kiss_rive_sienne

 

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.

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I just posted this photo on to my Facebook page. I don’t know why because usually I only post recent photographs and this on wis 12 years old. I took it in Paris at le Louvre in 2002. At that time i used film and since I always hated the way color labs printed my work (the always printed them too light), I used film—Tri-X, specifically. I loved that film. I used it and only it for 30 years. The only change I ever did was in my processing. At some point I switched from D-76 to Rodinal and that was all. The one thing I loved about film was the darkroom. It was a wonderful moment when I could go downstairs, put on a Charlie Mingus CD, turn off the lights , and start printing. It was blissful! I loved the whole routine from developing my film, printing contacts and editing on my huge 5×8 foot cork bulletin boards. The really weird thing though is that I did not shoot as much as I do now. I distinctly remember that trip to Paris. I shot around 20 rolls of film, got back to Vermont around 4 in the afternoon, and by the time I went to bed, they were all developed. I loved that part of it. The next day I made my contacts and I was rolling. These days when I go on one of those trips I shoot a bit more—perhaps as many as 2000 frames which are the equivalent of about 100 rolls of film. I really miss the developing part though. Now I just come home and pop the little disc into my computer and press a few buttons. It’s not the same.

I originally thought that I would be shooting film for the rest of my life but things are always changing and that is not a bad thing. In 2006 We purchase a winter condo in Florida and the thought of not developing my film (there was no room for a darkroom) concerned me. After some though I decided to purchase a digital camera for those 6 months down south. There was Photoshop, but no Lightroom so I used other programs to organize my files. It did not take long for me to fall in love with digital photography—after all a picture is a picture is a picture. it does not really matter what it is printed on, or what medium is used as long as the image is strong and grabs the viewer to look into it deeper. That is what it is all about.

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Young Girl Smoking a Cigarette: Paris 2010

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.

I must have been to Paris about four or five times in the past 10 years. During those times I had  always wanted to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower but it was always too crowded. A few weeks ago I had another opportunity, but instead of being in Paris, I was in Las Vegas. At the Paris Hotel there is exact representation of the Eiffel Tower. It is one half scale, and juts out over the casino, from the ground floor with all the gaming machines, through the roof , overlooking the entire city. What a perfect opportunity, and it only cost me 10 bucks. I paid my fee and climbed a set of stairs to an exact representation of the Pont Neuf—one of the bridges which crosses the Seine. As I walked across the bridge, I looked out over a sea of slot machines, craps tables, roulette wheels, and poker tables. Interspersed amongst all this color, blinking lights, and loud noises, were glassy-eyed patrons continuously feeding tokens into these machines. No one smiled. Not the patrons, not the dealers, not the barmaids who continuously fed the patrons drinks as they mindlessly threw money at countless tables/machines, hungry for their cash. At the end of the bridge was an elevator that would take me to the top of the “Eiffel Tower”.

The elevator operator was very pleasant and she asked me if I’d ever been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. I answered that I tried on many occasions and was never successful because of the crowds, and then I took her picture. She looked startled, and said ”Oh you took my picture.” Yes I did.” I answered,” but don’t worry, you’ll never get to see it.” She told me she did not photograph well and the fact that she never would see it only made her feel more at ease. I think I might try that line again sometimes.

We reached the top, and I got out of the elevator to look around. It was not very impressive. For one thing, it was surrounded by a very thick steel mesh link fence—more like a cage than anything else, which was obviously designed to keep people (people who had lost all their money downstairs) from jumping off the top. This was probably at the insistance of the casino’s lawyers. After all the money is supposed to flow in, not out. The view was also very unspectacular. In one direction all I could see was the Las Vegas strip, with all the stupid hotels imitating Rome, Venice, New York,—all this theme crap. I have no idea what would be next. My next guess is that they’re going to build entire representation of the Russian Gulag, with slot machines, made of cast iron, freezing rooms with fake icicles lining the walls, no TV, and restaurants where the specials were never available due to shortages and all that was left was boiled cabbage.If any casino corporation/owner likes this idea, I want my commission.

The other direction was not any better. Far off in the haze, one could see the mountains but that was it. I went back to the elevator, got inside, thanked the elevator operator again for letting me take her picture, and exited the building. It was a pleasant experience in a weird soret of way. Come to think of it, Las Vegas is a weird sort of experience. However, I think nothing would be the same as the real thing. Perhaps next time I visit Paris, I would give it another shot. I might try it at midnight in December.

Last week I took a solitary walk along the Seine in Paris. It is one of my favorite walks and as usual, there is always something going on. I looked over the wall and saw two people in deep lover-mode conversation. It was classic peeping on my part.

bar BuciIn Paris exists my favorite bar— Le Bar du la rue Buci. I don’t know why I like it so much but I do. It’s where I met Francoise 5 years ago as she went from bar to bar with her suitcase full of pens, jewelery, and cigarette lighters. It lies right in the middle of the left bank scene at an intersection of small streets lined by bars and cafe’s. Its cosy, and it allows the visitor to Paris to experience the one thing that all Parisiens enjoy—people watching. All you have to do is walk in, find an empty seat facing the street and sit down. In about twenty minutes, a waiter comes over and asks you what you want and he returns about twenty minutes later with your drinks. For the next hour or two you just hang out and watch the street, or the people at the next table. That’s what the picture is of.

cross_2Next to my good friend Brian Nation, I am the world’s second best procrastinator. My mind is flooded with projects that are never completed and most of them are never even begun. It’s like that great epic movie “Intime” which began in my mind sometime in 1962 and was never even started. All I had was a shot of a woman in Paris— in a park walking as the camera slowly zooms from a wide angle shot to a close-up of her face. She turns her head, her hair moving in front of her face and stared blankly into the lens. That’s It — that’s as far as I got. If I were Steven Speilburg, the next step would have been film school but I am David Saxe and the next step was oblivion.

As a photographer, there are always projects in my head. Some are just fantasies and others end up on my web site. I still have a few bouncing around in my scull  but they are incomplete. Sometimes I just don’t have enough images. One of them is on dogs. I don’t know why I chose dogs. I never even had one (I had a lot of cats though). Another is on umbrellas but that one is hardly started (I only have one picture.) And again, another project is  called “All about God.” This one is almost there. The picture above is the first in the series and by the time I get back from France, hopefully it will be done.