This photograph (Title: Surfside Motel Pool, Seaside Heights NJ) was selected for exhibition in the Louisville Art Association 28th National Photography Show. The show opens Memorial Day weekend and runs May 27-June 5, 2022.
What a photograph. I love it. I am considering it as a book cover of a monograph I’m pitching to publishers.
A photo of this caliber, I must have spent a long time making it. I must have given it a lot of thought, because everyone knows you don’t just casually make photographs that make it to national photography show exhibitions and book covers. (You know where this is going.)
How about some behind-the-scene photos, the lead up to that photograph?
Here’s my first photograph of the pool, made out my passenger side car window as I drove past the beach town motel last summer. There was something about the blue doors, the towels hung over the railing, the backlight that just worked for me.
Not too inspiring. Not very square. The framing is off. People are not in good positions. So, what to do? I knew there was something there, but I didn’t have it yet. (This next move is what makes me a pro.) I made a u-turn, returned to the motel, then made a second u-turn to park in front of the motel office. Got out, stepped behind my car and made the frame above, plus a second one but the ball wasn’t in as good of a place as the winning photo.
Just the two photos, that’s all.
Then I photographed the sign for an identification photo to remember where I was when I made it.
At this point, the motel manager, who was inside the motel office just to the left of this sign and must have been watching me, proceeded to come out of the building, throws his arms out wide to his sides and says, “Really?” (Assuming I was stalking bikini girls, I suppose.) I said, “Yes, I’m photographing the pool.” Then got in my car and drove off.
I made one last u-turn, drove back past the pool a final time and made one last frame out my driver’s side window, but the job was done. It was better from outside the car.
Should I have made more frames? Apparently not. Now, if I didn’t have a photograph, you’d never have seen this post nor heard a story about it. It simply would have been an out. It’s when a photo works that the story is good.
I don’t mind sharing the behind-the-scenes photos, they show how photographs start and how they evolve to become something good sometimes, when the elements align. Not every photograph is a winner by any professional, just like no first draft by a famous writer is any good. The magic happens through working it and reworking it. Refining. Rewriting. Shooting it another way. (Making those two u-turns!) Editing, cropping and toning the photograph.
The pro doesn’t stop until they have the photograph, even if it means going back and redoing it.
There’s no substitute for doing the work. It’s not always possible to make it in one frame. But it doesn’t necessarily need a hundred frames either. It all depends on what the opportunity allows, what the moment offers for you to complete to create the photograph.
Stop shooting after two frames if you’re sure you got the photograph. That’s what I did in this case. I was also conscious of not wanting to work for too long to draw attention to myself, to work quickly and stealthily. I didn’t want to affect the scene in any way–that’s the job of the street photographer, to blend in, get in and get the shot and get out, unnoticed.
And the results are here. Two frames, one winner. A woman who will be forever tanning in the sun. A couple of guys sitting together. Kids playing in the pool. A ball that never lands. A lovely, timeless moment of people enjoying their vacation at the Jersey Shore.