Category Archives: Nancy Rotenberg
The other day Tony Sweet emailed a picture of his Mom. He made the image with his iPhone while taking his iMom to the eye doctor or iDoc as he calls her.
Tony made a blog post about his thoughts on his image here.
These are my thoughts. Great photography creates an emotional response. This is a classic photograph that underscores the idea that it is not about the camera but rather about connection. Connection to subject, be it a person or a sand dune for that matter. This image is full of connection. Full of joy, silliness and fun. And that is clearly felt by the photographer and now by me, the viewer. Thus, Tony has created a very successful image, no matter the camera, because of the connection. I love this picture and can’t stop looking at it. Tony emailed me this morning and simply said, “I’m still giggling”. Me too!
To further cement my thoughts. Our special guest instructor for the Eastern Sierra tour last week was the amazing Cole Thompson. One of his most successful images is “The Angel Gabriel” Cole has given me permission to use it and his words below. Yes, the image is special but read the story and tell me that connection was not part of its success.
The Angel Gabriel – Newport Beach, CA – 2006
- This is the Angel Gabriel. I met him on the Newport Beach pier as he was eating French Fries out of a trash can.
- He was homeless and hungry. I asked him if he would help me with a photograph and in return, I would buy him lunch.
- The pier was very crowded and I wanted to take a 30 second exposure so that everyone would disappear except Gabriel.
- We tried a few shots and then Gabriel wanted to hold his bible. The image worked and the only
- people you can see besides Gabriel are those “ghosts” who lingered long enough for the camera.
- Gabriel and I then went into a restaurant to share a meal; he ordered steak with mushrooms and onions. When it came,
- he ate it with his hands. I discovered he was Romanian and so am I, so we talked about Romania. He was simple,
- kind and a pleasure to talk with. I asked Gabriel how I might contact him, in case I sold some of the photographs and
- wanted to share the money with him. He said I should give the money to someone who could really use it; that he had
- everything that he needed.
- Then the Angel Gabriel walked away, content and carrying his only two possessions: a Bible and a bed roll.
Now, with the idea of connection clearly in mind, pay attention to how you feel and respond to the images below.
This is a favorite image of Nancy Rotenberg. My regular blog readers will know who she is and what she meant to me. Now that you know who she is, does it affect your reaction?
The more you connect with your subject, the more those who view your image will too.
If you’re finding value in this site, might I ask that you share with your social communities? Thank you!
Fuji X-Pro1 18-55 lens f/8
I’ve been using social media much less. I still enjoy catching up with family and friends and find it to be a good “business” tool, however, the time I was investing was drawing me away from more important things. I also noticed that I was starting to feel competitive with regard to my photography where there is no place for competition. I was seeing others tremendous work and feeling pressure to produce equal or better quality. Feeling pressure to post yet another post showing I was still active, shooting, making worthwhile images. Then in some quiet time, I realized this is not who I want to be. Rather, I want to be able to trust. Trust in my ability to be a good photographer. I don’t want to feel the need for others accolades or approval. Don’t get me wrong, I’m human and kind words are alway welcome and feel good. I just don’t what to feel that I must receive them to validate what I’m doing. When I’m asked why I love photography, my answer is that it feeds my soul. I love the process of making photographs. I love how I feel when I’m out making images whether I get a “keeper” or not. I am finding I shoot much less now. I don’t shoot as many frames. I’m more in touch with what I’m being drawn to for subject matter. I’m more aware of the light. I’m more selective about what I want to photograph. I don’t sell much of my work, I don’t try very hard to do so either. Its just not that important to me. What is important? The experiences that I have been blessed with as a photographer. Photography has gifted me with many wonderful friends. Photography has blessed me with the opportunity to travel to places I never imagined I would. Photography has blessed me with being a teacher that I never knew I could be. This has allowed me to share my passion with others, nudging them to soar on their own wings, trusting themselves, believing they can create images that make their hearts sing! This gives me great joy and makes my heart sing.
As we approach the time of year when we are asked to make goals, might I suggest we forget about them? Yup, forget about them, at least with your photography life. Instead, I would encourage you to trust, to believe in yourself and in the creative process. Allow the creative process to happen on its own. And, know that trusting includes being okay with being idle. Nancy Rotenberg in her book, Photography and the Creative Life, has this to say about being idle. “Trusting the process also involves daring to be idle. We live in a culture that views idleness as something slovenly, lazy and non-production. It is only when you stop and reflect that you can be filled and recharged. What you photograph today could be the result of yesterday’s “idling”. The only way to know if awareness is entering your body is for you to slow down long enough to notice. Awareness gives you mindfulness. Mindfulness gives you insight.” Rather than feeling pressure to be creative, be okay with being idle, recognizing this idle time is good. Its okay to have times when you are not producing. I have written a number of songs. Oft times months pass before a new song would appear and even then, I would rewrite and change things over and over. Yet, my favorite songs seemed to come from out of nowhere and took just minutes to write. I believe they came out of inspiration, out of being idle and listening. They were not forced. Photography is much the same or at least it should be. This is really just an extension of what I’ve written about in previous posts with regard to chasing images. Be open to the creative process rather than chasing it. Trust your abilities and allow for creativity or images to present themselves. Don’t force it. For those who know me, being idle is not easy, however, as I try and practice it, I find I am more satisfied with the quality of my images.
Still sorting through old images and having fun. This is a favorite from my 2006 trip to San Miguel Mexico. Unfortunately, it pains me to say, the bench and Bougainvillea are no longer there. I learned this when I was there late in 2011. So sad, as this was such a wonderful scene.
Each time I review San Miguel images, I can’t help but think of my friend and mentor Nancy Rotenberg. It was Nancy that taught me about the handshake shot and how to move beyond it. Essentially when we approach a scene, our first image is much like a handshake. When we meet someone, we don’t know much about them. We shake hands and say, hi how are you or good to meet you. It is only after we’ve spent some time and asked questions that we begin to learn about them. Then we typically see them in a very different light. Photography is much the same. When we first arrive at a scene we don’t really know much about it. We know we’re attracted to something but need to figure out what. We then take a handshake shot and just as with people, some move on and thats it. It would be better at this point to ask some questions. Questions like, what is it about this scene that I like? What kind of light do I have? Would it be better in different light? In the case of this specific image, I might ask, do I need the entire church? Do I need the entire bench? I think you get the idea. Essentially you are getting to know your subject by spending time with it and being thoughtful. I promise, as you do this, your images will improve and you will typically find more than one right answer. I add the vertical version below as proof!