Category Archives: Workshops

Boyle Heights to Venice Beach

 

Boyle Heights to Venice Beach

Labor Day Weekend, 2017

My son Scott and I are celebrating 25 years of conducting classes and workshops in social documentary photography/street photography. We have found an effective process for helping photographers find and use their own unique personal vision.

In 1995 we conducted an experimental class at Pasadena City College. Together as a team with the 25 people who had signed up for the class, we formed an imaginary agency, with the idea of duplicating some of the working conditions of a top photographers’ agency in carrying out a difficult professional assignment.

During the eight three-hour classroom sessions we discussed ways of working together to achieve the goal of the assignment, which was a “Day in the Life of Pasadena.” With lectures, slide shows and discussions we learned new ways to become faster with our brains and our cameras and we prepared for the big day. Twenty-five photographers took the class with the idea and hope of improving their photographic skills which was a big factor in the success in the project. The photographers were hungry for knowledge and worked well with others. Together with smiles and a big enthusiasm we set out on the big day with many ideas and hopes for our photo essay of one day in Pasadena

The experiment worked very well. The 25 students came together as a team and acted like a top photographer’s agency to complete a difficult pro-style assignment that resulted in a successful exhibit at Pasadena’s Armory Center for the Arts.

Scott and I recently published our first book project, The Downtown Los Angeles Challenge with John Free, where forty photographers came together for a series of talks and discussions with slide shows and demonstrations in a workshop-like atmosphere, before heading out into the streets of downtown L.A. for two days. Forty eight hours later a collection of hundreds of photographs had been made and were edited down to only the very best that were included into a fine book of photographs made by a passionate team of dedicated photojournalists. The planning, the preparation and the dedicated teamwork of the photographers produced a very effective body of photographs, which resulted in a wonderful photography book that documents DTLA in a moment in time. Here is a link to the completed book  http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/1253739

The Project41 chevy

To celebrate our 25 years of working together, and to build on our experience with our first book project, Scott and I have decided to offer photographers the chance at total FREEdom in their photography with a new project titled Boyle Heights to Venice and the Impact of Housing, Immigration and Transportation. The big dream many photographers think about is the chance to work on a top professional photojournalistic assignment with the pressure of big money, a time consideration and also to build their reputation as a photographer that results in publication. This adds up to a large amount of mental stress and some anguish the student or average photographers never endures. We have found that this kind of pressure is the secret of becoming a better photographer.

The project we are now offering will be a fine holiday for professional photojournalists, and a great opportunity for all participants, a vacation of pleasure to be able to photograph in a visually rich area and contribute to a generous humanitarian book project. Everyone will have a chance to work with other photographers as a team to document the daily life of a section of a big city. For three days we will spread out over an area running from Boyle Heights to Venice Beach. We will photograph the rich cultural diversity of the City of Angels and everyone will tell their own your story about how housing, immigration and transportation are impacting the diverse communities of Los Angeles.

We will prepare for our time in the streets with lectures, discussions and demonstrations. All photographers will be given assignments and will be encouraged to incorporate their own unique personal vision, and stories they encounter during the three days, unlike many pro’s who have to adhere to the wishes of their clients. We will all have the great chance to work as a team in the photographic process of making an important photojournalistic photography book documenting life in Los Angeles in 2017.

This will be a FREEing of photographers. A chance for photographers to work on an important photography book project with their own unique personal vision and the opportunity to work with many photographers who have a similar intent and passion and who share the desire to contribute to the contents of an important volume of photographs.

We chose a section of Los Angeles from Boyle Heights to Venice Beach as the location for this project to show off its wide range of ethnicities and cultures that will place the photographers into an environment that is most conducive to the making of powerful and meaningful photographs, up close and personal for the photographer and the subject. As photographers we are always striving to know more about the subject and how to react to the subject and make a single image of the essence of that subject, moving constantly in time, distance and pace while keeping pace with it all and keeping pace with ourselves.   Dancing with joy at knowing we are where we should be and doing what we should do and at the same time knowing we are attempting to produce something far bigger than ourselves.

What is the dream?

The dream of the would-be photojournalist is to be put down anywhere and be able to survive and produce effective photographs of subjects or events that other people should see because the photos show such visual intensity and be allowed to photograph with his or her own unique personal vision. The ideal dream project must be fun. For it to be important it must be good for humanity and the photographs must be good enough to serve photography itself.

The dream is to be trusted to do important work, to work on valuable projects and to be FREE to photograph utilizing your own unique personal vision.

Are the dreams of the dancers any different than the dreams of the photographer or hot rodder?

The dancer dreams of higher kicks, the photographer dreams of being a top pro. The hot rodder dreams of producing more horsepower. What are the dreams for and why do they seem so far off from what is real in our lives? Do we ask too much in our dreams? The dancer and the others dream of being more proficient at what is the most difficult part of what they do. High kicks, a more effective photograph, more horsepower.

The dreams help us if we dare test them in our real lives and in the real world. Can we bring the dreams closer together with what is real with us? Are the dreams honest in good moral order, or are they unrealistic and selfish in nature?

For this project the dream is to photograph intently with passion for three days. The length of time, the limited geographic area, the concentration on the impact of immigration, housing and transportation on the community and the friendly competition are all factors that will add up to a fantastic celebration of each photographer’s personal passion for, and commitment to, the photographic process and of using it to promote a better and loving understanding between us all.

All photographers are invited to join us in a fun experience for the pro photojournalists and a wonderful learning experience for the student. We will work together to photograph as a team in an agency to produce a dream of a book. A book of photographs worthy of the title incorporates effective photographs that serve humankind and result in more compassionate understanding and display the highest skill in the medium of social documentary/street photography/photojournalism.

I dream not only as a photographer, but also teacher or coach. What is the dream of someone who would instruct or help someone else? To place the student in the environment this is most conducive to making effective photographs. To place the photography student into the coach’s dream. As a coach I wish for my students to find love in photography and in self. As a teacher of photography I have been coaching for many years and have slowly built up this dream higher and higher. My dream of being a coach and the dream of my son being my fellow coach are the same. The dream to bring any 60 photographers together in a temporary FREE agency of photographers, similar to other large photo agencies, like Magnum, Black Star, Sigma, etc., large agencies with many talented photographers will bring success to a project more than just a few photographers working independently.

The FREE agency will join together in a team of mutual cooperation, with the intent of producing a book in just three days.

The little secret that Scott and I discovered many years ago in Pasadena is now going to be put to use once again to produce great experience and a meaningful book.

I hope you will join us for this “dream.” Details are on my “Workshop” page

Also posted in Social Documentary/Street Photography, The Human Condition Tagged , , , , , |

PARADES

parade 1

This photograph was made before the start of the annual Kingdom Day parade in Los Angeles honoring Dr. Martin Luther King. In my photographs, I try to provide enough information so the viewer can quickly see the various elements, factors and details which were carefully framed in the viewfinder. I also try to establish relationships between the details and the center of interest. The great photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson has said the power of a photograph depends on the effective use of the details. “It’s all in the details.”

 

If you join me for my DC workshop in May part of the workshop will involve parades. As photographers we will be insiders, not the outsiders that the spectators are.

 

Parades to me have always been silly, dress up, pompous charades, with loud thumping bands and over done hats and cartoonish military style costumes, all color and sequins to make it all pretty. Huge groups marching like toy soldier dreams we might have had, all moving together as one in a machine which is supposed to charge up the people who stand aside and photograph it as they strut by in measured and very strict discipline that reduces each member of the large group to an almost nothing cog in the machine and each face and personality hidden by the outrageous costume.

 

I like to arrive before the parade while the players are arriving and getting ready, instruments just lying around. The humans come out of their hats here and are all pumped and focused on the parade. I am only focused on the humanness of them and I’m occupied with the hope I can catch some of this goodness and this real humanness that is so vital. Vital for me to stumble on and vital for me to comprehend the important significance the event before me holds for a visual message given out to the world to hopefully look at and be better for it. That is why I like the beginning and the end.

 

This for me is more thrilling to find realism about bands that are seen when the bands are not bands yet. Just humans dressing up and I am there with them to feel the intentness and the excitement they and I hold because of being part of it and maybe taking something home from it all.

 

 

 

 

 

Also posted in Social Documentary/Street Photography, Street Photography Tips, The Human Condition Tagged , , |

BUILDING SUBJECT USING THE CHALLENGE OF THREE

Building Subject Using the Challenge of Three: Examples from Barcelona and Lisbon

I made these photographs during my recent three-day workshops in Barcelona and Lisbon. I would not have made (or printed) some of them if I had been working on my own, but I was playing my game, the Challenge of Three  with my students as a way to warm up for a day of street photography.

I developed the game to help my students find subject and then photograph the subject in the most effective manner very quickly, because time waits for no one. Sometimes a potential subject comes our way and we miss the shot because we are not ready and the visual masterpiece is lost forever.

We must be ready to push the button exactly when the mind makes the command after considering all of the elements that make an effective photograph. Time is the big barrier that we documentary and street photographers are forced to deal with. Situations are always moving, so we need to develop methods for photographing very quickly.

The game, Challenge of Three, is based on my 5F’s system for finding and figuring out subjects and then photographing the subject with carefully considered framing, focusing and only then firing off the shot. It is a simple Guide to help photographers build their own effective working technique. (More on my 5F’s system is described in previous posts).

The game can be played alone or in a small group. I have always said that keeping things light relieves the tension of trying to find subject and helps photographers relax and have fun. The main thing to remember is this pastime is supposed to be fun. The rules are simple:  nothing posed or fabricated and every photo needs to have at least three connected considerations or relationships between people or objects.

Little pieces or parts of subject are lying around everywhere to catch the attentive eye. When my eye is caught by the smallest insignificant detail. (“finding”) the game begins by evaluating the detail and deciding (“figuring”) how to make it part of a worthy subject. I call this building subject.

We need to find at least three things in the subject area that we can control only by moving the position of the camera relative to the subject in such a way as to bring the important elements, details and factors together to give the viewer an accurate rendering of what the subject is all about. We need to find three elements about the relationships between values in the subject area. It could be the background and how it relates to the center of interest, or the foreground and how it relates to the center of interest and to the background. It also could be how much of the background or foreground is going to be included in the frame and for what reason. There are many, many questions to consider.

Too much of any one detail might detract from the center of interest. Too few of the important details and the viewer will not have enough information to understand the photograph and your intent.

In street and documentary photography we need to get in close and photograph situations in a smooth and quiet way so as not to disturb the subject or the surroundings with our presence. In my experience, to accomplish this we need to not make quick movements and always be polite and smiling. The object is to get in close. Henri Cartier-Bresson said that one must be a part of what one photographs, therefore, getting in close is very important.

A still life challenge is a great way to slow down in order to learn how to photograph at the speed of life. A still life can offer us a unique opportunity to take as much time as is needed to make the photograph. This gives us practice in the 5F’s and the importance of including at least three elements in a photograph. The subject is still, not moving, and will not change in the next few minutes so we have tmie to slow down and consider the subject at length in order to better determine how to use the various parts in the subject area to effectively build an interesting photograph out of what’s just lying around. The framing of the desired image may take a few minutes, with constant checking of the framing and focus placement, then re-checking each corner of the frame and how a slight movement of the camera, or the placement of focus, can have a large affect on the intended photograph.

A close-up photo of an ordinary item changes that item into something else, perhaps something beautiful in its coincidence of line, texture and light.

During the workshops we all laughed at the absurdity of what we were doing, watching each other get into strange awkward positions to make sense of the framing of an image. This was a good way to keep warmed up. To be very quick in the actions, and doing if for hours at a time, prepares us for that shining moment when we notice  a very powerful subject situation and we are warmed up in body and mind and ready to quickly make the photograph with our practiced skill in figuring, framing, focusing and firing. The photographers who play this game are more apt to be ready when a great opportunity comes their way.

We spend the days photographing simple subjects and events, subjects that would not pass our strict criteria that we normally hold for our subjects. However, these simple subjects allowed us to be constantly considering subject material and gave us practice in framing and focusing , which kept us fluid and precise in our movements so that we were ready when the real and powerful potential subject came our way.

My subjects ranged from a man digging a hole, with an ironic twist involved, an abstract photo of discarded construction material, an action photo of a boy caught in mid air, a drunken street person pretending to attack a photographer and a boy having his photo taken with the approving look of a woman in the background. I included three things in each photograph that were tied together with effective framing and a good sense of trying to create photographs that stand on their own without the need for a caption.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I photographed a group of young boys huddled by an immense and ancient wall, with three things being evident in the image, the huddled boys kneeling down, the wall and the boys’ relationship to the tall and aged wall and their relationship to each other. Not all of the three things need to be visible, but at least three things must be considered and must be evident in the photo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The street fighter image includes information that is needed if the photo is to be understood by the average viewer. What is needed? The street fighter in a threatening pose, the photographer in the act of photographing and little else so as not to distract fro the important center of interest (the fighter and the photographer). The second image of the street fighter includes a person holding a cell phone nearby, who seems unaware of the fight situation, adding a whole new element to the photograph.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This abstract photo of some old boards and other pieces of wood shows how I considered each piece and its placement and relationship with the other objects. Another decision I had to make was where the focus should be placed, and, if there is little light, and therefore little depth of focus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this photo of a group of boys trying to get water out of a fountain, I included the boy standing and holding the top of the fountain, the relationships are there to see, and all the information was considered very quickly before the event disappeared forever, to be lost to us all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What did I consider in the photo of the boat in a lake in a park? First, the setting, which means to me to include the foliage in the foreground which acts as a frame. Since the boat was the center of interest, I needed to focus on the boat and place it in the water within the frame of bushes, and then to include what was happening in the boat, that is, the young boy being taught how to row. The composition makes itself when all of these logical considerations have been made concerning a subject.

 

 

 

Someone once said that there is no composition, only facts. I enjoy this perception of a good photo. The inclusion of the important facts in the frame of the viewfinder will make the composition automatically. I made a photo of a small girl in front of an immense machine, which might be called an example of contrast and irony.

 

 

 

 

Another example is a group of men drinking. What is needed to make the photo effective? The men with smiles, the drinks on the table and little else which might distract from the men and their good time together.

 

 

 

 

The most ironic and magic photo that I made, was the first image I made on the first day of the Barcelona workshop. We met in the middle of a famous square, and then after a brief talk explaining the game we were to play, we started our day looking for subject. Unfortunately, the square was almost empty so I suggested that we look in the refuse containers, which I have found to be an excellent way to find abstract images.

Sometimes I will find my own last name in the trash. The first container I looked into had a homemade sign in English that read “freedom.” What was the chance of finding something like this in the first container? In all the trash containers in Barcelona, or even all of Spain, what are the chances? This, for me, is the magic of photography.

In the whole six hours of working at the game, I used only a roll and a half, which for me is about 50 images. Even though we were in effect practicing, I was able to make several photos that I like. The first photo of the first day of the workshop and it was made of the contents of a trash container and had the greatest word that people all over the world cherish, lying cast-off as worthless. Even more ironic for me, is that it was written in English. A trash container in Spain with the word “freedom” written in English.

 

Near the end of the day in Lisbon, after we had been working at our game, we came upon a ceremony in a little square. People were there with the police putting a wreath on a monument and since we were all warmed up and practiced, we were ready to finish the day with some close-up photos of the serious subject. We photographed respectfully and quietly and I produced these photos of the event.

The Challenge of Three game is fun to play while practicing the 5F’s, and is an excellent way to always be ready and it will improve our ability to make photographs at the speed of life!

 

 

 

 

 

Also posted in Social Documentary/Street Photography, Street Photography Tips, Street Photography Workshops Tagged , , |

20 MINUTES, 14 IMAGES

The subject was the Havana harbor early in the morning, with the sun shining through the dark clouds of a passing rain squall. The figures in the foreground were constantly moving which provided me with many opportunities to make photographs that I thought would best describe the situation of the Cubans and their environment, and the frailty of man, or the strength of man in relation to the drama of his existence.

 

I don’t make many exposures with the hope of getting one acceptable image. Each of
the fourteen exposures of the subject area was done with careful thought about
the many variables that made up the subject and how all these factors
influenced the center of interest. The constantly changing scene, offered me
many chances to make different images of the same subject area as it changed in
the brief time that I was there. The rapid fire technique of some photographers
makes me wonder how many of those quickly made exposures were guesses instead
of well thought out attemps to create a relationship between the various
details that are present in the subject area. Guessing scares me, knowing that
I might miss the best instant because I was too busy clicking away without
thinking enough. In forty five years of doing this kind of work, I have learned
how transitory a subject can be and also how important time is and how crucial
it is for me to catch the significance of a situation in one image.
The subject area changed constantly, giving me new opportunities to make images that would show various aspects of the situation. The available lighting was difficult to work with, as it was very early, with the sun shining toward my lens. The dramatic qualities of the sky encouraged me to keep working the subject as it changed over the twenty minutes that I was there.
I chose the vertical format to include what I thought were the important details in the situation before me. The details are very important, in order to give the viewer of my photograph enough information to perceive the subject as I did. (I did, however, make one horizontal image so I could include all of subjects, the motorcycle, the boy, the man with the hat). I had a wide sweeping view of the area in which the main subject, the figures in the water, were located, so I framed the photographs so that unnecessary details were eliminated.

 

 My intent was to show the contrast between man and his environment, which in this case was the water, clouds, ship and the frailty of man and his relationship to his surroundings. Too much of any detail would have diminished the center of interest, which in this case, is the man or men. The focus was placed on the figures in the water. The sky was an important factor, because of its dramatic qualities and the dark and violent nature of the clouds.
Over the course of the twenty minutes, the human drama continued to play out before me and since my presence did not affect the subject, I continued to photograph, leaving my mind open to the possibilities that might present themselves to me. The tension is always there in a situation such as this. Constantly evaluating what is before my lens and trying to imagine what my best vantage point and intent is as it relates to the subject. I managed to stay with the subject for twenty minutes, but the situation did not last, as the sky became less dramatic and the figures became less noticeable as more people moved into the subject area.

 

 

 

 

(I did choose the horizontal format in one image to show the change in the scene and the relationship of the machines – the motorcycle, the boy, the man with the hat and  the ship.)

 

I photographed this subject, both as a photographer and a teacher. I wanted to show how staying in the same place after the first exposure can result in many valuable images. Why stop photographing after the first image has been made?

 

 

 

 

 

Also posted in Social Documentary/Street Photography, Street Photography Tips, Street Photography Workshops, The Human Condition, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , |