One of the best things about being a photographer is where you end up. If I dod not take photographs, I probably would never visit some of the places that I stumble upon. Such is the ceremony of Yemanja in Brazil where the inhabitants of Salvador (and other cities) go down to the sea and offer flowers and prayers to Neptune, goddess of the sea. I had to get up at 4:00AM for this and I usually never and up at this time unless it has to do with taking pictures. When I arrived, the ceremonies were in full-force with people lighting candles, walking into the ocean, smoking weed and drinking beer. It was strange, very strange but fascinating all the same. I have never seen anything like it and probably never will—unless I return someday and that is always a possibility.
This is one of my oldest photographs, that I still like today. It was taken in 1983 when I went to Vancouver on my own for 3 weeks. I travelled to Vancouver and hung out with Brian for a week and then south to SF where I stayed with my friend Harvey. At that time i was feeling that my life was almost over. My marriage was crumbling, my job sucked, and I was feeling completely drained. In fact, it turned out quite the opposite—I was starting anew—although I did not know it at the time, my second life was about to begin. This photograph was taken on the BC ferry as i travelled to Gibsons to see an old friend from my youth.
New Orleans in one of my favorite cities. Not only can one get a great meal, almost anywhere in town, but there is always something to see, something going on, and something to make you stop and look. Where else can you stumble on Alice in Wonderland, chatting with her bunny?
One thing I liked about Havana was that there was always something happening on the street. Probably their homes were simple, crowded, or too hot—so thy liked to hang out on the street. I was fascinated by this woman just sitting on a chair reading her book, while the world walked by. She was oblivious to it all.
Ice Cream Truck. West Palm Beach, 2016
Lately I have been attending car shows, which might end up as a new project. This one in West Palm, was a bit of a dud because of the bad weather. I usually want to do these shows on sunny days but as they say, I have to go with the stream. So, it was a shitty day and I started looking around. What I have noticed though is that when I start getting into something, there are always distractions along the way. One project can turn into another—thus food trucks and Ice cream wagons enter into my viewfinder. This might be a better project than car shows but who knows.
I miss Portugal. It is one of my favorite places in Europe. It is different from the other countries because it is simpler, a bit poorer and far more real. Sometimes I go to places in Italy and France and I think I am walking onto a movie set. Not this place though—its real, very real. The people are wonderful, the food is great and there are always places to visit. I do not remember the name of this town at all. It was somewhere north of Lisbon and we ended up here just before sunset. A long walk on the beach, a glass of wine in a small bar and a relaxing drive back to the hotel—what more is there to life?
There are many ways to take photographs. Some photographers just choose a path or route and walk along it. Others hang out in a spot and wait (probably the patient ones). Still others do a combination of both. The hardest thing for me is to end up in a place where there is nothing really going on. My expectations are diminished, but I should no better—good pictures don’t always come that easy.
The Northwood section of West Palm Beach has always been a good place for me to hang around. Some of my favorite images were shot here, but it has never been a sure thing. When I found myself here one night with nothing going on I decided to walk around in circles. That is, I chose a block and walked around it a few times. naturally the scene changes at every pass. The first time passed this laundromat, it was empty. The next time there was a bit of action, but there was nobody sitting outside. The third pass was much better and I took this shot.
#streetphotography #documentaryphotography #northwood #westpalmbeach
Westmount Swimming Pool, Montreal, 1983
30 years ago, my photo opportunities were slim. I had a miserable job, a shaky marriage, and probably smoked too much dope. But I persevered, and tried to form my picture-taking to suit my lifestyle. My youngest daughter, Megan, would take swimming classes at the Westmount pool every Saturday morning, and I would take her there and wait, and then return home with her. It was a perfect opportunity to have an hour or so to myself and take a few pictures around Westmount Park. I actually became very familiar with the place and some of my favorite shots from that period were taken there. When my hour was up, I would return to the pool and take Megan home. I liked those Saturdays—they were very peaceful tranquil moments for me. Sometimes I would just hang around the pool and shoot but that was then. Now if I did that I would be classified as a pervert, squads of SWAT cops would surround me, take me down and spend the rest of the day interrogating me, checking my computer, and questioning my neighbors about my “suspicious” behavior. Sometimes progress can be a bit unnerving.
Balcony at Sam’s. Montreal, July, 2010
When I moved from Montreal to Vermont way back in the last century, I found it difficult to stay away for too long. It took only an hour and a half to drive there so once or twice a month, I would head up, hang out with my friend Sam, chat, and drink lots of tea and then meet up with Sharon for dinner. It was a routine that played itself our for over 20 years. I always had a camera with me and over those years, I took some of my best pictures in his apartment. When I took this one, I almost decided not to bring a camera at all. We were going to some event that night, and I thought it might be a bit inconvenient. However I knew from experience, that when I went anywhere without a camera, there is always a missed opportunity so I brought along a small Leica X1, which could fit in my pocket. It was a hot, July day and as I was leaving, I noticed the hallway door to the balcony was open for air passage and stepped outside. Voila!
A few years ago, I spent a week in Havana, Cuba. I loved the town, the people and the general spirit of the place and hope to return soon. What I noticed however while i was there was that shooting was pretty easy. The city was a gold mine of great shots and when I would get back to the hotel at night, editing them took a very long time because of the choices I had to make. If you look at it as a “batting average” on most days 1 or 2 good shots out of a hundred is a good day. Sometimes it gets better and I end up with 4 or 5 good shots and on other days I can come up empty (“0”). Thats my batting average—1 or 2 per hundred is a good day.
Havana was different—very different. My “batting average” soared to 10-15 shots per hundred —it seemed I could not miss. I still do not know whether it was the place or simple chance but this has never happened to me in 45 years. It could be that this was my first visit to a third world place and everything was new but this scenario is unlikely. What is probably more probable is this. Since Cuba is a CommunistCommunist country, one cannot just travel freely around (at least not Americans). On this trip we had to guides who would show us around and because of that I stumbled into places I would not ordinarily go. We entered peoples homes, visited boxing clubs, elementary schools and ballet academies. The other thing is that on the occasions I was alone, the people on the street saw me as a curiosity and approached me all the time. This made it a lot easier to”connect”.
It was a bit of an adjustment when I got back because I was expecting the same results in Florida where I live but after a dog or so, I came back to earth. Soaring batting averages are like baseball. Some days, you can go four for four, and other strike out four for four. The latter is far more common, but on those rare, special days…