Archive for the ‘documentary’ Category

I traveled this month, a road trip from Colorado to California, and if you know me, I pack a variety of cameras.  I don’t go anywhere without at least one Leica.  And I brought a Rolleiflex for some portraits, and at the last minute put a 4×5 camera and some film and a changing bag into the car.

Plus the Nikon DSLR and three lenses, because I knew I would be picking up some freelance shoots in Los Angeles.

So, film, what is it good for?  On this trip, absolutely nothing / listen to me!

Because I was shooting street photos in Vegas and LA, and all along the way through Park City and Salt Lake City, Utah, and the Nikon with a 50mm or 20mm is perfect for that.  Quick and nimble.  Grab shots.  Instantly ready and can keep on shooting.

I came back home and put all the film back in the fridge.  Hopefully it enjoyed its trip.  But I thought about why I didn’t shoot any.  And it comes down to purpose.  I shoot film to MAKE photos.  To create a photo story on film or a portrait.  Film is for those family members and stories I want to make that are the most important to me.

For me, digital is best for grabbing shots–not making them, but TAKING them.  They are in front of me as a documentary photographer.  I’m not one to wait at one location for planets to align–elements to form a perfect composition in front of a mural, for example–that’s not my style of street photography.  I don’t stand still at all–I walk and watch and shoot when something grabs my attention.  When I see a story.  Then I grab a shot.

So, I guess you can tell what happened–I didn’t make any photographs.  I took images of the scenes before me.  Good documentary photos, but not made, taken.

That’s what digital excels at.

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A funny photo, a good street photo, but a documentary photograph taken, not made.  I was at the right place at the right time.  And had the reflexes to grab the shot.  But I didn’t create it.  Hence the use of digital medium, not film. (Nikon F610 50mm f1.2)

Film is for, I realize, creating something.  I don’t just pull out the 4×5 and see what catches my fancy.  Not at all.  I have to go out and create something.  That’s what that beautiful large negative is for.  Purposeful photography.  And photographs made on film take planning.  I can’t just show up in a town I don’t know and see something I can make a photograph of.

So, I end up taking photos of the scenes before me.

I’ve been working on some fine art images the last few months, and I realize the difference between a nature photo by an artist Sally Mann and one by a nature photographer John Fielder is that one is made, and one is taken.  To me, there is a world of a difference.

The artist must make something out of the materials at hand.  It’s about vision.  And how they turn their creation into their finished piece.  It may not be literal.  It may not be fully realistic.  Artists are visionaries.  What they show tells us about them.

The nature photographer captures the magic in the natural world, and depicts it in all its full wondrous splendor, colors saturated for maximum impact (and sales).  Technically perfect, bursting with color, nature taking all the credit for the display, the photographer taking all the credit for capturing it.  But it’s not fine art.  It’s commercial art.  What they show is a wonderful display piece in a family room that tells us about nature.

Most people would rather hang a Fielder.  I can appreciate that.  But there’s no denying the mastery of Mann’s artistry.  There’s currently a landscape exhibit at the Denver Art Museum through September 16th featuring a couple of her hand-printed images that are quite beautiful and the exhibit is well worth seeing.

For me, film is Mann.  Digital is Fielder.  One is for making art.  The other for creating a salable product. Mann’s may hang in galleries and museums, and private galleries of those who collect her work, but ultimately, Fielder has the image that most people would like over their mantle in their mountain home.  (If you want one, they’re available at his online gallery.)

It’s just that I don’t have a mountain home.  If I did, and I could afford it, I’d choose Mann’s.  (She’s also made a wonderful body of work photographing her family with a large format camera, and all her work inspires!  I don’t think digital could’ve made those photographs.)

Guess that’s why I bring film with me.  I never know what I may find to make.  And there is an amazing sense of accomplishment when the opportunity arises.   When the picture lends itself to film.  Film photography takes a plan.  I need to make better plans, because next time, I’m sure I will take the film cameras again.

There’s such a joy to making a Rolleiflex portrait.  Or one on 4×5.

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My Father, on film with my Rolleiflex, out to breakfast with me on my last road trip home.

Film, what is it good for, absolutely something–photographs I make!  But I have to have a goal and a plan to make them, otherwise, the film and film cameras are just along for the ride.

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I’m a journalist with a camera.  Or a storyteller with a camera.  I’ve come to realize photojournalism defines me.  My photography.  My approach to seeing the world.

I was listening to a podcast with a street photographer and she said she documents what makes her think of her childhood.  Another photographer said they are drawn to light and shadow.  Not me–I’m a story guy.  I want to capture the story of people wherever I find them.

I am the founder of the RoyStryker.com documentary photo project, and it’s all about capturing human stories in the U.S.  Because that’s who we are and that’ s what I see and seek out.

Interesting light is nice, but without a story leaves me feeling nothing.  Creamy bokeh and amazing technique are both worthless to me without content.  Because story is what I need, what I think most of us seek in a photograph.

Other street photographers look to juxtapose interesting elements–an advertisement and a person, a color pattern, or something that makes for a geometric image.  They’ll wait until the elements line up perfectly to get their shot.  Those are fun to look at, but I need story, too.  Otherwise, those are just people plucked and placed into the composition, but they may have no connection to it other than the photographer’s sense of humor.

I can’t stay put that long, a story may be around the next corner.

I’m teaching a street photography workshop this week, and the only thing I can possibly teach is to see people and look for stories.  Because that’s all I see, so it’s all I can help others see.  Like a photojournalist, find the story and document it with images.  Tell the story.

Two people walking with inner tubes is not that interesting, but the chivalry of this guy is what makes this photo a keeper. If you have to get your tube to the river, get a guy like this!  It’s serendipity that I would see them the moment they were crossing the river.  And that there’s another tuber in the river below.

Story.  It’s who we are.  It’s what we were.  It’s even in the word HiSTORY.

There’s no telling where it will appear next.  We just have to go out and look for it.  Wear comfortable shoes!

Had a walk along the Las Vegas strip–now there’s a place that is full of visuals.  One of the things I noticed as I went about my way making street photos is that this is the perfect place to photograph people–everyone has a camera up, and so no one (or at least most) don’t notice you or care.  So, if you want to make street photographs, this is the perfect place to work and overcome any fear of photographing people.  It’s a street full of stories.

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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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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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This is why I shoot Elderly Photo Visits.  It gives me the chance to preserve memories that will last long after our parents and grandparents are gone.  And will be cherished by generations to come.

I printed this photo and gave it to several family members in frames I picked up at Goodwill (50% off sale today, yay), because without printing our photos, they really don’t exist.  So, print your photos.  Frame them and live with the memories in your home.

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As a photographer, there’s nothing else that matters, no one else who gets to decide what is important, other than that which is important to you.  Photography is a creative expression, and when we stop looking to create images that will please others, and actually create images that please ourselves, that reveal a little something about how we see the world, only then is the art realized, and we give the viewer a glimpse into our soul.

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I can tell you, as a filmmaker, how many Tarantino wannabees I see out there.  We don’t need another one of him–we have him.  (And one of him is too much for me–I think he’s ultra-violent and sits on that one note too long.)

But as photographers, what we need is to show a side of ourselves that reveals our truth.  Then, we have created art.  Dare to show something that reveals you.

It’s easy to say what you don’t like.

I hate this, I hate that.  You didn’t tell us anything about you.

I like that. 

You like that–what are you a freak, liking that?  Saying what you like tells us a bit about you.

So does what you photograph.

So, photograph your passion.  Stand by what are your favorite images, because they define you, and after we are all long gone, they will be what survive to tell the story of who we were.

Mine is the story of connections in families.  That’s my passion–to document the small stories that make up great lives.

See http://ElderlyPhotoVisits.com and http://TheWisePhotoProject.com for more.

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