Challenge #15: Spring Awakening

Challenge #15: Spring Awakening

Photographs © Gregory Halpern.

I’m sorry to start this challenge off morbidly, but it’s an important thought. I recall a statistic that most people kill themselves in Spring, not Winter. They spend Winter depressed, hibernating, and thinking that things will suddenly get better when Spring comes. But when the weather gets nice and the birds start chirping and they’re not feeling any different, that’s when things feel exponentially worse.

(*side note when sharing something like this, if anyone is struggling please feel free to reach out, that’s what we’re here for and you’re not alone).

But you can’t expect things to suddenly change. Any change comes from taking those first small steps.

As photographers, we expect the weather to get nice and to hit the ground running. But then we’re rusty, we’re not used to talking to people. Social engagements or personal issues hit as they always do. And the next thing we know it’s already the middle of the summer and we feel overwhelmed that we didn’t live up to what we were planning.

Depression is obviously not all in our heads. But stressing about whether we’re photographing or not, doing a good job or not, or whether it’s easy or not, is in our head.

Frankly, you string together three long solid walks and you’ll feel like a million bucks as a photographer after the third. Stop and engage three strangers and by the fourth, you’ll feel like Kevin Hart. Or maybe not quite, but you get my point.

Knock those three times out quickly this Spring.

Now for the challenge. Like every Spring, it’s people-related. It’s a time to dust off our people skills. I’m adding three parts and you can do whichever appeals to you most.

1. Portrait and a tidbit.

Photograph someone and learn one interesting thing about them.

2. Photograph a cultural or neighborhood event.

And talk to people at the events.

3. If you don’t like photographing people.

Figure out what the heck it is you like photographing and how to make it interesting. Share that.


*Finally, in light of the Survey zine. Many of you have been building these amazing projects for years. Whether you have 40 decent photographs by now or 15, I want you to start thinking about creating a webpage for this project this year.

I suggest Squarespace for the more technically inclined or Smugmug for the less technically inclined. Get your work up, make it TIGHT, and sequence it. Then we can finally look at it all together and talk about the most fun stuff. And to see what you’re missing and figure out how to fill in the blanks.

Many of you are ready to start thinking about the bigger picture.


5 Photographs, Due May 20th.

Link: (Will add the submission link and details here close to the submission date.)

Challenge #14: Three Traits

Challenge #14: Three Traits

(All photographs © Alec Soth)


For the majority of us in the Salon dealing with winter, it’s the toughest time of the year to shoot. We might feel like we’re lacking inspiration, but really, it just sucks outside and nothing is happening.


I’m not trying to discourage you from shooting in February of course, but if you’re not into it, there’s no need to stress.


Let yourself take a break from photographing when you don’t feel like it. Be easy on yourself. I don’t think that will be a problem for many of you.


But what I do think we could improve at, is that many of us completely disconnect from photography when we’re not photographing.


There are two parts of photography, creating and consuming, and both are equally important. And when you’re not photographing, that gives even more importance to the art that you consume, the photography, the writing, the daydreaming. What’s more relaxing in winter than reading a photobook or regular book at night and daydreaming?


Anyway, here is the (non-shooting) challenge:


Think about what you would like to accomplish this year, in an ideal world. Most likely, this will be furthering an idea or project, for many of you it will be building out your survey project.


I want you to find one photographer you admire who has done a project in a similar place as you will be shooting (and if your project or idea is not centered by a place, find a photographer who captures similar ideas). It could be finding a suburban photographer, or more specific like finding a midwestern suburban photographer.


Next, I want you to thing of three traits from different photographers, that you think would make your project amazing. For instance, maybe it’s Alec Soth’s planning and outreach, Gregory Halpern’s portraits, Rebecca Norris Webb’s landscapes. Or Daido Moriyama’s grit and emotion or Eggleston’s mundanity. Choose three.


Final note: I just finished the behind the scenes stuff on the website (and my business) for going into this next year. I ordered a sample copy of the survey zine as well, so expect an update on that in the next two weeks. And we’ll try to energize the group hangouts, and hopefully the work in this challenge will more opportunities for hangout conversations and sharing of photographers.


Submission Details

Title: Three Traits

Deadline: March 10th (Five Weeks)

Submission: Add your info to this spreadsheet


Challenge #13: Emotion

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.

Submission Details

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.

And here is a list of 100 emotions to get the wheels turning!

  1. Joy
  2. Sadness
  3. Anger
  4. Fear
  5. Surprise
  6. Disgust
  7. Contempt
  8. Embarrassment
  9. Frustration
  10. Anxiety
  11. Nostalgia
  12. Longing
  13. Hope
  14. Despair
  15. Confidence
  16. Doubt
  17. Pride
  18. Shame
  19. Guilt
  20. Love
  21. Heartbreak
  22. Jealousy
  23. Envy
  24. Admiration
  25. Gratitude
  26. Serenity
  27. Awe
  28. Wonder
  29. Curiosity
  30. Boredom
  31. Disappointment
  32. Relief
  33. Contentment
  34. Bliss
  35. Euphoria
  36. Ecstasy
  37. Indifference
  38. Melancholy
  39. Pensive
  40. Sympathy
  41. Empathy
  42. Compassion
  43. Forgiveness
  44. Resentment
  45. Anguish
  46. Suffering
  47. Grief
  48. Solitude
  49. Loneliness
  50. Isolation
  51. Overwhelmed
  52. Stress
  53. Burnout
  54. Exhaustion
  55. Restlessness
  56. Calmness
  57. Tranquility
  58. Peace
  59. Harmony
  60. Agitation
  61. Aggression
  62. Hostility
  63. Tension
  64. Anxiety
  65. Panic
  66. Horror
  67. Terror
  68. Vulnerability
  69. Insecurity
  70. Helplessness
  71. Powerlessness
  72. Humiliation
  73. Rejection
  74. Abandonment
  75. Disapproval
  76. Acceptance
  77. Belonging
  78. Connection
  79. Affection
  80. Attraction
  81. Passion
  82. Lust
  83. Flirtation
  84. Infatuation
  85. Obsession
  86. Anticipation
  87. Excitement
  88. Thrill
  89. Adventure
  90. Surprise (pleasant)
  91. Amazement
  92. Wonderment
  93. Enchantment
  94. Delight
  95. Elation
  96. Jubilation
  97. Triumph
  98. Exhilaration
  99. Optimism
  100. Pessimism




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.

View full slideshow.