I believe in the use of photography to tell candid stories that document the human condition in order to bring people together with understanding and acceptance.
In the chapters of this manifesto, I explain my approach to street photography as an informal genre of documentary photography and visual storytelling. I explain how I go about recognizing and then communicating the stories that I observe. Within the descriptions of my images, I detail my process for identifying photographic opportunities, my thoughts while taking an image, and how I evaluate an image’s narrative strength during editing.
These are the principles that guide my photography:
Create compelling stories: Say something, ask questions.
Life happens in COLOR: Color carries emotional content.
Create visual poems: Composition matters.
Composition is additive: Use a lot of adjectives.
Connect the dots: Capture the scene as the subject.
Create short stories: Tell a story through time.
Travel: Spread a worldview of understanding and acceptance.
Take chances: An image is more than the sum of its pixels.
From his work “Social Graces” contrasting the high-society and a rural family
Viscerality is my perceptual mode. Simply spoken, it means that I want to touch everything that I love. Hopefully my pictures are a testimony to the love of the senses. – Larry Fink
Thanks to Ibarionex and the Candid Frame #401 – MSPF: NYC Street Photography Panel, I recently had the opportunity to hear Larry Fink talk about his approach to photography and his career. He is a very metaphorical speaker and this mesmerized me as he talked about some profound ideas about being curious, showing empathy, and portraying a moment of observation.
His photography is B&W, mostly all in a square format. I would describe his images as naked truth. He not a documentary photographer though he shoots in a documentary style.
I encourage you to listen to the episode and discover more about Larry Fink through these links:
Larry Fink Photography
Be sure to look through his blog. Although the last posts were in early 2013, Larry posts many images. I was especially taken by the work he did during the 2012 Presidential election time period. Many of the memes we are struggling with now during the Trump administration were already starting to rear themselves. I find the posts from May 2012 and Feburary 2012 where he covers Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich particularly relevant to today. Buttons reading “Do not trust the liberal media” were apparently already circulating in right-wing circles.
Perhaps my favorite memory from my recent trip to Mongolia was our stop to help a family backup their home (their ger) and belongings in a rain storm. I thought we had stopped in order to get the photographic experience. But instead, as a comment on the true Mongolian giving, we stopped so that our guide and drivers could help. In fact, they shooed us back into the vans as it started to rain. I obediently complied but kept the door open and kept shooting. I wish I had been more stubborn and stayed out in the rain. None the less, I came back with some unique images and memories.
I am once again honored to be recognized with not one, but two images which are now exhibited on the online gallery of The PhotoPlace Gallery in Vermont for their January 2018 exhibit The Decisive Moment, juror Sam Abell.
The Meeting was taken during a week-long trip to Oaxaca. Each day I would walk this street to and from the central areas of town. Invariably, I would pass this group of young men with their pit bulls. I was intrigued by the relationships and obvious friendships. Each day I would work on getting a few photographs of the dogs playing. The image always alluded me. This evening, however, the scene all came together.
Congratulations to @George Nobechi and @Gene Nemeth who were also honored with acceptance into the exhibit
Sam Abell Juror’s Statement for The Decisive Moment
Henri Cartier-Bresson was the shadow juror for this exhibit. And why not? ‘The Decisive Moment’ is the comprehensive phrase used to describe Bresson’s process, aspirations and results. It is also the title of the influential book he published in 1952–a book, and a body of work, so timeless it became the theme of this exhibit 65 years later.
As juror I tried to bring Bresson and his work to bear on my selections. ‘What would Henri say about this picture?’ was a recurring thought of mine. That question presented a daunting challenge for any one image to live up to. For Bresson’s work is known not just for moments but also for the setting which surrounds those moments. It is the elegant choreography between fleeting moment and enduring setting that has made his images so celebrated.
Therefore please take time to appreciate how the photographers whose images are included in this exhibit actually worked. They worked like Bresson. That is, they saw the whole scene within which a moment–a decisive moment–could occur. Their work is honored because it lives up to Bresson’s succinct definition of the act, and the art, of photography:
To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as the precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.
For the past few months I’ve been experimenting with some different Lightroom catalog organizations, and today I reorganized it all again. (Note: Don’t try this at home, unless you are already comfortable with understanding the relationship of LR catalogs to folders on your hard-drive. I’m outlining my thoughts here to provide you with ideas for how to organize your work, not as a tutorial on LR catalogs.)
I have been using Lightroom since its first release in January 2006, which luckily for me, closely coincided with when I got back into photography as driving by the maturation of consumer-priced digital SLRs. (As an aside, my first digital camera was the 8MP Canon Rebel XT (EOS 350D) which I used until the release of the second generation Canon 5D mk II in November 2008. In March 2012 I was an early adopter of the Olympus OM-D EM-5 and I have been shooting Olympus OM-D models ever since.)
For all these years, I have been organizing my photos into folders by year and subfolders by date. This worked well for the most part, but catalog backups and Lightroom startup times were starting to creep up. In addition, as my library grew it was becoming more difficult for me to find specific photos (I’m not very disciplined at applying keywords). I also started to travel in 2011 and each trip would add another large collection of images that I would pretty much want to find by location. So earlier this year, on the suggestion of a friend, Carl – you know I’m talking about you, I went through and created a separate catalog for each trip. I also divided my large non-trip related photos into two catalogs, arbitrarily picking 2015 as the dividing line.
Breaking up my catalogs into smaller pieces certainly fixed the catalog sluggishness I was experiencing. It also was good for some very specific situations. Say I wanted to review all my images from Japan. I knew exactly which catalog to open. There was a one problem however. If I wanted to pull together a set of images that were not connected by trip or year, I would have to open and close several catalogs to gather together all my images as exports onto my hard drive. I could not use the LR collection function to pull together a loose set and then reorganize and cull from there. In other words, it was a pain.
So today, I decided to swing back the other way, back to larger catalogs again. I also decided to reorganize my folders by subject areas instead of just by date. Here is how it goes now.
Today, I now have 2 catalogs, General and Travel. Within Lightroom, I then rearranged the folders on my hard drive by category and then by date. Remember to do this within Lightroom so that you don’t have a mess of “?” unfound images when you are done. Heed my early note, “don’t try this at home” unless you really are comfortable with your understanding of the relationship between your hard drive folders and a catalog folders.
My Travel catalog goes to my “Travel” folder which has a sub-folder for each trip and subfolders by date under that. For example: Travel\Cuba\2013-01-30. My General catalog goes to my “General” folder which is organized into subfolders based on what I do most and then date-organized beneath each subfolder.
Fairs and Dog Shows
What will be most interesting is how this organization works out when I start to import photos. I will definitely need to be a little more attentive to the import dialog.
And hey, I found the image at the top of this post during this reorganization process. Sort of made it all worthwhile.
I want to talk about unposed street portraits. I do not intend to start a debate, though this may indeed start one, it is just how I feel about the work I want to do.
When traveling to a “far away place”, whether literally far away, culturally different, or just to an event with dress-up costumes, there is a strong seductive pull to take posed portraits. You may ask your subject to move into the light, change to a different location, turn their head, or perform a particular gesture. These posed portraits can be striking and fun and I’ve seen many photographers fill their portfolios with these posed images of exotic faces in exotic places.
For me, however, posing has never been my thing. I’m not sure if it is because I am bad at posing and communicating with a subject or if I deep-down believe that the posed portrait is missing a more deeply authentic expression. So while in Mongolia I made myself a challenge – no posed portraits.
As we gathered around and photographed the beautiful and generous people of Mongolia, herders and families, many would freeze in a stern face as if they only new of slow film requiring long exposures. While the group began to photograph, I laid back and waited for the release in the tension, looking for the in-between moments when they let their guard down. I looked for the breaks in the stoney expressions, a caring glance toward a family member, or the far away stare into the vast country side.
Here are a few of the unposed portraits that I captured.