These photographs are observations of things I’ve seen roaming down streets and elsewhere. I find myself still interested in the small curious things I see and the gestures people make when interacting with each other.
These most recent photographs are a continuation of my earlier street photographs done in the 1970’s. Growing up in the city as a teenager hanging out on street corners and local playgrounds, listening to bands play peering through the side door windows of small bars, too young to go inside…the street photography pictures of Robert Frank and others seemed to fit my way of describing contemporary things, as well. Same in the present. My interest is in encountering both the expected and the unexpected as is usually the case in most street photography. Typically, my approach is spontaneous. Anything I see, any moment I sense or feel that is about to take place, at any given moment may have a certain “aura” about it. Or, enough to intrigue me to look to make a picture. Making pictures quickly appeals to me. On the street almost everything can potentially be photographed. Anticipation, being on high alert at all times is an important aspect of this kind of picture-making. I try to consume all that can be seen. As my friend and once mentor Ben Lifson whose brilliant thoughts on art I paid attention to often once mentioned to me in a conversation, “you do not necessarily have to have a theme in mind when you are out there making pictures”…he could see that…”I like that you simply go out and feel your subjects’ existence in the world…there is an honesty…and an amplification of what you and the camera sees.” It felt true to me. I didn’t necessarily need a particular “theory” in mind although I had my own deep down philosophical ideas and romantic notions about art. And, about music for that matter. My other heroes were several, including Henri Cartier-Bresson, Diane Arbus or Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander. Those were some of the photographers most people were influenced by at that time as they were the ones to learn from. And today, I still find inspiration from their work. Today, it might be considered “old school” to pay attention or even emulate that way of thinking or photographing, but I don’t believe that’s dead. What has changed I believe is the technology that has intruded into people’s social lives to the point of almost no return. It’s still relevant to photograph in the traditions of those before us. But, the technology today has claimed peoples’ ability to engage in an emotional or conversational exchange when observing people. In order to make a photograph in public, one must be patient in a genre that tries to defy patience. Things have changed. People are almost or fully engaged in the smartphone while walking down the street or sitting in the park. It’s hard for that device not to be a part of the modern street picture. It’s like an element mixed into the language and configuration of the picture. I try to communicate the disconnection in relation to the environment the figure is within. A man or woman leaning against a building peering down and engaged in the phone is not always a compelling image, but nevertheless, smartphones are a part of the repertoire of items people now carry. No different than a pocketbook or an umbrella, etc. It seems almost inevitable that it is included as part of a gesture now. Sometimes waving down a taxi also includes holding the smartphone in the hand. Gestures have changed now unless it’s in a controlled picture where the photographer is directing how the photograph is to appear. It’s hard in to avoid people looking down at a phone on the street. Hard to avoid, but relevant to modern times. In a directly opposite approach, I try to avoid the lack of emotional interaction between people. I’m still looking for the “touch” of affection in a deep conversation. It’s become a new kind of environment to look for when observing now, when at one time it was more common. In previous generations of photographs, it was more likely and more common to find people interacting with each other in varying ways. The main ingredients were almost always the gestures of ones hands, eyes or the rhythm of the body in a frame. More attention to color was necessary because it was harder to control, as well. These were quite common and necessary thoughts and practices only a few decades ago. Observing a “new” kind of human behavior in the lack of “emotional connection” in modern society today because of the phone clutched in so many hands now poses some challenges. That feeling of sterility between people at social gatherings or lack of engagement between people while they look down at the phone is the subject pictures today. People are also defenselessness and unable to hide with such a proliferation of cameras. The iPhone is a hand held camera that IS more invasive than ever. Everyone seems to have some type of device in their pocket to take ones’ own picture or anything today. At the same time, ironically its inspired a growing sense of narcissism. I see that in making pictures on the street. It’s a new peculiar thing, but understood. I try to be aware of that and make pictures about the influx of this new technological device. People seem to convey an unsure feeling or a concern about how they might appear when they are about to be depicted in a photograph. It’s harder to photograph man’s relationship to his environment without the cell phone a part of it. There’s an ever growing desire to reproduce things photographically. And, the challenges of street photography continue.