Such a stunning lens. Mine was a Canadian version, late optics but older housing. Great lens and I miss it. Don’t sell stuff!
Remembering a nice afternoon a few years ago with our friends at Thai Dishes in Santa Monica. Leica 50mm 2.0 Summicron showing what a lovely lens it is.
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!
This is a repost of the very first real blog entry (after Hello World!) on this website back in 2012. I was in a very bad place at that time. My best friend was dying. I was not good with that. I was in one of those places where a person has no patience for the simpering superficial bullshit people tell each other mostly to make themselves feel better about themselves.
And although I feel strongly (always) about the message of this post, I didn’t repost it last Memorial Day. I was probably in a better mood. This year, with Memorial Day coming so closely on the heels of yet another gut wrenching domestic gun tragedy, happening this time here in my own back yard, and given everything else I see on the streets and read in the newspaper, I’m once again in a dark and unforgiving mood about my country. So fuck it.
Robert Frank’s ‘The Americans’ exposed much of the truth about America. We might have looked at that work and been properly shamed and sought to make a course correction. But we didn’t do that. Anyway. Enjoy this holiday. Don’t thank our troops. Remember instead the dead ones, and their wives, and their children, and their mothers, and their fathers. And forgive me for encroaching into sanctimonious behavior with a self-righteous attitude. I have no room to talk. It’s taken me over half a century to finally wake up.
Memorial Day 2012
Cookouts! Barbecue. Hot dogs and hamburgers. Beer. Friends and family. Unofficial start of summer. Hell yeah! That’s what Memorial Day is all about. Oh and, of course, the Memorial Day sale at Macy’s. Right?
Then there’s those people who try to remind you of the more sober aspects of the holiday. Sanctimoniously thanking ‘our’ soldiers. Does that really stick with you or are they just as annoying as the people at Christmas telling us all to remember the spirit of Christmas and that Christ ‘our’ savior was born on Christmas Day?
So they had this event down at a new memorial in Irvine for service men and women who died in Iraq and Afghanistan. I saw it on the 11 o’clock news. The Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial looks really nice and is said to be the first of its kind in the country honoring those who have fallen in the wars on terrorism we’ve been fighting for the last eleven or so years.
But they’ve got this open mic thing going. And the wives and mothers of those who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan come up to the mic and, if you didn’t see it, I’m telling you these women are just fucking raw. All are emotional but more than a few can barely get their words out; they’re just dying up there.
Blubbering women. Most of them young enough to be my daughter, if I’d had one. Talking about what they feel on Memorial Day.
While these women are stepping up to the mic, one at a time, to tell you the names of their husbands and sons and what happened to them – as best as they can between the sniveling and gasping and choked-off words – all over this country, millions of Americans are getting drunk, washing down burgers with Bud Lite, laughing the day away talking easily about everything that careless partying Americans talk about on a summer holiday together. Most Americans are having a good time, a welcome day off from work, celebrating the start of summer and vacation time – which is and always has been the real point of Memorial Day in our culture.
A really young woman steps up to the mic in Irvine. Her two hands are in a wrestling match with each other as she speaks.
“My name is Brooke Singer and my husband was killed in January.”
Brooke looks to be about 22. She’s wearing a pretty black dress with nickle-sized white polka dots and spaghetti straps that cut into the soft skin of her shoulders. She seems to have more to say but after that one solitary sentence she puts the back of her right hand to her face and unsuccessfully tries to stifle a sob. That hand has a mind of its own and, almost to conceal the degree to which it is shaking, Brooke drops it momentarily but then quickly raises it back again to cover her mouth, which is contorted in a way she’d obviously rather the entire world doesn’t see.
A girl who looks like she could be Brooke’s younger sister stands helplessly to her left. A woman who must be her mother puts her arm on Brooke’s back and whispers something into her ear.
If you need to be told at this point that Memorial Day isn’t about cookouts and really good shopping then I don’t know what to say to you except that you’re not alone. Not in my America.
But if you still think it’s about thanking ‘our’ soldiers and telling them how much we love them and appreciate what they’re doing for us then you really need to either wake up or grow up or maybe just look up the word ‘memorial’ in a dictionary.
If this country can ever find its soul again it will be on some hopefully not-too-distant Memorial Day. One day when enough Americans are finally able to look squarely and, maybe more than anything else, responsibly, at young women who can barely breathe as they muster the courage to stand in front of a microphone in a public square and choke out the names of their dead husbands.
Film images made with a Leica M7 and 50mm 2.0 Leica Summicron lens.
Despite the name of this blog, my favorite camera lens is Leica’s legendary 50mm 2.0 Summicron. I think both the 50 and the 35 Crons are the bomb. The reason I own and shoot the 50’Lux is because of the additional capability of the f1.4 and the beautiful ‘special’ effects of shootings the lens wide-open or even at f1.7.
I highlight the word ‘special’ because the ability to shoot a lens at 1.4 and take for granted great sharpness and color and contrast AND beautiful lush bokeh is to give your photography almost a special effect capability.
But as you can see from the image above, the 50 ‘Cron, despite the gripes sometimes heard about a busy bokeh, is no slouch in producing almost the same special effect of a razor sharp subject and a wonderfully bokeh-licious background. And don’t even ask about color and contrast at f2. My reading of LFI magazine down through the years tells me that Leica considers their Summicron lenses to be without compromise; perfect in every way. I agree.
My 50 ‘Cron is one of the Canadian jobs. Probably 18 or so years old. I picked it up at BelAir camera for the laughable price of $475. Grab one if you can find it.
Oh, yes, this is a reblog of sorts. Done today in recognition of the NBA All Star Game…. which I won’t be watching and wouldn’t watch if you paid me. But still… 😉
I don’t know if I can explain the title here… or if I should even try. It’s just the whole beyond carefree package of LA woman. Age? Ambiguous. Toned and striding up a tonier part of the Sunset Strip in the soft California winter light. Everything that her clothes and confidence and the zip code she’s owning right there conjures up for me exactly the girl I always pictured when I heard that great Phil Collins song.
These images are from the rally yesterday in front of the Federal Building in Westwood, CA. The people of the United States have had enough. We don’t want to be that country anymore. We have so many problems here on our own soil. Let’s become the model for the rest of the world, not its police force.
And finally, just…