3.22.2012

The funnest stuff in photography.

Maybe you're a landscape photographer.  If you are good at it and your images are sincere then I can appreciate your choice.  But for my money the fun part of photography is all about meeting and engaging with people.  Real people.  Everywhere.

This is one of my favorite photos. It's not a "hit and run."  I've known this guy for a long time because for the last twenty years he's worked at my friend's bakery.  This is from his early years there.  He started as a dishwasher.  He's been a master baker for a long time.

One day, many years ago, my friend the bakery owner asked me to make fun images of everyone who worked at the bakery.  We talked about how to shoot them and she told me that she liked my style of black and white, environmental stuff.  Shooting unconstricted, with one or two lights and an open agenda, is my favorite way to go.

I walked into their big, bustling kitchen and the first thing I did was walk around and tell each person, individually, what I was doing and what we were trying to get out of it.  I had an ulterior motive.  I wanted to taste a little bit of what everyone was making.  This bakery is still famous for their Pennsylvania Dutch Chocolate Cakes, Tollhouse cookies and wonderful croissant.

I was working with a Mamiya 6 camera that day.  I bounced one Metz 54 flash off the ceiling.  We talked and kidded around as I worked.  It was over too soon.

Hot coffee.  Buttery croissant.  A warm and engaged subject.  No wonder I like doing this...

15 comments:

Peter F. said...

Kirk, A very fun post and great shot. Glad you mentioned the coffee. That perhaps was the magic potion that made it all pull together *grin*.

Seriously, though (and perhaps a subject of another post??), what do you mean by "sincere" with regard to landscape photograph? Just curious. Thanks.

Peter F.

kirk tuck said...

Peter, I think I can answer that pretty quickly. There are a ton of people out there who, I get the feeling, are not really deeply interested in landscape but they do it because they like working with the tools, they are too shy or introverted to approach people and collaborate. They use landscape to showcase their command of technique instead of technique being in the service of the content. I love beautiful trees along roadways and I would shoot them if I were a landscape guy. It would look like a portfolio full of portraits of trees !!!!! But if everyone does the "majestic mountains" the surf at 10 seconds and the greatest hits, all with ND grad filters, etc. It just seems like so much "watch me make flawless landscapes" instead of "this place really moves me with some magic, and I' trying to share it with you..."

Same thing I think is wrong with most art. But I feel it stronger with landscape. People do the same thing in portraiture. Follow the rules, run it through processors, Portrait Professional software, etc. And I complain about that too. I always want to see you connection. Maybe that's what I mean by sincere.

Dave Jenkins said...

(Gearhead comment warning!) Love that Mamiya 6! Wish I had kept mine.

Dennis said...

I think people have written essays that you've just summarized here ! These people work hard at it; they're committed, so it's hard to knock them, but looking at the pictures, it's hard to find them engaging. I attended a nature photography workshop full of middle-aged to retired men mostly shooting Canon SLRs with white lenses. The location had no slide processing so instead of reviewing shots we took during the session, we were asked to bring slides. There were gorgeous shots of the lighthouse at Peggy's Cove (you've seen it; I know you have !) But to me, the best shots were from a younger women who shot a lowly Canon Rebel with kit zooms ... HANDHELD ! (gasp) usually of something in the opposite direction of what everyone else was shooting. I don't know if she shot anything good during the workshop, but she showed photos taken on a previous workshop not of landscapes, but of a metal coffee pot on a camp fire, things like that. I think a lot of us love photography (the gear, the process, whatever) more than at least some of the things we photograph. I always fancied myself a nature photography, but after my daughter was born, became a people photographer, and my best photos are of people (mostly kids, not all) and oddly, I don't feel comfortable shooting people (I'm much more comfortable shooting nature) but of course they're the subjects I care most about. The greatest photographers have a passion for a subject that most of us wannabes lack.

wjl (Wolfgang Lonien) said...

I love to take people's portraits. The last non-family member was picked up from the train station (since she cannot afford a car), invited to Mitchie's nice Asian food after our session, and brought back to the train station as well. Plus I'm constantly trying to improve on this, and to get "the connection" to the person who is to be portrayed. Trying new gear and/or lighting setups when it seems to help the task at hand, but I seldom to much in post (only when I'm asked to remove something or so).

That bakery session, the food, the coffee, and those people - that sounds like a fun job indeed.

Peter F. said...

Thanks, Kirk. Your reply to my question makes sense. I think the reason I like landscapes so much is I fell in love with my Dad's Kodachromes in the mid-1950s and we as kids could only have B&W film (because it was cheaper). And of course, being a child at the time, I felt B&W was second fiddle to Kodachrome with those awesome blue skies. Looking back at my dad's slides now (I got them scanned and prepared as a slide show for my Dad's 85th) they weren't really so hot (by today's standards, anyway) but I love those awesome blue skies at places like Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon.

Emotionally, I am trying to duplicate those efforts.... And making up for not being able to shoot color back in the day! Make sense?

Peter F.

thequietphotographer said...

This is a beautiful portrait, result from an hard work with hot coffee and buttery croissant! I like your photos and your writing! Bravo e grazie!
robert

Marcelo Guarini said...

Very, very nice portrait Kirk. I like it a lot

Neal said...

Summed up beautifully there Dennis.

I can sympathise with the above mentioned points and to add to that I find that having a genuine curiosity at life is a wonderful thing. People get annoyed at the little (seemingly mundane) things that I point out all the time to them. One thing I love about kids is that they have that curiosity so I can share special moments with my kids that many adults can no longer appreciate. I feel sorry for them.

What a diverse world we live in, If I could spend the rest of my days just seeing (different to looking), I would be a happy man.

Tom said...

gotta love sweetish hill!!

Michael Ferron said...

Every time you post an old film portrait I scratch my head as to why we all think digital is so great?

lim ss said...

The portrait of the guy is great, like always with your photos. But I looked at the pots in the upper right of the photo and the woman there and somehow, I get an eerie, haunted feeling. You can see what they are but seem to be just about the disappear into the background.

Bill Bresler said...

Beautiful and real. That's why we do this, isn't it?

Tony's Vision said...

Excellent post and some great comments. I liked the part about going through the shop sans camera and engaging easch person individually. And showing appreciation for their work! How could you then not get relaxed smiles. I had an experience like that recently talking to a couple of guys working in a blacksmith shop. Not only did they get relaxed, but through my interest in the work they were doing I forgot to be uncomfortable about pointing a camera at them.

Tony's Vision said...

PS - that is a wonderful photo - makes me feel good just looking at it. I would hang it.