69 thoughts on “andrew steiner – bar mitzvah”

  1. oh man – this is my cup of tea..

    i love the play being carried out over on the right hand side.. the woman in the middle perhaps privvy to the discussion.. more wine? MORE!!!

    perfectly balanced by the woman on far lefts indifference.. on the phone..
    the gaudy carpet.. cheap mass produced chairs..

    yep – thanks for this.. utterly my kind of thing..


  2. I really like the feel in this. Reminds me of gilden somehow. I am sure it will get jumped on a bit [what dont around here :) ] , but it certainly has enough in it to work for me.

  3. This one rocks my boat. It’s all there–story, timing, composition, perfect choice of b&w, title that tells enough but not too much. Yes, Andrew has really gone and done it here. Bravo.


  4. Same here. I like this picture because it has captured this very moment in time. The lady in the middle and her sceptic look draw me into the picture, while the lady beside her is chatting away on the phone and the other man and woman are in a conversation. Does the lady in the middle feel ignored? It seems nobody pays attention to her. Is this the nightmare of ballroom parties?
    Nice to look. Thanks Andrew!

  5. Well executed, but I just don’t like this kind of photo. Already done. A ringlight would have been cool.

  6. Jim, please tell me. In your opinion, what HASN’T been done??? This moment in time is unrepeatable. Never before or since will these three individuals sit in these three chairs and show these particular gestures/expressions. How can you say “Already done”?

    If that were so we all might as well hang up our cameras and go plant a carrot or something. Oh no. Forget the carrot. It’s already been done.


  7. hahahahahah
    go plant a carrot… thats genius.. can i steal that ?

    jim – ring light – you mean a ring flash? maybe we call them differently in europe.. but why a ringflash i am wondering?

    do enjoy your differing opinions jim.. you´re so welcome here.

  8. patricia. i think jim meant the ‘look’. he would have preffered it less harsh. shot with ring or other diffusion. Its a valid enough point. I like the moment, and its treatment and i think had it been shot closer to jims aesthetic i STILL would like it. It would feel somewhat different, but the moment is the moment and thats what this picture has caught so well.

  9. Yeah. With the subjects right up against the wall, a ring flash (if you prefer) would have produced interesting lighting and lifted the photo out of the “seen this before” reaction. Anyway, as I said, it’s well executed. Too much like grip & grin shots to me. You could use the same photo, just replace the people.

  10. Overall I enjoy this photo, and I think Andrew succeeds in creating an interesting, dynamic and somewhat humorous narrative. Well done!

    Here’s the thing for me, though..this was a moment / set up that most every doc photographer would want to take a shot of, as it is just ripe with content and visuals, and the question is how to grab this opportunity and to seize it and to get the most out of it. I think Andrew used his opportunity very well, but, I can’t help but reframe this moment in my mind, wondering what would have made it even stronger for my taste. It becomes a personal expression thing at this point I suppose..and I would have loved a chance at this one, though i understand that how one would ideally frame a moment isn’t always a practical reality. Still, I’d like to see it with the poster were out, shot a bit closer/ less headroom, when the middle woman wasn’t making eye contact with he photographer, and maybe shot from behind the woman with the purse so that it was in the foreground and then looking down the line toward the woman on the phone..

    I am wondering Andrew, did you get everything you wanted from the moment?

    And DAH, would you have done anything differently that comes to mind?

    My point is NOT to take away from your success Andrew, (because it obviously is a success and it works just as it is), but to look for ways to add to learn from them and to add on from there..

  11. kathleen fonseca

    this is so my cup of tea, i don’t even have to say why, i just gotta sip at it and smile..thank god Mr. Steiner didn’t crop shit..

    many thanks for posting this DAH,


  12. kathleen fonseca

    David Bowen:

    hahaha, i just saw your comment..seems brilliant minds all drink tea, eh?


  13. kathleen fonseca

    Patricia…forgive my interruption..your carrot comment was too much..loved it..also i wrote to you but the mail was kicked back..i wrote a test e-mail, not sure if you got it. Just to let you know i’m still trying..


  14. :ø) the kettle is on..

    this kind of reportage i could look at endlessly, for whatever reason..
    the lighting is secondary in important to the moment in this case and that´s my point..

    jim – i hear you about the ring-flash, although if it is not already within the photographers bag o tools i´d rather see it without.

    what i mean to say is that if the photographer uses flash, ring of whatever, as part of the technique they are comfortable with then great.. and if not.. then great too.


  15. kathleen fonseca


    hi, Ben! you know, i read your comment and looked back at mine and wondered, is he right? Why isn’t there more to say? i COULD say more, much more but i don’t think i need to because the photograph is so effective. But Ben, why do you feel there isn’t more to be said? I am not at all criticizing, just curious why you in your way have nothing to add and I in mine but probably for different reasons..i guess this is on my mind because i just wrote a long post to Rafal in the Hand thread about the old Masters and i’m looking at this photo and thinking, yeah, Garry Winogrand could have shot this..maybe Frank but it’s might not be caustic enough for Frank..but still, this is a classic photograph and i like it big time. I don’t think i can ever get enough of people being real and this photo has that going for it in spades. But is that enough? What do you think?


  16. kathleen

    i like the photograph, its a simple as that really. it tells a little story all of its own. i don’t really care about the influences of past photography on it. i’m just happy enough to look at the photograph for a few seconds, soak in the little details, and move on. i like it just for that reason. it’s one of the first pictures i have seen in the “single image” posts on burn that for me satisfies the (or should i say “my”) criteria for a strong single image. this isn’t to say it wouldn’t work in a larger body of work, just that i feel satisfied by this photograph on its own.

    so yeah, thats what i mean by “not much more to be said”.

  17. I like the contrast of the photo, it really brings out the detail in the faces. Its got humor and a strong statement. I’m not sure what I think about the image being so heavy on the right side of the frame, my eye goes right to the woman in white. What do people think about the interaction between the photographer and the woman in the center?

  18. kathleen fonseca

    Oh he who shall be Pure:

    Ben..yeah, that’s how i felt..like it was just a perfect little bon-bon i could nibble at quietly and privately and feel i had just done something spectacular for myself today..but since i had just done the other post and was thinking somewhat critically i wanted your perspective..

    thanks for the response..


  19. Love it!!!! This scene looks more familiar to me than I care to admit…

    Woman on the cell phone: “yeah Morty, yeah- the chicken was dry and the music was too loud… Yeah- it’s almost done. Come pick me up now.”

    Woman in the middle, thinking: “I gave up my bridge night for this? We’re not even really related. My sister marries a divorced loser with an obnoxious son so why should I suffer too? Oy, my feet hurt.”

    Man on the right: “Yes, Sylvie, ice cubes, but this time with some schnapps in it.”

  20. Can you just bring me the whole friggin’ bottle already. Please.
    Love it. Complete essay in one.

  21. Andrew: great moment

    Asher: funny stuff

    Carrots dont do anything for your eyes. This is an old wives’ tale. If carrots did have a beneficial effect, I’d have eyes like a hawk instead of being myopic and astigmatic at the same time.

  22. Someone mentioned how they might prefer this photo if the woman in the middle wern’t looking into the camera. That’s one of the things that makes it for me, actually. The “smelling-limburger cheese” expression on her face…and it’s pointed right at us. I’ve been coming back to this photo throughout the day and getting a giggle every time. It’s a keeper for sure. Thanks, Andrew.


  23. Mikko Takkunen


    I could not help trying to think what these great characters might be saying.

    Made me think of Gilden too. Not so much aesthetically, but more subject wise (=characters). Maybe especially since that recent Magnum in Motion essay of the Texas state inauguration affair (http://inmotion.magnumphotos.com/essay/bruce-has-ball).

    I personally love the fact that the lady in the middle is looking at the camera.

  24. OK, I guess I have to be brave and be a voice of dissent. I mean, I appreciate the photograph, it is a well done example of the genre. I also like a lot of Andrews work.

    I guess I just have a lot of trouble with photos that deliberatly portray people in a dorky or pathetic way. We collectivly have a giggle at their expense, or view them as a “sorry” bunch of folks. It seems in some ways to be a “cheap shot”.

    Some photographers seem to make a career of this approach. “Street” photographers who suddenly jam their cameras into strangers faces invading their personal space and parading the resulting startled or annoyed expressions as art. Dianne Arbus, whos stuff is fascinating, yes I have the books, is still doing a hatchet job on her subjects using technique and timing to make her subjects as pathetic and bizarre as possible.

    To be sure, Arbus’ photos are a reflection of her own view of humanity. I feel much sorrier for her than her subjects.

    Just a few thoughts folks.

    Gordon L.

  25. hi gordon..

    so you and i are somewhat in the same camp about this photo, tho for differing reasons..but I have to take issue with you about Arbus..I don’t think for she wanted to show anyone in a derogatory light..yes the way she showed people was a reflection of herself, but because she felt an affinity for them..yes she used the word freak easily, so much so to indicate to me, that she not only saw nothing remiss in being a freak, but that she was actually celebrating the people she photographed.

  26. Not my favorite photograph from your website Andrew, sorry. There is a lot of space around the people, too much for me. I realize that this may well be as close as you could get without becoming noticed and influencing the moment. Close – but no cigar. Just my personal opinion and obviously not in tune with the majority today.

    You do have some good work on your website Andrew!

    Best wishes,


  27. Gordon. I totally disagree. I am not looking at this picture and having a giggle at their [assumed] behaviour. In fact i dont give a damm for them at all, and wouldnt even if the picture showed them all very dignified and states-person like. I like the picture for how the picture works as a visual thing all of its own. To always tie the emotional aspect of the frame to the objects in it is not valid for everyone. The judgement on this type of work, and by definition, the people who make it, is as much a moral judgement on yourself as anything else. YOU find this type of work ‘exploitative’ and therefore feel it reflects poorly on the maker of the work. This implies that ‘your’ moral values are the ‘correct’ ones and all that differ are by you measure ‘incorrect’ . fortunately the world is much more fluid than that. All things are relative and subject to more than one compass, moral or otherwise.

  28. “brilliant minds all drink tea…?” Im a &%&%$&* genius and I hate the stuff… oh, wait, was that out loud? going back to my corner now… sorry.

    cool photo by the way.

  29. john, i do believe that this might be the 3rd time in our tumultuous relationship that i have agreed with you on something. i have made a record in my diary. I believe that last time was 7.24pm on the 27th July 2007.

  30. Great subject, no doubt, more Winogrand than Gilden though, who would have never left so much space between them and him.

    In that sense, I have to agree with Mike R., I do not sense that Andrew made a conscious choice of having all that space around, (it lessens the psychological space so central to that type of imagery), as well as angling down, which could be have been Ok if they had been shot a bit more frontally (all this IMO, goes without saying), but for me, good timing, yet placement off.

  31. I don’t know why, but when I first looked at this picture I couldn’t help but think that the guy
    on the right could be Jim Powers.

    He seems well-composed but with a bit of a sour disposition.
    On the one hand he seems like he’s ragging on the ‘widow’ for letting his glass run
    empty but at the same time he’s copping a major feel with his left hand.

    So many interpretations :>))

  32. this is a great photograph. i cant help but see allot of my community in this. we dont usually talk. this image is great. i love it. i love the reactions. everyone has something to hide….

  33. @ Gordon

    I don’t understand how this “deliberatly portray[s] people in a dorky or pathetic way”. It just seems like a moment in time, well caught.

    I don’t know if you’re including this photo in the “parading the resulting startled or annoyed expressions as art” category. But if so, the woman in the centre has a look of disapproval on her face but I’m not sure it’s even directed towards the photographer. Hard to tell at this size. Plus candid photos taken quickly don’t really reflect that person’s reaction towards the camera – a frown often turns to a smile the split second after the photo was taken as a reaction to the photographer. Or often the opposite – a smile in the photo, but then the subject lunges at the photographer with an axe. It’s hard to tell from the photo.

    Great composition, and nice patterns on the rug.

  34. For me. it’s a near miss. The only thing that i think spoils it is the woman in the middle looking pissed off at the camera. But it’s so subjective, amply demonstrated by the fact that Patricia likes the woman’s look and I don’t!!

    But for me; i’ve never favoured images/portraits where the main subject looks annoyed at having their photo taken. But of course as the old saying goes “opinionss are like noses, everyone’s got one!!!”

  35. kathleen fonseca

    hi Ross

    She might not be annoyed at having her picture taken..she might just be annoyed period. i love her sideways glance..


    You´re a pisser…

  36. kathleen fonseca

    Pete Marovich:
    Pete, you might be a genius but you´re missing is the very vital T Chromosome. I hear there´s an implant you can get that will have you drinking Twinings by the bucketfull.


    Lots of funny stuff in here today..i think that says a lot about the photo itself. Yeah, people´s moods are light and inclined to wickedly sharp witticisms. I gotta say, Andrew, all this fun is YOUR fault! The photo´s pure genius if it can turn a bunch of critical photogs into standup comedians. And i´m serious about this..your photo has lit up people´s imaginations in an interesting way. This is good!


  37. what year was this taken?
    Love the cocktail on the floor..
    and Asher’s story,,

  38. Paul

    All photographs are a moment in time. Thant’s the whole point, as photographers we get to choose the moment. We’ve all seen lots of cheap shot photos of politicians taken at the right {or the wrong} moment, though I havn’t seen one of Obama yet.

    John, I’m sorry if my tone implied a judgement on the makers or people who enjoy this kind of photograph. I make them myself from time to time. This photo did make me smile, and laugh out loud with Marks comment. In fact every time I go back to the photo, I smile again. A guilty little pleasure for me perhaps.
    I adore Elliot Erwitts stuff, it’s hysterical, but also gentle and fun without a hint that he is making fun of anyone.

    I also like what I’ve seen on Andrews site, though I would agree with those who feel this is not one of his strongest images.

    C’mon now John, are you really enjoying this photograph purely for its graphic qualities?

    Gordon L

  39. Well, Mark. Add about 50 pounds and replace that glass of wine with a longneck, and you’ve got me dead to rights.

  40. love the woman in the middle too.

    i wonder if DAH has that face when – “he ain’t likin’ your pictures”

    @ james chance: you still have to email me.

  41. Andrew,

    I love it! I love it! I love it! Great capture of the moment.

    Asher, the dialog is spot on, I should know, I worked hundreds of Bar and Bat-Mitzvah’s in a ballroom just like that. Thanks a million for giving me a great laugh.

  42. gordon @ “C’mon now John, are you really enjoying this photograph purely for its graphic qualities? ”
    YES. I do not know what these people are. I have no clue what they are doing/feeling. I have no interest in THEM emotionally. And furthermore i do not care. This leaves only the image, its shapes and tones, its feel. THEY are incidental to the geometry.
    NOTE sorry. I did not mean to sound aggressive either earlier, but just wanted to point out, as has been pointed out to ME many times, that most things, including moral positions and ethics, are relative and fluid. No disrespect meant.

  43. Andrew, after viewing your photograph numerous times it is really starting to grow on me. The solitude of our public lives that you document is amazing. All alone in a room full of people.

  44. Love the high contrast and use of black and white….love the negative space, and how the people seem to be the decoration on this wall of the room…very funny Gracie, about the expression of the woman in the middle…’i wonder if DAH has that face when – “he ain’t likin’ your pictures.” ‘ That one made me laugh.

  45. Thank you all for the insights on my photograph I found it to be very insightful and had much fun reading them. This is a great community for photographer’s .
    Thank you David for hosting the image.

  46. I strongly recommend that you turn the No Follow off in your comment section.

    I’ll watch Google Webmaster Tools, and if the links don’t show up after a couple of weeks — I won’t go back to that blog again.

    Another suggestion: you should have a Top Commentator widget installed.

    Do Follow and Top Commentator will ensure that you have a successful blog with lots of readers!

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