Its funny what ones first thought is when we wake up. Today I awake and thought of France—the Loire valley to be exact. I don’t know why, but that is what was in my head. Perhaps it will be because I will be traveling soon and I am getting a bit excited about it but on this sunny cool, Florida morning, I thought about this place. We visited it about 6 years ago and after arriving in Paris, We drove to this lovely hotel outside of Tours in a driving rainstorm. It took twice as long to get there as we planned because of the rain and all I could think about was what a way to start a holiday. I should know better. Just as we arrived at the hotel, the rain stopped and everything became really misty. It was lovely. Our room was in a small chalet in a forest—actually it was one of the nicest hotel rooms I had ever stayed in. We were exhausted and after a small dinner, we went to bed. In the morning, I awoke, grabbed my camera and walked out onto the balcony to witness this scene in front of me. It was splendid!
Every now and then, I Google myself to see what comes up. There are always surprises. A few days ago, I stumbled on a site that referenced an article I had written years ago regarding the difference between photographs that are taken, and those that are made. What I had said was there is a distinct difference between the two, but whoever had written this blog misinterpreted what I had really meant. In short, what I was discussing was that some photographers simply take a picture and print it as is, without any manipulation whatsoever. I thought that photographs in this category were dull and really did not have anything to say except this is what I saw”. I mentioned that I preferred photographs that are made—meaning that in order to be interesting, the photographer (or printer) should enhance these images to illustrate what the photographer really felt when he/she took the picture. The writer was under the impression that what I was saying was that photographs that are “made” were heavily manipulated via Photoshop to show something that had not really existed. What I had really meant was that being an old photographer who had learned my skills in the darkroom for 40 years, the acts of dodging and burning in were well-stuck in my genes and therefore part of my images. Most young photographers today simply do not understand this. In my photographs, I dodge, burn-in and adjust the color the same way photographers have always printed or shown their work. I don’t put things in that were not originally there, I hate HDR, and I never re-arange backgrounds to create a flakes image. I only wish to show what I feel when i see these things. In my opinion, what I see is of little interest to anybody. Its just not my style—except for the image above. Every now and then…
The original RAW file is actually quite dull and lifeless. It was taken from a French chateau one year while I was on holiday, and it never struck me as interesting. So one day—one rainy day when I had little to do but putz around on my computer, I tried enhancing it. I do not even remember what I did to make it this way but I liked it. Given the fact that it is heavily manipulated, I would never really show it alongside my regular work but somewhere in my hard drive, there is a collection of these images—mostly landscapes. All I really did do was fool around with the color a bit, not a real travesty, and add some fog. It really a false image as a photograph but I like it just the same.
A few years ago we were vacationing in Sicily and returned home by way of Paris. We had a three day layover and I was of course looking forward to it. Unfortunately, I had picked up some bug in Sicily and was not at my best. I remembered something my doctor had told me years ago about stomach bugs. He had told me to starve them and try not eating for 24 hours. This was hard to do in Paris—almost impossible but I did it. The next day I actually started feeling a bit better and could actually go out walk around and feel a bit more comfortable—albeit quite hungry.
We walked along the Sienne and I spotted this couple kissing on the other side. Fortunately, I had only a zoom lens and it came in handy for this shot across the river. Although I have always felt that I needed one of these gizmos (zoom lens), the truth is that I hardly use them at full zoom. When I check my shots in Lightroom, it can tell me what focal length was used for the shot and I have noticed that not matter how strong my zoom, the vast majority of the shots was shot at focal lengths between 28mm and 100mm. These days I hardly bother with them and just walk around using one camera and a single 35mm lens. I have a feeling that I am taking better pictures this way—at least for the present.
As a photographer, I am attracted to certain themes—nothing really special— just certain things which seem to grab me. One of them is looking down at people or things from above, and the other is of lovers. there is probably a connection between the two. In both cases , the subject is usually unaware of being photographed. People below me hardly look up and people kissing are looking at each other. What is odd (at least to me) is that in this photograph, I have combined the two themes into one picture. It usually never works that way.
So, there I was in Paris a few years ago, lunch was over, and I had a slight wine buzz and things were sweet—very sweet! We were walking through les Tuileries and at the far end toward the Arc de Triumph, the walkway on the side of the garden gently rises to overlook the main area in the center. This is a beautiful design and also perfect for me to look down. I come here often when I am in Paris to do just that. Of course there are floods of lovers caressing each other but I also like this spot for some of the other photographs that I have taken from here. Children playing, solitary women talking on cellphones, brides posing for photographs—this is a people-watching paradise.
Initially, I passed over this image but a year later while looking through my “garbage file”, I re-discovered this one. On second thought, I thought it might look good in black and white but after a few moments I decided to mute the colors and as the French say—Voila!
Sometime in the past there was this king in France (one of the Phillipes) who like most kings had a very large ego. Just outside of this hall was a terrace and when he was on it he did not like the view because he thought the river was in the wrong spot so he had it moved to a place of his liking. So here in the 16th century, 10,000 peasants using shovels diverted this fucking river to please their king. He could of used 10,000 peasants to make his palace a bit warmer and cozier, but a king is only interested in big projects. This was his living room but it is devoid of furniture because his decorator was probably in the dungeon.
That was then but this is now. Today very little has changed. There are fewer kings, but many more “investment bankers” whose egos have surpassed the kings of ancient France. Their collective greed has far exceeded the royal greed of yore but just like those ancient rulers who believed their power was ordained from God, these jokers believe their wealth is ordained from their “brilliance”. Perhaps they are right. When they screw up, it is the peasants, (taxpayers) who bail them out and allow them to continue fucking up the country. Perhaps the US should follow the traditions of France and adopt the guillotine.
Somewhere in southern France—one of those charming villages that I cannot remember the name of and will probably never visit again. Its happened before in Europe. We go into a village, and either Sharon or I say something like “Haven’t we been here before?” and we look around and say “Oh Yaaaa, we have.” Its Déja Vu all over again.
All I know is that this was in the main town square and this cat was just sitting there watching the action. Very cooooool.
I have always been interested in photographing things from above. Besides offering an interesting perspective, it also makes the viewer invisible. I mean who looks up? Whenever I am photographing , my first instinct is to seek the higher ground. I know Rodchenko was one of the first artists to explore different camera angles, it continues a fascination for the many photographers that followed.
I really feel sort of like an angel when I am hovering above my subject. They are usually lost in their own thoughts, in their own worlds oblivious to me and my camera. I do this a lot. On one of my more recent posts I also showed an image taken from above. It was also taken in Paris at the same time. It helps when places have elevation. Unfortunately in Florida where I live, it is relatively flat although I still search for staircases, second floors, ladders, etc. to shoot from. It can be done.
I once saw an interview with Ralph Gibson where he talked about a theme he worked on which consisted of photographs taken from only three feet away. “How original” I thought. Perhaps I should do something similar—photographs from above. If I have to have a theme, it should be simple and free of bullshit. For those of you who insist on photographers having a concrete theme to work from, how about it. Let me know.