My journey as a photographer has endured its share of bumps and bruises along the way. Though I had had a few images published and had my first paid gigs a few years before. I had very little knowledge of putting a cohesive portfolio together. I was a hobbyist and an enthusiast. One that had become passionate of the art, but had little grasp of how to get from A to B. Somewhere in my twenties, I picked up a second job working nights at an East Village record store. The owner, himself a published stock photographer became somewhat of a mentor, giving me the green light to build a portfolio from the continuous flow of interesting characters who came in the place. Good, bad or ugly, I was photographing and documenting much of my city life. Many, if not most of the people who took me up on my offer to use them as my instruments of creativity would meet me at a certain time and near place. I was more than happy to share prints with those who agreed to meet up. At the time, I was working with a very basic Nikon film SLR film camera that another boss gave me a few years before. While revisiting some old image files. I found a folder marked “slides”. I recall shooting almost exclusively with slide film at the time. While I don’t remember this particular woman’s name. I recall the session taking place within the lower east side’s Tompkins Square Park. In indulging myself in looking through old files. I’m surprised to find so many keepers.
Our usual route through the city starts at World Trade Center. The stop is a short walk to Chinatown where we usually stop for Dim Sum and some bakery hopping. From there we usually make our way uptown making numerous stops on the way towards the Union Square area where we eventually catch a PATH train home. Making pit stops at Columbus Park (Chinatown) Washington Square Park (The Village) and Union Square (W. Village, Gramercy, Chelsea borders) always serve to nourish and refuel both body and spirit. A visit to any and all of the beautiful parks New York City and its outer boroughs have to offer is a guaranteed free entry to what is still one of the most vibrant and artful cities in the world. I’ve always said, “If you’re ever lacking motivation or inspiration in you work. Go for a walk in the city.” Try it. It might just do you some good.
This week after months of research, flip flopping and indecision. I went out and purchased Canon’s 50 mm 1.8. Since around January i’ve wanted to add a couple of new lenses to my bag and had gone back and fourth between Canon’s 50mm 1.4 and their 50mm 1.8. Over the years I’ve purchased a few lenses, including the 1.4, which I used for concert photography before eventually selling. Though the thought of buying one again crossed my mind numerous times. I thought it a good idea to try something different and ultimately, cheaper.
As I took the lens out of the box I immediately noticed how light and almost toy like the lens felt. Considering all the reviews I read, this did not come as a shock. Considering it’s somewhat suspiciously low price. (The lens retail price hovers just around $120.00) I wasn’t expecting a whole lot. For better or worse, it was a lens I could experiment with and use for low light conditions when I wanted to forgo flash photograph.
Over Memorial Day’s three day weekend I took the lens along with me everywhere I went, essentially using it as my prime lens. Considering how light and toy like it feels. I found myself being a bit over cautious when first handling it. After a few hours of shooting and letting my guard down a bit. Once I did, I began to take pleasure in the results I was seeing. The images I shot that first day in Brooklyn and Union Square were sharp as a tack and bokeh (Background Blur) I had heard so much about was definitely evident.
Deciding to pick up this particular lens was a great decision for me, both financially and artistically. I’ve begun to use it as my prime lens and just this weekend took it out for some concert photography. More on that little excursion later.
I’ve met a lot of unique and beautiful people in my lifetime. Though trying to start a conversation with a complete stranger can be a humbling kick in the ego. It can open the doors to to so many new and rewarding experiences. These days I don’t feel all that comfortable speaking myself. Often catching myself stumbling over my words or feeling unable to say exactly what my brain is trying to communicate. Depending on how you look at it. It can be viewed as a positive, negative or both. For me personally, I try to see it as a positive. The positive being I can muster the words and expressions well enough to invite a conversation before letting my ability to listen take foot. Though I didn’t expect it. I find myself enjoying the time I spend with my mouth closed and my ears open. I’ve met some very interesting characters with some really incredible stories to tell. I’ve learned a lot with this little gift. More about the world and it’s people. More surprisingly, I’ve learned a lot more about myself. Most times, a smile, a nod or a simple hello can start a conversation. I took each of these three images within about an hour with the help of those three expressions. Try it some time. You might be surprised by what you get.
During a recent meeting with my consultant Louisa, she suggested I use my down time to do things that keep me inspired when I’m not actually working. Whether it be working on a show, book or a trip to the printer, remain in an artistic state. Well, for me personally, I get inspiration from the city and it’s many parks. No matter the time or place, there’s always something brewing and something worthy of training my lens and putting the world in focus. This past Thursday, with no sessions planned until the late afternoon I head to the city for some extra inspiration. As I made my way through Washington Square Park, I came across a group of poets assembling by the west end of the fountain. What began as a quick stop quickly turned into an extended stay as one passionate voice after another recited personal works. The group known as P.U.P. (Poets in Unexpected Places) were all the expression and inspiration I needed to get through the early part of my day. I often wish I was brave enough to raise my voice without fear. Maybe someday I’ll learn to speak with more than my camera. Until then.
After a long day of good food and gallery hopping in Chinatown, SOHO and The Lower East Side we began to head West on Houston to catch the Path Train back to Hoboken. Stopping here and there to check out some of the artisans that sell their gear in front of that church I came upon one particularly interesting table. The man and his wife were selling these intriguing artifacts they cleverly restored and made into jewelry. As I listened to the man explain the background and process to an interested party I started to set up my camera to sneak a shot of this very interesting looking gentleman. I could have pulled it off without him noticing but would I get a really honest telling shot? I got over my shyness and began an interesting conversation with Scott. I then asked him nicely if I could take a picture of him. He obliged and I left with both a story and a picture. You can check out some of Scott’s work at www.newyorkartifactart.com I’m sure you’ll be impressed.