Humans give narrative to an image

People are one of my favorite subjects to shoot. Across many genres they add impact to a frame in many different ways.

01When I do street photography I try to remember to look up. Often the 2nd story adds to the sense of place. The 3 windows with the fire escape by themselves is not a compelling image. But, add clothes hanging & a woman looking out the middle opening & the image now has a story-line. In this case the street below is an assumed part of the scene because of the direction of her gaze & the upward angle of the shot.

02I had taken a few shots of the sunset from the cliff overlooking the Pacific & I was considering walking down a steep the path to explore lower perspectives. As I was visually trying to find the path down to the beach to determine how challenging it would be I noticed a surfer that was calling it a day. The wave on the shore with the setting sun in the upper corner is an OK image. The silhouette of the surfer in the lower left provides a context to all of the elements.

03If you are aware of Bresson, puddles invoke inspiration from a master. When I saw the woman with the red coat I couldn’t help my self. Unlike Bresson capturing THE Moment by snapping a single shot I put the camera in burst mode and captured 7. With this shot my motivation was good but poor execution.

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The rain also offers interesting fashion/costume opportunities. What I like most is how the polka-dot pants match the raincoat. If you have never done it I highly recommend street photography in the rain. Just find an over hang for cover and keep your eyes open.

new05I really should never comment on fashion but… First of all, the umbrella is cliché but sets the environment. Second, the sweater, scarf, vest, bag & torn jeans are a strong set of elements. The kicker for me is the flowers on the umbrella are a complete juxtaposition to her clothes. I also like the fact that the most of the facial figures are hidden.

06Graduation was outside rain or shine. Others in my family watched on closed circuit & from a window. Dad was in the elements with his daughter. I am sure the alumni matching jackets, shirts & ties would have been a “cute” moment as they walked in. However once they were in their assigned seats “Bill Class of 63” became my only good shot of the day excluding images of Lauren. Scanning the venue I remember thinking “Shouldn’t all of these smart people get out of the rain?” Traditions can be kinda weird.

07 copyMy folder of people shots has a sub-folder of people on phones. I was walking around the balcony of the Carnegie Galleries and this out of place sculpture got my attention. Titled “Alone in the Crowd” by Nicole Eisenman it is surrounded by traditional roman figures. By choice I shun smart phones. I do recognize they are versatile & valuable tools. I try not to judge people using them but many people have taken themselves out of the reality of time & place to a tiny little screen. The world is a big place.

08 copyI also have a sub-folder in people called people taking pictures. Lots I could say about this shot but I’ll only comment that she is doing an excellent job with lighting, angle of the camera & background.

09 ShoppingOne of the great experiences of travel is that sometimes it transports your eyes back in time. Both times I visited the Balkins I felt like I was in the 40’s or 50’s or at least what I imagined them to be. When I saw this woman it immediately made me think of an Aunt that had worked at Kaufman’s in downtown Pittsburgh for almost 50 years. For a few people the hat can make the person as well as the person making the hat.

10 copy copyThe nature of street musicians is that they seek attention. Acknowledging this they can also be models. You should also acknowledge they are trying to make some cash!

11If you do enough street photography your bound to see some grit. In these types of situations be very aware of your parameter. I think it is important to document the human condition with photography including all of the bruises and scars.

12 copyI don’t have a People sub-folder for this shot except it is double filed in the Signs folder.

IMG_1687 copyI have begun an Ink sub-folder recently. This may evolve into a territory to explore further. One of the reasons I enjoy photographing people is that, even just a tight shot of a photographer tattoo on someones leg creates an image ripe for a story.

 

 

 

 

Looking Back for Tomorrows Goals

Although we begin a new year my 1st posting of ‘18 will look back & evaluate how my perspective of photography has evolved.

 

01

I begin 2018 looking back & evaluating how my perspective of photography has evolved. Any capture by a camera immediately becomes a document of history. This image of my grandfather relaxing on the porch in Stow connects me with a man I barley knew but am deeply indebted to. It reinforced the connections a photograph can create. Operating the Bemus Point Stow Ferry I ran into a son of one of my fathers fishing pals Dr. Robert Schmalz Jr. He shared this image which was taken before I was born.

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A highlights of ‘17 was this image taking 3rd place in The Eddie Adams Show. It’s an honor to have any connection with this influential photojournalist. From the moment I snapped the shutter in Sarajevo in 2014, I knew I captured the character of the subjects. To have it recognized in a juried competition was very satisfying. The endless diversity of people & the human condition on streets are subjects that still motivate me.

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I’ve got comfortable with the ethics of editing my images that don’t touch on journalism or documentary. I still have the goal of capturing what my eyes see. HDR, can assist in adding details our eyes see but camera sensors can’t. I still believe over-saturated HDR  lacks an “actuality aesthetic”. Other images I’ve edited made me realize there is a 2nd opportunity to tell a story. A wildly over-exposed shot became a B/W image I’m happy with. A slightly out of focus image was manipulated into a frame capturing the moment I was after. OBTW I realize it’s in focus or not but I also remember Bresson said… “Sharpness is a bourgeois concept.”

04 split dancer

Although I doubted I would take my enthusiasm for photography into the world of printing, I did. I learned printing, matting & framing require different perspectives. The image on the left was cropped for the web. To get a well-proportioned print & ensure a solid presentation hanging on a wall I went back & included more of the original shot on the right. Is it an improvement? It depends on if you are looking at the print hanging on the wall or the screen of your desktop. Obviously my PS work has improved.

05

I enjoy spectacular landscape photography & I enjoy the opportunity to experience impressive vistas. However, I’ve discovered I don’t have the kind of dedication to this particular genre to take it to another level. I will still wander with my camera, however I will try to improve my photography skills with other subjects.

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Part of my family’s history,as well as my own, is connected to Chautauqua Lake. When I saw the Steamship Replica the Chautauqua Belle along the port side of The Bemus Point Stow Ferry I was transported to an earlier time when few other vessels on the water had mechanical power. In the months ahead I may try some Photoshop wizardry on this shot. Too bad I’m not really a wizard.

07

It has been almost 1 year since my trip to Cuba. The process of sorting/editing my images was a terrific opportunity for reflection on my abilities. It encouraged me to look forward to what I will do with photography. I’m hoping to cultivate connections for a showing of 15 or so of my portraits of Cuban People. A recent review I got from Lens Culture said my work “had incredible humanism in the portraits of Cuban people.” I liked that. The reviewer also said that, after looking at my blog, a book is something I should start working on. I don’t think that is going to happen.

07a

My own opinion of my sailing images is they are just slightly better than mediocre. That however will not stop me from pursuing this challenging subject I really enjoy. I’m in the planning stages of a trip to Newport RI to catch the 65 foot Volvo Racing beasts in May. Anybody care to join me???

08

I also would like to further develop a portfolio of dance photography. Dancers have balance, form, color, The Moment, texture & space. What better subject for a camera. They blend emotions & athleticism into statuesque animation for our eyes.  Any connections in this area would also be appreciated. Happy New Year.

 

 

Non-Talking Heads

During my career I shot thousands of Talking Heads. With my eye in a viewfinder or watching monitors I saw moments where character was revealed on top of features. Usually it was as subjects listened so it rarely made the edit. Some video/film works paint a picture of people well. However, the portrait is a genre of stills. Portraiture is a significant goal of my upcoming photo essay.

During my career I shot thousands of Talking Heads. With my eye in a viewfinder or watching monitors I saw moments where character was revealed on top of features. Usually it was as subjects listened so it rarely made the edit. Some video/film works paint a picture of people well. However, the portrait is a genre of stills. Portraiture is a significant goal of my upcoming photo essay.

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Some portraits will always convey personal memories & relationship. On the deck of The Harp & Fiddle Jerry Hughes returned my Ike 55 I loaned as back-up about 10 years ago. Since the early 80’s we have worked alongside each other in a spectrum of capacities. His professional attitude & personal friendship are traits I see in his wise eyes. A Chicagoan by birth he came to Pittsburgh via ND & LA. Thanks for everything!

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This docent/guide at Ft. Niagara had the perfect face of a young soldier. The soft reflective light bouncing off the deep walls of the fortress window was about perfect. I’m trying to engage interesting people to get more intimate photos. I did direct him where to look for the best light/shadows. The expression in his eyes of a young mans apprehension in a far away land clutching his weapon was his own contribution.

02

I believe people at work exhibit a glimpse of their character. Especially people engaged with tools. This craftsman in Copper Alley Sarajevo focuses on a detail of a small object. Surrounded by his work, the old eyes guide his hands as they have thousands of times. People in the books of Studs Terkel have inspired me. Working, his 74 oral history classic, heightened my interest in the stories of the individual at work.

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A Power of the portrait are details giving a taste of personality. The eyes & the subdue smile framed by his goatee show a friendly person. Adding his hand into the shot emphasizes strength. I worked with Slappy & I can affirm he is the type of person you enjoy working with & being around. The non-studio staged portrait provides challenges. By having him tilt his head & cropping the image very tight I was able to fill the frame almost completely avoiding BG distractions.

04

I like people in candid moments. Even without the full face I consider this a portrait. It shows emotions in a moment of waiting. Holding herself tight we get a glimpse of her anxious face in profile. The tree is a barrier she looks beyond. The umbrella adds weight to the moment. I like how the visual elements come together. Rain provides opportunities that you need to look for. The work of Philippe Halsman can be credited for breaking the constrains of traditional studio 3 point lighting portraits. Some of his work with Salvador Dali is amazing. Currently, the images of Annie Leibovitz are some of the most inspiring portraiture I see.

 05

Some people smile using all parts of their face. On a rainy day this parking attendant had a smile for everybody. The pith hat is a perfect “topper” to the beard, nose, cheeks, &  the squinting eyes. His face toughened by the weather dominates even though he is wearing a neon safety vest. This portrait shows how all our features display emotion.

06

Andy I’s deep-set eyes in shadow are a drawing feature. Shadows on his cheek etch strong facial structure & the reserved smile defines his personality. Headsets literally tie him to his craft. He is one of many top quality sports camera ops I was privileged to work with during my career. As a replay operator, aka slomologist, I watched thousands of hours of events thru the eyes of dedicated professionals like Andy. Watching, looking & examining the work of others is a tremendous motivator.

08

Some say out of the mouths of children come honesty. I believe innocent eyes are where you find honest emotion. These 2 lived on a farm near The Jungle Dome in Central Belize. I prefer being ignored & become a fly on the wall taking pictures. In this shot these 2 toddlers were intrigued by my every move. The eyes define curious. I try to be respectful of parents wishes when taking photographs of children.

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Randy Gilson is described as a master in the art of making something worthwhile out of what is seen as worthless. Somehow I never heard of RandyLand but when I heard the basic description of eclectic re purposed art it was enough of a hook to get me to visit. I won’t try to describe what he has done to a corner setting in the North Side of Pittsburgh other than with this portrait of him. He is one-of-a-kind with a mission that can be infectious.

Inspired by Humans of New York, photos like these are a goal for a 2-week trip to a country in the tropic of Cancer. I am practicing this genre to improve my approach & techniques with the goal of documenting people & stories of their lives. Suggestions welcomed as well as critique.  Coming up in my next post I look at 2 spirited sisters.

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The Parade of Stars

I can easily amuse myself on a crowded street by observing people as they pass.  My fascination with strangers began in the 60’s watching a live local TV show in Pittsburgh. As the audience was exiting the host gave the patrons a chance to say something to the camera on the way out. The emcee called it the Parade of Stars. I will send a free DVD copy of my documentary Chasing The River to anyone that can name the show, the host and the call letters of the TV station that produced it.

Zagreb Uncle

Since I enjoy watching people it shouldn’t come as any revelation I also have a good time photographing people on the street.  Until recently I didn’t know this was a genre with sub genres including street fashion and street portraits.  I just enjoy capturing candid images…Allen Funt…of people that grab my eye.

Unlike humans of NY portraitshttp://www.humansofnewyork.com/ which is  portraits with stories from the subjects…Studs Terkel…  I have no knowledge of the people so I make up my own stories.  This man on the streets of Zagreb was taken in 2010.  It was only the last 20 years of his life he had not lived under Tito Communism.  In the Winter of his life he witnessed significant change.  The contrast between him and younger Eastern Europeans coming of age after the collapse of “The Wall” was dramatic.  His face & the way he dressed reminded me of my Grandfather’s brothers.  I think he would have fit in at those big Christmas Eve dinners at my Grand Aunt’s house.

Sarajevo Eyes 006

I saw these eyes coming from 80 yards away!  As I was watching the diversity of people promenade on the streets of Sarajevo these two women grabbed my attention.  Even though I have no real credibility to comment on fashion, these two had very distinctive Hijabs.  Their fur & make-up set off contrasting facial expressions & authority.  I imagine the woman on the left is an older & wiser mentor to her younger naive companion.   She is about to extol insight into something they both are observing & the young-ling is eager to learn.

Speaking of fashion 2 things.  First, I did once win “Best Dressed” at the Phil Simms Bowling Tournament so I do have an iota of fashion sense.  Secondly, if you are interested in Street Fashion Photography I can recommend  Bill Cunningham New York  A quirky individual that still shoots of film.

texter

I have sub genres including people on phones aka “The World Around Me isn’t as Interesting as This Little Electronic Device”.  With a few exceptions I deplore the way some in society use smart phones as hypnotizing web portals & communication pacifiers.  VERY few snap images using phones with consideration for anything other than  diary-esk sharing via social media. Instead of freeing themselves from the office they take work everywhere they go.  Gaming & mindless web browsing distract  from here & now to a place that placates short attention spans.  I enjoy the world and most of the people around me more than any device.  For me, retirement equals flip phone!!!

This photo was taken in Balboa Park SAN.  As I am prone to do when taking photos of people I found a spot to stand & blend in.  I observed a few different traffic areas with good bg & lighting where I could snap portraits as people passed by. One of the 1st details to catch my eye was the “ink” on this woman. I hoped she would walk in an area where I could get a good shot of her tattoos. Ink is another sub genre of mine.  After 20 min or so I was ready to wander elsewhere & she hadn’t taken her eyes off of her phone.  I have no idea if she was texting, playing Angry Birds, searching top rated things in SD or reading Pillars of the Earth.  I do know she was ignoring an inspiring public park.

behind you 006

Another sub genre of mine is echo/feedback of the world I capture. With the flood of cameras people routinely have, “People Taking Pictures” is one of my go-to subjects.  Everybody is now a street photographer.  Why not…I know I enjoy doing it.  However, I enjoy the old-school hands on feel of a DSLR with optical options.  But most importantly for me is connecting the eye into the viewfinder where final/critical decisions are made about framing or snapping.  And, I still use the editing process to separate the wheat from the chafe to better polish the visual story I want to tell.  For some reason these 2 remind me of a quote I associate w/Annie Liebovitz that every experienced photographer knows…”Sometimes the best shot is behind you!”

I can recommend a good doc about an unknown street photographer.  Her work can be a template for anyone who wants to improve their urban eye.  Finding Vivian Maier