“In my experience it’s rare to come across a photographer like John Umina. The moment John entered The Fox Darkroom I was floored by the depth and the quality of his work. When exploring his motivations it quickly become clear that his drive is deeply personal and driven by a want to understand and comment on his surroundings. I strongly believe John documents the streets with no audience in mind other than himself, for this reason his photos hold a certain authenticity which is often missed in this genre of photography. I have thoroughly loved watching his prints come to life in the darkroom over the past months and hope you all enjoy hearing his words and seeing his images as much as I do”. – Tom Goldner, The Fox Darkroom
On the street, strangers openly share a dimension of their lives. That dimension, however small, allows us to imagine who they are. Where they’re going. Who they love. Walking among them, I hold my camera low and ready. With luck I’ll witness a moment of introspection, joy or wonder – and if luckier still, fire the shutter precisely at the right time to freeze it forever.
Many others share this alien fascination. We are curious and observant. Social, but disconnected. Sometimes I take the role of misanthrope, of haughty anthropologist looking down at what we’ve become; other times, a geometrician obsessed with angles, shapes, the play of light. The street can offer all those things. Your mood on the day will generally guide you.
Wandering the streets can be zen-like. Your mind narrows and the background noise almost disappears. Suddenly you are in the flow of an undiscovered narrative – can you see the characters, the elements? Assembling them into a picture that has meaning and coherence is tricky. The right moments are fleeting and random and frustrating and sometimes beyond every conscious effort you make. Unfortunately, no-one can teach you to see, to connect the dots. Everyday I set out to see new things. You never stop learning to see.
In this modern world, my mind races incessantly. The distinction between work and pleasure is a fuzzy continuum of ones and zeroes. Choosing to shoot film is one way to slow the processing. A medium that forces you to stop and assess what’s really important. Why are you taking this picture? Does it have an aesthetic value? I believe the more you ask these questions, the slower and more deliberate your thinking, the better your pictures become.
If you have successfully slowed your thinking and executed with clarity of purpose, printing is your final destination. Your picture, painstakingly crafted, appears slowly in the paper. This is the moment you have been waiting for.
A moment that was painted by the mind – not light, lenses or silver.