Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Street Photographer

I love street photography, and shoot much more of it if I did not live in Los Angeles. But, to shoot street you have to walk streets where there are pedestrians. When I take good street images I'm feeling the street. It wasn't that Cartier-Bresson was just quick that made his work so profound, more importantly I believe he had a spiritual sense of what was about to happen. The man was in harmony with the street.
I also like the thrill of taking photographs of people knowing who might get pissed if they see me photographing them. And most people, unless their concentration is focused elsewhere, sense when a camera is pointed in their direction. I believe people have an evolved sense of alertness when they're being spied upon, perhaps it's an instinct, similar to animals that are preyed upon, that evolved when humans at close range were always attacking each other.
In February and April I was in New York and Boston and here are some street images. Oh, and these were shot with M-6 with the 35mm. I can't imagine shooting street with a fucking Canon. It's so obtrusive.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

What I learned at PSPF 2011

This was my second year attending Palm Springs Photo Festival, and I am certain it will not be my last because I probably learn more in this week about photography and myself than in the course of the year. The difference for me from this year to last is I took Frank Ockenfel’s workshop, which was cut short a day because Frank had a job in New York that could not be rearranged. To make-up for Frank’s early departure Jeff Dunas offered us a day of studio lighting with Nels Israelson. Also new for me this year is arrived a day earlier to attend a meeting of stock photographers sponsored by Blend Images. After a portfolio review last year with Sarah Fix, the creative director of Blend Images, and showing an interest in stock photography, she invited me to attend. It was their spring meeting to give their photographers the opportunity to network and hear discussions on all things stock photography and the trends of the their business. Sarah is one of the nicest people I’ve met at PSPF and I’ve come to learn that stock photographers are some of the coolest and least pretentious shooters I’ve met since becoming a photographer.

Because much of my time and energy was consumed by the workshops I was unable to attend any of the symposiums and I could not commingle and network as much as I would have liked at the festival’s hub in the Hyatt Regency. Nevertheless I learned a lot, so hear goes.

I learned that Frank Ockefel beyond being a prolific image-maker is a photographer’s photographer and a philanthropist of spirit. I learned from him that with a bit of resourcefulness and less than $50.00 worth of lights purchased at Home Depot I can make a very provocative portrait, that if I wanted to get out of my creative box I had to suffer, and that if I wanted to get better I needed to delete my ego and embrace being a beginner… I was delighted to learn that my slideshow entry “Lakewood: Portraits of a Sacred American Suburb” was one of the 4 finalists. Ultimately my project placed behind the winner Angela Bacon Kidwell, but for the entire week many of my colleagues approached me with compliments. I don’t believe I have ever been more touched and honored…. As there were highs there were lows. There were no book deals or exhibitions offered by the book publishers and gallery owners I respectively reviewed with. I sense they appreciate the merit and quality of my work, but they don’t yet believe Lakewood will help pay their rent. And the curators I met with weren’t jumping out of their shoes either; one even suggested I try to exhibit my work in the Lakewood Public Library. I am still discerning if this suggestion was an insult, however; I intend to do exactly that. My two best reviews came from those I least suspected, photography reps: they see Lakewood as being more editorial than fine art. I can’t really argue with that, and I got the impression from them that if the work was tweaked a bit here and there it could be commercially viable. Wouldn’t it be swell if I started making money because of Lakewood? Talking with some of my colleagues we are still assessing the review process. Is it worth money? Is it for everyone? How many should we do? All of us agree we get something out of reviews: we learn not just something about are work but ourselves. More often than not the reviews are frustrating, because as my Wisconsin friend Mike Rebholz told me they seem to always want something you don’t have. That written, upon hearing this criticism I have gone out and sought those missing photos which have in turn added depth to my work. And one last thing Tom, you numbskull, when you pack for Review Santa Fe in June bring a recorder… From Nels Israelson I relearned the Inverse Square Law and that all lighting is a corollary of that law, that dramatic lighting works on everyone as long as you or someone you know is good at retouching. That with the continuing advancement of digital technology, the exception being fine art, dots on a screen will eventually replace dots on paper. It’s the Wild West and you have to continually reshuffle your deck and there is no such thing as a pat hand… From Todd Hido’s presentation I learned that art is nonstop and to constantly play and tinker with my vision, from Arno Rafael Minkkinen to make every thing I love into a piece of art… I learned to never have more than two drinks the night before I have reviews… I learned from Martin Gisborne that I would have saved myself hours if had used Aperture to make my slideshow presentation rather than Final Cut…

I learned to never ever test a new camera while trying to see the world differently… I relearned that Jeff Dunas is a pretty cool guy even if he can’t remember that I photograph Lakewood not Lynwood… I wish I would have learned more from Lee Varis’ Photoshop class but I was too tired and too hung over to take my face off the table-$95.00 for naught. I learned if I was not madly in love with and incredibly dependent on, Sydney, my wife I would volunteer next year because there are a lot of nice girls wearing blue t-shirts at PSPF. I learned that I have a group of colleagues that truly wish me well, and I would like Brad, Svjtlana, Nancy, Laurie, Tom, Mike and Mike, and Jamie to know I feel the same about them.

See you at PSPF 2012