Friday, February 17, 2012

Windows and Reflections Part 2

As a followup to yesterday's post, here's another in my series of window shots. When I took this photo, my intention was to capture the gentleman in the foreground who was sitting at the table with a pen and sketch book in front of him. I wanted to capture the details of what was on the page of the sketch book, but that was impossible to do without severely limiting the rest of the contents of the photo. I checked the image on my LCD screen after I walked away and it looked to me like an OK shot.

When I uploaded the images for the day to my computer and looked in detail, this shot jumped out at me. That cat's face above and to the right of the artist made the whole picture for me. I knew it was a cartoon cat, but couldn't place the name directly. Google to the rescue. It's Felix!

They eyes of the cat looking directly down on the artist, and the artist's spaced out gaze, combined with the self-absorbed look on the face of his companion make this shot sing for me.

You can click on the image to see it full size.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Windows and Reflections

Recently, within the past six months, I became interested in photographing people through windows. The problem of getting the focus and exposure correct is nothing compared to seeing and capturing the right balance of reflections of the street scene with the subject of the shot on the other side of the window. The resulting image can be a confusing mixture  - of glare, people walking by on the sidewalk, cars parked at the curb, and the photographer's own shadow or reflection on the outside of the glass -  with the objects and people that come through the transparency. 

Capturing the shot correctly is only a small part of the procedure. How it's processed can make the image compelling or make it total chaos. The challenge is to decide what's important and lead the observer's eye through the traps and false paths that imbue the image with depth, to the subject of the picture. The viewer needs to be engaged in digging through the reflections of what is outside the window through to the other side of the glass. What is outside the window, shown in the reflections, should funnel the viewer's attention through the partition to the interior space. What is inside the window needs to define the space in a way that draws the eye and makes the main subject primary. 

The title of this image, Look Look Look, heightens the viewer's awareness of the three prominent faces in the image: the reflection of the person on the far left - looking at the back of the photographer (me), the reflection of photographer looking in the window at the subject, and the subject, the only face that is not a reflection, looking back out of the window at the photographer. The reflections in the window of the buildings and cars across the street create an unreal sense of depth and space on the other side of the glass. The reflections of the two people in the glass meld together with the real image of the waiter in the white shirt behind the subject to create a middle distance. And the subjects face in the foreground, framed by the window pane make it the center of focus for the image. The heavy dark vertical lines on the left and right side of the frame reinforce the framing of the window pane. 

I wish I could say that all of this came into play when I made the shot, that I planned it all. The truth is, I didn't see any of it - consciously, that is. These kinds of thought processes must happen intuitively. If I had to think through all this stuff before I ever took a shot, I'd never have time to press the shutter button. Street action happens too fast to have to think through every shot.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Lower East Side 1994

Over the first few years of my life as a professional photographer (not that I ever made any livable wage from it) I pursued several long term projects. The four images shown below were part of a story I called  Manhattan Diaspora that documented the disappearing Jewish community of New York City's Lower East Side. The work was completely analog - that is, film, chemicals, enlarger, paper ..... you get the idea. I later scanned the negatives into my computer using a Nikon dedicated film scanner which is no longer available. No, it is not for sale.

Contrast was much more difficult to manage in those analog days. I knew I'd be shooting indoors in somewhat subdued lighting and I had no intention of using a flash, so I used Fuji neopan 1600 film in my Leica M4 and M6. Of the four images below, the outdoor photograph of the entrance to Spiegel Framing was shot in bright daylight on the same roll of film as the indoor shots. The parameters for developing the film were dictated by what was on most of the film - the indoor exposures. As a result the few frames I shot outside became very dense negatives, and the image of the door and sign to the frame shop is very contrasty. I toned it back as best I could digitally, but it's just not possible to get detail from areas of a negative that have none. The other shots, however came out quite well.

I came upon the shop through a recommendation by Rabbi Jacob Spiegel (no relation) who was the spiritual leader of the First Roumanian American Congregation on Rivington Street, a historically significant synagogue (which burned down several years after the completion of my project) with a very small congregation that formed the core of the Manhattan Diaspora story. Rabbi Spiegel recommended Mr. Spiegel as a subject I might consider because the framer had done work for the rabbi, restoring and maintaining the congregation's holy ark which contained its torah scrolls.

The exterior of the shop, which was on the Bowery, did not look promising. It was covered in graffiti and the outside sidewalk was covered with garbage. Inside, however, was a photographer's treasure. Details abounded - interesting shadows, intersecting lines and angles all over the place. Most importantly were the three people who worked in the shop. Mr Spiegel emanated an aura of  old world craftsmanship  and his two apprentices treated him reverentially.

As I said, the pictures were shot with my Leicas: with my 21mm f2.8  and 35mm f2 lenses. Old world cameras, old world subject, analog film .....  nice.


And So It Begins

Photography records the gamut of feelings written on the human face, the beauty of the earth and skies than man has inherited, and the wealth and confusion man has created. It is a major force in explaining man to man - Edward Steichen.

I saw this quote recently and thought it just about summed up my feelings about photography and my work.  I enjoy posting my work to photography gallery sites such as 500px, but the real shortcoming of sites such as that (beyond the petty childrens' games in which some immature submitters indulge) is the limited opportunity to accompany the images with text and/or the occasional witticism or bon mot. 

That, and he comments and questions I received about the work I posted prompted me to revive this blog. Seems to me that there is a growing interest in street photography and many shooters who want to try their hand at it, but very little discussion on how to proceed.

Secondly, I sensed a growing interest in presenting material as b/w images. Most of the attempts by the contributors on 500px and other sites that I have checked appear to have the same conceptual and processing issues. 

So, to address these issues, to have a venue that allows me to display my work without the overhead of using someone else's strictures and restrictions, and to be able to present material that needs to be grouped together, I hope to develop this blog and a following for it. I encourage you to make comments and suggestions, and most importantly to ask questions. The only stupid question is the one you don't ask. I look forward to many joyful hours of writing my submissions and reading your feedback.

All images posted here, on my 500px portfolio, and on my website are available for purchase. If you have a problem on my website finding the purchase information, please contact me through the site, or leave a comment for me here and I will definitely get back to you.

Thanks for dropping by.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Homage to Alicia

I created this image at the request of a good friend in Madrid whose daughter wanted a shot of the iconic Brooklyn Bridge that she could hang on her wall. It's tough to create a unique image of a structure that has been photographed as much as the bridge, or the Eiffel Tower, or the Empire State building. Here it is, for what it's worth.

Rethinking How I Post Images

I have, for the past six months, been posting my images on a photo website: That's why this blog has been pretty much silent for all this time. But I've been rethinking my web-presence and will be experimenting over the next few weeks. There are many images that I posted on 500px that have become very dear to me and I will be posting them here on my blog site as I develop my strategy.

I'm going to try to get some images up today and over the next few days while I still maintain a presence on 500px. In this process comments and responses are critical for me. Please let me know you are out there.