Sunday, June 28, 2009

I don't cry at weddings

Or post photos from them on my blog. So why make an exception now? Well...have you ever found yourself unexpectedly moved by something you might normally characterize as too sentimental? Tears welling up against your will? Anyone who knows me will tell you that I generally loathe romantic comedies (except 500 Days of Summer, which I saw at Sundance—and loved. It opens in July here in the U.S. Go see it). And the only way you'll get me within 10 feet of a Jane Austen novel is if you add zombies. So it came as a total surprise when the father of the bride got my tear ducts working overtime at a wedding I shot yesterday—and all to the theme song from Disney's Beauty and the Beast no less. I didn't even like that song (or movie, for that matter) back in 1991. And yet...

Maybe this is what happens when you have a four-year-old daughter and suddenly find yourself relating to the father who still remembers the bride as that little girl who loved nothing more than to dance around the living room with him to the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack. And so, saccharine lyrics notwithstanding, when the father took out an artificial rose (straight from the Disney store) and then danced with his daughter to that song one last time before ceding both daughter and rose to the groom for the second half of the dance, I was moved in spite of my inherent cynicism.

And because June is the month for weddings, I give all of you softies this image of love and romance. And for you me. You had to be there.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

William Klein Style Contact Sheet Photoshop Tutorial

My Klein-style design, inspired by one of his many contact sheets.


Last December I focused on brushes. I taught how to install and use brushes and even how to make your own. I made my own first set—a collection of Paris flea market brushes you can download for free. Using brushes, I decided to try a William Klein-inspired "contact sheet" montage that, to me, has a real album cover feel. Read on and see if you get inspired to try a contact sheet look of your own.

Photoshop enthusiasts have paid homage to the art of Andy Warhol , Roy Lichtenstein, and Barbara Kruger in the form of tutorials, but William Klein has been ignored until now.

If Wikipedia entries are any indicator of public esteem, then Klein—whose entry is currently a seven sentence stub—could use some good PR .

William Klein’s innovative street photography in the 1950s and ‘60s has influenced everything from documentary to fashion work. Equally impressive is his vast filmography , some of which has been canonized in the form a Criterion boxed set. Born in 1928 in New York, Klein’s style has been linked to his “mean streets of Manhattan” (you will see that phrase in almost every biography of Klein) upbringing. Equally important to his artistry, however, are the forty years he has spent living in Paris. You can read more about Klein’s work on the Masters of Photography site, or view interviews and film clips on YouTube.

The tutorial

This tutorial will focus on Klein’s distinctive enlarged and painted contact sheets.
Designboom has three excellent examples of his contact sheets to give you a feel for his style.

The key elements are:

  • The contact-sheet look (which he usually blows up to a large size)
  • High-contrast, grainy black and white photos
  • Painting, usually in a grid-like composition with bold strokes in primary colors or simply black and red.

This tutorial will stick closely to Klein’s style, but your own less literal adaptations might be good inspiration for web design.

The contact sheet

1. Open a blank document 10x8 inches at 320 dpi with a white background. Note that I am going for a print size, but you can re-size to suit your needs.
2. Copy the white background layer (Mac: Command-J, PC: Ctrl-J). This is where you will create the look of the contact sheet.

3. Stamp on the film border in the center of your document. I used photoshopgurl’s Freedom of Preach Brushes Brush 400 set to the maximum size of 2500 px

4. Extend the sides of the negative frame. Unfortunately, the side frames of the brush do not extend as far as we need. If you want to make your own brush you can skip some of the following steps. If not, it’s time to get copying. If you have CS3 or CS4, you can clone the sides and line them up with the help of the clone source overlay. Just open the clone source window, check “show overlay” and clone.

But unless you have the hands of a surgeon, cloning will lead to frustration in earlier versions of photoshop. For an alternative to cloning, select the rectangular marquee tool (M) and make a selection of the edge you want to extend.

Copy the selection onto a new layer (Mac: Command-J, PC: Ctrl-J), and use the move tool (V) to bring it over.

Repeat the process as needed until you have extended all the film borders to the edge of your image.

When you have finished, merge all the layers of your negative frame.
5. On the bottom right side, you will be left with a series of arrows (see above picture) the last two of which you will want to clone out. For the sake of realism, you should now add a “24A” to the right of the remaining arrow by cloning the “23A,” and replacing the “3” with the “4” from the previous frame. Since the “4” is too big, I suggest you do the following: Select the “4” with the rectangular marquee tool,

copy your selection onto its own layer (Mac: Command-J, PC: Ctrl-J), drag it into position with the move tool (V), and then transform it to the right size (Mac: Command–T, PC: Ctrl–T). A seemingly more elegant alternative may be to clone source with scale, but I find it easier to eyeball the scale with Transform.

6. To complete the frame, you will need to grunge up the edges. Select the Eraser tool (E) with a medium-soft brush at about 35 px and 60% opacity.

Erase the edges for a less clean look. Next, with the eraser tool still selected, load your favorite grunge brush (I used Recife dirty 2 brush 684) and chip away a little more at the edges.

NOTE: You will want to rotate brushes often in this project, so if you have never done that before now is a good time to start. To rotate a brush, bring up the brushes menu on the right (hit F5). There, you will see your brushes and various presets. If you highlight “Brush Tip Shape” you will see a compass shape. You can drag the arrow (or type angles in under “Angle”) to modify the brush direction.

The photos

7. Prepare your black-and-white photos. I used photos of skaters that I took at Place de la Bastille in Paris. I converted the photos to a high-contrast black and white using the channel mixer method and then added grain with Filter—>Texture—>Grain with a “contrasty” setting.

8. We are going to sandwich the photos in between two layers of frame, so before putting in the photos, we will need to create the top of the sandwich. On your frame layer, select the black film outline using the magic wand tool (W). Click on the black (tolerance was set to “5”) to get a selection,

and then click “Refine Edge” from the top magic want toolbar to pull up the Refine Edge dialog box. With the “Preview” box check, adjust the settings to get a selection that feathers gently for a soft edge without including too much white.

When you are satisfied with your selection, copy it onto its own transparent layer (Mac: Command-J, PC: Ctrl-J). This will become the top of the sandwich.
9. Now its time to bring in the photos. With the move tool (v), drag one of your photos into the center frame. Transform it (Mac: Command–T, PC: Ctrl–T) to the approximate size needed to fill one of the frames. Don’t worry about extending into the sprocket area or into neighboring frames. Just put the photo layer in between your base frame (the one with the white background) and your top frame (the one with the transparent background).

10. You will now see something like this:

With your photo layer selected, you can now select the Eraser tool (E) and erase the areas that extend into the sprockets or neighboring frames.

Repeat the process for the right and left frames and you will end up with something like this:

11. If your frame is looking a lot less black than your photos (as mine did), add a curves adjustment to that top frame layer to darken it up.

12. You are almost ready for the fun part. But first, we need to darken up those sprocket holes. They should be mostly black with a thin white border. With the bottom layer of your “sandwich” frame selected, go to Image—>Adjustments—>Replace Color. We are going to replace the white with black. I set the fuzziness to 45—enough to see rounded corners, but not enough to fill in the holes completely. I used black as the replacement color.

Next, add a black mask,

and paint in the holes with a quick stroke (brush set to white) across the top and then the bottom of the negative (if you accidentally paint into the numbers or letters, just switch to black and paint it back out).

The paint

13. This is where it gets fun. You will need to select your color palette. I used bright red (RGB 204, 0, 0) and Yellow (RGB 255, 215, 1). There is no right or wrong at this stage—only choices. But here are a few tips:

  • For the large splashes of color, stick to the same brush. I used Thick Heavy Brushes, brush 104. You probably won’t want something with built in canvas texture because it just doesn’t make sense. Stick to brushes that give the appearance of enamel paint.
  • Switch to a pencil brush for thin white lines.
  • If you need a more distressed texture in your large brush strokes, remove some of the paint with the Eraser tool (E) set to a textured brush.
  • For the jagged paint, you will want to vary your brushes, adding with some, and erasing with others. I used a combination of Recife brushes for the messier look of the central frame. Change the rotation often (as explained in step 6) and don’t try to everything on one layer.

Once again, the finished product:

Monday, June 22, 2009

Technical difficulties with comments (Again!)

The latest in the never-ending comment problems is that many many comments have disappeared and every post seems to have the "your first" linkies of the monthly special. If I didn't care so much about having the "monthly special" be a place where people can link their work, I would have abandoned the every-buggy Mister Linky widgets long ago. But alas! There seems to be no good alternative, so I will keep working on a fix. And I do LOVE to see what people come up with each month--even though actual participation is a small fraction of my readership.

So let me recap: love comments, love you links, hate the constant bugs of the Mister Linky widget. Hope to get this resolved with the help of the web genius I hired to revamp my pro site.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Look at me, I'm a rock star! or 5 style rules of rock music photography

When it's done right, it can rock your world. When it's not, it can feel like a stale cliché. Since I'm focusing on music this month, I decided to put together a list of some typical rock music (and I'm interpreting the term in a broad sense) photography characteristics. Want to photograph an aspiring rock star? Here are 5 tips for you. Want to do something that's never been done before? Well, then here are 5 things you should avoid:

1. Get down with it!
A stock photo meant to convey a "rock band" look

Low angles are a staple of rock photography. A low angle gives that larger-than-life feel and recalls the view from the mosh pit. A low angle can also be sexually suggestive—just think of the low and wide angle of Bill Clinton on the famous December 2000 Esquire cover (see also this R Kelly photo) —a much more provocative angle than the Halle Berry remake in 2008 —but then again, she wasn’t wearing any pants, so...

I can remember how low angle shots of gyrating bodies were exploited ad nauseam in early MTV days for an in-your-face sexuality that could keep the Church Lady ranting for hours. And—shock value bonus—the low-angle shot is equally good at suggesting violence. Shot from below, a group looks more threatening. Early Beastie Boys, like many rap and hip hop artists in general, often put the viewer in the position of someone that has been knocked to the ground. So what'cha what'cha what'cha want? —Umm...not to be kicked to death by a trio of angry white boys, OK?

2. Color me aggressive.
The White Stripes. (I think Jack White is a genius, by the way) seen in a poster from Starstore.

Whether it’s a bold color like red, or a black and white photo with bold red graphics, remember that rock star palettes should be about as subtle as a drag queen’s makeup kit. Save the soft tones for neo-folk artists. Bleach bypass, cross-process, brush, and manipulate color as much as you want. If it's a muted palette, it had better be a post-apocalyptic bleak kind of muted (see tip 3 below). And remember that "restraint" is for people who drive minivans.

3. Habitat: Urban Wasteland
Nothing cries out disaffected youthful angst like a neglected street or run-down warehouse. Post-apocalyptic cityscapes are to rock band photos what fields of flowers are to bridal shoots. If nature or suburban settings must appear, they had better be used ironically.

4. Want to be an icon? Then take one on.
Rock stars and their photographers thrive on iconic imagery. The use of emotionally charged cultural symbols—say, Courtney Love as the Virgin Mary and a Kurt Cobain look-alike as Jesus—creates the visual equivalent of deafening feedback through an amp. The assault on cultural values gets attention. Dada and Surrealism pioneered the attack on bourgeois values, rules, and logic. Duchamps’ mustached Mona Lisa sets a standard in iconographic blasphemy: anything venerated is fair game.
A Manet classic? Nope. Art work for Bow Wow Wow's album See Jungle! See Jungle! Go Join Your Gang, Yeah, City All Over! Go Ape Crazy! as seen here.

Religious imagery, of course, is a perennial fave: think Madonna and her far reaching use of religious references or Kanye West’s “Passion” image on Rolling Stone. Blasphemy is hardly original, but it continues to be used as a formula for provocation because it gets attention.

But the exploitation of icons is not limited to religious symbols. Take the Marylin Manson formula: iconic movie star + serial killer = rock star that your parents are guaranteed to hate (Note that both cultural references are of an earlier generation—just to make sure the parental figures get it). Other stylistic modes sure to upset your elders: Maoist, Stalinist, and Fascist- inspired work.

5. Look into my eyes....
Lil Wayne stares you down on this Blender cover as seen here

Stare down your viewer as a photo and you will always win. Whether in the form of a blank stare, an evil eye, an accusatory wounded glare, or a nasty stank face, the unblinking gaze can be effectively disquieting and even hypnotic.

Equally effective as the “look into my eyes” photo, however, is the “I’m too cool to look at you” standoffish approach. And then there's the back of the head shot reserved for alt-rock only.

What rock photo style rule works for you? What do you hope never to see again? What else should be on the list? Leave a comment (I seem to have a problem with comments disappearing, but leave one anyway).

Want more inspiration?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Two views of...

A music stand on the balcony of our room at Snowbird.

The simple graphic quality of the stand caught my eye because of this month's theme. What has thinking of music made you notice this month? Post it and share by linking back to the June Monthly Special.

A tutorial or two are coming before the end of the month...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Interview with Florian Fritsch of Hobokollektiv

This is the first time I have chosen a "Monthly Special" topic based on an interview I wanted to do. Florian Fritsch has been an active participant here at Take-out Photo, which led me to his site. When I was first looking through his hobokollektif posts, I was struck by the artful combination of text—in particular, lyrics—and image. Music permeates his photography, and each image seems to contain a secret soundtrack, a part of which he reveals with a quote. The following interview takes a look at his creative process and work.

NOTE: All photos in this post are copyright Florian Fritsch. Please respect the copyright of my guests.

What sparked your interest in photography?

Most notably, I've been interested in telling all kinds of stories since I was a kid. Twenty-five years ago I started to write poems. Looking back, writing poetry for me was a way of taking photos with your head and a pencil but without a camera. I got a head full of stories, music and pictures that needed to get out. For my fifteenth birthday, I got my first camera and rolls of film. Hence, I dropped the pencil and was out on the street immediately. I was wandering around the city with a friend of mine, taking pictures, and we were processing them all by ourselves in my little bathroom.

Photography for me is just another way of storytelling like writing books or composing songs. It gives me the opportunity to be right in the heart of things and to keep a distance at the same time.

I guess it all started with words. Spoken, sung, and written words evoke pictures in my head. And for me, it seemed inevitable to take this pictures one day.

How has your style developed or changed over time?

That is a pretty tough question, Marc, because I don't know how to describe my style.
I have studied the works of Robert Frank, Anthony Hernandez, and Saul Leiter for a long time now. There is something in their pictures that really touches me and that I can hardly describe, but I know that I wanted to take pictures like they did. Besides, I think my way of photographing is influenced by the music I listen to, the books I read, and the place I live.

Music and books have always been an inspiration to me because they let my imagination paint pictures to words. Since I stopped leaving home without a camera, I noticed that I look at things differently. I'm more interested in details, and I hope this leaves room for interpretation on the part of the viewer.

I live in Berlin and one of the things I really love about living in a big city is drawing attention to the things that we pass by every day but we often do not recognize— the anonymity and the city's rough edges. You can find beauty on a simple painted wall, an ashtray on a wet table, or in the middle of a deserted main street at midnight. David of the lowrevolution blog once wrote a comment saying that he likes the griminess of my images. And that's pretty close to what I think about my photos and how I wanted them to be looked at.

Tell me about the name of your photoblog.

I want to look at amateur photographers as the hobos of our time somehow, especially when I look at the works of Robert Frank (The Americans) and Anthony Hernandez (Waiting, Sitting, Fishing and some Automobiles) that I mentioned earlier. I'm interested in the stories behind these "songs about roving, rambling and plain hard luck," which actually is a subtitle of a song book. When I started my photoblog I thought about creating a place for like-minded people to share their love for photos, words and music. That's why I called it "Kollektiv": A collective of hobos that tell their own stories about migration, abandonment, isolation, loneliness and luck.
I'm always lucky when I get comments with quotations of films, books or songs paired with personal experiences. It’s all about the pictures and some words that need room to breathe and that want to be spread around this world.

Your use of lyrics with photography inspired this month's theme. The words and images work so well together that I have to ask which comes first—do you shoot with words in mind or do you make the connection after you capture the photo?

Mostly I choose the words after capturing the photo. The processing of a photo is a very intimate and private moment for me. I always listen to music while I work on my photos. That means looking at my photos, choosing the right one to post on the hobokollektiv and the processing of a photo is always combined with heavy vinyl rotation. Sometimes it's easier to find the right lyrics because of the story of the picture. Some pictures got married to a lot of songs, got divorced and found new partners.

He’s a Hollywood hillbilly his stereo is blaring Willie / Johhny Cash, Hank and Lefty down to Sunset and Vine (Dale Watson)

The “hillbilly” photo was hard work to find the appropriate lyrics to. Because it features Jack Nicholson, I watched the film "The Shining" again for maybe using some quotation for the photo. But I wasn't satisfied with it. So I went back to my records and listened to a hundred songs to find the right one. Weeks later, I picked up a Dale Watson record and listened to the “Hollywood Hillbilly” song by chance. And there it was: Hollywood, Jack Nicholson, and the great four Willie, Johnny, Hank and Lefty.

But tomorrow’s fall in number, in number one by one / You wake up and you’re dying you don’t even know what from (Bruce Springsteen)

From time to time, it happens that I know the words the moment I look through the viewfinder and take the picture. An example for this case is my contribution to your monthly special about colour. Bruce Springsteen’s “The River” album is one of the most impressive pieces of music I have ever listened to. I knew while taking the picture that “Point Blank” was the song that best describes what I captured and that it could only be that song.

I got so used to the word and image combination that I nearly always have to quote some more or less known song when looking at other people’s photos. At least it’s like T. C. Boyle once said in an interview: “It all comes natural, man.”

What advice would you give to people who want to create more expressive (and even lyrical) images?

I am a self-taught photographer. For that reason I don’t know if it’s up to me to give some advice. But I would like to say what is important to me.

Taking pictures is finding your own point of view and looking for stories to tell. The world is full of great songs and lyrics. Songs and words are both there to be used. The pleasure comes when you let your imagination do the work. For example: There are many songs out there dealing with driving, cars and roads. But what is a road or what does it stand for? Is it just a way to get from here to there? Is it symbol for decisions we all have to make someday or the ways we all had to go? Does it tell us something about leaving and arrival, companionship or loneliness? Is it a symbol for freedom or are there people who walk on roads to escape from poverty and find work? So go ahead and listen to all kinds of music and read good books. The photos will follow.

I try to keep it simple and minimalistic. I never use a flash because this draws attention to the photographer who should never be on the center stage. And most important to me is that every picture needs time to be composed. Some of my pictures need weeks or months to be finished. That can be discouraging, but on the other hand it gives me time to listen to another song. And every picture sings a song.

I love hearing the story behind the photo. Could you share some of your own favorites?

Let’s look at “the glitter & the roar” photo:

The desire to have much more, all the glitter and the roar / I know this is where the sidewalk ends (Tom Waits)

I was listening to Tom Waits extensively while I was working on a series about neon signs and street lights. The neon lights captured here belong to an old independent movie theatre which still shows movies, and I was attending a reading by T. C. Boyle there when I took the picture. Thinking about the death of these beautiful, old and independent cinemas through replacing them with huge modern movie complexes and listening to Tom Waits singing “Fannin Street” just brought together what always seems to belong together: An old song for some good old-time feeling.

And I’m driving in a stolen car on a pitch black night / And I’m telling myself I’m gonna be alright / But I ride by night and I travel in fear / That in this darkness I will disappear (Bruce Springsteen)

I like the “pitch black night” photo because of a simple story: I was thinking about some serious decisions I have to make. After meeting a dear friend to talk things over I went home through a pitch black winter night in Berlin. Seems like everybody had already gone to sleep while I was walking through a half empty city singing Springsteen's great “Stolen Car” to myself and feeling completely alone in the biggest German city. I looked down this street and took a photo. Every time I felt downhearted or kind of sad I used to look at this picture, listen to that song, and I started to feel better. Months later I showed this picture to a friend who went through some pretty sad times and his reaction was the same as mine.

Blattlos die Bäume, deren Gerippe in den Tag ragten, als reckten sich knochige Finger in die feuchte Luft. (Beverungen)

The “Morning in Berlin” picture is actually from a series that I started after buying a new camera. I take a picture of this tree every morning at the same time. It became part of my morning routine after having breakfast, coffee, and a cigarette. It was inspired by the film “Smoke” where the main character Auggie Wren always takes one photo every morning at the same place without looking through the viewfinder. And I like the idea that I will look at hundreds of tree photos in some years, find things I never noticed before and build up a photography forest.

"Restless No More"
Well I’ve been throughout this land / North & east & back again / Roamin’ around in my old Volkswagen (SongDogs)

The “restless no more” photo was taken on a road to Orange in southern France. I have known this road for a very long time and I have been fascinated by straight roads like this ever since I saw a photo by Robert Frank of the interstate 285 in New Mexico. I knew then that my photo must be taken on that road which was originally built by the Romans. Last year I finally sat down in the middle of this road and made this picture that I've been planning to take for more than ten years and that I've been writing songs about ever since I picked up a guitar. This road and I have some kind of longtime relationship and I always call this road my road.

There's no road to follow / only stones left unturned / You must play with fire / in order to get burned (Langhorne Slim)

“Langhorne Slim”: This one is not yet published on the hobokollektiv. But since this monthly special is about photos and music, and I feel very honored to inspire this monthly special, I saved it for a special moment. This special moment is now, Marc. This man is a hell of a songwriter that constantly rocks my soul with his fine folk music. His lyrics are an inspiration to me most every day. The story behind it: No song that can't be sung, no photo that can't be taken. Thanks for letting me inspire this monthly special and having me on your blog.

Thank you, Fristch, for sharing your work and words.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The cellist in our home

Max practicing cello in our room at Snowbird

Two years ago, when my oldest son was ready to sign up for 7th grade courses, he informed us that he wanted to sign up for orchestra and play the cello. This sudden desire to be the next Yo-Yo Ma came out of nowhere. We had to quickly get him an instrument and an excellent private instructor who focused on good technique. I was so glad that he didn't want to play the violin—not that I have anything against it, just that I had played the violin for three years when I was little and am consequently well acquainted with the ear-bleed inducing squeaks of a beginner.

As I was thinking about music and photography this month, I realized that one way of being a supportive parent is to photograph and display your child practicing. It tells them that you value their dedication without any nagging.

A few years ago, a woman asked me to photograph her three daughters with their violins—this, because they were all about to quit. She wanted to memorialize their woefully short-lived musical experience. The resulting photo is one of my favorites, but I have never digitized it. Part of me wonders what the impact of the photo would have been if it had been taken before their interest waned. Perhaps none, but I still wonder...

Thinking about this has made me realize that I need to add a photo of our resident cellist to our family photo wall.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Three views of a piano

I've been at a lodge in Snowbird for the past three days, which gave me the time to look through Sam Abell's beautiful book, The Life of a Photograph. In his book, Abell often presents multiple views and alternative versions of images in order to suggest "the process of seeking a picture—a process with no absolute ending." Inspired by his work, I photographed some elements of the lodge from multiple views. Since the focus here this month is on music, I thought I would share three views of the piano in the lounge.

View 1: As a cleaning lady works on the second floor, the piano sits quietly on the first.

View 2: What she would see if she peered over the railing.

View 3: Still silent, the piano holds a guitarist's playlists.

These three photographs of a quiet piano make me pause to consider the instrument's longevity and its role as a witness to passing time. Quality musical instruments often outlive us. A piano passes from one generation to the next. A violin gains character and tone with age. Brass becomes warmer and more mellow. Even when not in use, a musical instrument gives its environment more character. I have seen beautiful pianos in homes without musicians to play them, possessions to be valued, like bottles of fine wine, for their heritage, their quality, and for their imagined use, for the potential for enjoyment that they represent.

Of course, as a music lover, the silent piano in the photos above gives me a sense of melancholy. But then, melancholy has a beauty of its own.

Do you have musical instruments in your home? What role(s) do they play? How could you represent those roles through photography? Are musical instruments part of your family? Are they a friend to you? Maybe they merit a portrait...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

American Idol, Air Force Style

Everybody sing: Yvan Eht Nioj...Yvan Eht Nioj....
OK, technically, that should be: Ecrof Ria Eht Nioj...

Sorry, but I couldn't resist that Simpsons reference.

I was driving by a park not far from a homeless shelter in Salt Lake City, my camera riding shotgun, when suddenly, I heard music. I immediately pulled over, walked to the other end of the park, and saw this:

and this:
Oh yeah, and a fighter jet, a rock climbing wall, a tricked-out motorcycle that is definitely not standard issue, a lot of people you wouldn't want to make angry, and a tent concealing a mystery exhibit that purportedly "takes only 5 minutes." Yeah, right! I thought. Five minutes to get you suited up for your tour of duty in Iraq!

Actually, I am a huge fan of anyone in the military. Their posture alone has me in awe:
Seriously, that photo could be a twenty minute video and it would look the same but for the wind-blown grass. That guy did not budge...Not even when Master Sergeant "Sweets" (and I'm not making this up) belted out No Doubt's "Don't Speak"—probably the first track on the torture resistance training mix tape.

The whole thing was such an unexpected sight. Why were they there? And who chose that location? Not that the homeless people didn't enjoy the show. Just look at the self-proclaimed "Rubber Band Man" demonstrating his appreciation with a few moves :
I doubt anyone would deny that the spectacle was surreal. I am just not used to seeing people in uniform rocking out—at least not since 1980. But even though my equally cynical colleagues would accuse me of being brainwashed for saying so, the Air Force Band rocks. Really. Max Impact is definitely not your father's Air Force band. I stayed and listened to song after song and wondered why these people weren't performing on American Idol—I mean, if you're looking for a large-venue PR campaign...

Having spent a year as a performer for a pretty cheesy group myself, I am in no position to point fingers at things that look like propaganda. Mainly, I felt sorry the band didn't have a better audience. Look at the woman in the folding chair:
You're really going to have to work to win over her heart and mind, I thought. But guess what? A couple of songs later, that woman was out of her chair and dancing up a storm. They were that good. If I were younger and had stayed in that park 30 minutes longer, I might just have gone into the mystery tent and signed up.

Monday, June 1, 2009

June Monthly Special: Music + Photo

One of the music shots from my "Nawlins at Night" post

Unlike many countries, America integrates sports and music into its schools—or at least it used to. As budgets tighten, guess which programs are the first to get cut? Football? Basketball? Not likely.

At the base of Bourbon Street in New Orleans, some talented students from a local high school earn money by performing nightly for delighted tourists and locals alike. As I look at the photo I took there in April, I remember the powerful energy of the brass, the uninhibited dancing, and the flashes of tourists' cameras. Look at the crowd in the background and you will see four people who, like myself, wanted to seize the moment with their cameras.

Now, I don't want to pit music against sports—not just because it wouldn't be a fair fight, but because for most of us it does not have to be an "either/or" choice. I will probably even devote a future Monthly Special to sports photography. But this month is all about music...

Photos inspired by music, photos of musicians, photos of instruments—anything that somehow combines music and photography.

The photo below (from a Paris flea market) makes me think about changing musical styles and the capricious consumer. Johnny Halladay's song "Rien à personne" ("Nothing to no one")—an anthem to the self-made man (i.e. who doesn't owe anything to anyone)—reads like a rocker's lament about his lost relevance (the fear of meaning nothing to anyone) as it sits in the discard pile.

Perhaps one of the challenges of "music" photography—as opposed to, say, "sports" photography (there I go again pitting the one against the other)—is that we do not automatically think of music as a visual phenomenon. Music has its spectacular side, of course, but sight is not the primary sense we associate with it.

I mentioned in my last post that this month's theme was inspired by Fritsch's site. His pairing of lyric and image seems effortless and natural, but I have never attempted it myself and am fairly certain that it will be a real challenge for me. I will be interviewing Fritsch later this month.

What is your own take on the relation between music and photography? How does music affect your imagination? What does "music photography" mean to you? Think about it this month, try something new, post your results, and share them here by adding a link below.