Photography’s Hidden Costs

Nikon D300, ISO 320, f/8 at 1/640 sec

It really doesn’t bother me that people look at me strangely when I suddenly lay down on my stomach on a public sidewalk to be able to get the angle I want for a photograph. When you’re serious about photography, you do what you’ve got to do to get the shot. We’ll ruin shoes, clothing, withstand inclement weather, get up at ridiculous hours, drive for miles, and even sit patiently waiting in the hope some perfect moment occurs.

Sometimes it’s worth it, sometimes you go home disappointed. But you keep doing it because you love it.

So here’s a plea for some honest feedback:
Today’s shot came at the cost of a close encounter between well-camouflaged, fresh, organic, canine variety fertilizer and my favorite comfortable shirt.

Was it worth it?


The Other Woman

Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.  – Henri Cartier-Bresson

My dad has a great, albeit rather dry, sense of humor. I can’t help but smile when I recall the first time I sat down at his PC to help him with a problem. It was then that I discovered he’d specified the computer’s machine name as “The_Other_Woman”, due to all the hours of his time it consumes.

As you might have read in some of my earlier posts, my father also loves photography. It was he who taught me at a young age to see photography as an art form in which I could let my imagination run and play. In so many ways beyond photography, my father is a role model, a mentor and a respected and valued critic.

After a lifetime of B&W film photography and weekends MIA in the darkroom, Dad made the switch to digital. This wasn’t a simple feat: it meant he had to first learn to use a computer so he could learn to use Photoshop. And when it comes to the computer, patience is never an attribute of his user experience!

This will be a surprise to him, but today I’m proud to share a few of my father’s photos with my readers. Please enjoy!

Please leave your comments and questions below, and thanks for visiting my photo-blog. Please come again!

Robert Mapplethorpe: Hooked On A Feeling

I can clearly recall the day in 1975 that I stood thumbing through the new arrivals at my favorite record store, The Plastic Waffle Shop in Gainesville, Florida. The cover portrait on Patti Smith’s debut album, “Horses”, had captivated me. I’d never heard of her, but I bought the album because of that cover photo. So began my ongoing “fan” status of both Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe. As it turned out, in the two decades that spanned his work, Mapplethorpe’s portraits of his close friend Smith are exceeded only in number by his self-portraits.

Enrolling at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn in 1963, Mapplethorpe received training in painting, drawing and sculpture. In 1970, Mapplethorpe purchased a Polaroid, his first camera. According to the 1988 book bearing his name[1], Mapplethorpe ‘…was not a “photographer,” did not think of himself as a “photographer,” and did not aspire to become a “photographer.” He merely wanted to take his own pictures rather than use someone else’s from magazines…’ in his own art and sculpture.

Mapplethorpe’s desire to control how his photographs were viewed intrigues me. More often than not, he made his own frames or built complex and often symbolic framing devices. On several occasions he incorporated mirrors to insert the viewer directly into the piece being viewed.

The two decades of his work, primarily focusing on black and white, reveal an artist equally capable of capturing the beautiful and the profane. His daring nudes and homoerotic pieces have received praise and simultaneous condemnation as “obscene” and pornographic; his still life’s are intricate studies of light and shadow; his striking portraits always seem to capture and communicate a tangible essence of his subject. For me, Mapplethorpe’s mastery of lighting and staging is the hallmark of his work.

I find the most compelling of Mapplethorpe’s works to be his flower photographs. Flowers are one of my own favorite subjects in my photographic efforts. While staging such a photo, I have often found myself wondering or trying to imagine how Mapplethorpe might have framed or lit or positioned the object I am working with.

Mapplethorpe’s work has always made me feel something. Despite whether I like or dislike a particular piece of his work, I will feel something. I find it significant then, that in Smith’s 1996 biographic poem and homage to Mapplethorpe, The Coral Sea, she states:

“Nature,” he had boasted, “was meant to be redesigned, and opened, and folded, like a fan…His delicate eyes saw with clarity what others did not… He didn’t like to think, he didn’t like to talk; he liked to feel.”

Robert Mapplethorpe died in 1989. The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation continues to exhibit his work worldwide.

[1] Robert Mapplethorpe, © 1988 Whitney Museum of American Art