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We Just Can’t Help It…..

Feb 15

In Rambling, Stories at 5:00am

hands

Photographers. We’re strange, right? We can’t stop. We run when others walk. We work when others relax. We have no sense of weekends, holidays, time off, time on, or time in general, except as it relates to sunrise or set. When there’s a football game on TV, we aren’t looking always at the action on the field. We’re looking at the sidelines to see if any our buds are covering the game and how much of the long glass out there is black or white. We walk around like addled sumbitches, staring at strange stuff, hovering at the edge of human activity, aching to be accepted, dying for a moment, breathless in anticipation for that which mostly never happens. Curious behavior, at best. That’s putting it nicely. Most folks would just chalk it up to damn strange and tell their youngsters to stay away from us.

Maybe the word is hinky. We shake our heads, punch buttons on expensive cameras, eyeball perfect strangers, ask odd questions, and wait for light. What an odd thing to wait for. We also have restive, restless, roaming eyes. Eyes that don’t shut down. Eyes that often feel hemmed in or framed by a 35mm lens border, eyes that correspond to a 24-70, or a 200-400, depending on what they encounter. Eyes that curse the dumb conglomeration of plastic, brass and glass we place in front of them, asking that mix of pixels and wiring to be surrogate vision, supple as the real thing. Hah! We might as well ask a fucking toaster oven.

I walked out of a Starbucks the other day, in not a particularly good mood, but anticipating that the mix of 3 espressos with milk would marginally improve it. There were two men conversing at an outside table. One of them, just sitting there, was majestic, regal, even. His hands cupped a cigarette, joined loosely at his lap. I passed them. It took all of a half second.

But, when I got to the truck, I started feverishly ripping open my camera bags. Like a man in burning building fumbling for an oxygen mask, I tore open zippers, velcro, caps and covers, desperate to find a lens that might give me half a prayer of representing what I just saw. The hands. Those hands did something important. I knew it in a heartbeat. It was a pair of hands that I needed to photograph, and if I shut off the adrenaline pump, got lazy and slid into the comfort of the rental car and closed my eyes and surrendered to the latte, I would curse myself over and over again for being a feckless, useless photographer. (If you had encountered any of my early career wire service editors, you would be inclined to think it redundant to describe a photographer as useless. It was a descriptor often thrown my way, in between exasperated sighs and abundant profanity.)

So I grabbed a camera with a 70-200, and resolutely walked back to the men. They knew before I got within 10 feet of them I was going to ask. There was no tension, no fear, no clammy feeling in the gut that precedes so many photographic encounters. (Will they say no? Will they ridicule me? Beat me up? Demand money, my social security number and a financial statement?)

No. They accepted me before I opened my mouth. Those powerful hands caught footballs for a living.  Still fit, the gentleman towered over me when he stood. He had a stint with the Cowboys, hence the pinkie ring. He knew Bob Hayes, the man who changed football forever. I photographed Hayes for Sports Illustrated, when they were doing a wrap up of legendary sprinters. He is the only man in history to win an Olympic gold medal, and a Super Bowl ring.

hayesblog

This remains one of my favorite portraits. Hayes had a tough go after football, and had legal and health problems. He died not too long after I shot this down at his hometown of Jacksonville, Fla. At the Starbucks that day, the gentleman and I chatted  about Bullet Bob. We laughed a bit. The connection was immediate, and sincere. We shook hands. My hand literally disappeared into his.

How wonderful is that? What a gift this camera I curse is! A flying carpet into people’s lives. A certitude that this time, I will be richer for putting my camera to my eye. There’s no money on the line here. Just human encounter. Here, now, the camera becomes an instant learning machine.

The camera’s not a camera, really. It’s an open door we need to walk through.  It’s up to us to keep moving our feet. More tk…

177 Responses to “We Just Can’t Help It…..”

visithra says:

on February 15, 2010 at 5:10 am

that pretty much sums up why we’re all crazy nuts over photography

Ryan Unger says:

on February 15, 2010 at 5:16 am

HAHA…I am reading this during my work hours on the West Coast….currently 2:16 in the morn….when will I finish? Who knows…projects need done and the sun will be rising soon..its game on. Good words McNally, good words.

Sina says:

on February 15, 2010 at 5:37 am

I like this Joe… nicely written… Thanks.

Christine Meintjes says:

on February 15, 2010 at 5:41 am

Stunning photo! Love how it tells a whole story! Great words too!

Lucca says:

on February 15, 2010 at 5:41 am

Very true Joe. I can be extremely frustrating sometimes though, for instance, say you never had your equipment in the truck.

“The camera’s not a camera, really. It’s an open door we need to walk through. It’s up to us to keep moving our feet.”
A very powerful line there man! Moving our feet and making sure we don’t blink…

Rasmus Jürs says:

on February 15, 2010 at 5:49 am

Very cool. A good eksample of how the eye of an experienced photog works. Any other person would have never gotten this experience.

Its like “The moment it Clicks” the lost chapter

Polgara says:

on February 15, 2010 at 6:32 am

So I’m not nuts… :)

Joe says:

on February 15, 2010 at 7:00 am

Well said, Sir.

Douglas Pettway says:

on February 15, 2010 at 7:03 am

this is easily, the best blog post I’ve read in a long time. So, so to the point about why we must do what we love. Thanks Joe.

anette Lawrence says:

on February 15, 2010 at 7:12 am

wow..that really moved me.. Beautifully written . i love the picture you got out of it.. … wow..

kinga taukert says:

on February 15, 2010 at 7:15 am

great post! I mean there are lots of great posts here :) but that one is special. love what you wrote and love the pics. they are powerful.

Joe Holmes says:

on February 15, 2010 at 7:23 am

Sometimes, Joe, you make me very very glad I’m a photographer. Thanks.

Bob DeChiara says:

on February 15, 2010 at 7:42 am

The moment had been seized! I had a similar situation and I knew if I didn’t get the photo I would have been kicking myself in the butt all day. Turns out i got the photo, had it printed and framed, gave it to the subject about a month later. Just the look on his face looking at his portrait was priceless. He couldn’t have been more appreciative.

-Bob
(Boston)

Bernard says:

on February 15, 2010 at 7:51 am

I’ll be using this as explanation for confused looks for years to come.

Thanx Joe :)

Terry Clark says:

on February 15, 2010 at 7:58 am

Yup, that’s it, the reason why, after doing nothing but this for 35 years, I still jump out of bed every morning excited to see what new wonders, new experiences and new people I’ll meet.

Julie says:

on February 15, 2010 at 7:58 am

I need that. Thank you!

Duane says:

on February 15, 2010 at 8:00 am

Great portrait

MarkHansberger says:

on February 15, 2010 at 8:07 am

Thank you for reminding us all why we press the shutter button to begin with.

JoeH says:

on February 15, 2010 at 8:13 am

Wow………I just can’t convey how much the picture and the story moves me…..

drixel says:

on February 15, 2010 at 8:14 am

Joe McNally’s prose is as biting as his imagery. Such a soul so blessed with such an eye and heart comes, perhaps, once or twice in my lifetime. Reading Joe and embracing his body of work may help me become the other one. I sincerely hope so. I sincerely hope Joe keeps on walking that “open door” and once in, gets to sit down . . . . and write.

Lewis Coward says:

on February 15, 2010 at 8:25 am

You just said what we all knew … but did not know how to say it. Great stuff Joe.

Jeanette says:

on February 15, 2010 at 8:29 am

Very very well put! Love the last paragraph, it sums it up perfectly!

Simon Fleming says:

on February 15, 2010 at 8:29 am

Yep.. I know that feeling, that nervous twitch of anticipation as you see something in your peripheral that you know you need to deal with photographically. It can be both a sickness and a gift – I love it.

Fred K says:

on February 15, 2010 at 8:31 am

Nice story.

Shaun Langdon says:

on February 15, 2010 at 8:33 am

That some pretty serious stuff from a self-proclaimed numnuts!! In all seriousness, Joe that was an Incedible post.. Thanks for adding you view and wisdom to the lives of those who are learning from you.

Paul Lawrence says:

on February 15, 2010 at 9:03 am

Awesome story Joe. I see you were putting that VR to good use as well. 1/25 at 200mm!

Gene Hilton says:

on February 15, 2010 at 9:03 am

Excellent article/read…my eyes have no rest it seems; I’m always seeing things through the lens of a camera, even it one is nowhere around!

Gene Hilton says:

on February 15, 2010 at 9:04 am

(if) :o)

Lenny Lind says:

on February 15, 2010 at 9:08 am

Joe – thanks. I’m sending this to my girlfriend. Your words do more justice than mine about this photography thing.

Linda Jeffers says:

on February 15, 2010 at 9:13 am

Identification is everything. You’re reading my mail on so much of what you wrote. Thanks for taking the time. I love it when you share your thinking.

Jim McFadden says:

on February 15, 2010 at 9:14 am

Eloquently stated, as always.

Tom Sperduto says:

on February 15, 2010 at 9:15 am

Beautiful!

ed linn says:

on February 15, 2010 at 9:17 am

inspiring portrait and great story to go along with.
thanks for sharing your images, experiences and wisdom with us.

Atiyeh R. says:

on February 15, 2010 at 9:19 am

although I can not call myself a professional like you, I do have those feelings and I got chills knowing Joe McNally goes through it too! loved the write Joe, and loved the pictures.. I stared at them, and imagined myself right beside you and it gave me bubbles in my stomach and how so i wish i was there..

I cant wait for you to come to Dubai for GPP..
Thanks Joe :)

david says:

on February 15, 2010 at 9:22 am

Joe, your words paint a picture almost as great as your photographs.

Dave says:

on February 15, 2010 at 9:23 am

An inspiring blog post, and WOW “Hayes” the only man to win both an Olympic gold medal and a Super Bowl ring that a huge tittle.

Chris says:

on February 15, 2010 at 9:26 am

Just another example as to why you are still my favorite blog.
Thanks for these posts. Made my day.

I look for that little (1) in my RSS feed many times a day =)

Leif Eliasson says:

on February 15, 2010 at 9:27 am

Reading this with joy – as always your writing is interesting and easy to read.
This story feels so real and true.
Thanks for sharing it.
Regards – Leif

Dawn Norris says:

on February 15, 2010 at 9:30 am

Loved this start to the week. Made my Monday. Says a lot. A real lot:)

Thanks for the refreshing truth – again!

Louis says:

on February 15, 2010 at 9:33 am

Great story. Amazing the kinda doors that can open to us when we follow our hearts, overcome the fear of rejection, and simply ask “May I?”

Al says:

on February 15, 2010 at 9:35 am

Joe, you are one of the few people that can make us laugh and make us cry. You are far more than a photographer…..

Jane says:

on February 15, 2010 at 9:44 am

Beautifully written and very powerful . . . and of course the photos are amazing. Thank you for sharing this.

William Chinn says:

on February 15, 2010 at 9:46 am

This post is the reason why I follow your blog. The story surrounding the photograph is often better than the photo itself. Thanks again for the complete “photograph”.

Sherman says:

on February 15, 2010 at 9:50 am

Dropped into my day job here in the city and do as I do almost every morning, pull up your blog…just to catch up on what you’re doin now!! Today, I nodded and smiled and felt that twinge of knowingness that feed my soul.

Thanks Joe!

Jeff Ott says:

on February 15, 2010 at 9:54 am

Thanks. Nice to read when dealing with the lower days…

Mark says:

on February 15, 2010 at 10:03 am

A flying carpet into people’s lives…

Well said. Even me, as a rank amature, often steps back to reflect that if not for the camera hanging off my shoulder, I’d be missing out on some great experiences and people. The woman having a lunchtime smoke in New Brunswick, New Jersey, the sushi maker in Tokyo, Japan. I’ll remember them because I was able to make a portrait of them. Thanks to my camera.

DaleG says:

on February 15, 2010 at 10:07 am

Joe,

Thank you very much. Your ability to express your passion in words helps me understand the stirrings that I’m just starting to understand when a beam of light paints a point on the hillside or mist blankets a meadow. Thank you for the encouragement to stop, look, click and explore further.

Michael Wiesman says:

on February 15, 2010 at 10:17 am

I find myself doing this same thing, I’ve started to bring my camera everywhere I go, no matter what. My wife used to worry about people looking at me with this black Nikon contraption that would often make people look at me weird and shout, “Hey, with a camera like that you must know what you are doing!” Others would run the moment that I put it up to my eye. I have to make pictures of daily lives.

Linda Brinckerhoff says:

on February 15, 2010 at 10:19 am

your stories are so heart-felt they often make me cry

thanks for the inspiration and a tear in my eye

Jomi Garrucho says:

on February 15, 2010 at 10:27 am

All the while i thought i was cookoo, thanks for sharing this story

Tom Lynn says:

on February 15, 2010 at 10:39 am

Joe,
fantastic post. you have summed up what I feel everyday.

Jason says:

on February 15, 2010 at 10:39 am

Jesus – and they say you take good photographs! As I’ve said before, your writing is gripping and bubbles many emotions to the surface. Somehow you always hit a nerve with me when I read your work…well said Joe, well said.

Paul Hara says:

on February 15, 2010 at 10:50 am

Joe, we met at one of your workshops and you said you weren’t a good writer. You were wrong!

randy baran says:

on February 15, 2010 at 10:54 am

you told the truth! thanks for sharing it with us.

Vince Carmichel says:

on February 15, 2010 at 11:01 am

The photo is good Joe, but the writing in this article is outstanding. I don’t mean to be offensive but it’s better than usual. You must have been feeling it at some level.

Ron Paulsen says:

on February 15, 2010 at 11:01 am

Damn Joe. Your turning into one hell of a writer. Oh yeah the camera only opens doors we ask it to.

Dan Milham says:

on February 15, 2010 at 11:03 am

When we look at your photographs we get our interpretations and feelings. When we read your words we get your intentions and feelings. It’s a win/win.

Drew Miller says:

on February 15, 2010 at 11:19 am

I would to like to Ditto those comments. Joe, though the lens is not pointed at you….I can see your soul, your empathy.

Thanks

Kirk Decker says:

on February 15, 2010 at 11:20 am

I’ve been working on a project that originated in Flickr called 100 Strangers. The object is to approach 100 Strangers and ask to take their photograph. It’s been incredibly rewarding. The worst, and only abuse, I’ve encountered is the abuse I given myself for not asking.

JoMama says:

on February 15, 2010 at 11:32 am

I don’t feel any less crazy – just less alone. :)

Duane says:

on February 15, 2010 at 11:36 am

Nice! That was awesome!

Sissel says:

on February 15, 2010 at 11:39 am

Never ever disappointed when I read your blog. And this entry, well, let’s just say, killing me softly. It’s dead on. You described how I feel and crazy stuff I do so accurately. Beautiful stuff.

Chris Exum says:

on February 15, 2010 at 11:41 am

I know it’s not the point, but
Got … to… know…
Who was it?

Shari says:

on February 15, 2010 at 11:43 am

This made me weepy. Thank you for writing it.

Martin says:

on February 15, 2010 at 11:46 am

You are so good at looking through the view-finder with your heart instead of your eye.

chuck liddy says:

on February 15, 2010 at 11:52 am

Joe, you are my hero. never have I been able to put that into words. thanks

Dick says:

on February 15, 2010 at 12:01 pm

You write a mean blog Joe, really you do. Now write some more and soon you’ll need another agent.

Nanine Hartzenbusch says:

on February 15, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Joe – adored this beautiful piece of writing. will share with my photojournalism students and my husband, Bert Fox – great blog too…have always loved your work, your eye, your style. many thanks

TripleScoop says:

on February 15, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Joe. You did it again.

You tugged at my heart strings with your pictures and words. I love seeing and reading your posts. Sometimes I wish the would never stop.

Caleb says:

on February 15, 2010 at 12:50 pm

Joe, I have never responded to any blog. I really like your books, and your writing is from the heart. Thank you for sharing these moments with us.

Brenda Tharp says:

on February 15, 2010 at 1:06 pm

Wow, Joe – you hit the proverbial nail on the head with this post just by the responses alone. Such a powerful picture and story. Keep ‘em coming!

Curtis Brandt says:

on February 15, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Pure poetry.

jim brandano says:

on February 15, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Wow..Great post.. You verbalized what I think we all feel about the art of looking through the looking glass.
Thanks

Tony Fanning says:

on February 15, 2010 at 1:37 pm

Well written mate. Awesome stuff.

Marissa Rodriguez says:

on February 15, 2010 at 1:53 pm

this is an amazing post.

Girish says:

on February 15, 2010 at 1:57 pm

Wonderful photograph. Love the first one a lot. Simply superb. Great write up as well. Keep me going and my spirits high.

@davidmonnerat says:

on February 15, 2010 at 2:18 pm

another great post. it’s nice to know that the same thoughts that go through my head when approaching folks goes through yours, too. i’m normal! (or we both aren’t…)

Michael Aaron says:

on February 15, 2010 at 2:26 pm

This is my first time coming to your blog, although I’ve long heard, and been aware of, your work. I own one of your books. I typically try not to leave comments that merely repeat what others have said, but I have to fall in line with everyone else and state that this was a phenomenal piece of writing.

I love the photo as well – reminds me of my grandfather’s gigantic hands.

Levi Sim says:

on February 15, 2010 at 2:27 pm

I was recently in New york and took time to wa and shoot. I started at JFK, and headed for Times Square. My first subway trip, and unfortunately had an experience you think couldn’t really happen in real life–put me in a funk, and I closed up. Finally, while eating lunch and pondering how to make the best of my last few hours in new york, I set a goal to make pictures of five strangers. I walked onto the street, saw a couple with sweatered dog and I was cookin’. I talked with and shot 20 people by the time I got on the plane. Once you get going, it’s easier to keep going. Like others here, I ‘ve never been turned down, either.

Thanks for the reminder, Joe.

Levi

Susan Dennis says:

on February 15, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Joe, you have a way with words-this entry nails it. Sublime.

dana says:

on February 15, 2010 at 2:34 pm

thank you for this compelling post!

Megan says:

on February 15, 2010 at 2:35 pm

YES–this is exactly how I feel, but find so hard to put into words!

Richard Hales says:

on February 15, 2010 at 2:37 pm

As illuminating as ever. I must remember to put more profanity in my posts

Cynthia Farr-Weinfeld says:

on February 15, 2010 at 2:46 pm

What a great post, Joe, and it couldn’t be more true about photographers. . . I love the photos too–I probably would have wanted to take pictures of those hands too–amazing! You have such a gift with portrait photography (well, all photography really, but you SHINE in the portrait department!) Thanks again for another inspirational bunch of words, Cindy

johnrose says:

on February 15, 2010 at 2:46 pm

well said. A photogrphic philosophy that couldn’t ring more true.
“Stop taking pictures, Start making relationships.”

Verino Popovic says:

on February 15, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Awesome! Thank you for sharing this. As someone said, You are my hero.

Daniel Solorio says:

on February 15, 2010 at 2:53 pm

What a beautiful post today damn good! I found myself in a temporary state of… non been here, I’m glad you’re a photographer cause you inspire me everyday on pursuing what i love, but you could as well, easily and as successful writer. Thanks for sharing

Cindy Williams says:

on February 15, 2010 at 3:18 pm

Thank-you seams trite, but thank-you.

Leandro Frin says:

on February 15, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Great post… tks

John A. says:

on February 15, 2010 at 4:24 pm

This gave me goose bumps. Very moving post. Its a nice reminder why so many of us choose to lug around heavy pieces of technology.

Scott Jackson says:

on February 15, 2010 at 4:37 pm

Awesome story Joe, I always enjoy reading about your experiences.

Skip Barber says:

on February 15, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Joe,
Another awe inspiring blog. One of your best.

Thanks guy!

Barbara_NY says:

on February 15, 2010 at 5:28 pm

I don’t know if I am more addicted to your imagery or your sophisticated writing style. Either way, I call first dibs on a signed copy of your inevitable, award winning novel.

Andrew Jones says:

on February 15, 2010 at 5:32 pm

“His hands cupped a cigarette, joined loosely at his lap.” What a great line and image this creates, even before looking at the photo.

Thomas Lester says:

on February 15, 2010 at 5:42 pm

Thank you Joe. This really hit home with me as I’m in the middle of a “100 Complete Strangers” project for 2010. I’m forcing myself to get over the fear of approaching interesting strangers to take their photograph. You have inspired me (once again).

Thanks!

john fowler says:

on February 15, 2010 at 6:49 pm

Thank you for that photo, and for writing that, Joe. An open door! I’m sure you have no idea of how much that will affect the rest of us.

Rory Laubscher says:

on February 15, 2010 at 7:00 pm

I’ve never met you. Though through this blog, your two books and all your content on KelbyTraining I can only say you must be a humble, quirky, dedicated liver of life.
Thank you for all the posts like this one that speak about the soul of photography and that common thread that connects everyone who needs a camera like they need their lungs.

Kenny Batallones says:

on February 15, 2010 at 7:45 pm

very inspiring stuff Joe. I’ll remember this story every time i make new friends through photography. thanks for this. :)

Monty says:

on February 15, 2010 at 7:46 pm

My daily espresso is your photos, and the double shot is the writing. Kicks my ass out of bed and inspires me to continue to push the limits. Thank you.

James Saxon says:

on February 15, 2010 at 9:53 pm

Ok, I give, who was it? Great post and very nice image. It is a very old Dallas Cowboy ring.

Torin Halsey says:

on February 15, 2010 at 10:27 pm

Joe, I’m not sure which was more beautiful, the portrait or your writing. I would like for those first two paragraphs and the last two to be read at my funeral someday, (as a quote from my favorite photographer.) Might change F**king to freaking, not sure…
This post really touched me. Thank you.

Lou says:

on February 15, 2010 at 10:35 pm

Thanks for this story, Joe; awesome piece of writing!

Russell How says:

on February 15, 2010 at 11:15 pm

Best story I’ve read in ages – thanks for sharing Joe!

Constance says:

on February 16, 2010 at 12:05 am

Very nice. Thanks.

Michael Hansen says:

on February 16, 2010 at 1:28 am

Sometimes, some of us needs to be shown in what direction the door is… You do just that, Joe. Thank you…

Art says:

on February 16, 2010 at 2:37 am

As someone who has written in excess of 600 editorials and hundreds more articles, every now and then I turn out something that feels satisfyingly close to perfect. I’ve never come even close to that with a camera. Not that I haven’t kept trying and not that I haven’t learned a lot from you already Joe. But what you just taught me goes far beyond the frame or the page. Next time I won’t walk past what I’ve just seen and get in the car and drive away. I’ll grab my camera and see if I can do what you just did – come ever so close to perfection. Thank you.

Sandra says:

on February 16, 2010 at 3:49 am

just loving it……very inspiring to me. Thank you very much.

frank says:

on February 16, 2010 at 7:02 am

Joe, great story and so true!

Last night I was checking into a hotel room and started looking around at the potential of beautiful shots in the lobby. I commented to the others that were with me, “this lobby would make a great photo”. :-D

Rogier says:

on February 16, 2010 at 7:04 am

Wow – that was a moving piece of writing. Thanks for inspiring me today to become a better photographer yet!

rebekah workman says:

on February 16, 2010 at 9:17 am

SOOOOOOO TRUE.

Michael says:

on February 16, 2010 at 9:23 am

Fantastic! Sent chills up my spine as I sat here and sipped my latte. The anxieties, how true, how true.

Jorge says:

on February 16, 2010 at 9:48 am

Excellent article

RIchard Allnutt says:

on February 16, 2010 at 10:30 am

Many thanks Joe… I think I needed to hear this story this morning. It reassured me that I am on the right path, and that I’m doing it for the right reasons… It also reminded me to seize those moments, as you did with these two men. I’ve often kicked myself for not having the gumption to do what you just did. Now I will. I carry those missed images around with me like old luggage!

All the best,
Richard

Karen Tate says:

on February 16, 2010 at 10:53 am

Thanks for posting this, Joe. Very inspiring, insightful, and something for all of us to think about and remember. Oh yeah, great images! Grin. That Moment def. Clicked for you. :)

Dave says:

on February 16, 2010 at 11:03 am

My wife says this, why do you give away so much. Shoot for free. Up before dawn always. Camera within grasp (always)
I get the look every time we watch sports, I mumble Canon Nikon LOL
You know how to put this in words, well written indeed.
I love to shoot hard luck for people, sick moms, sick kids and so on. They get a feeling of care from others outside their world.
Good on you, I know it must be hard in your schedule to find time for this also.

Mihalis Tsoukalos says:

on February 16, 2010 at 12:33 pm

Thank you Joe!

Jim M says:

on February 16, 2010 at 1:15 pm

This rewarded me for checking your blog daily for a new one.

shawn chamberlin says:

on February 16, 2010 at 1:50 pm

great photo joe. like you said, “its all about the hands”. its not often you can look at someones hands and get a story from that alone. in this photo, you take one look and its like diving into his auto-biography. having the two photos side by side would be a great dipytch (spelling?) i was also curious was you used to light this, it almost looks like a gold reflector, but i can’t tell for certain. thanks joe.

Mike says:

on February 16, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Joe, great story and a great memory. I have a question though. Is the man in the phone Bob Hayes, or did he play with Bob Hayes? The story indicates the latter, but then I’m wondering where the medal came from. Did he go to Bob Hayes’ home and get it for the shoot?

Mike says:

on February 16, 2010 at 2:24 pm

“phone” should read “photo”. Sorry about that.

Carol Watkins says:

on February 16, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Love your photography and love your writing. You make pictures with words as wonderfully as you do with a camera.

Norbert D. says:

on February 16, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Joe,
Your writing is great, educational and entertaining as well, but this one here…. topped them all! This picture tells a story and it IS worth a thousand words. But your words in this post are so profound and sincere… they make a great impression. And inspiration.
Hang in there! I’ve been coming back for a long time. And I will..!

Mikkel says:

on February 16, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Wow – so moving. Thank you for posting that. I could identify with a lot of what you said and look forward to being able to one day identify with the rest of it.

Robert Barnes says:

on February 16, 2010 at 7:18 pm

Great story Joe! It is very inspirational. So many times I just kept on walking!!

Ken Toney says:

on February 16, 2010 at 7:35 pm

Right on the money Joe. I went to a Japanese steak house with the grandkids tonight and got the bug to take my D3s. I’m glad I did. When you get the itch you had better scratch!

Albert says:

on February 16, 2010 at 8:00 pm

What you said is the true essence of photography, telling a story through through the lens of your camera.

Jack Flemmings says:

on February 16, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Love the lighting of that photograph…….strong composition…..Thanks for the gift Joe……this is priceless….you leave no room for any of us to give in to fear.

Your art becomes more indispensable in touching us……this post is as important as the letter to the young photographer you shared a while back…..God bless…-jack

Richard Clompus says:

on February 16, 2010 at 9:19 pm

Joe, this explains that the feelings and observations I make with and without a camera are not unique. I feel relieved that I’m not alone out there. Thanks for sharing.

Richard

Kevin Williams says:

on February 16, 2010 at 9:28 pm

Awesome story Joe!

Phelan Ebenhack says:

on February 17, 2010 at 12:06 am

Well said! Bravo! Phelan

Sergei says:

on February 17, 2010 at 12:22 am

Love the story, Joe. Good one.

Daf says:

on February 17, 2010 at 9:34 am

Lovely story.
I can ask randoms for a photo in nighclubs and gigs (I’m mainly a nightclub photographer) but yet to have the gumption to ask random strangers in the street for a photo. Would be great.

David Kendrick says:

on February 17, 2010 at 9:53 am

Joe, your picture of those hands grabbed my attention immediately. Great Photo!

Those hands that caught your attention tell quite a story to me, (size, strength, wear and tear, age, remnants of battles fought long ago, fingernails,power, Cowboys ring, cigarette, color, composure, calmness, patience, and a lot more that I just can’t put into words…)

As usual, your writing is poignant, insightful, entertaining, and makes me glad to know I’m not the only one out there trying to capture images of the uncommon beauty of much of the world around us… Thanks a lot!

Daniel Stark says:

on February 17, 2010 at 10:39 am

Joe, WOW! Just so well said! Thanks so much for putting this down into words.

All the best,

Daniel Stark

John Dutt says:

on February 17, 2010 at 11:06 am

I really like the photo of Bob Hayes, thanks for posting it. The hands really make the portrait and tell a story. I see triumph and success as well as foreboding. I watched him a lot when I was a growing up, he had a good hands for someone who did not play college ball.

So, who is the guy who you shot outside of Starbucks? Are you not publishing it out of respect?
John

Gordon says:

on February 17, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Joe, thanks for sharing this wonderful moment and providing some inspiration. Love the image, and you are right that a camera is a “flying carpet into people’s lives.” We just gotta’ keep climbing aboard without fear.

Gordon

Barbara Lewis-White says:

on February 17, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Joe –

I thought I was crazy along with others when they find me in fields lying upside down talking to bugs, spiders, etc. with my camera in hand. I’ve been hooked since 1978…I WILL NOT GIVE IT UP and I do not care what others think….I love it!!!!

William says:

on February 17, 2010 at 11:48 pm

Nice article and very moving portrait. Just reinforces my thought; “The worst photo ever is the one that wasn’t taken.” Sometimes you just gotta go back. Thanks for sharing.

Marcel says:

on February 18, 2010 at 5:36 am

And we have a perfect definition of “A Photographer”,,,, together with beautiful story! Great Joe.

Mark R. says:

on February 18, 2010 at 7:28 am

Like after a meal in Comme Chez Soi.. A red bull for the photographic soul..

Thank you !

Greg Corcoran says:

on February 18, 2010 at 11:06 am

Thanks, Joe!

Jacqueline McAbery says:

on February 18, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Joe,
I have been a photographer for many years and I have never read a truer account of the process and angst we go through!
Like others, it gave me goose bumps and inspires me to stop in the future and take that photo I maybe procrastinating about once I have passed the scene. You write as well as you shoot! Many thanks.

Garth says:

on February 18, 2010 at 2:10 pm

Okay! Everyone back away from Joe. He is in a grove and he is shootin’ in rhythm. Joe, you are on fire.

David Watts, Jr. says:

on February 18, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Ain’t it the truth!

I had a similar experience in Portland, Oregon last July when I was attending a conference. Let me preface this by saying that I am a lifelong Bostonian (and all that that means). A colleague and I were in the hotel lobby before going to dinner one evening. An elderly gentleman and another man walked in and sat down on one of the benches. I asked my colleague to watch my camera bag while I grabbed my D700 with 28-70/2.8 and SB-900. I introduced myself to the older gentleman and asked if I could make a photograph of him. He asked me who I thought he was.

“You’re Johnny Pesky of the Red Sox,” I replied.

“No I’m not I’m ..” and he proceeded to rattle off a bs name. After a beat he smiled and said that I could take as many photographs as I wanted. I took three (the second frame turned out to be the one), took a couple of he and his son, and thanked them both.

3,000 miles to get an opportunity to photograph one of the greats of the Boston Red Sox (they were in Portland for the Minor League All Star Game), and he only lives fifteen miles from my house!

Michael Morten says:

on February 21, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Thanks so much Joe, amazing words and just the kick in the ass I needed when I started feeling like setting my camera down and taking a break.

Hendrik says:

on February 21, 2010 at 3:11 pm

Wonderful post Joe. May your camera forever be your magic carpet.

Arthur Hawkins says:

on February 22, 2010 at 4:39 pm

Doggonit Joe, that just brought a tear to my eye.!

Styrmir Kári says:

on February 22, 2010 at 5:14 pm

Good words Joe… inspiring even.

Patrik says:

on February 23, 2010 at 2:36 pm

You´re a great man Joe McNally, a great man. A true inspiration.

karl bratby says:

on February 25, 2010 at 4:44 pm

wow, a great photographer and a great writer….super cool

Tim in Vancouver says:

on February 26, 2010 at 12:44 am

Joe, that was freaking amazing writing! You just captured the way I feel almost every day when my roving and searching eyes find the unusual or the beautiful, and I have that instantaneous knowledge that I need to capture that moment – right now. Too many times I have kept walking and have come up with excuses as to why not, “Not here, not now, not in front of these people”. But there are so many other times when I accept my strange nerdyness and just go for it. I don’t care what they will think of me. The reward is the people I meet, the stories they tell, and the frames in the can. You captured that struggle perfectly, and you gave me more motivation to go for it.

Tim

Leo Addison says:

on February 27, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Wonderful story Joe! It really made me feel like I was there. Keep up the good work.

jakob says:

on February 28, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Just awesome! Love that read! Very inspiring!

David Kelly says:

on March 3, 2010 at 7:20 am

Hi Joe. Just stopped by your blog for the first time and have got to say what a cracking first post I happened to read. Having not read any of your postings prior, it was really refreshing to read a blog which give great insight into its author, much more than the average blog posting. That was a really warm story that makes you think about how complete strangers can have a common experience. Makes you think how small this big world can be at times.
It’s also nice to know that even the pro’s such as yourself, who are regularly engage with people as part of their photographic job, can still get those uncomfortable feelings that an amateur such as I gets in those “should I / shouldn’t I shoot them” camera moments in the street. Like Tim above, I’ve sometimes shied away from those street shots that I can see in my mind’s eye, but this story will certainly make me push myself more when next faced with such a situation.

wira says:

on March 3, 2010 at 5:12 pm

Hi joe, thats really beautiful writing. I like it a lot. You just motivated me to become a better photographer.

Keep the nice post!

mick connolly says:

on March 7, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Wonderful blogging Joe. It matches your photography perfectly. You are without a doubt the thinking man,s photographer.

Dennis Villafuerte says:

on March 11, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Hello Joe, That’s awesome piece of writing, sir.
Very inspiring.
See you at the next GPP!

Micha Sanders says:

on March 14, 2010 at 9:11 am

This is my first visit to your blog. I am so moved after reading this post. Now I understand why you are such a success in this competitive industry. Thank you for reminding me why I’m drawn to photography. Thank you for sharing your stories with us. Thank you for writing from the heart. Thank you for being an inspiration to so many…

Wedding Photographer French Riviera says:

on March 16, 2010 at 5:27 pm

Marvelous tale. You write as well as you shoot.

Thanks for sharing

Blaise

Jason says:

on March 21, 2010 at 10:06 pm

Beautiful writing. Great photos. It makes me feel good.

Taps says:

on March 28, 2010 at 1:04 pm

Outstanding work Joe! You’re the first person to help explain the gift/curse of this addiction! Your opening line:

“Photographers. We’re strange, right? We can’t stop. We run when others walk. We work when others relax. We have no sense of weekends, holidays, time off, time on, or time in general, except as it relates to sunrise or set….”

Has become my newest mantra!

You’ve given the artistry a physical form that has escaped me for decades!

Thank You!
Taps

tburdphotos says:

on March 30, 2010 at 7:53 am

The photos themselves are so fantastic and evocative, but the story that goes with them, makes them even more wonderful.

Darren Williams says:

on October 7, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Your pictures are great … as always!

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