The democratization of photography: S&R Honors George Eastman

Our lives are full of Kodak moments, even now.

The New York Times estimates there will be 1.3 trillion photos taken this year. Granted, the signal:noise ratio is low. A vast majority of these images will be captured with mobile phones of varying quality. Most will be selfies and casual users curating the moments of their lives, and if you want to insert the word “banal” in that description somewhere I won’t argue. I learned not long after buying my first camera that there’s a big difference between doing photography and merely taking pictures.

All that said, 1.3 trillion – that’s a huge number, and it must be acknowledged that digital technology has exerted a democratizing force on creativity. New tools have provided those who can’t afford an expensive DSLR with a means to capture, process and interpret their worlds in remarkably inventive ways.
If you can afford a nice digital camera, as well as increasingly accessible top-end digital editing tools (I use Lightroom, Photoshop and several of the functions in the Nik suite), the options are, for all practical purposes, infinite. Continue reading

Tiny woman, big butt

The smoking section for your average taco truck…

Smoking an elongated cigarette on El Camino Real in front of the Kaiser Permanente hospital…

(South San Francisco, California 2017. See more of my street photography works here.)

“Tokyo in the Underbrush”: ArtsWeek

Pictures and poems from Japan’s bubble years…

Introduction
In January, 1987 I graduated from Lehigh University with a B.A. in journalism. By the first week of March I was in Tokyo, Japan to start my first real adult job and the rest of my life. I was 23 years and two months old, and had decided I wanted adventure instead of an entry-level stateside newspaper job. So through some business contacts of my father’s I secured an entry-level marketing position with an American information services company in Tokyo.

ShibuyaMarch1987

What I present to you here are poems and photographs I created while living and working in Tokyo in 1987 and 1988. All the images are of Tokyo drunks and homeless people because, at the time, I was naïve and couldn’t believe this aspect of Japanese society existed. I felt I had to document it.

Poverty and homelessness still persist in Japan, of course, and through some strange twists of fate I resumed documenting Tokyo street life four years ago. This has resulted in a book I’m trying to get published called “Tokyo Panic Stories.” You can see samples my recent Tokyo work here and here.

So please enjoy this 28 year-old folio of words and images. And keep in mind that while I make no apologies for the quality of the poetry (I am actually still pleased with some of it), the poems were written by a man less than half his current age of 52 years. Also note that each photo is paired with the text right beneath it, and click any image to see it full-size.

Tokyo in the Underbrush

TokyoUnderbrush-1-1

Akihabara—May, 1988

Humor of the ‘surd

When you stare straight ahead, people love you. Continue reading

Mean street cutie pie

There was no child’s garden in sight…

She was tagging along while her dad walked his dog along Palou Avenue in Hunters Point in San Francisco. Dad and the dog are on the left. On the sidewalk nearby there was trash, discarded clothing, and a dead raccoon. Hunters Point can be that kind of neighborhood. But that didn’t keep her from skipping, giggling, hugging dad’s dog, and being the cutest thing lighting up the street that day…

(Hunters Point, San Francisco 2016. See more of my work here.)

My brief, wonderful life without Facebook

I caught a cold last week. So I missed several days of scrolling endlessly and mostly fruitlessly on Facebook.

fbthumbdownMy world, sans Facebook, did not end. The sky did not collapse upon me. Chicken Little became, for a few days, merely chicken soup.

I did not suffer from FOMO — that Millenial-dreaded “Fear Of Missing Out.” I don’t care that I missed so many things that so many others felt so important they had to be shared. I read books instead.

I probably missed birthdays and Facebook invitations to “send a message” to the honorees. Maybe I missed my brother reaching his biking mileage goal. (So I called him and asked. He’s close.) Surely numerous friends and former students posted more kid pictures. I missed, no doubt, hours of scrolling through auto-play videos, listicles, quizzes, cute (to someone) YouTube kittens and puppies, what (to someone) is newsworthy, screeds about morality and politics, and the “ten things you need to know now.” I didn’t learn what Shakespearean character I am or what my favorite color says about me or whether I can successfully identify hit songs of the ‘70s. My bout with a virus deprived me of screen loads of time-wasting crap.
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What comprises the ‘perfect’ photograph?

Despite decades of taking pictures, I don’t know if I’ve seen (let alone taken) a perfect photograph. After all, perfection is a rarely achieved goal. How often is perfection attained in any human undertaking? In music? In art? In literature? In making a cup of coffee at Starbucks?

All these enterprises have metrics or dimensions in which competence is required. In photography, for example, a good shooter needs to demonstrate appropriate exposure, retention of shadow and highlight detail, composition, processing, etc. But there’s more, of course. Considerations involving texture, form, use of line and space, shapes, and tonalities abound.
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Photography may have saved my life

One of the symptoms of depression is an addiction to rumination. The vicious cycle of negative thinking that strips us of energy and desire. It is precisely our obsession with working out what makes us unhappy that makes us unhappy. – Chris Corner

CATEGORY: PhotographyYou don’t walk away from something that was central to your very being for 35 years without … thinking about it.

Three or four years ago I wrapped my fourth book of poetry and hung up my quill, as it were. I wrote about it at the time, but no matter how self-aware or introspective or pensive or reflective you are, you simply will not fully understand this kind of momentous decision until you’ve had a chance to get away from it and develop some distance and perspective.

Lately I believe I have come to a deeper realization about my relationship with poetry than I ever had, ever could have had, before. When all is said and done, I believe poetry was killing me. Or rather, poetry was the weapon with which I was killing myself.

Here’s how it goes. Continue reading

ArtSunday: a poet says goodbye to poetry

CATEGORY: CATEGORY: ArtSundayI wrote my first poem when I was a senior at Ledford High School in Wallburg, NC. It was called “Octoberfaust,” and while it wasn’t a terribly good poem, it wasn’t bad for a 17 year-old having his first crack at something brand new. My English teacher, a guy named Jim Booth, whom S&R readers may have heard of, was very encouraging, and a poet was born.

That was in the fall of 1978, which means I have been a poet for nearly 35 years – my entire adult life and then some. During that time I have written four books (none of which are published) containing roughly 119 poems, depending on how you count certain multi-parters. Some have been very short, some have been quite long. Continue reading

ArtSunday: The DaVinci Gallery – a study in bracketing and High Dynamic Range

Lately I’m working not only on my actual camera ability, but also on better understanding the technology of processing images. Yesterday I spent a couple of hours in the DaVinci Machines Exhibit in Denver working on both composition and technical skills (shooting in lower light, for instance) and doing so with an eye toward how I’d be outputting the images later. Interesting results.

I bracketed everything I shot (three exposures: -3, 0 and +3) to enable composite High Dynamic Range processing. Here’s one series that emerged. This is obviously several different versions of the same raw shot. First, the basic image, fine tuned a bit in Photoshop.

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ArtSunday: visit 5280 Lens Mafia, meet some great photographers

Not long ago I mentioned the launch of S&R’s sister site, 5280 Lens Mafia. 5280LM features a number of current and former S&R folks (writers, guest contributors, commenters, loyal readers) and the truth is that the project is off to a start I could barely have imagined. So if you missed it, I’d like to invite you to investigate some of the best so far.

S&R stalwart Dr. Denny is the master of the macro lens.

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