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I wanted to gather all U.S. photographers who shoot street photographs, to collect their information into one place.  So, I have at StreetPhotoDB.com.


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It’s divided up by state, so add your work with the submit button in the menu.  And check out the other photographers.  It’s brand new, so not a lot on there yet, but we’re building.  With your help…

I’ve added my site and a photo on the Colorado page.  And I added John Free from California, who I know is a street photographer there.

No telling what this will become, but you have to start somewhere and work to build great new things.  Here’s to great light.  Happy shooting!

The words in the title were spoken to me by a very experienced, award-winning professional photographer and the photo editor at the newspaper where I worked for many years.

He went on to say that photography is insignificant now.  The sheer quantity that is made and made available to see makes it less fun to create, less fun to look at.  There’s a huge swath of mediocrity, and it’s in front of us at all times.

We can’t avoid it.

I responded that there were always poor photographs made by snapshooters. He said, when he was young, his father would load a roll of film into a camera and it would last four years.  He has only a half-dozen photographs of himself as a youngster for that reason.

And he cherishes those photographs!

But now, people are shooting thousands of photographs a week.  They’re going on vacations and experiencing it from behind a screen.  They’re filling up cards, hard drives, and distributing them in real- time–“Look at me and what I’m doing right this second!”

Here was a guy traveling to Colorado to go skiing and taking time out to meet with me, and he didn’t even bring a camera, just his Samsung phone.  “Because who cares?”

blur, camera, capture

He said when he went on a recent trip to the Grand Canyon, he shot maybe 10 photographs.  And then he hasn’t looked at them since, and hasn’t shown them to anyone.  His wife doesn’t care.  His daughter doesn’t want to see them.

And really, what would they look at them on, their phone?  Talk about insignificant!

He’s a great cataloger of his photographs. All his images are tagged with keywords, so they can be located, because as he said, “A photo you can’t find is like not having a photo at all.”  But what good is it?  He says when he’s gone, no one is going to want them–his files and hard drives of photographs.

But those half-dozen when he was a kid–those photographs…now those…<He lights up!>

Because things that are scarce, we value more.  Things that are too available, who cares?  Like photography today.  Everyone thinks they’re a photographer.  Everywhere you go photos are being snapped.  It makes it less than exciting to look at.

Silhouette of a Man Playing Saxophone during SunsetIt’d be like taking up the saxophone, and going outside and finding everyone’s playing a saxophone.  Everyone is posting themselves playing the saxophone.   It would get old.  Quick.

I suggested even all those cataloged photographs are worthless unless they’re printed.  Without making them into physical prints, they won’t survive for 50 years. He countered with, “Who’s going to carry around this heavy box of prints?”  He knows his daughter doesn’t want to move them.  So, they’re as good as done, once the hard drives fail or new technology supersedes them.

We seem to think that whatever is easy is the best way to go, but perhaps we’ve been cursed by the glut of images, our depictions of commonness in all the photographic forums in real time, which exist to feed our egos–someone likes us–while really the reason is to market blenders and wrenches to us–Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

So, are we at the end of an era?  Photography used to be creative.  It use to resonate.  A great photo would be printed, hung in a frame on a wall.  There were gallery shows. There were clubs.  People made photographs.  Real well thought-out photographs.

Now, photos have a shelf life of a quarter-second, long enough to hit LIKE and swipe to something else.

And anyway, who cares?

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Kenneth Wajda
Time Traveler/Photographer
720.982.9237

Time Traveler/Photographer Documenting 20-Teens Life for People in 2080s

Kenneth Wajda, a time traveler and one of the most famous and influential American photographers of the 21st century, known for his American documentary photography, is now working to document life in 2017. His goal: To introduce America to Americans, to see things that in a short span of 60 years are missed—ordinary life, unseen, unnoticed, under-appreciated, taken for granted until they were gone and lost to technology’s failures.

“I work for people in the year 2087 who’ve tasked me with the assignment of a lifetime—to document life back 60 years to see how they got to where they are,” said Wajda. “And to see what life was like back then. I’m essentially photographing their history. They can’t believe cars used to have drivers. And wheels!”

The Americans of 2087 are well aware of the many stories about the digital crash that caused an extinction of personal photography and documentation during the first quarter of this century. All that they were left with was corporate news reports, government propaganda and boxes of digital storage devices they couldn’t access.timetraveler1

So, using their engineering advances to travel through time, they’ve commissioned Wajda to document with photographs life back then, exactly as it was. Simple home and work life. He’s working with other photographers of the time to capture slices of life from all U.S. 50 states.

They’ve all heard stories and some of the elderly vaguely remember the time when sexual harassment got outed in the late teens and gender equality became a reality, but that was so long ago. They find it hard to believe that that situation ever existed.

“They’ve long heard about living under a vindictive president and administration, gender bias and oppression, even racial tension, but to be able to see the images of life back then when they were still occurring, documented for them, that’s something that they long for,” Wajda said.

“Many people talk about having a few pictures of their grandparent’s and parent’s lunches, but no real documentation of who they really were, how they lived. Of the few surviving images, they found them to mostly be enamored by mugging for their self-portrait camera,” Wajda said.

The fact that so few people 60 years ago bothered to print anything, most of their images were lost to technology rot, as it‘s now known in the late 80’s.

To avoid obsolescence, Wajda is creating the collection on film and storing the photographic negatives, with the body of work available online at RoyStryker.com, named for the man who created the first documentary photography collection for the Library of Congress in the 1930’s, over 150 years ago.

###

The year is 2087.  Your Great Grandchildren of the Future have a message for you:

“WTF?  Really? 

“Thanks a lot for not taking any photos that we can have. With all that new-fangled technology you had back in the early 2000s and 20-teens and your millions of photos a day, we get nothing?  No idea of what you looked like or what your life was like.   Are you going to use that lame “but the computer died” excuse, or “I lost my phone,” or “It’s not my fault that cloud service shut down?”

“Boo-effin-hoo. That was our family history you placed in the hands of some digital storage tech company you had no idea how and where they were putting it or some outdated technology, with no plan for us.   No strategy for your family.

Here’s a crazy idea: Phones are for talking on.  Copying a receipt maybe.  But not family photography!

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“Look, there’s Grandpa’s pic!”

“Why didn’t you print anything? We’d at least have them. Oh, no, you never thought to do that. That would’ve make them permanent, god forbid.  And would’ve cost you a buck, when for free, you could get a stupid ‘Like’.

“Not that many of them were any good, anyway, if that’s any consolation to us now.  Snapping away with a wide-angle lens at arm’s length ain’t exactly the greatest technique for quality photographs.  And wide-angle sucks for portraits–I bet you didn’t know.

“What happened to the professional studio photos? You know, the ones every other generation had, except yours, because you were too damn cheap to hire a photographer. That blurry photo of you and the family with your arm extended–we’re kinda glad that didn’t make it–it hurt to look at anyway, despite how many ‘great pic’ comments you got online from people who looked at it for a fraction of a second in all its blurry splendor. People who wouldn’t know a good photo if it fell from the sky and bit them on the ass, because all they were making were shitty ones themselves.

“In a sense, all your phone snaps were worthless, a waste of time, and now gone. You thought you were doing something, making photographs, and you weren’t.  You accomplished nothing.  You were just wasting your life on fleeting glances into your world that we’d never see.

And you missed Grandma’s and Mom’s weddings because instead of letting the professional photographer shoot it, you had to have your phone up the whole time.  The one time they had a pro, and you still had to keep shooting your stupid, lame crappy photos.

Did you bring snacks to help out the caterer, too?  And flowers for the tables?  No, why, because there was a pro there?  Then why’d you insist on snapping bad pics the whole damn time?

“You missed most of the things in your life by putting that stupid phone up everywhere you went–concerts, your children’s plays, fireworks on the 4th of July–“Hey, let’s get together and watch the video of last year’s fireworks display, said no one ever!”

“We know better now, and we have cameras for photographs.  Actual cameras–can you believe it?  And we print photographs.  Because that’s what a photograph is!  Too bad you never found that out.  Too bad for us.

“All said and done, you shot too many photos, you printed none, and now, thanks to your short-shortsightedness, that whole part of our family history is lost in the glut of shitty frames that are dead in old tech.

Thanks a whole lot!  Way to go!”  [Slow clap]

If you’re a film photographer who shoots documentary photographs in the U.S, I want you.

Roy Stryker created the FSA photography collection to document real life in America during the Depression Era.

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Photography by Arthur Rothstein for the FSA

 

He was brilliant. He created a resource with a goal of ‘Showing America to Americans’. And the photographs changed the way people perceived folks in the rural areas, suffering in the dust bowl, living in poverty, etc.

I want to do the same, only show the life of American people today. I want to use only film documentary photographers, so that I can be assured that the photographs in the collection are authentic, and not photoshopped. And also to avoid the glut of submissions from phone snappers.

The goal would be for film photographers to contribute to the collection, build it out to represent American life–the most ordinary and extraordinary parts of life here in the U.S.–in all 50 states.

We live in a time where we label people liberal or conservative, 1% or 99%er. What are we really? Do we even know? Is the Facebook picture our best side forward only and not even true? Perhaps we’re not seeing the real America?

Certainly what’s on the national news isn’t who we are.

One commenter on the project said: I live in Germany and hardly can give any contribution though I would like to.  But you’re completely right with the “stereotypes”. We in Germany now have a “special” picture of the Americans – created by media of any kind. When I was in the US, it’s a complete different view and people are people, struggling with everyday life. Vice versa, some became very surprised when I told them I am German. They didn’t think one could talk “normal” with me.

If we had an accurate look of what our family or neighbors with opioid addiction looks like (maybe they look like us), or back from war with PTSD, or with a successful new business, or how they are training for the Olympics, or how they get by with three jobs so they don’t go to bed hungry–all kinds of real stories, positive and negative–could we impact Americans?

‘Showing America to Americans’!

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Photography by Dorothea Lange for the FSA

The news and the political climate make it seem like liberals and conservatives are worlds apart. But do we even know each other? Or are we just going off the stereotypes in our heads?

Please take a look at the site I built with more information, and I’m certainly still in the ‘seeing if it’s viable’ stage of the project and it may have elements to address I haven’t thought of yet. It’s at RoyStryker.com – Yes, I named it after him as a tribute. There’s a lot of information on there, and I tried to answer the most pressing questions.

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Roy Stryker, at right, with FSA photographers.

There would be a curation of the images–not just all images would be accepted.

There would be invites based on the photographer’s ability and quality of work to become part of the collective of photographers contributing to the collection.

The form for submission requires a high-res photo as well as a low-res image of the neg/slide for authenticity purposes. And it suggests an optional donation–see if that seems reasonable.

I would like to ultimately make the photographs:

1) on display on the Web site.

2) available for sale to publications–the photographer maintains all rights to their images at all times and would negotiate directly with the publications.

3) for a book project if the photographers would allow their photographs used.

4) eventually, if the photographers are willing, to offer the collection to the Library of Congress if we have created something exceptional.

Perhaps documenting life today could have an impact like the FSA project had on people’s perceptions of the folks during the depression.

I work as a professional photographer in Boulder, Colorado, shooting portraits, business headshots, and commercial projects for clients like the U.S. Air National Guard and U.S. Air Force, food and drink for Whitewave/Silk and American Homestead Meats, and event coverage for companies in the cable industry.

On a recent day off, I decided to take a stroll down to the Pearl Street Mall, the local outdoor shopping area in downtown Boulder, and figured I’d build my portraiture client list by photographing people on the mall, getting their email, and offering to send them a photograph. In the email, I asked them if I could add them to my email list where I offer tips to great phone photography (something they’re probably interested in) while promoting my services.

The truth is, while my business clients are regular users of photographs, many people sometimes think to do family portraits or couple portraits, but that’s where it ends, with a thought. They never actually order a portrait session.

OUT ON THE MALL FOR STREET PORTRAITS

On this day off from client work, I took out a Nikon DSLR that is 9 years old, a D90 which debuted in August 2008. Why I brought that instead of my D810 is that I wanted to shoot with a vintage 1970s-era lens, the Nikon 55mm f1.2 non-AI manual focus lens for the soft backgrounds it produces, since I would be working on a crowded outdoor mall, and the information at Nikonians.org about its lens compatibility with my digital bodies says:

NO!
Definitely do not use, for it may damage the camera body. Also, warranty will be void.

That didn’t sound promising. But I was determined. So, I mounted the lens on my backup body, a D7200, and it mounted but it was tight to attach and once attached, the aperture ring wouldn’t budge.  Hmmm.

That mount seemed ridiculously tight. It took a good strong twist to mount it. Definitely not a normal mount. I thought, I’ll do a test with it, and then another one with the old D90 that I had laying around, knowing that at f1.2, I wouldn’t be needing the latest sensor capability for low light performance–I’d be shooting at base ISO (200, in this case) since I was working outside wide open.

The test with the D90 looked as good as the D7200, though it was a 12mp image instead of a 24mp. Good enough for what I was working on. And if it damaged the body, oh well, not much lost since that’s not my go-to camera . (It looks like you can get a D90 these days for under $200.)

So, with that 55mm f1.2 Nikkor S-C extremely securely mounted, I hit the streets.

And then I approached people, folks who looked like they were in a good location to interrupt them. Sitting somewhere, or chatting in the shade. Here’s what I found and created, with the promise to send them each their portrait. psmfamilyBW-kennethwajda
This couple got two images, I liked them as a package. She replied: Thank you so much for the lovely portraits. What a great treat to meet you and let you make these portraits of Pieter and me. Yes, we have been in love since we met in the summer of 1965 in the Netherlands, where we grew up. I will certainly think of you when we need a beautiful family portrait when we are all together in Boulder for a happy family get together. I will also recommend you to our friends. Until we meet again. With warm wishes, Susanna.pearlolder
If I hadn’t made them, would they ever get made? It seems a shame that they might not, and I’m proud to have made them.pearlolder1
This guy was working on the mall. pearl6
These three were sitting in front of an ice cream shop, and looked like a photogenic trio.
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Visiting Boulder from Italy and very flattered to be photographed.
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She tagged me in this Instagram post.

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The ice cream on their faces were what drew me to them.pearl3
Someone was trying to get a photo of them with a phone, when I offered to shoot it for them.
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A couple out on the mall with their dog, who was too old to make it into the photo.
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A dapper man who engaged me in talk of photography.
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A couple of friends out for happy hour drinks.
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A grandpa and his grandson sharing a bit of time watching street performers.
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She wouldn’t hold still long enough to get the three of them in the same plane of focus, so this is the result.familypsm-1-kennethwajdaThey were heartily laughing, which is how I approached them: “I love your laugh.  Can I photograph you?”
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Another guy interested in talking about photography.michaelportrait-kennethwajda
She’s into photography and was talking about my camera, and her interest.
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A daughter and her father sharing a coffee break.

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Two friends cruising the mall, who I asked to photograph them together.
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The only one that I kept in color instead of black and white was a young woman at a local taco joint, while I was waiting for my burrito, who asked about my camera and mentioned that she likes photography. I asked her if I could take her portrait with the light coming through the broad windows of the shop.
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These were all made with a 9-year-old camera body, (a senior citizen of the camera world!), that no one into camera models would take seriously. I took care of that with a small piece of black gaffer tape over the model number. Problem solved!

The people who I photographed loved their portraits. I asked them to please tag me in any social media posts. And of course I included my contact card at the bottom or each of my emails. And now, I have their contact information for my growing list of contacts. These are new contacts to people who have now seen my work, who like my work, who may need anything from family photographs to business images–someone might be the CEO of a company.

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Portraiture is all about the connection to the subject in the image that we create, the emotion we draw out–not just the technical quality of the camera. I wrote this story because I think sometimes we feel we need the latest and greatest, and we really don’t.

It’s really not about the camera. We need something proficient for what we want to create. The D90 is from 2008 and the 55mm f1.2 is from 1972. Good gear matters, but it doesn’t have to be the latest in all cases.

It’s about creating art out of beautiful, wonderful subjects.  And these people certainly are.

Kenneth Wajda is a freelance commercial photographer and film producer in Boulder, Colorado. You can see more of his work at KennethWajda.com.