Sunday, 19 September 2021

The Buzz In Photographing Strangers

On most days, I've been spending about 2 hours trawling for interesting faces in Washington Square Park; which has become (more than ever I believe) a go-to gathering spot in Lower Manhattan for countless of people. They come to the site to socialize, be seen, see others, skateboard, smoke weed (now legal), sit around talking to strangers while appreciating the buskers.

I've been walking around the central fountain, and realized quite early on that the regulars form a sort of community; an eco-system of tightly knit friends or acquaintances, who see each other on a daily basis and look after each other in case of trouble. Some are occasionally ticketed by the NYPD for music amplification and/or selling stuff (candle in the shape of dildos amongst those) without having a table.

That said, many people come to Washington Square Park with the expectation of being photographed, and are quite happy accepting posing requests by roving photographers. Some are passers-by, others are photogenic vendors, others come to be seen and looked at...the list is long.

I make it a point to ask for the names of the people I ask to pose for my cameras...and for their Instagram "handles" so I can later send them copies of the photographs. I always hold to my promise and they have their copies within a day or two.

Through this exercise, I am introduced -albeit very briefly-  to a variety of different backgrounds, different physiognomies, different styles and different ethnicities...which all are part and parcel of New York City's character and uniqueness. And that's the "buzz".

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Five Minutes Portrait Session With NL


I'm not certain of the exact dates for the New York Fashion Week (NYFW) which is held this month, but I do know it's usually held in various venues the West Village.

But why do I mention the NYFW? Here's the reason: As I was scouting Washington Square Park for candid "street" photographs, I noticed NL sitting with a friend on a bench. I quickly processed that she was wearing an evening dress and had the poise and the looks of a fashion model...but wasn't quite sure.

I asked if she was agreeable to my making a few quick portraits of her, and on her saying yes accompanied by a wide smile, I cranked up my GFX50R/63mm and started work.

Exchanging Instagram information to send her the photos and connect, I realized she was indeed a professional model, then noticed her NYFW wrist band as well. Later on, I also found out from her Instagram bio that she was South Sudanese and studying in NYU. 

I decided to use ON1 and one of my own preset LUTs to edit her photographs to achieve the right type of tone. 

Sunday, 12 September 2021

Resisting The Tides Of Racism At MOCA: My Work

The Museum of Chinese In America (MOCA) on Centre Street in NYC has been featuring an exhibition titled Responses; an offering to the United States in its moment of crisis. Chinese and Asian Americans are being blamed as the genesis of Covid19, and targeted in assaults across the country. The exhibition explores the lessons of history and raises a collective voice against the rising tide of anti-Asian hate and violence.

I am privileged to have some of my work in Manhattan's Chinatown featured in this exhibit, and especially proud that the museum used my photograph of a deserted Pell Street as the main exhibit poster in its windows, as well as for the exhibit program.

Here's an audio slideshow of the Chinatown During Covid19 photographs:

Saturday, 11 September 2021

All It Takes Is One Frame

I have spent many late afternoons in Washington Square Park which -after the "reopening" of New York City in early June- has become a magnet for an enormous variety of colorful individuals and in so doing, has become irresistible to every type of photographer drawn by this eclectic mix...whether interested or specializing in street, candid or posed photography.

Just yesterday, I stumbled on a photo session set up by a photographer who was using a view camera to photograph these two very photogenic individuals. She had inherited the view camera from her grandfather, and had enlisted help from these two young vendors.

I asked permission to photograph them as well...and on being given the "sure!", I used my GFX50R/50mm to grab a handful myself.

With the impracticality of international travel, I'm finding this type of photography very burnishes my somewhat rusty people's skills, and introduces me to a wide range of individuals who I may never have had the occasion of meeting otherwise. 

The following day, I came across a vendor of jewelry (seated next to a vendor of weed edibles) who caught my eye with her red ethnic dress, tribal head dress and a tie dyed cloth. Presumably, I -lugging two cameras- caught her eye as well, and she stood on the stone benches and started an impromptu dance. No music, just slow dance moves while waving her cloth around. I obliged by photographing her with both cameras.

This photograph was made with the GFX50R and a 63mm 2.8 lens.

Friday, 3 September 2021

Fashion In The Land Of The Thunder Dragon

Video by Khanh Nguyen for Đẹp Magazine

I came across this well produced video produced by Khanh Nguyen for the well known Vietnamese fashion magazine, and decided to post it here to highlight my strong interest in the intersection of travel and ethnic fashion photography. 

I've traveled to Bhutan a number of times (2000, 2006, 2008 and 2009) either solo or leading a group expedition/workshop, and it's a magnificent country with hospitable people. It's a singular pleasure to view Nguyen's video and easily identify the landmarks where the model is photographed and videographed.

Paro Taktsang (also known as the Taktsang Palphug Monastery) and the Tiger's Nest is one of the country's top destinations which attracts almost everyone who visits Bhutan. Wangdue, Chamkar, and all of the stops on our itinerary are here in this video.

However, I am surprised that the producers did not time their visit/assignment to coincide with Bhutan's Tshechus; the many religious Bhutanese festivals held in each district of the country which are based on the lunar Tibetan calendar. Scenes of the model in resplendent dresses would have been spectacular alongside the masked and costumed tshechu dancers.

Viewing this video a number of times, and while it's never too late, I wish my travels to Bhutan could've coincided with my somewhat recent interest in ethnic fashion. It would have been a blast!

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

The SoHo Photo-Shoot: Seeing It With An "Atmosphere" LUT

Having trudged without any photo projects during this year's early months, I arranged with Lise Liu for a Sunday morning photo session in the streets of New York City's SoHo district. I had scouted the area a few days before, and liked the "feel" of Greene, Wooster and Mercer streets as these had old buildings with interesting street-level facades that were perfect as backdrops. It was a lovely day during the third week of March, and early enough so the light was just right.

The above photographs were re-processed using with the ON1 Photo Raw 2021, and - being influenced by images made by Japanese photographers* I follow on Twitter- I wanted to use a greenish color grade LUT. I tried "freehanding" my own, but didn't quite get what I was looking for, so I downloaded a bunch of them from an outfit called Artixty. I chose one from the group "Atmosphere" and adjusted the Tone/Color controls until I had what I wanted.

I saved it as a preset so I could use it on more photographs, however I should note that the results from applying this preset (or any other) may very well differ or vary in tone and color from one photograph to the next. The uniformity -or lack thereof- depends on the type of the camera's sensor (in my case X-Trans III and GFX), the ambient light and the colors of the background/wear. I found that a dark background gives the best results for this kind of color grading.

The original photographs (including the just added Atmosphere color graded) can be viewed in this gallery: Fashion In SoHo.

* Here's an example by @syuppo_k:

Friday, 27 August 2021

Fiddling LUTs With "Seven"

I came across "Seven" in Washington Square Park the other day... a blistering torrid heat wave was passing though New York City, but she seemed to remain very cool and composed under her black frilly umbrella.

I asked if she would wait in the park until I brought my cameras...she gracefully acquiesced, and in a figurative blink of an eye, I was back with the Fuji X-Pro2/18mm and the GFX50R/50mm. I thought I had seen before on University Place, off the Park...perhaps 3 months ago, and complimented her on how she pretty she looked. 

As "Seven" was expecting a friend, I had to work very quickly and the photo session took no longer than 10-12 minutes. I used an array of actions while post processing -including LUTs- as the sun was out in full force, resulting in portions of the images being over exposed. 

The Buzz In Photographing Strangers

On most days, I've been spending about 2 hours trawling for interesting faces in Washington Square Park; which has become (more than eve...