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Sunday, October 21, 2018

Can't. Stop. Laughing.


The awesome new Medium Format eMagazine (that is to say, blog) is live! It's so exciting. For a mere $25 a month you can read the wise words of the likes of Lloyd Chambers, Ming Thein, Patrick Laroque helping you rationalize the breathtaking sums you have spent on a perfectly ordinary camera.

Here is editor-in-chief, or whatever he styles himself, Olaf Sztaba, in a piece entitled "50 Shades of MF" about why he shoots medium format.

Here is what is the most appealing to me when working with medium format. I can capture and depict light in multiple dimensions and with variety, which I was not able to do with my other cameras. A new, sort of grey area has appeared – 50 shades of it! Yes, this is the visual sphere which the cellphone crowd will not give a damn about but I do! I call them transition strokes when light changes, bends and submerges into coexisting elements in the image. In most cameras, this metamorphosis is rather abrupt and loud. In the medium-format camera, it takes the form of “melting” (I stole this word from Patrick La Roque :)) as if there was no border – no beginning or end. Your eyes wander without interruption between shadows and highlights. The light becomes liquid and perpetually spills over. This allows the photographer to blend light and shadow in a way that was not possible before. It reminds me of recording and listening to music.

This does not, as nearly as I can tell, mean anything except give me your money, fools, GIVE IT TO MEEEEEEEE.

Damn right it's like recording and listening to music. This is straight out of the audiophile playbook. Invent some undefined and indefinable terms, "transition strokes", and the wax on poetically about them, and the experience of them. Be sure to slip in a diss to anyone with lesser equipment and lesser senses who are unable to see the wonder of the Emperor's New Transition Strokes.

The reference to the famous BDSM themed novel, and the phrase "transition strokes" makes me go "hmm". What is stroking whom and in what way, here?

Or, really, it might be simpler to list what is not getting stroked.


  1. What language has this been translated from? And why has it not been translated into English?


  2. "capturing 50 shades" is all very well (whatever), but this is gonna be a major problem - the variation in computer screens is going to make it impossible to actually perceive these um "transition shades" reliably - we will have to gather periodically in a central state (or Norway, or... Saskatchewan) and look at... hand-printed matt prints? (no) or... have a single London Drugs print all the various 50 shades items (I like this solution in mean kind of way)? Now I've annoyed myself, ima go viciously kick some leaves and drag my small angry dog around the 'hood in the sunshine...

  3. This reminds me of the time when, as a ‘mature student,’ I was taking a photo/darkroom course at a local university. One of the people frequenting the darkroom was another mature student, who from day one kept muttering about the lousy performance of his – medium format – camera. Sure enough two or three weeks later he showed up with another medium format camera from a different manufacturer, insisting that this camera would do the trick and give him his desired good photos. Of course, it did not happen. He finally showed up, elated, with a Hasselblad. Unfortunately, the pictures were still lousy. It never did occur to him that the camera had very little to do with any of this.

  4. It's really the intense organic luminosity of medium format that makes all the difference and results in the stroking.

    I propose a contest: make up some new nonsense term -- like "intense organic luminosity" -- and use it with a straight face in a discussion on a camera forum. The only rules are (1) your term has to have at least three words; and (2) the combination has to be "Google unique" in the context of photography. In other words, if you put it in quotation marks and search on Google, it won't come up. To be fair I suppose you'd have to have language groups.

    If you Google "intense organic luminosity" you'll find exactly one photography-related use; it seems to be a thing in the world of cosmetics (which does not help with credibility). I slipped it right into this kind of conversation.

    To win the game you have to get other people to use your term; sadly, I was not successful this time around.

    1. USENIX, a technical conference of real reputation, used to have a session devoted to WIP (work-in-progress) talks. Anyone could submit, and get some narrow bit of time like 5 minutes to present on whatever they were working on.

      My concept was to place a bunch of technical terms in a hat. All conspirators would draw three slips at random. KERNEL COMPILER NETWORK. Then you'd build a title on those words and present your WIP talk. The goal would be to crush the amount of time between drawing your slips of paper and presenting your entirely fictional project to the bare minimum.

      I never did get a critical mass of people interested. They seemed to think it would not be cool to make a mockery of USENIX or something. Party poopers, all of them.

  5. I recently re-read George Orwells's essay, Politics and the English Language where he specifically warns against this type of language and writing. It's basically bullshit to prop up the writers ego.

  6. I had a look at the site. It is so unprofessional that I doubt it to be a serious attempt. I suspect a name grabbing scheme, the url could be valuable.

    Oh and thanks to the poster above to the Orwell reference. I did not know the essay, found it online and it makes a great reading.

  7. I was reading the website - several typos in the first article. For 25 bucks a month I would expect better.

    1. There seems to be a lot of "man, I don't know why magazines fail, this is gonna be so easy!" around, because the guys doing it don't even know what it takes to make a quality product (hint: money).

  8. The excerpt looks to me very much the "motivational meetings" that american HOGs (Harley Owners Groups) do, two days of patting on each other shoulders for having bought the BEST motorcycle, and how they "ride differently" from all the other bikers. Note that "they" are many tens of thousands, so they are basically a very large bunch of people doing things in a way that is quite common but also different... One of the your "islands" of your "How we judge" article...

  9. I thought the only reason Olaf used medium format is that one of his admirers gifted him a Fuji GFX...