Portfolio Series, Number 1

After consulting with my Wife (pending) and my own artistic instincts, I’ve decided to change the direction of this blog. To date, it’s been largely an exploration of my photography, one photo at a time. However, I think that has run its course. In addition, I already have an online gallery for that purpose at Firewing Photography. I’ve even put together a slideshow of my favorites.

That’s all well and good, but it does little to explain why I took a shot or what I saw, or even the message I was trying to convey. Anyone who’s ever seen me shoot will tell you I work very fast. That’s not unintentional; I want the shot to be taken by my “inner self” with little interference from the logical editor that dominates/stagnates my vision. So, more often than not, I don’t even know what I was responding to until after the shot.

Lately, I began to wonder what would anyone say if they stumbled into Maria’s and my gallery, saw my shots, and wanted to know more. If any of my work survives me, would the message in the photo be understood, or would it get lost? Not having the answer, and seeing that people tend to respond more to my words than my solitary photos, I thought I’d try to unleash my inner artist and leave more than just the pictures. My intention is to take the best of the words, if they come, and also place them with the photo on Firewing. But here is where I — for the first time — merge the visual me with the auditory me. Let’s see how it goes.

The first half-dozen shots I chose at random, from Firewing, starting at the first photo. Want-to-see-it-here-it-go.

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It was shortly after 10 a.m. on a foggy London morning, in December 2013. I’d just arrived in the West End after an overnight flight, too early to check into my hotel just across from Hyde Park.  I was meeting Maria in person the next day, for the first time, and my endorphin level was through the roof.

Love is like crack, without the aftershock withdrawal.

After stowing my bag with the concierge, I grabbed my Nikon D600 and headed across the street to take the first photographs I’d taken outside of the U.S. in over 20 years. My first shots were my best of the day, of the Marble Arch, with traffic barreling past in the late morning, coming the wrong way down the street. It was only my 2nd trip to the grey lady and that stoked me even further.

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Crossing into the park, the gentleman reindeer was the first person I saw, quietly pushing his carts through the park just as the morning fog began to wilt in the bright, rising sun. The word “hobo” whispered through my head, but I dismissed it, searching for something more serene, more at peace with his lot in life. I stopped again at reindeer and clicked the first shot. Unlike the wanderers at home, he asked for nothing, but simply made his bearded way towards the southeast. Although I’d seen myriad people like him in countries like the U.S. and Mexico, or in Europe or Africa, there was something about his gentleness that struck me. 2013 was a soggy winter in London, and even after I returned home, I found myself wondering how he made out.

I still wonder.

 

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This is Chinatown, in Washington, D.C. in the U.S. The dirty man to the left of the frame is just awakening from a likely alcohol-induced stupor. The well-coiffed tourists and affluent suburbanites pretend not to notice, as do the patrons in the Spanish tapas restaurant  almost directly opposite him. A husband and wife see me and make eye contact just as I press the shutter for the first time. They are focused on wondering why I’m shooting them. The wife gives a semi-smile. Her mate strides confidently.

The sleeping man stirs awake. He sits up. Now they see him, having magically appeared through the fairy dust of my camera. He’s not invisible because the large man is photographing him. Why is the large man bothering that poor fellow?

Why indeed.

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I thought this dude was bug nuts. He gyrated, twisted, and boogied his five-and-a-half-foot-tall butt off. His trilby is cocked at just the right angle — not aggressively, but confidently. His boom box (which I thought extinct) is muffled by his headphones. So he boogies, silently drowned out by the city traffic. His dance was stilted and I, former boogie prince, laughed in judgment. Moments later, the human tide swept past him and he missed not a beat, while no one seemed to even notice him. Instead, they spotted me, wondering why I was taking up space on the sidewalk.

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

It’s what crazy people do, I suppose.

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This is one of my favorite shots, because I had exactly one second to get it. This is Washington’s Memorial Day parade. At the rear, in the grey t-shirt, is actor Gary Sinise, doing what he does: support wounded warriors. In front and next to him, two American heroes spot me and my camera, and for a moment, make eye contact. I am still honored in a way I cannot explain. I’m just a clown with a camera. I wonder if the soldier in the rear thinks I judge him, or if he knows I am awed by his service.

At the right, is a lovely lady who also gave more than we should have asked. Her smile is genuine. I remember Viet Nam, the war I was barely too young to miss, and how no one waved flags at those soldiers when they returned home.  For a moment, I almost put down the camera, embarrassed at intruding on their time in the sun.

But only for a moment.

 

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10 thoughts on “Portfolio Series, Number 1

  1. Hello Bill
    I have long been an admirer of your writing. You have such an amazing ability to write in such descriptive prose.
    What I find really interesting about your recent choice to further improve your blog; is that when I as the follower look at your superb images; I immediately put my own interpretation on them.
    This new concept means that I can happily still do this only now I get more of an insight as to your thoughts and actions when you were shooting it.
    I get to learn more about Bill the photographer.
    I honestly think you are a gifted individual and just hope that your writing serves to further enhance the images captured; and doesn’t take too much of the readers concentration or focus away from the beauty of your images.
    I strive to make my own words more vivid and to flow in a more natural manner. You Bill; have the gift of not only possessing observance but being competent and skilled enough to craft your observations into words.
    I hope this makes send. I really look forward to seeing this new approach in action.
    Seasons Greetings my friend to you and your lovely partner. Here’s to 2015
    Regards
    Bob

    Like

    1. Bob,

      Thank you, as always, for your kindness, your encouragement, and your friendship. I understand what you’re saying and take it seriously. I will make sure I don’t try and channel so much of the ‘writer’ Bill here that my photographs get lost. I think, mainly, I’d just lost why I take photos in the first place.

      For those of us who shoot on the street, it’s more than just the images, isn’t it? We are people watchers, at the core of it. We see bits of life and hope that we can share how it moved us. It’s a delicate balance. Maybe you and I (and Maria) are the first of a new bunch. Maybe we are street photojournalists, documenting the ‘ordinary’. When I first started this blog, I’d even called it ‘Ordinary Celebrities’.

      I hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday season. I’ll be tooling around East Preston in the UK with Maria. Let’s hope for a sudden burst of tropical sunshine. 🙂 Cheers, my friend.

      Like

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