CritiqueMe #1: Nicolas Hermann


Eric’s Note: This is part of an on-going critique series called “CritiqueMe” by Ollie Gapper. Enjoy the feature below! 

Ollie Gapper: Well I’d like to first off say thank you to everyone who took the time to enter for the first installment of CritiqueMe, I’ve had the great pleasure of looking at some truly fantastic work. I’d also like to congratulate Nicolas Hermann for being selected! The reason I chose Nicolas for the first installment of CritiqueMe is that I wanted to be really challenged for finding points for improvement (not that some of the work you guys turned in wouldn’t do the same) as the ones I would find will inevitably help a lot more of you.

Here’s a foreword by Nicolas to help you guys become better acquainted to the photographer behind the work:

“Born in Nice and raised in Menton, Nicolas Hermann later moved to Paris at the age of 18. After receiving his baccalaureate, he began a course in language studies, which was interrupted when he pursued a different path, that of a real estate agent. He has now been running his own real estate agency, with a close friend and business partner, for five years. Two years ago Nicolas discovered his passion for photography which was instilled in him by his mother’s best friend and mentor, Richard Geneste. For the past two years Nicolas has pursued this passion on the streets of Paris and his travels including a recent six week long trip to India during which he used only one camera with a 35mm lens.

His aim is to keep on sharing his vision of photography with people and someday do an exhibition.”

Shall we get down to business? Lets.

This first image by Nicolas is in that he has nominated as one of his favorites, and with good reason. With lighting conditions like this I always find its useful to know the two ‘rules of thumb’ when it comes to exposure. With slide film and digital colour its best to expose for the highlights, and the rest will follow, with black and white I always expose for my mid shadow and then print (or tweek) for the highlights – a brighter image retains more information, and is therefore more versatile (unless highlights start being blown, of course). I think the exposure on this shot is great, though it may have been nicer to have had more smoke in the image, and perhaps a shift of focus onto the smoke to enhance the mystery and seduction of the image.

This second image is absolutely one of my favorites, it’s an image that just works brilliantly in terms of composition, light and content. The quirky mystery of the image is so clear and well presented that the image is both humorous and challenging simultaneously. I love the inclusion of a lot of sky and surrounding and the content is truly timeless.

This is the image that really caught my eye from the India series of photos, it’s a photo of such feeling and immersion that one can’t help but place themselves in the image. I would love to see some more images from this, perhaps some pulled back to show more of the environment and context. The choice of colour is an excellent one, with the juxtaposition of colours between the warm embrace of the fire and cold surroundings working perfectly to seduce any viewer. An image I would love to hang on my wall.

This image works well in terms of lighting and location, but I cant help but feel that it may have worked better with two changes: one, shot closer with a wider lens and two, presented (or shot) in black and white. The reason I suggest the lens change (perhaps to a 28mm) is that I want that floor and its shapes and decorations to stretch out of my screen and draw me up to the hard toned (B+W) figures at the top of the frame. I love the intended framing and use of light though.

If im honest I chose this image just to show it. I love it; it’s an image with such narrative and joyfulness that so effortlessly translates. Its an absolute joy to look at, and, whilst asking more questions than it answers, it still relaxes the audience into a sense of feeling “everything’s ok”. A masterfully created image that consistently makes me smile.

Critique

Now is when I talk about your work as a whole rather than as individual commodities. I find that your work ranges across different styles and its hard to pin a certain visual/technical style to your work, and that’s good- in some cases. Personally, I find it important for a photographer to have a period of experimentation (what I see you doing, as am i) and from that, refine your working style down to what you are most consistent with. This helps massively when it comes to creating a book or exhibition, as your work will flow and work better together. Take my interviewee from last week, Mike Peters, he has experimented with many different approaches to shooting in the street, from B+W to colour, from large format to compact digital, from rectangle to square, and through doing so has made conscious decisions as to how he wants to further his photography. Without this direction you may struggle to produce strong series of work, and therefore struggle with producing exhibitions or publications.

I mjst say, im finding it hard to critique someone who really doesn’t seem to need it. From what I can see though, whilst you have created some lovely work in black and white, your colour work really stands out and I would encourage you whole-heartedly to push your colour work. I would look into creating some cinematic style images, as your strongest work is already showing strong links to cinematography. I would also suggest perhaps turning your camera toward other things on the street (other than people). This can help create a greater sense of position and context to any series you may wish to create (keep people as your priority though, just experiment with more environmental images).

I would also be keen to see you make use of smaller apertures and greater DOF to really challenge your ability to force concentration and separate your subject through other, more tricky elements. Elements like compositional hierarchy, light and tone all help create images with a heavier impact and the greater field of focus will free you to use zone focusing and therefore work faster.

Have you tried conceiving an idea for a continued body of work? I find that having a few ideas in mind help me see more when I’m out and about (rather than less as some claim).

My last point would be from a complete guess, but form looking at your work, it seems to me that you are quite active in looking for an image, and that you tend to go to your subjects, rather than allowing them to come to you. Sometimes its nice to find somewhere you like and just sit and wait for life to come to and present itself to you. This usually results in stronger compositions and more interesting concepts, which you can usually shape around a theme or topic you may be interested in at the time.

As a thank you, I’d like to offer a professional print (made by myself and a well qualified photographic technician) of one of your photographs Nicolas, so just inform me as to which one you’d like (if any) and give me your adress by email and I’ll be happy to send it to you.

Conclusion

Now is when Id like to invite you, the great community we have here, to add your thoughts, opinions and critiques in the comments below. I’d like to say though (though I dont think I need to) that I would appreciate it if it were kept constructive, negativity is no use to anyone.

The entries are open again today, but I am going to limit the submission methods a bit

Your images must either be attached to an email or presented on one page (a flickr set, web page, 500px gallery, etc), emails with more than one or two links wont be considered (it just takes way too long)

Thanks again everyone for making this all possible, I look forward to reading your inputs!

How to apply

Links to your work will need to be emailed to me (olliegapper@me.com) with the subject header “CritiqueMe”, along with you name, location and any information you feel is relevant to your work. The selectee for each post will be informed by email, so if you don’t hear anything don’t give up, just try again next time!

I want you to select your best work for your submissions though, for two reasons: firstly because your work will be showcased in front of a lot of people, so you’d want to be seen for your best work. Secondly because this will be an in-depth critique, intended to help you better the way you work, even when you are truly on form.

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