I love Daytona Bike Week! For one thing, its really a nice crowd. They love to ham it up in front of a camera. They are all in good moods after a dozen beers, and just plain easy going. This is Dirty Harry’s Bar—one of the 4 or 5 places that I like to hang out. On any other week, this is a parking lot but only for this brief time, its converted into raunchy bar with music, attractive bartenders, and $3.00 beers. I just go in, order a beer ands wait until a picture shows up. Sometimes I get a bit itchy and will move around for one end of the bar to another. (its a pretty big area.) On other occasions, especially during the day, I just follow the rays of light around as the sun slowly sets.
#daytona #daytonabikeweek #photography #dirtyharry
I have always considered myself to be a documentary photographer but I never really thought of myself as a journalist. The reason is that I probably would not have been very successful at it because I have frequently experienced looking for one story and ending up with another. In journalism, I think that is considered failure however having never studyed it, I really do not know. But it is safe to say that failures of this sort notwithstanding, what I do end up with is sometimes more interesting than what I was looking for. (I suppose that would make me an artist.) For instance, last week I went to New Orleans because I had an urge to photograph Mardis Gras. I wanted to show the color and spectacle of this annual event but alas I got sidetracked. What I found instead of color and spectacle were a bunch of drunks shouting at women on balconies to show them their tits. One can only go so far with this shit so, I moved on and started going to some of the parades. That was also pretty boring because all it was were these floats going by, and the crowds were intense to say the least. Then I noticed that the parades ended close to my hotel and that the floats were siphoned off in one direction and the marchers and bands directed in another direction to await the buses to take them home. That is where I planted myself and as the bands finished their 3-hour marches, they rested, joked around, and fooled around with their instruments. They were a nice crown of kids from high schools in Alabama, Mississippi and Norther Louisiana. Well-behaved, polite and always happy to talk, kid around and pose for photographs. I had a ball. I could not stay away and thats what I did for the next few days—sat myself at the end of the line and photographed the bands as they winded up their parade. As I said, the original story faded quickly but another one replaced it. pays to keep your options open.
Who knows why some people like certain photographs? If anyone has an answer, I would like to hear it. One of the things that I love about photography is that it is very personal. Some people love certain images and others will hate the same ones. It really does not matter who the photographer is—famous or not—each image finds its own audience. To prove this point, all you have to do is look at competition winners and runners-up. Although I may agree with the judges on occasion, more often than not, I think some of the honorable mentions were the better photographs. It is not a cut and dry case. With the internet, there is plenty of photography to see but it is not all that good, at least in my opinion. But I am only one person and others may see my tastes in photo quality as mediocre. I suppose that is the beauty of it. As I said, it is a very personal thing.
For instance, I do not like posed situations. Those photographs where the photographer places his subjects in a sort of tableau and shoots the picture are for the most part uninteresting to me. However every now and then some of the images strike me in a positive way, and I do not know why, but they do. I am not a big fan of landscapes—especially when the photographer is trying to show the beauty of a scene. However, every now and then I see landscape that strike me as brilliant because the photographer has gone beyond the prettiness of the image and added something extra—something special. What it comes down to is that it is not only personal, there are no rules. You either like a picture or you do not.
I like this photograph a lot and I am not sure why. It was 5 years ago, almost to the day that I visited Fort Pierce Florida and stumbled on a Christmas pageant taking place here. I wandered around, took a few shots and then this lady asked me what I was doing. I said I was a photographer visiting from West Palm Beach and came across this event and did she mind. On the contrary, she told me she was a riding instructor, and walked me around pointing our some of her students and asking them to pose for me. Posing is not one of my things but I know there are moments in between a pose where an interesting moment may lie. I shot this one just as she was turning to face me. Why do I like it? Who knows? Is it the angle, the ominous sky, the white dress? Or is it simply that it was a wonderful day and I had a wonderful experience shooting that day. Or is it all of it?
Everybody has their own style in taking photographs. And included in that style are “sub styles” which further define a photographers mark. For instance, I like documentary photography or what is commonly known as “street photography”. Although I am not entirely comfortable with that term, that is what I do, whenever I have a camera with me. Most of the time (99%) I include a person in my photographs. That is my style, that is what I do. Within that style is how I work and how I get the photographs that I get. It is not very complicated. I am a ‘walker”. I move along a certain path or street and when I find something interesting, I stop, shoot, and move on. Other people are more patient. They see a place that they like, they stop, and they wait for the right picture to come into their frame—and then raise their camera and shoot. I am to impatient for that—or so I thought.
Last year at Daytona Bike Week, I spotted this alley near a bar and loved the light so much, I uncharacteristically decided to stop, wait and see what happened. I did this for about 15 minutes and too perhaps about 20 shots. People were coming and going, and then suddenly this couple start to hug and things jumped into place.
A few weeks ago, I visited Havana, Cuba on a photo tour. That seems to be the only way Americans can visit Cuba these days but it is not entirely a bad idea. What was interesting to me was that we had an Itinerary of places to visit and photograph. There was a boxing club, peoples’ homes, a school, and what probably interested me the most—a ballet school. It is something I had always wanted to photograph, with their movements, balance, and wonderful gestures which had always captivated me. We were scheduled to visit the school on our last full day in Havana and I was ready—really ready. We had to meet at 10:00AM for the bus but I awake early that day as I had been doing so I could go our for an early morning stroll, since the light in that city was so beautiful at that time.
Three blocks from the hotel, as I walked along the street in that old crumbling city, I stepped on a steel grate in the middle of the sidewalk. I heard a noise, my foot dropped, the grate gave way, and I fell straight down. For some reason, my left hand managed to grab the edge of the sidewalk and I dangled over a dark bottomless pit. “FUCK!” I yelled. I must have yelled again, and then I noticed to my right, a steel ladder. I could not see down, and I had no idea what lay beneath me so I made a grab for the ladder—and missed. Down I fell to the bottom. I was a bit stunned but I seemed for the most part intact. I started to climb the ladder out of the hole, and then I saw about 20 hands at the top offering help and screaming in Spanish. They pulled me out and asked if I was OK. I thought all I had was scrapes and bruises so I declined their offers to take me to the hospital and made my way back to my hotel. By the time I reached the lobby, my right thigh had swollen to the size of a hot-water bottle and the hotel nurse told me to grab a taxi and go to the hospital.
As I waited in the emergency room, I thought about getting back in time to visit the ballet academy. I worried whether I would make it or not. Time passed. More time passed and it became apparent that I would not get back in time.
By the time, I had finished and gone back to the hotel, I realized I was too late and would miss the visit. I was pretty banged up but also very disappointed that I would miss the ballet school. As I waited in the lobby, trying to figure out what to do, Neyla, the Cuban Government guide came up to me,and asked me what had happened. I told her. She asked if I was alright and said that the group would be meeting for lunch at the Hotel Nacional after the ballet schools and would I be up to joining them there. I said i was.
Two hours later, I arrived at the hotel, received a round of applause from the other members of the group, and sat down for lunch. I was sitting next to Peter, the group organizer, and I mentioned that I was sorry I missed the ballet school visit. He very kindly suggested that perhaps one of the other guides would take me back there after lunch, since the rest of the group would be on a walking tour and I probably was not up to that.
I leaped at the suggestion. I would be at the ballet school, on my own, without any other photographers jumping in front of me as I click the shutter or stumbling into my shots. After lunch, I got into a taxi with Alain (one of our guides) and off we went to the school. We went to the director’s office and he told her the story of my accident. “Of course she said” I could spend as long as I wished photographing the class. For the next 45 minutes I had the place to myself to work in. There was nobody except 4 or 5 students, the director and her assistant, and Alain in this huge rehearsal hall.
I am always amazed at where my photographs come from. 4 hours earlier, I never imagined that I would have this shot. Life is an endless series of surprises. I love that!
I have really begun to enjoy Bike Week in Daytona Beach. This was the second time going and it keeps getting better. I don’t ride a bike anymore—in fact its been a very long time but when I did I enjoyed it. It did give me a sense of total freedom, which is something one begins to cherish as we grow up. I love the crowd here. It is a “live and let live” group and almost anything goes as long as you keep it to yourself. I like to think of it as boobs, beer, bikes, butts and bellies and they are all in abundance here. This is as hot of Evan and his girlfriend who I met here. I was photographing him and he noticed me so we spoke. He asked me to take a shot of them, which I did and sent it to him. He then asked if he could take a shot of me and his gf and of course I obliged.
The previous week I went to Calle Ocho in Miami which is another festival for the hispanic community. It was not much different than Bike Week. That was boobs, beer, butts and salsa.
One of my “passions” is photographing weddings. Although I am not a wedding photographer, somehow over the years, accidently showing up at strangers weddings and making a few photographs has grown on me and it has slowly evolved into one of my lifelong projects.
A few weeks ago, I happened to be in Lisbon during the annual Feast of St. Anthony. This is the “big event” in Lisbon and there are always many activities to enjoy—including a mass wedding at the cathedral, which has been going on for who knows how long. I had done my research and knew that on the 13th of June at a particular cathedral in the Alfama barrio of Lisbon, 11 couples would be married. So at 1:30 I set off to see what was happening. As I got closer to the cathedral, I noticed that crowds had been getting increasingly thicker and that the city had placed barricades along the side of the road to keep the hordes back. I also knew that this would be a hindrance to me getting any interesting photographs.
In one of my rare moments of aggression, I chose to walk up the middle of the street, between the barricades with an authoritative photojournalist swagger, straight up to the steps of the cathedral, where I parked myself right in front of the doors and waited for the happy couples to arrive. I thought I looked vey professional, but I am sure I stood out like a sore thumb from all the other Portuguese photographers who seemed to know each other. One of them eventually walked over to me and said something in Portuguese which of course I did not understand. He then said it in English.
“You cannot be here. This area is reserved for the press.”
“Mr. Rocca said I could stand here.” I lied
He walked away. We were 15 minutes from the arrival of the brides when another man, with an official badge, trimmed grey beard in a dark suit—looking very very official approached me and whispered something in Portuguese in my ear. I motioned that I did not understand and then repeated in English
“I don’t think you may have the proper credentials.” He said with an impish grin. He had a nice manner and said it in a very sweet way. I thought that this was it and I was about to be booted out, so I replied
“ I guess you are going to kick me out.”
He smiled and asked me where I was from and I told him that I lived in Florida. He said he had a sister who lived in Tampa and that he loved visiting her there. We chatted for about a minute or two and then he motioned me over to a spot right near where I was standing. He said I could stay but I had to keep an eye out for the TV camera boom and not get in the sight-lines of the TV cameras. He said that this event was being televised all over Portugal so I had to be discreet like the rest of the journalists covering the wedding. As long as I was on the same side of the carpet as the TV camera, I would be out of the way. I thanked him for his help.
15 minutes later, the brides began to arrive. I could not believe that I was still there, shooting away and loving every moment of it. After about half and hour of posing for pictures on the steps of the cathedral, all the brides entered through the doors and I began to follow them but a security guard stopped me. I thought my luck had finally run out but I was having such a good day, no security guard was about to spoil it for me. I went up the the man with the badge and grey beard and asked if there was any way I could get inside. He made a facial gesture that implied my chances were very slim, but he went inside the cathedral and in a few moments he returned with an official journalist pass. I spent about an hour inside the church, went out for a breather, photographed the band that had assembled, the mobs waiting to see the couples and all the rest of the activities, and went back into the church as the weddings were winding down. Again, the nice gentleman with the grey beard approached me and said the the wedding would soon be over and I should find a good spot outside when the couples would parade down the street. We went outside and he pointed out a place where he thought that might make a good spot to photograph their exit. I was the first one there and had a prime location for the grande finale. The couples came out, kissed each other, waved to the crowd, and then formed a long procession heading down the street with the band, relatives, photographers, TV personalities etc. following them. I wiped a tear from my eye—it was over.
If you think that this article is about photographing weddings you are mistaken. It is about how taking photographs can bring you closer to people, help you share experiences and just enjoy the beauty and rhythms of life in a very special way. More important than any of the pictures that I took, it was the experience of interacting with many kind people, who allowed me to participate in a very small way on such a sweet occasion. These moments are unforgettable.
If you want see more of the wedding series, click here: