Category Archives: Street Photography

Life Lesson, Edmund Bacon

 

This series of post is about rethinking, re-feeling past experiences. We all have past experiences and many are notable. Just like photos, they are memories of past experiences. It seems to me that experiences of both photos and thoughts are similar but very different. Not easy to conjure up past experiences and yet a photo easily exposes the detail of the moment.

Anyway. I met Edmund Bacon from the AIA.  American Institute of Architecture. I was working on a series of portraits of American Artist. After a short time, it became evident that we connected in a most beautiful manner.

We would walk around and he would tell me so many things I really didn’t know. One day on our walk a bout, Ed stopped at a Liberty Tower and leaned against it, putting his ear to a wall. For the life of me, I hadn’t a clue what he was doing. Then he called me over and said, do as I am doing. I looked around and saw people watching us and I felt awkward. I’m used to being the observer not the observed.

Ed saw I was kinda self conscious and started to talk with me. Don, there’s an interaction in every breath in life and with what you do with that breath.  Your photography is excellent and your dedicated to the art. I am a lover of space and buildings. Many here know me and they communicate with me. When you had your ear to the wall, what did you hear? I had a dazzled look on my face and he pulled me to the wall again.. Put your ear to the wall and cover the other ear. Now put a hand on the wall near your ear. Ed did the same thing with opposite ears and hand and looked right in my heart.

Ed said, do you hear those sounds? Can you hear the difference? What do you feel?  He said there’s a steady heartbeat and that’s the pendulum. That sound is the buildings heart. Do you hear a creaking sound? That the materials holding it all together. Can you feel a vibration and have it inside you? He pulled me away and we walked more and I made photos as he directed.

Ed said, that building is the equivalent of your photos.  The bid difference Don is, with City Planning, I am at one with the world. My wife Ruth understood and supported me best she could. out photography is your life’s effort and needs to be as strong as any building. Your photos are the summation of man and the environment. They are separate and yet many times, they become one. Ed and I made a dummy book and I still have it. I suppose no one will ever publish it because he wasn’t a cowboy with a white hat. He was an opinionated strong man. He stood for his believes at all cost. Some of you reading this understand.

My Edmund Bacon take a way is … It is all the oneness, what makes the difference is not in what you see or frame but how and why you do it.

 

 

Life Lesson, Winogrand

My last workshop was during the summer of 2019. I always kept things loose and open. So I had no agenda to pass on or follow. I just answered questions to the best of my ability and also, answered questions that may not have been on the session we were in.

I never thought of myself as a teacher and I was told I was a mentor.  Titles always seem to push preconceptions in life and the photo.

Speaking of preconceptions and the picture…..I’ve made countless shots of this stairway to the underground. For me it’s the man made environment gobbling up it’s creator. We all find it so easy to be lost in the crowd, It’s not just about photography but more about life, kinda like street shooting and it’s relationship with breathing. it becomes so natural to find our subject matter amongst the ruins of time and seeing the decay of the human condition. Hark! Be aware, maybe the world is all beautiful and everything like a dream but there is still the element of you in that dream.

I remember a lifetime ago being on a walk with Garry Winogrand. I asked him what drawed him to subject matter. I suppose I was looking for the magic key to his triggers. He said, you will never make photos of anything but yourself.  It’s all a portrait of you.

Then he asked me about Vietnam again and was like a reporter trying to find what clicks in me. I was open with him and we talked about heavy stuff. We hit 34th street and I said i need to get back to Philly. He looked at me and said, Don, I hope you find peace in your life, and always have your camera ready. Those words were the nicest words anyone ever said to me. I was moved. We went out own ways and I turned once and saw Garry and he waved to me. That was the last time i ever heard from or saw Garry. To this day, to every vet I ever met, I always say… I hope you find peace in your life.

There are many lessons in ones life. We get to remember some and maybe, just maybe we can apply a life lesson into our photography.   Some tell me that experience is equal to a lesson. I certainly disagree. We have experiences and not necessarily learn from them. A life lesson last with us as long as we stay true to ourselves.

Garry was right, it’s all a portrait of ourselves.

I hope you all find peace in your lives.

January 9th, 2020 …Maintaining a Persistence of Vision … Insanity … The Exception To The Rule

It is widely known and accepted to think…. doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is insanity. For me, doing the same thing over and over and accepting the same or similar results, that’s insanity. Actually it’s complacent insanity. I think some of the beauty in art and photography is the uncertain outcome. I mean, we take our camera out and search for our photos. When a trigger happens, we release the shutter and from that point on, we have an uncertain outcome.

If we worked and had a clear concept of the final image maybe that would be death to the explored creativity. Look, if you actually could see in the future, why waste that on making photos, see the lottery numbers for the next day. Trust me, that would be exciting and beneficial to all aspects of your being. So the idea of Ansel’s pre-visualization only goes so far.

Making photos is about selective input, processed and then output. During the course of each photo comes a certain methodology that each of us applies to our image creativity.  It usually is not in question because most people don’t care about how you did something but rather why you did it, at least that’s how it should be. Why is the key to interpretation and the subject of conversation. Unfortunately the root of the photo mostly lives within us and once presented to observers, the only control we have is the photo itself. Even that relinquishes our control to the observer. They decide what and why you made the photo.

So why is this important? Well, I was hoping youse could tell me why. Many times I might hear or see a comment that states, you’re doing the same thing over and over. This is probably true and the reason or partly the reason for this post. I assume accountability for my work and methods and intent. What about the viewer. What is the accountability of the viewer? Perhaps they are equally at fault for seeing and thinking the work is similar. They have conditioned themselves to see and judge in a certain way.

Decades ago, Ding and I would talk about this very subject. I told him I felt that the viewer is fixed in a state of comfort and it’s very difficult to move outside of the comfort zone. So, then when the viewer says that the work is all similar, it also means they see with the similar standards they establish for themselves. I did an experiment  a while ago. Not your concern how long ago, it’s relevant and always will be. I had a friend over and we would check out each others work. We did this a lot. it was entertaining but for me educational. I would show W some photos and without a doubt, he would say they are good. I know where this was oh and ye these are similar like in a series. I say nothing. I listened and I watched the process of how he addressed the photo.

So it was obvious to me that my work was being judged by someone that had tainted eyes. Not saying it was bad but he came loaded to the gills with pre-judgemental comments. Then, I asked him what he thought was similar or the common denominator of the photos. He stated the they were all with a Leica and the distance and angle of capture was similar. The subject matter was all related in a undefined manner. Actually he was very right on and it gave me a sense of accomplishment. I told W, “I’m not trying to set the world on fire but I damn sure wanna be there with my camera when it does. ”

I had made some very nice nudes of my wife. They were and still are very marketable. I traded 7 prints with Clarence John Laughlin. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarence_John_Laughlin

Anyway, I asked W to check these photos out. He had no idea of the success of the photos. He looked at them slowly and intently. Of course my wife was stunning and very sensual. That combined with my passion of photography was a combination that surpassed my expectations. Well, as I figured, W viewed the photos He spent a long time on each. I realized that the choice of subject matter that is different than my usual choice can have a profound effect on the viewer.

This exploration was in the late 70’s. I had an exhibition at a local gallery with a good following. Opening night there were many people and i sold 3 prints I seem to remember. This was a Friday evening. I was excited and was looking forward to the exposure. The director asked me to sit in and talk with people as they come in and out of the gallery.  I thought this was great. I sat in the gallery and for 4 days about 15 ppl came in. It was kinda disenhearting. I was feeling bad and almost depressed and then a woman entered the gallery. She stopped at the door and looked around. She was tall, around 5’11”. Dressed in clothes that only wealthy woman wear. I immediately stood and greeted her and welcomed her in. She walked around and studied the prints carefully. I watched as she kinda swayed standing in front of the photos. after about 20 minutes, she called for me to join her and asked if the photographer was available. I looked her right in the eyes and told her I was accountable for the work as I was the photographer. She smiled and told me she related to the heart of the images and now to me. I felt a stirring in my body, no guys not that stirring but the kind that emanates from the heart.

This feeling was equal or above what I felt from Ding. She told me Diana was her name. We exchanged graces and I was honored that she liked my work. She told me she was a prominent collector of fine art and was local and that a mutual friend suggested her to visit my exhibition. She didn’t tell me who the mutual friend was. She invited me to lunch and of course I accepted. We left the gallery and there was a cab waiting. We arrived at the Bellevue and was seated in a small corner. She asked if i had any questions and that opened the door. Diana, what is it in my photos that attracted you? She replied, above all, your heart shines thru most of the images.

She stated that there are many kinds of photographers. Many want to be rich and famous and some are. Many just want to make a living with a camera. Don, you make photos because you love photography and you love the photos you make. I was flattered and surprised that she understood me so well. Thanks Diana but it might be nice to make some money along with the photos. She actually laff’d.

I smiled and she said. Don, that’s why we are here right now. Diana said that she will be a collector of my work until the end. She will contact me from time to time and order prints. I think this was like 1981. Diana is older than me but still my number 1 collector. I’ll be 70 and she is 83. Sometimes we meet and have lunch or coffee and we talk about life. She is always probing my mind and then explaining why.

I remember that she used to like that I was consistent in my vision. We started talking about artist and their insanities.

I will fire the blog up now and hopefully I didn’t lose anyone along the wa….♥

August 3rd, 2019 …Circumnavigating Photos and Then Some

Ya know one of the best things about getting old, ya can say crazy things and most will accept it from you. If you try it when you’re younger, well they have places for you where others say things like that and ya fit in. so Suzanne and I went to get sushi and talk photography. You know me, I’ mall in for being seen in public with her. Got Ding the Leica M9 on my neck and Suzanne on my arm. Dat’s right G, I be da man. So we walk and finally get to the sushi shop on Walnut near 7th. We go in and like 5 people come to her and say high in Japanese. Then they say hi to me in Philly English. I didn’t expect a group and she never mentioned this to me. So they all sit and I seat Suzanna and slide her and her chair to the table. A few of the ladies there looked with a kind longing approval. I mean obviously I’m the only gentleman in the group and unfortunately, probably all around. They all start talking Japanese and Suzanne puts her hands to her ears and says, Don. Now the language switches to English and I kind have that down some. maybe not perfect but good enough. I didn’t know why I was here and would have appreciated Suzanne letting me in on things  but I just went with the flow.

So Suzannz tells everyone to start asking questions. If it was anyone else, I would have been offended but Suzanne, I’d fight my way back from hell for her. So a guy ask me, “How do you maintain the visual quality and continuity in your photos thru all the years? The great thing about questions and answers especially is, not to have canned answers. I like to open me poor brain and my warriors heart sand construct an answer that fits me.

It’s not the easiest thing to do. You need to have the knowledge and the means of presentation to make it work. I like to get an answer started with a thought train and then quickly open the valve from the heart and then answer. In the old daze, we called it winging it but now I am much more sophisticated and more a proper adult so I like things to work for the questionnaire. So I started talking and first things first, I said. Plan your work and work your plan and don’t be afraid to improvise along the way. There are different starting points to a photo but mostly, all will go thru this cycle.

Example: An idea for a photo forms in your brain and or mind. You can kinda visualize it but no clarity. Then go out to make photos and breathe in the light and the scenes and people. Take them to your heart and mind. Keep reflecting on the image planted in your idea. Don’t be afraid to let someone or something distract you. Go for it but try to come back to your initial idea. Of course your camera is your partner and friend and you have no issues because you are on the same train together. In time hopefully you will see something that stirs up the thoughts, ideas, emotions of the idea and now you just frame and wait for the trigger. Then, CLICK.

Keep working but you will feel a kinda excitement because you know your satisfying the inner thoughts and idea of your photography. At this point it’s time to see what you captured. When you get into Lightroom, the image should spark excitement, questions and answers and generally you want to work on it. Start processing the photo and keep an open mind but recall the initial idea and emotions. You do not have to stick with that but you absolutely need to know where you started so you can venture into the unknown. Now you hopefully can look at the photo and have a mental map of where you started and now where you are.

This is circumnavigating a photo. We go around the world of the photo and then of course photography and always remember and apply, the heart as the compass. So the guy asked me, “do you do this all the time?” I answered, how else would I do this, I don’t know another way I can live with and there ain’t a better way to die.

They all but one had Leica’s. The one not Leica was a Fuji XT-30. So the questions turned to gear and settings and all the stuff that feeds the emptiness of creativity. We are drinking Saki @ 105f and sushi and maki, just a great meal. S Suzanne ask me, when do my private workshops start again? Yes, when they said. Hmmm me thinks, that M10p is looking real nice… nah not me at all. Anyway, they as a group want to do sessions. I really ain’t feeling it and the Suzanne says, “I will let you know when Don will start”. Wwe all get up and Suzanne and I leave and start walking uptown to Center City. The as she has our arms linked, says… I forgot here.. she hands me a white envelope and I look in it and there’s $500.00 cash. What’s this and she says, the first session. I told her I didn’t want the money and she said they would all be deeply offended and feel they are not worthy. They may all commit hari kari.  Ya know, I adore this woman but sometimes she’s full of craap and this is one of those times.

So I will start a series of sessions and Suzanne will be my trusty assistant. The sushi and saki were great, The company of her 5 friends was enlightening. Suzanne has my heart and is my angel of love and mercy and acceptance of an old warrior.

ya know, the $500.00 was a welcome gift I never thought about. Be blessed all and remember this….. wait.. dang it… I forgot

July 17th, 2019 … The Mind of a Streetshooter … Some Tips For Working

When I was doing my workshops, there were certain things that were asked and these things carried on for many years. There are things to know and there are things to just Breathe. It’s great to adopt a system to work and breathe in but it’s crucial to understand the mechanics of the language of the street.

First off, do not let anyone rattle your cage. There are many methods to work but they should just be a part of what you do.  watch out for the purist. I do believe here in Philly, they have given up the quest to take over people minds and have them do things right according to their standards.

I remember decades ago I dreamt of auto ISO before it was employed in cameras. I didn’t think about Auto ISA but I knew that shooting a film rated at 400 like Tri’ was limiting in very low light. I thought about if a film could change ASA, then it would simplify changing film. In a way, I did just that but in my darkroom. I got Tri-X to be at ASA 640 as my base ASA.  I used it for 250-800. The results were ok but not ideal. My Leica’s didn’t have a meter in them back then. I didn’t use a light meter unless it was a money shoot or something. Decades passes and cameras had M Mode and well… jump forward some, Auto ISO was installed. Of course, I fell in love with this technology. Many told me I was not true Manual because I let the camera set the ISO.

The argument is, to be true Manual mode, you set the ISO, the Aperture and the Shutter Speed.  This is the Triad of Exposure. So, on the street, we need to be more reactive and pay attention to the subject matter and or scene more than the camera. Wouldn’t be easy to do that when you lock yourself into using a single ISO. Any change in light value requires a change in one of the three parts of the triad. So why go out and spend time walking around, seeking your next photo and being plagued by the traditional Manual Exposure Thought train. There’s the shot, set f5.6. 125/sec and the now the ISO, no… not 250, hmm maybe 400.. sets 400, looks up and the world has changed. It’s ok, even tho NG would have paid $5000.00 for that shot, no matter.

There’s a reason for tradition and a reason to break tradition. Ok, looks around. I’m going to tell you about a feature that is extremely effective. Takes a deep breath. Ok, this is a feature that most people haven’t discovered. Yes, it’s a secret and I will tell you about it now. It’s called the Exposure Value or EV. Don’t let this rattle your cage. EV is a feature on all my cameras and I never use it. For real, all it does on some cameras is change accidentally and upset me. I know many shooters that use this all the time.

The argument for M Mode continues but I gave up the battle to defend using Auto ISA.  The jury is in for me. I have my way of working and that’s that. There’s another feature that gets a lot of chatter. That is Focus.

This is a more touchy subject than M Mode. Basically, we have,  Auto Focus and Manual Focus. My way to work kinda varies with the camera I use. Let’s face it, we all want the fastest AF we can get. What can be faster working than AF? Nothing right? I beg to differ. I will explain about the M Leica and not trying to sell anything, just explaining how it works for me. The M has Auto Focus but by a different concept. What happens is this. I go out and then focus the camera with the rangefinder. Whoa, I see something different and I Automatically Focus on the new subject. So, that’s Auto Focus in a New Concept.

It’s called humor and I know youse get it. At this point, I urge you to use The DOF Master. It’s been a lifesaver for me since it was released many years ago.

Hyperfocal Distance VS Zone Focus. 

The thing is, to understand your photos and how and why you make them. Then to understand your camera and to be friends with it. What focus distances do you really need to have in the photo? Hyperfocal Distance is the most widely accepted way to work on the street. I’ll give an example in a wee bit. You’ll see it down there. The other way is Zone Focus. They are different and we need to understand the difference.

On my M9 with a 35mm lens, @ f8 the Hyperfocal Distance is 16.9′ That means from about 8 1/2′ to Infinity is in acceptable focus. When you change f/stops, the HD changes also. If you use f5.6 then the HD is 23.8′. That gives you about 12′ to Infinity. The key to this is, Infinity is always on the far end of the Hyper Focal Distance. What changes is not Infinity but the near distance? So, you set the f/stop accordingly to the near distance you desire. You need to remember that when you change f/stop the shutter speed or ISO needs to be changed also… Nah…, anyone that knows me, of course, uses Auto ISO so change f/stops, keep your shutter speed and your camera will work with you to change ISO to meet the exposure you use.  I used 1/125 f/11 on my cameras for a very long time and many times I still do.

Well me starting thinking, I’m not always wanting infinity in focus. I mean if I’m like 8′ to infinity, man that’s a long way. That means I can have someone about 8′ from me in focus and then Giovanni in focus in Italy. Oh yeah, that’s theoretically Infinity. Maybe I don’t want that much in focus. Hmmm, must be another way. Lemme think, I mean it’s on my tung I just need a min to find it… YES. By Jove I got it mate.

Maybe, just maybe, Zone Focus can solve the dilemma. If we think about compression in a different light, we can grasp Zone Focus. Years ago the kit for high-end fashion shooters was a Nikon F,2,3 and the 200mm f4.  Moving in kinda close made a very compressed photo. It was more than DOF it was the way the lens compressed the image. I remember thinking back then, I like the way the subject and foreground and background were compressed. this is like 1981 and forward. I thought I wanted that compression but in the background and foreground. I mean, the foreground and background were soft or out of focus. The subject and a set amount of front and back were in focus. Not Hyper Focus because that moves out to infinity. I wanted infinity soft. So one day I had a revelation about zone focus.

 

The most important element for a camera is to be fast in operations. Next probably is how easy and how fast we can change our way of thinking and how the camera supports that. As far as focusing, the element that will change most is the foreground distance. With Hyperfocal Distance the foreground changes distance and the Infinity is a constant. So, you set the f/stop so that your subject falls in the range you desire.  Now you need to be aware of the close end of Depth of Field to make sure you have acceptable focus.

Here’s where Zone Focus is similar to Hyperfocal Distance. It’s about feeling the distances you are working with

What I do a lot is, Leica M, 35mm lens, at f/5.6 the HD is 28.8′. Everything from about 12′ to Infinity is in acceptable focus.  I set the lens to 10′ and then my zone of acceptable focus is 7.06′ – 17.2′. If I want a fatter zone, I would use f/f8.0 The range now is 6.29′ – 24.4′. That’s a very handsome range. If I went to f/11 I would use HD and that is 12′.

The important thing to remember is that the sharpest point is always where the lens is actually focused. So, the foreground distance and the background distance have a falloff. It’s not like the acceptable distance is sharp and then in front of that completely out of focus. It is a gradual falloff.  The smart shooter realizes that and uses that to create contrast or a focus juxtaposition.

This can all be performed on any camera that has manual focus and or manual exposure. It’s just not as easy or intuitive as a Leiva M. If you understand the process then maybe you can find a way to implement in your work. I know most of you know this stuff but my dear woman advisor Suzanne, wants me to spread the knowledge around.

Have a blessed week and I’ll be back soon with more stuff.   ….. shooter out …..

July 5th, 2019 … Hot Town, Summer in the City … Whole Darn World is Gritty … Always Was

I was with my squad on the beach at Chu Lai. We had a few days off and we definitely knew how to spend that time.  Many of the guys were swimming or surfing or doing things with the hooch girls. I was laying back on the beach with my camera and making some snaps. My Leica was black Laq and was so hot from the sun. I watched the guys letting it all go and thought, where’s so and so? I was very aware of the missing troops always. I made photos of them and if they weren’s around, I noticed. I could feel a loss inside that I didn’t fully understand. Spud walked over to me and stood there looking at me. He is bare ass naked and s, smiling. He reaches down and hands me a sally joint that he’s been smoking. A sally joint is a joint, pot and it’s soaked in liquid opium and then dried. Don’t take long to dry over there. Kids today that make blunts from cigar wrapper, sheeeesh amateur stuff. Of course, I never smoked anything or even drank the whiskey that Sgt Biggie was offering me.

Biggie came over and told me, Jingles, you’re on tower 1.1 tonight with Spud. Well, I liked Spud cause he was like on his 5th tour and a bad MFer’. I told Spud we were in 1’1 together and he smiled. I asked him if he planned on staying high for the night. He smiles, said, I been here 5 years and been high every day. I learned something real fast. Smoke a joint and do guard duty is the right way. They all knew what my friends back in the world knew about me. I was the most paranoid dude you ever could meet. See, if I was at a party and many people there, we all smoked or other things, I would always be at the window and look out and say….there’s still no cops around. We are ok, and all would laff at me cause I was paranoid like crazy. Well, my friends in Nam knew the same thing about me. They all knew that if they gave me a joint if there was a dink 500 miles away, I’d see him.

So Spud and I are now in the tower. Well, tower 1.1 is the main control tower and all activities from other locations, I have the m60 locked and loaded and aiming in the right direction. Spud has an M79 and we both have 45ACP as a sidearm. It’s getting really dark and quiet. It’s a scary time on guard duty. Spud is crashed out on the sandbags in the tower. I have 7 more hours to go and Spud is wasted and I’m like awake as ever. As the night progresses, I reach into Spud’s pocket and find the bottle of obesitol. Obesitol is a 4 oz bottle of this red liquid that the dinks sell to us and it’s really liquid speed. One bottle and a joint and I’m set for the night. So I pulled the shift myself as Spud slept in whatever kind of peace he was in.

Anyway, that’s not what this story is about, oh no… not even. See, in Nam..the temperature could hit 125f thereabouts. I remember thinking that if I made it home I would never complain about the heat in Philly. I was convinced that I could withstand any weather that came my way. Even the raid would never both me in Philly. In Chu Lai when the monsoons came, the rain was of something that came from hell. It felt like all the rain in the world was falling on me.

I was itchy and wanted to get to the street and make photos with Ding the Leica M9. There’s always a transition time switching cameras. Cameras will push their personalities upon you and we need to explore those personalities in detail. I was walking on Market Street around 16th. It’s like 90f already and the humidity is terrible. I’m sweating and it’s running down my face to my eyes. I walk slower than normal cause I got older than normal. Ding is on a neck strap ready to go and I turn left and see this woman inside a bldg. She’s standing there and all these reflections are happening around her. I’m kinda interested and yet no photo but then she raises her arm and hand to her head…..CLICK!  (photo 1)

So I decided to reflect after seeing the reflections. I thought how when I was 20 and in Nam that I would never complain about the heat back home. I felt that back then, I was of a stronger character and could withstand almost anything. I thought I was becoming a strong man and would carve out a future I would be proud of. 50 years ago, 50 years. Now I have a rear vision that I didn’t have back then. I guess I forgot myself from birth to 21. I feel like I was born in Nam and my fellow troops were my siblings. When one of my friends died, I tried to get a Dog Tag from him. I have 17 now at home. They sleep in my darkroom but the names, faces, smiles, laffs all live inside me. I made one vow back then and maybe it’s the only thing I ever did right. I remember everyone I knew who went home in a body bag and swore I would never forget them and I never did.

I wanted to write about the oppressive heat and how it affected my photos. Instead, I wrote about the driving force that lives in me that will carry me to my death and reunite me with my friends. Maybe that is about the oppressive heat, dunno. I’m too damn old to let it bother me.

Be blessed everyone    ……….shooter out……….

 

June 27th, 2019 … Stop Running Away … From Being You

I remember back in 1975 I wanted a blad like crazy. Once I had the camera I was all proud and happy. I’d go to openings with my un-named blad on my shoulder, knowing I was someone. One day my friend Paul told me I wear the Blad like jewelry and don’t make photos with it. The truth was he was right. I had it at last but really didn’t use it. I was a street shooter and not a Blad dude. I felt that the camera would give me a signature or tone and it didn’t. I was really heartbroken.

Ya know, we can run like crazy from our gear, our PC’s, our thoughts and ideas but the important part is, you can’t run from yourself. It’s easy to think we can, just by ignoring the signals that come to us and yes, from us but the truth is, ya ain’t going nowhere. I remember the night I got my stage name. I was playing a gig at Cliff’s and we were heating it up. The audience was 90% black, don’t matter to me but I was the only white guy on stage. We cutting blues and everyone is really digging us. A woman halfway back in the seats stands up and says… that’s the Snowman, I know him he’s the Snowman. Gotta tell ya, I was on cloud 9. I mean people dancing and having a good time and I was driving them with my ax. I was the Snowman and would be forevermore. But, I was feeling things I wanted to say with my Strat that I didn’t know how to do it. Even tho the crowd was excited and loved us playing, I thought, there are 550 people out there loving all this, why can’t I love myself?

I had an opening at a MainStream Gallery in New Jersey. I had 50 prints of various sizes on the wall. As the evening progressed, may people cam to see the show. I was flattered that prints sold and was happy. It wasn’t about acceptance cause in photography, I am. We have like 60 people and the gallery director announces that I will be having a chat and question and answer in 10 min. Thanks for telling me. Her name is Diana and she’s an elderly lady with the elegance of a queen. Stunning and I am a working guy with a camera. She pulled me aside and in very clear words… Don, I adore you and I breathe your photos as well as but them. You must do this chat and do it well. I looked her in the eyes and I said, Diana, I got this, relax. I really was not uptight at all. I have my TONE intact and I can do this because I was placed on the earth to be a photographer. (if ya don’t pump yourself up, who will?)  There were many questions and even some discussions about gear. The press core was there and they threw a  question or 2 at me. I could look past the people and I saw Diana standing by herself in the white silk blouse. She had her hands clenched against her breast and I just looked at her and realized, she sees me clearer than I see myself. I answered many questions and explained many things the way I saw and felt them. I was not nervous not even 1 iota. For the first time in my life, I felt at one with myself. Ding had introduced me to Diana years before and now that his time had passed, I realized that Diana was my unspoken mentor and supporter.

Even today, when I visit Diana, she will take my face in her hands and kiss my eyes and tell me, the gift of humanity dwells inside you. Maybe she’s right, I mean I can’t understand all that I am or could be, no one can, right. It takes a gentle soul and a kindred spirit to recognize one another.

The key issue is to attempt at all cost to recognize oneself. It’s nice and even stimulating to be accepted into a community or group of other photographers. It’s flattering to know you are respected. There are keys to unlock those doors of acceptance. Such as Leica, many will acknowledge you because you have a Leica. Maybe it’s a Fuji or Nikon or Ricoh group. Maybe you are accepted because you shoot film and work in an analog manner. The list goes on and on. Let me tell you something. You can run away from many things in life, even death but you can never ever run away from yourself.

Time to man/woman up and face the facts, you are who you are and need to accept and love that person. If not, one day you’ll be playing a strat on stage and feel empty even as the crowd stands and calls your name.

 

June 26th, 2019 … The Tones da Thang

I started playing guitar at 13. Seems my dad played and he also was an amateur photographer. He died when I was 6 so, not many memories but enough for me to find him at the end of my tour. Anyway, I am aware that I followed in his footsteps without really seeing those footsteps. After a short time, I fell in love with the guitar and played all my life. When I got home from Nam, I started to get serious with it because I could hide inside it and keep my thoughts and emotions hidden from my family. I started to get pretty good at blues and loved playing but unfortunately, I didn’t have a voice for singing. That took a toll on me that to this day has affected me. As time passed, I was in many bands and really loved the interaction. We recorded and did gigs and concerts and it was a dream come true. Inside there was a block of ice in me that I couldn’t chip away. On the outside, I appeared happy and content and loved what was happening. Inside, another story had developed.

Tone Is Da Thang

See, your tone is your signature. It’s what makes your soul sing and dance. No 2 people have the same tone. I could hear anyone that had their tone so clearly and loved listening to them. The issue was I never found my tone. Oh, I could hear it inside but whenever I tried to get it out, failure. I bought more effects than I would ever need. I had the sounds that many liked but I did not love it because I knew I didn’t have the tone. I had no signature tone. There was an emptiness in my soul that never was satisfied. Decades passed and still, I was just like everyone else without tone. Empty with all the gear to make it happen but no stamina to pursue it.

My body started developing  Essential tremors and that put an end to my guitar playing. Of course, I’d have a heck of a vibrato but I can’t grip the neck without some pains. My fav guitars hang on the wall and I look at them all the time. That part of my life has passed and it saddens me but I continue to have great memories.

So, what’s this to do with photography? Maybe there’s something like the tone in photos. I don’t mean color tone, but TONE. It’s borrowed from guitar playing. This is not a new question for me but one that seeks an answer for decades. Ding told me long, long ago that he felt I had much raw potential. He was upset to learn that I could not afford to go to any college. So Ding rethought his approach to me and told me, “The most important things you need to learn are, to recognize your successes and recognize your failures”. This, of course, means to, define success and define failure and have a concrete understanding of both.

So the way I define these two polar opposites is by the tone of the photo.  This became a very difficult way to work because I have stripped away the innocence of photography. I had assigned a meaning to the photos that maybe I didn’t fully understand. I felt that when a collector or gallery whatever, bought some photos, they were a success. I guess there were but I quickly realized, I didn’t give a hoot for the financial profits.

Eureka, Ding was right. I have finally started on the path of self-discovery thru my photography.  The tone of the photos was clear as the light on the moon. The key issue with that is, I maybe never made a bad photo and maybe made many good photos but the ones that sing for me are the ones that have the tone I can’t ever hear or find on my guitars. I just see it. So, it becomes more a question of what brings joy to one’s life. Sure, it’s great to make those photos that are just outstanding to one’s self. Perhaps what needs to be learned and practiced is to love what you are doing and not to make things simple or decrease the value of intent but to find the joy with a camera and if you get that great shot, fine if not, at least love what you are doing.

It’s important to strive for personal satisfaction but to only reach for that means if a photo doesn’t make the cut, then you start to live with resentment. You have no right to make photography a passion of resentment. It’s totally unacceptable and can’t be allowed to control any part of you. If resentment and failure plague you and your work, it’s you, not photography that has the issues.

Maybe I’m getting too personal here but truthfully, I don’t know how to be any other way.

Have a blessed day and good light to one and all….♥♥

June 14th, 2019 … Finding The Soul in the Swamp of Nothing

Twas the night before… wait… the wrong story. Lemme see, hmmmm… Then night light was starting to give way to daylight. The change in colors and the tones that separate them becoming obvious. People starting to move around, the cars and trucks and buses taking over the streets. People now on the lookout for traffic. The train I was on pulled into 5th street and I deboarded. Yes, you can deboard a train or an airplane. As I walked up the steps to street level, I could see fog and kinda like vegetation starting to consume the light. Oh no, the light. I pulled Andre’ the Ricoh GRIII from his bed (Tamrac 5720)  on my side and checked his settings. Alls well but I have this feeling of impending doom like we are in the middle of the nothing. Andre’ the Ricoh GRIII was warm and I can tell nervous. Why nervous,. because we have walked this path more times than I remember. Now, the light of day was not so bright and there was nothing to see for making photos.

As we walked thru the darkness of nothing, I felt the leaves of the weeping image trees land on my face and chest. The winds of sorrow had released the leaves and sent them to me. I felt a longing for my past life and yet knew it was history and will not repeat. Andre’ cuddled in my hand as he is the new guy on the shelf. He is not used to the longing of something in the land of nothing. I looked at a leaf that fell to my face. I was amazed to dee on it a photo I had made in history past. Then another leaf landed on me and I gazed upon its beauty and grace. Alas, another photo on the leaf. I felt not lost but still unfound. Andre’ said… sheeter, listen… you understand AI right? Of course, I said, it’s that great movie about that AI kids life. Andre’ kinda moved hi IS and I felt it. He said, listen, you watch much too much TV and your a 60’s dude. So, how about wee try fo focus in the crap are in. Andre told me he has RI installed. RI = Ricoh Intelligence, nor Artifical.

As we walked along the path of surrender and to the land of nod, Andre’ tuned himself on. All the sudden I could see light and shape and a frame that I thought would be gone for eternity, Nah… wait, wait… just till this little journey is complete.

The sky started to shine thru the dark canopy of despair and I could see in the distance, well… not there yet but working to it. I glanced and saw a young girl and a guy and she was looking at me cause I’m just so damn sexy and good looking….smiles.  Andre’ quickly set himself ready for the shot. (He does this by himself. It’s a feature that Ricoh instilled in the GRIII. It’s called, the inspiration factor)   As fast as I looked….click!

 

I guess the darkness of despair was starting to lift. But would it hold steady and allow me to breathe again? Would it allow me to be again? We walked until we came out the canopy of leaves with photos on them. I collected many leaves and they conjured up memories of photos last. I thought to meself, self… if’n all those leaves are all the photos then why are we in this stupid mood and in the darkness?

Maybe it’s true that opposites attract and that less is more. Maybe, just maybe being in the darkness without inspiration, is in a way healthy.

See, we all have times of darkness and kinda feel like we don’t have it anymore. I guess we are in a place where it seems we can’t escape. The thing is, to strive to live. Just because you feel that you’re lost, maybe that’s the driving force to find yourself. We are all on the edge of the abyss of non-creativity. We may even fall in,  but must not allow ourselves to surrender to the nothing. Even when it appears that we are almost done, their lives a spark inside us that will become the guiding light.  It is this spark that may be dwindling inside our soul that we must allow and feed so that it becomes our shining beacon.

 

June 11th, 2019 … Analyzing Intent … Soul Shooter … Pt 1

…. aight, so then what about intent? Who the heck invented that anyway … and then makes everyone, well many everyone’s but not all everyone’s but enough= everyone’s to question the intent of the intent makers intent. I ain’t one to rock the boat, too much. Been married way too long and too many divorces to do that. So, I know how to escape and get outside and go make photos by myself. Ahhh, so maybe, just maybe it’s crazy but maybe that there being by myself is the issue of intent.

One of the residents in my mind talks about the here and now. I tried to find him but he’s hiding and watching me make a fool of myself. I know this. If you’re being a fool and being that unknowingly, you’re a fool. If you’re being a fool and your fool intent is working, you may appear to be a fool but your not.

Here’s what it has to do with photography.

I say it applies to photography but actually, it’s a life lesson. Let’s just deal with the photography part and maybe address the other parts later.

We all know about the here and now. If you’re just joining us, go back and find the there and then. Study it and when you feel you are ready, join us in the here and now. What exactly is in the here and now? I know, I know we all been taught that if you’re there in the here and now, your in tune with life within and without you. (GH) But what exactly is this element that we become aware of? It’s not the camera unless you connect to it in a most elegant manner. Your clothes are present, the air you breathe, etc. the YOUR is part of the key.

We might say it;’s our persona or perhaps it’s like awareness of all and also forgetting that all. I’m sure all that counts in the total of our life’s existence. Go to a funeral or flashback to the one you went to and remember the words….” May his soul rest in peace, this could also be, May her soul rest in peace.” That’s it, not kidding… it’s that soul guy I’m chasing after. Soul woman whatever.

THE SOUL

I think most get it wrong. We figure that a camera is a tool I never felt that way. I always felt my camera was a partner in my work and maybe a soul mate. I name my cameras. It keeps me in touch with what I am responsibly doing. The real tools are not the camera by any means, it’s the eye, heart, and mind. See those 3 tools are keeping you alive and able to continue. So then, if we all accept that and I’m sure you will, what becomes the driving factor of those tools. Two things. The medical profession sucking all your money to keep those tool working and the other is, your soul to use and love those tools.

 

So, my belief is kinda distorted because life always has it’s own opinions and sets them to my mind.  Perhaps, I’m talking about religion and spirituality.  Religion equates to the camera brand you use. It’s the part of you to operate within a guideline of life experience, past and yet to be realized. We may all differ on brands. Spirituality is the source of commonality between us all. It’s the SOUL of living and the SOUL of photography. This is an inescapable truth.

The essence of your images is a direct result of the experiences of living and making photos.

 

The reason I write this stuff is partly that I find that there needs to be a connect with the world. We are apart. like it or not and that very statement conjures up the notion that we are responsible and accountable for our photos. We are not politicians that get to keep the buck and not be accountable for any wrong doing. We are humans with a camera and that means we are accountable to our selves, our work, and our subject matter.

Getting tired again. I need to rest but will continue this tomorrow.

Be blessed, my friends

 

 

 

 

 

The Weeds and the Flowers