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My Dad in a Langhorne Pennsylvania cafe, March 2018.  I have coffee with him every workday morning–when I see him on my desk in a framed photograph.

It makes me sad when I think about how valuable fine art portraiture is, created on medium or large format film, and yet how few people even know what it is, let alone why they would want to order a portrait like this.

The photograph above is a portrait of my Dad, sitting across from me at breakfast table in a small cafe when I went to Pennsylvania for a visit.  This is him sharing time with me.  This photograph means so much to me.  It’s printed on my desk, and I keep him with me and see him everyday when I get to work.

rtI made his portrait on a 1950’s era Rolleiflex 6×6 camera. On Ilford HP5 black and white film.  I know where this photograph will be in 50 years–still in the frame that it is in now, not lost on some old hard-drive or to obsolescence.

To me, this is what photography is–capturing memories and then being able to keep those that matter most to you close to you.  A simple framed photograph does that very well.

But the ease of digital photography has made it so that most people keep all their photographs in file format.  This file of my film portrait of my Dad (from a digital scan of the negative) is stored in my computer.  It’s safe, perhaps, (unless there is a hardware failure) but I cannot experience it as a file everyday like I do a framed print.

There seems to be a need for printing our photographs so the most important people in our world are always with us.  But why print them, most people ask?

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Asking that question is like saying, “Why do we need museums, when we see the images, photographs, paintings, on our iPad or computer?”  Because mobile devices are good for making a traveling photo album, and sharing our photos at lunch with friends.  The problem is they don’t create a “place” for them.  They only create a “glimpse” of them.  But our family members are worth more than a glimpse, they’re worth a permanent place in our world.  Surrounding us.  Enveloping us.

Years ago, I remember going to my Grandpop’s and Grandmom’s house and there were photographs of relatives and family throughout the house–they filled their rooms with family photographs, and these were beautiful, high-quality photographs, both formal portraits, and family snapshots in boxes that were a treat to pick through.

Nowadays, I don’t see photographs at people’s houses.  That’s the part that makes me sad.

box2Some of our parents and grandparents are at the end of their lives, and we’re not creating beautiful, frame-able photographs that we will be able to keep by our side to remember them by, something better than a blurry phone snap.

As a portrait photographer, the only commissions I get nowadays are for business portraits–headshots for LinkedIn and corporate use.  Families aren’t ordering individual portraits.

Where are the good pictures being made?  It’s not in a phone, because a wide-angle lens (as all phones have) is not a flattering lens for portraiture. 

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We are living in a trans-formative time, with technology changing the way we do things at a rapid pace.  But just as things speed up, there is a push to slow down.

There are more people now embracing film photography than there were just a few years ago–because they want something tangible.  Something that they’ve actually created.  They want to slow down the process and create fewer, but more memorable, photographs, and they’re using film to do it.

Just like there is a slow food movement, and record sales are on the rise, there’s an anti-digital component at play.  Everything doesn’t have to be the fastest to be enjoyed.

Playing a record is more time-consuming than programming Pandora, but maybe I like the sound of my turntable, that warm analog sound, and I just want to play one full Led Zeppelin album, not have to choose from among every song ever written.  Maybe I just want to play a record, not program a computer.

A few years back, bookstores were concerned about losing out to digital e-readers and ebook sales, and the truth is they’re still going strong.  Because people like to hold a single book, not every book they own on one small device.  They say on an e-reader, there is a temptation to not read what they’re reading, but instead looking for what else they can be reading since their options are endless.

I charge just under a thousand dollars for a legacy film portrait session for a person and their parent or grandparent.  I am a very experienced artist working with real film and creating large printed and framed portraits.  I believe they are one of the most important portraits I can create, more important than any celebrity photograph.  Because our family is our family–they’re the celebrities of our world.

If you contact me, and mention this article, I will photograph you and your mom or pop, and I’ll make the session rate complimentary.  Of course you have to be within a reasonable travel distance for me, or someplace I regularly get to–Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Washington D.C., Los Angeles or the front range of Colorado.  I just want to see if anyone will do it if cost is not part of the equation.

I’m betting not.

Here’re the photographs of my parents that I get to live with, that are a part of a physical photograph album. That are the memories of who my parents are.  My Mom is no longer with us.  But she’s right here with me in these photographs.

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Today is Father’s Day.  I wonder how many people have a wonderful portrait of their father, one that captures their personality and their light, that one image that will be passed down to great grandchildren to know who their family was, and what they looked like.

If they don’t, well, that’s the part that makes me saddest, and I hope we will see a renewed interest in quality photography and framed prints in the years to come.

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PEOPLE, PASSIONS, SUCCESSES & DREAMS

I’m working on a photography project where I put a question to people on the street. “What are you famous for?” Their answers can be current, or post-dated.

WhatAreYouFamousFor.com – (Follow here, the photographs are much better displayed than on Facebook.)

The question has made people consider what do they want to be known for. And what is fame? And when will they achieve their goal, if pressed for a date.

So far, I’ve met an NFL Tight End for the Pittsburgh Steelers, a Canadian National Cycling Champion, and a Theater Lighting Designer, a Pulitzer-winning Investigative Journalist and a National Geographic Photographer, among others.

Follow along if you want to get updates with the next famous people who I meet. Maybe I’ll get you and your “fame” into the project.

www.facebook.com/groups/whatareyoufamousfor/ is the FB group link for updates.

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You’re not going to take less pictures.
You’re not going to backup your pictures.
You’re not going to print your pictures.
So, you’re not really making photographs.
(Just snaps/notes for a quick look/like.)

In the future,
you’re not going to have any photographs,
Since there are no photographs.
They don’t exist.
(You can’t save what you didn’t make.)

American CoolFebruary 7, 2014 through September 7, 2014

Photographs at the National Portrait Gallery.  (By photographers!)

The state of photography is at a low point.
Someone said, “Of course all photos are crap now.”
Everyone thinks they’re a “photographer”,
How can that be, since no one makes photographs?

Obviously, there are very few photographers.
Since photographers make photographs.
And they’re not making photographs.
They’re making notes, glances and likes.

Call them phone recordists. Digital capturers.
Social media snappers. Like gatherers.
Just don’t call them photographers,
When they don’t make photographs.

You’re not a fireman because you have a hose.
You’re not a lion tamer because you have a chair.
You’re not a photographer because you have a camera.
You’re not a photographer, period, if you don’t make photographs.

So, stop saying you are!

 

 

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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.

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