Dave and Academia


This is a google book preview from The Elements of Photography which is a photography textbook published a year or two ago and already in it’s second or third printing. Scroll down a bit ’til you hit one of my images, enlarge the text. This is as good a bit of writing as you’ll find about principles used in my photographs, and yet… there is something… well, to be honest… it takes me back to my college years where we would write papers about Kafka or some other great writer, trying to point out various techniques that he used. Even way back then, I remember thinking that it would be a better exercise to ask students to write their own Kafkaesque story.

How can anyone ever explain how he came up with the idea of a man waking up to discover that he’s become a roach. There is one way – and that is by reading his journals. I don’t know if they’re still in print, but I had a two volume set of his journals, and you could get glimmers of how he would get these fixed ideas, and go back to them over and over again until they either disappeared, never to return… or would suddenly, after months or years of lying dormant suddenly pop up into fully realized stories. I think that writers and artists – as a general rule – are like that. Reaching into the subconscious, digging around in there until they get a grasp something and pull it out.

The textbook, unfortunately, begins with the finished creation and dissects it. It is odd to remember where you were, and what you were thinking when you took a shot. That Manhattan Mall shot – I was just returning with what I hoped was my fixed Leica. I wanted to do a test shot before getting on the train and saw the Manhattan Mall sign. I simply framed it so that the word Manhattan would be in frame and set the f-stop so there would be enough depth of field to also get the background. Click, and onto the train. I was aware of the hotel across the street being well-known – and used the sign as a label. Reflections in the shiny metal were a bonus.


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My name is Dave Beckerman. I am a fine art photographer working in New York City.