What?

Posted on May 18, 2009 - 114 comments -

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Streets of Barcelona, Gothic Quarter.

About my last photo... (just click on the image above, it will take you to my previous post) both João André Farinha and NJ and SB Photography noted a very good point.
I commented that it was taken in Barcelona, but those tree tops could have been captured in any other place on Earth.
Looking back on my Barcelona shots, I could not escape the feeling of failure to capture the essence of that beautiful and unique city. I got some pretty nice photos, but none is a true "Barcelona".
Even while taking the photos, I felt something is missing. I capture moments, people, situations, tree tops - But no soul. No essence.
I feel disappointed, but also bit optimistic. Now that I know 'what' to look for, I got a purpose - Not only to capture 'good' (and strive for 'better') photos, but to try and learn how to fill them with that elusive 'soul'. Try to see the streets beyond their first, immediate layer.
I'm not sure exactly how to do it right, but I'm willing to learn.

EDIT:
Got an intersting and insigtful response on "Sean Needham Photography" blog.

There has been 114 Responses to 'What?' so far

  1. Mileta says:

    Say what you will about "failing to capture the essence" but how do you really define the essence of a city? In my oppinion it's not the typical landmark but the people that make up that essence, and that's what you captured. The gritty processing just adds to the feeling of being there in person.
    //Mileta

  2. Connar O'Keeffe says:

    I think it some ways you've captured the essence of a city. No matter how different you think you're country is from another the truth is is that, ever city is the same.
    This photo could've been taken in my city even. Birmingham England has quite a few Gothic looking buildings (and quite a few Gothic looking people :oP ) and the people in this shot in my city would be called 'Chavs'.

  3. c o n f l a g r a t i o says:

    Nice capture, fresh expressions in a typical Gothic street from Barcelona :)

  4. Nicki says:

    Dogs looks always like here masters (in germany we say) ... are this friends of you? Or what have they say about your shoot? "Beware of dogs?" hihi ...

  5. Anonymous

    I like the scenery very much - excellent work
    http://krikis.aminus3.com

  6. Jon Rieley-Goddard says:

    I like the curvy negative space of the sky as defined by the buildings, and I like the demanding dog.

  7. Rob says:

    As I mentioned on Twitter...alone it doesn't tell me it was taken in Barcelona. If it were part of a set titled something like, "Streets of Barcelona" and there were several different types of street scenes then it would be part of the overall story you are trying to tell through photos.

    Nice work :)

  8. Fritsch says:

    I know this feeling quite well, Ilan. But the good thing about it is the fact that it keeps us coming back & keeps us curious. And the second view on some things can be very interesting. At least I hope.

    Thanks for this beauty and the real feel it gives me looking at it. The grain is perfect as is the perspective. Well done, master.

    All the best & safe travels, Fritsch.

  9. MiNe says:

    It's a beautiful photograph!!!

  10. pando says:

    Cool street scene and - as always - beautiful photo ;-)

  11. enoxisureka says:

    How you feel like you've not captured the essence is beyond me. I think more than the streets creating a boreder around this scene, the people, the intense interaction and even the ferocity of the dog adds to the 'essence' you seek hard to find. Well done.

  12. Tricia says:

    When this photo loaded on the page the 1st thing I saw was the mug on that dog! He looks sooo sad! But this is an Awesome photo! It's actually as if I'm standing there!

  13. cat says:

    I don't think it's possible to "capture the essence of a city" or any sort of complex place with one or two photographs. Unless you resort to the cliched idea of taking a couple of pictures of "landmarks" - which don't capture the essence of anything. It's more about creating a series of pictures and telling a story through them, although as the story would be your unique response to the city, seen through your photographic style and via your own relationship with it as a tourist, seeing it fresh, it would capture the essence of your response to it. I bet if you look at the pictures you took and arrange them, you'll start to see stories, relationships emerging, maybe not obvious ones, both in the subject matter and deeper, in the style, content, shapes, light. So your tree image could well be a very important part of that, because through it you are telling a story of what that tree meant to you, at that moment, in that city.

  14. CraigM says:

    I know what you're saying and the way you're feeling but these are the things the drive us on to improve and that can only be a good thing. I read Sean's response and agree. It's only cliche shots, for instance Tower Bridge etc that would make you go "Yeah that's London" or whatever city it happens to be. What I'm saying is there's no harm in trying to improve but you're doing pretty well as it is so don't beat yourself up or else you'll start sounding like me ;-) This is a great street shot with lots going on and all working nicely together, perhaps it doesn't shout Barcelona but it does shout good image!

  15. yz says:

    great street capture

  16. Yvon says:

    A great shot.
    Bravo.
    Have a nice week.
    Yvon.

  17. Darietto says:

    It's absolutely true what you've said about the constant need of learning. But i must say... that you're a great photographer and often i take a hard look at your works and guess how did you make it! See the essence i mean! But you are always able to amaze me.

  18. Richard Hollins says:

    I can't comment on whether or not your shot reflects the essence of Barcelona because I've never been there. But this is an excellent photograph. It's full of the character of the people in it and I think that's a difficult enough thing to capture. When I see a picture like this, it's a success for me if it makes me wonder what the people are doing, what they are like, what their lives and like, and this one does all of that. Good work.

  19. beanow says:

    Extra street shot!

  20. pasci.it says:

    cool street photo! Love the pitbull looking in your direction!

  21. João André Farinha says:

    I think you are beeing a little bit too hard on yourself.hehe. This photo is really good, and captures, I think, one of the many interesting thinks about Barcelona: These old, medieval streets, filled with all kinds of unusual people and situations. Great work here!

  22. vera says:

    daily street in the contrasts- interesting

  23. Ken says:

    Essence and beauty is ultimately in the eye of the photographer, no? I like gritty realism mixed with iconic images of city landscapes. I love Ilan's work, not that you are was asking for a shout out, but I really think the pictures people take form their own unique view, actuate or not.

  24. Andy says:

    Love the grain in this image as well as the huge dogs! Great street shot!

  25. Liang says:

    i like this street shot. looks like an interesting conversation they're having! =D

  26. ShamWOW! says:

    I've never been to Barcelona so I wouldn't know about capturing its essence. But this is a real good shot.

    It appears you took it from a low-ish angle. I like that, and how the light is reflected off the street.

    Also like the grain. Nice, gritty street feel.

  27. SD (Aspherical) says:

    Fantastic street shot. I like how the dog's expression gives this an element of surprise - my eye was drawn to the people first and then I noticed the photograph was really about the dog.

  28. joebergantine.com says:

    that bulldog has quite the face :P

  29. martie says:

    Those dogs look like beasts - but those people look much nicer! Great street shot.

    Now you have me wondering as well. How do you capture the essence of any city. Sure you can shot an image with a landmark in the background - but that isn't the essence of the city. Now I must go and think long and hard...

  30. Ivar says:

    Nice street shot... looks like some big dogs too... hopefully they are friendly

  31. AB says:

    Great shot! An interesting dynamic in the people, perfectly framed in the street.

  32. jpla says:

    Jolie capture ! Bonne journée !
    JP

  33. Alex says:

    Buen encuadre compañero, la puesta en escena de estos jovenes te ha dado a hacer una buena fotografia.
    Saludos.

  34. aleksarus says:

    at the picture micro story meetings, perhaps by coincidence, people met by chance, each is unique but they are from one company

  35. Bogdan says:

    Nice urban picture! and i think b&w was a good choice, it gives more expresivity to the picture

  36. Oeilonirique says:

    Dark street, dark expression, shark dogs... maybe a dark deal

  37. Turnbill says:

    I'm not sure if this captures Barcelona or not, but it certainly captures an "Oh Sh*t" moment when you turn down a narrow side street in an unfamiliar city and see a crew like this blocking your way. Will they let you pass with harassing you (or worse)? Based on their clothing, these guys seem pretty harmless. I'm not so sure about the dogs though!

  38. T and S says:

    Ilan : This is beautiful shot. Unfortunately one of the dog did take notice. I hope it didn't come after you. ha ha Just pulling you leg.

  39. Stephane says:

    That dog looking at you is the strength of your shot.What a fierce expression.I know this kind tend to look like that any hour of the day,but if they don't mind your presence, 4legs does.
    As for capturing the essence of a city.Someone like Eugene Smith who desperately tried on Pittsburgh will advise you to read books about the city and visually interprete what you understood of it. Sometimes you capture someone's or some place's essence(a part of it at least),other times you rediscover yours in a different place, shaped by others.But what you do mostly is to express your love for photography and it engages many subjects at once or just focus on people.

  40. namaki says:

    I am very impressed by this picture ... and especially the dogs !!

  41. Kamal says:

    Well I havent been to Barcelona, so I dont really know what "a true Barcelona" would look like. Ive learnt something new from you, about what you felt, that something is missing in your images. At least you know where you are, and you are always looking forward to improve it. And so will I. =) Great capture btw!

  42. XaviH says:

    Ilan, you are making reference to the most difficult part of photography, to be able to transmit sentiments, sensations, emotions, feelings... this is not just a matter of technique, necessary of course but not sufficient. It's something different, that some photographers has and some others don't. I think we all are in the same pursuit.

  43. francesco says:

    ...une superbe instantanée...

  44. Elad says:

    I thought your first shot from Barcelona did convey the feel for the big city. Try capturing the essence of Petach tikva. Now, that's a challenge.

  45. Ankush. says:

    perfect exposure in this image. you talked capturing the soul of the city, i think the place could be check out the most crowded places where you will find the typical expressions. this image is quite good in itself, you captured the fashion and architecture quite well. good one.

  46. Terry H. says:

    Love the gritty look to the shot. Good luck on the essence thing. Now that everyone wears jeans and tennis shoes it will be more difficult(everybody looks the same).

  47. Anna says:

    Well framed image, thanks for sharing Ilan. Anna :)

  48. NJ & SB Photography says:

    Ilan, hoy aplausos clap, clap, clap, esta si és una foto con "alma" esto sí es Barcelona, me encanta!!
    No quería herir tus sentimientos con mi comentario, ya sabes que sigo tu trabajo y me gusta ser sincera :)
    un abrazo
    Núria

  49. NJ & SB Photography says:

    Ah si, matizaré un poco más, Barcelona és otras muchas cosas más que el barrio gótico o el barrio chino, pero la imagen captada es un reflejo real del ambiente urbano de esas calles.
    buena captura Ilan

  50. Elka

    אילן אילן... ממש צרות של עשירים
    תמונה מעולה, ולא נורא שאתה לא מוציא את ה"אופי" של ברצלונה כי זה עדיין לא אומר שהסגנון שלך הוא לא ייחודי אז מבחינתי זה לא משנה כלום ואתה לא צריך להיות מתוסכל בגלל זה אתה צלם מיוחד בכל מקרה

  51. emillamola says:

    Es una buena "street photo". Me encanta.

  52. John Maslowski says:

    I know the feeling well and I believe that we are more critical of ourselves as we strive to become better photographers. I believe you captured a great street scene in this shot. It's fascinating and interesting, especially the dog looking back. Love the architecture and the narrow alley way here. Excellent shot!

  53. Snapshutter says:

    I think this photo really captures the feel of the street, and that is some dog! Great tones and contrast also.

  54. Ronnie 2¢ says:

    A very interesting self-observation that you make.

    There are many photographic moments when I feel I am a tourist in my own city and the temptation to be that in someone else’s is even greater. Making the leap from that to being a photographer is, I guess, why we are all here on AM3. For me, your first Barna posting came closest to the city ‘spirit’ but I just happen to like this or the tree shot even more as photographs.

  55. Soe says:

    Great tones! I love the expression on the dog's face..
    Wonderful capture!

  56. Francesco Gallarotti says:

    Ilan,
    I noticed your comment on:
    http://nonphotography.com/blog/?p=570

    Here is my take:
    Saying that Blurb requires you to use their software THEREFORE doesn't give you freedom in the design is the reason why I think this review is 100% useless. Most people when they create their books for Blurb use either InDesign or similar applications and then export all pages in JPG format, process them in Photoshop for pre-printing (sharpness and contrast), and then simply import them in the Blurb software with a few clicks and upload the result to their servers.
    It's a pretty simple process that guarantees that the final product will print exactly as you see it through the preview given by their software.
    On the other hand trying to generate the PDF file for Lulu is a real PITA. Have you even tried to follow the instructions on their pages on how to produce the perfect PDF? It might work for text-based publication but it's not so easy when you have images especially if you are looking to get full-bleed.

    On top of that by making your design in InDesign you can also export as a PDF and use the to do free-publication on issuu.com -- as an example take a look at my book page on my photoblog (i.e. http://issuu.com/gallarotti/docs/14days/3?mode=embed&documentId=081209031425-3dbdef66105b447392f2d1b1d73db14f&layout=grey )

  57. Marcie says:

    Wonderful street scene. I think you captured the 'essence' of the moment perfectly!!!

  58. bluechameleon says:

    Excellent image and energy felt in this composition. The dark tones are superb...and I just love the expression on the face of the dog. He is the only one that sees you. As always, great street shot!

  59. rhys says:

    great image here Ilan. Love the gritty docu-style appearance. Did they see you? Did they play up for the camera? I like the narrative which is unfolding

  60. Beat says:

    great streetshot Ilan. It's perfect in b&w. Good work!

  61. Justin says:

    Love the look on that dog's face :)

  62. k@ says:

    How dogs interfere in the dialogue is so great in this street catch, my friend ! bravo ! Great funny one*

  63. Ben Simo says:

    This photo doesn't say Barcelona. It is a scene that could be in one of many cities around the globe.

    However, this is a wonderful image.

    I want to see a bigger version. I want a better view of the expressions on the two faces I can partly see. I want to know what is being said. I want to know if these people know each other or if they are just meeting. I want to know if the dogs are friendly to strangers. I want to know what is beyond the subjects.

    This image provokes me and leaves lots of unanswered questions. That makes a great street photo.

  64. joshi daniel says:

    i specially liked the life in the image and the dogs look!

  65. Denis says:

    Cool picture, nice street scene. These guys and their dogs do not seem very friendly to me !
    Good capture !

  66. J Howe says:

    I think this image in particular has 'soul', but whether it captures Barcelona is another matter. As others have said, I don't know if you can really capture the soul of a city that is identifiable as the city (unless you capture some recognizable landmark). I do understand your frustration with trying to capture the 'soul' of something. I often feel the same way.

  67. Jinksee says:

    again, another powerful image. :D

  68. Sophie Asselin says:

    Very nice shot ! Perfect in black and white ! I love it. Congrats !

  69. Ian says:

    Blimey, that's a rough crowd. It's a super black and white, well done for grabbing it!

  70. Audrey says:

    Bad Dogs?

  71. Rajesh says:

    Beautiful snap of people interacting in the narrow ally. The dogs look as if they mean business.

  72. Cristi Popescu (popel) says:

    Ilan, an excellent capture of the situation, the dog is the only one who feels your presence:)), and his expression sayit all.

  73. elaine says:

    No doubt, this is the Gothic mood!!! You did capture some of that spirit!! and I guess the bets thing to do would be to go back there :)

  74. lasiate says:

    Si Barcelone ressemble à cette rue c'est pas pour moi. Ces gros chiens bavants et baveux m'effraient.
    Techniquement l'image est superbe

  75. Ida says:

    WELL DONE! I really like that how you review your work, i do it to myself too, and because of that I'm late for new posts in my site ;) but you do the excellent job in here, i can hear what they say and like that you choose it in black & white ;) BRAVO INDEED~ :)

  76. philzoc says:

    A Strong atmosphère !! Beautiful B&W

  77. Sandy says:

    ahhh great comp on this....I love it.

  78. Mike says:

    Nice interaction. I like the dog's expression the best

  79. silvermikan says:

    cool and great B&W shot! love the composition.

  80. Carver says:

    I liked your last photograph of the trees which could have been taken almost anywhere but captured something about the natural world that I liked. I also like this street scene a great deal. You really did capture a sense of place here that is great. I like both types of photographs.

  81. cako says:

    You captured a very interesting scene in this photo. I'd like to know what they are talking about.

  82. Sidney says:

    One of those dogs is looking at you wondering if you would be suitable for lunch...
    Quite a scary image... very dramatic mood!

  83. Tammie Lee says:

    Hi Ilan,
    Thank you for your visit to my blog.
    Each time I take a look at your photography I say things out loud. This is symbolic of you capturing an essence of life. You mention that you did not capture soul in this image. You did indeed capture an essence that is living in these walls. Perhaps not the soul you are aware of. I look forward to you capturing the soul that you feel. Fantastic!

  84. One says:

    A superb composition!
    Beautiful light and excellent performance in black and white!

  85. Mahbubur Rahman says:

    Hmm - people have a lot to say about this one, so I guess I will add my 2 cents...

    First of all - the picture is marvelous. The contrast and the subject are both superb. Now as far as the picture having 'soul' - this picture DEFINITELY has soul, because you get the sense of people in the picture. You get the grittyness of the situation. You get the essence of the guy trying to explain something to his buddy. You get that this sort of gathering happens often, and this depiction in itself is the soul of a place.

    Now, whether this picture has the 'soul' of Barcelona - well - thats very hard to tell, not because you didn't capture it or anything, but I think its hard to capture the soul of a place with just one picture - unless you put a recognizable object in the frame as well, which then makes the picture cliched. So in the end, I think the picture you made is just wonderful but I personally don't think it is possible to capture the soul of a place with 1 picture.

    This is something a lot of people struggle with, including me, so last year, I had taken a class about documentary/street photography. What I learned is that there is a process, known more as a cinematic approach to photography that can give a better result or a better photo essay. You need at least 4 pictures to capture the essence of a place. You need:

    1. The scenery setup shot: this shot shows the whole scene where all the following picture will take place
    2. The environmental portrait: this is a shot of a person in a setting that tells what the person does, or how he/she interacts with his environment.
    3. The detail shot: this shot is detailed depiction of something in your environment - something you studied in detail at the place/time.
    4. The action shot: this is a shot of someone doing something in your set.

    These shots together give you the complete feeling of the place. Of course, you can have more than 4 pictures, but it should be in that general order...

    Hope this helps you - it has helped me quite a bit :)

  86. standley says:

    A great street scene capture. I like the strong atmosphere!

  87. Zing says:

    Cool bw street shot, love that dog!

  88. Giovanni says:

    Terrific urban atmosphere here! Love the way you catch this scene, but the look of the dog really makes the photo!

  89. Mario ISO101 says:

    Nice urban shot of Barcelona! I'm sure you enjoyed a lot the city, this is the most important thing... and for sure you got lovely shots!!!

  90. Vindys says:

    Ilan, Your pictures are so nice... I loved the story you showed in picture.. :)

  91. Peter Knoop says:

    Disappointed or not, I really like your work. Looking forward to whatever is coming!

  92. a.h.lex says:

    Nice street scenery! work on!

  93. Walter Neiger says:

    I find the essence is the presence of the dog ... for me it's a great street shot.

  94. Averi says:

    The dog's face... is excellent!

  95. Ginnie says:

    Maybe what your Gift to us is creating one big city scene that is the world, period, no matter where it is, Ilan. Just do what you do, in other words, and don't worry if it looks like Barcelona or not!

  96. Brooks Potteiger says:

    Ha. I really like this. Well seen and good perspective. Great job mate :)

  97. Ashish Sidapara says:

    Beautiful street shot.

  98. b.c. richter says:

    Hi Ilan,

    Good shot! Not having captured the essence of the city is probably not your fault, since European cities (and maybe not only European cities) look more and more like any other city: same shops, same restaurants, same cafés.

    Besides, capturing the essence of a city in a single shot is probably impossible — for anyone.

    What I'm wondering, though, is whether these guys realized you were shooting and how they reacted. Or did you ask them before you took the photograph?

  99. Anne says:

    I agree with the first womans post, regarding the people. To me it is the people that makes the city, sets the feel. You can capture lots of things but it is really the mood and often motion of a place/city that interest me most.

    I think you are good in capture the people in the city.

  100. Mohammadreza says:

    nice urban capture ...

  101. Philippe says:

    Nice street scene , dark but i feel happiness in it, Phil.

  102. puglyfeet says:

    This reminds me of Diagon Alley from Harry Potter. :)

  103. nissou* says:

    I really like this shot. it looks like a not very safe place...

    I completely understand your feeling about your pictures and I think it's the best thing for a photographer to put yourself in question. that's how you can improve. but also, don't forget, a photographer (or any other type of artist), will never be 100% happy of his/her work. I don't know which author told this but I've read somewhere that artists has to learn to be frustrated all their lives... and it's so true.
    anyway, it's nice to read your feelings about your work, very interesting. and don't be too hard on yourself, maybe some of your shots could have been taken anywhere else from Barcelona, but you can feel your vision as a foreigner. that's what I like about them.

  104. Marek says:

    Great document, I like the moment which you captured very well.

  105. david says:

    a superb street shot; it captures a moment in time so well.

  106. Arjan - PlasticDaisy says:

    The title goes perfect with the look on that dog's face! :) Very well done! I like this scene alot! Like you caught them redhanded at something :)

  107. flo g says:

    les chiens sont les meilleurs acteurs.. bravo pour cette photo de rue !

  108. Mijonju says:

    :D great

  109. Laurens Kuipers says:

    Nice one! The noise is OK in this photo! Good atmosphere.

  110. Ovidiu says:

    Wonderful! I love the processing!

  111. Joanna says:

    it's a great photo, a well captured scene.I'm just wondering what have you done that there's over 100 comments on it :) not that's anything bad ;-)

  112. Phototherapy says:

    Hello Ilan, Happy to visit you again - I am a bit late for this comment and maybe an answer to your question ;)
    I saw the image and your comment... I like the thinking you make around your photography.
    You are right with your diadnostic, it could be taken anywhere...
    I could say, normal, this is globalization. It's not the point here.
    I think Street (and all "documentary" subjects) are question of people (and places). We need to understand in depth both of them. We need to "approach" these people and places, socially and humanly, I mean. Once you are familiar with the environment, we need then some thinking to delimit the interesting part, the scope of the project. Then we can start capturing...
    One master was saying that photography is before all a human adventure. You cannot achieve all this during one week in Barcelona.

  113. marc says:

    Thanks for being the first to post for this month's theme. I love the feel of this photo. For me, the yin/yang balance of the two dogs adds a lot soul to the photo.

  114. Abhijit Dharmadhikari says:

    Excellent b&w image! Gr8 tonal gradation!

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