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Photography

 

There was a “dead” period where I didn’t even carry my camera. For awhile, I was taking tons of pictures of my growing child, but very few images of anything I wanted to display, to put my name on. I didn’t need my Nikkormat for that, and it was too heavy to schlep around, so I gave it to the local high school photo class.

 

Around 2006-07, I bought my daughter a compact digital camera, and for a few years, it was what I used to record our Kodak moments.

 

At the end of 2009, I had a reason to get out and take some photos that for a specific purpose. For a couple of years previous, my company had been commissioning a photographer to shoot local points of interest for a desk calendar that we then sent to our clients.

I know, that is all the world needs is another cheesy real estate agent calendar with a Hallmark Card landscape on it.

Fortunately, our marketing director had very good taste, and carefully chose both her photographers and the image used on the calendar.

 

But I didn’t think the 2010 calendar images lived up to the previous years, so I asked if I could use my own pics instead. Along with permission, I got a two week deadline to provide 13 images. There were only two small problems, I had nothing to offer, and I am not a prolific shooter-I normally don’t make 13 satisfactory images in a year.

 

But I did it.

I wanted to stay in the spirit of the “House” calendar, and I wanted it to be personal, so I decided to shoot East Bay landmarks that I cared about, or that I had found visually interesting. I carried that little camera everywhere, and because I had a goal, I shot more images that I had shot in years.

I narrowed it down to 13, and published this calendar. Doing so reignited my interest in photography, and I have been slowly crawling out of the mud ever since.

2010 calendar

2018 Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day

As always, the last Sunday in April is Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day. Getting accepted in and participating in a couple of shows and exhibitions has been pretty intoxicating, so it was a pleasure to go out and take photos just for the joy of participation.

I didn’t make a new lens this year, I just re used the one from last year

I went out with one subject in mind, and fortunately, got distracted by all of the possibilities I found along the way.

How could I resist the Emeryville City Hall,  one of my favorite East Bay buildings?

As I was shooting, I notice this interesting Giraffe* out in front of a café’

I returned home, and shot a couple of our household friends, a wall shelf in the dining room

 

 

and this Cat head doll my daughter made

 

 

In the end, I chose to use the Giraffe, it was more fun.

 

You can see the post here-

http://www.pinholeday.org/gallery/2018/?id=1091

 

But the greatest pleasure of the WWPPD website is to just start anywhere, and start scrolling through all of the terrific images that have been submitted from all over the world. Because I am a Do it Yourselfer, my additional pleasure is seeing all of the really clever contraptions my colleagues have devised to capture their images.

This ingenuity is still one of the strongest elements of being humans-making our own tools.

 

*No animals were harmed in the shooting of this photo.

Street Photography

The photographic landscape has been changing, and I’m feeling a bit disoriented.

 

I try to not think of things categorically, but it seems to be a human trait- What do you photograph”, or “What kind of photographer are you”. I don’t do landscapes, and I don’t do portraits. Because I am a trained photographer, I like to think my Travel photos are (technically) a bit better than average, but my Family pics are just as goofy as everybody else.

But when I am consciously trying to make a picture,  I think of them as Observations- a Point of View that hovers between Documentary and Journalism -what Walker Evans called Descriptive Photography.

A few years back I read an article about a Street Photography book that had this Matt Stuart photo on the cover

http://www.mattstuart.com/photography/tqzpf859421njkn58ppuql6y0xaw5b

I looked into Matt, and he appeared to be a guy who walks around with both a camera and a particular view of the World, and is pretty good at using one to capture his impression of the other.

About the same time, along with the rest of the World, I discovered Vivian Maier, one thing led to another, and this whole “Street Photography” thing started to take off for me, with Cartier-Bresson, Winogrand and others. Street photographers are folks who carry camera around with them to record the World as they see it. Street Photography seemed to be a non-categoric Category, one that felt good to be in-it was observational, and you couldn’t predefine the image.

I hung around Street Photography for a few years, scoured Web Sites and got a sense of who was doing what. The discussions were what could be expected- approach, attitude, privacy, and so on. Fortunately, for a field that is gear obsessed, Street shooter conversations about equipment were minimal. Photography for these folks it is about the intersection of place and time (or timing)-not gear, and not prescribed rules.

I recently read a quote that expressed this quite well. I apologize for not including my source, I don’t recall it-

“I don’t know whether this truncated elephant with arm unmanned was a one-shot or a whole roll.  I just know it was right.  And it illustrates what goes on in the photographer’s mind when he’s being totally unconcerned about composition, almost.  He’s being almost totally concerned about subject.  What comes through is the subject.  What comes through the subject is the way of seeing.” —Jonathan Brand wrote these comments on composition and subject in his Popular Photography Critic’s Choice column about Garry Winogrand’s photograph of an elephant’s trunk, exhibited at the 1964 Museum of Modern Art show The Photographer’s Eye.

I decided that I was a street Photographer.

 

I entered a few competitions-

2016

Streetfoto San Francisco International Street Photography

http://streetfoto.org/sf2016-contest-finalists/#single

2017

LACD Street Shooting Around the World

https://lacphoto.org/gallery/2017-street-shooting-around-the-world-exhibition-winners-in-show

Meanwhile, I was noticing a trend towards formalizing Street Photography into a genre. Many street photographers who were gathering around the Internet water cooler started forming groups, or collectives. This seemed a good thing because their purpose was to critique and help curate each other’s work.

Others created self-promoting websites that seem to have evolved into large mirrors of their own self worth. There started to be Fanboys who wallowed in didactic conversations.There was some talk of Gear-“you have to use 28 or 35mm, you have to get up close”.

There were Rules.

Street Photography turned into a category.

Oops!… I Did It Again

“A Kiss on Sunset Boulevard” was also chosen by Juror Gus Powell for the current “Street Shooting Around the World ” show at the Los Angeles Center for Photography-

https://lacphoto.org/lacps-fourth-annual-street-shooting-around-the-world-exhibition-2018/

Coincidentally, I was in LA for the opening of last year’s show-

https://lacphoto.org/lacps-third-annual-street-shooting-around-the-world-exhibition-2017/

and I was walking over to a Wine Bar that I had discovered on Sunset Boulevard. I was in the crosswalk when I saw this couple making out in this alcove of the Amoeba Records store. The traffic light was changing, so I really only had seconds to take this shot and get out of the middle of that six lane street.

 

This show runs through March 18th.

 

Upcoming Photo Show

I am pleased to announce that my photograph, “A Kiss on Sunset Boulevard”, has been selected for a juried exhibit at The Richmond Art Center.

 

In Focus: Current Photography, opens this week, and runs through March 8th, here is a link to the Art Center Exhibition page-

 

http://richmondartcenter.org/exhibitions/in-focus-current-photography/

Copyright 2017 Jimmy Reina

 

There will be a reception at for the photographers at The Art Center on February 3rd from 2-5pm, I hope to see you there.

 

WHERE?

Happy New Year.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about where I want to go photographically, and where photography seems so be going in general, and as I look around at the current state of things, I’m feeling outnumbered.

I love the conversation of photography, getting different viewpoints and opinions about both process and imaging. In the 1970s, I learned photography by consuming all I could find, both at the Library and the newsstand. I love books, but magazines offered fresh information each month, the letters to the editor could offer expansion on a thought, and also offered the constructive disagreement and counterpoint that every dialogue needs.

A few years back, I joined a local camera club, and saw some good photography, but they have a pretty structured meeting format that revolves around judged competitions. Even on the evenings where there was no judging, the discussion seldom reached genuine critique, but tended to often be technical (rule of thirds, leading lines), or overly polite (“I like the red barn up in the corner”). They didn’t really have much to say about this-

Fallen Heads                                                                                                                          Copyright 2017 Jimmy Reina

 

Or this-

Aim for the Stars, Shoot for the Moon                                                                           Copyright 2017 Jimmy Reina

My sense was that they appreciated the images, they just didn’t know what to say about them.

 

I had a hankering to try my hand at printing, so I enrolled in a class offered through a community college Art Department. Each session was partially devoted to lecture, but there was also a critique component where participants hung prints on the wall for group discussion. This was the dialogue I was looking for-some of the work was practical and technical, some was conceptual, political, or emotional, as were the comments of my fellow classmates. Overall, I found it enriching.

Greyhound Station                                                                                                               Copyright 2017 Jimmy Reina

Lunch Break at the Brewery                                                                                               Copyright 2017 Jimmy Reina

However, colleges are goal oriented, they won’t let you repeat the same class for you own enrichment, and subsequent classes were taught by someone whose interests were more arty and conceptual. Although we did some very helpful exercises, there were no critique sessions-only projected work with limited time for artist comments, and even less time for the audience to speak up.

This past Spring, I took a critique class at Rayko, our dear departed San Francisco area photo hangout. The instructor, J. John Priola*, was a bright, energetic guy, who did a great job of keeping the conversation going with each student and on many different levels. It was the best!

But when I showed my work, they insisted on finding a common thread, or an inner meaning.

Detritus                                                                                                                                  Copyright 2017 Jimmy Reina

Siren Song                                                                                                                            Copyright 2017 Jimmy Reina

 

I don’t see my work that way, at all. As I look through my photographs I see some common elements, but I don’t go out shooting with the concept or a goal in mind, and as a rule, I don’t do projects. Usually, I see something that looks interesting, instinct tells me it might make a good photograph, and I do my best to photograph it the way I see it.

Occasionally, I get it right.

The common thread only comes over time, because it all reflects my view of the world. I know that some of it has an audience of one, but even that is OK (to a point).

So, where do you find the dialogue today? Website comments would seem to be the natural place, but with few exceptions (The Online Photographer**), I haven’t seen it. Many comments on sites like Flickr seem to resemble those of the camera club (nice capture!!)-so many of the participant just seem to be trolling for “likes”. Then there are the arguments where a participant gets contradicted by the next commenter, someone jumps in to defend the first guy, then someone else jumps in to defend the second guy, and it turns into a free for all that totally hijacks the conversation. There might be some constructive criticism somewhere down the line, but who wants to wade through all that nonsense and bickering?

This DP Review article illustrates what I am trying to say-

https://www.dpreview.com/articles/1295343786/these-are-the-15-most-popular-flickr-photos-of-2017?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=2017-december-12&ref_=pe_1822230_264896680_dpr_nl_291_29

 

If you appreciate these images, don’t just say, Nice Capture”, and don’t make the comment about you. Tell the photographer what you like about it, and it will make them a better photographer (and it will make you a better commenter). And don’t let yourself get drawn into the mud.

I have noticed that a few photographers have turned off “comments”, presumably for this reason.

So once again, where is the dialogue? Where are the salons and ateliers where Berenice Abbott met Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray? Where are the cafes and galleries where Walker Evans met Berenice Abbott and Andre’ Kertezs? And so on.

Those guys may have passed, but somewhere, at this minute, somebody is doing something that can excite us, they can make us learn something new about our craft, and perhaps about ourselves. Are they hanging out in Art School? Online chat rooms?

Where do they hang out, how can we meet them, and get to talk to them?

 

*http://www.jjohnpriola.com/

 

** http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/random-excellence/

Photo Editing Software

My photo editing needs are pretty modest, not much more than what we did in the darkroom.

I learned basic procedures on Adobe Photo Deluxe, a predecessor to Elements. It was Bundled with my first (1997-98) digital camera, a 2 megapixel Minolta Dimage V that had a crazy tethered lens that you could remove from the camera and shoot around corners or stick it down into a confined space.*
I also noodled around with Paint.net, and together they made a very crude version of Photoshop.
Then I tried Photoshop, and for my needs found it too complicated.
I tried GIMP, which I found to have no soul-it was like kissing your sister- and it was just as complicated as Photoshop.
All of this was before the debut of Lightroom.

As I looked into my next editing software, I learned that some of them offered asset management, and because I lack the Organization Gene, this seemed attractive.
ACDSee Pro 5 seemed to fit my needs, was modestly priced, and the tabs and keyboard commands were what I was used to in Windows. For an old dog, not having to learn new tricks was a good thing.
For my purposes, this software does a very good job. I particularly like the Light EQ feature, which, like an audio equalizer, breaks the dynamic range down into sections that can be adjusted with individual sliders.

It seems that the screen on my new laptop has such high resolution, that the Version 5 display gets squeezed down, so I upgraded to Pro 10.

* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGakD-Xj7PA

 

 

I hate Walker Evans

We just visited the Walker Evans exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

I first bumped into Walker Evans more than 20 years ago at the old San Francisco Museum of Art on Van Ness. There was a photography display, and I found the work by Evans particularly appealing. A great thing about visual imagery is that any version of it is better than no version at all, so I bought a handful of postcards in the Museum Gift shop.

Over the years, references to Evans refreshed my interest in him-as I saw new images, and was again drawn to his style (although I don’t think I could define it). I bought a few books, including the seminal work, “American Photographs”*, the catalog of his 1938 Museum of Modern Art (NY) exhibit, and the first photographic presentation by an individual in that major museum. My understanding is that Walker Evans’ insistence on this exhibit being viewed as a body of work rather than a collection of photographs was a novel idea at the time. It has also been said that this exhibit announced the arrival (and acceptance) of photography in the world of fine art.

Evans is best known for his Depression era work for the Farm Services Administration, and many of those images are burned into our collective memories, particularly his iconic portrait of Ellie Mae Burroughs, which he named “Alabama Cotton Tenant Farmer Wife”. –

 

This title is as straightforward as his images, there are no embellishments, it could be the label on a laboratory microscope slide-which in a sense it is-through Evans’ lens, we get a magnified close up of America.

But Walker Evans was about so much more than the human condition. His subject matter was the matter of everyday life-signs, billboards, and advertising, movie posters, automobiles, corner churches and gas stations, and window displays-all taken in his straightforward, almost documentary style. Curators and pundits call his choice of subject matter “vernacular photography” to define this style, he used the phrase “descriptive photography”. He made studio portraits of common hand tools, and his subway portraits, anonymous and candid photos of New York City riders (taken with a concealed camera), raised privacy invasion issues that continue to resonate today now that the abundance of cameras everywhere record many of our everyday movements.

Evans photographed and wrote about store displays, here are some along with his own comments-

Here is a detail of that last one-

 

I believe this was written by the curator-

I love the phrases, “Hodgepodge poetry of the miscellany store”, and “practical genius”

 

So why do I hate Walker Evans?

Because I have learned that so much of what I think of as my original work was done by him more than 80 years ago. I shoot a lot of store windows and signs. My images reflect my own sensibilities and interest, and often reflect my sense of humor.

OK, so nobody is going to put a frame around these and hang them in a museum.

 

It is widely accepted that there is nothing new, but did he have to do it so much better? Couldn’t he have left some crumbs for the rest of us?

At the end of the day, it is about vision, clarity and skill.

I hate guys like that.

 

* http://store.moma.org/books/books/walker-evans-american-photographs.-seventy-fifth-anniversary-edition/835-835.html?cgid=books-books