Once is not customary, I will escape a little from the technique and software and tell you about a book which has marked me a lot: That day…of Willy Ronis.
It is neither a book of photo technique, nor of composition, nor of the history of photography, nor even a “photo book”. It’s none of those things, or rather… all of this both and much more. Willy Ronis is definitely my photographer. favoriteand I’m simply dazzled by his work. So anybody (who will recognize himself 😉 ) had the good idea to offer me “On that day…”a small collection of 52 photographs of Ronis, and especially of his thoughts regarding these images. Each short text begins with “That day”, hence the title of the work.
Then why did this work touch me so much that it MUST that I tell you about it? 🙂
Well, it’s a an extraordinary compendium of little moments of life first of all. This book was published in 2006, and it is with a surprising precision that Ronis describes the context of each picture, sometimes more than 50 years later. A dazzling memory therefore, undoubtedly marked by all these magical moments that he was able to capture with such talent.
I have the memory of all my photos, they form the fabric of my life and sometimes, of course, they make their mark over the years. They answer each other, they converse, they weave secrets.
“Pictures are full of stories.”
One of the most important things I learned from that book is that Ronis was always looking to tell a story by taking a picture. Each snapshot is a means of retranscribing what he felt at that moment, his vision of the situation (to the point of inventing abracadabratic stories about a character crossed in the street). And that’s what makes the flavour and richness of Ronis’ clichés.
Usually I don’t change what’s going on, I just watch and wait. Simply, with each photo, I am impressed by a situation, and I try to find the right place where I can place my snapshot, so that reality reveals itself in its most vivid truth. There’s a real pleasure in finding the right place, it’s part of the joy of shooting, and sometimes it’s also a torment, because you hope for things that don’t happen or that will happen when you’re no longer there.
“The beautiful image is a geometry modulated by the heart.”
Ronis is a being highly sensitive (I wouldn’t speak to the past tense as it is still present through his work). You can feel on each page that he marvels and is moved by every every little moment that life offers him, every moment that has something touching or surprising, that “impresses” him. Well, the good news is… contagious. I didn’t have to be pushed very hard for me to marvel as well, but just by reading your thoughts in relation to an image, you get carried away in the very little story it tells you, including the emotion that goes with it, as in “.Christmas 1954, The Bicycle“, the simple, common, timeless story of a little girl who wishes she had a pretty bike. But I’ll let you discover this story for yourself 🙂
One day, on this square, I cried with emotion. It was an April, with Marie-Anne. There were jazz musicians on one side of the arcades, and on the other, students who had probably just graduated from the Conservatory and were playing Bach. There was suddenly a great emotion in me that was born from the encounter between these two musics. And in the trees, it was already the end of the buds, you could see the birth of the little leaves, it formed an immense powder of confetti. My eyes were full of tears. When you suddenly discover this sign of spring, this so juvenile moment…
You can’t write that and be bad. You know what I mean? That way of looking at the world with child’s eyes is simply magic. Of course, behind every cliché lies a perfect Master’s degree of his device, which allowed Ronis to escape the technicalities to tell us nice stories… daily newspapersfull of poetry. Yes, it is, daily newspapers Ronis had always his camera on him (how many times will it be repeated? 😉 ), and many of his images are simply taken from his daily life. Like how you can find beauty in alland you just have to open your eyes for it. Because that’s the photographer’s first “job”: open your eyes.
There is another lesson to be learned from this: title and caption your photos. Even if only to give context (“Champ de Mars, Paris, 2011”). Tell the story. Help the reader get a little carried away. Oh sure, a good picture speaks for itself. And Ronis’ do. But it’s always a fine pleasure to understand… actually what the author has ressenti by taking his snapshot.
It’s hard to tell more about this book. Although it is by no means a photo book in the primary sense of the term (it will not explain how to use your camera), it will undoubtedly bring you much more to your photographs than any technical book. Because if you don’t photograph with your heartif you don’t photograph with your tripeyour photos will be blanks of meaning and emotion, whether technically perfect or not.
If I can give you a first piece of advice in this new year, it’s to get out 7€ and some dust to acquire this little marvel of simplicity.
Come on, now you put your camera on one side and your heart on the other, and you’re going to photograph what you think is pretty 😉.
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