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Cary Conover

On The Streets

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This experimental DSLR-created movie of animated still photographs is a byproduct of my work with time lapse photography. Using an EOS 10D and a 4×5 Super Graphic to rephotograph my black and white photographs, the first thematically related group of pictures I reached for were these images of people living on the streets of the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Some are homeless, some sleep in shelters. Some exhibit advanced stages of AIDS, some are mentally ill. An overall sense of destitution pervades most of these people’s lives. I’m told the situation has improved dramatically over the past few decades, yet there continues to be widespread heroin and alcohol abuse. Bowery’s booming real estate market and entertainment scene are slowly pushing these folks out of the neighborhood. A towering museum was just completed on Bowery, the New Museum of Contemporary Art. Hanging from the front of the museum, a large rainbow-colored sign that reads “Hell, Yes!” hovers in stark contrast to the daily queue of men a few doors down outside the Bowery Mission waiting to be let in for a free meal.

“On The Streets” (duration 3:24)


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Cary Conover


161 thoughts on “cary conover – on the streets”

  1. god damned heartbreaking….and take-the-breath stilling…..

    absolutely love the treatment…and revelatory. Just 2 weeks ago, my wife and I were watching a series of old silent films (pudovkin) and both us turned at said ‘that’s it’….to use new tools and old tools are re-remembering what it is that we’ve often lost and forgotten in our quest of the now….

    just as looking (earlier in the fall) the films of robert frank was a profound revelation, so too the upside-downing of Cary’s ‘film’ to reimagine and replace our own often jaded eyes…and all the newly ‘madeover’ lower ny…it’s a still a crushing indictment…as voltaire wrote, ‘the comfort of the rich rests upon an abundance of the poor.’…and amid all the propserity and rebuilding of lower ny (i didnt recognize it at all when there in october, from my childhood), the undeniable may have been unseen but it still gathers….

    all the tools that, for me, make film so visceral and personal, all the ways that archive films and silent pictures still often seem to carry that which sets inside, are all here….

    just heartbreaking and above all, what i cherish about this, including all the jump cuts and pans and ‘broken’ frames and projector bulb pops is that at the heart of the story there is that:

    we have still and still forget and leave behind those we wist to not see….

    bravo for the work and bravo for Burn for extending our opportunities…

    this just opened a hole in my chest….

    to dig and dig harder….

    visceral, powerful and imaginative

    thank you so much for giving us this Cary….


  2. Hi cary,

    I absolutely love this!
    the time lapse thing has been done by various photographers but not like this!
    the subject matter, the composition and the way it flows is very powerful.

    i’ve been experimenting with this myself but i couldn’t come close to making it like this.

    really really strong.


  3. Oh my god, this is absolutely brilliant. Painfully heartbreakingly brilliant. Like Robert Frank’s revolutionary view of Americans in the 50s, your view of today’s people who live on city streets is groundbreaking. Yes, we have all seen a million photos of such folks but NOTHING like what you show us here. Bravo!


  4. You have very good photographs. I would like to see some of them with less blow up into the photo, just all the picture as they are. The one of the person going downstairs will be in my mind all the day. The old film look fits excellent. I like your style in the pictures i see in you web page. Saludos

  5. I think this is the most sensitive portrayal I’ve seen of homelessness. The surreal discrepancy of the bowery fits perfectly into this beautiful time lapse treatment. Homelessness is a familiar subject for photographers, because it keeps happening, society keeps allowing it to happen, but with all the imagery we’ve seen, people have become desensitized in a way, and don’t want to see the familiar old pictures. Using a familiar old technique, you’ve made something extremely compelling.

  6. What a great, refreshing and inspiring way to present strong photos! So unexpected. I in particular like the final zoom to Chrysler building, it´s such clever move to reveal the location. How long did you work on this essay, Cary? May I ask what exactly did you use the 4×5 for? Thanks for sharing. And thanks, BURN, again for this surprise.

  7. First I want to say that I really do love this work. The photography and the concept for presenting it is excellent.

    On first view though I have a feeling it is just a bit too long. There is a bit of redundancy in the images, although I realize that it would be hard to avoid that, I think by removing a few and thereby cutting it shorter, it could be even stronger.

    As I said I love the presentation, but in some places it seems a little over-produced. But don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it is so much to take away from the work, I just think that after a presentation like this begins, a viewer should not continue to notice the “production” as much as the images and the message the photographer is trying to convey. I tended to “notice” the production throughout and at times found it distracting.

    Again, I do love it. So much that I will link to it on The37thFrame. I think everyone should see this. I would also like to know more about the technique that was used.

    Maybe this is a good subject of discussion for this edition of burn…. When does the presentation get in the way of the art, the work and the message? (again not saying it does here, I just feel it could be tweaked a bit)

    When does the production or the music or the latest fad in presentation begin to take away or distract from the work itself? When should there be music? When does the Ken Burns effect help and when does it distract?


  8. ….. and Cary’s website’s full of great images as well.
    Cary, where have you been so far?


  9. This hit me in the face. When I was living in NYC for 5 years, homelessness was part of the thread of the city and it’s 5 borroughs. I became immune to it rather quickly, as it was rampant all over, especially in the Lower East Side and down in the bowels of the city known as the subway and its stations. Homeless folk begging for money on every street corner morphed into something I loathed, as the city makes you cynical. I worked my ass off, and I could barely pay my rent or keep bread in my own fridge at times. It was my way of keeping myself from thinking about it too long, because if I did, it would break my heart. “Why would these people choose to continue this way of living?” is a thought that would often cross my stream-of-consciousness. This thought probably enters in through a cloud of ignorance as everyone’s story is different, filled with dreams and tragedies, hopes and struggles, and sometimes, the inability to bounce back and realize that you are worthy.

    I thought that the essay was very effective, in that it stopped me dead in my tracks, and made me feel kind of ashamed at my attitude towards the homeless. I love the presentation and the music; I thought it was a nice blend for the subject matter. I do have to say, though, that I think the piece would have been more well-rounded if there were some shots of the homeless in action, perhaps begging for change or poking through garbage cans, which I bore witness to as much as seeing the homeless helpless and asleep or passed out on the ground. Overall, a very effective piece that touched me. Cary, you captivated the viewer. Great job.

  10. visually..
    I like this piece..
    great job with your stills..
    I would like the audio better,
    if it had street sounds..
    real noise
    to go with your images…
    I want to hear
    what you captured….
    very ‘Burnesque’
    one question,
    have you ever experimented with 8mm film?
    I’d love to see what you’d do with that!!!

  11. Cary, At first I though, oh homeless people I have seen it done so many times before, but You have done it better than I have ever seen, The images are great, I love the really unusual shots with peoples heads turned upside down and where they have almost fallen in a weird position. These images make you say wow! I want to stay longer and look at them and I like when there are other things or people in the compostion that are also relating to the subject as well. And the technique you used of still together with film is so creative and well done. I agree with one comment that I would like to see more of the full frame of not many but some of the shots , only because the shots are so good. Great Essay.

  12. I watched this several times and I just have to be honest, I find this mildly offensive. Perhaps its just the mood I am in but it looks like ‘poverty porn’ to me and while I give the creator full marks for the presentation at the end of the day when you take away the fancy footwork and you are left with the photos alone, I have the feeling there is something a little smug about the attitude.

    Not ‘There but for the grace of God go I’ but ‘Wow look at that derelict/homeless person/mentally ill drug addict, gonna take me a picture’

    It feels like I am viewing a tourist attraction.

    I guess if I hadn’t read Mr Conover’s blog entry that he didn’t go to the Inaguration but thought it was fun to watch on his NEW high definition TV that maybe I would be a little more sympathetic, but I just find I can’t. It still looks like ‘poverty porn’ to me and I think it can actually do more harm than good.

    Sorry I am not normally this harsh, but I just find that I have seen lots of this type of photography, admittedly though, not so cleverly presented, but what it ultimately does is dehumanises the viewer and divests the subject of identity-indeed many of the photographs didn’t actually show the subjects face or features- just another lump of ‘wasted humanity’ and I don’t find that particularly edifying.

    Carrie Roseman made the comment ‘and (it) made me feel kind of ashamed at my attitude towards the homeless.’ Well yes, what it made me feel was shame that easy and defenseless targets are being turned into a multi-media presentation for the pleasure of the internet cognescenti.

    I apologise once again for what is an essentially hard critcism, but I do believe as photographers we have a responsiblity to the people we photograph to tell their story… All I see here is a bunch of people who no-one cares about and what worse no one is going to do anything about as a result of seeing this story.

    Let the flaming begin…

  13. as Dylan said….
    how does it feel… to be without a home… no direction known…..
    I think thats why I thought hearing the street sounds,
    might give these people more of a voice,
    I dunno…
    wish I could write all my thoughts better..
    but what comes to mind is the responsibility of the viewer again..
    if there is any..
    and if so~
    how much?!?!
    If this has made 1 person think differently about the ‘homeless’~
    is that enough?
    curious what Panos thinks of this piece..
    … but his lyrics would be..
    …..direction known…..

  14. I wanted to clarify when I said ” I want to look at them longer”, I actually meant the photograph and whats happening in it and not them, but the fact that I have lived in NYC my whole life and homeless people are really invisable most of the time and these photos made me realize just how devastating homelessness can be and nobody really does pay attention to them most of the time.

  15. Maybe someone will think differently because of this essay. Maybe we should ask Cory if he plans to use it to help homeless people in anyway, if that is his intention . Or maybe he could add to the body of work by adding more photographs that are portraits which humanize the subjects more, wher he actually meets and talks to the subjects, but again if that is his intention.

  16. ANYA! :)_)))))

    PRIVET DOROGOIYA! ;))))))…wow, i cant believe you are here too….soon, i’ll have a story here….marina and i come to russia this year :)))….

    write me, will talk in emails….


    how did you discover David’s magazine??


  17. I am quite astonished by the power of animated stills. I had a chance to see the similar techniques (Magnum in motion etc.) but I especially liked this movie. Very clever use of background and small details to enhance the overall impression from the image. I felt as if I followed the photographer’s eye.

  18. Lisa, I appreciate and understand your perspective. At the same time I have a different take on it, and my perspective comes from personal experience.

    No, I’ve not been homeless myself but I have spent time with people whose days were spent on the streets. Back in the 1980s my $50 a month art studio was in Detroit’s Greektown, a part of town where many fellows who stayed either in shelters or SROs (single room occupancy hotels) were apt to hang out. We became friends and I would sit out on the sidewalk with them and we’d talk while they begged. That was when I learned firsthand how it felt to be invisible. People would walk by us and it was as if we didn’t exist. It was this sense of nonexistence that hurt my friends more than anything. And yes, most of my buddies were addicted to alcohol and/or drugs. I’d never give them cash money but instead would give John at the corner Coney Island diner enough $$ every day to give out hot dogs to whomever asked.

    All this to say that I looked at Cary’s essay through eyes that perhaps see into the story more than most. And I did not have the reaction you describe. If anything I was grateful that someone had finally SEEN these folks and made other people see them too. To me, Cary’s compassion shines through this essay, his commitment to raise awareness of a shameful reality in America, his insistence that we stop turning our heads away from sights that disturb us. If nothing else, those of us who have seen Cary’s essay will at least SEE the people for whom the streets of our cities are home. Now what we do with this awareness is up to us.


  19. At some point, photography is just photography. It’s not activism or altruism. It’s not a form of charity or advocacy. Pictures are just pictures. They can be put to charitable uses, of course, and they can appear in fundraising materials for charities. But to suggest that photographers who work among the poor and disadvantaged have some obligation to help the people they are photographing is just wrong (in a war zone, it can get the photographer killed). If the goal is to help people, then help them. If the goal is to photograph them, then photograph them. There are far better ways to help the homeless on the Lower East Side than by taking pictures of them.

    This is not a criticism of Cary’s work — quite the contrary. I think it’s great and am intrigued by the form he has created.

    But the intention of the photographer is irrelevant. The pictures are all that matter. It’s nice to think that the Salgados and Nachtweys of the world are trying to make it a better place through their photographs — but it’s the photos themselves that matter, not the altruism.

  20. panos skoulidas

    Another old school subject…
    Another essay that only offers GUILT to the already guilty decadent consciousness…
    some folks already feel guilty and need salvation…
    Old school PJ’s and decadent editors from the dead “past” love misery…
    Fox News, NatGeo… you name it…
    A heroin addict,
    homeless people,
    A sick dog,
    Abandoned animals…
    but the rich or mainstream editor thinks that he is SAVING the world..
    by ( once again ) exposing and profiting from the homeless and the needy…
    leeching on our feelings…
    i woke up this morning in the hotel and by accident i hit the control and
    it was FOX channel…
    syringes, homeless… i threw up… not from guilt but from the bad TASTE…
    then this essay comes up… and then the usual “bravoooo”…
    Outstanding… yesss….
    one more passive viewer that instead of DOING SOMETHING FOR THE HOMELESS …
    they only exposing them… poking the viewer…
    trying to attack my feelings…
    trying to make me feel “bad”, “responsible”…
    balloni… a story like this is NOT disturbing…
    the opposite… its suspicious…YES VERY SUSPICIOUS…
    ( NOT OUR PHOTOGRAPHER HERE that i dont know personally… no, this photog here is probably a great individual
    and a great soul… All i wanna say is that “they” ( decadent editors ) will take advantage of your good , caring soul.. they will sell your images and the homeless soul for peanuts… be aware

    yesterday i met a REAL , GREAT, mother Theresa or MAMA D….
    KATIA helps HOMELESS kids from the streets of Seattle to recover…
    always with a smile in her face…
    she is NOT STEALING from the homeless..
    when she shoots , she shoots their happiness..
    not when they are laying down on the streets..
    KATIA is a saint…

    but Katia is not around to “please” the CONSTIPATED EDITORS from
    the magazines or newspapers from the PAST…
    dANGEROUS MINDS that smell like sulfur and all they care about is to stop progress…
    no no no… Katia does not give a damn what YOU think, little spirit…
    are you looking for cheap thrills…
    then drugs , NEWSPAPERS and cheap magazines is for you…
    never real action… ONLY WORDS…

    i know, i know… I AM HOMELESS MYSELF…
    and if i see you dear editor approaching my homelessness with your long zoom that obviously substitutes your tiny “unit”… you know what im gonna do??? no,no… you dont know what im gonna do…
    just try it… but i know you wont come close when im aWAKE…
    you came to steal from me… im richer than you…
    you will hide behind the bush… you will wait until i pass out on heroin,
    and then , when you will feel absolutely safe…
    then and only then you will click your super DSLR right on my face…


    now the “other” side…
    i really enjoyed the cool different approach of this particular photog here…
    the Ken Burns effect… the old look,
    the perfect match with the music, excellent software,
    movie like feeling… great “montage”…
    i really feel motivated to download new computer gizmos etc…
    yes, this is the web, new era, time to present things in a new way..
    no more photos hanging on the walls,
    quicktime movies and slideshows are the way to go…
    I feel inspired….


    all my love and respect to you..
    i cant wait for you to finish your “STREET KIDS” essay…
    and show the “dead” that there is happiness..
    there is a bright side…
    there is HOPE…
    that the mainstream has to offer…
    SOMEONE please open the doors and the windows…
    it smells… we are suffocating…

    THE TIMES THEY ARE A’CHANGING…………………………………………………


  21. A very excellent work both technically and artistically. I think the goal of these types of photos are to invoke strong emotions and I believe Mr. Conover did that quite well. I enjoyed reading his blog about his making of this work. Well done!

  22. panos skoulidas

    Lisa all my love to U…
    dont apologize to “them”… they dont deserve it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    love you also… yes you guessed right…
    i see them HIDING behind the bushes with their long zooms…
    ready to RAPE ME…. when i’m down…

    i love you ( and i say this with tears in my eyes…)

  23. Hello Cary,

    I love your work… a very original presentation… for many, we do not see the face… The misery is at the bottom of to us every day and can we give them a face? We pass and we do not see them… Your essay is very poignant…

    all the best, audrey

  24. Wow! Very strong and creative use of multimedia. To me, the panning method has the effect of walking down the street and instead of averting your gaze to avoid the reality of our homeless, you do a sharp double-take and actually ponder what it must be like to live that way. That said, I don’t think this project would work if the pictures weren’t stellar, which they are! Very strong images. My only criticism is that it is a touch too long. I think bringing it down to about 2:30 or so would only make it more potent. Nice work!

  25. Niels Rengelink

    Preston, maybe I do not get your point, but I would say that intention is all that matters, something that goes beyond the technical quality of a photograph (or a series of photographs). I would think that intention is what binds a series of photographs. In the case of Salgados or Nachtwey or any photographer, the intention (be it altruism or whatever) to me seems indissolubly connected to the photographs themselves (and vice versa).

  26. This reminds me of the movie “Potemkine”. With maybe the shopping carts replacing the baby carriage? Also, i saw it in silent mode (not sure if there was sound, no speakers where I watch it), which may explain seeing it as a silent movie.

    In a way, the multiplication of images does not add potency/poignancy to the subject, i suspect one picture of one homeless or derelict would carry that potency very well, but what works here, thanks to the treatement, is that somehow we seem to be watching the after effects of a conflict, a conflagration, even if only social, for which there is no escape, no solace. Hopeless situation and damage done. In Potemkine, or Metropolis, to speak of another silent movie with stricken, defeated people, people eventually do revolt.

    Here, it seems even bleeker (street?). These people, living in the richest country on earth are even less capable of a reaction (a revolution?) than in more totalitarian, enslaving regimes.

  27. Niels Rengelink

    But then again: I wouldn’t really know what the definition of intention is, other than what the dictionary tells me. Quite a pretentious word, I guess.

  28. Wow, thanks to all of you for your encouragement and criticisms. I take everything that is written here with gratitude and humility. This is a great forum and I’m happy to be included.

  29. panos skoulidas

    you are also a class act..
    thank u for your inspiration and sharing with us…
    my above criticism was going to the “editors” that are using us ( photogs )
    just for profit… but im sure you got that…
    peace & hugs…

  30. ALL / Lisa / Valery..I believe that as people we are indebted to humanity, to give of ourselves as fully as is possible and to see our brother as ourself..but I take issue with the thought that as photographers we are indebted to the people we photograph in the narrow sense, ie that we launch an exhibit to raise funds to donate to their needs, or tell their story as they would want it to be told. I feel that we each have to follow our own hearts in this manner, and to know that ultimately photography only tells us about how something looked. Even if one is a photographer of social causes with the intention of bringing change, a photographer should be able to, and really must tell the story from his own perspective..As well, why isn’t it enough that we see, that we care, that we spend countless hours and dollars in order to see and document and share..

  31. CARY,
    I haven’t been around burn for a while and I’ve sort of gotten bored with photo slideshows on the internet and I’m waiting for more selected photographs here on burn. The slideshows almost all look the same and sometimes waste 3-5 minutes of my time. Then I pressed play on this one and was surprised and impressed. The best slideshow I’ve seen a while, or at least the most original! Thanks!

  32. What I gather from this is that people need people. However, the woman is so pre-occupied with living her life on her cellphone. How can she acknowledge those whom she shares company? Fear and laziness have an amazing grip on our own abilities to make a difference. What we need in America is a new kind of charity that isn’t about giving dollars, but of giving one’s self. We’re a convenience society of which I’m a guilty participant. Somehow we have to find a way to give even when it’s inconvenient.

  33. While the technical aspects of this essay are kind of cool, I find the treatment of this very common subject to be quite average. Most photographs are of people sleeping. The homeless are too often seen as “easy pickings” for gut-wrenching photos, that in all honesty don’t serve any purpose other than to satisfy the whims of the photographer.

    I agree with Panos’ comparison to Katia’s work and I would also add that Mike Brodie, aka the Polaroid Kidd ( http://www.needles-pens.com/polaroidkidd.html ) has produced much more intriguing photos, which reflect a more active desire to engage with, and perhaps help these desperate people.

  34. …this piece hit me on so many levels, I really don’t know where to start.


    1) Stop action seems to be the “hot” new thing at the moment. Most of the time, it strikes me as a photographer trying to squeeze water from a stone. (video from stills) This does not.
    2) Reminded me of WPA work, which I feel is beginning to find parallels to today’s “great depression” I’m currently trying to find my own way with this comparison and I am inspired by this approach to it.

    1) Cary – how did you light this? (the stop action that is) – was is projected onto the ground glass?
    2) I am someone who rarely showers people with compliments – I find myself being a much harsher critic than I would wish on myself. That said, Cary, you’re overall body of work is stellar. It’s rare to find someone who really “gets” street photography (myself included) and you obviously have the gift.

    Subject Matter:
    1) Correct me if I’m wrong, Cary, but I assume you shot most of these images on the “daily hunt” so-to-speak. Single shots caught in the moment. Perhaps this is why some folks here see these images as dehumanizing their subjects. I think the criticism here would have to revolve around Cary’s approach then. Street photography is simply a different beast from social documentation where humanizing the subject really thrives – embedding, getting to know the subject through hours/days/years of experience with them and their world a la Eugene Richards.
    2) Good photojournalism fosters questions, arguments, debate… Obviously Cary has done that with these images. For me, the photos say more about us (the viewer) than they do about the subject matter.

  35. Hi, Niels. Here’s an example. I’m pretty sure that when Steve McCurry spotted 13-year-old Sharbat Gula in a refugee camp in Afghanistan, he was thinking about her electric green eyes and the light around her (we can ask him if he stops by Burn, as he did last week). I doubt he was thinking that he could snap this portrait of “The Afghan Girl” and have it become a symbol of the plight of Afghans in their fight against the Soviets and that the world would be moved to care, and therefore act, to improve the lives of people like her. No, he snapped the photo and sent it to NatGeo with the rest of the slides from his assignment; the editors placed it on the cover. Millions of people saw it. It became a modern-day Mona Lisa, easily one of the most famous photographs of all time, and we would like to think that the world started to care a little but more about Afghanistan.

    But the reaction to the photograph had nothing to do with McCurry’s intention in snapping it. He was just trying to make a portrait.

    I think it’s a mistake to try to read too much into a photographer’s intention. Most of us, unless we are paparazzi, photograph with a goal of being sympathetic to our subjects, presenting them with dignity or grace. We photograph subjects we are drawn to, those for which we feel a connection. It is often disturbing to see photos where the relationship between the photographer and subject is unclear — this seems to be the reaction against Cary’s presentation. But regardless of what he thinks about the issue of homelessness, his intention was no different from that of any other photographer. It was just to take the best photos he could.

    If McCurry’s Afghan girl portrait had been blurry or overexposed, or if her eyes had been closed, the photo would not have been published. The photographer’s job is to be a photographer — activism may or may not come later. The best photographers, which include Salgado, Nachtwey, McCurry, and our generous host David Harvey, display for their subjects what the poet Donald Justice called, “A love that masquerades as pure technique.”

  36. i’ve written enough this week, not to blog up some more, so i’ll just say I second what Preston as written…particularly quoting Justice (who is a find damn poet indeed)….lots has been made of the treatment (including by yours truly) and much has been made with the appearance of using these destitute and often desolate people for photographic fodder, coldly and cowardly. I actually didnt get that sense at all. While, I tend to prefer (alot) more photographers who actively engage with their subjects (i too loath big lens and drive-by/walk-by shootings) like Kati’a work, like the magisterial John vink and his projects or, to second the comment of Asher, work by ‘insiders’ like the Polaroid Kidd….one can argue that all the photos seem to be taken on the fly, without engagement of the people (who are often asleep or drunk or lost), but that is difficult for me to judge…

    I rarely rarely ‘judge’ another photographer’s intent, because it’s impossible and it’s a very very dangereous orientation to begin to criticize morally the work of others, because the truth is that if we are honest all of us, generally, are users, all of us slavishly cultivate our practice and photographs, beckoning attention for them, increasingly over the value anything. However, i view Cary’s ‘intent’ through the use of how he used the pans: he used this cinematic device to show juxtaposition, to call attention to our expectations, as an way to ‘re-see’ the suffering of these lives. the technique he’s used here actually works stronger (for me) than most of the individual images, and it is difficult to not react to content and not to be moved and none of us, NOT ONE OF US, knows Cary’s intentions or his relationships or his work (life work) outside of these images. It is a very dangeous precendent to start to judge the morality of ethic or the intent of a person’s loving kindness and goodness based on this. that’s why i tend to deal specifically with the pictures at hand…and to live as a person as richly as person, to be generous above all, it’s my personal duty..but, we cannot say that this is less a duty or more for another soley on their imagery…

    i understand the passion and frustration that Panos and Lisa feel but we must be very careful to reserve our judgments but for ourselves, because we do not know anything nor anothers behvior based soley on an essay….

    i think erica and preston are right on……then again, i havent looked at the blog or his website yet (no time today)….anyway….

    I believe his intention was to witness and to show, especially the city that has very often forgotten the lives that still make up his waist rims, that there is still suffering abound and we must not forget that…that is still, for me, the personal measure of each of us: to look upon ourselves, rather than to cast aside others in judgement and refutation…

    oh, and for those who have never seen this film: GO, TONIGHT, IMMEDIATELY, AND RENT IT

    Marc Singer’s DARK DAYS:



  37. Great job Cary, you have done it again. I hope you don’t mind that I have forwarded this to friends of ours that work with the homeless here in Wichita.

  38. Niels Rengelink

    Preston, it’s difficult for me to make my point in english and not in dutch, but I’ll give it a try. Personally, I wouldn’t limit intention to activism or compassion or raising awareness nor would I limit the impact of Mccurry’s portrait (or photographs by Salgado or Nachtwey or Harvey) to just technical quality: the line you quote seems to suggest there is more to it than just pure craftsmanship. You say that the reaction to the photograph had nothing to do with McCurry’s intention in snapping it, but let me ask you: had the reaction only to do or was it only created by the technical ability of the photograph/photographer? Maybe I am overstating my point or maybe I am wrong altogether. I guess I have to give it some more thought.

  39. I admire Cary’s Visual Diaries and have spent a good amount of time going over that work and always find surprises that make me chuckle. He’s onto something with this technique but I have to echo Lisa’s sentiments. Beyond the presentation, this is an extremely cliche depiction of homelessness and poverty.

    About half way through I remembered the piece in The Onion from a few years ago….


    Because I respect Cary as an artist and enjoy his work, I guess I was expecting a bit more nuance in this piece. I would be really interested in a similar piece that utilized his more lyrical, poetic street work.

  40. Erica, I agree with you, I was only commenting on Lisa’s comments of her taking offense to the fact that the essay lacked humanity and I absolutely am not saying that the photographer should change his perspective thats why I said only if the photographer felt he need to do so. I like the Essay very much as is. Sorry I was so unclear.

  41. Panos , I love you too for ‘getting it’ Nay indeed, for ‘being it’

    Erica, to quote you

    ‘but I take issue with the thought that as photographers we are indebted to the people we photograph in the narrow sense, ie that we launch an exhibit to raise funds to donate to their needs or tell their story as they would want it to be told.’

    Need you say more?

  42. Bob / Preston..this whole thing about judging a work via “contextual evidence” (judging “through the use of how he used the pans” falls under this umbrella, no?) raises another question for me..in poetry you have the author and dramatic voice, and we are advised as critics to make our assessments of the piece in listening to the dramatic speaker rather than the author..what do we have in photography? the photographer and the ?? what, the witness?

  43. ALL…

    thank you to all…we see truly intelligent discussion going on here now….this is how i see this audience…thoughtful, participatory, caring….you are dissecting this work from every standpoint…aesthetic and moral….good…when photography can ignite the passions in any of us it may affect all of us….the sequence of comments here, both pro and con, constitute photographic discussion at its best…

    i did not know Cary before i saw this essay about two weeks ago…he stopped by my loft for an hour or so one evening when i called him and told him i was interested in publishing this work..my impression of this man was of a self effacing caring individual…certainly not a gonzo journalist type at all….a man interested in the world with all of its foibles and frustrations…a man with the integrity of the journalist and the eye of an artist…

    do his photographs have a unique power of their own or is it all about the presentation as some suggest??? at some point soon i would like to write a piece about exactly this….presentation vs. photographs…..can the presentation alone have more power than the pictures themselves or even the reality itself..was Marshall McCluhan on to something or were his theories just stoned out thoughts of the 70’s???

    all of you are on a roll…keep going…

    cheers, david

  44. Niels, I just mean that a photographer can have every altruistic intention in snapping a photo, but if he or she has no skill (or luck), the photo fails. Photographers don’t get points for trying or for sincerity. If the Afghan Girl were not a great photograph, it would not have gained such a following. McCurry has snapped hundreds of other portraits of Afghans in the same direct manner, but none have the power of the Afghan Girl. All of those other photos are technically excellent. But the Afghan Girl is special for all sorts of unquantifiable reasons — in the same way that the Mona Lisa is just a simple portrait. We all “get” the Afghan Girl.

    Erica, I don’t know if there is a standard term for the witness or the presenter. Maybe it all comes down to perspective, but David’s favorite term authorship is appropriate, and calling the photographer the author carries a different connotation in photography than it does in literature.

  45. I appreciated this piece of work for the presentation and not so much the photo’s themselves. Don’t get me wrong I think the photo’s are all very powerful on their own but as I watched the Essay I felt that they became somewhat redundant, and the same pose was constantly repeated from individual to individual. I started watching feeling excited and left it feeling anxious and uneasy. Being that I’m a addict that’s taking his life back, and also lived on the streets I tend to empathize with the people in his photographs, not because their homeless but because they were photographed. Also coming from that position if I saw a photo of myself online sandwiched between a needle and a shopping cart I would be hurt and it might in fact make recovery harder. I feel like theres a huge division between the photographer and the people he’s filming, that could also be due to the medium he used for the project, maybe shooting a film from photos creates more distance than the original had. One last thing there isn’t “Us and Them” the people in his photos are you and I, maybe I’m taking his whole concept wrong but I would have like to seen a happier angle for a change, in fact my favorite photo was the lady in the shopping cart, because she seemed happy.

  46. On presentation vs the image itself…the presentation, as we all know, as intelligent people, is supposed to enhance the overall experience. This is why we have editors and web designers and videographers and art directors, et cetera…they all want to take the original and elevate it to a new or different level. But when is the original the best statement there is? THIS is the way we should photograph…getting it right in the camera at the very moment that we MEAN to take the picture…there is a reason that the infamous “they” say a picture is worth a thousand words…Richard Avedon, Eugene Atget, and Ansel Adams all knew this to be true…evidence of the moment unaltered…what happens when a different type of brilliance is introduced? Enter Lillian Bassman, who bleached her prints in the darkroom, and enter David Hockney, who montaged many pictures into a single moment…and ode to all who photoshop, as this is a skill on a whole new level, for presentation purposes. There are many types of brilliance and every story is different. I think that it is the absolute right of the observer to guess and study the artist’s intention and viewpoint. Didn’t anyone take art history? Isn’t this the very platform from which our professors expounded their knowledge of artists spanning through time?…from the assertion that x artist created his/her creation for y reason and went on to divulge the secrets of why it was from this angle or that there were rock formations that looked like fingers or why the perspective was off…

    Ok. That was not a tyraid so much as an appreciation for an an artist’s thinking beyond the moment to how they want to present the moment. This is also an art. I believe that a photographer should be well-rounded and able to catch the moment or portrait or intended bait in the manner in which he or she intends to catch it. The way you present it, I feel, is just another way to enhance the viewer’s experience. The viewer should be able to figure out an artist’s standpoint and intention. Isn’t this why we share our work? What message are we saying? What story are we telling?

  47. Hey Cary, I would really, really like to ask why you chose these particular photos to turn into the multi media project that you have, I saw stuff on your website in your portfolio that seemed more, as Bryan said, poetic and lyrical which logically I would have thought would have fitted with the multi media technique you used.

    I would like to know the motivation behind your choice, what exactly did you want to achieve by creating this piece which aesthetically is so pleasing but its content seems to me completely gratutitous?

  48. Carrie I actually did a degree in visual art with majors in film and painting and I have worked mostly in editorial photojournalism with some pretty good people. I believe that what we present to an audience whether it is literary, visual or musical can never disguise our intention no matter what technical procedure we use to deliver it.

    Perhaps photojournalism may seem quite opportunistic compared to set pieces in a studio but I think all visual material of any caliber that is produced absolutely tells the story of who stands behind the camera just as much as who stands before it.

    Whether you necessarily agree with the viewpoint of the person behind the camera is a matter for individual taste but just because someone does wizz-bangery with some some kind of technique it still to my mind cannot cloud the actual content or interior meaning if you will…

    Advertisers (used to) have the budgets to take the techniques and fill them with easy viewing images that are basically are meant to the seduce the audience in to desiring their product. Their intention is quite easy to see. If you used a similiar technique used here to flog jeans- imagine for a moment this same technique being used to lovingly pan over the bodies of nubile young beauties with great pecs (I am a woman OK!) and then the credit at the end being instead of a empty space a Levis logo .
    Now if I was an art director looking for someone to shoot that commercial I would be on the phone to Cary in a heartbeat, but I distinguish between the presentation of an essay and also where it is shown as to the content quite easily.

    I have asked Cary to comment on his ‘intention’ and I look forward to his answer with eagerness.

  49. Actually Carrie that comment was intended for everyone, I just wanted to answer your question about did we study art history. I certainly did and while Hockney was considered a ‘dah-ling’ of the art set I am not crash hot on much of his stuff.

    Yet I saw a photoshop single image here a while ago that really did it for me. It was the photo of a young woman on a sort of funeral byre…great stuff.

  50. Erica:

    THAT’S IT EXACTLY….i think the Problem with photography for many and the discernment of intent is that photography APPEARS so ‘truthful’, so ‘literal’….some of the other art forms of story (poem, novel, song, art, music, etc) have been recognized for this question about decontextualizing the ‘imagery’ and separating the ‘form’ from the ‘form maker’…deconstruction and while the author cannot totally be separated from the text, surely the object made has much more of a life than a literal association with the author. In otherwords, the ‘appearance’ of something may not be as clear as all that. As David mentioned Marshall M, the medium often IS the message….and that’s no truer than now, ever before: our www wide world…..

    sis Lisa :

    the reason why i read Cary’s intent as ‘good’ is because i actually read and viewed the technique as the critique decision, the critical form and critique of the images. In fact, at first I even thought that the photographs were archival images, both in terms of their look, the appearance of nyc, even the way in which the subjects were photographed, all seemed ‘outdated’ and for the first minute (including the shot of the poster of sandra bernhard) I thought: great, this guy used archival pictures and his re-imagining our ‘understanding’ of how we view journalism, street photography and photography about the homeless. That was what i thought at first….i guess i read too much into it at first ;)). But, the use of the pan camera is critical, for me, of Cary’s commitment. Yes, he doesn’t seem to talk/connect with/become involved with the subjects (most of whom appear to be unaware of him or his presence or act of photography), but this may not necessarily be the case either, we simply DO NOT KNOW. However, I see the careful way he has painstakingly edited the film, and how the camera very often moves from a focus on the wider environment and focuses on the homeless people becomes not only ‘shocking’ but also re-contextualizes the city, and our own visual associations and expectations, by then pulling back in full on the photograph and he concludes the film by doing this in reverse at the end, by zooming wide from the person toward the Chrysler building. These are all very specific cinematic techniques and themselves ask questions of the viewer. All this leads me to consider that Cary has thought A LOT about the plight of these individuals and is really forcing us to QUESTION our own orientation and expectations. In other words, he DID NOT give us just another slideshow of homeless people but rather cleverly and refinely used the tools of cinema to not only show a story about the homeless in the bowery (done 1,000,000s before) but give us a rather sophisticated film about ‘seeing’. Yes, the photographs themselves (for me at least) are not as stunning as the technique of the editing but what IS photography? Isn’t a good edit as brilliant and intelligent as anything else? Why are we so enslaved to the idea that documentary work means: a:) personal involvement with the subjects for credibility sake, b) easily readable edit/essay and c) some activist message.

    The truth is that story telling and the variety of story telling, lets say as done orally and in written form, are incredibly rich and vibrant and so why do we still fall back on the same old equations in photography, especially in journalism/documentary. It’s not only uninteresting, but as I tried to write under Victor’s essay, it is often less ‘honest’ about the way we experience life, more patronizing, because life is experienced and expressed in an extraordinary multitudinous and digestive manner….

    and as Erica rightly questions, most photogaphers and most viewers have not yet figured out this quandry…because we, unfortunately, attach to photographs much more verisimilitude that they legitimately have the right to claim…it’s the problem with the art form itself (pictures lie and pictures are not reality even if they are of a moment that ‘happened’)…therefore, we must figure out new ways to not only tell stories but also new ways of reading them…that is, i totally agree with david, where we must remember Marshall M….

    Lisa: some of the greatest ‘journalism’ has questioned these very things…and i think it is important that we NOT jump to conclusions not only about Cary’s intentions but more importantly what is the ‘proper’ approach a photographer needs to take, or the proper relationship a photographer has with a subject….’cause in truth, almost ALL journalism is not only voyeuristic but UNINVOLVED on a personal level…it’s the nature of ‘news’ and news feeds who: YOU AND I who consume it….and we have not personal relationship with the people in these stories and yet people cry FOUL…because they view Cory’s way of shooting these people as less ‘humane’ or less ‘legit’….

    in truth, i think the people who cry legit are really the one’s going for the easy answer….

    it’s much more complicated than all that…and I give him props because it is clear to me that the effort he’s made reveals not only his involvement but his concern….

    hope that makes sense

  51. i mean the people who are crying ‘illegit’ about this work are really the ones that need to question: what really is legitimate and humane and involve work….

    it is something only an individual can answer for themselves and not another…


  52. CARY,

    Let me first say that you have created a unique piece of work here with a very novel treatment of the images that I had not seen before so you are clearly a pioneer…. Having said this, I was very uncomfortable throughout the whole essay… The images of these men with no faces, virtually shown as pieces of “meat”, bodies with no life, are for sure very disturbing… The effects, the changing light, the rapid movement of the camera, the inability to focus on any images, all this was very oppressing as well for me… so I was left shocked, wanting to reach the end fast… I presume that you wanted to create this uncomfortable feeling in us all, possibly for not paying enough attention to these homeless men and women who live in our cities. So, in that sense, your essay likely achieves this goal very effectively… yet, I would possibly have wished to see a bit more humanity in the treatment of the topic. Also, likely because we never have enough time to look at any given photographs, at the end, I could not recall any particular images, leaving me a bit unsure how strong the still images would be if you were to get rid of the creative treament of the images….

    In any case Cary, you have generated a very interesting discussion today and you are out there for sure experimenting with a different talent… Thanks for sharing your work with us.


  53. In Cary’s November 24, 2008 blog entry he wrote:

    “When people ask me what kind of photography I do, I certainly don’t say words like “social documentary” or “reportage” or “in-depth” or “long-term.” Typically I say “Oh, just New York City imagery. Basically the crazy, quirky stuff you see walking around the streets.” (I often cite this Inge Morath picture as being a quintessential NYC quirky photograph.) It’s not that I don’t appreciate the “Concerned Photographer,” it’s just that I don’t view my photography as being a catalyst for changing the world’s ills. That being said, and this being the week of Thanksgiving, I’m going to take a stab at generating some awareness toward our fellow New Yorkers who aren’t as fortunate as most of us. Taking one picture of one homeless person doesn’t seem like much. But when viewed as a group of images, as a theme I find myself revisiting, as a “body of work” if you will, I think it starts to make a bit of a statement. Click here to view what I am talking about, a short movie I put together using my pictures of the homeless. And when you’re done, I would urge you to take a look at the Coalition for the Homeless website (and donate if you are able to) and educate yourself on the principles of harm reduction. At the very least, please try and dig a little deeper into your pockets next time you encounter somebody asking for a little help.”

  54. Very helpful Patricia to have shared that perspective from Cary and help us understand his intent…. It reminded me though of a point that Joe had made to me a while back when he was challenging if the very dramatic pictures of Nachtwey were actually effective in getting viewers to act and do something about the atrocities that Jim is showing…. If Cary really wanted to get us to look at these homeless, help out and dig a little deeper into our pockets, he may have been more effective by showing more the human side of these homeless men/women. In a way, if it makes any sense, I was shocked by the images but found it hard to express sympathy, relate to these men and atempt to understand their difficulties in a way that touches me and gets me to want to help…. Seeing the eyes of these men, treating these as individuals as opposed to warm bodies on the streets would possibly have gone a lot further for me…


  55. Again, all I can say is “Wow.” I’m definitely suffering from comment fatique today, as I am not accustomed to reading so many comments made about my work. I think so many of you have come up with some very eloquent things to say, some thoughts and ideas that never even occurred to me, it’s all pretty overwhelming to read. I can’t keep up! But I want to thank you all for writing.

    I have to admit that I bristled a bit earlier when I read Lisa’s term “poverty porn.” That’s definitely been the one single aspect of today that hasn’t sit right with me, but I wanted to read as many comments as possible before writing anything I would regret.

    Lisa, I can tell you’re the type of photographer who likes to “get in” with your subjects, get to know them by spending lots of time with them. I can certainly think of many, many photographers who have applied your approach toward issues like homelessness, substance abuse, poverty, etc. I guess I am just different from all those photographers. There’s a certain “look” pictures have when subjects know they’re being photographed. I’m into a totally different way of working, a different tradition of photography (call it “street photography” or whatever you want). I never set out to spend weeks or months on one topic, yet somehow over the course of the years certain topics have woven themselves into my work.

    These are very random images interspersed among pictures of everything else you could imagine: construction projects, kids smoking outside of bars, people hanging out in the park, romantic couples, crazy Halloween costumes, people playing pool, the amazing skyline, crazy NYC quirks…you get the picture. Why did I choose THESE pictures to put together? The only thing I can say is that it wasn’t a decision, it was just some sort of impulse, a gut reaction. If I felt like I had just gotten slapped in the face after looking at my images in this manner, then I figured what I was doing was worth pursuing. If seems gratuitous to some, I guess that’s just the way it goes. If I thought I would being doing the world more good by getting to know these people and spending time with them, then you can bet that’s how I’d be going about it.

    I just want to say that it’s one big picture of NYC that I am after, a lifetime of work that I hope to create here, a portrait of this city from the beginning of a century, a reflection of the times as I lived them, and these pictures are just one facet of that.

  56. Now Bob you know I love you and your poetic and spiritual writings and photos but I do not agree with you on this one. Dress it up as you will but I don’t agree with photographing anyone gratutitously.

    This piece as I have said is quite clever to look at, but it just really annoys and offends me. Why? Because it is enormously arrogant to assume that any of the people in these photographs were willing participants in what we are discussing right this minute. I mean where is their right to critique the piece, where is their right to reply?

    The ‘best’ journalists NEVER assume anything, they present the facts that are researched intensely and are in the public interest and don’t try and dress it up as anything other than that. Columnists do and the endless internet pundits do, but journalists don’t- even lifestyle ones.

    I think that what is confusing people here is that as you say you read the intention of this piece as ‘good’ because of the subject matter it deals with. But I see nothing to really call this a ‘story’. It is as you say an amalgam of images ‘re-contextualising the city’ and bringing “‘a sophisticated film about ‘seeing'” to what is a sophisticated audience. Lets face it Carrie was banging on about who hadn’t studied art history so she is assuming that everyone here has some sort of ‘art’ background.

    But where does this leave these non identifiable lumps of humanity, all this postulating on the artists intent? Still with no visibility, because at the end of the day it is not about them its about the art that the photographer has created. Reading Erica’s comment

    ‘but I take issue with the thought that as photographers we are indebted to the people we photograph in the narrow sense, ie that we launch an exhibit to raise funds to donate to their needs or tell their story as they would want it to be told.’

    sort of points out what people are thinking doesn’t it?

    Have you followed the debate surrounding ‘Slum Dog Millionaires’? (clever David for bringing this essay up at this time) If people create ‘art’ out of other people’s lifes and then make loads of money out of it shouldn’t they then at least acknowledge the people whose lifes they are making money out of?

    Not that the financial onus lies on Cary because he obviously is not making money out of this, but perhaps in his use of this technique his complicity in objectifying these nameless homeless folk becomes more apparent.

    Bob you also question the ‘truth’ of a photograph and Carrie questions why the audience is not allowed to decipher the artists intent and yes these are very interesting concepts to peruse, BUT and its a big one, whilst doing this in the context of people who have not been consulted or asked for any imput then this can not possibly come under the guise of ‘journalism’

    As a piece of ‘art’ which therefore has potential commercial value, this then becomes exploititative in the extreme and again brings me back to why it offends me.

    I have asked Cary for his input into why he used these images so I can find out first hand what his intentions are. I am not criticising anyone here on a personal level, I am just trying to ascertain for what purpose this was bought into being, not even for what purpose served.

  57. Eric..
    I so have to agree.. With U..
    I’m glag that Pat brought the photographers
    “written ideas”.. up ..
    Because before I could only suspect… The hypocrisy ..
    now I’m totally convinced…
    Sad… I’m outta here!

  58. Sorry Michael, I feel like I have stampeded all over you by screaming in agreement with you. Like I said ‘There but for the Grace…’

    Stick around, hey…

  59. Although I appreciated the idea of reviving old analog photographs, and the beautiful style of the presentation, I think that’s all I can see here. Multimedia presentation can make an impact, but at the base of it I see average photos of sleeping homeless people, there’s no contact, no human touch, no interaction telling us who these people are, what it means for them that way of life – yes, you’ll be astonished by the numbers of them actually choosing to live on the streets by their own will – and why they live that way. Composition of the photo is quite boring, and as I understand watching more and more slideshows like this, this may be due to the attention shifting towards the sequence and the transition effects between the frames. Overall I feel the single picture composition is still fundamental. Otherwise why don’t we just make movies?

  60. Lisa, Massimiliano, I am leaning towards you…

    Cary’s piece is “appealing” indeed, made me want to look until the end (and that is an achievement over here with the lousy bandwith). But then what…

    The surface has become the substance.

  61. Lisa “If you used a similiar technique used here to flog jeans ….” I saw a similar technique recently to advertise a Mercedes car. Can’t find the link but essentially low-res Jpegs at high shutter speeds. Works really well for cars but I’m uneasy about technique and this subject matter. I’d like to see some of Cary’s other NYC work with this technique.


  62. panos skoulidas

    Sorry but I totally disagree..
    It’s so easy to see the “intentions”..here
    In this essay…
    Very obvious…
    Even if someone uses a “fancy” way to
    present something, anything..
    You can see clearly the..
    “drive by shooting”…
    So cruel..
    Cmon Bob.. Can’t you see it???

  63. So, what do you want the photographer to do? We are, after all, only photographers. What should this piece have been in 3.5 minutes? Do we all have some requirement to reach into the soul and personal life of everyone we point our cameras at? To solve their problems? To fix their pain? To rally the world to action every time we push the shutter button? I think that’s BS. Kevin Carter shot a photo of very young child clearly starving along a road as a buzzard looked on. He was surrounded on that road by starving, exhausted people. Clearly he could could not singlehandedly solve the problem. But the condemnation that was heaped on him after the photo was published was overwhelming. What could he have done besides taken the photo? To expect every photographic essay, in whatever form it is presented, to reveal everything there is to know about the subject and the depths of their soul and motivation, is at best naive.

  64. As someone who has messed around with stop motion and the like, I’m entirely awestruck by your fine achievement here with this very depressing piece of work. Powerful.

  65. This is not about exploitation or individuals, as far as I’m concerned. Rather it’s about our species. It’s a brilliant piece of work looking at an aspect of the human experience. Pure and simple.

  66. Sis Lisa :))

    first, please dont worry if we disagree, I totally hear you and do not think anything different because we see this totally differently…the irony is that, as you know, we have the same feeling about the commitment to subject.

    Let me say this, John vink is one of my heros. His work is a stellar example and one whom i hold as the apotheosis of commitment photography, so much so that he was the one that i wished to show first in my short-lived projection project. I’ve tried tirelessly to tell people about his work not only because he is an extraordinary and poetic photographer but because of his commitment, nearly unmatched, toward his subjects. If the world things Richards is committed to his subjects (another hero of mine) than they should see Vink. And as you and Panos know, I HATE drive by shooters and made a very clear decision in my life not to be a ‘diconnected’shooter, to work on ideas and stories in which I have a role and a relationship. this came after becoming buddhist, but i’d thought alot about it too when I’d look at photographs and didn’t want to fee anymore i was ‘stealing’ or benefiting from someone suffering or someone’s not knowing. And i agree with you, panos and others that it appears that the photographer is diconnected or ‘steals’ images or only wishes to show the most destitute. All of these general ways of working leave me very frustrated, by i tend to be frustrated by the general attitude of photographers, especially photographers (journalists, documentarians and artists) who are disconnected from the people and places their using.

    However, again, i just repreat that I cannot make the same conclusions. Now, i still haven’t had a chance to look at the rest of his work or read his comments, so it’s kind of hard to tell. as i said i sort of saw this initially as an updated version of la jetee and really thought the imagery was archival, it seemed totally outdated in it’s look and withdrawn approach. (and i know a thing or two about grain ;)) ). But again, we do not know the decision for why he photographed the people he did, what was his relationship to them, the ideas that drew him. I cannot and wont compare this to the work, for example, of JOhn or Katia Roberts (who is indeed a saint) because the hope is different and the ideas are different and i dont know yet what cary things….

    i totally agree with you about the need to understand and to NOT USE people. It’s also my first mantra. However, we must must be very careful to orient. think of boris mikhailov’s A Case Study….many many find the work abusive…or even take brother Panos…I am certain that NOT EVERYONE in his pictures knows how he is using his photographs or would enjoy the pics…Panos is a totally HONEST and immersed photographer but even he is ‘using’ the people around him as a way for him to tell his story about his life and his venice…think of his ‘dark kids’ too, same….THE SAME WITH ME….we all USE people, all of us…and the truth must be answered individually:

    what is my reason….VINK’S reasons seem the most ‘pure’ to me, the most ethical, the most unimpeachable…but I also thing that each of us, must answer this difficult question ourselves, alone…i instinctually do not judge others, nor do i trust people who quickly assume that their morality or work ethic is more righteous…i dont think you are doing that at all, but i sense that in some of the comments….and for that, i feel too frustrated…

    how we help in the world, that is more important….and to live as lovingly as possible….

    but we put alot of weight upon photography if we marry it with our moral expectations….

    do i prefer vink, panos, polaroid kidd, 100%, they’re my kind of photographers….but, do i think Cary’s work is trying to tackle other questions…i do..

    ok, have to run

  67. ALL.
    Really interesting discussion. From all sides as has already been said. I enjoyed the essay a lot. The form was, although nothing new, something new, if that makes sense. I agree and also disagree with much of what has been said above, and while I am too lazy to go back through the debate and pull individual quotes to respond too, I would like to add my position to this.
    I lived that way for a long time, an animal among animals. Bought down to the basest of levels by MYSELF, as much as by [my perceived] failure of the world to care. I feel I earned the right to my position, the position I take now, by payment, in full, of death and suffering and humiliation, etc.. etc.. ad nauseum. If you have not been in ‘The Life’ then you have not, and any amount of outrage, book learning, liberal posturing, humanist philosophy, will NOT get you to a place of understanding it. Caring, sure; helping, sure, all the good things people do can help. But I can never help wondering just WHO it really is helping. Mainly the guilt response of the person themselves is my belief.[ there are many many honorable exceptions here]
    PANOS , as usual, is really quite poetically elegant in his vitriol, and while I disagree as much as I agree with what he has to say, I love that he has his ‘position’ too.
    Okay so what is my position on this?
    I make pictures. Its what I do. Anything can be a picture, most things have been. I DO NOT CARE about the things in the picture, only the picture itself. A homeless junkie, a sunset, a lone flower peeking through the snow…my father dead on a slab in the morgue. All these and many more find themselves in front of my lens. They are not real, in any sense, when I push the shutter. They are a collection of angles, colors and light, that somehow make a mirror for me to see myself in afterwords. I guess I sound like a monster[ you might be suprised]. Two of our homeless people around portobello road have died in the last 12 weeks. They had names. David and Lisa. I guess I was one of only a handful of people round here that knew that, or REALLY gave a shit to find out. We fed them [when we could], gave them bits and pieces of money[ when we had it to give], but above all were NEVER ashamed to talk to them AS PEOPLE. Even when one would stroll into a resturant as I was eating at, stinking of piss, and ask for some money, a cup of tea. I did, and do that, because i remember how much i needed a cup of tea, and a bit of change when I was them. I also took pictures of them whenever I could. Shamelessly, without permission. Not for money, not for good causes, not to salvage my soul ; but because under certain conditions they made good pictures. I see no contradiction here. Im sure many will.

  68. lIsa: and last quick thought (sorry Burn readers), i don’t compare Cary’s work with others who participate or who are connected directly, familiarly, personally with their subjects. It goes without saying that your work is an also an extraordinary example of the commitment and relationship with subjects. Your work with the aboriginals is exceptional (everyone should see it), not the least of which is because of your total commitment and involvement with them. I, ironically, always look at work on Aboriginal Austrailia through the prism of the work of Lisa Hogben. There is, as far as i know, NO ONE whose commitment, intimacy and understanding approaches your work and you’ve made your life and your photography a testament to that, and i hope and trust that Burn will at some point feature either your stories or your film about the lives, i put your commitment and ethic in the same category as Vink’s…but remember the outrage (still exists) with Ballen extraordianry work and books…i still hear and read others who lament his own ‘intent’, though i find his body of work, his books and his intent extraordinary and tough and ultimately a celebration, hard and difficult as his pictures and strange vision is….it’s just that i think we must be very careful to compare our own ethic and work practice with another in terms of determining which is exploitation….think of it like this: how to involve oneself in the suffering of others, in opposition to war and poverty and exploitation?…this is a question that can only be answered in the deep, quiet moments of an individual’s life…no answers, only questions. and maybe that is why i tend to, for good or ill, trust the intent here, trust what he’s trying to accomplish…it sure aint your work or panos’ work or katia or john or gene’s but i get the sense he is doing what he is doing in the way he can….

    hope that makes sense


  69. Jim:

    i think that’s it! and the Carter’s photograph and his example is a clear example. I wish i’d thought of kevin’s image. And then he left, one of the great great subtractions of the world of journalism and his life and story is another reminder of how careful we must be in ‘judging’ photographers. thanks calling attention to his work and his legacy.


  70. Cary, in my opinion this story is overshadowed by the presentation.

    While I was initially reading your description I immediately wanted to ask you why you chose this kind of treatment for this subject matter?

    I am not with the group that thinks you have exploited the plight of the homeless for your own cause, because I don’t think this was/is your intention. I very much like the innovativeness of this presentation, and yes, this subject has been done over and over and over, but what hasn’t? It is people like you, who manage to break through with a different perspective that shed new light on something old.

    Having said that, I do find this treatment very unsuitable for this particular subject matter, and for me, this is why I don’t see this as successful. As I watched the slideshow, many of the pictures just flew by, but I wanted to hold onto them, look more and get a better sense. For me, this kind of fast-paced presentation would have been more suitable for a subject matter which is equally fast paced, maybe sports or whatever, something that is equally boisterous and loud, because as it is presented now, it neither does you nor the people in the pictures any good.

    Thanks, Laura.

  71. panos skoulidas

    You are so confused..
    All at least I want is the photographer
    Not to shoot the unaware..
    Not from the BACK…
    give your “victim” the chance
    to defend themselves..
    Not to “steal”..
    Show your presense .. Contact..
    Look at the eye..
    Unless you do safari..
    And photographing animals in the jungle..
    Then it’s ok to put your infrared camera
    to shoot and you go sleep in your freaky tent..
    In other words if it’s so important for you to
    expose someone ASK PERMISSION…
    have you ever thought of asking permission…?
    or you still think you are the
    hunter and I’m the wild animal
    that has no rights.. and begs to be killed..?
    Is that why you choose the long zoom??
    Is that why you are waiting for me to fell asleep???
    What a shame

  72. panos skoulidas

    John Vink..
    Thank you for your thoughts..
    Yes, the surface has become the substance…

    Thank you for your thoughts..
    The arrogant spirits think that their
    Zooms is enough..
    They think that “permission”
    is the “drive by shooting”..
    Nothing new but this “COWARDISH decadent
    approach” is still going strong..
    Sad but true

  73. panos skoulidas

    Laura hi..
    Someone said earlier
    ( sorry I can’t recall ,
    But this is a great presentation
    For a MERCEDES BENZ, for dead
    things.. Not living things..)
    But obviously for many over here
    again sad but true..

  74. Hi Lisa,

    to be clear, I am saying that our first obligation as humans is to look after each other (and animals, and earth and space..) but that is not our first obligation as photographers..not that I don’t value photography that has that as part of its intention or purpose. One of my favorite photographers is Fazal Sheikh, http://www.fazalsheikh.org/ (Fazal Sheikh is an artist-activist who uses photography to create a sustained portrait of different communities around the world, addressing their beliefs and traditions, as well as their political and economic problems. By establishing a context of respect and understanding, his photographs demand we learn more about the people in them and about the circumstances in which they live. ) and it is strange to me how much his work gets blasted / ignored / looked down on by some because of his use of personal vision / artistic / technical talent to convey his message.

  75. panos skoulidas

    John C..
    You are right.. I see no contradiction
    in your words either..
    That’s why the POLAROID KIDD exists..
    Someone( a gentle soul ) posted a link earlier
    … Of course anyone can and should shoot
    anything they ( we ) want…
    But , connect.. Ask… Even the lion in the jungle..
    ( especially the lions … I would say..)
    thanks again man for your thoughts

  76. Pingback: #14 ligações (pouco) perigosas « abitpixel

  77. Sorry, there is already a Bambi Cantrell. Might as well take the Photogenics and Peoplepopper out there if you are going to ask permission. I don’t get this at all.

  78. David raised a very relevant question re: Marshall McLuhan (“the media is the message”).

    Here is a quote on that subject, from wikipedia:

    ” ‘The medium is the message’ is a phrase coined by Marshall McLuhan meaning that the form of a medium embeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived. The phrase was introduced in his most widely known book, ‘Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man’, published in 1964. McLuhan proposes that media themselves, not the content they carry, should be the focus of study; he said that a medium affects the society in which it plays a role not only by the content delivered over the medium, but by the characteristics of the medium itself. Hence in Understanding Media, McLuhan describes the ‘content’ of a medium as a juicy piece of meat carried by the burglar to distract the watchdog of the mind. This means that people tend to focus on the obvious, which is the content, to provide us valuable information, but in the process, we largely miss the structural changes in our affairs that are introduced subtly, or over long periods of time.”

    So, Cary, everyone: is the unique nature of this work’s presentation subliminally affecting us perhaps in ways that the photographic content is not? I took a 2nd-3rd look with this in mind, and lo and behold, my first gut reaction was that the treatment reminded me of Dorothea Lange’s photos during the dustbowl era. Then my thoughts immediately turned to what’s happening to our global economy now, and suddenly this essay takes on a deeper meaning in my mind.

    Also, Laura- I was thinking about what you wrote regarding the pace of this presentation, and in light of my little epiphany above: perhaps Cary consciously or subconsciously kept the pace up, akin to how many people tend to look away & walk by quickly when confronted with a homeless scene at our feet?

    Thanks David for raising that point.


  79. Panos, I can understand your position on a personal level but not professionally. Am I wrong or has there not been a tradition of street photography for a long long time? Do you think Walker Evans with his hidden camera on NY subways asked permission of his subects? Or Henri Cartier-Bresson? Or Robert Frank? As I understand it, if someone is in a public place, we photographers have a legal right to take and publish their photo without their permission. If that info is wrong, I hope I’ll be corrected.


  80. Sorry Pat..
    But I prefer BRUCE GILDEN,
    DAH dances with the “subject”
    and BRUCE is on your face,
    surprises, males noise…
    Gets involved…

  81. Intense! …The pictures “leading” into pictures makes this essay flow for me, and I think helps add some punch to the “social commentary” …the Haves and the Haves-Nots are really defined here!

    This “media piece” is a very nice addition to Burn.

    Cheers, Jeremy

  82. D’AGATA also
    Doesn’t do the hidden camera trick ..
    Remember that TV show
    guess what:” I DONT LIKE IT”..
    laughing ..

  83. Asher, good point about the pace, but where is Cary to help us put this in perspective?

    I don’t know, the more I think about this the more I wonder if this is a story that can best be told by someone who is actually living it? I didn’t think I would ever say this in reference to any particular story, but here I am, knowing that by thinking and saying so, I am questioning so many things, even the role of photography itself!

    The response here has reflected the sensitivity of homelessness to many people and it just makes me think about homelessness in context with other issues that maybe of equal sensitivity. It’s the whole looking in the mirror versus out of the window approach. Can someone really give an accurate and humane account of homelessness while looking out the window, or does one have to look in the mirror to REALLY see it?


  84. Cary made his own presentation according to his own vision and that is in part why we are able to discuss this piece intelligently, but it isn’t always the case with multimedia that the photographer’s vision continues to be expressed accurately..right now I feel stymied by my lack of technical how to in the realm of mm, and I don’t yet know if it is better to be a rookie director and producer and to work with others or to tough it out alone and be a bad technie..obviously neither are desirable, but suddenly we are being asked to be not just photographers..

  85. I’d just like to make my point clearer if possible: I don’t blame the author for anything. I don’t think he was either disrespectful or exploitative toward the subjects of his pictures. I don’t have anything to blame on him from the ethic point of view. Even though I do believe he’s truly concerned with these people lives, I’m not saying the use of a photograph should be to change the world. I known it may sound harsh, but I feel the multimedia piece is like a nice frame put on weak photo, that’s all.

  86. Massimiliano…
    Guess who usually needs a cover..
    The intruders , the attackers and
    generally speaking the WEAK…
    Think of a beautiful ancient
    Greek or Roman statue…
    Does it need any cover??
    Any clothes??
    Fancy techniques??

  87. Bit out of the loop here but some great discussion going on.

    To me the piece is both successful and a failure. I can understand why DAH latched on to it – he’s talked on here before about pushing the envelope re presentation and this certainly does it. But about halfway through I found myself tuning out, because I felt I was now just seeing and re-seeing the same thing over and over again. Not just the same imagery, but the same “moves” in the animation. It felt like a loop, and maybe that was the point (“caught in the loop”) but it didn’t work for me. It felt contrived. I think it would have worked better by half, or if there was something we could latch onto somewhere, a story of sorts of an individual(s) within the anonymity of the street. For me it comes off as an exercise, with the subject of homelessness as a handy subject at hand. A near miss and a valiant attempt, and I’m more than sure Cary’s heart is in the right place but sometimes the work can just be so absorbing and take so much time to make that it gets away from you.

    I sometimes have that feeling about my Cobain pics. Often he becomes just a commodity to me that magazines want, and I have to step back to remember that he was a living breathing person with hopes and fears and a tragic demise. It’s so easy to get swept up in the two dimensional world of photography it’s easy to forget the three dimensional one that got us there in the first place.

    And a big shout out to Panos and Tom Hyde for stopping by the studio this week. Sorry I missed meeting Katia as well but I had some diapers to go change!

  88. PANOS said, in regards to me:

    she is NOT STEALING from the homeless..
    when she shoots , she shoots their happiness..
    not when they are laying down on the streets..
    KATIA is a saint…

    panos, my dearheart, you know i love you and you know that you are Family with me.
    but please don’t glorify me to be something i’m not.
    and i’m most definitely NOT a saint.
    i’m rather quite selfish really.
    my street family brings me unspeakable amounts of joy.
    my life would be but a whisper of what it is without them.
    now that you have seen us together you know this is too true.


    i photograph every observable aspect of their lives.
    not only their joy but ALL OF IT – the whole of what i see and experience with them.
    yes, the happiness! and there is so much of that..
    but also when they’re face down in their own vomit as was the case night
    before last (which you would’ve seen for yourself if you could’ve
    stayed with me!)- one of my kids swallowed 100 benadrl to get fucked up
    and by the time i got there… yea… face down in his bright pink vomit.
    of course i photographed it because that’s real too.
    they’re not JUST happy, interesting, unique, colorful, artistic, resourceful, intelligent beings.
    but they can also be fucked up, exasperating, aggressive, thieving, belittling, abusive,
    bad-choice making son-of-a-bitches.
    i want to show it all because that’s who they are.
    saints AND sinners. not one or the other with me.

    you understand??


    now get home safe.


  89. Charles,
    Thank U for the Cobain T…
    Thank U for opening your door ,
    Thank U for the Vietnamese …
    Thank U for taking a “baby-break”
    Honored me and Tom with your ideas,
    Thoughts, opinions..
    I hope u made it safe back in Olympia..
    (haven’t heard of u since…)
    .. and again,
    the “TOUCH ME IM SICK”..
    is sick..

  90. Yes.. Gotcha…
    You do photograph everything..
    Happiness… VOMIT..
    but you already worked hard and
    established THE CONNECTION..
    you have been accepted..
    U gained access.. and you deserved it..
    And I also agree..
    Nope , u r not a saint…

  91. Thanks again for the comments. Something I wanted to mention was the link that was posted, the Polaroid Kidd pictures (http://www.needles-pens.com/polaroidkidd.html), which I thought was fantastic work. That’s a very different approach, very insider, very up close. Anyway Laura, your comment regarding “a story that can best be told by someone who is actually living it” made me think of him and how I had meant to mention it last night.

    This movie was created about 3 months ago, again as an experimental exercise. A few people mentioned that it was too long and that it jumps around too much…all valid points. I’ve done a few other things since then that are a bit shorter, a tad more refined: http://www

    is something I did on pool players, and http://www.caryconover.com/nasa/interplanetary.mov is all NASA imagery. I’d be curious to hear what anybody thinks of either of those.

    I realize many of you are still wondering why I chose this particular topic. I’m curious how common homelessness is where you live. I was pretty sheltered from this growing up in the midwest, perhaps that is why I have reacted to it as such later on in life. While I don’t want to resort to a “Don’t Kill The Messenger” defense, I still think it’s important to keep an open mind on what we are “supposed” to do with this gift of photography that we’ve all been given. For some reason I think of something I read about Salgado, how he was criticized for his work of the miners. His response was something to the effect of (in a heavy Brazilian accent) “I have this frame, I have to fill it somehow.”

  92. We are just so limbic. The reptilian comes out with a camera in our hands. We still hunt, kill and scavenge.
    But that dang old sympathy and empathy comes along and just confuses us. Stir the dust and say we can’t see.
    You hip to that?

  93. How usefull are this images for the person photographed itself or for the photographer ??? missery is always strong and powerfull in images but are we care about those peoples ??? or they are just to help us as photographers ??? with their missery

  94. panos skoulidas

    … and the Beovians…
    Guide me home..
    Skip that!
    … Mo direction home..
    Like a complete unknown..
    Like a rolling stone..

  95. Lisa,

    I realize that many of us took art history. By saying this, I was trying to illustrate the point that it is the right of the viewer to decipher the artist’s intentions by using our art professors as the prime examples of ultimate decoders. Some of the previous comments made about this slideswhow seem to think otherwise…implying that the producing artist will be the only one who will truly be able to know and understand the viewpoint and the intention, and also implying a “how dare they!” attitude to those who may try to observe and realize the artist’s intentions. The first implication is true in that the artist will be the one to hold the work most closely to his/her heart, but my point is that we share our work so that the viewer “gets” and understands our views and intentions. Some may argue that all art is open to interpretation, which by putting work out there, is something else that the viewer may take into consideration. When I show my work, nothing makes me happier than when the viewer “gets” my intentions.

    After reading the entire conversation here, there are many points that I agree with. Sometimes, I do believe that it is our duty to engage with our subjects (actually that connection for me is what portraiture has been about), but other times, I feel it is necessary to remain an unobtrusive observer. This is not to say that I think it is right to exploit the lives of others to make money in a commercial sense. There is definitely a line between observation and exploitation… I once took a picture of a homeless person in Chinatown, NYC, and I felt like I stole a moment from him…taking the only thing that he had to offer. So, I felt a little dirty after snapping the shot, but I kept it as part of my set because homelessness was a fact that exists in that neighborhood, as I was just trying to document the neighborhood and it’s intricacies as the everyday observer…So that was a piece I did for me, and do not feel as if I can claim to have captured Chinatown in the same sense that I would have been able to if I were a thread in that neighborhood. The pictures I took in my own neighborhood in Brooklyn, however, had a much more intimate feel because I was part of it’s heartbeat for 5 years…

    Anyhow, I digress. I think that it is fine to continue photographing subject matter that may be seen as tired because it calls our attention back to subjects that may have been pushed to the back burner; and everyone’s take is going to be a little bit different. Perhaps what Cary was trying to do was to illustrate to us that there is still a huge homeless population in NYC. After reading further comments down, I see that he has responded by saying that it was part of the bigger NYC picture…like I said before, part of the city that is just that, part of the city. I don’t believe that Cary was exploiting these people, but simply exposing a saddening truth that still very much exists. As photographers, we tell our own stories and the stories of others, each carrying a different level of intimacy.

    As far as the mentioning of David Hockney, I was just making the point that sometimes images themselves get morphed and changed prior to showing them. That’s all. I realize that that the presentation and the actual work are two different things and that presentation cannot disguise our intention. But, I do believe that it can add to the effect, for example, with music. It’s all in how we want to present ourselves and what we see.

  96. “People will sooner aid a sick dog lying on the sidewalk than to try to find shelter for a sick person. It’s too much to deal with.” –Michael Zaslow

    So, what’s being done to help the homeless?

  97. panos skoulidas

    I had no idea about Stuart I..
    Cambodian gangs in America..
    Thanks for the link..
    … Haik is driving..
    Riding Shotgun..
    It’s raining in Venice too..
    I’ve heard..
    I have no idea where my peops
    gonna sleep tonight…

  98. Not a great comparison in my eyes..for the most part dogs are unable to help themselves in our man made world..As John G said he was “Bought down to the basest of levels by MYSELF” and the do-gooder isn’t always a welcome force..I think I know who in my neighborhood is on the streets, and they aren’t interested in me finding them shelter. One homeless man-dog duo who were friends of mine (both have passed away this year) were without a “proper” home for at least the last 15 years..when Kenny was sick I’d sometimes bring him a meal or something hot because he was too ill to walk, but mostly he wanted me to look after his dog Susan, which I did. He actually got permission to build her a doghouse on the lot where they stayed..but Kenny didn’t want a house himself. He had a loving mom that he was in good relationship with and she had a welcoming home sitting on rolling acres. I tried when he got very sick to get him to go there, but he really didn’t want to. I tried to help with his medications, and he wasn’t interested..I offered to drive with him and Susan, help pay for airfare, etc..he said he actually had money but he would rather not. Susan the dog really was receptive of all the food and creature comforts I gave her; Kenny, though appreciative of what I brought him materially, really just wanted my company and knowing he had a friend who would look out for his beloved dog if he was to die before her. Turns out she at 15, died one month before him..

  99. Nothing is right or not enough…

    The images are powerful but it is empty without showing something being done to help people in that situation get a leg up. In this day, there are many that are helping. Shouldn’t those people be part of the essay too?

  100. Hi sweet Katia..I’ve been waiting for you to write in response to this essay..maybe I missed it? I never photographed either Kenny or Susan..it wasn’t something I ever considered doing..

  101. to be honest, i don’t quite know how to respond to this essay.
    my first thought was that this told me nothing about homelessness
    (i think it is more about alcohol and drug abuse) and everything
    about the photographer.
    i was saddened to see stereotypes of homeless people fueled.
    and i do think it contributes to the dehumanization of homeless people
    to present them as mangled lumps.
    i want to see faces, eyes, hearts. that’s what i connect to.
    i didn’t feel connected to anyone shown in this.
    i assume it’s been assembled this way to pull at the viewers heart-strings.
    i guess that is somewhat a noble cause. it just seems a little cowardly on some level.

  102. Panos,

    Since you’re a visitor in our lovely city,.. here are a few online resources for you to study. Sure,. this isn’t NYC, nor do I suggest it’s the end all, but “something” is happening.

  103. erica wrote:

    I believe that as people we are indebted to humanity, to give of ourselves as fully as is possible and to see our brother as ourself..but I take issue with the thought that as photographers we are indebted to the people we photograph in the narrow sense, ie that we launch an exhibit to raise funds to donate to their needs, or tell their story as they would want it to be told.

    I agree with this 1000%.

  104. it certainly is interesting, how we all approach things differently..Cary is a self-proclaimed photographer of “quirk” and went outside his norm to show us something of homelessness from his perspective…if you take a look at his work in his portfolio, there are some stunning moments there of NYC that only he could have made…and the way you work Katia, is so so invested, and so so rare and special

  105. Well, Cary, this essay is a HUGE success! It’s got people thinking, discussing, agreeing, disagreeing and digging ever more deeply into the subject of homelessness, the ethics that define what is or is not appropriate subject matter, how we should or should not engage with our subjects, what works or does not work in terms of MM presentations, and basically what is or is not our responsibility to the people we photograph, those who view our work, and the social ills that plague our world.

    I don’t know about you but my mind is reeling! This is just what BURN’s founding editor hoped would happen here and, thanks to you and your wonderfully provocative essay, it has. I just hope you continue to follow your gut and produce work that rocks our boats. Makes me think of the old quote: “The business of a newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” That’s just what you’ve done here and I say, “Good on you.”


  106. Cary–

    just to be clear, i didn’t mean to say that you are a coward. I don’t know you at all.
    i just meant that this general approach (snapping people when they’re sleeping,
    passed out, intoxicated, covered in blankets) seems cowardly to me on some level.
    only you know if you are a coward or not.

    when i first started street photography years ago, i shot photos like this.
    less than a dozen but i had no qualms about doing it in the least.
    then a friend and i had a talk where they deemed the approach exploitive.
    and that gestated in me for awhile.
    then i emerged like panos and detested when people shot this way.
    i considered it theft. absolutely.
    now i don’t see anything so black and white. this is very very grey.
    which is why i wasn’t sure how to respond to it.
    i think intention is important to me.
    i think intention sways what i think about a particular approach such as yours here.

  107. Thanks Patricia and Katia everybody else. My mind is reeling as well. It’s hard to articulate in comments like this, typing things out, deleting them, rephrasing thoughts, proofreading, etc. Not sure about you all but I’m ready for the weekend!

    I was reminded of something I read a few years ago, it was an article about Salgado and he was talking about the harsh criticism he received about his pictures of workers in a mining pit. I think the criticism was regarding how he would go on to make tons of money selling the work as prints, way more money than all the workers combined. Something like that. His reply to the critics was something to the effect of (in what I imagine to be a thick Brazilian accent) “I have this frame, I have to fill it somehow.”

    I think the issues being brought up here (the message vs the medium…the degree to which we interact with our subjects…how suffering is to be portrayed…the responsibility of the viewer vs the audience, etc.) are all very interesting and all very worthwhile. And I think everybody gets an A+ for keeping it civil. Katia, I just looked at your pics and I totally dig what you’re doing. One of the things that was in the comment I just lost was that I also liked the pictures of Polaroid Kidd…also very good photographs.

    I think there’s a pretty clear delineation here. There seems to be two general sides of the argument, two different philosophies. On one side we have those who think that as photographers we have a deep responsibility to our subjects, that we must engage with them, get into their lives, tell their stories, increase awareness through empathetic photography. On the other side we have photographers who simply wish to present the world in cold, hard facts and let history take its course. Of course it’s a continuum and we all fall in different places on it.

    I believe that photography is a gift that was passed on to all of us, and I don’t think anybody has the right to claim what we are “supposed” to do with our cameras. I’m not somebody to cower behind the defense of “Don’t Kill The Messenger” and I don’t regret what I’ve done with this essay. I would hope most people agree that the most regretful thing of all would be not to have taken these pictures, to have left my camera at home. Anyway, this has been a good experience for me and I look forward to getting more feedback on future projects.

  108. Cary–

    right on!
    and i’ve been exploring your site and your street photography.
    some really strong work you’ve got there.
    keep going.

    brodie rocks my fucking socks off. i love that guy,
    though i see he’s taken much of his work down.
    there used to be a lot more of his stuff available online.

    cary, thanks for helping me to expand my mind.
    i do not want to look at things through preconceived filters.
    i want to see things ‘fresh’ and i want to always, always grow.
    thank you.

  109. Cary :))

    thank you for sharing your work with us. I think the discussion that was inspired and generated by the work is an important and necessary one. my only regret is how easily and quickly the judgment about a person and their orientation is made based on work. that’s a shame. but, that we have different views is critical and necessary and nutritious. that we castigate people is what depresses me. above all, thank you for your openness and willing to engage.

    all the best

  110. Bob,

    I’m glad you said this. I just finished reading through a huge chunk of these comments and was so fucking pissed by the end I just wanted to scream. Contrary to what DAH said, I found much of the commentary to be remarkably stupid. It was as if people were more interested in showing how vast their knowledge of art history was or how deeply concerned they are for the homeless. Less interested in the actual work or the photographer. Attributing nefarious motives. Jumping to conclusions. Ugh.


    Brilliant piece. Creative, thoughtful, unique. Excellent work.

  111. every festival with an upcoming deadline? :) I know it is something I could ignore, but it seems like multimedia is an important facet of the future of photography..but you are right, of course, it isn’t mandatory..

  112. ERICA…

    multi-media IS an important part of the new world of communication…you should always remember that multi-media is only a format, a venue, the equivalent of a page, but it is not the ENGINE…i doubt anything will replace the photographer who is able to make a strong single image…perhaps to earn a living you will need to learn to produce multi-media or have someone do it for you….just as many photographers in the past learned how to do a magazine coverage….however in my view, and based on watching past “trends”, the single strong image makers will reign…most particularly , and ironically, in the new world of multi-media where the novelty of multi-media packages will wear off and only those containing the most powerful “singles” will rise to the top….

    cheers, david

  113. Ah John you have done it again!

    Just like your photos you have succintly expressed the concerns that it has taken so many paragraphs for me to try and failed at explaining.

  114. I absolutely agree..without the single image what do we have? I’m still distressed about the current focus on essays over the single :)..but I do love film (movies) as a story telling method, and now we have this new genre of fitting stills into a “short”..it is plenty interesting to me, and my love of film makes it that much more alluring, I just don’t know if I can handle the technical side. To be honest, I would love to be able to direct / work with people in other media to make finished pieces that include stills..but that is a whole other set of skills. I do want to try, I just hope that those willing to work with me can tolerate my learning how to communicate what I envision..I fear I enjoy collaboration but more so from the driver’s seat.

  115. I want/need to agree that as worthwhile as the discussions have been, there was way too much judgement of Cary and his personal motivations for taking these photos and creating this essay. The phrase “poverty porn” still sticks in my craw. Such an undeserved indictment.

    I hope we can learn to discuss/critique work on BURN without attacking the photographer or making unwarranted assumptions about his/her intent. As has been suggested before, asking questions is much more effective than making accusations.


  116. complete disagreement…
    first thing i thought was “this guy knows where to point his camera”. Very strong individual pictures, please visit Cary’s website. Many here who think they are accomplished photographers should look at it carefully and learn something…
    Also, why is DAH a great curator when you agree with his choices and a poor one when you don’t?

  117. One of the things that struck me about this isnt the repetition but the outsidedness of the project. I simply never felt I was immersed in it because its obvious the photographer wasnt immersed in the subject, Its a fly on the wall, drive by style photography. Maybe thats what the photographer intended but it left me unsatisfied and feeling like only the surface was scratched, and only barely. I think this is very closely related with the repetitiveness of the piece, because how much variety can you grab shooting like this? The presentation was interesting but after that, what are we left with?

  118. Cary, “those who think that as photographers we have a deep responsibility to our subjects, that we must engage with them, get into their lives, tell their stories, increase awareness through empathetic photography. On the other side we have photographers who simply wish to present the world in cold, hard facts and let history take its course….”

    Yes, right on; and of course we all fall into each category at different times. For me, the best photograph was of the person walking down the subway steps with his / her (can’t quite tell) head partially covered. The epitome of invisibility.

    And “I believe that photography is a gift that was passed on to all of us, and I don’t think anybody has the right to claim what we are “supposed” to do with our cameras….”

    Couldn’t have put it better myself. Thank you for showing and contributing to the discussion.

    Best wishes,


  119. It’s 3.5 minutes! Geeze, how do you scratch more than the surface in 3.5 minutes? All of this angst that the photographer didn’t solve the problems of homelessness and HIV in 3.5 minutes seems a little silly to me.

  120. As part of my daily routine I check the Burn website. I lurk, but never leave comments. Today, though, I thought I needed to finally say Bravo to those who run Burn (I know it is more than David). We are being exposed to so many aspects of photography through this “publication,” more than the other narrowly focused websites. While I don’t like to debate essays — I rather take them in and internalize what they mean to me; words rarely do justice to visual media–I find the daily offerings inspirational.

    Thank you for the hard work.


  121. Yes, its 3.5 minutes. Its also pretty much only people sleeping on the ground. Take a look at Patricia’s essay, or Anton’s for example. Both are a similar length, yet they delve deep into the subjec, there is a real depth that comes from a real commitment to the story. I am not asking this to solve the problem of the homeless, I would however like to see more than grab shots of people sleeping on the ground. What I find silly is this sort of deliberate misunderstanding of what I wrote.

  122. Yes, its 3.5 minutes. Its also pretty much only people sleeping on the ground. Take a look at Patricia’s essay, or Anton’s for example. Both are a similar length, yet they delve deep into the subjec, there is a real depth that comes from a real commitment to the story. I am not asking this to solve the problem of the homeless, I would however like to see more than grab shots of people sleeping on the ground. What I find silly is this sort of deliberate misunderstanding of what I wrote.

    Another thing that interests me is how on the previous essay “American Dreams” you wrote that it adds nothing new to what we have already seen. I wonder what new things you see here.

  123. Rafal…
    3.5 minutes is more than enough time..
    If someone can’t scratch the surface in 3,5 minutes..
    Then , not even 3,5 hours would be enough..
    ALL , morning from rainy LA..
    we made it back home..
    We brought a present back from Seattle..
    Bloody rain…

  124. Very useful, for every 1000 people that pass the images by, one of us stops to help. Images like this caused my family and I to reach out to those in need in our city.

    A.Wright Vancouver Feb 09

  125. Bob, thank you for saying that and for continuing to try to open eyes of people around you. There is something I learned from you and I am very grateful – not to judge anybody, especially when there is a clear reason to praise the person for some aspect of his self expression. We are all so different, but common in one egoistic wish – to be right. Still there are no rights or wrongs especially in such a multidimensional discipline as photography, or just life. I recently noticed several of similar discussions – about the place of the photographer about his responsibilities towards the subject, involvement. And I agree with Katia and Erica,getting close, empathy, probably works for them. Still there is a street or snap photography which is a completely different discipline, its purpose is different, it requires different qualities, i.e. I will risk to claim, a much better reaction to start with. Cary is an excellent street photographer. I was profoundly impressed by his singles (and personally I think they are stronger than this essay in its whole).
    But it looks like street photography is detested among many or at least undervalued, an I think the reason for that lies in the fact that photography becomes more and more commercial. Results that can be USED are required. Nobody is interested in photographer’s musing on the subject, neither his artistic self-expression or, which is opposite – depicting the life as he sees it.
    This essay consists of thematically uniform street singles. It is executed extremely well, though by no means it is a documentary story.

  126. I think this essay is effective exactly because of the repetition. The images are hammered home, person upon person, by the way they are presented. That these people are pervasive and real. The scope and consequence of the issue becomes tactile. My response is to look a little deeper into homelessness where I live. It isn’t obvious, here. But I’m certain it exists. The essay wouldn’t have made the same impact had the subjects been looking into the camera, or sitting on a street corner panhandling. What kind of images do you think would have made the presentation stronger? How would you have shot it?

  127. panos skoulidas

    Actually, Jim..
    U might have a point there..
    Repetition is a “style” itself..

  128. Bravo Cary. Knowing intimately the tremendous body of work from which this was culled, if anyone has any doubt to who or what Cary is about, I encourage you to investigate. He is prolific.

  129. With all due respect and without doubt about Cary’s abilities, but isn’t the conversation above is the investigation. It can’t get any better than this, don’t you think?

    Patrick – just looked at your works – WMD is great.


  130. I look at Cary’s essay, and my reaction is: wow! what a beautiful piece of work! I go to Cary’s website to discover more of it. happy to see the images!
    im searching for other feelings, and realizing that the images also bring confusion and ambiguity. i feel that im in the “old movie theatre”. I could almost hear a ballroom pianist to accompany this movie about “old America”.
    Im separated from what is happening on the screen. the images there are real and they are not. im thinking: this is not ‘now’, or may be all of this is made up? just like Goddard’s movies remind us.
    sometime i have similar reaction when i look at the magazines, abundant with images of suffering in Other countries, rarely in ours. I always sympathize to subjects of these pictures, but there is however a reaction: ‘oh, it’s far away, it’s not here”.
    Being an art photographer myself and often being torn between wanting to do “realistic / ‘documentary” work and despite that continuing to produce my own esthetics, stylisations. inner torments’ i call them. it would be incredibly naive to think that photographers’ mission is to change the world. but Im often debating why is that i need this separation? or is It? or why do we as a society prefer to look at suffering from the distance?
    My comments also, by all means, is not a judgement of Cary’s work, I still love your essay, Cary!
    it’s rather an open question to those who wishes to express their thoughts.

  131. Pingback: The 37th Frame - Celebrating the Best of Photojournalism » On the Streets by Cary Conover (Burn Magazine)

  132. Cary: Thank you so much for sharing your work. : )

    Here follow a few thoughts based on the comments on here but not the presentation which I really, really want to see but can’t at the moment with the software I have, or access to.

    Re: Effort
    (inspired by Bob Black’s comment, thanks)

    I’m coming to this ‘blind’ but can’t agree that ‘effort’ necessarily reveals ‘concern.’ How do you quantify effort anyway? Effort can be like an iceberg – most of it ‘invisible’ if it has taken place internally. On the other hand, it could be that an author just wants to ‘be seen’ or ‘sell’ work by packaging it in a new way to engage an audience. I also think the comment about personal involvement being for ‘credibility’s sake’ is not a nice one, although it might be right in some cases.

    I really don’t know enough about world religions to make this statement but: ‘I think I’d rather be Hindu!’ because it fits with me to have ‘the centre’ in a billion different Gods and is the root of Buddhism which I like, but I like ‘roots and the natural world’ more. Where would Buddha be without the web of life that supports our species and all species come to that? On the other hand, I’ve come to realize that my habits do not match those taught by the Prophet Mohammad which could help cos I’m not good at taking care of my health and the Koran has some very good ideas on that front. The Bible has some great things to say too as I suspect all religions do.

    Re. Storytelling/presentation
    (inspired by many comments on here, mostly Jon Vink, thanks)

    Conventional ways of storytelling don’t fit with most of I’m doing in my work as I’m capturing ‘moment’s, feelings and cultural differences’ at this point so I have a feeling Cary’s ‘moment’ or ‘street’ photography is along the same lines and it sounds like the presentation fits with this really well, ‘completes’ the work and makes it ‘feel’ whole.

    Re: Poverty Porn
    (inspired by comment from Lisa Hogben, thanks)

    Perhaps it’s already got a definition but how about ‘photographs that use misery to sell or promote causes’? I am searching for another way that protects the dignity of the individual. Millions around the world are suffering and it’s difficult to do much about the habits, customs and local and global systems that perpetuate it including the outlook of some of the worlds NGOs it seems to me. But having said this, I think that ‘the intention’ to help behind the taking of ‘poverty porn’ can often be THE most beautiful and pure.

    Re: Treatment and Judging
    (inspired by all, thanks)

    When it comes to ‘treatment’, there could be many reasons for not showing the faces of the people. It could be seen as a way to ‘protect the integrity’ of the people or ‘an honest sharing’ of a response to seeing people living and dying this way, a ‘fear of it happening to them’ or, and this is my take on it having read Cary’s words but not knowing his intention or seeing the essay: ‘a reflection of a cultural response to homelessness’. It could even be a reflection of an author’s own feelings of ‘being invisible.’ Not directly questioning the author could also be read as ‘not caring about the author’ or as a way of ‘protecting’ them form questions that he or she may not want to answer, directly, or publicly. I don’t know and I should not judge others because I don’t like being judged myself. I’ve done more than my fair share of judging already… I AM sorry.

    Re: The Smile
    (inspired by all photojournalists, thanks)

    I have a story I’d like to share about a young man living on the streets of Mumbai. We don’t know each other’s names and who knows if we’ll meet again. What once were legs are wrapped up beneath him on a rectangular piece of wood on four wheels. He propels himself along the ground with his hands and lives on food that is given to him by ‘direct assistance’. He has nothing but the clothes he wears and each evening, wraps his shirt up in a ball and puts it under his head as a pillow. He sleeps right there on a bare wooden market stall. What I notice more than anything is his smile.

    THAT smile radiates an incredible amount of joy, peace and happiness. And there’s dignity in his handshake as well, and in the way he speaks. I’ve watched him from a distance and see that THE SMILE is often there no matter who passes by or as he chats with his friends and people on the street. I suspect it reflects his acceptance of his lot AND the reactions of the people around him. He looks happy to be in control of his day and contented to be his own boss. It’s not a smile I’ve seen on any faces when working the 9-5 but we all like some of the trappings of wealth. Shoes for example…

    I’d like to spend more time near anyone with that kind of smile… whether they are educating and informing people around the world or just lighting up the moments of people that pass them by but it’s rare, that kind of smile… it looks to me like he’s doing an incredible ‘job’ filling people near him with ‘love and light’ and obviously doesn’t get the minimum wage or government assistance. Who knows where he comes from or where he’s going to? What was Buddha’s background, can anyone remember? I used to know…

    THAT smile looks to me like a flag waving on the top of ‘an iceberg of personal work’ as high as a mountain. I have no idea of the internal torture he may have endured along the way to THE SMILE. Perhaps I’ll ask him if I meet him again. But it is obvious he made it to the top against the odds. He’s up there waving a flag with that smile. I don’t know if I’ll get to see THE SMILE again or not. The thing about the smile is that it’s so beautiful, you want to ‘capture it’ and perhaps that would take away what the smile is built on. If I see him again, perhaps I’ll take a single image and under his name, write THE SMILE. Would that be commoditizing it? It’s the kind of smile that helps us reach the top of mountains. None of us get there alone, though we try if we don’t want to encourage nepotism… and I wonder, if we were ever to get there, would it be lonely up so high? I guess that depends on who your friends are and how big their hugs and SMILES…

    Re: Reflecting Cultural Attitudes and the Whole
    (inspired by the comments on here and personal feelings)

    To my way of thinking, ‘not getting too close’ combined with ‘faceless people’ and a ‘camera angle’ from on-top reflects well a cultural attitude to homelessness that is not present in all cultures around the world. In some, people see ‘homelessness’ in a different way, give freely ‘on the level’ to those who live that way whether by necessity or choice. Some even ‘elevate it’ as a fast-track to enlightenment – a way to feel ‘the highs and lows’ more intensely and learn how to ‘navigate life’ and simply ‘be’. The highs are the smiles and they are there and a level of acceptance that can radiate pure sunshine…

    Sorry to go on so long…

    : ): ): ): ): ): ): ): ): ): ): ): )

    (smiles for DAH and this magazine!)

  133. Dear Cary,

    This movie(especially the contrast of general people and homeless)makes me being stunned into silence…I feel fear… and think of my duty as member of society…

    Thank you for your perception and hard work.

  134. good movie. I struggle with the idea of secretly photographing homeless people for artistic endeavours and generally don’t enjoy watching it. I can see another point of view though, may be without your clever presentation these images wouldn’t be shown at all and so you wouldn’t be on Burn and people wouldn’t be viewing it. so because you have done such a good job you’ve created a bigger audience and the more people that see it the more chance that some one will reach out and help these individuals. It’s a long shot, but you never know, this may convince a bourgeois photography/art fan to stop and help.


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