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If you’re a film photographer who shoots documentary photographs in the U.S, I want you.

Roy Stryker created the FSA photography collection to document real life in America during the Depression Era.

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Photography by Arthur Rothstein for the FSA

 

He was brilliant. He created a resource with a goal of ‘Showing America to Americans’. And the photographs changed the way people perceived folks in the rural areas, suffering in the dust bowl, living in poverty, etc.

I want to do the same, only show the life of American people today. I want to use only film documentary photographers, so that I can be assured that the photographs in the collection are authentic, and not photoshopped. And also to avoid the glut of submissions from phone snappers.

The goal would be for film photographers to contribute to the collection, build it out to represent American life–the most ordinary and extraordinary parts of life here in the U.S.–in all 50 states.

We live in a time where we label people liberal or conservative, 1% or 99%er. What are we really? Do we even know? Is the Facebook picture our best side forward only and not even true? Perhaps we’re not seeing the real America?

Certainly what’s on the national news isn’t who we are.

One commenter on the project said: I live in Germany and hardly can give any contribution though I would like to.  But you’re completely right with the “stereotypes”. We in Germany now have a “special” picture of the Americans – created by media of any kind. When I was in the US, it’s a complete different view and people are people, struggling with everyday life. Vice versa, some became very surprised when I told them I am German. They didn’t think one could talk “normal” with me.

If we had an accurate look of what our family or neighbors with opioid addiction looks like (maybe they look like us), or back from war with PTSD, or with a successful new business, or how they are training for the Olympics, or how they get by with three jobs so they don’t go to bed hungry–all kinds of real stories, positive and negative–could we impact Americans?

‘Showing America to Americans’!

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Photography by Dorothea Lange for the FSA

The news and the political climate make it seem like liberals and conservatives are worlds apart. But do we even know each other? Or are we just going off the stereotypes in our heads?

Please take a look at the site I built with more information, and I’m certainly still in the ‘seeing if it’s viable’ stage of the project and it may have elements to address I haven’t thought of yet. It’s at RoyStryker.com – Yes, I named it after him as a tribute. There’s a lot of information on there, and I tried to answer the most pressing questions.

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Roy Stryker, at right, with FSA photographers.

There would be a curation of the images–not just all images would be accepted.

There would be invites based on the photographer’s ability and quality of work to become part of the collective of photographers contributing to the collection.

The form for submission requires a high-res photo as well as a low-res image of the neg/slide for authenticity purposes. And it suggests an optional donation–see if that seems reasonable.

I would like to ultimately make the photographs:

1) on display on the Web site.

2) available for sale to publications–the photographer maintains all rights to their images at all times and would negotiate directly with the publications.

3) for a book project if the photographers would allow their photographs used.

4) eventually, if the photographers are willing, to offer the collection to the Library of Congress if we have created something exceptional.

Perhaps documenting life today could have an impact like the FSA project had on people’s perceptions of the folks during the depression.

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I work as a professional photographer in Boulder, Colorado, shooting portraits, business headshots, and commercial projects for clients like the U.S. Air National Guard and U.S. Air Force, food and drink for Whitewave/Silk and American Homestead Meats, and event coverage for companies in the cable industry.

On a recent day off, I decided to take a stroll down to the Pearl Street Mall, the local outdoor shopping area in downtown Boulder, and figured I’d build my portraiture client list by photographing people on the mall, getting their email, and offering to send them a photograph. In the email, I asked them if I could add them to my email list where I offer tips to great phone photography (something they’re probably interested in) while promoting my services.

The truth is, while my business clients are regular users of photographs, many people sometimes think to do family portraits or couple portraits, but that’s where it ends, with a thought. They never actually order a portrait session.

OUT ON THE MALL FOR STREET PORTRAITS

On this day off from client work, I took out a Nikon DSLR that is 9 years old, a D90 which debuted in August 2008. Why I brought that instead of my D810 is that I wanted to shoot with a vintage 1970s-era lens, the Nikon 55mm f1.2 non-AI manual focus lens for the soft backgrounds it produces, since I would be working on a crowded outdoor mall, and the information at Nikonians.org about its lens compatibility with my digital bodies says:

NO!
Definitely do not use, for it may damage the camera body. Also, warranty will be void.

That didn’t sound promising. But I was determined. So, I mounted the lens on my backup body, a D7200, and it mounted but it was tight to attach and once attached, the aperture ring wouldn’t budge.  Hmmm.

That mount seemed ridiculously tight. It took a good strong twist to mount it. Definitely not a normal mount. I thought, I’ll do a test with it, and then another one with the old D90 that I had laying around, knowing that at f1.2, I wouldn’t be needing the latest sensor capability for low light performance–I’d be shooting at base ISO (200, in this case) since I was working outside wide open.

The test with the D90 looked as good as the D7200, though it was a 12mp image instead of a 24mp. Good enough for what I was working on. And if it damaged the body, oh well, not much lost since that’s not my go-to camera . (It looks like you can get a D90 these days for under $200.)

So, with that 55mm f1.2 Nikkor S-C extremely securely mounted, I hit the streets.

And then I approached people, folks who looked like they were in a good location to interrupt them. Sitting somewhere, or chatting in the shade. Here’s what I found and created, with the promise to send them each their portrait. psmfamilyBW-kennethwajda
This couple got two images, I liked them as a package. She replied: Thank you so much for the lovely portraits. What a great treat to meet you and let you make these portraits of Pieter and me. Yes, we have been in love since we met in the summer of 1965 in the Netherlands, where we grew up. I will certainly think of you when we need a beautiful family portrait when we are all together in Boulder for a happy family get together. I will also recommend you to our friends. Until we meet again. With warm wishes, Susanna.pearlolder
If I hadn’t made them, would they ever get made? It seems a shame that they might not, and I’m proud to have made them.pearlolder1
This guy was working on the mall. pearl6
These three were sitting in front of an ice cream shop, and looked like a photogenic trio.
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Visiting Boulder from Italy and very flattered to be photographed.
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She tagged me in this Instagram post.

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The ice cream on their faces were what drew me to them.pearl3
Someone was trying to get a photo of them with a phone, when I offered to shoot it for them.
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A couple out on the mall with their dog, who was too old to make it into the photo.
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A dapper man who engaged me in talk of photography.
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A couple of friends out for happy hour drinks.
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A grandpa and his grandson sharing a bit of time watching street performers.
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She wouldn’t hold still long enough to get the three of them in the same plane of focus, so this is the result.familypsm-1-kennethwajdaThey were heartily laughing, which is how I approached them: “I love your laugh.  Can I photograph you?”
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Another guy interested in talking about photography.michaelportrait-kennethwajda
She’s into photography and was talking about my camera, and her interest.
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A daughter and her father sharing a coffee break.

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Two friends cruising the mall, who I asked to photograph them together.
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The only one that I kept in color instead of black and white was a young woman at a local taco joint, while I was waiting for my burrito, who asked about my camera and mentioned that she likes photography. I asked her if I could take her portrait with the light coming through the broad windows of the shop.
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These were all made with a 9-year-old camera body, (a senior citizen of the camera world!), that no one into camera models would take seriously. I took care of that with a small piece of black gaffer tape over the model number. Problem solved!

The people who I photographed loved their portraits. I asked them to please tag me in any social media posts. And of course I included my contact card at the bottom or each of my emails. And now, I have their contact information for my growing list of contacts. These are new contacts to people who have now seen my work, who like my work, who may need anything from family photographs to business images–someone might be the CEO of a company.

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Portraiture is all about the connection to the subject in the image that we create, the emotion we draw out–not just the technical quality of the camera. I wrote this story because I think sometimes we feel we need the latest and greatest, and we really don’t.

It’s really not about the camera. We need something proficient for what we want to create. The D90 is from 2008 and the 55mm f1.2 is from 1972. Good gear matters, but it doesn’t have to be the latest in all cases.

It’s about creating art out of beautiful, wonderful subjects.  And these people certainly are.

Kenneth Wajda is a freelance commercial photographer and film producer in Boulder, Colorado. You can see more of his work at KennethWajda.com.

[For the Millions of People who Lose Family Photographs Each Year]

It’s happened time and again in times of natural disasters, and every time, the answer is the same, when asked what do you take.  Photographs.

“I’m taking the photographs.  Everything else is replaceable.  Those are not.”

No one is running into the house for the hard drives.  They’re grabbing their parents and grandparents photos, and photo albums and getting them to safety.

I’m hearing more stories of people losing their photos on lost phones or dead hard drives–six people in the last few weeks–to the point that it makes me say come on, what’s it going to take to finally print our photos?

Millions of family photographs are lost each year.

Why are we refusing to spend a dime on prints, when services are readily available?  Too busy or too cheap–neither one gets our photographs printed!

You say you’re one of the ones who triple-backs up everything?  Great!  That’s not everyone.  In fact, it’s mostly no one.  Most people say they want to print their photos, but never do.

Good intentions don’t preserve family history.

What’s it going to take to make folks finally create some hard copies of their photographs?  Because online or a hard drive or a cloud, they really don’t exist.   And we can’t expect with technology changes they will exist in 50-100 years.

A print you can hold in your hand, and run out to the car.  Because it’s real.  It’s physical.

So, why aren’t we printing our photographs?

You can come to me at YourFamilyPhotoAlbums.com, and I’ll help you get them printed.  Or do it yourself through any number of online services.   But, do it!

Or there will be no photographs of this generation for your children or grandchildren’s generation to have of you.

Don’t wait for the fire or flood.

By then, it’ll be too late.

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Not everyone demands top quality from a photographer. But as a professional with 30-years of experience as an award-winning published photojournalist, that’s all I offer. It certainly costs more, but you get the best quality and service.

If you don’t want that, please don’t call me.

I don’t hand over image files because I care that they are finished professionally and look their absolute best–after all, it’s my work. Yet there are many people with cameras who will give you all the images after the shoot, saying, “Do what you want, print them at home, I don’t care. I just like to shoot and walk away.” If that’s what you want, I ain’t your guy.

If you would prefer cheap and quick over professional quality, please don’t contact me. If you don’t see the difference between professional photography and amateurs with a camera and some software presets, I can’t show you.

Just like if you can’t feel the difference between driving a Mercedes and a Kia, I can’t help you. And if you think Denny’s tastes as good as a chef-prepared meal, I’ve probably got nothing for you.

But if you can, expect to get something more delicious than you even imagined! Portfolio: KennethWajda.com – Studio phone: 720.982.9237

Leica M2, 50mm Summarit f1.5, Kodak Tri-X Film

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Zucchini Races

Posted: September 9, 2016 in Uncategorized

Fun little story from the Boulder Labor Day Fair, where they had Zucchini Races–you built your own car to race.  [Leica M2, 50mm Summicron, Ilford HP5 Film]

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PORTRAITS ON FILM – What’s the difference?

I am proud to be known as a Film Photographer. It’s my passion and what sets me apart from most photographers.

Why use film when digital is so much easier? Who said art has to be easy? And why is easy better?

IT’S ABOUT MAGIC

Kenneth Wajda's photo.I shoot film because it’s a little bit dreamy, a little bit romantic, a little bit grainy, a little bit soft, a little bit magical—like a memory. It really is. It’s not completely literal, like digital.

Digital is perfectly sharp and clear, but like a CD is to a real vinyl record, it doesn’t have the same soulfulness, the warmth.

It’s the difference between a home-cooked meal and a microwave dinner. One is simply more satisfying.

Film is something you feel. When you see a portrait made on film, you may not even know why you like it, but you feel it. It’s that’s powerful. It’s emotional. It’s truth.

It’s not Photoshop tricks or Instagram filters. It’s simply truthful.

Kenneth Wajda's photo.It’s the difference between portraits of movie stars in the 1960s and 1970s versus today. That difference is film!

When you want a little bit of that magic, and demand the very best for your family, schedule a genuine film portrait.

Seniors too, both the high school kind and your parents or grandparents!

As an award-winning staff photojournalist for 15 years with a major daily newspaper, I worked everyday to draw out personalities, to tell a story with a photograph. To capture emotion worthy of a feature page cover!

SPOILER AHEAD

Kenneth Wajda's photo.The best images are not made with the most expensive camera, bursting with a thousand shots “spraying and praying”. It’s not about the camera at all, but the result of a genuine connection between subject and photographer—an ease, a comfort which shows in the image. (The magic isn’t in the camera, it’s in you, captured on real film!)

I shoot in studio, or at your location. Whichever best serves you.

Kenneth Wajda's photo.Because, it’s all about you and your family. For a truly special photograph that will be shared and passed down for generations, choose film.

You’ll feel the difference when the photograph—a magical, artistic image of your family—is displayed in your home. Your guests will see the difference, as it won’t be like any others.

See my other film portraits at http://kennethwajda.com/kennethwajdafilmportraitist.htm

CALL TO SCHEDULE
Please call 720.982.9237 to schedule your film portrait session. Sessions start at $325 and include print packages. Traditional silver and canvas prints are available.

Kenneth Wajda's photo.
NOTE: I’m usually booked about three weeks out, but if you have a parent or child visiting and need to work on a specific timetable, I will work with you to make the photograph!

If you are outside of Colorado, still contact me as I travel across the U.S. for commercial clients and may be able to make some time work for you, too.