Being Called Suspicious

For those who have been checking out Gotham Stones, you know that I have been photographing old buildings around New York City.  I was photographing a building early this week.  Just like photographing other buildings, I spent more than an hour walking around and photographing that building at sun set.  However, this time, a security guard let me know that I looked suspicious.  He was just telling me how he felt, not trying to stop me.  As a matter of fact, when I asked if it would be okay to continue, he didn’t stop me, just repeated that I looked suspicious.  However, I was so distracted that I just walked away soon afterward. 

I have been questioned about my photographic activities before.  However, after this incident, I realized that I shouldn’t just walk away.  Photography has been viewed as suspicious activity by some people.  Without knowing who I am, that security was just trying to do his job.  I can’t blame him for having that wrong perception.  I can’t really be angry at someone for doing his job neither.  Instead, I should have explained to him about what I was doing.  If he saw that I was doing this for my project and I was just amazed by that building, he might not feel such unease. 

We as photographer should try to correct the wrong perception.  I should explain myself better next time.


Painting vs. Photographing

I think most of us have a way to channel the artists in us.  Some were lucky enough to be able to do it through pay jobs, others do it through their day-to-day activities.  Looking back, I certainly had a few artistic hobbies.  Of course, now-a-day, it is photography.  Years back, it was painting. 

Once in a while, I think about how the two are different.  That produces many interesting thoughts.  For one, it used to take me a weekend to complete one painting, not to mention all the thinking before I started making the sketch.  On the other hand, a day trip of photography can produces hundreds of raw images.  That makes photography appeared easier.  However, how many raw images do we get to keep as winners?  There were certainly times when I didn’t get a single winning picture.  Of course, spending a weekend painting doesn’t guarantee a good painting neither.  However, can a photographer create a photograph like a painter creating a printing?  One can argue the way photographers pre-visualize their photographs before pressing the shooter is more or less identical to painters visualizing their paintings.  For the painter, visualizing is only a start.  Is the photographer done when the shooter was pressed?  Not exactly.  The photographer still needs to see if the image communicates the vision. 

These kinds of comparison exercise are very interesting.  The insights might changes the way we photograph.


Gotham Stones: Genesis

The structure that initiated this project was the Brooklyn Bridge.  The particular photograph was taken on a Saturday around the end of summer last year.  At the time, I just started photographing again after a few months of break.  Failure to find interesting subject was putting me off from photography.  At some point, I decided to just go out and photograph something, anything.  I had photographed around sun sets.  However, I had never photographed the same subject at the same location while the sun was setting.  So, I decided to photograph the Brooklyn Bridge around South Street Seaport as an exercise.  That day, by the time I arrived at the South Street Seaport, I was very tired from walking and carrying my equipments.  Worse of all, there was no interesting photograph in my memory card.  I was ready to just call off the unsuccessful trip.  As the sun was setting, the bridge appeared different.  While not that excited, I noticed my photographs were getting better.  I continued to photograph for around another 30 minutes.  Then, while the whole bridge was in shadow, a light shined through the cloud and lighted up the waving flag on the bridge.  Right then, I saw it.  I ran for a better angle and took a few photographs.  By the time I ran to another spot, that light was gone. 

All of my tiredness disappeared.  I had never taken a better photograph before that day.


Photograph the Same Place Again

Perhaps it is just convenience, but I do enjoy photographing the same place again and again. 

Early this week, I went to Chicago for a seminar.  This would be my fifth time going to Chicago for business.   Have I visited all the places for tourists yet?  No.  Have I taken lots of photographs of Chicago before?  Yes.  Did I go around photographing the same thing again?  You bet.  As a matter of fact, I found myself covering a smaller geographic region this time.  Okay, I was only staying in Chicago for a few days.  I would also need to attend sessions a lot of the time.  It would simply be difficult to cover more area.  However, in order to get a better feel for the environment, I decided to focus on photographing a very small area.  I didn’t even stop by other places.   

As my photography evolves, I find that there are many different elements in given scenes.  Beyond walking around looking for that perfect angle, the same subject can communicate very different messages.  Evenings from one day to the next could be very different.  The same scene is changing by the minutes around sun rises and sun sets. 

Perhaps, on an even boarder scale, as we sharpen our eyes as photographers, the same scene could be very different from our prospective.  So, in some sense, even at the same location, we are always taking different photographs.


Gotham Stones

After putting out Elements of French Quarter Scenery early this year, I finally started posting Gotham Stones last week.  At this point, I have been working on this project for more than half a year.  While the project is still evolving, the subject is stabilized at this point. 

Gotham is an old name of New York City.  Gotham stones are stones from this old New York City.  Every city has its history.  Part of that history is preserved in its buildings.  Gotham Stones is an exploration of the old New York City through various buildings and structures that made heavy use of stones.  As the name implies, the focus is on the stones, not the buildings themselves.  The project is consisted on a series of close ups on the stones of these buildings.  

Gotham Stones is one of a few on-going projects that I am working one.  Enjoy!