Judging a Book By Its Cover – Street Photography, more than just a surprised face

Judging A Book By Its Cover
Judging A Book By Its Cover by I Nancy, on Flickr

I have recently made a bunch of new street photographer acquaintances and, therefore, have been looking at a new set of images and styles and reading about their different approaches and ideas on various forums and blogs. As I look through their  work, I am impressed by their vision and images. I notice those images that take me to a new place versus those that just pull me along on the street with them. I am reminded of something that I feel strongly about for my own street photography. That the best street photography, across all of its various styles and approaches, is more than just a surprised (bored, angry, funny, ugly, old, beautiful) face. In my street photography I want a full story, a deep story. I look for a story complete with body language and environment to create depth. I want my images to be more than just an odd person or visual pun.

In this image, my traveler is doing a most obvious thing –  sitting in a waiting room opening a book. The obvious can be described with nouns and verbs – book, open, man, waiting room. But look harder and you see a more colorful story that need adjectives and adverbs to descrbe. You see that his belongings are in neither a backpack, suitcase nor duffelbag, but in a brown paper shopping bag. The bag is worn and used, not crisp and new. He is not yet reading his book, but preparing to read his book; evaluating the cover, his hand guiding him across the words. He is older and has come in from outside with jacket and hat; a hat that has seen some wear and makes a clear statement of utility over style, function over form. And although he is alone, he is not completely alone. A man behind him, barely seen, talks on a cell phone, visualized in this image from the point of view of my traveler – just audible, but not much.

My Artist, My Geek

Ghost Town
Ghost Town, originally uploaded by I Nancy.

I am in the process of reading David duChemin’s book Within the Frame, The Journey of Photographic Vision. Refreshingly, this book is neither about mastering photographic technique nor photo processing software. Rather, this book is about creating and executing your photographic vision. Early in the book is a discussion of two opposing forces for the photographer: the Artist and the Geek.

You probably know these two personalities. The geek who concentrates on the gear and technique – both in the camera and in post processing. The artist who brings creativity and uniqueness of vision. The point of David’s writing to that we need to find the balance. It is the harmony of the two that provides us our best images.

This line of thinking leads me to two questions worthy of evaluation:

  1. What can we learn from the masters about how they keep the balance?
    I’m not a great photography historian, but I think I can somewhat compare the process of Ansel Adams with that of Henri Cartier-Bresson. By all accounts, both of these photographers were masters of their art. There is no denying that Adams had his technical skills honed to great advantage. Cartier-Bresson, I am lead to understand, was not interested in the process of photography, only the process of capturing an instant drawing.
  2. Who am I?
    Which of these two personalities do I most often bring to the party and what happens when one or the other fails me?

How I choose to study and practice my craft based on the pushes and pulls of these different sides will surely shape my photography. Do I contain the artist, bringing it back on the path after a little too much experimentation? Do I disdain the technician and the possibility of cold, unfeeling, yet perfectly correct, imagery. This defines my own personal photographic journey. Is it a peaceful co-existence or a battle of wills?

Street Portrait Classics the Book

Street Portrait Classics on Blurb

120 Pages of Black and White photographs in the style of the Masters of Photography from the 20th Century. These artists are the Elite of the genre on flickr.com. You can view the entire collection on the flickr group Street Portrait Classics.

Zack Jennings, Ozzie on flickr, graciously organized the flick group Street Portrait Classics to collect just over 100 B&W Street Portraits for publication into a book. The Premium Edition is available in hard cover on blurb.com and will be available in soft cover from Lulu at a later time.

I am honored to be included with my photo Dared to Look Up.
Dared To Look Up

The Book is Out! Los Angeles – Yesterday’s Places Today

The book is out! The Book Is Out! THE BOOK IS OUT!

Well, I’m pretty excited about my first photo essay book Los Angeles – Yesterday’s Places Today. It is available at Blurb.com and I am selling it at cost.

You can also buy single prints at inancy at Smugmug or see a preview of some of the images on my Flickr site.

Here is the foreward which will tell you more about the book.


Nearly a century since its beginnings, Los Angeles and its surrounding suburbs are still dotted with historic reminders of the city’s early 20th century emergence as a modern metropolis with lavish theatres and grand buildings in a variety of architectural styles ranging from Beaux-Arts to Neo-Gothic to Art-Deco. The images presented here illustrate our modern 21st century life integrated among these vestiges from the past and covers the areas of Los Angeles’ South Broadway Theatre District, Hollywood Boulevard, and Santa Monica.

While compiling this collection, I became fascinated with the political, sociological, and economic factors that spurred the growth of this pueblo outpost located nearly twenty-five-hundred miles from New York City. During the process of research and preparation, I relinquished all notions of turning this volume into a history book. The images collected here present neither a comprehensive account of the Los Angeles area nor are they presented in a documentary style. A documentary photographer would aim for a perspective-perfect architectural rendering with few human distractions. Instead, I have exploited these beautiful historic buildings as the backdrop for a glimpse into our 21st-century life and way of thinking. I have stretched the perspectives and captured the pulse of life on the street as it intermingles among these aging structures. My simple wish is to capture some poignant images of historic Los Angeles in its current 21st-century context. The majority of these images were taken over a short period during the Spring of 2008.