F is for f-stop, the letter you find engraved on every camera lens. It indicates the maximum available aperture (f-stop) and you need maths to calculate it! A ratio is used being the focal length of the lens in millimeters divided by the diameter of the lens aperture (mm). Thereore, a lens with a 50mm focal length and an aperture of 25mm gives an f-stop number of 2. Just to make things even more brain biggling, the figures engraved on the lens run counter-intuitively, from the largest aperture, f2 in this instance, to the smallest, e.g f22. It’s a logarythmic scale: f2; f2.8; f4; f5.6 and so on, but what it means is a smaller f number gives you a bigger hole in the lens to let light in, and creates a shallow depth of field (see D) and allows a relatively faster shutterspeed. It took me ages to get my head around all that when I started out!
F is for fakery. Whilst you can do anything nowadays in Photoshop, there were still shenannigans going on in the analogue days. In 1934 Dr.R.Kenneth Wilson made a shot of the Loch Ness monster, since proved, sadly, to be fake, but not until 1975. See it HERE. The Cottingley Fairies by Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, in 1917 these two young girls made 5 photo’s of fairies in their garden that fooled a lot of people, even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle believed these to be real! See them HERE. Over in America in 1860, William H Mumler maintained that ghostly presences appeared unbidden along-side his sitters, he even captured Abraham Lincoln’s ghost. He was tried and acquitted for fraud, as nobody could figure out how it was done. And still can’t, even today. Read about him and see the apparitions HERE. In 2009 Jose Luis Rodriguez won £100,000 as the Natural History’s Wildlife Photographer of the year with his picture of ‘The Lone Wolf’. The wolf turned out to be a trained animal called Ossian, and Rodriguez was disqualified. read about him HERE. Finally, we’ve all seen photo’s of fake flying saucers and alien spacecraft, so here’s a link to an article debunking the fakery, scroll down to see a cool slideshow of all the different ‘Flying Saucer’ shots throughout the years. You can click HERE.
F is for Robert Frank, who died in September last year (2019). Born in Switzerland in 1924 he studied photography in Switzerland working in commercial phhotgraphy and graphic design studios in Zurich, but ended up moving to New York in 1947 where he was hired at at Harper’s Bazaar to do fashion photography. He didn’t much like it, and after a few months went freelance producing photojournalism and advertising photographs for LIFE, Look, Charm, Vogue, and others. He has 2 notable controversial episodes, the first being a book of photo’s called The Americans. In 1955 he secured a Guggenheim fellowship and took 2 years travelling America photographing all strata of its society. He took 28,000 shots, but only selected 83 for the book, which was as revolutionary as it was controversial. He didn’t bother with the conventional techniques and showed a cutting perspective on American culture. The second controvery happened in 1972 after he turned to making films, where he travelled with The Rolling STones and made a documentary called Cocksucker Blues. Mick Jagger reportedly told him “It’s a fucking good film, Robert, but if it shows in America we’ll never be allowed in the country again.” So after a legal dispute over copyright, the movie is only allowed to be shown 5 times a year, and Frank had to be present. For me his book The Americans, with a foreword by Jack Kerouac is a standout, and you can see pictures from it HERE.
Here’s a short interview with him about the book.