Posts Tagged ‘documentary photography’

I am both a Nikon and Leica shooter.  I shoot film and digital with both brands and the other day I sat down at my Olivetti Lettera 22 typewriter–that’s where I do my best thinking on paper–and I wrote out what each camera type is good for.

For shooting street photography, Leica may be classic, but my Nikon with a 20mm, auto-focus and aperture priority beats it every time.

Every. Single. Time.

Because there’s no fuss, I have the Nikons–F100 for film, D610 for digital–set for back-button focus and -0.7 dialed for exposure compensation on the digital, so I make sure I don’t blow any highlights, or +0.7 set for film, to make sure I get a dense negative, and I can shoot out my car window and guarantee a shot.

I can’t do that with my Leicas.  I’m using an M9 for digital, which does have aperture-priority, and an M2 for film. They need attention, finessing.  It’s great for contemplative work.  But not for lightning quick.  At least not for me.

Yes, I use hyperfocal/zone focusing with the Leicas.

These three photographs were all made out my car window with the Nikon as I was passing these scenes at some rate of speed.  I can’t get these with the Leica.

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Businessmen waiting on a corner in Rochester NY.

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A vintage car driving at dusk on I-70W.

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The real people of Las Vegas on a street corner just off the strip on a Sunday morning.

The first two were shot with a 20mm f2.8, the first AF 20mm Nikon made.   The last with a 50mm f1.2 AIS manual focus lens.  They show what I saw, real life, captured in split second.

Even this one, while I was attending an Italian festival in Denver, I stopped to talk to another photographer after I noticed his Sony camera and some behemoth of a lens.  But while I was talking to him, the sausage man appeared and with the Nikon and 20mm, I could turn, focus and shoot in one fluid motion, nail the shot, then it was back to my conversation.

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A man carries his sausage, his winnings, at an Italian festival in Denver.

At the end of the day, story comes first, and it’s all about the photo.  I do love the way the Leica looks and feels, and its small size, it’s just not a street shooter for me.  That’s the conclusion I came to when I was typing out my thoughts.

As a further test, I went out to downtown Denver this past weekend to shoot street photographs with another photographer.  The shoot went so well, I came back with several photos that I’ve included in my updated street photography gallery, ColoradoFaces.com.   Photos #4-13 all came from that Saturday afternoon, all shot with the Nikon and the 20mm.

So enthralled with the results, I went back down the next day with the Leica M9 and M2 and a 21mm Elmarit.  I thought, wow, if I could do that with a Leica and a 21mm, it’s so small and light, it would make a great kit for daily use.  Guess I hadn’t used the M9 recently enough, as I ended up putting battery after battery in it, four in total, and they all quit within a few shots.  I still had the film Leica, so I could keep shooting, but I certainly shoot more conservatively with film.

I wished I had brought the Nikon.

By the way, my Nikon has five bars on its battery readout, and it can be down to two bars, and I can still get a whole afternoon of shooting with it.  Nikon batteries rock for lasting and not petering out.

So, what’s my point.  For me, it’s Nikon film and digital for shooting documentary photographs, they’re quicker and I feel more confident I’ll get the shot with them.  And I do.

Leica is a great camera for portraits and documentary coverage where you’re going to be working the scene.  The build quality is incredible, as you know.  I love documenting my friends with it.  Posing them and creating photographs.  And it’s a treat to use.

But just like a Rolleiflex and a Hasselblad are both portrait cameras in my hands, a Leica is a special camera for portraits or a day of deliberate shooting.  Not grabbing life on the street.

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A portrait with the Leica, HP5, a beautiful negative and the magic of film.

When it’s speed I need, I go with the Nikon with the 20mm.  Or the 50mm.   The viewer feels like they’re in the shot.

And I get it every time.   That’s my story.   And story is king.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Kenneth Wajda
Time Traveler/Photographer
720.982.9237

Time Traveler/Photographer Documenting 20-Teens Life for People in 2080s

Kenneth Wajda, a time traveler and one of the most famous and influential American photographers of the 21st century, known for his American documentary photography, is now working to document life in 2017. His goal: To introduce America to Americans, to see things that in a short span of 60 years are missed—ordinary life, unseen, unnoticed, under-appreciated, taken for granted until they were gone and lost to technology’s failures.

“I work for people in the year 2087 who’ve tasked me with the assignment of a lifetime—to document life back 60 years to see how they got to where they are,” said Wajda. “And to see what life was like back then. I’m essentially photographing their history. They can’t believe cars used to have drivers. And wheels!”

The Americans of 2087 are well aware of the many stories about the digital crash that caused an extinction of personal photography and documentation during the first quarter of this century. All that they were left with was corporate news reports, government propaganda and boxes of digital storage devices they couldn’t access.timetraveler1

So, using their engineering advances to travel through time, they’ve commissioned Wajda to document with photographs life back then, exactly as it was. Simple home and work life. He’s working with other photographers of the time to capture slices of life from all U.S. 50 states.

They’ve all heard stories and some of the elderly vaguely remember the time when sexual harassment got outed in the late teens and gender equality became a reality, but that was so long ago. They find it hard to believe that that situation ever existed.

“They’ve long heard about living under a vindictive president and administration, gender bias and oppression, even racial tension, but to be able to see the images of life back then when they were still occurring, documented for them, that’s something that they long for,” Wajda said.

“Many people talk about having a few pictures of their grandparent’s and parent’s lunches, but no real documentation of who they really were, how they lived. Of the few surviving images, they found them to mostly be enamored by mugging for their self-portrait camera,” Wajda said.

The fact that so few people 60 years ago bothered to print anything, most of their images were lost to technology rot, as it‘s now known in the late 80’s.

To avoid obsolescence, Wajda is creating the collection on film and storing the photographic negatives, with the body of work available online at RoyStryker.com, named for the man who created the first documentary photography collection for the Library of Congress in the 1930’s, over 150 years ago.

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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.