Photoblog June 2000

6-2-2000

Not much new. Although I’m getting about 5 new registrations per day, nobody seems willing to buy a screensaver, which I thought at least a couple of people would like. C’est la vie. Either I don’t know how to sell them, or the price is too high, or its a long way from liking something to plunking down a few bucks over the internet.

Well, for now, I’m not going to worry about it. The big push to finish the site, although its really never totally over, is over for now and I’ve been starting to shoot and print again.

I also have some vacation time coming up, and have been torn between going back to Nova Scotia (I hitch hiked through there in my youth) — and someplace like Florence or Venice Italy (never been to Italy), or Ireland. Or… their are many places that I want to visit, but time is limited, and I will be traveling alone, and I’m not sure that I want to go to Nova Scotia (I’ve been thinking of Cabot Drive on Cape Bretton) — alone. Just seems too isolated, even for me. And I guess it also feels like trying to recapture something of my youth, which is silly since I didn’t much enjoy it when I was a youth.

I can tell you one thing — I have a pretty good idea of what people like and dislike as far as the pictures on the site go. I’ve always divided them into pretty stuff, and non-pretty. And it ain’t hard to tell them apart. The Benches, The Central Park shots, the prints where there is a sense of tonal richness, and classic composition, and safe subject matter — in short, what might be called decorative in nature, are by far the most popular. Then there are prints that seem to bridge that line a bit, and might not be obviously beautiful, such as Night Chess or FDR Tunnel, which are also popular. Girl with Ball, has a pleasant feeling.

These are not necessarily the hardest shots to get, but they are technically proficient, and generally with medium or large format equipment.

And you know what? I’m the same way. When I look around my own apartment, I’m not looking to be reminded of the grimmer side of life. I too want to find something soothing to adorn the walls. Why would I want to look at a picture of a subway car? No matter how well its been done. I see that every day. I want something that will transport me.

And deep down, this schism, is present in my shooting, and in my choice of where to take a vacation.

Nova Scotia represents the search for this far-away beauty. But quite honestly, every time that I go out into the wilds to hunt this beauty, I return with less than I hoped for. Hunting for this type of beauty is a full-time job that I’m not really trained for. I’m trained to hunt out the beauty in the urban world. Or if not the beauty, at least the interesting. So I’m leaning towards Florence and/or Venice.

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6-10-00

I was looking at the Voyager tour (www.voyager.com) site with the idea of doing something I’ve never done before, actually taking a photographic tour. Two tours that caught my interest — one is of ‘Old Ireland’ the other is of Tuscany.

But I’m somewhat hesitant. Why? I have a bad feeling about tours in general. I have in the back of my head a book by Mark Twain about a bunch of rich American’s going through Europe. (An Innocent Abroad??) was that the name of it. And also, I looked at the photographs of the guide, which are wonderful, but not at all in the style that I shoot. Beautiful view camera work, inside abbeys, and countryside etc. But I really find very little in terms of what is called ‘street photography’.

And ‘street photography’ cannot really be done as part of a tour. Sort of like an army parading through town looking for ‘the moment’. And it ain’t cheap. All of my traveling has been done on a shoestring. And the way things are going at the old ad agency — I don’t know if I will have a job by the time the tour comes around.

I sold a few more prints last weekend to a friend of my sisters. Yesterday did a bunch of printing. I am beginning to find a bunch of prints that don’t really need much dodging and burning, and are easy to print. Went back to do the Mouthwash print, which I hadn’t done in about five years, and it printed nicely at about 5 x 8″. Also did the ‘Two Women on Bus” and “Paris Wedding”. Five of each. Very pleased with the outcome. Oh yes, and ‘Kiss Through Bars’.

Anyway, sales through the web site remain non-existent. But I continue to receive e-mail from people saying how much they are moved by some of the images. So I can only conclude that the prices are too high for the people who are visiting the site, and there is a hesitancy about purchasing prints on-line (which I can understand). On the other hand, even the sales that I made last weekend, are partially due to having the website, in the sense that I was able to get an idea of what the friend was interested in, and arrive with a portfolio of prints catered to her.

Perhaps the idea is to have some prints which are not limited edtion, and not matted etc. sort of a sample pack of small prints that are easily produced. The print quality would be the same as for the limited edition prints, but the costs of producing them would be less. Posters are another idea that’s I’ve been looking into, since they could be produced for very little. But there is a fairly high up-front cost, in the sense that you really want to do a thousand at a time. And you don’t know if they will sell at all. Hmmm, but offering a few sample packs could be done easily enough, and if there is any demand for it…. well, they would only be prints that are easy for me to print….

Well, I will say that I didn’t expect to be filling up these daybooks with marketing crap, but that seems to be where I’m at these days. Apologies to those looking for some insight into what or how I’m shooting these days.

One ongoing conflict that I have is the struggle between film formats. View camera work for me is all but dead. I don’t think I’m ever going to go out to Central Park with the view camera and stand in the snow/rain to take the shot of Promenade again. Although I also get the urge to shoot with the Mamiya 6, I know that I will never get a shot like, ‘Kiss Through the Bars’ or ‘Mouthwash’ with that camera. The struggle is between shooting styles. ‘Benches’ (shot with a medium format camera) is a beautiful print — but ‘Kiss Through Bars’ is a more meaningful to me.

Why? It’s because there is something in my nature that looks for surprises. Something that enjoys that moment of discovery. And for me that cannot happen with the tripod and the larger formats. The carefully planned shot bores me because you know what to expect. If you use the Zone system, and pre-visualize, you are basically using all of your energy to predict and control the outcome. And when it works, you say — ‘ah, I got it’. I got what I was seeing in my mind’s eye. Sort of like the way one decides to live one’s life. First I’ll go to college. Then I’ll get a job doing so and so. In a few years I will be doing this. Etc. etc. Whereas anything that has ever been good in my life has been unplanned.

Woody Allen says in ‘Night and Fog’ — ‘If I have a chance to think about it, I’m afraid. But I can be brave if I have no time to think’. This is a paraphrase. But I have the same feeling. It’s by not anticipating, that I can be brave. It’s by not anticipating, that I can capture the un-expected. In short, this is the opposite by what is taught by the Zone system, and the way of the larger format camera.

Tomorrow is the Puerto Rican day parade, which is one of my favorite things to shoot. For a while I was thinking of taking the Mamiya 6 — but now I’ve convinced myself to go back to the smaller format.

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Dave

My name is Dave Beckerman. I am a photographer and programmer working in New York City.