5Everywhere I go, no matter what the event, the scene, the purpose, as soon as anything happens, it can be a marching band or a person opening a gift, everyone pulls out a phone and starts recording.

Everyone.

Why the instant reflex, the need to capture everything?

Everything.

Is it a natural reflex to get it all? Take it all back with us?

8Who is ever going to watch those fireworks from last year’s Fourth of July on their phone again? Or that marching band? Or that person opening those socks?

It happens at weddings to the point where people don’t even experience the event without a device–camera or phone–in front of them. And then there’s the mad rush to post their blurry wedding photos before anyone else. Why?

There’s even a trend to post signs at weddings about it being an unplugged wedding ceremony, asking guests to put away their phones and camera and enjoy the event.

My niece was getting married–I would have welcomed the wait to see the hired photographer’s quality work rather than the multitude of bad photos everyone posted in real time. It’s not like there’s no one there hired to photograph it. Why do we do this?

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I think it’s a habit, now it’s a reflex. Something happening=Shoot photos, record!

But at what expense? Do we lose anything by not attending the moment in-person fully.

There’s a beautiful movie called Before Sunrise with Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, and after they meet and spend a night walking around Vienna together, they wake up the next morning, in love, and have to part.

Watch this scene. He wants to take her photo, but doesn’t take her picture – it happens at the 1:20 minute mark. “I’m going to take your picture, so I never forget you, or all this.”

There’s something to be said for letting the image sear in our mind and heart, the result of fully experiencing it.

Isn’t there?

Or should we schedule some time to get together to watch these videos and see these photos? Because it hasn’t happened once for me, so far.

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A short while ago, I published this post:

Publishing Four Very Important Photo Books in 2019

Since then, I’ve completed three of the books (one person couldn’t get it together) and they’re on their way. In the process, here’s what I learned.

1. People don’t know where their photos are.
2. They don’t know how to find them when they try searching.
3. They feel overwhelmed with too many to choose from to pick 50.
4. The photo quality is variable, from low-resolution to print-resolution.
5. They’re confused with how to save and export photos.
6. Everything about it is difficult.

 

 

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This all fascinates me. We live in a technologically-advanced age and we think more is more, and we have it better than anyone ever did with so many things, photography included, and yet people can’t find their photos when they need to print them.

We really are in an age where photography is enjoyed for a second on a phone–that’s where they’re made for and consumed–and then dismissed.

You would think things would be easier now, with all the photos we’re taking, that they would automatically be instantly available. But that’s the problem with too much of anything, it just accumulates and confuses–“Where do I find the one I want among this glut of images? Those old hard drives? Laptop computers I used to use?”

Does photography as a book or a print on a wall, is that an idea from a bygone era, like the tintype, cabinet cards and daguerreotypes?

I was looking at a young friend’s Facebook page trying to find a photo I had made at  their party, and while I was scrolling through, not finding it, I found dozens of photos like these.  Posed and selfie group shots.

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I looked further and found more posed and selfie group shots.  Decently composed, but all the same.

Is that all we are making these days? Has the phone become ubiquitous with selfies and nothing else? I see no photos of their cars, them doing anything, playing a game, talking at a coffee shop, working on a puzzle, nothing.

Just posed selfie group shots or single shots.

I was genuinely surprised, not that there’s anything wrong with selfies, but I was shocked not to find anything else, and wondered if people are shooting them and i just missed it, or is this all there is?

I used to joke with my oldest brother when he had kids, “Do they like to do anything besides standing and smiling in front of things?” Now, I’m thinking that that may be all people are shooting, and the candid photographs have gone by the wayside.

A friend of mine even said she misses all the closed eye photos and other “outs” that are deleted before they’re ever seen.

I sure hope that’s not the case, and there are some unposed photos still being made. To me, the candids are the true storytelling photographs. The ones I most enjoy looking through.

To me, all wedding photos look alike right now. It feels like advertising for the art director.

Whenever I see wedding photos in magazines or people’s posts, it seems like a lot of the same photographs of the decor and flowers and table settings like still life/product shots, like the bride and groom are more interested in the “look” of the wedding (especially with lotsa bokeh) than the emotional connections, the documenting of them and the people and the special moments shared.

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Yes, there’s the bride and groom kissing photo, but I mean the difficult photos, the other unplanned moments, the joy and expressions that aren’t scheduled, is anyone documenting them?

Unposed? A little messy? (‘Cause they’re real.)

Or is this the trend, pretty pictures of table settings and invitation cards and dresses on display?

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Does anyone care about, you know, real photos, the human stuff? Telling their unique family story?

Has digital photography made wedding photography homogenized? Does anyone else see this?

The greatest record album photo of all time is the Clash’s London Calling cover, and it’s a photo by British photographer Pennie Smith that she didn’t like because it’s a little out of focus, and there’s an overexposed man in the upper right corner of the frame, but it’s perfect because it captures a moment. It’s not technically great, it has a great subject.

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Any wedding photographers getting the bass-smashing photos?

Does it not matter if they’re not–it’s just the current culture?

I have a few different blogs that I post to, one regularly, RoyStryker.com, and one more occasionally, this one, 6x6portraits.com.

I also have a YouTube Channel, easy to remember its web address because I use HeresToGoodLight.com as an easy link to remember–I put out a video weekly.

Screen Shot 2019-12-09 at 9.09.56 PMAnd there’s a podcast I started up, daily. Yep, everyday, aptly named, Kenneth Wajda’s Daily Photography Blog.

And while I have over 4k subscribers to my YouTube channel, most of my other blogs only get 20-40 hits a day, That might seem insignificant to some, but I do it because I think of it as 20-40 people are coming to my theater and seeing my work, my writing or my photography each day.

And they come from around the world.  Literally, every corner of the world has viewers and readers. And while some people might think if you don’t have big numbers, it’s not a success, so why bother, I see it as quality delivery–if I make an impression on someone who takes the information to heart, who comes away empowered or inspired, that’s a superpower I have.

And not to tout my own horn, but that’s a gift, to be able to affect someone else around the globe, to make an impression that says, “Yep, you’ve got this,” or “Nope, that doesn’t work for me, and if it doesn’t work for you, it’s okay, maybe it’s not for everyone.”

My goal is to show everyone, photographer and non-photographer alike, that they can accomplish anything they set out to do. They just need to show up. We all need to show up, and make something. And show up again tomorrow. Despite the obstacles. There will always be things in the way. We have to keep at it.

A good book that inspired me, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.  We have to build, and build, and go forward.

Everyone quits. We don’t quit. It’s why I’m writing this at a pub right now instead of watching TV. Because TV doesn’t do anything for me, I’m just watching a screen and seeing fictional stories of other peoples’ lives or actual stories of sports figures. I can’t give them my time, to watch them live–I have my life to live.

Photographs to make.

Words to write. (I also write screenplays and novels and I am seeking representation if you know someone to contact.)

Because words matter. Pictures matter. Connections matter.

And I create to connect, to build up, to empower and inspire. I hope you know you can do anything you set out to do. You just can’t quit. (Virtually everyone quits–they don’t really want to do it.) Something you really want to do, nobody has to talk you into doing. Nobody is forcing me to create words and photos.

It’s who I am. It’s what I do. It’s not something I will someday retire from.

Because it’s me.

And as this Journey song is playing on the radio, Open Arms, as only Steve Perry could sing it, and my photographs documenting the street are ones only I could make, and portraits of family, and on and on, you have work that only you can make.

But we have to show up. Every day. And go to work.

It started with a social media post. And it was an idea that would change the world.

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See, these four books for four friends are the most significant photo books I’ll publish this year. And they’re not even my photos.

Because those folks weren’t going to make photo books. They weren’t going to print any photos. And it’s true, the world will be changed by my making these photo books, because their grandchildren and great grandchildren will know who their grandparents and great grandparents are as a result.  Because of me.

By saving these 200 photos, 50 pictures per family, I’m preserving their family history–photos that would probably not have been printed and would have been lost to the digital glut, a product of the Digital Dark Age with no photos (since no one is printing) and millions of photos lost every day with broken phones, dead hard drives and any number of lost files.

“Where is that photo of grandma from 2008? Hmm…”

But these four books are more than four books. They got people talking. The ones who aren’t getting free books are also talking about the idea of photo books. And asking about how to go about making up one.

These four books are the conduit to a conversation that wasn’t happening before I posted the free offer. Sure, it’ll cost me a few bucks to create and print, but the return is well worth it if we create legacy books of family history, snapshots that tell their family’s story.

While it may even lead to some other paid orders, the truth is I’d rather show people how they can do it themselves and empower them to make their own. It’s not difficult, it’s just not in their wheelhouse, yet, but can be with just a little know-how. Something I can teach them.

So, these four books will change the world. And more than any other books I put out this year–I do have one that’s a guide to street photography, a 20-page chapbook I am offering for the holidays–these are the ones I know will make a difference in keeping family memories in photos alive.

For that, I’m grateful! What a gift to give to future generations.

Do you know someone you can offer to print a photo book? This idea grows if more people create more work as a result. Which is why I am writing about it.  It’s starting conversation, and it can continue.

Happy Holidays!

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.