Challenge #13: Emotion
The idea of this challenge is simple, I want you all to pick an emotion and capture it or try to explain it in 5 images. Don’t tell us the emotion with words, and it can certainly be a grouping of multiple emotions together, but the images should relate together.
Similar to the last challenge, you can use up to five images together in a series to push the idea through. And I highly suggest picking emotions that you are currently feeling, and trying to figure out how to put those feelings into photographs. That is a key to this, for those who feel comfortable going that route. I’m guessing this challenge will help us learn a big more about each other.
These could be photos in the home, photos on the street, self portraits, photos of family, anything you want. And think both conceptually and technically. Bright or dark, tack sharp and orderly or the feeling of a messy snapshot. We want to build on the idea of creating an experience for the viewer in a similar way that we did in the last challenge.
We have 2 months to do this, but there will be a sub-challenge next month, which will just be meant for posting on the site and not submitting. I will share that in a few weeks.
Title: Emotion Challenge
Deadline: January 7th
Upload Link: https://www.dropbox.com/request/IQC01gL1c2umrXmU4clt
File Naming: firstname-lastname-#.jpg. So it would be james-maher-1.jpg.
Color Space: sRGB
Size (Hi-Res): 1,000 pixels for the long edge.
Uploading details: Up to 5 photos.
- Surprise (pleasant)
From real to fake, take a 10-block, 10-year walk through the luxury and hype capital of New York City (2013-Current). View Map.
Hey all, so I’ve been using this challenge to redo a project you’re probably overly familiar with, but I expanded and completely redid what was Greene Street and turned it into more of a documentary project.
So far I have the selects here down to 22, although trying to still get them down to 15, and at the bottom of this intro, you’ll see a link to see the full 100 image slideshow.
“I see what ya’ll are doing!”
The corner of Prince and Broadway is an entryway into SoHo, and a gathering space, but not one where people stay long.
Except the guy who yells at me when he sees me, even though I always smile and try to avoid him. He is there a decent amount.
There are plenty of busy corners in the city, however, this one is built different. Here everyone has their heads up, looking at each other, and the windows.
Each season you watch fashions spread like a virus. At first it’s a few, until everyone is suddenly wearing the same thing. There was the summer where everyone wore t-shirts with animals that looked like them. There was the great Beats headphone takeover, where everyone started wearing chunky headphones instead of the small white Apple ones, and soon after Apple bought Beats.
As I’m writing this, chunky cardigans recently gave way to denim, which gave way to military olive green cargo pants and attire. It’s strange watching viral videos on Twitter from the war in the Ukraine, and then seeing skinny people in military inspired outfits with sunglasses and unforgiving stares.
For the last ten years, about three times a week, I’ve taken photographers and tourists from around the world down a specific stretch of SoHo, a ten block walk, the same exact ten blocks each time. The neighborhood is often quiet on weekdays, getting busier as the days go on and on the weekends. But even the quiet days, if you look enough, will have constant surprises.
Greene Street and Canal Street, the two intersecting streets that primarily make up this story, connect in a symbiotic struggle.
Near the northern end of Greene Street and Prince, is the Louis Vuitton store, a prime destination in itself, basically a museum of Bernard Arnault’s ascent to the becoming the richest person in the world. On the southernmost end of Greene, four blocks down at Canal Street, fake Louis Vuittons line the streets, almost like a gateway to the brand. A first hit.
The buildings themselves are the finest collection of cast-iron buildings in the world, once premiere factory showroom buildings built in the mid-to-late 1800s. Above the storefronts, immigrants originally worked there in sweatshop conditions, then the factories left and artists moved in to massive but derelict spaces beginning in the 50s and into the heyday of the ‘70s. Then the galleries moved in. In the mid 90s the values skyrocketed, and now a majority of the above floors have converted into million dollar gilded spaces.
Yet despite its varied history, fashion and hype have always been at the heart of the neighborhood.
While the idea of hype and exclusivity aren’t new, these photos were taken during the rise of virality and influencer culture, as the idea of luxury and streetwear intertwined, a cultural shift that has been placed on steroids with the speed of social media.
The neighborhood has become a physical manifestation of the consumption and hype culture spreading throughout the web. The buildings Disney clean, with people recording themselves strutting diagonally across the street. Haring and Basquiat collaborations dominate, and a massive gallery called Eden sells equally massive $30,000 tacky Warhol inspired sculptures. Recently, I saw a pair of Purple Jordans encased in glass on a marble pedestal over a marble warehouse crate.
Last week, at 11am on a random Friday morning, in the rain, were 10 people waiting outside the Bathing Ape store for $95 limited edition shorts. BAPE has lines out front the most often, and sometimes they stretch around the block. The Amiri store a block away sells $350 black t-shirts. I often notice celebrities in the front row of Knicks games wearing Amiri clothing, and see people around Canal Street wearing the knockoffs.
When I see these lines, I usually think of those old depression-era photographs of people waiting on bread lines. Something feels eerily dependent in both.
I’ve started to notice the sneakers people wear, as the lines are often for limited edition shoes. Recently, dad-wear has come in style (coinciding with the rise of the cardigans), and New Balance has made a stunning comeback. For my entire 41 year old life, it was a sneaker only worn by the 40 and up crowd. And now, in a year, the same exact sneaker in exponential varieties, makes up nearly a third of the sneakers in the lines. Recently, Stone Island had a New Balance release, and there was a line of about 30 people outside.
The deeper you look here, the more you search, the more surreal it feels, remnants of rich lives or people trying to feel rich, or feel something.
Once you get to Canal Street, this veneer quickly peels into reality. But the spirit doesn’t. A red neon sign that says Silence greets you high up in an apartment window, although the building has just started renovations, so I’m not hopeful for it’s return. I once saw a bare male ass pressed up next to the sign, but I was too far away for a photo.
Under the building and scaffolding, you can buy handbags, watches, sneakers and from jars of weed. A few months ago, police raided the street and filled three truck loads of goods. They said they netted $10 million worth of product, but that ridiculous number would only be true at luxury prices.
Here there is an Origin sneaker store with red ropes creating the feeling of exclusivity. Inside are sneakers wrapped in plastic and selling for multi-hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. Directly outside, fake Jordans which would clearly destroy your feet with any relative basketball activity, are spread out on blankets.
On this stretch of Canal sits a Drake’s store, a very hip and popular high-end East London clothing brand that sells $400 scarves and lots of corduroy by a well-dressed young mustached man. Next to it is an old rubber store, an empty storefront that sold expensive streetwear for six months and just went out of business, a few galleries that clearly have short leases, old lighting supply stores, tourist and trinket shops, a few more empty storefronts, a few weed stores, and the sneaker museum.
There is also a sneaker purchaser called Champion Goods, often with lines of people and garbage bags of boxes from their collections. I noticed over the winter, it seems to be a reliable predictor of the economy, as the lines of people selling their pandemic collections reached down the block.
In the old Pearl Paint building, now renovated, is a high-end furniture store with apartments above renting between $8,000-$12,000 a month (2023 prices). Below are fake handbags and a weed shop.
Broadway and Canal, just four blocks south of where we began and much more diverse, is another people-watching Mecca, with a wider variety of just as stylish fashion. Everything moves so fast here that people are afraid to stop, unless they are buying bags.
On warm evenings and weekends, spread out on the corner are hundreds of pieces of fake goods with many excited people exploring. In the background, the Woolworth Building overlooks like a familiar friend. Once the tallest building in the world from 1913 till 1930, it now hosts a $79 million penthouse apartment in the spire, which has sat on the market for nearly seven years since its conversion.
Look up the apartment by typing ‘Woolworth Building Penthouse’ into Google. Ironically, the only thing that is probably worth its price in this neighborhood sits unsold.
A final right turn down Cordlandt Alley and you feel like you have come full circle and entered an old world. At 72 Walker Street, a block away from million dollar apartments, is one of the last remaining sweatshop buildings. The entrance teems with activity, as they unload fabric or load up dresses heading uptown for Macy’s. A fascinating mix of dress and dressmakers walk by.
For 10 years, I’ve watching this walk change. Buildings renovated, luxury stores jumping storefronts, fast fashion pushing us all into an unsustainable mess.
Nearly every week, I think to myself, how long can this last? And yet it keeps pulsating, day after day, drop after drop. Just with new shoes on.
All photographs by Curran Hatleberg.
Survey Challenge, Sub-Challenge: The Art of Capturing Small Community Groups and Events.
During the height of the pandemic, we went pretty hot and heavy with the pace of challenges, and it makes sense since there was more free time. But also the challenges were a little simpler and easy to pull off in a short time.
But often the best photography takes time. And also with lives getting a little busier again, it’s important to fit in photography at a pace we can handle, but also to take advantage of this return to socializing and the energy that is in the air.
This survey challenge and sub-challenge are going to go through the Fall and will culminate in a two-part zine that will be created over the winter.
OCTOBER 15TH IS THE FINAL-END-ALL-BE-ALL-DUE-DATE FOR BOTH THE CHALLENGE AND SUB-CHALLENGE.
But this challenge is a bit like a culmination of three years of working together, inching closer and closer to having the skillset, understanding, and nerve to pull it off. And it’s something we’re going to hopefully continue working on after the challenge is over.
And I know that there is a section of the Salon that just won’t want to do this sub-challenge as it’s not their enjoyable way of shooting. That is fine, in that case, focus on the original survey challenge in the way that you like to shoot best. There’s no reason to push outside your comfort zone if you don’t think it will ultimately be enjoyable or enriching for you.
Now let’s talk more about photographing communities.
Photographing small community groups and events offers an opportunity to document the essence of a place and its people, and you can contribute to a greater understanding and appreciation of the community’s culture and traditions.
In this sub-challenge, we’ll take inspiration from Curran Hatleberg, and we will have another hangout in the next few weeks to go over his work again, in the spirit of this challenge.
The spirit of his work ultimately comes down to his intimate and detailed portrayals of communities.
Integrating within a Community
Building Trust and Relationships
The key to capturing authentic and intimate photographs of communities lies in building trust and genuine relationships with the people you’re photographing. This involves spending time getting to know the community members, understanding their stories, and participating in their events. Actively engaging with the community will not only create a strong foundation for a project but also enrich your experience as a photographer.
And it may give you more opportunities to present and share the work once it is completed.
One-time visits to a community or event may not be enough to fully capture its essence. Schedule multiple visits and grow deeper connections. If you want, you can continue this after the challenge is over and document the subtle changes and patterns in their lives. It will also help to give them more enthusiasm for what you are working on and to take an active part in helping you pull it off.
Repeat visits will also give you the chance to review your previous photographs, gather feedback, and improve your approach.
And forgetting photography, this is a great way to make more friends and to have fun in a way that you might not be able to without the camera. Repeat visits will allow you time to be involved without the camera, but to use it when the times are right.
Documenting Cultural and Social Events
Community events, such as festivals, parades, and gatherings, will be great opportunities. Look for moments that define the community’s culture and values, and the specific people themselves.
But in addition to larger or more established events, look for smaller things as well. Maybe it’s a local card game, a group that hangs out in a park, or any get-togethers that happen in the scope of everyday life. There may be lots of these occurring right under your nose.
Focusing on Individuals
You can use these events to build connections and portraits with interesting individuals over time. Maybe someone will eventually invite you to their fascinating home for a portrait and give you time to pull off an interesting one. Or maybe they’re having a BBQ and decide to invite you and you can bring your camera. Or maybe as you get to know their interests and hobbies, it will give you both better ideas for capturing the right portrait.
Learning from Curran Hatleberg
The most interesting aspect of Curran’s work is that the communities he has focused on were not where he was from. While he used the camera to integrate himself into new places, it’s clear that he truly looked to integrate himself in a personal way that went beyond just as a photographer.
There are intimate moments with people unencumbered by his presence, which makes it clear they saw him as a member of the event and not just a photographer.
Hatleberg’s work shows us the importance of adopting an empathetic approach when photographing communities. By immersing himself in the lives of his subjects, he is able to capture authentic images that resonate.
Research and Plan
One thing that’s also clear about Curran’s work is that it’s a mix of research and serendipity. Create a plan for yourself, dates to shoot ahead of time, events, and places to go where people congregate. A plan could simply be about going to a local community space or park to search for groups to photograph, and your ideas will probably morph as you progress.
But this challenge will be hard to pull off if you take it fully willy-nilly, without any direction or planning.
Put a plan in front of your face, maybe next to your computer, and pull it off this summer!
A few months ago, I started a daily practice to stretch more and keep in better shape when I’m tired and work gets busy, which is now always.
The only thing I need to do is lay on a mat for 5 minutes each day. Don’t feel like working out? Exhausted? It doesn’t matter, if I tell Alexa to set an alarm for 5 minutes and lie on my back on the mat, I feel great about myself.
Setting a low bar and showing up.
Just showing up like that daily has made a nice difference.
The world’s moving again. People are planning weddings, soccer on Saturdays, nice weather, Knicks in the playoffs, everyone’s making up for lost time.
It’s overwhelming. And it’s particularly tough to keep up with creative practices when your mind isn’t clear.
Creativity comes naturally when you have time to escape. When people talk about being inspired, or feeling inspired, or a lack of it, my guess is usually that it has more to do with life events than overall creative inspiration. If life was easy, we would all feel creative 24/7.
And think about the word which must not be spoken anymore, seriously have you heard anyone say the word pandemic in the last 4 months? Crazy.
Obviously life was hard, but we had more time. And more time equals more creativity.
But I think one of the biggest things you learn when you start doing a creative career is that, while you have to take advantage of those creative spurts, wringing them like a wet rag for every last drop, you also have to show up other days.
I love writing just as much as I love photography. I’m not overstating that, writing is bliss for me. A creative pursuit you can do reclining on a couch with coffee and air conditioning, when your body hurts. It’s been a particularly straining week and I have an event job tonight and a trip to Washington over the weekend (to the Air & Space Museum!)
My work computer broke last week after 6 years. I’ve been doing a lot of strictly 5 minute mat sessions.
It took me 3-hours to sit at this computer and do what I wanted to do all morning, write this post. A long 10 minutes to figure out the first few paragraphs.
I thought of the idea for it last week in a moment of feeling creative late at night, put a note that just said LOST TIME at the top of my notes app, and went back to other things. Then finally I got a chance to sit down on the mat for 5 minutes and the whole post spilled out in 20 minutes.
Friends and family are the most important things, especially right now. But we learned this during the pandemic, to feel fulfilled we have to just show up on the mat for that 5 minutes. And if we just stare at the popcorn ceiling for 5-minutes and move on, all the better.
That’s the post, but just an update on how I’ve been shooting. I’ve still been shooting a ton, mostly on workshops (thankfully I take people mostly where I like to go anyway), but unlike me, I haven’t taken the time to organize and edit. I actually just filled up my card a few days ago. So here are some photos from that card.
The survey challenge for me was the project I did during the pandemic, It Was All A Dream. I’m trying to actively think of something else, but nothing yet. But saying it here so you’ll hold me to continue thinking about it.
But it’s been amazing to look through the stream and see more of the areas where you all live. It’s really interesting, I feel like it’s something I’ve been trying to get you all to do for a while and now it’s all clicking.
Keep it coming! Please!
Argentina, and Travel Photography Versus Home
I’m sitting on a sleepless 11-hour flight back from Argentina in the middle of the night. Clearly the most fun 10 days I’ve had, especially when considering sharing it with my son, but also one of the most exhausting stretches of my life.
We spent 4 days touring Patagonia with a bus of 14 family members from 4 generations, and the rest in Buenos Aires, culminating in an 8-hour bat mitzvah with basically a full circus of performers. The well-off live good lives here.
It was basically what you’d expect, stunningly beautiful, urban planning in some neighborhoods that I saw that blew NY out of the water, steak every night, Malbec, late dinners, keeping Avery up at family events till 1:30 in the morning, stacks of inflated cash that we got as good rates from uncle Carlos, the peso going down in value 7% in the week that we were there and seeing the harm it was causing as fancy meals basically cost $25 a person.
The plan is to make a family book of the trip for the family and Avery and his one year old cousin Niko to look at when they get older, written in their perspective.
But, I’ll be honest, I always internally cringe when people tell me to take amazing photos when traveling, or how excited I must be to photograph. And the cringing is not on purpose, I love the sentiment, but that feeling is just not for me, at this point in my life.
Some get so inspired by photography when they travel and spend time in a place, but I can’t do work that I enjoy on an artistic level when I’m not home, at least when considering the brainpower and opportunity that I have now.
Home is where I get lost in my mind and can think creatively. Probably if I was able to travel solo and spend a lot of time getting to know a place, I’d feel completely different. But I often have to remind myself to take photos when traveling because I’m trying to stay in the moment, to use my memory instead of the camera and to slow the week down, if that makes sense.
A few times, Sara asked me to take out the camera to take a photo, and while most of the time I say yes, occasionally I would ask her to do it because I wanted to experience the place without a camera.
Similarly at home, I use photography to stay in the moment and slow life down. On one hand, they’re opposites, but philosophically, it’s the same idea.
But anyway, in the process of the survey challenge and thinking about my photography as I recover from the last few months and get excited about being home, I want us to think about the salon as not just a place to talk about photographs, instead it’s a place to talk about places, feelings, and ideas. And to use photographs to illustrate these thoughts.
And, with the exception of a few Friedlander inspired tree photographs, even though these photos seem pretty, and they are interesting and meaningful for my family, they’re the opposite of the photography that I try to do here.
Photography, in the sense that I’m describing, is something that I do for clarity of mind, and to focus attention. And I just didn’t have the time or mental space to be able to create photographs in this environment that live up to that feeling.
I’m still sharing them in this piece because they’re beautiful and fun to share with the story, and a big part of why photography is wonderful.
Or I guess in the spirit of what I just mentioned, talking about ideas instead of photographs, perhaps the heart of the story of the trip was the family – A Jewish family that was split up during the war, half getting into NYC and half into Buenos Aires, and losing touch for 30 years until one Argentinean family member traveled to NY and contacted every Abe Lerner in the phone book.
And the Irish/Italian mutt (me) with two psychiatrist parents, one bipolar and one on the spectrum of something, whose religion and culture and larger family (in later years) had dwindled. And so he subconsciously searched for someone with a strong family culture. And on the upper west side of NY, that was the Jewish culture.
My first girlfriend married a rabbi, if that tells you a bit about me.
And now both families are great friends. My wife lived in Argentina for over a month one trip and we hope to host their kids for similar amounts of time in the future.
And yes, it’s family, it’s blood, it’s making up for the horrors of the war and giving a big fucking middle finger to all the atrocities with fun and dancing and singing and love, with excessiveness in the face of difficulty. And her family down there is wonderful, they made me feel like I had known them forever. But family in this case is also a key for experiences.
And hopefully, it can be similar here. As we create this family of dysfunctional photographers, this unique culture here, we get to share our experiences and insights with each other. And that’s the spice of things.
It’s not really about photography. It’s about culture and ideas, and maybe we can even think about it in the context of this challenge, surveying our lives and where we come from, or where we ended up.
“This goddamn tree, man. It’s a real eye-sore, a monstrosity of mundanity. It’s like staring into the abyss of banality and realizing that nothingness is staring right back at you. But, somehow, that’s what makes it so goddamn fascinating, so damn powerful. It’s like a symbol of the everyday drudgery we all have to endure, a reminder that life is full of inescapable boredom and routine. And yet, there’s a strange beauty to it, a haunting quality that grips you like a vice and won’t let go. You can’t help but feel drawn into the abyss, seduced by the sheer banality of it all. It’s like staring into the void and finding a kind of solace in the emptiness, a strange kind of comfort in the absence of meaning. This tree, man. It’s a real mind-fuck.”
Now not to beat a dead horse, in the future I’ll just use this to help stimulate ideas in my own writing, but I tried inputting this article above and asked ChatGPT, this question (because it has apparently read lots of my writing in its training, it can write like me).
It sort of reiterated a lot of what I already wrote above, but it helps clarify the ideas well and I think is well worth reading. There are some points here that if I wasn’t still fully back in the swing of things, I would have taken some more time to clarify in the piece.
Can you think of anything to add that might improve this article, in the style of James Maher the photographer?
“In this article, it would be interesting to explore how the process of creating a family book can bring people together, both in the present and in the future. The act of collecting and curating images and memories from a shared experience can help to create and strengthen bonds between family members. By involving Avery and Niko in the process, they will have the opportunity to learn about their family history and develop an appreciation for their heritage.
Moreover, the article could also emphasize the importance of balancing the desire to document life’s moments with the need to stay present and engaged. For instance, James Maher could share some tips on how to approach photography mindfully, without losing the essence of the moment. Encouraging others to adopt a similar approach may allow readers to develop a deeper connection with their surroundings and the people they travel with.
Additionally, it would be interesting to dive deeper into the concept of the “salon” as a space for discussion and connection, not just about photographs, but about life experiences and shared interests. This idea can be expanded upon by providing examples of conversation topics, activities, or even prompts that can help facilitate meaningful discussions within this space. By fostering a sense of community among the “family of dysfunctional photographers,” the salon can become a platform for personal growth, inspiration, and connection.
Lastly, incorporating the unique stories and perspectives of the different family members in the article can add depth and richness to the narrative. By highlighting their individual journeys and the ways in which they contribute to the family’s collective story, the article can help readers gain a better understanding of the power of photography in preserving memories and connecting generations.
Overall, by adding these elements, the article can provide a more comprehensive and engaging exploration of the relationship between photography, family, and the art of staying present.”