Sunday, December 14, 2014

The 5 Day B&W Photo Challenge

Some friends and colleagues have been passing around a photo challenge, to post one black and white image every day for five days. Posted on FaceBook among us, we got to see some work from long ago to some from the present with a brief story of why.

This was one of mine..." Bonding "

 To be a photographer is to be a witness to life, the good and bad it offers. It's not just one event that sums it up but it can be just one picture. This picture had nothing to do with the actual shoot of mother daughter for a series on South Beach. It was a stolen moment while patiently waiting for the cooperation of a little girl, a bonding of parent and child, a trust, that leads hand in hand into an unknown, the first step, hesitant yet confident in her mother's hand.
There's a moment in a photographer's time, that one or two hundredth of a second when you know what you've caught, plays out a lifetime, sometimes theirs, sometimes your own. For me this image brings back many memories of me and my daughter at that time in her life. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Another Job...

I went to Catholic school. It was small in size, smaller in thinking but I was a wise guy, so for my sins, my parents sentenced me there. My public school brother took shop, made cool things,worked on cars; I marched through Gaul with Caesar and said the rosary. As a small school it drew large characters from all over the county, some by choice, some by last choice, me…only choice. The teachers, a mix of nuns and laymen formed the base of education…mostly theirs. I learned some things from their school books, which I mostly forgot, but everything from some others whom I still remember.

One, a dynamic physical ed coach was influential on a lot of us, boys that is ( don't get the wrong idea here!) .   it was his philosophy on life that tuck to me. I repeat it every time I fail and it gives me reason to continue. He gave it with your last name first :

                                       "…LaBatts,  ya godda pay the price…"

True words he gave us on one hand.  In the other hand however he carried a golf club that he used like a walking cane and caned the ones that didn't walk the walk. He was a real driver. I liked him deep down. He wasn't parochial, he was a stand up guy. He was also ambitious.

When the northern region of the county built a new regional high school, he got the job as the head coach. When I moved onto a new paper, I got the job to shoot a spread on him. I left one Perry White type editor behind to find another, but a better dressed one. His concern was that I was charging him more than I charged his friend which amounted to nothing really but he had to put on the show. It came with his territory.

" Get me some good stuff this time"…were always his encouraging words and insightful direction. " What's the assignment " I asked, It helps to know at times. They were featuring the new county school and part of it was their new star coach…the golfer and when I heard that, in my mind I shouted…" FOUR!!"

He had a winning football team and still a par swing no doubt..A few years had gone by since my high school but not enough not to recognize him from a distance as I approached him on the filed.  He looked smaller for some reason and very surprised for another. I was glad to see him even though I never played football. He was still the same guy, a great colorful character and after spending a couple of hours photographing him in action, we walked back to his office for the feature shot.

A few more clicked by sitting on his desk, standing in the doorway etc when he asked " Is that it? got it all? "
 " I think so.."  I said turning and stopping next to the famous golf club leaning against the wall…." Hey " I said with an innocent tone " how bout you hold this club for one more shot??? " ( a real pulitzer prize in the making.) He stood up walking towards me… caught in the act  " No ! " Smiling I left quickly…still liked him.

His shoot ran two pages. I never got that Pulitzer…but I'm still  "paying the price".

This one's for you Mr.Scrog

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

My First Photography Job

Many of us hold deeply that first job. It was the one that ignited your fire. I wanted to be working for National Geographic...still a prevailing dream ( if it's that) . My first time out happened when I walked into a county-wide weekly paper to see if they could use a stringer. The editor looked up at me and what I had , offering $20 an published image. Back then $ 20 seemed good  and  I  really wanted the break. They had a staffer or two, one who carried a Speed Graphic so he could contact the large neg multiple times and pump out  "Handshake"  shots or "The Ribbon Cutting" event for the paper and its attendees. He had three names so his credit line took up a lot of space . Maybe that was clever on his part. He got the "choice" jobs, grand openings, town meetings, check donations. The other one, a lady part time got the cutsy shots...the dog wearing a raincoat on a bad weather day, the grandma who paints Easter eggs in her basement to raise funds for her society. The editor couldn't have been cast any better if it had been from Disney itself. A robust, snarly, grumbling guy with a desk full of random sheets of papers and clippings, half full coffee cup and a totally full ashtray. He was always sitting sometimes leaning back and often leaning forward growling. Typical of Jersey , you were just a last name... hey Pace. 
Among the cast of characters, I stood there with my samples, my Nikon and two lenses in hand as he told me to come back in a day or two to see what he might have. I did.   

My first assignment was to go up to a reservoir in northern New Jersey " Something's goin on see if  you can get a shot." The three name man smiled,"you're wasting your time, can't do anything with that." of course not who would buy contact prints of a reservoir? None the less, I went charging out like Jimmy Olsen from the Daily Planet... when I got there, a bulldozer had uncovered a overly large bone. Building had halted, no one was talking and nothing seemed to be happening. I left wondering how would I tell the editor that I just got a shot of a guy sitting on bulldozer. So the next day early I returned to find a staff from the museum of Natural History along with some state officials on hand as they laid out the uncovered skeleton of a mastodon. The only thing missing was the head which they were furiously digging for to the dismay of the builder. I couldn't crank the Nikon any faster. At day's end I raced back to my converted by night darkroom , enlarger on the bowl, trays in the tub, prints in the sink. Printing out my day's coverage, I laid out my  prints on boards as a story  hoping the editor would like it. It ran 3 pages and I collected $200. To me it was a gift  from the universe that welcomed a young guy into what became my fever.
They never found the head...I found mine.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day...Dad

" Why can't you turn off the lights when you're finished?" my dad must have said this a hundred times to me. " uh...I don't know..." was always my reply.

It was last week when I sat down to pay all my usual bills, one not as usual. It's summer here in Miami and the more than average electric bill was glowing with no help from an outlet. I left it for last and as the last bead of perspiration convinced me to pay it fast before they shut me off and down the air conditioner. I walked around the empty apartment switching off every needless light and power hungry item running...mmmm

" Why can't they just turn off the lights when they leave??? " a quick turn around to see who was did I heard my father's voice in the background ?  

Maybe I didn't know why then but I do know now...Happy Father's Day dad....  I'll still keep a light on, just to hear you again.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Shooting Bronzini...and others

I was hired to shoot Bronzini. I didn't know what he did or what he "didn't do" to call me in. All they told me is that he was coming that morning from either Greece or Italy in the Mediterranean. After the shoot they would put him in "The Freezer"

I set it up that day and waited. They brought him over. I grabbed him and wrestled him onto table. He was slippery but cooperative and we all knew what was to happen next. It didn't take too long despite the fact that I had to take a few shots....

This is Bronzini. I shoot Food. I'm also the fish guy

who has
" The Fish Series..." an ongoing art project that is now showing some images with the "Works in Progress"  photo show, as part of the Miami Visual Collective,  appearing at the Jorge Hullian Gallery , 5864 Sunset Drive,South Miami, FL.

So it would be a perfect fit that I should shoot an assignment involving fish. My client had just that in mind when he called. They are one of the best fresh fish providers in the state, supplying top chefs and high end restaurants with both known and some unusual fish from different parts of the world. Bronzini was one of them.

The director of this job couldn't be on location but we kept  communicating by posting images live online as we shot them. With me, besides my assistant, was the designer and owner, watching the monitor as images appeared and after some careful time for initial approvals on backgrounds colors etc, we went on to execute my mission.

It doesn't get any fresher than this by setting it up on location. Full scale lighting for such small colorful items help make them clean and makes their colors sparkle. Styling them is another challenge and sometimes the simpler something looks the harder it is. Luckily my sous chef experience comes into play as this time we didn't bring in one of the great food stylists I work with. This job presented its own set of challenges and time constraints but it's part of the job and why I love doing  it.

PS. my wife made me sleep on the couch that night.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


"...the good of the whole benefits the one..." It's something I always thought and still do.  Sure there are many rugged individuals who like to say they made it all on their own...they're full of crap. No one really does. We all need each other or better yet, the right others.

Groups, societies, clubs associations, unions etc become the bowl from where we mix the right ingredients to produce a flavor that makes them come back for more.

Photographers are mostly solo people in a solo game. They are a mostly a one man show with a one man approach. In the telephone era we were all one on one. "Let's do lunch," ...that worked well... then, not so much today. The world for an individual is a much bigger place with its doorway on your desk, on your lap and in your cell phone. Welcome to everyone on the planet and with it global competition.

Are you still standing alone? 12 photographers chose not to and MiamiVisualCollective was formed. Its ingredients blended together over years of mutual cooperation and reliance on each others expertise and performance via the groups they belonged to, and the assignments and clients they sometimes crossed over with. Over that time, professional respect and trust became the binding factor that brought them together and gives them the ability to perform and produce quickly when needed.

While each have different strengths, all share the same interests and love of what they do. That love can be seen in their first "collective" exhibit..."Works in Progress."