Monthly Archive for November, 2008

basic instinct….

Basic instict 2

i feel the bar band drumbeat beat shaking the floor and it flows through my body up from my toes… so i slide in close…physically close, in their space… total strangers …and somehow quickly, inexplicably , become "one" with them….for a few moments i am "transported"…they do not know me..i have not spoken to them…and yet, an instant  "relationship" has been established and  exists in real time and space , but only for a precious minute or less…but, i know something is "happening"…

we have written a lot here about being the "fly on the wall" and not being "noticed" when photographing people…. and then we have also spoken much about  the other extreme… the  making of  long term friendships/relationships associated with any truly extended photo essay involving interaction with people over the long haul…

but what about the intermediate interconnection???    the "fast hookup" , photographically speaking….where circumstances allow us to move quickly into situations that  might have otherwise seemed impossible…this sort of "speed shooting" is most likely to happen at events, fiestas, weddings and parties…places not likely to cause alarm at someone with a camera…generally friendly atmospheres from the get go…

yet there is still a "ballet" for doing this type of shooting….and how to move confidently but politely is the key to moving in fast..

i was in a live music bar with some of my weekend seminar students the other night in Venice Beach…i had spoken with the owner, so my students had clear permission to shoot freely…it was an alcohol enhanced assemblage of the "best and brightest" from the Venice Beach boardwalk scene  where total strangers who can barely talk from over imbibing  want to rattle off their life oh my, everyone wants  to be "famous" here one way or the other…very annoying…nevertheless these folks do not mind being photographed….that is, if you do it the right way…

i held back from shooting right away, just to watch my students work…what struck me was how tentative they tended to be and how quickly they would turn away from what i saw as picture opportunities…they would "lose interest" quickly or just not anticipate that what was going on in front of them, albeit "temporarily boring", was about to turn into a true "photo op"…still they were having fun and doing well and it was great fun to be shooting "side by side" with them….this was all happening after our final slide show and we were not "officially gathered"..

so, rather than go in and coach each student, which i had already been doing for two days , i decided to move in a make a few photographs for myself…just for project intended…right after i made the photograph above,  one of my students, Dallas,  told me she learned more from watching me shoot  than in the entirety of presentations in the classroom…i could not have been "on" for more than a minute or two …fast in, fast out…..

i was not aware of doing anything unusual,but she told me she could not believe how i moved in so close so quickly  to the dancing, beer drinking young women… they seemed to be totally aware of me, yet unusually tolerant as well…later, when talking to my students during our after the shoot let's get a beer and talk it all over meeting , i allowed a few observations….

how did i move so fast??? first, as i mentioned before , i was known by the owner from the day before…i had also earlier befriended the lead singer in the band, so standing almost on stage was not a problem …i made sure that i spoke to and shook hands with  the two or three customers who were front row to the band and in whose way i was standing ..i got their implied " permission"….most importantly,  i think the young women, who i am sure were not averse to being photographed anyway, were particularly accepting of my extreme aggressiveness because i think they could sense i was serious…i was obviously "in the zone" intent on doing something even though they surely could not imagine what that something was!!  this manifested itself in a nice hug (always welcome) by both young women after their dance  who i think realized  that we had all three  been in some kind of unidentified collaboration….but no questions asked…

obviously, i am the type of person/photographer who enjoys close contact, either attained quickly or after weeks of growing relationships…i do not think that is a mantra for  photographers at all…it just happens to be my way….so, i have a question for you…how large a role does "public relations" play in your work???  do you spend lots of time building rapport with your subjects, or do you prefer to be the more dispassionate objective observer???


Basic instinct 1


Pattaya 2 Pattaya 4

Pattaya 5

                                                     Pattaya 3

a quick reading of comments under our previous post and you will note that our boys Marcin (with his wife Alex) and Herve are now in Pattaya, Thailand…a quick review of Herve's picture diary tells us they are having a good time ….i have re-posted Herve's photo links here for easier review….

several years ago i photographed a short essay on child abuse in Thailand, and most specifically shot in Pattaya…one of Herve's pictures appears to have been shot in EXACTLY  the same location  as one of mine above…small clues will reveal….

match the shot of Herve's with the shot of mine…..yes, of course, one of my old camera bags is the prize for the CORRECT ANSWER ….

nope, that is not the end of my little contest….a signed copy of "Living Proof" goes to the reader who now asks the CORRECT QUESTION…

lord of the ring…

story and photograph by Eric Espinosa

I met James a few months ago when starting the
"Lords of the Ring" project, a photo essay on the boxing tradition in
Cincinnati.  James was a young vibrant boxer coming from one of
Cincinnati's tough neighborhoods…the type of neighborhoods that offer little
chance for the present and even less of a future… James had started boxing
when he was 8 years old, following the footsteps of his father who was also a
local Cincinnati boxer.  Father and son had both started boxing at the
Nothside Boxing school, both coached over the years by the Falcone family, a
traditional welcoming "Italian" family that breathes boxing with again a father
and two sons all coaching young kids from the city like

James' father made it into the PROs with over 30
professional fights… James trained very hard to get there himself… His
father was always there with his coach, training him, pushing him, helping him
become the man he wanted to be…

But, unfortunately, a tragedy
happened.  3 weeks ago, James was shot dead in the middle of the
night…killed by 9 bullets at the age of 18… a senseless "assassination"…
Last Saturday, his friends and his father gathered prior to the start of a local
boxing tournament and, during a moment of silence, James was given the "10
count" by his coach, a tragic tradition which consists of ringing the bell 10
times to honor a fine boxer who has passed away. 

There are no words to
describe the sadness of this loss for his friends, family and coaches, the loss
of a strong young man who was determined to beat the odds and to make it out of
a neighborhood where just surviving seems already an achievement… Hopefully,
the few pictures that I took of James doing what he loved best, boxing, will
help us all remember James' short life forever, a life cut way way too



in my last post, i implied that perhaps not all was right with the world….yesterday afternoon at this exact  time i was filled with apprehension as we drove across the mountain range that separates Oaxaca city from Puerto Escondido on the Pacific coast of Mexico…twists and turns in the steep mountain road presented at least three near death misses, probably the "normal" stats for a 6 hour drive on this particular road….

my fear however was not the winding Mexican road nor the seemingly out of control cars narrowly missing our van head on nor the fast failing brake system on our Chevy van ….but i was scared to death that Barack Obama would not win…of course i knew he was ahead in all of the polls, but i could not let myself get too excited nor project victory in my own mind…i was prepared for disappointment….i had cast my vote before leaving New York, but i was so so afraid that some who were enthusiastic about Obama would just not go to the polls….

our Oaxaca workshop crew, taking vacation to the beach, and having survived the trip; Anton Kusters, Marie Arago, Mike Courvoisier, Maya Joseph-Goteiner, and Michael Young , could not believe the text messages coming to us within an hour of our arrival in Puerto Escondido….Obama was THE MAN!!!  next President of the United States…we rushed around trying to find a television and saw Obama's acceptance speech and immediately ordered a round of celebratory tequilas…

Barack Obama cannot "save the world", and if any President must face a "twisting mountain road" it is Obama….but, at least some amount of pride must be shared by most Americans and hopefully by our international friends who have been so disappointed by many American foreign policy decisions in recent years…i have not felt proud of my country's leadership  for some time now , and we have a lot to do to restore at least some confidence in America, but i feel so so proud today that my countryman have chosen Barack Obama….

what does any of this have to do with our photography???  maybe nothing, maybe someting…strong leadership inspires people to go to work…to fix things….sacrifice perhaps…possibly put a "brick in the wall" ….some of you will use your work to promote "understanding" , to show wrongdoing or injustice, or  to send any kind of message of hope…we cannot "save the world" any more than can Barack Obama…

but, aren't things at least a little better than they were yesterday at this same time????