July 19, 2013

Friday Round Up - 19 July

This week on Friday Round Up a retrospective celebrates the work of French photographer Raymond Cauchetier, a snapshot of the workshop programme for this year's Ballarat International Foto Biennale, and a feature article on environmental photographer Darren Jew who shows us the beauty of the underwater world. The article "Into the Deep Blue" is a timely reminder for those of us in Australia where there are moves afoot to mine in the area of the Great Barrier Reef, creating an environmental disaster for an ecosystem that is unique.

Raymond Cauchetier 

1967 Cambodia

This year’s Salon de la Photo in Paris in November will feature a major retrospective of the work of French photographer Raymond Cauchetier. Born in 1920, Cauchetier spent his early career in Indochina, and can be considered one of the early street photographers. His work gained critical acclaim and in the 1950s he exhibited in Japan and the United States where his collection "Faces of Vietnam" became a popular touring exhibition.

Returning to his homeland in the late 1950s Cauchetier spent the next decade immersed in the world of cinema working in an era known as Nouvelle Vague. He shot for leading directors including Jean-Luc Goddard and was on the set of films such as Breathless (the photograph below of Jean Seberg and Jean Paul Belmondo is considered one of his most well known). But his love for Asia continued to draw him back to that part of the world throughout his career.

1954 Pierre Schoendorffer à Dien Bien Phu

A free spirit, Cauchetier was self taught and chose to shoot across a wide range of subjects depending on his interest at the time. Now in his nineties, this retrospective "Raymond Cauchetier: Flashback" is a fitting tribute to this French master. 

Jean Seberg and Jean Paul Belmondo
On the Champs Elysées 1959

The Salon de la Photo is one of the major photography events held in Paris in the month of November.

7-11 November
Porte de Versailles in Paris
All images (C) Raymond Cauchetier

Ballarat International Foto Biennale 

At this year’s Ballarat International Foto Biennale (BIFB), an hour out of Melbourne, there is a host of workshops in which to hone your visual storytelling skills. Whether your interest lies in gritty documentary photography, streetscapes, architecture, landscape or fine art photography there's something to entice both amateurs and more advanced photographers. Here's a taste of what's in store.

Ballarat Exposed
Andrew Chapman and Noel Butcher (Australia)
18 August 

(C) Andrew Chapman

Travel Light, Learn to Write:
The secrets of modern photojournalism in the digital era
Roger Garwood (Australia)
17-18 August and 24-25 August

(C) Roger Garwood
Archery and the Art of Photography
Christine Rose Divito (Belgium)
19-23 August and 9-13 September 

(C) Christine Rose Divito

Architectural Photography Master Class with John Gollings (Australia)
7 September 

(C) John Gollings

Finding the Ethereal Within
Master Class intensive with Elizabeth Opalenik [USA]
4-7 September 

(C) Elizabeth Opalenik 

For more details visit the BIFB website.

Feature Interview:
Into the Deep Blue
with Australian Darren Jew

On the day I interview multi-award winning photographer Darren Jew he is preparing for a six-week trip to Tonga where he will photograph the migration of the humpback whales. He makes this pilgrimage every year, taking photographs for his own collection, and also hosting small groups of enthusiasts who get to swim with these majestic creatures, some of which, says Darren, are the size of a bus. 

Growing up in Queensland Darren has spent much of his life in the water, and with a camera in hand. His earliest memories of photography are around his father who was a radio technician on one of the Antarctic bases in the late 1960s. Darren recalls going through his father’s Kodachrome slides and being intrigued by “nature. I think that’s where my interest in the world and things other than in my own backyard, came from”.

In his youth he toyed with the idea of a career in science, but “scientists tend to specialise in one thing and I thought I would be bored, so I turned my attention to photography. I was partly influenced by Jacques Cousteau documentaries and figured that with photography I could still connect with nature and science on a cursory level and with greater variety”.

He undertook a two-year trade certificate in photography at Queensland College of Art and “graduated at the ripe age of 17 with a pretty good education in photography. I was highly employable (read: cheap) and my first job was in a film-processing lab”. It would take a few more years before he landed the dream job – working for the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service photographing the natural assets of that state.

“Luckily Queensland has some pretty cool underwater scenery with the Barrier Reef,” he laughs. “That was the first time I was really shooting underwater for work. If I went on a field trip and it included a place where I could go snorkeling or diving, I’d do that too.” After eight years of documenting the state, and honing his skills as an underwater photographer, Darren went out on his own in the mid-1990s.

“In the last decade I have been doing a lot of underwater work. My career has evolved from me being a nature photographer who took pictures of anything to do with nature, to an underwater photographer who also shoots nature. I shoot a percentage of tourism and advertising work also, but that is more a product of capacity rather than interest and desire, it’s part of the way I earn a living. As a photographer these days to do reasonably well you have to be a specialist. And specialising in underwater photography has become a niche for me as it offers me a bit of variety in terms of where my clients can come from”.

Darren says it is a tough market, even for someone who is established, and the imperative to stay at the top of your game is even greater given the number of people who are taking photos today in all genres.
“There are millions of average photographers out there. Prior to the digital boom there was a group of the professional photographers that got away by just being competent photographers because they had the technical capacity or a good work ethic and photographs were not being taken in the volume they are today. Really good photographers have always floated to the top, but now you need to be at the top of your game all the time, because the minute you drop the ball you are gone”. 

"Photography is always evolving and I’ve been lucky enough to see a really exciting time with the advent of digital. Now digital cameras are producing images that are way beyond what we could ever do on film, and that has presented new and exciting opportunities. I shoot pictures now underwater in very low light situations with great results, shots that I could never have contemplated even five years ago”.

Shooting underwater carries with it a whole raft of considerations that are unique to the watery environment. Outside of the gear you have to invest in, there are other barriers such as trying to photograph animals that may fancy taking a bite out of you, like Great White sharks. 

While Darren may love nature, he isn’t foolhardy. “I’ve never done any of this crazy free swimming with Great Whites,” says Darren who shoots from a shark cage. “Certainly all of the work I’ve done with Great Whites is probably the most exciting, adrenalin charged nature photography I have done. They are really big and very efficient and scary”. He shows me a photo of a toothy grin from a Great White. “This one bit my sync cable in half and left a big scratch on my dome port. I’ve had sharks grab the cage before and shake it and I’ve had a shark bite through the communication line on a deep dive”.

A deep cage dive is around 25-30m, but Darren also does cage work on the surface, and mid-water. “The time when the communication cable got severed and we lost contact with the surface, that’s probably the most interesting time that I’ve been in a cage. There are emergency procedures to get a lift bag to get you back to the surface, but to deploy that you have to get out of the cage, and if you have a cranky Great White shark swimming around who has just bitten through the cable and shaken the hell out of the cage, getting out of the cage is the last option. On this dive routines and procedures for loss of communication were followed well and everything was fine, but it is pretty interesting some of the things that go through your mind at that point,” he laughs.

“I do a lot of stuff mid-water where we drop the cage and get into the blueness and away from the surface and from what I see as the visually confusing bottom. But shooting mid-water is a waiting game, as often it seems the sharks are on the bottom or on the surface and to get them in mid-water you have to be patient.”

Patience is a must with the work that Darren does. Not only do the animals not perform on cue, there are other considerations including getting to the location and the weather. “I have been on trips where we’ve been out for four days and haven’t seen a shark until 3pm on the last afternoon. Other times the water will be too murky to shoot in or we’ll arrive in the middle of a jellyfish-spawning event. It is opportunistic work where you are at the mercy of nature. So when I am out shooting for a client, I also shoot for my own collections to make the most of the time and expense of getting there”.

He continues. “If we are shooting blue water animals like whales, or dolphins or turtles swimming around in various places within the water column, down deep or up near the surface or whatever, it’s quite difficult to do that on scuba. With scuba diving the ideal profile is to go down to the deepest point of your dive and then work your way back up to the surface over the course of the dive. Whereas a turtle might be on the surface now and then go deep and then go to the surface again. If you were to follow that animal with scuba gear you’d be risking your health and safety quite considerably. And with scuba you are limited to only two or three dives a day. So the blue water shots are often done on breath hold. All my whale work and the turtles, dolphins and sea lions, are all shot while holding my breath”. It’s a game of willpower and often Darren’s determination to get the shot impacts how long he can hold his breath.

But it is the complexities of the underwater shoot that keep him engaged. “It’s a difficult place to take pictures because to see these things under the water you have to be fairly close to them. Even in the clearest waters in the tropics you need to be within a few metres. That’s the thing I like most about it, it keeps your brain active, you have to think about a lot of things. It’s a challenge and I like a challenge”.

Darren hopes his photography will also help to spread a message for conservation, a subject that is close to his heart. “I want to communicate to people who don’t know about the ocean. I want them to see how amazing it is. I know that’s a broad brush statement, but for some people the ocean is a scary place. I’d like to think that they can look at my pictures and even if they are not an ocean fan, they can see some intrigue, and interest and marvel at some of the amazing things that live there,” he concludes.

Article by Alison Stieven-Taylor
All photos (C) Darren Jew

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