So this is it, the first post on this new journey. A funnel, a collector, a dispenser of information. I can’t say I know where this is headed, but I can say that I have a will to learn and share, hence the funnel and dispenser.
I wish to learn through photography.
Yes. Learn about our society, history and economics, with a twist of culture and customs to brighten the load.
A mix of Chopin and fresh coffee accompanies this first post. These two have both stood the test of time, Chopin being from the 19th C and coffee a couple of centuries earlier than that. Much like photography.
Let’s not get into the history of the technicalities of photography; rather, let’s explore how it too withstands time.
The photography I am most interested in is the type that provides a sense of history, of place, of events, of our passage. The coming together of elements, perceptions, expressions, placement. Click. That all it takes.
I have the famous Tank picture in mind when writing this. Taken by Josef Koudelka. I look at it, view it, admire it. I question it, I analyze it, I succumb to its power.
I challenge any viewer to not be floored by this image. I question how can a simply dressed man, with a flag as apposed to a soldier with armor and a gun, be standing on a tank. That’s not the image we see on media outlets when we view the ongoing wars now-a-days. I wonder what the smoke in the background is about. I see a burnt truck to the right. Is that a civilian’s truck, or an army truck? And what closes the image are the people, apparently admiring the spectacle. Victory. One would think.
It’s the power of these images that surpass encyclopedic information that can be read and digested easily, in particular in our current times.
I am by no means an historian, nor have I have ever been too keen on reading massive books that told me a story in a sequential order. Yes, I went through the typical schooling history, main events, and a general place of history.
But rather than being a general practitioner, I like to look at the photos and grow the story outwards.
What are those people on the left feeling? Was there a sense of relief? Were family fathers happy again because they could go to work regularly once again? Was the cavalier on the tank satisfied that his long fought battle was now over? How do you convey that through history books?
With Art, you can. Literature, painting, photography, music, movies. These tell a story.
But why does this picture stand out? Is it the leading lines to the tank and the last track in particular that gives it depth? Is that apparently majestic building in background, that emerges from the two stacks of smoke? Is it just the subject, the black-shirted gun-less soldier on the tank? Or is it the tonalities of the blacks, white and grey?
It’s all of the above, with the story behind it. The Prague Spring. A tumultuous time in Czechoslovakia in 1968 where the then Prime Minister wanted to improve the tight conditions put forth by the Soviet Union. That’s enough to put the picture in context. I’m sure the particular date of when it happened, the time, the events leading to the shot and much else are of interest and need to be recollected for humanity, but not today.
The art. The photo. Does it not truly express the valor of that gentleman? Is that not the power of the image? For me, that’s what makes the picture.
These photos, be them in war, hard conditions, daunting scenes, are what inspire me. Let the story be told from the inside out.
Although I always hear of successful photographers having picked up their first camera at early ages, I didn’t. I had cameras, point and shoots, that I would bring during my travels. It wasn’t until my 30th birthday that I finally had the tool to express my voice. I always turn to Sebastiao Salgado’s story – studied economics, but in his mid twenties took up photography to express his story. Koudelka is another with a similar story.
Yes, that voice that is attracted to observing, learning, documenting and teaching. Social documentary, street photography, street portraits, urban landscape. The types of photos that show the passing and interaction of humans in time.
The picture below was taken a week ago and it was the first one that I was satisfied with. I was pleased because it gave me the feeling that I had photographed what I was looking for. It wasn’t luck, it wasn’t preparation, it wasn’t the technical settings. It was, as Cartier Bresson once said, the alignment of the head, heart and eye.
Hamtramck is a small city outside of Detroit. It was once home predominantly to Polish immigrants, but in the past years it has become primarily an Arabic community. I wanted to go see it albeit the not the safest part of town.
I question. Why was there an empty shopping cart? Why was there a trash bag in front on the porch?
The gentlemen were looking at the Detroit FC soccer match. But were they really? Soccer, or football, whichever you prefer, has always been a sport that has been viewed everywhere but the US. So why were there so many Detroiters going to watch it, whereas these two gentlemen were holding on the fence, with a self explanatory Stop sign on the right? On a side note, I focused on the hand because that spoke to me.
The mural, a beautiful mural. Near to where I had parked that day. A women with her veil? Was it done to represent the local community? A homage? Yes. That was the story. I was there, I saw it, I was intrigued, I made the picture that represented my viewing. The mural is spectacular, but I was lured in by the reflection, and the trash in the foreground. Why would trash be there if not thrown by someone? Nonetheless I had discovered the mural and yes, from the inside out, I read up on it after I had luckily come to see it. It was completed by artist Dasic Fernandez (instagram profile) It’s intent is to honor Arab Americans (full article here).
Photography, a means to discover, learn, teach and document our times.