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© © 2014 John Crosley/Crosley Trust, All rights reserved, No reproduction or other use without express prior written permission fromn copyright holder

'The Refugees'


Artist: JOHN CROSLEY, Copyright: © 2014 John Crosley/Crosley Trust, All rights reserved, No reproduction or other use without express prior written permission from copyright holder;Software: Adobe Photoshop CC 2014 (Windows);


© © 2014 John Crosley/Crosley Trust, All rights reserved, No reproduction or other use without express prior written permission fromn copyright holder

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An excellent essay.


I commend others to read it; I have nothing to add (except perhaps any comparison between my work and Lange's seems sadly misplaced -- her work is iconic, mine is well . . .  you know).


Thanks and best regards.




John (Crosley)

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I see here many comments and so extensive ... but I want to contribute a bit, although my English is not fluent and sometimes can not find the words I want to express. 
You have captured a very interesting moment, even more so because it is a real life drama. Men and their Wars ... a sad reality. The family here seems to be tired and have been squatting to take a break (but I realized they are not sitting on the floor).
The image is intense, stirs emotions, which are reinforced by the choice of black and white and the strong contrast. Excellent work!



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Just to be clear...I never suggested that the photo would be in any way "less than" or less effective if it were posed. I was merely curious. It is a wonderful capture, either way.



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Don't give it a thought.  It's fun sometimes to have a topic to kick around - in this case the idea of 'posing' or not 'posing' proved to be fruitful, especially for when Fred G tackled the subject so eloquently.


In a way, I probably should thank you, and in fact I do.   It is not your obligation to 'see' the truth, but rather to provide your best thoughts, and you did a very good job of starting a topic for discussion - kudos.






John (Crosley)

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You should never apologize for your lack of ability to express yourself in English, for no one would believe you - you have expressed yourself so well.


Thank you for the great compliment; I post a lot of 'lesser' photos, all in hopes of posting something that I hope will be 'greater' and maybe 'take off' as this one has.  


I didn't exactly recognize how it would resonate when I posted it, and it's critics and viewers like you who help convince me that all the wandering and all the pain from my sore body wandering around gathering so many photos, then laboring over them, culling them, then editing them at great length (not changing them much in Post Processing, but trying to make them 'shine' a little) is worth the process . . . and in this case it has been.  


(In other cases . . . well, that's the price for the ones that do take off, and I'll try lots of offbeat things -- things that are NOT tried and true, in order to get a different take on things and keep my own special vision fresh so I don't keep posting 'cookie-cutter' images.


Thanks for the vote of confidence.


Best wishes.




John (Crosley)

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Yes, now you can often see in Kiev family who run away from the war. Very often it is the Roma families who lived in areas where fighting is taking place now.

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Readers, Svetlana Korolyova is Photo.net's most informed Ukrainian contributor, being a native Ukrainian and a Kyiv resident as well as a standout and award-winning (Photo of the Week) Photo.net contributor.


When she writes something like what she has written, she should be paid careful attention.  


I do not believe this family is Roma, due to their subracial features -- blonde boys seem not to fall within the Roma genotype, but I could be wrong, and generally the Roma have a different look to them, but then again that is a generalization, and all generalizations run the risk of being simply wrong.


I thank you, Svetlana, for contributing.




John (Crosley)

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Unlike John's photo "Migrant Mother", some opinions including mine, is  too contrived; the attempt to be seductive is too obvious; instead of being active we are lead and "end up being passive "; eye contact with the viewer would be better; and the "famous" image is not as powerful as some others in the series.


Its intent was of course to be seductive.

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For me the appeal of this family is noble. So is the background and by that this image of their reallity a monument, also in time, of nearby 'crazyness'. The watching boy is fine, another watching person would have been finer. Do we demand (by that) too much of a classic..?! Viewers, including me, not having been there, not having swet there, can be very cruel. With a bit more space around, not the floor, and in color, the shot perhaps could make their broken day. Thanks for sharing, braveheart..!      

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Nearly or maybe ALL books of the most influential and powerful photos of all time seem to include 'Migrant Mother' among them, just as among literature, Steinbeck's 'Grapes of Wrath' seems to be included as one of the all time great books -- in my opinion maybe and easily one of the top ten books ever written.  


I should be so fortunate to take a photo as powerful as 'Migrant Mother' no matter how much you might say it panders to sentiment; this photo is no fluke, and if I'd had a chance to move in close, I might have stage directed this nursing mother just as Lange did -- I'm not above posing my subjects either, but when I'm blocked by circumstances, and have a really good capture, and then blocked by passersby (and the subjects move from their ideal positioning), I know when to leave well enough alone.


Sometimes, I move in close, sometimes with wide angle, sometimes so it almost touches my subject's nose, and other times, I'll lay back with almost 300 mm (DX) distance for a total extension of 450 mm (film capture) distance between me and the subject, especially for portraits (see my last well-scored portrait where the mm distance was 220 or 240 DX and my ISO was 2500 at dusk, and nobody seems to complain about image quality (it is posted in b&W and color, a rare exception for me in posting -- two modes on one service is very rare, almost unheard of).


I'm far from so critical of 'Migrant Mother' but maybe you can do better, or would have done better under the circumstances; I can't say I would have done as well, or even could hold a candle to what Lange did in that famous photo.


This is one attempt, and fortunately it was NOT influenced by Lange, though certainly I was aware of Lange's work.  I would have taken this photo as is if I had or had not seen Lange's work and the precursor photos - the  subject(s) demanded it.  As Fred G. pointed out above, sometimes the photo is determined by the subject matter.  This viewpoint was determined by all that was available.


If alternative viewpoints had been available, I might have tried, but I was almost 'boxed in' or at least hindered greatly, and it's amazing to me that I managed to sneak in any sort of view at all, let alone something that is getting so much acclaim.


This is a slightly cropped image to center the frame -- I do that on occasion when a crowd or other problems interferes with best framing, though I have a strong 'no crop' preference.


I think that I got this shot so well is utterly amazing under the circumstances from such a distance in a crowd with the group almost surrounded, then with this family moving together shortly afterward to destroy the composition.


Meir, your post is thought-provoking in a way I never would have guessed, and for that it contributes.




John (Crosley)

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You are right, there is much nobility in this close-knit family, stranded it appears, and also it appears without resources, squatting in what appears to be a huge, strange city.  Who knows if they have friends, relatives, or any resources at all - the Ukrainians are stretched to the breaking point just taking care of their healthy people who are employed, and those who are unemployed and homeless -- well there's no 'safety net' as in the West.


As to efforts to 'improve' this, I would have availed myself of any available opportunity, except for the moving, intervening passersby, a crowd in fact, and the fact this group quickly moved from this ideal positioning, there was really no second chances.  


It was take this shot and a couple nearly like it, and then move on, wait, and then give up, for there were no chances to 'work the subject' at least from afar' as I was, and with a group so large, I judged it would be ineffectual to approach them close up, especially when I had what I considered a pretty wonderful capture from a great distance.  


How could I get in close and improve on this capture, I wondered, so I just wandered off, as their positioning changed, and they were cloaked by strangers.


Speaking of strangers, you are often a stranger, but when you make a rare appearance you become a wonderful, friend from a while ago; don't let yourself become a stranger any more.


I welcome your visits, and note your wonderful improvements in your  photography. 


Best to you, Olaf, and thanks for stopping by and leaving your thoughts and impressions.




John (Crosley)

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Some posed and staged photos can come off as contrived just as some candid photos can come off as distanced, removed, and disengaged. There are many reasons why this candid of John's doesn't come off as disengaged or distant, among them the connection to the people that is photographically palpable and his evident proclivity to isolate their expressions as a family and to focus in on them and their humanity.


I find many photographers who pose and stage (and I have many failures myself until I get a photo I think works) aren't able to walk that fine line between going too far and not going far enough. Also, I always try to remember that even in the most staged photo, I can find spontaneous moments and expressions to work with and capture. Those are very important to stay in tune with. An awareness of what one is doing and saying with contrivance helps. And sometimes the more obvious the contrivance, with the right sensibility behind it, the more effective can be the message or image.


So, for me, contrivance is not necessarily a bad thing. It can be bad, I suppose, if the photographer isn't at home with contrivance or, worse, isn't aware of its potentials but instead just falls into its traps. THIS PHOTO of O'Keeffe by Stieglitz comes across as contrived and, not in spite of its being contrived but because it's contrived, it also has an authenticity and expressiveness about it that is quite wonderful. So the contrivance is well used and expressive in itself. There are few more contrived performances than some of those of Bette Davis but when taking into account the context of and reason for her contrived performances given the vehicle she was working with, they often work beautifully.


Migrant Mother doesn't feel contrived to me, but if I were to pick up a contrivance, I'd have to take it one step further and see what I'm getting out of it. What I get from Migrant Mother, regardless of how it was made, is an intimate and iconic portrait that honors and also goes well beyond the individuals depicted.


Just as a lot of photographers can overdo or not well utilize their poses and staging, a lot of photographers can overdo an emphasis on capturing candid moments and not wanting to influence scenes and shots. That can read as disengagement, which works in some instances but becomes uninteresting, unprovocative, and soulless in others.


One of the reasons I think John's candid photos work so well is the sense of empathy and engagement I feel when looking at them. He tends to get in there and tends to include gestures, expressions, and clues as to who the people are, which forms a connection even if he hasn't necessarily engaged the people directly other than photographing them in action. Other candid photos, not John's, can sometimes come off as aloof, even uncaring, and more often blandly neutral.


The Refugees is focused, assured, non-flinching, taken from a caring point of view (physically as well as emotionally). It may be candid, but a lot of intent (conscious or unconscious) also comes through. Some of that intent isn't realized in the instant of taking the particular shot. It's built up over years of deliberateness, focus, and being in tune. The great thing about a photo is that all that stuff really shows, even when it all comes together in a split second.

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The last two paragraphs especially pretty well show enormous insight into my shooting and 'seeing' process, which includes not just the 'taking' which can be more scattershot, but also the editing process which is extremely focused.


I try to 'mix it up' here to be 'interesting' and to have something for everybody, but count among my best successes, not only my 'geometrical' or compositionally-based shots, some of which I am very proud of, but some few which I consider quite complex, and this is about as complex a shot as I can muster.


Consider the eyes:  Each pair of eyes is involved in a different look or process than the others, from the father's eyes which are closed, to the boy's who seems from a great distance to be looking my way, to the baby's (sleeping perhaps), to momma's (weary for sure, lids hanging heavily having just nursed) to the boy, right, looking at something which has engaged him.


Then look at legs.


Father's are split, but in their split they actually hold and set boundaries and protect the young son.  The young son being held, has his legs together, and just the two pairs of legs have a certain harmony so that if one just cropped the two pairs of legs, it would be I think compositionally pleasing.


Look at the feet:  They're all wearing what appears to be sandle-like shoes, and it indicates Summer, but they're all different, all show signs of dirt and wear, and the positioning of the feet each tells a different story about each owner's posture and relative energy.


Poppa squats, son leans, momma squats, baby is held and son, right, semi-squats, leaning on his right leg, legs more akimbo.


Now look at hands:  all are completely different.  Poppa's to his head indicates tiredness and weariness; boy he's holding indicates he's also tired but more aware and awake - he may flop to sleep when it's his time, but he's not so sleepy yet, but his lids hang heavy too.


Baby's sleeping and swaddled.   Mom holds baby's swaddle with one hidden hand; the other to her face in a fist, and I suppose that's very much why the comparison to 'Migrant Mother' as "Migrant Mother' had hand to face, and a clear air of weariness as she also held a child.  

The boy, right, has his only visible hand down.


If one then studies only the limbs, the eyes and the attitudes of these individuals, and their relationships to one another, it is a fabulously complex grouping -- one that a sculptor might spend weeks trying to sketch out before putting chisel to stone, yet there it was in a fraction of a second to be captured, not only once precisely this way, but a couple of variations as passersby walked between them and me, but allowing for a couple of more clear shots.


Some of my absolute best work (aside from the 'geometrically-based or pure compositionally-based work) has been with complex subjects.


See 'Leaving Las Vegas, in which there is a group of three at the Las Vegas Airport, a smooching couple, girl legs wrapped around each other for additional torsion and strength for kissing her departing lover, the businessman or broken gambler dead to the world, head sideways almost drooling on his luggage piled high beside him, and in the nearer foreground a chauffeur, semi-awake, stretched out, his walkie-talkie clutched, perhaps waiting for his next dispatch.   That's also a remarkably complex scene and for that, also very rare.


Consider also the scene taken in the Kyiv Metro 'Easter Eve' in which a man plays an accordion, a very poor old woman with very cheap shoes stands watching, a man to frame left turns to regard me, the photographer, and in the distance is a woman, caught running and a man -- in reality they've been playing a playful game of chase, but it could have been a crime in progress so far as the viewer is concerned as there's no explanation.  


That also is a very complex photo, and I consider, for its low light and so-so image quality, one of my best compositions.


Consider next, taken in the Metro New Year's evening a masked man staring straight into the camera while onlookers, one in a wheelchair, watch from the background, a one-second hand held exposure with a non-VR lens -- a surreal and also complex subject that provided a very interesting photo.


The point is that when there are not so many complex subjects that can be captured or seen by me in time to capture them, and this particular photo (the Refugees) is maybe highly regarded not only because of the woman's hand to face like in 'Migrant Mother' but because the staging is highly complex with feet, arms, eyes, and torsos all in a varied arrangement -- so varied it's worth a separate mention, and then  (as one viewer pointed out), all with baby's head in the center of the frame as a focus.


Moreover, if one really wanted to, the boy and man, left, could be a separate photo, and the woman, baby and boy, right, also could be a separate photo, and the baby's head plus the implied family link that we read into the scene is the conjunction of two possibly separate photos that joined together make one even more successful and more complex photo.


Fred, what you said is worthy of a fine biography's foreword.  If my biography ever is written, I may ask you for permission to reprint this.


My enormous thanks for such a thoughtful and caring analysis.  Your love of photography shows through, and I respect that greatly.




John (Crosley)





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This is a very emotional shot!

Yes, I agree, is not a family of Gypsies.

 But it just may be the people who came to the city and tired. Usually refugees have about them a few essential things. And when I walk the streets of the city - I do not see these people sitting somewhere on the streets. They leave the place where there are military operations, but they come to their relatives or to their friends. And they get help from a specially created centers. But I saw Roma families who were forced to flee their homes. And they live in tents in city parks.

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I had wondered if these people were Roma/Gypsies, but they were with another family and the woman of the other family was blonde and not dark featured, and even if her blonde-ness came from a bottle it was not at odds with her natural coloring and heritage.


The one boy, left, is definitely blondish and his brother (I presume) is not dark-haired, whiule the Roma are almost to a one quite dark haired AND the women generally wear scarves on their heads.  The presence of the second couple, with a blonde women which you have not seen, and her family suggests all are refugees, but since you have not seen my captures, you cannot have taken that into account.  I acknowledge my 'knowledge' is not perfect since I didn't interview, but I have faith in it, and did not use the word 'refugee' to gin up viewers.  In fact, I had no idea of this photo's power when I posted it, or the power of the idea of their being refugees.  I merely posted what the evidence lead me honestly to believe based on my considerable experience plus my observations you were not present for plus captures you haven't seen.


This was taken within meters of the front door of the Kyiv main train station, so relatives or other help may have been summoned or on the way or not, but it's clear they just arrived.  If they were departing they would not be staying there -- it's not logical.  There also were two families, and the second family decidedly was not 'dark' at all, suggesting 'refugee'.


Help centers may have been available, but I am unaware of where they are, and so they may have been unaware or 'in transit' too, as fresh arrivals -- I'd love to know where such centers are (you may write me separately e-mail --it's on my bio sheet or you have from prior times, or you may message me with the address if you know, as I'd like to visit one or two).  I invite you to write me with directions and with utmost thanks.


I still lean toward refugee, and certainly acknowledge these are 'family' absolutely without doubt.


Thanks for very helpful feedback.




John (Crosley)

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It's unusual that you don't worry about stirring things up - but good for you.


In any case, please see my reply to Svetlana Korolyova above, which addresses your comment directly, honestly and forthrightly.


I cannot absolutely KNOW the answer, but I am as close to absolute knowledge as I'll ever be short of meeting these people ever again in my life - a doubtful enterprise, and everything I have pointed out above to Svetlana says 'refugee', though of course for certain they are 'family'.


Your comment did not disrupt at all, and if posted earlier would not have stirred things up at all; I have a history of honest reporting and honest dialog about my photos and am open to all comers with honest questions that are not trolls, and your observation certainly was not a troll in this instance.




John (Crosley)

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'It's unusual that you worry about 'stirring things up' -- good for you.


Corrects a wrongly used double negative.




John (Crosley)

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Meir, did you ever have a teacher, who if you couldn't get a spelling correctly told you to 'look it up in the dictionary?', even if you had no idea of what sounds related to what letters in the dictionary or what letters followed what other letters and in what order within each word, so that looking up things was impossible.


I hated those teachers, but I was a champion speller so I was not confused, but hated those teachers who told 'slow' students to 'look it up' when those students had no conception of how to do the process at all of 'looking it up' and thus never learned how to spell certain words.


But you are different.  You, I think, have a doctorate, and are a champion self--taught guy.  You know what a double negative is, and if you don't, you should.  You also should know how to diagram grammar, and know what words have negative characteristics even if they are not just the words 'no' and 'never', etc.


So, I leave it to you, your champion intellect and perhaps a copy of Strunk and White (Element of Style) or some other seminal book to peruse, choose the sentence you think I was correcting, find the 'double negative' elements, then see how I have eliminated them to come up with a single negative, thus correcting myself.


I'll tutor you on Photoshop, but not on grammar in this instance - you spent so much time in the US it's obvious, I think, you were educated in the USA and very well may be a US citizen, so it's also clear to me that English is a primary language.  


Have some fun and think of this as a very simple puzzle -- and when you solve it you can slap yourself on the back (or ask a neighbor to do so -- try not to ask a Palestinian though).






John (Crosley)

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Haha, already here again. After a time out and purchaising a D90 with 7000 clicks I intended to continue some shooting overhere. For that I do like a real city with a variety of characters cq situations etc. For me shooting is a great (serious) play with (hidden) surprises. A play and being attracted to people. The global idea's of possibilities how to work that out don't worry me at all, for I just want to shoot what I like and not what I think others will like. Filtering the results of what gets offered on photonet did deliver mates - sometimes with the same handicap - one from time to time likes to share with. In fact a wink or just a thumb up is enough.

The time of 'reacting while typing' seems a bit over and 'simple' shots don't satisfy anymore. :) In staying permanenly drugged one can earn canisters. Haha, after a time out for refreshment (?) the tins have gone. I wrote PN: 'I want all three back or simply have none, not just one.' They may partially bridge the contact with fresh newbees with some needed honey..! And John, getting older I don't like the idea of (long) analyzing anymore, for it is always afterwards and so easy to perform, while shots often are the result of (fast) intuitive thinking, observing or (fast) acting. The latest outcome or output has in 'street' all to do with the input first. The latest can last only seconds. I mostly view these results, one, two shots a scene first at home, in keeping the pleasant tention of the play as long as possible. Haha and shooting simply is going much faster than forinstance drawing a cartoon, thats one of the reasons I do photograpf.

Basicly you have the same virus, but it got a highway in living for you..!! I do like the results very much and enjoy the investments of time & practice shown in it. Joy about a result is a key for me, not the shot compared to a 'refugee mother' from ages back. Especially not when a battle of words is the result, however I 'can' understand the differences in just characters. Ha, and needing an analyzing talent, I must say Fred is a champion in it. Yes, I have to get used to that cup. Thought it just a technical mistake, and started looking after the reason. Haha, now we can say: 'cheers..!"

John, see you from time to time, Olaf ;)                  



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The photo's the thing.


Absolutely first and foremost.


But there can be more, and some of the newbies can learn lessons from things that Fred G. writes, for he's one of the best writers and most learned and able members of Photo.net, who knows not just the craft and art of photography, but has a superb and distinctive way with not only words but with communication, which is a higher plane.


You have to remember that the vast part of the active membership of Photo.net is comprised of 'newbies' together with a number of long time members, such as yourself, and I gather, that you recently took a holiday from posting, only to return with a Photo of the Week, the highest accolade this site has to offer, even if they say it's not a prize or really a recognition, it's somewhat of a lie.


You were deserving as I noted in a comment to you lately, as your shooting has vastly improved, and it's been noticeable.  


If the 'words' bother, then just don't read them; they're optional, and there'll be no quiz afterward.  They're just for enjoyment of those who engage in discourse, and for those who want to learn. 

Notice I don't indulge in arcane abbrevications like OOF and DOF for out of focus and depth of field when I write, in deference to all the newbies and those who had no formal training, in order that they are able to read my posts without taking a course in 'photospeak' and 'photowrite' or hyperlinking here and there on the Internet to find out what each abbreviation means.


I learned long ago to write for the Kansas City Milkman when I learned to write for Associated Press -- he was the target audience, though fictional and even at that time milk no longer was delivered in general and was bought at the corner grocery or at the supermarket.  


But I learned my lesson well, and I write for the newbies, those who love this craft/art and those who like my work or just want to see how I describe it is that I do what I do.


Many are after me from time to time to learn how to shoot 'street', and in my comments, I try to foresee the questions and answer them by applying answers to previous questions that numerous viewers and shooters have asked me in the now about 18,000 comments (half or more mine) and the 100 pages of comments under my portfolio, many of which express fear or trepidation about shooting 'street'.


I try to allay those fears in my writing, and when it seems 'interesting' to a certain audience, to write about my photos and the process.


Olaf, there's a book in just compiling my comments and editing them, even just on the subject of how to shoot 'street' so it's been worthwhile even from that perspective, as well as making a ton of cyperfriends along the way.


I no longer care about canisters (or batteries), and I think I'm down to one myself, but what the hey?


If they gave me credit for the writing of comments under my photos, I'd have a special mark or sign as well as all the canisters they'd award as maximum.


Again, what the hey.


No one in their right mind such as myself would keep contributing to comments under a photo unless others continued commenting (like yourself) so I just go along.


When comments stop, so do I.


In the meantime, congratulations on Photo of the Week -- it did not go unnoticed of your vastly increased skills as a photographer (or your greatly increased skills as a writer either.)


Best wishes.




John (Crosley)

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Olaf, as I see it, an in-depth analysis of a photo, on the one hand, and developing the necessary swiftness of mind and eye to take good photos, especially on the fly, on the other hand, are not at odds with each other. In fact, the former may well aid the latter. When I'm here on PN, talking to people about their work, I'm not out shooting. And when I'm out shooting, I'm not here talking about photos or even thinking too much about my own. The thought I put into photos and analyzing them is not, for me, counterproductive and I actually think it would benefit many people who may be limiting the depth and reach of their own photos by making the assumption that thinking and analyzing are a no-no. At least for me, thought informs both my work and my viewing of photos. I even have many ideas running through my head that want to work themselves into photos.


When I look at John's work or any good photo, I am most often immediately struck in a certain way, on a very feeling and non-intellectual level. My talking with John or another photographer at length doesn't in any way lessen that initial gut experience. But neither does that initial gut experience limit me from considering, later, why I had that experience and what might go into future photos to either repeat or even strengthen that sort of experience. Same with shooting. No, I will not stop in the middle of bringing the camera to my eye or clicking the shutter to ponder the mysteries of life. But neither will I quiet my mind and intellect at other times in the hopes that simple magic, unaided by thoughts and consideration, will be enough. That, I'm afraid, would stunt my growth.


I find the thoughts, often lengthy and dense, of some of the great artists to be well worth sharing and pondering. The Surrealists and Dadists composed complete manifestos worthy of any significant school of art. Robert Mapplethorpe and Andy Warhol and others would hold court in cafes and hotels in the Village, sharing ideas, discussing what they were doing, learning from each other. Thank goodness we have some of the letters Man Ray wrote to Miller and Tzara. And the writings of Stieglitz contain some of the most pivotal conceptions about the art of photography, without which history would likely have taken a very different path.

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