Posts Tagged ‘documentary’

We don’t shoot photographs.  We preserve history.

I am keenly aware of this as I visit my family and photograph brothers and sisters, parents and children over the holidays.  We really are the family documentary photographers.

georgeAs a photojournalist, capturing the story of a family in the everyday moments, whether shooting a formal dinner, playing in the yard or just watching football on TV, it’s all part of the story of who we are as a family right now.
In 2015.  And as it was in 1999.  And how it will be in 2027.

We are documenting much more than family snapshots, which is why I like to shoot more than just posed photos of people looking at the camera.  I like to capture each of my family members engaged in something they like to do.

kw5-8As important as it is to shoot photographs for publications, there really is no more important work than when we are capturing our family.

We are historians with cameras.  Our work will live on for generations to come.

In fact, some of the viewers of our work haven’t even been born yet.  We are creating future galleries.  And the people we are photographing, that holiday photo we’re taking this year, will be the only way they know their ancestor.   They’re grandpa or uncle.

We are doing amazing work.  Let’s make sure we print our photos, too, so that they will last 100+ years despite technology’s evolution

It is seriously important work!

Sunset on the last day of the annual film festival in Boulder.

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How about giving someone a bit of love today?

Somehow, whenever I see a Canon QL17 for $10 or a Minolta A-5 for $20 or a Minox 35SE for $25, even a Leica IIIf for $100, I have to pick them up. (Those are real prices I’ve paid.)   I have Leica M bodies, and great lenses–I don’t need these.  But I feel like I’m rescuing some old friends when I do.  They are so well made and have lasted this long, I want them to have a future.  A reason to be.  I only buy them if their speeds all sound close to accurate and their glass and viewfinder are clean, and the rangefinder working.  These are beautiful works of art, even their leather cases are nicer than what’s being made today.

Leica IIIfSo, I have a little collection and I try to take them out at times and run a roll of Tri-x or HP5 through them.  I imagine how excited they are to be back in someone’s hands, documenting someone’s life.  Again.  There was a time when they were used constantly, probably.  But now shooting film is less than fashionable.   Folks think these gems are too expensive to shoot.

I think it’s rather inexpensive compared to shooting digital and buying new cameras every two years, computers, software and hard drives, but don’t get me started.   Film is my love and I am glad to be one of the photographers specializing in it, even if we are a minority.

Because when that image appears after developing the film, there’s nothing like that memory captured there forever.  That piece of film was present at our Grandpa’s last birthday or our son’s first steps.  That piece of film is a time capsule that will last generations if carefully treated.   When the hard drives are either corrupted or long misplaced and forgotten, this piece of film will hold the image of that day, that moment.

And that’s a bit of magic.  In a $10-$100 film camera with $5 film, hand-developed.

Do you rescue old beauties?

I went to an auction last night and I thought about how I always carry a camera with me everywhere I go.  Actually at least one film camera (Leica M3 and/or Rolleiflex 3.5F) and a Fuji X100.  Tucked neatly in a Domke F-804 Reporter bag or Billingham Hadley Small bag.  And I go lots of places but I find I rarely open up the bag and shoot.  Because it takes an effort to pull the camera out and that draws a lot of attention to it.

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So, last night, I just put the Fuji X100 (yes, I went digital) around my neck.  I always have it on silent mode and from my street shooting experience, I know how to shoot with it at mid-chest level, instead of needing to lift it to my eye.  It made all the difference in the world having it there, not in my bag.  Because I can’t shoot with it in the bag.  And I don’t.

wp3I am going to make a point of wearing it around my neck–not even my shoulder is good enough, because it’s still not in a place I can shoot.  And I’m going to see how much more I photograph as a result of its immediate accessibility.

These photos came from that experience last night, shot from the chest.

The one of the two girls playing a clapping game I even asked if I could photograph them, which didn’t seem like a big deal since my camera was already out.

Camera around your neck.  Not your shoulder.  Not your bag.  Not your car.  Notes to self!

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She was sitting alone on the park bench.  I saw her immediately, sitting alone, looking very content.  Two people came up to me to ask me about the Hasselblad 500c/m I was carrying.  I enjoyed talking to them, but was keeping an eye out on her.  When they finally said goodbye, I turned to see her still sitting there, in a column of shade on an otherwise unseasonably warm, sunny autumn afternoon.

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I sat down and asked her if I could take her photo.  She said yes, or course.  I love that answer.

A few years ago, I was visiting a good friend and his Father was over visiting.  I asked him if I could take his photo.  He said, “Yes, I think it’s an honor to have someone want to take my picture.”

It was the same for her.  She asked me where I would put the photo, and I told her about this new photo project I was working on, called TheWisePhotoProject.com.  I told her I’d put her on there.  She seemed flattered.  I set up the shot and took two frames with the old Hassy.

Her daughter came over and saw me.  I offered to take a photo of them together.  And I did.  Here it is.

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I came home that day and thought that was about as good a day as I can think of, one where I got to document this sweet older face, and then get her connecting to her daughter.  This is about the most important work I do.  Documenting real people in real places.  Capturing them without knowing how I would be touching their lives.  The spontaneity of it all.

It was truly a good day.  When I see these photos, they make me smile.

She asked me a few times where I would put the photo, and each time I answered that I’d put it on my site for The Wise Photo Project.  I don’t know if she had a bit of dementia, but in any case, I got the opportunity to make her smile, make her connect with her daughter and create photographs that will last for generations.

I want to print them large, like 20×20 and frame and mat them for them.  The magic is in the print.  That is where the photograph lives, and lasts, forever.