in honor of
Horst & Eugene de Salignac
From the Rangefinder Forum…
Back Alley writes:
Dunno, with street work one should seldom be in a funk. Just step out your door and opportunity is there. If you don’t live in a big city, go to where the people are.
De Wallen: Amsterdam’s Redlight District artist’s book by Daniel D. Teoli Jr. (Candid)
When I look at Back Alley’s work I just see your typical photo forum bullshit photos with a few OK keepers mixed in. He doesn’t take chances, he just copies what everyone else on the forum does. When I looked at his blog dates, they were so spread out and infrequent, of course he is in a funk and losing interest.
Compare Cartier-Bresson’s attitude to Back Alley’s…
“I prowled the streets all day, feeling very sprung-up and ready to pounce, determined to ‘trap’ life – to preserve life in the act of living.”
To do great work one must be excited at the prospect of freezing time. Be purpose driven, don’t do photography as an afterthought…do it as the first, foremost and only thought.
A tool Harry Callahan used to combat boredom was to mix things up.
Callahan had no time to be bored and wallow in self-pity. Callahan would go from shooting architecture to nature to nudes to motion blur and abstracts to shooting his wife to color to 35mm to large format to water and reflections to street photography to shadows. All these areas of interest helped make Callahan a better photog, by giving him a variety of projects to approach from a multitude of directions – instead of just working on a single project day in and day out, one way.
Lets look at Back Alley’s post count… 39,992
He is a computer addict. He likes the idea of being a photog and talking about it, but does not seem to like putting in the footwork hitting the pavement. He spends more time fantasizing and tickling the keyboard than pressing the button.
If Back Alley could pick his balls up off the floor and get his ass in gear, he may have a chance. But nothing can come about if he doesn’t spend more time shooting and less time fondling his keyboard.
Now, sometimes it takes time to bring home iconic photos. Weegee talks about taking 2 years to get a great drunk photo. But, during those 2 years looking, Weegee also brought home lots of great photos in many other areas.
The Rangefinder Forum banned me ages ago after only a short stay there, so I can’t answer him on the forum. The guy that runs the Rangefinder Forum knows a lot about camera fondling, but camera masturbation is it…he is a shitty photog. Most of the Rangefinder Forum members are fondlers, so not much help for Back Alley there. For the most part, you got the blind leading the blind at the Rangefinder Forum…just pitiful.
Lets discuss portfolio theory and practice a little before discussing the funk…
Back Alley’s portfolio, it is loaded with crap. He needs to get rid of the crap and focus of great photography. Your work should not only inspire others, it should inspire and impress you as well! If you have lots of garbage in your portfolio, of course you will be discouraged when you look at it.
When someone Google’s your name, only your best images and projects should show up. When a curator looks up your name, you don’t want them to see your non-professional work that you may be ashamed of. Or worse…junk from other photographers mixed in that could be mistaken for your work.
Don’t make the mistake that many photographers do by diluting a portfolio with lots of garbage and personal photos. They will have 20 versions of a so-so photo on Flickr. Just pick one photo. It looks like the photographer doesn’t know what they are doing. It looks like they are using the ‘shotgun approach’ in away that is hurting them, saying “Here, I don’t know if any of these are any good…you pick.”
Now, if your goal is to get ‘likes’ and ‘thumbs up’ then none of this matters. But if you aspire to be above that, if you’re serious about getting your work in museums and public collections – then what you present professionally matters a great deal.
Generally speaking, it will take more than a ‘thumbs up photo career’ to keep you motivated over a lifetime of freezing time. And going beyond the ‘garden variety thumbs up photog’ is one of the tools you can use to keep your interest in photography alive and fresh.
Be careful where you leave online comments if you’re using your real name online or an account that is connected with your name. While it is nice to encourage upcoming photogs, the other person’s photos will show up on your image and web search. I don’t want their pix showing up on a search of my name. So, I had to stop that practice.
Here is an example. I left a comment on a blog and now his photo shows up on an image search for my name. (See photo circled in green.)
Click on photo to enlarge
I like his photo and it is not a hardship on me to have his image show up in my search, still it confuses things. Even worse, I don’t want an image search of my name to show up lots of bad work that is not mine and dilutes my portfolio. It also works the same if you have your images used by others. Their images can show up in an image search for you and your images.
I made the mistake of putting some of my lower end photos on Wiki Commons. Someone used it and did a bad job on exposure and now it shows up in an image search of my name. (See the photo circled in red.) Same with another person that chopped up one of my photos. The butchered photo shows up in my search.
This is what the photo circled in red should look like.
You want to keep a body of work focused and not all over the place…be consistent. If your work is eclectic, like Harry Callahan’s work, then your focus in your portfolio is to just show outstanding photography.
My work is in 131+ museum and curated collections around the world. When a curator looks up my name I don’t want them to have to sift through lots of junk and be turned off. So keep a clean and focused profile with Google, Bing, AVG and Yahoo.
If you don’t have individually focused portfolios, make them. I have 45+ Tumblrs. Every project gets a Tumblr of its own. Some photogs on Flickr have thousands of pix and no focused portfolio. You will lose a curator right there. No one is going to spend half a day looking through your jumbled up work – a focused portfolio is a must.
You should be Googleing your name every week and looking at the images and searches connected with your name. If you don’t like what you see…change your M.O. Also have a complete BIO or CV easily available on the net. Don’t make the curators work too hard. A search of my name produces my bio first thing.
A nice touch is to offer an illustrated bio as well as a text version. Not many artists using this technique.
Infrared flash photo
I see some websites where the photog was trying to be cute by designing an ‘artsy’ website. Some of them are very tough to navigate and are soooo slow. I just give up after a short time before I move on. No shortage of photog websites out there to view. Make it easy for curators to like your work. No one cares about your cute website if it does not work.
Some photographers like to do testing or illustrated tutorials online. In the beginning I used any old photo for the tests. Like clockwork the low end test photos started to show up in my search results. So, if I do any testing that is connected to my name I use decent photos now or I post results anonymously if I don’t want the photos to come up in my search results.
A comparison test of a silver gelatin print versus an inkjet print.
Left vintage silver gelatin print on Agfa Brovira paper 1972. Right inkjet print on Hahnemühle Ultra Smooth Matte paper 2012.
Now for the funk…
Here is the deal. When your in a funk, be open and push yourself by shooting in new venues.
Jay Maisel sums it up…
“If you’re out there shooting, things will happen for you. If your not out there, you’ll only hear about it.”
Try shooting around the clock. Some photogs only shoot at golden or blue hour. Try something different.
Walking around all day yielded very little, then when it turned night I got The Lost Princess. (above). I never know when I will get a keeper, but one thing is for sure, if I’m not out there hitting the pavement with camera in-hand, I won’t get a thing.
It is very important to realize the importance of the in-hand aspect of camera carrying. These camera fondlers that carry a cam on a big, bulky shoulder strap are cutting their chances at getting the stealthy shot. Keep your cam on the wrist with a thin, plain wrist strap.
Time and time again Jay’s wisdom holds true. Many of my best photos are based in his credo.
As I age it sometimes is hard to keep up the pace of my younger days. My feet, ankles and knees start giving out. But, I still do the best I can to be a witness to life…and document it.
This was a one shot wonder. In the few blinks of an eye it was gone. You must always be ready…time waits for no one.
Same with the next shot, gone in an instant!
Even if one is not able to get out, photographs can still be made. I shot this from the TV. Some photogs even produce museum pieces from their TV!
I’m still waiting to get a TV shot into a museum collection!
The key is to be able to shoot without having to think…it must be second nature.
If you don’t have the basics down…shoot your TV screen. Although there comes a time when we all have to put priciples into practice.
Once you have the basics down and you get out there… things will happen for you!
Once you are at one with your cam…the world is your oyster!
I went out for 10 minutes to test a used camera at lunchtime…now Faces of Gentrification is in a few museums’ collections.
If I wanted to, I could just shoot infrared flash and have enough material to keep me busy…
As long as you have your camera in-hand, opportunity is possible. And I don’t have to hide behind invisible infrared flash to get the shot either…
Street photography is like fishing – you can put in the time and still not reel anything in. So, I have a number of projects that I shoot ‘off the cuff’ to keep me motivated by pressing the button through dry spells.
A little known book on street photography was made something along these lines…Smokers and Sleepers.
One of my boredom projects is shooting people while yawning…candid. It is good practice for fast shooting…a yawn does not last very long.
Kissing is another area that can produce some nice candid photo ops while on the street.
…I’m not that fussy about what they are kissing either…
People pointing is another good subject for fast shooting.
I have lots of pointing pix, but don’t want to put them in here. I don’t want to sign my name to them online since they will dilute my portfolio of good work. They are something you would find on your average photo forum and nothing special. I only shoot em for fast shooting practice and out of boredom. And if something great comes about then I will keep it.
In addition to my boredom projects, I have many serious projects to shoot for.
A project gives a photog direction and purpose. A project can showcase the photogs talents. Many great photogs are known for landmark projects they have done.
The great Zig Ziglar talked about this – “Do you want to be a wandering generality or a meaningful specific.”
In my own photo life I seldom shoot anymore unless it IS for a project or to put a shot into a institutional collection or my portfolio. I can’t afford wasting time shooting stuff that will go nowhere, just no time to fool around. Even if I stopped taking photos today I have 4+ years of photos I have not even looked through yet and tons of artists’ books to finish.
If I wanted to shoot the garden variety camera fondler photos on the photo forums I could shoot day and night 7 days a week. So, how is there any time to be bored when it comes to photography?
Here are some my completed and in-progress artist’s book projects I’m working on. If the photo project is a major one it usually ends up as an artists’ book.
I’d advise any funked-up photogs out there to find a project and devote themselves fully to it.
Here is a small list of project suggestions to get you going…
Around the House
OK…I’ve given you some tools I use to keep out of the funk zone. If nothing here resonates with you, start selling some of your usless photo gear your not using on eBay, clean up your archives and get caught up on your post processing. Study new photo techniques, do some experimentation or go to some photo shows / art exhibits.
In the end, you may also want to do some soul searching about your photography. As I’ve told you before, the hardcore street photog is going to have a different attitude, personality and ego than an anal landscaper or startrail photog. The street photog may not be as anal as the tripod photog when it comes to technical aspects, but their nature shows a different anal aspect when it comes to their personality.
The street photog may have to work outside of normally accepted societal conventions if they want to get the shot. As such, that special ‘anal aspect’ the street photog must posses can be summed up in the vernacular thusly…success on the street sometimes involves being an asshole.
Holy Water Bowl St Patrick’s Cathedral NYC (Candid)
Selection from The Americans…60 years after Frank artist’s book
by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.
The photog usually does not set out to be an asshole, but when you concentrate only on ‘getting the shot’ it is a natural offshoot of the process. Now, on the positive side, the better you are at candid work, the less assholeish you need to be.
If you can’t make a go of it, you may be in the wrong art. When I was a young photog growing up in L.A. I wanted to be a studio / fashion photog. Finally it sunk in that I had no talent for those areas – all my talent was in street / doc photography. It was important to my work and inner peace the day I accepted this. Once it sunk in I took to street photography like a fat kid eating pizza, just devouring it…and never looked back!
Good Luck and don’t forget the secret formula…layoff the keyboard, hit the pavement and press the button more!
From Girls of the Beat Generation
A forthcoming 6 volume artist’s book series by social documentary photographer Daniel D. Teoli Jr.