Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Two Trees

Boston Public Garden,  Spring 2013
I got a whole lot of work done this spring on Selected People, a series I've been working on since 2008. The series consists of a scene, usually around Boston, viewed for about an hour or so. I take hundreds of pictures, then using photoshop, I leave in selected figures. I never change their location or anything else, so these are actually documentary records. But I do choose what stays in, just the way your brain does in real life! Anyway, I did several new pictures this spring while the ideas were coming. Now I'm off in a day or two to present the series at Review Santa Fe 2013, an event in which photographers present their work to gallery, publishing, and museum people. The tree in the background is the same tree featured in one of my more popular pictures.

Tree, Boston Public Garden, 2008

Taking Pictures Then and Now

Boston Public Garden, Tulips, 2013
About five years ago, I did a similar picture to this one I just finished. The gestures people use to take pictures have changed quite a bit. In the older one, which was taken just a few yards from this one, you can still see people taking pictures in the standard twentieth-century manner, by holding the camera up to the eye. Others are using cell phones and digital cameras in the now-familiar modified praying mantis pose. The old camera-to-the-eye gesture was kind of dynamic. You could turn a little sideways and flex your knees and you'd look like a rifleman. Of course, picture-taking is a bit different, now, too. Here's the older picture, below.
Boston Public Garde, 2008
This second picture is one of the first I did in the Selected People series. It represents about twenty minutes and 80 exposures. The tulip one took about an hour to photograph, with about 300 exposures.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


Boston Public Garden, Spring 2013
I've been doing some new pictures in this series (called Selected People), voluntarily poking my head outside in early May despite the still cool weather. I've been working on this series since 2008 and lately it's started to seem attractive to redo some ideas I had early on in different form. The picture above is from 2013, the one below from 2008. With this recycling, I've been thinking a bit about what I'm trying to say. I realized that I'm interested in time, and sorting images, looking at people and types, but mostly I want to cram more life into my pictures than a traditional instantaneous photo allows (these are composites of hundreds of pictures taken with the camera on a tripod and added together back in the studio).

Esplanade, 2008

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Larz Anderson Park, Brookline, MA, late December 2012.
I've had the urge lately to continue my Selected People series, and here's a brand new picture to prove it. My wife Margaret loves to ice skate. I don't. But I agreed on a cold windy afternoon between Christmas and New Year's to go with her to Larz Anderson Park in Brookline, just a mile or two from where we live. It was what my wife's parents used to call a VWW--a veritable winter wonderland. In the past, a little trip like was unlikely to happen. But now, I carry in my wallet a driver's license issued July 12, 2012, the day I passed my driver's test (on the first try). If you're counting, it required 43 years of eligibility to make this happen. Not a terrible rate for me, since it took me, for example, 27 years to get an undergraduate degree (no, I wasn't enrolled the whole time, you wiseacre). We also, unbelievably, have a car. It's always been my theory that the car is as important a tool to a photographer as a tripod or any other accessory--probably more so. It's what gets the camera to where the photographer wants it--a moving  tripod, as I've called it before. So not only is this picture picking up where I left off in spring 2012, it's my first picture using a car as a necessary tool.

The photo is a composite, of course, like the others in the series. There are about 120 different frames represented in this picture and I stood out in the gusty 20-degree wind for about 25 minutes to take about 200 pictures. It took three weeks to finish it in Photoshop. When I went to pick Margaret up at the skating rink, she asked if had fun. I tried my best not to be rude, snide, abrupt, or sarcastic, but I fucked it up. I snapped that it's never fun doing these pictures, and I was freezing my em-effing ass off.  I doubt I really snapped, since my mouth was numb and the words probably came out as mumbles. But it never is fun. I am artistically bold, outspoken in both small personal matters as well as the great issues of our day, firm and foursquare as a family man whose fiber is impeccably moral, etcetera. But when it comes to standing there with my tripod, out in a public park, plaza, or street, taking pictures of strangers who could turn on me at any second, I am timid soul, nervously panting, shifting from foot to foot, putting all my energy into looking comfortable--as if I were harmless (really, truly, I am!), as if I belonged. I don't. I'm sure I looked like a pedophile-terrorist. But the picture seem worth the discomfort.

A blue light hovered over the snow. The brown trees caught the final orange rays. The atmosphere turned a dim maroon. I thought it was too dark to keep taking pictures. But my trusty if antiquated (2005 model) Canon (5d) came through, seeing better than my eyes.