Archive for Street Photography

A Street Photography Location Nonpareil

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on April 23, 2019 by johnbuckley100
All images Leica M10 with 35mm Summilux FLE or 21mm Summilux

I saw a provocative headline recently that asked “Is Instagram Killing The Great Outdoors?” Of course, Betteridge’s Law of Headlines states, “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered no.”

Still, it’s a pretty good question. Ten years ago, Horseshoe Bend near Page, Arizona was a lovely place to stop and reflect high above the curvature of the Colorado. These days, hundreds of people arrive in busses in order to get selfies they post on Instagram.

There are people falling off of Yosemite cliffs, trying to get that Instagram post that will generate likes. One instinctively recoils from what we perceive to be a desecration of nature — going to the right place, but for the wrong reason.

But what of buildings, street corners, locations that seem made for photography? The Occulus is the Santiago Calatrava-designed train station built as the nexus for all of the lines — PATH as well as MTA — that used to flow beneath the World Trade Center. After 9/11, when all the lines were crushed by the weight of the collapsing buildings, they had to rewire them, and someone had the brilliant inspiration to hire Calatrava to build a station that is, in its own way, far more spiritual than the outdoor memorial a block away.

I wanted to see it, and photograph it, because it is beautiful. I had no idea it is the NYC equivalent of Horseshoe Bend, a place to which thousands flock in order to have their picture taken, and for good reason.

It has lookout points on both ends that are perfect locations for selfies.

I thought it was cool, and it is certainly a gorgeous structure. But while standing there, suddenly the sun must have come out from behind a cloud, because it was transformed. For the next approximately five minutes, it was a street photographer’s dream come true.

It took about two seconds to realize this was an ephemeral playground. If you look all the way up to the top image, try finding the couple making out at the top of the stairs. They weren’t there to be photographed, they were there to make out before bidding farewell, he back up the stairs, she headed down to the 1 Train. They were every bit at home as lovers on Point Neuf, or at least the Point Neuf as it existed before last week’s fire at Notre Dame. And they were a street photographer’s dream come true.

To me, among the most interesting things to photograph are people standing at some distance below: dolls in a doll house, going through their day with no recognition that a camera is turning them into, as Daido Moriyama wonderfully put it, “fossils of light and time.”

The Occulus would be one of those perfect photography locations from which Rene Burri would have created a masterpiece.

As it was, I was there just long enough to work within its magnificent quality of light.

I can’t wait to go back.

Further Adventures In Black and White

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on March 29, 2019 by johnbuckley100

A few weeks ago I wrote about my revelation — honestly, it was an epiphany — that the way to think about “black and white photography” was to ignore the description of it as “monochrome,” and instead to press down really hard on the blacks and the whites. Simple stuff, obvious to many, an eye opener for me.

My rediscovery of taking black and white pictures, as I have mentioned before, came when Leica introduced, in 2012, the Monochrom, a digital camera that records images without adding an array of reds, greens and blues to the initial capture of blacks, whites and grey. Prior to the introduction of the Monochrom, seven years ago this coming September, I had not understood that digital photography is based on an initial imprint of black and white on the sensor, and that a gazillionth of a second later, what is typically known as a Bayer array of color is pressed down upon it. (Engineers and sensor experts may have a more exact description, but that’s the way most people should think of this process that takes place in tiny fractions of a second. Color is, typically, added to the black and white picture first pressed upon the sensor.) And yet the Monochrom, with its reference to monochromatic photography, really is a misnomer, given everything we’ve learned.

If you follow street photographers on Instagram, surely you’ve noticed images like the ones above and below, where there is almost a chiaroscuro effect, deep blacks next to bright light. It’s a thing. This approach bears a relationship to all of the black and white images we’ve looked at over the years. Yet the actual strategy of capturing contrapuntal blacks and whites — with entire regions of the image blacked out — is, I think, something that has at least been emphasized in the digital era, and championed by a new cohort of amazing street photographers.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I had gone to a photo workshop taught by the estimable Alan Schaller who is, in my opinion, the strongest exemplar of this approach. Instagram seems to agree, given his hundreds of thousands of followers. In the previous post, I alluded to his technique of dialing down exposure compensation so that images are radically underexposed, thus enabling darks to get darker, with what remains in the light intensified. It is, to my eyes, an attractive approach. Practical, if you shoot a Monochrom, which is brutally punishing if you overexpose what’s in the light. But as attested by all these pictures you’ve been seeing taken in subways and tunnels, where the light/dark juxtaposition can be, and often is, stunning, this is not a trick, a gimmick, a fad. It’s not even a trick like emphasizing bokeh with fast lenses (or a clever iPhone), which can get tiresome if overdone. This technique is simply an intensification of timeless black and white photography — itself a timeless art form — and in many ways its apogee.

There is drama in black and white photography if what is dark and what is light are each dialed up in opposition. Polarization is terrible for society, but man, does it work in photography. In the film and darkroom era, much of this manipulation of darks and lights took place when the enlarger was burning the image onto a piece of treated paper prior to its chemical bath. In the digital age, we’re given more leeway to capture it this way inside the camera, in these malleable, deeply forgiving files, with the picture’s actualization coming in post-processing in Lightroom. (Gary Winogrand once casually talked about how photography lets you make mistakes, and things could still look good, but digital photography offers an entirely wider permission structure.)

Penumbral photography, as Nabokov would probably call it, is when the counterpoint between light and dark falls in shadow. And so we go out into the street searching for shadows, for the drama of light falling in grids and patterns. We don’t really know why this is harder to achieve in color, given that one reason we all so love Caravaggio is because of the color that emerges from the gloom, not just the light. But the answer is, I guess, that in photography, it is just easier to make this work within the limitations of black and white.

When photographers typically are complimented by civilians, the nice, easy thing they hear is, “You have a good eye.” In recent weeks, I’ve been going out into the city seeking places where there is the clearest possible delineation between light and dark. That’s what I’ve been looking for. It’s not just a function of seeking out content and subjects that matter, though of course they do. The desire is to find light, and dark, in a formation where a human emerges from that meeting place.

Along the way, we’ve made pictures that would, six weeks ago, still have been fun. But by newly emphasizing what is black, things have, to our eyes, simply gotten more interesting. The picture above is something I would have enjoyed taking anytime over the last few years. I probably would have been pleased with the composition. But because it is now not taken as a “monochrome” image, but as black and white, I think it moves higher up in my own list of favorite images.

I would have been happy to have taken the above image because of the way it simply captures the baby looking at the camera, the little fella with the beret standing to the right, the reflection to the left. Yet because I went into the process thinking anew, because each of the 10 zones of black, white and grey have at least some representation, the picture comes out, to my eye, more interesting.

One of my favorite photographers, Rene Burri, is perhaps most famous for his pictures of people taken from above, freezing them in time. I love the idea of standing unseen and capturing the drama within the diorama before my eyes. Emphasizing the light and dark, though, opens up new possibilities. And of course, the little girl in white going down the steps makes the picture.

“Good things happen when light meets dark” is an aphorism for photographers, whether they shoot in color or black and white. Thinking of this in a wholly new way, thinking in the binary of BLACK and WHITE with shades of grey the connective tissue, the emollient; understanding that, as Schaller put it, there is no bad light, if you just think in terms of the contrast between shades of it, is liberating. We are seeing the world in a new way, and we find that thrilling.

If you wish to come along the journey with me, my Instagram is @tulip_frenzy. And if you’d like to see more work, my photography site is entitled John Buckley: In Black and White and Color.

For Street Photographers, It Just Doesn’t Get Better Than The Golden Hour At Venice Beach (Gallery Of Images)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on October 16, 2016 by johnbuckley100

venice-10

We’d always want to go there with a Leica M and golden light, and a few Saturdays ago, we finally did.  Venice Beach is everything all the great photographers who’ve gone there before us had led us to believe.  We hope the images below convey this.

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You Write The Script: The Street Photographer’s Dilemma

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on May 20, 2015 by johnbuckley100

Whether it is a single shot, unposed, a moment of time, or a series to show how an incident unfolded, street photography is the depiction of a slice of life, a moment in time.  There are certain ethical rules we abide by that perhaps others don’t: Vivian Maier has an entire subchapter of photographs of drunken stumblebums, which she may or may not have ever intended the world to see.  To each his own, though for the record, we don’t take pictures of the homeless, of panhandlers, those whose misery and vulnerability is paramount, even as they lay defenseless before the lens.

Ah, but what about lovers in the middle of some drama?  Is it ethical not only to take their photograph, but to post it, as we do here?

The Breakup 1

We came across the above scene as we were walking home some days ago.  As soon as we saw the woman with her arms on the man’s shoulder, our camera went to our eye.  We didn’t really have time to wonder what was going on between them, though the body language triggered our awareness that we were an eyewitness to a searing moment of intimacy.  Was it right for us to take this picture? To now display it?  And if so, what was she saying?  What is passing between these two?

The Breakup 2

He’s clearly affected by it; the look on his face seems to be hurt, suppressed anger.  She’s trying to get him to understand something.  Is she leaving him?  Trying to get him to do something?  There’s a tenderness that suggests she’s not leaving him, or at least not parting without affection.

The Breakup 3

One last try at getting him to understand, or at least accept, some decision or admonition or directive on her part.  We don’t know what it was, and on some level, this is clearly an invasion of their intimate moment.  And yet it was on the street, so we literally have the right to have captured it.  And the poignancy of the moment is, to us, sufficiently dramatic that of course we would have tried capturing it.  The correctness of whether we properly should now be sharing this with the world hangs before us.  We choose to believe, however, as a storyteller, as a dramatist, that a moment such as this, taking place on a stage such as that, captured as it was, deserves to be shared.  And so we have.

Dale Yudelman’s Very Serious Humor

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on April 22, 2015 by johnbuckley100

Dale Yudelman is an award-winning South African photographer who has the instincts of a comic novelist able to tell a serious story while playing to your sense of humor.  Like Rian Malan and other artists of his generation, he left South Africa when it was intolerable and returned when the country embarked on its democratic path.  Since the mid-1990s, several of his projects have gained an international audience, but it is long past time that he be recognized as one of the foremost street and social documentary photographers on the planet.

The artistic stakes are high in a country with as poignant a history as South Africa, but even when Yudelman is funny — funny like Elliott Erwitt is funny — he never hides behind irony.  He’ll show things as they are — see on his website, under the project called “Reality Bytes,” the man who’s crashed his car and been projected through his windshield, though the little girl in the foreground seems more amazed that a photographer is taking a picture than she is at the accident itself.

He’ll show the country as it is:

Even as he also captures his Cape Town environment at its most romantic:

Fortunately for some high school students in Cleveland, he was in the States last autumn teaching photography — a white South African in post-Ferguson America, living in Cleveland when a 12-year old black boy could be shot by police while playing with a toy gun.  Welcome to America. He calls the resulting project “Knocking On Cleveland’s Door,” and you should go see it: here.

To our knowledge, there are no books by Yudelman in print in the States.  But there should be.  The only book of his work that we can find, Life Under Democracy, is selling used on Amazon for $1000.  A steep price for an introduction to a photographer’s work.  A bargain, though, when you realize he is a contemporary master worthy of joining the canon.

To see more of Dale Yudelman’s work, go here.

Street Photography And The Teton County Fair II

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on July 26, 2013 by johnbuckley100

Day two Teton Fair 10 (1 of 1)

Leica M, 50mm Noctilux

Did we mention there was a rodeo?  So of course there were rodeo princesses.

Day two Teton Fair 9 (1 of 1)

Leica M, 50mm Noctilux

And did we mention there was pig wrestling? Who even knew such an event existed?

Day two Teton Fair 1 (1 of 1)

Leica M, 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph

But on a beautiful evening in the Tetons, the Teton County Fair rolled along for a second day, and provided more opportunities for wandering with a camera.

Day two Teton Fair 2 (1 of 1)

Leica M, 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph

Every once in a while you would find someone surprised to be photographed.

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Leica M, 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph

But for as many people as there were surprised, there were others whom, one suspects, enjoyed being part of the drama.

Day two Teton Fair 7 (1 of 1)

Leica M, 50mm Noctilux

Day two Teton Fair 4 (1 of 1)

Leica M, 50mm Noctilux

It was a pretty great party.

Day two Teton Fair 6 (1 of 1)

Leica M, 50mm Noctilux

And as evening fell, the lighted byways of the fair made it seem as if the party would go late into the night.

Day two Teton Fair 8 (1 of 1)

Leica M, 35mm Summilux FLE

Street Photography And The Teton County Fair, Part 1

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on July 25, 2013 by johnbuckley100

Less Pink

Leica M, 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph

The Teton County Fair is an annual event in Jackson, Wyoming, and it is notable not simply as a prototypical American county fair, replete with pig wrestling and the rodeo next door, but for the way it brings together such a wide range of people.  It is, for street photography, a target rich environment.

Teton Fair 6 (1 of 1)

Leica M, 50mm Noctilux

People come to see and be seen, and the rich pageant of personalities — some locals, some tourists — is a feast for the eyes.

Teton Fair 2 (1 of 1)

Leica M, 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph

Families come for the rides and the entertainment, and to see their friends.  It is a communal gathering with roots in such fairs that go back to the dawn of civilization.  And so too should we think of street photography at such events — a capturing of humanity gathering together with roots in painting going back to the time of Breugel.

Teton Fair 5 (1 of 1)

Leica M, 50mm Noctilux

People are open, and less guarded about having their pictures taken.

Teton Fair 8 (1 of 1)

Leica M, 50mm Noctilux

For a fair in a relatively isolated resort community in the West, you see all types.

Teton Fair 7 (1 of 1)

Leica M, 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph

From those who live in Teton County to those visiting from big cities around the world.

Teton Fair 4 (1 of 1)

Leica M, 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph

There is an innocence that seems to accompany those participating in the spectacle.

Teton Fair 9 (1 of 1)

Leica M, 50mm Noctilux

And a simple delight in being there.

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