Turning Off (My) Auto-Focus

12698718_1135410396478062_8295193097655637676_oOn my camera auto-focus offers several points of focus. Often it becomes confused about where to focus. Sometimes it makes sense for me to turn off auto-focus and manually focus in on the subject of the photo. These past few years my focus — like auto-focus — has wandered from point to point, without settling in on any point of focus.

Recognizing this, last month I took a good hard look at my work and your comments on it. I reflected not on what sort of work catches my eye, but rather what of my work was I passionate about. I asked myself, where does my passion lie, which of my photos capture that passion, and which photos generated comments that reflected that passion?

Frankly, I found this a very hard exercise to accomplish. It was hard to distinguish between those subjects that catch my eye and those that I am passionate about. What I have come to realize is that it is my passion about a subject that makes a particular object, person, scene, catch my eye. Unfortunately, that doesn’t help me narrow down the focus.

Your comments however do. It seems to me, from your comments, that you see best see my passion in the “Varicose Ribbons” [“Vanishing America,” “Vanishing Texas”] series and in my urban street photography, especially that of people.

Now I have the focus.

(Y)our pics are talking to me, about such an idea about the past, the present together, different speeds to go through life.. thanks for that, i don’t know if it’ll be a compliment to you, but i feel an atmosphere ” like Hopper”..in your pics…

I don’t want to lose this sense. Not only do I want it present in my “Varicose Ribbons” series and urban landscape photos, I want to work at carrying it over into my urban portraiture work too.

Living in Texas, obviously means that “Varicose Ribbons” is going to mostly feature “Vanishing Texas.” I see the output of this focus zeroing in on magazine pieces, photo books, fine art commissions and prints, and perhaps a bit of merchandizing (note cards and the like). Got to make a living, you know.

In many ways my urban landscape photography overlaps my “Vanishing America” work. It reflects the movement of time from the past, through the present, into the future. I’ve been asking myself, how can I capture this sense in my urban portraiture photos without making the passing of time feel phony? Like when someone dons period costumes to place themselves in a different time? What I hope to do with my new work in urban portraiture is to convey a sense of that passing of time into the present and ultimately into the future by capturing the natural movement of people as they move through the scene, and thus, through time. To capture this both in both commissioned urban portraiture and random urban street portraiture.

As I think about urban portraiture as a focus I get excited about the potential, about the possibilities, the directions it can go.

The past, as Sherry Linkon and John Russo note in their book, Steeltown USA creates “shared memories,” memories that build a strong sense of identity that defines the collective personality of a community. This “personality” creates barriers to moving forward, yet contains seeds for a better future.


Telling stories through photography & writing.

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