'Vladimir: Life's Darker Side'

by Crosley John

vladimir lifes darker side crosley street portraits seeking critique john

Gallery: Faces in Time

Tags: crosley street-portraits seeking critique

Category: Street

Exif Information:
Model : NIKON D300
Date Time Original : 2010-09-29 11:29:03
Focal Length : 12/1
Shutter Speed Value : 1/60
Exposure Time : 1/60
Aperture Value : 8.0
F Number : 8.0
Iso Speed Ratings : 250
Metering Mode : 5
Focal Length In35mm Film : 18
Orientation : 1
X Resolution : 72.0000000
Y Resolution : 72.0000000
Software : Adobe Photoshop CS4 Windows

Published: Wednesday 29th of September 2010 11:38:05 PM


Bob Kurt
What a expression, nice work

John Crosley
GunJim Downs

It's funny when you can't take a photo to save your soul and you just recruit a passerby to photograph.

I know some Chernobyl survivors - seems all the nuclear winds went North to Scandinavia and elsewhere and most 'Chernobyl survivors' are pretty healthy. 

My best friend is one. 

Chernobyl is within a short distance from Kyiv but Kyiv was relatively unscathed because of prevailing northerly winds,but much of Europe was affected -- just not Kyiv because of those winds.

Of course people nearby had to evacuate and there are special classes of people with special property rights (Chernobyl evacuees) but if they were at all distant from the reactors, they have remarkably good health because of those lucky winds.

(yes, I'm as surprised as you, and no apologist, but then again, at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they were rebuilt on top of ground zero, if I recall -- half lives being what they are.)

I have reasonable fears of radioactivity, and as a frequent airline traveler, I get my share of radiation exposure through cosmic rays by traveling high in the top of the atmosphere.

Oh, and, I don't recall his ashes ever falling. 

Thanks for the kind assessment.


John (Crosley)

John Crosley
Ruud Albers

Yours is the 'gold standard' of comments, along with those of Bob Kurt for shots such as this.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.


John (Crosley)

Jim Downs

Fine work, John. I'm waiting for the ashes to fall off the end of the cigarette. A Chernobyl survivor perhaps.

John Crosley
Syed Shibli

You asked a good question, then gave a good answer -- my choice too.

I can take a portrait with any length lens; whatever's on my camera, and the portrait will just look different.  Here this was tailor-made for the lens on my camera (and the only one with me).

Tomorrow it may be a longer lens, who knows? 

Thanks for saving me the trouble of answering the question you posed -- by answering it yourself. ;~))

Thanks for the kind words.


John (Crosley)


John Crosley
The grittiness of this photo


Either the grittiness of this photo stems in part from his lack of fingernails where they're missing, or (contrariwise), he's been scratching out an existence, and the photo reflects it, even where he's scratched so much he's lost a fingernail or part thereof.

When I do 'gritty' I do gritty.

He's so close in this photo can't you practically 'smell' him?


John (Crosley)

Ruud Albers

A really beautiful shot with his very nice expression, John!

Meir Samel

I am impressed with the fingernails or lack of.

Syed Shibli

Great shot, John. Love the wide angle perspective in this portrait, it wouldn't have worked any other way. I was also wondering if there was too much contrast, but the subject matter almost required it. Thanks for sharing.

John Crosley
Richard Avedon -- his heart was in his work, and now I think I know why

Richard Avedon became famous for his work at Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, showing extravagant fashion shot (often on location) extravagantly.  One shot comes to mind which most photo aficionados know well:  The photo of the Russian-named model being lifted by an elephant while she was dressed to the nines in high fashion.  It recently 'sold' I think for some fabulous sum.

Avedon had a different side to him, however -- a more piercing less whimsical side to him.

He went in earlier years through the American west taking portraits of people he met in the American west.  One noteworthy one is a guy dressed in 'jacket' (yes a suit or sports jacket) titled Drifter . . . and naming the route in which he was photographed.  Others from the 'series' were famously compelling.

He had another series, from his lifelong work:  He photographed workmen in his studio.  HE paid them not to clean up, bring all their work gear to his studio and be subject under the harsh studio light with a plain background to having themselves photographed head to toe.

It was a fabulous series, and prints were sold to some museum for a fabulous sum but the 'rights' were reserved, since it was not possible (I seem to recall) to garner all the rights under one museum's room, no matter what the price, and I think the museum that bought them was willing to pay almost any amount for those photos.

Avedon had an ability, with his several talents, to 'reach into a person's image' and pull out their soul -- particularly in his Western USA series.

Those images were compelling and stunning, yet most simple graphically.  Just the man, the subject of the image and the camera.

He also took the photos for Truman Capote of one of the murderers portrayed in Capote's book 'In Cold Blood' which according to the movie about Capote's life and his writing of the book, may have sunk Capote's integrity (what he had left, after his overweening ambition caused him I think to 'use' his former lover -- the murderer -- have I got my facts straight?)

Also, few know that Capote was the 'friend' and 'writer' who accompanied Henri Cartier-Bresson in about 1947 as Cartier-Bresson chronicled America on assignment for a then-famous American magazine which seemed to be unaware Cartier-Bresson's leftward leanings (though he came from one of the 200 richest families in France) would affect his photographic vision of America.  Stupid them, as his photos were extremely 'gritty' - a vision I also share, even if I am not leftward leaning or 'Socialist' as he was.

I now am beginning to feel some sense of community with Avedon and other portraitists . . . . . though not so much with Cartier-Bresson who was in a class by himself when taking portraits.

(I said 'community' and not otherwise comparing myself to their greatness -- again, just community - so don't misquote me).


John (Crosley)

John Crosley
Thanks Bob

I posted this dark on purpose -- he represents life's 'darker side' -- probably no home, a smoker but no money to pay for smokes, a drinker and almost certainly homeless in a country where winters can be savage.

But he's also gotta be a survivor, at least for now, to carry on with such odds against him.

I pulled no punches on this one.

Thanks again, Bob.


John (Crosley)

Svetlana Korolyova

This is a very vital and truthful shot!

John Crosley
Balthazar Maisch

You spoke wonderfully to Florin P.'s comment above.  You are to be commended.


John (Crosley)

Balthazar Lefebvre Maisch


your absolutely right concerning HCB technique which is not representative here.

I think it's my absolutely non academic way of abording photography (am a full full self hand made in this area) feeling instinctively a familiar link with the way hcb achieves to record eyes and look of a Unique human being.

sorry to have no education in photography I wish I have time, if I wasn't wasting my time with shooting, I could learn, one day.

balthazar m.

John Crosley
tarek wazzan

Believe it or not, I had been out with my camera(s) and felt I couldn't take a single photo for the life of me and was near where I was staying and about to give it up -- 'skunked' as Americans say when they try something but end up with nothing.

I passed this guy and said to myself  'oh well, why not him -- he'd be a challenge,' and besides the last part of my walk is up a steep hill and I needed to rest my legs, my knee(s) and my back.

I approached him and in a Russian accent (for the word is the same in English and Russian) asked him 'portrait?' and he wanted 'rubles' which is not the currency of Ukraine.  I reached in my pocket (and this is how poor I am, I found two hryvnia - the equivalent of about 25 cents and gave them to him -- breaking a general rule I have against paying those I photograph, but heck -- 25 cents isn't really pay at all.  It costs two Hryvnia for a Metro ride now, up from 1.70 just a few weeks ago.

I didn't tarry -- took a number of shots close up with a 12-24 f. 4 Nikkor, then disengaged (he blew his nose into his hand and then offered to shake mine -- see above for my response).

I think I did capture this guy -- Vladimir is the name I remember, but it might have been Igor, or Oleg, or Dimitry of any number of other generic Russian names -- but not something more exotic like Ruslan, or Roman -- just something generic.

He was smoking and I urged him to continue smoking since that is what he does - and although I'm very allergic, that should count for nothing in the outdoors in an environmental portrait of him; after all I'm taking a photo of HIM and HIS environment, not me and my allergies or my personal hatred for smoking which has killed so many of my relatives.

So, there are 'Vladimir' and 'I' forming a short but intense bond, which lasts a very short time.  I give him the same intenseness and respect I do any subject -- I try never to look down at any subject, and I think that shows in the photos I take - all are human, no matter what I judgment another time I might pass on their lifestyle.

I need them to make my photos, and there is absolutely no reason to disregard or denigrate them . . .  even if I wouldn't invite him into my living room . . . or yours for that matter.

Heavens no, not yours, for you'd be VERY upset, I'm sure if you invited me over and I brought HIM as a guest.

But he was polite and since we really didn't talk, I only have his bearing, manners and 'look' about which to judge him, and I judge him to have had a hard row to how for a while now -- and a weakness for a bottle - something you'll fine in America but in America those with bottle weakness also have drug weakness which I think you don't find much in Ukraine (drug lords have pretty much passed over Ukraine for richer markets in Europe and America . . . . . though there are drugs, I have read, but never seen . . . . .though more from press about Russia than Ukraine . . . . .

Smoking and drink quickly enough will shorten your life enough.

I think I portrayed that well here, and thank you for the accolades.

I think you exhausted the vocabulary of superlatives -- for which I am sextuply  thankful.


John (Crosley)

tarek wazzan

what a powerful shot.. it's harsh, real, touching and important ! (oh, and technically superb!)..


best regards..




John Crosley
Svetlana Korolyova

It is true, isn't it?

I think I penetrated to the heart of this man with this photo.

More and more, I am able to do that - to reach sometimes into people's souls and to touch them, without harming them or disrespecting them.

It's a great gift to be able to do that, and the first step is being able to approach such people or not be afraid of being near them.

This man was quite thankful too.  He blew his nose into his right hand, then he reached out to thank me by shaking my hand with his right hand.

Like in all such situations, I said the words in Russian 'sorry, it's dirty' but I'm very thankful' (grazny, iz vinitia spacibo bolshoi), and did not offer my hand, but still gave my thanks.

(sorry about phonetic English for Russian which uses an entirely different alphabet and which I have definitely not mastered).

For a guy like this, it's a few moments of attention in an otherwise uneventful day -- at least not getting kicked around by militia (police) or shunned by people, but getting real respect.  In fact what we'd call a 'red letter day' (special day) to get respect on the street.

Thanks Svetlana.


John (Crosley)

John Crosley
Balthazar Maisch

Somehow I don't see Henri Cartier-Bresson in this - he worked too much in greys and in 'scenes'.  He hated taking 'head shots'.  He thought 'head shots' were beneath him.

I do admit though it's very powerful!!!

And thank you for your kind observation.


John (Crosley)


John Crosley
Balthazar M., I never had a lesson . . . until

I never had a lesson in photography, bought a camera and took on my first roll of film a photo which is still in my 'B&W, Then to Now' folder as among my best B&W ever. (three men on a ferry boat, three seats, three poles, one man lying down).  It was a challenge and I spent a long time trying to 'get it right', and I was well rewarded with a lifetime keeper.

Not my best ever, but a lifetime keeper that also now is a historical document.

My photographic education is not representative of anyone's teaching.  I learned and almost mastered the basics of photography by my friends' bringing me years of past Modern Photography and Popular Photography while I was laid up in a hospital next to Columbia University during about a month while I was recuperating from a gunshot wound . . . . the bullet was retained and ultimately I was readmitted for surgical extraction.

I read, read and re-read every article in those magazines for several years, and found (interestingly) that the basics were small enough that the columnists repeated themselves every two years, or so, then they switched jobs with each other to give a 'new perspective' on what the other guy had written about the same old subject.

Cameras were a little simpler then -- shutter, iris and match needle metering and the ability to 'isolate depth of field and do 'blurring' or make sharp photos depending on shutter speed.  Today's cameras are virtually the same, only more complex in choices.  Nobody then ever heard of P mode or P1, P2, P3 etc. program modes for night lighting, high key, and so forth lighting.  One only mastered certain techniques.

I did get a job with AP as a a photographer after freelancing but saw HCB's work and immediately quit that job, then went on to writing, but eventually found myself in NYC world headquarters as a photo editor, directing or helping direct those who made world class photos (sometimes) -- even processed Pulitzer greats from a very prolific staff including the guy who gave up my desk to try his hand at photography.  (Damn!).

Years later -- two years ago in fact -- a Lucie Award winner took me in hand and I lived with him briefly, and he gave me nightly masters classes in photography based on my own portfolio. It was the only 'education' that was from an individual that has meant anything to me . . . . . and it was 'important' in opening my eyes for a life beyond Photo.net.

I do have work that is similar to HCB and work that is not . . . . this is not as you finally noted. 

Photo art education is obtained at the local bookstore.  Just grab some books by the photo greats, then open them, browse them and admire their work.  Part of that will sink by osmosis into your mind and replace tiresome lectures.  Cartier-Bresson? He's got lots of books on shelves.  Salgado?  One or two that are wonderful.  Erwitt?  One of the heaviest if it's still in stock and loaded with great photos, and so on.

What's good is that getting the education is enjoyable . . . . . and there need be no excuse for not recognizing this or that style if you've admired or at lest looked at the work of the various photographers.

Same with high class (and low class) photo magazines, particular Lens Work, Black and White and magazines of that ilk, which tend to be harder to find -- look for a larger book store, then browse away (it's cheap).

My best to you my Parisian friend.


John (Crosley)

John Crosley
Florin P.

I talk frequently and sometimes extensively with my subjects, unlike some famous woman photographer who has spent her later life after the death of her lover Susan Sontag regretting she was too busy photographing to talk with her subjects.

Talk was limited with Vladimir here, but I find no stricture about using his name.  You find him distressed; he might find himself presented powerfully and find great pride in this image.  Don't judge for others where you haven't been; his values may be quite different from yours.  I treated him with respect when I was with him and even now.  I gave him the best photo I knew how.

And he was very polite and thankful to me.

I use his name because that is his name.  If it were Florin P., I would use that name unless I were asked not to, at which I might rethink taking the photos if informed before taking the photos.   We establish rules before the photo shoot; not after.  All the time subjects want to control what I do with their images; I tell them they're MY photos of their image and I control them and don't delete.

He didn't ask me to delete; instead he acted and seemed very proud,

Maybe this is one good thing he is proud of in some time; why deprive him of it?


John (Crosley)

Balthazar Lefebvre Maisch

master piece shoot

hbc power

best regards John

balthazar m.

Balthazar Lefebvre Maisch

I don't agree with Florin.

Vladimir is Vladimir and he is here, presented with respect and admiration without any judgement.

John Doe, silly american way of outnaming people.

Hans-Peter van den Berg

John, Very Impressive Street Portrait. Well Composed and timed.  How do you come so close? I guess he wouldn't allow me if I tried?  Regrds, Hans-Peter.

John Crosley
Hans-Peter v d B.

I broke all my rules.

I paid him.

Two hryvnia at 8 to the dollar = 25 cents or 1/4 dollar.

It was all I had in local currency in my pocket.

He wanted something, I had almost nothing (de minimus really, as 25 cents really is nothing), and so disregarded the payment.

Maybe he thought more of it, as that is the price of a Metro ride, anywhere in Kyiv.

I almost never (really this may be my first time) pay for a 'street' subject to 'hold still' but for 25 cents?  Oh well, I don't even regard that as money.  I'm not sure he did, except perhaps for reasons of pride.  I think he would have stood still if I had said 'no money' but I can get your face seen by thousands (as will view this thumbnail).

Nevertheless, I'm nonjudgmental on the 'street'.  I'm approachable and let myself be approached, and even have developed the gumption to approach, even those whose language I don't speak (sometimes it helps).

People can ask me a complex question and I can respond that I don't speak the language except just a little bit and shrug my shoulders.  Often they give in and just let me have my way -- no use arguing with a guy who's completely clueless (like me).

Thanks for the fine compliment.


John (Crosley)

John Crosley
Meir - a non sequitur?

Your previous comment appears to be a non sequitur, posted without explanation.  I'm puzzled.


John (Crosley)

Meir Samel

"We seal our fate with the choices we make". Gloria Estefan. End of Story

Meir Samel
non sequitur

I only think that I understand the meaning of "non sequitur", seems to have a few definitions  but here goes. Someplace you wrote that he might be homeless. Does not appear so to me, but assume the scenario that he is homeless: Life comprises choices. Apparently Vlad here made some wrong ones -dreadfully wrong.  Vlad determined his fate (assuming no mental illness).  Society is not responsible for bailing him out. Gloria's comment is pretty clear to me.

John Crosley
Aha, an explanation

Meir, I think I can assure you this man is homeless -- his things were in a bundle nearby.  He is an alcoholic, or if not an alcoholic, he drinks, and to excess.

That is not always one's choice. For me, if I were alcoholic, it would be choice, because I do not enjoy being 'buzzed' or 'blotto' but some people get intense pleasure from alcohol, more than anything in their life and feel such pain that only alcohol can wipe it out and even allow them to live.

That's often much in personal body chemistry.  I do not have that chemistry and thankfully am not at risk, but some people do.

I think this man falls into that category.

Personal responsibility is important, and I take responsibility for my actions and am no apologist for this guy; just his portraitist, and I think I did a creditable job -- he is a bum, homeless and certainly not well kept.

He may in fact be mentally quite ill.  Ukraine does not have good services for the mentally ill men, nor for that matter does America for the most part unless there insurance -- otherwise out on the street on $200 a month, which means 'bum' in America too.

This is a mere depiction; not an apology.

You may in fact be right, though I think this man does have mental illness too together with alcoholism.

That's my view; thanks for stating yours in enough fullness I can understand now.


John (Crosley)

Cnaan Liphshiz
you nailed it

I dunno what's more disturbing, his expression or the half missing fingernail

John Crosley
'Vladimir: Life's Darker Side' This is Vladimir who is representative in his existence of life's darker side. Your ratings, critiques and remarks are invited and most welcome. If you rate or critique harshly, or wish to submit a remark, please submit a helpful and constructive comment; thank you in advance for sharing your photographic knowledge to help improve my photography. Enjoy! John

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