Archive for the ‘the wise photo project’ Category

I traveled across the U.S. last month to a photo shoot in Washington D.C. (drove so I could bring a full studio to the conference) and on the way back, I photographed my partners’ Mother and brother at breakfast during a stop in Cincinnati.

When I sent them the photographs, her Mother said…well, I’ll let you read what she said:

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Mirrors lie.  Every day.  All we’ve ever seen of ourselves is a misrepresentation–our hair is parted on the wrong side, we look exactly opposite how we really look. 

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Because it’s a mirror image.  Our face is flipped.

And so, our perception is that we look odd when we see ourselves in photos.  Ever notice our friends look okay, because we’re seeing them the way we always see them, but we always look wrong somehow?

Because the camera sees us right, not flipped.

It’s a simple thing to flip the image so that the person sees their photo as they’re used to seeing themselves.  To make it so they like their photo better.

But the bigger lie is that a face, as it ages, needs to be retouched.  Needs to be Photoshopped.  It doesn’t.

It goes for you and me–“You’re better as you are than you think.”

I just finished a big shoot for The Wise Photo Project, a national project where I photograph seniors at senior centers–the elderly wise ones, not the newly graduated.  I photographed over 60 people.  Beautifully aged faces and there’s not a wrinkle I would change.

A couple portrait from a 2017 photo shoot at a senior center in Boulder.

The photographs capture their amazing faces as they are.  They are truly beautiful as they are.

Tell yourself, you’re better as you are than you think.  You really are.

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!

There’s a couple next to me at the bar where I’m sitting–I’m writing at Ted’s Montana Grill in Boulder.  The guy is eating his dinner in silence because his spouse is on her phone. Occasionally he picks his up, too, because he looks bored. But for the most part, he eats alone, one bite of his steak at a time. They are doing things as everyone else, and maintaining the status quo.  Nothing wrong with that, they are like everyone else, consumed by news of someone else rather than the one they’re with.

It reminds me of a podcast by Seth Godin I listened to today about marketing new ideas to people–people who would rather maintain the status quo.  Because people really don’t like change.  It could get better but it could also get worse.  Better to not choose, risk it, and just leave it alone.

So, the woman stares at her phone between bites of her burger.  And the guy eats alone.  Again, nothing wrong–it’s what everyone else is doing.

But jump forward to 2038.  Twenty years.  Then when they’re 20 years older and all that time has passed, will they be glad they spent those dinners in silence? Consumed by the news of the day, other people’s, perhaps friends, maybe just acquaintances.   Time keeps moving, and in this moment, it’s easy to see it as never-ending.  Plenty of time to waste.

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain.
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today.
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.
  ~Pink Floyd, “Time”

Seth Godin talks about sticking to your plan if you have a product or service you believe in, especially if it challenges the status quo.  He says we are in a different world, one where niche-marketing is the new paradigm.  And there are people who are willing to take that risk and try something new.  That’s our audience.

So, that’s where I am with my photography projects, like The Wise Photo Project, where I photograph older family members, often on film.  I’ve recently started offering the photo sessions and photographs for free at senior centers, because it is that impossible to get people to deviate from the status quo: “We never shoot family photos anymore, and nobody we know does, so oh well.  We have phone pics.”
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My Mother, printed and with me in my home.

But I see it differently.  We don’t live forever, and high-quality studio portraits aren’t just for celebrities and to illustrate magazine articles.  They’re family history.  They’re vitally important.  I live with photos of my Mother and Father in my house, on the wall next to me.  My Mother is no longer here, but it’s not a low-resolution phone snap on my computer that I get to have and live with to remember her, but a real portrait that I made, printed and framed–a real photograph.
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I photograph older people because they matter, they’re a big deal, and no one treats them like a big deal.  And no one else is photographing them, so if I don’t, the photographs won’t exist. Made on a 4″x5″ negative.  I brought a print to him for his family.

We have come so far and advanced so much technologically, and somehow art has become “convenience first,” which I don’t quite understand.  Quality can be sub-par, but if it’s easy, we seem to accept that.

I don’t.  Simple as that.
Who said art has to be easy, or that easy art is the best art?

Because Grandpa can look amazing if we add a little quality, and make his portrait with something better than the phone in our pockets.  And 20 years from now, when he’s long gone but we still have that beautiful portrait to remember him by, we will be glad we didn’t worry about maintaining the status quo.

It takes vision.  Just like it takes vision to put the phone down and talk to your spouse at dinner.

I don’t create photographs for likes. I make photographs that will still exist in 50 years, long after the swipe is through, through gallery and book projects.

That’s why I shoot on film, and make gallery-quality prints. These aren’t for likes.

I’m looking for two kinds of photographs to make, one for my Roy Stryker Documentary Project (RoyStryker.com) of your family, and the other for my Wise Photo Project photographing our incredible seniors.

ROY STRYKER DOCUMENTARY PROJECT

Last year, I documented a family’s Thanksgiving and was able to create a book of those photographs for them, in addition to adding the photographs to the Roy Stryker Documentary Project.tgiving

I also photographed a group of high-school kids at home for lunch for the project. The purpose is to document real life today, not the stylized Instagram-filtered life posing for the camera, but real life.

I will be contacting some of you directly, but I want to photograph an ordinary day in the life of many families, and if yours is interested, you can contact me.

I want:

● A dad playing catch with his son.

● A person at work, especially in a job that has strong visuals or a place most people never get to see.

● A mom driving the kids to school.

● A couple staying home and hanging on the porch on a Friday night.

● A teenager hanging posters in their room.

● Real people doing real things.

Not extraordinary things. Not graduating. A Sunday dinner, not just a holiday dinner.

Bill Owens did a similar project with a classified ad request to local families in the 1970s, and there’s a wonderful book of images from it called, ‘Suburbia‘, with photographs that wouldn’t exist without his effort to document ordinary life at that time.

THE WISE PHOTO PROJECT

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The second project, I am creating large-format environmental portraits of seniors, doing something that they love. Like the fisherman. There’s something to a portrait that goes beyond the picture, and becomes a slice or moment of a life. That’s what the Wise Photo Project is all about.

I want:

● A senior playing golf or other activity

● A senior working on a car

● A senior at home reading the newspaper

● A senior engaged in any aspect of their life that defines them.

There’s no cost to you for either project. You’ll receive a copy of the photograph. Both projects are being created for gallery exhibits, and hopefully book projects and museum shows.

This fall, I’ll be traveling across the U.S. and scheduling shoots for both photo projects, so if you are located between Colorado and Pennsylvania, let me know, perhaps I can make a shoot work in your town. And then later into winter, I’ll be working from Colorado to California, so let me know where you’re located.

Photographers make photographs.Please help me if you’re interested in participating by calling 720.982.9237 or emailing info@kennethwajda.com.

 

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My Dad in a Langhorne Pennsylvania cafe, March 2018.  I have coffee with him every workday morning–when I see him on my desk in a framed photograph.

It makes me sad when I think about how valuable fine art portraiture is, created on medium or large format film, and yet how few people even know what it is, let alone why they would want to order a portrait like this.

The photograph above is a portrait of my Dad, sitting across from me at breakfast table in a small cafe when I went to Pennsylvania for a visit.  This is him sharing time with me.  This photograph means so much to me.  It’s printed on my desk, and I keep him with me and see him everyday when I get to work.

rtI made his portrait on a 1950’s era Rolleiflex 6×6 camera. On Ilford HP5 black and white film.  I know where this photograph will be in 50 years–still in the frame that it is in now, not lost on some old hard-drive or to obsolescence.

To me, this is what photography is–capturing memories and then being able to keep those that matter most to you close to you.  A simple framed photograph does that very well.

But the ease of digital photography has made it so that most people keep all their photographs in file format.  This file of my film portrait of my Dad (from a digital scan of the negative) is stored in my computer.  It’s safe, perhaps, (unless there is a hardware failure) but I cannot experience it as a file everyday like I do a framed print.

There seems to be a need for printing our photographs so the most important people in our world are always with us.  But why print them, most people ask?

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Asking that question is like saying, “Why do we need museums, when we see the images, photographs, paintings, on our iPad or computer?”  Because mobile devices are good for making a traveling photo album, and sharing our photos at lunch with friends.  The problem is they don’t create a “place” for them.  They only create a “glimpse” of them.  But our family members are worth more than a glimpse, they’re worth a permanent place in our world.  Surrounding us.  Enveloping us.

Years ago, I remember going to my Grandpop’s and Grandmom’s house and there were photographs of relatives and family throughout the house–they filled their rooms with family photographs, and these were beautiful, high-quality photographs, both formal portraits, and family snapshots in boxes that were a treat to pick through.

Nowadays, I don’t see photographs at people’s houses.  That’s the part that makes me sad.

box2Some of our parents and grandparents are at the end of their lives, and we’re not creating beautiful, frame-able photographs that we will be able to keep by our side to remember them by, something better than a blurry phone snap.

As a portrait photographer, the only commissions I get nowadays are for business portraits–headshots for LinkedIn and corporate use.  Families aren’t ordering individual portraits.

Where are the good pictures being made?  It’s not in a phone, because a wide-angle lens (as all phones have) is not a flattering lens for portraiture. 

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We are living in a trans-formative time, with technology changing the way we do things at a rapid pace.  But just as things speed up, there is a push to slow down.

There are more people now embracing film photography than there were just a few years ago–because they want something tangible.  Something that they’ve actually created.  They want to slow down the process and create fewer, but more memorable, photographs, and they’re using film to do it.

Just like there is a slow food movement, and record sales are on the rise, there’s an anti-digital component at play.  Everything doesn’t have to be the fastest to be enjoyed.

Playing a record is more time-consuming than programming Pandora, but maybe I like the sound of my turntable, that warm analog sound, and I just want to play one full Led Zeppelin album, not have to choose from among every song ever written.  Maybe I just want to play a record, not program a computer.

A few years back, bookstores were concerned about losing out to digital e-readers and ebook sales, and the truth is they’re still going strong.  Because people like to hold a single book, not every book they own on one small device.  They say on an e-reader, there is a temptation to not read what they’re reading, but instead looking for what else they can be reading since their options are endless.

I charge just under a thousand dollars for a legacy film portrait session for a person and their parent or grandparent.  I am a very experienced artist working with real film and creating large printed and framed portraits.  I believe they are one of the most important portraits I can create, more important than any celebrity photograph.  Because our family is our family–they’re the celebrities of our world.

If you contact me, and mention this article, I will photograph you and your mom or pop, and I’ll make the session rate complimentary.  Of course you have to be within a reasonable travel distance for me, or someplace I regularly get to–Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Washington D.C., Los Angeles or the front range of Colorado.  I just want to see if anyone will do it if cost is not part of the equation.

I’m betting not.

Here’re the photographs of my parents that I get to live with, that are a part of a physical photograph album. That are the memories of who my parents are.  My Mom is no longer with us.  But she’s right here with me in these photographs.

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Today is Father’s Day.  I wonder how many people have a wonderful portrait of their father, one that captures their personality and their light, that one image that will be passed down to great grandchildren to know who their family was, and what they looked like.

If they don’t, well, that’s the part that makes me saddest, and I hope we will see a renewed interest in quality photography and framed prints in the years to come.

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.

 

I have a project titled, The Wise Photo Project, where I photograph elderly people on film, because they often have very few photographs taken of them.  Here are my parents, my Dad giving my Mom a kiss as she lies in a hospital bed in the living room of his house.  This is why I photograph the wise!  They won’t be here forever, and they are beautiful in their old age.

I can photograph your elderly relatives too, I work throughout the U.S., and create legacy prints for your family, photographs your grandkids will cherish as they get to know their grandparents from way back in 2016.
 
TheWisePhotoProject.com – 720.982.9237

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