It Was All a Dream

It Was All a Dream

This post is the culmination of the thread going through the last few. For those of you who’ve been around here for a while, you’ve seen photos from a project I’ve been working on called Quiet Brooklyn, or Painted Flowers.

It was one of those projects or sets of images that didn’t have a purpose yet, a way to describe it – literally I’ve had no idea the direction it was going in. All I knew was that it was fun and therapeutic and involved wandering around Brooklyn looking for interesting things and taking photos. 

This time, it involved escaping to quieter areas versus the chaos of my typical haunts.

I’ve just been collecting photos with the thought that I’d figure out what to do with them later.

But I never had a good sense of how to put it together. I had a sense of the feel I wanted and the type of moments I wanted. I knew I wanted it in color, a medium format look, and a lot of unique details and views. I wanted to create an environment and capture the spirit of the place, and its unorthodox beauty.

I think I finally had a breakthrough in this last week. Of course, we’ve been doing this portrait challenge and I’ve been kicking myself cause I haven’t had the energy for portraits. I’m back to work full time, doing a ton of portraits for work, and I’m just spent at the end of the day as I regain my stamina. 

Talking to people isn’t what I want to do with my personal photography at the moment. That will come back soon I hope as it’s always been a huge part of why I like to photograph.

But it also made me realize that this entire project was never really about people. I was searching for humanity and spirit but I was often not feeling that the portrait side of things was fitting in.

I enjoyed the portraits I took and the connections walking around, but when I tried to put them together, they felt like a separate thing. And similarly, I’ve been looking through books less focused on people lately and thinking about that genre more. 

I pulled out John Gossage’s, The Pond again. That’s one I haven’t been able to get out of my head. I’ve wanted to capture the wandering spirit of that book, the feeling of the journey through a place with hidden secrets, although what I’m working on is not as much about the mundane.

So I had an epiphany while looking at the work again. Why do I have portraits included in the first place? It almost felt like I had to include them. A survey of the area of course should have landscapes and details and portraits. That’s the formula. And I had a lot of portraits I liked.

But they don’t fit. I was overthinking. So I removed them. I want the spirit of people but not the people themselves. I included a few backs of people for effect and to put the viewer in their shoes but that was it. The flowers in the project are stand-ins for people and their spirit.

And suddenly, I feel completely different about how it’s coming together. I don’t know if it’s any good yet but at least it has more focus. And I changed the name to It Was All A Dream based on one of the photos and the song Juicy. We’ll see if the name sticks.

The song was possibly my most listened to of my childhood, and I’ve recently been listening to a lot of Notorious B.I.G. again the last few months after watching a documentary. The song is about him dreaming of his youth as life changed dramatically around him.

You can view a Blurb mockup book of 94 photos or a smaller set of 50 selects here.

The overall idea here takes my last few posts and I think codify’s them.

Push yourself to expand your skills. Work on people photography if that’s something you want to improve on, broaden your range. But be careful of forcing things. Don’t fit things in because it’s what you’re supposed to do or what others are doing. Find the flow that fits you and the one you enjoy doing.

And use these books, projects, the other photographers here as inspiration. Think about the projects that really sing to you and then figure out how to integrate that into what you want to do. Eventually things will click.

And take it step-by-step. What you think you’re working on now could end up being completely different in the end. Be open to that thought and flexible.

And most importantly, be kind to yourself through this process as you figure it out.

Photo Links!

I Hate People

I Hate People

The last few times I’ve photographed, I’ve wandered under the elevated tracks, so many trips there that it’s turning into a project all on its own.

I think when you photograph people it helps to have energy, a pep in your step. But eventually, it becomes more second nature. You see someone interesting and you can’t help but stop them.

But not all the time. That’s a state of mind that’s much easier when you’re into it. It’s an interesting question of whether it’s important to go through the motions or not. Or wait to feel it again.

And in the meantime, what do you do? You go wander the tracks – you daydream about living there in a trailer, quiet except for the highway above and streets beside.

You use the camera to go where you want to go, and if that is as far off the end of the universe as you can get, then wonderful. If it’s the corner of your couch, wonderful. Just bring a camera.

I’m going to keep this post short. We’re going to go on a little side tangent. Photographs without people, share more of those, and make them interesting. Or boring. This type of photography, whatever it’s called, is fascinating because you can create interesting boring photographs. 

If you look at photo books, that’s all the rage these days.

We’re going to share some non-people inspiration for the next few weeks, with some great help from Peter. A very significant portion of the interesting stuff shared on this site comes from him, or asking him for book examples. We all salute you Peter. And if anyone ever has some interesting non-people inspiration, please share!

The portrait challenge we’ll let go on for longer as well, and I will keep pushing that. I just want you all to get to the point where if you see an interesting person and you have your camera, you stop to say hi. To push yourself into more interesting situations.

And I think we all need a little more time to warm up to that.

But one thing that has troubled me for the last few portrait challenges is that they force you to focus so much on people. We need to develop both sides of things in tandem. And it’s not an inspiring challenge for those who aren’t feeling like interacting right now. What’s important for those of you like that, is to get your ass outside with your camera.

I know, it’s so much easier said than done.

But just get the hell out there.

And I don’t hate people, obviously, but sometimes I just hate being around them.



I have no idea how to start this post, so I think I’m just going to start by narrating my day. And pardon the too much information, but I promise this will transition back to photography in a way that will hopefully make sense. 🙂

So I had to spend yesterday peeing into a plastic jug for 24 hours, then had to shake it up, put it in a pre-labeled box, and I shipped it off this morning. The joys of almost 40.

The surgery I had a month ago was for a parathyroid gland in my neck, 3 out of 4 of them it turns out that randomly grew, raised a hormone in my blood causing my blood calcium to rise and then causing sudden kidney stones. Thankfully small and malleable ones.

The good news is that everything seems to be clearing, and I’ve been getting back to jobs somewhat, but it’s amazing how a rogue gland can suck nearly 6 months of your life.

But anyway, what does this have to do with photography?

When you don’t know what to write or don’t know what to photograph, just start somewhere, anywhere, what’s on your mind?

And it’s always good to start with a story. With writing or a spectacular photo, if that catches a person’s attention, then you’ll have them for the rest of the piece or series.

This winter, I haven’t had the energy to photograph, even with the small camera. So I just decided just not to. My world is still surrounded by photography but breaks are good. I’ve preferred walking and gaining strength without the camera, just trying to relax.

But I miss the camera too and I’ve been starting to change that finally.

I’ve also spent the last 4 weeks completely redoing my website, the hub of my business, a long overdue but massive project that I had put off for so long. Having two months of recovery made me realize that this was a rare time I’d have for that, and I wanted some good to come out of all of this. I’m excited to share it, it’s 20 years of learning about photography, writing, web design, regular design, and usability all put together.

As I’ve learned more and the site has progressed, it’s gotten much larger in scope and much simpler in design. And I think these principles are the same with photography.

When you’re starting out, you think too much. I mean, there’s so much to learn about photography, it’s like a fire hose, but that can stop you from the truly important questions.

What is an interesting photo?

What do I enjoy photographing?

How do I take photos that relate to each other, or organize them in a way that does?

How do I share an idea, capture a place, or tell a story?

Figure that out, point the camera at it, and snap. And then do it again.

And don’t feel pressured by the challenge. I walked today with my camera, for the first time in a few weeks and had no inkling to interact with anyone, so I didn’t and it was fun. Although a block from home I did see someone who seemed great for the Speedway project, so I did stop them briefly. 

I love photographing people and plan to join you all in this challenge, but I’m easing my way back into everything and doing what I can to make it as fun as possible.

This challenge is only for those who want to photograph people or are on the fence. It’s a push for them. If that’s not you, get out there and photograph a ton of trees and lampposts.

Seriously, the main difference between the Salon and other camera clubs is that here we love lampposts, or posts of any kind. The more in the way, the more chaotic, the better.

Now I’m going to try to get out twice next week, and progress from there. 

The drive is trickling back. Pardon the urine pun.

And stay tuned, we’re going to have a photobook talk, a virtual gallery show, and an ethics talk scheduled soon. And the zine is in the works. Just trying to get this damn site up by Tuesday first.

Photo Links!

Challenge #10 – Identity

Quick Challenge Details

1. Upload up to five photos for the Identity Challenge.

2. For the portraits, feel free to add include some text from your conversations with them.

File Naming: Firstname-Lastname-1.jpg (2, 3, etc.)

Text: Upload a text or word document (Firstname-Lastname). If this doesn’t work for any reason just email the text to me at [email protected]

Sizing: Same as for posting to the site.

Upload Link: https://www.dropbox.com/request/CMJmjfeorUFAGlDgZ0Xl

Deadline: Sunday, May 22nd

Challenge #10 - Identity

In the previous Home challenge, we explored our own identity through our surroundings, but in this challenge, we’re going to flip that around.

We’re going to explore the identity of others.

A lot of why we do street photography is because we like people, we like culture, we like telling stories with our cameras. The camera is a tool, a key that lets us into other worlds.

Last Spring we did a general portrait challenge which many of you did extremely well on. But I want to take it further this time around.

I want to explore the issue of identity in others. And this could be with strangers or people you know. It could be with friends or family as well.

Part of the goal of this prompt is to get you all more used to the idea of talking to people when you photograph them. And this challenge should hopefully be a segue to that.

You can tell people that you are doing a project for a class on the idea of identity. Then ask them how they see their identity. How do they identify? What does identity mean to them? Or your own way to ask this type of question.

Framing it as part of a project will help people understand and it’ll be a good way to break the ice.

If it’s possible and makes sense in the situation, try to take their portrait after, or while they’re talking about their thoughts on identity. This will warm them up and give you a chance to create a natural and intimate portrait.

And if you don’t feel comfortable talk about this yet with people, just work on taking portraits that show some intimacy. Asking about identity is not a necessity, just a prompt.

You might ask them how they would like to be portrayed along with their answers. How would they like to look in the photo?

A portrait can be a collaboration in this way.

If you want to read more about portraits, here is the post about them from last year. And here are the results from last years challenge to give you some inspiration. I can’t believe it’s been a year.

In addition to portraits, look and see if you can capture other images that show the idea of identity – maybe through scenery, candid moments, details. What types of photos can you capture that could make you think about someone’s identity.

These challenges are of course optional and you don’t have to do the portrait part if you don’t want to.

I also want you to think of the idea of ethics and the power we have with a camera to portray people how we want. And this power can be used in a good way but also in a misguided way.

We’re going to schedule a hangout soon to talk about this challenge and also to talk more about the issues of ethics in photography and street photography. Ethics will be a theme over the next few months.

And now that it’s getting warm, I also want you all to continue to think about your projects if you have one. It’s a good time to get some inspiration to continue and share those.

Now let’s break out of our winter bubbles!

Plant a Seed

Vin Sharma

Plant a Seed

Most of us are coming out of winter, cozy, confined, self-reflective, and everything enhanced by this awful pandemic.

The Home challenge embraced these things, and I hope you all continue to use the skills learned during this challenge no matter what we’re focusing on.

But the weather is warming, the pandemic is in a lull, and things are going to start changing all around us.

Rona Schwarz

I find late winter and early Spring a tough time mentally for photography. Things feel even tougher on the heels of this surgery. Everything feels slow. I feel less confident stopping and talking to people. My stamina is less (especially now), my hand-eye coordination even feels slower.

And the interesting thing is that most of these things are in my head. It really only takes like a week of shooting in good weather to start feeling in a groove again. But for that month while you’re transitioning it’s tough.

Marina Napoleoni

It only takes talking to a few people to start feeling more confident in that. Once the endorphins start flowing you start to get addicted to it again. The walks start getting longer and longer. The good photos start to trickle in and then they flow.

Even the inspiration for books and photography as a whole starts to grow. And hopefully, we can all start to inspire each other even more. For everyone’s sake here, I ask that if you’re able to right now, give yourself a little push.

Andrew Miller

Fight through the pain, as I need to tell myself now. (I know, I know, don’t push myself too much).

Next week is going to be the new challenge and we’re going to focus on getting back out there again.

Sometimes it’s important to embrace the darkness and sometimes you need to fight to bring out the light. Darkness can envelop you quickly and easily, but the light builds up slowly. It takes nurturing.

Mary Rogers

It’s like tending to a garden and planting the seeds. The seeds you plant today will turn into flowers before you know it.

Think about what you want to create this year. Create a plan for how much you want to shoot. Put it on a sticky note to remind yourself. Step back and think about the type of work you want to do. Do you have a project you want to build? What photos do you want to get for it?

Envision the work that you’ll create this year if you put in the effort.

Hopefully, inspirational and enthusiastic James is back – I’m working to plant the seeds for that as well. When it’s easy, it’s easy. But when it’s tough, it has to be built back up.

So let’s all inspire each other. And thank you for inspiring me.

Photo Links!

How Are You Feeling?

How Are You Feeling?

I want to first say that the work everyone’s been doing has been incredible in sharing who you are, where you are, and opening up. I love the intimacy, the memorabilia, the writing, the old photos, the stories.

Thanks for everyone checking up on me after that last anxiety set of images. That was so heartwarming of you all. These friendships are wonderful and I think there’s something about the people who are willing to sign up for a place like this that lends itself to caring and kindness.

Keep opening up. Who are you? What makes you tick? How are you feeling?

It’s scary to show how things really are, but it’s interesting to think about how you may be perceived through your photos.

We see perfect photos and perfect lives every day, one after the other on Instagram, and you know they’re probably only showing a side of themselves and to the whole story. Which is fine of course, there’s nothing wrong with that. Seeing just the happy is okay.

But when you see these photos, do you envy these people? I’d argue in some ways, or you envy the perceived lifestyle, but not the reality. You look at the photos with suspicion, they’re probably holding something back.

However, when people open up and show those real moments, you feel a kinship with them. You relate to them. And these real moments don’t have to be hard. They can totally be happy, or neutral. But you can tell when something is real and when something is glammed up.

How am I feeling?

I’m not feeling like writing this right now, but at the same time it’s flowing and I’m also feeling inspired by the words, if that makes sense. I went from uninspired to inspired from the beginning to the end of the piece.

I feel like putting my head in the sand, locking myself in a hotel room for three days watching documentaries, drinking tea or something harder, stretching, turning off my mind, and just floating through February, then picking up the pieces in March to have a wonderful Spring and Summer.

Grinding for two years, I feel ground.

But I’m actually doing alright for those concerned. It looks like all my pressing issues are figured out and can be dealt with in the next 4-6 weeks, my kid it seems can be vaccinated at the end of Feb. I’m getting there and ready to party in Spring.

Now I’m guessing you’re curious about these photos.

My goal was, without moving from my chair and desk while writing this, I aimed to see if I could take my phone and capture these feelings as much as possible. The photos in this post are all from this, taken while I was writing this piece.

So how are you feeling?

And how do you show that? I don’t know – you tell us, you show us how to do it. Just think about how you’re feeling, stop yourself when you’re feeling something, and just take a photo, any photo. Think about photos that could be a metaphor for how you’re feeling.

And use writing as well – combine photos with writing to help us further understand the idea.

The Home challenge is about a wide variety of things, and this is only one small angle, but it’s one that I’d like some of you to further explore, if you feel comfortable doing so.

Photo Links!

New Years Salon Resolutions

Emily Passino, Love Circle

New Years Salon Resolutions

Happy New Year all!

While the past year for the Salon was about building this place and building a base of knowledge, the plan is for this year to be more about building relationships and getting to know each other better.

We have this virtual wall to deal with, but it’s been great to see that breaking down over time and I’m confident we can accelerate that this year.

We’re going to work on getting more regular hangouts within the groups and just more regular talks. I think the friendships made here are the most important element of this place and the more we can foster those, the more everything else will fall into place.

The other focus will be consistency. Consistency, whenever possible, is the key to photography, and I think this is similar for the Salon.

While we build out consistency on the Salon’s end, we’d love it if you’d be able to work on the consistency on your end as much as possible, both with your work and with the site. And we realize that this sometimes might not mesh with the responsibilities of everyday life, but as best you can.

Larry Felton, Albany

This is a time for us all to grow these relationships, have fun with each other, and help each other out.

We’ll schedule a posting and engagement hangout soon, but we’d love it if you could check into the site even when you don’t have anything to post. Check in for inspiration and to give others comments. Work on putting yourself out there more, helping out, and it will all start to come around back to you and all of us.

Building relationships over the web feels very strange at first, but by the end of 2022, I’m hopeful that this will all feel second nature. It already has started to. And long term, we want a good mix of building these relationships through the hangouts, on the site, and eventually whenever this pandemic finally subsides, in person.

Now one important thing that has been growing behind the scenes this year, and ramping up in the second half, has been an inspiring group of people working to make this place what it is. We’re going to highlight all of them soon so you can get to know them better, but for today, I want to give a better introduction to Emily Passino and Larry Felton, two amazing people who have been bedrocks in creating the structure and spirit of this place from the very beginning. Emily is the moderator of group Levitt and Larry of group Koudelka, the two initial beta groups.

So much of how this place has grown (and will grow this year) is due to them.

I asked both Emily and Larry a few questions to answer so we can get to know them better. Here’s what they wrote!

Emily Passino

“I learned about photography growing up, with my dad and his darkroom and his strong opinions. 

For years photography was catch-as-catch-can, with no formal intentions, or education, or understanding of much of anything. About 15 years ago, though, I happened to attend a talk on street photography at a local art gallery, where two things happened. First, I saw classic examples of this genre and was totally intrigued.  Second, a friend who was also there invited me to join a small informal group of photographers, who were lively and talented and generous and knowledgeable.

These days, in addition to the Photo Salon, I am active in three local photography groups – the group mentioned above; a collective of street photographers; and a smaller group with diverse styles.  Before COVID, I led a regular “photo dialogue” workshop for a community group (people with early Alzheimer’s). 

My professional life was rich and demanding so that photography was limited to odd bursts of energy in between everything else.  For 30+ years, I was an internal management consultant for the State of Tennessee, advising cabinet/senior leadership on strategy, process improvement, performance measures, employee engagement and other jargon-y sounding things.  But the truth is, this gave me a chance to work on issues that mattered, with people who cared, at all levels, all across the state. I learned the complexities involved with prisons, state parks, highway patrol, child protection, the environment, public health, mental health – even licensing engineers and barbers, and empowering housekeeping staff.  It was all very fascinating and felt worthwhile.

As I got closer to retirement (and coincidentally all 3 offspring were out on their own, another angle of the rich and full life in the previous decades), I started making time for photography workshops and classes and more regular visits to galleries and museums.

Which brings me to the Salon, and the Love Circle Project. 

With the Salon, the project I’m working on is evolving, but it is based around a small, odd word-of-mouth park in my neighborhood, which has both panoramic views of the city, and an assortment of undisguised, unappealing water and renewable energy utilities. I originally went there to get a long view of downtown. After the first visit, which was in winter, I made a point of trying to visit Love Circle in other seasons.  I was surprised that people were seemingly just hanging out there, despite the bizarre mechanical “stuff” all over the hill. And NOBODY seemed to take notice of the pumping stations, and mechanical “stuff” all over the hill.

Looking back through the photos I had collected from these visits last year, I saw an assortment of people, views, activities – not yet adding up to anything, but with potential.  I’m now spending more time, more regularly, “experiencing” Love Circle.  I’ve been able to strike up a few conversations, to attend to the sounds and feeling of the place, and just more intentionally observe it.  Love Circle itself might turn out to be “the” project, or it might fit into other concepts I’ve been exploring, such as where and how people seek “refuge from daily life.”

Favorite photographers:  Graciella Iturbide, Sally Mann, William Eggleston, Garry Winogrand, Dayanita Singh, Jeremiah Ariaz, Carrie Weems, Mark Steinmetz – in the random order they came to my mind.

Tidbit: The other interest my father shared with me was learning how to fly a small Cessna airplane, so I have a handful of solo flights in my past.”

Larry Felton

“After going to college for engineering, I’ve worked in the semiconductor industry for thirty years.  My jobs have always required long trips overseas, so I took up photography as something to do on weekends when I was stuck in a hotel somewhere in Europe or Asia.  I started with travel photography, but somewhere along the line, I stumbled across street photography and was immediately hooked.  I’d shoot mostly while I traveled because I could never find anything interesting here at home in Albany, NY. 

For most of the last ten years, I’ve worked for a Japanese company, so I’ve spent many of those weekends away from home in Tokyo.  Of course, Tokyo is a spectacular city for street photography; I would regularly shoot the same streets that Daido Moriyama still shoots today.  The problem was that I was taking the same pictures everyone else was taking.  There wasn’t much of me in the pictures.

While there in Tokyo, I came across the Japanese aesthetic wabi-sabi, which is the experience of finding beauty in the impermanent, imperfect, and incomplete.   Things I’ve experienced that might evoke wabi-sabi include an exclusive sushi restaurant serving sake out of chipped, mismatched cups, an eight-seat jazz bar that plays only vinyl records made before 1960, and handmade quilts airing over balcony railings of run-down houses in old Tokyo.  A couple of years ago, I decided to spend my time shooting in Japan focusing on wabi-sabi.  Shooting it took me to different parts of Tokyo, away from the crowds in Shinjuku and Ginza.  I’d be doing something different than most foreigners in Japan.

Then Covid hit, and I haven’t been back to Japan since March of 2020.  Finding myself stranded in Albany, I decided to make the best of it and started to shoot things I found in here that evoked wabi-sabi for me; around the same time, James started Close to Home.  Over the last twenty months, I’ve started to see Albany through different eyes.  I’m not shooting wabi-sabi exactly.  That is impossible because I am not Japanese, and Albany is not Japan.  But with those ideas in mind, I’ve finally made some pictures that are truly mine.  I’ve realized that I need to be in a place that is part of me to do my best work. 

As I’ve shifted my focus to shooting in a small town, I’ve begun to look at work from photographers the usual image of street photography.  The work that most strongly influences me now is from photographers like Todd Hido, Alec Soth and William Eggleston, people that have found worthy subjects outside big cities.

Like so many others, the experience of the last couple of years has led me to reassess what I want to be doing with my time.  In my case, it led me to decide to retire.  One consequence of that decision is I won’t be traveling to Tokyo as often.  From here on out, I’ll be shooting mostly in Albany.”

Photo Links!

Light and Dark Challenge

Light and Dark Challenge

Happy New Year! May 2022 please be a better year than 2021.

I’m going to have a New Year post next week, so I’ll keep this short. But congratulations, the work here is extremely interesting and beautiful.

I chose around 120 photographs and ordered them into three groups. There wasn’t much rhyme or reason to the ordering except splitting up the color – I just tried to place photos that would fit well together and flow with each other.

I think there’s a lot we can take from this into the Home challenge as well. Great work!