The basics: mom, grandma, animal and nature lover, defender of social justice, possessed by an insatiable wanderlust, educator by profession, Miami resident but my native New York is my home, heart, and inspiration.
I first became aware of my love for photography during my dad’s after-dinner slideshows where I could never get enough. So armed with a Kodak Brownie or an Instamatic, I set off to memorialize my friends on the playground and in sleep-away camp. But enthusiasm and confidence are two different things, and over the years, even images I was proud of remained private…tucked away for my eyes only. Once I discovered street, though, and co-founded the Miami Street Photography Festival, it was a whole new ballgame. It came with a devout built-in community that encouraged sharing, interaction, practice, and confidence-building. Though I adore the genre for multiple reasons, a great deal of my joy is in building global relationships through our mutual passion and learning from the experience and perspectives of such a diversely talented group. The sense of community based upon a common interest helps to keep me inspired creatively.
I’ve always been reluctantly comfortable getting close and embracing the intimacy that can be captured by being near. It’s especially valuable in shooting candid environmental portraits and expressions. But it can also lead to one of my greatest frustrations in shooting street…the assumption that some relatively close unstaged photos are posed. An example is this scene I came across as I turned a corner in an abandoned building. I simply shot what I saw, and I have the subsequent photo to prove how annoyed this man was when he noticed me! I’m also a sucker for the innocence and interaction of children, though they’re the most challenging subject due to protective parents, and rightfully so. Of course, wider angles are great for the elements of a scene. But whether near or far, what attracts me most are themes of quirkiness, humor, sentimentality, solitude, and social justice…moments that evoke a double-take, a chuckle, or an emotion that speaks to all of us.
Miami has its share of captivating people as subjects, but otherwise is a challenging place to shoot, especially in the strip mall haven of the suburbs where I live. Stimulating environments that present better palettes are relatively far, made farther by poor public transportation and horrendous traffic. The sub-tropical overhead light consumes most of the day, and there are few environments to catch the long shadows of the golden hour. Though I do love shooting on the beach, I yearn for the open-air “studio” of NYC and other classic cities where opportunities for action, eccentricity, and light are more abundant.
I once heard that people who look down when they think or speak are auditory learners, and people who look straight out or up are visual. No one had to tell me that I was the latter. My lifelong passion for observation has been the fuel to slow me down in a kinetic world. How often someone has told me, “Put the camera down and enjoy the moment”. What they fail to realize is that when I’m shooting, I’m immersed in that instance. Syrupy as it may sound, seeing and framing the world through a lens encourages me to notice the artistry of even the most mundane moments and the poetry of everyday experience. It’s my way of stopping to smell the roses. In that vein, this quote from Dorothea Lange has always resonated with me: “One should really use the camera as though tomorrow you’d be stricken blind.”
At one point in my career, I oversaw a program where we taught high school students to interview senior citizens about their life stories, and in doing so, we trained them to read old photos for visual clues about that era. I’m fascinated with the information a photo can relay, and believe that street photographers offer a valuable contribution to the annals of history. We don’t necessarily capture the historically significant moments, but rather the moments in-between that truly reflect the layers of a culture and generation. Taking that a step further, my photos are a mirror to my personal journey. When memories have long faded, they’ve frozen my experience for posterity.