What Do We See When We Look at Pictures

We look at pictures all day long, some deliberately some unintentionally. We pass by billboards, signs, flip through ads, onscreen, in newspapers, magazines, online and a host of vehicles that show them, as we scroll through our cell phones. We would be amazed if we could ever count the amount of pictures we see in a day, even without trying to. It’s easy to become jaded at visuals and maybe part if the reason we don’t see past their surface.

Pictures say things to us. They communicate without words, when we stop to listen. Some are subtle, some shout. Some may continue to say different things each time we look, and for me, those are the good ones. They’re not always beautiful and sometimes not even well done.


The Violinist from  ” The Reality of Dreams “

We were living in Florence, Italy for the summer and on weekends, various performers came to this spot in the evenings. She was my favorite one. She appeared to be more than just another Busker playing a tune, she was a true professional, or at best wanted to be. From her posture, talent and presentation , one could see she had years of training. She wasn’t playing show tunes, her symphonic performance was perfect.

I shot a lot of her from various angles and compositions. She was as beautiful as her music and I wanted to capture where and who she was however in my edit none struck me as much as this one. It fell into a series , that I gather when the right moments present themselves called ” the reality of dreams”. Based on what we dreamed of being, how we would like to see ourselves in our future, our expectations of things …and what those dreams really become.

In her moment she was on a great stage, formerly dressed, giving her performance while holding a Stradivarius, but in reality, she was sitting on the street,  giving a first class concerto that didn’t seem to matter to a crowd, for a few coins . For the most part, she may as well have been eating a hot dog.

One of the best exhibits I ever saw was in New York many years ago, “Talking Pictures”   now a book. In it, a host of people from all walks of life were asked to present the one picture, not their own, that talked to them the most. In front of each picture was a speaker for the viewer to hear their comments. It was interesting what they chose and why. They weren’t just looking at the print, they were looking into the picture. Some of what they saw in them took me a while to see, maybe not in agreement, but we all have our own viewpoint and maybe that was what that show was really about.

I could look at my picture briefly and just see a woman  playing a violin to a distracted crowd. I might also simply judge this picture good or bad by its technical execution alone but how much and how far we see into pictures is the challenging part of photographs.

This Miami photographer  now asks ” What do you see in this picture”




Finding It

It was Paris and every day I walked its streets searching, camera in hand. The problem was that I wasn’t quite sure of what it was that I was searching for. I Passed by beautiful monuments, romantic scenes, and bustling streets with hoards of tourists that presented themselves but they didn’t stop me nor attracted my camera.

Then by the great Pompidou Museum, a marvelous piece of architecture, a small crowd gathered to watch a man feeding pigeons…a whole lot of them. I had to add my camera to to the others and the myriad of Iphone snappers, some selfi ” me in Paris” shooters and Instagram feeders and as I started to shoot, a woman said to me, ” isn’t that sad? Poor man”  and walked off shaking her head. I didn’t respond, just kept shooting as I started to close the gap between him and me.

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” The Pigeon Man “

He didn’t respond to me as well. He continued to reach into his bag as he gathered more friends. Looking down onto my screen, my favorite way of shooting, became a moment when all else seemed to fade away and only he, I, and this moment existed, time faded away. Had it not been for him running out of food, I would have continued on all day.

Once done, we both left the scene, the play was over and as I handed him some money I said ” this to feed the birds ”  Later I learned that he would go around to the restaurants every day where they would give him left over bread to help him do just that.

Photographers can tell you that sometimes there’s a moment where time seems to stand still, a photographic space where only subject and you exist… photographic Zen. In that moment you stand alone, unaffected by all else around you, zoned into what appears in your frame, you become like a matador coming face to face with the bull, as the cheering noise of the crowd and its background fades away, in the moment of truth.

You forget what you were searching for…you simply found it.

I later thought back to what that woman said. She saw this event as sad, pitying this man as she walked on. She couldn’t see past what was at hand, no doubt like many others who saw a raggedy old man on the street. I, in turn, felt sad for her, she had eyes but couldn’t see, maybe that’s what’s wrong with this world.

He had found what he searched for, a meaning and purpose and on that day I felt that I had found mine as well. Sometimes I think that photography isn’t so much about the image that’s in your camera but the experience that’s in your head and looking back at your photographs they become its reminders.