The Jack in the Box

Tour de France

It sat there among the many toys, a bright, colorful shiny  box, catching the eye of my daughter, a young toddler then.

She would tap on it and push it around and while she showed interest, it did nothing on its own until I came to turn its handle and out would pop the jack in the box, causing her gleeful laughter, and excitement to want more.

When I stopped, it continued  to be a box again, and she would bang on the top once more and push it around. She would look at me waving her arms as if to ask what happened… no Jack.

Why? Simple, She didn’t crank the handle.


Now you might wonder what this image of the Arch de Triump has to do with a Jack in the Box… well, a lot.

We were leaving Paris in a few days and I sat mulling around in our apartment a little let down, because, as I said in my last post, I didn’t find the right view of the Arch that I had hope for in my previous scouting. After hemming and hawing , going through those should I or shouldn’t I moments, I decided we had to go at least one more time to see the famous arch to say, ” a la prochaine fois ”  The late afternoon light was beautiful, unusual for Paris. A dense crowd was gathering all around. Unable to see well, I weaved on through, curious to see what was happening. As I made my way up to a barricade to get a shot of the arch, the Tour de France came zooming by to the end of their race… and I got this shot totally unplanned but very welcomed.

At this point, you might think, is this the Jack inside?

Not so fast.. we left this scene as did the hoard of people and stumbled into a cafe, actually  pushed into by the crowd. We sat at a typical squeezed in, what Parisians call a table, when a man stop to share it with us. We struck up a conversation, my wife, who had just finished her Masters Degree in Art as painter and art teacher, shows him some of her work on her Iphone. He owned a printing company, loved paintings and was taken back by her style and technique… Boing…… out comes the Jack. He commissions her to paint a still life for his company’s logo, buys us drinks and dinner and she gains her first international client !

Moral of all of this

Had I not decided to go that night, this image would have not existed…nor would the new client. Isn’t life sometimes like that, as well as in photography?  Do you sit there looking at things, wondering what to shoot, where to go, if you should or could ?

Maybe the lesson is just this simple… There’s a box, with a Jack waiting for you, but you’ll never know unless you crank the handle. Then Jack will pop out and just might surprise you as it always does.


No Point Intended

matthew pace photographer- _The Bicyclist-3

The Bicyclist

Do you find yourself waiting for some inspiration to photograph, some idea or story? Does that wait stop you from creating images?

Ralph Gibson talked a lot about “the point of departure”.…  Actually he got that critique while assisting  Dorothea Lange , whose famous work during the depression gave birth to her iconic image Migrant Mother.

Used in a broad sense it comes to mean a goal or place or subject you start out to get and somewhere along the way, something else presents itself all together differently, and had you not started on the original course, you would have missed it. The point of departure becomes a necessary catalyst for the work you are now onto, or the work you created.

I wasn’t sure of what I was going to shoot this day. I knew that I wanted to scout for a different view of the Arch de Triump  and so I spent the day in search of. While next to impossible to do something new with this famous monument ( coming later in another blog) , I felt defeated. So what does does a Miami Photographer do in a situation like this…well I am in Paris... and cafes are plentiful…so

Over a glass of a really good white, chilled wine, Gewurztraminer , a semi-sweet taste of vanilla, Lychees and honey, so smooth so supple, like a beautiful wom… OK  OK , I digress… but do try it. Sitting and sipping, I watched the business around me. The street left little space to see through all the cars passing by when from up the block this old man with shocking white beard was weaving and coming by on his bike with no fear nor hesitation of his moves through all the traffic. Luckily, my wine in one hand and camera in the other, I got off one shot totally unplanned nor foreseen. Had I not been there I would have had it and gone home empty handed.

I’ve always like Gibson, been to his shows and some lectures. So Ralph, forgive me for taking this and applying it in my life but for me, on that day, the point of departure worked. What was yours?


Reaction Recognition

What makes us stop to take some of the images that we do ?

Is it some inner voice that talks to us when we see a subject . Can we name it ” reaction recognition ” that over-rides our yes or no decision on the subject we see at hand ?

matthew pace photographer- the yellow door

I saw this door a thousand times. There’s nothing unusual about it. I went out of it whenever I exited our fifth floor apartment, and in Europe, that means 6 flights up. In older Paris that means stairs…….a lot of them ! matthew pace photographer- Paris Stairs

Somewhere around the 500th time I stopped to photograph it, don’t know why and didn’t stop to do a  ” chimp edit ” . I just carried on the day.

It became another 24mb in my 36 gig card that much later during my general edit stopped me. ” What the hell made me take that one, it’s not a showstopper, what could I’ve been thinking?

In this digital era, thinking is all about here and now. We  judge our images accordingly as soon they appear on our screen. We edit, trash, and move onto the next. We see no value in saving what’s been edited out. Maybe it’s because we are judging the surface of an image, a reflection of we saw. We fail to look behind the picture at the depth of what we felt either on a conscience or sub-conscience level.

The film era had an advantage. Without a dump to trash, it gave us some time and space to see our images unbiased, removed from the moment of exposure. Images appeared later in proofs or on a contact sheet. You couldn’t edit and discard them on the spot. They were left for later to judge, sometimes even for another year. They were all there to view in retrospect. As a forced way of saving it all , we could discover an overlooked image, one that would have been dumped to trash today.

Is this digital era making an exchange of what we feel for what we see by calling out an instant judgement that over rides the inner voice of Reaction Recognition ?

Images condemned to trash might speak to us later. They could help to tell us what that inner voice saying , and lead us to question the what and why. Maybe in the that answer we find out something about ourselves by what we have seen.

Discarded images could show us more than what was out there by showing us what is in here. I might have dumped this image on the spot or later in my edit but after stopping to listen inside, maybe for this Miami Photographer, the Yellow Door represented a crossroad, a decision of in or out, depending on where you stand.


Standing on the Corner Watching Life Go By

Cafe Walkers-aspen

Have you ever wondered why your best inspirations come to you in the shower, on long walks, at the beach, or just lying in bed trying to sleep?  I have, and I call it call it

” Mind Stopping.”

It’s a moment when all your random thoughts fade away. Your eternal self debates about what to do, where to go, what will happen, why am I here dissolve and you become very much in the moment. You are inside mindlessly focused on whatever the current experience is taking place, witnessing it, and allowing only your senses to feel it , not your thoughts, to judge it. You stand there for a moment like an antenna taking in sound waves without singling out any particular one, notes that you hear until suddenly you recognize a tune. In photography, that moment, that “Mind Stop” can become one of the best tools in your bag.

This Miami Photographer got to live in Paris last summer, yeah I know lucky me, but trust me, it’s the kind of luck that I worked very hard for. Walking around the city, looking for the typical shots we all see of familiar icons that make this beautiful city the gem she is, I stopped for a while to take a break and relax . I stood on a corner for a while and started to zone out of where I was or where to go next. Across the street at a cafe, sat a man on his cell phone…nothing of great interest. Up the block another man with a cane was approaching while another one was leaving. As I slipped into a mind stopping moment, a scene started to take shape in what appeared to be in slow motion, actors taking their places on a stage for their next scene. Like random pieces in a puzzle, a picture started to come together. Without prejudging it, I raised my camera to fire off a shot. The scene passed on and so did I. Much later when I reviewed my images, I put this one aside. It wasn’t the Eiffel Tower, nor the Arc de Triomphe, nor any of the visual trophies I hoped to find, but the more I looked at it, the more I liked it. The blues and reds coordinated and balanced out a scene of everyday life. It became for me, what Paris is, and taught me a lesson.

There are images that can be found but the best ones are those that find you.

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