Street Photography: A Gift

December 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

A few years ago when I got off the subway at 42nd Street and 6th Avenue I was stopped dead in my tracks.  Huge backlit photos, awe-inspiring photos, of New York City from the 1950’s dominated the passageway.  Photographer – Saul Leiter.  I had never heard of him.  But every day for months, there was this time of magic when I passed his pictures.

No matter how tired or grumpy or rushed I was, I stopped to look.  Juxtapositions of colors, light, and angles riffed in every panel.  A visual jazz of the life of the city.  Thank you, Mr. Leiter, for the gift you have given the world.  For making me see in a different way.  For inspiration.

Chance once again brought me upon images, which changed my life.  Le Cercle Rouge is a photographer whose work is a meditation on the night.  He immerses himself in the night of the city, in the streets along which we all walk.  His subtle vision gives form to the feeling and shape of nighttime, the quiet lights, the shadows and the corners.  He explores the mystery and transformation.

Thank you, M. Rouge, for your gift to the world.  For courage to experiment.  For helping me to see more in the silences and to hear more in the light.

Recently, I found a photographer who blew me away.  Jason Langer is most definitely a conspirator and connoisseur of urban darkness and the denizens of night.  Shadowy glimpses, rich saturated blacks, unexpected points of view startle and draw you in.  The density of night, both fearful and narcotic, permeates.

Thank you, Mr. Langer, for your gift to the world.  And thank you for making visual what I have wished for in my own work.

I am indebted and inspired by these photographers and so many others.  Painters, musicians, dancers, poets and the people I meet on the streets and byways of my life are the gifts I receive everyday.


Some of Saul Leiter’s photos with music by Miles Davis:

Le Cercle Rouge on Flickr:

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Street Photography: Humanity

December 4, 2012 § 1 Comment

Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc in the tri-State area, not unlike when Katrina hit New Orleans and many southern states, or the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  Aside from the physical destruction there was another level to the devastation — the emotional.  People were walking around shell-shocked.

Being a street photographer, I am a witness with a camera.  My concern is that I do not mechanically take photographs without humanity, sensitivity and compassion.

A new acquaintance of mine, who is a photojournalist, told me a story of people who went to Red Hook and were snapping (I use that word intentionally) pictures of residents directly after the storm.  One man was sitting slumped in front of his apartment house.  He had just discovered everything he possessed was destroyed.  Someone came along, snapped his picture, and kept on going.  The man was hurt, aghast.  I don’t blame him!  No one wants to be exploited by an uncaring stranger stumbling through their neighborhood and their life during a tragic time.

On the other hand, there was a photographer in Staten Island who was asked by many community residents if she would take photos of their homes so they would have a voice.  So the world would see what had happened.  She did and they were thankful.

David Hurn, On Being a Photographer, gives the following advice to photographers:

Eliminate those subjects about which you are ignorant, at least until you have conducted a good deal of research into the topic.  For example, you are not contributing anything to the issue of urban poverty by wandering back streets and snatching pictures of derelicts in doorways.  That’s exploitation, not exploration.

Or, as Cartier-Bresson is quoted as saying, “putting one’s head, one’s heart and one’s eye on the same axis,” is for me what street photography is all about.

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