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Craig Semetko: Where Leica, America, and Street-Shooting Come Together

October 19th, 2012 No Comments

Here’s the second part of our exhibition double-header, following up from yesterday’s post about the exhibition of The Hyland Collection.  I had mentioned that we’d look at “a virtual” exhibition “about street photography” “on a ‘name’ website.” 

That ‘name’ website happens to be the Leica Blog.  In their interview with Craig Semetko published a few days back, they feature a one-man virtual exhibition of a kind, America: E Pluribus Unum.  The writer nails just who and what Semetko is in the very first sentence: “A classic street shooter in the great tradition . . . .”  In addition to the images (click on the thumbnails for bigger images), the text is instructive as well.

Semetko is a first-rate “street shooter” – and more.  Witness the arresting underwater set-up.  The quasi-symmetry, the uncorrected blue cast of the water, the American flag – it all makes for a riveting photograph.  What, though, could be the inspiration or impetus for this set-up?  I believe it is an expression in which Semetko takes an observation to its (il)logical extreme: “[I]t’s amazing how many American flags you see driving through the country.  If you’re looking you see them everywhere.”

For the most part the series of images and the interview surround the function and skill of documenting ‘stuff as it happened’ – that’s classic Leica style; classic Magnum style.

Reading the interview and viewing the images provides an insight into how well Semetko’s mindset on the one hand, and his street photography on the other, converge.  For instance, he says: “A sense of humor is fundamental to me, as I believe it is for most people.”  Now see this!

Semetko uses the word ‘story’ in relation to his photography a few times in the interview.  Even when he tells the what-happened-next story of a horse in trouble on a snow-swept plain, the composition is just perfect. 

Or take the ‘Slice of Life’ shot of three strangers at a train station.  Profile, front, profile; each stranger disconnected from the other, and each in his or her private world.  Each one of a different ethnicity too.  I had never realized train platforms were such unutterably lonely places!

 Semetko is one of the very finest photographers in his field.  Any photographer aspiring to the Leica-Magnum ethos would do well to spend some time reading what Semetko has to say and – of course – learning the craft from a master’s images.


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