Michael Rammell

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Top 3 Inspirational Photographers from history

Top #, AudioMichael Rammell2 Comments

Continuing with my 'Top 3' theme for March, I'm back today to share with you, my top 3 inspirational photographers from history - those photographers who are sadly no longer with us, but whose work continues to impress and inspire.

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Last week I shared my top 3 favourite / inspirational wedding photographers and in the coming weeks, I'll be sharing with you lots of my top 3's, including my top 3 favourite photography podcasts, my top 3 Adobe Lightroom processing tips and even my top 3 creative working spaces in London.

For now though, let's dive into top 3. Some of you may be asking yourselves why it is I'm talking about 'Photographers in history' and not just photographers. Well, I've already shared my favourite 3 photographers right now in a previous post from back in 2015 - and those photographers remain very much the same to this day, but I wanted to talk a little more about those photographers who are sadly no longer with us. Those who have left behind a portfolio and body of work that have no doubt had an impact on many of us at some stage.

In truth, had I written this article around 18 months ago, 2 of the 3 photographers in my list wouldn't feature, because it is in only in recent times that they have unfortunately passed away. 

So, let's get started. Here are my top 3 inspirational photographers from history. Be sure to check out the links - the work and projects they've left behind are definitely deserving of your time and viewing. (be sure to drop your favourite photographers in the comments too, or send me an email at Michael@RammellPhotography.com

1. Fan Ho. October 1931 - June 2016

Fan Ho, is perhaps less of a household name than the likes of Henri Cartier-Bresson, but for me at least, his work has left a huge impression on me and serves as a benchmark for what quality, impactful work should look like.

Without disrespecting any other accomplished Street Photographer (or at least not wanting to), it could be said that many of us have work that looks similar. After all, nothing is new these days, especially to an untrained eye. However, there is no mistaking a Fan Ho photograph for anyone else's.

His work has that unmistakable film look, it's Hong Kong during the 50's & 60's in an era less seen in photographs. His work was minimalist and clean in a way that was ahead of it's time. That shows in the way that the work still feels new today. Yes, sure the work is old now, but it has not aged. The fact it is shot on film is obvious, but the style feels ultra modern. The use of geometry, light and shadow, and black and white make every Fan Ho Image unique and identifiable as a Fan Ho Image.

I talk about making intentional images quite often, the idea that you see a scene and make the picture, rather than just taking it - ducking and weaving to look for a stronger composition or even coming back at another time when the light is more pleasing. To me, all of his images I've seen, seem to exhibit these intentional acts, perhaps more than I've ever seen in work by other photographers.

I've been admiring Fan Ho's work for as long as I've been a street photographer and was devastated to discover he had passed away in June 2016. I can't even remember exactly when it was I came across his work for the first time, but since that time a link to his website has taken firm pride of place atop my list of bookmarks and I view it more regularly than any other photographers' work from any genre or decade.

There's simply no mistaking Fan Ho for someone else.

His work, like many master photographers (and I mean to use that word in a literal sense, rather than just in a complimentary fashion), had a number of books to his name featuring his work. One of note, and one that is still widely available today, is 'Hong Kong - Yesterday'. For this book, Fan Ho revisited some old, previously un-printed negatives he had stored away to produce a great collection of work that had, before then, not seen the light of day.

It makes you wonder what other negatives he had that also didn't meet his high standards, that the rest of us would quite possibly simply marvel at!

Ted Forbes' Study and Farewell videos on YouTube

My aim with this post is to simply encourage you to take a look at Fan Ho's work in the hope that you'll find it as inspiring and captivating as I do. That said though, if you're looking for a succinct, yet thorough study of Fan Ho, then no one does it better than Ted Forbes of The Art of Photography show. Ted dedicated two episodes of his YouTube / Video Podcast. In the first episode Ted walks and talks us through his life and work. 

Ted Forbes looks at the life and work of Photographer, Fan Ho. Born in Shanghai in 1931. After learning how to develop images using the family bathtub he went on to be one of the most notable street photographers and finest artists China has produced.

Then, after Fan Ho's death back in June 2016, Ted released a lovely video in homage to the talent that he was:

2. Mary Ellen Mark. March 1940 - May 2015

Whoever you are, whatever you shoot and even if you're relatively new to photography, Mary Ellen Mark should be a name you recognise at least. Given the amount of press and coverage that she and her work (rightly) received in the past few years.

She is known mostly as a photojournalist and documentary photographer, who's images told great stories (often single images were able to tell entire stories!). She had a stint as a Magnum Photographer and produced work that featured/features in galleries and museums all over the world. Mary Ellen Mark worked on documentaries, most notably 'Streetwise in Seattle'. As you would expect from such an accomplished photographer, She also has over a dozen books to her name too.

From a purely photographic perspective, Her work captured so much within a single frame, not in that there were lots of subjects or that the images were busy, but rather that each image was filled with a story. Or, rather the image perfectly accompanied the story that she was telling with a particular project. In her interview with Mark Selliger (Which I'll come to shortly), she talks about the time she photographed in a morgue. Whereas most of us would averse to doing this, Her desire to document and tell a story took over, enabling her to produce images of the bodies that are both shocking, but compelling to look at too.

despite appreciating art myself, I often 'don't get art', but I'm inclined to say that these particular images are very much art.

Many of the portraits that She made were simply haunting, in a uniquely Mary Ellen Mark style.

I myself only became aware of Mary Ellen Mark through a YouTube show called 'Capture', hosted by Mark Selliger. In one particular episode Mark Selliger interviewed Her along with Helena Christensen. Now, yes, it really is only recently that I became aware of Her compared to many. Never-the-less though, I admire her work, her words and her projects and only hope to be able to make a small percentage of the impact that Mary Ellen Mark made on the photographic world.

If you get a chance to watch this episode of Capture, you'll hear that She worked exclusively with film her entire career.

Mary Ellen Mark also gave a talk at the Photography Show in March 2015, just month's before she passed away. I was at the show that year, but unfortunately didn't get a chance to see her give her talk. It bothers me to this day that I missed that opportunity to hear such a wonderful and talented photographer. 

Mary Ellen Mark makes my top 3 because of her strength as a storyteller. As someone who wanted to make an impact with her images and because she was an artist in every sense of the word. 

3. Jane Bown. March 1925 - December 2014

When it comes to portraits, I'm a believer that the technical is simply unimportant. Sure, you can use 100 lights in a perfect studio and the lighting matters, but it is the relationship between the photographer and the sitter and the ability of the photographer to capture it, that comes through in the final image. I know that many portrait photographers out there at this point may either be screaming 'NO! What are you talking about you're totally wrong' whilst many others may be in total agreement with me, that the connection is more key, but, I just think that portraits are often as much a reflection of the photographer, as they are the subject. 

Jane Bown, for me, is a beautiful example of this.

Bown is another superb talent who has passed away only relatively recently back in 2014. However, before she passed away we were fortunate enough that she was able to do a series of interviews and recordings to talk about her work and share some of her stories, meaning we have more of a record of what the woman behind the camera was like. To us, the public (not family members), we're often curious about what it takes to produce work like Her's and what's involved to get those opportunities. It was evident that years of hard graft and effort, as well as consistently producing her own wonderful style of images, was the key to that.

Bown worked for the Observer Newspaper (UK) for a little over 60 years, which gave her many assignments to photograph some well known people, such as Bjork, The Queen (The actual Queen, as in, The Monarch), Mick Jagger and more. Rather than me simply regurgitating those stories here on the blog however, I'd encourage you to have a look at a beautiful documentary called 'Looking for light: Jane Brown' (snippet below):

For me, there is so much more to her than is even discussed and mentioned in the documentary. For example, just the fact that she was a female photographer during a time when it was very much a male dominated industry, in a male dominated time! (50's, 60's & 70's). It's perhaps a discussion for another time, but equal rights had a long way to go back then and still aren't where they ought to be, even today.

As mentioned, I'm a lover of black and white, and with Bown's work featuring nearly exclusively mono images, this is perhaps why I'm drawn to the images she has produced.

Now, as I have said many times before, that gear doesn't matter, there is a little bias here for me when it comes to Jane Bown, as she and I are both lovers and users of Olympus cameras. Whilst she used the original Olympus OM-1 35mm film SLR (groundbreaking at the time), I entered the world of Olympus with the very modern take on that same camera with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 - the modern day incarnation of Bown's camera of choice. Although she Initially photographed using a Rolleiflex, she later moved to Olympus OM-1.

Portraits are a challenging discipline. Some find that the more time they have to think, the more paralysed they can become by the choice that becomes available to them. Whilst others thrive in limited environments, with limited time. Bown proved she was more than capable no matter what the situation. In another video I found on YouTube, Bown talks of the time she photographed Samuel Beckett, who tried to leave without having his picture taken. Ever the optimist and thinking on her feet, however, she pursued Beckett as he left the building and proceeded to make his portrait in the alleyway outside. That image is very much one of her standout Images to this day and features in many of the documentaries I've seen and bodies of work of Bown that I've managed to find. Again, I've included a snippet of this story in this YouTube video:

Books & Media

Like all of the greats, She has a few books featuring her work. All of them wonderful. Jane Bown's 'Cats' in particular is very playful. At first it may sound odd that such a legendary portrait photographer has a book filled with 100 cat portraits, but in truth, that same unique Bown style and feel comes through just as strongly with the 'portraits' of the cats, as it does with her images of John Lennon, Samuel Beckett and the other famous people she has in her portfolio. It is well worth a read. Other books include 'A Lifetime of Looking', which is perhaps could be considered her 'title' book. It features an extensive collection of her most iconic images, as well as images only published in this book too. Another Jane Bown book, although, less widely available as far as I can fine is the aptly titled 'Observer', both in that she observed life, but also in that she worked for The Observer Newspaper and that the work featured in this book is the work Bown made when on assignment for the paper.


So, if we're talking about photographers who have unfortunately passed away, but who's work lives on, these have been my top 3 most inspirational. Who are yours? Henri Cartier-Bresson? Saul Leiter? Drop a comment below or get in touch with me via email, at Michael@RammellPhotography.com. You can also use the contact form too.

I love discussing photography, so if you'd like to talk about it more with me why not join me in London on April 30th for my latest FREE photo walk. All of the details are available over on the events page. Be sure to check it out and sign up. It's open to everyone and there are no limits to the number who can attend. All you need to do is register your details and show up on the day.

Be sure to check me out on Social Media. Everywhere possible I go by @RammellPhoto - that's on Twitter and Instagram. All those links are below:

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My top 3 Inspirational & Favourite Wedding Photographers

Top #, PhotographyMichael RammellComment

It's hard to believe we're in March already! It seems like only yesterday I was out on the streets with the camera wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Its far too cold for that right now (here in the UK at least!), but thankfully this somewhat mildly cold winter feels like it has passed by quickly and we're very nearly back in Summer again! Phew!

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I thought that with March being the 3rd Month I'd go with the theme of 'Three' for the month and so i'm putting together a series of 'Top 3' posts and over the next few weeks i'll be publishing these to the blog and to the podcast to see us through to April, which is when the Wedding Season here in the UK starts in earnest. With that in mind I thought that today, a good place to start would be to look at my top 3 favourite / inspirational wedding photographers - those pro's that inspire and amaze me with their images, approach and style. Now, even if you're not a wedding photographer hold up: there is value in this for you too! The guys I'm going to talk about today are some of the top talents in the world and I've no doubt you'll learn a tonne from their work, which is - arguably in my book at least - considered art!!).

I know that many people still look down their nose at wedding photography, but hopefully the guys I'm sharing with you today can go some way to changing your perspective on what it's all about and, what it takes to be a wedding photographer too!

So, if you're a street photographer, like I am too, remember that it really isn't too different from wedding photography. That may sound odd, but the main difference being is that at a wedding - you're being paid to make the photographs of the guests and they expect it. The same rules and principles about what makes an amazing image still apply.

Later on in March though in addition to re-releasing a couple of episodes from the Ready Steady Pro Photography Podcast, I'll also be sharing with you some more of top 3's, including:

  • Top 3 Inspirational Photographers in History
  • My Top 3 Post Processing Tips in Adobe Lightroom
  • Top 3 Favourite Photography Podcasts

So, without further delay, in no particular order, here we go:

My Top 3 Favourite Wedding Photographers

1. Jerry Ghionis

If you are a wedding photographer or have dabbled or considered wedding photography before, then there is a chance you will know of Jerry Ghionis and his work.

Jerry is an Australian photographer who divides his time between Down Under and LA. He's a Nikon ambassador and regularly features in Wedding Photographer Top 10's throughout the world. Jerry also runs a training website that he calls, the ICE Society, which is for wedding photographers and it features behind the scenes footage from real weddings, to show you how he creates every image. The settings are included and as a bonus, there is also some audio commentary so Jerry can explain his thought process behind his actions as you watch. It's massively educational. (links below). 

Now, what I love about Jerry is more than just his work, which, is absolutely stunning as his many, many award will attest; it's also his approach, character and intuition on a wedding day. He's funny at the right times to get the right reaction, then at other times he fits into a more sombre and quiet moment with grace and respect for the ceremony. It's not an uncommon occurrence at all for brides to shed a tear of joy when working with Jerry

When it comes to style, Jerry has posing absolutely mastered and it's what he is known for. Each of the photographs you see in his portfolio are crafted moments that he has made to look absolutely natural.

Now, Jerry's work won't be to everyone's liking, that's for sure. Some people prefer a purely candid approach, and that's fine. But what is certain is that Jerry is very talented and is able to put together a body of work from each wedding that blows people's socks off.

I'd love to get Jerry on the podcast for an interview at some stage.

Go check out Jerry Ghionis at JerryGhionis.com. You can check out the ICE Society at icesociety.com too.

2. Cliff Mautner

Cliff Mautner was one of the first, big photography names I knew about when I first started out myself back in 2010. Coming from a newspaper and reportage background, it's fair to say that Cliff is primarily a reportage style photographer, which he does with absolute finesse.

Whilst all of the photographers in my top 3 here today produce work of a standard I'm not sure I'll ever reach, I find that Cliff's work simply has that special something. That extra level of quality that I just can't quite describe.

Mostly though, Cliff Mautner's photographs are simply beautiful pieces of art, produced by someone who clearly knows what it takes to make an amazing image. I find myself looking at Cliff's website on a regular basis to remind myself exactly how it is wedding photography should be done and what is possible. On one hand it's inspiring, on the other hand it can be depressing because he is so good that it puts me to shame.

There are dozens of amazing photographers out there, but in my mind, Cliff's work stands head and shoulders above almost everyone.

If you look for Cliff Mautner on YouTube you may come across a video where he shows you around his absolutely amazing studio in Philadelphia in the US, where he's based, and in that video he also talks a little about his approach with clients. In other videos, for example on KelbyOne (Scott Kelby's Training Platform), he used to have a video, much like a Jerry Ghionis ICE Society Style behind the scenes video, where he shows you how he would typically enter a getting ready scene and adjust the lighting in the room to produce the magical work he produces. Such simple and elegant changes to curtains and moving a few things around can produce some amazing results. This, for me, is a breath of fresh air because what we see a lot of these days are photographers showing us how to use 15 lights, reflectors and modifiers. Whilst there is a time and a place for that, what Cliff shares with us and shows us is what 30 years of experience gets you by way of efficient and effective thinking to produce world class images.

When i first started writing this blog post I chose my top 3 and then quickly threw together some keywords for each photographer. The keywords that immediately came to mind - that I would associate with Cliff Mautner, may be a little cliche, however, they are absolutely appropriate in my mind. I wrote the words: classic, timeless, beautiful images.

Cliff Mautner. Another Nikon Ambassador. A photographer who was ahead of his time all those years ago and who has remained at the forefront of amazing wedding photography. Check him out at cmphotography.com.

3. Rino Cordella

Lastly in my list today is a photographer you may not have heard of, even if you are a wedding photographer yourself: Rino Cordella.

Now, I know far less about Rino than I do Cliff and Jerry, given that those two guys are widely accessible on the internet with a variety of interviews and behind the scenes footage available. Rino, by comparison however, feels a little like a silent assassin! He's won an abundance of awards but seems to focus on making images for clients, rather than having branched out to share his methods with you and I, which I totally respect. All the while however I'd love to be a fly-on-the-wall has he works!

If you know me, you know I love black and white photography. To an extent I'd actually say I'm just not a fan of colour photography. This is likely why I was so immediately attracted to Rino's work! Take a look at his website and you'll be greeted by a body of images that are mostly mono. I think Rino is a photographer that really has mastered black and white images - they really are beautfiul. You you have to check them out.

As I mentioned I know less about Rino than Cliff & Jerry, but I would simply urge you to go and take a look at his website, his awards and his words. Amazing. In summary: lots of black and white work, he gets close to his subjects, his images are nearly all filled with emotion and character, there are lots of fun scenes, lots of images with unique angles and style that I haven't seen with other photographers. Amazing! A new find for me, despite being featured in many of the top 100 lists available online today.

Rino Cordella. Based in Italy, born in Brussels (Belgium). His website therefore is in Italian, but if you view it through Chrome it should translate to some form of loose English enough for you to get the gist of what Rino and his work is all about (not that any words are needed, as his images do all the talking!)

Check him out at RinoCordella.com

What do you think? Who do you think is the best?

No way at all does my work get close to the portfolio's from Cliff, Jerry and Rino, but just in case you were curious, you can check out my wedding photography at RammellPhotography.com too. I'm keeping busy and absolutely love shooting wedding photography. You may be interested to know I shoot all my work exclusively with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 and Olympus M.Zuiko lenses too. Check it out, let me know your thoughts below.

So, do you have any wonderful wedding photographers that you would like to share? Perhaps you know of a local photographer to you; an unsung hero, a hidden gem. Share your favourite photographers in the comments below.

Don't forget you can listen to this show over in iTunes and Stitcher Radio as a FREE podcast. If you prefer to read along then be sure to subscribe to the blog today to get posts just like this direct to your inbox

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