Tuesday, December 30, 2008

As an artist, and especially as a photographer, I'm always editing myself. My first instinct was to simply ignore this shot because it's so common. At least for my work anyway... it's just another street shot of retail advertising.

But I worked with it a bit and I think it really has a great balance now. I had to crop it a bit, but now there's an interaction between the mannequin heads that didn't really exist before. The upper central figure with the fur cap kind of peers out at you while the two in the front are more focused, yet they're not focused at all - they look in different directions! And then there's the head to the left with the gray cap that seems to be looking at them. I had to take out some stuff at the bottom for that to happen, and that also allowed for a more balanced color palate...

...there's the faceless purple and blue head in the center left that works color-wise with the pink in the background, and that's contrasted, but also complementary to the brown and green of the fur hat in the center and the green Eagles cap. The blue of the denim cap is the only thing that really seems out of place, but even that's balanced in some way by the sleek gray hat to the left. And if you take that line and skew it on a central axis just a bit counter-clockwise there's a dark grey hat to the left and a black hat to the right behind the central head with the fur cap.

Hmmmm... here I am looking at photos as if they were paintings or drawings. I tend to focus on balance and shape. Maybe I should just do more painting!!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

There's a certain light that occurs at sunset in late October. It's as if light is bouncing off the clouds and lighting everything from above. The world around you seems to glow. I haven't really caught that here, but I tried.

Still, I like the composition and balance. I like the way the black ladder stands out at first, and then later on the white fire escape pops out. The way the darkened windows glow like embers.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

This was taken outside-looking-in, on the top floor of the New Museum in NYC. I think that the reflection is interesting; and the clarity through the small, clear square of window; but also as you scan from left to right, the shape of the blue building with the water tower, the diagonal movement of the white beam that connects with the reflection of the building in the center, and then the sharp dark figure and the way his legs kind of mirror the angle of the beam. Additionally, I kind of like the way that the setting sun is kind of cut off by the frosted glass. The whole thing for me has a whole kind of apocalyptic feel to it, and yet a super-modern kind of feel.

Friday, December 5, 2008


More paper graffiti. (If anyone knows someone who does paper graffiti I'm working on a project and I'd love to get some input! Please help me get in touch). What I liked about this shot was the way the drawing stood out. The wall behind it is painted grey and it seems very cold. Also, it looks like there's a black and white photo to the upper right, which makes an interesting contrast, but the drawing wins out. Personally, I really like this stuff. I could take pictures of it all day, and then just really enjoy the artwork found within in. So thanks to the artists that do this - and not to the people that just spray-paint their "tags" all over the place. These kind of things are like little jewels of art placed all throughout the city giving us glimmers of culture here and there; and oddly enough, it seems like the artists that do these pieces know where to put them and where not to put them. They seem to respect that only certain areas are open for this kind of stuff, as opposed to the clowns who scratch their names onto the windows of city buses, or spray-paint store fronts or apartment buildings.

Anyway, what I really wanted to say was that as a photographer I find it really important to edit my work. I didn't really get a lot on my last trip to NY, and so I haven't posted much. I shouldn't even have posted this! There are some more interesting shots but they don't really cut it for me, so I'll just put them aside for now. Perhaps they'll someday fit together with other pieces to make a set. Or perhaps not.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


I don't know what restaurant this is in Manhattan, but it looks good. I'm sure it's less impressive, and more 'plastic' in person, with less richness and warmth, but it certainly appears welcoming here. The mirrored ceiling really gives it a lot of visual interest, and the reflections from the front window give it even more depth.

...just a nice snapshot that could have been taken in almost any large city.


This is a guy that was selling puppets at the Christmas Fair in Union Square in NYC over the Thanksgiving Day weekend. He wasn't mugging for the camera, he just looked like that. Well, he is actually a she, but that's a whole different story and not important here.

They say that people choose dogs that look like themselves.


I took this on a drunken night outside of a really cool bar called "The Gutter" in Brooklyn, NYC. It was raining lightly, and the chrome of the bumper reflected the blue sky above. The black of the body blends into the darkness of the street. It reminds me of something by Weegee (Arthur Fellig). Thanksgiving Day Parade. The one with the cab and the wet street. It's obviously not nearly as good, but I kind of get that feeling in the reflected blue sky. And I wonder what his pics would have been like if they'd been in color. I've certainly been influenced by him and Robert Frank. Hopefully I'll one day have something that comes close, but then again, there are so many artists operating in the same vein that my pieces probably won't make even the smallest ripple.

That said, as an image it's not much. There are plenty of pictures of cars that have interesting features. But I think it has an interesting feel to it. And I like it myself. It was a good night. I had fun. I felt alive. That's what it means to me.
When I'm out taking photos people often look at me like I'm crazy. They seem to be thinking "What the hell is he doing?", and I guess that's because their photographic culture is to simply line up the smiling people and click.

Anyway, this was one of those situations. I was on Madison Avenue taking a picture of the inside of a trash can - OK, I can see the disparity there. But that's kind of what I was going for. I was waiting for the light to cross and I saw this trash bag that said MADISON AVENUE BUSINESS IMPROVEMENT DISTRICT.

Hmmm. They're so upper class that they have printed garbage bags... ? The regular ones just won't do. Or is it that people wouldn't steal them if they're marked? I don't know. I just found it very odd.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I find it interesting that so far people have found what I've said about my photos to be just as interesting as the photos themselves. And I guess that makes sense as it adds to the story. Some photos work because you really have no clue as to what they are; and others work because you have an idea as to what's going on but you can't quite figure it all out; and still others work because it's all laid out there plain as day. My adding text helps to lay it all out.

On that note, I've had the idea of applying photos to luminous plastic rectangles and typing on the back of them, adding to their story (be it real or imagined), and I think that will work well. I'd originally wanted to do glass, with the photos encased in glass, but I haven't really researched that yet.

And I've always kind of toyed with the idea of making photos more than just sheets of paper, but solid things that you could handle. And adding something (story/text) to the back of it then clearly gives it more depth than just something that hangs on the wall. It would be an object that had feel and weight.

Anyway, this photo was taken in Union Square, NYC. I like the way all of the paintings have the same blue background. And I like the mix of personas: Mr. T, Tupak, Bob Marley, Barack and Michelle, Bruce Lee, etc. The other thing I find interesting is the combination of the colors to the left, the red awnings and red truck, and the blue and green of the recycling and trash bins. I don't think that the blueness of all of the paintings would work without some kind of colored anchor to keep it from becoming a big blue blob. And the green sweater of the girl that's passing through works as well too.

I've also cropped the top off of it, which gives it a bit more of a panoramic feel that helps it feel more real. Which is an interesting idea. We don't really see in squares or mostly square rectangles, we see the world in a more panoramic way. Why aren't more photos done at least a little bit wider?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I'm not sure what draws me to this particular wall in Hoboken, but I've photographed it many times.

I think it's the color of the sea-foam paint contrasted by the red of the brick beneath, and the way it's peeling. It's like skin torn from muscle. It has a very organic feel to it.

And in this specific shot, I think that the reflection of the light on the window to the left (giving it a grayish hue), contrasts perfectly with the smaller, but darker window to the right. It gives it some kind of balance. Both are 'caged', which is also interesting; and you can see that rust has dripped down onto the ledge below, kind of like blood.

Additionally, both windows have flourescent lights in their upper halves, but the one on the left is a touch darker, again, giving balance. And the shadows from the fire escape just round it completely out.

Just an interesting pic.
There's nothing unusual about this photo. In fact, there are probably hundreds of thousands of snapshots of this mural - that's the power of New York!!! But I'm drawn to this image for three reasons.

Firstly, Joe Strummer (John Graham Mellor) was an influence in my life and I appreciate that someone went to the trouble to memorialize him in this way.

Secondly, it reminds me of the kind of love/hate relationship I have with New York. In fact, this particular spot across from needle park holds memories for me (both good and bad). I even recall seeing this when it was first put up, and it's still there, which is kind of amazing. Eventually it will be gone, and this and the other million images of it will live on as part of its legacy. And of Joe's. (And I think that the idea of how we connect ourselves with works of art is really important, but that's a pHD paper that someone else is going to have to write / has probably already written many times before).

But beyond that, beyond my personal interests, it just kind of says "punk" to me. It's kind of trashy, but with a message. It has attitude. It's half of this and half of that, but certainly centered, or should I say more like something along the lines of being self-consciously grounded. It's not perfect, but it's in your face. It has presence, even if that presence is a little bit rough around the edges... it has grime!

And it's kind of universal. This could have been taken in London or Glasgow or Munich or Paris or even Anchorage, Alaska. Or maybe even New York City.

Monday, November 17, 2008

One of the things I like to do is just walk down the street and take pictures of groups of people. It doesn't really work with individuals because they see you coming. I like to catch them by surprise, and that works best when there are lots of people around and they're distracted. And having several people in the shot usually gives a range of different looks, and some interaction between the people in the groups.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


I think that for a photo to be really engaging it needs to have some emotion to it. A lot of my pics are simply design driven, with color and line creating shapes (as in SLEEVE). This one, however, has an emotional level to it. The lighting, firstly, makes it pop. There's the glow of the window onto the street, and darkness to the right. There's clearly someone there, but we can't see who it is. Then there are the posters, brightly lit and a bit washed out. To me that gives them a sense of urgency. It's not perfectly lit, and the exposure's not right, but it has to be that way. It has an immediacy to it. THEN, you add the content of the posters to it and there's a whole lot of "film noir" going on in the shot. Of course, just like a film, it's safe. We can see the lights of the city in the background, and we know that when it's over we'll walk out into the evening street as we always do.
Quite a few of the photos I take involve mannequins and store front windows. I'm not just recording already created or "found" images though (although I do have to credit the people who've put the windows together), I'm building upon what's already there.

I like the way that the reflections on the glass work with the images inside the window, and depending on where you move the camera you can dramatically alter the design. In a way, depending on how you shoot it, you're entirely changing the idea that the store-front designer created and writing your own story.

Finally, there's usually a great complexity that's achieved. Certain parts of the shot become little stories of their own (the word vignette popped into my head but I don't think that's quite the right usage). And they become layers to the greater piece. Of course, in the end it's just another store-front window, and if you show too many of them together they start to loose their charm.
This is another one that's basically about the color and the design. The images are good too, but it's really the way that your eye is moved about the plane; and the way that the pinkish block of the reflected building in the lower right is balanced by the weighty darkness in the lower left; and the way that the lighter colors of the upper middle and right are balanced by the darker black band (which also creates a triangle opposite the darker triangle at the bottom).

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I like this photo because it has a kind of vintage feel to it with the lettering on the window, and almost like a ghost-like quality as well. You can see the glass because it's dirty, and the colors are kind of washed out. That, combined with the blackness to the right gives it a kind of eerie feel.


Although this window display was intended as part of the presidential elections, I thought that the change of color to the icon was also a good representation of how the nation was feeling. The normal soft green of the copper oxide is warm and comforting, whereas the red expresses danger, anger, and perhaps fear. Yet at the same time, Liberty still stands proud and strong.

Monday, November 3, 2008


I find that people always make photos more interesting. I saw these posters along a construction site wall and found the juicy couture interesting enough to take a picture of. I liked the way the ripple paper matches the zebra and stripped stockings. The one with the delivery guy in the center is more interesting to me though. And I like the design of it. The rippled paper idea is still there, but it's just part of a fuller piece.

NYC T-shirt

What I like about this photo, apart from the bright yellow-orange of the T-shirt and the missing hand, is the stuff that's going on in the background. There's a reflection of a face, and a decorative building, as well as something amorphous to the left.

Face at the MoMA

This is an interesting photo in that it kind of looks like a face to me. I was at the MoMa Design store and I looked up above the checkout counter and there it was. Kitschy, yes, but not trite.


Although I initially wanted more contrast to this pic, I found the raw image that I got to be quite interesting as well. It appears almost prison-like. It's grey, and flat, and blocking. It's like a dull cage, all of which makes sense because it's designed to keep people out. But there's another level. The matte grey of the fence seems almost like armor, and the neon inside is like a fire within. It's heroic/romantic... yet it also kind of looks like a BBQ grill.


I'm not sure exactly where this image came from. I was in San Diego - I at least know that. And I know that it was something that was moving. Other than that, it just has a very nice depth of color with the rust and the sea-green/turquoise light to the upper left center. I like the composition and the balance. And you can't see the richness of the colors here, but it's pretty saturated. If I did this as a painting I think it would work very well.



I don't think I need to go into the history of this as it's very current. The photo is really just about the the composition and colors; the ZAPPA PLAYS ZAPPA just adds to it. It's just an interesting found image. All of the primary colors and white remind me of what made Mondrian famous. And the "NO TRESPASSING / POLICE TAKE NOTICE" sign is a little bit of a twist, but for exactly what reason I don't know. I guess because Frank was a little bit beyond the fringe. Nothing else really. Just a snapshot.

Monday, October 27, 2008

There's not a lot to say about this one that isn't immediately obvious. I like the way that the girl is laughing, either to herself or someone else, and the way that she's slightly out of focus. The black ceiling and white walls clearly draw your eye to the blueish windows at the back, but she has so much pull in her character and demeanor that it's all balanced. The drink with the straw in the front is kind of like the icing on the cake. It's a kind of secondary (actually third) focus point that balances everything, gives it all a little bit of energy - and with it's being alcohol, it ties it all together!
I thought that the color of the Obama poster worked really well with the colors of these houses. And in a way it almost looks like someone looking out of the house. It doesn't look quite like a poster... there's just a little bit of a double take needed. And I think the balance of the shot works well. I have another one at a different house that has a more of green/grey feel to it, matching the opposite side of the poster.

What I liked about this image was that I see a connection between the houses which seem middle class or even poor, and the image of Barack Obama. On another note, the poster says "HOPE", yet the photo has a very somber kind of feel to it. It's not sunny, and in fact, it almost looks like it's about to rain.

However, that is entirely imagined! These are actually very expensive town homes right off of South Street in Philadelphia, and, it was a sunny day.

Printed Graffiti

I find the interconnectivity between printed graffiti and photography really interesting.

Clearly it was an artist, or even a group of artists, that put these images on the side of this dumpster. And it was an actual graffiti "artist" who put the initial "tag" on before that. Then I've taken a photo of it, selecting a piece of the whole (creating a design layout), and put it out to a greater market than just those people that would see it passing by on the street.

In a way, the initial work was kind of like performance art. Or at least street art; or public art. But by capturing it, I've kind of altered that. It no longer has specific time or place. It no longer has the smell of a dumpster or decaying fish associated with it in some way. And it no longer changes visually as the sun crosses the sky. It's just 1/60 of a second of what it was.

I wonder how it would be perceived if I went one night and actually cut the panel out of the side of the dumpster... ? How would that look hanging on a gallery wall? Or in someone's hallway. Or bathroom. How would the taking of the actual piece of steel change everything? (Besides theft!?) And what if I filmed myself doing that? How would that change the concept of this image as art? Art that wasn't even mine in the first place?

I pretty much know why the initial graffiti artist does his thing, and to me that's really kind of just a waste of time and paint. Not that there aren't a lot of really talented graffiti artists out there (there are!), but I just find text-only "tagging" a little boring. (Perhaps someone's writing their PhD paper on graffiti text right now!?).

I'm more interested in why the artists that put up the paper scraps did it. And I think the answer is simply that that's what they do. As artists it doesn't really matter where their work is seen / shown. Or maybe they don't feel the work is good enough... they're just little drawings and by making them bigger and putting them out there they're becoming more important. I'd totally agree to a certain extent as size and presentation are certainly commanding factors in any piece. Or maybe these artists don't like the gallery system. Or maybe they can't get in. Or maybe they just want to share the work. Or maybe they see it as a stepping stone. Or maybe it's just fun. I don't have an answer. I only have questions. But I would hope that anyone who sees my photographs of these works would ask the same kinds of questions.