BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY

Photography of New York by Dave Beckerman

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The Online Photographer

13 September, 2008 (16:17) | 5 comments

Thanks to Bruce Robbins I’ve been featured on The Online Photographer and have my 15 seconds of fame.

Buddha in Window

10 September, 2008 (20:06) | 7 comments

buddha-in-window-4923-copy Buddha in Window

“When all desires that surge in the heart
Are renounced, the mortal becomes immortal.

When all the knots that strangle the heart
Are loosened, the mortal becomes immortal.

This sums up the teaching of the scriptures.”

The Upanishads, (Katha II)

I’ve been just finished reading through most of The Upanishads (for the second or third time).  They were written in India about three thousand years ago, and try to answer such questions as: What makes my mind think?  My eyes see?  What happens when I die.

For most of us, we’ve got to come back and try again; or to be more zen - don’t try again - just be.  I used to meditate a lot, but I’ve fallen off the wagon.  Now I think I’m falling back on the meditation wagon again.  But the zen way appeals to me: no churches, no authorities - maybe a wise teacher.  But in it’s core, a simple practice of meditation that will eventually lead to a non-intellectual answer to some of the big questions.

The world could use more Buddhists in it.

Garret Mountain, Paterson, NJ - Infrared

12 August, 2008 (21:11) | 2 comments

I had a chance to do a nice day trip with friends to Garret Mountain. A lot to see for this city boy. Including an abandoned castle and horses (which I tried to photograph with ir).

That beautiful horse did not want to stand still for a 10 second exposure.

This is the reservoir.

garret-mountain-reservoir-3071 Garret Mountain, Paterson, NJ - Infrared

And here I am taking this shot - (thanks Les).

dave-and-reservoir-0061 Garret Mountain, Paterson, NJ - Infrared

Ramblin’

23 July, 2008 (19:56) | 1 comment

Yes - thank you all for continuing to vote. It’s helped me clean up the galleries. I removed about 30 images or so. Partly based on the ratings but also on what’s sold or in many cases never sold. In a few days someone will call asking about a photograph I removed.  Happens every time. But less is more.

You know how it is. You fall in love with your latest picture and eventually have to get some distance on it. The galleries are - after all - how I’m making a living so you have to ask yourself - is that a picture I’d put on the wall or not.

So the rating gizmo is synced properly to the pages now, but I’m still waiting for the thumbnails to show up.  They make an appearance for a while, then they go for a powder.

Anyway - no new infrared since 1) it’s been raining off and on and 2) I’ve got a bunch of new orders to print. One thing I did recently is offer the prints without mats.  I think I mentioned that before.  Such a little change means so much to me.

It’s great.  Several orders came in for unmatted prints.  And I love it.  No, I wasn’t actually cutting the window openings anymore.  I have that done for me (luxury).  But still, you’ve got to attach the print, and the larger anything is, the more packaging is involved.  In other words it’s a lot easier to bend a 30 inch long by 2 inch carton as opposed to a 2 inch by 2 inch carton.  You know what I mean.

I also removed all the 5 x 7 sizes. That just wasn’t worth the effort, and 5 x 7 isn’t really a natural size anyway for my shots so they were always cropped slightly which I didn’t like. It’s also one less stack of mats and packaging I need to store in the cramped apt.  If you want the print – then you’ve got to buy it in it’s natural size.

What else?  That new air-conditioner I got a few weeks ago. The company that installed it (and installing air-conditioners is all they do) didn’t put a new sleeve in (which it needed) so it had been dripping for a while into the apartment below. Didn’t know that until the landlord called me. Now there’s a tray that fills up in about an hour beneath it while I wait for the installers to get back to me about the new sleeve. I’m hoping that isn’t going to be too expensive. What I could use is a small water pump with a tube that runs from the tray (or better yet the a/c) and drops the water out the window. I think an aquarium pump would work well.  Okay, I’ll try and tilt the thing tomorrow.  It’s a through the wall unit, and so far I haven’t been able to get it to tilt towards the outside but will try again.

The cat has discovered the water tray and wants to drink from it so I’m busy emptying the tray and keeping an eye on the cat. Not easy to do while I’m asleep.

Anyway - keep voting if you have the patience. But I have to admit - there’s no paper trail and the gizmo can be fooled if you clear your cookies.  (Hmmm, that is an odd-sounding phrase).  Doctor – what happened to this patient?  It’s an unfortunate situation, nurse.  His cookies were cleared.

Okay, enough of this.  I can’t wait ‘til autumn.

The Riddle of Color

9 July, 2008 (06:50) | 1 comment

jean-paul-2679 The Riddle of Color

I visit Jean-Paul, the midnight oracle of the east side for advice on the color experiment. I complain that I haven’t made much progress. Most of my shots still look better in old-fashioned black and white.

Of course he knows everything about everything, but he just points to the dark sky and remains mum. I continue to babble on. I still haven’t unlocked the mystery of color. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. I don’t know why.

At this, Jean-Paul makes some odd gestures (some of them appear obscene) and I wait for his words of wisdom. Nothing. He just laughs. My French is a bit rusty, but I’m pretty sure he’s calling me a fool.

I get tired of his insults. As I walk away, I hear him mumble: But, my friend. You have discovered everything you need to know about this subject.

I stop in my tracks.

But what, Jean-Paul - I ask. What have I discovered. I’m lost.

With that, Jean Paul laughs again. He has his dramatic pause and answers: Sir, it doesn’t matter how many times you knock on a door. If no one is in the house, the door won’t open.

Jean-Paul, I say. What does it mean?

My friend, he chuckles. Mon ami. Don’t you know that the straightest road is filled with curves?

What? I don’t understand you, Jean Paul.

But Jean-Paul is only good for one or two riddles a night; and he turns away. He looks back at me - and points to the sky once more then turns and leaves the park.

Well, I leave Jean-Paul the midnight oracle for now - and continue down the old and well-worn path.

east-river-2709 The Riddle of Color

The Limping Photog

5 July, 2008 (07:36) | 9 comments

You know a lot of the places I visit don’t allow monopods or tripods and I had what I thought was a brilliant idea last night. There’s a surgical supply store nearby and I was thinking I might buy an extensible metal cane, maybe even one that has legs on the bottom, attach a screw mount for a camera, walk into wherever with a limp, and when I’m left alone attach the camera to it. Crazy huh? If nothing else, I could use it as a support for the camera, and later on when I actually do need a cane it could be a dual-function gizmo. If the store’s open today I’m going to take a look around. And on top of all that - it may be covered by insurance.

Feel free to use this idea, just remember that it is called a CanePod.

arbus-9938 The Limping Photog

Pizza, Hotdog Stands and My Corporate Stint

29 June, 2008 (21:45) | 3 comments

pizza-in-rain1024 Pizza, Hotdog Stands and My Corporate Stint

It took them forever to open the car door.

I was a lot more careful shooting in the rain (w/ 40D) after my bad experience with the thing going dead for about six hours after getting soaked (I guess that was a few weeks ago). This time I used one of those new fangled things - I think they call it an umbrella.

I had it taped to a flash-bracket that was attached to the camera and this worked okay until a gust of wind nearly turned the contraption into a windsurfing camera. One of these days I should check out the waterproof housing, or else use a plastic bag with a hole for the lens.

* * *

On other fronts (no pun intended) I added a nice google search gadget (it’s there in the sidebar and also on my home page) that I configured to only search through the gallery pages. In the setup you can give it a list of folders / sites you want it to search. This works - though if google isn’t kept up-to-date you may get some dead pages in the search. I’ve submitted sitemaps to Mr. Google but it takes a while before it uses them for the crawl. If I were smart, I’d put keywords on those pages just to make sure they’ll show up in relevant searches; and I should replace the default 404 page missing with my own page-not-found.

I also fixed the problem with images not showing up in the archive pages. Just a touch of code that tells it to put the whole post on the page rather then just an excerpt.

I was chatting with my dad about this life and how much I enjoyed what I was doing and he asked whether that comes across in the blog. I had to say that I think it comes across but that I never simply say it out loud. He always wants to know what’s the latest thing I’m fooling around with; and I usually start the conversation with - oh - you know - nothing all that much; and the next thing I know it’s a half-hour later and I see that I’ve been up to a lot actually. It’s become a running joke with us. But for the record - it’s true - I usually get up in the morning and can’t wait to get on with whatever it is I’m up to at the time. Even on those days when I know that I’ll just be doing packaging all day - still - if I go back and compare that with my previous life in the corporate world - there’s just nothing like being your own boss; and being able to make the decisions that may hurt or help you.

When I split from corporate world co-workers used to ask what would I do if this photography thing didn’t work out (i.e. I couldn’t survive on the money) and I used to joke that I had already scouted out a good corner for a hotdog stand. There were times when I thought that might not be so funny (selling photos on the street in front of the Met) - but even that was better (for my tastes) than following what were often insane orders in the old world.

I haven’t talked much (have I?) about how new administrations were constantly arriving at the old advertising firm during the big dot conversions and how they’d just mess everything up (for great sums of loot) and then cut out and head to the next firm. When dot-world was new, upper management didn’t know what it was and could be taken in by whoever promised the most and wore the best clothes. The big-ten accounting firm that lead this charge would eventually collapse along with the Enrons of the world. Some of us saw them as emporers without clothes - but not being able to sling the b.s. as well, we were ignored.

In a one year period, the ad firm changed it’s name three times. What were they called: i-AdFirm, e-AdFirm, AdFirm-dot- something. New systems that were going to give real-time information on stuff that didn’t matter were paid for (millions and millions) and never completed.

I remember sitting at a big meeting with The Outside Suits where they explained exactly how the new systems were going to be integrated. Maybe I was a suit myself - I had the title of Vice President of something having to do with technology. And I turned to the row of suits and asked them if they knew what the worldwide employee identification key was. Dead silence. One suit ventured that it was the employee social security number. All heads turned towards me with deathly stares. No, I said. There isn’t any. In some countries it’s the employee name. In others it’s their phone number. Yes, in the states it’s their SS number, but only in the States.

The suits assured management that this wasn’t going to be a problem and kept going with their powerpoint demo. They still don’t have one. What pissed me off was that a lot of employees who actually knew what was going on were kicked out during this period… Oh man - don’t get me started.

What I learned about corporate life was that 90% of management had climbed the ladder by knowing how to cover their collective behinds.

Well okay. Let me remove my rant hat and put on my packaging hat. There’s a bunch of stuff that’s got to go out today.

Street Photography Definition

26 June, 2008 (21:11) | 1 comment

“street photography is anything shot that you did not expect to find… no matter where or what it is….. your article about it is wrong. Please consider removing it…. “

Posted by Anonymous to Dave Beckerman Photography at 7/29/2005 02:25:31 PM

Actually, I couldn’t remember what I wrote or where about street photography - but now that I’ve read it - I’ll let it stand.

What is street photography? Let’s define it by it’s intentions: to capture some sense of contemporary life, usually in cities, and always non-commerical.

Some sense of contemporary life is an interesting phrase because it can include things that mankind has created, anything from a smashed soda can to a skyscraper. How we live. What we feel. What we think. What makes us laugh. This is the attempt. It has nothing to do with the street and it has nothing to do with what tools are used to create it. But it is always non-commerical in nature.

Non-commercial: the attempt is not to sell a product; not to beautify a bride; not to pounce on a profit for somebody selling hamburgers.

But then what is the difference, if any between documentary photography and street photography?

The line is blurry, but in street photography, the photographer often searches for connections beyond the mere documentation or anthropoligical. At it’s best, it can find humor or pathos in ordinary situations by a process of combining subjects in ways that we might not ordinarily see. The street photograph is as much a portrait of the photographer’s thoughts as of his subjects.

The long lens photograph of a baseball pitcher releasing the ball that struck out the criticial hitter, is not street photography. It is taken to document a certain moment in time; not to find personal expression. The background is blurred and you can’t find two or more elements in the shot. And it usually serves a commercial purpose.

However, if you were standing on the field during the game, or the sidelines, with a wide angle lens, and the third baseman, trying to make a catch fell into the stands, and knocked the hotdog vendor down, and if you were lucky enough to catch the hotdogs flying all over. That would be a good “catch.”

And just because a shot is taken in the street doesn’t make it street photography either. Fashion shoots are routinely done “in the street.” Snapshots of friends and family are taken by the millions in the streets around the world.

The motives of the street photographer are as important as the results. The sensibility is one of the hunter. Hunting without searching. Stealth, as well as a willingness to confront danger come into play. Techniques about how to be there and not be there at the same time obsess you. Like the hunter, you may need to put the equivalent of branches on your cap. It may not be the danger of a wild beast charging at you, but it may be as simple as the fear involved in photographing strangers doing normal things.

It is also involves a willingness to be unappreciated financially. No matter how good you are at it, you are intrinsically not making images that are going to make a money for someone else. If you want to make a better profit, make models look beautiful, or their clothes, or their teeth.

Take beautiful pictures of beaches, landscapes, or famous people.

My print of Promenade, for example - which is the best selling print I have - is not street photography. It doesn’t mean that I went out to make a commercially viable print, I didn’t. But it is not street photography. It is landscape photography. It is almost documentary photography. Ten years from now there’s a good chance that you could go out and recreate Promenade (Poet’s Walk) and that it will look the same.

And the idea that street photography is dead is silly. It will fall in and out of favor. Street photographs taken today will age well. They will become more important in fifty years because they will show us things about how we lived that we don’t care about today. The clothes people are wearing will change (I hope). Buildings will come and go down. Cell phones, which are so much the rage today will become smaller and more difficult to photograph. In that sense, it has something in common with documentary photography. But on top of that, it will show something unique, that comes from the mind of the individual photographer who was working at the time.

It really doesn’t matter whether the photographer is working in digital, or whatever comes after digital super-digital. It doesn’t matter if every human being in the world has a camera and is constantly snapping away. Everyone has a pencil today but I don’t see an improvement in the literature of the times.

Spelling (my own included) has gotten worse because of spell checkers. The majority of photographs will get more banal. But this will only make the unique photographers of the times, more valuable.

I am not a “pure” street photographer. I enjoy creating fiction. I don’t care that much whether a shot has been posed or not. I don’t see anything wrong with paying models to stand and kiss on steps surrounded by real passersby. I haven’t done this, but I don’t see anything wrong with trying to photograph something that you see via imagination rather than fact. I often have an idea and I want to see it happen. If I can get it spontaneously, great. If I need to cojole someone to look a certain way - I will do that. Believe me, I am not a purist.

So hold on to your intentions and let the excitement, the experiment, and ultimately the loss - because you are almost always doomed to failure when you photograph prey that only exists for a split-second - let these intentions be your companions during your urban quest. And as they used to say, good hunting.

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