Saturday, January 11, 2020

Photography is Writing with the Eye

What is this butcher thinking as he stands in the audience at the Smithfield Meat Auction?

I take photos and write.  There are similarities between a photographer capturing an image followed by editing it and a writer who seizes a fleeting thought, commits it to script, and rewrites it for effect.  While I traveled this past month to London, England, and briefly Europe, I was quite aware that when I was moving, I was constantly framing what I saw.  One step too far or a moment too soon before crowds crossed my sightline and I knew that an image would not be what I desired.  Some places were simply so evocative – brightly alive or on the other extreme quite melancholy that they were worthy of a picture.  Others embodied some element of contemplation, humor, or interesting perspective. 

The scope of subject matter for a photographer is infinite and yet limited.  Not everything, place, or person is sufficiently interesting at any precise moment to be worthy of recording, and yet all of these subjects might have merit and potential.  Writing is similar, except the author is trying to catch thoughts, gather overheard comments, or collect place and character traits for their descriptive value.

I wrote little during my travels, letting my camera record impressions from which I could later assemble my thoughts and recall what I was noticing.  (I took pictures at Dachau Concentration Camp and later will write a newspaper column about my sobering observations.)  The photos which I chose for this post are the ones among all of the ones that I took that pleased me the most.  Like good writing, they hold the viewer a little longer.  Most of these are not your typical tourist photos. 

Is he envious or curious?

When advertising goes awry...

I was trying to capture the feeling of being in the crowd on Primrose Hill on New Year's Eve while we all waited for the London fireworks to begin at midnight.  The high contrast of the dark crowd against the bright sky gives the photo tension.

The Shard, a new skyscraper located on the south bank of the Thames River, has become an iconic shot.  I liked that this photo captures a little of the nautical history of the area with the rusty chains and gear in the foreground, and although the Shard is out of kilter, it is a striking view.

I counted seventeen building cranes on the skyline of London from one location.  My daughter began teasing me about my crane photos.  I liked the novelty of this shot with the mudhen seeming to eye and avoid the wonky crane reflections in the canal water.

This is one of my best photos exemplifying how timing is so critical. Even though the train was beginning to slow as it pulled into the London Train Station, moments later the angles would no longer have converged with the base of the Shard.  I think the photo conveys the excitement of train travel, of arrival.

Ah, this is another example of timing and place.  I took this photo on one of my first days in London. I was riding on the top of a double-decker bus when I looked down and saw this marvelous building reflected in the roof and the windshield of a car.    

Bike Rack?  Antiquities themed?  Is this some city planner's joke?

This skate buddy on an icerink in Salzburg exhuded an impression of longing and hope.  I noticed him because of his charm, but I had to wait a moment until the ice all around him was clear of skaters  to get this shot.  I'm not sure that I would have gotten the chance again.    

I love this photo for its varied textures and the restaurant sign on an obviously empty building, but mostly I love this for the pop of color.  It just makes me smile.

Although I am a member of Audubon and have many opportunities to take photos of birds, I am relatively awful at the task.  I include this swan both because of its nice shape, but also because of the color of water.  The swan was in a pond on Hampstead Heath.  There were others near by, but I managed to isolate this one for a moment.
And for a selfie, how about this one taken in front of a shop window with a neon light documenting my location?

Off to writing now...


  1. Love the architectural images, light and reflective materials. You see so much of the world around you and capture it. Big appetite, eyes open! Thank you for the photos.

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment. Eyes open! Yes!

  2. Compassionate strong lovely column in UB on "radical politics". Transformative.


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