On Being Critical

On occasion people ask me to be critical of their photos. While I can and do critique photos from time to time, I prefer to help others develop their own style.

I like to encourage others to find their own style. To give them the courage to do what they think is right. To take photos that they like. After all, you need to be happy with your photography first.

There isn’t necessarily a right or a wrong way to do it. And it’s possible that I am influenced by my own experience of not really fitting in in any of the photography clubs. Typically boys clubs.

As I have said before, steal from the best and make up the rest. Find those elements that speak to your own sense of what looks good. A big part of photography is developing your vision and having your photos match your vision.

Blue in East Harlem, New York City, August 2017

I took this photo during a street photography workshop and I can only tell you that timing was everything! She turned and I clicked. And yes, the focus is a little soft. Whatever. I still like it and some of my favorite photographers have photos with soft focus.

You might not appreciate that. I look at photography as an art and art is always in the eye of the beholder. It is subjective. It is not a science. There isn’t a recipe that will always be successful.

Street Photography Tips – Visual Rhyming

I love capturing visual rhyming in street photography. The funny thing is that I was unable to find anything on it doing a web search. I don’t believe that I invented it. For the most part it seems that the term is used in writing. So I will provide my description of visual rhyming in photography.

In the photo below, the man is wearing a striped shirt and standing at the crosswalk with the white stripes on the street. The mind sees the two sets of stripes and recognizes this. They just have a way of fitting together even though it isn’t necessary for it you to verbalize it in your mind.

Yes, vision precedes language and the necessity to translate what it sees into words. That said, it’s surprising how often visual rhymes appear in street photography opportunities. If you keep your eyes open to them you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised.

Queens Street Photography
Stripes Crossing, New York City, June 2019

Of course, you can stand at an intersection and wait for the stripes to appear. Other possible visual rhymes are when a person’s clothing matches a color in the background. Below you can see an example of rhyming with colors. 

Soho Street Photography
Rainy Day in Soho, New York City, August 2018

Somehow the above photos would be far less interesting without the rhyming. These are just a few examples of one more thing that you can look for while out shooting the streets. It’s a bit like poetry and it provides another layer of depth to your photography. Happy rhyming!

Thoughts on Photography in the Digital Age

What are photos worth now? Do they have more value or less value as a sheer result of the volume? Why take photos at all? These are real questions that deserve real thought even if we are unable to come to some kind of solid answers that we can all agree on.

When I took this photo earlier this year, I was very conscious of the fact that for whatever reason, this building won’t be here forever or at least continue to look like this. Sometimes I wonder if the way that I see things now have more to do with my age or if perhaps we are really in the midst of a major change in the way the world is moving?

I don’t take photos with a thought to if they have a monetary worth or not. I shoot as a form of expression. Photos have a way of sparking memory. We look at photos about the way things used to be. Photos are always past. Are history.

1 Allen Street, New York City, May 2019

I took this photo because the colors and light on that day and at that time appealed to me. For the moment, I like this photo. I have no idea if I will continue to like this photo after shooting another 10,000 photos. Perhaps it’s not that important. Photography is an activity for me. It’s not always obvious why I take a photo or if it will become important to my work.

When we choose to shoot certain subjects, we reveal something of who we are and our tastes in things. And of course, those things are subject to change. How often do we stop and look at a photo and decide what it means to us? We see thousands of images everyday. Most of them are not by choice.

Your assignment if you choose to take it, is to stop and take a look at a photo and think about what it means to you. Let’s call it intentional viewing. Happy looking and getting lost in photos.

Street Photography Tips – Up Close

When you’re in the middle of large crowds of people it is actually rather easy to get up close and personal shots. Whether you stand in one spot and wait for people to approach you or you shoot while walking it’s not difficult to do. The funny thing is that most of the time people aren’t even aware of me when I get these kinds of shots.

Monochrome NYC Street Photography
Monochrome Mood 20, New York City, August 2018

So of course the most important thing is to have correct exposure settings on your camera. It’s also important to keep your eyes open. This is where it’s good to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. I tend to lift the camera and use the viewfinder. Which is what I did while walking to get the 2 shots shown here.

Monochrome NYC Street Photography
Monochrome Mood 14, New York City, August 2018

That said I also often just lift the camera without really looking at the preview and shoot. In the right state of mind it’s like a good mental and physical exercise. Street photography is very cool.

It’s Everywhere You Go!

Photography in its broadest definition has become important to everyone! It is such a dominant part of our culture and our lives. Creating and consuming images is constant. So how do we differentiate between the different kinds of photography? Are they all equal? Do we even understand the effect that images have on us? Visual literacy is a tricky subject. Especially when there’s barely enough time to understand it all.

I work as a tour guide. On a regular basis I come into contact with tourists taking selfies with major attractions in New York City. It would be difficult to not witness this everywhere in the city. I wonder what the actual value is of these photos? (I will refrain from being judgmental here even if it is annoying.) They are intended as souvenirs.

One Grand Central, New York City, January 2019

The idea that you can choose to remember something by an image or an object. The strange thing is that souvenirs actually have a way of killing memories. They take on new meaning. We no longer have to remember it.

Perhaps the actual act of taking a photo is more important than the photo itself. That and the fleeting moment that it has a life on social media. We designate a moment which we have predetermined to be worthy of remembering. We have scripted our lives in doing this.

Planned vs unplanned photos. My favorite photos that I’ve taken are not planned. They couldn’t have been planned. They are decided only at the moment that they are shot. Sometimes I like them. Others I don’t. It’s always starting from scratch. Starting over with a clean slate.

When it comes to street photography you can’t decide beforehand what you’ll shoot. It’s life in motion. By it’s very nature it is unplanned.

Street Photography Tips – Fear of Shooting

So I’m an extrovert! Obviously that comes as no surprise to you! It’s possible that gives me an edge in street photography. But not as big as you might think. Street photography isn’t easy. It isn’t about it being easy. Easy gets boring. Street photography is always a challenge! Street photography is always about confronting your self first. Even when you’re an extrovert!

In a city with millions of people, how could I not be curious? I’ve always said that my curiosity, enthusiasm and determination are my biggest assets. I boldly step out into the world with my camera. My camera is my raison d’être. It gives me permission to experience life. To be in the world. Sometimes people smile and connect with you when you’re out shooting street. Often people smile. They are happy to have their photo taken.

Color Street Photography
Make My Day! New York City, 30 March 2018

My philosophy of life and of photography are the really same thing. It’s always about life and people and a belief in humanity. I’ve been told that I’m courageous. The truth is, I don’t know any other way to live. The only risk that I can identify is to not embrace life and live it in a way that feels honest for who I am.

New York City Street Photography
Convertible in the Rain, New York City, October 2018

It’s always about treating others with respect. Perhaps you get what you give in life. Oh, the more you do it, the more natural it becomes. Not necessarily easier. Happy shooting!

Photography is – Part Eleven

The action doesn’t stop, but a photo desires to freeze time in a way that it can be remembered. If we didn’t pause to look and shoot, life would still move on. A photograph exists as a memory of a time that no longer exists. My photos are a record that I was here. It is what I do with my time.

LES Street
LES Morning, New York City, December 2019