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.


Photography, Business, and Fishing…

We’ve all been hearing our fellow photographers complain that despite all best efforts, business is not coming their way. I can relate…made me think long on what am I doing wrong. Did I miss some program or fancy campaign, some subscription that I should have taken, a multi tiered service I should have tried? Was I not listening to the well meaning savants advising me on how to dress and smell better to attract that deified client who could anoint me into the sainthood of photography? Depression was setting in quickly, along with some vino, because there is nothing like drowning from the inside , makes your gut float to the top where your brain is and sometimes when they meet, you get a lot of reasons why, like ” it’s them “.. usually followed by ” no.. it’s me…”

But this isn’t about me. Its about business, and it’s also about fishing… the Shark river inlet to be exact.

When I was much younger, ( don’t go there,wise ass) my best friend, high school pal, best man at my wedding (first one) and I , would go down to the Jersey shore on weekends to fish on the rocky jetty along the Shark River inlet. We fished for two elusive things, Stripe Bass (Stripers to the natives) and Bluefish (Blues to them as well..not the Ken Burns type though that came later in life) . Both ran in large schools during Autumn right up until maybe early December depending on the weather and at that time Jersey was cold, cold enough to see the ice form on the end of the jetty from the ocean spraying the rocks and us in our foul weather outfits. We would arrive at daybreak after long studies of the tide with our best gear in hand, surf rods taller than most men and able to land an Orca if we had to or even could. We had all the right lures. Some costing up to $2.00 each, a lot at that time considering that going to a movie cost .75 cents. We were fully dressed with waders that had boots with cleats to scale the higher slippery rocks. We had belted knives, pliers, ammo bags for hooks etc., in fact we looked like an assault team coming in for a strike. Ours was the state of the art gear, the newest and best things the sporting goods store had to offer. We made money, were single and spent it. It would take us twenty minutes just to gear up once we parked the car.

Just above the jetty along the inlet was an older, typical for its time, small NJ luncheonette owned and ran by an old Italian man, salted by the years that he lived by the ocean. He was a real character but he was further trumped by his buddies who held a permanent position on self claimed diner stools that fronted the matching Formica, and pitted chrome bar stools, from where behind, Louie would slap down another grisly greasy patty that served as a burger, before Macs came to town. Behind Louie and above all along the walls, were stuffed tributes to their fishing conquests gathering dust, still having the very lures dangling from their mouths that lead to their capture. If Shark River was the capital of fishing then this luncheonette was its White House. But best of all each of these old Italian men would leave their various rods as old as them, outside, leaning against the building just by the door, perfectly stacked side by side in a row, like army rifles ready for combat at any moment.

It was a different time…try that today and hurry to the pawn shop to see where they went. It was a scene that couldn’t have been cast better for any photographer, but I wasn’t one yet…I was a fisherman…and we were here for business.

A few hours passed after daybreak and as usual my friend and I needed a break, some warmth and a Louie burger.. not a MAC… NOT THERE..you didn’t want to insult Louie. This was an original place where the men inside were more than original. We would take a spot on the outer fringe where the booths hadn’t seen a rag in years, and sat down to order, breaking the silence of dozen or so sets of eyes scanning us, staring us down wondering who “deeze” guys were, despite the many times we went there. They mumbled in Italian looking at us in our foul weather gear, chuckling, occasionally nodding our way. It was NJ Italian protocol of being accepted. The chatter would pick up again and while we couldn’t understand what they were saying, we did understand one thing loud and clear. That was when another older than them Italian ran inside shouting….

” Da Blues are in.”

Like a rehearsed dance troupe they sprang up and ran out grabbing their respective rods while in motion and charged out to the jetty, with us clanking behind. We never could keep up with those guys. Maybe it was all our gear, my rod was too big, our boots too heavy, who knows cause those guys had little, I know since we made enough fun of them about it. Each took his respective spot out there and like a beautiful synchronization of tree branches dancing in the wind, their rods and lines would whip out sending their lines above the crashing surf, and with almost every cast they reeled in a huge Bluefish that they would land behind them. We joined in furiously. Our luck wasn’t as good but still we caught some smaller ones and lost a lot of lures. Frustrated, I went to see what each of the men were using, to find an answer, a magic pill, but it didn’t seem to matter, even a bare hook on their old rods properly cast brought back a good result.

Then it ended like it started..” dats it, der gonna” and they simply picked up the best fish that they kept and went back to where they were, taking their places like extras in a movie, their coffee still warm and continued conversation as though nothing had interrupted it to start with. We of course stayed on the jetty working hard at trying to get more, something bigger, better, but all there was there were the occasional crap fish that often got you tangled in the rocks.

We did that for a few years. Time passed and exposed more and more worn stools and less rods, and finally the very place itself and Louie were gone, and so were we.

Years went by and still I often think of those times, especially in these. I had learned two important thing from that experience about business especially this one.

One…It’s not your rod, your gear, the lure, nor is it the fact that you might not speak Italian…I think it’s very simple. The Blues just aren’t running and like my old friends there who knew how to be ready when they do, pick up your rod, and strike when they when the time comes. Like them, in the meantime, they went inside, met up with friends, got together, had a coffee, talked, and shared a part of what makes up their lives, the things that brought them there week after week. Maybe its not about catching fish after all. Enjoy the process. Take part in getting together… When the Blues start running again, grab your rod and go…meantime don’t get hung up and study why they left or where they went…they will be back..they just run with the tide and run in schools.

The second..and more important..

Remembering my friend… I went back to Jersey one year after hurricane Andrew, to the very spot we used to fish from. They had turned the place into a college town and had even paved over the jetty for those “lilly pad walkers.” I walked out to the end on the now smooth jetty. It did seem different but when I looked out, some seagulls were diving into the water, a sign of a passing school feeding on smaller fish. When I reached the end I looked down and there scratched into what was once fresh cement, now wet by calmer ocean waves, was written,

” Man is never defeated, he just simply gives up ” …

One man had left his mark , .. and this man heard his voice.

If “Clothes make the man”..do Cameras Make the Image?

Like most working photographers, I have a number of cameras in all formats. Each one offers a different look and approach. If I were to shoot the same subject with each camera, every image would look somewhat different. Like a musical piece, played with a piano, a trumpet, and cello and you will hear three different renditions of the same music.

I started to walk in the mornings, my meager way of keeping in shape but mostly done to gather my thoughts. On one of those days, I spotted this scene as I passed by. I didn’t have my 35 nor medium nor large format with me although I did think of going home to get one. The “purists” were calling.

the day the music died

” The Day the Music Died “

Luckily I didn’t listen and turned to shooting it with my Iphone. It was too good to pass it up and the freedom that the phone gave me caught it just before the trash collector came.

But a thought came to mind. What if I had gone back to pull out my Blad, or 4×5 or even 35 digital…would I have taken the same shot ? Would my approach been the same or  would I have seen this image the same way or maybe not felt it at all ?

Do the tools we use influence how we see?






Responsibility and the Power of Prints

In a great scene from Spiderman, Uncle Harry turns to his nephew Peter Parker, yet to be become the super hero, and says ” With great power comes great responsibility.” Later , Peter, now Spiderman, learns the depth of that statement.

This is my mother, in her youth , right after World War ll in France. 
It is an honest portrait showing a strong beautiful girl standing strong despite all the experiences of World War ll that she endured during the German occupation. Technically, flawed by a cheap camera, it still captured her real self, and does still now,  as an elderly lady, the one I know. It speaks for her in that moment, assured of who she was then and who she would become. It is a time piece.
A few years later, in the early 50s, arriving in New York City, a professional photographer discovered her and took these images. While they are technically perfect with all the high grade professionalism and beauty of classic photography, they are someone else that I never knew but only discovered lying in a draw , while in my teens, . I recognized her as my mother, but this was a woman I never knew existed. It was my mother being someone else, a projection of someone other than herself..

Over 75 years ago, this photographer probably had no knowledge of where these   different images of the same person would wind up nor who would view them. Luckily he had knowledge of how to preserve them and these time pieces endured, and hopefully will continue to do so for the future generations of my family.Luckily I knew the first photographer, my dad. The second one unfortunately is lost. I would have loved to have met him today if he was still with us just to talk about the entire series of images he made here. With his forgiveness I am showing his work here with admiration.  

As photographers we are not Spiderman, but like him we also share an awesome responsibility because like him, we wield an awesome power with a responsibility . The power of stopping time and holding it in one place is something that we often don’t think of, each time we push the button.

In this digital era, with devices that become obsolete and ” no longer supported” programs, without prints, what will the future generations see? How will we see what was, who was, and where have we been?

Images are records of time and we as photographers become the timekeeper. Albums, book, portfolios, prints are important and should be paramount in our craft. They are the physical proof of the time we kept for others to see.


When images find you


She asked me, ” Why are you stopping here?”  I simply said, ” I like this scene ” I didn’t know why but something drew me in and there was no time to analyze it, just react and glad I did. It wasn’t that I ignored her but taking the time to explain it all, including the time to ask myself why I did stop, would have made me missed a magic moment, the kind that helps to define a photographer’s luck.


It was an overcast, gloomy day, not too unusual for this part of France, but several frames in, it was as though someone back stage turned on the lights and just for a brief moment, this scene came to life and revealed itself .

Later, with a little help in post to enhance it further , my wife saw this image, and said she didn’t see that. I wouldn’t have seen it either had I not stopped but something about it drew me in.

We all have an inner voice that we should trust. Time and experience can make that voice shout and we should listen without trying to figure out what it’s saying. Acting on it doesn’t need explaining, just action.

They say that chance favors the prepared but I think that the prepared has to take the chance first.


6 Eyes, 3 Friends, 1 Tree


We are three friends. We are also three photographers who at times compete for the same clients.We have three ways of seeing things.
On the left is Paul Morris, the middle is me, the right is Robert Klemm
You often hear ” That’s been done before. ”  It is the chant and motto of the discouragement fraternity whose numbers, especially in this field, grow by the day. To the young, thank God, it falls on deaf ears. To others it resounds like an echo in a canyon and if we pay too much attention to it, numbs us to the point of internal stagnation. 
Here we three were in the Florida Everglades at a very familiar spot for locals who tread there, the “Z Tree,” a bald cypress who took a strange turn due to a force in nature. Many have stopped there and I have a host of images of this tree. 
Paul chose to work with his pinhole camera and Polaroid 55N film. From his view, the tree becomes part of the heavens reaching up connecting earth and sky. It was a brilliant day and through his lens, this tree celebrates it.
Robert, chose to work with a Deardorff   view camera scaled for 4X5 B&W film. His graphic silhouette of the tree quickly brings out the name it bears and accentuates a sense of power that gives reason to why it has endured whatever mishap fell on it. In a way it speaks for the power of nature with its resiliency of survival.
I chose to work with a Canon 5D  and a LensBaby. For me the tree was the main subject in a painting of an environment that exists no where else on earth. It’s warm colors muted by the len’s effect and its focus directed to the subject at hand was my interest. 
We could have had 50 photographers on that site that day and probably would have 50 different images produced with no two alike. Besides the beauty of the images, there are lessons here to be had. For me the lesson learned is about individuality and how, like the tree, one stands unique, despite it all. A different vision is in each one of us but it’s often blinded by the myriad of negatives that place blinders on it. Like snowflakes, no two will ever be exactly the same and that shouldn’t stop us from doing and re-doing things, with our own expression.
” That’s been done before “……maybe, but not this way. 

Importance of Approach

This is my Dad, Grandmother and Uncle. The location, Tampa, Florida,1938, actually Ybor City. My grandmother  never had much, having gone through some of the tougher economic times of this country but one thing she did have, invested in, and handed it down were photographs…professional ones that she had taken with her children, adding their families and later me whenever I visited her from New York. She had a favorite studio in Tampa, where an excellent photographer exercised  perfection in his craft, as you see here.
His canvas background and various chair props that appear in many other photographs he took of us through the years were his only “special effects”, long before PhotoShop. His concentration with his large format camera, lighting and on his subjects, all the while putting up with us and my grandmother’s demands added to the treasure chest of memories that made up her trove.  She recorded every picture in the corner with ink and properly stowed it away in one of many albums.
The importance she placed on these sessions were equally met by her photographer and maybe that is what this post is about;
…the importance of the time we take, the time we share and the time we leave frozen those who couldn’t be there.
Looking at this family portrait, we see a classic Black and White of its time, perfect posing ( a little stiff by today’s standard ) perfect lighting, exposure and expression. This was an important moment for all. You can see that he took it seriously because it was important to her his client, and to his reputation. This was Angelo’s Studio and his approach wasn’t just driven by money. He was contributing to history and his personal approach was seen in every portrait he did of our family through all the years.
A few short years later, my dad on the left went to the Army and my uncle, the chunky one, went to the Marines, both went to war and that made this image and this photographer’s skill and attention to the details much more precious to her and to those of us who will carry it on for our future generations.
Thank you Angelo, my deep respect.

What’s the Point of this Picture?

” Street Photography ” has a few requirements to be successful. You need awareness of your surroundings, an understanding of a situation, quick reactions… and a lot of balls.

Of course, you also need a good street and those happen in active cities. This one is in Paris, but that’s not the point of this, it could be anywhere. It’s a slice of life taken from your point of view and presented to others asking for theirs, and the best part is hearing what theirs is.

I was taken by this homeless man who fell asleep on a very busy corner in his makeshift shelter and he passing crowds, who walked by carried along their way. I had to stop and shoot the scene. My view was on the man who made for me an interesting shot, but it wasn’t until later in post that I noticed the girl who was as struck by his presence as I was.

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In my review I saw a different scene…  the homeless man was no longer the point of interest but it became the girl’s reaction to this situation. Now my image took on a different meaning, and a life of its own changing my original viewpoint.

I started to look back on the many other images done by others that became Icons for an era, a movement, used to support some other cause, and wondered if originally did its photographer intend something different than how it had been interpreted ? Do some images take on a life of its own, one far from its original intention?

Could this image become a statement by her surprised stare, an awareness of those who have and those who have not… the difference of one generation to another……

Without diving too deep into this image,

What do you see?




The “decisive moment”..when you find it, and when it finds you

There are times when you seek out to make an image. Searching to find it is one thing, but being there long enough is everything.

Old Trains


I love getting back to my roots in photography and for me that’s film..B&W, and with a larger format than 35mm…this case a Blad…( man do I love that camera for this.)
There’s something about the square space.  Looking down into that square for me becomes like a Zen moment.


So here I was with a group of various photographers, gathered together to share a day taking pictures at the Gold Coast Train Museum  in Miami, Fl. which was a perfect and willing subject.

After spending a few hours shooting the exteriors of the trains  I needed a break from the sun. I stepped inside one of the older cars and sat in one of the seats. My thoughts brought back memories of summer vacations , leaving New York, to visit my grandmother in Tampa, Fl., by a train just like this one, when train travel was more common.

I set the Blad on the tripod and took my time framing the scene. Just as I thought that I had found a perfect image, I looked down to focus, as an older gentlemen came inside tapping his cane followed by his younger granddaughter. As she sat down to duck my camera..

he asked: ” Am I in the picture?”  I raised my head slowly, as though to receive Holy Communion and answered emphatically

” You are the picture “ ..

I asked the gentleman if he could just stay where he was and if he could remember a time he might have traveled in this type of car. He did… it was during WWll, taking him, a young soldier to his training camp… and lost in his memories, he struck a pose, cane in hand. I released the shutter and like in a matador’s “moment of truth,”  time stood still long enough to steal it and become mine.

There are moments in photography that we look for but never find, but once in while, when we stop looking and take the time to connect to our surroundings,  the moment finds us.