Between 1983 and 1986 I had a studio in downtown Minneapolis. I was a stone’s throw from the night club First Avenue. From my window I could see the intersection of 7th street and 1st Ave. I also got great light in my studio from the reflective buildings as the sun would set. It was pretty dramatic sometimes.
This is a view looking South-Eastward down 7th street to Hennepin Ave. – into the heart of downtown.
At the time I had a Nikon F3. This was on Plus-X and I metered for the bright spot of the IDS to get a dramatic shadowy effect.
Having a studio in downtown Minneapolis during the 90s sure had it’s historic moments. My studio at the time was in the Butler North building, 1/2 block away from the Target Center (it was being built during my first year in that studio). There was a lot of urban development going on between new buildings and remodeled older ones. One of the big changes was a so-called blighted block (Block E) was slated to be razed and re-developed. It took almost a decade to get it even razed. Then development took another good part of a decade. There was an historic theater on that block, The Shubert Theater.
The theater was moved from it’s spot on Block E to the next block north on Hennepin Ave. The story of the theater and how it was moved can be found here. Another earlier view of the Shubert from my first studio can be found here.
I had moved out of my studio when the Shubert was moved but I was downtown a lot for business and my daughter’s ballet classes at Minnesota Dance Theater. I got to capture this shot of my daughter with the Shubert in the process of being prepared for what turned out to be the first relocation of a building of this size in history.
I spent a lot of my youth watching Tv. Sometime when I was really young I must have come into contact with some noire films over the tube. I seemed to have a very strong affinity for this genre of film without knowing what they were called. These films felt different to me. There were also a fair amount television programs that fell into that category like Perry Mason and The Untouchables. Another show that I watched had moments of noire – 77 Sunset Strip.
Throughout my life I have enjoyed seeing photos and films that have a noire feel. I liked the strong, deep shadows and how the actors revealed themselves by emerging from or hiding in darkness. I never intentionally tried to mimic this in my own photography until recently. In the last two years I have been trying to see city scenes through a noire point of view. It’s not always an easy thing to do, living in a fairly new-looking city like Minneapolis. But I have managed to find some subject matter and times of day (even seasons) to make noire type images that conjure a “sleepless city” and an air of mystery and intrigue. I do my best to make the place I photograph not readily recognizable so that the mood of the moment is the more dominant.
About These Images
There are two main types of noire type images I try to capture – so far. Street scenes and small, intimate spaces with deep shadows. (I plan to do a third type which will include actors).
The first photo is a street scene around dusk. The image is intentionally blurred for effect. It’s like the bustling background into which the protagonist enters. Noire films are normally B&W but I felt the color in this case made the image more interesting.
The second image was made when the sun was low and cast long shadows into the entrance of an historic old building. I put my shadow in the photo to add some mystery and tension. Being at the right place at the right time is key to getting these images when working without lighting equipment and a crew.
I just recently started shooting this way. It will be interesting to see what happens when I put more time and resources into these images.
I wrote a recent post about my conflicting feelings about Instagram. About how the camera and filters are limiting. About the ability to manipulate the image on the spot and share immediately.
All of this contributes to a satisfying user experience because the user gets instant gratification through taking the picture, using the filters to personalize it and get instant feedback from anyone who happens to be online and seeing the post. With some of my urban images, I shared and got instant “Likes” from people I know in Europe. That is quite a long reach! It goes a long way to making one feel connected and a little powerful.
I use an iPad mini. I have found the iPad camera experience to be similar to Instagram in that I can, through a third party app, manipulate the image on the spot. In that way I capture more of the mood I am feeling at that moment. The photo app I use is PhotoForge.
Without a data plan I depend on access to wifi for sharing the image. Sometimes there are places in a dense urban area where it is available but often it’s not. Sharing has to wait till later. But at least the mood of the moment is preserved till it can be shared over social media, including Instagram.
I am getting more comfortable shooting in public using a tablet. I guess I blend in more with all the smart gadgets that are so ubiquitous. I suppose carrying and using a regular DSLR camera will make a photographer stand out more.
About this Image
It was late afternoon and very hot downtown. The light from the lowering sun bounced off one building and reflected it’s grid-like window pattern onto the one across the street. This happens everyday and creates countless photo opportunities. The iPad camera and PhotoForge app allowed me to capture the mood of the moment and process the image to preserve it for posting later.
Since starting this blog my feelings toward Instagram have evolved. I don’t want to say they have transformed because I still have some misgivings about the photo/video sharing platform. But since acquiring access to it, via an iPad, I have found the immediacy and spontaneousness of the experience offered me something I did not expect to like.
In the beginning I succumbed because so many of my friends use Instagram to give me and their followers a glimpse into their lives and activities in real time. This kind of immediacy creates a transparency that can be disturbing and interesting at the same time. However, it also offers the possibility to artistically express a moment of time without divulging too much about one’s private thoughts. This is what I did not expect to like.
The Instagram camera, filters and controls are blunt tools for someone who has used conventional photography gear and software most of their life. There are enough tools to yield a variety of visual effects which can differentiate one person’s image making from others. Even so, a lot of the images I see posted via Instagram seem pretty similar.
The way a photographer can distinguish themselves from the rest of the Instagramers is in the choice of subject matter. For instance my choice of subject matter and eye for light differentiates me from many users who chronicle their daily lives and travels. I try to point the camera inwards to express a personal feeling even in the most unglamorous places, such as a corner in my home where light and shadow create a mood in abstract space. Or the odd place in the outside world where I find connectivity and can share on the spot. It is a phenomenon to me that I could be in a public space, pick up a wifi signal from somewhere and be able to transmit a personal, visual expression to people I know who live all over the world.
I am finding a way to use the platform to express myself and share my life without compromising my artistic principals.
Lately I have been flexing my photography muscles by reducing the equipment I use to do photo shoots. I am finding that practicing street shooting helps me how I approach other shoots. It also has helped to expand my vision.
This summer offered numerous opportunities for taking interesting photos at events. I went to two that I thought would challenge me. The first one was a rally for Trayvon Martin two days after George Zimmerman was acquitted.
Armed with only a camera and speedlight, I ventured downtown to the government center where the rally was held. I won’t say I was scared or intimidated but I was apprehensive about being there and about the quality of my equipment. I have an older digital camera and I was unsure about how well it would handle the low light.
I felt out of place at first because I was still getting comfortable with street shooting and photographing people I did not know in public. I found that everyone that attended the rally either did not notice me or wanted to be photographed. I think photographing at the rally was giving voice to those who felt they had little or none. After I realized this I relaxed a little and played my role as documentary photographer.
The second rally was the anti gun violence rally called No More Names at the Federal Courthouse. There were speakers that travelled across the country to visit about 25 cities and hold this event. Some gun rights supporters also attended the rally as a show of support for gun rights advocates.
This being my second time photographing at a rally I felt more comfortable but still felt out of my element. There were almost as many photographers and videographers than attendees. So I tried to blend in.
These two experiences helped me to feel ore comfortable photographing people in public and to know my basic camera gear better. I still don’t consider myself to be a street shooter but I plan to do a lot more of it.
Glenwood Avenue in Minneapolis hosted my first professional studio. The building’s number was 14 ½, which sounds magical nowadays, and was nestled on a corner of downtown that boasted storefronts whose vibrant history had faded long before I took up residence. My studio was on the second floor in the middle of the block. The first floor storefronts were only ever partially rented, with a Chinese restaurant, a massage parlor (Hanako’s Sauna) and a hat shop. The rest of the stores were vacant, and the block looked a bit blighted. However, from my studio window one could see a bustling corner of the city. This view is and was the South West corner of Block E, at First Avenue and Seventh Street. On the right side of this photo is the Schubert Theater which has now been moved to Hennepin Avenue. Other than the First Avenue night club (not in the photo), none of the buildings exist anymore. They were razed to build the Target Arena and kick off the development of Block E.
What do photography, wine and ping-pong have in common? Last Saturday, Oct 13th, they all converged at the opening of the 4th annual Wing Young Hiue Salon Photo Show.
Wing is a photographer in the Twin Cities who hosts a monthly photography salon.
Wing documents “the dizzying socioeconomic and cultural realities of American society, much of it centered on the urban cores of his home state of Minnesota. He creates up-to-the-minute societal mirrors of who we are, seeking to reveal not only what is hidden, but also what is plainly visible and seldom noticed.” His work can be seen http://www.wingyounghuie.com.
There are approximately 30+ members of the Salon from varying photographic backgrounds. For the last 4 Years the salon has held an annual show of the member’s works. This year 19 members showed their images, all relating to their participation in the salon. The opening was well attended and after wards a ping-pong table was brought out and table tennis madness ensued till late at night.
The entire show can be seen online at sites.google.com/site/2012wingyounghuiesalon
I showed two images from my current on-going project of urban landscapes or cityscapes. These two images are good examples of a very different approach to photographing than I have been doing for years. It requires that I work with less equipment and carry my camera almost everywhere I go. I don’t chase the light like a lot of landscape photographers do. I mostly stumble upon a scene where the light is dramatic.
My favorite time to shoot is in the evening when the sun is low in the sky or at dusk. Sometimes the light is strong and dramatic which highlights the intensity of a location. It can give drama to a place that most people would walk by and not think about twice. Other times the play of light is so unusual that it seems un-natural. I often look for places where the light bounces off one building to the other which create a menagerie of cris-crossing light.
The sidewalk image is a good example of my stumbling. It’s the type of opportunity I find suddenly and I have to decide to stop and capture the image.
The Pedal Pub photo is a real departure for me because my preferred way of working is to take some time before tripping the shutter in order to try and capture the pathos of the moment. I was experimenting with the program setting on my camera so that I did not have to think about exposure and could concentrate on the fleeting moment. It was a steamy hot evening in June on Nicollet Mall. The setting sunlight was bouncing off of all the glass buildings creating cris-cross light and shadow. I was scanning the place for any opportunity when the Pedal Pub rolled by. The moment happened so fast I barely remember taking the picture.
Cityscapes, or what I call the urban landscape, is a departure from what I usually photograph, which is people. I have been experimenting with portraits in natural light but with a studio feel. This kind of shooting required that I work with less (equipment) and work within the constraints of being lightweight and simple set of photo gear.
This led me to an interest in photographing the urban landscape. For me, this subject matter ranges from wide shots of many tall buildings to the close up drama or banality of a street corner. I try to capture the pathos of the location and the moment.