Archive for category Miscellaneous

The Workshop, September 18-21, 2015. Berlin

The Workshop © Knut Skjærven

The Workshop © Knut Skjærven

The Workshop in September has been announced. Click this link to read the program. Or click the image above to go there.

Good luck.

© Knut Skjærven
March 24, 2015.

#knutskjaerven #knutskjærven #newstreetagenda #oneverystreet #theworkshop #streetphotographyworkshop #theuropeans

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The Artist Who

The Artist © Knut Skjærven

The Artist Who © Knut Skjærven

The mere exposure to masterworks does not suffice. Too many persons visit museums and collect picture books without ever gaining access to art. The inborn capacity to understand through the eyes has been put to sleep and must be reawakened . This is best accomplished by handling pencils, brushes, chisels and perhaps cameras. But there again, bad habits and misconceptions will block the path of the unassisted. Ofter he is helped most effectively by visual evidence: by being shown weak spots or presented with good examples.

Rudolf Arnheim, Art And Visual Perception, University of California Press, 1974.

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Then Go Strain Yourself

Defactor On The Beach © Knut Skjærven

Defactor On The Beach © Knut Skjærven

One point comes with a special interest. It goes like this:

Gestalt psychology is a descriptive discipline. Hypotheses are backed by clinical tests and backed by simple common sense. It describes the way of the world and gives good explanations of how people perceive visual stimuli.

Yes, an understanding of what gestalt factors are, how and why they work is imperative knowledge for people who deals with visual communication. Like photographers. Like street photographers.

But gestalt factors are tools. No more no less. They are not end results. It is up to the individual photographer to understand and use these tools.

Tools in themselves have no value unless you put them to clever use.  The factor of proximity, the factor of similarity, the other factors point to roads of creativity but are no end destinations.

Learning about gestalt factors in street photography gives extra benefits because once you know how perception works, you are in a position to create visual tension by going against the factors.

Every gestalt factor has its tension mode. The tension mode of proximity is non proximity; the tension mode of similarity is non similarity; the tension mode common fate is non common fate, and so on.

However, you will never know what tension mode is before you understand what the non tension mode is. You need to know the way of the world before you start to stain it (create tension).

Creating itching images is not always best served by plainly following gestalt factors. In some cases you get better off by straining the way of the world. By doing this you defactor.

The expression gestalt vision covers both these approaches. Both the tension mode and its opposite. Both the gestalt factors and the way to strain them by defactoring.

What does a defactored photograph look like then? Translated to the world of street photography? As there are many gestalt factors defactors can have many variants. Let me suggest a few.

In proximity introduce non proximity; in similarity introduce non similarity; in common fate introduce non common fate; in closure introduce non closure. I already suggested this.

All of this is pretty easy because all of us do defactored images all the time. They are often more easily taken than factored images.

This being so why all this fuzz about it?  Why mention it as all? For the same reason I mention gestalt factors. Setting words to things sharpen our senses. You cannot see things that have no meaning. Things that have no names have no meaning. That’s why.

Look at the photo above. It is there to make a point: There are two sets of similarities in the photograph. The first one is the sand. The second one is the chairs. You can strain both by, so to speak, breaking the visual waves, and introducing, as in this case, a human being.

It is not a question of which photo is better: the strained one or the non strained one without the woman (you have to imagine this). The matter of the fact is that the two are different. In stead of one tool you have been given two.

Think about it. Then go strain yourself.

© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved. Text and photo.

Copenhagen, July 11, 2013.

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Open Question: Where Does This Image Fit?

Bits & Pieces. © Knut Skjærven

Bits & Pieces. © Knut Skjærven

As some of you may know the first workshop based on Street Photographer’s Toolbox, will take place in Berlin in June.

It is going to be very different from what you normally see in workshops about street photography. You are going to get hooked on of new way of reading and making street photos. You will add substantially to your shooting toolbox.

As one of many things we are going to deal with is Below The Line Photography. Amazing capacities that are part of your innate mindset and that go to work whenever you open your eyes. Using gestalt factors in your photography is what you want to be able to. That is one way to make Itching Images, which is what street photography is all about. As opposed to mere street documentation.

No, for this workshop you don’t need a flash or fast running shoes. But you got to bring you head.

Here, then, comes the first open question to followers of Street Photographer’s Toolbox.

Of the gestalt factors you already know: Which of the factor(s) would you say that this photograph could be an example of?

Give it a go and let’s hear your answer as a comment to this post.

Take your time. Gestalt factors was described for the first time close to 100 years ago. But you might consider speeding that progress up a bit. Give it a go today.

Good luck with it.

Have a good day as well.

© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved. Text and photo.

Copenhagen April 11, 2013.

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Why Don’t You Just Engage?

© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved.

© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved.

© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved.

© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved.

© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved.

© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved.

I am sure that most of you know by now that the first workshop based on Street Photographer’s Toolbox is to be held in Berlin June 20 – 23, 2013. Participants will be limited from 4 to 6 people. There is a PreShop as well as PostShop in addition to the actual WorkShop in Berlin.

A second workshop will be held in Berlin September 19 -22, 2013. With possible minor adjustments the program will be the same.

You can read about the Overall Agenda by clicking this link.

The principal issue in Berlin will be how to make Itching Images. Meaning images that are more than mere street documentation.

To get as much time as possible for photography when in Berlin participants are asked to prepare. These preparations have now begun.

Obviously program details will be preserved for participants, but from time to time we will trailer some of it at here at Street Photographer’s Toolbox. The reasons for this are two: First of all the program also belong to Street Photographer’s Toolbox, and secondly to keep up the level of information about the workshops.

The three slides you see in this post are three of many, many more. They deal with Gestalt Factors, which are one of the very important sources dealing with Itching Images. Each factor is actually the mother of a series of Itching Models, that there already is a list of at Street Photographer’s Toolbox. You will  find them in the link section at the right hand side.

For those wanting to go to Berlin, for one of the two workshops already planned, there is a closed Facebook group already running. The PreShop operates from that group.

Now you know some of the things going on.

Stay tuned to Street Photoghapher’s Toolbox. There will be more about this pretty soon.

For instance: What Is Below The Line Impact in Street Photography?; Where Does The Idea Of Itching Images Come From?; and Can I Engage In This Program Without Going To Berlin?

These are some of the questions asked and answered.

As for now, what don’t you just engage in the tasks given in the three slides above. Good luck with it.

© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved. Text and photo.

Copenhagen April 1, 2013.

NB! If you take an interest in these new perspectives in street photography then let’s hear from you at mail* (Substitute the* for a ©). Send away.

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Winston’s Wisdom

Winston's Wisdom. © Knut Skjærven.

Winston’s Wisdom. © Knut Skjærven.

The number worth remembering is Simple Number One.

Gives all you need to know.

How come? This come!

First comes the text. We call it so because it sticks. It adds the three, the four, the five.

Second there comes context. That which always tags along. It adds the six, the seven and the eight.

Three gives you Width, which stretches in horizons. Fourth gives Height. It builds the ups and downs. Five is in there too,  it simply gives you Depth.

Six gives Present, seven Past and eight points to the Future. Thereby crumbles other’s words, who say that photographs are mostly about death. Not so in real life.

Nine is You, the one who hold it all together.

Now, turn it upside down and nine transforms to six.  The graphics are the same. Two in kind makes only one, and that is reason good enough. So very neat and simple.

And this I told you from the start, the only thing you need to know, is Simple Number One.

© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved.

Copenhagen, January 31, 2013.

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What’s In The Bag?

The Collector © Knut Skjærven

The Collector © Knut Skjærven

Happy New Year. A new year is threatening, or is it?

Suppose that you actually could move in, in these early months of 2013, and take a firm hand on things you want to happen to you later on in the year. Let’s say about the last weeks in June. Why not?

Is such a procedure feasible. Or completely unrealistic.

Let’s look in another area. The area of getting up in the morning and making sure that you make it to the airport in time. Or the train station.

You set all your clocks including your smartphone. Just to be on the safe side you set your subconscious, as well.

When I do this, I set the clocks e.g. to 06.00 a.m. and the subconscious awakener to 05.50 a.m. to get up in good time and stop the clocks before they alarm the rest of the household.

Does it work? Definitely it works even if the inner alarm sometimes is not this precise. It might give me an hour warning in stead of the ten minutes that I have asked for. I can live with that. My point is that it is rather seldom that I have to rely on the clocks to get me out of bed in time for early travel.

Big jump but a similar story: Did you know that research have detected that creative/innovative people in all wakes of life roughly work along the same patterns? The know they are leaving, they set the clock and their smartphones, they go so sleep and they awaken with an idea just in time.  Details can differ, of course, but these are the rough lines that carry innovation and creativity.

We will make a distinction here. A distinction between BIG creativity and SMALL creatively.

When you mix the ingredients in the paella in a completely new way to make the family happy and the kids ready to go for it as well, that would be SMALL creativity. Nothing wrong with that, but it only makes waves within a smaller area. Rocking the local boat only

If you take a fixed camera, remake is much smaller and even invent lights rolls of films to go with it, that would be BIG creativity. That makes waves from coast to coast wherever there is water. As is did in the thirties when street started to get clever.

Where does photography come into it? Are there tools here that can be distilled and go in the bag for clever photography? Even for clever street photography? Tools for the tool bag?

I think there are. Let me come back to that in a second.

First let us look at the ingredients in the partial subconscious partly conscious creative awakener. The words could vary dependent on your sources, but the contents are the same. There are many roads to this particular Rome.

Creative processes evlove along these lines:

1. Collecting The Material / Preparation / Conscious Stage

You need to be serious about it and spend time on gathering lots and lots of information. Write down the vision about what you want to do, and get yourself mentors. Dead or alive. Creativity comes in small steps and not in big jumps. Resources for photography are obviously the other arts and or the life world in general.

2. Material Work Over / Marinating / Unconscious Stage

Let it all sink in and make sure that all the other information and experiencers  you have in life now take an active part in marinating the idea your plan, your ambition, your idea. You have to set the compass right.

3. Go Dancing/ Incubation / Unconscious Stage

Go occupy yourself with something totally different. Go dancing, why not? Go do anything you like and make sure that you have a good time and lots of fun. Don’t believe that you have to come from a bad childhood to be inventive. Or have a bad time later in life either. If you don’t like what you are doing do something else.

 4. The Awakening / The Grand Idea Appears  – Check It Out / Conscious Stage

One day, when your are on something different the idea, or even the ideas, emerge. You suddenly have got a preliminary answer to you challenge. You’re not goind to be absolutely sure that it is the right idea that pops up so you have to check it. Unhappy with it, you simply do it all over. It might work.

Creativity is much more of a rolling wheel than a sudden hole in the wall. It is a question about what you’ve got in the bag.

Back to the question: Does this work in photography as well? In a way, the questions has already been answered since this is a basic model for how creative work unfolds. So my answer will be, yes it works in and around photography. Why don’t you give it a try. The bigger the bag the bigger the bang.

But I am not sure if photography, in the meaning of taking pictures, is an area for BIG or for SMALL creativity. Maybe it is both. You tell me :-).

Happy New Year.

© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved: text and picture.

January 3, 2013.

Let me remind you of  The Workshop to be held in Berlin June 20 – 23, 2013. 

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Kim Landgraf: My Choices

Copyright: Kim Landgraf.

Welcome to Kim.

Kim has already solved the first task and he has done it well. He has written down his vision, his mentors and pointed to some of the images he admires.

There is an interesting difference from Kim’s choices to those of Elisabeth Maurice and Stefanie LePape. Kim has chosen contemporary ideals and not names that you normally see mentioned as possible mentors. Two of them are even first and foremost portrait photographers. That, however, shall not hold us back.

Good luck with it Kim.

By the way, I really like the image for your have chosen for your presentation here. The Vespa shot. Great.

My vision

I want to become a good photographer.
To see, find and explore the beauty of people, scenes and situations.
Be moved and move others.
Practically: explore the possibilities of portraiture; find out just how one captures usable scenes; get a clear and easy grip on processing.
And overall and in the end: find some style.

My mentors

Thomas Leuthard (street portraiture; stumbling over his work and reading his books made me start in the first place)
Rui Palha (for his scenes and the look)
Kostas Maros (for portraits, scenes and look)

My favorites




Image shot and selected by Kim Landgraf.  Posted with permission.

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Session 11: The Ticket

The Ticket.© Knut Skjærven.

Task Description: 

Street photography was never about blunt documentation. It was always about something else and much more than plain documentation. It was about telling stories.

Look at the portfolio of Henri Cartier-Bresson, look at the portfolio of Robert Frank, look at the portfolios of Winogrand, Lewitt, Eisenstein and William Klein. All those who matters. Finally look at the portfolio of Vivian Mayer. They all tell stories and that is why we honour them. They entertain and engage with photographs.

Why is stories important? They are important for two reasons.

First of all because we remember stories well told.. Stories place themselves in relation to our own lives and link into them. We are able to understand them as part of our own real life stories. Like the girl in the picture above proudly showing her friend that she has secured tickets for this evening’s dance.

Stories are also contextual in another way. In the best cases they go far beyond what is actually shown in the picture. Beyond what was intended by the photographer. Always beyond such intentions. We get to use our phantasy and play along on the theme in the photograph. The photographs is only the initiator of a theme. Never the whole story.

Look at the photograph: Why would it be a story about dancing? Because the picture fills you in if you look at it carefully: The dancing shoes near the top of the picture; the words Heute SWING in the middle of it; you read the name Spiegelsaal; and you detect the open doors welcoming you. Wir haben für Sie geöffnet, another sign tells you. Of course, I am at an advantage here since I know where this place is and what it is. It is the main entrance to Clärchens Ballhaus in Berlin. THE DANCE HALL in Berlin.

Weiter: What is the main point of this post and in this session?

The point is that you need to ticket your photograph. You need to make sure that the people you invite to your photographic ballroom have the ticket to get in, to understand it, to decode it. You do that by making information available that all supports the main theme.

In this shot there is actually one person holding a ticket. What is as important is that the contextual information in the shot, signs and objects, gives you additional information to the what and the where of the main idea. Tell you other parts of the story.

That is what we call ticketing an image. Once you are there, you will get it. You will be able decode it.

Here is your task:

What you need to do in this session, then, is to take a picture with a distinct main theme, which within the frame have additional storytelling elements to lead or continue the viewer in a certain direction that you define. Don’t feel, in any way, restrained by the example I have used here. Use your own imagination. Do it your own way.


Again, the important thing with these sessions is that you memorize their themes and thus are ready for them when they turn up your way. They definitely will. You have to be able to recognize them when they do.

Good luck with it.

© Knut Skjærven. Text and photograph.

Copenhagen, August 17, 2012.

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Itching Image: Decisive Moments / Simple

Come Fly With Me.© Knut Skjærven.

Nothing is more important in photography than catching a Decisive Moment. Such moments makes or breaks an image. Here is one that is pretty decisive. I young lady hanging in the air at the landing place of the Copenhagen Marathon, May 20, 2012.

That said, what is a decisive moment? Sometimes it is easier done than  said, because all do not agree on what a decisive moment is.

In a way all photographs are decisive moments. They can never be repeated and for whatever reason the release button is pressed, it renders a photographs of a decisive moment. Many people stick to such a definition and you will see lots and lots of photographs described as decisive moments. 

However, such a wide definitions renders only small letter decisive moments. Let’s call them that.

Decisive Moments with capital letters are very different. More like the definition given by Cartier – Bresson:  To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a faction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression. (The Minds Eye, Aperture 1999, page 42). These moments place a demand on both the content of an image as well as of its form. Compositions play a larger part.

How do I know the difference, you may ask?  The best way to know the difference between small and capital letter decisive moment is to take a good look at the image. With the same eyes and mind that you look at the world around you. If the image hits you as being striking it probably is. If it hits you as being Decisive it probably is. Look for the content and look for the form. The overall composition.

Can you learn how to take pictures of capital letters Decisive Moments? Good question. Some of it yes, but not all. It is like in the real world: Luck is important, and if you prepare for luck you will probably get it. You certainly can prepare.

And the other way around.

Good luck with it.


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