Sunday, March 29, 2009

Teenage couple

Brynn works at Bread Alone in Rhinebeck, NY once a week. We arrived just as they were closing, and she was sweeping up when her friend came in. She was so pleased to see him she nearly dropped the broom as she gazed at him. Her boss agreed to let her have her picture taken.

They stood together shyly and asked if they should smile. They light was fast fading. We were outside the café. We heard a hard knocking on the window from the inside. It was the boss saying, that's enough, finish the sweeping.

We spent another minute or two. I hope she still has her job.

Girl on Northern Boulevard

I found this girl on Northern Boulevard and eighty-fifth street in Jackson Heights, Queens. Handing her drink to another girl she was with, she said, without hesitation, "Yes," when I asked if I could photograph her.

Where she was standing, there were too many cars and too many people. We went round the corner on to eighty-fifth and found shade and comparative quiet.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Boy in a velvet jacket

A late breakfast at Bread Alone in Rhinebeck, NY, Caroline asked the waitress how large a large orange juice was and the question was answered by a woman in black at the table next door who simply raised her glass and said, "Large."

I hardly caught a glimpse of her, but when her six year-old son turned around from his Nintendo DS, I was immediately struck and asked the woman in black if I could take his picture. She said yes, and I then saw the other woman, also dressed in black and was struck again.

A few pleasant minutes of introducing ourselves and then the mother said, "We are twins." A few more minutes while we looked at wonderful pictures of them on their iPhone when they were six years old. At last now, free to get up, find a place to take the pictures and raise the camera to my eye.


And here is the mother of the boy on the left and her twin sister. All I needed to do was to swivel round in my chair and rest the camera on the back of it. This would ensure a camera shake free exposure (one tenth of a second); the light is from the café window.

Brooklyn Cowboy

Caroline twice spotted this man. He called himself the Brooklyn Cowboy, now retired from head hunting lawyers. He came to Rhinebeck to be with like minded people: "Those who read The New York Times."

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Girl on Myrtle Avenue

Myrtle Avenue, Bushwick, NY
The girl crossed the street under the subway tracks in a hurry, on her cell phone. Caroline ran after her. "My husband would like to photograph you."

"O.K." and continued with her telephone conversation.

"Let's move over hear a little, it's better light," I said, and she followed me, still talking on her cell phone. Then I began asking her about school and does she go to Manhattan etc. and she answered me still with the phone to her ear. I asked her to move a little this way and that.

"Call you back," she said, and snapped the phone closed. She stuck her hands in her back pockets.

"That's it, don't move." I took the picture and she hurried away, head down, pressing the keys on her phone.

Gentleman on Myrtle Avenue

Meanwhile across the street, Caroline spied a gentleman in a hat. He spoke no English, but he understood that I wanted to photograph him. He did not want to move from the spot where we saw him because he was waiting for the bus. I found this slit of sunlight shining through a gap in the overhead rail tracks only a few feet from where we were standing.

The bus came and he beckoned us to ride the bus with him. We wondered whether he wanted our company or did he think we too had been waiting for the bus.

Working at Walter's Unisex

At Walter's Unisex serious work is going on.

I took most of these photographs on Myrtle Avenue on my Nikon D40 with my forty year old manual focus F1.4 50mm lens. Attaching this lens renders the auto focus and exposure meter in-operative. It was back to using the best piece of equipment I have ever owned (beside my Rolleiflex 2.8E) which is the Minolta 111 exposure meter.

The reason I use the fixed focal length lens is that firstly it is incredibly sharp, secondly it puts the backgrounds nicely out of focus at wide apertures, and thirdly it does not look offensive which most digital zoom lenses do.

I also like the more measured process of taking a reading with the meter and then setting the camera by hand. I like too moving the camera if you want to be nearer or farther away, rather than zooming in or out. These little delays and distractions can allow the subject to slightly alter his or her position or stop thinking of how they are looking, thus putting themselves in a different and possibly better pose.

Waiting at Walter's Unisex

We walked in and asked if we could take some pictures and everybody said yes as though this is what happens all the time.

Resting at Walter's Unisex

Before the rush, rest while you can.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Graham Greene

At the request of Caroline's friend Peter, I am posting a photograph of Graham Greene.

This picture was taken around 1979 in Antibes, France on the terrace of his small apartment. I was commissioned by The Daily Telegraph Magazine, arranged through Greene's friend Auberon Waugh, son of Evelyn.

As I got out of the elevator I saw this very tall man standing in the doorway of his apartment, his right arm bent upwards as though he was supporting the top of the door frame. His greeting was, "Just been burgled." I looked more closely and saw the signs of forced entry, the jemmy marks and the split wood. This was shortly after the publication of J'accuse and the Nice mafia were after him.

He kept his wine
under the kitchen table in the box it was delivered in and we had a glass. We talked a little about Auberon Waugh and how very funny he was and then about Laurence Durrell who 's writing he found overblown.

The magazine wanted Greene to be with books in the photograph, not only in the background but also with one in his hand, or on his lap. Encouraged by me he refused, calling the idea banal. Editors often ask for obvious props and touches.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Two men and a boy

On our way to Beacon, NY today we saw these two walking along with a child in a cart. We turned around and I asked them if I could take their picture. Who were they? Friends and a good father we can see. (Who would have thought to take both the stroller and the son's favourite cart out for a walk?) The taller, thinner man, lived in Hopewell Junction and was the father of the boy, and the other man lived in Cold Spring. I quickly set up the camera and took the picture, hardly saying another word. (Children don't like their rides interrupted. Caroline talked to the boy who wanted to look back up the road where the cars were rushing by.) Then they said they had a train to catch and left. I hope they will get in touch.

The contrasts in shapes of the people, together with the two modes of transport for the child drew me to this picture. The sun was shining from over my left shoulder behind a thin layer of cloud which made it easier for the subjects to look at the camera.

Uptown Health, 125th Street

This girl works at the counter of Uptown Health
, a vegetarian restaurant and juice bar on 125th Street in New York City. We asked if I could photograph her. No, she said, she was too busy, but her mother, who is the manager, came to the rescue and stood in for her while I did the picture.

The photograph is lit by a skylight above her and a window behind me which filled the shadows.

Monday, March 2, 2009

A young Jack Nicholson

As we left the Roebling Tea Room in Williamsburg yesterday Caroline kicked me in the shins and hissed, "Take him," pointing to the man making coffee and tea, "A young Jack Nicholson."

She denies kicking me in the shins, but will do so in the future. At Dia, two weeks ago, I lost my nerve when we saw a woman with a helmet of gray hair and a military style raincoat with a belt
broad enough to carry a sword. I let her slip away without asking if I could photograph her.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Loaf of bread

Food and wine have played a large part in my life, mostly eating and drinking it but also reading about it. I was about to list a few writers I've liked, but got stuck at Elizabeth David. I have admired food photographers, Robert Freson and Irving Penn in particular, but have never tackled it myself. Here is a loaf of bread on a fifty year old bread board.

Girl in Bensonhurst

On the advice of Heather, (see January 6th posting) we drove to Bensonhurst, NY on Saturday to photograph a woman who worked at the Istanbul, a fast food restaurant on Bay Parkway.

"Every time I go there," Heather told us, "I just can't keep my eyes off her." That seemed a good recommendation.
We found the Istanbul and there was the woman. She stood behind the counter taking the money. We looked, neither of us saying anything.

"Can't be her," I said.

"No, can't be her," Caroline repeated. "I'll ring Heather."

"Chubby cheeks, short black hair slicked down, large?"

I saw that Caroline was being told that it was indeed her. I wondered yet again about the question of who the camera likes and who knows who the camera likes.

After lunch we walked back towards the car. A young woman passed us. Caroline and I looked at each other as if to say, now there's someone, and without a moment's hesitation Caroline was off down the street to ask if I could photograph her. This was difficult because the street we were on had an overhead subway track running above it with a train passing. Caroline shouted and the girl removed her iPod earphones. Her mother and her brother were with her and were on their way out to lunch at Burger King.
Her brother, who is about he same age asked if he could also be photographed and his mother said no,"This is your sister's thing."

The girl is twenty and never liked high school, did not graduate, but now is trying to get her General Equivalency Diploma
. She loves fashion she told me. We gave her the URL of this blog. I hope she will see the picture and find a job she likes.