Friday, April 5, 2013

No Exit ....No Entrance

Spring has finally arrived in the Big Apple and I'm eagerly looking forward to spending many days out on the street shooting before the weather becomes too beastly hot to be able to take long walks. Hopefully that will be two or three months.

Over the past year of shooting street and reviewing my images, I've refined my objectives more precisely. For the past several years of perambulating around the byways of New York anything has been fair game. My tendency is to always try to have people doing something in my shots - that's where the story is. I appreciate others' work that don't have that human element, but my eye is always attracted to scenes with some kind of unfolding drama, a telling gesture or expression. Over the past few months I seem to have been drawn in even closer, to shoot what may well be called street portraits. That's much more difficult to do and still carry some element of a story. Enter the amazing Fujinon 14mm f/2.8 lens. Super wide angle - allows for being in really close and still be able to capture some environmental elements to get a sense of time/place.

For both of these images I was at most three feet away from the subject. The first was shot from the hip, the second looking through the optical viewfinder. Both processed in Lightroom and Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. I was drawn to shoot the first image as the store owner opened the door for a breath of fresh air on a wonderful sunny day. The second image was shot on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 59th Street - which is a crossroads for many of the 'beautiful' people from Manhattan's wealthy Upper East Side and some not so beautiful, not so wealthy people who struggle to find daily sustenance any way they can.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Ethics of Street Photography

I usually avoid mentioning subjects such as this because everyone has their own opinion. Editors, curators, gallery owners, critics ..... oh yes, photographers also. I'd bet that all of these groups, except for the last, think that it's a topic that should be subject to open dialogue, panel discussions, editorials and such. Of course they do, they make their living with words. The more words used, the more important are the people who use them. Take, for instance, this article in which the author would have us believe that our motivation for taking street photos should be tempered by the culturally accepted norms of the era during which we shoot. So by his reasoning, it was fine for Gary Winogrand (who, by the way, is second only to Gene Smith in my pantheon of photographic heros), to  shoot without any regard for the sensibilities of his subjects (a show of much of his never before seen work is currently on exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and reviewed briefly by Slate Magazine) but that ethic which allowed Winogrand the freedom to create a huge body of work that defined the culture of his era is no longer 'correct' for current day street photographers. It's no longer good enough to be honest in our vision. Now, according to Mr. Coburg's reasoning, we can be honest only if the subject of or image(s) approve of our honesty. Heaven forfend if in the attempt at honesty, the photographer shows his subject not quite as they would want to be seen.

This is an issue that every street shooter has to deal with very early in the pursuit of his/her passion.   How a photographer chooses to come to terms with it is reflected in the immediacy and emotional impact of the images. That's what is paramount to me. Some may think I'm an insensitive boor, but what anyone else thinks of me is none of my business.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Not Always Street

This past Saturday afternoon I had a very pleasant opportunity to photograph the dance groups of the Kat Wildish Showcase which performed at the Alvin Ailey Dance facility in Manhattan. The groups that performed consisted of non-professional dancers that were involved with the showcase for the pure joy and love of dancing. The performances glowed with exuberance.

The opportunity presented me with challenges I had not anticipated. I knew the lighting would be difficult and that I wouldn't be able to use a flash - I had to use a slow shutter speed and high ISO to be able to maintain some depth-of-field. The dancers' movements were very fast and sudden, and without having seen the performances previously, I missed opportunities because my shutter finger was a tenth of a second too slow. I had to try to anticipate without knowing for sure what was coming. And I had no freedom of movement - I was in the front row, but had no opportunity to move from my seat - dead center -  for varying perspective.

Here's a few shots from my first attempt at dance photography: