Monday, May 27, 2013

Is this worth putting on your wall?

 Going back to some old photos that I entered in photo contests. Taken as a staff photographer for the San Francisco Examiner, it no longer exists. So do I have ownership? They never saved the "weather picture" anyway.

Forty years later, is it ART?

Was in a Paris cafĂ© in 1972 and took photos of a little kid playing pinball. Before electronic games, he had to flip the levers and could barely see the steel ball.  The French are very strict on the right tpo privacy, but the law may not have been in effect when I took the photo.

A drill bit, is in ART? 

I seeing older colleagues call themselves artists. I've always looked at the publishing side. Get the photo in print. Never thought if myself as an artist. But the photos were taken to capture a moment and be a permanent record of the times.

Drill bit is just a pretty photo. I wonder if anyone collects Vietnam war protesters? Probably not, but then it might be interesting for history books and I need to upload them for stock, not art.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

We're all artists - - - it's how you look at it

At the Laura Rathe Fine Art in Dallas 2013
It was interesting meeting up with Steve McCurry at the opening of his show "The Unguarded Moment," on Thursday Mary 23rd in Dallas, Texas. He's now an artist!

We first met in 1977 outside of Philadelphia on a farm near Valley Forge, he talked about quiting his newspaper job and going off to freelance. Rather than starting with an assignment, he was going to visit India and then bring back photos. Going with his girlfriend Lauren, who wasn't a photographer but his assistant and worked to sell the photos. All McCurry had to do was just take the photos. 

Hearing him talk about how he had initially majored in film production which required classes in theater, speech, English and and beginning photography. Introduced him to the medium of photography, he realized that shooting still photos was a statement by one person, unlike film which is a team effort. Sort of like tennis versus football.

McCurry discovered he liked finding the picture and not having to rely on a team and a storyboard, this led to a job on a small weekly in Valley Forge, PA, where he took photos of the  volunteer fire departments, weekend festivals and high school sports.

And he liked to travel, had been to Europe, so he decided to check out India  His girlfriend returned with the film and started showing off his photos to publications and his 90-day tourist visit turned into 2-years covering events in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan for major publications worldwide. He was a photojournalist. Reporting with photos of people, he wasn't a war photographer he says, he concentrated on local people, not soldiers. 

For me, I still consider myself a journalist, covering issues affecting readers for newspapers  in black and white, Tri-X, fills a need for me to share information. (like blogging) I always felt  photos told the story along with words. (I get pissed when writers start telling what you can see in the photo. I want to show the who, what, wheres that was happening. Let the words, give quotes from people, and tell the rest. 

But for McCurry, he's pulled by the art, the face, the dress and color in the photo. 

Feeling that color is bad for the story teller, it takes viewers attention away from really looking at what's in the photo, their faces, gestures and the facts. But as technology advances I have had to learn to capture images in color (thank goodness they can easily be converted back to B/W), and now see how it is evolving into video. I'm learning to shoot video, it's become a one-man operation, I can do it all!

McCurry isn't interested in playing in the darkroom, Kodak even invited him to shoot the last roll of Kodachrome, he never learned Photoshop or Premier, he says he's now the artist.  Let technicians tone and color correct his digital files.

 His photos are not reporting on specific events, they're art. Nice to look at. As my Webster dictionary says " purely aesthetic."
McCurry in 1979 -Afghanistan

And it's true. His photos are great to look at, they aren't tied to any particular timely event. You don't need to read a story to appreciate what it says, like you do with journalism

The pictures just look good. 

Where I use to carry multiple cameras to be ready to capture fleeting images, he carries one camera and one lens looking for interesting people. Not celebrities, just people in the town.

Ansel Adams was an artist and photographer, who took full control- - - from customizing the developer to making the print. Adams also said his specialty was photographing beauty. Especially landscapes.

McCurry is also focused on beauty, but instead of landscapes his specialty is people. Not fashion photos but life in southeast Asia, third world countries and getting it in color.

He sees color, contrast and composition. They're nice to look at, but also tell a story.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Along the California trail it's Beaux Arts along the Red River

In Cooke County Texas near the border between Oklahoma and Texas in the county seat of Gainsville, is their courthouse. Built in 1910 the Dallas architecture firm of Lang & Witchell built something simpler and more modern than the Victorian courthouses that flourished in the 1880's.

They designed a round window under the dome and in 1920 the citizens installed a clock for everyone to see as a memorial to WWI. But wait, you need to go inside, recently restored it has been returned to the way it looked when it was build over 100 years ago.

There is a stained glass skylight at the op of the open center of the courthouse. Flowers or are they palm trees? The interior is dark and cool, away from the hot Texas sunshine.

I think the interior is equal to the exterior as a landmark piece of Texas architecture, where the residents wanted had pride in where they lives. A marker outside claims that Gainsville was the early route to California for pioneers, before Rt 66 was built in Oklahoma.

A major route for the Santa Fe railroad it missed the oil boom that occurred in Wichita Falls. They were farmers and proud of it.

Architecture photos by Jim Domke -

Monday, May 6, 2013

Spotting Future Trends - - - Things are going to change

After a busy week I was surfing in front of the old TV and started watching an interview with Daniel Burrus about his new book Flash Foresight. His specialty is predicting the future, and claims to be better than most. He showed the audience how they could make predictions, polling them on whether they computers would get smaller and more powerful. Everyone said yes.

Film days by J.G. Domke 1974
He made some interesting points on how the desktop computer evolved, but is it getting obsoleted by the cellphone?

No, these tools are just getting "re-purposed."

Burrus calls this a "soft trend," where the roles change. Which then I relate to the horse and carriage, the automobile didn't kill off horses. In some parts of the world they're still a daily part of life, but in the US they've evolved to be a hobby, recreation and a sport. Not work. This is a soft trend of the 20th century.

A "hard trend" is how video tape and the 8-track tapes have been replaced by DVDs and the Internet. They "can't be changed," says Burrus so they disappear from daily life. 

This makes me, the journalist, start thinking about media. I wonder will print newspapers go the way of the VHS tape? Will all books be eBooks?

I predict the large coffee table books will survive, they are art, they are portfolios and a record of life to preserve. No batteries, they capture history. I predict they will be more expensive, but still be printed on paper. However, a lot of books and magazines will be online only.

Where do newspapers fit? I've thought for years that the old daily newspaper printed on paper should go back to a weekly paper, like the Sunday Times of London. Reporting on the past week local, state and national stories, along with previews of the coming week. A leisurely way to spend a Sunday breakfast reading articles in the Sunday paper. (After spending the rest of the week staring at a computer screen.) We need to be aware of what's happening around us, the facts not gossip. A weekly paper will do this. 


So what about the photo?  I watched how newspapers went from Linotype to offset. From Black and White to Color. Word journalists reluctantly gave up newspaper space to the photo because they felt it pulled readers into reading the story, pulled people into buying the newspaper off the news stand. Color caught their eye better than B/W. So as we evolve to the Internet it is the video that keeps viewers on the page. Smaller photos, but you need to scroll over and click on the picture to see it bigger!? Who has time to take the trouble to do that? Still photos are clip art.

Slide shows of 40 plus photos all the same size, good photos mixed up with so-so photos of the same thing? Where is the editor?

As an in print newspaper photographer, I cover the event and then edit it down to one or two of the best shots. Looking for photos that told the story!

The whole idea was to capture the story. In sports it was get a great photo of the player who scored the winning touchdown doing something amazing. (That was the goal anyway.) I always was striving to get the who-what-where-how in one single shot. I liked the challenge of getting one photo that told the story. Let the words fill in the details around the photo.

I liked the picture page in magazines and newspapers we picked a main picture. Ran it big. A headline pulled you to look at the main photo and then 3 or 5 other photos filled in with detail shots. Close-ups of people, maybe an overall view, photos of things that supported the main photo. The layout took in eye-flow. Hopefully guiding the viewer in a proper sequence. There were also captions under photo and a brief story. 

A picture page told the story better in pictures than words!

I see the slide show best used when showing the top ten this or that. It isn't a picture story. 

In his Fort Worth Star-Telegram column Bob Ray Sanders comments on the future of newspapers and journalism. For him paper or online is the same, it is opinions from blogger versus journalistic reporting.

Journalists find the Internet a great tool for research, they find sources and can verify what actually happened. But the viewer doesn't take the time to be a reporter. They just take everything as fact.
Photo by J.G. Domke - Color or b/w?

So what does this say about the future? Burrus defined "crisis management" as being forced the change. 

We are flooded with information and what we need now are editors. Photo editors, word editors to verify and get to the real story.

Video works, it tells the story. 

But you still have to admit that a BLACK AND WHITE photo of the event lets you study the surroundings, see what really happened.

Watching change the B/W news photo needs a place. I think the Boston Bombing photos needed to be black and white. Color is a distraction. Make it bigger! Gray scale file is smaller so the bigger photo will load just as fast as a small color photo. Edit down to just photos that add information. Just like the word reporters are writing shorter stories, pictures are important to telling the story.

But we are going from 17" laptop screens to 7" tablets. More reason to have a bigger photo. No photo? Just video? A still photo that tells a story is a quick read and helps viewers know/study what happened. This works for news, but will features just be told with video.

I wonder where the still photo will be in the future.

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(In my family I also use to try to pick up the roll of film from the drugstore and edit it down before I got home. My wife always found some detail in every photo and wanted to keep them all. Fewer photos focused on the event and made the memories inside your head come back.)