Archive for the ‘fine art photography’ Category

Being both a photographer (documentary/street) and a writer (stand-up comedy/screenplays), I came to the realization that there is a correlation between the two. Because both require something of me. See, I carry a Leica and notebook everywhere I go.

When my parents took photographs when I was growing up, they took them out at Christmas, at the Jersey Shore, at backyard birthday parties. Maybe they pulled out a Kodak Hawkeye or Retina IIIc, then they put the camera away until the next big occasion.

The photofinishers famously said, “Many rolls were snow, sand, snow!”

That’s one way to use a camera–bring it out when you expect to see something “photo-worthy”, though in this phone-crazed world, that’s everything and all the time. I don’t mean shooting your lunch. So, disregarding how most people use phone cameras–more as diaries like where they parked their car, or a pic of a receipt–typically folks use cameras for special occasions.

But I have one in my pocket (IIIf fits nicely with its collapsible lens in my front jeans pocket), or over my shoulder (typically an M2, M6 or M9) all the time. Friends and family wouldn’t recognize me without one.

The difference is I’m not looking for a special occasion. I’m not taking it out to photograph.

My friends might bring a DSLR to a backyard party, but would not usually bother to take photos at Tuesday night dinner. I have my camera at Tuesday’s dinner and every dinner every evening.

Same with my notebook. For when an idea strikes, I can write it down before I forget it. That’s so important. But I think something else is happening when I carry these items. kennethwajda2-1-44Almost like luring the muse, asking for inspiration to find me.

The Leica and the notebook are attractors. Like magnets to metal. They bring the photographs and writing ideas to me.

If I were to leave without a notebook, my subconscious doesn’t have to be on the lookout for ideas. It knows I have no way to record them. But if the notebook is in my pocket, the ideas come. I don’t know how they do, but they do.

If I were to go out without a camera, I don’t have to look for possible photographs. Even peripherally. At the most, all I’ll see are the ones I would have missed, so better to discount everything before really taking a good look, not to get disappointed in not being ready to take the shot.

So, for me, the object, the camera and the notebook are much more than devices for photography and writing. They’re an agreement for my creative, my subconscious, to be watching and listening, because I’m ready and open to their input, their awareness.

I don’t go out to take photographs. Or to write.

But I do. Both.

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A zucchini race at the Boulder Creek Fest, Leica M3, Ilford HP5.

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The obvious winners of the zucchini race at the Boulder Creek Fest, Leica M3, Ilford HP5.

Ok, I know there are gatekeepers to the creative world, the gallery curator, the magazine editor, etc. but I have a real problem with any award being given out for who can generate the most votes for their work. Any kind of work.

Years ago, I was at a film festival and the “audience award” went to whichever film had the most likes on Facebook. That’s not an award, that’s a popularity contest and a film festival farming for likes.

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It might feel like a win, but it’s not. It’s a sign of who spends the most time online, who sends out the most notices, and who has the biggest following of people with time to follow their directions and vote for them.

It’s the biggest “lose” in my book. If you win one of these, I can’t give you kudos for your creativity. Marketing, perhaps, but do you want to be a marketer or a photographer?

Just make great art, and put it in the public forum.

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Reach for the stars! Go high!

Take it to art buyers and learn from portfolio reviews. Be the one in control of your own work, not the one with the ability to generate likes.

“So, Kenneth, how do I do that?”

Good question. Follow Lenscratch. Read about their photographers. Schedule one of their portfolio reviews and when you’re ready, submit your project according to their guidelines. Be a professional, an artist with ambition, but in control of your career, not a “like” master.

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And say no to contests that work with Likes. That’s not art. That’s not anything to be proud of, it’s social marketing and the platforms are the real winners.

Photography used to be time travel. We took photographs, and then forgot them. That magic roll of film held the memory safe, tucked away in the dark to be revealed and relived at another time.

A trip to the Fotomat was highly anticipated–the roll finished and developed, it offered wonderful surprises, time travel, remembering and reliving moments, the essence of photography.

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In this instant digital world, that magic is missing, the distance between creating the photograph and reliving it is non-existent, perhaps why photography feels less fulfilling than it once did. I make a photo, I show it to you, you’ve seen it, I’ve seen it, it’s all done. Nothing left to do but the chore to get it to you, which I may never do, because who cares, you already saw it.

I made a portrait of a woman yesterday for The Wise Photo Project and I made it on a Hasselblad film camera on black and white film. Someone asked me why shoot film, and I said, “If I don’t shoot film, I have nothing to print in my darkroom. I need a negative to create a print by hand, a one-of-a-kind hand-printed silver portrait.”

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If her family wants to share it, they’ll have to visit her to see the print–that’s the product of these portrait shoots, a photograph. Framed. For real. Not a swipe left or right. Not an email or a scan. A real photograph to place in her house and have for future generations to keep and always know her face.

She’s looking forward to her portrait. She’ll be very happy when she sees the wonderful image of herself. I’m proud of it and that I had the opportunity to make it.

But she’ll have to wait for it.

Therein lies the magic.

And if you want to see it, well, you won’t find it here. You’ll have to stop over and visit her to see her portrait.

Maybe have a coffee and some conversation, too. Another bonus to creating an actual photograph–time spent together.

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And to all my photographer friends: Here’s to Good Light!

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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.

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!

 

LA Friends: I have a photograph in the Lucie Foundation Analogue Project with a gallery opening Thursday April 11, 6-9pm at ROW DTLA. It’d be great to see you there.
 
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