Being taken by New York in black and white…



Shawna Lemay wrote recently in her rich gift of a blog, Transactions with Beauty: “There is a point one reaches in one’s creative endeavors that … you find yourself covering familiar ground, repeating, circling back to familiar themes and concerns.”

I had just returned from New York City and I was going through my images. I definitely recognized myself in those words. Yes, that is me, for sure.

I’ve gone to New York City three times now since 2013 with more on my agenda than seeing the sights and experiencing some of the best music and art a city can offer. (Which I love to do, by the way.)

But I also strive to come back with images — not just snapshots — that encapsulate what thrills me about New York. And I do find myself considering the same subjects and themes over and over. (See my previous posts — I did a 7 part series in 2013.)

When I look at my gallery called New York City in Black and White, which contains images from more than one trip, I see that I am drawn to arches, windows, reflections, symmetrical and geometrical architectural shapes, buskers, young lovers, and silhouettes and shadows, just as a few examples. I am also fascinated by the contrasts between old and new and the built and natural environment.

(And whatever else I’m doing, I have to find time to shoot the Flatiron Building, my all-time favourite building. In a previous post, I talk about my obsession with it.)

But even as I tend to return to the same preoccupations with my photography, either consciously or unconsciously, I find that something has changed in the way I see. More and more I am struck by a “flash of perception” that hits me fast and furiously and it is a distinct frisson of excitement that compels me to turn my camera in a certain direction. Something I see feels fresh and new to me. Most of my very favourite images have come about this way.

I’ve noticed too that my memories associated with where I was and how I was feeling when I made these photos are much sharper and longer lasting than when I was merely documenting a scene, or even recording a nice memory. The image can bring me right back to the time it was taken with all the details intact.

I know that less and less I want my photography to be about looking at the world and saying to myself: Ah, that’s interesting or beautiful, I should take a picture of that.

It is the times when I am “taken by a picture” — even if I don’t quite know why — which always mean the most to me.




My visual CV…

I’ve now seen several Visual Q&As and each one has been hugely inspiring. Kim Manley Ort published a post recently in which she answered the same questions as did Nathan Wirth with a series of images rather than words. She calls it a “Visual CV.”

I immediately thought it would be a wonderful exercise in self-awareness. And that is a key ingredient in moving our photography forward — more so than new gear or more courses or new techniques.

But I was concerned that the questions would be hard to answer.

In fact, I was pleasantly surprised at how easily it came together. Once I tapped into my intuitive sense and honoured the feeling of what was the best answer, it just flowed.

It’s the kind of thing that is really beyond thought…the answers just present themselves when you look through your own images. Thought and trying too hard just gets in the way, as it does in life.

Of course our pictures are as much about ourselves as they are about the subject matter —  more so, actually…so a little excavation yields great riches. Why not give it a try yourself?

Who are you?

astor hall

Why photography?

st lucie 2LR

What is your trademark photographic style?
What truly inspires you?

New York

Where do you go when you close your eyes?
abstract water2
Where is home for you?
rollei2013-low res
How would you describe your lifestyle?
What makes a great shot?

New York

How do you view the world?


What is an important lesson you’ve learned?
sparkof grace light FB

The Simplicity Project, No. 9

I started my Simplicity Project at the beginning of December, inspired by Kim Manley Ort’s invitation to post one simple image a day this month. I joined up with a Flickr group of wonderful kindred spirits who also accepted this invitation with excitement. Everybody is welcome.

Decembers can be a frenzy of holiday-related activity, and I am drawn to the idea of a different kind of month. This year we are in a warm climate getting ready to launch our sailboat, and to live aboard it for the winter.

It’s a simpler life. I thought it would go well with a focus on greater simplicity in my images.

I expected that this practice of simplicity would affect my photography — in a good way, I hoped — since I find that  simpler images are often the most compelling. But the surprise for me was how quickly and drastically this new focus would change my very perception too.

Last week, I felt that things that were previously invisible to me came out of hiding. And that even everyday things started to look entirely different.

Last week I saw lights out the car window, lighthouses, grapefruit, hedge clippings, peeling boat paint and dappled light on a bedspread through fresh eyes. I noticed so much more when looking for images that would contain less.

I am now conscious of moving toward a more direct visual perception of things — I say moving toward because this is a lifelong process and practice. What this means for example is that instead of being preoccupied by the idea of a subject (say a simple piece of fruit), I now look at it also as a unique collection of lines and shapes and colours, with shadows and light falling in a particular way and constantly changing.

Before last week, I don’t think I would have taken a photograph of dappled light on a bed because, well, it was just dappled light on a bed. Or hedge clippings. Who photographs hedge clippings? I’m sure I’m not the only one who has the idea that those are not interesting subjects for photographs. But in seeking simplicity I was able to connect in a new way to the particular beauty of all aspects of my surroundings, not just the expected ones.

Now that I stop to think about it, I realize I have been heading in this direction for some time now. I just needed a practice like this to kickstart me and focus me.

So my intent for the rest of the month is to be more open to what I observe and faithfully capture and share my perceptions in a way that is less connected to what I have been conditioned to do and more connected to what my heart tells me.

In fact, this is a project that will occupy me long after December is over.