Challenge #4: Finding Emotion in the Inanimate

Challenge #4: Finding Emotion in the Inanimate

The Snapshot Aesthetic

We had an interesting conversation this week about the term snapshot and the snapshot aesthetic. It started off with the question of whether or not you think a snapshot is a good thing. You can read the thread and interesting comments here.

The term can be felt as belittling and a way to dismiss the effort that goes into photography, but I think that point of view can stop us from embracing the beneficial elements of the snapshot.

The idea of the snapshot and snapshot aesthetic is to embrace imperfections and chance and to go more with your gut and instinct. This can add a lot of feeling to your photography when it works out.

A good example of this is Daido Moriyama – and the most extreme example of his work is his book Farewell Photography, which is by far the weirdest and most fascinating book that I own.

This aesthetic is not something you have to embrace – compare Daido’s work to the measured photography of Joel Sternfeld for instance – but I think it’s something to consider exploring as you learn and experiment.

And it could particularly be useful in the next challenge.

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Bringing it Together, Inspiration, April 3rd

Taisuke Sato

Bringing it Together

I continue to be amazed by all the fascinating work coming in on a regular basis, and the weather is just turning for most of us.

I thought it would be a good experiment to go through the work of some members who have been around for a few months or more and pull some of their photos together in a somewhat cohesive way. An experiment with their permission (and in no particular order).

Generally these can be thought of as ‘Close to Home’ type projects although a few seem looser based that that.

I have no favoritism for color here, it just happened to be mostly in color.

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Camera Settings for Street Photography, Inspiration, March 27th

Salon Updates

Thank you for all who attended the Meet and Greet on Thursday. It was a lot of fun!

If you missed it, you can watch the recording here and you’ll get a lot of good information – particularly check out the beginning 12 minutes as I give a little talk about the site.

To give you a sense of where we are, we now have enough members to make sure this place will work in the long term and to hire some speakers (like Alec Soth!)

Alright, they may not all be like Alec.

I’m filling some last few spots in the site and closing it down for new signups for the indefinite future (except to replace members who drop off).

The next step is to focus on strengthening the groups and site, to get engagement up as much as we can going into the warm weather, to create some kick-ass work, and just to make this place as fun and rewarding as we can.

And I’ve said this a hundred times already, but please keep in mind that engaging with the work of others is the most important aspect of this site. Even if you don’t have the time to shoot, checking in occasionally and commenting is so important, and it’s easy.

Bookmark the site and check-in for 10 minute stretches occasionally, and it will make a world of difference for everyone.

Portrait Challenge Update

Photos for the portrait challenge are due in about 2 to 2.5 weeks for those who want to join in. I’ll give another prompt closer to the deadline, but please email 1-5 portraits to [email protected] with the subject title ‘Portrait Challenge.’

I know this has been a tough challenge for many of you, but I think this is an important process to go through. And next challenge (I think) won’t have anything to do with people. 

For those of you living in areas with less people, you’re still going to come across interesting subjects for portraits, just less frequently. And I don’t want you missing out on those opportunities.

Think about it, if you’re able to get just 3 fantastic portraits every year for 5 years, that’s enough portraits to fill out that aspect of a well-rounded project on your area. That’s all you need.

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Talking About Photographs, Part 2, Inspiration, March 20th

Paul Lewis

I love Paul’s photo here – a great example of how a simple environmental shot of a muddy road can have so much feeling to it.

The details and textures make this shot, from the textures in the muddy road to the snow embankment then mimicked by the stream of clouds. And then you have the trees, fence, and small mountains in the back – everything comes together here.

Talking About Photographs, Part 2

Happy first day of Spring! A great day for photographers.

So I plan to continue this series periodically with photos that catch my attention in the Salon (see Part 1 where I talk about my own work).

Just because I missed posting your work here, doesn’t mean it’s not as good as the photos here. There’s a ton I will inevitably miss along the way or be unable to post in these just to keep it from being overwhelming.

And keep in mind I usually write these posts a week or two early.

For some of the photos, I’ll be more detailed about and others I just want you to see.

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Street Portraits (and New Challenge), Inspiration, March 13th

When done best, street portraits will often feel like candid moments, where you can feel a connection to what a person might be feeling or thinking.

Before we get to the post and challenge, please watch this 6 minute video about posting in the Salon as it has new guidelines. If you have any further suggestions to this, I’d love it if you could comment below as well.

The Salon is of course a work in progress and I’m working to figure out the best ways to both keep it focused and from getting overwhelming and to connect the entire community together as best as possible (next week’s post is going to do some commentary about photos from the community).

And if you haven’t watched it yet, here’s the link to From Cities to Suburbs: How to Do Street Photography No Matter Where You Are.

Street Portraits (and Challenge #3)

Here’s the new group challenge for anyone who wants to join.

Now that it’s starting to warm up for most of us, I think it’s a good time to work on some street portraits (for those who want to). This challenge will go on for 4 weeks and the goal is to submit up to 5 portraits, although I may only show 2-3 per person depending on how many submit.

These portraits can be of strangers, neighbors, family or friends. The idea however is to make them feel natural and real. I don’t want full, posed portrait sessions if you know what I mean. And it should be new work.

If you have trouble with this due to lockdowns, please feel free to submit old work, and this is a challenge that will also be done again in the future. 

But for those able to, I think this pandemic has opened people up even more to these random connections and it’s a perfect time to explore impromptu portraits.

Here is a guide for creating street portraits.

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The Most Ordinary Photo, Inspiration, March 7th

(Above photo: Larry Felton)

Quick Updates

I want to welcome the new members! This welcome post is a good one to read as well if you’re getting setup with the site.

With Thursday’s class finished, that’s the end of the site’s launch process. The goal has been to get membership to a critical mass to make sure this place is viable and it seems like we’ve got to a good place with that.

I’m excited to now have more time for figuring more ways to make this place as fun and energetic as possible.

We’re going to have a challenge starting next week and I’m going to do a survey soon as well to learn your ideas for improving the site.

The goal of each group is to improve and strengthen them over time, and it can be a months-long process. First is to get members up to speed with how to use the site, then to focus on their photography as well as getting comfortable with the group, and most importantly, engaged with some consistent commenting.

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Challenge #2 – Projects and Early Focus – Inspiration, Feb 20th

Challenge #2 - Projects and Early Focus

So I was a little wary about this challenge. For the newer members who haven’t heard about it, challenge #2 was based upon putting together a small cohesive series of 7 images together. 

It was meant mostly for the early groups who have been working here for a few months although anyone could join in. We’ll have another challenge in two weeks once everyone gets settled here.

As I’m sure neither of you all did, I didn’t expect works of brilliance and cohesiveness here. It’s too early and that wasn’t the point.

And that’s why this is a challenge that we’re going to revisit constantly over time.

The goal here was just to get everyone thinking in this manner for the year ahead, and to organize your thoughts as it warms up (for most of us) and we start shooting more and more.

What do you want to create this year? How is your work going to fit together?

But this is also a slow, organic process to figure out over time. And I was wary of this challenge causing you to think too specifically too early on. 

I don’t want you to take what you did here and pigeonhole yourself. Use the brainstorming you did to help yourself think in this manner but still go out with an open mind and let the photographs you take guide you. I can guarantee the next iteration of this challenge will have you with much different work.

Now you’ve seen my work too much the last few weeks but here are two examples of how I could submit photos from my Quiet Brooklyn project.

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Photographing Close to Home – Inspiration, Feb 20th

(Above photograph: Susan Anderson)

Photographing 'Close to Home'

Over the last few weeks and months, I’ve seen so much fantastic and inspired photography from everyone. With the new groups signing up it’s been so exciting to see the diverse work that you’ve all created.

But it’s also clear how tough the pandemic has been for photography on a lot of you. We’ve lost travel, it has become much more difficult to connect with others. 

Thankfully, this is can be flipped into a big opportunity for us. We can still photograph, and we can still photograph successfully.

There are the same amount of great photographs right outside your door as there are across the world.

And in this case maybe more.

You have a chance to deeply focus on what’s around you. To capture areas you know well and go to back over and over again, finding new things and giving time for the perfect moment to occur.

Repetition is always the key.

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Welcome! Inspiration, Feb 13th


I want to give a warm welcome to all the new members who signed up recently!

Keep in mind that people are still signing up and getting up to speed and so it usually takes a week or so for a new group to get going.

If you have any questions, feel free to message me through the site or email me at [email protected] at any time.

This week’s post is going to be a refresher and we’ll get back to the more interesting stuff next week.

After you’ve watched the introduction videos, please make sure to share some photos / introduce yourself in your group and to scroll through to check out your group members posts.

And make sure you understand the difference between how to post a group album and a personal album – that is the biggest early issue that some members have.

As I’ve mentioned about 5,000 times and I will mention 5,000 more, commenting and engaging with the work of your group members is the most important aspect of this site, so please read the Commenting & Critiquing Guide. 

Tough critiques can take some time to bring out in people as the group gets to know each other. But please don’t be shy in giving (or asking for them) – we all want to hear what you really think!

We’d love to see your old work and which photos you’ve taken that you’re excited about – feel free to share that at any time.

But we also want to see new photos from where you live  the places, the people (candids or portraits), the weird quirky things, the normal stuff that we take for granted, the boring or ugly stuff. Give us a feel for what the place is like.

This Salon is ultimately about pushing you to create new work.

Next week’s post will be all about photographing Close to Home, which I’m excited for.

There’s a lot of content on the site already to go through, so here’s what I recommend most:

  1. Photographing Close to Home
  2. Street Photography in Quiet Places
  3. Talking About Photographs
  4. Anxiety
  5. Dreamlike Challenge #1
  6. Building a Cohesive Vision
  7. Video Class: An Introduction to Street Photography, From Beginner to Advanced Topics (75 Minutes)
  8. Video Class: Editing and Putting Together a Portfolio in Street Photography (3.5 Hours)
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Anxiety (Challenge Example), Inspiration, Feb 6th

Anxiety (Challenge Example)

This is a post about Challenge #2 – view it here. Please email me at [email protected] with the subject “Challenge 2”, with either 7 photos from your portfolio or a link to your profile portfolio gallery and I will choose 7 photos from it. This is due by next weekend.

Any new members are welcome to join it, but this was really meant as a half challenge for the beta members who have been going for a few months now and to share the work with the newer members for inspiration. We are going to revisit this challenge later in the year.


I’m going to share a personal story here and how it relates to my work. Anxiety has always been an underlying theme throughout what I do, whether I knew it or not (and full disclaimer, both my parents are shrinks, if that doesn’t say enough already).

Growing up, I never would have thought it. I was always seen as a relaxed, type B person by others, so I just assumed that was who I was. But in reality, there was a lot more type A to me than I thought, and mixed with that relaxed demeanor was an underlying slightly tense feeling that just felt like my body was speeding me up. It’s hard to explain.

When I began photographing, I was always attracted to certain people, certain looks in people’s eyes. I now see it as being related to me feeling a connection to them, often through feelings of anxiety.

As the stresses of adult life piled on, that underlying feeling certainly got stronger, sometimes mentally, sometimes manifesting themselves physically. I felt more ‘sped up’ by the day. And seeing a psychiatrist (who seems much more normal than my parents, but shrinks can be good at hiding it), helped me understand what was going on and ways to deal with it as best I can.

And it makes much more sense now that a big aspect of my love for photography is that it’s an escape from everything. Not only the walk and the exploring but taking the time to look through a lens and observe your surroundings really takes you away from everything else in such a wonderful way.

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