November 12th, 2018 … Long Time Since I Been On This Street Before

….it’s 1976 summertime at night, about 7:30 pm. Bill and I are at the Polynesian bar on Walnut at 18th Streets.  We are each drinking a beer talking about photography. Bill says, Don, I can’t keep up with you in photography. You are too serious and you understand more than I dream of. I was flattered because, in a way, Bill saved my life and got me focused on the very thing he says he can’t keep up on. He mentored me on art, presentation, curating, editing, seeing and introduced me to Ding McNulty. I really felt good. Bill told me, Don, I went to RIT for 4 years and you know and understand more than my professors and never finished High School. Now I was uneasy. I mean I knew that this was meant with an intent but not know what that was.

….back to the bar. These 2 older guys are eyeing Bill and me up. They are very obviously a couple and appear very loving. The taller guy walks over to me and says, M3, nice. He says, 35mm Cron, great lens. What do you take pictures of? I replied, Life. Hmm, he says. Does Ya have anything against death? I said no, I spent a year in Nam and death.  He told us that he was a Grunt in Korea and made many photos for the Corp.

We start talking about the military and war and all the shit in between. I asked him if he still made photos and he said he has nothing to say anymore. I said I can’t imagine having that situation.

2 days later, Bill came to my house and shook my hand and said, Take Care.  I never saw or heard from Bill again. I believe he went to his sisters in California.

I can see myself sliding into the abyss of silence.  It’s not like tall man so many years ago, it’s more intense. I feel that I have something to say, no I need to say things but don’t have the energy and heart to do so.  Maybe it’s not even that. I hope that it’s external stimuli that affect me to the point of drowning in my own negativity. That I believe I can manage somehow and even muster up the gumption to fight the good fight. What if it’s not external at all? What if it’s internal, my eye, heart, and mind that are lacking the energy and more? What if I realize that I don’t have anything to say. What of the lost words that speak my thoughts and memories? What of those thoughts? Where will they live or will they as me die?


I think about this stuff because it matters. I’m told by others, that it matters to them also. Maybe that’s the most important issue at hand. See, if I am self-destructive, mainly it’s caused by me and to me. I don’t know, my shrink at the VA keeps things focused for me but it’s me that’s out of focus. Maybe I’m not out of focus. Even with the Leica, I have more photos zone focused than precisely focused. I think here, I’m in the zone of reasonable thought train even if not precisely focused. The point is like this. If you learn something from someone, there exists an inherent responsibility to share that knowledge.  The other responsibility is to take that knowledge further than when you found it. This is not a mandatory thing. Most won’t want to explore those thoughts and all the work that comes with them.

So I accept the burden of being my own source of energy and inspiration. Not that I don’t get these things from others, I certainly do but mine is embedded in my soul. That means I now assume what I always did, the accountability of my work. This applies to me and you. Oh yeah, you don’t get off the hook that easy. I’ll do the grunt work like posting photos which includes time out on the street making them etc. See, not easy. It also means I will post my thoughts in text.  I’m gonna make it easy for each and every one of you. If you like, just read and see the photos. I have to state, the photos mostly are not made to work with the word. The thing is that both photo and words are from me, so maybe that means something. Linda of the Legend of The Girl Child Linda tells me that my words are my work as well as my photos. It’s a novel idea and I will consider thinking about that. So, if’n you have the need to express yourself, please feel free to do so on the blog.

So, I will do my job but not only self-appointed for you but for me. I can’t stop making photos. It’s an addiction for many, many photographers. I don’t suffer from that addiction. For me it’s life.

Peace all…. seeya’s soon, I promise


21 thoughts on “November 12th, 2018 … Long Time Since I Been On This Street Before”

    1. thanks, tommi…. Your recent photos are nothing short of personally stunning. I will try to keep up my friend…..

  1. Just subscribed not too long ago, good to see you posting, and shooting.

    I enjoy getting beneath the images, under the hood so to speak. Sad when one has no more to say, and yours a thoughtful way of expressing that.

    I’m a contemporary of yours, but lag behind in recognizing the desire but struggling to identify exactly what and how to say it with photography.

    1. Good to have you here Bob. I’ll keep posting and maybe you post comments. Read what others have to say and maybe find something to guide you.

  2. Believe me when I say (and I have no real reason to say it other than it is nice when the truth is self evident – and – I would selfishly miss your photos if you stopped) … you still have something to say! Regarding the energy needed to say it … I can only offer my commiserations and no solutions … I sometimes suffer from the same affliction.

  3. Hi Don,
    This is the first time I ever comment on this blog, it sounds like you were in the time tunnel going back to 1976. It is interesting to read your stuff like reading reminisce of some poet. You are a good writer. BTW, I would like to ask your opinion about choosing two cameras, Nikon D500 and D750. How come D500 is more expensive than D750 since D750 is a higher model. I have been shooting Leica M8 with 50mm Summilux and 28mm Elmarit, but in some situation M8 cannot handle especially in low light environment. But Leica is in very limited functioning. Then I bought Sony A56. Before Leica I shot with Nikon with some auto-focus lens and F mount old lens (full frame). I like to use some 4 Nikon lenses, it is a waste to let them sitting around, so I consider going back to Nikon. I appreciate your time reading this and hopefully you can give me some opinion. I like taking portraits, travel and landscapepictures, occasional street photos.

    Thanks a lot,
    Joseph L

  4. Hi Don,

    I like this particular article – it’s chokers full of pearls.

    You said , above “… What do you take pictures of? I replied, Life..” and this, perhaps, is what others get tangled up with that’s referred to as ‘street photography’. Sure we’re on the street photographing, but what we’re observing and photographing is ‘life’. As we photograph over the years, there’s a generational change that becomes evident in that ‘photographed life’, which also comes with it’s own set of different problems, issues, upsets, upheavals, solutions – however symbolised, reconstructed, superficial, vivid or honest we see and photograph them. Hopefully what has happened is that we’ve photographed with enough integrity to imagine realities never experienced, but expand our sense of experience through a focus on key points by sieving out signal over noise.

    You said “… Bill came to my house and shook my hand and said, Take Care. I never saw or heard from Bill again. I believe he went to his sisters in California…”. In a similar way, I lost the steerage, guidance and company of a person who initially saw my potential to photograph, in my own eye, life on the street. This person also became a friend that I regularly photographed moved a long distance away. That left me with the ‘what am I going to do now feeling’. Answer: stop feeling lost, get off your ass and take the next step. This is where I came to realise that I needed to, and I quote myself “Trust your instincts. Believe in yourself, and your photography will look after itself.” I now pass that onto other’s who have doubts regarding their potential, capacities and abilities to photograph life on the streets. This is all because as you articulate, above “… The point is like this. If you learn something from someone, there exists an inherent responsibility to share that knowledge…” and I have strived to, as you have pointed a finger at, to reveal that “… The other responsibility is to take that knowledge further than when you found it…”.

    You state “… photos mostly are not made to work with the word…” and how! Photographs don’t need words, because they can act and function to help us experience realities that otherwise we miss and don’t understand. They can act as doorways, windows and mirrors to facilitate how we can take the opportunity to put aside what’s usually accepted by, both individually and collectively to be seen and understood in newer and different contexts and experiences. This helps and contributes to securing our continual development and maturation as a photographer of life on the street. In sum, it doesn’t always require images to be propped, or supplemented with single word, or a body of words. The image stands on it’s own feet, but the interpretation may differ between author and viewer because the image may be a simple reality of photographed life and result in complicated meaning, or by contrast, be a complicated reality of photographed life and result in an oversimplified, contradictory, dismissive interpretation. Often I don’t know why I took the image, nor can I explain its reason for existence. It’s simply something in life, in front of me, I saw, reacted to, and photographed.

    You said “… I can’t stop making photos. It’s an addiction for many, many photographers. I don’t suffer from that addiction. For me it’s life…”. Bingo! I like it, because it’s the biggest pearl in your above article …


    1. Sean, I wrote a response to you 3 times and WP chose not to save it. I will try again. First, thanks for the support. I do depend on your to offer your thoughts and feelings. Very important to me.

      I will cut to the issue. Back in 1975, Bill started calling me the “Man on the Street”. Soon after Ding McNulty did and many friends also. It grew and I was fond of the title. There are times in my life that something occurs of seemingly little importance and I call those benchmarks. After time move away from e I notice more and more Benchmarks. As I look back on my life I see these benchmarks and remember what they affected in my work.

      I realized a long time ago that I was a photographer. Being the man on the street was inspiring but I also did portraits. I did many American artists like Architects, sculptors, painters, musicians etc. I also did photojournalism for money. S, the term man on the street started to become a stigma that I didn’t want to be known as.
      See, we all are photographers. We should define our locations and subject matter, not have subject matter and location define us. I am more guilty of this than most. I am known as streetshooter. I always was but I refuse to be defined by the streets. Yes, I am a street shooter, family shooter, portraitist and a wealth of other things I want to make photos of.

      There is a term that I and others use, the umbrella of street. This means that everything comes under the term of street shooting. For me, that umbrella is way to small in my worl=d, I am a LIFE shooter. That’s what we all are and the sooner we accept that fact, the more in love with our work we will become.

  5. Great post Don. Words hit home. I never can understand why some people stop doing something that they love. I did once, music, because friends who were involved died. I let it fade away until one day, many, many years later, upon greeting a new morning, the desire was too great to ignore. I dug under the bed, pulled out my guitar, and play every day. Bought two more as well. I now celebrate life, my friends lives, by continuing what they cannot. As long as I can hold a camera and live each day, that in itself is something to celebrate and something to say. Peace and blessings to you my friend. Keep on keeping on.

    1. Keith, thanks. Ahhh the guitar. I started when I was 13. It was an instant lifelong love affair. I played in may bands, recorded, played with many famous and love the blues. Then one day, I had these tremors in my hands. I could no longer play my guitars. I could no longer safely ride my Harley. I still have issues even with my cameras but I endeavor to persevere as the chief said.
      Thanks my friend…..peace to you and yours and especially the little guy.

  6. There seem to be some nice folks here, talking of things that matter. We could all need more of that. Thanks, everybody.

      1. Don, I accidentally called myself Wulfgar … There must be something wrong with my brain …Anyway, thank you!

  7. Great to see another post Don! So good to hear you say that for you making photos is Life. Going silent is not an option. You know – some of your musings in this post bring to mind an author and poet – Charles Bukowski – that I have recently been reading. And I don’t mean that in any kind of a negative way. You are an inspiration to me and I’m sure many other photographers. And a big shout out to you and Olivier for the work you guys do in putting out the Inspired Eye magazine. Take care out there.

    1. Dave, thanks as always. I am familiar with Buk

      Dave. Many in the group read his works. I find that I have enough to contend with from my own collection of thoughts that I am now at 69 better off following my own path with as little distraction as possible.
      I will continue posting and thanks again for the support.

      1. You’re right about following your own path. Sometimes reading Buk and my mind starts down some weird path. If he had been a photographer I wonder what kind of images he would have captured. One can only imagine.

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