My love affair with photography dates back to my childhood, when my father, a radiologist by trade and avid photographer by hobby, introduced me to film processing and printmaking. I was lucky to have a great teacher, access to good camera gear, and a darkroom right in our home.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw a print slowly materialize on the paper floating in the tray of developer. It was magic! That experience has stayed with me even as I switched from film-based to digital photography, many years later.
There are no more amber lights, acrid chemicals, washes, and the like. Still, when an image I’ve taken pops up on the monitor, I’m reminded of what drew me into photography years before. And I can hear my father’s gentle wisdom: “Photography is about light,” he often said. “But it’s a lot about patience, too.”
I typically take three types of photos: candid street shots, “unintentional” still-life compositions, and landscapes.
My subjects are often people in transit, people at work, or people stopping to ponder for a moment as they wait for a bus or for the crosswalk light to change. I find the greatest challenge is to be on the lookout for the ordinary and mundane.
My code for doing street photography is simple: be unobtrusive, don’t make anyone feel uncomfortable, be polite, and above all, never portray people in a way that compromises their dignity—basic Golden Rule stuff.
As I’m out and about (I walk a lot), I’m always on the lookout for seemingly disconnected elements that come together as a pleasing whole through my point of view, framing, and camera settings.
Even on the same paths I take day every day, year after year, there are always new compositions awaiting discovery. The photographic opportunities abound—if I’m actively observing, rather than simply hurrying (or worse, iWalking) from A to B while thinking about C and D.
I tend to raise the viewfinder to my eye or plant my tripod's legs on the ground when I encounter the following:juxtapositions, like matter in the wrong place (e.g., a fish lying in a crosswalk) … opportunities for “creative deconstruction,” zeroing in on parts of machines and other objects through creative framing and/or close up techniques … instances of order within disorder that create dynamic visual tensions, such as a wheel with symmetrical spokes lying atop a field of chaotic hay … colliding geometrical shapes or disruptions within patterns that tantalize the eye … symbolic and interpretive objects, such as ”zoomorphs” (inanimate objects that resemble animals and fanciful beasts) and "anthropomorphs": (objects that have human qualities) … and opportunities for presenting an “ants’ eye” view, often useful for presenting things that people have lost or tossed on the ground, and highlighting the hefty footprint that humans leave wherever they go.
Here’s my philosophy when I discover elements of interest to me: never touch, move, or otherwise alter anything in the scene. This is my version of the "Prime Directive," a foundational rule upheld by Star Trek’s United Federation of Planets ("never interfere with the internal development of an alien civilization"). For me, photography is, in part, about revealing hidden compositions that delight the eye, and in part, documenting a moment on the planet.
For me, the epitomy of raw beauty is one word: Iceland. It has everything from pastoral and postcard-perfect scenes to desolate expanses that whisk you back in geological time. Photography has boosted my wanderlust, and I’m looking forward to continually finding new favorites places to point my lens.
Photography. It brings everything into focus for me.