Here's a little "Urban Still Life" photography from our trip to Oregon:
I made this image around 9:30 AM on a Sunday as I walked along the sidewalk near the Portland Convention Center. There is a large transit center in the area, with light rail and bus routes intersecting so there is a lot of activity with people coming and going. As I walked by this bench I immediately was drawn to the bright blue color of the bench against the mostly gray concrete wall. The empty can of Stokely's Pork and Beans was also intriguing because it got me wondering what the situation was and who left the empty can. Hell, I didn't even know that Stokely's was still in business, I haven't seen a can like this in forever.
My guess is that someone stopped by the bench at some point in the overnight hours to eat this can, probably cold. Given the large number of butts on the ground they probably enjoyed their pork and beans with a cigarette.
It's little scenes like this that I find interesting because all you are seeing is the "after" so you are left to wonder what the "before" and "during" consisted of. I'm getting better at catching things like this but I'm sure I miss a lot of these shots as I go about my day. Hopefully, I catch more of these in the future.
We just got back from a trip out to Oregon, which included some time in Portland and along the Northern coast. While the trip wasn't 100% photography related I did manage to get some images, both digital and film, that I am starting to go through. I will be posting several of them as I get time to.
A new photo project arises from the streets of portland
To start things off I thought I'd post an image I made while in Portland that is the 1st official image in a new project I'm starting called "Pictures That Make You Think". That's a pretty broad area to cover but I think (pun intended) that it will help me become better at spotting opportunities to make images of things that prompt some form of thought. What kind of thought? Well, I think the images will be ones that prompt some kind of additional thought/consideration beyond the image itself. It could be words or phrases, like in the image below, or situations/interactions as well as the context of the image itself. I don't intend for the project to be anything specific to one particular political/religious/cultural, etc. point of view so I imagine there will be images covering the whole spectrum. Part of the project will be for me to come up with creative or descriptive titles that hopefully prompt the viewer to put some extra time pondering the image.
So, with all those formalities out of the way, I proudly present the first image in what I hope will be an ever-growing catalog of images that make you think:
One thing I noticed about Portland is that it is full of food carts. The downtown area has multiple places (usually on the periphery of parking lots) where groups of food carts are setup. There's all kinds of food in these carts and the few that I sampled during our stay were pretty good. The cart pictured above was located near Pioneer Square and it immediately caught my eye. Do you know why?
Well, take a look at the sign. What do you notice? The word "served" instead of what I would think would be the correct word of "serve". That caused me a bit of a pause to wonder what they serve now?
Stay tuned for more images from Oregon as well as additional images in my new project "Pictures That Make You Think"
Back in 2o12 I completed my first photography project, a project 365. To complete the project I spent the entire year making sure that I took at least one unique image each and every day. Completing that photography project had a huge impact on my photography, teaching me a number of key skills including composition, vision and determination. I've benefited greatly from that project 365 and now I am ready to do another photography project. The question is "Which Photography Project?"
What Do I Want To Improve
The general idea behind doing a photography project is almost always to focus your photography on something you want to photograph/document in a unique way OR to improve some aspect of your photography. Many photo projects accomplish both goals at the same time. In my case I am looking to primarily improve an aspect of my skillset as a photographer. I started thinking about different areas of photography I wanted to improve a couple of months ago and quickly identified a major theme.......and that is while I really enjoy pointing my camera at landscapes, old cars and buildings I'm not really comfortable in photographing people. As I thought more about that I came to the conclusion that while I want to get better at photographing people I have almost no interest in portrait or studio people photography. So, what kind of people do I want to get better at photographing? Well, over the last year I have met up a few times with a group of photographers here in Atlanta that are dedicated to Street Photography. It is a fun group and I have enjoyed the meetups. I like the concept of photographing people in their natural environment, going about their business. But my natural tendency is not to "intrude" on people by photographing them and that presents a problem if I want to do street photography. After that analysis and thought process it became fairly obvious what I should base my next photography project on: Street Photography!
My Project Plan
Once I decided to do a photography project based on street photography I had to give some thought to how I wanted to construct the project. If you do any research on street photography you will see a million different ways from Sunday as far as variations/interpretations of the street photography genre. Everyone seems to have their own take on it. Some street photographers do what are called "street portraits" while others create exclusively candid images. Some shoot only in black & white and with rangefinder cameras. Others are color image loyalists. The differences go on and on but one thing is constant and that's the idea of photographing people out in the "wild". As for me I eventually settled on a project that will involve me visiting the same general area of town on at least a monthly basis over the course of 2015 I'm calling it "12 Months of Street". My hope is that this will allow me to improve my skills while also documenting the area and people I visit each month. I haven't settled on the exact area of town yet but I plan on doing a couple of scouting missions to settle on an area. I want the area to offer a variety of people from different parts of society. I will document the monthly visits to whatever area I choose and give a sampling of the images I make. I'm not expecting anything fantastic, especially at first. But I do think that my skill level will improve over the course of 2015.
Some Equipment Changes
Along with my desire to do a photography project I've also been considering a change in my photography equipment. To that end I have purchased a "new" used camera and lens to test out my theory and hopefully help me achieve my photography goals for 2015 and beyond. What did I get? You'll just have to wait :-) I should have the camera within the next few days and after I have acquainted myself with it I will do a post about it. Stay tuned!..................
My Parting Suggestion
I'll end this post with a suggestion: If you are looking for a way to improve your photography I would highly suggest you consider doing a project of your own
Welcome to the fifth post in a series of posts documenting Chicago using black and white film. Chicago is full of street corners and, especially in the more "touristy oriented" sections of the city, full of street corner performers. If you walk up and down the "Magificent Mile" or around "The Loop" you will likely find a number of corners where people have set up shop to entertain the pedestrians in exchange for tips. One of the more active corners I've found over the years is on Mighigan Avenue just North of the Chicago River. This street corner is right next to the ront of the Wrigley Building and has a nice large area for entertainers to set up. On our most recent trip, there was a Magic Show set up on the corner, just in front of one of the Michigan Avenue bridge sculptures:
Motivation And Information
I made this photograph in the afternoon, after a fantastic lunch at Frontera Grill. We were walking around after stuffing ourselves with tasty Mexican -inspired food from the mind of Rick Bayless. We decided to visit the Wrigley Building to see if I could get any good photographs of the building. There were a lot of people on the sidewalk and it was really tough for me to get any image of the building without having a person in the frame. Damn people! :-) So, rather than be upset about that, I turned toward the sidewalk to see what kind of "street photography" I could make with my Rolleicord that could use some of the many tourists as part of the frame. That's when I saw the Magic Show setting up shop. That seemed like a good opportunity. There were two guys that seemed to be together, the top-hatted gentleman and a guy in an all silver suit. I waited about 5 minutes until they had unpacked their bags and set up their table and portable sound system. The guy with the top hat began asking passers by if they wanted to see a magic show. It only took about 30 seconds for three people to "volunteer". They walked up to the table and the guy began his routine.
A Change Of Plans
As they were setting up I had been trying to position myself to get a decent view of everything, including the stone sculpture on the bridge tower behind them. I initially thought that the two guys would be performing together but I was wrong. Apparently it was time for the silver-suited fellow to take a smoke break because as soon as the guy in the top hat began performing the guy in the suit dropped back to lean against the bridge tower and light up (he's holding a very small bit of cigarette in his left hand). That forced me to re-compose the image at the last second because I really wanted both of them in the frame if possible. Because of that I had to step back a little to get everything in the frame. Unfortunately that also brought a few "interlopers" into the scene (the bit of shopping bag and purse you see in the lower-left). I re-composed the frame about 4 times trying to get the best overall composition that I could given what was going on around me. I eventually settled in on what you see above. It's not as clean as I would've hoped but because I wanted both performers in the frame I think it's about as good as I could expect. I managed to get most of the bridge sculpture in the frame as well. My main focus is on the magician, As you can see, he was playing toward the girl on the left, waving his wand and saying something about disappearing objects. The other two people in the frame are watching intently while the silver-suited man is hanging out enjoying his last bit of cigarette. I also got two guys from the Wendella water taxi service in the frame (who are completely oblivious to the performance) which I think adds some nice balance.
Learning From The Unpredictability
This image in particular was a learning experience for me because of all the unpredictability. I had what I thought was a nicely planned scene when my plans were "ruined" by random people. Compared to photographing landscapes, city/street photography has a much bigger random factor to it, making things more of a challenge. I've initially shied away from street photography but am now learning to enjoy it more and more. The whole nature of photographing people in a inconspicuous or unposed manner means that there is a lot or randomness. That randomness forces the photographer to be able to think quickly and adapt to the new situation. I'm finding that very challenging yet enjoyable. I think my street photography will increase because of that.
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Welcome to the fourth post in an ongoing series of posts about my experiences photographing in Chicago using black and white film cameras. While Chicago is a city with lots of dramatic and visually pleasing things to see, the image that I'm highlighting today is on the opposite end of that spectrum and is perhaps the most emotional, heart-wrenching and difficult image I have ever made as a photographer. It is the fourth image in my series of Chicago in Black and White, and I call it "Broken":
Motivation and Information Behind Broken
I made this image on the corner of Superior Street and Michigan Avenue, in the heart of the famed "Magnificent Mile", a world-famous shopping and tourist destination. We were in Chicago for three days and each day we walked by this intersection and saw this Man in his wheelchair, at the same location, cup in hand, panhandling. Both of his legs were amputated just above the knees and he seemed to expend great effort just to sit up. Each time I saw him I had a gut-wrenching reaction, nearly bringing me to tears. While Chicago, like many big cities, is full of people sitting on corners asking for money, this Man was different. I don't know what it was but each time I walked by him I got a lump in my throat and a deep feeling of sadness. Upon reflection, this Man's situation seemed so much more real and desperate than all the other panhandlers we saw in Chicago, or any other place. I'm not really a "people photographer" to begin with and I really have mixed emotions about photographing homeless/street people. Because of that, along with the emotional impact this Man had on me, I initially avoided photographing him.
On our last day in Chicago I finally got up the nerve to make a photograph of him because I wanted to remember him and the impact he had on me. I had my Nikkormat with me, loaded with a roll of Ilford FP4. The camera had a 50mm lens on it so I had to get fairly close to him in order to make the image. I thought about getting very close to him, filling the frame with him in his wheelchair, but decided to make the photograph from a distance of about 30 feet or so, which felt more comfortable and allowed me to get a bit more of the surrounding area in the frame. In the several times that I had seen him he had been sitting up as well as slumped over in his wheelchair. This particular time he was slumped over, barely holding the plastic cup in his left hand. I set the exposure, focused on him and had to wait about 30 seconds until the flow of people cleared enough to take the shot.
After I made the photograph I walked up to him and tried to find out a little more about him. I said something to the effect of "how you doing buddy?" to which he raised his head and shoulders a bit and replied "I'm OK". I asked him his name but he didn't say anything as he slumped back over. I gave him a quick pat on the back and said "be safe and take care" as I put a $5 bill in his plastic cup and walked away toward our hotel.
A Lasting Effect
As I write this post, nearly five weeks later, I'm still strongly impacted by this image and the story behind it. I don't think I'll ever forget him and I hope that he stays safe. While he didn't have anything in the way of material goods to give me, this Man did give me a very important thing, the courage to put aside my internal hesitation and use my cameras photograph and document a part of our society that is too often ignored. To that I say "Thank You" and I will do my best to honor that gift as I move through life.
Would you believe that a Nanny from Chicago might be one of the most influential street photographers of the 20th century? Finding Vivian Maier is the movie that explores this prolific and mysterious photographer. Pam and I went to see this movie at local theater with some other Atlanta area photographers and came away impressed and saddened by Vivian Maier's intriguing story. Vivian Maier (wikipedia) was born in 1926 and died in 2009. During her life she worked primarily as a Nanny to families in mostly the Chicago area. During that time she was a prolific street photographer whose body of work was virtually unknown until John Maloof purchased boxes of negatives from a storage auction in 2007. From that point to now the story of Vivian Maier has been revealed, but much is still unknown.
The movie is an attempt to figure out who Vivian Maier was and why she took nearly 100,000 images and never had any of them printed.
Here is the film's trailer:
Pam and I went to see the film, Finding Vivian Maier, at a local theatre. We went with a few other photographer friends and took in the afternoon matinee.
I won't giver away the movie but suffice it to say that we were very impressed, inspired and saddened all at the same time. Vivian Maier was a very unique person with an immense talent for photography. That she never published any of her work while alive is an amazing mystery. The movie explores that and does a pretty good job of it.
Bottom line is that if you are a photographer, historian, lover of mysteries or interested in documentaries, you should see this movie. It has something for everyone and is a compelling story.
Books on Amazon
There are a few books of Vivian Maier's work available on Amazon. You can also purchase limited-edition signed prints through the website
Edition #36 of the Photo Share & Discussion was last night and after a short delay due to Flickr acting up, we had a good show. Here's the video:
Christy did a great job running through the images on Flickr since my account was all gunched up. Apparently I got "picked" to beta their new interface, which failed miserably. I figured it out this morning by searching the Flickr help forum. Apparently, if you switch the language to something other than English you get the "old" layout back. So, for the time being, as long I view my page/photostream in Spanish I'm fine.
We had some good images to review and we talked about how proficient Christy seems to be in using Photoshop. I finished up with a couple of links:
Here's one about a NY City street photographer who is finally getting some well-deserved recognition at the age of 89.