Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Little Rambling .....

The two channels I've found fulfilling in life to speak through have been music - specifically through the violin - and photography. How or why I chose the violin and the camera .... I don't know.They're both defined by time and space. Or rather I should say, I love to use each medium's framework of time and space to plug myself into. That's just how they draw me to them, and I feel comfortable telling my stories through their expressive capabilities. Any artist in any medium needs to tell a story of some kind.   That's how we touch the soul of our viewer/listener, give him something to relate to in what he is perceiving in our work, and hopefully enlighten and elevate him with a new perspective.  

I was walking across 14th Street and saw this gentleman standing in his barber shop window. I was initially drawn to the way he was holding his arms, and he had a sad thoughtful expression on his face. When I squared off in front of his window and picked up the camera, he broke out in a grin and after I took the shot he gave me a thumbs up sign, as if to say 'Thanks for making me smile.'

I like the shot because there's so many layers to it. There's the reality of the glass window is the front of the image, with the barber standing directly behind it and his counter with the tools of his trade creating the depth of perspective in the background. But in the flat reflection which appears to be behind him is my image, with a car and the stores from across the street behind me. My image in the  reflection appears to be photographing his back. Hopefully, the viewer's intuition will tell him that what he sees behind the barber is actually out in front, just were the viewer is standing, and that the barber is looking directly at him, the viewer .... that smile isn't for me, the photographer taking the photo. It's for anyone who looks at the image. By looking at the picture, you made that guy's day a little happier, and hopefully his smile back at you made your day happier too.

Have a nice day.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Reality and Illusion

Art is an illusion - especially photography. It seeks to present an instant of real time in some way, either as a physical or an emotional presence. It captures that moment, a physical gesture or an expression of feeling by subject, or in more abstract work, a reflection of the artist's presence at the time of creation. To paraphrase Eric Kandel from his work The Age of Insight, it is an artistic reprocessing of reality.

Throughout art history artists used a number of devices to inject themselves into their work which, by so doing, contributed to the creation of illusion. If someone is looking at a work - which the artist has created by standing outside the the scene portrayed - and yet the artist's presence is there as an integral part of the scene, that presence defines the work as illusion. Painters like Vermeer and Velasquez used their own physical representation and their reflections in mirrors to do this. Van Gogh and many other artists consciously revealed themselves in their work by making their brush strokes and other constructs evident, and so drew the viewer's attention to the artist by including evidence of the process of creation.

As a photographer I'm often drawn to capturing images with glass in them: reflection in windows, objects or people on the other side of the glass, or combinations of both. I've used this technique often for images I post on this blog. As a photographer I live vicariously behind the camera and lens, and voyeuristically steal moments of life on the street. The image in this post clearly shows my reflection in the glass. And yet, sometimes the story unfolds without my visual presence: here and here. Often I seek to include myself in the image not with the proxy of a reflection, but more with capturing the expression of an interesting subject in reaction to my taking their photograph. It requires using a wide angle lens so that I can get close enough to the subject of the shot to make my presence felt, and yet be able to capture the street scene in which they are immersed. I used wide angle glass to get the shot here, here, here, and here. None of those images would really have impact I intended without the street environment in the image. But then again, sometimes I just can't get close enough fast enough, so a long lens is necessary. In that case, the price for getting close-in detail is the loss of the space around the subject, such as here.

While walking down Madison Avenue this past weekend I saw this couple sitting out on the sidewalk, totally absorbed in physically communicating with each other. Just as I approached to grab the shot the woman sensed my presence and looked up at me. There's little doubt as to what reaction I elicited.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

London/New York Street Photography

Just one of the great wonders of New York City is an abundance of museums - of all kinds (way too numerous to list). I visited the Museum of the City of New York today and viewed a special exhibit on the street photography of London. The show traces the history of 'street' in London from about 1860 to the present. Along with the London show, the museum presented photographs from its own archives to parallel the development of the genre in New York. Much of the photography shown about New York was work by the greats of the genre in this country - Gary Winograd, Ben Fernandez, Lewis Hine, etc. It was too much to absorb in just one visit, and yet I wish both parts of the show had been larger. The wonderful historic material, which deserved every inch of space it received, left little room for presentation of the current state of the genre in each of the cities. 

In 2011 the San Diego Museum of Photographic Arts (MoPA) produced a show entitled Streetwise - Masters of '60's Photography. This short video presentation will give you a taste of the dynamic change that happened in this country, and especially in New York, at that time in which street photographers played a vital role confronting our complacent society with the powerful undercurrents of turmoil that were soon to tear at the fabric of our lives and destroy our social and political innocence. 

We're faced with the same types of disparities today. Conspicuous consumption coexists with rampant homelessness, just take a stroll on Fifth or Madison Avenue and it becomes glaringly apparent. When I started shooting documentary photography in the 1980's homelessness was a relatively young phenomenon and I was drawn to the easy pathos that was up for grabs. Nowadays it's so rampant, and the homeless begging on just about every corner in Manhattan are such easy prey for taking a quick snap that it's really become tacky and trite to shoot them, unless a serious effort is made to personally engage and interact with them. 

Over the past several years I've chosen instead to focus on the other half of the equation. That too is rampant on Fifth and Madison Avenues, and because it's pretty doesn't make it any more beautiful.

This was shot on Fifth Avenue this afternoon. I titled it '..... because he's RICH!'