February 5th, 2017 … Passing Thru … Eye Contact … of Life and Death … Paul Strand

My problem is that I read too much. It’s true I tell ya. I read Blogs all the time. I mean many bloggers are subscribed to me and I too them. It’s amuses me that some will be so steadfast on a position that it’s humorous without being funny at all. One of the things a guy I just read was about eye contact and how it was all important in street work. Well, maybe it is and maybe, just maybe there  is a point raised about what the eyes are seeing in this point of contact. Is eye contact about the subject peering into the camera and not realizing or realizing that a photo is or is not being made? If eye contact is about just seeing the subject peering at us from the photo, well I suppose I differ on opinion and maybe even the popular opinion I don’t do well with anyway.

I studied the photos of Paul Strand very intensely. When you look at his portraits whether candid as they say but he never did, or set up, one instantly FEELS the subject and Strand at the same time.  I saw unpublished photos that Paul made of Hazel, his wife and partner thru life and love. I would feel this warmth inside me and a longing that I couldn’t explain. I would ask Ding and he just looked at me and I knew he had the same feelings I was experiencing.

I didn’t understand how we could feel things from the photos and they were shared feelings. Then it dawned on me years later as I was making photos of my wife and kids. I had made a portrait of my mother in her apartment and it was stark with just a lamp over head. When I saw the print, I understood Paul Strands work as never before.

Strand wasn’t making portraits of people or Hazel that were superficial at all. Strand was making photos of LIFE and DEATH. He was aware the the moment would pass instantly from his view and Death would haunt him for his life. Some say I am infatuated with death and it comes across a lot in my feelings and thoughts. It’s true but if we don’t appreciate death and the totality of it’s birth upon us, we will never taste life that we have and just go thru living as if there is no tomorrow.

Strand saw Hazel in his photos and the fact that he saw destiny as they grow older and reach the end of life as we know it. He had the ability to see all of life in that manner. More then any photographer before him. It’s why it took a while or the 291 club and Stieglitz to understand Strand’s work and passion. The big reason is because as talented as the others were, Strand showed promise to be a loner and a leader in the future.

The understanding of what photography does most and best, is the recording of memories. Look at any photographer you admire and the observance of life and death will or should be in the work. It’s the single common denominator and yet, countless shooters will deny the power and reason for the intent of making memories. They will feel and believe that for as long as they are gifted not with their life but with the life of their loved ones.

Perhaps this is a good reason to learn to MAKE photos and not TAKE photos. So, the next time you make photos,  be aware that time will pass and things will change but the biggest change will be inside you. Paying attention to the change of seasons of our life will make us be alive not just be present.

14 thoughts on “February 5th, 2017 … Passing Thru … Eye Contact … of Life and Death … Paul Strand”

  1. Nothing like change of seasons to wake oneself up. Going through that now. I look forward to what’s ahead. I look back and see many footprints to where I am now. You can never go that way again, back. The road less traveled is ahead. I look forward to making tracks.

    1. Thanks for the wise thoughts. That looking back thing gets many in the tangled web of lost heart and mind.

        1. I gotta tellya Keith, I don’t really feel for these best of, most influential things. It adds division amongst people and I don’t sipport that kinda thing. Thanks anyway.

          1. Yes, I know what you mean. I dislike polls, contest, etc….. Everyone is so different. How can you say who is best? Hopefully, one can find their own voice, vision, and connect with people through their work. I think that’s what is important.

          2. Absolutely, providing email notifications work…. it’s just a plumbing issue.
            What interest me is not the ones on the poll but the poll bearers.

  2. Hi Don,

    This is an interesting post regarding one’s readings, and in this case where the photographer Strand fits and sits.

    Strand, in his photography, applies a deep intelligence so as to capture the emotional intelligence of what’s in front of him.

    Strand’s ability to capture to do this, to capture what’s in front of him, can be at a level to be almost truer than life at the time he trips the camera shutter, because just maybe, Strand want’s us to see the tale he wants to tell in the totality of the final image, which requires no retrospectivity.

    Strand could do this because he just may have possessed an ability to record the sense of life that others may not be able to sense, see, or recognise at the critical time.

    Most of us can’t do this, no matter how hard we try, and so, it’s only recognised in us upon reflection during a look back. This can be a real ‘if only moment’ for the person whose reflecting and reacting to what comes from what is then realised, discovered and comprehended, whilst undergoing and experiencing the resultant change, which then steers us in directions that make new tracks to which Keith Goldstein alludes to, above.

    I’m sure we’ve all experienced this, and will continue to experience it. This is simply because we are not all at that level Strand sits at, and so, we will continue to get “… in the tangled web of lost heart and mind…”, as you have stated above, in response to Keith Goldstein.


    1. Sean,
      I live life with a map that I may or may not choose to follow or unfollow. There are landmarks that I seek to visit and may at some time like to get back to. As far as looking at Strand or anyone from the past and thinking that no one can perform as him, I don’t believe that for a second. I mean back in the day it was extremely difficult to make a reputation and maintain it. No internet, sending prints to museums, buyers, galleries, a most difficult task. Today with the web and especially digital imaging, the situation is the same in the sense that we are all over saturated with each other, ourselves and all of the beautiful things. So making a mark is an easy feat but to maintain it, not so easy. We need to single out our market not just financial but with friends, etc. I have some shooters in the Inspired Eye that are outstanding. I chat with hem and they are like 30 something. Awesome.

      The point I was making in the original post was that being in touch with your subject and yourself is a mandatory process that has not changed since the beginning and yet, the web has created new variations of that and hence, what people perceive as a new direction. Maybe but odds are it won’t hold water in the long run and we will all be thirsty in the end.

  3. Well said Don. As usual … reading your blog gets the gears in my head spinning. And … congrats on making the 100 list. It’s a combination of your images and your blog thoughts that make you you! Have a great weekend!

    1. Thanks Dave. Ya know… I been pushing that spinning wheel to get this stuff out of my head. I’m glad your catching it.

      Seeya out there my friend….

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