Monday, June 29, 2009

Barber Synchronicity

I was out for lunch and found myself sitting at a counter against a glass window looking out to the street. Across the narrow street was a jewelry store, a newsstand, and then a barber shop. I had a bird's eye view to people watch and observe the activity in the stores while I ate a burrito.
The barber shop in particular was intriguing. It was up a few steps and I could see directly in and watch the chatty barbers at work. I came to notice that the two barbers worked in a synchronous manner. The two worked from behind simultaneously, worked from the side simultaneously. I'm sure they worked together for years and knew each others patterns and moves.

Here they are working from behind:
Here they are working from the side (both patrons don't really looking like they need much of a haircut).

Friday, June 26, 2009


I run a regular pattern of taking photographs (primarily on the streets of Manhattan), editing them, then posting them either in the blog or to my Flickr gallery.

Part of the editing process is adding keywords, maybe geotagging them, occasionally a caption (although a blog provides plenty of room as an alternative) and also adding a title. To me, the title is almost as important as the photograph itself.

I took this picture one day overlooking a subway entrance. I noticed these two guys talking expressively.
I really love the elements of the picture. Besides the conversation as the focal point, the speed and activity of the street is lively. The framing is nicely balanced, there is expression, the focus is nice with a short depth of field ("bokeh").

The final element I needed was the title. Something clever... a pun or thought bubble... usually works well. Alliteration or rhymes count. Or just a reference to what is happening. Some photographers don't bother to title their pictures, but I think that is a cop out and is lazy. Unless captioned, you leave the viewer in the dark as to what you saw in the shot.

I drew a blank on a title for this shot... sometimes you can look around the picture for a sign in the background (many times these can be ironic or perfectly caption the scene). In this case, the obvious sign is: "Skoal, only $5". That would be acceptable as a title in a pinch, but it means nothing in relation to the shot. Another idea was "You're Out", which is a reference to the gesture from the guy on the right, like an umpire in baseball. That also doesn't relate though. Others considered were "Quitting Time", "Subway Conversation", "Intense Conversation", "You're Fired". None of them made sense to me. So, I just kept it on my list.

Now, I'd like to get it out there. So, the title I will stick with is "Untitled", since it incorporates my back story.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

USA, Page 17

Tourists in NY City. They clog the streets while the regulars need to scurry off to their destinations. But, they are experiencing something new and unique. They are taking part in life.

This picture pretty much sums it all up.

I love her wide-eyed look. She marvels at the big buildings, and the activity. He is in charge of the tour aspects of the trip, which are many and a logistical challenge. He's trying to figure out what is next and where it is.

They've got one book that will cover everything they need to know about the entire USA. So, I would guess they are visiting several cities/places otherwise they would get a book just on New York City. From where they were found, their next stop is either Wall Street or more likely the World Trade Center site.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Public Enemies

Public Enemies
Originally uploaded by John Fraissinet
I was target shooting at this poster, trying to time it so someone passing by would have their head underneath the poster's hat. So, the hat would look like it was on the person's head. I came close several times, but this guy coming by with his own hat was better.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Traffic Cops in Transition

Out in the middle of the energy of New York City traffic, standing by their lonesome are the traffic cops. They are brightly attired and are an island in a sea of buses, taxis and limos (as well as people). Most of these characters, I have noticed, tend to be a calming influence to those around. Many of them stand coolly with style and composure. They are in control and provide direction. Although, others do seem to let the job get to them and you can see a tense expression as they do their job.

The three pictures below show a transition of three cops, starting with a 1) relaxed casual cop, 2) a zoned out cop, and 3) a stressed cop. All dealing with the difficulties of the job in different ways.

1) The Casual Traffic Cop - I spotted this guy with his hands in his pockets, a rare break for someone whose hands are his business. Looks like he might have caught me shooting him (this being my second shot), although maybe not since I shot from the hip on this one. It is one of my favorite "portraits", although I almost never take pictures which are not candid (and this was candid). He owns this job.

2) The Nonchalant Traffic Cop - The work can also perhaps allow some time for thought. This guy stood nonchalantly at the large intersection where Broadway meets Park Row, directing traffic towards the Brooklyn Bridge. His mind is elsewhere and that works for him.

3) The Stressed Traffic Cop - This guy hates his job and hasn't figured out a way to deal with it. He will not likely make it long term doing this work.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Street Photography Cropping

Pretty much all of my pictures are cropped in some way. Sometimes I pull out a little detail from a large picture. Sometimes I balance the composition. Sometimes I'm emphasizing something in particular.

One of the street photographers I follow on Flickr is highly popular. He has won awards and he has many people who comment on his pictures. He is generous in the way he interacts with other photographers. He is complimentary and insightful, which I think is part of his appeal.

When I look at his pictures though, sometimes I don't see anything special. Yet there are glowing responses from his admirers. He has become a superstar of street photography, to the point where I'm not sure his photos are being looked at objectively. He does however capture a reality and the grittiness of the street but not really that much of the art.

I've been trying in some ways to emulate his work, not because I think his pictures are that good, but due to the response he gets. There was a recent discussion about one of his photos, where it was suggested that he crop a picture that I did think was good, fantastic in fact. It was a bit more stylistic than his usual shots. He responded that he rarely crops his pictures because that distorts the reality of the situation, and life is not perfect.

This pointed out to me that his approach was in recording the scene, almost like a journalist, not making aesthetically pleasing photos, although that might occasionally be a byproduct.

A recent picture I took made me think of the two styles. Both versions I present here are of the same subject: an Indian family who were sharing a moment with their eyes. My ultimate version (above) cropped down to the core subjects, although reluctantly I needed to cut out a man who was watching from the far right. I would have included him if he was closer to the family, but aesthetically he was too removed and would have removed the focus from the family and made it harder to appreciate their eyes. Also, I thought there was a nicer balance in the cropped version with the boy becoming much more prominent.

I went back and reviewed this shot again and then looked at the uncropped version (below) with the man in it. I like this version also, and realized the star street photographer would have gone with that version. It captures the moment on the street, but I'm not sure that the story is as strong and the composition and focal points are different.

In the end, I come to realize that my style is different and while both approaches are valid, and he is obviously extremely successful by measure of the attention he gets, I will not try to emulate him anymore and will be true to what seems right to me.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Chain Bikers

Just noticed a kind of dual fashion/functionality statement by bicycle delivery guys. They are announcing that, "I look cool when I drape a very heavy, thick, bicycle chain and lock over my shoulder."

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Red Cube

So, on the corner of Broadway and Liberty Place is this huge red cube. It is an art work, which is called "The Red Cube", done by the artist Isamu Noguchi.

It's kind of out of place amongst the tall black buildings. And, it is in a tourist location, near Wall Street and the World Trade Center site. People like to pose with it, pretending they are holding it up from afar (like the Leaning Tower of Pisa). It's also interesting in various types of weather. In the winter, it's kind of like a square igloo on its side.

In rainy weather, if you stand in the right place you can be kind of protected from the elements.

But the main reason I'm writing about this is because of this abstract picture I took through the center with perfect positioning to see this reflection of the building across the street.