Here is another batch of look up/architectural/street photos from our last walk in the city. It was early Sunday so not many people were out to actually photograph.
As many of you know, Jordan and I have been going down to the city to do street photography for almost a year or so to stretch our photographic skills. It hasn't been without its challenges and I can remember sitting in coffee shops drying off or hiding from snow/wind. Photographically, it has become one of my favorite genres, because I get to spend time with Jordan, and create photos, while feeling more connected to something bigger. This type of work is hard to do as introverts, but I feel both of us growing.
Last month, Jordan found out about a program called Art in the Windows and asked if I would be interested in applying for a grant. I said I was, but I was so busy with landscaping and drawing that he would basically have to do all of the leg work. He did and we were awarded a 750 dollar grant and now have our artwork on display on Salina Street in downtown Syracuse until September.
To celebrate, we would like to have a small get together at the Evergreen on Water Street around 6 pm on August 3rd. Our thoughts are to gather there, then take a gallery walk to view the images, which should not take long as there are only 6. Then, go back to the Evergreen to share a few drinks. We would love for you to join us!
Street photography is such a hard genre to pin down.
Is good work photos of people in spaces, and what is a good ratio of humanity to space? What if you capture a lonely street scene with only one person, vs a street filled with onlookers? What percentage is the right percentage?
Anyway here are few images from our last outing where, incidentally, very few people passed by early on a Sunday. So this is "street-ish."
In the time it took for us to take a few steps toward William, I thought about how truly lucky I am for all of the things I have been given and how generous life has been with me.
He looked up from his seat and asked, "Can you spare some change?", as I dug clumsily for my wallet.
I handed him some money as I asked what his name was.
"William Wallace," he said in a deep, muffled tone.
I asked if I could take his picture and I tried to get him to smile a few times as I knelt down and took three frames, but each time he kept his hand at his pocket, and gave me the same stare.
As I am leading up to the evening where Jordan and I are having a small gathering to show off our street work used for the Art in the Windows grant I wanted to reflect on something that has become so apparent lately.
"This is a world of action."
Getting the ideas for anything is the easy part, and you can say anything that someone will let you, but the real work of this world is still a physical one. Hitting the streets every single week, camera in hand in good time and in bad is what the essence of photography or dare I say life is.
I almost want to tell people who have such positive comments about my photography that it simply isn't the eye or the training or the gear, it is just going out to do the work. I want to be honest, I come away with far more terrible pictures than usable ones and I am no different than anyone reading this story.
"I made a commitment, that's it, that's the dam secret."
To be as honest and transparent as possible I will post some images from the more recent outing on Sunday. These are not instagram bangers, but are so important to the constant march of practice.
My alarm went off sometime before 4:00am, but I'm not really sure. When your alarm goes off that early, you jump awake as if something is wrong. It took me a second to realize why I was getting up. Bryant pulled up in his white pickup at 4:45, but heroically he had already been up for hours. Urbex is a labor of love.
Last night we had decided that today would be a "School Day," and that we would go to 2 locations, both beautiful abandoned schools. One gritty and one pristine.
My plan was to just enjoy the work, move slower, and break out of my comfort zone by using mostly a 50mm prime lens. On your second time around these places you are afforded few luxuries except maybe taking a deeper cut photographically. I decided to really work the details and to notice the finer points. I would read the text, and see things I had not seen on the first go around. I let the lens shape me and the work.
Also I knew Bryant was really good at what he does, and it would be hard to compete with his photographic skill. I wanted to compliment the images he was taking, and maybe take the less obvious images. Enjoy the images below, I will add more as I process them. Jump over to nightfoxcreative.com to see more of Bryant's work!
You can't take practice, especially photographic practice, for granted. Not only is it wonderful to walk and experience this world, this world, is one of action. There really is no substitute for putting good stuff in front of your lens. No new gear, no matter the features, the sensor size, or the click of the shutter will move you forward faster than good old fashioned practice.
Today I went out for two hours and did my usual setup. 2 hours, in 2 locations, one hour per location. I started down on a side street near SU, for the first hour and then followed up, with an hour near the Niagra Mohawk building.
Did I come up with amazing images? No, not really. But that isn't the point.
Jordan had been trying to talk me into this one for quite awhile. We had scouted it, but for some reason I just wasn't really into it. Well I have to say he was 100% right. What an amazing spot! We went through an overgrown lot to a small local gift shop that closed about 10 years ago. Jordan wanted to get into this spot for years as it has been rumored to be torn down soon for new development. We just could not let this place get demolished without documenting a spot as special as this. This location specialized in Christmas decor and also farm fresh fruits and vegetables. Sadly spray paint and damage from young people had taken it's toll on this place.
Story behind the Photos: “ Signs” We wanted to take an RV trip across New England but that got scrapped as soon as we saw the price. It was cheaper to fly to San Francisco and spend a week exploring the Bay and going to wine country. She had no idea I was going to propose. She loved wine, lights, and fancy dinners and I knew if she was going to be my wife, this was the perfect place for us to start. Weeks previous I had landed a huge landscaping job and I was stressed from the pressure cooker to exceed my own expectations. I was distant and I blamed it on the job, but I was nervous about a ring, a proposal, and the resulting marriage. A loner by birth, I was scared. How does one even go about proposing? I have to admit, I wanted a book, or a concise Youtube video on the topic, but the way someone else does it is irrelevant. How you propose has to be about you, and her, and the time has to be right. You just have to know, you have to feel it with every ounce of your being. I leaned against her parents kitchen counter and asked if it was ok if I married their daughter, and they said yes. I secured a diamond, and the trip to here began. On the trip, I was acting really weird, paranoid, and a bit distant; it was hard not to. I thought I would lose that dam ring. I kept checking my bag, almost like someone who is nervous about setting their alarm for work the next day. Checking, rechecking, every time she went to the bathroom, I double checked that damn ring. We spent a few days exploring San Francisco, then rented a car to drive up to Napa Valley for the night. At Sterling Winery we rode a gondola up to the top and I knew this was the place. She had a beautiful dress on and looked so good, I lost my train of thought. Every time I went to drop down on a knee, someone would come by. I was sweating, and gave up; I couldn’t do this with anyone else around. On the way back down on the gondola I gave myself a mental pep talk and came up with a plan. Closer to the car there was a secluded vineyard and I could lure her out there with the bait of taking a few pictures. She agreed and we spent a few minutes taking picture of each other. I saw my chance and got down in that soft dirt, and here we are today, married with a beautiful daughter. I wondered back then if I had seen a sign, or knew, that it was right. How in this life of endless choice do we choose a direction? When I got home I developed my images and saw this grape leaf that overlooked our proposal. If you look closely you can see a perfect heart shape cut out of the center of the leaf. What cosmic energy had caused nature to leave us that sign? I’ll never understand, I just know to trust it.
4. Story behind the Photos: “Through the Eyes of a Child.” It’s no secret I love the Fair. A capstone of the summer heat, you can clearly see the diversity of people, running into limitless excess. The air is always hot, with an ever-changing scent of fried food and the smell of warm, over-crowded people. The scent changes with every few steps you take. For a person who likes to study people through a lens, the Fair is what I would call a target-rich environment. Every type of photography exists and can be taken at the fair. I work the barns for animals and the farmers that care for them, the night to get long exposures of spinning rides, and the people for the street photography potential. It’s a safe place to practice photography and you don’t have to bring rations. Here is a photo of Gracie enjoying the fair from her stroller with her parents, Mike and Jamie. Adults can rope off the sensory overload of the fair, but how can the child make sense of what the fair is? Strip away all of your clear logical thought and understanding, then you’ll look at the fair through the hearts and minds of children. The reflection inside her glasses is exactly what the fair looks like to me, when I think of what it looks like to her.
3. Story Behind the Photo: Letchworth Camping “The bigger picture.”- As you age, you see your life through a different lens. Around age 26 your prefrontal lobe starts to firm up the way a fresh egg firms up on a cast iron skillet. This is your brain on change. You start to understand the world from a bigger perspective and you’re able to see the world from more places than just from the bridge of your nose. My twenties was mostly a haze of me and my ego, what I wanted, and I how I thought I should feel. My thirties started to become a little more complex, a little less about me. Instead my thirties kept writing the story of the energy behind the matter we see everyday. In your twenties you see the house, you sit in the living room; you take both for face value. “I’m in a house, in a living room; it’s nice,” you would say. In your thirties you see a home, you see the love, you read into the deeper story of the people that occupy that space. That living room starts to become less about the stuff, the matter, and more about the energy. I got little glimpses at first, little vignettes about parts of life I disliked. When I was younger I thought boredom was to be avoided at all cost. I thought boredom was the absence of meaning because I only saw the exterior shell of the situation. In my thirties boredom became a special treat. I learned to embrace boredom when I had it. I also was able to realize gratitude in where I was, who I was with, and how the day unfolded. I learned to own gratitude. I started to see when I looked critically at my life that I should not look at the face value, but deeper below it. Here is a picture I took of my wife and our thirties at Letchworth State Park, overlooking the falls below. Our first camping trip of many, where boredom would be welcomed.
2: Story Behind the Photos: Quiet Riot. You would have to live under a rock to not know teaching and learning are under attack in this country. As teachers we feel helpless. Cogs in a machine helpless. Jen, Larisa, and I quietly boarded a coach early in the morning in East Syracuse and sped off to our state capital. It was like heading into war. Bus after bus of soldiers. No guns, our weapons, were markers and grammatically correct signage. A polite group of people who were sick and tired, of being sick and tired. You could see it on their faces. We knew complaining about our plight in the teachers’ lounge was going to bring no relief, but how on earth would shaking a sign matter? We went that day to make a very small ripple in the universe. There was an uneasiness in the group as we stepped off the last stair and were led to the rally. We had never trained; teachers are good at turning the other cheek. I brought my camera to tell the story. I walked around the reflecting pool of Empire State Plaza and headed to the back of the crowd. It was a huge concrete oasis, unusual buildings with large facades lining the rectangle. There was a lot of shouting and lots of signs and I had to get away. My introvert kicked in and I needed quiet time. I walked to the back, what seemed like miles away from the shouting crowds. You could hear the megaphones in the far distance. On my way back I spotted this man, sitting on a bench, fighting his own way. No screaming, no shouting. Just a determined man with his Diet Coke. I asked if I could take his picture, and he quietly said yes. I wonder what he taught? Was he an introvert or a pacifist? He held his NYSUT umbrella and fought the good fight. He was making a ripple in the universe. I wish I had asked him his story, I bet it was a good one. Here is the photo of the man that day.
Story behind the Photos: “Gratitude” The young waiter said loudly, “too much, too much” after we had tried to order one item from each section of the menu. He was trying to protect us from ourselves. We were still trying to figure out ordering on our second night in Rome. We sat for hours, marveling at the food off the beaten path. The restaurant looked like a movie set, a movie set of what an Italian restaurant was supposed to look like. Drinking wine and saying how lucky we were too many times to count, was to become the theme of the night. The emotion was a mix of excited, in love, and scared shitless for me. It’s hard to be out of your comfort zone, to be that person, who has no idea how things work. I was glad I married the woman across the small table, she was a great travel planner, and went with the flow in new situations. We decided over espresso to go for a midnight walk, one of our favorite activities. A quiet stroll would round out the night nicely. We payed, looked around one last time, and knew that was the best it got. That feeling deep in your gut of supreme gratitude, we both had it. Our gratitude tanks were full. We stepped out on the street and started our walk, no direction at all. I used my camera and tried to capture the feeling of the moment, but I knew it was futile. The water on the cobble streets, the warm spring air, the smells, my camera would miss all of that. Here is one of the photos I captured that night on the walk.