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.
Why am I posting this picture? Sometimes, even I cannot answer my own questions. Its a beautiful landscape that I shot about 5 years ago on the Island of Capri in Italy. That day was for the most part a disappointment because it was just too touristy—even for me. It was 5 hours of constant hustling and being assaulted continuously by people trying to sell me everything from trinkets to ice cream. I really was not into taking any good pictures, or at least I was not consciously into taking any good pictures. When I become bored or tense, my creative juices just disappear— I just go flat. I suppose it is hard to stay up for everything, all the time. I am sure even the greatest of photographers have their bad days from time to time. I am no different and when these events occur, I just turn off, look for a good bar and wait for it to pass. It always does. In this case, Instead of taking pictures, I just got into being a tourist, enjoying the views, and having a good lunch. It prevented me from being bummed out all day and certainly made me better company for my wife.
For the most part I am a documentary photographer and most of the time, I have no interest in landscape photography, either as a viewer or photographer. The reason is that most of this stuff is just pretty—and that is not enough to peak my interest. This is not always the case. There are of course great landscape photographs, taken by great photographers, but for the most part, these type of images are just pretty, and nothing more. I look at them—briefly and then quickly move on. They never register with me in any emotional way. So on this day, in this place, being uninterested in shooting my types of images, I shoot landscapes to pass the time. Are they good photographs—not really, they are just pretty, that’s all. However I am sure there are people out there who would think that it is brilliant. Photography is funny that way. Everybody sees their own picture and there is enough of it for everybody.
We just got back from Italy 24 hours ago. I am still pretty messed up with the jet-lag—I suppose it takes longer to get over it as I get a bit older but in any case it sucks. Going the other way (to Europe) is much easier. All you have to do is land, bugger-on through the day and you will have good sleep. the next day is perfect. Not quite so easy going home.
In any case Puglia, was nice, Calabria, was nice and Lazio (all Italian provinces) was a pleasant surprise. I thought it would be the least interesting but I was wrong. The best part was the lack of tourists. We stayed on the beach in a town near Latina which is about an hour from Rome. It was off-season so the place was dead. So off we went motoring to a town nearby called Sermoneta which is one of those medieval villages encroached on a mountain top and has not changed in centuries.
Today I suddenly realized that most of the pictures I took would look better in black and white so I thought I would post one to test the waters. Strange how ideas come to me. This one happened just before I got up this morning at 4:30. 4:30!—fucking jet-lag
I haven’t been up to much these days so there is little to post regarding my recent work. It is difficult to come up with anything because the weather has been just great. Always sunny—which is good for living but bad for photography. Actually sunlight works in Florida because that is all you get but overall I prefer cloudy days—less harsh shadows. But as I was aging, I have been inactive—and loving it. It is good to take a few weeks/month off from time to time. For the most part, I have been dreaming up new projects and planning my website update. I don’t really dream up projects from scratch. I usually just go over my better images and see what pops up. Once a reviewer suggested doing it the other way but I could not really find a reason to listen to him. It seemed kind of anal, and I think he just needed something to say because he was a reviewer and they are supposed to say things to you. So he suggested thinking up a project first and then going out to take the pictures. If I told him I did it that way he would have suggested getting projects from my body of work”. Sometimes I think most of them are full of shit. So here I am thinking of projects from my work and these themes have sprung up in no order of preference. Blacks (Go Obama!), little people (not midgets—shots of people from long distances), body parts, and people one meets along the way (close encounters). I have dallied with some of them before but they just keep coming back to “haunt” me so I have another look. Oh ya, I am still fooling around with landscapes—ˆ always have but this time I am trying to put a decisively American edge to them.
The picture above was taken in Portugal (Lisbon) about 4 or 5 years ago. It was sunset and for a brief moment there was nobody on the street except this women in a pharmacy getting stuff. It has nothing to do with the above but I needed something to put up because nobody just wants to read anymore.
A few years ago I was in Las Vegas for a few days. There was nothing going on (strange eh?) at the moment so I got in my rental and hit the road. What I realized was that heading southwest, I ended up on the fabled route 66 or what is left of it. It now consists of mostly abandoned gas stations, motels and diners. They have been deserted for many years and only their ghostly shadows now remain. This place where I stopped was a sort of museum which consisted of stuff collected in the desert over the past 50 years. there was an old rusty Packard, some railway cars, mining equipment and a very kindly old lady who showed me around. I also met a retired train engineer from Canada who was really excited about the old railway cars. I hung around for an hour or so and took pictures of the stuff, the dog and the old lady who was really very sweet. America is funny sometimes, because they have this incredible fascination with wealth and money but when you look beneath the surface you are surprised to find some truth and honesty instead of all the bullshit above. They have a fascination with their history and certainly respect it.
That is what taking pictures is all about sometimes—it is strictly mining.
I was assembling some images for a competition and this one did not make the cut so I included it it here. Hope you enjoy.
I am beginning to update my website (http://www.dsaxe.com/) with a new series of photographs.It contains an overall theme of “Silence” comprised of three sub-themes of Solitude, American Landscape, and Dreams. It was an interesting experience putting it all together. This photograph is from “Solitude.”
A few years ago in New Orleans I stumbled across this guy on his break. It was near a hotel so I figured that’s where he worked. He was alone in his thoughts, totally oblivious to what i was doing.
I have always had problems making good photographs in Vermont. I suppose it is just too pretty. Somewhere along the way, I decided that “pretty pictures” is not what was for me. If it has to do with expressing yourself, I guess I tend to be cynical and a bit gritty so I look for different subjects. Photography for me is an expression of how I feel about things. For instance many years ago as my first marriage was breaking up, I noticed that all of my photographs were about people alone. It did not take much of an imagination to figure out where my head was back then.
I still take pictures of people alone but it is different now. First of all, it is not the sum of my work. Second of all it is just one of the 20 themes that I have going on concurrently. Now it is a subject—not a portal to my brain. Funny thing about loneliness though is that it is no longer a negative feeling for me these days. Now I kind of like it.
That is probably why I like Vermont. There are no people to speak of. When you actually run into someone, there is minimal chit chat and on you go. Its not really a lonely place—more of a quiet one and that suits me fine. This photograph is of a pizza place about 10 miles outside of Swanton. It is near a gas station and there is not a single home in sight. Ya, Vermont can be a lonely place.