Posts Tagged ‘photographs’

Photography used to be time travel. We took photographs, and then forgot them. That magic roll of film held the memory safe, tucked away in the dark to be revealed and relived at another time.

A trip to the Fotomat was highly anticipated–the roll finished and developed, it offered wonderful surprises, time travel, remembering and reliving moments, the essence of photography.

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In this instant digital world, that magic is missing, the distance between creating the photograph and reliving it is non-existent, perhaps why photography feels less fulfilling than it once did. I make a photo, I show it to you, you’ve seen it, I’ve seen it, it’s all done. Nothing left to do but the chore to get it to you, which I may never do, because who cares, you already saw it.

I made a portrait of a woman yesterday for The Wise Photo Project and I made it on a Hasselblad film camera on black and white film. Someone asked me why shoot film, and I said, “If I don’t shoot film, I have nothing to print in my darkroom. I need a negative to create a print by hand, a one-of-a-kind hand-printed silver portrait.”

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If her family wants to share it, they’ll have to visit her to see the print–that’s the product of these portrait shoots, a photograph. Framed. For real. Not a swipe left or right. Not an email or a scan. A real photograph to place in her house and have for future generations to keep and always know her face.

She’s looking forward to her portrait. She’ll be very happy when she sees the wonderful image of herself. I’m proud of it and that I had the opportunity to make it.

But she’ll have to wait for it.

Therein lies the magic.

And if you want to see it, well, you won’t find it here. You’ll have to stop over and visit her to see her portrait.

Maybe have a coffee and some conversation, too. Another bonus to creating an actual photograph–time spent together.

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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?

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?

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!

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.