Tomorrow, we go to Art Basel in Miami to see tons and tones of mediocre art—the good, the bad and the ugly—mostly ugly. However every now and then there is a small gem—something that stands out from the masses. I guess it is like that with everything. We are bombarded with tons and tons of visual stimuli and every now and then, something stands out from the crowd. This of course has nothing to do with this image. I include it only because it was taken last week in the Wynwood Art District in Miami and that is where we are going. There are a number of other venues in which to see some art and Art Basel is probably the biggest , however in Wynwood there are some smaller ones such as Red Dot in which smaller galleries choose to exhibit and their selections are in my opinion much better than the big show.
It should be an interesting day.
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The photo above is of Donald who I met in a bar a few years ago in Houston. It is one of the photographs in self-published a book called “Along the Way” consisting of portraits I have made of strangers who I had a brief interaction with. Most of the time, my photographs are of people who are unaware of being photographed but every now and then, contact is made. Sometimes, it is because I have approached them, and on other occasions it is the other way around. I have found that people sometimes approach my for a variety of reasons. They might be lonely, curious, or just friendly. Al;though many years ago, I avoided these encounters because I thought my cover was blown, over the years I have welcomed them because I now know that there is more to taking pictures than the images themselves. The experience is just as rewarding.
It is a bit pricey ($110.00) because it is hardcover and printed individually, instead of a run of 1000 or more which cuts the price down considerably but if you wish, you can download a pdf of this book for $14.99 If interested, you can click on the link below.
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Tags: Black & White, People, photography, Portrait, Street
A family Holiday in Rome turns into a photo excursion. We had planned a holiday in Rome with my two daughters, their men, and a grandchild months ago and I was really looking forward to it. I had rented a large apartment close to the Piazza di Popolo for us to stay in. It had rooms, terrace, and lots of Roman charm. It was perfect! I did not think I would be taking many photos and that I would be occupied with my family most of the time but it did not turn out that way. Since none of them had ever been there, they had a huge list of what they wanted to see so that left most of the days free for Sharon and I do do what we always did in Rome (and anywhere else we went for that matter) and just hang out.
We would meet up every evening somewhere, either at our apartment or some bar for an “apertivo” and then go out somewhere for dinner. Since our afternoons were free, I took my camera, Sharon and wandered the city. Our only break during the day was the customary 2-hour lunch with lots of wine. The afternoons somehow turned out better for photographs than the mornings—I wonder why.
I had read something from another photographer about keeping your head clear, your mind open and to be receptive to what was around you and I tried to follow that principle. There were good days and bad days and all in all, creatively it worked out. You can check out the images yourself by clicking here.
Filed under: Black & White, People, photo, Travel | 4 Comments
Tags: Black & White, Europe, Italy, photography, Rome, Street, Travel
A few years ago, we were in Bologna Italy. We actually went there to sample their signature dish—Fettucini Bolognese. We found the right spot , had a wonderful lunch, and then went to check out the city. At some point, we needed a break and stopped in this bar for a coffee. So much for the dime-bag travelogue. What I really wanted to talk about was Black and White.
Every time I go to Italy (or anywhere else for that matter) I end up working on my images in color. I have been doing this since I first bought a digital camera in 2005. I suppose it might be laziness on my part that I did it this way because that is what comes out of the camera when you take a picture. The automatic tendency is to shoot in color. In the days of film you had a choice because you could choose what film you put in the camera. Now its global—you can make it anything you want after the fact. So that is how I evolved into a color photographer. It was very passive.
Lately however I have been consciously thinking in Black and White and this time when we leave for Italy I will still be doing so. It’s not really so big a deal though because I can always change my mind after the fact. I guess that is what is really interesting about this new century. You never really have to commit to anything and I do not know whether that is a good thing or not.
I guess I will post some of tem on my blog when i get back. You can check out more of my B&W at: www.dsaxe.com
Filed under: Black & White, On being a Photographer, Photograph | 1 Comment
Tags: Black & White, Cameras, Drink, Europe, Italy, photography, Rome, Travel
We are off to New York this weekend. It is not really about taking photographs, but so we can spend some time with friends who we rarely see. Of course I will have a camera with me just in case.
A few years ago while visiting, we were in Madison Square Park and I spotted this guy with his dog. They were both wearing sunglasses. I asked him if I could take his picture and he agreed. Thank god he was a cool dude and did not smile. I have been asking people a lot these days for permission to photograph them. It is something new that I am trying out and it seems to be working but every now and then they give me this stupid grin and it just turns me off. I tell them to ignore me but they just keep grinning. In a way I prefer looking at paintings where the subjects who had to sit still for long periods while their portraits were being painted kept up various serious expressions. They were usually big shots who had an image of themselves and wished to keep it. This is now the age of the common man and they just grin. Who ever you are man—thank you.
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Tags: Black & White, Dog, New York, Opinion, People, Portrait, Street
One of my “passions” is photographing weddings. Although I am not a wedding photographer, somehow over the years, accidently showing up at strangers weddings and making a few photographs has grown on me and it has slowly evolved into one of my lifelong projects.
A few weeks ago, I happened to be in Lisbon during the annual Feast of St. Anthony. This is the “big event” in Lisbon and there are always many activities to enjoy—including a mass wedding at the cathedral, which has been going on for who knows how long. I had done my research and knew that on the 13th of June at a particular cathedral in the Alfama barrio of Lisbon, 11 couples would be married. So at 1:30 I set off to see what was happening. As I got closer to the cathedral, I noticed that crowds had been getting increasingly thicker and that the city had placed barricades along the side of the road to keep the hordes back. I also knew that this would be a hindrance to me getting any interesting photographs.
In one of my rare moments of aggression, I chose to walk up the middle of the street, between the barricades with an authoritative photojournalist swagger, straight up to the steps of the cathedral, where I parked myself right in front of the doors and waited for the happy couples to arrive. I thought I looked vey professional, but I am sure I stood out like a sore thumb from all the other Portuguese photographers who seemed to know each other. One of them eventually walked over to me and said something in Portuguese which of course I did not understand. He then said it in English.
“You cannot be here. This area is reserved for the press.”
“Mr. Rocca said I could stand here.” I lied
He walked away. We were 15 minutes from the arrival of the brides when another man, with an official badge, trimmed grey beard in a dark suit—looking very very official approached me and whispered something in Portuguese in my ear. I motioned that I did not understand and then repeated in English
“I don’t think you may have the proper credentials.” He said with an impish grin. He had a nice manner and said it in a very sweet way. I thought that this was it and I was about to be booted out, so I replied
“ I guess you are going to kick me out.”
He smiled and asked me where I was from and I told him that I lived in Florida. He said he had a sister who lived in Tampa and that he loved visiting her there. We chatted for about a minute or two and then he motioned me over to a spot right near where I was standing. He said I could stay but I had to keep an eye out for the TV camera boom and not get in the sight-lines of the TV cameras. He said that this event was being televised all over Portugal so I had to be discreet like the rest of the journalists covering the wedding. As long as I was on the same side of the carpet as the TV camera, I would be out of the way. I thanked him for his help.
15 minutes later, the brides began to arrive. I could not believe that I was still there, shooting away and loving every moment of it. After about half and hour of posing for pictures on the steps of the cathedral, all the brides entered through the doors and I began to follow them but a security guard stopped me. I thought my luck had finally run out but I was having such a good day, no security guard was about to spoil it for me. I went up the the man with the badge and grey beard and asked if there was any way I could get inside. He made a facial gesture that implied my chances were very slim, but he went inside the cathedral and in a few moments he returned with an official journalist pass. I spent about an hour inside the church, went out for a breather, photographed the band that had assembled, the mobs waiting to see the couples and all the rest of the activities, and went back into the church as the weddings were winding down. Again, the nice gentleman with the grey beard approached me and said the the wedding would soon be over and I should find a good spot outside when the couples would parade down the street. We went outside and he pointed out a place where he thought that might make a good spot to photograph their exit. I was the first one there and had a prime location for the grande finale. The couples came out, kissed each other, waved to the crowd, and then formed a long procession heading down the street with the band, relatives, photographers, TV personalities etc. following them. I wiped a tear from my eye—it was over.
If you think that this article is about photographing weddings you are mistaken. It is about how taking photographs can bring you closer to people, help you share experiences and just enjoy the beauty and rhythms of life in a very special way. More important than any of the pictures that I took, it was the experience of interacting with many kind people, who allowed me to participate in a very small way on such a sweet occasion. These moments are unforgettable.
If you want see more of the wedding series, click here:
Filed under: On being a Photographer, People | Leave a Comment
Tags: Europe, Feast of St. Anthony, Groups, Lisbon, People, Portugal, Wedding
I took this photograph in 1983. At that time I was working as a medical photographer at a Montreal hospital. I was always in the habit of using the staircases to get around instead of the elevators because I needed the exercise and it was quicker.
Naturally, while working, I almost always had a camera with me and on this occasion, while on my way up to one of the floors to photograph a patient with some obscure feature, which only doctors can find interesting, I encountered Felix, paused a few moments and took 3 shots before I continued on my way. But this is nor what this story is about.
This image was made almost exactly 30 years ago. As I mentioned, I was working as a medical photographer and I was not all that happy about it. When I started the job 12 years earlier, it was far more exciting. I was given this wonderful darkroom which I could use personally. I was my own boss (sort of) I worked alone and almost all of my duties consisted of either making photographs of patients, photographing surgical operations and making/designing teaching programs for the medical staff.
Somewhere along the way things changed. Additional staff were hired and I became a boss. The job changed and now almost half my time was administrative. Technology arrived and everybody wanted video and I personally had little interest in it but I had to learn and provide it to the staff. New levels of administration meant that good bosses were replaced by more mediocre ones. As I said things changed. They always do.
Being miserable in a job is not unique and I am sure many readers have encountered the same situation. However doing something about is something else. A short while after I photographed Felix in the staircase, this job suddenly came to an end, and for one of those brief and rare moments in my life, the fog lifted and I made one of those important decisions which would alter my life forever.
I gave up being a professional photographer (at least a professional medical photographer) and moved into an area that was new, different and challenging. I decided to become a self-employed graphic designer specializing in medical publications. I had the skills but I had never put them to practice but this time I seized the opportunity and became quite successful. There was also a side effect in that my photography that I loved, would continue. My new career allowed me more time to explore my real photographic interest which was not as a scientific photographer but as an artist.
15 years later things changed again because with the advent of the computer toward the end of the 90’s, most of my clients who were publishers, began to purchase computers, Photoshop and Pagemaker and bypass me, so for the second time in my life, I had one of those rare moments of clarity and decided to change my life again and this time became involved in the actual medical publishing side. I became the client.
Do you see where I am going with this?
Things change—they always do and there is little anyone can do about it except adapt. My professional photographic career lasted only 12 years but since I loved photography that much, I modified my discipline and have been able to continue it for 30 years (and hopefully a bit longer) Not only do I now photograph the things I want to instead of being directed by the “client”, but I think I am still getting better at it which is a wonderful side effect.
Because of the development of the computer, My 15 year period as a graphic artist, allowed me to prosper, however the change in technology led to the inevitable decline in my business. Adapting to change and becoming involved as a publisher, allowed me to continue to prosper and also gave me more time to develop as a photographer.
When I think about though, nothing really has changed for me. I always enjoyed being a photographer and am still enjoying it today. Also, my background in the medical area has always governed my professional life to this day.
I think where most people run into problems is when the try to hang on to things instead of just changing with them. Instead of adapting to change they fight it and loose their way as a consequence. I suppose one may say the only way to fight change is to adopt it.
As for the photograph of Felix—it still one of my favorite portraits, to this day.
Filed under: Black & White, On being a Photographer, People, Photograph | 2 Comments
Tags: Black & White, Depression, Montreal, Opinion, People, photography, Portrait