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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Subway Portrait (Today)

3:14:20 PM    

Papaya King

2:30:03 PM    

Good morning funny man,
I'm on my way to work-but have to ask for help. The computer is all futzy-even got a crash warning and now the printer's not working. I turned evrything off and on again, but something's not right. Any chance you could talk us through whatever it is during the week? - Clueless

Dear Clueless,
Since you all have the flu in that house, no visits without a hazmat suit.

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Due to time constraints from my editors, I may have to postpone your story for the first issue, move it to another issue. - Inked Magazine

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Wall Street Man 1 arrived today via FedEx. It's a wonderful print.
Thank you. It's framed and hanging in my gallery beside my other two Beckermans.
K. from Texas

PS. The matted print survived shipping nicely, thanks to your sturdy
I have it framed in black metal, under glass. It's beautiful.

- - -

dave, just wanted to thank you for Winter Reservoir print.  I visited NYC a few years ago (in a storm!), and it brings back wonderful memories.  Fantastic.  L. Iowa

11:40:08 AM    

Epiphanies are rare, and not always true.

That being said, I did have a revelation about my own work. It seems to me, lately for sure, but earlier on as well, that I have unconsciously been trying to do - how can I put this - Saturday Evening Post covers. For those youngsters out there who don't know what the Saturday Evening Post cover was - think Norman Rockwell.

The epiphany tale began while I was trying once again to define for myself, 'Street Photography.' And it dawned on me that just because you photograph 'in the street' doesn't make you a street photographer. Street Photography is actually a style of shooting and presentation.

In the best street photography, there is a sense of almost inchoate moments coming together and bouncing off each other. Ideas are half-formed. There is usually some angular, gritty vision. Not always. There is the delicate side of street photography as well, but again - there is almost always a sense of quickness - the camera as a fast moving recording device.

That has not been what I've been after. You don't take a 4 x 5 view camera into a subway car (10 years ago) to capture the fleeting moment - especially when better tools are available.

Even though some subjects may glare at me in the picture, or run away, or smile, or be completely unaware of my presence - if you were to take many of my pictures and convert them to a painting - you would be surprised at how they are mostly about composition and light and story. Especially when people are subjects, there is an attempt to illustrate some aspect of a story. The story may be funny or depressing - but the people shots are almost as if they had been models for a illustration.

And so I asked myself where this quest for illustration might come from since I can assure you we did not get The Saturday Evening Post. And the answer was simple: children's books, mystery books, (you could include Comic Books but I don't think they were much of an influence in terms of style), were all illustrated.

We had lots of hard covers of Dickens, of Twain, all in illustrated editions, books that I pored over as a kid and I can still remember the illustrations they held.

One other thread of this revelation (if it turns out to hold water) - began at the hotel the other day where I noticed that the room all had old prints (1890's) on the wall: carriages cantering down a rural hill outside of London. And I got up close to the image and while I was still sick from the bad hamburger, I spent my time studying the design, how the driving was placed in the carriage, how each horse was caught in mid-stride (and probably wrongly shown), and how much I liked this print. This English print from a time and place I had only read about in children's books and Sherlock Holmes stories. Not great paintings. But great illustrations.

And as epiphanies will - one idea joined another - what was street shooting - not what I was doing. Where was I first exposed to illustrations? Children's books. So why should I even want to recreate such things?

Ah - yes. Those were how I escaped from life in the Bronx - which could be cruel and miserable. Those were my happiest moments - going through those serial books on a rainy day and looking at the pictures. Wow. That was a rush. I was unconsciously trying to recreate the illustrations from childhood books. That would explain all the kids in the pictures. In fact, I even have several pictures I took of children reading.

So here I am, trying (I must say again, without realizing it) to recreate my own happy moments spent as a child with illustrated books but on the streets of Manhattan (for the most part). I can only say - is that true - or am I trying to tie things up with a neat bow? I'm not sure.

6:11:55 AM