Archive for the ‘photo’ Category

We are at a crossroads, now more than ever.  At first it was just digital technology as a new way to capture light and make a picture. We all embraced it because it was no cost, no worry, shoot shoot shoot and delete later, or don’t. (Because let’s face it, we don’t delete, we just get more hard drives or up our iCloud plan.) There, done!

Then we filled computers with images like there was no tomorrow.  Thousands of photos downloaded from our digital cameras.  DSLRs.  Point and shoots.  All kinds of cameras shooting more and more megapixels.  Win!

More is more.  More is good.

Then phones got really good at shooting and sending a pic, and even if the form factor wasn’t very good, and the photo wasn’t as good as a camera, ah well, so what, it was good enough, and it had the added perk that it fit in our pocket and we could be sent now.  No need to download to our computers. Score!

Sure, the phone manufacturers charged quite a bit for these, not to mention that computer or laptop upgrade, hard drive purchases and Photoshop software licenses, but we still felt like it was free. Yay!

And we became video producers at concerts, shooting and posting whole songs to whole shows so our friends could hear Elton sing, too. Because we can.  And look where we are. Too bad for the people behind us–we’re working here. Impressive!

More is more. More is good.

And then we got computers to compute.  Computational photography, we can make everything work, and everything perfect.  We can fake blur the background in ‘portrait’ mode, no need for a real photographer. It’s not like they do anything more than our phones–good thing Avedon isn’t working today, that chump would be out of a job.  Loser!

We can even fake videos and make it look like people saying things they never said.  We have technology.  We win again!

It used to be the news was a good source if information, but then we got the internet and things got a bit cloudy, lines were blurred.  News outlets and not-so-trustworthy news outlets  We have fake truths, alternative facts.  No one knows what to believe anymore.  Sucks!

So, this crossroads we’re at. Which way do we go, now?  Keep heading down the same road we’ve been on since we stopped shooting film and making actual photographs? You know, those paper representations of the pictures on our phones.

FullSizeR2ender

The ones of grandma and grandpa that don’t need a computer to enjoy? The ones that are authentic, storytelling.  That aren’t digitally altered and perfected, but just…  Real!

We used to have fewer pics and we enjoyed them more.  Now we have more and, oh no…

More isn’t more.  More isn’t better.

We have become inundated with images that they don’t even matter.  They don’t matter! Who cares? It’s not like we look at them for more than a half-second anyway. Instagram double tap–scroll, scroll, scroll, double tap, scroll, scroll.  That’s what photography is now.  Lame!

Phones are note-takers, and notes don’t need to be saved.  Photographs used to be historical family documents, not anymore.  Now, it’s where we ate, where we parked, what we drank and never see them again.  Sucks!

Professionals don’t make our portraits anymore. We shoot everything ourselves, even for our businesses, since we’ve adopted a mentality that good enough is good enough.  Even if it’s not, it is.  Because it doesn’t cost us anything.  Cheap!

What will it take to hire a pro to photograph our family?  Maybe they do have something to offer that we can’t do ourselves.  But the lure of free is so strong.  Why pay for anything? We can put that money into more cloud storage and new phones.  Score!

We’re standing at the crossroads.  Which way we go will very seriously impact what photography is, what value it holds and purpose it serves.  It may be the biggest challenge in its history, what it will be for. Decisions!

I know which way I’m headed–I’m photographing my family and friends on film, printing their photographs and living with them on the shelves of my home.  Call me old school, I know where my photographs are and I get to see them for more than a swipe-second.  Dinorsaur!

Maybe, but maybe it’s the digital photos that that will go extinct.  Gone!

I asked my Father today if he remembered life before television.  He said he did, and it was a world where a lot of people read books and newspapers, played games and got together with friends and a barrel of beer.

The reason I asked is because I realize that since the invention of TV, and people watching hours a day, we’ve now become a society that lives on screens.  I wake up to my iPhone and iPad.  I read the iPad with coffee, then off to a computer where I work editing photographs and marketing photography.

Or I have a photo shoot, and I make the photographs and check them on the camera’s screen.  Finally, import them to the computer for editing tomorrow.

I wrap up the day, and it’s back to the iPad.  Or I write at night, like this post here, on my laptop either at a pub or at home.

I’m not a TV watcher, but if I were, I would probably switch that on when I got done writing, and finish up the day with an iPad in bed.

What happened to us?  We live on screens.

kids2 (2)

I think that’s why I’m drawn to film photography–I get to create with a simple ground glass for viewing the image (on a 4×5 or 8×10 view camera, a Rolleiflex or a Leica 35mm).  It has no electronics.  It’s physical, just light being focused onto film.

Same with hand-printing photographs in a darkroom, it’s hands on, and nothing electronic to it.

jump2 (2)

I’m betting that’s why some people like gardening (I am not one of those people) but it gives them the chance to work with their hands and dirt to create something beautiful.  Can’t get more “down to earth” than that!

Same thing with nature lovers and landscape photographers (I am not one of those either).  Staring at the sky and trees is a welcome past-time in this digitally screened-in world.

Anyway, I wonder what all these screens, with living in a screen world, is doing to us, how it’s affecting our culture, our friendships, our lives.

Are we better off than 80 years ago, when all we needed were friends and a barrel of beer?kids1 (2)

I went to my photo lab this week to pick up some black and white and color prints of my Dad and me sitting at a pub and restaurant on my last trip to Philly.  I always pick up small black and brown wood frames at yard sales and thrift stores whenever I find them to keep on hand, and these photos I framed and hung in my house to keep him close since we live 2000 miles apart.

Screen Shot 2018-11-25 at 6.50.52 PM

Then I did a Costco run for some groceries and there were all these people buying 5TB and 8TB hard drives, and signs for ‘backing up your photos’, which got me thinking, “What if the backup fails?”  Say you have everything saved in duplicate, but then tragedy strikes–twice!  Ok, triplicate–doesn’t that sort of guarantee you won’t lose the photos?  Well, perhaps.  But…

Do you actually have anything?  What is with all these hard drives?  Where are the photos?

The other hot items at Costco were a three-camera home security system, and a doorbell-cam, and I watched people spend hundreds of dollars to create surveillance for their homes and shook my head.

What are we doing?  Are we obsessed with all this surveillance?  Digital images that go nowhere.

New tech is enticing, but I don’t need technology to have a photo of my Dad and me in the house.  I don’t need terabytes of storage to make sure I don’t lose it.  It’s right there, on the wall.

It’s technology right out of the 19th century, and it still works to this day!

Screen Shot 2018-11-25 at 6.52.12 PM

As you may know, I’m a professional photographer and I photograph families and individuals and consider portraits the most important work I do.

But to get people to order a family portrait, or a portrait of their parents or grandparents, frankly, it’s difficult.  Only some of the more affluent folks choose to spend for the quality that I can create.  The rest, they figure they can shoot some with their phone, save the cash, then never bother to print anything.   Why spend on photography?  Why print?

So it’s a phone snap.  I guess after a while it’s ‘fire up the next hard drive, time for another backup’.

What are all these backups good for?

When is anyone ever going to use these backed-up files and print a photo?

Do families really gather around the computer to look at photos of Grandpa and Grandma?

I don’t think so.

Those phone snapshots are like film negatives that were made and never processed or if they were developed, never printed.  They’re a step toward a photo, but not a photo.

They’re essentially nothing.

Maybe just quit taking the snaps and backing them up–they’re useless.

I think about how many Americans there are, and how many households are full of these high-tech gadgets.

Hard drives–backups and backups of backups full of images never seen.

Surveillance systems tracking our homes like a police state.

Alexa and Google listening to our every move.

But people refusing to spend on an artist who can create a lasting portrait of a family member who may not be with them much longer.  Dismissing the importance of quality family portraits that are printed and displayed.

“I’ve got my phone.  Which reminds me, I need a new phone–I heard they have a new camera…”  What good is it?  You never make a photograph?

Family photographs are historical documents.  Printing your photographs is the one way to keep family members alive after they pass, and keep them in our homes, living with us, with printing that is done with a very old technology that is guaranteed to last.

Without the need for electricity or Siri to access.

It’s a real photograph.  It’s so simple, somehow people miss it.

I really believe people at all levels should share everything they know with everyone.  Nothing is to be kept secret–there are no secrets when it comes to knowledge.  Teach everyone everything.  When we share what we know, we empower others while maintaining our place as a fearless professional.

And you have to be fearless to take on the photography profession these days.  But for the people who do it for love, even better, and I share with them all I can.

Last week I taught a day-long Street Photography workshop.  Wow, was that amazingly fun.  My student was in Colorado for a conference, visiting from Tampa, Florida.

She said she had photographed street but she wasn’t comfortable photographing people and capturing their faces.  Well, that changed on that day–maybe it was the class setting, but she did great and took on the subject head on, literally.  She was shooting a Nikon with a 50mm.   And I was shooting a Nikon with a 20mm.

There were some things that one lens worked better at than the other.  That’s just the way it goes when you have no focal length zoom and have to work with what you have.  There were some subjects that we both photographed, and hers worked out better and vice versa.

But overall, I was so pleased to spend the day pounding the pavement, seeing what we could find and finding plenty of subjects.

The first time I taught photography, I was 18 and was teaching at a night school for a high school program for adults.  When I walked in, the students looked at me like, “What’s he doing up there?”  Then they found out I was the teacher.

I remember back then thinking I hope I have enough material to fill each class, and we ended up not having enough time to finish, what with questions from the students filling in time.

This workshop went well, too.  We met at a coffeeshop to look at some of my street photos, talk about approaches and our backgrounds, then went out and worked up and down the 16th Street Mall in Denver.  We took a lunch break at Union Station where we input our photos into our laptops to see which ones were immediate possible selects.  Then we worked the afternoon and finished up at another coffeeshop where we input the rest of our shoot and discussed the day.

She was well on her way to many great storytelling photos in her future–she has a good eye and sense for finding her subject.  And had some winners from the day’s shoot.  I was very impressed.

I look forward to teaching more.  There’s something about watching another photographer light up, excited about photographs.  I know that feeling well, myself.

Any day photographing is a good day.

Here are some of my selects from the day.

wajda-1

wajda-3

wajda-4

wajda-2

wajda-5

wajda-4-2

wajda-6

wajda-10

wajda-12

wajda-13

wajda-14

wajda-17

wajda-18

wajda-19

wajda-20

wajda-21

wajda-1-8

wajda-16

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!

 

 

The year is 2087.  Your Great Grandchildren of the Future have a message for you:

“WTF?  Really? 

“Thanks a lot for not taking any photos that we can have. With all that new-fangled technology you had back in the early 2000s and 20-teens and your millions of photos a day, we get nothing?  No idea of what you looked like or what your life was like.   Are you going to use that lame “but the computer died” excuse, or “I lost my phone,” or “It’s not my fault that cloud service shut down?”

“Boo-effin-hoo. That was our family history you placed in the hands of some digital storage tech company you had no idea how and where they were putting it or some outdated technology, with no plan for us.   No strategy for your family.

Here’s a crazy idea: Phones are for talking on.  Copying a receipt maybe.  But not family photography!

computer

“Look, there’s Grandpa’s pic!”

“Why didn’t you print anything? We’d at least have them. Oh, no, you never thought to do that. That would’ve make them permanent, god forbid.  And would’ve cost you a buck, when for free, you could get a stupid ‘Like’.

“Not that many of them were any good, anyway, if that’s any consolation to us now.  Snapping away with a wide-angle lens at arm’s length ain’t exactly the greatest technique for quality photographs.  And wide-angle sucks for portraits–I bet you didn’t know.

“What happened to the professional studio photos? You know, the ones every other generation had, except yours, because you were too damn cheap to hire a photographer. That blurry photo of you and the family with your arm extended–we’re kinda glad that didn’t make it–it hurt to look at anyway, despite how many ‘great pic’ comments you got online from people who looked at it for a fraction of a second in all its blurry splendor. People who wouldn’t know a good photo if it fell from the sky and bit them on the ass, because all they were making were shitty ones themselves.

“In a sense, all your phone snaps were worthless, a waste of time, and now gone. You thought you were doing something, making photographs, and you weren’t.  You accomplished nothing.  You were just wasting your life on fleeting glances into your world that we’d never see.

And you missed Grandma’s and Mom’s weddings because instead of letting the professional photographer shoot it, you had to have your phone up the whole time.  The one time they had a pro, and you still had to keep shooting your stupid, lame crappy photos.

Did you bring snacks to help out the caterer, too?  And flowers for the tables?  No, why, because there was a pro there?  Then why’d you insist on snapping bad pics the whole damn time?

“You missed most of the things in your life by putting that stupid phone up everywhere you went–concerts, your children’s plays, fireworks on the 4th of July–“Hey, let’s get together and watch the video of last year’s fireworks display, said no one ever!”

“We know better now, and we have cameras for photographs.  Actual cameras–can you believe it?  And we print photographs.  Because that’s what a photograph is!  Too bad you never found that out.  Too bad for us.

“All said and done, you shot too many photos, you printed none, and now, thanks to your short-shortsightedness, that whole part of our family history is lost in the glut of shitty frames that are dead in old tech.

Thanks a whole lot!  Way to go!”  [Slow clap]

More people are experiencing the glut of photography. It’s everywhere, it’s instant, it’s disposable, and that’s exactly where it goes–away.

CHILDHOOD MEMORIES
I remember when I was a kid, we had professional portraits made every year, and our family would make family portraits that would line the wall alongside the staircase.

And all my friends, too, there were portraits of each of them and their family members up on the walls. What happened that we don’t value family portraits like that anymore?

SAD TALES OF LOSS
I’ve personally heard several examples in the last few months of people telling me they wished they had photographs that were better than the phone snaps they have of their kid when they were two. Or five or seven. Or in one case, of their grandma when she was 95.

At a recent conference, a manager for a major corporation told me that he didn’t know why they stopped doing family photos, they just haven’t for years.

A couple I was chatting with at a pub told me that in hindsight, they should have printed some of the better photos that they can’t find anymore.

And one person I met while documenting life out on the street said they wished they hadn’t thrown away all their parents slides after they digitized them, because now the disc won’t load and they’re taking it to a computer tech to try to retrieve the images.

The wonderful thing about the phone is you can shoot a million photos.
The terrible thing about the phone is you can shoot a million photos.

A PHOTOGRAPHIC DARK AGE
And those photos are disappearing. Far away.   Into some distant folder buried on some hard drive that people think they are saving them, but have no idea where they go.   Unedited photos that no one wants to go through. There are just too many!

Find me a photo of your grandparent or kid from just five years ago. Good luck.

I find this to be a sad time for photography, because many families are overindulging in low-quality snapshots, and only that. They are being led into a false sense that they’ve got their memories saved, and well-preserved, and that they have quality images.

They really don’t, and they’re not.

I PREFER MY FAMILY DARK AND BLURRY
I see lots of photos that get ‘likes’ on social media. Often they’re poor, blurry, dark, not a keeper in any sense of the word. But there are the likes. Lots of them.  And always the comment, “Great picture of you.” Really, you like to see them dark and out of focus?

It’s like the difference between cheap junk furniture from Wal-Mart versus fine furniture from an artisan woodworker–the photographs we’re choosing are cheap and not very good.   Functional, but low quality.

Many people who saved their photos to CDs or tapes over the last 20 years have had some amount of loss–either some discs won’t load anymore or the tapes don’t play, or they play with degradation through the images.  It’s threatening to become a real digital dark age.

PUTTING IT OFF
I know people who talk about wanting to get portraits made of their kids at every year, then figure they can wait a little bit, then the kid turns four, seven, ten, and then they realize they haven’t made any good portraits of them. I’m seeing this in my business, as people put off scheduling the sessions they used to book. Or if they do, they don’t even want prints, just the digital files.

I’ve actually had clients who’ve scheduled a portrait session, with prints included in the session fee, and they’ve never ordered them. They don’t see the point of a real photograph. I’ve sent them reminders that a print order comes with their photo session. But there’s no response. Nothing. Zero interest.

They see no value in the actual real, physical photographs.

And in five or ten or twenty years–some time in the very near future–those photos, even though they were made by me, a professional, will cease to exist as they get lost in the tidal wave of images. And buried in the sand by the digital undertow with all the rest.

I don’t see how they are ever going to make up for them. In fact, I know the answer. They’re not.

GIMME ALL THE FILES, JUST THE FILES
There are plenty of people who’ve picked up a digital SLR in the past few years and call themselves a photographer, who will shoot your family by a tree for very little money, and give you all the files.  They have no interest in photography as an art medium with a final product–an actual photograph–but only to shoot their camera and get paid for pushing the button.  You could print their photo dark with lines across the faces with an inkjet printer and they couldn’t care less.

The more I discuss this situation, the more I get people nodding in agreement. They concur too many photos is a problem. They say they know the quality is lower than they’d like.  And they admit to having lost a phone and thousands of pictures or knowing someone who has. But do they do anything and book a session?

No, they don’t. Because that I-have-a-phone-I-can-do-it-myself mentality persists.

AMERICA THE (LOOK) RICH
America looks rich, but isn’t. It just looks it. We think we have the best, but we buy the worst as long as it looks okay. That patio set in our backyard from Target, that’ll last a year or two then we’ll throw it away. Everything is disposable. Nothing is built to last. But it’s nice and cheap, and looks good for a little while.

There was a recent article in the Boston Globe where someone asked regarding school photographs, “Why does Picture Day still exist?”   That’s the mentality–that we have our phones and our snaps and they’re good enough.

Maybe I’m nostalgic, but I thought there was something to my folks ordering and framing photographs of us as we were growing up. I liked the way we each had something to remind us we were all vital parts of this family.

WHAT, ME DRESS UP?  ARE YOU KIDDING?
Now, to get people together for a family photograph, to suggest they come in for a formal studio portrait, I’ve had people tell me they can’t be bothered to dress up. They have some from the park they made themselves, and don’t really care about getting them done formally anymore.

I’m a film photographer who shoots legacy photographs on real film and I print photographs on real paper for framing and displaying in a home or other physical space.

I don’t understand the unwillingness to spend to photograph our families well.   Future generations are counting on it, and they will be surely disappointed by the lost pictures and bad snapshots.

Someone must still value the best in quality.  Someone who isn’t put off by the idea of dressing up.

YOUR FAMILY ARE ROCK STARS
If you’re a rock star or movie actor, and you’re being photographed by a professional photographer for a magazine spread, you don’t complain that you can’t wear your sneakers and t-shirt. You want to look your best.  You go to be your best. You dress up and feel your best. You’re a rock star, after all. Everyone knows the performer’s creed: “Look better than the rest of them!”

That’s my goal, to find those that see their families as worth the extra expense for a high-end studio, formal portrait that they will hang in their home, because they see their family as worth it. And that see me as the one photographer, an truly experienced professional, working in a special, unique way–not just another guy with a digital spray and pray camera, but with real film and quality lighting in an actual studio–that will actually preserve that memory and will truly capture them as they are.

With artistry.  And quality as the determining factor, not the cheapest price point as the basis for their decision.

The rest will have to hope to salvage that phone snap for a very long time.