evening_small_village_Portugal_2007

Portugal, 2009
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?

‪#‎photography‬ ‪#‎Portugal‬ ‪#‎streetphotography‬

Venice_beach_shadows

It’s often funny what one sees when walking about. Sometimes I walk out the door and think about what I want to see and as always I am disapointed because I will never find it. I know expectations can be fatal but I slip into it much too often. The best times are when I leave with no expectations in mind and my subjects mysteriously appear in front of me as if by magic. I love those moments. Last week along a walk in Venice Beach CA, I had reached a “dead zone” where there was not much going on and I was getting a bit restless. Just as I was about to head back, I noticed these small towers that were used for shade and saw this guy checking his cell phone (What else is new?). It did not look interesting until I noticed people on the bike path behind him and patiently waited until my shot showed up. They usually do.

Lisbon_fog*

The photograph above is a fake! What I mean is that the fog effect has been added after the fact in Photoshop to make it look like something that has never really happened. The truth is that it was a sunny day in Lisbon, I took the shot, it was boring because nothing was really going on, and I fucked with it until it became sort of pretty. I one level, I actually like it but that is as far as it goes. I will never exhibit it, or even sell it. (I take that back. If someone offers me and extravagant sum like Peter Lik, I will break down and sell it).

Recently, I have been reading about the World Press Photo Awards “scandal” in which a significant number of entries had been disqualified because they had been altered. It was interesting because I think they overdid it. I am not a journalist—far from it but of course I have opinions—lots of em. If I had entered the shot above, it would have and should have been disqualified. No doubt about it, its a complete fake. The scene never existed, except in my imagination. But lets not get anal about it. For years in the days of film photographs were manipulated in the darkroom by burning in, dodging, cropping, and intensifiers to bring out the shadows. They bore no resemblance at all to the original negatives. I read that the year previously, a photo was disqualified because the photographer had committed the ghastly act of removing a piece of litter from a corner of the frame via Photoshop and that constituted a violation of the rules. (He could have easily cropped the offending garbage out and that would have been OK.) My only interest in photography is in exhibiting and publishing in books and magazines—not news reporting so I come from a different angle on this subject. In my book anything goes, but I do have personal ethics about my photographs. 99.999% of my images are unaltered. Nothing has been removed or added except on that extra 001%, I have done the unmentionable—I removed and offending element from the frame. Sometimes I try to remove it by burning in but I cannot so alas Photoshop. I have never added anything in and I would not—except I have never had to until now but who knows? I usually never crop, but every now and then I do. I burn in and dodge like a maniac. What I am saying is that in my world anything is fine as long as it creates an interesting image—one which my audience would appreciate. Since I am not recording anything that I saw, only what I felt, what I do to my images after the fact is not a sin. Journalists are supposed to act as witnesses, and as a result their images have to be a bit more on the level. Its too bad really because I happen to think that some news images are outright boring and a bit of enhancements would not harm the original intent, which is to record, however I am not a journalist. I just seem to think, they should lighten up a bit. On the other hand if they did, where would it stop and how far is enough?

 

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.

 

Hollywood Beach
Hollywood Beach

Sunday was a kind of dull day. I had been in a golf tournament that morning and lost, downed two quick Bloody Mary’s and in a sudden spurt of inspiration fueled by alcohol, headed off down I95 to Hollywood Beach to take some photographs. Since it was a Sunday, the French Canadians were severely outnumbered by the Hispanics who flocked to this spot for their Sunday Picnics. needless to say, the joint was filled. I walked up and down the beach for an hour or so, took a picture or two, but nothing really clicked. After another pass, I felt thirsty and stopped in at one of the beach bars for a beer. I sat on the small wall separating the beach from the “boardwalk”, sipped my beer, watched the guys, girls, families stroll by. I was facing the bar ,and seated at a table across the walkway, facing me was this young attractive woman, sipping her Corona watching back. It was nice. 30 years ago, if I were single, I might have done something about it but it is 30 years later and I am not single so I was just happy, sitting on the wall, with my beer, watching this young woman do the same thing back.

After a while, she finished her beer, got up and moved on and after a few moments I did the same. As I turned toward the beach, I spotted this couple who had been sitting next to me and snapped the shot. I thought she might react so I hesitated, but persevered and as it turned out, her eyes were probably shut and she never noticed me. That’s what I love about things on days like this. it’s all about watching.

HB_Kid

As a kid growing up in Montreal, I sorta got used to freezing my ass off in winter. Of course when you are younger, you don’t really realize it… or care for that matter. As a teenager you have to show how tough you are so you never wear a hat, don’t lace up your flight boots, and keep your jacket unbuttoned. And gloves? Fuck em! That phase only lasted until my 18th year. That’s when I went out one January afternoon and walked over to my friend Harvey’s which was a 20 minute walk. It was -10° F, and there was a 20 mile an hour wind blowing but I didn’t care. I was a tough teenager who thought he knew it all. (Over the years I have found out quite gradually, how little I really know. Its fascinating!) It was cold but I could “handle it” so off I went. When I arrived, his sister Julianne opened the door and blurted out, “David, what happened to your ear? Its white!” I reached up and touched it and it was frozen stiff. It took about 10 minutes to thaw out and after that, whenever the temperature was below freezing, my ear would sting like hell unless I wore a hat.

Over the next few years I started becoming more adverse to winter with age and started wearing sweaters, buttoning my coat, wearing gloves and of course a hat. At some point that was not enough. Winter became just as exciting as a trip to the dentist. I began to hate it with a passion. Slush in Montreal made the temperature damp. My toes were always cold. Sitting in a restaurant there was always a draft. Even having a car didn’t help because it took time to warm up and I always had to shovel it out after a snowfall.

I moved to Vermont as I like to say for “the warmer climate”. It actually was warmer… by about an average of 5° but after a few years it didn’t seem really different. I still froze, and my toes were still cold.

When I was 45, I went to Florida for the first time and met my present wife Sharon. We were both from Montreal and we both drove our parent’s cars down south for them. (An old middle-class Jewish custom) We were both broke so for the first few years of our marriage, that was our annual vacation. Every November and April… her in her mother’s car and myself  in my father’s car following each other down/up I95. It was worth it though, because I fell in love with that hot wind, on a winter night as we walk down the street with the smell of Jasmine in the warm aire. After a few years we eventually settled on one car. We found someone else to drive my father’s.

As time went on, we became a bit more affluent and started going down on our own—this time in winter when it was cold. As things got better we would do it twice, and eventually three times a year. It was nice, but we both hated coming back north and so about seven years ago after figuring out how to make our business portable, we bought a place here. It’s really funny but for most of my life, I always thought that people who were doing the same thing were schmucks. I saw it as typical “follow-the-herd” mentality. I never really wanted to identify with them. As I said at the beginning, I didn’t know very much when I was younger. You grow up, and as a teenager, acquire prejudices that you stick with for most of your life until you smarten up or other things happen to change your mind. This is what we call “coming of age.” In my case it took a while.

So, why the picture?  Because it was taken yesterday on the beach here in Florida when it was a balmy 82°. As I said, you have to adapt and change. In this case it was not about being able to afford it—it was about changing one’s view on things, figuring out how to make it work,  and I am the better off for it.

A very happy new year to everybody.