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The wind was strong, the temperature unforgiving. Everything else was just perfect. The location…the clothes.. the stylist…the lighting. Everything lined up nicely. But I’ll never look at this image and not be reminded of how incredibly cold I was.
Thrust into sleeps grip, they are left nearly cherub like in their harsh surroundings….
I’ve always been enthralled with the human condition. The daily grind is something that most of our population is not only accustomed to, but has adapted to as a species.It speaks to me on many levels when I see people whom in a situation where, technically they should be on their guard, surrounded by so many potential invasions,…have their guards dropped oftentimes involuntarily, to make way for the powerfully seductive lull of sleep.
It is in this state that I see my fellow human beings in such a state of tranquility, and innocence, that is so very often gone from view in waking hours.Thrust into sleeps grip, they are left nearly cherub like in their harsh surroundings….at ease, as peaceful as a newborn. It is just another way, one of the many available to you when you stop to look for them… another way to see how we are all so very much the same, and how we can manage to maintain our childhood innocence, regardless of intending to or not.
While this project was started last winter, I recently returned a few times to gather more moments. I may or may not continue this…depending on whether or not the mood strikes. I’ve been asked to leave each time I’ve gone to shoot for this…and each time, after expressing what I’m doing…security (and in this last instance the head of security…who had been watching me on camera for 15 min) laughed with me and graciously invited me to carry on with what I was doing. I hope you enjoy the images.Leave a comment and let me know what you think…I’d love to hear from you! Also you can subscribe for free via Email or RSS feed. Check the column to the right to do so. ~ j.j.
You can see the rest of this image series in my portfolios here: http://jasonjosephstudio.com/commuters-asleep/#.USkY-aX-N8E
Christmas Tree Oh Christmas Tree,….Are you singing along with me yet?!? With Thanksgiving barely under our loosened belts and Black Friday a Ghost of Black Friday Past…. It is time to carry on with the next official phase of the holiday season here at my house! Time to erect the Christmas Tree! While I’ve always been a fan of natural trees, and our family used them for the majority of the holidays… we have had one… or two faux trees. This particular Christmas tree was not one of ours though. I found it in a restaurant. It was twirling round, mocking me and the last glass of wine I probably could have done without. After a brief discussion with the owner of the establishment, it was settled.. I was to make an image of this tree like no other! I cant remember exactly how I set the shot up, I propped the camera up on something, and after a few frames…finally had just the right shot!
They were all rather interesting but this one just sorta screamed…”Look at me! I’m a Christmas Tree!”
The patrons who were there watching all agreed.. the other images could all go.. THIS tree was flirting with us in this shot and it probably wasn’t going to get any better than this! “If Frosty The Snowman had been a Christmas tree … this would be it!”, someone chimed! Yes… yes I agreed! Its been my online tree now for I think going on 5 years, and its just one of those images that I’ve grown rather sentimental about. I may put up a real tree in the house.. but this… this will be my digital homes tree for some time to come! I hope you enjoy it! And may you and yours have an excellent holiday season, a Merry Christmas…and a Happy New Year!
A new nature still life image from the hills of Mine Kill Falls, New York 2012
My new image series is designed to instill the vibrancy, the pace, the pulse, the whirlwind onslaught of forward momentum that vibrates at a rate more ferocious than nearly anywhere else on the planet even when it is 4am on a weekday. These images are made during the wee hours of the morning. When most are asleep, but those who are not are as determined and driven and purposeful in their activities as anyone mid day could be. The city radiates energy and its oftentimes more evident in what little quiet the early morning hours offer. Judge for yourself.
This new portfolio image came to be as I was shooting a job on spec for a UK company. The concept was centered on “the restriction of youth by technology.” It was also the reason behind my “borg” photo,
which you may have already seen from an earlier post. In an effort to illustrate the concept in a myriad of angles I wanted to make images that were on completely different ends of the spectrum but that could both easily tie in to the mantra of technological restriction. The setting for the lil diva was staged with an accoutrement of toys she eagerly donated to the cause, a love note to her Dad which was written before hand, and a handwritten Allowance Money label for a jar of coins. When she finished writing out allowance money, she turned to me and asked me ” What’s allowance mean?” Not wanting to blow her parents cover, I simply replied…oh it’s money you saved that you earned. “Ohhhhh” she lamented. I think they’re still in the clear! I think the Oreo cookies came into play out of sheer synchronicity. When I saw them I knew they had to be in the image. Knew I needed a white plate, and soy milk … though a bit yellow, was a good stand in for cow’s milk! The image was beginning to tell a complete story. It was up to the lighting to tie it all together. Working with a limited amount of space, meant a few things. I was going to have to forgo complex flags and limit the amount of wrestling Id do with the light on set….and in stead bend it to my will in post. There was another reason behind this decision, and that was simple. I was working with a little girl whose attention span was at best 15 min. at a time and that is only if those 15 min. are the space between commercials on her favorite TV show. I decided to give the image a good “base” lighting and by this I mean, I lit it so that it was even yet soft and moderately directional. I started with a beauty dish 5 feet behind her and 4 feet above her lighting the top of her back with the feathered bottom edge of the dish. This allowed the low 8 foot white ceiling to bounds some of the light back down and really helped to give the even look I wanted. Then just to give it a bit of direction … much like an oil painter starts with a sketch… I placed one speedlight 1 foot in front of her and three feet above her on a very low power, I believe we were at 1/64th power at ISO 100. This light was extremely subtle. Its visible only in the top band of the headset she is wearing. It gives a little separation to it. It also lit the top of the glass of milk nicely,and was a flattering source for Barbie. Lastly I added one more speedlight camera left again on low power 1/128 and tossed a bit of light on her hair just to give it a bit more of a sense of direction. The rest was a bit of dodging and burning in Photoshop, and a bit of adjusting with the color balance and rgb curves till I had a feel that said evening moonlight. If I learned one thing on this shoot, it’s that children will work with you so much more efficiently and so much more willingly if you simply treat them as part of the team, and talk to them as if they are a bit older… basically set the bar high for them.. and that tends to be the zone in which they will operate. Works like a charm!
While I enjoy both images, as much as I enjoyed making them….The first image will be making its way into my portfolio, while the second…will not. I thought it was worth sharing though. I’ve gotten many comments from those who have seen these. I wonder what you think of when you see these images. Feel free to let me know…
Forest tranquility is something that, should it be bottled would simply fly off the shelves. Yet the interesting thing to me is, that the peace I find here, is in actuality, the peace within. It’s present every day, any moment I wish to tap into it. It is just all the more closer to the surface amongst the warm magnetic attraction of the velvety rain kissed fall forest floor. Far away from the product shots for the nearly 100 year old Brooklyn bakery client, or the musician client who flakes on the shoot, or the illustrative portrait that reminds me to keep a balance between genuine emotion and make believe. And to lean to the former every chance I’m given. Its here, that I find myself with my childhood friends, two guys I’ve known literally since I was born. I find myself completely tuned out to them, and focused on this spot that calls to me like tuna-fish to a hungry cat. I’m fixated. I feel the forest goes on and on here… this point. My friends, whom Id just moments prior completely agreed with that it was time to hit the next spot, did not comment when they turned to find me 30 feet above them, tripod unpacked, camera mounted, oblivious to anything but this… this view I share with you now. They know me far too well, we have an unspoken agreement that what is good for one is subsequently good for all, whether or not its even apparent at the moment. A level of acceptance and joy to see the other do whatever it is that makes them happy… as history has shown when they are engaged in such an activity, everyone they come in contact with catches the glow of it. This particular moment you’re viewing, is not just a culmination of my vision, and connection to something, but hence my connection to two people who are like brothers to me. Everything winds up in the image. If it sounds slightly bizarre to you, Ill simply pose this question….why does this image have such a haunting and alluring, yet safe feeling to it? I would…. as always, love to hear your thoughts.
I shot a portrait session for a tech publication in the UK and my subject was a complete star! The amount of patience this amazing 7-year-old champ demonstrated was inspiring. I taught him how to meditate during the application of the wires, which took 3 people roughly an hour to construct. He was quite uncomfortable at some points and being a naturally high-strung fella…sitting through this was a challenge for him. So when it became difficult I showed him some techniques to meditate, he thought it was just wonderful! The effort put forth was nothing short of astonishing, I’m not sure who taught who this day!
Communication is more important than anything when you are training your lens on another human being. I can not emphasize that with enough severity. If you expect to make excellent images of your subject, you must utilize any and all means of communication available to you. You owe it to yourself and the time you’re investing in making the image, and you most certainly owe it to your subject.
Directing people is a skill that can be more sharply honed once one important lesson is learned.The mood you get in this image above, is not derived simply from the lighting, nor from the choice of processing, camera angle or any combination of a myriad of other things that led to its creation. The ‘mood’ of the image… the feelings it evokes, are due largely in part to the state of mind of the person in the image. What you see in my images are people who are really good at pretending. Whether they come to me with that talent, or they learn it from me. Every image of mine that you see, you are looking at someone who is believing…acting if you will to be someone else, to be themselves in a certain situation, or under a certain set of circumstances. In this photo Brian is completely ‘in character’. Now, he is neither an actor, nor a model. He is a good buddy of mine, a fellow photographer, a hockey instructor, and an avid cyclist. You might think that because he is a fellow photographer, he would be camera ready… just set up the lights and watch him go! Nope, and its no fault of Brian’s either! Anytime someone is in front of your camera, they have no idea what you want them to do… they can’t read your mind, they may have never been in a position with 4 lights trained on them and several sets of eyes. (Yours your assistants…etc…etc.) Even if they are fully accustomed to such a setting, it still does not give them a clue as to what your vision is.
Communication is more important than anything when you are training your lens on another human being.
I can not emphasize that with enough severity. If you expect to make excellent images of your subject, you must utilize any and all means of communication available to you. You owe it to yourself and the time you’re investing in making the image, and you most certainly owe it to your subject.
With Brian, I explained to him that in the first photo, I wanted him to look off into the distance, but I need it to be more than that, I continued…I need you to do so in the same manner.. the same mindset, as if you just finished a long arduous ride. Your heart is pounding, you have that feeling of accomplishment, and well being that one gets immediately following a successful ride. He was nodding as I was talking and his eyes were focused on me.. intent.. I could see already that he was going to remain focused, and was already trying to do his part to ensure the images were more than just someone standing next to a bike. I continued. I want you to look like you are completely in charge.. without looking arrogant, again… I want it to be more about the feeling of contemplation for the ride you just finished.. and for how good you feel.. while you are looking out perhaps surveying all the distance you just covered. Think strong, and you will look strong. He got it, now mind you, it wasn’t without a few failed attempts.. very close.. but an open mouth .. or the lack of a tiny bit of furling of the brow.. and the entire feel was just…a bit.. off. But at this point, Brian now knows what it is I’m looking for, and I can easily express to him encouragement, and the tiny little tweaks we need to sell it. And boy does he sell it.. wouldn’t you agree?
People generally want to please. Heck even the most difficult people want to please, they just usually want to please themselves, but I digress…If you are given the opportunity to make an image for someone, you have a responsibility to make the very best image you can of that person. If the image becomes one sided, and by this I mean you are now pointing your camera AT someone and regarding them only as a subject that needs to be composed, lit and photographed, then you are treating them no different than photographing a still life of a fire hydrant. If you treat someone like an object, they are going to appear lacking something. They may be beautifully lit, but there will be a level of sincerity missing. The images become less like the viewer is stealing a peek into a scene out of a movie.. and more like they are looking at a set up photo.
If you want to make your images stand out, you have to realize that making someones image requires you to be able to involve the other person in a manner that allows them enough of a feeling of inclusion, so that they begin to take more pride in what you are doing. Believe it or not, this is true even when you are being paid to photograph the person! They think ok… I’m here.. your here.. it’s your job buddy to make me look good. You may be telling them move this way or that way… but if they don’t know why.. or more importantly what you want to accomplish.. then you’ll have someone feeling like they’re your puppet. Not an empowering feeling. How would you feel if it were you? The images will suffer. Every time.. they will suffer. Please believe! Give your subjects purpose… explain to them with conviction what you want to see….and you will see 1 thing begin to take place that changes the entire tone of not only the vibe on the set, but the quality and the gripping power and “believability” of the images you make. And that 1 thing is that a unified sense of purpose works swiftly to bring the best out in people, and brings results faster than anything you could ever achieve on your own. When you show up, you have to lure a performance out of the person. If you approach photographing them as a collaboration in which you are the conductor of a symphony, and they are the musicians… you can, as a conductor would…bring out all of the highs and low tones that encompass the range of human emotions. And when you are both in complete understanding of one another, your communication so good… and your bond strong, you’ll find that you can strike up such wondrously subtle differences in what you’re subject is bringing forth, that your performance will be ready for Carnegie Hall.
His name is Joseph. He went from riches to rags…as he tells me. Wife, home, Mercedes…two daughters.”Now I do this” he says to me, as he holds up the cup holding a modicum of tips he’d amassed from the drivers who were human enough to not pretend as if they didn’t see him… hobbling there. His bent leg and cane lending to a gait that could not possibly be ignored. Especially when he is the only person standing on the side of the road… at the top of a hill, with a traffic light that seems to grab more cars in its path than it flashes the green light to. Yes, certainly they see him there. It is only two lanes. the road is narrow.. Joseph is tall. He waits at the top of the hill with a smile. For the those who fill his cup and those who stare sternly forward. Everyone gets a smile.
He saw me taking photos just around the corner as I was perched above the expressway,making rush hour traffic into a focusing game with the manual focus 85mm PC-E Tilt-Shift lens I have on loan from B&H, for a review of the new Nikon D800 I am doing for www.SeriousCompacts.com The lens is manual focus only.. and The distance above the traffic lent itself perfectly to test my ability to quickly focus such a large unforgiving lens while maintaining a narrow band of depth of field. I was in deep concentration to say the least when Joseph approached me. He greeted me as if we were on a pier, and I’d had a fishing pole in my hands…”Gettin any good shots!??”, He quipped. “I’m hopin so!” “Few keepers” I replied. We both laughed.
It was as I was headed on my way to leave that I saw him again. I was on the other side of the street.. nowhere near close enough to warrant a donation.. and I only mention this because he noticed me.. and wished me well.. said he hoped I’d gotten some good ones! He was sincere and warm.. and not out to try to even make a penny off of me. He simply was sharing a smile, albeit a toothless one, with a stranger. His kindness struck me, and I instantly realized it was warmth like this that needs more attention in the world. I spun right around.. went back and told him… I have x amount of dollars in my pocket. I’m going to give you half. That’s half of everything I have right now. We both laughed. He thanked me heartily and asked me what I was shooting. I explained. Then I said to him.. ya know, I’d love to make a portrait of you. He was thrilled and flattered. I was adamant about expressing how I was in no small way attempting to buy his sitting, in fact I’d best save the money for the models who charge for it. I simply wanted to share a lil because he seemed like a good person. He told me it didn’t make a difference. He would gladly sit either way and was happy I asked.
So I picked a spot… we talked. I shot…I spend 15 mins with him according to the EXIF data on the images. This was the first portrait I made with the incredibly challenging lens, and I’m quite happy with it. Many more will follow, I just hope they have half the heart and character that Joseph does!
Window Gazing,Saks Fift Ave. Christmas 2011
Counting Sheep While Commuting
I’ve always been enthralled with the human condition. The daily grind is something that most of our population is not only accustomed to, but has adapted to as a species.
It speaks to me on many levels when I see people whom in a situation where, technically they should be on their guard, surrounded by so many potential invasions,…have their guards dropped. Oftentimes involuntarily, to make way for the powerfully seductive lull of sleep.
It is in this state that I see my fellow human beings in such a state of (more…)
Wishing you and yours.. a Merry Christmas.. and a happy holiday season!
I remember what its like to be their age, I remember it with crystal clarity…with total recall. It helps I still have my childhood friends to spark up the memories, constantly. In pointing a camera at these future makers, I have to be clear in heart. I have to respect them with as much depth of sincerity as any other subject… So I said to them.. (more…)
Objects exists in the state in which they are relative. My work here is an attempt to show how things exists on many planes ( intentional spelling). A wing from a plane that shuttled me from NY to Miami becomes what my mind sees it as. Does it mean it does not exist?…. The Dalai Lama will tell you that an object such as a table… is not a table… it was not born into the universe a table.. it was a tree. It exists as a table only because of its present context. I feel that images are the same. Especially when they represent thoughts or ideas.
“Peace Lilly” One of my older images… it got its title from the dove like shape on the bottom of the image. We can all use a little extra peace today.
A collection of iPhone images I’ve created over the last month.
Actress Danielle DeMato. “Green Eyes” by Coldplay comes to mind…
Photographing Danielle was a treat, she not only took direction well but she arrived with the perfect wardrobe to compliment her complexion and beautiful green eyes. Photographing her outdoors in open shade with a strobe for fill fired through a large 4×6′ Lightform Panel created a feeling of warmth and left an image on paper that says so much about the warmth of her personality.
Custom kitchen design, photographed for Kitchen and Bath Magazine
Shooting in N.Y.C. is a blessing, so many amazing things to photograph. It’s hard to make a boring image… finding a new perspective for objects that are infamous however,…is a challenge.