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?

 

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!

 

fire

 

For some reason, I always find myself photographing these things. Fire-eaters, men on stilts, clowns, all sorts of oddball activity. I have been photographing this woman for a few years. She appears regularly at a street festival very art Friday in the Northwood section of West Palm Beach. Since I have taken her photo on a number of occasions, we sometimes talk. She tells me that it is only a hobby with her but it is really something she likes to do. I doubt she is getting rich at it but she finds it satisfying. I think that is what it is all about—finding something you like doing and just practicing and getting better at it.

For myself, it is all about being a photographer. For others who knows but I hope it is something.

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.


This one is also from the “women” section of my web site (www.dsaxe.com). A few years ago, I was at a Gay Pride festival in Lake Worth Florida and I spotted this woman dressed as a domenitrix (or something). She was standing off to the corner of the field practicing with her whip, taking swats at the air.

“Excuse me miss, may I take your picture?’ She looks at me with a disdained expression an after a small pause…

“Yes. You may.”

And that was it.

Woman (and men) come in all forms. This is probably the best part for me when I photograph people because everyone is different. I could not begin to imagine a world where everyone is the same. It would be unbearable. Sometimes the extremes can be interesting and certainly as a photographer, one is attracted to these extremes. In my “woman” series I try to cover the whole range and this shot probably is at one end of the spectrum.

I snapped a few and that was as it. What else is there to say.

Hopefully I will get off my ass sometime in the near future and update my web page. I had this idea that the body language of men and women was distinctly different from each other and when the are together, it changes again and they seem to be a bit closer to something more in common. Not being a big fan of artists statements, I am sure it will take me some time to write it up in a more intelligent manner but this will do for a start. The idea is that when women are alone , they give off visual clues via their poses and body language and of course men do the same. When they are together, these signals change. This theme has probably been in my brain for years since I have always been photographing women from the rear. I do the same with men but not as often.  There are probably a few reasons for this. The first is the shape of the hips, the curves, they are often perfect. The other is because they are unaware of being photographed and thus more natural. I also shoot men (and couples) from the rear for the same reasons. In any case, the photographs in the series are definitely not all shot from behind, I photograph people from all directions.

It was in Tropea, in southern Italy where I stumbled (I stumble on everything) upon her at sunset. Everybody in this town assembles at this small piazza overlooking the sea to watch the sun set. She was with some friends with a glass of wine in-hand and she struck this very relaxed pose. I notices her hip jutting out in the perfect curve and got of two frames before she moved. When I looked at it as I was editing my photographs, I was struck by the simplicity of it—the utter subtle eroticism (at least for me) that this middle-aged women presented and my idea for this series began to take shape. I started looking over images from the past few years of women in their subtle feminine beauty and men in their manly-macho posturing and it seemed to all come together. At the same time, while looking at these photographs, I noticed that when I took photographs of men and women together, things seemed to change again. The men and women were giving off different messages when they were together.This isn’t how it is—it is how I see it. I think these photographs will be more of a personal statement than a message. My updated site is up now and  you can check it out at www.dsaxe.com

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!