The Photography Manifesto

I guess that is a rather strong title for a blog entry, but it is what it is.

I’ve had this blog for almost 16 years and it’s gone through a number of iterations. I’ve been a photographer for 25 years, in that I really started taking pictures with an all manual camera that year. As any story of a photographer starts, I borrowed my dad’s Canon AE-1. “Borrowed” in that I kept the camera for over 15 years, dragging it across continents and into any place that I wouldn’t get kicked out of for carrying it. And some I was kicked out of.

I know this is going to sound profoundly self important and pompous, but I’ve recently started to think about my “work,” my body of work as a photographer. What defines the photographs I take? I think two things profoundly affected me. The first was growing up in New York in the 1980s and seeing all of it. I saw the rise of rap and hip hop culture, the yuppies on Wall Street and that arts scene in New York. I would walk around New York with my parents and we’d see Andy Warhol. That stays with you. The other thing was going to museums growing up. A lot of museums. I’m an only child and babysitters were expensive, so I went where the adults went. Even as a kid, I remember going to those museums and thinking — I want to go create something. I want to be a part of this, but here’s the thing. I am absolutely terrible at drawing or painting. I just seemed so far away to be able to create the way those people created.

I was drawn to photography way before I ever picked up a camera. Way before. I absolutely had a vision of what I wanted to photograph but the technical skill to actually do this??? That was way off in the future. I never actually took a photography class. People always asked me if I did, but I never did. I did though take a class called “History of Photography,” which I absolutely loved. I mean LOVED. It had nothing to do with the good looks of the instructor and his luxurious head of hair. LOL. But in all seriousness, it was comprehensive look at a century and a half of photography, from Nadar to Cartier Bresson to the present day. I remember one day, the instructor asked us how many of us thought of ourselves as photographers. At the time, I had a point and shoot Ricoh camera that I took a lot of out of focus pictures with. I wasn’t going frighten Richard Avedon with my photography talent. A lot of people raised their hands. I remember thinking that I just love looking at those images and just getting inspiration. I also had no idea how to make any of them. Another thing the instructor said was that a lot of photographers start by imitating other people and then come up with their own style. Maybe that’s the way I would go. Imitate, then innovate.

I went through a whole period where I would try to imitate what I had seen other photographers had done. Slowly though I did start to develop a style of my own. I always want the photographs to be infused with a lot of life and excitement. I always loved a huge sense of movement in my photos. This is crazy to admit, but I watch old gymnastics routines for inspiration on how to photograph movement. I mentioned in these entries before that I always had this need to document my life. I kept diaries growing up, but photographs were so much more immediate and interesting. For a long time and still to some degree, I still seek out opportunities where I’ll be able to see interesting things but for a long time, the idea of photographing the same place over and over interested me. When I started working in Downtown Crossing in Boston, I photographed my path to work incessantly and what went on in that area. And A LOT went on. A LOT.

I guess I would boil it down to, my photographic manifesto is the following. Carry your camera with you everywhere. You never know what kind of crazy things you are going to see in a day. Photograph, document, infuse the images with life but at the same time, transmit how you felt when you were photographing that particular scene. Amazement, excitement, sadness, heartbreak, put it all in the photograph. Chase every possible opportunity to take pictures. Stick your camera in the faces of every unsuspecting person, famous or not. And always remember, the best photograph you ever take is always the next one. If you hit a creative block, go sharpen pencils until you come up with an idea. Well for me, it was to pick up the film camera after having put it down for 15 years. Thanks Covid. I can never thank you for all the fantastic opportunities you have presented me. Nah, I’m kidding. Just leave already. Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.

So here’s a carefully curated selection of my body of work. And by that I mean I randomly searched by insane archive. They’ve been taken in such exotic places as Sweden, the Cayman Islands, Florence, Venice, Copenhagen and of course, Albany, New York and Providence, Rhode Island. Some of these pictures, I have published before and others, they’ve never seen the light of day, so this is a premiere of sorts.

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