Homai Vyarawalla passed away in January at 98 years old, a photographer and photojournalist whose career was based out of Delhi and Bombay from the 1930s through to 1970. A woman who blazed paths both as a photographer, an artist, a photo journalist documenting India’s struggle for Independence and the years following, as well as a contemporary to many of the great women of the early and mid-20th Century. A woman of vision, strong will and agency.
I first heard of Ms. Vyarawalla passing on PRI’s The World yesterday while driving, and her story caused me to search for more information and images today. Several of Vyarawalla’s images are recognizable to any afficionado of 20th Century history and culture.
The New York Times has an obituary and an India Ink post entitled Homai Vyarawalla, ‘First Lady of the Lens’ with photos.
The Hindu has a lovely personal memorial in Farewell Homai Vyarawalla.
The BBC has a great slideshow of Vyarawalla’s photography.
Look, read, and celebrate a life well photographed.
To follow up on last week’s post, 2,045 Days with a Camera Phone, I would like to write a bit more on why I have loved camera phone photography and mobile blogging so much in the last 5.5 years and that can be summed up in one word: constraints.
The old adage in design, photography, and many other arts is that it is not unlimited creative freedom that sparks the best in a designer or artist, but it is limits and constraints that the artist or designer has to push at, be challenged by, and get around that create great art and design or at least cause the artist in question to grow in their craft.
It has been very easy the last 8-10 years to hone one’s craft with a DSLR camera almost to the point where too many photographers get obsessed with megapixels, lenses, and processing in Photoshop than the actual act of taking the photo becomes secondary or farther down the line.
By choosing to shoot more than 90% of my photos of the last half decade with a small camera phone and then choosing to send them directly from the phone to the internet with no stops at Photoshop, means that I purposefully chose to constrain myself to a small camera that in many cases had less megapixels and less of a lens & digital sensor system than the contemporary point & shoots, not even considering what the comparable time period of DSLRs could do.
But the magic of setting the self-imposed discipline of the constraints of a camera phone plus no or very little post-phone processing seriously, meant that I had to really hone my eye, my composition, my observation of the scene, and then just shoot and shoot and shoot. I have shot a lot of bad photos in the last 5+ years, but I have also shot a lot of good to wonderful photos with my camera phones.
And it is the discipline of the constraints of a camera phone that make the great photos all the more sweeter than when I shoot a good photo with a Nikon film SLR or DSLR.
All of that being said, I have some to quite a bit of trepidation about the next generation of camera phones, particularly the Nokia N8, as it really is better than the point & shoots out on the market right now. The photos from its big 12 megapixel digital sensor & Zeiss lens are extraordinarily good.
After 5.5 years of pushing, working around, thinking, changing the angle, doing whatever I could to capture the vision in my head with a camera phone, to have a camera phone that will be not just good enough, but great… …that is why I said in the last article that I started to think seriously about film rangefinders or purchasing a high end Nikon. My thoughts were – if the Nokia N8 is so spectacular then I won’t have much in the way of constraints, then whole rubric for why I have shot with camera phones since 2004 will be over.
Yes, as I said in 2,045 Days with a Camera Phone, the Nokia N8 is the arrival of the maturity of camera phones as a photographing instrument and the pioneering era is mostly over, particularly if one was shooting with camera phones from the perspective of constraints or enjoying the toy quality of some camera phone’s imagery.
But I am not going to run away. Why? Because I trust Damian. I trust Mr. Dinning’s vision that he has had the last 6 years to push the technology of camera phones to meet that of the highest quality levels. He and I had several interesting conversations over meals at the big adventure in May that gave me an insight to his desire to make the Nokia Nseries line of cameras cross from good to great. Damian and his team have not failed me in the Nokia N86 or any other Nseries camera phones that I have taken photos with since 2004.
So, I will let go of my imposed constraints and walk into a new era and see how good camera phones can really get for the photographer who wants a camera on one at all times, with the N8 I will just have to find a few new challenges to set for myself.
Here’s to the future.
Tues. 02.23.10 – If you aren’t already a fan of Heather Champ’s photography, please bookmark | favorite | subscribe to the feed of her Flickr Photostream, as Heather takes delightful photographs.
I love this photo of her dog Chieka. I love the framing. I love the composition. Formally this is a brilliant piece with almost all the tones in mid to dark and then a spot of bright Chihuahua.
The true test of any camera is shooting movement indoors at night in low light situations with no flash. The ultra true test of any camera is shooting a band at Alex’s Bar in Long Beach, Calif, as there are no windows, the interior lights are low, the walls are all painted dark red, and there is no stage lighting whatsoever unless the band brings their own. Shooting live band photos at Alex’s is a huge challenge without a pro-sumer SLR camera with external clip-on flash, but extra flash is a no-no in rock photography as it distracts the band, and at many concert venues will get one kicked out of the photo pit for using a flash.
Any good music photographer worth their salt learns how to push one’s camera to shoot in any nightclub or concert venue situation without a flash early in their career. I learned how at age 15 with 400 iso film and setting my f-stops and shutter speed for low light but fast movement. With the advent of digital photography in the late 1990s, this became a challenge as most early digital cameras were point & shoot for daylight at best.
One of the fun & challenging parts of mobile photography with my various Nokia camera phones has been concert photography. To see how I can capture a photo with a camera that was never designed for low light / fast movement situations. Two of my favorite concert photos I have taken in 24 years of shooting shows were two photos I took with my Nokia 7610 – one of Social Distortion’s Mike Ness and one of Mike from the Riverboat Gamblers. The fact that the little kickin’ 7610 could get those photos… rock on! Rock on!
The big disappointment of the Nokia N80 and Nokia N95 is the delay between pressing the shutter button and … and… and… and.. and.. focusing… and… and.. and… photo taken. Many times this can take up to 15-30 seconds, esp. in low light situations. How many times did I wish it would just trust me and snap, like the 7610. Stop over thinking, just do it.
The glories of the Nokia N82 is that it just takes the photo. Rarely is there a delay while it thinks, focuses, and snaps. In most situations, even at night with the flash off, it trusts that I know what I am doing and takes the photo without fuss. Without the big delay to focus and refocus and pick its nose and refocus again, like the N80 or N95 does, the N82 about 90% of the time will take the photo that you saw through the viewfinder at the time of pressing the shutter button. Yay!
In the above two photos (double click for the larger versions) I took the one on the left with my Nokia N95 with no flash and the one on the right with the trial N82 with no flash. The Irish Brothers kindly made my job easier by bringing in their own bluish halogen lights that that cast a strong upward light. In the above photos, the N95 was able to capture the two front men clearly and the background decently. The N82 blurred the Keith & Karl a bit, but captured David the drummer and the background with great clarity and lighter than the N95 did.
I also used the flash on both camera phones, of which I am not displaying the results as it was not conclusive in this case. The N95’s flash did not add much illumination or significant difference, as the dark red walls of the room and lack of light eat up any of the N95’s flash real fast. The N82’s powerful Xenon flash was actually too bright and gave both Keith and Karl glowing red eyes, as well as added some flash light bubbles to the photo. In this case it was better without the flash for both Nokia camera phones.
Using the Nokia N82 to take photos at night and at a show was a delight. This is a big step towards camera phone I have been dreaming of, except for the fact that the N82’s pre-installed Lifeblog is not interfacing with this MT4 powered blog when there is not good reason why it shouldn’t.
Up next in Ms. Jen’s review of the Nokia N82 – all the night and indoor photos that I have taken with the Nokia N82.