PHOTOGRAPHY FROM "RECYCLED RELIGION"

All the pictures on the Recycled Religion page were taken, as far as I recall, with a "standard" 50mm lens, an f/1.5 Sonnar on a Leica M9. The actual shooting was about as technically undemanding as can readily be imagined, except for the fact that the Sonnar suffers from focus shift, so I have to rock very slightly backwards when I am using it at the minimum focus distance of about a metre (40 inches). It's one of those things you either learn to do almost without thinking, or you find impossible. There is more about this in my review of the lens on our other site.

The minimum focus distance of the Sonnar is quite long by SLR standards, and this affected the composition. Some pictures are slightly cropped for this reason: to remove extraneous material. Mostly, though, they are "straight". After I got a Nikon Df, I started to used that more and more, even to the extent that nowadays I probably use it more than the Leica, but I do not usually come in much closer. With the Leica I normally use ISO 200 or at most 320; with the Df, I can afford to use 400 or even 800 because the low-light performance is so much better. This gives me more depth of field at a given shutter speed. .

Our Lord of the Wheelbrace. Just as with wheel-braces and car jacks, some photographic tools are easier and more agreeable to use than others

In my 'teens and 20s, I used to get really annoyed when old photographers said, "It doesn't matter what camera you use." Now, I understand much better what they meant. They were half right. Technically, most cameras are adequate, especially for images on the web. On the other hand, you will take better pictures with a camera that you like: preferably, one that delivers very high technical quality so that you can make big, high quality prints if you want. I like my M9 and Df, and I used the M9 exclusively (as far as I recall) to make the prints for my exhibition at La Caverne d'Ali Baba in Arles in 2013. Sensible-sized prints (image area about 10x15 inches, or 25x37.5 cm) are available if you want to buy them. To be honest, anything bigger rarely works with hand-held close-ups like these: shallow depth of field starts getting silly.

To return to technique, shooting at vide greniers is very much in the tradition of street photography: visualize the shot, get close enough to shoot it, and shoot fast. Don't fiddle about with your camera, zoom, or point of view: just shoot.

Most people seem perfectly happy for their stalls to be photographed. If I catch their eye, I'll smile (I always try to smile a lot anyway when I'm shooting on the street) and say Merci! If I feel the need, I may also explain what I'm doing and why. La Religion Recyclée is particularly easy to explain. My standard spiel is that while 50 or 60 years ago, every grandmother in France had this sort of thing in her bedroom, and often all through the rest of the house as well, the only place you see the crucifixes and religious statues nowadays is at vide-greniers. I get nods and rueful smiles and "C'est ça" ("That's it"). Also, when I say "Je fais une série, La Religion Recyclée", the idea of an artist doing a série seems entirely natural to them.

A very few times (in well over a decade) I have been told to stop, invariably by those who look as if they are running a commercial operation. This leads me to the unkind suspicion that they may not always be reporting every vide-grenier they attend: if you sell at more than a very small number a year, my understanding is that you need to register as a business. This involves bureaucracy and (worse still) taxes. I've also been jokingly asked for money. At least we all laughed, so at worst, it was turned into a joke, even if it wasn't one to begin with. I think it always has been, and besides, I always have the option of suddenly forgetting most of my French and looking puzzled. I've never had anyone turn aggressive at a vide-grenier, though. Photography really is a lot easier in La France Profonde.


Go to Photography

Go to Vide-Greniers

Go to Index

Go to Home Page