superman_walking

Sometimes I get depressed. I feel I have taken my last photograph and there is nothing left to do. Its a good thing, I have been around because I know from many past experiences that this is just a passing phase. Like everything else in life, this too will pass. Most creative people have experiences this many times in their career. Its inevitable—there is nothing left to do but sit it out.

I took this shot in New Orleans a few weeks ago. I did not notice it on my first edit but then upon looking over my shots—voila!… there it was. I liked it. I liked it a lot so I put it up on my Facebook page. Then something strange happened. For one brief moment, I though I would never again do anything as nice. The initial shock quickly passed but moments of doubt, lack of confidence, feelings of inadequacy lingered on. So I stopped. Every now and then I pick up a camera but I have not done anything much. I went to Daytona Bike Week, got bored after one day and came home. I was supposed to go to Caile Ocho in Miami, but I changed my mind. Last night I was planning on going to the Northwood neighborhood in West Palm Beach but it rained. Feelings of doom rained down alongside it. Nothing works.

So I do what I always do when this happens. I play some golf, eat nice dinners with my wife, putz around the house and go over old photographs in Lightroom. Guess what happens? While going over old shots that I took a few years ago, I find something new, something different, something fresh, something I never saw before. In a few days all this shit will be over and I will resume the quest_the quest for my next photographic gem.

felix

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.

storm&don

A few years ago, I was in Houston attending a portfolio review. Things were not going well at the time. Some reviewers were too honest, some were right on, others were full of shit.It was sort of depressing so I took an afternoon off and headed for a bar. I stumbled into this place, somewhere in the downtown area, picked out a stool and ordered a beer. Within a few moments I was talking to these two guys. Storm (on the right) was homeless but he got a check from somewhere every month and spent it in a bar while they let him charge his phone. I guess he added a new dimension to homelessness. Donald (on the left) worked in a shelter. He had been homeless, but settled down and now devoted his time helping people. In their spare time they both drank.

Bars are interesting places. Everybody is friendly and happy but I think down under there is something missing. Most people live very lonely lives in “quiet desperation” — without contact, without hope and without passion. They are just drifting from one woman/man to another, from one job to another and from one bar to another. They never really get passionate about things. They never feel they have to get inside anything, to understand it, to get better at it, to master it. Instead they drink.

I feel fortunate that I can get into things and try to understand them better. Although I was a fuck-up in school, I managed to get into worthwhile activities as I matured, that opened up my “curiosities”. Whether it was as a photographer, a golfer, a designer, there was always something to stir me up and I am grateful for it.

Who knows about people like Storm and Donald. Perhaps I am completely wrong about them. I hope so.

I shot this photograph a few years ago at a street carnival in Miami. I have always liked this one but more importantly, it is on the subject of music—one of my never-ending on-going themes. On reflection, I sometimes wonder what it is that attracts me to these “themes’. What is the hook? Being a photographer is about reflection, it is about examining the things that are going on in your life. It is about self-discovery. At least that is how I see it and so on the subject of music, this is where I came from.

Years ago, way back in the last century, I was a young kid with very little going on in my life when I met my friend Harvey who would be my best buddy for many years to come. It was at the end of my high school career and I had no future and no past to think of. It was that special age—that bridge from teen to adult that some get through easier than others. We would spend our time hanging out together all the time and it was at this time that I discovered Jazz. We would spend endless hours in his basement, smoking, listening to Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Bill Evens, etc. and talk/dream/wonder about the years to come. Eventually we ended up on separate paths, although we still talk to each other about once a year. The main part of this though is that this is where my love of music began and continues to be a major part of my life. It is in my head. To this day, if there is nothing going on upstairs, or I am a bit depressed, or whatever, I can still put myself back in that basement and play “Green Dolphin Street” in my head—every note, every solo.

These days, whenever I am wandering around with a camera around my neck and I hear music, I am drawn to it like a moth to the flame. It could be a street festival (like this one), a street musician, an outdoor concert, some guys banging drums in the street—anything, with sound but to me it is all about those days as a kid, smoking cigarettes, and listening to jazz in that smoke-filled basement.

I have also said, when I take photographs, they are about me. When I choose to photograph something, it is because it is something from my past, my dreams, my life that pops out at a particular moment. It is a statement that says, that this is where I stood, on a particular day at a particular time and this is what I felt. Photographs to me are very, very personal.

I had been photographing this laundromat window in Bristol VT that had passages from the scriptures pasted on their window. I looked away from my viewfinder and noticed this woman standing off to the side. “I love the messages on the windows. I often find them quite inspiring,“ she said.

“They change the scriptures quite often you know. We are having hard times right now and are in-between homes. I don’t want to be living out of my car—not with two kids.”

She said that she hoped the worst was behind and that things would start getting better and I wished her the best. She was clutching a laptop in her arms for some, as yet unexplained reason, when I asked her to pose for me in front of the sign. She readily agreed. After taking a shot she turned to go into the laundromat. Just before going through the door she turned and said,

“I am bringing in my laptop to be repaired after I get the laundry. I hope they can do it before my classes tomorrow night. Have a pleasant day”

And that was it. Hooray for this woman and hooray for the 47%. Mitt Romney can go fuck himself!

Every now and then, when photographing in the street, people—complete strangers come up and talk to me. I love those moments—those connections!

Finding themes or projects for my photographs is not a difficult task. They just show up—just like cats. I had noticed when I travel or just hang around that I stumble on weddings. Everybody seems to get married. Being a guy with a camera hanging from my neck sometimes makes me seem to fit in so I just hang around. It’s not the bride and groom that interests me though—its the crowd, the guests, the kids,—the whole scene.

So here I was in Salzburg, in a garden and there is a wedding going on. I heard a lot of English so I assumed it was a British couple who had travelled all the way here to get married. As it turned out, the happy couple was visually boring, however I noticed these children hanging around a pond. They were absolutely bored with it all. Wherever they lived, they had been uprooted ands schlepped to Austria and they did not seem to be enjoying it one bit. Just like American kids on holiday with their parents, they probably would prefer staying in their hotel room watching TV. Odd; they did not seem to be enjoying each other’s company either. I am sure their parents either busy ignoring them or wanting to strangle them.

Recently, I wrote about how depressing it could be when you go somewhere, come back look at your photos, and have this ’empty” feeling that there is simply nothing there.

I thought it would be interesting therefore to go over those series from the past few years once again and have a second look. All those images that were overlooked, discarded, ignored have been resurrected in this project called “Project 14” where for the next 14 days i will posting some of these photographs.

This first photograph was taken in Naples about 5 years ago of an Italian wedding party. I constantly am stumbling upon weddings when I visit Italy (They must be big there). For some unexplained reason, I am compelled to stop, and take a picture of the happy couple. Sometimes, for me they seem to be more than just “wedding photos.” What is more interesting though is that these couples are totally unaware of me taking their photographs.

Look for another photo tomorrow.