Posts Tagged ‘photographs’

True story happened yesterday.

I met a young couple, mid-20s, and we were talking about film photography. I told them how they could get one roll of black and white film from Mike’s Camera and shoot one photo a month in an old Minolta SLR they had, and after three years they’d have a wonderful surprise waiting for them–all the photographs they forgot but the moments they got to relive.

ml-mom-car1That’s the power of film and removing the immediacy of the results. You have a chance to step away and come back to the moment later, it’s not all complete right now.

(To me, that’s what makes photography special, and why I still shoot film for portraits of family and friends, and what’s missing in today’s phone-snappy world.)

So, they said they wanted to do that, shoot some black and whites and print the photographs.

The couple said they were recently married, and they have exactly three photographs from the wedding, and a hard drive of all the photos, which they said has several hundred pics–too many and that they never look at. They wish they just had a photo album like their parents do.

How many wedding couples want “all the photos”? Why? What are you ever going to do with them? Get some prints, put them in an album, lay it on your coffee table. Done!

More is not better. Printed photographs can be shared without screens, and are more fun as real photographs, just like holding a book still has appeal in the days of e-readers.

Print your memories. Share your stories.

If you need help, have a hard drive of useless images and want some prints, let me know: FamilyPhotoAlbums.net

Here’s what one North Carolina photojournalist created by going back to one roll of black and white film.

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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

 

 

The photographers of days gone past, they used view cameras, those lovely wood 4×5 and 8×10 cameras, which gave them the ability to keep their verticals straight.  Not tilted.  Not leaning.

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Basically, if the film plane is parallel to the building, the vertical will stand straight.  But if you tilt the film up, like when you tilt up a 35mm film camera, or a digital SLR or phone, the film plane/sensor isn’t parallel to the buildings, so the tops of the buildings will converge.

That’s why there is that angled brass piece on the back of the camera above–you can tilt the camera up, then reset the back to parallel.

Look at these photos.  See how all the verticals are, well, vertical?  These were made for the FSA–Farm Security Administration, and they often used large view cameras.

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Same with this one.  (This is from the wonderful Shorpy.com web site that I highly recommend.  Click the photos on the Shorpy site to make them load large so you can zoom in on details.)

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You don’t see straight verticals in photographs by cameras without perspective control.  But these were made with view cameras that you could control perspective.

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Those are a far cry from photos made today, with their tilted verticals.

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It’s a look we’re used to seeing, but it’s not accurate to the way they are really, and to me, it’s a sloppy representation of the town/building. It’s a record shot, but not much of a photograph.

There’s a time and place for quick and easy and convenient.  But speed and easy aren’t always the best way to document a location well.  And until you see the difference, you might not even know what you’re missing.

If you want to get straight verticals in your photographs, make sure you keep the back of the camera parallel to the subject, even if you have to lower it down or up to make that happen.

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.

How could that possibly be a good thing, having your work rejected, you ask.  Well, let me tell you about myself.  I’ve both won awards as a photojournalist and haven’t won awards as a photographer.

Why is that?  Timing.  Placement.  What the curators want.

I have my brand of photography–documentary photography, photojournalistic storytelling, street life photography.  I believe in myself and know I have my own view.  It’s not copying anyone.  It’s uniquely me.

Knowing that, I pursue it and keep working at it.

And I get rejected all the time in contests and competitions.

So.  [Shrugs]

It means that my work isn’t what they’re looking for.  What are they looking for?  Maybe what they envision the art to look like.  Like it’s always looked like.  The regular kind.

Not straight, perhaps.  Little weird, maybe.  “That’d be cool for the show,” they might think.  “Like a cow wearing roller skates.  That’s way rad!”  If that’s what they want, I have nothing to offer them.

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It doesn’t matter the reason.  Maybe they just didn’t like it.  What is their experience with photography, and what do they like?   Where is their history, what defines them?  What is their agenda for what they want their show to look like?

What is it about them liking it or not liking it that makes me okay with it?  To me, it’s not about the acceptance.  It’s about the placement.  I guess if my work isn’t accepted, it’s not right for them in this show.  My work wouldn’t have fit so it’s better to not be included.  And misfit.

They must have a different kind of work in mind.  Okay.  Do I stop doing what I do and change up to try and please them?  No, of course not.  That’s impossible.  We can only create our vision.  Our view.  And we must be true to it.   (Mine doesn’t include cows and roller skates!)

No one can create what we can the way we can.  That’s our vision, our brand.  We must work at building it.  And one day, when they are looking for something different, something unlike what they thought they wanted to find, but instead discovered something else, something you make, your work will be incredible to them.  And you’ll be included in their show.  And they’ll love it.

And they’ll wonder why you didn’t submit sooner.

But that’s not every show.  Every competition.  Every contest.

Every show isn’t ready for our vision.  But we don’t dare stray from our truth.  Our art.

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If you’re an actor and you go into a casting session for a role, and you’re 5’6″ tall and they want someone 5’9″, they have a preconceived notion of what they want and you will never get the part.  You can nail the audition, you can bring the casting director to tears, you still won’t get it, you never had a chance.  Because you don’t fit the size they want.

Same if you have red hair and they want a brunette.  You can’t play where you never had a chance to play.  But you can only be you, all 5’6″ and redheaded as you are.

What’s your work?  What do you believe in?  Make that.  Make only that.  Create your truth, your point of view.  You have something uniquely to say.

I see my work as a constant creation.  I add photo stories to the RoyStryker.com documentary photo project three times a week (sometimes with other photographers, and you can contribute, too.)  I create portraits on film.  I shoot street life photographs–these will be a huge hit in 30 years, because time makes them valuable!

Someday, my work will be featured.  My work will be chosen.  But not every time, not every contest.  Not today, as I just got a “We regret to inform you…” email.

Even when I won press awards back at the newspaper I worked at, I often said, “Change the judges and you get all different results.”  It’s true.  Plus, there were photographers who weren’t very good photojournalists who were often the award-winners.  It doesn’t always mean an award-winning photographer is necessarily a great photographer.  It even makes me question the value of my win–“Yeah, but you also like THAT?”

Competitions are about what fits what they want.  Where does your work fit?  Keep making it and they’ll find you.  Your work will get discovered, when they’re ready for it.

So, maybe we don’t fit today.  Maybe this show isn’t for us.  Ok, good to know.  Move on.  Keep working.

We’re making our vision.  They’ll come to see it one day.

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.

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.

720.982.9237 | KennethWajda.com