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.
I love New York! (as the jingle goes). I visited there twice this year. The second time I hung out below 26th street and wandered, ate, drank and made a few photographs. Since I am off to Florida on Saturday, my style will have to make an adjustment from northern cloudy light to southern Sunbelt bright. It’s really funny though because when i first started out, I only would shoot on cloudy overcast days. I hated the shadows and what they did to my pictures but alas, I grew up, had another got at it and discovered that it was not much different from what I had been doing all along. My attitude changed—that’s all
So chances are, my next posting will have lots of bright contrasty shadows.
Across the bridge from where I live in West Palm Beach is a place locals refer to as “The Island”, namely Palm Beach Florida. It is a special place with no room for the “hoy paloy” —and money—lots of it—in fact shitloads of it is your only ticket to living there. Its main shopping street is called Worth Avenue and it is comparable to Rodeo Drive in LA, meaning a few blocks of very exclusive shops mostly catering to jewellery stores , women’s fashions and art gallery’s specializing in the most horrendous dreck. Mostly it is the tourists who stroll the streets gaping in at the windows as they walk in gangs of four or more (don’t couples ever take vacations alone?) commenting on the windows laced with exquisite merchandise and tried to look as if they fit in—which they do not.
Because it is the real “Palm Beachers” who have a style of dressing which is unsurpassed in this great land. For the men it is simple. Straw hats, loafers without socks, white shirt and tie, blue blazer, short pants and always carrying the most tiny of shopping bags—just big enough to hold a necktie. The women are almost always dressed in white, with big diamond rings, fat necklaces all made up to the max and dogs—they always have dogs.
As I walked past this woman, I said “Nice dogs” and a conversation began which ended in me asking her to take her photo with her special ones. She asked me to send her the photo which In said I would. My usual “motus operendi” is to give them a business card with my email address on it, ask them to send me an email and then I would send their jpeg’s. This ensures that they are serious about their photos and not wasting my time. So far she has not contacted me. Our paths will cross again.
Worth Avenue is my latest project is and I am slowly amassing what the holy powers in the art world refer to as, “a body of work”. It is an interesting process because what I am discovering is, that most of my subjects are quite nice, relaxed and friendly and have no problems with having their pictures taken—even if they are from another planet.
I was in Boulder CO for a few days and Sharon and I decided to take a drive north so we could visit Cheyenne WY. I had never been to Wyoming so I thought it might be fun to visit. As we drove up Rt. 287 N, I became interested in the small towns along the way so we started taking back roads. As the roads became more “back”, the view became more interesting. Eventually, as we were driving on this dirt road, I noticed this large statue of a cowboy wielding a long pole so I circled around to have another look. When I got out of the car, this vicious dog approached barking his ass off so I took a few pictures of him. What else should I do, It was a sort of invitation. So the dog barked and I shot a few frames and eventually the dog stopped barking. I said goodbye and we continued north —ended up in a town called Loveland. We never got to Cheyenne
I have recently become fond of drinking. I am not a lush or anything like that, but when I say fond of drinking, I really meen fond of taking pictures in bars. One of my galleries on my website called “drink’n” on this subject. It started about a year ago and I have been working on it ever since. Of course you have to find the right kind of place. I have been concentrating on sleazy bars lately but why stop there. I think I might move on to “upscale” but I expect it to be more uptight and the patrons probably would not want to be photographed. I have found that the sleazeier the bar, the more likely they want to be photographed.
This place is called “The Tiki Hut” and it is on the intracoastal A1A across from the Hollywood Beach boardwalk. I had been taking pictures at Hollywood Beach and was on my way home when I spotted this place and turned in. It wasn’t much really— two dogs, Ed (the owner), his wife, a toothless guy and a couple of college kids hitting golf balls into the water—perfect!
Ed asked me what I wanted, A beer I replied and he reached into a cooler and pulled out a can of Miller Light. I started talking to him and he told me that he had had this place for the past 32 years—even before all the highrises had fucked up the area. He said he didn’t want to do much except hang out, drink beer and watch all the boats go by and if he could make a few bucks selling beer and gas, so be it. I think he was on to something.
His head turned to look at me just as I snapped the shutter. “Jesus Christ! It’s not supposed to happen this way” I thought. I did not make eye contact. He stared at me for a while and then he exchanged a few words with his girlfriend (the blur on the right). Sharon had gone into the grocery store to buy a chocolate bar and I walked toward it to make my escape but he intercepted me.
“Did you take my picture?” He asked me sharply in French.
“No” I replied (in my mediocre French), “I took a picture of your dog.”
“You should ask me for permission to take a picture of my dog” he said.
Oh shit! here we go again, I thought. This has been happening a lot lately. Just recently in Montreal, a heavily bearded man approached me and asked if I took a picture of his kids. Of course I lied and looked at him with contempt and he walked away but this really has been happening a lot lately. I even wrote about it in a previous blog about this horrible woman I met in an antique store in Florida. I wonder if Henri Cartier Bresson ever had to deal with these schmucks. I mean, why would anybody object if they happened to be in the way of someone’s photograph? It’s not like visiting the dentist. It really does not hurt. And of course, they will never ever see the picture. I mean NEVER!
Of course this did not apply to the mysterious Montague. He was a golf hustler in the 30’s who is semi-famous (among golf aficionados) for once winning a bet with Bing Crosby that he could beat him using only a baseball bat, a shovel and a rake. This guy did not want his picture taken either but he had a good reason. He was wanted for bank robbery back east— but I digress.
Anyhow, Sharon and I were walking in the old town one evening in Tours, France. We had just finished dinner and were walking around enjoying the sites. I usually enjoy taking pictures at night even though I rarely come up with anything interesting. Usually I take pictures of people sitting in cafe’s and just generally hanging out. Europe is a good place to do this because there are always people sitting in cafe’s and hanging out and for the most part they are really cool. (think Cartier Bresson again. This was his stomping ground. There is history and tradition here.) So that’s it! I just take my camera around with me when we go our for dinner.
“You should have asked me” He repeated.
“I didn’t think the dog cared” I answered. “Dogs aren’t usually uptight about having their pictures taken.”
He rolled his eyes in disgust, blew out some air through his mouth (a typical French move showing contempt.) and turned away. I retreated into the grocery store where Sharon was making her chocolate bar selection.
“You should have asked my permission to take our dog’s picture.”
I turned around to see the guy’s girlfriend who had followed me into the store. She was visibly angry.
“You should have asked my permission to take our dog’s picture.” she repeated.
I am sorry. I did not think the dog spoke French.” I said. By this time I was getting annoyed and really did not want to deal with them any longer Unfortunately I did not know the correct way of telling people to fuck off in French so I excused myself and turned away. They finally gave up. As I watched them walking up the street, I turned to Sharon and told her that what they really probably wanted was a handout but they handled it wrong. We stepped outside the store and back into the street when this other guy approached me.
” Excuse me, why did you take a picture of me sitting in the cafe with my friends a few moments ago?”
” I didn’t take a picture of you,” I said. “I took a picture of the street”
He excused himself and walked away.
” I think this might be a good time to exit” Sharon said.
I thought it was time to update my web site. I always find this process difficult for a number of reasons— the biggest being selection of images. Have I done enough? Are they interesting? Have I gone too far— and so on. It is an endless series of doubt, second guesses, false expectations, agonizing editing, and of course procrastination. Sooner or later though, I come up with a plan and I begin to implement it. This time I settled on a number of different themes such as drinking, buddies, music, etc. I still might change a few of them but one of the first ones to be discarded is a project I am working on entitled “Dogs.” It’s not that the images are bad, more that I think there is more to be done on this subject.
Over the years, I have discovered that I am drawn to certain subjects or themes in my photographs that I tend to shoot them over and over. On the other hand, other themes just sort of “appear” in the course of my editing. I seem to have a standard repertoire of subjects which I explore in ever greater detail. One of these is dogs. I just love taking pictures of them. I never set out with the idea of taking pictures of dogs initially— it just sort of happens. I really don’t know why I love this subject but I do know what attracts me to them. It’s their body language. I’m serious! They just have a way of hanging where their shapes, soul, mood, whatever just shouts at me. I suppose this is the personal deep inside sort of stuff that makes me tick but there it is.
This picture was taken in Lafontaine Park in Montreal recently. There seems to be a lot going on with energy going in all directions. Whenever I do get around to putting this theme on my web site, this one will probably be included. In the meantime, I have to go back to my editing and indecisions. For instance— black & white or color?