BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY

Photography of New York by Dave Beckerman

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Common Questions

- Is this your sole means of support?

Yes.  It has been for about 7 years.  Before that I worked as a programmer and did photography in my spare time.  The website itself has been online for about ten years.  As I remember it, in my first year on the web I sold exactly one photograph.

- Do you get model releases?

No.  Given the type of shooting I do it isn’t possible.  I might take pictures of hundreds of people before I find a shot that works for me.

If you are in the U.S. and are shooting in a public place, and not using the photographs for commercial purposes - it is perfectly fine to sell them as art.  This doesn’t mean you won’t get sued.  You can always get sued, especially if you are showing someone in a bad light.

In short, if street photographers needed model releases, there’d be no street photography (see Cartier Bressons images and ask yourself if he had model releases).

If you are able to get model releases, that’s even better as the image can be used for stock photography purposes.

- When did you begin taking pictures?

When I was 15.  My first darkroom was in the second bathroom in our apartment in the Bronx.  I was born in the middle of the last century.  I’d love to say that I’ve been shooting all that time but that wouldn’t be true.  I didn’t begin to work seriously at photography until I was in my mid-thirties.  That was a reaction to compensate for the corporate work I did.

- Who inspires you?

When I began, there were inspirations - Adams, Kertesz, Walker and many others.  Now I don’t feel that I have any inspirations.  If I do, I’m not sure what they are.

- What equipment do you use.

As of the time of this writing (June 2008) I’m using the Canon 40D with mostly prime fast lenses.  Over the years I’ve used many cameras from Leicas to View cameras.  For me, the camera is just a tool - and sometimes I switch cameras because I’m bored, or in some shooting slump.  Once you jump into the digital world that process gets speeded up.  I’m sure that the next time I write this sort of thing I’ll be using another camera, though I do always like to use good fast prime lenses.  That hasn’t changed since I was 15.

- Why do you shoot in black and white.

Actually, recently I began working in color.  But the main reason for shooting so much in b&w was that I felt I had more control over the final image.  But times change, new software comes along, and I use Lightroom now to gain control over my color images.

- Do you ask permission from people before you take their picture.

No.  If you do that before you take their picture you’ve changed whatever you were shooting.

- Do you ever talk with people while you’re shooting them?

Sometimes.

- I’m just starting out - do you have any advice for me?

I try very hard not to give advice - certainly not without knowing the person.  The only thing I would say is that when you start out, and along the way - have a camera that you can take with you wherever you go.  You may walk around for days without finding anything to shoot, but it’s good to have it around your neck and be ready for that moment that may never come again.  (This doesn’t apply to all types of photography, but to the type of shooting I do.)

- What printer / paper do you currently use?

Right now I’m printing with the Epson 7800 and the Epson 4800.  I’ve been using Silver Rag (Crane/Museo) paper since it came out; but the new Epson “F” Gloss Exhibition paper is very good and I may switch to it.

- Can you recommend any books about photography?

I started by studying most of the Ansel Adams books and the Zone System theory.  It’s a pretty good foundation and Ansel was probably the best teacher in terms of technique.

If I’ve left something out - let me know and I’ll try and add it to this page.  - Dave Beckerman, June 2008

Comments

Comment from Tudy
Time: September 3, 2008, 7:18 am

Great advice. The camera is something i need to think of more in terms of like getting dressed. I can’t count the times I have been out and about and said.. crap! I wish i had my camera.

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