I think that if you look back over the things that have concerned me in these journals since leaving the job, money will pop up more often than any creative endeavor. There was a tremendous rush of freedom that I felt when I left the corporate world, but also a new kind of respect for what money meant to me. It’s almost akin to moving from adolescence into adulthood.
The corporation was your parents. They took care of you. True, they would kick you out if they had to, and there was no real security, but there was the illusion of security. And now, you go out on your own, and it seems romantic and all, but along with the freedom comes the reality that you are now in charge of your own life and finances. How many times did my father say, “Do you think that money grows on trees?” Well, of course, you know it doesn’t. But somehow the corporation can take the place of the parents in that role.
There’s a bus strike in Queens. And I remember one of the strikers calling for “job security”.
He was yelling into the camera, “If we do a good job, we should be able to keep our job.” That idea seems totally foreign to me. The only place that I can think of these days with that security is in academia.
[It turns out that this post was more prescient than even I could imagine.]
I had, from an early age, a feeling that everything, and everyone would disappear someday. My uncle who was sitting across from me would be gone. The view from my bedroom window would disappear. The apartment would dissolve. And everyone and everything that I knew would someday be gone. And if not gone, changed. I don’t think that at the age of 14 or 15 I could put this feeling into words, as I can now, but I can remember photographing my sisters, my mother and father, my friends, with this sense of trying to capture them before they evaporated into time.
The reason that I write this now, is that I was looking through some old negatives from thirty plus years ago, and was amazed at what I was trying to do. There are many photographs which are simply my feet in the foreground, on the window sill, with the Park across the way in the distance. Over and over, I took this shot. There are shots of my Uncle eating a sandwich at the table, where I seem to be about two feet from him and he is giving me that look of annoyance that I remember so well. I try now, to understand where this feeling came from. Even today, I seem to be attracted to just ordinary things that are around me that I feel will soon be gone.
Some of it must go back to the early years on University Avenue — where my world, my apartment, my school, and the things that I loved as a kid, disappeared as the neighborhood ‘changed’. We lived on the border of what was mostly an Irish neighborhood, that very quickly was eaten up by the projects, and crime, and when I was around 13 we picked our things up, and moved. By the time we moved, murders in the neighborhood were commonplace. The building that I grew up was abandoned. Almost the entire street across from where I lived was filled with empty buildings used for shooting galleries. The deli was gone. The candy store burned down. The place where I used to take piano lessons was leveled. And for a long time, that street, the street where I played, and dreamed — became one of those South Bronx pictures that you used to see in the papers.
I never worked in color. The images of my childhood are still in black and white. Color was something the neighbors had in their new t.v. set. My dreams and memories, the early films I saw, were all in black and white. When I see color photographs today, with their vivid eye-popping saturation, they don’t look like the world I see, or the world I want to remember.
Dad's Brother Hy 1972
P.S. If you’d like to see what the early pre-blog (I called it a Daybook) looked like, I’m slowly importing those pages (usually without the pics) into this blog.
You have several images as good as all but the most famous of HCB (Cartier-Bresson).
Your composition is excellent, doesn’t require improving, but you need to edit much more vigorously. Most of your pictures are basically a lot of “Indecisive moments.”
Sorry, I’m not interested in buying any, but youre awesome! Do you sell many of these?
I don’t recall any photo-site, either from a well known, or little known photographer, that displayed such an ‘in your face’ approach to sales. My feeling on that is, if it works for you, and you are making money, great – go for it, but if you are not bringing ‘em in, you might want to consider a little more subtle and classy approach.
I don’t claim that these excerpts are representative of email I get but, well, there’s just something about some of these… judge for yourself. All spelling and grammar are strictly the ownership of the authors… I’ve been slowly adding pages from my old journal. This post (they weren’t called posts back then) was on Feb. 2001
i came apon your wonderful website. read a little bit about your back ground, and looked at a bunch of your pictures which i thought were awesome by the way. reminded me of all the times “i wanted” to take pictures on the subway this past summer (cause i can’t think of a better place), but never had the guts to just do it. so on that note, i just wanted you to know how great i think of you to do so.
Through the ages, the greatest challenge, the greatest triumph and reward in the arts has been the depiction of the human figure. To put the problem into your own context, that means taking pictures of people on the streets of New York. Your greatest fear it seems is taking pictures of people. You have to overcome that somehow by confronting it and mastering it through regular confrontation. You have to take the camera out, stick it into their face and trip the shutter. Period. No hiding, no telephoto, no nonsense. And most important no denial, no apology. If shit happens afterward, so be it. Who cares? You’re a New Yorker, can’t you take a little abuse? The end result is worth it.
After veiwing the entire selection of work posted on your website, I wonder, do you know what makes a good photograph? It is in your honest moments when your photographs become touching. It seems as if you bounce between salable images and truthful ones. Why not an edit? Sorry if I offend, however the strong ones will stay with me.
Most types of photography can be easily defined by their subjects. A wedding photographer takes pictures of weddings. A portrait photographer poses someone and takes their picture. The nature photographer covers a wide area, but it is easy to categorize.
Street photography is difficult to define because it can encompass just about any subject.
If I were to ask you to name a few famous street photographers, you might pick, Garry Winnograd, Henri Cartier-Bresson, or maybe Robert Frank. But if I asked you to define street photography – that would be more difficult. You might say that street photography is candid pictures of strangers on the street. That might be a good start, but it doesn’t really describe street photography.
To start with, street photography doesn’t need to be done on “the street.” And it doesn’t need to be pictures of strangers. In fact, it doesn’t even need to be pictures of people, though it usually is. Although there are common subjects for street photography, it is not so much about the subject as it is the style of the photograph. I can easily imagine an astronaut orbiting the earth, using a street photography style.
I would like to purchase 2 identical pictures and hang them next to each other to produce one continuous picture. I have chosen Poet’s Walk. I need it to be 80″ horizontal and 25″ vertical. Can you print them without a border so they will look like one. Manny Marlowe
Are you saying that the final image you are trying to get is 25 inches high by 80 inches long?
Is that what you’re after? If so, you can’t make that by hanging two pictures next to each other.
I don’t understand. I just want to hang two pictures right next to each to make it longer. Manny
Fine. It won’t look like one long picture it will look like one picture next to the same picture. What you are looking for is a panoramic picture. Like this [I attach a cropped image with just the middle remaining].
This chain of emails goes on until I notice that the count is up to 34 emails. At that point I call it quits. Now truly, this is not typical, but it was around this point that I realized that I was in the retail sales business. That’s an obvious fact, but it wasn’t obvious to me. I thought of the retail business as the type of thing where you walk into a shop and chit-chat with the customers. I’ve had several sales jobs like that and didn’t like any of them much.
But someday, I’m sure that I could do a book of customer e-mails.
My favorite one was a mom writing to me about her kid’s science project. Her kid was going to do a test to see whether dogs could see color or not. The idea was to show the dog a black and white picture of dog food, and a color picture of same and somehow measure the dog’s reactions. I don’t think they were up to measuring saliva like Pavlov, but the serious point was this:
“since my son’s camera only seems to take color pictures, I was wondering if you could give us some advice on how to get black and white from it because his science project is due in a few days. do they make special cameras for that? also the dog, well he’s not ours. we borrowed him and he’s big and nasty and i’m afraid he’s going to bite my son before we get to even due the tests so if you could send me info as soon as you can it would be a life saver – literally – ha ha.”
I did explain that they just needed to buy black and white film, but they were in a small town that didn’t carry any. Mom wanted to know if she could purchase a roll from me and if I would send it. When I told her no, she became quite angry.
“I TOLD YOU THAT THE DOG IS VISCIOUS! IF WE CANT GET THESE B&W PICTURES SOON, I’LL HAVE TO BRING HIM BACK TO HIS OWNER WHO SEEMS VERY WILLING NOT TO TAKE HIM BACK AT ALL. I THOUGHT YOU WERE NICER THAN THAT BUT I SEE THAT I CAN’T TRUST ANYONE ANYMORE. DON’T WORRY ABOUT US! IF YOU READ ABOUT A BOY BEING MALLED FOR A SCIENCE EXPERIMENT YOU’LL KNOW IT WAS YOUR FAULT”
As long as I’m still here, and I haven’t received any photos of the rapture, although I did read that a volcano in Iceland has just erupted (though it did that last year also) well anyway, one idea I had this morning was to put together a list (see it on the left) of vendors and photographic resources. I’m sure I’ve missed some important ones, but frankly, my reading about photography on the web is pretty limited, and it was easy to count the stores on one hand that I do regular business with.
So, instead of writing a post about some photographic technique – and the web is filled with them – I thought I’d just give some updates:
1) Buddy is practically his usual self again. He woke me up at 5 a.m. He strutted around the house looking for some sensitive equipment that he could jump onto. He did finally jump up onto the window ledge (with the big screen in it) and push it a bit as if he were ready to break out. He really is back to normal, and I’m going to call the vet tomorrow and see if I need to keep giving him the rest of the antibiotics which so far have made him throw up. (Is there a nice way to say that? I know some of you are just having your breakfast. ) Continue reading »
After redesigning the site to deal more with the web business of selling photos, and talking about SEO and all that, I am now getting a new class of – well – spam. Sort of. Basically, invitations to improve my ranking in Google and the other engines. They all promise to put me on the first page for my keyword phrases without knowing what they are. They promise not to do anything to get me blacklisted.
And the grammar in these invitations is pretty bad.
The other unintended consequence is that I’m getting a ton of emails offering to redesign my site. I suppose that these are all culled with robots that pull my email and see that I’m mentioning things like site design, but still – what they’d do – I dunno and the fact that they all found me so easily doesn’t seem to phase any of them.
Every so often, Matt buys two good cigars and invites me to the west side for a pastrami sandwich and a smoke. We go to Artie’s deli. The weather needs to be just right for the cigar ceremony. Yesterday was such a perfect spring day in New York. Matt had bought two excellent Davidoff cigars (something like d’oro puro) or pure gold. And after lunch we sauntered to Central Park where perched on two rocks we carefully enjoyed the ceremony of the cigars (of course after making sure that the smoke couldn’t waft in any direction where it might annoy anyone).
I think we both enjoy talking about stuff other than photography, although we fall back into it at times. There’s usually some bit of photographic current events that has left Matt feeling that his nose has been tweaked by the photographic muses. And I’m usually ready to complain about something that’s just annoyed me with what I call “the business.” I never can write about the idiotic things that I go through with customers because – well – I am mostly in the retail business and that would be kicking myself in the head.
But anyone that is in the retail business, I don’t care what they’re selling has war stories. I’m already at a point where some emails come in and just go straight to trash. I can tell by the first few words that they aren’t worth my time. Continue reading »