Pictures from Workshop II

You got to see photos produced by half our Picturing the Past Workshop group yesterday. We’ll show the other half today. Curator Jessica reported that Todd Bastin, Athen Public Library coordinator for Art in the Library, said that they’ve received more positive feedback on the exhibit in the past three days than they usually do in a month.

Each photographer’s work will be shown in a gallery. Click on any photo to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move through the images.

Mary Connolly

I was particularly drawn to Mary Connolly’s work because she’s a runner who says a regular camera would be too heavy, so she shoots everything with her smart phone. It goes to prove that it’s not the camera, it’s the eye that make the picture. She admits that her frequent stops for taking photos throws her running rhythm off, but the results are worth it.

White’s Mill is one of the most photographed landmarks around Athens. Mary, though, nailed it from a different angle than most, and she did it on a snowy day. She photographed Ali Babas’ food truck because “who knows if food trucks will be around in the future?” I like the way she didn’t just shoot a mug shot of the truck: she engaged with the guy INSIDE the truck.

We had some debate about the shot of Radar Hill graffiti. She really liked, but I thought she had stronger photos. We compromised by cropping it tight so it made the image of the woman much more prominent. The man in the alley is her friend waiting for her to get done taking the photo so they could go to the restaurant in the doorway at right.

Robin Barnes

Robin had two photos of women with hats. I really like the composition in the one on top, but it was shot with a cell phone and fell apart when it was enlarged. When it was paired with another hat photo in a layout, it could run smaller and still look good.

I like the way she let the boy’s shoes echo the red in the flag. The fact that he’s holding a phone will make the photo interesting when we all have microchips implanted at birth to carry on that function. Robin had two frames of the little girls lined up for a contest of some kind. I picked this one because I liked the way they are all off in their own little worlds.

Everybody called the guy on the left “Santa Claus.” There was some discussion about cropping the clown barrel on the right out of the photo because it was too dark to read properly. When I got it into Photoshop, though, I could save enough of the tones to make it show up. It was a great pairing of a barrel-chested guy balanced by a barrel.

Sallie Sauber

Sallie was an interesting person in her own right: first off, that’s her in what she titled “Roller Derby Selfie.” She didn’t want to show it to me at first, but I convinced her that the technical limitations were outweighed by the spunky attitude she captured. It was a way better than average selfie. Boy in Leaves wasn’t my first, second or third choice, but I was outvoted by the workshoppers who loved it.

We had some debate about the girl on the bike. She showed up for office hours with a tight shot from behind. It was interesting, but this picture with lots of activity has much better composition and shows the wide variety of ways kids get around on wheels at that age. She, too, made good use of a mirror and reflections.

Steven Koch

Several of the participants said they liked to shoot in black and white or convert their color to B&W in the editing process. I said I really liked black and white – and shot it for most of my career – but that since digital single lens reflexes had come along that let me shoot color under low light levels, I had made the transition to color.

Steven took what, to me, was a curious middle ground: he “desaturated” his really nice color photos, leaving them as something that was neither full of color nor was a pure black and white. A good example would be that he liked the “dull-looking” school bus over the one with vibrant colors. I don’t know that we ever convinced him that the color work was better, but the group voted to go with the color versions of his pictures. [Wife Lila said she liked the way the bus lights showed up in the “duller” shot, but she like the color shot better overall.]

Despite our disagreements over color and B&W, I have to say that Steven was the most technically versatile of the group, with the ability to shoot unusual landscapes, an industrial photo and a nice portrait. That’s quite a range.

Susie Blauser

Susie did a wonderful series of photos showing the Glasshouse Works greenhouses, a Stewart, Ohio, mailorder nursery specializing in rare and exotic plants from all over the world. It was hard to narrow down her take to only four photos. (As someone who lives in South Florida, it feels odd to see tropical plants that grow in our back yard called “exotic.”)

Teresa Faires Winning

When Teresa showed up for the first office hours meeting, she had a photo of an intersection with yellow traffic dividers in it. “We’re going to do something that won’t make Historian Jessica happy – we’re going to crop out all of the stuff that she’s going to want to see in 50 years – but we’re going to end up with a much more striking photo that will probably look more like what caught your eye than what the camera captured.”

Teresa was one of my point ‘n’ shoot people who went out when the sun was going down. Before the sun set, she grabbed a great slice of sidewalk life in town. In addition to preserving a wide variety of clothing of the era, she also managed to get a girl with the ubiquitous white earplugs and the girl in the red dress in the background gabbing on a cellphone.

She was disappointed that she wasn’t able to push the button at the right time to get the lightning flashing in those boiling clouds, but she did manage to capture a spectacular sunset, the gates to the Main green and a row of street lights. She was also astounded at how neat businesses looked at night. It was great to open up a whole new way of seeing for someone.

What’s next?

The group played together so nicely that I hope they get together from time to time to share what new stuff they’ve uncovered.


Pictures from the Workshop

720 Poster with Frank RicheyYou’ve heard me talking about the Picturing the Past Workshop in Athens, Ohio, until you are probably tired of it, but here’s a look at what our participants produced that is being exhibited at the Athens Public Library and the Athens County Historical Society Museum.

The first session was held on August 23. About two dozen people listened to me drone on for 2-1/2 hours, then Curator Jessica talked about historical photographs and their importance for about 30 minutes. Participants were asked to go into the community and shoot anything that interested them, with an emphasis on things that people in the future would be curious about.

“Office hours”

We held “office hours” on Tuesday and Thursday evenings so we could see what had been shot and offer suggestions. The goal was for them to come back with 10 shots they liked. We said they would 720 Ordinary People bio Posternarrow those down to two for the final exhibit, and that the audience could nominate a third photo. On the first evening, I suggested to two women that they explore the town after dark and gave them a two-minute demonstration about how they could vary the exposures on their point-and-shoot cameras.

A larger group showed up for the second “office hours” and we had lively discussions about how and why a particular photo was taken. I hardly needed to be there. The participants gave each other great feedback.

On August 30, we had a three-hour slide show of the final selections. You’d have thought we were at a fireworks exhibit with all the audience “ohhhs” and “ahhhs.” The group did a great job of commenting and critiquing the work. It was tough to boil the show down to 48 selections. Here are about half of them (in alphabetical order). I’m going to put up each photographer’s work as a gallery. Click on the photos to make them larger, then use your arrow keys to move around.

We’ll do the other half tomorrow to keep you from being overwhelmed.

Alex Westerfelt

Alex Westerfelt was one of the photographers who made good use of reflections. He thought his hand and camera were a distraction in the mirror, but I liked them. We had an ethical discussion about whether or not to remove some distracting water spots on the mirror. I told him I am a bit of a purist, but that I didn’t have an issue with taking out the spots anymore than I would hesitate to take out dust spots on an old negative.

This artsy reflections photo started out as a horizontal, but we kept creeping in from the sides until it became a much cleaner vertical. For reasons I can’t exactly explain, I liked the moment captured in the picture of the boy in the red shorts. The trees growing inside a building was taken in Shawnee, an old coal town I documented in 1969. It reminds me of Cairo, Illinois.

Angie Faller

I’ve seen a lot of ice bucket challenge photos in the last month, but I give Angie credit for shooting a nice sequence. She has the dump photo (with the cubes nicely stopped by the flash), the boy watching a video and a third picture of the ice on the ground. (I left that out because we had a limit on the number of photos. I didn’t realize that I would turn it into a layout.)

She took a portrait of a vendor at a farmers’ market and was captivated by a scale building at The Ridges, Athens’ former insane asylum. She had some interesting shots of the interior, but we liked the light in this picture.

Brenda Ruth

If I had to pick an overall favorite as an image and a collection of cultural icons, it would be Brenda’s photo of her granddaughter quilting. It’s a super portrait and has a smart phone and a piece of exercise equipment in it.

She had at least three variations of this old building. We liked the wide, long shot because of the purple flowers and the barbed wire and fence wire that may not be around in the future.

I’m particularly happy with her night shots. She’s one of the women who had never taken her point ‘n’ shoot out after dark. She was rightfully proud of how well her experiment turned out.

Carolyn Highland

Carolyn came in at the last minute on Saturday with an addition: a photo of her mother’s roller skates. The picture meant a great deal to her because of the personal connection, and it was also a nice icon. I shot a similar picture of my skates (except that the wheels were wood in the old days.)

The portrait of the old man started out a lot “looser.” We kept cropping in until it became much simpler and a lot more powerful. At one point, we homed in on his face, but decided to back out to include the wording on his shirt. The scenics are just plain nice.

 Marie Barone

One of the questions that kept coming up, particularly because of this photo of the kids playing in Nelsonville, was “do you have to ask permission to take someone’s permission?” My overall contention is that “if I can see them, I can shoot them.” If the situation is fleeting, I shoot first, then engage with the subject later. If your photo is used for advertising, then you DO need a release. You also can’t hold someone up to public scorn or ridicule (unless they really deserve it).

When I was editing Marie’s photos, the guy with a hat jumped out at me because I had seen it in the pictures submitted by another person. Not only was THIS guy in it, but the woman in polka dots and the woman in the dark glasses was there, too. Both shooters said it was a coincidence.

Marilyn Zwayer

I was really happy with the photos Marilyn took in the Ambassador Laundry. For some reason, she found herself doing laundry there instead of at home, so she decided to follow the lesson plan and shoot her surroundings. Some of the pictures aren’t tack-sharp, and she was reluctant to let us use them, but we convinced her that she had captured a slice of life. I was particularly appreciative because I was in the same place the night before when I realized I had reached the critical UW – 0 stage in my suitcase.

Exhibit dates

The print workshop prints and some of mine will be on exhibit at the Athens Public Library until September 27. Additional photos will be at the Athens County Historical Society Museum until about October 1. There will be a reception at the library September 16 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. I hope the photographers will be there to see how their photos are received.


Picturing the Past Workshop

720 Fay Powders Library posterI had to take my eye off Cape this evening to produce some promotional material for a Picturing the Past workshop I’m doing in Athens, Ohio, at the end of the month. Regular readers have seen most of these pictures, but I’ll be working with a fresh crop of viewers.

The workshop, something dreamed up by Curator Jessica at the Athens County Historical Society and Museum, is going to work with photographers to get them to see how pictures they shoot today may have historical significance in the future.

It’s a challenge for me

720 Poster with Frank RicheyI have to admit that I’m a little nervous about this event. I’m used to taking photos, and I’m used to talking about MY photos, and I’ve gotten more comfortable about thinking how my news photos have grown enough whiskers they have become history, but I’m facing a big unknown here. I have no idea how many people are going to sign up (we capped the class at about two dozen), I don’t know what kind of equipment they are going to be using nor how experienced they are going to be.

It’s not a nuts ‘n’ bolts photo class where we’re going to talk about f/stops and shutter speeds, but it will be more about “seeing” a good story-telling photograph. Jessica will explain how the best photograph from an aesthetic standpoint may not be the most useful to a historian trying to ferret out little factoids about a community.

I’m sure you’ll hear more about this as I mull over different approaches during the next week.

Take a giant step backward

720 Ordinary People bio PosterI used to tell reporters, amateurs and bureau folks that the best way to take a good photograph was to compose it until it looked perfect in the viewfinder, then take one giant step forward. In this workshop, I’m going to ask folks to take one giant step backward so they can capture the world around the subject in at least a few frames.

“And,” I’m going to say, “if you feel compelled to shoot 500 duck-face selfies, PLEASE turn the camera around at least once.”

Jessica said I had to provide at least minimal biographical information, so here it is. You can click on the photos to make them larger if you want to read the copy.

Thanks to Jessica for convincing the Ohio Humanities Council to give us a grant that will cover part of my travel and lodging expenses, and to the Athens Public Library for providing a space for the programs.