To celebrate summer, in the course of the following months I will be collaborating with various photographers and photography collectors to bring you exclusive stories from behind the lens. Whether travel photography or pictures from the movie sets, One Day That Summer is an invitation to discovery, to open your mind and eyes, to live life like you stole it.
Everyone now has a camera in their pocket and an array of editing techniques to beautify the results at their fingertips. But that doesn’t make everyone a photographer. Every day we feed ourselves to insane amounts of images. But how many stick with you? How many speak to you? How many would you want to have, to frame and to hold? Very, very few.
I fell in love with this photograph (I only knew of the black and white version until recently, but I was so happy to find it in colour, too, just as emotional and natural – two distinctive qualities of b&w photography in my opinion) by David C. Phillips a few years ago. It remains one of my absolute favourites. It’s timeless. It’s wondrous. It captures the magic of childhood. I am lucky enough to own a black and white copy. Photographer Georgianna Lane, David’s wife (and whom I interviewed here), surprised me with sending it to me when I was pregnant, right after I had found out I was going to have a boy (she didn’t know). That made it even more special. And, since then, it has really taken hold of my heart because our now two-year-old son loves to play ball more than anything else and I sometimes surprise him pausing with his football in his hand, gazing into the distance before carefully placing it on the ground and resuming his game. It often makes me wonder: what is he thinking about? I never ask, afraid not to break the spell. There are no bigger dreams than those dreamt through the innocence of childhood. This photograph speaks a thousand dreams. I have talked to David about the story behind it and more.
“I had a few seconds. Fortunately, my camera was handy and ready,
so I crouched down to his level, as that seemed appropriate,
and got one shot in before he trotted off, dream over, action in mind.
It was a whole story in a second or two.”
What is the story behind this photo?
It was my second visit to Paris and I was there on a photo job for friends and we were walking through the gardens of the Palais Royal when suddenly I saw this little boy holding a football and wistfully looking off into the distance, obviously dreaming of something. I had a few seconds. Fortunately, my camera was handy and ready, so I crouched down to his level, as that seemed appropriate, and got one shot in before he trotted off, dream over, action in mind. It was a whole story in a second or two and I was thrilled to have been able to capture it.
Do you always carry a camera with you?
When I’m at home and just doing errands or whatever, I only have my iPhone 7 on me which obviously has a fantastic camera in it. When I am visiting places where I expect to find subjects I want to photograph, I try to carry my Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with me along with 3 zooms and one or two prime lenses as well as spare battery. Sometimes, if I’m only going to be outside, I reduce this to the camera and the three zooms. If I don’t want to carry so much gear (it’s heavy!!), I just carry my Sony Cybershot RX100 M IV which is a wonderful 20+ Megapixel camera with a great lens and pop-up viewfinder which shoots very good photos.
Take or make a photograph? Do you wait for a good photo? Or is it always spontaneous, like in the case of the little boy?
I consider I always make a photograph, even if it’s spontaneous. There are many instinctive actions that go into making a photograph and I go through those always, regardless of how quickly the photo has to be made (I nearly said taken!). I often wait for a good photo. So much so that I will find a great location (e.g. a great doorway in Paris) and stand there waiting for some interesting scenario to materialize. Often they do. That was not the case with the little French soccer star, but it just as well might have been. Sometimes, if I miss the action but think it would make a great shot, I am not unknown to ask the person or people to go through it again so I can get the shot. I often stand there for minutes just watching and waiting, with the feeling that something interesting is sure to happen. (See this photo of the two girls on scooters. I saw them coming from far away and was waiting for something to happen in front of these wonderful doors.)
So I would say that the spontaneous photos that have to be grabbed are ones like the little boy with the soccer ball. It actually would have been very difficult to get him to do that again.
Are there times when you simply witness the moment without taking any picture?
Yes, but I usually kick myself afterwards if it’s a great shot. I have an innate desire to share moments like this with others and the best way for me to do it is through photographs.
What is the most important lesson that Paris has taught you?
To keep getting up very early in the morning and walking for as many miles as I can with my camera gear!
What exactly is it about Paris that makes you come back?
To be completely honest, Ada, a lot of it has to do with Georgianna, who loves Paris. I actually do love Paris for its architecture and style, and for its people. I never get tired of photographing Parisians and showing them in their daily life. They have a special character. But Paris is not my favorite city, London is.
Actually, London is one of my very favourites cities, too. What is it about London that makes it so special to you?
I am British. Born in Chile, but went to school in England at age 13 and spent half my adult life in England.
I love Londoners. I love the history, the culture, the museums, the best cab drivers in the world by far! I love the old architecture and all the great buildings and monuments. The pubs. The aliveness and the feeling of being in the center of international activities. London has it all.
What is your favourite moment of the day for shooting? Do you swear by the “golden hour”?
Early morning is my favorite, from well before sunrise to soon after. I love the morning glow. My favorite lighting is backlighting, so I try to shoot (on sunny days) when the sun is low in the sky, either soon after sunrise or late afternoon before sunset.
If you could be anywhere in the world right now (old or new location), preparing to get a shot, where would you want to be?
I would be in Bhutan, preferably Eastern Bhutan, preferably in the village of Merak in Eastern Bhutan. It’s a remote village that can only be reached on foot, home of the Brokpas, a semi nomadic ethnic group originally from Tibet. The village setting is most unusual and the people are amazing.