I’ve had an opportunity to spend ten years at the University of Arizona doing workshops and lectures, and in the day shooting some assignments and stock work. Funny how it all seemed to come around in January and February hmm…, first thing when I got to Tucson, would be I’d hire one or two assistants and interns. One of the best was Lee Ann Fox, extremely bright, creative and a lot of fun. As the sun was setting, I came up with a photo of Lee Ann her (nickname was the Fox) on her motorcycle. If you look closely at the bottom photograph you will see a hell of a lot of industrial stuff. In the day before Photoshop I would attempt to do a multiple exposure, shoot the background separate, another at speed, and then I’d have an assistant photoshop it. Camera 35mm, lens 35mm f/1.4, the platform was a moving rent-a-car,1/60 of a second, at f/5.6, ISO 50. If you look close, you will see me in Fox’s mirror. Photo tip of the day,is to make sure you have a great driver and a model that can take direction by hand motions. Do not try this while driving the car, it could be dangerous.
I know everyone who attended the photo retreat on Memorial Day weekend- Every person, to a man and a woman all said the same thing. They absolutely loved Dennis Wheeler. The idea of sharing my 30 plus years relationship with Dennis with the students worked out better than I expected. To say Dennis is a master of the arts would be an understatement. He’s a Renaissance man on steroids. Every time I feel a visual block getting ready to bite me on the butt I call Dennis and invite myself to his farm, where he proceeds to motivate me to get off my duff and start producing work.
I sat listening to every word that Dennis spoke and watching the faces of the participants and guests at the party. It was a beautiful thing. Here are a couple of comments.
“Thank you for inviting me to the Retreat/Party. It was an enjoyable experience, in which I learned a great deal about photography, creativity and myself. Meeting Dennis Wheeler gave me new insight into questions that remained unanswered until his down to earth, realism in his lecture.
“The Retreat was a great success on all levels. Hope to see you on June 12, 2011 in Lower Manhattan. All the best.”
“A special thank you to Dennis Wheeler for demonstrating that creativity does not stop at 60 – whatever – years old!”
“It is hard to put into words what this past visit with you has meant. I find the below a step in the process of putting into words what occurred at your home and Learning Center. That said, I look forward to further workshops that explore what the below author suggests, and what Dennis Wheeler demonstrated.”
“I had a wonderful time, learned a lot, got to exchange ideas with a great group of photographers, had an opportunity to listen and learn from an accomplished artist (Dennis Wheeler)…”
“Thank you for a most wonderful day, I think it was better than any of us could have imagined. It was a great experience to sit around and talk about the arts and meet and spend time with Dennis, and to be topped off with some great music with Bobby and the boys. But the best was the hospitality you, Joe and Dylan exhibited by opening your home to us and ensuring that we all had a marvelous day. Thanks again, and look forward to seeing everyone again, real soon.”
About a month ago, I put together a focusing ring that would allow me to turn a Singh-Ray Vari-ND and the Blue-N-Gold to change the value of light and color, without touching the filter or the camera. I used some of my favorite tools, duct tape and crazy glue.
In a casual conversation with Carl Saieva from Sartek Industries Inc., – a world class designer and engineer. He said to send him a picture and he’d see what he could do. Well, this is what he did. He machined the parts. They’re super slick, smooth, easy to assemble, and did I mention that they work really well? This is the difference between a consumate professional and a hack. My intentions are good and sometimes the end result actually works, but most of the time it looks like shit. Thank God for great friends!
I remember my mother and father taking me to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.
Sitting on top of my dad’s shoulders, looking at the giant floats, the beautiful colors, the magnificent music, and here we are a couple of years later spending the day at Coney Island at the Mermaid Parade. My new policy is one camera, one lens, two batteries, two cards. I chose to test a new lens, a 135 f/2. Last year’s parade, I used a 10-22mm. Obviously, a huge change! But, changing it up is a good thing. What I’m about to say is no scientific fact. It appeared to me for every person in the parade, there were 3 photographers. I could be off, but I’m not that far off.
As a photographer, one of the first things you learn is eye-hand coordination. Your ability to look at 300 people, 7 people, front-lit, back-lit, and see the photo that you want to make. And before you can even think about it, you’ve made 3 or 4, each one a variation of a theme, not just a motor sequence. Making back lit adjustments on the fly, always thing about where the next photograph is going to come. That’s the good news. The bad news can be all of those things that work against you. And you miss the obvious. It’s happened to me before, and I’m pretty sure it’ll happen to me again. You never want to have blinders on. You want to be open to new lighting, new composition, new stories, and new direction. Invariably, you will grow and your work will improve accordingly. While looking at this very beautiful young lady and preparing to do a very shallow, depth of field simple photograph, I look down and to my right and saw one eye and one sideburn and a little bit of a mustache. I said “Oh my god, could that be Melchior DiGiacomo?” I took the photograph, looked down, I tapped him on the shoulder, and he said “Joe D., just a minute”. I guess it’s like two chubby italians meeting in the daylight, or is that two ships in the night? I can never get it right. The funny thing about it is I haven’t seen Melchoir in 30 years. And my god, nothing’s changed! It’s good that there is some consistency in this universe.
Every person’s life is marked with milestones. One of my milestones at age 18 was photographing a folk group by the name of Peter, Paul, and Mary. It was one of their early performances. I was totally blown away by the music and mesmerized by Mary Travers. She was a blonde with a beautiful frame, beautiful hair, and a great voice. It just doesn’t get better than that at age 18. On September 16, 2009 the world lost one of the most beautiful people that God put on this planet. I loved her then, and I love her today. All of my original negatives are somewhere in photo limbo. I have been looking for them for a long time. Eventually, I will find them. I am posting this particular photo, which was an original black and white and then made into an orthochromatic print on a textured matt paper which I painted over a very long time ago. The original black and white hung over Mary’s couch for many years. Hopefully, sometime in the near future, I will do another tribute to Mary when I find my original negatives.
© Joe DiMaggio