City as Subject

New York City is always inserting itself into photos. It stands there are says “look at me. Take my picture.”

When I’m out shooting street photography, I automatically shoot the city without having to think about it.

I wonder if I would find photography half as interesting without the city as a subject?

Lower East Side Street Photography
Little Bryan Grocery Store, New York City, May 2012

Whether it plays the lead role or a supporting role, it is always there.

Whether you are shooting in the typical tourist attractions or off the beaten path, it’s not difficult to connect images to New York City. Its personality is evident.

It’s a disappearing act

Does a photo exist if you don’t share it on social media? What is the worth of a photo if you are the only one to see it? If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

In the days before digital photography, a photo only existed if you printed it. It becomes tangible when you can hold it and see it. Touching is believing.

But when you share a photo on social media it has a very limited life span and you don’t know if the intended audience will even see it.

In the past, printing a photo in a darkroom was time consuming. Or having it printed at a lab took time and money. There was always an anticipation waiting for the results.

Soho, NYC Circa 1980
West Broadway, New York City, circa 1980

Now we are instantly gratified or disappointed. The lifetime of a digital photo is measured in seconds. It’s a disappearing act. Anticlimactic.

Don’t get me wrong. I do love photography, digital and analog. The problem is how little time and effort goes into the vast majority of making and viewing photos. What if we had to pay to play? Would that change the game?

If a photo really means something to you, it is perhaps better to print it and hang it on a wall than to throw it out there into deep space. Just a thought.

I Tried to Imagine

I tried to imagine what life would be like without photography. To live in a world before photography existed is the first scenario.

Photography has an influence that comes before the intellect, words and language. For better or for worse, photography influences how we think and how we see the world we live in.

There is of course the danger that we are made to believe things that are not true. But we can also be influenced in positive ways by photography. And we learn through images.

Shadows in Times Square
Wheels, New York City, January 2010

To imagine a world without photography could also be possible if you are born without sightedness. If you have never seen anything would be the closest approximation of imagining a world without photography for me.

Another scenario would be if I never experienced the world of being a photographer. I am not certain that I could imagine my life without photography!

That will be the topic of an upcoming post. What would you imagine your world to be without photography? Your comments are welcome.

What is art?

In New York City, everyone has an opinion. Ask someone where to get the best slice of pizza and you may have inadvertently started a street debate on it. This is an important subject for New Yorkers.

What is art falls into the same category. Good luck getting much in the way of a universal definition or agreement on this subject. The history of art is filled with comments and scholarly writing on it.

For some, it is their career. They get paid for their opinions on art. They probably have advanced degrees in art history and write columns in the media as well as books.

So they are “art experts” They base their opinions on many different things including their personal tastes, even when they don’t acknowledge that point.

Monochrome Street Photography
Park, New York City, May 2012

But mostly, when art critics write about art they are writing about the state of art, different schools of art, particular artists, etc. Their writing has an understood aspect to it. They don’t often feel the need to explain why something can be considered art.

Maybe it’s really a good thing that there isn’t one gospel definition of what art is. Yes, art is very much subjective. It IS in the eye of the beholder! Your feeling about it is all that really matters when observing a piece.

The fact that there is no single definition means that we also have a wide variety of artistic styles. It is not necessary for a work of art to have only one definition.

We should celebrate that art doesn’t fit neatly into one category. And yes, photography is also art so long as you view that way. I do! Just because someone calls it art doesn’t mean that you have to like it. Do you know of a universal definition of art?

A Backwards Painter

When I was about 12 years old, I took art classes from a well known art school. We were required to draw from a human skeleton in many different mediums.

It was a style of learning that was alien to me. I was completely uninspired and didn’t complete the classes. I thought that I must not have any artistic talent as a result.

It took me many years to realize that I just didn’t fit in to more traditional styles of art and that photography is one of my mediums of creative expression.

Multiple exposure photography in New York City
Cuddling, New York City, June 2014

So I call myself a backward painter. I rely on that which physically exists in front of me and my camera. It is always a combination of how I feel and see things on a given day.

It isn’t so much about thinking or having a preconceived notion about what I will create. Rather it is about observing that which is taking place around me.

This is true of both my abstract and street photography. They are a reflection of how and what I see in the world around of me.

Every Picture Tells a Story

I don’t imagine that a day will ever occur when I tire of shooting in New York City. I have no interest in taking photos of nature and landscapes that aren’t urban.

New York City is a perfect environment for photography that illustrates the condition of humanity in the world that it has created.

Coney Island, Brooklyn, 2009
Entrance, Coney Island, September 2009

Whether it’s seeing people who are comfortable in their environment or those that are disturbed by it, the human condition is reflected in street photography.

I like photography that tells a story and especially when it is open to interpretation by the viewer. You can’t plan it. This is the beauty of street photography.

It is, when done well, like poetry. The activity of photography is satisfying all by itself. Discovering at the end of the day you were able to obtain photos that capture a story is like icing on the cake.

Photography is a Reflection

Photography is a reflection of life and the world that we live in. It is a small piece of the larger whole. It is an opportunity to stop and examine those things that we may overlook in our hurried lives.

You could say that I’m rather obsessed with photographing reflections of all kinds. The same is true of reflecting on what photography is and how it affects us. Even the word reflection gives us much to reflect upon.

Puddle reflection of the Manhattan Bridge
Street of Gold, New York City, July 2012

If photography is already once removed from ‘reality,’ then perhaps reflection photography can be thought of as something almost magical. Sometimes reflection photos are even more appealing than the so-called real thing.

To find and see reflections to photograph you already need to slow down and be more observant of your surroundings. It is rather easy to pass by reflections without realizing that they are there.

When was the last time that you reflected on a photo?