Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Photographers have always liked covering music, photographing other artists.

Covering a concert is always a challenge. It's the music and a still photo doesn't really capture the mood. Now with cameras able to capture still and motion, it brings it all together. Hear the music and see the artist's mood, effort to make it.

Shea Stadium, NYC, August 1970

Trying to be the visual artist, I've been experimenting with motion. Covering some boomer's jamming in Fort Worth in 2013. I set up a video camera on one side then went to the other side of the stage to capture images with my dslr, still camera that now does motion! This also requires learning how to merge the images together using Adobe Premier.

A lot different from capturing one photo of fans cheering at the Music for Peace concert in 1970. Lots of bands preformed over the weekend, but it was the crowd that captured the concert in 1970 protesting the war in Vietnam.

The next year I was in San Francisco on the staff of the Examiner, and as the youngest member of the staff covered weekend events. Billy Graham had to close the original Filmore concert venue and I got to cover a new location. Not the big old theater but more of a gymnasium.

Apparently the Examiner had not been a fan of Graham and they didn't really want to let me inside to cover the event. Only giving me 10 minutes to take a photo and get out. I rush in and go to the foot of the stage looking for a photo. On stage was Annie Leibovitz who seeing me with my Nikon moved over and kneeled down in front of me. Blocking any shot of the band. I moved, she moved...to heck with that, what else is can be captured? I move around and go to the rear, then see my photo. The Examiner publishes a vertical photo of a basketball net silhouette against the bright lights on the stage. Could of gotten a nicer photo and helped promoter Graham if Annie hadn't blocked my shots.

D. Gorton was the assignment editor and was terrific ad coming up with ideas. Arthur Rubenstein was going to preform with the Philadelphia Symphony and he was tired of the distant shot taken with a long lens of the soloist from the back and conductor in the distance. He thought it might be nice to get a shot of the conductor Eugene Ormandy with Rubenstein preparing to go on stage. I start work at noon and already Gorton has contacted Ormandy and Rubenstein's wife. They all agree, but are afraid to ask Rubenstein, because he will refuse. I show up backstage and Ormandy tells me that once I'm inside the dressing room I'm on my own.

What's it look like inside the dressing room, is there enough light? I know I'll only be able to take a few shots, better take a flash. What exposure? How high is the ceiling? I take my bare-tube Mighty Lite strobe and guess it will need to be 800 ISO. Well here we go. . .

Ormandy knocks and opens the door with me right behind him. Immediately Rubenstein wants to make some changes, discuss a part and how he wants to play it, Ormandy concentrates on what he is saying and I start taking a picture. Flash goes off and Rubenstein stops, stands up next to Ormandy and says "take the picture." I respond that I'd like to stay and take pictures of them working. Rubenstein responds telling me that when the conductor says to play he plays, "take the picture and get out."

Not a photo of them preforming, no sound, but it is one of my favorite shots.A little luck, I admire the off stage shots of Elvis Presley coming to New York taken by Alfred Wertheimer who was trying to break in as a photographer in 1958. There was a lot of competition, but rather than taking in the higher fee that gave all rights to the record company, he was willing to work for less and keep rights to the images. He left shooting stills to be a cameraman for movies and TV, it paid better. But the still photos of Presley off stage give added meaning to the music.  Other photogs like photographing musicians. Gjon (John) Mili was famous for capturing multiple exposure to show action in one photo, Pablo Picasso drawing a picture with a flashlight. He also used his huge studio to shoot a movie of jazz musicians which is posted on his Facebook page. Interesting lighting set on the side gives a special look. He was ahead of his time.

W. Eugene Smith moved into a warehouse in the flower district in New York to finish his Pittsburgh story, but it was a popular place for musicians. Cheap and just for business, no residents to complain about noise. Apparently Smith was pulled into capturing sound as well as images. He wired the building and recorded hours of music, talk and silence. His photos were published in Life magazine. He died at 59 in 1979, but his tapes have only recently been released.

Ansel Adams was training to be a professional pianist, but had fun taking photos in Yosemite. But after the sun rose and the light was too high in the sky he wanted to practise, he found a piano and ended up marrying the daughter of the local souvenir shop owner. He like music, listened to it while he worked and entertained people at parties. But I don't remember any photos taken of musicians!?

Music and photography compliment each other combine two senses, sight and sound into one experience. But as the melody changes the visual needs to change too. Motion and music work.

Forever Jamming ~ 2013 from Jim Domke on Vimeo.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Photography 2013

Things keep changing, back in the "good old days" taking photos was a pain. Simply lugging the camera around was a pain so most families left it at home or in the car. Missing the memorable shot of their child riding rides at Disneyland or playing with friends at the birthday party.

But now with cameras in our cellphone, in laptops, in tablets, and part of the digital player there is not excuse for not capturing and preserving the moment. BUT when you are taking photos you are an observer, not a participant. How will you remember the event, trying to find the right angle, or really seeing and experiencing what is happening? Now, psychologists feel the camera is in the way, it takes away from the event. 

I remember hearing Michael Evans, President Reagans official photographer, tell how he refused to take photos of his kids. He wanted to enjoy the moment, be part of their lives, not an outsider.

Photography is changing. I go to a Best Buy store and see customers take photos of the information label beside a product so they can remember what the store price was and compare it to online or competing store prices. The photo doesn't lie.

Many companies require employees to take photos. No problem. Show how the product was installed, or how much damage happened to the car. Just point and shoot.

With all these images we forget the event, remember the photo? Now tv/video captures the motion and the sound of the event. But as newsphotographers know, there is other action happening outside the frame and the camera is limited.

I find it interesting how back in the Sixties the "new journalism" was creating images with words. Writers wrote about what the subject was wearing, the smell, sounds and even what they were supposedly thinking. It is interesting pulling up the image in your mind, but is it real?

The reporter is the observer, pointing out what they were wearing and their hairdo so as to describe the person's personality. I remember how a story on an architect started off describing how casual he was dressed, but the photo taken a few days later had him dressed in a suit!? Who is lieing?

The writer was impressed with how relaxed the architect, wasn't a stuffed shirt, formal or traditional guy. Telling how his shirt wasn't tucked in led to how he had designed a new hotel with unique atrium. But the photo killed it. Words and pictures have to work together.

If  the writer had taken a photo the same day that he interviewed the architect, everything would fit together and get the message. Trouble is that taking a photo while asking questions of a subject, takes your mind off getting the best picture. This is why photojournalism suffers when the reporter is both writing and taking the photos.

Nobody seems to notice how the quality of the image has declined as we share more photos. Photos seem to be more important than ever, they pull readers into reading a blog, quickly tell what the main story is, help sum up the topic. Nobody cares about composition, does it support the story, or show something we've never seen before.

We just need to take photos to prove we were there, to share, not to inform.