From one of my photographic day trips with Les where we went out of the city. Still using the modified infrared camera.
From one of my photographic day trips with Les where we went out of the city. Still using the modified infrared camera.
I can’t think of a better way to start off the new year than with another quote from Miller — yes, another quote from Nexus which I’m just about finished with, but lingering over… but which line to quote? I’ve taken to marking passages and underlining words I never even heard of, much less understand…
“What could be more considerate — better manners! — than to treat thoughts, ideas, inspirational flashes, as flowers of delight? What better work habits than to greet them with a smile each day or walk among them musing on their evanescent glory? True, now and then I might make so bold as to pluck one for my buttonhole. But to exploit it, to send it out to work like a whore or a stockbroker — unthinkable. For me it was enough to have been inspired, not be perpetually inspired. I was neither a poet nor a drudge. I was simply out of step.” Henry Miller, Nexus
* * *
Finally got around to printing Flying Leaf. What an odd shot. If you squint at it, it seems to be Jupiter with a moon floating by. The texture of the ground is sharp enough and barren enough to give that lunar feeling. I’m not sure if you would grasp exactly what was going on without the title, but if you stared at it long enough, it might hit you after a few drinks.
* * *
This left on my answering machine by my dad…
“For the new year, would you like all your wishes to come true? If that’s what you want, then I wish for that too.”
My silent answer — “No thank you, dad. I’ve had plenty of trouble when anything I wished for came true… Let’s let some greater or wiser being do the wishing.” Remind me the next time I wish for something to leave well enough alone. Reminds me of those ‘Monkey’s Paw’ stories we used to tell at camp. You know, a guy finds a magical Monkey’s Paw which has the power to grant all wishes, and the poor guy usually ends up dying a horrible death, or just losing what he started off wanting. I guess this is the Bedazzled theme. Although that was a variation, in that the guy never really did get exactly what he wished for…
* * *
I really don’t do much experimenting in the darkroom — every few years I might change papers just for the hell of it. So, a few weeks ago I picked up a pack of Ilford warmtone (5 x 7) and I did a print on it today. Untoned, the paper looks pretty much the same as a cold-toned paper, or at least nothing dramtic. But toned — yikes. I have selenium sitting around that I haven’t been using, and I mixed up a batch at about a ratio of 3 parts water to 1 part rapid selenium toner, and threw the one scrap into the tray and waited. Didn’t take long, and the thing began to change to a nice coppery tone. I toned the print for about 8 minutes, and honestly, I was too tired at the end of the printing session to measure carefully — but I saw, as of course have many others, that some of my prints might benefit greatly from this paper/toner combination. Especially, nature, trees, etc. I guess its some of the shots of both the east side park, and Central Park that it would be fun to tone this way.
Nov 1, 2001
My first day back at work was nothing more traumatic than total and absolute boredom. There was almost nothing to do. If there had been a clock in the office, I guess I would have watched it.
My boss, who I really like, and have worked with for eight years send he was retiring in December. He had been talking about retiring from the first day I met him. And I guess he’s had enough.
Received some prints done with the Pieziography system, and wasn’t too impressed. The best I can say is that it is like the difference between a watercolor (inkjet) and an oil painting (darkroom). There is just a certain luminous quality that you get in a good darkroom black and white that I haven’t yet seen in this inkjet process. Color is another story. I have seen color inkjet prints that are every bit as beautiful as good Cibachromes.
* * *
Nov 2, 2001
For the first time since the WTC I actually did a bit of relaxed shooting this morning by the East River. Even though I wasn’t actually shooting the water, just the feeling of the breeze and the slight fog coming off the water made me feel great. Felt very loose, and calm, and seeing things sharply. I’m still shooting with Delta 400. Haven’t actually seen results of it yet. Left two rolls with the lab yesterday, and will pick it up on Monday.
* * *
eBay has really been a great way for me to get more exposure, and their feedback mechanism is a great way to get reactions from customers. I just added this link to my eBay feedback
* * *
Nov. 3, 2001
Excerpts from News Conference…
Thank you for coming. As you all know, I have recently been appointed as the leader of the I.I.I., and I am here to make an important announcement. I am sorry to have to report this, but in our opinion, a great number of deaths are likely. In fact, we believe that each one of us will die.
This is very startling news, Mr. Little. Can you tell us when this will happen?
Unfortunately, I cannot say when this will happen, but we believe that for most of us, it will happen within the next one hundred years..
The next hundred years?
That is correct.
But, sir — almost nobody lives past one hundred. That’s something that we know already.
Yes. That is already common knowledge. Nevertheless, I felt compelled, to make this announcement because otherwise, as people die, and if your government said nothing about it, well, we might be blamed afterwards for not releasing this information.
So, you are reporting to the people of Lompac that they are not immortal.
Correct. As far as we have been able to determine, through extensive testing, there are no immortal people in our country. Of course, we haven’t tested people in every country, but I can say that your tax dollars, have been hard at work and we have discovered that most people will eventually die. We have made tests on rats, goats, and other…
Are we to understand that the Lompac government has been using our tax money to kill animals in order to see if…
Kill animals? Of course not. No animals have been harmed in any of these studies. In fact, we haven’t spent much money at all on this. For the most part, our research consists of reading obits in the Lompac Ledger and then going to these funerals to confirm that the people mentioned are actually dead.
These studies began in 1901 under the direction of Frank Spindlehoffer Sr. and were being carried on by his grandson, Frank Spindlehoffer Jr. until he took a nasty spill in the bathtub and proved his thesis. I have now been appointed as the new President of the Immortal Investigations Institute, which is why I am here. Thank you all for coming and have a safe trip home.
Just back from the NYC marathon. Shot four rolls before the first runner even appeared. It was fantastic. I was near the Poland Springs Water people — and there was loud rock music blaring, and a nice cool beautiful day, and there were moments, as certain music blasted — ‘Born in the USA’ etc. that I had tears welling up as I shot. And then they put on what always seemed a little corny to me — “New York, New York” and I really lost it. I felt like the spirit of NYC was coming back. That the defiance was there. That fear had disapated.
The cops were nicer than usual. I was standing in the middle of first avenue for a while, and no one bothered me about a press pass. The security was there — but a feeling of compradery was also there.
I have shot the NYC marathon for years, and you’ll notice there’s not a single shot of it on the site. I am sure that today I got a lot of good stuff. I was totally in the mood, and in the zone, and before I knew it, all my film was gone. I thought my spirit and feeling for the sweetness of people was gone, but it came back stronger than ever.
This was the first time I shot it with the Leica. Nuff said.
* * *
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.
* * *
I’ve been to this spot in Central Park a million times, but this time, something magical happened — surface tension on the pond — lighting, clouds, and the city in the background, and then turning the print upside down!
Here it is. I haven’t actually printed it yet, just scanned it, but I like the feeling where the leaves floating on the pond seem like stars.
Phew. The Big Order (33 prints) arrived in England in good shape, and the customer is happy! Here’s an excerpt:
“Photographs arrived yesterday!! Also had delivery of the frames from Nielsen (profile 73 which is quite deep).
We both loved the the prints which more than met our expectations. Obviously the internet does not begin to do them justice with a lot of the detail being lost. Am very happy with the size as well.”
Although I packaged it as best I could — I had nightmares that it would be destroyed in shipping, and then what would I do?
Now I have another four or five prints to get in the mail, and then I’ll get a chance to print the new thing (which I feel like calling ‘Starry Day’ .
Results from the Delta 400 film are promising. The speed actually seems to be higher than 400! This is the first 400 film where I might actually rate it higher than 400 for normal processing!
* * *
Asked my boss again if he would fire me. Two days back at the job, and I am determined to leave. Just too boring for words. Irony — everyone is so concerned about the economy and their jobs and I want to be fired. I don’t think I’d be eligible for unemployment insurance because of the photo business, (although I’m not sure about that) but I would like to get severance pay after 9 years; and make my 401K match for the year.
But I’m ready to cut back on the number of channels I’m getting on the cable box; pick up a bunch of rice and noodles; and as I told my sister and friends — you may find me dropping by more often than usual for a meal. Let’s see what can be worked out.
* * *
I had been having this email conversation with Grant about Piezography/inkjet prints etc. and I had received one inkjet from him (not Piezo) and a few from J. which were done with the Piezo process — and then I sent him two prints from my darkroom and here’s the reaction:
Got your prints today. The steps of the met print is amazing. The black is just so, BLACK! It’s like there’s a life and a texture in the black areas of the print, whereas in an inkjet, the black areas are very dull and flat. The picture itself is fantastic as well. Thanks for sending it. I’ll have to see about doing some real printing…
To be honest, I was hoping that the Piezo prints would blow me away and make it feasible to toss the darkroom stuff, but no such luck.
* * *
I see, looking back at my journals that Dec. 25th will make it two years since I put up the web-site and I feel like its a good time to look back and take stock of the experience…
For all my complaining and whining in the journals — it has been a good two years. I remember when I started just wondering if any print would sell. Whether the whole thing wasn’t a dumb idea. Whether the work involved in making this a ‘business’ would detract from the enjoyment of photography. And the answer to that, at least today, is no — I am still as determined and excited, maybe more than before about the possibilities. The things that irked me, many having to do with packaging, and matting, have mostly been solved. The question about whether anyone would visit the site without advertising has been answered — yes — they will.
The big question, about whether it is possible to survive from sales has yet to be answered, but I am close enough to it that I am ready to take the leap of faith into the unknown. What have I learned?
– I can cut my own window mats.
– I can attract more visitors to the site by using eBay to sell and to market.
– You cannot, at least I cannot, sell expensively priced prints through the web, though it can be done in galleries.
– It is possible to do all of this from a tiny studio apartment, so long as you are willing to ‘think outside the box’ literally.
– This journal, which I thought would be a chore, is not at all. I have always kept journals, so there was nothing new about this, other than complete strangers are reading it.
– No one who orders prints is out to ‘rip me off’. In two years, there has not been a single returned print, or stolen credit card number or anything like that.
– And the bottom line, is that turning this into a business — has not killed the fun of it. I remember saying to myself that so long as this thing remained exciting and fun, I would stick with it. Though I can see how it could. I am lucky in that I like doing boring grunt work (or at least I can put up with it). There is no glamour to it. There is nothing all that ego-gratifying about standing in a gallery and pointing at work. In fact, so far, the worst experiences have all come from the cocktail type parties at galleries.
– What else have I learned? There are a lot of people who want to do this, but are not willing to spend the time learning the little things. I have received many emails from people, and generally, the most illiterate and ill-thought out ones were from photography students who I think were trying to get me to do their homework for them.
– If anyone remembers the movie ‘Treasure of Siera Madre’ — and you think of Humphry Bogart (Fred C. Dobbs) and Tim Holt learning what it really means to prospect for gold — that its mostly labor, that you don’t just stumble over nuggets and pick them up from the ground.
Well that’s is the paradigm for the photography business. And despite the labor, the old prospector is always ready to go back for more if someone will give him a stake.
* * *
I was wondering through B&W sites while I had down time at work today, researching for a shoot I have this weekend. I happened across your website and found a picture called “Newspaper Reader”. I was wondering what camera you used and all the other juicy stuff that made this the most striking photograph on the site (to my eyes anyway).
Simply the result of shooting on the subways for about ten years.
But here are the details —
Leica M6 with a 35mm/f1.4
Open all the way at f1.4, handheld, and probably about 1/15 of second (hence the blurring of those just walking by).
But the secret — if there was a secret — was that the guy with the paper and the umbrella, was very strong side-backlighting that combined with very narrow depth of field gives the effect.
* * *
Printed the City, Clouds, Sky shot– (not much of a name) — but heck of a good print. Looks almost exactly as it does on the web. I remember that at the time, I had been just sitting on this rock looking at the way the surface tension on the pond was slightly distorting the clouds. I actually took two shots. The first one had a touch of the buildings, and then the idea of placing the buildings more prominently must have struck me because the second shot is just right.
Experiences with Delta 400 are making me happy, although I still think it is actually faster then the 400 its rated at.
* * *
Brilliant. After two years of writing my name and address onto Fedex labels, I just called them and asked for labels with my name on it. No problem. Should have them in 3-5 days. I don’t know about others but I love the Fedex people. The place where I drop the packages off is generally empty or near empty. I just sent something to the Netherlands and the guy on the other end just tracked it and said it left the States already.
* * *
Received two huge boxes of mailers from Brasspack today. And even figured out where to put them without fearing they’d come crashing down on my head. One thing is a box of 100 13 x 17″ flat mailers. And the other is a box of fifty 22 x 27 flat mailers for the big stuff. I have three large prints to send out — lets see how that works.
* * *
Packed my first two 20 x 24 mats into the BrassPack mailer. Not bad. Made some cardboard corners for the edges of the mats, and put in a few pieces of fedex cartons, and then taped an additional mailer to the package. Not bad. Now lets see what it costs to send it fedex to NYC.
The whole process took me about fifteen minutes and looks better than the old method I was using of taping and cutting cardboard boxes which I think used to take me about an hour to put together. Exciting stuff, huh?
* * *
Just dropped off the prints at Fedex — and the price is not bad: $10. That’s for two large prints, with the extra mailer on the front. So with packaging, my cost is probably about $15. I’m a happy guy.
* * *
Just a few quick questions for a paper I’m writing on my favorite photographers:
1. What do you like about photography?
2. What is your favorite part of the camera? The lens or the shutter?
3. Other than your own favorite photographers, who would you say has influenced your photography the most?
4. Do you think that black and white photography is more emotional than colored photography, and if so, why and if not why not?
Thanks in advance, and please answer as quickly as possible because my paper is already two weeks late.
* * *
I’m thinking about breaking up the home page into two pages so there isn’t so much stuff on it. Sort of a page one and page two. Page two would have links to all the other articles, bio etc. This would make the front page simpler and easier to find what is important. On the other hand, it may screw things up with the search engines which have been kind to me lately. Do I risk it?
* * *
Well, it’s 7am and I’m getting ready for my second week back at the 3-day a week job, so let me dash off something here… The picture of the City-Clouds was luckier than I thought, because in addition to the idea of turning it upside down, it is probably the only shot on 6 rolls of Delta 400 film where the development (way over) didn’t ruin it. That shot is apparantly a result of so many accidents including my own ability to see the accidents, that I remain flabergasted by it.
A friend (you know who you are) apparantly out of boredom (again you know how bored you get) went through the images on my site and quantified them by when they were taken and with what, and came to the conclusion that about 1/3 were now taken with the Leica M6. I don’t know if this is true or not, but considering that I have had the M6 for less than 6 months — that would be an amazing statistic, and as my friend said to me, “I guess you’ve found your camera.”
I do feel like “I found my camera”. I held on to the G2 just in case this was a passing fancy, and also because it simply isn’t worth that much in re-sale. But this week I’ll sell the G2 back (two bodies, all the lenses) back, and see if I can get enough out of that for either another M6 body, or the 21mm. I think that Ken Hansen offered me $1900, and B&H offered $1850. I bet that with the economy going down their prices will be less.
You know that song, “Band on the Run”? by McCartney… I have the strong desire to write something called, “Taliban on the Run” — but I will stop myself…
If my 3 days at work are as boring as last week, then I will have to take up doing the Times crossword puzzle again, which for me is a sign of utmost apathy.
* * *
I joined the mailing list for the LUG (Leica Users Group) yesterday. Just out of curiosity I guess, and since I’m really not a ‘joiner’ I thought I’d force myself.
Now, to the age old question du jour, or longer: WHAT IS STREET PHOTOGRAPHY? Does it mean that it must be taken on a street, or a sidewalk, or in the city? I admit, that I don’t know. Well, time for breakfast, but I would like to get back to this later. I remember the old arguments between the pictorialists and the realists like Adams — (although he had his own pictorialish phase) — the only thing that I can say about street photography is what it is not. Ansel Adams is not a street photographer. Gary Winnogrand was. These are the extremes. There is often a hard edge to the street photographer. Many shots are taken, and culled from all this are shapes and tableux that have some emotional imact. The reflexes are supposed to be quick. The movements snappy. Yikes… got to get to work, more later, maybe…
At any rate, the reason I ruminate on these classifications is really because I want to say that I’m getting sick of street photography — you know that shot where you just point the camera at people walking along the street, and usually get a kind of numb or bitter look because you are invading their space and they know it.
* * *
I wanted to let you know that I have received the beautiful print. You packaged it very well. [The 11 x 14 of Promenade.]
Also, for encouragement and affirmation, my husband saw it and asked if it was an Ansel Adams picture… wonderful photography,
Thank You again.
* * *
Yesterday, my boss walked into my office and said that he had written out his new plan which included having my position terminated, and was I sure that I wanted to do this? Should he send the e-mail? I put my hands together in prayer and said, “Yes, please, absolutely.” He smiled and we both said that our era was over at this place, and he went back to his office and pressed the ‘send button’. Now I have to wait for the reaction of his boss.
I have been with the agency (sounds like the CIA doesn’t it) for almost nine years. It has been a thankless position. We made timesheet programs, and made sure the email system worked, and did workflow systems, and for a few years it was an exciting place to work. Users disliked us, or at least treated us badly. We gave them systems that we thought were making life easier, and they resisted like crazy. When we first presented them with the timesheet system, the creatives in the agency used to slip little notes under my door. The one that I remember was a picture of a clock with a dagger going through it, and the caption read, “I thought we had driven a stake through its heart!”
But as new people came to the agency, and as these systems were now de facto way of doing work, no one complained. And when we wanted to change the system to a web-based system, the same complaints took place. Why are you changing the system? We love the old system.
I sat around with my boss and went over what I had learned about management since I was there:
1. In order to get anything done, you need to be willing to make mistakes. You need to be willing to get fired if necessary. And I can remember sitting in these big meetings with the bigwigs saying to myself, if I tell them something, they’re not going to like it. But I’m going to tell them anyway.
2. Working in M.I.S. department, you must give people a hurdle to reach before you begin work for them. People will walk into your office with all sorts of ideas, and they will all be important, and they will all need them ASAP. So you sy to them, “That sounds like a great idea. What I need is for you to write up a one page description of the benefits of this system and perhaps one or two mock-ups of what the user screen should look like, or what the report should look like.”
And that hurdle would kill 90% of the requests. Once you asked them to do any sort of work, the ideas vanished, and became less important. The 10% who went through the trouble of actually doing some work, meant that they were serious about the project.
3. And most important — in most cases, the personalities of the people you work with, the people you hire, are more important than the particular skillset they might have at the time they are hired. The right people around you and you can soar. I gave many programmers their first job. I took them quite often while they were still in school. The only thing I looked for was the desire to learn new things. Once or twice this backfired. But for the most part, it worked well, and there was a tremendous loyalty that came from having given the person a chance. Now many of those that I hired, who had been students working after school in Pizza places and hardware stores, are making six figures in brokerage firms.
* * *
I was thinking of opening an eBay store but after thinking about it and reading through a bunch of discussions about it, I’m not sure it makes sense. I already have a store. I’ve put on my marketing cap, and I think what I’ll do instead is simply offer a few of the limited edition prints for auction each week, and feature them on my home page instead of the web-discount thing I’ve got now — which doesn’t work very well. I think the monthly idea behind that doesn’t work because there isn’t a feeling that the BUY is going to go away. And its actually easier for me to list things on eBay then to keep changing what is on sale on my site. In other words, I’ll put those small images of what is for sale on eBay on my home page with a link to the sale.
* * *
Here are a couple of new things off the first roll of HP5 Plus — basically just experiments, but there are a few interesting things here perhaps. Lips is somewhat startling at first glance, and slumping man is more subway stuff. All taken on one roll of film on my way to work. Its pretty gray stuff. Probably not as sharp as TMY. I’m going to do a few prints from the stuff, but it looks like I’m probably going to go back to TMY, shot at 200, and under-developed. This basically minimizes grain, gives the best shadow detail while still controling highlights. I guess I’ve just been sort of lazy about it lately, hoping to be able to shoot at 400.
Flat Iron 1
* * *
I received the prints today and am very, very pleased with them. It’s not all that easy to get a good night shot with detail, especially one with snow in it — but you did it.
Packaging was great, no dinged corners. [My new mailers from Brasspack are working out well!]
I hesitate to offer unsolicited comments, but if I may, I would like to say something about the limited editions.
If you get a really hot shot, why don’t you limit the edition to 25 prints. Then, if it sells out and someone buys a print from an original buyer at a higher price than you sold it, and this can be documented, you have gone from selling photographs to selling investments.
I realize the odds may be a bit high, but I certainly think they are much better than lottery odds.
My 2¢ worth.
Again, many thanks. I left two positive feedbacks [on EBay].
Much success in the future.
First off — thank you very much.
The problem that I have with limited editions — is not from a marketing point of view — but simply it means that perhaps my best work can only be held by say 25 people. This strikes me as odd, considering that part of the beauty of a good negative is that you can make many many prints (although in reality each one is a little different). There are many famous photographers who have not done limited editions for this very reason — the one that comes to mind first is Cartier-Bresson.
Maybe this is a mistake, in terms of the business side of it — but I am much happier to see 500 prints in the hands of people than 25. Also, even the limited edition thing is really a kind of fraud, because what many photographers do is print an edition of 25, and then if it sells out, print a second edition of 25 etc.
When I started, I did a few prints at the limited edition size of 500, but those are the only ones that I’m actually still selling as limited editions.
* * *
I understand your problems with limited editions. Many, many years ago I printed for a photographer who had “limited editions”, and when one sold out, he’d start another edition. Then, and now, I consider it a complete lack of integrity.
Furthermore, in this litigious society, I would think that any photographer who started another edition could run the risk of being sued by an irate customer.
I was looking again at the detail in the front of the Flatiron Building — really remarkable, especially considering the dry down.
The best to you.
* * *
Changed the home page to feature the prints that are up for auction on eBay. This may be a fluke, but sold 4 or 5 prints of Promenade.
* * *
Had a horrible time at the periodontist this morning — nearly freaked out in the chair. I’ve always been phobic about dentists — and they were digging around for 30 minutes — and my heart started pounding and I said, “Stop, I’ve got to get up”. So I get up and take a drink of water, and then back in the chair.
I guess I was in the chair about 40 minutes, but it seemed like hours. A lot of scraping with that cavitron instrument of torture. Maybe I swallowed too much novacaine or something. Felt pretty shakey the rest of the day.
My parents tell me that once when I was a kid, I ran out of the dentist’s office and the dentist ran out onto the street chasing me around in circles. I don’t remember this, but I believe it.
Some of these dental hygenists are the sweetest, kindest people I’ve ever met, and I figure its because they’ve taken out all their aggression on my gums. I once asked the dental hygenist if she had ever thought of taking up sculpture. She laughed. I said, really you could really put all that aggression to a more artistic use. Maybe not.
* * *
Also sold six prints to someone in Texas who believe it or not wanted smaller prints. That’s the first time anyone has specifically asked for 5 x 7’s.
* * *
Just put up Midnight at Grand Central, 2/500 on eBay. This is one of those prints that you really don’t get the effect of on the web — in my not so humble opinion. But what the heck. The first print sold at about $600 at my first show. Its opening price on eBay is $76. Its just one of those prints that I really think are special and would like to get into people’s homes. Especially seems poignent after Sept. 11th.
* * *
Hi Dave – Just wanted to let you know I received the photos this afternoon [Promenade and Equitable and Flat Iron] and they are absolutely beautiful, I cannot wait to see them framed and displayed. Thank you again for your help…The packaging was great, they arrived in perfect condition.
Ah, heaven. My new packaging for large prints is working fine.
I guess these accolades are boring to read through… maybe I’ll make a separate page for them. But what is great is that I am now selling the larger sizes, and that is where a lot of the quality and effort really come through. When I have time, I really would like to try a few of these at even larger sizes, say 20 x 24 prints — but I don’t have the right size trays, and am still not sure I have room for 4 20 x 24 trays. I might try the one tray method suggested by Lloyd.
* * *
After two years of selling, and ten years of shooting, I am really finding an audience, and am starting to see that I may be successful at this. That, I am sure, will bring my fifth mid-life crisis. I have generally run away from success in the past. I can tell a lot of stories about getting promotions, and refusing them or quitting as things were going good. I am as afraid of success as I am as fearful of failure.
* * *
QUESTION DU JOUR
Should I just keep sticking some of the nice things people say when they receive the prints in here… or set up a separate page called, Nice Things People Have Said …?
It might get rather boring to keep putting this stuff in the journals, plus I don’t know how many people (o.k. my business hat is on) actually read the journals. Maybe I should put a ‘nice quote of the day’ on the home page. Too slick for my own good? When I started the site, I used to have a page called ‘Dear Dave’ where I put the things that irked me in people’s emails up. Some of them were really harmless. Some of them were pretty funny. But I think it sort of stiffled people’s writing — uh oh, I might wind up on the Dear Dave page!
Anyway — matting and packaging today, and should have all the big prints ready for Fedex today.
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The consensus is to keep putting reactions in… so here’s another that just came in today.
Hi Dave, I purchased an 8×10 of the same image a month ago. Really love the photograph. [Benches]
I’m looking at this purchase as my first real investment in art. A numbered print! I keep my 8×10 at work on my office wall and I’ll keep this new one at home. As I look into my crystal ball I see a very bright future for you and your work. I believe it will all come together and your name will go down in history with the other great
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I think that both feedback from your customers and visitors and your own reactions to what they write are important parts of this story. I suspect that more readers than just this one are watching the little drama of your
life and work. Maybe we’ve fantasized about doing the same thing you’re doing–walking away from corporate life and trying to make a living doing what we love to do. We’ve been to your shows with you. We cheered when you had a big day selling out on the sidewalk. We need to know what kind of reaction you’re getting from customers. We want to listen as you think out loud about pricing and packaging. (Makes it sound a little bit like that movie, The Truman Show, huh?)
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I put up ‘Midnight Grand Central Station’ on eBay — but this print is and always has been a problem to sell over the web. I just don’t seem to be able to get the detail to show properly. Yet the first and only time I took this print out to a show, it sold for quite a lot (don’t remember what but maybe $600). What I might do, next time is use that picture service on eBay where you can show various details of the picture. That’s one of the drawbacks of selling on the web — if the accumulation of a lot of detail is important — forget it. Another print like that which is really amazing is White Mountain, because you can just make out these tiny, tiny rock climbers inside a dark crevice, and I would say that each rock climber is about three grains of silver. When I first started with the web thing, I looked around for java applets that could be used to zoom in and out of a photo. These things do exist, but either they were too expensive, or people said that they crashed their computers. So I gave up on the idea. Its sort of like the pictures that sell the best on the web have the simplest, and most dramatic lines to them. If you removed the detail and just kept the major lines, there is a simplicity that can be understood. Think about it — best sellers:
Promenade — a bunch of dramatic trees in the foreground, and two converging lines that take you to the horizon.
Benches — almost the same classic type of composition. It would work equally well as a sketch. The lines of the wood drawing your eye past the blocks of benches to the horizon.
Night Storm — same thing.
But the Sprinkler and Tree which I really like to look at because of the splattering effects which you really have to look at closely — doesn’t seem dramatic enough on the web.
And the other thing that works well is faces. So long as the expressions can be seen you’re okay.
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“A woman was seriously injured after being pushed into the path of a subway train at Grand Central Terminal last night by an emotionally distrubed homeless man, the police said” – The New York Times, Robert F. Worth
First off — there is that fact-stuffed, unemotional opening sentence that the Times is famous for. It glides ever so lightly over the horror like a skater on very thin ice. Who? Where? What? When? Why? Just the facts, ‘mam. There is no “Why?” That can never be answered.
This woman was struck by the number 6 train, the same train that is the subject of most of my images. How many times have I wondered, if I were pushed onto the tracks, would I have the presence of mind to roll over and try and squeeze myself beneath the platform? Or would the timing of the push just be too close to the oncoming train? What if I touched the third-rail, and was electrocuted and then mangled?
And that fear, that someone will come up behind you, and push you down onto the tracks, where you will try to get up, as the train roars at you, but you can’t quite reach up and get back onto the platform quickly enough — that nightmare will be raised again in New York today. The usual New York fear of death by being run over by tons of screeching metal will — at least for a few days — replace the fear of the terrorists.
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Been up since about 5:30. Have been awakening very early lately, and then feeling lethargic for part of the day. Bad dreams. This is unusual for me — I don’t remember my dreams that often but now every morning I awaken with the most weird dreams. This morning I was in an elevator with my mother. I was working at the ad agency. And I kept trying to tell her that there were these two men who were after me and she kept laughing about it. Then I’m in a cab going to the United Nations building…o.k. ok., that’s the plot from North by Northwest. I’m not going to put my nightmares into this journal.
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Did a couple of prints this morning, because I had to do the Flat Tire print for an order (I really do like this one) — anyway, some of the new stuff which was shot on HP5 — yikes, grain like boulders. I realize that in the last month I’ve tried Tri-x, Delta 400 and now HP5 Plus, and to be honest I’ve done better with TMY. I know that everyone has their recipes, and that any of these films will give great results etc. etc. — but I’m too pooped to look for the perfect film. So the TMY goes back in the camera.
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Slept a good deal of the day — seem to have a bad sore throat. Then got around to organizing some of my negatives, yes actually filed them away. You have to understand that I probably have ten thousand negatives in the house, so when I say that I filed them away, I’m only talking about those strips that are considered ‘portfolio’ material. I mostly only deal with the tip of the iceberg.
Maybe that amounts to two hundred strips of 6 (for the 35mm stuff). So now the glasine (sp?) envelopes are in little tabbed cardboardy things that I got from Light Impressions, and sorted by name. During this process I came across a few that I had printed but not put on the site, so I added them under new pictures. I did the one on the Staten Island ferry years ago with the Canonet, and it holds up really well at 16 x 20. What makes the picture is not so much the composition but the look — whether it is sadness, contemplation, reverence — I’m not sure, on the fellow in the sports jacket (left foreground.) I think it was Sunday. And I’m sure that this was on the way back to NYC. For some reason I was riding the Ferry back and forth for a few hours that day.
The other shot is nearly impossible to print. Its too easy to simply silhouette the kid in the foreground. But there is detail there. Maybe I’ll go back and give it another try. The shot reminds me (and of course this is just my association) of pictures taken in the Warsaw Ghetto. There’s a feeling of taking a respite from the destruction of some catostrophic event — and nothing at all fun about it. (That’s just my feeling). In fact, these kids were in the park on a hot summer day and running and playing and having a great time. Count on me to make associations with that and the holocaust. (Which was not an afterthought at all, but a feeling that I was after at the time I was shooting!)
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You can probably skip all this stuff I wrote today… Looking it over, it isn’t particularly funny, and falls somewhere between banal and morbid. That’s just the way it goes some days, especially when I’ve got a sore throat…
From the NY Times, today — Richard Lezin Jones. Day two of the story about the woman pushed under a train.
“There was the time in 1987 that he fired a shotgun at the tracks of the No. 7 train in Midtown. There was the time last year when he groped a passenger on a subway car. He ended up in a mental hospital again.”
You know, about thirty years ago, I worked as what they called a Mental Health Therapy Aide at Brooklyn State Hospital. These types of characters were brought in all the time, but in those days, they were kept around and off the streets. Brooklyn State Hospital was a violent and ugly place, and like something out of Cukoo’s Nest, it was often hard to tell the inmates from the staff.
I was on the night shift. After one day of training, I have no idea what my job was supposed to be. I guess make sure no one killed anyone or themselves. At night the worst of the staffers were there. People who were one step above common street thugs. It was common for them to steal drugs from the cabinets, and pass them through the grate in the window to buyers. It was just as common to come in and go to sleep for the night.
The first day I arrived, they took us up to a ward where there were about two hundred men who were in the last stages of syphillis. Many of us left the room and lost our lunches. There was this kind of hardened shock treatment that the management tried on us. Many decided not to go back after that show.
I don’t think this story is going anywhere — but for all the sweetness or beauty that may show up in some of my photos, there has been a hard, scary experience. For example, there was a man, a very old man, with swollen feet, and each morning I would put his socks and slippers on for him. Always, the slight smell of urine and aftershave. Memories like that, jump out at me when I read these stories about the crazies in New York. Maybe there’s no point to putting them in here, but these are tidbits from my life and I feel like getting them down.
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7pm. Still somewhat lethargic, but the sore-throat seems to be going away. Except for a bit of packing and shipping, didn’t do much of anything today. Still, just about all the orders are done and on their way.
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Looking forward to the Dylan concert Monday night. (Yes, he’s still alive and still writes ambiguous but memorable lyrics). He’s been to the other side of life and back again more times than I’ve been to the supermarket.
Dylan is a giant in my book.
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Web stuff — the site was switched today from Cybercash (out of business now) to Verisign Payflow (they bought that from another company) without incident. Even had an order on the site today, and it worked fine. Then I got a letter saying that the company that was doing the actual processing, I guess you’d call them the Merchant Bank, had been taken over by another entity. Whatever. So long as the money ends up in my bank account somehow because I’m gonna need it soon.
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e-mail about the Dylan concert… i guess we were looking for a nice place to eat before the concert and I suggested a steak house nearby — Keens — why? because it was the only place I could find in Zaggats that was nearby and not a clip joint. So I suggested Keens and this is the beginning of of e-mails between myself and Andy:
Me:There’s not a lot in that neighborhood that is decent… but Keens might be the best bet — if we can still get a reservation… I don’t really know if I want a giant steak before the concert… but i bet its a nice place to hang out…
Andy:I wouldn’t mind a thick slab of bloody red meat amidst clouds of thick cigar smoke. You can deliver me to the Garden on a stretcher. Actually, that sounds fine if you want to call for reservations for 5:30. (I’ll take double dose of my cholesterol pills and a surgical mask)
Me: yikes, that sounds disgusting.
it wasn’t really the meat, so much as the idea of sitting around in Leather Chairs, like something out of Sherlock Holmes. I think what we really need is to hang at the ALL VICTORIAN CHAIR CLUB where you snort from Brandy
snifters or is it sniff brandy snorters, and fall asleep in the big easy chair. this seems like the perfect prelude to Dylan concert, and perhaps a good after-lude also… speaking of ludes, are they still made? but I digresss…
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Found myself walking around the house shooting stuff like the toothpaste, and the shaving mirror, a corner of the garbage pail, the dishes in the sink etc. and then found this quote by William Blake, “To see a World in a Grain of Sand and a Heaven in a Wild Flower”
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Dear Mr. Beckerman,
My name is [edited out]. I’m in a photography class at my high school and we’re doing projects. The project is to emulate a black and white photographer that does landscapes. I went to your site and liked your work. So, I was wondering if I could emulate you. I have some questions. What is your style? What kind of camera(s) do you use? What do you like most about photography? And if there is any other information that you would like share with me, I’d love to know. Thank you so much.
I replied: look at the journals and various other articles on the site and that each picture gave info on the camera that was used etc.
Hey Mr. Beckerman,
Thank you so much for replying. A lot of the photographers that I e-mail never write me back. I have some other questions. You don’t have to answer some of them. Where and when were you born? I know you live in New York, but I wasn’t sure if you were born there. Are you married and do you have kids? Do you have any pets? How many brothers and sisters do you have? Again, thank you so much for responding. I look forward to hearing from you again.
[this is an actual question, that I have not made up]
And my reply:
I hope you understand, but many of these questions are a bit too personal and can’t imagine how they would help write a paper on me … but here’s what I will tell you:
Born in the Bronx, NYC, 1951
I am a little weary of getting these requests from students, mainly because I have in the past given out a lot of information, and in return I just asked that the student send me a copy of the paper.
So far, in two years, not a single student has done that.
So maybe you’ll be the first.
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I will let you know if I get any response to this. But so far, not a single student (with the exception of the fellow in Canada who did the transformation of ‘The Hug’) has sent me a copy of a paper. Perhaps this stuff is just a scam to find out personal information about me for whatever reason.
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I took this from the guestbook — it is also a very common question:
I love youer work! I have just one question, though: A problem I seem to come across when dealing with others in my own photography… How do you not piss them off?! I’m a traveling artist, and I find that, in many of my travels, I see shots that are simply magnificent: detailing emotion, mood, light – without any help of meaters or models – but when I go to take the picture, it stops. The people move, or get upset and the mood changed. How can I avoid this problem? It would help me greatly if you could respond… -or anyone who may have suggestions on what I can do to capture the moment more spurattically… thank you.
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One thing is, I don’t know what ‘meaters’ are.
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I offered the following advice:
How do you shoot people, strangers, without disturbing the mood, scene, facial expressions etc.
Answer — it ain’t easy. But there are techniques that can be used. They break down into two camps:
Stealthy and non-stealthy.
Stealthy means that you are in some way not making it obvious that you are taking the picture. This might mean that the camera is hidden. Or that the camera is hanging from your neck, but you aren’t looking through it. Or that you are holding the camera in your hand, but not looking through it. Very often this type of photography depends on using a wide angle lens, so that there is a great depth of field, and being very close to your subjects… perhaps three feet away. Read about hyper-focal distance.
You must be quick, and you must know ahead of time exactly what you are going to shoot, and how it will be composed, and you’d better be pre-focused (either hyperfocal, or you have focused on something else in the same place of focus, or man you are just quick). The camera goes to your eye, and you shoot before the expression or the mood changes, and you smile, and relax, and hope for the best. Maybe you smile and relax first actually.
Both methods mean that you will be shooting lots of film and will be lucky to get a good shot. In my opinion, this type of photography is the hardest thing to do, and is generally not appreciated. For every shot of people on the subway or elsewhere, I have sold thirty times as many pictures of the trees in Central Park (which of course weren’t moving very much and didn’t care at all that I was shooting them).
There are other tricks that can help. For example, DRESS LIKE A TOURIST, even in your own city. And carry a map with you. Look like your lost all the time. Do not, in anyway look like a professional.
If you have a boyfriend, brother, girlfirend etc. significant other, other type, — and you see a scene or subject that interests you, again, play the tourist and tell your friend to stand near that scene, and it may look like you are taking a tourist type picture, but you really are focused on the people behind your friend.
Some situations you simply can’t do. Others are easy. For example, the easiest place to shoot without anyone caring is at a large public gathering — street fair, ballgame, etc. An event. No one really knows what exactly your shooting. People are drinking beer and eating ices, and could generally care less that you are trying to steal a bit of their soul.
Crowded places are not the same as events.
The hardest situations, that I have found, are on the subway. Although these are crowded places, people do not expect you to be taking their picture in this normal setting. Going to work in the morning is not an event. It should be an olympic event, but so far the olympic committee hasn’t taken it up — (bribes from the straphangers union anyone?).
One more thing. A quiet camera is always important advantage especially more the stealthy method. When someone hears a loud pop going off from beneath your coat — and the heavy slap of a reflex mirror, the fact that they camera is hidden, or hanging from your neck is not going to help you much, and in fact you may find yourself in a mildly threatening situation. And remember this, let a smile be your friend…
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So yesterday, I’m sort of just lying around watching t.v. all day, when I get the idea to try and photograph objects in the house. In fact, to tell you the truth, it all started when I was taking a bath, and I sort of stuck my big toe in the faucet — which is right out of the old Dick Van Dyke show, and then I was thinking, wouldn’t it be cool to photograph my foot getting stuck in the faucet like Mary Tyler Moore. But don’t worry. I’m not that far gone. But I was thinking about stuff like that. What about trying to photograph the beginning of the shower scene from Psycho — that point of view shot where you see the water from the showerhead coming down at you, and then I started thinking, how the heck did they do that without getting the camera wet? I’m not taking my M6 inside the shower. No way.
So I put these ideas behind me. But a few hours later, I had this odd desire to photograph my bare feet, but in some jumbled up way. Something that would sort of make you just a little bit queezy — and then it hit me. How about putting my feet or foot up, with the spinning ceiling fan in the background. The blades would just be slightly blurred, and it would all be upside down, and maybe I could throw some interesting sidelight on the fan… O.K. I admit to doing this, and worse. I photographed the sink full of dishes. That’s right, the dishes that have been piled up and unwashed for at least a week now — became fascinating to me. I know you’re thinking that Dave has lost it — but wasn’t the idea I was preaching about finding heaven in a grain of sand, if taken for real, meaning that there could be found beauty in the dishes or an upside down foot? [actually I doubt it very much].
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Got my check for consulting now and then from the agency. I was hoping that they’d give it to me without taking out taxes and all that, but no — 50% more or less got taken out — so I’m not as well off as I thought I’d be. Still waiting for the axe to fall over here at the agency. Like everything else, here, it falls in slow motion.
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The flurry of Ebay sales dried up — but there were a few more sales from the website itself, and that’s great. My birthday is coming up soon (Sagittarius) and I’m asking everyone for money to launch me into the new year and the new career.
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Tonight’s Dylan concert. Not sure what I’ll be able to do with a 90mm, although it is nice to have the F2. Will try and sneak up as close as I can.
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How much do you want to bet that if I were to enact the most famous sit-com scenes with myself in the title roles, and photograph them that I would cause a stir? This would be my ‘urine in a mayonaise jar’ period. I don’t mean that I would dress the part or anything like that, I just mean that I would photograph myself in my normal clothing or lack of it as is appropriate to the scene.
1. Laura’s Toe Caught In Faucet
2. Lucy’s arm in the slop of Chocolate, or better yet, on top of the Empire State Building with a Ray Gun (might be dangerous these days)
3. Ralph Kramden giving the racoon salute?
(there should be something better for the Honeymooners)
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Oct 2, 2001
Finally got all the prints out to everyone and even added a new one to the new section (its at the end). The print is something that I’ve been meaning to get around to for a few years — Grand Central Arches. Taken with the view camera, it just has a very pleasing tone to it, and I remember when I showed it to A. she said, “Hmm, this almost looks like art.” A nice backhanded compliment. So don’t worry, it’s not actually art — it just looks like it.
Verisign took over Cybercash a few months ago, and today I’m supposed to be switched over — but they don’t exactly say today, they say:
Your account is currently scheduled for migration to VeriSign’s Payflow (SM)
service on or after October 2, 2001.
I like that phrase — on or after. This is all suppose to be seamless, but somehow I doubt it. Since I don’t actually know if I’ve been switched over (now or after) — I guess I’ll just wait and see what happens.
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Here’s how that picture of the flag looks in the Agora newsletter.
Oct 3, 2001
I thought this recent email gave me a better insight into my own shooting style and HCB etc.
Somewhere on your page, I read a comment that someone had sent to you…It compared you to HC-B (I think the writer referred to you as Dave Cartier-Beckerman, or something like that). [ed. thanks Bill]
Just one thing comes to my mind: Of course HC-B is one of my heroes, and hell, him & Leonard Freed & Jim Marshall are the three main reasons why I spent two grand on a Leica, and that’s a lot of $$$ for me, so that tells you what I think of him (and them). BUT: as much as I like HC-B’s work, LIGHT is rarely an integral part of his photos, in my opinion.
Think of your favorites among his shots, and they are probably shots that you like because of the moment captured, the expressions of the people, etc. But I rarely look at an HC-B shot and think “Wow, look at the light!” I think that more of your shots (more compared to HC-B, anyway) do contain light as an integral element – e.g., Promenade, the new shot of “Grand Central, Arches, Night Chess, Flat Iron and Equitable, etc. Of course, combining dramatic lighting with a “decisive moment” makes for memorable photos, and combines the best strength of photography (freezing a moment) with the best strength of painting (controlling the light).
Since HC-B has always professed greater interest in drawing and painting, I have always found it curious that, at least in the work that I have seen, he doesn’t seem more driven by the quality of light. Not that I would want him to be an Ansel Adams type, mind you. Anyway, just a comment.
My reply went something like this:
You know, at times you go around looking for a style, or a movement, or something to place yourself in and when someone says that you’ve got some HCB in you — sounds good to me. But the truth is, that unlike HCB, the moment in and of itself, doesn’t always do it for me. I am really just as happy photographing a rock, if the lighting is interesting. [ed. Lately, Dave seems to be walking around shooting steps that lead into buildings.] I’ll pass on the HCB mantle to someone else for now.
I actually have more in common with Ansel Adams, though many have said they don’t see that at all. Its just that my subject matter is urban rather than nature. Its hard for me to think of a single shot on the site that doesn’t have some element of man in it. Even the shot ‘Birch Trees’ which is a sort of take off of Adams, has a tree on the right which is carved with hearts and initials.
The shot, for example, Steps of Met, is only interesting because of the lighting. Yes, it captures a man in half-step, and there is a moment there, but again, if it weren’t for the dramatic side-lighting, I don’t think I would have printed it.
The shots on the subway, are also not particularly ‘the decisive moment’ but simply a moment, and I think that I’ve been as attracted to the feeling of the metal and plastic in the subway as the subjects themselves. In fact, my favorite subway shot is the Subway Car, Empty.
What is wonderful about the Leica is that it is capable of both types of shooting. It is obviously the camera to use fot the decisive moment, but one of the things that attracted me to it was the way that I could ‘feel the light’ when I was using it.
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Oct. 3, 2001
Something got me to looking through old negatives and contact sheets this morning. Don’t know why. One thing that strikes me is how many unprinted negatives look very interesting to me now. Years later, in some cases decades later, I can see what I was thinking at the time, why I held the camera at a particular angle, why I chose a particular framing or depth of field. This has always been the way I work. Many, many years need to go by sometimes, before I can appreciate what I was up to at the time. Why? I found negatives taken out of the window of my old house when I was fifteen years old, that are not half bad. But I always need this distance of time to be able to see it. Its almost as if I need to have completely forgotten the circumstances, of the picture in order to feel it again freshly. The idea flitted through my mind that I could be busy just printing things that I had never printed before for the next year without shooting anything new. This phenomenon seems especially true with the 35mm stuff — there is just so much of it.
I really have to try and sort through this stuff and categorize it somehow. Right now, I have a very simple way of doing things: If I have printed it and it is part of the portfolio (which means that at some point it has been made available for viewing) — then I take the negative and give it a name, and put it into a sleeve, and then into one of three boxes, which are divide the alphabet into three parts. But this is getting unweildy. Maybe one percent of what has been shot and contacted are in these boxes. Everything else is like some raw material, sitting around in a closet waiting to be re-examined.
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Don’t know if this will garner any interest, but I had been thinking about trying to find a sponsor for my site and wrote to Light Impressions — I have been very happy with their service and products. I don’t think they are the cheapest guys in the world, but when I have had a problem such as broken plexiglass, they quickly sent replacements. Anyway, they apparantly have an Affiliate Program which I just joined:
Archival mats, frames, photo albums? LightImpressionsDirect.com has been my supplier for over two years and I highly recommend them. If you make a purchase through this link I receive a small commission that helps defray the cost of running this site.
I honestly don’t expect many if any hits through this — but who knows. Maybe I’ll be surprised. Considering that there is no advertising on the site, and no annoying pop-up boxes, this idea seems like a reasonable compromise.
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Finished reading the Bhagavad Gita for the first time. I know there’s been a lot of religious stuff here lately — eastern mostly. The Gita is the book that Openheimer quoted after witnessing the first test of the atomic bomb, the Trinity project. Where he quoted it as saying, “Now I have become death the destroyer of worlds.”
The quotation in the version I’m reading says this is a mis-interpertation, that the actual quote is when Krishna decides to show his disciple Arjuna what he really looks like, in short Arjuna gets to see how the universe is in reality. The vision he sees so startles and causes Arjuna such anxiety that he asks Krishna to return to his human shape. But the quote here is slightly different: “Now I have become TIME the destroyer of worlds.” And of course this makes sense, and in effect relates to the instinct in photography to preserve moments in time. Time is the great destroyer of all things, and photography is the attempt to preserve things as or before they are destroyed.
Through the years, I’ve been fascinated in a sporadic way with some of these ideas from Eastern philosophy, but they reached a head and were triggered again after the WTC. I can trace the desire to re-read these texts after visiting the grief and shrines at Union Square. I guess that the appeal to me is that the way to achieve enlightment and become a better person starts with an internal examination — and is not bound by the Judeo/Christian tradition which really starts with external commandments. There are no prescriptions in the Gita other than the practical advice to meditate.
But many of the ideas in the book such as not being too involved with the results of your actions, but simply doing what is in your nature, and not being attached to the results. In other words, in my own case, go out and shoot, and don’t think about the commercial ramifications. Don’t get tied up with what people will think, or whether by walking around shooting the things that appeal to you, you will be successful. Success is measured in whether you are fulfilling your own innate destiny. I can only say that this has coincided with my own feelings through the years.
For example, I never got into computer programming because it offered a way to make a good living. At the time, it simply was fascinating to me. The same is true for my photography experience. I have prints of Yosemite or other easy prints that I have never shown because they don’t really seem original to me.
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Very busy again lately. A couple of big orders have come in over the last week.
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You know, I have been pretty ignorant of the ‘rules’ regarding composition. I had developed some simple ideas, such as leaving out things that weren’t important and keeping things in which were important. Asking yourself whether you should get closer or not. Being careful not to make things too evenly divided in halves. But other than that, I’ve been pretty ignorant about rules of composition. One other thing that I came up with, early on was the idea that photographs should have more than one subject, and a lot of my ideas I realize came from early training I had in music composition. The idea of having major and minor themes in a photograph came from musical ideas. But I did pick up one interesting idea today — somewhere on the internet about the importance of the lead in coming from the lower left corner since this is how we read — at least in English. Would that mean that photographs taken for a Japanese audience or a Hebrew-reading audience are different?
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For those of you who have been following these journals through the last two years, let me say that I seem to be entering a new period now. Orders are now coming in every day, sometimes for multiple prints. So now I am spending most of my time printing and matting and packing. I am not going to complain about this as I normally do, since it is really grunt work, but accept it as validation that if you are willing to sell fine art prints at a fair price, there is an audience for it. I guess my only regret, is that I’m still stuck in this tiny studio. Its almost impossible to open the door of my apartment because the little table that unfolds to become the work area for the trays is blocking the door.
Somebody mentioned that maybe sales are picking up because pictures about New York City are so popular now since the Sept. 11th attack. There may be some truth to that. But I think that I’ve been learning the ropes on eBay, and am getting more exposure there, some of which spills over to my site.
* * *
Today the military made its first strikes at the Taliban. Tomorrow is Monday. I think that a lot of people in New York are now scared (myself included) that retaliation will take place. I definitely feel trepidation about taking the rush hour train downtown tomorrow. But what are you going to do? You can’t let this stuff keep you in the house.
Man I am going to be in the darkroom for the next two weeks. I have received orders for about fifty prints (total) from several people over the last few days. At an average price of $40, that’s $2000 gross and a heck of a lot of printing and matting. I wish I could afford to have someone do the printing for me, but there just isn’t enough of a margin to pay a skilled printer.
Agora finished second exhibit. Nothing sold. But they asked if they could hold onto a few pieces.
* * *
After tremendous amount of procrastination, did twenty 11 x 14’s today. Even printed a few new things that had been shot with tri-x. My thanks to the music of John Prine which finally got me to turn on the enlarger. Somewhere during the session, I found myself singing out loud with the album for almost two hours. I hope the neighbors don’t complain.
Still fooling around with eBay. I put up Marsh in 16 x 20 size for $65 opening bid. The print has sold for as much as $250 at various times. The thing about eBay is that I still can’t figure out where you end up getting ranked in the listings, or how or what that depends on. When you go to the browse area in fine art, is your listing random? Is it based on the title of the item? Some of my items were shown on the first page and others were many pages down, even right after they were listed.
* * *
One big order down, one big order to go. Yesterday, I even printed a few new things that had been shot on Tri-x. It was fun to see the look that I remember from my youth. It’s true that these were easier to print and held up at 11 x 14, but to really get the most out of Tri-x you need to rate it at around 200 ASA and under-develop a bit — especially in contrasty situations. I really shouldn’t be fooling around so much with film at this point, but I’m going to shoot some of the new Delta 400 film next time I get out of the house.
* * *
[these are exercises in creative writing and are almost totally fictional – editor]
I am currently a photography student at a local college which is nearby my house and have recently received an assignment to photograph something from a unique point of view but I am sitting here in my English righting class right now and can’t think of any unique ideas at all unless possibly you could think of something that could help me since you have so many beautiful pictures on your site that have really really inspired me with so much inspiration that I can’t tell.
Can you help me? I know that you must have a hole lot of ideas that you haven’t even thought of yet that could help me because this report is due tomorrow and the only thing that I can think of write now is that if I don’t cogitate an idea that is different I’m going to be in big trouble and my parents are going to think ill of me which if the truth be known, they already due.
One other problem that might be a problem is that my camera is not working very well lately because almost all of the pictures that I have taken lately are coming out either too dark and when I say dark I mean that it looks like a totally black thing where you can just see these little white spots which might be dust and sometimes they come out totally white and this is very strange to me since I am shooting with color film which I bought because that was all they were selling at Walmart and I asked the guy at Walmart about this problem but they said that I should ask someone else which is why I am asking you. I love your photography so much and have my fingers and legs crossed to the effect that this email will find you in a position where you may help me.
Oh yeah, one other thing, photography is not my major, which is actually pre-med, and so I hope you understand my inabilitys here and if you have any old papers that you didn’t need anymore about how to set femurs, that would be of help to me also.
So, thank you in advance for the any idea that you may or may not have and I remain,
Your gratest fan.
* * *
Alright. I’m set up for a big printing session tomorrow. I’m going to try and get through at least 15 unique prints. My lethargy about this seems to be over. I go back to the ad agency in two weeks, and I’ve really got to get cracking. I looked into the NOVA FB vertical slot processor, but there is literally no place to set this thing up permanently, small as it is, and I am going to have to stick to tray processing. I also am wary about using replenishing techniques which you would have to do with this type of processing. And it will also be difficult to do multiple prints at the same time which I can now do with large trays. One other thing is that from what I’ve read, doing fiber paper in some of their other processors is not a great idea because the paper tends to get heavy from absorption and is difficult to handle at larger sizes (this is for fiber paper, not for RC type paper).
* * *
Picked up the rest of the unsold prints from Agora. They did keep one print, ‘Marsh’ which is hanging on the wall near the office. Doubt that anyone will see it, but you never know.
* * *
It seems like every piece of dust is now suspected of being Anthrax. I’m sorry, but the way the gov’t is telling us that something big is going to happen but they can’t say where or when is causing panic. Go on and live your life normally, go to the movies and buy lots of things in the stores, but be aware that something big is on the horizon. The only thing the gov’t is doing with these announcements is causing people to freak out. I would humbly suggest that if they have a definite time and place then they tell us, otherwise, people are panicky enough. In fact, they are playing into the terrorists hands by making these announcements, and I’m wondering whether it isn’t a case of beaurocratic covering of ones collective ass.
* * *
The archival washer is full tonight. Did 48 prints (3 each of 16) at 11 x 14 today. One more big day like today and the order will be ready for (not including matting and packing) for what I’ve taken to call the big order.
* * *
I am the same photographic student that rote you a few days ago asking for help with some unique ideas and instead of getting a reply, you put my email into your journal and I guess that you thought it was funny but the thing that you should know is that I am suffering from a disease that is very very serious and this disease causes me to rite very long run-on sentences to which I find it impossible to rite a conluding period to and that if you must know, I am currently under the supervision of a famous doctor named Thor Shortman who has been specializing in this disease that there is currently no name for and for which he says I am the first person to really really have it so much and he is very excited about this and has been investigating my history and even thinks that there are some medications which I am hoping will help me with this thing that forces me not to put an end to a sentence until it is long overdue and Dr. Shortman who is from Sweden has said that he thinks that he will be able to help me but as you can see, so far, he hasn’t been much help.
* * *
Six more orders come in today. I’m beginning to wish that I could hire someone to print for me.
* * *
I’m really going to have to come to grips with my reaction to orders coming in. In the last few days, another six orders have come in and I’m only half way through with the big order. I’m starting to feel like Lucy in the chocolate factory. The nougats are coming down the line too quickly and I’m the only one involved in dunking them in chocolate.
My damned studio apartment is really too small to keep going this way. Prints are drying on the large base of the enlarger and in the mounting press, screens are on the floor with more prints drying, and yesterday I received my order from light impressions for about 60 16 x 20 mats. Everytime I make a move around here, I’ve got to pick something up and take it from one place to another. On the other hand, I keep putting prints up for sale on eBay which are selling well and drawing more traffic to the site. How am I supposed to get out of the apartment and do some shooting? How am I supposed to take two weeks off and take a nice trip somewhere, anywhere if orders continue to come in? And after all, isn’t this what I was aiming at by doing the website in the first place? Its impossible to move to a bigger place if I’m going to stay in Manhattan, and if I were to move out to the boroughs, so much of what I like to shoot would be too far away. My friends and family continue to laugh at this problem — where I complain about orders coming in, and if they don’t come in I complain about that. Its true that I might be able to find a photography student to do some of the printing, but I think that part of value that I offer is that the prints are done by me (for better or worse). As much stock as I’ve built up, it still seems that someone always manages to order the one print that I don’t have a copy of. And in November I go back three days a week to the ad agency — at least through the end of the year so that I can make my 401K match for the year. The house if also filled with framed pictures from the last few gallery shows that didn’t sell. Maybe I should put some of these framed prints up for sale at a cheap price just to get them out of the house. Well, this is being written at 8am in the morning which is my normal time for bitching and moaning. Usually as the day goes on I buckle down and do what has to be done, so take this with a grain of salt or chocolate as the case may be.
* * *
Didn’t get much done today. My sister was having back problems and I spent most of the day at her house. Probably the only interesting thing was yesterday, when:
I was on my way to do some errands when I walked by the 86th street subway station and people were all over the place because that subway line was stopped during morning rush hour. I admit, that as long as I don’t need to get on the train, I always find this fascinating.
The entrance was filled with people on cell-phones. I am old-fashioned enough, to be fascinated with the idea of trying to capture many people talking on cell-phones at the same time, and this was a bonanza for me. I had the 50mm on the M6, and shot half a roll of film of people on cell-phones trying to figure out how they would get to work. It is the equivalent of a nature photographer who stumbles across a herd of grazing Zebra who have just been frightened by the scent of some predator and are about to take off at a gallop. For me, the lesson is always the same, no matter where you’re going, have a camera with you. In New York, there is almost always something worth shooting.
The batteries were dead again in the Leica, but I’m at a point where I can figure the light within one stop or so. I think the problem is that with the new model, batteries are drained unless both the shutter speed dial is set to off, and the shutter is not cocked. I always cock the shutter after taking a shot, so I guess I’ll always have this problem. I really should get into the habit of carrying a small reflective meter with me, just in case, or at the very least some extra button batteries.
Not much to say — too busy lately. But I’ll throw in a few excerpts from people who have bought prints recently — it seems to me that you don’t get much in terms of people’s reactions to prints so here goes:
* * *
Dave, just a note to let you know I received my photo’s and was very, very pleased with them. Outstanding work. They are hanging on my den wall at home. (Thanks J.P.)
* * *
Got the order today! It arrived around noon. Fab packaging job!! I am VERY pleased !!! The Equitable & Flat Iron building is one of my favorites, thanks for the really nice oversized mat .. that is impressive. Now to get the frames, and then mounted on the wall so they can be proudly displayed! One of these days I will have to get the book seller in your largest size . . . (or perhaps even larger?)… you can read all the titles on the books & mags …. That will be interesting for viewers in the decades to come. (Thanks, T.G.)
* * *
Dave, Received the Promenade print today. It is just wonderful. I will keep your site bookmarked and follow your work. (Thanks F.)
* * *
Dave, Just a quick note to let you know I received your prints today (Wednesday 26th). This is a bit longer than the 4-7 business days envisaged but in light of what has happened in the interim period, quite understandable. Very pleased with them and will be arranging to get them framed up very soon. With best regards from Scotland. (P.L.)
* * *
If I had received email saying that someone hated the print they received, I would put it up here also, but so far that hasn’t happened.
* * *
Anyway, these are some that have come in during the last month or so. Orders for another six prints came in today and everytime I try to get back to the big order, I end up spending the morning matting and packing for the smaller orders.. Dropped off a few prints at the post office today. The clerks were wearing gloves, and there is usually a long line to wait on, but today I was practically the only one there. Maybe this was in bad taste but I joked with the clerk that this Anthrax scare was keeping the lines short which was a good thing. Fortunately, she had a sense of humor and laughed. I’ve always wondered about the effectiveness of these rubber gloves. The deli people all wear them. These gloves that the deli people wear are all sweaty and dirty and personally I think if they’d just wash their hands once in a while they’d be cleaner. I think we’re all turning into Howard Hughs. I also heard that there’s going to be a new cable station AAT (Anthrax All The Time).
* * *
I’m beginning to feel so cramped here that I just walked out to the park the other day and sat on a rock near Turtle Pond waiting for some inspiration. I ruled out moving. Can’t afford to. After two hours of staring at the leaves floating on the water I came up with an idea. I had a loft bed built several years ago, and its pretty roomy up there. The only piece of real comfortable furniture on the ‘ground floor’ is this green leather love seat that I bought at Ikea. So, I only sleep up there in the loft eight hours. Most of my time is spent downstairs. Conclusion: Ergo: When you’ve eliminated the possible all that’s left is the answer to misquote Sherlock Holmes: Toss the Love Seat. Toss the mattress that’s in the loft area. Use the loft space for storage. And instead of the sofa, get a futon that opens and closes. This way I can take a lot of the stuff that’s on the ‘ground floor’ and move it up to the loft space. So that’s what I’m planning to do this afternoon. Only problem, haven’t got the futon yet, so for a few days I’ll be sleeping on the floor in a sleeping bag. How’s that for success? If I get any more successful I’ll be sleeping on the fire-escape.
One of these days I need to do some pictures of this place and put ’em on the web. I’m sure that if people saw what the place looks like they’d stop buying pictures altogether and start sending food packages and coupons for cleaning services.
In retrospect, I think the main reason that I took all those trips out to the Southwest was simply to be someplace where you could see to the horizon without encountering a box of mats.
* * *
You know, I just printed Tree and Sprinkler — much lighter than what’s on the site, at 11 x 14, and I have to say it brought a smile to my face. I left the upper right corner burned out as almost pure white. There’s a light sprinkler of water that shows up that looks like drippings from a Jackson Pollack painting. I really liked that. And lighter, its more abstract, you’re not really sure what you’re looking at for a minute. Nice.
* * *
I was going along printing pretty well, and then was about to do ‘Sleeping Bookends’ and of course I couldn’t find the negative. This was too much for me. I went ahead with my decision to jetison the couch and the mattress. Having been moving things around all afternoon. Put the couch on the street in front of the house, it was gone in under a half hour. Another day of moving things around and I should be set up again and in good shape for the next few months. While I was moving things I found the negative along with a whole bunch of other things I was supposed to have in my portfolio box but which were buried somewhere else. I’ve got the sleeping bag out and now I feel like I’m camping out in my darkroom. Kind of fun. Maybe I’ll sit around the t.v. and sing camp songs and roast marshmellows (sp?).
I was very happy with the Tree and Sprinkler shot. Showed it to a friend who said it looked like George Seurat painting. No prompting either.
* * *
Now there’s enough room to work in this place. I must have put 500 pounds of stuff up on the loft bed. Fortunately, it seems well made. Otherwise, as I sit under it I may be crushed someday. Slept on the floor in a sleeping bag last night. Well worth it to have the space to work. I’m going to borrow a blow-up bed from my sister today. Also, as I was in this mood of jetisoning everything I was about to toss my Polaroid Sprintscan 4000 which hasn’t worked in four months, but I thought I’d give it one more try and sure it enough its working again. Maybe it just needed a rest.
* * *
[editor’s note. Beckerman seems to be trying to foister the following fiction on his readers, so no calls and e-mails please to the publisher about this following bit of so-called whimsy.]
After discussing my business affairs with the big forty accounting firm of firm of Dim, Under, Standing LTD, I’ve been advised that I should now make my work more contraversial. The theory is that prices will rise dramatically if the work engenders some sort of newsworthyness. I had the idea of taking religious objects and subjecting them to some kind of desecration but I’m informed that this is already old-hat stuff. So if religious objects are out, the other item of equal importance to civilized man may be money. And the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like a good idea. And then it hit me. What if I photographed the destruction of money? By that I mean the actual burning of large denominations? Brilliant?
The accounting firm was especially shocked by the idea at first, but then Mr. Tweedlehouse who is one of the junior partners, came by and pointed out that according to Federal Tax Laws, the burning of money for the purpose of generating marketing exposure could actually be a deduction. Tweedlehouse assured me that for every one dollar that was destroyed, I could deduct 35% of the expense, and that given the fact that this act was also illegal, we were sure to generate additional liabilities, which were also deductable.
Although Mr. Tweedlehouse, seemed unwilling to put his advice in writing, he did assure me that the burning of currency and subsequent photographing of same, was an extremely cost-effective plan, so long as I was willing to spend some part of my later career in confinement. I told him, ‘A small price to pay for beauty’.
In fact, Mr. Tweedlehouse, after looking over my books, suggested that actually burning money might be more profitable than the current attempts I was making to simply sell photographs. The equipment that is used to do the burning, would also be given a generous capital depreciation. When he mentioned depreciation, I knew I was on to something, as this was exactly my own idea.
He suggested that instead of simply lighting the currency with a match, that I purchase an extremely expensive silver lighter, and in fact offered to sell me his at a cut-rate price. Upon examening his lighter, I noticed that it had been engraved on the back, “From Mom, with All My Love”. And declined to take such a lighter from Mr. Tweedlehouse, although he seemed quite anxious to get rid of the item. More to follow…
* * *
Moved things around again in the studio, and bought a twin size futon — and now I’m now longer sleeping on the floor and things are looking up. Everything not nailed down has been moved to the loft platform. The thngs I found! Negatives lying under the file cabinets which hadn’t been moved in 9 years. One of the shots that I had never put on the web, but which I had a small print of, and had been moving around from desk to dresser, to table for the last year saying to myself where is that negative. Well, I found it. And now I have a surface dedicated to matting and framing so I don’t have to setup a small table each time I do this.
Today I’ll make the big push to finish up the print orders that are sitting in a box on top of the flatbed scanner.
* * *
Received the following letter from Mr. Tweedlehouse’s Lawyer, a Mr. Bonami.
Dear Mr. Beckerman,
This is to inform you that Mr. Tweedlehouse has been placed under arrest for insider trading, and is in fact now incarcerated in an undisclosed Federal prison. Mr. Tweedlehouse’s case is still under appeal, and we hope that you will understand that our firm will continue to offer you advice as we see fit. Mr. Tweedlehouse sends his best regards. He asked whether you would be willing to send him one of your beautiful photographs for his cell?
* * *
Getting there. Yesterday, sent out last two orders via Fedex (which looks like a good choice given what’s going on with the Post Office) and now I continue to get towards the end of the big order. I’m hoping to be done with it by this weekend. I know I keep saying that I’m going to finish the big order, but I’ve been getting out smaller orders and can’t hold them up any longer.
I definitely have not figured out packaging for the 16 x 20 sized mats. Yesterday you would have had a good laugh, watching me cut up a box to put three of these prints in. Apparantly, the last roll of packaging tape I bought was thinner than usual, and every time I pulled it, it got all tangled, and I would rip it off and drop it on the floor. By the end of the morning this crumpled brown tape was stuck to all sorts of things. At the end of the day, I was sitting at my desk and went to pick up a pen, and there was a piece of crumpled tape stuck to it.
Light Impressions has these really good boxes for shipping mats, very sturdy with reinforced corners etc. but they cost about $15 each. That’s obviously too much for me to spend on a $40 or $50 print, but I’m seriously thinking of putting some more 11 x 14 prints on 16 x 20 board up on the site, because quite honestly, after doing this large order which is all 11 x 14, you just get much more out of the prints at this size, or at the 9 x 12 size than at the smaller sizes.
I guess I can take away the FREE SHIPPING thing and put shipping / handling charges in place. Or I can continue to keep the price of shipping built (somewhat) into the cost of the print. Fifteen dollars is a lot for a box, but on the other hand it might save me a 1/2 hours work.
* * *
When I was a kid, I spent several summers at Vacation Camp for the Blind, where my parents were counselors. I learned sign language and became pretty fluent with it. I taught this sign language to my friends and when we went to a Yiddish school after regular school we used to sit across from each other and sign to each other while the teacher was going on about the old testement etc. This was all we did at that school. We’d sit in the back of the room, on either side, as far in the back as we could get and hide what we were doing behind a book and sign, and sign and sign. This was a tremendous amount of fun. The ability to secretly communicate while the teacher droned on about whatever he was droning on about (how to speak Yiddish), was fantastic. We formed a kind of secret club, where everyone had to learn sign language, and would sometimes meet behind an old billboard in the Bronx and spend the entire time signing. We called ourselves the Blind Boys Club although as far as I know none of us were blind.
One day, after I had been going to the Yiddish school every afternoon for two years, my father asked me to speak to him in Yiddish. The best I could muster was:
“Vos is die nomen” [excuse the spelling but that’s what is your name]. And he looked pleased. My dad was pleased and told me what his name was, which I already knew. Then he asked me something else in Yiddish, and I was lost. He pronounced it slower, but I still had no idea what he was saying. I replied:
Me: Vos mach stu? (How are you)
Him: (In Yiddish) Fine. What else do you know?
Him: I said, what else did you learn?
Me: That’s it, dad..
Him: That’s all you learned in two years? You knew that before you started school. You’ve been learning Yiddish for two years and you only know how to vus mach stu? Is that what you’re saying? What were you doing in class? What about your friend Stan? I’m going to call his mother and find out if he knows anymore than you do. I’m going to talk to that teacher and see what he’s been doing.
He calls my friend Stan’s mother and she questions her son Stan, who apparantly knows less than me, if that’s possible.
Him: (sputtering) How can that be? How is it possible to go to school for two years, every afternoon, and learn absolutely nothing? Do you know what that school is costing me? Are you saying that you’ve been going every day?
Me: Every day, dad.
Dad walks off muttering to himself.
Later on he calls the Yiddish teacher to see if I had been even showing up for class. The teacher says, that I had been there everyday. However, he was under the impression that I might be less than intelligent since I had never spoken a word in class.. Dad saw his money go down the drain, and quickly removed me from the school and Stan was taken out of school also.
We would then spend the afternoons playing on the street.
For many years after that, dad would place me before adults and ask me to show what I had learned in two years of Yiddish school, and I would laugh and do my one phrase. Then he would say tell people how much it had cost him for me to learn three words in Yiddish. I did eventually show him how well I had learned to sign, but I don’t think that ever really helped him get over it.
The Blind Boys Club lasted for a few months, until Stan and I got this sort of laser beam radio transmission thing that you could point across the street, and when the beams lined up you could talk over the thing. What the point of this invention was I don’t know since phones were more reliable, but Stan and I lived across the street from each other, and at night, we would go to our windows and aim these gizmos at eachothers window and catch every other word. I guess this was the precursor to cell phones. Soon, most of the kids in the neighborhood had one of these light-beam radios, and we changed the name of our club to the Gizmo (don’t really remember the name of the thing) Boys Club.
* * *
QUESTION DU JOUR
I usually sign and date the print with the date that I am actually matting the print. Does this make sense. For example, a print that I may have made five years ago, if I were to date it now would say 10-26-01. Should the date on the print be the day the photograph was taken? The day the print was made? Or simply as I’m doing, the day the print was matted? I would also add that as far as the date that the negative was exposed, is probably the least accurate.
* * *
Thanks Bill for your advice on this one — put the year that the picture was taken. I’m going to start doing this on my next order.
* * *
Was having an e-mail conversation with another photographer, about overcoming the normal type of fear of photographing strangers on the street. I e-mailed him some off the cuff advice, and he put it on his site as if it were of some value. Maybe it is. I guess if I had thought about it more, I might have come up with something better but so be it. I don’t really consider myself a street photographer — not like a Winnogrand etc., but I have struggled with various techniques for photographing people without altering the scene. Arguments about whether it is okay to shoot stealthy or more openly will go on forever. I maintain that whatever works for you is fine. How can I put this? Your shooting style shouldn’t be dictated by fear, but at the same time fear is real, and if you aren’t somewhat relaxed about what you’re doing, it’s unlikely that you will get anything worthwhile. Well, even that’s not true. Let’s just say that there are some times when you are up for facing your fears, and sometimes when you can’t.
And you’ve got to accept both. Sometimes, I walk out of the house and I say, I’m just going for a nice walk in the park and shoot the flowers. (Of course, you may notice that I don’t actually have any prints of flowers because they bore the hell out of me.) But I have spent days shooting the flora in the park. I just look at the negatives and put them in a drawer afterwards.
You can see my advice at: Grant Heffernan
* * *
Finished the 33 prints. Tomorrow is matting day. I was very excited to do the last one (Night Storm, 11 x 14).
* * *
Also thanks to Jim G. for the 16 x 20 packaging ideas. I’m not going to put a link to his site here because I don’t think it’s finished yet, but I’m sure it’s going to be a worthwhile site. Definitely another kindred spirit.
* * *
Henry had been matting prints all morning. As he stepped out of the house to go to the post office, he noticed an old woman who seemed to stare at him. He continued on his way to the post office which was a few blocks away, and noticed several other people staring at him. He arrived at the Post Office with his package and as he was standing on line (which was very short due to the Anthrax scare) the security guard approached him. The security guard asked him what was in the package. Just some prints, Harry told him. And as he handed the package to the security guard, noticed that he still had his white gloves on which he used for matting.
* * *
Overheard snippet on 2nd avenue:
“I just can’t stand the idea of working alongside people who hate us!”
* * *
We have a Gubernatorial debate, but I’v never voted for a Gubernor? Have you? Let’s start a campaign to rid the language of Gubernatorial and replace it with Governoral.. I think that the origin of Gubernatiorial is a misspelling. Which brings me to another word that is hard to spell: misspell. How many s’s are their supposed to be in this all important word. Apparantly two. But I would suggest that we strike misspell entirely, and replace it with spelled-wrong.
For example, the person who has trouble spelling can now feel confident writing to his friend that a particular word was spelled-wrong, rather than having to worry about saying that a particular word was misspelled..
* * *
Finished up the 33 prints for England. All nicely matted, and sitting in a box waiting to be shipped. This thing was like preparing for a major exhibition.
* * *
Through a telephoto lens,
The funeral ends.
The image become real,
Through six weeks of steel.
* * *
Ashcroft came out today with another announcement that the terrorists were going to do something this week. He couldn’t say where, and he couldn’t say when. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, I’m not sure that this is helpful and I’m not sure that I can understand the logic behind such pronouncements. Should the entire country be notified? Or perhaps just government officials, and police and fire? Or do they think that by making such a pronouncement that people will be watching more carefully for something and thus help prevent whatever it is? I would like to hear Ashcroft at least explain his reason for making these general type statements. I understand that he can’t tell anything about where the information came from, obviously, but again I’m not sure I see the purpose.
* * *
Well, I’ve been pretty listless the last few days. Maybe its that the big order is finally finished. Maybe its that I’m going back (part-time) to the ad agency on Thurs (Nov.1). I went out to the park this morning and forced myself to shoot two rolls of Delta 400, but my heart wasn’t in it and I didn’t feel relaxed at all. I could still see the amazing things that were happening around me, but didn’t feel that I was in the zone, so to speak.
I’m telling myself that this part-time thing is only ’til the end of the year — and that by then maybe I’ll have enough confidence that I can make a living solely through the photography, but who knows. Maybe I’m deluding myself. There is no doubt that I’m doing much better selling this year (my 2nd year of selling) than my first year — I’m close to grossing $18,000. Which means a profit of about $10,000. I don’t think you can live in NYC on $10,000. On the other hand, my first year I think I grossed about $3000 if that and a lot of those early sales were to friends (thank you Y.I.)
Maybe I’m just coming down with a cold or something.
* * *
The one good thing that has come out of these four months of Leave of Absence is that I have figured out how to re-arrange the studio so that there is enough room to live and to work. I’ve also gotten to a point where most of the mechanics of shipping and printing and matting are really worked out. What I find interesting, is that even with a couple of huge orders, the work involved was so much, that I couldn’t find the time to get back out to the Met to sell again, or even do a little trip.
* * *
I’m also wondering if this Anthrax thing is going to have an effect on the mail-order business.
* * *
Dropped off a few prints at the post office. It is really deserted these days. At first, I was somewhat cavalier about it, but I’m beginning to see the seriousness of it all. The postal people all wore gloves, and the gloves seemed thicker than the last time I was there. But the woman that I brought my packages to was sans gloves. Someone behind me, the only other person on the line whispered, “This is now ground zero.” I turned around to see if she was talking to me, but she seemed to be talking to herself.
I had scratched my arm, carrying back some packages from the UPS truck, and normally I wouldn’t do much about it, but after returning from the Post Office I put a band-aid on it. Is that what they mean by the new normality?
I’m also getting nervous about the World Series game tonight — not that the Yankees will lose, but that there will be some attack. The New Normality?
* * *
I’m sure you’re all sick about hearing about THE BIG ORDER, but it’s done, and on its way overseas.
* * *
I also seem to have the packaging thing worked out for the 16 x 20’s. Flat Kraft Mailers with a couple of pieces of cut-up Fedex boxes. This is the best solution I’ve come up with so far. Thanks to Jim for reminding me of something I already knew. Reminds me of a line from a John Prine song — “And what I never knew I never will forget.” He’s talking about a love affair — and I’m talking about mailers. Something is wrong here.
* * *
Even though its not Sunday, I have those Sunday blues because I go back to work tomorrow (yes, its part-time) but its still a hard pill to swallow.
* * *
Received several requests from students for my thoughts on this and that. When I first started the site, I was flattered. Now I’m pretty much annoyed. Do your own homework. Sorry, I’m definitely out of sorts.
* * *
I’m doing a junior at Snutee Preppy School and my final paper is on Photography. I’ve been shooting for 3 days and I can’t seem to get photographs that are as good as yours? I’m legally blind. Do you think that might be part of the problem? I can still see blurs pretty well. My photography teacher has assigned a sighted person to actually do the shooting and printing for me, and they’ve digitalized the prints and given me a cortex implant that allows me to see the results. Any tips? I firmly believe that there are no handicaps that cannot be overcome. Thanks in advance for your help.
* * *
Sept 2, 2001
I don’t have anything new to put here, so here are some excerpts from e-mails received pertaining to the Agora show — the first one is from my friend Andy who hitchhiked with me through Canada when we were both 19 and who I hadn’t seen in 10 years.
“Good quote by Jacques Barzun discussing the romantic movement and imagination in particular:
Out of the known or knowable, Imagination connects the remote, reinterprets the familiar, or discovers hidden realities. Being a means of discovery, it must be called ‘Imagination of the real.’
“These qualities pertain to the photos you chose for the show, especially reinterpreting the familiar.
“We are born romantics, you and I. I think if you decided to press the Travelocity button and did the night ferry crossing to St. John again, you would still see a necklace of light on the bosom of darkness… [One of us had written a poem that night about the crossing to St. John comparing the lights in the darkness to a shining necklace… I thought that I had written it, but Andy thinks he wrote it.]
Dreamers never die.”
* * *
These excerpts are from J.C. who visited the gallery a day or two after the show:
“I went to see your prints at the Agora Gallery… I got off at the 5th floor first. After looking around, I finally saw your orphan print. Too bad it was displayed in such a poor location, it looked like an interesting print. The girl at the desk on the 5th floor mentioned that more of your work was upstairs. we went to 6 and I really enjoyed your prints. The detail in Promenade blew me away! There is something special about a photograph taken with a view camera. I was glad that I didn’t come on Thursday night. Although it would have been nice to have met you, today I was able to look at your prints undisturbed; the gallery was empty.”
[Afterwards he walked outside and saw other street vendors selling prints where the same vantage point was used to shoot the Promenade]
“… At another street vendor selling B&W photos, they had their Promenade
print. After seeing yours, their print looked terrible. The more we looked
at your print, the more ‘little’ details we saw. It is a very beautiful print.”
* * *
In those days — Promenade, Marsh etc. I used to feel that the very good prints used the tonal range to reveal some secret, or more exactly to draw you in to some secret world. It was the same world we saw every day — but good prints would reveal something. The tonal range, from the edge of blackness to the edge of visibility in the high tones were on the verge of imagination. I was always fascinated by fog, and storms, because of the way that they through a veil over the ordinary. I have seen ‘Turtle Pond’ in Central Park hundreds of times. But the only print that made it into my imagination, was that day that they were firing cannons across the lake for July 4th — and the mist obscured the Pagoda across the pond. Images that through a veil over the so-called real world, might reveal another world. The world of your own imagination.
I have felt the same thing about Shadows! As if the shadow in ‘Steps of the Met’ is the alter-ego the fellow walking up the stairs. And I haven’t changed all that much. I realize now that when I was walking around taking pictures of ‘stoops’ and corners of broken down edifices — it was the shadows cast that fascinated me. In ‘Flat Iron and Equitable’ it is the brooding form of the Flat Iron on the right against the barely visible lit tower of the Equitable building that fascinated.
The only thing that has changed through the years is that sometimes I feel that I can achieve the same effect without the help of a storm, or nature. ‘Strange Highway’ or ‘Man Blanket’. The mystery of the real. Or the ”Imagination of the real.’
* * *
In terms of the history of photography, I wonder whether this isn’t really a throwback to the old Pictorialists that were so disliked by Adams and Weston (although Weston had his brush with pictorialism). The guys who liked to photograph everything through veils — and tried to emulate painters. One of my latest pictures — Tree and Sprinkler was actually a conscious (sp?) attempt to emulate Seurat…
* * *
I think it has taken a few days for me to recover mentally from the gallery show. And now I’m ready to vent a little. I really wasn’t sleeping well for a day or two before the show, and didn’t sleep well for a day or two after the show.
My feelings this morning are about the great chain of money and artist and how they can embrace each other or spiral down into oblivion together.
Truthfully, it often seems to me that it is very easy to tell someone how wonderful or beautiful their work is — but these same people often don’t realize the connection between that thought, and buying something. In other words, by actually purchasing a print, you are not only paying a very real compliment — but you are helping the artist to create new works. You vote with your wallet.
So everyone walks away from the opening with a grand feeling of having seen Dave as a semi-center of attraction. How many people walked up to me and said ‘How proud the were of me.’ But let us speak of other things besides boosts to the other’s ego — let’s speak of brass tacks, and farthings…
Fee for the privledge of hanging 5 prints — $1850
Other fees for cards, etc. — $200
Total Cost: say $2000
$2000 to have a bunch of people look at 5 pictures. Now one picture sold — and my guess is that is all that will sell. The gallery takes a 40% commission from $600 so I get $360.
$2000 – $360 = $1640.
That means that at the very least — this little show has cost me $1640. I could rent an apartment for a month and show all my pictures there for that sort of money.
So what are you really paying for? Exposure? I have no idea who other than my own friends and family were there. Were there any art critics there? Any photography collectors? If anyone like that was there, they didn’t introduce themselves. I suspect that this was just a chance to get out of the house for a night and say that you were at an opening reception.
(btw — thank you to one or two people who bought smaller prints off the web after seeing the prints at the show. i need to put that into the equation.)
In short — this sort of thing is worth it the first time — to get the experience. But next time, I would never pay an upfront fee, and I would make sure that I could have more space! Maybe, as a friend suggested, I should get a couple of other photographers together and organize our own show. Sort of feels like those old Mickey Rooney movies? Hey! Let’s put on a show!
* * *
The journal seems to be filling with quotes from emails lately, probably because I don’t feel I have anything much to say. Here is part of an email from D.P. in Great Britain. I sent him ‘Card Players’ which he had ordered, and then as a surprise threw in ‘Bike’ on RC paper. I think I like to put in an extra print for the overseas buyer because I feel they are paying for the postage, and an unmounted RC print doesn’t weigh much and is a nice surprise.
“Thanks for the prints, safely received today. It was kind of you to send me the extra print.
I can see why you like it [Bike] , the quality is superb. Interesting to find that it was printed on RC paper – I don’t think you could improve it on any other paper. Having been making prints for more years than I care to think about, I have used most papers in my time. I have always been sceptical about the resin vs fibre argument. It is my contention that the material is not important, it is the skill and care of the printer that matters. Top quality work can be produced on RC papers as well as fibre…”
The only real reason that I switched recently from RC paper to Fiber paper, even for the ‘Open Editions’ is that I think the fiber paper will last longer, and I like the finish better. I also think the blacks are a bit richer. But it is absolutely true that you can make very fine prints on RC paper (so long as it’s not that thin glossy junk they give you at the local one hour lab) and it does save a lot of time in terms of processing and washing.
It’s funny because it’s such a big thing in the fine art world — are those prints fiber or RC? But for the average person, I’m not really sure they would know the difference.
Here’s something that my friend B.Q. suggested — he thought some people might be interested in seeing my contact sheets. Why? I’m not sure, but he seemed to think it might give people an idea of how I shoot.
Well, why not. Recently I’ve been scanning my negatives in order to make contact sheets rather than doing them in the darkroom. I don’t have the process down exactly because I don’t like to put the negatives in the negative holder (they can get dust on them, and I can’t fit an entire roll into the negative carrier) — so I lie them down on the flatbed, but set the thing to use the negative transparency unit. In short, the contacts don’t lie entirely flat and are slightly bowed, but good enough for me to have an idea of what is worth doing a print of.
So here’s a recent one: 9-03-01b
The date is the day the film was processed by me. The notes on the top are about how it was developed. The problem with showing contact sheets on the web is that the file size would need to be very big in order for you to real see anything much in them.
3:40pm — There must have been something in my coffee this morning. I knocked out 28 fiber prints which are now crowding the washer in the bathroom. And three or four are new things. There’s one of the pigeons flying around me that actually has some character to it. I’ve tried this shot about fifty times through the years, but this is the first print that has a nice pattern or randomness and there’s the train tracks in the background leading to nowhere. Yes. I like this one. Let’s see what it looks like when it dries.
Here’s another contact sheet where I’ve actually printed something from it that is on the site — #9 — Wall and Pipe.
* * *
9 PM — Ordered a lightweight folding table. This is part of my new scheme. Stay tuned…
* * *
Ed Begley in Twelve Angry Men
“You’re like everyone else. You think too much, you get mixed up. Know what I mean?”
* * *
The time is fast approaching when I will need to decide whether to return from my unpaid leave of absence to the dark world of corporate advertising. In point of fact, that date is etched in stone — Sept. 21st. True, there was a flurry of sales at the end of August — but they petered out. Coming as they did through the web site, I remember writing at the time that since I had no idea why they were happening then, they’d probably die off and they have.
You know, the site itself, between processing charges for the credit cards, and my isp and my nice cable modem, costs about $150 per month. Just to pay for that means that I’ve got to gross at least $225 per month.
Remember the last scene in ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’? Butch (Newman) and Sundance (Redford) are badly shot up, and are reloading — and about to go out and face the Mexican federales? And Butch tries to tell Sundance that he has another scheme. Sundance is fed up with Butch’s schemes. But finally asks what it is, and Butch talks about Australia. They speak English there. And, oh, the place is filled with banks, just waiting to be robbed.
Well, I’ve got another scheme that has been in the works for a while. It’s not Australia — it’s the Met. For years, I’ve been toying with the idea of setting up a stand in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue. And now — as the Gallery shows and the web have not panned out — at least not enough to live off — this idea came back to me. It happened on one of those mornings, as I was returning from Central Park. I noticed a fellow photographer selling prints outside the Museum. I remembered his face from almost five years ago when I had first contemplated doing this. M. is selling truly beautiful fiber prints — not framed — but in archival mats. And he told me that it was quite possible to make a living doing this. That recently, a court battle over the rights of artists to sell on the streets of NYC had been won — that it had been declared an expression of free speech (possibly by the Supreme Court) — and that nowadays, the cops were not hassling you at all, so long as you were the artist.
So, that’s the idea behind the aluminum table. And now I’m about to embark on a big printing session, geared towards this locale. I should be ready either this weekend, or next at the latest.
Off we go into the darkroom to knock out another twenty 8 x 10’s of Promenade, and one or two other prints that would be popular with tourists. I need to find out before the 21st deadline, whether this idea is feasible — but I will tell you that if I have the least bit of luck, I think it will work out.
* * *
Transcript from recent phone conversation between me and an old friend.
Friend: Hi. I didn’t think you were going to pick up.
Friend: You know, you’ve got that caller i.d. and I always show up as unknown or something.
Me: I figured I’d take a chance that you weren’t a salesman.
Friend: Actually, I was thinking of trying to sell you something.
Me: Forget it, buddy.
Friend: Actually, just called to say ‘hi’.
Friend: I’m just looking at your home page.
Friend: Something looks wrong.
Friend: Did you know that the fonts are mixed up? You are using different fonts on the home page.
Me: I didn’t know that.
Friend: Aren’t you using a style sheet.
Friend: Hmm. That’s strange, it seems like the fonts near the ‘New Picture’ area are different.
Me: I’ll tell you something, I could care less.
Friend: Also, when you click on the picture it should take you to the same picture in the new area.
Me: Why. Who says so?
Friend: (Laughing) You know it should.
Me: If you want to see that picture, you’re going to have to hunt for it.
Friend: That’s crazy.
Me: Hey, I had to walk the streets of NYC for 50 years to find that manhole cover…you could click a couple of times to find it.
Friend: Oh, there it is. I really like that one. And the one with the flag is good too. I didn’t think you were political.
Me: I’m not.
Friend: But its a picture of a flag.
Friend: I like the way the light is coming through where the stars are. And you know what I really like, the windows in the background, they look like stars also.
(phone rings in the background on his end)
Friend: I’ll call you back.
* * *
8:30 pm — Busy day. Did about 40 prints today (fiber). That was tedious indeed, although I did get a better print of FDR Night than in the past. I’m going out to get a mocha frap as a treat.
Matting and getting ready to go and stand outside the Met with my prints. I’m almost ready now, but probably won’t do ’til Sunday. Since I’m walking over there, about six blocks — the setup has to be pretty lightweight. I hope the aluminum table I got won’t blow away in the wind.
Not very glamorous the prospect of selling on the sidewalk — but I’m determined to give it a try. You don’t have the overhead of the galleries — and you have more control over your display and what you show.
Here’s a weird thing. My sister’s car was stolen and stripped. Of course in NYC that’s not the weird part. What was strange was that the car was actually found and it was on Featherbed Lane and University Avenue in the Bronx. That’s where I grew up and went to grade school. Featherbed Lane got its name because during the revolutionary war, Washington’s soldiers slept out there. I guess on featherbeds. There was a churh on the hill, where a bunch of kids once tried to toss me over the wall into the courtyard which was a 20 foot drop. I guess things haven’t changed all that much up there.
Took a stroll out to the Met this morning at 8:30am. All the vendors were already set up, well almost all of them. Tomorrow, I will go out there at 7 a.m. Hope that’s early enough.
Interesting — last week the site received 23,000 page views. That is a new record. But no sales during that week from the site.
From an email during that week:
“I just wanted to let you know that even that I do not yet own any of your work, I absolutely love it. Your photos are just gorgeous. Thank you sharing your work with us all. ”
* * *
Back from ‘the Met’. In a nutshell. Very promising. I sold about $300 worth of prints. What I learned on the first day was that there are really two crowds out there — souvenier hunters, and people who want original art. Here are the prints as I remember it, that sold — Card Players, Empty Subway Car, Paris Wedding, Girl with Ball, Window…
I don’t remember the other ones. My display was pretty bad and I was situated between two portrait painters which I don’t think was a good idea. But the surprising thing was that none of the smaller prints at $20 sold. Almost all prints that sold were in the larger sizes. Compared to selling on the web — it was fantastic. You could show the work that you liked and chat with people about it. I was out pretty early — about 6:45am. And of course nothing gets started until about 10pm. But all in all, very promising.
Next step is to print larger prints, figure out how to get them there, and stay away from the more usual shots.
9 – 10 – 01
So yesterday may have been a turning point. I asked one or two people who bought things what caught their eye as they walked by my little table — and they all said, “Your stuff was different.” In other words, there were people, maybe a small group, but they were looking for something original and different. And the people who were able to hold the prints and talk about what they liked about them — and mystery of mystery, these were the same things I liked about them.
I had thought that I would need to go out there with pictures of the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building — but this was not true. Compared to my two gallery shows — these people were more appreciative. No wine. No cheese.
What turned things around, was when the wind started to blow around 4pm. My prints were starting to blow around, and I decided to simplify the display even more. I took off the grid I was using to hold up one picture. I removed many of the pictures from the table, and just put one picture flat in the middle. But my little sign about myself got more exposure that way. And people began to stop by.
Today, I go back into work (the advertising job for a few hours as a consultant) but I think I can go back in a position where I can begin to think seriously about not returning. After two years of selling sporadically through the web — this was a revelation.
One other thing that impressed me — how friendly and helpful the other vendors were to me, especially the other fellow — Miguel who was selling fine art photographs. Several people arrived at my table after buying prints from him, and then plucked down money for my prints as well.
Now what happens during the winter months — I have no idea. How many days you need to stand out there to make the rent. I’m not sure. But I’m very encouraged. And oh yeah — there was even a nice order through the web when I got home. Another thing – selling at the prices I’m sellling at, I’m really going to have to buckle down and start cutting my own mats — something that I’ve never quite gotten the hang of. I’ve been buying my mats from LightImpressions — which are pretty expensive.
* * *
Got a few shots back from the Agora show — thanks Bob — here they are:
* * *
What a horror. The World Trade Center is destroyed. I was at home — one hundred or so blocks away — peacefully answering some emails. My sister calls and asks if I had heard what happened. No. She says that we are under attack. That NYC is under attack. I say — c’mon. You’re kidding. She asks if I have the t.v. turned on. I go and turn the set on and see the replay of the plane crashing into the tower. She asks me to come over, but of course I grab my camera and tell her I’ll stop by in a little while. I walk out to the East River, and start walking downtown. You can, of course see the plume of smoke from the downtown area. There is no real panic, but there is a kind of heightened awareness between New Yorkers. You hear bits of conversations… that other planes are on the way. That there might be an atomic bomb…
They keep comparing this to Pearl Harbor, but its really not the same since you don’t really know who did it — and even if you did — its not a country (is it?). As a life-long New Yorker — I can only hope that the bastards behind this can be caught and destroyed.
I keep walking until I get to the 59th street bridge. I end up spending a few hours wandering around — realizing that this is a day that is different from any other day in my life or the life of the city. The closest feeling is how I felt as a kid when Kennedy was shot. Something very important and tragic has happened.
I spend some time at my sisters. Neighbors stop by. Everyone is very helpful. Lines are long at the stores. The ATM machines are out of cash. But on the upper east side, the restaurants and bars are packed. People don’t hide in their houses. They want to be out with others.
After wandering around by the river, I go to the 59th street bridge and spend an hour or so there — you can see the plume which looks like something from Hiroshima. There are hords of people crossing the bridge on foot to get back into Queens. Finally, foot weary and out of film, I walk back to 2nd avenue and get picked up by a cab which is already full of people and take it back to the house. I notice, that for the first time in my life, the little Indian-run deli where I usually get my iced-coffee and bagel is closed up.
Walked down to Canal street, which was as close as I could get to the disaster. Even a day later, it was difficult to stay there too long without wearing a mask to breathe through. Broadway downtown was empty, desolate, and you could see all the way down to where the WTC used to be. I took many pictures of people with their hands covering their mouths to screen out the dust. The most amazing thing I saw, as I was starting to walk uptown — there were about fifty Chinese crowded around a newspaper that was plastered to the wall. It was the kind of thing I remember seeing in pictures of China. And as I was stooping down, a young woman arrived with a newborn baby and joined the crowd. This was a fantastic image — and as I walked away, I just thought about the irony of the destruction, and the new life that was in front of me and hoped carefully placed that roll of film in my bag.
Have been receiving numerous emails from around the world offering empathy for what has happened. Have also received a few requests for pictures of the WTC. I have a few, but I can tell you that the idea of offering them for sale gives me the creeps. But I imagine that there are plenty of postcard companies increasing their production of their WTC pictures.
This, from D. in the U.K.
I hope that you have escaped the terrible attack on your city. I was a young child in London during the blitz and so the scenes bring back unhappy memories of the terror of that time. Also I worked in London at the time of the IRA bomb attacks. Although these were not as devastating the effect on people is the same. I hope that everyone learns the lesson not to support terrorists of any kind in any way.
All of us over here have the people of New York in our thoughts, ”
* * *
Many emails quoting from the Bible — or mentioning God. I had a conversation with my dad about this yesterday. He was a young soldier during WWII and took part in the liberation of at least one concentration camp at the end of the war. How, he wondered was it possible, that so many of the survivors were still able to believe in God. Or in modern terms, how was it possible that men could kill innocent civilians on Sept. 11th — in the name of their God?
I respect anyone’s belief in their faith, but am also unable to understand all of the terrible things that have been done in the name of God. I understand that it is in the very nature of religion that it cannot be rationally understood — that is what faith is about. I also understand the answer that is given by religious authorities, that these evil things that are done are not done by God, but by man. It seems as if the good things are attributed to God and the bad things to man. But there is evil in the world, and it has often been done in God’s name. Tremendous good has also been done in God’s name.
I guess I believe that the fault lies not in the stars, but in ourselves.
Anyway, towards the end of my conversation with my dad, I said — if you took away religion, people would still find ways to hate each other. The north would hate the south. The blond-haired people would hate the dark-haired people. Or, as in a Jonathan Swift story, the people who broke the hard-boiled egg at the fat side would go to war with the others who broke the egg at the thin side. Or the black/white episode in the early Star Trek series. Do you remember that one? There are two humanoid aliens who have been at war with each other for centuries. Both are half black and half white — split vertically from head to toe. To Kirk, they both look the same. He can’t understand what they are fighting about. Finally he asks them what is different about them? Frank Gorshin says — “Captain, isn’t it obvious?”
Kirk looks at both men. He can’t see the difference. Frank Gorshin says, “Why Captain, I am colored black on my right side and white on the left. That traitor is black on the left and white on the right!”
* * *
Today, the city is filled with flags. With people who are holding pictures of their loved ones. The smoke still rises from the twisted metal. The enormity of what has happened is sinking in. My first reactions, probably those of a photo-journalist — were to get out and cover the story. But that is fading, and my thoughts turn to what will happen next. My hope, my agnostic’s prayer, is that in the retribution that must be exacted, that we as a people do not sink to the level of the killers that we abhor. I have heard friends calling for the destruction of entire countries and peoples. As I walk through the city, I have heard snippets of dialogue — anger and rage — and remarks about turning the mountainous country of Afghanistan into a flat place.
In short — and this is tricky — returning evil for evil will be a disaster. Yet the country must be protected, and aggression must be met with strength.
But I do fear that the world as we know it, will not be the same.
* * *
Taliban Supreme Leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, has said, “…The Taliban have isolated bin Laden and have taken away his fax machine, satellite phone, cell phone, computers, and his Internet access.”
I would strongly suggest that they also turn him over to the U.S.
Someday I hope to be able to use a lot of the quotes from these journals…
Here are a few good ones from Cartier-Bresson, who, did very few interviews, and yet is quoted widely.
“Avoid making a commotion, just as you wouldn’t stir up the water before fishing. Don’t use flash out of respect for the natural lighting, even when there isn’t any. If these rules aren’t followed, the photographer becomes unbearably obstrusive.” – HCB
“Memory is very important, the memory of each photo taken, flowing at the same speed as the event. During the work, you have to be sure that you haven’t left any holes, that you’ve captured everything, because afterwards it will be too late.” – HCB
I can’t tell you how many times I walked away from that moment, replaying it again and again.
Spent last night walking around the city — where candles were lit everywhere. This morning, visited one of the emotional epicenters — Union Square. Many religious groups out there using this opportunity to recruit — Jehovah’s Witnesses etc. I ended the morning sitting down with some Tibetan monks and meditating. I took a few pictures. Afterwards, one of the followers asked me if I would send her pictures, which I said I would. I can tell you that after a few hours at Union Square — I felt that many of my previous pictures posted on this site were trivial.
I’ve put a few preliminary photos that have been taken since Sept. 11 on the site — but these are not actual prints. And the scanning quality is not what it should be since my negative scanner has been busted for sometime and I’ve scanned these negatives in via a flatbed scanner — by placing a sheet of glass on top of the negs. and using the transparency setting. It’s okay for proofs, but not much more. Still, a number of people had asked to see what I’ve been up to so I posted them.
As I was taking them, I was thinking about the difference between the normal type of shooting I do — and this shooting. And the difference is that many times I asked myself, “If you didn’t know anything about the WTC, would you know what this shot was about?” And the answer to most of the shots I’ve taken is no. You need to have a few lines of text explaining the context. In other words, some title, or description is needed.
I’m not saying this is a bad thing, it’s just something that was spinning around in my mind, when many of the photographs were taken, and after when examining them. I wasn’t always thinking this way — the shot of the two Chinese women who are staring at me was taken quickly and without much thought — just something about the way they were standing, and the man on the left covering his mouth. Why it is that I am drawn to covering the Chinese, or the Japanese, or the monks from Tibet (I haven’t developed that film yet), or the Indians rather than the so called average American — I don’t know. Maybe its because of my own feelings of being an outsider, somewhat alienated from the normal business of America. Maybe its being a Jew in the United States. Maybe I ate too much Chinese food in the Bronx growing up. I am told that some of the first meals I ate were at a Chinese restaurant. When I go to get my morning coffee or tea, I go to a little Indian-run deli on the corner. Normally, there are many cab-drivers there in the morning, with the turbans — and I guess they are Sikhs — which I don’t even know how to spell. But lately they have all disappeared. Have they decided to remove their turbans? If I were religious and wore a Yalmulka (sp?)– would I remove it because it made me a target? Probably.
I notice that the small arab-run grocery has put a gigantic American flag in the window. But the store is mostly empty these days.
Just returned from picking up my pictures at the Agora Gallery. Everything was pretty normal on the way down. I was in the building for about ten minutes. When I came downstairs, smoke was pouring from the subway on Prince street and Broadway — and there were a few fire trucks around. I lugged my five framed prints around to get closer and took a few one-handed pictures. People were standing around watching — but it was no big deal. I heard someone say let’s go get a Frap and they went into the nearby coffee shop.
On the way downtown, I passed the firestation on 85th street. The sidewalk was filled with flowers. All of these flowers and pictures of the departed (they call them missing) reminds me of the pictures I have seen of shrines in India. The normal grave stones are no longer sufficient. Candles and flowers, cards and momentos, and now dna samples of the lost souls. The call has gone out to pick up toothbrushes and combs of the lost; underwear that hasn’t been washed; anything that may contain dna traces of those who have been vaporized and pulverized and mixed in with the concrete ash and melted steel.
The mayor, and other officials continue to say this is a recovery action. I don’t know how much longer they can hold to that line as comforting as it may be. Everyone wants to do something, but what? My sister, who is a social worker volunteered to be grief counselor. They took her name, and said they were full up. Maybe in a month or so they might call her.
* * *
Here are lyrics to a song written by a close friend the day after the WTC:
“What a day, what a clear blue sky
What a day on which to die.
Out of the blue, there flew this plane
A single second of endless pain.
Five thousand friends, husbands and wives
What a way to lose their lives.
Where is my sister? Where is my son?
They went to work and they are gone.
What is the reason? What can it be?
You can’t explain its cause to me.
Call it revenge. Call it jihad.
You killed your brothers in the name of God.
You’ve made me sick. I want to kill.
I want your poison blood to spill.
We will not rest, we will not sleep
Until your terror is buried deep. ”
And this from today’s New York Times — by Tamar Lewin
In a shooting rampage on Saturday, a gunman in Arizona fatally shot the Sikh owner of a Chevron gas station, and, 20 minutes later, shot at but missed a clerk of Lebanese descent at a Mobil station… The East Valley Tribune reported that Mr. Roque shouted — ‘I stand for America all the way,’ as he was handcuffed.
* * *
All I can say, is that the world as we know it, will never be the same. Life will go on, and the shock will pass but I still find myself struggling with the role of the photographer during these times. It’s true, that my first impulse, was to run out and cover the horror. But even on the day when I walked about five miles to get down to Canal Street, I passed beneath several of the bridges by the East River, and took pictures that reminded me of early pictures of the Brooklyn Bridge taken by Walker Evans — and in looking through the negatives tonight, these are the ones that appeal to me.
Just for the fun of it, I looked at all the pictures in the New York Times today — I was curious to see if there were any that you knew were about this event without a caption, or without obviously being shots of the destruction. Very few. It is ironic, but it is really the pictures of the pictures of the missing that immediately tell you this is the WTC disaster without actually being about the WTC. In other words, photographically, its the idea of the missing person that is most visually symbolic of this disaster. True, the country is filled with flags — but that could be any patriotic time. The pictures of the missing are the visual equivalent of the Yellow Ribbon.
Just had word that Igor Z., a computer support guy, a Russian immigrant, that I worked with and often kidded around with at the ad agency is missing and I presume dead.
He is the first to perish that I knew personally, and when I heard about it through Instant Messenger, it brought tears to my eyes.
He worked on the 90th floor.
Now the face and personality of someone that I worked with every day for several years — the hopes and dreams — crushed. I sit here with my head in my hands, just picturing the way he would come into my office and ask me questions all the time, and I would playfully shoo him out.
He was a heavy-set guy, with a baby-face and light-blue eyes. There was always a kind of puzzled look on his face when he came in to ask me a question. I wasn’t his immediate boss, but I was the computer guru that lots of people came to when there was a problem. He had to support the Lotus Notes system, which no one in the world can understand — and he was constantly coming into my dark little office and standing sheepishly at the door with another question. And I would never give him a straight answer. Maybe I thought I was Socrates or something, but I worked and taught many programmers and I always wanted them to think for themselves. Igor wasn’t going to have any of that, he had things to do, and users were complaining and he wanted a straight answer which eventually I would give him.
He was married. And while he was at the agency had a child — so the child must be about three years old now.
Like all the Russians I knew, he was filled with plans for starting his own company. I would sit with him and correct his English on the web page for his new support company. He came to me constantly with questions about how to get properly listed in the search engines. About how to design his site.
And I think back to the chain of events that forced him out of the agency.
About two years ago, there were various shake-ups in the technical department. New Chief Information Officers came in with wild plans to save money and upgrade our technology. Most of those CIO’s are long gone, leaving a trail of pain behind them. Good people were forced out. Crazy plans were started but not finished.
One of those plans was to get rid of support staff and outsource everything. So Igor and others were fired. And then there was the scramble to find a new job and he ended up at the WTC. But no use going down that tree… So Igor escapes from Russia to come here and be pulverized in the symbol of capitalism. I can only hope that it was quick, and that he didn’t suffer too much. Five thousand dead, and all of their faces rolled up into the face of Igor, standing in the doorway of my office, demanding an answer to something… And now we’re all demanding some answer.
* * *
I find a lot of Bush’s phrases odd — and the one that I noticed was his use of the word ‘evildoers’. Tonight, just for the heck of it, I thought I would read a bit of the Quaran, which I found on-line — and this phrase jumped out at me:
From Sura 2
“Line 11. When they are told,
“Do not commit evil,” they say,
“But we are righteous!”
12. In fact, they are evildoers,
but they do not perceive.”
Is it possible that Bush’s speechwriters are actually trying to give a message to the Muslims?
* * *
Five minutes reading of the Quaran makes it doubtful that this book has anything to do with what happened on September 11. Much of the beginning seems straight from the old testament:
Here’s the Garden of Eden:
“We said, ‘O Adam, live with your
wife in Paradise, and eat therefrom
generously, as you please, but do not
approach this tree, lest you sin.
But the devil duped them, and
caused their eviction therefrom.
We said, ‘Go down as enemies
of one another. On Earth shall be
your habitation and provision for awhile.'”
* * *
And the Jews as being the ‘chosen people’ (given our history, I would rather not have been chosen)
“47. O Children of Israel, remember My favor which I bestowed upon
you, and that I blessed you more than any other people”
* * *
Cecile B DeMille’s Ten Commandments:
49. Recall that we saved you from Pharaoh’s people who inflicted upon
you the worst persecution, slaying your sons and sparing your daughters.
That was an exacting test from your Lord.
50. Recall that we parted the sea for you; we saved you
and drowned Pharaoh’s people before your eyes.
51. Yet, when we summoned Moses for forty nights,
you worshiped the calf in his absence, and turned wicked.*
52. Still, we pardoned you thereafter that you may be appreciative.
53. Recall that we gave Moses
scripture and the statute book,
that you may be guided.
* * *
All religions are like fingers on the hand of God —
62. Surely, those who believe,
those who are Jewish, the Christians,
and the converts; anyone who
(1) believes in GOD, and
(2) believes in the Last Day, and
(3) leads a righteous life,
will receive their recompense from their Lord.
They have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.
Seems like a pretty inclusive statement to me.
* * *
79. Therefore, woe to those who distort the scripture
with their own hands, then say,
“This is what GOD has revealed,”
seeking a cheap material gain.
Woe to them for such distortion,
and woe to them for their
* * *
You can read about it at symantec.com. Anyway, things seem to be cleaned up now and the site is clean. More, later… just got a call from Agora Gallery, asking me if I would like to bring some pieces down today because one of the artists who was supposed to show tonight couldn’t get their artwork there.
I said I would. I don’t really expect any sales, but exposure is exposure. So between the virus and the gallery, most of today is shot.
* * *
Visited the local firehouse again tonight. This time I went in and shook hands with one or two of the firemen, and felt tears welling up as we talked which surprised me. I was really only saying the same trite things I had heard others say, but the warmth I felt towards these men moved me. He must have seen this in my eyes, and began talking about different levels of levels of sadness, and that he had experienced many of these levels. I wandered around a bit, found a pair of fireman’s old boots surrounded by a wreath and photogaphed them for a while..
As I was leaving, a little girl was being carried on her father’s shoulders, and I heard her ask him, “Daddy, why do they have all those flowers, don’t they know this isn’t a cemetary?”
Did twenty 8 x 10’s of ‘Benches’ and fifteen prints of ‘Flat Iron Tilted’ — so I have enough to mat and ship some orders that have been hanging around since this crisis started, and some stock for the next time I go to the Met. I’ve noticed lately that its been easier to get decent prints from my Plus-X negs. than from my TMY negs. Given the faster lenses I’m using now, I may actually go back to Plus-X. It’s sort of a toss up because the resolution is better with the new films, but the tonality of the old films seems easier to achieve. I also have some rolls of the new Delta 400, and may give that a try first.
Tonight was the second opening at Agora but I didn’t go. Was too exhausted from printing today.
* * *
Agora Gallery is going to use my shot of the flag (towards the end of the new shots) — for their newsletter. It is odd that the last picture I posted on the site before the WTC was this shot of the flag (taken about two weeks prior to the event).
Here’s the blurb I wrote for them to use:
“This photo was taken somewhere around 93rd street in NYC. What caught my eye was the way the light was glowing behind the stars, and the geometry of the windows in the background which seemed to echo the stars. At the time it was nothing more than an exercise in arranging shapes, lines and tones. The events of September 11, mean that, at least for me, the flag cannot ever be viewed again with the same artistic detatchment.”
* * *
Now this was amazing, a guy wrote the following to me a few days ago:
“This is so wierd… My brother called me up and told me to check out pic # 12 on your site. That’s me! I’m the guy on the left. I thought that was pretty cool. -Peace”
Turns out that this is the guy on the left in the picture: Subway, Two Men.
His brother is a photography student who ran across this picture. The guy was quite friendly about it and I told him I would send him a print. In a city of 8 million people — amazing.
* * *
I do best to approach sideways, like a crab. Straight on, I am like everyone else. So I slowly return to a style where important things appear on the edges, where it isn’t so clear what the print is about, and where, in a good print, I myself am not entirely sure. I take away the little section about ‘Things After Sept. 11″ as being an unnatural line of division. And add a print to the new section, where it holds up on its own.
Several people have asked me recently and not so recently whether it is worth it to build a website for selling photography. Here is a draft of something I’m working on now…
How to Make a Living Selling Photography on the Web
By Dave Beckerman
Yes, you too can make a living selling photography on the web, and now I am going to tell you how. In this article I am going to tell you, gentle reader all the secrets that I have learned — for free. Yes, I give my learning away for free because I am quite certain that not a single person in this entire world would pay their hard-earned, or even their easily-earned money to have this knowledge. This brings us to rule number one:
People on the web don’t want to pay for anything
And this is the first lesson to be had on the web — nobody expects to pay for anything. For someone to move their finger to the ‘Add to Cart’ button is like asking the viewer to leap over the Grand Canyon on a motorcycle. This is especially true for selling pictures but not for all merchandise.
Pictures are not shoes
Seeing a picture of shoes on the web, is just not the same as owning them. In order to get your full money’s worth from a pair of shoes, it really helps to have them on your feet. The same is not true for pictures. You can get quite a lot of value simply by looking at the picture on your computer screen. You don’t need to have it hanging in your house in order to really appreciate it. You may appreciate it more if it is around the house, but how much more is open to question.
I would call this the ‘Hey, I Can See It Whenever I Want Anyway’ syndrome. And to continue the analogy with shoes, you get absolutely no more value if you go back to a site and view a pair of shoes over and over again. They are not aesthetic objects (well not primarily) — but pictures are different. You can download them and use them for wallpaper. You can revisit the site and look at them again. You can even print them out, true the quality ain’t great, but so what and then hang ’em in your cube at work.
Hey, I Can See It Whenever I Want Anyway
Pretend that you had a button inside your head that you could press which would instantly take you to the Museum to view Starry Night — pretend everyone had such a button — would it really be necessary to own the original? So, it may seem at first like a natural thing to do, selling pictures on the web, but it isn’t so natural. Speaking of natural, the one type of picture that human beings will pay for is to see other naked human beings. In fact, these types of pictures are perfect for selling on the web, because we don’t want to have them proudly displayed in our living room. We only want to see them on the computer screen. The problem with the human being is that there are very few of them who would pay a subscription to see “Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico” on the monitor. Pretend that Ansel Adams was still alive. Can you imagine a fine art subscription service on the web where you got to see, in the privacy of your own home, a new print by Ansel Adams each week? I say that no one would pay for that. But they will pay to see as many naked bodies as there are stars in starry starry night.
Sign Up Now for Twenty Years of Photographs which will constantly be added to, and which may possibly bring subtle understanding or amusement to your life. Order now, and we’ll give you access to the secret vaults where images by undiscovered artists are just waiting to be revealed to you.
Show Smaller Pictures That People Can Barely Make Out
When I first put up the site, I thought that people would want a chance to really get closer to the prints, and study them in detail before buying them, so each print could be seen in two sizes — the normal sort of size say 500 x 300, and a size that was double that. I soon discovered, through reading statistics about the site, that for every 3000 normal sized pictures viewed, there was one click on a larger size. Now there could be many reasons for that I guess — such as the larger pictures take too long to load. Or maybe the button for making them larger wasn’t clearly indicated. But my hunch is that people simply don’t see any point in lingering over a computer image as they would if they were standing in a museum. Either the point of the photograph is blunt, and clearly understood, or you can click and look at the next image. Why would you want to explore an image on a computer screen? Doesn’t make any sense. In fact, at one point, I think I made the images on the site slightly smaller, and sales went up.
Decorate or Die
I can divide my sales into two categories: Decorative and Non-Decorative. Let me define the terms, Decorative means that you can put it up on the living room wall without causing the kids any emotional trauma. Non-decorative means that the image may contain some thought provoking or at the very least either too clear, or too unclear subject. Neither is very beneficial to sales. A line in a Dylan song comes to mind, “Beauty walks a razor’s edge, someday I’ll make it mine” — well if making a living on the web is important to you, then put up a lot of beautiful prints — a walk in the park, a sunrise, a sunset, and most especially someone walking in the park during a sunrise or a sunset.
Now here’s another fundamental difference between selling pictures on the web, and selling them let’s say in a physical store, or in a gallery or on a street corner — and this is a big thing:
The web buyer is simply ordering a print. The person on the street corner is buying and taking possession of the print. The web buyer places an order and it is up to you, the lucky photographer to search through your inventory and see if you have that print, and if not make it and make others in case you sell more of it. The photographer who walks out to the corner with his prints, sells one to a passerby. Transaction finished. The web-seller has highly sophisticated (read likely to break) software that takes the order, and notifies him that he has an order and now he must find out whether that picture is in stock, and if not, makes it, and then packages and ships it. And oh yes, drop it at the post office for the larger sizes anyway. And then go and use the software again to actually charge the credit card. Hopefully the package arrives in one piece.
After six months of labor on my site (I did the programming), I received an order by check for a picture. Be;ing excited, I sent the picture and then deposited the check which of course bounced, so not only did I not get the money for the picture but the bank was nice enough to charge me for the bounced check.
In contrast, it took me exactly one day of selling on the street to make ten times the amount I made in those first six months on the web.
COST PER SQUARE INCH OF ART RULE
Oh, THE PRICE POINT. This is the single most important thing that I can tell you. People on the web use a formula for deciding whether to press the ‘Add To Cart’ button or not — and it is called the Cost Per Square Inch rule. Take the cost and divide by the total surface area of the print. This will give you the Cost Per Square Inch of Fine Art (CPSIFA). Confused? Thought that the size of a piece of art might be related to what the artist thought was the proper size. Forget that. Here’s a concrete example:
Print Size = 8 x 10 inches or 80 square inches. Cost is $30. If you divide $30 / 80 = 38 cents per square inch
Now let’s say that you sell that print at 11 x 14 for $35
Print Size Square Inches = 154
35 / 154 = .23 cents
So although the price has gone up, most web-users have already been able to calculate that this is a far better deal.
Now, if you take into account the decorative factor, and at that to the equation, you can see that a picture of a sunset, that is quite large, and sells for a reasonable amount, will be the most popular picture. And of course that leads to the real core of the issue, if this is true, why sell hand-crafted, labor intensive prints at all? Why not just sell posters? Posters are the obvious way to go, because as the reader has surmised, they will give you the least cost per square inch of fine art, and from the web-sellers point of view are the cheapest to produce. But I will take it one step further, and come to the real thesis that I’ve been driving at, and this is — coffee cups with your fine art photography on them.
I know, this sounds like some crass comercial scheme (o.k. it is) — but the coffee cup with the picture of the sunset, will do best of all. The main reason is that like a pair of shoes, it cannot be fully experienced via the web. You must own it. Second of all, coffee cups, and mugs are already very succesful items in most souvenier stores, so you don’t really need to be concerned about developing a market for them. And the most important reason is this — you don’t even need to put your own photographs on the mugs. What will work quite well are little slogans such as ‘I Love New York’ or ‘I Love…” and you can fill in the city.
After writing this entry, I just received the following email, I kid you not, which I quote verbatim:
Selling your pictures on the Internet is the fastest,
easiest way to increase your sales.
Whether you’re shooting digital (or film) you should
consider eS*****s.com as a great online proofing
The more people that can view your images, the more people
will buy them. It’s just that simple.
In addition to our great e-commerce solution, we also give
you ways to sell more stock, sell more accessories and save
on camera gear and more.
* * *
Filling out my quarterly NYS sales tax, I came across a statement that says that those who have experienced problems because of the attacks (and they are listed carefully) may not have to pay penalties. Then there is this line:
Please note that this list is not intended to be all inclusive and that taxpayers experiencing circumstances not described here may also be eligible for such relief. Furthermore, the perpetrators of the attacks and anyone aiding in the attacks will not qualify for the relief provided by the extended deadlines.
I am quite pleased to know that New York State will not allow those who have murdered Americans to file late taxes without penalty.
* * *
For those of you out there that think I have any idea of what I’m doing — this morning should prove that its been mostly a combination of luck and trial and error. I spent most of the day printing various shots taken since the WTC, and I have to say, they are pretty awful. Each in its own way. I guess I did proofs of about seven or eight shots, and didn’t like any of them. For example — the shot of the three Tibetan monks — I must have spent a few hours on that one. Tried it with every paper I have. Either the grays were off, or the blacks of their robes were muddy, or the highlights were washed out, and I’m not even sure that its such a great shot in b&w.
Anyway, I don’t want to get into it right now — but it was a pretty frustrating day. Oh, and the one shot that I thought had possibilities, I realized afterwards that you could see people’s phone numbers and names, and I couldn’t put it up on the website because there’s too many nuts out there.
There’s one, where the missing posters are in the background and there’s this strange shadow coming down the steps that might be o.k. I’ll see after its dried. But all in all — I think I was on a better streak before all the tragedy.
A woman from asked if she could purchase the rights to use a picture to make postcards to send to her customers. She said her entire budget was $200, and that she could only offer $100 for the right to make postcards. A friendly, nice woman, but I told her that it wasn’t worth it to me to have a high quality digital file floating around out there for $100.
In case anyone is interested, I have been having so many problems with TMAX 400 lately, that I’ve switched to Tri-X which I haven’t used in twenty years. Don’t have results back, but I’m hoping it will be a bit more forgiving with me. It’s not that my exposures have been way off, its just that all of a sudden I’m having trouble with TMY in high contrast situations.
Quite the heated discussion when the relatives got together to break the fast last night. I guess it all started when my dad asked one of his innocent questions of the group, “What do you think should be done?” .
Here are excerpts from a letter to my dad with his responses in caps:
I have heard many theories — the Muslims in general are very poor, and unhappy that the U.S. lives so well; that they hate the Jews and hate the U.S for supporting the Jews; that the U.S. invaded holy sections of Saudi
Arabia; and that it is cultural, and we are ruining their culture by spreading our own decadent U.S. culture. Suppose all these things are true.. The Germans believed that the Jews were the cause of all their suffering. Look what happened.
This idea floating around that we needed to ‘understand’ the terrorists, and the causes of ‘terrorism’ made me feel as if I were sitting in a garret in the Warsaw Ghetto trying to figure out why the Nazis were treating us the way they did. What could we do to understand their motivations and appease them in some way and show them that we were human beings just like them. Why don’t they like us?
IT IS AS IF SOME INDIVIDUALS ARE UNABLE TO COMPREHEND THAT THERE ARE PEOPLE
IN THE WORLD WHO ARE “EVIL?-ARE OUT TO KILL THEM AND THEIR CHILDREN. IT IS A
STRANGE BELIEF THAT RATIONALITY PREVAILS IN THE MIDST OF VIOLENCE AND
POTENTIAL SLAUGHTER. CAVE MEN KNEW WHAT THEY HAD TO DO TO STAY ALIVE. SOME OF
THE CURRENT “CIVILIZED” INDIVIDUALS HAVE NEVER BEEN CLOSE ENOUGH TO
A HEIGHTENED SENSE OF MORAL BEHAVIOR AS A FUNCTION OF KILLING “THEM/:, i.e.,
IN OUR TIME AND THE CURRENT SITUATION, THE “THE INFIDEL”
We all have our idealogies, and apparantly they are as important as life itself. I think from what I see, that even if there were another bombing, and relatives were killed, that would only strengthen peoples leaning on their idealogy.
I THINK NOT. IF THERE IS ANOTHER LARGE BOMBING, SOME OF THE PEOPLE WHO ARE CONCERNED WITH CIVIL RIGHTS, WILL RECOGNIZE THAT THEY COULD BE NEXT, AND WOE TO THESE CIVIL RIGHTERS, IF SOMEONE NEAR AND DEAR IS KILLED. QUICKLY, I ADD, I TOO AM CONCERNED ABOUT CIVIL RIGHTS, BUT I WANT TO STAY ALIVE TO FIGHT FOR CIVIL RIGHTS.
How can you tell whether someone has an idealogy? It means that their reaction to any issue can be predicted. I could predict that X would blame this on the corporations. That Y would blame this on the past actions of the U.S. And that Z would be non-violent.Perhaps my reaction could have been predicted too — but I doubt it.
I’ll be honest with you dad, I arrived with a slight headache — and I left with a slight headache. And I will tell you that you were the only one there that I would like to share a foxhole with during a real crisis.
A SERIOUS RESPONSE FROM YOUR FATHER: I WAS VERY MOVED BY THIS COMMENT. THANK
One other thing — maybe I travel in different circles, but I can tell you that almost everyone in the circles that I travel with would be happy to see military action, and see it soon. They expect it, and they desire revenge. Did Y ever sit down and talk with a young National Guard soldier who spent several nights at Ground Zero, walking over body parts? Did Y talk to the widow of the Russian immigrant who is dead at age 29 leaving a wife and three year old child. I have two other friends who came that close to being dead. It seemed lost on some people that civilians were
the outright target.
UNLESS I AM WRONG, ALL WARS START WITH PARADES AND PATRIOTIC SONGS.
ONCE THE BODY BAGS BEGIN TO ARRIVE, THERE IS A BEGINNING UNDERSTANDING OF
WAR. I THINK MY STRONG REACTIONS HAVE MUCH TO DO WITH MY WAR EXPERIENCE.
[my father was in the army and fought in europe during ww II. he has seen a lot, including the liberation of concentration camps]
DURING THE EVENING, MUCH LIKE YOU, I FELT THAT I WAS IN CHURCH, AND THE
CHOIR MASTER WAS SIGNALING US THAT IT WAS TIME TO SING, WHILE OUTSIDE THE
BOMBS WERE FALLING, AND I COULD SMELL DEATH, AND BURNING FLESH. I WOULD
FEEL BETTER, IN THIS SITUATION, WITH A HAND GRENADE AND RIFLE IN MY HAND. GUESS
IT IS OBVIOUS: I NEVER REALLY GOT THE WARRIOR MENTALITY OUT OF MY SYSTEM.
SHORT, SHORT STORY. YOUNG WRITER, LETS CALL HIM JIM, GOES TO SEE A FAMOUS
SOUTHERN WRITER (BILL IS HIS FIRST NAME; I FORGOT THE SECOND NAME). JIM HAS
GIVEN BILL A SAMPLE OF HIS WRITING. JIM COMES BACK TO THE HOUSE AND ASKS
BILL: “WELL, WHAT DO YOU THINK? CAN I MAKE IT AS A WRITER?
BILL IS VERY ENCOURAGING AND THE YOUNG WRITER LEAVES FEELING VERY GOOD. THE
PHONE RINGS. IT IS THE PERSON WHO SETUP THE GET TOGETHER BETWEEN JIM AND BILL.
HER HER NAME IS RUTH, AND SHE ASKS ASK BILL, “WELL WHAT DO YOU THINK? DOES JIM HAVE
IT.” BILL MUMBLES SOME POSITIVE STATEMENTS, BUT RUTH PERSISTS, “GIVE IT TO
ME STRAIGHT. DOES JIM HAVE IT OR NOT.?” BILL ANSWERS, “NO, HE REALLY
DOESN’T HAVE IT. HE IS TOO FAR FROM THE DIRT AND ANXIETY OF LIVING.”
THERE WERE A NUMBER OF PEOPLE IN THE ROOM WHO WERE TOO FAR FROM DEATH, KILLINGS
DO YOU THINK THAT WE SHOULD SAVE THESE EMAILS? THEY COULD BE INTERESTING,
* * *
Well, its saved here.
My attempts at ‘capturing’ the events of the day, gave little artistic satisfaction, so I will stop trying. For years, I have wandered about, without trying to get anything in particular. Without knowning what would strike me or why. Sometimes this might be the gleam of sunlight on water-soaked boards, or the posture of a man. Once I gave in to the events, and abandoned that approach, my photography turned from something instinctive to something planned and obvious. It was as if my pictures had turned into foreign movies that required subtitles. So, after the great shock and horror, I am slowly returning to my old way of working, which is to simply wander about and not try.
It is better to strive in one’s own dharma than to succeed in the dharma of another. Nothing is ever lost in following one’s own dharma, but competition in another’s dharma breeds fear and insecurity — Sri Krishna in The Bhadavad Gita.
[“The word dharma means many things, but its underlying sense is ‘that wich supports,’ from the root dhri, to support, hold up, or bear. Generally dharma implies support from within: the essence of a thing, its virture, that which makes it what it is”. — Diana Morrison from The Bhagavad Gita, Nilgiri Press, copyright 1985]
* * *
Printed Subway Car (Empty) today, and a few other prints, and seem to be getting back on track. The odd thing is that I’m still using three different papers to get control over some of these prints — Ilford VC Fiber, Gallerie Grade 2 and Gallerie Grade 3. The VC Fiber, even when I’m giving it just soft light, is often too contrasty. It is almost like a Gallerie 5 if there is such a grade. Also finally got a small print of Grand Central Arches which I’ll put on the site soon. This print, which I really like, just never translated well via the scanner. But I have hopes that this one will. Also changed the site around and am offering some limited edition prints at much lower prices. The inexpensive print of Promenade is being bought pretty frequently now, but I feel that I need to be able to sell at least one or two limited editions per month, even if they are only $75 each.
I’ve really given up on the digital black and white printing. I guess I experimented with it for about six months. The results weren’t bad, but not the same tonal range as the darkroom stuff I’m doing. Also, the equipment, seems more finicky. The printer was working fine for a month or so, and then I started getting banding. I spent a lot of money on cleaning, using different inks etc. but for sure the results when you are doing a large print were not as good. This, does not seem to be the case for color.
Today I’ve been printing for a few hours, and I’m really banging them out. The secret, at least for me, is to keep very good notes, which is not really in my character, but I’ve learned the necessity the hard way.
And the Zone VI enlarger, which I’ve been using for ten years or so, has never failed. I guess the bulb will eventually need to be replaced, but that’s about it.
Well, I’m doing something I’ve been meaning to do for a while — showing the prints matted. I think this gives a better idea of what they really look like. It’s a lot of scanning etc. but I think it’s worth it. I guess I’ve done about 15 so far
The web site really does pull you in. Tinker, tinker, tinker. I keep fooling around with the navigation. I can do better graphics, but the original idea was to let the prints speak for themselves, as much as possible. Sales trickle in, but I’m now at a point where I’ve cut down on the number of images I show, so that I can keep stock and not have to run into the darkroom every time an order comes in. Most of my packaging and shipping problems have also been solved. Believe me, there’s a lot of cardboard in this studio now. It’s stuffed everywhere. Behind the couch. Under the bed. I’m thinking of going into the retail cardboard business.
Some thoughts on influences…
I would like to replace the word ‘influence’ with ‘learned from’.
Walker Evans spent about a year shooting on the subway of NYC. I had seen his work, and thought that given the use of Autoexposure, Autofocus, better film stock ie. technical advances, that in some ways I might be able to improve on what he had got. I actually don’t think that I succeeded, but that my subway images are different than his. The idea seems to be to be aware of what others have done, and then to forget about it.
Cartier-Bresson once said that he could tell if someone was a good photographer by walking along the street with them and watching how they ‘held the camera.’ And that’s a piece of learning that I got from him that influences the way I take street pictures. I know that he walked around with a 35mm and sometimes with a 90mm. That also influenced me for a long time, and in general I do the same. But the subject matter, that I shoot is different.
I really don’t think that Ansel Adams did very much interesting work with the small format camera and/or people. But he did come up with a way of showing and describing how to think about the tonal values of black and white (the Zone system). Although I don’t use the Zone system exactly while walking along the street, its something that I have studied and it influences you later, when you print.
In short, learn, emulate, understand other photographers (artists) and then try and forget it and do your own.
I was reviewed in Black and White Photography Magazine, apparently published in the UK And apparently favorably. What’s amazing, is that they didn’t even both to let me know. I found out about it by one of their readers in the UK I’ve been trying to contact them to get a copy. So far, no luck. The web is a weird and mysterious place. That’s for sure.
I have an invitation to show at the Barcelona Art Fair in October. I’ve been mulling it over, but I think I’m going to do it. This is the year for me to force myself off the safety of the web, and out into the so called real world. I’m generally not a procrastinator — but I haven’t really pushed myself into these fairs, galleries etc. with the same energy that I’ve worked on the web site. I’m really not sure what the hold up is. Everytime I have made the effort, its been successful. But I still seem to resist. I wonder whether its just a basic built-in shyness. I was asked to submit sample work for a show in Westport, and I procrastinated until I missed the deadline for entry. Dumb. But there it is.
The other day, while I was on jury duty, I walked around Soho, and browsed the photo galleries. There’s a place for me there, but its a lot of leg work.
On a technical note, I’ve been walking around with the $150 Yashica T4 for about three weeks now. I haven’t developed anything from the camera, but there are some things about it that I like a lot. The main thing is that it just looks like a cheap point and shoot. The other thing is the tiny waistlevel viewfinder. I’ve always been more comfortable looking down into the camera than picking it up and pointing it eye level. So that part of it has been fun. You can sort of stand on a corner, looking down at this little image, and pretending to fiddle with the camera. I also began using it for flash in the subway, something I didn’t feel comfortable doing with the more expensive G2.
Took the Hexar to my Aunt’s funeral. I wasn’t sure if I would use it or not, but when her son took out a digital camera, I figured it was all right. Still, my sister moved away from me when I took the camera out of my suit pocket as they were lowering the casket into the ground. And I don’t blame her. I moved around so that the sun was at my back and I took a few pictures of her middle-aged children as the rabbi spoke to them.
Changed the naming conventions for the type of prints from RC and Limited, to Limited Edition and Not Limited. This was on the advise of a customer who thought that by stressing the type of paper, people would get an idea that the RC prints were really cheap things that weren’t up to the standards of the Limited Edition. Quite honestly, I wouldn’t sell anything that didn’t capture the feeling of the print, because it just doesn’t make any sense, either as an artist or as a business person to put junk out there. For me, the big reason for using the Portfolio RC paper is not the cost, it is fairly expensive paper, but the time involved in processing. The RC paper takes less than a minute in the developer, about a minute in the fixer, and much much less time to wash properly. It’s also much easier to mat since it lies flat when dry. But I still do the same dodging/burning etc. when doing the print as if it were a limited edition.
Interview with a street vendor
I approached the table, set up outside the metropolitan museum. A nice sunny Spring day. Realized quickly that I was looking at photographs which I had seen before. Oh yeah. Must have been about two years ago outside the Met.
Me: Hi. I think we spoke sometime, a few years ago?
Photographer: (He recognizes me) Yeah. I remember you.
Me: So, how’s it goin’? I’ve been thinking about setting up a table out here.
Photographer: It’s tough.
Me: What’s tough.
Photographer: Oh, people out here. The only thing they want is the Flat Iron Building, The Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building. That’s all they want.
He had several images that were more artistic, but apparently no one was interested in them.
Photographer: It’s crazy. I went out one day and shot the Brooklyn Bridge. Similar stuff to what everyone else has out here. You know what? That’s my best seller.
Me: Yeah. Its just stuff for tourists I guess.
Photographer: Guess so. But that’s all that sells. And the other vendors — they’re a pretty rough group. Russians, Chinese. They’ve got some kind of a lock on the city. You’ve got to get out on the street at 5am if you want to get a spot. Otherwise, all these other vendors, who aren’t even selling their own stuff, get the best spots. They come around in vans at 5am, and just stake out all the spots.
Me: I see you’re selling this stuff for $15, framed. How do you afford it?
Photographer: I’ve got a guy who can get me really cheap frames and mats. It costs me about $3 per frame.
Me: Wow. Not bad.
Anyway, he goes on to tell me that its worth a try, but don’t expect to sell anything really interesting. I go on to tell him that I’m selling stuff on the web. That its going o.k. Not really enough to make a living on, but it pays for my film and equipment. At that point, I’m standing there with my Rolliflex Twin Lens (ancient camera) and a guy walks by and starts talking to me. Somehow he says something which makes it clear that he’s more interested in my camera than the stuff this guy is selling. The Photographer gets mildly insulted. “Thanks a lot”. I move off to the side with this guy who proceeds to take three cameras from his bag. Things I had never seen before. We talk about the old cameras for a while, and then he takes a glance at the photographers display and walks off.
Anyway, I had a good day. I spent a few hours with the Rolliflex outside the Met, mostly shooting close ups of people as they walked by. Very pleasant way to spend the afternoon.
Bought a couple of lights and light stands today. I’ve had the urge to shoot carefully lit subjects. I think I’m trying to capture that old feeling I had when I was doing lighting on films. After setting up the lights, I searched around the apartment for something to shoot. I set up a black cloth, did some Rembrant style lighting, and began putting different objects on the cloth — shoes, bottles with water, crumpled pieces of paper. Nothing seemed interesting. Here were these interesting lighting effects, and nothing to put there. I wanted to do still life, but bowls of fruit were out. I put a roll of toilet paper on the black cloth and arranged in various ways. My sister came buy, saw what I was doing, and asked if I had gone nuts. Who would want to see a shot of toilet paper? No matter how artistically it was lit. Could be she was right.
After about six hours of this meandering, I gave up and watched t.v. for a while. I was watching the ‘honeymooners marathon’ and out of the side of my eye, saw an old incense burner that hadn’t been used for about a year. A simple square box and some smoke, and I was off the couch, backlighting the smoke. I still haven’t shot anything, but it has some appeal. Sort of like shooting currents in the ocean. I plan to shoot this with the view camera. But that’s tonight, tomorrow it may seem like a dumb idea.
Things are changing. I’m going to be showing at the Downtown Westport Arts Festival July 21st and 22nd. Although I’ve shown at some small crafts type fairs sponsored by the ad agency where I work, this is my first real showing. There might even be the wine and cheese thing. The first thing that I’m realizing is that once I do a showing like this, I have a problem pricing between what is on the web, and what is at the fair. Prices for limited edition framed work should be in the $400 to $500 range at such a fair. I can’t continue to sell limited edition prints on the web site for prices as low as $125 as I’m doing now. I’m also going to a festival in Barcelona in October… at least they’ve invited me, but I haven’t heard back from them as far as particulars yet.
The other thing I’m realizing is that the idea of sellling prints in so many sizes on the site may not be the best idea for a number of reasons:
1) Sometimes the 5 x 7’s don’t really do the print justice. Some prints are fine, and were meant to be relatively small. But Promenade at 5 x 7 is just not the same as at 11 x 14 or 16 x 20.
2) Its really difficult to maintain stock for prints in all these sizes (many prints are shown at 3 sizes).
I think that this weekend, I’m going to re-think all of this. I’ll only sell two sizes for each print. And the smaller size must be able to present the print well.
So, if I raise the limited edition prices on the site — no one will buy them via the web (unless they might have already seen them at a fair or something). On the other hand, most of what I sell through the website are the lower priced prints so I’m not really giving up that much.
We’ll see. I know that I wanted to make limited edition prints reasonably priced so that anyone could afford them, but the irony may be that I can’t afford to do this.
Now I’m starting to get nervous. The Agora Gallery in Soho has agreed to ‘represent me’. This means an exhibit in New York’s Soho area etc. I guess more on this when I figure out when and where etc. It does seem like a lot of stuff is happening at once.
Well, this has been a busy few weeks. I really seem to be mostly involved printing and packaging. Looking back over the last year and a half, I would say that since I decided to ‘become a professional’ the main thing that has changed is that I shoot much less. I think in the last year and a half, I have one or two good shots. Most of the stuff on the site is over four years old already. I probably have some interesting stuff from Sedona, but that’s already six months old. I spend most of my time matting, wrapping, and printing. Three of the most boring things in the world. Okay, I know, I’m complaining a lot here, but as I’ve said before, that seems to be what journals are for.
The shots at my Aunt’s funeral were not good. At least they don’t seem good now. Maybe a few years from now I’ll notice something interesting in them. I seem to need to let the actual experiences of the shooting dissolve into the past before I can objectively evaluate the shots. An example: The Shot of Trees at Yosemite was sitting around for close to eight years before I printed it again. I remember looking at it many years ago and feeling there was something there. But never did the work to print it properly until a month ago
Sent out portfolio and gallery agreement to the Gallery. So now another phase begins. It took almost three days to put the portfolio together. Nothing fancy, just sleeves in a loose-leaf, but flipping through them… had a good feeling to it. I’m afraid my stuff is all over the place. No definite style. What’s the relationship between Promenade and Good Careers? Once the gallery prices go into effect, the prices on the web site will have to be up there also. Maybe 25% less. Its not fair to sell at one price in a gallery and then have people be able to buy the same print off the web for half the price. Anyway, this pricing thing is all new to me… but it does seem that the same print that sells in the Gallery for $1000 could be much cheaper at an art fair. The overhead is much lower. Who knows.
I’m not sure where I left off. Interesting web developments lately. Apparently lots of people have been ripping off my images from the site and using them as graphic material on their own sites. Always thought that might happen. But was surprised to see some of my stuff showing up as the main splash screen for a site. Anyway — will say that they were used with a better feel for graphical use then I had used. Wrote to the perps (too much Law and Order lately) and all were apologetic, and offered to link to my site and put copyright notices etc. etc.
Made me wonder though, since these I had just come across accidentally.
Ironed out, mostly my problems with LinkExchange — they had kicked me off for a while because of a popup window which is against their terms.
Yesterday, after walking around for two weeks, or so with Nikon, went back to Contax G2. Like meeting an old friend. I was immediately shooting from the hip again, on my way to work. Mostly what I remember was garbage men who were about 3 feet from me swinging by on back of truck.
Ok. So here is my list of subjects — themes, that I would most like to shoot if I could be invisible for a day in this order:
1. Any fancy Korean run fingernail cleaning joint on either the upper west- or east side of Manhattan. These places, in case you’ve not been there are a combination of extreme tastefulness, and the grating of cuticles. I’ve always been interested in places where women become more beautiful — or at least more physically acceptable. I’m probably treading dangerous p.c. water here — but I can assure you that men’s hair cutting places which might be equally interesting, are nowhere as luxurious. So there you have it. Something that will probably never happen. Plus, even with permission would be difficult to shoot.
2. A day in the life of a Garbage Truck and its crew. I would love to follow a NYC Garbage truck crew around for a few weeks — probably on a motorcycle. I’m especially interested in a shot of the guy hanging on to the back of the truck, which has a slow enough shutter speed to show the motion on the side, but want to be moving at same speed as subject so that he is not blurred.
3. Of course, its obvious that I have a fixation with the subway. Not only in New York, but anywhere. This has to be one of those weird fetishes, that I’ve always thought were so stupid in other people. Like the guy who collects stamps or the woman with all the dolls she ever owned on and is now a hundred years old. In general, I don’t collect things. At least not the physical objects. Nevertheless, the subway, being the underground, has associations for me — some of them mythic, like the River Hades (sp?) that you took to get to hell. And the ferryman with his 3-headed? dog. There were some of these myths that made impressions on me when I was in my more literate years. The sub-way. The underground – way. The place where the unconscious of the city flows (or doesn’t flow) and pulsates with its own pulse, like my pulse. And there is the Kafkaesque aspect of this underground. At least in New York. Or as Bill Cosby once said — ‘A Nut In Every Car’. And a lot of times that ‘Nut’ is the person running the train. Or perhaps the whole system.
In short — free, invisible access to the entire subway system for a few weeks. To be able to go where I want. Shoot what I want. And not be afraid, of either the police or the criminals that ride that mighty congested stream. To be able to visit and properly — perhaps with the view camera and lights — shoot the closed and abandoned stations. To walk through parts of the 2nd Avenue tunnel (which was built, but will it ever be continued…)
And the greatest dream of subway invisibility, would be to be able to shoot the faces from these trains that often haunt me — with freedom — and with framing (not from the hip) in panoramic styles with a lovely medium format camera. Just bunches and bunches of these long, medium format negatives that match the feeling of strips of people that you have on the Number 6 train.
The Paris subway by the way — is much less interesting to me. It is well kept. Makes more sense (even though my French is pretty poor). And is clean and efficient. It doesn’t fill me with these associations of hell. (On the other hand I don’t have to take it to work every day.)
ideas to shoot — continued….
4. Any supermarket.
That’s right. I don’t care if its in Manhattan, or Key West. Maybe this is just another subculture, that goes undiscovered. Can you imagine being able to spend a week or so simply shooting the bag-packers, and the checkout people under neon lights? Maybe its the places where the two classes meet that interest me? Is that what it is? The rich people on the upper east side (myself included) pick up our food and walk to a place where there is practically no skill involved — and meet the check out girls and the old men bagging our stuff. And in the background, is a window, where the really down and outers stop by and drop off hundreds of cans for deposit.
There is, by the way, enough light, at least in the Food Emporium near my house, and often when I go shopping I have the G2 hanging around my neck. People get used to seeing you that way, and don’t get so alarmed. Once in a while, I try to get a couple of shots during the checkout process. But to be able to really bring the camera to your eye, and compose — the shot of the five checkout girls gossiping at the same time, while the guys in the back are struggling with the can depositors.
And all in the world of objects. Things. Cans. Boxes. Frozen things. Fifty types of macaroni. Two hundred varieties of yogurt. Marketing, marketing, marketing. And check out girls making $6.50 per hour. Anyway, I guess its one of those jobs that will soon be obsolete. Slide your own food through.
Really tired this afternoon. Not sure why, since I didn’t do much of anything at work today. Struggles with setting up an NT server etc. Computer’s — the more I work with them, the more useless they seem (and yes, that is my professional point of view), and I understand the irony of the fact that I’m sitting here in Dreamweaver, typing my journal which will then go out to the world via FTP. Anyway, let’s get on with #5…
5. Any woman hailing a cab (other people’s ideas)
This idea for a photo essay was suggested by my friend Dirk, who subsequently returned to Belgium to live where people who think of such weird things live and apparently flourish. As a matter of fact, he recently asked me (after five years of silence on the subject) whether I had made any progress with this endeavor. And I had to say, ‘Not really’.
It’s true, that there is a certain gesture that is particular to each woman (and I suppose each man) but men hailing cabs just doesn’t do it somehow. Much like, I don’t think I’m ready for the women on the Price is Right to be switched with manly presenters. But more to the point — it is a very hard thing to do. First off, you want to catch the woman’s expression as well as the hand gestures. Since I refuse to use telephoto lenses (which just seems like cheating to me), you must stand within 3 – 5 feet of the woman and basically take the damned picture when it is clear that you are not taking any other person’s picture. No ability to disguise what you’re doing. You have — for some bizarre reason — decided to document this civilized gesture.
I think this essay is going to have to be left to someone else.
“Women hailing cabs! You finally see the light! How can that be difficult? They can’t move, they can’t run. And if they move, you know that within seconds their arm will shoot up in the air again. ” — Dirk E.(Belgium)
Had a bit of a run-in this morning. Back to work — with G2 around my neck. A little shooting on the train — kid and mother. Maybe something decent, maybe not. Off the train, and stopped to shoot a bit from the waist. Then continue through the turnstile. Something touches me on my parka, and says ‘Excuse me’. I continue through turnstile.
– Excuse me?
I turn around. The man on the other side, looks at me deeply in the eyes, and he’s not a small fellow by any means. Still, seems a bit formal. Well dressed. And says, ‘Did you just take a picture?’
I can’t figure this guy out. He was behind me the whole time. What does he care if I took a picture. I can only guess that either he’s some undercover cop. Or undercover MTA guy. Or else in a witness protection program.
I look him back in the eye, and say – “No.”
Turn and keep going.
I can count the times that I’ve been asked that question on one hand. And I’ve lied almost every time. True, I did take a picture this time — but of what ??? I don’t know. Did it come out? I have no idea. And why is it this guy’s business, who wasn’t even in the shot.
I’ve come to the conclusion that you must decide, at the time, what is appropriate, and what is not.
You must be able to judge the situation, and decide whether being honest is going to get you messed up, or not. And that’s all there is to it. My job is to try and get interesting pictures where people are not aware of your presence. If there is something unseemly about that — then so be it. I certainly don’t try to make people look bad. In fact, for the most part, I’m looking for images that are simply different — people doing what they do. I don’t want to either elevate, or denigrate anyone (except for that shot of the French waiters…)
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My good friend Dirk, who lives now in Belgium — and I have been corresponding recently about the subject, I think, of what is art. Here are a few snippets:
I was basically making the argument that the role of the artist was to find what was unique within themselves, and to nurture that and express it, and that by doing so they would be able to communicate universally. A bit pat — but something that I’m working on. But of course, when you are really doing it, you don’t try, you just do it.
Anyway — Dirk gave me an interesting, and literate response to my search for uniqueness. Here it is:
Excerpts from Dirk’s letter:
“But in my book even that one special thing that you do better than anyone else is equally fundamentally un-important.
As far as I can see contemporary art suffers rather than benefits from this constant quest for uniqueness.
First of all, it’s not because it is unique that it is art.
Secondly, to ask if ‘this’ or ‘that’ is art – and/or great art and/or unique – just leads to nothing, and certainly not to art.
Still, in one way I agree with you, but in the context then of what Quentin Crisp says: we are all unique (already), but – if we so desire – we need to polish up our identity, and present our polished selves to the world if we want to be noticed, notorious, or recognized, or … famous.
But our uniqueness is not something you can tack on to your (beautiful) self, but rather something that’s inside you and that you need to bring to the surface, a bit like the statue that is already in the stone …
What makes a ‘great work of art’? That’s of course a hopeless debate … Schopenhauer feels that it is the universal values in it which allow the creator and his public to communicate in a somewhat ‘timeless’ experience, and that the elation we feel is directly related to this stepping out of everyday time-bound reality. Interesting theory. In any case, I disagree with your emphasis on the uniqueness and individuality. That is not enough, and for a truly great artist of no concern: it is automatically so.
Do you think Bach worried if his work sounded like Bach, and Ansel Adams if his pictures looked like an Ansel Adams? I don’t. Not that I believe in group art. Dostoyevsky by committee is of course impossible.
(Did you know that Dostoyevsky saw himself as a writer of detective/murder stories, and that he ‘transcended’ his goal in a way that, I’m sure, he himself could not explain either, ergo, there is a case of an artist who discovered a statue inside that was bigger than what he expected: you only need to be driven, the rest takes care of itself.)
Then again, to my mind, a new work of art does not have to be ‘something (very) different from what they’ve seen before’. That’s just a common Western obsession. If you listen to music of (the contemporary) Arvo Part (Tabula Rasa) it sounds downright medieval, with often nothing more than fifths and octaves, and it certainly could have been written ‘long ago’. Yet is is very beautiful, and unique. But it’s not ‘artificially’ unique, it’s not ‘calculated’ unique, it’s not ‘manifesto’ unique, it’s unique simply because of his strong personality.
The dilemma of the artist, as I see it, is simply to perfect his style and his chosen skills to the point that what is already inside comes to the surface; the dilemma being that this takes a lot of effort, without any guarantee whatsoever that there is something ‘worthwhile’ inside. There’s always some statue inside, but it may not be bigger than a lump of sugar. The dilemma being that you don’t know where you are on the scale, and not even if you are very succesful, I think. The fan club is never big enough: at Harvard all the professors stocked up on champagne around September, but only one – or two – got the Nobel Price, and the next day they were astonished to realize that there is life outside Harvard, if someone else got it. It’s like ‘happiness’ and even ‘misery’: where are you on the scale? The problem with it, I think, is the value judgment. Am I good (enough)? You really don’t know, and if you get to the point where the world has an opinion about you, you still don’t know. So the only thing you can do is live your life – and exercise your folly, if you so desire … In my present state of mind I choose for throwing myself hard at the piano playing – realizing full well how cosmically unimportant it is – and I really don’t worry if I’m good or as good as … I experience I’m getting better thru practicing (and I enjoy that) … I could lament that I should have done this when I was 10, but that’s water under the bridge now + at 10 I could not have practiced the things I practice now … In fact I do it because it improves the quality of my life, because it gives me hope (not naive stupid hope, but hope nevertheless). And self-generated hope is a very worthwhile kind of hope.This reminds me of (I paraphrase):
Man stands in his life, grotto,
Always with a sense of being enclosed.
He dreams of sun and open air and freedom.
The way out is always narrow And arduous to cross
He fills his lungs with air.
He reaches the point where If he goes any further He won’t be able to return:
Point of no return.
Will he continue?
Will he go back?
There is a picture of hope.
(This is from a book of Off-Off Broadway; can’t remember the author).
Thank you Dirk!
* * *
6. The Bronx
Saw a documentary about Walker Evans last night. Although technically, a lot of his best work is with the large format camera — the idea of what he wanted to show — America — without either glorifying or denigrating its citizens, was very inspiring. It was amazing to me that when ‘Let Us Now Praise Famous Men’ with writing by James Agee (one of my favorite authors) — only sold 600 copies when it first came out. And that it wasn’t until the sixties when the book was re-issued, that Walker Evans achieved enough recognition to have a steady income.
I would like to do similar work in the Bronx.
I know there is a book called, ‘The Forgotten Bronx’ or something like that — but the picture quality is awful. I would like to do a duotone type of book, exploring both the parts of the Bronx that have been destroyed — as well as the parts that are still flourishing.
Since I was raised there — and know it pretty well — there are so many areas that would be exciting to photograph:
– Woodlawn Cemetery (I grew up across the street from there)
– The Tremont Avenue area — my Grandparents lived near there.
– Fordham Road — the commercial crossroads of the Bronx
– The Train Yard near Lehman College
– The projects on University Avenue
– Allerton Avenue (the little Italy section of the Bronx)
– I’d probably skip the Bronx Zoo and Botantical gardens. They could exist anywhere.
I find that when I’m in relaxed, and open — almost anything I see seems worthy of a photograph. Anything that is not posed. I recently received an e-mail from a would be model, asking if I would do work for her portfolio. Although I suppose this is the fantasy for a lot of photographers, its never interested me. If I were to use a model, it would be to do the type of natural seeming shots that Douisenu?? got in trouble for. Ideas that simply are too difficult to really do candidly. Maybe someday I’ll try that — but I would not try to pass them off as authenticly candid shots. One idea I had was to take two models — man and a woman, and have them carry on an argument on a crowded subway platform. I was had a very excruciating argument with a girlfirend while waiting for a bus. And I guess would like to recreate this painful scene.
Those of you who have been following this diary know that I also work three days a week at an advertising agency as a computer programmer. One thing that has happened during the last month while I’ve been on this part-time schedule, is that the programming job has become even more painful, in the sense that I’m now more and more removed from what’s going on there. Not what I expected to happen.
I’m finally reading Angela’s Ashes — what a book. If I ever thought that I had it tough as a child, this makes my childhood seem like heaven. It’s one of those books that resonates, and shocks, and makes you laugh at the same time.I haven’t seen the film, but understand that a lot of the humor of the book has been left out — which I could understand, as its in the narrative voice, not the plot, that this is carried.
No doubt we were poor growing up in the South Bronx. My mom used to water down the soda without telling us to stretch it further. As kids, me and my sisters used to wonder why the Coke always tasted so much better at our friends house, until we found out we had been drinking diluted soda for years. And there were times when we went hungry. When there wasn’t enough food in the house. I can remember pressing my nose up against the steamy window of the delicatessen across the street from us. And sometimes, the owner would call me in and give me a free hot dog.
I’ve also had money — and sat in fancy restaurants where waiters hung around waiting to fill your glass with wine the second you took a sip. Or gone to the Lotus Sphere conference where millions were spent to impress us with the glories of the next version of Lotus Notes. These displays of ostentatiou — or what used to be conspicuous consumption — often made me ill.
I like to think that I both sides of life in America can be reflected in my work.
* * *
Glad for the snow in New York yesterday. Spent many hours in Central Park with the Nikon. I walked away from that saying that I would never use the view camera again. I have shot with the view camera in similar situations, and simply never done well with it. Too slow for my metabolism. Also, I really like shooting while it is snowing, and being able to capture the actual snow falling, which is difficult with the view camera, given the slow shutter speeds you usually use.
Anyway — been busy with the site the last few days adding the Audience Favorites stuff. This should be interesting. I have been thinking of adding posters, calendars etc. to the site, and this would be a good way to find out what people like. I mean, I have some idea — based on e-mail etc. — but I love the idea of having the rankings changing constantly in the Favorites View — and possibly later on the home page will change to display whatever is the highest ranking Audience Favorite. The viewer then actually has control over the content of the home page. Good idea? Stupid? Too democratic? Who knows.
And apologies to all for falling down with this DAILY diary — but I will get back to it again soon.
Well this is a bit startling. During the last few weeks, requests for prints are coming in through this web-site. Something that I hoped for, but had no idea would actually happen. It brings up a lot of issues. Should I enable the site to take credit cards? All sorts of business issues — such as Return Policy. What’s fair? I think that for the most part the images on the web don’t really do the prints justice — and in many cases, the actual framing/cropping on the web is not the exact same thing as the final print. (Of course I think the final print is better, or I wouldn’t have done it that way, but do I need to go through every image again, and try and make the cropping etc. exactly match the final print?)
As orders do come in I realize that I probably need to start cutting my own mattes — and over mattes. (I’ve been having this done commerically, and its too expensive.) I’m operating out of a typical NYC studio apartment, which is to say a shoebox. It is filled to the brim with darkroom equipment, matte boards, trays, mounting supplies, etc. and there is barely room to walk around anymore. (And of course I can’t move because of the high rents in New York, plus I hate the idea of moving that gigantic Zone V1 enlarger, which weighs as much as a small car.)
I spent the last few months, simply trying to get the web site going. Trying to use the search engines to drive traffic to the site. Trying to get audience reaction to the work. Lately, I look at the web logs and see that I’m getting about 15,000 page views per week (Advertising budget: less than $500 total). People are viewing about 12,000 images per week.
So the artist as reluctant business man must emerge. My friends are laughing at me — because I complain as orders arrive. More printing. Re-arranging the apartment to print. Re-arranging when the printing is over. Every time someone orders something for the first time I need to think about the Limited Edition angle. How many should I cap this limit at. How popular will a particular picture be? When I set a limit, now I need to start keeping records. How many were printed so far? How many sold? I generally don’t have the stamina to print more than 5 or 10 prints at a time of the same image. How good are my notes for reproducing the print, six months from now when I need to do it again.
Yesterday, I was cursing myself because I had taken such bad technical notes on a few prints. And in one case, I had actually sold the only Artist Proof, and had to go back and recreate the printing from scratch.
Its not like there’s a flood of orders or anything. But mostly, of the hundred pictures or so that are on the site, I really only have extra prints of about 10%. In short, most prints are made to order, and if I get requests for 5 separate prints in one week, that forces me back into the darkroom — close the one window in the house with velcro and a thick black cloth, cut off the air supply, and prepare to sweat and asphixiate. The only thing that makes the process bareable is playing really loud music while I print (best printing music: Anything by Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, and if in a more tranquil mood — Paul Simon). But as you expose the print, I use a beeper to count the seconds, and the music must be turned off.
For me, the printing process is the most painful. Not only because of all the physical limitations of the apartment, but ly because it is mentally exhausting. Another creative act.
I’ve been printing black and white since I was about fifteen and had a darkroom in the back bathroom in the Bronx. Those were by no means fine art prints. I had no idea what printing was about, except that it was exciting to watch the image appear in the Dektol. (Some of those very early prints still hang in my sister’s house. Technically awful. But they continue to last in the family.)
I probably made my first ‘Fine-Art’, technically adequate print about 8 years ago. (I think this was Benches). It had the full range of tones, had that luminous look that Ansel talks about.
Ansel describes it as a ‘performance’ of the negative. Well put. There is a little ballet with the fingers, with pieces of cards, with wire-hangers, with pinkies flapping. Bring this part down a bit. Move the whole thing to the right. Is there anything extraneous? Does it have the impact? What will it look like when it dries down (usually you need to account for this %10 dry-down effect in which high areas that may look completely without texture, develop texture when dry.)
The printing process, compared to the shooting style I’ve developed, are at complete ends of the psychological spectrum. Shooting is quick, and almost unconscious — at its best. (As my friend Dirk cautioned me, ‘You can’t try to be Zen-like — you just are’
Printing is more cool and calculated. An editing process. A re-evaluation. In short — ‘A Performance of the Negative’.
So the next time you walk by the Upper East Side of New York and see a middle-aged guy with his head sticking out the window gasping for air — its probably me, and I’ve just finished printing a large order.
Well, inquiries continue to come in. How can I buy a print? I would like to see a catalogue. Do you ship to Spain? And I’m beginning to wonder what I’ve gotten myself into. Seems like I need to take the next step and really put together a shopping cart and on-line credit processing. What about returns? What’s my policy if someone gets the picture and hates it? I’ve been writing back to people that if they send it back to me in its ‘original condition’ within 5 days of receiving it, I’ll refund their money. Seems fair, but where are they going to send it back to? My P.O. Box? Ain’t gonna fit. I find myself thinking about stuff that always annoyed me — like ‘there’s a restocking charge’ etc. Why should there be restocking charge? Crazy. I guess it for the time it takes me to walk to wherever its been delivered to, unpacking the print, and putting it back into my excellent storage system beneath the bed.
Got back a bunch of contact sheets today — mostly from the last winter storm. And there are one or two shots that look amazing (again in my humble opinion). But need time to print them. I once put a shot on the web that I had never actually printed — and got an order for it. Big mistake. The print was hard to print — and I ended up printing it differently than what was on the web. I think that I might need to have another section on the site which is UNPRINTED shots. That way I could put up images a lot quicker — but not accept any orders for them until they’ve been printed. Who knows. The exciting thing is really not knowing what’s going to happen with all this.
Sorry for the grumbling, but like I said at the beginning of this — its all pretty much un-edited grousing, with the ups and downs and might be fun to look back on someday. And its not really all that personal so far. For the most part, unless this is related to photography, I keep most of my personal life out of it.
I know get about two or three e-mails a day asking me questions about the shots, or asking for more information about me. Each time I write back, I think my life story changes a little. Maybe at some point, I’ll publish all these e-mails under the heading of themes from a life or something.
I realized that for a few web sites that I’ve submitted my work to — they want a self-photo. Woke up this morning, and tried doing something artsy by shooting myself in the bathroom mirror, which is covered with paint droplets. Focusing on the paint droplets, with the reflection of my face, half-covered with camera, and neck and shoulders in soft focus.
Then I walked around trying to get something interesting by shooting my reflection in various store windows. Probably a waste of good film.
Anyway, I did realize that there is a common theme to a lot of what interests me (the list of that I’d like to shoot):
—–> The Sanitation Workers, The Women having Nails Done, the idea of Doormen in NYC etc. can you guess what it is? Its about class relationships. It probably goes back to my version of ‘The Potato Eaters’. Especially with Doormen, or represent some mythic portal gatekeepers between the wilds of the streets, and the safety of the upper classes. The women who file your nails — servants and masters. Is it the result of all the socialist leanings in my family? Its certainly nothing visual. What is there about the doorman’s life that is visual? (I don’t mean the high-tech doorman sitting behind desks with video monitors) but the guy, stooped over, who opens the door for you — rushes ahead and presses the elevator button. Makes chit chat. And ushers you up into your hi-rise.Maybe not good to try and analyze this too much. But I feel the same way about the subway — where all the levels (classes) of society rub up against eachother. Whatever it is, its been very powerful drive for a long time. I think back on some of my old work, and realize that I was interested in the same thing. Once, I was driving around, stopped at a light, and a bum (they used to be called that) came up to the window and asked me for a light. While I was giving him a light, I took his picture. Where is that negative now?
* * *
Almost forgot — saw something truly weird on the #6 train today. Get on the train, and notice an attractive, well-made up woman in business garb sitting down across from me. I’m standing near her, and notice something white, on her lap. I’m not really looking down at her. There’s just this sort of white blur. But after a few seconds, I wonder what that white thing is, and look down, and she is holding a full roll of toilet paper on her lap. Very symetrically supported by each hand on each side. The train is quite crowded, and no one knows what in the world to make of this. I look at her and smile. She smiles back knowingly. What she is knowing I don’t know. She has a large bag with her and easily could have put the toilet paper roll in the bag, but doesn’t. After a few minutes, she sniffles, and rips off a small piece of the roll and gently wipes her nose. Then looks up at the hard-stoney faces around her, and smiles again. This is too much. Is she doing some kind of performance art? What in the world is going on. Doesn’t make any sense. She looks up once and a while at these morning faces — and then resumes her position. My camera is in the bag. I was very tired this morning, and didn’t feel up to shooting on the train. But even if I had it out — who would believe this. What would she have done if I took the camera out of the bag? After a few stops, she calmly gets up, carrying the roll in front of her and strolls off. That’s it. Just another one of those things that happen, that are beyond my comprehension. Perhaps somethings are simply not meant to be understood.
A number of people have written to me to ask what’s happening lately, in that I haven’t been keeping up with the journal. I’ve been busy redesigning the site to enable a whole bunch of new features, including the ability to order custom screensavers, keep a collection of your favorite images from the site together, order prints on-line etc. So my programming hat has been on for the last few weeks. Someday, I’ll have to write a book about how much of a maze this has been… but I don’t think anyone interested in photography would care, so I’ll spare you.
Suffice to say that if all goes well, most of these features will be finished by end of March, and then I’ll do a mailing and let people know about them. If you’ve gotten this far, and want to see what it looks like you can click here
The the ordering of custom screensavers does work. The ordering of prints is not really complete as of yet.
And I am still shooting. And there is also the possiblity that my job at the ad agency will be ending soon. In which case I’m going to try and pursue this photography business full time for six months and see if I can make a go of it.
I don’t mind rice and beans.
Had another fateful experience on the #6 train yesterday. Was very tired. The train was packed. I get on, and struggle to get a seat. The camera is in my bag, which means that I don’t expect to shoot anything. And unbelievably, I hear the most beautiful singing — in French — three part harmony — an acordian, a guitar, and a mandolin, at the other end of the train. It reminds me of Paris again. My tiredness starts to leave me. I wonder if I can get up and somehow make my way down to the other end. No. Too many people. Too bad. There are three young guys singing, and playing like all hell. Beautiful stuff.
I get off at 59th street, disappointed that I missed the opportunity, and guess what. They get off also. I rush up to them all excited, “Hi, I’m a photographer. Do you mind if I take your picture…”
One of them passes his hat to me, as if to put money into it. I laugh, and say something stupid in broken French. “D’argent — You want d’argent? ” The other guy gets excited. “You speak French”
– Une peu.
And I begin taking pictures. And they walk with me. And we pass one of those cracked security mirrors and they all begin making faces in it and I’m shooting away — feeling like I was in a Richard Lester movie (Hard Day’s Night) — and they ask me how to get to Central Park… and disappear.
I had left work ten minutes early that day. And ten minutes later, nothing would have happened. Or something else. Who knows.
* * *
* * *
Probably a strange thing to try, but the idea of starting an on-line, journal related to this photography might be interesting. That remains to be seen. Like any journal, this will be somewhat rambling…
I’ve been shooting in the subways for almost 8 years, and I’m pretty much sick of it. I think that originally, I wanted to show that you could apply Ansel Adams type techniques to the most urban parts of New York, and wind up with beautiful photographs. Instead of the grainy stuff I was used to seeing, I would try and use medium and large format cameras. Pretty difficult to take a view camera onto a crowded subway car. Number one, you are not allowed to use a tripod in the subways, at least not without permission. Number two, how can you expect the average New Yorker to react to something so outrageous?
The best that I got during this period was actually the Empty subway car. This car, by the way, was only empty for about five seconds.
– The following is updated many years later.
In those days, you could do crazy things like that. Remember, it’s a large contraption, and you look like some sort of strange alien when you place the black cloth over your head to see the frosted glass viewfinder which shows the image upside down and backwards. Depth of field could be achieved to a greater degree with various tilts, and the detail from a 4 x 5 inch negative is remarkable, not to mention the long grayscale.
The image may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Not a sunset or a shot of the Empire State Building – but an idea of merging two styles – and having the guts to take the chance. I actually took three shots while I was there. The first one still has people in it but they are moving rapidly and it was a five second exposure and that’s too long for any interesting blurs. This is the second of the three. And I did one more as people were getting on the train but that had the same issues as the first. Just streaks. With that I left at the next station, the camera on the big wooden tripod, balanced on my right shoulder while I left, and then on my left as the weight sunk in.
Over the years, what I called Subway Car Interior (mundane title for all the planning it involved) turned out to sell fairly well, and now as I revise this in the digital age, to hold up as something of an historical artifact in many ways.
* * *
Another highlight, was the shot of the Man and Woman, which was taken with a Rolliflex Twin Lens. None of the work that I did was hidden — as Walker Evans had done. I always felt too sneaky to actually put a camera inside my coat as he had done. Instead, the camera was out in the open, sitting on my lap. Actually propped up on my briefcase. My theory was that after a while, true New Yorkers would ignore you.
In general that was true though I got my share of dirty looks.
Part of my fascination with the subway, was that I had always had a deep phobic reaction to being caught in these crowded trains. I don’t exaggerate. I thought that by trying to capture this phenomena, it might help me get over my phobia which it did. Go figure.
Another reason for shooting as much subway as I did, was simply because it was there! I took the same train to work every day, and if I was going to shoot, this was about all that was available during my normal work day. One trick that I used was to measure the width of the various subway cars. I always knew ahead of time how far it was from one door to another, or from one side of the train to the other. And of course, the lighting didn’t change much. Open up as much as you could. Use the slowest shutter speed you could manage. Hope for the best.
After a few years, I switched to an auto-focus camera (the Contax G2) because it had interchangeable lenses. This gave me the ability to shoot with a wide angle lens which you really need on a crowded train. The problem with the G2 was that it was a bit noisy. So it became important to pick a train that was noisy. The best of all was when you got a subway car where the p.a. system was out of whack and was continuously squeaking and groaning. The other thing was that in general, it was impossible to shoot while the train was actually moving (due to slow shutter speed). Almost all the shots on this site were taken while the train was still. Usually at that moment between when the doors closed and the train took off. Example from the G2.
* * * *
Another idea I once came up with was to dress and act like a tourist! After all, I was sort of a tourist. New Yorkers take everything for granted. I bought a big, cumbersome map of New York, had it sticking out of my jacket pocket, and wandered around looking at the tall buildings. I had noticed, while I was in Paris, that tourists were tolerated. If you were a tourist, it was okay to take a picture of most anything, and the denizens simply chalked it up to another annoying American. Wouldn’t the same technique work in New York. I once visited the Empire State building and pretended not to speak English (of course, all the while snapping away like crazy). At the top of the building was a man selling stamped coins or something, who tried desparately to explain to me how much these trinkets cost and why I needed one. I kept shaking my head and explaining in some language of my own devising that I wasn’t interested. A couple next to me got into the act, telling me that each trinket cost FIVE DOLLARS. Counting them out on their fingers. Finally, I pretended to understand and said in an accent — ‘Too Much’. And went on.
I was always looking for techniques that would allow me to get close to my subjects. It didn’t seem to be fair to use long lenses, and I’ve never used a lens longer than 90mm (on a 35mm camera) to photograph people. I was influenced by whatever I read about Cartier-Bresson. I read that he basically walked around with a 35mm and a 90mm lens (of course with a Lieca). If that was good enough for HCB, it was good enough for me. And there is something to be said for that simplicity. I’ve also stood clear of zoom lenses.
When I first started shooting seriously, I used a Canonet which had one fixed lens (was it 28 or 35??) and forced myself to get closer or further by walking. I probably stayed with this camera for about a year.
A few days ago, I stopped by one of those photography stands that seem to be all over the streets of New York. Mostly selling black and white tourist type photos. I asked the woman who was managing the site, whether these were here photos. She said, ‘no.’ She sells them for someone else. I asked her, did she think it was possible to make a decent living doing this sort of thing. And told her I was contemplating it. She took one look at me and said, ‘No. You couldn’t do it.’
– Why not? I asked.
– Because you need to be a big bastard to do this. And you don’t look like a bastard at all….
What was I going to say — ‘I can be a big bastard! Really I can’
* * * * *
I have to admit, although I’ve never seen myself as a saleman — and am generally pretty shy about pushing my self into the fray — since I decided to try and sell, I’ve spent 99% of my time with what could be called marketing. Or to be more exact, figuring how to get myself listed with the various search engines. It seems like a game. Alta Vista, for example, seems to throw my main page away — but some other engines have picked it up. The main keyword that I’m shooting for is ‘Black and White Photography’. If I ever switch to color, I’m going to be in big trouble. Fortunately, since I’ve been shooting for twenty odd years in black and white, and never had the urge to take a color shot, I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.
Putting the site together has been interesting, since I have that computer background that I’m trying to get away from. The hard thing, is how to give a feeling of what the prints look like in real life. That was why I decided to make the main images 300 x 500 pixels (larger than on most sites) and include hi-res images that could be loaded. My logs however show that for every 5000 regular size images that are looked at, perhaps 200 large images are clicked on. Makes me wonder if its worth it.
I also played around with a Java Applet that allowed you to zoom in and out and explore different parts of the picture, but a few people told me it crashed their computer. So much for that.
So far I’ve spent $100 on marketing. That was to buy a RealName keyword.
And of course, the big thing still remains, which is to put a shopping cart and credit card processing on the site.
I’ve recieved a lot of letters from photography students asking for advise. A favorite quote is from Walker Evans, who was giving advice to another photographer, Ben Shahn. ‘Look Ben, there’s nothing to it. F9 on the shady side of the street. f45 on the sunny side, twentieth of a second. hold your camera steady!)
Film speeds have changed since then, but still, good simple advise.
I know this is going to annoy alot of people — it annoys me to have to do it, but I added banners to the site today. It’s part of the LinkExchange program, where if I agree to show others banners on my site, then, given some ratio or other my banner shows up on other LinkExchange sites.
Here’s the banner people will hopefully be seeing on other sites.
If it works, I’ll keep it. If not, its gone. All part of the grand experiment of how do you get people to your site without spending big bucks (or any bucks at all up until now.)
The real problem is that the place where I get the most hits, namely as each image is shown, is the last place you want to be hit with a banner. For now, I’ll resist that idea, and just keep it on the home page, and other pages where it won’t get in the way of the images.