drinking_03

A few years ago I wandered into this bar in Beatty Nevada one sunny morning and ordered a beer. The lady at the bar served me and then mentioned that they were in the middle of a “ladies group” meeting, but I was welcome to hang around. I did, and asked if they would mind if I took pictures while I had my beer. They all said go ahead, and so for the next hour, I drank my beer, took pictures of the bar and the woman having their meeting. The photograph above is from this series and at first glance, it appears that the woman was not aware of her being photographed but this is not true. The simple fact is that she was completely aware of what I was doing and did not really care.

From time to time I read articles, or get emails mentioning that the photography of people without their permission is rude, sneaky, and dishonest however I must strongly disagree. In a lot of cases (such as the one above) the person is actually aware, but it is not apparent. When the subject is unaware, this practice is harmless and doesn’t hurt anyone, and makes for an interesting photograph. A few years ago, I wrote an article in BlackStar Rising on this subject titles A World Without Photographs. I have updated it and posted it below.

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Over the past few years I have read articles, or had people mention to me that photographing strangers without their permission is rude and constitutes an invasion of their privacy. I got the impression these people thought photographers were a crass lot, incapable for any feelings toward their subjects. I even got the distinct impression that they would like laws passed to enforce this notion.  What kind of world would we have if there were actually laws that prevented people from photographing strangers without their permission? First of all, we would never had the pleasure of  enjoying the magnificent work of Henri Cartier Bresson, Robert Doisneau, Robert Frank, and countless others. Their work would have been considered illegal.

The photographic record/history of the 20th century would have been very different. It would have consisted of pictures of empty streets, devoid of people. The only pictures of people from that last 110 years would have been of people, standing still, posing for a camera. Photography would have been forbidden at sporting events, wars, public places, store openings, movie premiers, crime scenes, travelogues, dog shows, etc—anywhere where crowds were present. It would have been a history totally absent of people. Snapshots would be entirely different. You would have to take special care when taking snapshots of family friends and children to make sure no strangers were present in the background. The same would be true when taking pictures at your kid’s birthday party. You would probably need a signed release from the parents authorizing you to take pictures of all children present. Weddings would be different of course because some guests would not want to be photographed. Of course they could also sign releases.

Of course news reporting would be entirely different. There wouldn’t be any. Newspapers always contain photographs of people in the news, the spectators, the crowd and passers-by-— that would all stop.. All they could include in the way of photographs would be formal portraits (most likely of politicians) of those in the news. The same would be for TV news—there would not be any news because most stories are about and include people. All that would remain is a world consisting of formal portraits, of people stiffly posing in front of cameras posing. To liven things up they could jump in the air when the shutter is snapped.  Its so exciting!

Of course that is only the beginning—why stop with people. It would not be long before those who wish to protect their “privacy” would attempt to pass laws protecting photography of homes, offices, monuments and such. This is actually happening. Have you ever watched reality TV shows lately? Thanks probably to lawyers, logos on baseball caps and T-shirts, signs on buildings, brand names of any kind are all crudely blurred out.

Although this scenario may seem a bit extreme, that is the type of society that can evolve when allow ourselves to by driven by fear, political correctness, stupidity and ignorance. Photographs harm absolutely no one. We all have the right to refuse to have our pictures taken —all we have to do is politely say no. But to presume we are protecting the general public by restricting these activities in others is fundamentally wrong. I consider myself a sensitive person. Sometimes, I ask permission to take someones picture if my intent is that obvious. On other occasions, I like to be “invisible” and if someone happens to notice me, I walk away. I try to stay out of the way and if someone objects when my camera is pointed at them I respect their wishes.

There are two ways to go through life. One way is to be timid, constantly worry about offending others, never take chances, and always side with the majority. People like this seldom are very creative. The other way is to be out there, hunger for discovery, be curious and follow your own path. This is the road I choose to take and if people think it is offensive, its just too bad!

 

DeLand Florida, 2014
DeLand Florida, 2014

Deland is a small town in central Florida which I pass through either on my way to or from Daytona when I go to “Bike Week”. I kind of like the place but I am not sure why. This is the second time I have been here and walked up and down the empty streets lines with restaurants,  gift shops and such. Not much going on but I keep working at it. This time was different. I discovered when I was at “Bike Week”, that there is really nothing going on in Daytona before 3:00PM because everybody is sleeping off the activities of the night before. They go there to party and of course they party—all night long. So since I don’t sleep well in hotels, I get up early and decided to have another crack at DeLand. This time, I found a different part of town. It was an alley with a few bars and joints and this guy came out  of one of them for a smoke. I love that light!

coffee_bologna

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

Miami_Art

 

It was another warm afternoon in Miami. After a relaxing lunch in the Grove, we went to the Art District for some strolling and beer. Although most of the galleries in this area are mediocre at best, there was enough good stuff to see to make it worth it. However, some of the best art is on the buildings walls, outside on the street. It is one big outdoor art gallery. As a photographer, though, what makes it interesting for me is the blasts of color mixed with the harsh shadows of the Florida sun. There is nothing like it. As I said after strolling around and stopping for a beer we were on our way back to the car and Voila! Here was this mother with her child talking on the phone.

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.


As I mentioned in a previous post, I was updating my web site (www.dsaxe.com). I had come up with the idea of showing men and women alone and together and how their bodies change depending on who they are with. Since I take thousands of photographs, some of them must be good, and some are good enough to assemble into these themes that I come up with. I have always been attracted to certain subjects and couples have been one of them You might say these photographs are mostly about me than the other way around.. I know some photographers if not most, come up with their themes in advance and then go out to find the photographs to fit their theory but I have a small problem with this.

1. It seems a bit constipated. I mean if you go out “looking for something”, the passion of discovery—of actually stumbling on something is missing.

2. If you are actually looking for something specific (to fit your theme), you most often just miss what is really out there.

So I am a bit old fashioned—big deal! This photograph was taken in West Palm Beach on New Years eve, 2006. I am not a big New Years Eve guy. (In fact I hate it. I hate any event where people feel they HAVE to do something. Why can’t they feel like that all the time.) So there I was alone and bored in a shopping center in Florida and this couple pissed to shit was slobbering and dragging their drunken asses across the floor. It was early in my digital career but I swiftly realized that these cameras can shoot in low light—much better than film so I snapped a few. As the band played on and I moved on to something else. This photograph actually shows up in many of my projects. It shows up in my “drink” series, my “nighttime” series, and now on my” men+women” group. As I said, I do not limit myself to looking for “one thing only”. As Henri Cartier Bresson once said, “You have to be receptive.”

For the past few years, I have been working on a series of photographs of people drinking. happy people, lonely people, couples, gangs, solitary drinkers,—anybody who is in the process of getting pissed to some degree or another. Most of these images are taken in bars where people go to socialize or be alone.

Like most of my projects, they started by chance, happy accidents—spontaneously! In one case i was one of those people spending a quiet afternoon drinking beer in a bar in New Orleans. The guy next to me started talking, a biker next to him joined in and after a beer or two, I remembered that I had my camera with me and started taking a few pictures. Sometimes, I just set out to go to bars and shoot. I have to be careful where I go but once I find a place that I feel comfortable, I ask to take some pictures of barmaids, or patrons. On other occasions, i am just a passer-by watching people drinking in outdoor cafes, on the street or any other place they choose to do their thing.

When I ann doing it in  bars, I also have learned to pace myself. I know I am going to spend some time in these places and since I am not a heavy drinker I have to pace my drinks. Usually it takes a beer or two to warm people up to what i am doing  and then a few more beers to get the job done. It takes its toll on me and I can only get into it two or three times per year.

This photograph was taken last week in Delray Beach. Sharon and I had been in Miami and on our way back, we decided to stop in Delray for an “apertivo” Since it was Florida drinking outdoors is pretty common so there we were on the deck having our drinks and this scene was going on at the bar—so typical, a guy hustling  a woman. What interested me was that he had no socks on—very cool a la Palm Beach so I snapped a few as I nursed my Stella (the beer not the woman.) I figure at this rate, I should be ready to share this series in a year or two but of course, who the hell knows.