Posts Tagged ‘photographs’

Being both a photographer (documentary/street) and a writer (stand-up comedy/screenplays), I came to the realization that there is a correlation between the two. Because both require something of me. See, I carry a Leica and notebook everywhere I go.

When my parents took photographs when I was growing up, they took them out at Christmas, at the Jersey Shore, at backyard birthday parties. Maybe they pulled out a Kodak Hawkeye or Retina IIIc, then they put the camera away until the next big occasion.

The photofinishers famously said, “Many rolls were snow, sand, snow!”

That’s one way to use a camera–bring it out when you expect to see something “photo-worthy”, though in this phone-crazed world, that’s everything and all the time. I don’t mean shooting your lunch. So, disregarding how most people use phone cameras–more as diaries like where they parked their car, or a pic of a receipt–typically folks use cameras for special occasions.

But I have one in my pocket (IIIf fits nicely with its collapsible lens in my front jeans pocket), or over my shoulder (typically an M2, M6 or M9) all the time. Friends and family wouldn’t recognize me without one.

The difference is I’m not looking for a special occasion. I’m not taking it out to photograph.

My friends might bring a DSLR to a backyard party, but would not usually bother to take photos at Tuesday night dinner. I have my camera at Tuesday’s dinner and every dinner every evening.

Same with my notebook. For when an idea strikes, I can write it down before I forget it. That’s so important. But I think something else is happening when I carry these items. kennethwajda2-1-44Almost like luring the muse, asking for inspiration to find me.

The Leica and the notebook are attractors. Like magnets to metal. They bring the photographs and writing ideas to me.

If I were to leave without a notebook, my subconscious doesn’t have to be on the lookout for ideas. It knows I have no way to record them. But if the notebook is in my pocket, the ideas come. I don’t know how they do, but they do.

If I were to go out without a camera, I don’t have to look for possible photographs. Even peripherally. At the most, all I’ll see are the ones I would have missed, so better to discount everything before really taking a good look, not to get disappointed in not being ready to take the shot.

So, for me, the object, the camera and the notebook are much more than devices for photography and writing. They’re an agreement for my creative, my subconscious, to be watching and listening, because I’m ready and open to their input, their awareness.

I don’t go out to take photographs. Or to write.

But I do. Both.

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A zucchini race at the Boulder Creek Fest, Leica M3, Ilford HP5.

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The obvious winners of the zucchini race at the Boulder Creek Fest, Leica M3, Ilford HP5.

Some things you do for money
To make a living, to eat, to keep the lights on.
Some things you do for the art of it.
Not everything has to be monetized.
That’s why I make portraits of folks 70+ on Mondays
In my Longmont photo studio at no cost.
Because I can.
Because it’s important.
Because I believe if I share what I’m doing
And why I’m doing it,
Perhaps you also will see the importance.
Maybe you’ll hit the like button.
Even better, maybe you’ll actually contact me.
You might even get some other photographer
To make the portrait.
That’s fine.
Just so long as it gets made.
Either way, wonderful faces live on,
In beautiful portraits.
Printed photos that matter.
Because they matter.
And great-grandchildren will be glad I made them.
The Wise Photo Project is what I call it.
Because preserving family history,
That is the wise thing to do.
 
The photographs that we look back at from the 1960s, 1970s and other past decades, most people didn’t think much of those photos when they were being made. When present day is right in front of us, it’s difficult to see the reason to document it. It’s almost like we’re BLIND to it. “Nothing to see here,” because we see it all day long. But then it’s gone, and we can’t go back and photograph it or the people that matter, because that time and those people are gone, too.
 
So, what are we doing? Photography used to be a way to preserve family history in photographs and albums. It served a long-term purpose.
 
Now it’s a way to share a glimpse for a split-second. It’s up to us to make those split-seconds last longer than that if we expect to be able to go back to the early 2000s, the 2010s and 2020s and relive our history. To travel back to those memories.
 
Print a photo or two. Because no one is going to fire up the hard drive in fifty years to see our work.
 
Make a photograph for your great-great-granddaughter or great grandson.
 
I repeat this often because people tell me that they’re printing after being reminded. So, this is another reminder.
 
Photograph the people and things that you love and print those photographs. Cost is low, value is tremendous.

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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