Author Archives: Jimmy Reina

About Jimmy Reina

I have been trying to make photographs for about 40 years, and learned the mechanics on a secondhand Kodak Retinette 35mm rangefinder that I bought in London or Paris. It had no light meter, so I learned to judge exposure from the pictograms on the inside of the film box. I upgraded to a Nikkormat FTn with a 50mm lens that I used for the next 35 years. Nikkormat light meters were notoriously fidgety, so most of the time, I used it without a battery. I am mostly self taught by voraciously reading, taking hundreds of photos, and looking at thousands more. Recently, I have been taking a few arty classes at Berkeley City College, and I find that the assignments instill discipline and also force me out of my comfort zone-always a good thing. I am not a thoughtful shooter, but more of a grab shot guy. In my day job, I am a real estate agent in Berkeley California, across the bay from San Francisco. I live in Richmond, and am the only male in a household of six-two Feline, one Canine, one Human, and one Teenager.

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

Recent Photography

Photographically speaking, this has been a busy month.

 

Streetfoto San Francisco

For the second year, Ken Walton did another job of organizing Streetfoto San Francisco, a weeklong, multi venue festival of street photography that included workshops, contests, photowalks, lectures, and other activities. I wasn’t chosen as a contest finalist again this year, but I viewed the exhibits, and attended a few presentations, and to my eye, Ken has refined the event, and hit another home run. The speakers that I saw were engaging, and there was a peppy three person panel who did a “speed dating” critique of projected images, that was brutal in its criticism, but stimulating and thought provoking just the same.

 

I am looking forward to next year’s event.

 

http://streetfoto.org/

Oakland Museum of California

I have always had a soft spot for local, or regional museums, and The Oakland Museum of California* is no exception. They are currently exhibiting “Dorthea Lange: The Politics of Seeing”, a powerful and moving exhibit that presents the work of this pioneering 20th Century photographer. Her work during the Great Depression is pretty well known, and “Migrant Mother has been on everything from postage stamps to T shirts.

Lange’s social conscience didn’t stop when the Depression ended.. After the Japanese Bombing of Pearl Harbor, the US Government targeted people of Japanese (along with others) descent, rounded them up, and put them into Internment Camps, or “Relocation Camps”.

Dorthea Lange was there, documenting this injustice, and the photos present another sad chapter in our County’s history. In display, there are documents and pictures that tell of grade school children who recited the Pledge of Allegiance to the US, and were then sent off to the Camps. The irony of this dehumanization is heartbreaking.

 

As I read the daily news, I can’t help thinking about how reactionary we are getting here in 2017.

 

 

Yesterday, on what was forecast to be the hottest day of the year so far, we went into San Francisco to visit Pier 24**.

How hot was it?                                                                                                                                        Well, as we left the BART subway station, we followed this guy across The Embarcadero to The Ferry Building, the centerpiece of the row of Piers that make up San Francisco’s Historic Waterfront-

He must have used a bucket of sunscreen.

 

The Pier 24 show, titled “Grain of the Present”, exhibited some of the mid (20th) Century photographers whose work was descriptive of the world as they saw it-neither Documentary nor Journalism, but more expressionistic in nature.  The show was complemented by a handful of contemporary photogs who continue working in this style.

 

Alec Soth

   

 

    

http://alecsoth.com/photography/

 

Vanessa Winship

    

 

http://www.vanessawinship.com/projects.php

 

Latoya Ruby Frazier

 

http://www.latoyarubyfrazier.com/

 

 

For notetaking purposes, I took some snaps of both the Lange and Pier 24 exhibits with my phone- None of these images are mine (except the naked guy), and  I don’t mean for them to be anything more than visual reminders.

 

 

 

*http://museumca.org/

**http://pier24.org/

Focus is Overrated

The last Sunday in April was Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day.

Like everything else, pinhole photography sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t, and most of the results can be mediocre (including my own).

I am attracted to alternative photography, not because of my contrarian nature, but because it is about experimentation, and the unpredictability of experimentation is vital to what we do. In order to progress, you’ve gotta try stuff.

When shooting film, there was always an element of unpredictability. Even if you were a seasoned photographer who carefully composed your shot in the viewfinder, there was still an element of serendipity in every exposure. Maybe less so in the climate controlled studio, but this is certainly true out in the real world, with all of its moving parts.

Diane Arbus is said to have commented, “I never have taken a picture I’ve intended to. They’re always better or worse”.

I probably haven’t shot film for close to 10 years, but on the last Sunday in April I happened to have a borrowed camera with film, so I bought body caps for the film and digital cameras, and made a couple of pinhole lenses.

There are calculations for this sort of thing, and someday it might be fun to sit down and calculate aperture and focal length, but the experimentation is part of the fun-especially with digital, since it doesn’t cost anything to make the exposure (there is also that instant gratification thing).

Pinhole Day is for everybody, as long as your image is lensless  there are no limitations or restrictions (maybe pinhole porn wouldn’t be appropriate, but….).

 

Here are a few of the shots from that day, they are mostly unsatisfying,

Black and White film

Black and White film

Black and White film

Color print film

Color print film

Color print film

Digital

Digital

Digital

 

but the one I submitted to WWPPD is kind of fun-

Digital

 

WWPPD is not about any one participant, it is sort of an instant community of enthusiasts, and I think the best way to enjoy the site is to just go to the site, and start scrolling-

http://pinholeday.org/gallery/2017/index.php?page=1