John And Barbara – Anatomy Danny Williams shows his Leica M Monochrom images

I am a self taught photographer based in the UK. I enjoy several different categories of photography with a particular emphasis on still life. Many of my projects have consisted of a series of gentle, calm still lifes using objects and settings that are traditionally well represented in that genre. In addition to this, I am drawn to a more sombre element of still life, with darker and regularly serious undertones. My love of still life probably started with viewing paintings produced by my mother, an artist. Many of her sculptures too, brought darker subjects to life.

“John And Barbara – Anatomy” is a conceptual photography project where John and Barbara communicate solely through passive aggressive art installations. These artworks John and Barbara each offer, form a call and answer where control is the subtext of the art. This ‘conversation’ takes place between the two protagonists using unsettling themes to convey a difficult topic – a relationship where each partner vies for dominance. Such a dynamic will always result in one rival, possibly both, being damaged.

The use of anatomy in each of the works, at first sight may be unnerving, but is representative of how small details of one’s opponent, as John and Barbara are opponents here, are homed in on as potential weaknesses.

Parts of the story of John And Barbara are semi-autobiographical, therefore such a portrayal is not only challenging to narrate as a photographer, but is also rewarding, possibly cathartic. John and Barbara exist only as fragments of my experience.

Making the artworks for the purpose of the photo project was at times unsettling, at times humorous. Ultimately, that was satisfying, as I wished for both those components to be present in the body of work when viewed as a whole.

The series was shot using a Leica M Monochrom, a Summilux-M 50mm and natural light. The Summilux is a lens I have long admired and I believe has its own recognisable signature. Coupled with the Typ 246, the combination often allows me to produce a photograph very close to what I have projected in my mind’s eye.

I shoot only black and white, so the Monochrom is an ideal companion. My wife shoots only colour, which can lead to startling comparisons on the occasions we are shooting the same subjects. I have never been comfortable converting photographs to monochrome from a colour sensor, partly because it has always felt like cheating. The dedicated black and white sensor of the 246 produces a unique, and for my use, preferable result.

I have found that the M Monochrom responds well when its user spends time to learn and understand its methods. It is unlike other digital cameras and therefore requires a different control. Many have said it is a replacement for film. I don’t fully hold with that, as in any event, one film stock can have significantly different characteristics to the next, or even itself depending on exposure and development (and nowadays, the scanning method). Grouping many different products (film stock) in to a singular product (film) may be a simplification too far. I prefer to think of the Monochrome as a descendent of black and white film. It too has many different looks, depending on light, chosen lens, ISO and subject. For the last two years, I have exclusively used my Leica MP, generally with Tri-X and in the summer months, Delta 100. The progression to the Monochrom this year was natural for me. I still use film and I still enjoy using film, but I think the Monochrom is its own format. A format that for me suits particular projects very well.

To know more about Danny Williams, please visit his official website
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4 comments

  • Danny- the lighting in these is exceptional. The M Monochrom is indeed a great camera, but placed in the hands of someone who understands exposure it turns into something else altogether. Great work.

    • Thanks very much for your kind words.
      I used natural light from a window with these shots, that always takes a bit of patience in the UK! The transition from film to the Monochrom is probably as it should be – forcing the photographer to learn and see differently.

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