Featured Photographers – Benn Riis

I have only recently discovered Benn. I was amazed when I saw his Photostream on Flickr, I thought I was looking at mine a few months back. Other friends also pointed out that when they first saw a shot of Benn’s that they thought it was one of mine. When you see Benn’s shots you will see why I take that as a compliment. What also surprised me, but I don’t know why, when looking back through his work, was how he had followed the same path as myself. Starting out shooting landscapes, whereas mine was flowers, but the odd Street shot in there, and gradually more and more Street shots, until you reach the point where the whole Photostream is Street. It is then you realise he has been bitten by the bug, which is where all the Street shooters find themselves.

Benn is from Denmark. As I said above I have only recently discovered him, but from his images and in the emails we have exchanged I can see he has a sense of fun. A kindred spirit I think. Just sit back and enjoy some of the most enjoyable group of images I’ve seen in a good while. They are in no particular order of how much I like them, as that would make the task even harder, but for those of you that follow the “Featured Photographers”, you know I work a certain theme to them. I can only encourage you to click on each image to appreciate it larger.

I had the post set out with the 10 shots, and then Benn did what so many others have done, he posted new shots that I liked so much. Due to this it made my task even harder than it was to begin with. Should I delete 1 or 2 of the shots I had previously put in or stick with my original selection. Writing the Featured Photographer posts always brings this dilemma and it is just like the dilemma we all get when purchasing a new camera. Should we wait for the next model to come out, or should we buy the current one, knowing full well that there will be something good being released as soon as we purchase it. So to that end, the shots below are my favourite 10 as of the date this is published as I know there will be more superb shots to come from Benn. To satisfy your curiosity, Yes, I did replace two of them.

All the photos in this post were taken by Benn and are copyrighted to him. © Benn Riis


1.

Smiling
Smiling

This shot gave me more indecision than any other in this feature. The reason being the two shots that I wanted to include. I originally deleted this shot in favour of another, but in the end I just couldn’t leave it out. I think most people would be surprised by my choice and would have kept the other, but this shot is so cheerful.

It is the smile of a young pretty girl that is so captivating. It seems as though she has received a text that has brought out so much happiness, and you wonder if it is the content of the text or who it is from. She looks like she just chucked on the sweat shirt and donned the hat to go and chill out with a coffee.

This is one of those shots that I can’t fully explain why it appeals so much. Maybe it is just seeing a pretty girl with a smile on her face.


2.

Conversation and smiles across generations
Conversation and smiles across generations

Benn’s title on this shot “Conversation and smiles across generations” says so much. Highlighting the age difference between the two women.

When I look at it I also notice it goes a lot further. There is not only the difference in age, but obviously in race, style, stature, and dress. The fact that it is the older lady in running shoes put a smile on my face.

The reason I like this so much is it shows that we are all the same, and that laughter crosses whatever differences and boundaries there are.


3.

Summer in the street
Summer in the street

This reminds me so much of the images we see from the States where people sit out on the stoop, albeit only three steps. It is the happiness that is shown on the girls face, as if she is really enjoying the company of the male, and is very comfortable. The guy without any shoes seems so relaxed. Is he rubbing his one leg with the foot of the other some subconscious movement that he doesn’t realise he’s displaying? It really does give a feel of Summer as I can imagine it being a lot colder that far North in Winter.

I just feel relaxed whilst viewing this shot.

After writing this I went to Benn’s stream to check out the location it was taken as I feel that has a big bearing. I found that Benn had cropped the image after positive critique from Dan Redrup. They both like the resulting image which focuses on the couple. However I prefer the full image as I think it shows their environment, the lack of affluence, but that has no bearing on their happiness at this moment in time, and they are the only people there. It is great that we all have different views, and now you will be able to look at Benn’s stream and see what version you prefer.


4.

Le Café Marly - Louvre
Le Café Marly – Louvre

I found this shot tucked away amongst Benn’s older shots. A time in Benn’s past when he was just dabbling in his Street shots. I really like the space, the height, showing the architecture, with the waiter in the centre walking towards the camera. People in a totally different environment to being on the street. This shot allows you to spend time looking at all the different features of it, drawn along the centre of the beautiful ceiling, and then dropping down to see the activity.

Digging deeper I noticed that the shot was taken with a Nikon D3100, which dispels those myths that are put about that you need top of the range camera gear to get great shots. This proves that it is the eye of the photographer that gets great shots, not manufacturers technology.


5.

Image under progress
Image under progress

The clarity and separation is what makes this shot for me, and it is all down to the narrow depth of field that Benn has used. Look at how the guy stands out against the background, and also his legs which are spot on, with the bench just in the foreground but next to them, out of focus.

We can see the concentration in the guys face, and the pencil in his mouth. We don’t need to see what he is drawing as that is not of interest. What is, is the concentration of how the man is capturing it. The Rule of Thirds works so brilliantly in this shot, and the Low Level POV makes it so direct.

Such a clear, focused image. Superb.


6.

It's so funny
It’s so funny

Have you stopped laughing yet. That is what is so special about this shot. The girl’s laughter is uncontrollable for her, and infectious to us. It is great to see shots with full on laughter.

Pure Raw emotion, not staged, but caught candidly.


7.

In harmony with nature
In harmony with nature

This shot to me is superb. Rather than seeing old grey buildings surrounding the subject, Benn, with his custom shallow depth of field has isolated the woman amongst the greenery. There are white flower heads throughout the shot, but look closely not one of them is in focus. That is kept for the woman. All this helps to create the feeling of solitude, peace & serenity, in which the woman sits reading her newspaper. For all we know, there could be a Shopping Centre just off shot to the right, but it doesn’t matter as the image Benn creates is a woman alone with nature, and comfortable with it.

This is the comment I left when I first saw this shot in Benn’s Photostream on Flickr:
“Benn, I think this shot shows why they invented colour photography. It is so beautiful. The colours are so vivid and the focus is spot on. Altogether a fantastic composition.”


8.

Enjoying the spring sun
Enjoying the spring sun

This shot really pleases me every time I look at it. A beautiful woman in her own thoughts with the sun shining down on her, creating such a fantastic image.

We are inundated with images of young beautiful women, that so many people miss the beauty of mature women. Maybe this only becomes more evident with age, and how you look at other people, especially women. For me this image shows the real beauty of maturity, which a lot of younger people would miss.


9.

Eyecontact at the wall
Eyecontact at the wall

This was one of the shots that forced me to delete one I had already chosen. There was no way it could not be included. My dilemma was which shot it should replace, which took a long time.

It has everything. A rugged characterful face, smoking, and perfect placement in the composition. The texture of the brick wall next to the subject is a great contrast, and the wall behind in shadow and out of focus but still discernible to give a great background. All these elements coming together and topped off with the direct eye contact.

Many photographers would pose their subject for ages before they got a shot anywhere near as good as this, so to get it candidly says a lot for Benn’s natural eye and skill.


10.

She's got the look
She’s got the look

WOW! What a powerful shot. The title is excellent, but those Eyes. They are looking straight at you. When I say you, that is because you are looking at it, but when I look they are directed squarely at me. Go on, click on the image and see her looking at only you.

I can only imagine how Benn felt when he captured this shot. I have captured similar, and that eye contact gives such a buzz. I can imagine it unfolding from the woman resting her chin on her childs’ head in that loving way, and Benn standing there fully focused on the view in front of him, until the woman looked up, straight into his lens, and such a beautiful image was captured.
 


 

I’m sure you liked the images above, and there are plenty more on Benn’s Photostream on Flickr where you can choose your favourite 10, and I guarantee you won’t find it easy. You will find it thoroughly enjoyable though trying.

Thank you so much Benn for allowing me to use your shots for this feature. I’m sure I will be following your work for a long time to come, and when others see your images you will have a lot more people enjoying your work.

8 thoughts on “Featured Photographers – Benn Riis

  1. MisterGC

    Benn will be chuffed with this write up and deservedly so. His street shots are such a joy to look at. If I was to pick out a fav from the images above it would have to be the guy and his cigarette for all the reasons you wrote. It’s quite an amazing candid shot.

  2. Grant it is you I have to thank for bringing Benn’s work to my attention.

    You can see my dilemma, as you agree that is one fantastic shot.

  3. Benn is an amazing photograph, and I’m sure you had trouble to select these 10 shots. Not only portraits but he also take advantage of the background with smart compositions, like Café Marly or “in harmony with nature”.
    I saw “Summer in the street” in the cropped version, but I definitly prefer this one. It gives the atmosphere of the street with the stairs and the lignes of the wall.

  4. Esther, the “Café Marly” shot is superb. You find yourself looking over and over at it. It is so bright and the full height is amazing, and I am glad Benn didn’t crop it down to just the people as a lot of others would have done.

    I’m glad you agree about “Summer in the street” and for the same reasons.

    The use of the narrow depth of field flows through so many of the shots and makes the subjects stand out so well.

  5. “Conversation and smiles across generations” has got to be my favorite. It’s always nice to see people happy.

    I noticed the tools by the man’s side in “Image Under Progress” but I didn’t even notice the pencil in his mouth. The separation is fantastic. I like how he appears to be so focused on his drawing.

    I love the light in “Enjoying the spring sun”, especially because it has the dark corner off to the left. I love that he didn’t crop that out because I think it adds a nice balance to the photo.

    “Eye contact at the wall” is a great choice. The sharpness of the man is fantastic.

    • It is so hard to separate the shots Tina. I’m glad so many more people are appreciating Benns’ work.

  6. Ian Clark

    What a lovely spread of pictures. I especially like the Louvre cafe shot and his work certainly reminds me of you Wayne. Incidentally, you called him a her in the copyright notice at the beginning.

    • Thanks Ian. The Louvre Shot is excellent and just shows that you don’t need a top of the range camera to get good shots, just a good eye.

      Thanks for the heads up, copy & paste again.

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