Archive for the ‘black and white’ Category

I have a secret.  I’m going to share it with just you.  Okay?

If you want to get inspired to make photographs (or to write, or to paint, etc.) there’s one trick that you must know.  One little trick that is so mind-blowingly amazing, it’ll change your creative life.

Once you know it, you’ll have the key to inspiration forever.  It’s something you cannot forget.  It’s simply unforgettable.  But it is truly the key.

So, this is the secret.  It’s a very elusive thing, something that most people don’t know, so don’t share it, unless you want to let them in on it like I’m doing for you.

Just you.

This is it.  Are you ready?  D’you have something to write with?  You might want to write this down.

It’s so simple, that must be the reason that so many creatives miss it.  It’s sooooo simple.

Here it is.  The secret.  Two words.  I’ll print them lightly, so as if to whisper them.  It is a secret after all, the secret you were seeking.

[Show up.]

That’s it.  Have a good day.  Now go to it.

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Wait, let me expound on that.  Give you a little about what I mean.

I was listening to an interview with Bob Dylan, and he was asked how he wrote some of his early famous songs, and he said he didn’t know, they just came to him.

They just came to him. 

But he had to be there.  Ready for them to come.  He showed up and was ready to receive the song and create it.  He was sitting at his typewriter and had his guitar or piano and he was in the process of working to write songs.  That was his sandbox and he was sitting in it, sand up to his knees.

Related imageThe photograph above is me working at my typewriter.  I write as well as make photographs and some writing I do on a typewriter, in this case, a very lovely Olivetti Lettera 32, which by the way Dylan also wrote with.  So, I wanted to make a photograph of me at the typewriter because I wanted to experiment with some new strobe lights and portable lighting setups.

To do it, I had to show up.

I had to assemble the lights.  Set up the light stands.  Power the lights.  I had to place them and set the exposure.  Get the camera on the tripod.  Once I had them all set up, the playground was there.  The sandbox was ready for me.  All I had to do was anything I wanted.  Now it was time to play.  So, I made several photographs.

Here’s a silly one–I was channeling my best Cindy Sherman, a very famous artist known for casting herself in her portraits.  But again, it’s me at my place, working away, feeling like having a laugh.  I was thinking about how I often crack myself up.  (Do you ever do that?)  Once the lights were set, it was a chance to play.

That never would have happened if I didn’t get the lights out, the camera set.  You see?

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To make these photographs, I had to set up the lights and their remote triggers–it’s all wireless these days.  I like the look.  The lighting.  That was a fun shoot, and it got me to see how much I could do with my own space, it gave me the chance to work with smaller lighting fixtures, and it was a creative outlet.  I usually use large AC-powered soft-boxes and this was a new tool, these small battery-powered strobes, in my lighting arsenal.

Plus, there are these photographs to show for it.  Fun photographs, well-lit, the look I was going for, and I got to play.

So, I can rephrase the secret: If you want to be inspired, go play.  Take your tools.  For a writer it can be a laptop, a typewriter or a pen and paper and go sit outside at a park under a tree, or a coffeeshop or a pub, wherever you can go to stay in the playground.  For a photographer, set up the lights where you are or grab the camera and go.

Whatever it takes.  The muse will deliver the inspiration when you have the game set up, but often not before.  She’s funny that way–she doesn’t always come around before we show up.  But once we’re there, get ready to write your own Blowin’ in the Wind.

We. Just. Have. To. Show. Up!

I get a lot more street photographs when I go to town and walk the pavement than when I sit at home thinking about what to shoot.  To shoot street, you have to go to the street.  A couple hours at a time.  Wear comfortable shoes.

There’s no such thing as “thinking about it”.  There’s nothing happening when we say we’re not quite ready, we’re still pondering the idea.  That does nothing.  We haven’t arrived to play.

So, there’s the secret.  Wanna write a song?  Grab a notebook and pencil and your instrument and start.  Show up, see what comes from it.

The inspiration comes after you arrive.  Not before.  You can go with no ideas, and they’ll come then.  When you’re ready.

Really.  Go with no ideas.  Go uninspired.  It’s fine.  Just go.

Wanna make photographs?  What do you need to get started?  Lighting?  Go pull out the stands and start setting them up.  As you are doing that, the ideas will come.  At first, try anything.  That something will lead to another thing.  That’s the muse at work!

Large format?  Go load the film holders and put them in your camera bag and warm up the car–you’re going shooting.  Go out and look for a subject.  Maybe the weather looks like it’s not perfect, so what, go anyway–maybe you’ll find it’s exactly right where you go, when you get there.  But you’ve gotta show up.

Now you know, that’s all you have to do.  So simple.  Just two words.  The muse is waiting to work with you.  The creativity happens when we’re in the playground.  Not before.  Not when we’re “thinking” about it, while feeling un-creative.  She arrives when we are ready to be creative.

She waits until we’re up to our knees in sand!  So, go.

Show up!  The muse is waiting.

I was recently at an gallery opening of photographs with the theme of portraiture.  And there were walls full of beautiful portraits in many different poses and situations in a well-lit gallery show.

Some natural, documentary style.  Some set up, posed, created.

The show was phenomenal.  A beautiful representation of many different styles of portraiture.

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BUT..   There were no street portraits.  So, if you made portraits on the street, submitted your work and weren’t accepted and took it personally, figuring your work wasn’t up to standards of the work that was accepted, you’re wrong.

The juror said that she had considered some street portraits but they didn’t fit in with the other portraits in the show, so she ended up excluding all of them.

Excluded “all of them”.  They didn’t fit in with the look of the show.  With the other portraits.  So, none of them were included.

Now, if you’re a photographer who sent in your fee and submitted your photograph, your portrait, you were disappointed as you weren’t accepted.  Figured it was just you who was left out.

But the truth is, you had no chance as it turns out.  The juror had decided on a different look. So, it wasn’t just your portrait, but all street portraits that were excluded.

You were 5’6″ and red-hair and never had a chance.

You had no way of knowing that.  (Just like if you don’t get an invite to a friend’s annual party, you think maybe you’re off the list.  You don’t consider maybe there isn’t a party this year.  Yes, we think it’s all about us.)

So, you received your rejection, you weren’t included in the show and you weren’t at the art gallery opening to hear about how no street portraits were included.  That yours never had a chance.

A different show, a different juror, different results.  Contests are subjective.  Don’t take it personally.  Believe in your work and keep making it.

As photographers, we’re storytellers.  We create images to show our world, our view, to other people.  It’s a fascinating art form, capturing moments of life and freezing them to have and study and remember.

Like any art or skill, the people who are at the top of their game and who are the best at it are the ones who do it a lot.

A lot.

That’s key.  When you love something, when you have a passion for creating, no one has to prompt you to create.  You can’t stop creating.  It’s not even work, it’s just living to you.

Doing something a lot makes you good at it.

You don’t have to prompt an Olympic gymnast or ice skater to practice for eight hours a day.  Things we say we want to do but never do, that’s telling.  That shows what we really want to do.

Writers write.  If you’re wondering if you are one, but never write, you’re not.

Musicians live for music.  They practice, they play, they go to get-togethers to play with other musicians.  They write music.  The live it.  If you’re wondering if you are one, but never practice, you’re not.

That’s the way I approach photography.  I have projects that I work on, and I see other photo opportunities in my comings and goings, and I always have a camera in hand.  It’s not a choice whether to bring a camera–it’s in my hand and I’m photographing what strikes me.  Capturing life’s little moments.  I’m a documentary photographer.

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A moment between friends, Odell Brewery, Denver CO, January 21, 2019

The camera helps me bring my attention to my world.  And it’s ready to go.  Always.

No case.  No cap.  Powered on, ready to shoot. 

Because making photos is what photographers do.

You, too, can be one.  But no one has to talk you into it.  It’s not about waiting for the right gear.  It’s not about, “Today’s not a good day for it.”  Every day is a good day for photography.  Any gear you have you can use.

What’s your project?  Where’s your camera?  What are you working on?  What is your next project?  What did you see today?  What did you create?

Photographers make photographs.

So, what do you do?  What do you find yourself doing a lot?

That’s what you are.

 

Hey, street photographers.  I have a new series for you.  So get outside and get shooting!  But first, take a look at my videos–new episode every Saturday.  You are encouraged to participate, too!

YouTube – Kenneth Wajda’s Street Photography Channel

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Those were the words I heard from someone recently, in regard to having an idea that you’re passionate about, that people don’t seem to be responding to.  That it’s worthwhile to keep at it.  To grow it.  To find an audience, even if it’s a niche audience, because what you’re doing is eventually going to go.

I remember meeting one of the Zucker brothers (who produced the Airplane movies) when I was a New Jersey photojournalist at an event in Princeton, and when I told him I wanted to work in film, he said you can make it, but you just can’t quit.  Everyone who sticks with it makes it.  The problem is, very few do.  Most quit.  Actually almost all quit.  So, don’t quit.  His words of advice to making it in the crazy tough world of Hollywood.

I would say that’s true for all of the arts, and certainly anything that seems impossible to do.  It takes tenacity, and that’s not only a great gift, it’s a rare one.  Not because it’s difficult to keep at it, but more because it’s difficult to be so passionate about it that you want to keep at it.

I am a writer in addition to being a photographer.  I love to write.  I work at home in my office as a photographer, editor, and sometimes web guy.  I work alone.  When I get done work for the day, I love to go out to a pub and write.  That’s what I’m doing right now.  I’m at a place in my town called Pizza Bar 66, there’s a guitar singer/songwriter belting out some tunes, it feels like Thanksgiving is already here, and I’m writing.

My Father asks why I don’t take a night off.   I explain it’s not work for me.  I love to create.  I love to write.  To him, writing is a chore–there’s no passion for it.

For me, writing is creative.  Fun.  Exhilarating to have created something, whether it’s a scene for a movie, or a blog post like this.  It exists.  It didn’t before I got here and wouldn’t if I didn’t show up.  (Plus they have good craft IPA beer, and $4 cans all the time!)

I’ve often mentioned to friends who say they want to write but don’t, I’ve suggested maybe they don’t want to write.  Maybe they just like the idea of being a writer, but really don’t like to write.

Butt in chair.  That’s where writing happens.  Not walking around, thinking about writing.  Not staring out the window.  In front of a computer, or typewriter, if you’re old school.  (I can relate, I wrote the first draft of a novel this year on a typewriter, an Olympia SG1!)

It’s not a chore to do what you love to do.  In fact, I say if you want to do something, no one can stop you.  Because you will practice, or create, or study–nothing can stop the passionate!

That’s how it is for me and writing.  And photography.  You’ve heard me go on about how important family portraits are.  You can expect more, because that’s not just a marketing line, that’s what I believe.  Family photographs are my passion.  They’re historical photos for future generations, and they’re important to be made now, so family members know how important they are to us.

I have a portrait session with a family tomorrow.  That is the ultimate Thanksgiving gift–to care about creating lasting photographs when family is gathered.

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I sometimes wonder how much we are gaining as technology progresses.  Without printed photos, I doubt very many people are going to see Grandma’s photos on that folder on their K: drive where they backup all their photos.

It’s difficult to save a TV show or a video and display it in an art gallery since it’s a form that requires another device.  Which is why a photograph, printed and framed, can be displayed in a museum or gallery–it doesn’t need another thing to show it.

It just is.  It’s a piece of art.  It exists free of electricity and devices.

The beauty of photography is quality images of our family members, and how we get to keep them forever with us, even though they may not be here with us next Thanksgiving.

But on our walls, they will always live with us!  Create family portraits.  It’s the most important thing you can do for your family. (Because we don’t last forever!)

And if there’s something you’re passionate about, keep going.  You’re one step closer today.  And with constant forward motion, there’s no stopping you!

Being a freelance photographer has given me the opportunity to travel to states throughout the U.S. for photo shoots.

Though I’m based in Denver, I often shoot in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago and now I’m adding Los Angeles, having now set up a second location to base out of in addition to my Colorado studio/office.

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Some people don’t like to travel for their work.  I know photographers who don’t like to take their gear on the road.  Not me!  I love meeting people in every state and getting to photograph in various cities.  Different places bring new photo projects, assignments and opportunities.

I’ve been bringing a VIP Portrait studio to companies for award ceremonies, events and company head shots and group shots, and a glamorous Hollywood Wedding Photo Studio to wedding couples as an alternative to the silly-style photo booth.

I couldn’t ask for more.  For the corporate clients, it’s photographs worthy of display in their offices.

For the wedding couple, the joy on their faces when they see their grandparents in a formal photo, it’s almost like something out of the early 1900s, what with the studio lights, set pieces and Victorian furniture.

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I was working last week on a photo shoot for a client in Philadelphia, and I traveled across the country so I could bring a full portrait studio, and also so I could stop in towns across the U.S. and make photographs for my Roy Stryker photo project.

In my travels, I met a couple in a town where I was staying and we were talking about photography and how people don’t make photographs now, just visual notes for likes and swipes.  I gave them my thoughts that it’s important to make family photos and print those photos.

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My brother, Anthony, on Polaroid 600 B&W Film

On this trip, besides my film Leica and my digital cameras–I was working after all–I carried a Polaroid 660 Autofocus camera and some black and white instant 600 film. That way I could make prints right away–immediately–and they’d be ready to display when I returned home. I photographed several members of my family and the couple were interested in seeing them, so I showed them to them.

The woman had a story for me–she told of her family growing up, and how the boys, her two brothers, got all the attention and accolades, and that the photos of herself that were up on the walls and in picture frames in the house, how they made her feel like she belonged, too, while in so many other ways she felt left out.

Photographs matter. Phone snaps aren’t photographs. They’re not really anything other than notes on a life. Glimpses that will never be seen for more than a few seconds, if that long.

So, you can put off making family photographs, but we all get older and we aren’t here forever.

And, like many people, you’ll end up having no artful family photographs.

Or, you could schedule a photo with a photographer.

But really, it can’t be with just anyone.  It has to be with me. Because it’s not the camera. It’s not the software.

There’s no magical camera that takes good photographs.

It’s the photographer.

And if it’s a photo made by anyone else, well, it’s not a Kenneth Wajda photograph.  Simple as that.

See, I’m not easily interchangeable with just any photographer. And, yes, you’ll pay a little more. But you’ll get way more than you paid for!  That’s my promise.  I’m a pro and I guarantee it.

720.982.9237 | KennethWajda.com