January 16th, 2018 … The Eye, Heart & Mind … and something else but I forget

Suzanne called me and wanted to meet. That’s always a pleasurable experience for me, well both of us., and I was anxious to see her.  So I went to her home on Spruce Street and  we sat and had coffee. Now. Suzanne is a Starbucky kinda lady and has a few of their rot gut dead burnt beans in the house. She also has Pure Natural Organic Kona beans cause I gave it to her for when I am there. She makes me a cup of kona and  she makes herself a cup of rotgut starbucky crapola.  Then she says….Mr Don…at tihs point I know I’m there to work cause when she addresses me as Mr Don, it’s work. She ask me to sit at the dining room table and brings over a box of prints.  So the box has around 120 prints with sizes from 8×10 to 16×20. She looks me in the eyes and says, “your my mentor, my friend and my teacher, make sense of all this”. Ain’t enuff Kona in my cup to get me into doing this, but I have to.

So, I tell Suzanne that we need to re-experience the frame of heart and mind from exposure to now.  Now THE LORD blessed Suzanne with aa amazing heart, brilliant mind and a very clinical way to look at things. She’s a Heart Doctor and excellent at that. This causes her to look at photos more as her patients than the new reality that they are.

We start going thru the prints and I’m curating as I go. I know her and she’s a gentle lady with the heart of a Tiger. I also know that I don’t want to hurt her feelings in a ny manner. If I do the edit hard, she maybe gets upset cause photo’s she cares about are not selected. If I go to easy she will know and thinks I was just doing this to satisfy her. So I decide to just be myself and edit the way I feel it should be.

I pull the 4 16×20’s and look closely. I tell her that the size is wrong for the image. We don’t make large prints cause we can. We make the print to preserve the intimacy and content of the image. We are going deep into the box of prints. They are calling to me for attention. Suzanne sees me diving into her heart and mind and ask me if I’m hungry. My ears perk up and I calmly tell her, of course. See Suzanne makes amazing sushi and it’s better than any restaurant I ever been too. So she’s making sushi and maki and I”m being diligent with her work going thru it very carefully. There are like 10 photos on the third pass thru that continually call attention. We stop to eat and sip some saki at exactly 105F because she’s true Japanesse and insist on tradition.

Now is the moment of reckoning. It’s the moment that she has commissioned to me and the moment of truth for me that shines if I flatter her or get real.  We sit together on the floor. We are looking at prints. I lay 10 in a pile next to her. She looks at me and has that Suzanne loves don as long as don is kind and doesn’t hurt her feelings. That’s not exactly true, more like I have a fathers look to his daughter and just wants her happy.

That’s really the issue here. Do I just paint a pretty picture or do I stand my ground and as a friend, explain my real thoughts? I opt for the 2nd scenario.  She ask me which pile of prints is really worthwhile to represent her. I  point to the 10 and she kinda gets set aback but not visually upset. She ask why just 10 and what do they posess that the others don’t? I explain that when anyone looks a a photo, if you see the scene or whatever is in it, then it may be a great photo but not representative of the eye, heart and mind.

If you look at a photo and see and feel the shooter in the photo, that’s it! She gets quiet for a few moments. Then she says, Don I remember these 10 specifically and how present I was in the moment. It’s like I was in a state of consciousness that was heightened. In my country and my family, we would call this Zen. When this happens to me, I feel like BUDDHA is with me. Well, that is an amazing observation and experience.

I told her that was the reason I selected those 10 prints. She smiled and said she understood completely. I knew that she did. She mentioned to me that she wanted to work how I work. I said she is too young and too refined and elegant to do anything like me. Not in the visual elements but in the intent. My intent is that I am me, I work for me, I show photos because I like to. I am not trying to impress anyone. I am a photographer all my life because I have to.

Suzanne is a fine photographer, 28 years my younger so I feel she needs to experience all that her life will bring to her. The experience was very rewarding to both of us. I love to learn what I teach and I love to gteach what I learn. Most of all, her sushi is amazing……

Peace all, be blessed and never, ever doubt yourself.

12 thoughts on “January 16th, 2018 … The Eye, Heart & Mind … and something else but I forget”

  1. Hi Don,

    I find that the following two points that you make within the body of your text, above, are most salient. First, we “… make the print to preserve the intimacy and content of the image…”, and second, when “… you look at a photo and see and feel the shooter in the photo, that’s it!…”

    I see that these two points are the cornerstone and springboards to be “… representative of the eye, heart and mind …” of the photographer, and get to the Zen of one’s “… intent …”.

    That does not mean every viewer of ones work will have to see, think and feel as the photographer does, but hopefully come to appreciate and respect what has driven the photographer and their work – without them turning in a wrong subjective direction.


    1. Sean, thanks … as always you get me clearer than I do. I believe that the old saying that I always taught, “photographer’s make photos for other photographer’s” is only a part of the truth. It’s true enough but the real truth is that photographer’s work for themselves. Obviously, it’s a bit of each. If we work for the satisfaction received from others in our work, we end up working for them consciously or unconsciously. Working for that satisfaction, pollutes the intent of the shooter to the point of no return. So, I try to stay on my course and seek the satisfaction in my work from my work. I don’t always get it but I get it enuff to continue.
      peace my friend….

  2. Very interesting how you link being in a state of Zen with good imagery, funnily enough and friend of mine and I have been talking along similar lines for a while now.

    Thank you as ever Don, when i read your monologue in the essay I imagine you as the Dick Tracey of the photography world 🙂

    1. Thanks Zayhr, I’m glad I’m reaching you. Perhaps you couldshare some of your findings and we can Dick Tracey together. I lost my magic watch so I use a camera instead.

  3. I smiled when I read the bit about the size of the prints. It reminded me of a story an art gallery director once told me. He had a wealthy business client who had flown over from Japan to inspect some paintings he was considering to buy. The gallery had a number of paintings by different artists of different monetary value on different sized canvases on which the price was negotiable. Unable to make his mind up on which paintings he should choose but unable to find a starting point for financial negotiation the would-be buyer went about the gallery from one artwork to another spreading out his hands. When asked what he was doing the interpreter explained that he was used to buying race horses and as horses are measured in hands this was his way of estimating the comparative worth of the work in front of him.

    1. Kevin, funny story for sure. I have a woman collector that buys some work from me 2 xs a year. If i make the shot with a Leica, she salivates and usually buys more than a few. If it’s doen with a Fuji or anything, regardless of how good the shot is, she tells me to use a real camera.
      People are funny….. cheers

  4. Hi Don. Great post.

    I don’t print often enough (printing more is a resolution for 2018), and your thought about print size (“print to preserve the intimacy and content of the image”) struck me like a bombshell. All of a sudden, I can “see” it. I’ve been using 12″x18″ (30×45 cm) paper for my recent exhibition, and tried a few larger prints (16″x24″), but I realize that the visual impact of some of the images is actually stronger when they are printed smaller (11″x14″ or even 8″x10″).
    Smaller prints force you to get closer, more intimate as you say. Just don’t hang them all alone on a big empty wall; actually, hang them as a mosaic of several frames, a small portfolio on the wall, incredibly powerful.
    Thanks for reminding us of that.

    As to the role of flow and zen in shooting, you have been banging the concept in our small heads for a long time, and thank you for that. It’s the most important teaching you can possibly pass along to your pupils, sensei-san!

    1. Giovanni, thanks much. It seems to me that I always wanted to fit in. I wanted to be a part of the whole picture, so to speak. The easiest way I found was and is to conform and then to just not rock the boat. It goes against everything I believe in or pass along but yet, I reemain the conformed shooter. Maybe it’s the ease of just doing things a methodical way. Even in LR, I use presets that shape the visuals of the image to meet an acceptable appearance. So having knowledge and self-applying is a different animal than sharing with others. I prefer sharing with others and keeping the discovery of things alive for me. I will never tyre or bet bored with photography and as long as I shre what I learn, it keeps me going.

      If I had the chance to do it all over again, well, I’m already doing that.
      Take care my friend….

  5. Don,
    Thanks for sharing your review of Suzanne’s photos. I’ve reading it in my hotel room in Hanoi. I’m not sure than I have done anything that qualifies as photography–at least as photography from my heart. Since I was dragged into the world of digital photography nearly 20 years ago I have become quite lazy in making images. More often I’m recording a scene, an event, a person with an image that will help me remember. Perhaps I stopped being a photographer years ago.
    I’m hoping to see Olivier Duong later today, and will commit to attempting to do some intentional photography during my visit in Vietnam this time.
    I look forward to coffee with you when I am back in Philly.
    All best,
    Lance Woodruff

    1. Lance,
      Thanks for the comment. Perhaps being a photographer means doing it the way you feel is proper for you. I mean maybe you’re not as active as you used to be but nontheless, your still with your camera. Making photos for memories is the single most important reason to do so.
      We can talk over lunch when you return, cheers….don

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