Category Archives: People

Learn From Yourself – Take Time To Analyze Your Own Work

As a viewer, I think street photography is becoming my favorite genre of photography. A photograph has the ability to isolate a tiny sliver of time and transform it into a narrative that becomes much larger than reality, transcending what may have actually been happening at the moment the photo was taken. It’s a pure and powerful form of storytelling with a lot of room for personal style, expression, and interpretation.

When I’m behind the lens, street photography is the genre that I struggle with the most. Probably because it’s a style that requires introducing one’s self into the physical, and often emotional space of strangers. For me, it’s a form of photography that requires the most practice, a wide variety of technical skills, and a lot of failure. Lately I’ve spent time analyzing my own photography, trying to pick apart how I made images that I consider successful, identifying what has worked and was has not worked. Here are a couple of my attempts.

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The first shot was taken during a trip to Italy. I know it makes little sense, but being halfway around the world gave me a false sense of anonymity, which translated into a degree of boldness and a willingness to step up and photograph a total stranger. At that point in time, it’s probably not a shot I would have tried to capture here at home. Being very quick with my camera was essential to catching the subject at just the right moment. Despite how fast the photo was taken, I think it has a feeling of quiet and stillness to it.

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In contrast, the second photo was taken slowly. I had a physical distance from my subject and the luxury of time. I was able to carefully compose the shot to emphasize the stillness of the man looking at his phone. I had the opportunity to move around and  position my camera so the lines on the carpet ran in a diagonal direction. I took time to measure the light and chose a shutter speed that would result in the amount of blurred motion I desired. From that point it was a matter of patiently waiting for someone to walk through the scene. In contrast to the process used for the first image, these slow and deliberate steps resulted in an image depicting energy and movement. I find it interesting that the photo with more preparation behind it has a greater feeling of spontaneity.

I learn a lot when I take time to revisit my photos and analyze how they were made. I need do it more often. The biggest takeaway in this case is embarrassingly obvious but something I often forget; there is no one way to take a picture.  Every time I remind myself of this I find it liberating since I all too often bog myself down in the technology and process of photography.

Both of these photos appear in the October 2014 issue of Inspired Eye Magazine. It’s a wonderful publication devoted to street photography. Check it out

Also posted in Black and White, Documentary, Street, Travels

Tell Me A Story

  Donald Davis David Novak Bil Lepp Antonio Rocha Sid Leiberman Minton Sparks  Tim Lowry Kuniko Yamamoto  Anita Norman (Right) and  Elizabeth Bartlow Breslin  Kate Campbell Carmen Agra Deedy Michael Reno Harrell Tim Tingle Bobby Norfolk  Bill Harley
Some time around 1988 I attended a small workshop on storytelling at a library in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. The workshop was conducted by a woman named Jackie Torrence. Until that time I had no knowledge of storytelling, or for that matter, Jackie Torrence. By the time I finished the workshop I was hooked.

As it turned out, Ms. Torrence was a legend in the world of storytelling. I’d been in the presence of greatness. I wouldn’t learn this though until the first time I attended the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee in 1999. After three days at the festival I was hooked all over again and have been attending the festival every year since.

The storytelling festival has taken place in Jonesborough since 1973. It’s an invitation to unplug, slow down, and do nothing but listen. Five giant tents are set up throughout the city and each becomes a venue for storytellers of styles from traditional folk tales to contemporary, personal naratives.

Until just a few years ago photography was not permitted in any of the storytelling sessions.  Recognizing that social and digital media are firmly implanted in our culture as forms of storytelling, festival organizers now allow photography at some of the performances.

Taking still images that portray an art form that depends largely on voice and movement is an interesting challenge. It’s temping to set the camera to burst mode, fire away, and choose the best frames later. This is a bad habit I find myself occasionally falling into. For this series of photos I turned off all of the auto functions on my camera and committed to slowing down, unplugging, listening, and doing my best to capture images that represent the stripped down beauty of a performer holding an audience in their hand with nothing more than words.

Learn more about the festival by clicking here.

Also posted in Black and White, Travels

Look Behind You

Sunset on Santorini

Sunset on Santorini

sant_smallThe next time you’re taking pictures at an event or venue where everyone has their attention focused on the same thing. take a moment to turn around to see what’s going on behind you. You may discover some interesting subject matter for your photographs. It can present different ways to document, remember, or tell the story of a time and place.

While visiting Greece we spent several days on the Island of Santorini. It’s a beautiful, magical place. White buildings with azure rooftops seem to defy gravity as they blanket the sheer cliffs of the island. I have many pictures of my time there, both touristy and artistic, but I think one of my favorite photos is the image above. It appeared in the January 2014 edition of Inspired Eye Magazine, a publication devoted to street photography.

The photo was taken in Oia, considered one of the best places on Santorini to watch the sun as it sets over the Aegean Sea. Gathering to watch sunset is a party. It’s a communal event where food and drinks flow, street musicians play, and language is not a barrier. An all around good time. When the sun finally sets the crowd breaks into applause and collective expressions of awe as they share a scene almost too beautiful to be real.

I have to say, watching the sunset was far more interesting to me than photographing it. Probably because my photos of sunsets just aren’t that good. Also, I knew I could walk 30 feet to a gift shop and buy a photo infinitely better than mine.

While everyone was looking out over the water I decided to turn around to photograph the festivities. This picture captures my memory of the experience. It also caused me to redefine my perception of the event, and to look at different ways of capturing and preserving it.

Click here for more photos of Santorini.

Also posted in Black and White, Travels Tagged , , |