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Art & Life


Under here.

October 30, 2011

We Are

Sunday. I was tired yesterday. Went to bed around eight, got to sleep soon after, up this morning with the alarm at five forty-five. Up slowly, thinking maybe, as this was a Sunday and I didn't have to consider the parking meters, maybe another half hour to lie down, see what might happen, but things came together and I was off to breakfast.

Home now after eight, the Chronicle delivered late this morning, so I waited on its arrival before leaving. Do I go to breakfast to eat or to read the papers? Why even ask? Both, of course, although the one I'll put off until I can get my hands on the other.

Another nice sunny day outside. I have quite a bit more work to do to get yesterday's photographs ready, but this schedule of shooting every day seems to force me to spend the time to get them done. So that's what's on the plate for the morning, finish those photographs, get ready to go out and take the next batch, come home and run those through the same process. I'm suddenly starting to think a little rain is in order but then I bite my tongue. We do support these people, mostly, and we're willing to do something to show it. By wearing my WikiLeaks t-shirt maybe and skipping out on this daily madness with the photographs. I mean I'm taking pictures of signs, right? Placards and fliers, no so many pictures of people's faces.

It's morning. You feel better. Cool the jets. Take a deep breath.

Later. OK, better. Images done and posted. Too many not very interesting (in a graphic sense) signs, I think, but maybe we can do more with that. The idea is the flavor and the slogans themselves, less so the image. Present it well, but we're presenting something closer to data than trying to capture emotional information.

You're making excuses.

We'll learning it would have been better to have learned all this stuff when we were much younger.

Most of your younger years were spent without a camera.

Now you're beginning to see the scope of the problem.

Later still. Too early to go downtown and not ready to extend my guitar session any more than I'd already done, I headed down to the morning restaurant for a cup of coffee and a bagel with cream cheese (not toasted). I was still hungry this morning when I'd finished breakfast with but the waffle with the fruit on top (sliced banana and strawberries). I'd thought, when I'd finished, of ordering a bagel too, but decided not. Not sure why. Still this weird focus on food, I guess, even though the weight is holding well at one-sixty. Maybe it's our weight image culture or the many more people I pass on the street who remind me of myself forty and sixty pounds heavier. No escape, no escape. All this over a bagel. A cream cheese.

Still, a picture or two. A young guitar player playing on the sidewalk who was pretty good, passing him as I made my way around on Lakeshore to hit the ATM. Still managing to “manage” the lack of ATM's at the new bank. I was tempted to ask how long he'd been playing, but left him a couple of bucks instead. I do that more often than most, think about it sometimes, it isn't necessarily a prop to one's character, but I'm comfortable with it. Give or not, no regrets.

The one or two pictures I took with the long 270mm equivalent f 2.8 lens I was carrying weren't all that great. One or two I liked, all of them with a sharpness/focus problem, even though it was something I was watching. Carefully using autofocus, being sure the shutter speed was way up (this is an older non-vibration reduction lens), but still, not great. We learn. It's not the equipment, it's the photographer someone said.

Afternoon, later. A good outing, a bus downtown to the City Hall, a walk around the plaza first with the 24-120mm camera in hand and then, taking it out of the backpack, with the 70-200mm camera, primarily shooting pictures of new signs and changes in the arrangement of the camp.

I was immediately approached by a young woman, a member of their “coordination group” or whatever it may be called, asking if I were a WikiLeaks photographer (I was wearing the WikiLeaks t-shirt) and that I should ask people's permission to take their pictures as many were sensitive on the subject. OK. A WikiLeaks photographer. I don't believe WikiLeaks has a photo section as such, but an interesting comment. Still, I gave her an artandlife card and said I'd be careful.

She might consider a little homework on this freedom issue that's being talked about. Freedom of the press and freedom of the individual to take pictures in public places as an aspect, both for people who like what you're doing and those who don't. A real press photographer would have redoubled efforts to take pictures of people's faces, but what the hell, we WikiLeaks photographers dance to a different beat (which is why our photographs are a little shaky).

It's probably good manners to warn someone that people can occasionally go ballistic if you take their picture uninvited, but every press photographer and street photographer is familiar with that reality. We learn to carefully monitor the emotional temperature of people with us on the street. You don't want to make mistakes, although you do. Eventually. A good day today doesn't mean a good day tomorrow.

Are there police informants, Homeland Security informants and such present in their midst taking pictures, taking notes and possibly looking to stir up trouble? I suspect. They always have in the past. The FBI's history is notorious, the local police have their own well known issues. Not suggesting the Occupy people shouldn't take precautions, just suggesting they don't string anyone up by mistake. You understand. Photographers especially.

You do seem to have an issue with this. Do you feel guilty taking pictures of people unaware of your presence?

There's a difference between the legal right to do something and the moral implications of doing something. I don't use them (the pictures) with bad intent, but still, why should I get to decide? I've had a lot of people contact me asking for prints, when they've found themselves on artandlife, none so far who've asked me to take them down. And there's a whole history of street photographers who've created a street photography art. There seems to be an inner urge in some to find these images and I appear to be one of them. So I fret. A bit. And go back and forth. Clarity comes from writing it down it's said. Here in a journal, for instance.

Still, no complaints, I and the Occupy people are inventing it as we go along. Many an opinion is huddled under those tent(s). I'm afraid, for all the pictures I took and have taken, the majority don't have people's faces in them (with certain obvious fish in a barrel exceptions), but in this particular instance I'm as interested in the signs that change every day as the faces that make them. If I were younger (one whole hell of a lot younger) I might consider joining the camp (with a camera). But I'm not. So best to photograph between say one and three, a comfortable time of the day, with plenty of people about and a café or two nearby where you can take a break.

A walk about half the way home taking the odd shot. You find more and more Occupy-like signs outside of the plaza area and the occasional stranger reflected in a window (wearing a black WikiLeaks t-shirt). An ice cream cone at the local 7-11 look alike, of course, and a walk the short distance back home.

We are clear headed, we are in a good mood, we've taken our pills and we are thinking of playing a little guitar with the news playing in the background. We are.

The photograph was taken Thursday at the Oakland Occupy Wall Street turned out on the streets with a Nikon D3s mounted with a 70-200mm f 2.8 Nikkor VR II lens.