I guess I never saw my hometown until I stayed away too long.
Let me preface this by saying that I go down to the DC area quite a bit, whether for family or for work. Thanksgiving Break 2017, though, felt a little different. Whereas previous visits were marked by the mad dash to see as many people as possible, I took it easy this time and really tried taking it all in as if I had all the time in the world.
It’s crazy to think that I’m coming on a year and a half since I packed up and moved north to New York City and yet I still feel irrevocably tied to DC because it’s where I spent my formative years, doing stupid shit and learning a whole lot about myself in the process.
New York City is my present and my future now, and I first moved partly due to the fact that DC was being haunted by people/events/memories that were no longer there. In a way, I felt left behind, relegated to re-telling stories from my past and the only way to reclaim that sense of urgency in my life was to get out and break from the familiarity.
But that’s different now. Coming back this time, I found appreciation for those memories, and and an even greater appreciation for a vibrant and ever-changing cityscape. I love you, DC and I mean that.
[I’ll be working on some personal projects that require some participation for the next few months, so I’ll be letting you all know more soon-ish. Meanwhile, enjoy the photos below as well as a list of songs I’m listening to at the bottom of the post]
San Diego Serenade - Tom Waits
In Care of 8675309 - Lambchop
Coming Home - Leon Bridges
Blindsided - Bon Iver
Left and Leaving - the Weakerthans
I’ve always been attracted to street photography because of its authenticity and the ability to document the small, magical moments in everyday life. Street photography is interesting in that it’s so readily accessible that anyone with a phone or camera can do it, but it’s also so relentlessly difficult due to the fact that everyone is working to capture that one magical moment that both tells a story AND allows for viewers to relate to an image.
For this reason, I wanted to draw attention to talented photographers that have influenced my work. I’m always the first to admit that nothing that I do is remotely unique; I tend to take what I love from each photographer, whether its the style, composition, or subject matter, and mix/remix it into something that hopefully I can call my own. As French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard once said: “It’s not where you take things from - it’s where you take them to.”
So get inspired and follow these photographers:
1) Paola Franqui (https://www.instagram.com/monaris_)
New York-based photographer Paola Franqui is the first person I recommend to someone if they are just getting into street photography. Stylistically, I’ve always tried to mimic her, from the cold, almost vintage tones to the way she let her subject matter breathe within the tight confines of the city. The best photographs always get you to relate to the subject at hand, to the point where you feel like you know them and Paola never fails at doing this. Definitely my go-to photographer whenever someone asks me who I look to for inspiration.
2) Martha Cooper (www.instagram.com/marthacoopergram)
Martha Cooper rose to prominence in the 1970s and 1980s by documenting the burgeoning New York City graffiti scene. It was dynamic, it was gritty, and it was dangerous – everything that I’ve associated with New York City since I was a kid. Aside from the obvious fact that I’ve always tried to recreate the bright tones of her photographs, Martha has always taught me to focus on the people. There’s a human quality in all her photographs and that is the true basis of great, impactful street photography.
3) Robert Herman (The New Yorkers, amazon.com $35.75)
I discovered Robert Herman’s The New Yorkers in a bookstore and was immediately captivated by the saturated colors he was able to produce. It was like seeing old black and white photos suddenly colorized; the images leapt off the pages in such vivid detail. And indeed, he captured an era of New York that I’m sad that I was never a part of. Like Martha Cooper, all his images contributed to how I had envisioned NYC in my head. His work ethic is impeccable too, as he literally shot whenever he could. I pack my camera into a backpack wherever I go these days so that someday I can amass a collection of images that rivals Robert Herman. Looking at his photos is like stepping into a time portal back to when New York was less safer but had so much more character.
4) Liam Wong (https://www.instagram.com/liamwon9/)
I don’t think I can ever pull off the dream-like qualities that Liam Wong has mastered so well in his photos, but I often try and recreate the moodiness that weaves itself through his work. His work has a sense of intensity and urgency; there’s always a sense of rapid movement and a palpable sense of uneasiness. My coworkers joke that my Instagram persona is much moodier than my actual persona, and I have Liam to thank for that. For more cinematic-minded folks, Liam’s work is just for you.
5) Jason M. Peterson (https://www.instagram.com/jasonmpeterson/)
Chicago-based photographer Jason Peterson deals in blacks and whites. His laser-focus on black and white photography has shown me how critical it is to get composition and lighting right. It’s hard to develop a distinct style if you can’t get your photos straight or take advantage of the lighting situation. Whenever I’m out in the field, I’ve always asked myself what Jason would look for and that pares the scene unfolding in front of me down to the basics. Getting the basics right frees up more time to focus on the immediate scene and capture that “it” moment.
So there you go. They certainly aren’t my only influences but they are the photographers that I look to when I need a jolt of inspiration. You can see a lot of their styles in my photography and I try to pay homage to each of them without ripping them off completely. Whatever you do, it’s important to pull from what speaks to you.
I would argue that originality on its own is non-existent and the much more worthy goal is focusing on authenticity. Authenticity exhibits everything that is genuine about your work and allows for others to see the passion that you have for the subject. It’s what keeps me going and it’s what I keep an eye out for in other photographers as well. So go ahead, embrace everything and everyone that inspires you, and apply your own creativity to the mix.
Here it is. My first blog post since my Xanga account during the early to mid-aughts.
I figured I’d start this as a way to complement and comment on my various photo endeavors, whether it’s offering a behind the scenes look of a photoshoot, discussing and promoting other photographers, or just publishing a photo series from time to time. And who knows, maybe I’ll eventually announce a few chances where you can win a free stuff and promote the hell out of my store once I get my shit together.
But that’s all stuff for the future.
I’m really here today to share a photo series and since it’s Labor Day Weekend, I thought it’d be appropriate for my inaugural post to focus on the end of summer. As I wrote in an Instagram post last week, the sights and sounds of fairgrounds and carnivals always reminded me of the waning days of summer, going all the way back to when I was a kid growing up in the suburbs of Washington, DC.
Why do fairgrounds remind me of the end of summer specifically? For practical reasons, the Montgomery County Fairgrounds (near where I grew up) always arrived in August, with school right around the corner. But even more than that, it signified the end of that instance of childhood. No matter what, the following summer would feel a little different. You get older, you start doing older people stuff, and the things that you once gravitated to as a younger kid just seemed uncool. Childhood’s fleeting because there was always this rush to grow up.
For this photo series, I rode the Q Train to Coney Island over two consecutive nights in late August to try and recapture that feeling of the end of something wonderful and the beginning of something unknown and new. I’m hoping that this collection reminds you of childhood memories long gone, just like it did for me. It was a real treat to take in everything as an observer, knowing that people around me were making memories every night and those same memories would be looked upon fondly as the years pass.
A few of these photos are presented for the first time ever, not because they weren’t good enough, but because I tend to vary my posts quite a bit on Instagram to keep followers engaged and I don’t think it’ll do me any favors to post two photos that are so similar to each other in quick succession. In a way, this blog offers up plenty of chances for me to produce photos not seen elsewhere in order to provide context.
Also, Instagram compresses the hell out of my images, so you get much better quality photos on my site. This is important.
Hope you guys enjoy this collection!
[note: since music is a huge part of my life, I’ll be including some songs that pair well with this collection of images. it’s like wine, but in song form.]
4th of July, Asbury Park - Bruce Springsteen, The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle (1973)
oh baby - LCD Soundsystem, American Dream (2017)
The Backseat - The Gaslight Anthem, That ‘59 Sound (2008)
All Summer Long - The Beach Boys, All Summer Long (1964)
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