A Continuing Struggle

Every day, I am thrown into a continuing struggle between recognizing what makes a photograph outstanding and inserting that quality into my work. Great work has a quality that can't be defined, yet is universally recognizable. With that being the case, as an artist, reaching this level is infuriating. With each photograph, I hope that the magical combination of timing and placement has benefited me, that the Gods have thrown me a bone. Shooting is exciting, developing rolls is exciting, reviewing the scans is not. Consciously capturing an undefinable quality, I'm realizing, is an exercise in futility.

I can compose a photo. I can pick out what to add or subtract from my frame. Regarding that missing 1%, I am stumped. In my free time, I look through my little collection of photo books and my jaw drops when observing what those before me captured while using the same equipment as myself.

Sometimes, these moments are unplanned: a little girl's smile, a man peeking out from his umbrella for a second, two posh dogs seemingly walking their rich owners. Happy accidents.

In my last batch of scans, one of the best photos was one I took when advancing to the first frame on my M2. I wasn't even looking through the viewfinder! If that can work but my inspired attempts at composition do not, what have I learned? Anything? After five years of shooting, I am marginally closer to understanding what I'm doing and why.

I think about quitting every day. I won't, but it crosses my mind. Photography represents a unique problem: timing. Illustrators can return to their drawing pad, painters, to their easel. With photography, your canvas and subjects are moving. You must recognize the moment and freeze it perfectly while under immense time constraints. Milliseconds matter.

Photography is a mercurial art. I am nowhere near cracking its inner workings. Despite the frustrations and the expense, I am still searching.

 André Kertész -  East Walk of Conservatory Pond, Central Park, 1944

André Kertész - East Walk of Conservatory Pond, Central Park, 1944

 Ken Schles -  Melanie at Veselka, 1986

Ken Schles - Melanie at Veselka, 1986

 David Godlis -  Patti Smith, Bowery, 1976

David Godlis - Patti Smith, Bowery, 1976

To Paris

Last week, I booked a six day trip to Paris. It's time I left NYC for a little. The city gets on my nerves more these days. Despite my strong dislike of planes and everything associated with them, I could never forgive myself for turning this opportunity down. I can spare the time and the money. Six days of street photography in Paris. Aside from shooting, I'm going as a personal tribute to André Kertész, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Doisneau. Those three are instrumental to who I am as a photographer. They've shaped my vision and showed me what was possible with a camera. I'm excited to roam the same streets as them. I have no idea what I'll find there. Perhaps nothing. Perhaps the magic they captured only proves their talent, timing and skill. After all, the setting doesn't make the photograph, the photographer does. Without a vision, any location, no matter how beautiful, will help you. Regardless, maybe the city and its people have something in store for me.

 Robert Doisneau -  The Washing of Petty, 1961

Robert Doisneau - The Washing of Petty, 1961

 Henri Cartier-Bresson -  Rue Mouffetard (1954)

Henri Cartier-Bresson - Rue Mouffetard (1954)

Dream Log: 14 April 2015 (Exhumed)

I am with the curator of Andre Kertész's estate. The estate has determined that Kertész's body must be exhumed and moved to another location. I'm in the backseat of a van. We begin driving through the Hungarian countryside to his burial plot. When we arrive, the curator exits the van and pulls out two shovels. We begin digging. After some time, I hear my shovel crack loudly as it hits the casket. We clear out the surrounding area. The curator and I each grab a side and pull up, groaning against the weight. We finally lift the casket out of the plot and onto the surrounding grass. With a crowbar, the curator opens it. Kertész's remains are inside, wrapped in a towel covering his feet to his chin. A CPR mask covers his nose and mouth, sitting deep into his rotten flesh. 

The curator and I lift Kertész and place him into the back of the van. We miscalculated. The curator slams the van's back door into Kertész, digging into his face and sending green chunks of decomposed skin and flesh everywhere. As we stare in horror, his face begins oozing thick, yellow pus.

Dream Log: 5 April 2015

I am at Toys R Us. It will be my son's fourth birthday. I'm looking for a Green Lantern action figure that I first received when I turned four. After some time, I realize the toy is unavailable. On my way out, I pass a young photographer with a Leica MP around his neck. I stop and chat with him, inviting him to my solo show at Littlefield. He declines, saying he is Jewish ('My last name is Horowitz!') and only goes to other Jewish events. Angry, I leave Toys R Us and find myself in a hotel in Palestine.

In the distance, I hear gunfire and rockets. Hezbollah is attacking Israel. Between the missiles, I hear Palestinians whistle and cheer. I want to go home. I run to the staircase and on my way down, I meet a British man. He tells me no one is allowed to leave and that snipers are shooting anyone who tries. Unfazed, I reach the hotel lobby and find security guards everywhere. I retreat to the second floor and find a small balcony. On the balcony is a ladder leading to the roof of the adjacent building. I run to it and start climbing. To the side,  a sniper notices my activity and shoots.

Dream Log: 21 March 2015

I am seated at the dinner table with my family and some close relatives. The mood is eerie. No one is saying or doing much. I haven't heard the news. I turn to the right and whisper to my cousin, "What happened?" My grandmother was brutally murdered by an ISIS death squad in Yemen. Her execution was filmed and played by news outlets around the world. After learning this, I return to dinner and we silently eat.