Capri_2007

Why am I posting this picture? Sometimes, even I cannot answer my own questions. Its a beautiful landscape that I shot about 5 years ago on the Island of Capri in Italy. That day was for the most part a disappointment because it was just too touristy—even for me. It was 5 hours of constant hustling and being assaulted continuously by people trying to sell me everything from trinkets to ice cream. I really was not into taking any good pictures, or at least I was not consciously into taking any good pictures. When I become bored or tense, my creative juices just disappear— I just go flat. I suppose it is hard to stay up for everything, all the time. I am sure even the greatest of photographers have their bad days from time to time. I am no different and when these events occur, I just turn off, look for a good bar and wait for it to pass. It always does. In this case, Instead of taking pictures, I just got into being a tourist, enjoying the views, and having a good lunch. It prevented me from being bummed out all day and certainly made me better company for my wife.

For the most part I am a documentary photographer and most of the time, I have no interest in landscape photography, either as a viewer or photographer. The reason is that most of this stuff is just pretty—and that is not enough to peak my interest. This is not always the case. There are of course great landscape photographs, taken by great photographers, but for the most part, these type of images are just pretty, and nothing more. I look at them—briefly and then quickly move on. They never register with me in any emotional way. So on this day, in this place, being uninterested in shooting my types of images, I shoot landscapes to pass the time. Are they good photographs—not really, they are just pretty, that’s all. However I am sure there are people out there who would think that it is brilliant. Photography is funny that way. Everybody sees their own picture and there is enough of it for everybody.


woman_walking

It occurred to me today that it has been about 10 years since I closed my darkroom and switched to digital. Unlike a lot of photographers who have done the same and either struggled with it or were slow to warm up to it, in my case it was swift and painless. I think it had a lot to do with attitude, since I did not take this step reluctantly, but more important, I was pleased with my initial results and was excited to explore the possibilities in further depth.

We had purchased a small condo in Florida where we planned on spending the winters. It did not have space for a darkroom and I was reluctant to send out film for processing, nor did I want to wait until spring when I returned to Vermont to develop all the film I shot the previous winter so I bought a cheap Canon DSLR to carry me through. I started shooting with it immediately and was surprised by my initial results. It was not the camera that turned me on —it was what I could do to my RAW files in my computer. I realized I had far more control over my images than any amount of darkroom skill would allow. For all of my life, I had shot strictly B&W because I never liked the results that labs printed for my and I never had any desire to process color myself. All of a sudden, I was a master color printer.

I began to see things differently, almost from the start. As a B&W shooter, I had preferred shooting on cloudy days as opposed to direct sunlight. Now direct sunlight became far more interesting. My photographs began to change and I think for the better.


paper_bagI rarely go back to the same place to take photographs but there are some spots that I am truly attracted to. For instance there is this wall, a wall in West Palm beach, another in Hollywood Beach, a corner of Madison Square Park in NYC—and many more. The interesting thing about these places though is that even if the spot remains the same, there is always a different photograph that is waiting for me when I return.

In the Northwood section of West Palm Beach is this grocery store which serves the local population for cigarettes, beer, and perhaps, on occasion even some food. Its pretty seedy and once I went in to get some bottled water. Inside, there was this guy at the cash sitting behind a plate of bullet-proof glass with a small slot at the bottom where people would shove their money through and their change would be received. No words were exchanged. It was very sad. However when you exited and turned left and left, there was this wonderful wall of the building where the setting sun would bathe this wall with a beautiful golden glow. Over the past few years, I have spent a lot of time in front of this wall just photographing the passing parade of people on their way to and from this dismal store

 

 


4_figures_hollywoodbeach

I look at a lot of photographs these days. I cannot help it because the web is saturated with photography—both good and bad. Sometimes you see an image and like it immediately—it just sucks you in. Other times you look at a photo, and you are puzzled—you just cannot connect with what the photographer is trying to say, that is until you read the paragraph(s) below which explain it all and you go “oh ya” and that is it. It is more intellectual than passionate. Personally, I am not fond of those photographs because if the purpose has to be explained, that is another step which separates the photographer and the viewer. Appreciation in my mind should be immediate and that is all there is to it.

You may either like or dislike the photograph above. No explanation is needed. In my mind, I want the viewer to either like it or not immediately—sans statement. Sometimes I can comment on how the picture was made, or why it was made, but what it is about is solely at the discretion of the viewer. I want the viewer to make up their own story because in my mind, that is what photography is about.

 


sick-bitch

Everybody has their own style in taking photographs. And included in that style are “sub styles” which further define a photographers mark. For instance, I like documentary photography or what is commonly known as “street photography”. Although I am not entirely comfortable with that term, that is what I do, whenever I have a camera with me. Most of the time (99%) I include a person in my photographs. That is my style, that is what I do. Within that style is how I work and how I get the photographs that I get. It is not very complicated. I am a ‘walker”. I move along a certain path or street and when I find something interesting, I stop, shoot, and move on. Other people are more patient. They see a place that they like, they stop, and they wait for the right picture to come into their frame—and then raise their camera and shoot. I am to impatient for that—or so I thought.

Last year at Daytona Bike Week, I spotted this alley near a bar and loved the light so much, I uncharacteristically decided to stop, wait and see what happened. I did this for about 15 minutes and too perhaps about 20 shots. People were coming and going, and then suddenly this couple start to hug and things jumped into place.


Double Take

26Oct14

the kiss

Sometimes I can look for days and never get a good shot. There is nothing skillful about opportunities—you just have to be patient and be open to whatever may pop up. In 2001 I was visiting Rome with my wife and we ended up at the Castello San Angelo which is a famous landmark near the Vatican. It was where the early popes dispatched their enemies where they would be tortured and disposed of in various ugly manners. These days it is a museum. When I am traveling with my wife, I do not care where we go. She picks the designation and I follow with my camera. That way we both get to do what we want and on this day it was the Castello San Angelo. There was nothing going on creatively, inside the museum and I was getting bored but after climbing the stairs to the tower, I noticed this couple kissing. I snapped two shots and it was over.

axis

Well, not quite over. After I took the two shots and they moved on, I went over to the window and looked down. I saw this scene and took a few more shots until the man and dog in the corner moved on. The rest of the day was unremarkable. I must have had my camera around my neck for 6 hours but these two shots were done in under a minute. The rest of the day was just pleasant—nice lunch, nice walk, no other photos.


miss_port_henry_diner

Nobody ever said that making good photographs is easy—in fact it is the opposite. I can remember very few occasions where golden opportunities just happened. Of course there were many times when I stumbled into situations that were ripe for good picture-taking, but I still had to work at it. I mean I still had to work at finding the right situations to stumble into.

A few days ago, I decided to do some shooting on a project that I had been working on for a few years, on American small towns. I decided to visit some towns in upstate New York and eventually my travels brought me to Port Henry. It is a charming place, on a hill, overlooking Lake Champlain. It is not really a tourist spot like some of the towns further north on this lake. It is in fact a real town—a working class town, and that is what I was looking for. I walked around, and walked around and walked around and shot a few so so shots but there really was not much going on. “Perhaps I should drive up to Ticonderoga,” I thought. The problem with this town was that there was nobody on the street—the place was deserted. I thought this might be consistent with most small towns these days. With the car and box stores, most of the action was always on the edge of town. In any case as Winston Churchill was fond of saying, I thought I would just “bugger on” and so I kept looking. After another half hour, there was still nothing happening and it occurred to me that I was only walking up and down main streets and nowhere else so I decided to try some side streets. The first few did not pan out but then I turned down one street and saw this wonderful old diner—straight out of the twenties. It was in immaculate condition—almost brand new and the sign on top said “Miss Port Henry Diner”. I thought for a moment that it was deserted, but I walked around it and took a shot or two and then noticed a sign on the window that said “OPEN”. Since there wasn’t much happening on the street , I thought it might be time for a burger and coke so in I went.

There were 4 people in the place besides the owner and waitress and the man closest to me as I walked in said “come on in. best place in town.” That was my opening because I immediately started talking to him and he soon introduced me to the owner. I ordered my burger and asked if he minded me shoot some pictures in the place, and he said go ahead and I did. After a few minutes, everybody lost interest in what i was doing and went back to having their lunch. That’s when I took this shot of the woman sitting in the corner.

This has happened to me many times over the years. Its all about hanging in, being receptive, and never being discouraged. It difficult but nothing some determination and focus can overcome.




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