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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

ANOTHER HIKE, ANOTHER BIRD PIC

We were on a hike at the Albany bulb when we saw this Great Blue Heron. Because I don’t care for the digital zooms that phones use, I was kicking myself for not having my camera, but the best camera is always the one you have with you. By the time my camera got done with this, it looked more like a watercolor than a photograph, but I kinda like it.


A week later, we took another hike, and it was still there, hanging out at the same watering hole-this time I had my camera.

Imitation? Flattery? Hubris? Copycat? Inspiration?

Nope, none of the above.

I never thought that I would have the nerve to discuss one of my photographs in the same sentence with one by Elliott Erwitt-someone who had more fun with a camera than anyone else I can imagine.
However, while I was road testing a new lens at the Albany Bulb, I saw this version of a scene that was imprinted on my brain

 

 

Although I took the photograph, I take no credit for the image, it all comes from Mr. Erwitt

 

The best thing about this happenstance is that it caused me to pull down this book in order to shoot the page.

 

And the best thing about having the book in my hands is being able to look through it again.

And then, if it all wasn’t fortuitous enough, this morning I was reading a Petapixel article that had an item about The International Photography Hall of Fame  in my home town of St. Louis Mo., something I was not aware of (the Hall of fame, that is. I was aware of St. Louis). Intrigued, I went to their site and learned they are showing a film about Elliott Erwitt, and today is the last day to screen it.

Like I said, “fortuitous”.

And this is how things happen to me, and why serendipity is my favorite word.

NOW

 

 

 

I had already been at a photographic

crossroad for awhile, then the Pandemic hit.

That was the big Kabosh for someone who likes to walk City streets with a camera. I still walk my neighborhood and try to exercise my eye/shutter coordination with my phone, but it ain’t the same.

I have a good sense of where my photographic sensibilities come from, but often don’t see a place for them in the current landscape. Last year, I had two critiques at SF Camerawork, and while I was pleased with the response, I was definitely of the minority- artists formally known as “Street”.

I also have a current show, which I offered to share with a colleague. His work is all trees and sunsets, baked in Instagram filters, and he is selling well. Mine, not so much. Maybe nobody likes it, I like to think it is outside of the popular norm-it’s not pretty.

In the Art community, a great deal of current work seems to center on the “Project”, a collection of images that revolve around a theme or concept. An offshoot of this (or maybe the result of it) is the self published photobooks, an effective method of wrapping up a project.

To my way of shooting, themed projects can be effective in two ways. Intentional shooting helps provide focus when “the hunt is on”. I was just discussing motivation and inertia with another photographer, and we agreed that going out with a purpose helps considerably. When I was enrolled in photography classes, the assignments kept me on my toes, and I actually finished both the 123 Project and built my little web site because of those assignments.

But I am seldom that organized, and seldom have a goal in mind. Instead, my usual method is to just start walking around and see what comes up. I read a Daido Moriyama quote- “When I go out into the city I have no plan. I walk down one street, and when I am drawn to turn the corner into another, I do. Really I am like a dog. I decide where to go by the smell of things, and when I am tired, I stop.”  Maybe it is ironic or maybe it was intentional that Stray Dog is probably his most iconic photograph, but that is what we all are doing-We are just out there looking for scraps to feed our appetites.

Sometimes, before Shelter in Place, I would take the train to San Francisco, come up out of the station, press both crossing signal WALK buttons at the same time, and then go in the direction of the first to light up.

I read another quote, attributed to Larry Sultan that said “The more you try to control the world, the less magic you get.

When I walk City streets, I like to shoot architectural elements and signs. Unless I use them as filler on my <Instagram page>, most of these images will never be seen by anyone, but the act of hunting sharpens the eye, and both shooting and light editing (even for web/Instagram use) exercises the right muscles.

I like to think that sometimes I even get an image that is photographically interesting.

 

for awhile, then the Pandemic hit. That was the big Kabosh for someone who likes to walk City streets with a camera. I still walk my neighborhood and try to exercise my eye/shutter coordination with my phone, but it ain’t the same.

I have a good sense of where my photographic sensibilities come from, but often don’t see a place for them in the current landscape. Last year, I had two critiques at SF Camerawork, and while I was pleased with the response, I was definitely of the minority- artists formally known as “Street”.

In the Art community, a great deal of current work seems to center on the “Project”, a collection of images that revolve around a theme or concept. An offshoot of this (or maybe the result of it) is the self published photobooks, an effective method of wrapping up a project.

To my way of shooting, themed projects can be effective in two ways. Intentional shooting helps provide focus when “the hunt is on”. I was just discussing motivation and inertia with another photographer, and we agreed that going out with a purpose helps considerably. When I was enrolled in photography classes, the assignments kept me on my toes, and I actually finished both the <123 Project> and built my little web site because of those assignments.

But I am seldom that organized, and seldom have a goal in mind. Instead, my usual method is to just start walking around and see what comes up. I read a quote, attributed to Daido Moriyama- ““When I go out into the city I have no plan. I walk down one street, and when I am drawn to turn the corner into another, I do. Really I am like a dog. I decide where to go by the smell of things, and when I am tired, I stop.”  Maybe it is ironic (or maybe it was meant to be) that <Stray Dog> is probably his most iconic photograph, but that is what we are doing-We are just out there looking for scraps to feed our appetites.

Sometimes, before Shelter in Place, I would take the train to San Francisco, come up out of the station, press both crossing signal WALK buttons at the same time, and then go in the direction of the first to light up.

I read another quote, attributed to Larry Sultan that said “The more you try to control the world, the less magic you get.

When I walk City streets, I like to shoot architectural elements and signs. Unless I use them as filler on my Instagram page, most of these images will never be seen by anyone, but the act of hunting sharpens the eye, and both shooting and light editing (even for web/Instagram use) exercises the right muscles.

I like to think that sometimes I even get an image that is photographically interesting.

 

I just read that MAD Magazine is going to cease publishing.

As a kid, MAD gave me permission to be irreverent, but more important, it allowed me to look behind the curtain, to question Authority, and to find the real Truth that underlied the  Ozzie and Harriet worldview that was being spoon fed to us in the 1950s . Nothing against O and H, only the world as the media, the advertisers, and other big shots presented it. I guess it was an Eisenhower thing (no offense to Ike either. After all, he warned us about the Military Industrial Complex).

On a personal level, it allowed me to not take myself seriously, and helped define my Bullshit Detector.

If you believe, as I do, that laughter is the best medicine, it was regular doses of MAD that kept us healthy.

MAD was the Old Testament for Rowan and Martin’s Laugh in and George Carlin, and I suspect that if you looked under the bed of a Saturday Night Live or Simpsons writer, you were just as likely to find a MAD as a Playboy.

 

If MAD was the Bible, then Groucho was the High Priest.