to discover your corner of the world! So please send me (pascal dot jappy at gmail dot com) 1 to 3 photographs of an area you like, in jpeg files 1000 to 2000 pixels long side, along with information on the location and any text you wish to share and I will include them in this month’s listing 🙂
A few of you asked me to reboot the monthly challenges in order to be able to publish something without committing to a full post. This is your opportunity 🙂
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“L’Howea. Paris?” – Love it – and I’ve done much the same shot myself, just to ruin your day. Still – ours are far better/more interesting than the boring “everyone-takes-that-shot” views of the Eiffel from Trocadero etc.
“Calelongue, Marseilles” – Occitan, I believe I still think the best example I’ve come across was one where the “official” (national government) name was “rue de l’ancien soldat” and the locals had pegged theirs above it, reading “rue de la vieille vache” – in Occitan, of course.
Martigue – beautiful – reminds me of Sète, over the other side of the bay/gulf/whatever.
“London, OK (typical street and light)”. Also typical of the way rich people in London park expensive cars. Find a yellow line, and look no further for a parking spot! (The Porsche isn’t a “clue” – it’s a dead giveaway) I think that’s why they introduced clamping.
“Paris, not OK (this could be anywhere)”. No – not actually. There’s a certain blandness about store dummies here, and a certain something else about store dummies in France. If I was still single and under the age of 50, I know which I’d choose!
“Montpellier, borderline OK (PP is too strong)” Yes – the image is OK, but like so many others you see, PP needs to tone it down a bit. That shot’s kind of “screechy”.
And Haut Var – well no doubt you’d see it as Provence – there are certainly “clues” – but for the most part it’s a vegetable garden, and it could be in all sorts of places. “Unique to XYZ” can be quite a tough call.
So – the game is on! This description shifts the ground a little. There’s a shot I want, of Cottesloe, which I think you would enjoy – but I can’t do it for a fortnight (long/boring story, but I’m not allowed out in sunlight for two weeks). And some night shots I want, around our mini-container terminal. Quite why politicians keep talking about having to move the port to Cockburn, I cannot imagine – all it needs is mechanisation. And instead of massive roadworks, just duplicate the rail line into the terminal. Something like an extremely miniaturised version of Rotterdam. It’d be enough for this place for another hundred years! They just have to move everything faster! And stop mucking around with semi-trailers all over the place!
Thank you Jean-Pierre, I’m happy to wait two weeks for you to go to Cottesloe and the shipping container terminal 🙂
Rail lines into ports is a big topic at the moment in France. We’re one of the worst country for lorries (trucks) and CO2 emission regulations are now seeing us frantically look for ways to catch up with the rest of the universe. #WhatElseIsNew
Astonishing! I just opened this out of curiosity (I found I hadn’t closed it, after I read your reply to my original comment, Pascal). So before I closed it, I thought I’d just read everyone else’s comments – after all, you posted this issue on DS about a week ago.
Except – what the? – there AREN’T any other comments!
As I said – astonishing
Go figure. It sure beats me. Challenges are huge amount of work for me and I only restarted them because many readers asked for them. And now, total silence. I don’t get it …
Very interesting post. It raises a question, for me at least. Do I need to know what I am doing before I shoot? In somes cases, I do, when the shot is explicit, literal, self-explanatory. But in many other cases, particularly in my short game, this is not the case. The shot turns the subject into a “something else”, even a “je ne sais quoi”. So, does that mean that we are only permitted to live in literal, explicit, self-explanatory territory? What if I want to live in je-ne-sais-quoi-land? What if this is the face I want to present to my (admittedly very, very few) viewers, and to attract them to?
Honestly, I don’t know. My only goal is for someone on the other side of the planet to be able to click and see lovely views of Paris that he can’t see a billion times on Flickr and the gram.