I’ve met more people in my life as a result of my camera than any other way.  Of course, I talk to strangers all the time.  In fact, I don’t think of them as strangers, but just people sharing life with me, and we are all a part of this something, whatever is is, together,  We are in effect friends that haven’t yet met.

Dr Laurie Santos, a Yale professor whose podcast is The Happiness Lab has a podcast episode, Mistakenly Seeking Solitude about just that.  I so relate to it–we need human connection and social interaction.  It’s vital to life.

And the camera is the greatest way to create that introduction.  It’s countless the number of times that a Rolleiflex or 4×5 camera has led me to conversations with people.  Or their portrait.  People are really not as scary as we’ve made them out to be.  Strangers are just strange because we haven’t said hello yet.  Once we do, they’re no longer strangers.

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Dave, from Old Central City, Huntinton WV, isn’t a stranger but a new friend!

It’s a simple thing, to carry a camera (preferably a gorgeous Leica or something that shoots film and looks like a piece of art) and then to approach people to photograph their portrait. I suspect a photographer who did nothing but go out into public and ask to photograph people ‘because they look amazing’, that photographer would make a lot of days.  People would leave the encounter with a smile on their face, and a bit of joy in their heart, for being selected and the honor of being photographed.

There are no strangers.  Let’s go out and meet our neighbors, the ones we know and the ones we will soon know.  And say hello to those who cross our path.  Their interaction with us makes our day better too, adds a bit of joy to our day.

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We are at a crossroads, now more than ever.  At first it was just digital technology as a new way to capture light and make a picture. We all embraced it because it was no cost, no worry, shoot shoot shoot and delete later, or don’t. (Because let’s face it, we don’t delete, we just get more hard drives or up our iCloud plan.) There, done!

Then we filled computers with images like there was no tomorrow.  Thousands of photos downloaded from our digital cameras.  DSLRs.  Point and shoots.  All kinds of cameras shooting more and more megapixels.  Win!

More is more.  More is good.

Then phones got really good at shooting and sending a pic, and even if the form factor wasn’t very good, and the photo wasn’t as good as a camera, ah well, so what, it was good enough, and it had the added perk that it fit in our pocket and we could be sent now.  No need to download to our computers. Score!

Sure, the phone manufacturers charged quite a bit for these, not to mention that computer or laptop upgrade, hard drive purchases and Photoshop software licenses, but we still felt like it was free. Yay!

And we became video producers at concerts, shooting and posting whole songs to whole shows so our friends could hear Elton sing, too. Because we can.  And look where we are. Too bad for the people behind us–we’re working here. Impressive!

More is more. More is good.

And then we got computers to compute.  Computational photography, we can make everything work, and everything perfect.  We can fake blur the background in ‘portrait’ mode, no need for a real photographer. It’s not like they do anything more than our phones–good thing Avedon isn’t working today, that chump would be out of a job.  Loser!

We can even fake videos and make it look like people saying things they never said.  We have technology.  We win again!

It used to be the news was a good source if information, but then we got the internet and things got a bit cloudy, lines were blurred.  News outlets and not-so-trustworthy news outlets  We have fake truths, alternative facts.  No one knows what to believe anymore.  Sucks!

So, this crossroads we’re at. Which way do we go, now?  Keep heading down the same road we’ve been on since we stopped shooting film and making actual photographs? You know, those paper representations of the pictures on our phones.

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The ones of grandma and grandpa that don’t need a computer to enjoy? The ones that are authentic, storytelling.  That aren’t digitally altered and perfected, but just…  Real!

We used to have fewer pics and we enjoyed them more.  Now we have more and, oh no…

More isn’t more.  More isn’t better.

We have become inundated with images that they don’t even matter.  They don’t matter! Who cares? It’s not like we look at them for more than a half-second anyway. Instagram double tap–scroll, scroll, scroll, double tap, scroll, scroll.  That’s what photography is now.  Lame!

Phones are note-takers, and notes don’t need to be saved.  Photographs used to be historical family documents, not anymore.  Now, it’s where we ate, where we parked, what we drank and never see them again.  Sucks!

Professionals don’t make our portraits anymore. We shoot everything ourselves, even for our businesses, since we’ve adopted a mentality that good enough is good enough.  Even if it’s not, it is.  Because it doesn’t cost us anything.  Cheap!

What will it take to hire a pro to photograph our family?  Maybe they do have something to offer that we can’t do ourselves.  But the lure of free is so strong.  Why pay for anything? We can put that money into more cloud storage and new phones.  Score!

We’re standing at the crossroads.  Which way we go will very seriously impact what photography is, what value it holds and purpose it serves.  It may be the biggest challenge in its history, what it will be for. Decisions!

I know which way I’m headed–I’m photographing my family and friends on film, printing their photographs and living with them on the shelves of my home.  Call me old school, I know where my photographs are and I get to see them for more than a swipe-second.  Dinorsaur!

Maybe, but maybe it’s the digital photos that that will go extinct.  Gone!

Right now, nothing works.

No one answers their phone anymore if they don’t recognize the caller, because they know it’s a telemarketer, a robocall or a phishing scheme.

Email is overrun with identity-stealing scams and spammers.  Fear and sextortion. This is a real email going around:

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This PayPal ‘security authority’ can’t seem to write in complete sentences.

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Commerce sites (including government ones, I got one from FEMA) are constantly releasing information on their latest data breech of users credit card/banking info.

You can’t sell anything on Craigslist without getting fake buyers and scammers contacting you.  It’s getting so bad, people are afraid to post on it, that it will go out of business.

Google (and a host of other sites) collects all our information and sells it to the highest bidder. Their ‘Don’t Be Evil” motto doesn’t apply where profits are involved.

Facebook is lame, kids have stopped using it, and it’ll tank when enough advertisers can’t reach young buyers.  When that happens, how many photos will be lost?

Jilted lovers are posting revenge sex videos and photographs, while hackers are exposing private photographs of celebrities and non-celebrities alike.

The system is broken.

Or worse. If it were new and presented to us in the condition it’s presently in, we would never accept it, never sign up.

Hi, want to join this new network of sites with misinformation mixed in with your news, (you can’t tell which is which), with scammers trying to steal your identity, hack your credit card, drain your bank account, extort money, and a phone that tracks your every move to sell your information to marketers?  You in? 

How much time are we wasting with all these technologies that work poorly and put us at risk? A lot!

I’m saying this so that I can have a record of it, published publicly.  For this idea, consider me a futurist.  The technology we have now will not last much longer in its present state.

I’ve had conversations several times this week with people to whom photography doesn’t mean much–pictures are not valuable–and they really are just obsessed with their phones and the generation of likes.

In ten years, we certainly won’t be walking into things and crashing our cars looking at these devices. We will look back and wonder what we were thinking.

It has to change to something reliable.  Something trustworthy.  Right now, nothing online can be trusted, it’s all un-curated.

That’s what’s coming.  Curation.  Web X. 

We need gatekeepers for the art gallery, otherwise anyone can hang anything–that’s Flickr and Instagram. And the gallery isn’t representing the best artists, but simply the most popular ones. Really, who cares? So you have the ability to generate likes and build a following? So you’re popular? Who is this populace, do they have any taste?  Does popularity mean you have anything to say? Why do you get so much wall space, just because you know how to lure an audience?

Nothing works like:

  • A film camera to take pictures–you can share them with who you see when you see them. And no one gets them who you don’t want to have them.
  • A typewriter to write a letter–it’s an all-in-one, writer and printer, no electricity needed, but just a bit of ribbon ink and a little finger strength.
  • A record to play 12 songs–I don’t want to navigate through every song recorded from the beginning of time.  I just want to listen to one Led Zeppelin album.

We’ve accepted the internet with all holes and back  doors for criminals to get in.  It’s insanity, and it’s going to go away.  It has to.  It’s not a working system.

What will replace it will be a curated web where only the validated can get in.

  • News sources that if they publish something with an error, they lose their place in the new web.  It will create new value for journalists and allow them to make a living doing their job writing accurate news, not merely being the first to report it.
  • Banks with foolproof encryption systems that requires in-person validation to be included. If you can’t guarantee security, you don’t belong in online banking.
  • Browsers that will allow no ads, unless the user opts in, and the advertisers pays them to view it.  They are already here, and it’s going to change the way we see ads, if we choose to opt in.
  • No data collection, no tracking, no selling of personal information. Zero. Google will go out of business, as that is their whole business.
  • Communication that excludes scammers, phishers, and spammers. Email has to be replaced by a platform that keeps these criminals out of my view.
  • Classified ad sites that block scammers and criminals.  If they can’t control their users, they can’t be in the new web.

Because it’s broken.

We have to make a photograph to save our family history, not just for note-taking.  Not just for sharing and swiping. People spend less than one second looking at photographs on Instagram and Flickr. That’s not even photography.

We need to be able to go to a concert without someone’s phone in our view.  Why’s it their job to film the performance for their friends?

We need to make the phones inoperable in a moving vehicle.

We need to shut them off at the end of the day, to have them become a simple telephone overnight.

We need to get away from these time-stealing devices and share a meal or a drink with a friend.

The culture is suffering with everyone withdrawing into themselves, their technology,and not participating in life with friends and family.  We are becoming depressed. We are acting out, becoming violent.  It’s fostering hateful speech, and creating division.

We need it to stop.  And it will.

Watch for Web X coming soon!

I was talking with another photographer recently and he brought up that he misses hanging out at camera shops.

I knew exactly what he meant. In the days of film, that was the place to meet, to see gear, talk and hang out with other photographers.

There was still a little bit at risk when making a photograph.  And skill needed.  It could be that the photos wouldn’t turn out, the exposure was off.  Or the subject moved. We talked about techniques. We talked about photographic subjects. We talked photography.

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I worked at The Camera Shop Inc. in the Oxford Valley Mall as a teenager, upstairs by Bamberger’s, if I recall correctly.  It was such a good job, and we got to meet all the local photographers and shutterbugs who’d come in.

That’s all gone, in this age of digital phone snaps.  There’s no more photography, with all the skills and tricks, there’s just the phone.

Snap, swipe, never look at it again.

When they added electronics, the big box stores like Best Buy and Circuit City took over the camera sales, and put the small camera shops out of business.  Not all, but many.  And many of the shops lived on film processing profits, and digital photography knocked that out, too.

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This is Central Camera in Chicago, a favorite place of Vivian Maier, if you know her story.  If not, look her up.  You’re in for a treat.  She’d hang out there.

Back when we hung out as photographers.

I was reading quotes from famous artists, and one of them said something to the effect: “When I go to the canvas with a preconceived idea, those are usually not as good as the ones where I go with no idea what I will paint, and just paint.”

Effectively, going to the sandbox to play.  Because creativity is play.  Creative activity.  The ability to make something out of nothing.

I’ve been taking that to heart and using it for a photography project.  The idea is I have a model, I have outfits, and I have a camera, but I don’t have a subject in mind to shoot.  I can create anything I want.  And so far, what I’ve created isn’t at all what I would have thought to create.  It’s in the creation that they came to be.

I’m working on the photographs for a book project, so won’t post any here, but there is certainly a way to work, as this old photojournalist has to break his thought process and just get in the sand.  And play.

And play.

Sometimes the first photo doesn’t seem so inspired.  Shoot it anyway.  It may lead to another photo.  And that one may be the inspired one.  The inspiration may come when you stop thinking, stop looking for it.

It’s crazy magical that way, the way it works, the way it manifests.

There’s something to it, when the muse is allowed to play.  Pick up the camera, look through the viewfinder, and shoot something you’ve never shot before.

Create a scene.  Play with light and your subject.  See what you come up with.

I’m using a vintage Mamiya C330S twin-lens reflex medium format film camera, just to add to the process, on a tripod, carefully framing and exposing the negative.

Oh, let the muse play!

 

I’ve started a podcast, Kenneth Wajda’s Daily Photography Blog Podcast.  You can subscribe to it at DailyPhotographyBlog.com and find it on your favorite podcast app–just search for Kenneth Wajda Daily Photography Blog.

I put out a new episode every morning, so tune in.  They’re short, to a point and feature techniques, photographers, current topics and more.  It’s fun and inspiring for photographers!

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I asked my Father today if he remembered life before television.  He said he did, and it was a world where a lot of people read books and newspapers, played games and got together with friends and a barrel of beer.

The reason I asked is because I realize that since the invention of TV, and people watching hours a day, we’ve now become a society that lives on screens.  I wake up to my iPhone and iPad.  I read the iPad with coffee, then off to a computer where I work editing photographs and marketing photography.

Or I have a photo shoot, and I make the photographs and check them on the camera’s screen.  Finally, import them to the computer for editing tomorrow.

I wrap up the day, and it’s back to the iPad.  Or I write at night, like this post here, on my laptop either at a pub or at home.

I’m not a TV watcher, but if I were, I would probably switch that on when I got done writing, and finish up the day with an iPad in bed.

What happened to us?  We live on screens.

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I think that’s why I’m drawn to film photography–I get to create with a simple ground glass for viewing the image (on a 4×5 or 8×10 view camera, a Rolleiflex or a Leica 35mm).  It has no electronics.  It’s physical, just light being focused onto film.

Same with hand-printing photographs in a darkroom, it’s hands on, and nothing electronic to it.

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I’m betting that’s why some people like gardening (I am not one of those people) but it gives them the chance to work with their hands and dirt to create something beautiful.  Can’t get more “down to earth” than that!

Same thing with nature lovers and landscape photographers (I am not one of those either).  Staring at the sky and trees is a welcome past-time in this digitally screened-in world.

Anyway, I wonder what all these screens, with living in a screen world, is doing to us, how it’s affecting our culture, our friendships, our lives.

Are we better off than 80 years ago, when all we needed were friends and a barrel of beer?kids1 (2)