Last week, I attended PrideFest in Lake Worth Florida. I usually do it because its a lot of fun, I have no problem getting people to have their picture taken, and it usually results in a couple of great shots. This year was a bit different though. I decided to just photograph the Gay Pride parade—or at least the initial setting up before they actually went out and paraded. This is when the people are concentrating on what they have to do instead of performing in front of a camera. It results in what I think, are more honest pictures—pictures of people just being themselves.
At the far end was this group of kids setting up and rehearsing with this large banner which they were going to use in the parade. I snapped a few shots and just after this one I heard—
“You’re supposed to ask, you know.”
I looked up and there was this other girl at the far end of the banner yelling at me. “Your supposed to ask, you know” she repeated. “Why” I asked, and she replied “it was only polite.” I began to tell her that if I asked, I would end up with a shitty picture of the subject grinning, all teeth for my camera and this made for boring photographs but she was not listening. She was to into being offended.
What the fuck is wrong with these kids today and where do these rules come from? They are about to march in a fucking parade in front of two or three thousand people and one would expect that a few of them have cameras or cellphones. Do they not expect people to take pictures of them? Why are we supposed to ask? I certainly do not impose on people when I shoot them (in fact I am the opposite and try to stay invisible) and the chances of them ever seeing a copy of this photograph are next to zero so what is their problem? Actually, I think I know what the answer is. People feel so alienated and ignored these days that they feel they have to seize power over people wherever they can find it. Everybody has to make a stand—no matter how ridiculous, or pointless it may be. These days people quite often confront me when I take pictures because they feel either I am invading their privacy, stealing a moment (I like that one), or I am just an everyday pervert. All of this is bullshit. They could simply turn away, but that makes them feel like a victim for my camera. It is too passive. Confrontation is much more effective—at least in their twisted logic so they blurt out stupid comments like,
“You’re supposed to ask, you know. Its only polite”
No I am not supposed to ask. At my age (72), I have been around a bit, and I do not need an uptight politically correct teenage prig to tell me what politeness is. Making up stupid rules for strangers to follow, telling people how they should behave, and what they should or should not do is anything but polite. It is downright rude!
These days, taking pictures of children can sometimes get you into trouble. Usually, I try to refrain, or even ask the parent (which usually results in an affirmative). however on occasion I just snap on automatic and quickly move on. I prefer this to asking because I do not loose the moment. Sometimes people may notice me photographing them and say “you should have asked.” I don’t really have a response for this, although I do know if I ask, the moment is long-gone and I am left with a face with a shit-eating stupid grin. Thats not what I want to photograph so I try to be as subtle and inconspicuous as possible. This photograph was taken last year at Hollywood Beach in Hollywood FL—one of my favorite haunts. Most of the time I try to pass when kids are my subject because parents can be kind of weird about me taking photos of their kids. I don’t really know what the potential danger may be—for instance posting this picture is quite innocent and non-perverse but these days, people for the most part are weird. A few weeks ago in LA, someone objected to me photographing on the street in front of their store because his store window was in the shot. I told him there was no law forbidding photography on a public street and he answered that the window was private. Private! I guess some people are just natural-borne schmucks.
Next week we will be going to Italy for a holiday. I think this is the 15th time we have visited there so it must be obvious that we like the place. This time it will be the southern part Puglia and Campania (the heel and boot)and after that, I think I can say I have seen the entire country. If I were to give a reason why I like it so much, I think the best one would be that I think I have taken some of my best photographs there. I cannot say this for certain but it just feels like it. I go out into a street there with my camera dangling around my neck and I just feel so “at home” there. For one thing, Italians are not assholes about having their picture taken, or either being in a picture. I have never had an Italian complain, refuse, hold up a straight-arm (No pictures please!) or any other stupid gesture. I do remember that once in a museum where pictures were not permitted, I snuck one in and a guard heard the shutter click. She whirled around and gave me a hard stare, and wagged her finger at me in an official way. It worked. I did not take any more pictures in that museum.
The second reason we love it so much is the food. It’s really good and eating there becomes a major part of the experience. Sharon and I tend to favor lunches over dinner and we always look forward to a two-hour lunch in some garden with a bottle of wine. I have also noticed that after consuming enough wine, my afternoons of picture-taking tend to be more productive.
It goes like this. We get up, have breakfast and hit the streets. I am usually antsy in the morning to find something to shoot so I tend to rush myself. It doesn’t work. When you are looking for something to shoot, it just does not happen so my mornings are usually a waste of time. Afternoon is different. I am slightly buzzed from the wine and more relaxed and I tend to see things a bit differently. By late afternoon I am so laid back , the light is perfect, things begin to happen. Very odd. I think this time I will concentrate on being “receptive” in the morning and see what happened.
The photo above was taken in Brescia, Italy about 5 or 6 years ago. Again, it was after dinner and we were returning to the hotel. As we walked through the piazza, we saw these kids snuggling in front of the church and I took the shot. By the way, here is a tip. If you are into photographing kids snuggling, kissing, making out, go to Italy and find a piazza—any piazza. It will be crawling with teenagers hugging etc. Its their equivalent of kids going and hanging out in the mall back here in the USA. Kids in Italy have better taste.
By the way, if anyone from Puglia/Campania reads this post, I am open to suggestions, Food, places, whatever. Just drop me a line.
Finding themes or projects for my photographs is not a difficult task. They just show up—just like cats. I had noticed when I travel or just hang around that I stumble on weddings. Everybody seems to get married. Being a guy with a camera hanging from my neck sometimes makes me seem to fit in so I just hang around. It’s not the bride and groom that interests me though—its the crowd, the guests, the kids,—the whole scene.
So here I was in Salzburg, in a garden and there is a wedding going on. I heard a lot of English so I assumed it was a British couple who had travelled all the way here to get married. As it turned out, the happy couple was visually boring, however I noticed these children hanging around a pond. They were absolutely bored with it all. Wherever they lived, they had been uprooted ands schlepped to Austria and they did not seem to be enjoying it one bit. Just like American kids on holiday with their parents, they probably would prefer staying in their hotel room watching TV. Odd; they did not seem to be enjoying each other’s company either. I am sure their parents either busy ignoring them or wanting to strangle them.
Last October, we were in Croatia for a few days. Quite an interesting country. This young couple was in a restaurant having lunch and hardly spoke to each other. They seemed totally fixated on the screen on his smart phone. They were quite affectionate but they just did not speak. I think that is what is common in kids today. They type well but are totally verbally incoherent. On the other hand, its easy to make photographs of them since ether seemed to be in a far-off place. Ahhhh… passion!
I have noticed a few things as I get older. The first is that I think of mortality more often. The second Is that I find it easier to talk to strangers. They are not unconnected. This summer while driving through central Vermont, I noticed an old cemetery in this small village. lately I have been photographing these locations as one of my many ongoing projects so I stopped to see if there was anything happening (moving or otherwise). The tombstones were interesting, but not that interesting so I started heading back to my car. I passed a gravedigger who was working there maintaining the plots. He was with his three children and I said hi. He nodded back and we started to talk a bit and out of the corner off my eye, I noticed one of his kids staring at me from behind this grave marker. Naturally, I asked If he minded me taking a few shots and he nodded—not quite sure what I was up to. I got off 2 quick ones—one focussed on his eyes and the other on the tombstone.
As I said, these events are not unconnected. I guess all photographs (at least the ones I make) are personal and tell my story.
Day 5: Project 14
OK, it’s a cute kid photo. Usually I ignore these like the plague but sometimes… Somewhere in Sicily a few years ago. Of course I passed it over because it is a cute kid photo but after a while it began to grow on me. Not because it is a cute kid but because of the movement and composition. It all seemed to fit so what the hell.