The artists are spray-painting professionals, paid modest fees, and not graffiti vandals. Louise Jones set up last week with her eye on the mammoth task of painting two grosbeaks on a stone-hard canvas 70 feet tall and 100 feet wide — the wraparound sides of a church on West 149th Street off Amsterdam Avenue. Ms. Jones is so accomplished at her special art that she arrived as a fully certified operator of a powered lift-boom she uses to extend her eye and hand 100 feet high.
I’m linking today to an essay on William Eggelston called The Tender-Cruel Camera written by Thomas Weski. Here’s an excerpt.
The choice of subject matter seemed to some critics to be totally indiscriminate, as though William Eggleston has applied no criteria at all. ‘Eggleston’s photographs often seem to have been taken not by a photographer but by a motorized camera swinging around the photographer’s head on a string. Whatever happens to be in front of the lens when the shutter was tripped got photographed. Whatever was not, did not.’ But even this negatively meant criticism reveals a further important aspect of Eggleston’s work, namely his democratic approach to the subject matter. Eggleston speaks again and again of the ‘democratic camera’ which considers every object worthy of depiction. Naturally, this seemingly impersonal way of seeing things makes no distinction between ‘beautiful’ and ‘ugly’. In other words, William Eggleston does not operate with the usual visual hierarchies, but rather accepts those motifs which illustrate his concept correctly.
Crop from the image that launched my own moment of recognition here in California by the Los Angeles Center of Photography. The uncropped version of this shot was selected to appear at the LACP’s first juried Member’s Exhibition.
This is almost an example of photography that you can barely take credit for. lol. Who can claim to have created something that depends so much on the fact that this woman bought this jacket at some moment in her life probably years before I even bought the camera that took the picture.
How much does the image depend on the fact that this lady decided to wear this jacket on this day and be just at that very moment stepping from the sun into the dark shadow of a doorway? So the shot is almost a miraculous piece of luck.
That said, I think this crop captures the gestalt effect more perfectly than any photograph I’ve ever seen. I can’t take any responsibility for that because I’m sure it wasn’t my intention to make an image of that sort. I saw colors and contrast and a good subject and that was it until I looked at the image later.
Anyway. Hope you enjoy this! Thank you all for visiting!
“The basic condition of the voyeuristic scenario is distance, an essential separation between seer and seen. Despite this distance, which is by definition unbridgeable, despite the unrequitable nature of the desire that drives it, the voyeur’s gaze is a privileged one.”
Great book I highly recommend called Train Your Gaze: A Practical and Theoretical Introduction to Portrait Photography by Roswell Angier. The quote above is from TYG. Almost by anyone’s definition it is not a book on portrait photography. It is really an analysis of contemporary art photography as well as some of the classic but nevertheless quite daring, in their time, 20th century photographers.
The chapter on voyeurism begins with a quote by Walker Evans, certainly an idol of mine and countless other photographers.
“Stare. It is the way to educate your eye, and more. Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long.”
Here is a link to the great website American Suburb X and a group of street photos by newly discovered street photography master Helen Levitt. The difference between these pictures and the vast majority of her other previously shown work is that these images are in amazing color.
Seeing those images this morning inspired me to share some of my recent shots. You know, I’ve always thought of myself as a black and white street photographer. But I rarely shoot black and white street photography. I really have done very little in B&W over the last ten years. I think I have to come to terms with the fact that I’m a street photographer who works primarily in color.
Color is the only way to capture the parts of Los Angeles I continue to want to shoot most. Hope these images from my Leica M-E capture both the timeless grit and the gripping palate of colors of life in LA in 2013.
As I write this the rain is falling on the roof of my building in cold jealous sheets. 😉 Damn you, rain! Be gone! We photographic artists must be allowed to co-mingle and congratulate ourselves over wine and cheese that we did not pay for!
Okay. (Let’s hope that works.) No rain can dampen the excitement and warm feelings today holds, not just for me, but for the 28 other street photographers who will be honored at the Los Angeles Center of Photography’s first Annual Street Shooting Exhibition in Hollywood.
I don’t really discuss street photography much here on 50lux.com. As I’ve said in an earlier post from last year, I prefer to let my images do the talking for me. It is a sentiment that has been shared by so many photographers throughout the history of the medium. Let the work speak for itself, the images for themselves.
Not always a workable position to take there, it is increasingly less so in the world of contemporary art photography and galleries and clients etc., which all demand that any visual artist know exactly what the purpose is in their work and that they possess and own the very reasons their art exists. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask.
In my case, I don’t even have the excuse that I’m not good (enough) with words or that I don’t have anything to say about what I’m doing. I’m good (enough) with words to say what I’m thinking and I have actual thoughts on photography and, maybe especially, the street photography that accounts for the majority of my own creative efforts over the last 15 years.
So I’m going to take this opportunity, on the occasion when what I’ve been doing for so long is being recognized, when the undertaking itself is being recognized, to say a few things about the work of street photography.
First I have to say that upon perusing the fine selections for the LACP showing online I’m reminded that, thankfully, whatever positions or thoughts I hold in regard to street photography aren’t instantly transferable to the work of others. Photography itself and street photography in particular means something different to everyone who picks up the camera.
I think when I started to make street photography a form of creative expression I did it because I wanted to capture and preserve and make permanent my own life in the form of what I was seeing in my world. I saw it my way. I don’t believe there is a higher power simultaneously seeing and recording and preserving my perspective… or any perspective at all.
Moments, like life itself, were fleeting, but even moreso. There is no guarantee of permanence of human life or even the planet we live on. I had a desperation to grab the ordinary because I saw it, and still do, as being so extraordinary. Everything I see and photograph is, to my mind, the most singularly pointed definition of unique.
Selecting scenes and frames from what I see happening in front of me is a far more subconscious process. I am looking for specific things and then something inside of me is also more instinctively looking as well. Sometimes the things that are most integral to my images are not physical image elements. At best, meaning when I think an image of mine is most successful, the things that I have photographed are not physically apparent.
More than anything, I’m trying to photograph humanity and the human interplay between the living beings and this imposing city. The grace, lack of grace, responses to life, its pressures and pleasures, the human reactions to the environment that we have created for ourselves.
In street-photographing Los Angeles, I am attempting to make subtle, psychological images of humanity as I find them and see them against the backdrop of one of the more chaotic and overdeveloped places on Earth.
I hope that touches on the more general aspects of my street photography in a way that people can relate to when looking at my images. I thank everyone who comes to 50lux.com and who has supported me and my photography over the years.
I want to once again thank Julia Dean and the Los Angeles Center of Photography. Thank you for everything that you do, LACP!
The Los Angeles Center of Photography proudly presents our First Annual Street Shooting Exhibition that celebrates street photography in Los Angeles and around the world. The exhibition showcases 29 photographers and 39 photographs. The works were carefully selected among 120 photographers and 767 images. The selection process was juried by Sam Abell, Julia Dean and Stephen McLaren.
This page is just a teaser! Please check back here in the very near future to go to the actual Purchase Prints page where images I have selected will be available to be purchased as prints. I will be adding many more images to these in time and if there are any that you have seen that you would like to purchase a print of please feel free to contact me regarding those.
Thank you so much for your interest and support if you have any questions at all contact me here.
Nancy Newberry wanted to make pictures of Texas that went past the facile folklore of the homestead, past the stereotypes of tumbleweeds and ten-gallon hats. Put in decidedly nonfolksy terms, she was fascinated by disjunctive cognition, that phenomenon in a dream where you simultaneously recognize something is and isn’t. In other words, something familiar — but just shy of normal.“It’s about a psychological space that connects you to a place,” said Ms. Newberry, who was born in San Antonio and now splits her time between Dallas and Marfa. “And in my case, this is where I come from, from Texas.”
Summer, not a bit of breeze
Neon signs are shining through the tired trees
Lovers walking to and fro
Everyone has someone and a place to go
Listen, hear the cars go past
They don’t even see me, flying by so fast
Moving, going who knows where
Only thing I know is I’m not going there
– Charles Strouse; Lee Adams.
No, this untitled shot from 2008 isn’t what I’m showing. But I’m extremely proud to have an image selected for this landmark event in Southern California photography taking place at the Los Angeles Center of Photography’s Hollywood gallery location. The exhibition will run through August 12 and features 49 works by what is I’m sure a wide range of local photographic talent.
Details are as follows:
1515 Wilcox Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90028
Very excited to learn that the above image, Gestalt Moment, won a spot in the Los Angeles Center for Photography’s first Juried Member’s Exhibition that will run from July 11 – August 12. Over 800 images were submitted and 50 were selected.
I set out to do a number of things in terms of street photography when I embark into the city to make my images. I don’t go out with a single project in mind but after so many years of shooting in Los Angeles I know there are a number of things on the spectrum of possibilities that I can hope to find and document.
This image actually represents a number of those things. First and foremost I think what my photography is about is that it’s psychological. That’s certainly a matter of perception and right or wrong, true or false, I attempt to make images of that which I perceive to be happening in the lives or minds of my subjects. There are certain psychological states which I look for that would be reflected in things like facial expressions or body language and gestures.
This is, of course, extremely subjective. Can I tell what people are thinking by the look on their face? No? Maybe? Sometimes? Does a photograph lie? Of course photographs can be misleading and can seem to show something entirely different from the reality of any situation.
Personally, I’ve never cared too much about the answers to those kinds of questions in relation to my street photography. It is not reportage or photojournalism. I think some of the images selected by Robert Frank for The Americans are possibly very misleading moments. But they advance his narrative and that’s what matters more than the notion that he took a specific image when the moment and time and place were all so oppressively pregnant with the exact point he was attempting to make with his book about America.
Detachment is a theme and a human condition I attempt to capture when I’m shooting street photography. Social detachment. Emotional detachment. Temporary detachment. Literal, metaphorical. I’m open to whatever I can find. Detachment was the unifying theme of the six images I sent in to be considered for the exhibition at the LACP.
Alone, elderly, downward aspect to her gaze, body language that’s slouching away from the world, literally disappearing into a darkened doorway, there’s enough evidence of social and emotional detachment here that I would hope I don’t have to discuss that element in this post or it would end up being 10k words.
Another thing I hope to do, and rarely accomplish, is to tell my little real or imagined social and psychological stories without actually showing someone’s face or revealing their identity. Two of the images I sent in accomplished that and this was one of those.
That’s for both artistic and just very practical reasons but to some extent there are ethical considerations as well. It’s not an easy thing to do by any means. But I can almost feel the exhibition juror looking over street photographs by me or any number of other photographers and (with a sigh of relief) being inclined to choose images that don’t reveal the identity of any human beings. It’s like an ‘ah’ moment. Yes! Thank you! These aren’t legal concerns, maybe, but any number of lesser worries are avoided. So there’s that.
Then there are, it is hoped, things that you cannot plan for or take any credit for whatsoever. The gestalt aspects of this photograph represent nothing less than a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.
To be the photographer who goes into the world seeking out something like this, spending his or her hours searching for opportunities that would, when photographed, represent examples of gestalt? God, I think I’d rather sell my cameras and start a disco band. That’s just not who I am as a photographer.
To those who might not know of gestalt theory or perception. As simply as I can state it, it is a combination of elements, dots, shadows, lines, that taken by the MIND in total, form or represent something other than those elements, dots, shadows, lines, etc.
In this image, you only see this woman’s hat and hair really. A purse strap. It is really the red, yellow, and blue polka-dots on her jacket, and the blocking of light by her legs which tells you her shape, her posture, etc. Those elements allow your mind to ‘see’ the human form of the woman.
That those elements, captured at this moment, reveal her body language, a gestalt perception that to me forms in the mind an expression of her detachment, one of the many things I seek to photograph with my cameras and lenses, is simply off the charts good fortune.
As part of the process of participating in this exhibition and having an image featured I’ve been asked to set a price for this photograph. I think it’s worth $1M. But I don’t want to sell myself short so I’m thinking of asking five. 😉
Thanks for looking!
“I’m not interested in knowing how the picture will look like either. I trust the machine and my own acquired abilities to do that. I’m much more interested in discovering things around me and noticing what is slightly off-reality or disconnected.” – Nuno Moreira State of Mind
Nuno Moreira (born 1982 in Lisbon) is a Portuguese art director and photographer presently living in Tokyo, Japan. He has a degree in cinema. In this interview he talks about his recently published photography book “State of Mind”.
Read a complete and pretty fantastic interview with Nuno Moreira here…
Vivian Dorothea Maier was an American street photographer, who was born in New York City and spent much of her childhood in France. After returning to the United States, she worked for approximately forty years as a nanny in Chicago, Illinois.
During those years, she took more than 100,000 photographs, primarily of people and cityscapes in Chicago, although she traveled and photographed worldwide.
Two years before she died in 2009 at age 83, the eccentric and brilliant amateur photographer forfeited ownership of the contents of the storage lockers in which she had kept truckloads of negatives, prints and other materials.
The contents were quickly auctioned for a pittance to several collectors and “resellers” who found they had made the discovery of a lifetime.
The contents of Maier’s collection included more than 100,000 negatives that charted her hitherto-private career as a superb street photographer who focused mainly on vignettes of New York and Chicago.
One from the very old pre-Leica days.
I think images should require something from the person who is looking upon them. A photograph doesn’t or shouldn’t have to be obvious in order to be something that holds some value. I think this image could be taken as an example of that. I don’t want to say much more about the picture itself. It either makes a statement to you or it doesn’t. It made a statement to me.
Now it has a sequel. The top image was shot almost a year ago and was taken with the Zeiss 50mm Sonnar 1.5. I think the color representation of that lens is evident in the image. That lens is just stellar and classic. The second image, the one at the bottom of this post, was taken with the Leica 50mm Summilux 1.4 ASPH, and I think the color signature of that lens is also amazingly evident in this shot.
I call the color I get from my 50’lux ‘comic book color’ and I mean that as a high compliment, although some people have taken issue with that characterization. I think you can see what I mean by that description, however, by looking at this image in comparison to the Zeiss image.
The 50’lux does the most stunning job of slapping an abundance of the primary colors all over the film plane. I love it. I’m addicted to it. I’ve never seen anything like it. And I couldn’t live without it at this point. 😉
Both were taken with (shhhh!) Walgreens 400 ISO film. Light was much different, though. The first image was taken in sunlight, and the second was taken after the sun was down behind the buildings. Aperture opens up and everything here in Los Angeles at that time is bathed in a fantastic blue glow, I’ve always imagined because of the close proximity of the mighty Pacific.
My plan is to shoot more images like this that are attempting to make statements (even if only to me) that express the humanity of my subjects and hint at some of the complexities of their lives and their predicaments and the costs of their struggles as shown on their faces.
There are so many cliches surrounding the largely Mexican American immigrant base in California and the United States.
I’m not expressing a political perspective with what I hope to be an ongoing photographic project. But the Hispanic population, their families, their contributions, and their various ‘roles’ in what makes up Los Angeles is so complex that the cliches and the level of understanding around the country of their presence here amounts to an affront to true cultural understanding.
Being Mexican in Los Angeles, or El Salvadorian or Guatemalan, be it as an illegal or as a someone born of legal immigrants, with rare exception, is to live a life that makes you collectively part of the cheap labor engine that enables so many of the rest of us here to live crisp clean unburdened lives. Los Angeles is a story that is built, not just historically, but every single day, upon the labor of this population base.
There is a flip side to this story, of course, which is the effect that having such a massive cheap labor population base made up of one ethnicity has on other, even American-born, ethnicities. But these pictures can only tell the story that they tell, and it is, I think, an important one to tell.
Thanks for looking, and long live FILM.
Good lighting and exposures are very important. Color and proper focus are both critical. That’s all. lol. Okay, just kidding. But you didn’t REALLY think I wasn’t going to make a defense of street photographers taking pictures of kids who aren’t theirs, did you?
I originally published this about a year and a half ago and it met great controversy when I posted a link to it over on DPReview. Some people threatened my physical well being. Or at least it seemed that way to me.
In the interim, the state of California actually implemented a law last year preventing celebrity hounding paparazzi (not judging, I’ve sold many celebrity images via a celebrity photo agency and some of them were surreptitiously taken) from taking images of the children of, you guessed it, celebrities.
First, let me say that I’m just a little appalled that celebrities have the power to win the passage of special laws that benefit only them. That you can trot a couple of lovely weeping actresses like Halle Berry and Jennifer Garner out in front of the state legislature and get a law protecting only their children is kind of an outrageous proposition.
But I was also relieved to find out that it did only apply to them and their children. Sort of a dichotomy I guess you could call it. I’d thought of ranting and raving against the passage of the law and hounding the governor of California, Jerry Brown, to refuse to sign off on it but, honestly, on the one hand, I’m not supportive of the idea that children of celebrities should be targeted by a stalking paparazzi. That is unacceptable.
But had that law included ALL photographers, and made anyone taking images of children in a street photography situation law breakers for doing so I would have been even more outraged. There is a price of celebrity and that price should be paid by celebrities and not free citizens doing what photographers have had free license to do since the advent of photography.
Anyway. Here it is. I can only give you my answer to the question of whether or not it’s okay to take pictures of other people’s children, in public, with no permission from anyone. It is the answer that I’ve come up with that applies to me. Every single person reading this has to come up with an answer that works for them and please don’t take anything I’m writing here as legal advise or even suggestions as to what you should or should not be doing with your cameras or with your lives.
The only immutable law, I would suggest, is that you’d better be taking pictures of kids for good reasons and with the best intentions. And there are many and you have a right to those reasons and intentions. (as far as I’m concerned. Not necessarily according to the law or customs where you happen to be located. Or not. See what I mean? Me neither.)
Children tell stories, with their expressions, their body language and gestures, in an unfiltered and psychologically complicated way that adults very often don’t. And you have a right to grab those stories and record them on film or a digital camera sensor when and wherever you find them. (But don’t hold me to that statement as legal advice. I’m not a lawyer and it is not legal advice or guidance.)
The image at the top here is one of my favorites. There’s a lot of information in this shot. You have what would appear to any resident of Los Angeles to be visitors from somewhere else. It is summer and probably this is their vacation together. It is a family with three lovely daughters sporting matching outfits.
Their parents obviously take great pride in their brood here and it appears that two of the girls might be twins. The third, standing off to the right, seems a year or so younger than her sisters. That she’s wearing the same outfit nevertheless seems to indicate this family feels a desire or need for a certain degree of family conformity. I’m not passing judgment. I would probably be looking for three of everything myself if they were my children.
Mom looks like she’s ready to take a picture herself which further indicates to me that this moment, here on an icky sticky Santa Monica sidewalk, represents some holiday memory that must be preserved forever. Seems like they may have just gotten out of their rental car.
But kids are scary scary things and a set of three like this would give me nightmares if I was their father. You have three beautiful daughters, you dress them alike to show how much pride you have in your family. But then there’s the one with the broken arm to remind you how delicate and fragile your precious family is and how precarious and elusive will be your grasp on their lives for the rest of your own.
The second shot is a collection of three individuals connected by something technically invisible, meaning you can’t see a wire or a string or a discharge of energy like a lightening bolt or anything like that, but that is there nevertheless and is probably stronger than just about any physical connection could be. Love and adoration and maybe, again, family, sisterhood; this time it looks like a loving grandparent.
I like to say that I take pictures of things that a lot of photographers don’t typically set out to photograph. Things that are happening inside a subject’s head that are maybe very subtly represented by other things happening on the outside of their head or in their gesture or posture or physical relationship or interaction with other people in the photograph.
This picture is an example of what I mean by that.
Someone just paid that much for Barnett Newman’s “Onement VI”, a painting which consists of two vibrant blue rectangles neatly divided by a single, light blue line, an arrangement that Sotheby’s called “a portal to the sublime.”
Won’t someone please kindly pay Barnat Donald a million or so for this fine image taken late last year entitled “Is This Leica a Righteous Bitch to Focus Already? #10465”
“Mr. Winogrand had no patience for the phony sympathies he thought connected too many photographers to their subjects. In the exhibition catalog, Mr. Rubinfien writes that the most successful pictures, in Mr. Winogrand’s mind, were the ones “that told you that the world was a jumble of fragments, that the truth was more complex than any account could be.”