Posts Tagged ‘family’

Photography is at a low point in its history. And it makes me sad. But first a little photography history lesson to see how we got here. (And hope for how we change it for the better.)

We’ve been at this photography thing for just about 193 years–the first photograph was made in 1826.  And while it had a slow start, it grew rapidly when Kodak introduced the pocket camera and the Brownie 75 years in around 1900.

And then it had tremendous growth in the first part of the 20th century.  Films got more sensitive to light, cameras got more portable and we were happily shooting holidays and vacations, often on the same roll of film.

You can see some of these photographs gathered.  They get published regularly on Old School Cool and The Way We Were.  Photos like this.

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Time marched on.  We got through the 1950s with the great rangefinder cameras like the Leicas and Yashicas. The 60s with the 126 Instamatics and 110 pocket cameras.

Then came the SLR, with the big Nikons and Canons among other interchangeable film cameras taking the family photos.  The amazing Canon AE-1 in the 1970s, advertised as the simplest camera you can own.  You or your parents may have had one.  They sold in the millions.

All along photographs were printed, dropped into photo albums or left in the envelope they came to us from the processor.  Stored in shoe boxes,  some hung on the walls of our homes along the staircase, each of our siblings taking a place in frames in a diagonal orientation.

Then the 80s and the point and shoots, the disc camera, the APS cameras and finally around 2000 the advent of digital cameras.

And then digital was in full swing, with the small point and shoots, 1.3 megapixel to start.  Gradually, they’ve grown to 50mp as DSLRS and APS-C bodies, then mirrorless and there’s nothing we can’t shoot with them. Some of the latest bodies even shoot over 60 photo frames per second.

And that’s precisely the problem.  We can do too much.  We can shoot too much.  And we do.  Then there’s the phone where we snap away at everything in front of us all day long because we can.

The quantity is the problem.  The quantity of photographs is the problem.  We’ve never been inundated with so many pictures like we are today.  It’s constant, it’s everywhere we go, at all times–concerts, theater shows, parties, dinners.  We can’t put the phone down.  The pictures just keep coming.

And then what?  Nothing.  No one goes back to them to look at them.  Sure, maybe we show one photo to someone, but what about the 60 per second, the dozens we shot today on the phone?  No one sees them

No one will ever see them.  Because no one cares.  Even we don’t care.  We shoot them because we can.  Because we think that’s what we do now.  We’ve been told that’s the way it is.

And that photo of our family like the one above from 70 years ago?  Never gets made, because who goes to a photographer anymore for a family photograph?  No one.  We have our phones.  We can shoot selfies.

That photo above doesn’t get made, period.  We will have made millions and billions of pictures, and none of that quality will last.  Because no one cares.

The young generation, they don’t care.  They don’t have photo albums.  They don’t care about photos for the future.

They have their phone now.  That’s it.

When it gets replaced, the photos are gone.  So what.

When it gets lost, the photos are gone.  So what.

When we take them, we don’t even care about them.  Nowhere is there a family sitting around their phones or computers looking at photos of Grandma.  There’s no one doing that.

Photographs don’t exist in present day.  Pictures depicting people and things exist temporarily until we forget and can’t be bothered to offload them and edit them down.  “What?  10,000 photos–I’ll just save them all.  Who has time to look through them all?”

We are in a dark time photographically.  We don’t value photography.  We don’t hire portrait photographers to document our families.  We don’t have photographs of our families and friends in our home.  We don’t live with photographs.

We live with our phone. The phone with thousands of photos we have no interest in sorting through, or looking at.

Ev-er.

How did we get here?  We were doing so well.

We got here because quantity is a good thing and a curse.  The fact that you can make thousands of photos a week doesn’t mean it’s best to make them.

We are in a photographic dark age.  The photos we are making now mean less than ever.  We will never see them, our children and grandchildren will never see them.

We may as well stop making them–it’s all pointless.  Unless we print a book of photos or make up an album of snaps at the end of the year, the photos are like vapor–here now and good for nothing tomorrow.  Because they’re gone.

No one cares. Too busy snapping.

Wouldn’t that time be better spent experiencing the thing we act like we’re photographing, since really we are doing nothing? While we are always on the phone and making the constant snaps, how much do we miss out on?

Technology has advanced so quickly, that we are at a low point in history photographically. And we need to change our culture and get to a place where we value photography again. And document who we are. And photograph our families and have professional photographs made. Value what we once had and now is lost.

We do it by printing one photo. Or having one professional family portrait made and putting it in a frame in our house.

We do it by putting a picture of grandma in a frame on our dresser. Portraits of the kids back in frames on the wall.

Print anything you want to last. It’s the only reason we can see those marvelous faces in the old photos–because they exist as photographs.

Not as digital files. Not buried in heaps of data and information, but a real photograph that we see as we cross the room–they’re here with us.

It’s what a photograph is. A printed picture.

If I get just one person to print a photograph by discussing this, that’s one great-grandchild that will get to see a photo from today that wouldn’t otherwise exist for them.

That’s why I press this issue. That’s who I’m writing this for, on their behalf.

I want us to change the culture to value photographs again. To preserve our family history in pictures. Real pictures. Real photographs.

As Seth Godin says, “People like us do things like this.” We value photography and family portraits as an important part of our history.

If you’re a person like me who values family history, join me and print a photograph. Print ten this year. Print a photo book of favorite snapshots. Just make something that will last for generations.

The great-grandchildren will be glad we did.

[As always, if you need help printing photographs, I am a professional who can help with prints and books. And I make family portraits–it’s the most important work I do. ~Kenneth]

You can share this post with this link: FamilyPhotoAlbums.net

 

 

We have plenty of photographs.  What we really need is a curator!

I was talking to my oldest brother, who is in these four pictures below with my Grandpop and Grandmom.  He was visiting my Dad’s house and going through some boxes and came upon these photographs that were in an album, and he texted them to me.

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They were fun to see.  I told him.  Then I asked if he had printed any of his kids’ photos, who are all grown and out of college now.  He said he had an iPhoto account with everything in there, plus three backup computer hard drives that he updates every five years, plus maintains the cloud, and he told me how they are making bigger and bigger hard drives all the time.

I said it sounds like a lot of work.  And I asked him in 50 years, who will be opening the box in your closet and finding that iPhoto account and those hard drives and have the ability to access your photos.  He assured me the photos aren’t going anywhere, and his hard drives can hold hundreds of thousands photos.

I asked who’s going to go through hundreds of thousands of photos.  And wouldn’t it be simpler to curate the photos for them?  You can do that by printing your photographs, the ones that are the best that show the family at various ages and places.  And the ones where you look your best.  This is how you will be remembered.

He said there’s no worry, he will always triple backup the photos so there’s no way they can get lost.  And he said film is ridiculous, it’s so expensive.

I asked why he thought digital was cheaper than film, considering the output of time to catalog the “hundreds of thousands” photos, and the cost of hard drives, computer upgrades, even new digital cameras.

He said film is a niche market at best, and that when the automobile came out, there was concern that the makers of horse whips in the horse and buggy days would go out of business.  I have no idea what that means.

Smart people print their photos, so that they can be found in a box on a shelf in 50 years.

Or under a desk at the New York Parks Department, as seen in their Scenes Unseen: The Summer of ’78.”

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Smart people spend less money on digital cameras (including phones) and cards, software, cloud accounts, hard drives and computers, and more time making photographs.  Less time in front of a computer, and more time with photographs in your home, living with you.

My partner, I gave her a film camera a few years ago for her birthday.  She took some beautiful black and white photos with it, and then, after a few monochrome rolls, I gave her a roll of color to shoot.  She went to an outdoor party, photographed friends and new people she met.  When she was done the roll I said, since I don’t process color film at home only black and white, that I could drop it off for her at the camera store in Boulder.

She said she was going that way, so she’d drop it off.  I said to her to write on the envelope DEVELOP ONLY and that I would scan the negatives for her when she got back.

She came back smiling with an envelope of negatives and prints.  I asked her why she paid for prints.  She said, “I have a bunch of small frames I picked up at yard sales and thrift stores, and now I can put these into them and give them to the people whose photos I took, and I’m done.  No scanning, no computer work needed.”

I told friends what she did and what she said.  I posted this story on Facebook.  People said, “Wow, what a great idea.”  This isn’t a new idea.  This is the history of photography up until digital came along, made it so that everyone was shooting hundreds of photos a day, and getting instant gratification on social media, and printing none.

If you have a like on Facebook, why do you need to print?

Time marches on.  Prints last.  Print the photos you care about having last for future generations.

If you’re smart, you shoot film, print your photos and give them to friends, and take the money and computer time saved to go out and get lunch with them.

And photograph them some more, too.

Here’s my Father with his photo when he was 60 years younger.  And also on his wedding day.


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Those photos don’t exist unless they are on paper.

Print the photos that you want your great grandchildren to see.  The problem with hundreds of thousands of photos is the hundreds of thousands of photos.  Digital hasn’t been a boom for family history, but a bust.

Print the ones of how you would like to be remembered.  Leave your great grandchildren 50 good ones, printed and left in a box to see you as you are–those are the only ones they’ll ever see!

Be the curator.

I went to my photo lab this week to pick up some black and white and color prints of my Dad and me sitting at a pub and restaurant on my last trip to Philly.  I always pick up small black and brown wood frames at yard sales and thrift stores whenever I find them to keep on hand, and these photos I framed and hung in my house to keep him close since we live 2000 miles apart.

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Then I did a Costco run for some groceries and there were all these people buying 5TB and 8TB hard drives, and signs for ‘backing up your photos’, which got me thinking, “What if the backup fails?”  Say you have everything saved in duplicate, but then tragedy strikes–twice!  Ok, triplicate–doesn’t that sort of guarantee you won’t lose the photos?  Well, perhaps.  But…

Do you actually have anything?  What is with all these hard drives?  Where are the photos?

The other hot items at Costco were a three-camera home security system, and a doorbell-cam, and I watched people spend hundreds of dollars to create surveillance for their homes and shook my head.

What are we doing?  Are we obsessed with all this surveillance?  Digital images that go nowhere.

New tech is enticing, but I don’t need technology to have a photo of my Dad and me in the house.  I don’t need terabytes of storage to make sure I don’t lose it.  It’s right there, on the wall.

It’s technology right out of the 19th century, and it still works to this day!

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As you may know, I’m a professional photographer and I photograph families and individuals and consider portraits the most important work I do.

But to get people to order a family portrait, or a portrait of their parents or grandparents, frankly, it’s difficult.  Only some of the more affluent folks choose to spend for the quality that I can create.  The rest, they figure they can shoot some with their phone, save the cash, then never bother to print anything.   Why spend on photography?  Why print?

So it’s a phone snap.  I guess after a while it’s ‘fire up the next hard drive, time for another backup’.

What are all these backups good for?

When is anyone ever going to use these backed-up files and print a photo?

Do families really gather around the computer to look at photos of Grandpa and Grandma?

I don’t think so.

Those phone snapshots are like film negatives that were made and never processed or if they were developed, never printed.  They’re a step toward a photo, but not a photo.

They’re essentially nothing.

Maybe just quit taking the snaps and backing them up–they’re useless.

I think about how many Americans there are, and how many households are full of these high-tech gadgets.

Hard drives–backups and backups of backups full of images never seen.

Surveillance systems tracking our homes like a police state.

Alexa and Google listening to our every move.

But people refusing to spend on an artist who can create a lasting portrait of a family member who may not be with them much longer.  Dismissing the importance of quality family portraits that are printed and displayed.

“I’ve got my phone.  Which reminds me, I need a new phone–I heard they have a new camera…”  What good is it?  You never make a photograph?

Family photographs are historical documents.  Printing your photographs is the one way to keep family members alive after they pass, and keep them in our homes, living with us, with printing that is done with a very old technology that is guaranteed to last.

Without the need for electricity or Siri to access.

It’s a real photograph.  It’s so simple, somehow people miss it.

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 was working last week on a photo shoot for a client in Philadelphia, and I traveled across the country so I could bring a full portrait studio, and also so I could stop in towns across the U.S. and make photographs for my Roy Stryker photo project.

In my travels, I met a couple in a town where I was staying and we were talking about photography and how people don’t make photographs now, just visual notes for likes and swipes.  I gave them my thoughts that it’s important to make family photos and print those photos.

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My brother, Anthony, on Polaroid 600 B&W Film

On this trip, besides my film Leica and my digital cameras–I was working after all–I carried a Polaroid 660 Autofocus camera and some black and white instant 600 film. That way I could make prints right away–immediately–and they’d be ready to display when I returned home. I photographed several members of my family and the couple were interested in seeing them, so I showed them to them.

The woman had a story for me–she told of her family growing up, and how the boys, her two brothers, got all the attention and accolades, and that the photos of herself that were up on the walls and in picture frames in the house, how they made her feel like she belonged, too, while in so many other ways she felt left out.

Photographs matter. Phone snaps aren’t photographs. They’re not really anything other than notes on a life. Glimpses that will never be seen for more than a few seconds, if that long.

So, you can put off making family photographs, but we all get older and we aren’t here forever.

And, like many people, you’ll end up having no artful family photographs.

Or, you could schedule a photo with a photographer.

But really, it can’t be with just anyone.  It has to be with me. Because it’s not the camera. It’s not the software.

There’s no magical camera that takes good photographs.

It’s the photographer.

And if it’s a photo made by anyone else, well, it’s not a Kenneth Wajda photograph.  Simple as that.

See, I’m not easily interchangeable with just any photographer. And, yes, you’ll pay a little more. But you’ll get way more than you paid for!  That’s my promise.  I’m a pro and I guarantee it.

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I have a dilemma. I love to create photographs, lasting memories, beautiful portraits of people of all ages.

But people don’t commission portraits anymore. 

An occasional high school senior portrait, because those are due.  But the rest of the time, the rest of the family, nah!

We’re living in a time when our phone camera seems to be able to do everything. But as good as it is, it’s not a portrait camera.  A quality portrait can’t be made with its wide angle lens–it’s not flattering for faces.

So, I want to photograph your family.  I do. There’s something so special about documenting the people in your family, and making beautiful portraits of them.

Problem is, I’m an artist, not a salesman.  I don’t know how to persuade people to commission photographs of their family.  Their children at play.  Their teens leaving for college.  Their family over for Sunday dinner.  Portraits of their grandparents or their visits together with them.

I don’t.

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I know how to make photographs. But we live in a time when there are so many photos that we all see everyday, that it seems impossible to get people to even think about bringing me over, camera in hand, to document their family.

They don’t even consider it.  (When was the last time YOU thought of it?)

It’s certainly not like people used to think, to go to photographers for family photographs.  Our families grow up so fast, we blink and we’ve missed it, but we still don’t think to bother getting “real photographs”.  

But it’s so important. I, along with many futurists, believe that many of the digital snaps we’re making today won’t last 20 years, due to failed computers, phones and hard drives.  (Can you even find a photo of your grandma from five years ago that you took on that old phone that’s long been replaced?)

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But the images I shoot will.  (Your great grandchildren would say, “Yes, please get some photos, we want to see you.”)

But I still don’t get those calls. And the kids grow up. The college kids move out.  Family moves too far away for Sunday dinners.  Grandparents pass away. And then it’s too late—the moments have passed. There’s no going back.

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I am not an inexpensive photographer. In fact, I may be the most expensive photographer working locally–my base rate for a portrait session is several hundred dollars. That’s what 30+ years of experience gets you, but really only my commercial clients are paying my rate.

Truth be told, regular people aren’t even calling.  As I said, I don’t think they even think about it like families used to.

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So, I was thinking about how making portraits are so important to me.  If there were a way I could work to make some every day, even if I’m not getting my rate, how fulfilling that would be.

I saw a poet working on the street with a typewriter with a sign that read, “Name a subject, name a price, get a poem.”

So, I got to thinking, maybe it would take working like this for people to bring me in to take some photos.  Maybe the price is prohibitive.  Or at least easily dismissed, considering we all have a camera in our pocket.

“Name a time, name a price, get a photograph.” 

I’ll bring a camera.  You pay what you can.  I get to create.

I get to make that portrait of your grandpa that would not otherwise be made.  It can even be at his senior home–I’ll go to him.

And it can be anywhere in the Front Range of Colorado, Los Angeles or Philadelphia, because I frequently work in all three areas.

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That photograph of your kid and his friends running around the backyard playing ball,  you’ll cherish it because they grow up so fast.

Your family on a local fishing trip.

Your teen with their first car.

You get photographs–both digital images you can share online and real prints that you can frame and live with in your home, because prints matter.  Those are actual photographs.  They are the ones that will last generations, the printed ones.

Then I wondered, would anyone call me?  I have a commercial shoot tomorrow.  But not the next day.  What a great day that would be to shoot some amazing photographs of a family or loved ones.  On an ordinary day, that isn’t really ordinary because everyday is an extraordinary one, to be together, to be alive.

So, I put this to you.  Name a time.  Name a price.  Get a photograph. 

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I’ll bring a camera and shoot a roll of film.  Or maybe 12 frames.  Whatever I decide. (Yes, I’ll shoot film, because that’s what will last, and its look is magical, the images have soul–all the photos on this page were made on film.)

I’ll shoot with my own creativity.  My own ideas, since I’m the artist and you’re not exactly hiring me.

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You can even pay nothing after all is done.  You only pay what you think it’s worth to you.

I will still have gotten to make the photographs, and document the most important people in your life.  And that matters.  (If you don’t want them, I can sell them to your great grandchildren!)

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And it’s not happening now, so why not?  If I make this available, let’s see what happens.  The only thing that can–beautiful family portraits made that will be cherished for generations to come.

Will anyone call?  We’ll find out.

720.982.9237 is my number.   Now it’s up to you to make the call.

I look forward to capturing the light of your family!

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