Friday, March 29, 2013


Put me in a crowd of people on a street in New York with a camera in my hand and I'm a happy camper. Yesterday I stood outside Nat Sherman's cigar shop on East 42nd street. While waiting to meet someone (who never showed) I was immensely entertained by the people who walked by - and by the cigar I fired up.

I love to capture facial expressions - sometimes explicit, sometimes ambiguous. When anyone looks at a photograph the first recognizable feature they'll see is a face, and then the eyes. When someone looks at an image I've made I want them to see a feeling expressed in a look or a gesture, and to remember feeling that way themselves. I want the viewer to make up his own story about what the image means. It doesn't have to be what the image meant to me when I shot it, like the sad expression of this gentleman as he walked by, it was just lucky coincidence that the two laughing girls were in the background.


When I turned around there was this charming woman who had ducked out of the rain shower standing next to a very unhappy wooden indian.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Sneer

As I've said before in these pages, what I look to capture in my images is a human thing - a gesture, an expression, an attitude - something to which each viewer of my shots can relate or about which they can make up their own story. When I post an image I can say what attracted me and impelled me push the shutter button, but that's only my story or reaction to the moment. I like capturing that, but it's more important to capture something in the shot that is universally human to which anyone can relate.

Mostly when someone we know aims a camera at us we automatically assume they want us to look happy, so we smile. Often when I'm shooting on the street, lift the camera to my eye, and aim the person smiles back. That's ok, I've gotten some wonderful shots like that. But it's not what I'm looking for, so I try to be as stealthy as possible. Sometimes I get caught, and the subject's response is to try to ruin the picture by intentionally not smiling, but rather sneer at me.

I love it.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Washington DC - City of Hope

I spent the past several days in Washington, DC - more than twenty year since my last visit. I was there to visit with family, and had hoped to see the beginning of the cherry blossoms bloom, but the weather was not very cooperative. For two days I walked around the city center, the 'downtown' area, and I was struck by the dissimilarity to New York. Our nation's capitol city has a diverse population, but each group, culturally and economically, stays pretty much in their own neighborhood. In New York the diverse population is squeezed together so tightly that neighborhoods change every few blocks, so that on the main thoroughfares there is a total mix of people in almost every geographical part of the city.

I spent some time at a few museums, some familiar and some new. The Phillips Collection in the beautiful DuPont Circle neighborhood is one of my all-time favorites because of the display of a number of large paintings by Pierre Bonnard, currently my favorite artist. And I visited a new institution called the Newseum, an institution dedicated to journalism, which is in the Capitol area. Most impressive was the gallery of all the photographs that have won the Pulitzer prize since the end of World War II. Most of them were individually moving, but seen as a group the experience is profoundly overwhelming. As I walked around the exhibit I couldn't help noticing the expressions on most of the faces. There wasn't a dry eye in the whole exhibit. Also on display at the Newseum, and as moving as the Pulitzer exhibit,  is a memorial wall of photographs of journalists who have died in the line of duty. Some, as it turned out, I had met and knew personally.

In the Capitol area, where most of the government administration buildings are,  there were very few people out and about, almost all were tourists. I walked past a complex that housed all, except for the US Supreme Court, all the judicial halls and offices. That particular cluster of buildings was a magnet for clusters of homeless and/or unemployed people, which surprised me because there are no social services offices in the area. But because of the underground offices, the sidewalks around the buildings are much warmer than most other neighborhoods. The contrast is striking to see these people in clusters, on otherwise empty streets, huddled in the corners and doorways of the halls of power and justice.