Marnova – of and from a wandering mind…

Marnova's musings on life, media and Mongolia

Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

Creativity without foundation

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Eric Traore for Vogue Paris

Recently, a very pro-active photography forum culled a lot of its members. Not just people that were not contributing, but people that were not contributing extremely regularly ie. every day.  I had previously lauded the hands-on management of the group which requested active participation from everyone. It set a different tone and precedent to many groups, but I had my wrist slapped early on for expanding on a comment on photojournalism which is the single area I have real and unique expertise to offer…it wasn’t a creative enough area of photography to be considered important.  To the moderators, creativity had become paramount. Which I totally disagreed with.

At its most basic, photography records a moment in time and this is what photojournalism is…I didn’t really understand how someone could just dismiss one of the bastions of photography as unimportant.  The very thing that I love about photography is that it requires technical, creative and business skills in equal parts. I do not value one over the other. And there is always more to learn. Whilst I can understand some photographers may prioritise any one of these skills over the others, you cannot just disregard them and call yourself a photographer. Someone who creates a creative image but is not in charge of their camera is an artist, not a photographer.

When the admins got rid of the less frequent contributors (ie. professionals that had less time to spend on the group), it was never really recognised that the group lost a lot of talent and expertise in one fell swoop. It became the blind leading the blind – they sought validation from their own inexperienced peer group. I know that working full-time has little to do with creativity and I fly the flag for The Photographer that is equally The Artist, but I don’t think that the wealth that comes with experience in the field should ever be underestimated. Creative process is important, but not anymore important than being a technical master of your camera or sound business acumen.

I pointed this out before removing myself from the group because I felt it had the wrong priorities and the wrong people were being cut out of the group, leaving people that were far from competent photographers. The moderators’ response was “perhaps those without experience can bring more to the group.” The basic message was that being in charge of your camera or knowing how to do business was not important. I would like to think it was not just their impudence that annoyed me, but the fact that they couldn’t even see what they had lost.


Written by marnova

March 15, 2012 at 3:18 am


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In response to

No one should put anything online they they aren’t prepared for people to ‘share’ (by whatever means) as that is the beauty and main benefit of online media. Although it continues to surprises how much a magazine can do with a low res image from a website, realistically they can’t do anything of real commercial value and have little defence if they have had to chop your watermark off. At least Pinterest provides by default linkback to the source (shame if people pin without this). The world is changing and photographers need to keep up with this, or risk ending up like the music industry ex-fatcats who kept trying to protect their position instead of realising too late the potential of the online consumer and then scrambling to play catchup. Pinterest is a great way for photographers, artists etc to gain exposure with a whole different section of the market. The reality is that IP law in this kind of area is still developing and can be open to interpretation so there’s unlikely to be a clear answer any time soon.

Written by marnova

February 27, 2012 at 3:07 am

In the mood for…film noir

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Those in the know will know my life has been a little eventful of late, so apologies for lack of posts.

You have Rob Heslop to thank yet again for this post. We got together with a bunch of photographer and model friends last weekend and did a fun film noir shoot. The photographers got to direct, the models got to act and the photographers had very little post-processing to do.  Win-win-win! I’ve learnt plenty about controlled lighting recently and a good part of it is with thanks to Rob 🙂

This brought me back to my film student days, studying the lighting setups of Orson Wells & Co. Good times.

My setups may not have been strictly film noir, but I was going for the mood…painting with light.


Models: Conner McKenzy, Kate Davies, Iain Gorrie, Helen Drew
With thanks to Rob Heslop, Cam and Peter Tecks

In the shadows


Lighting Up

Waiting, watching

In the mood noir

The Don



Written by marnova

May 12, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Posted in Photography

An Age of Innocence

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Everything vintage is super in-vogue at the moment.  But vintage means so many things, it can mean anything.  When I think of vintage, I think of muted colours, decorative details, fanciful sweet embellishments and lashings of romance.  Everything that every girl loves in her wedding styling and photography right now.

I’m generally a modern day photographer – photographing and working in our times.  I occasionally veer off into a project inspired by Chinese traditions, but in the main stay quite contemporary.  However, there is still something very attractive about vintage photography and for me, that is capturing an age of innocence, relatively speaking.

Courtesy of Rob Heslop, a local Strobist, I recently had the opportunity to do some studio work in the style of 1950s US pinups.  What I love about this style is that it’s cheeky and saucy,  but not sleazy or slutty.  From a time when women were women and men were men (for better or worse!)  It didn’t help my Mad Men obsession one bit though…for all his flaws, I mourn for the loss of the Don Drapers of this world.

Oh the pictures? Here are a few of my favourites…excuse the lighting if you will, I’m still dabbling. Always learning.

He's on the phone

Heels over head

Up close


Mr President

Come play with me
Jackie O

Street racer

Rebel without a cause

Tip top




In the spotlight


Credits & full set on Flickr


Written by marnova

November 22, 2010 at 4:49 pm


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…out of my shell. So I’ve been silent a little while. A little distant from those virtual and physical. Sorry about that folks.

I will admit that Twitter has been taking up some of my time (catch me over there – Marnova, you got it in one) and also my photography (check out link to the right, it needs updating but it’s a start!)

I received a card that made me smile today.  An Edward Monkton card about my inner pasta and the various types.  My friend wrote that she didn’t think I could ever be categorized and also indicated the route to go and visit her before signing off with a drawing of a birthday chair.  Whatever one of those is.

Thanks Moosie, I won’t be such a stranger!

In the meantime, check out this ‘Hammers and Strings’ project by Clayton Austin  He is dragging a piano around the United States and doing different photoshoots with him (for anyone looking historically, check out Sep/Oct 2010)


Now, the images are stunning – I love the locations.  Pianos are beautiful, romantic and majestic objects, but in these photos, the piano seems incidental to this photoset, there is no sense of any relationship between the people in the pictures and the piano – they lounge across it indifferently as if could be a chaise lounge or stand by it as if it were not there.  This piano has been through stones, high water, fire and there is something very sad about sacrificing a piano in the name of art.

In days bygone, the piano was the life and soul of the fortunate establishment/household that had one.  It had the power to bring strangers and family together, gathering around it, uniting in revelry. In the right hands, it brings joy to the player and the listener.  These days, space is at a premium and pianos are falling out of vogue. They have become little more than redundant pieces of furniture.  And that is a crying shame indeed.  They are precious gifts – during Communism, most musical instruments were banned, considered frivolous.  Instruments are made to be played and with only a little TLC, life can be breathed back into one creaking at the joints.  My own piano I saved from a scrapheap fate. It only takes for someone to play it now and again to keep it conditioned and alive and in return it enriches our lives.  I love my piano very much and would keep it over my television.  Is that a more controversial statement than it seems to be to me?

I would rather see a series like this that honours the handsome and noble character of this fine piano. OK, so I am a piano geek.  I didn’t realise that until today.  So, check out Clayton’s beautiful images, perhaps it is testament to their power that they made me realise this about myself

Requiem for a piano

Written by marnova

October 25, 2010 at 4:34 pm


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In this age of  communication,  I find myself bombarded with shocking images that I am becoming increasingly desensitised to.  I frequently recall some lines our poet laureate once wrote about in her poem about a war photographer:

“A hundred agonies in black-and-white
from which his editor will pick out five or six
for Sunday’s supplement. The reader’s eyeballs prick
with tears between bath and pre-lunch beers.
From aeroplane he stares impassively at where
he earns a living and they do not care.”

– The War Photographer, Carol Ann Duffy

There are few images that shock and startle  me these days.  And yet this one did.  And it is good to know that I am not numb.  Really good.

Thich Quang Duc, Vietnamese Monk

Thích Quảng Đức protested against the persecution of Buddhists by South Vietnam's administration by setting himself alight. Credit: Malcolm Browne

At a busy downtown intersection in Saigon, on 11 June 1963, seventy-three-year-old Thich Quang Duc, sat at a busy downtown intersection and had gasoline poured over him by two fellow monks. As a large crowd of Buddhists and reporters watched, he lit a match and, over the course of a few moments, burned to death while he remained seated in the lotus position.  His heart did not burn and is now a Buddhist relic.

“I was to see that sight again, but once was enough. Flames were coming from a human being; his body was slowly withering and shriveling up, his head blackening and charring. In the air was the smell of burning flesh; human beings burn surprisingly quickly. Behind me I could hear the sobbing of the Vietnamese who were now gathering. I was too shocked to cry, too confused to take notes or ask questions, too bewildered to even think…. As he burned he never moved a muscle, never uttered a sound, his outward composure in sharp contrast to the wailing people around him. (1965: 211)”
-David Halberstam, New York Times (who declined to publish the image)

And the full poem, which I have never forgotten since I first read it.  There is something very real, immediate and pertinent about it.  And Carol Ann Duffy has deserved her ascendancy to poet laureate, there is something about her ability to weave strong imagery, metaphors and wry comedy into her topical poetry that makes kids and adults sit up and take notice. She was one poet that my students didn’t mind studying:

War Photographer

In his darkroom he is finally alone
with spools of suffering set out in ordered rows.
The only light is red and softly glows,
as though this were a church and he
a priest preparing to intone a Mass.
Belfast. Beirut. Phnom Penh. All flesh is grass.

He has a job to do. Solutions slop in trays
beneath his hands which did not tremble then
though seem to now. Rural England. Home again
to ordinary pain which simple weather can dispel,
to fields which don’t explode beneath the feet
of running children in a nightmare heat.

Something is happening. A stranger’s features
faintly start to twist before his eyes,
a half-formed ghost. He remembers the cries
of this man’s wife, how he sought approval
without words to do what someone must
and how the blood stained into foreign dust.

A hundred agonies in black-and-white
from which his editor will pick out five or six
for Sunday’s supplement. The reader’s eyeballs prick
with tears between bath and pre-lunch beers.
From aeroplane he stares impassively at where
he earns a living and they do not care.

Thich Nu Thanh Quang

A Buddhist nun protests the government's Catholic regime in Hue, Vietnam Credit: AP, May 29, 1966

Written by marnova

May 7, 2010 at 4:33 pm