Archive for January, 2014
One of the cool things about any career is how random acts and circumstances ultimately determine a course, or provide direction. And no career I know of is more random than photography.
In 1978, I moved into a great little studio apartment on W. 65th St. in Manhattan. It cost $250 a month. If I looked east, from my fire escape, every Thanksgiving morning, I had a view of the Macy’s balloons as they floated and bumbled their way south towards 34th St., from their inflation stations up by the Natural History Museum on Central Park West. If I looked west, and leaned way out, I could see a piece of Lincoln Center, hub of the dance universe in NYC. Little did I know that moving into that apartment would influence my choice of photographic subject matter for the rest of my career.
I noticed dancers, virtually every morning, making their way towards the practice studios over at Lincoln Center. It was easy to pick them out, bun headed, duck walking, extended necks, carriage maintained just so. Mixed in of course would be a dance bag, the inevitable bottle of Evian, and a certain arrogance of gaze as they move through the streets with a physical grace they never allow to dissipate, while the rest of us scurry into the subways. They are an elite, like fighter pilots in pre-flight mode, going to a practice studio where they daily make their bodies do things most humans never think of attempting.
I made the above picture in 1978 or ’79, and with those isolated clicks, I knew I would return again and again to the world of dance, camera in hand. We have just put together a Quicktime movie of my dance work, with the intent of sending it out to ballet companies, in hopes of attracting assignments. We always seek work. It’s a thing we continue to do, as any photographer must. Many thanks to Jon Cospito and Michael Cali in my studio, who did the heavy lifting of putting this together. Love to know what readers might think. You can link to it direct on Vimeo…. https://vimeo.com/85203522.
Or, here is the link to the video section on our website, and it’s the first one that comes up: – http://portfolio.joemcnally.com/#!/video.
In February, heading back to one of my favorite places to shoot, Vancouver, Canada. I’ll be up there for a week, and teaching a wide array of flash techniques, both in seminar style classes and one and two day intensive workshops. Hit this link for full info.
It’ll be a hoot. I reunite with some of my favorite models, and favorite photo community folks, such as the dramatically beautiful Shazmin, shot here with just one light.
Also get a chance to work again with friend and local Vancouver shooter, Syx Langemann. Syx is something of a legend up there in Vancouver, and I always enjoy the collaboration. It’s also a chance to update their family photo.
One of Syx’s specialties has always been nudes, dance, and figure studies, and he and Taryn actually met on such a shoot. So, in keeping with that tradition, I photographed the two of them when Taryn was pregnant with their first. They have two kids now, so time for a new portrait this year.
Vancouver remains a wonderfully vibrant and creative photo community, and I always learn a great deal whenever I am there. It’s a chance to experiment, teach, and shoot in a great city, and one that actually has decent weather in February. (Well, compared to Connecticut.)
We tend to come up with new, slick names for stuff all the time now, given our buzzword laced world. The phrase “Polar Vortex” got a lot of play lately when a chunk of really cold air that should’ve behaved better and hovered nicely over the North Pole pushed south in unruly fashion over Canada and the US. I’ve encountered the polar vortex before on assignment, but wasn’t smart enough to call it by its proper name. I think I just used the term, “f*%#ing cold.”
Last year, when I stood on the railing that supports the aircraft warning lights atop the Burj Khalifa, 2,716 feet over the sidewalk, and I leaned forward slightly, I was cautious, of course. Not that I was going anywhere. I had safety ropes attaching me to the structure. And my cameras were hooked to me, and were quite secure. (Whenever I make a climb over an urban area, I run heavy gauge wire through my camera straps, so the cameras are literally wired to my person.)
What wasn’t connected, or tethered in any way, was my Iphone. I took that slippery son of a bitch in my hands, with great and grave care, looked down, and saw my feet. Made a snap, pushed a few buttons, and it became an Instagram. I had a sense of standing at a window clutching a bird I was about to release into the wild. I flung it outwards and up into the sky, and I knew it would go many places, and I wouldn’t have a shred of say in the matter. Which, for this pic, was okay. (If anyone out there had similar childhood reading habits, you might remember the last page of Sterling North’s Rascal, one of my favorite books as a kid.)
This little picture did in fact cover a lot of ground, and was retweeted, screen grabbed, printed, and chatted up all over the internet. It easily, and quite rapidly, became the most seen picture I have ever shot, and I have shot lots of pictures. And it certainly became an education for me about the life of a digital image, as it’s still being retweeted on a regular basis, even now, almost a year after shooting it.
I have to admit, when it started hitting lots of screens and the retweets piled on and on, I sort of stared at my own computer screen somewhat slack jawed, a look of bovine wonder on my face. ” I mean, at the risk of sounding stupid, or old, or both, I knew the internet was big, and fast and linked, but the speed of dissemination and numbers of eyeballs glancing at my battered shoes was definitely bracing.
Here’s an upside, speaking of my shoes. I’ve been buying the same model Ecco Track II, for at least twenty years, maybe more. A pair of those shoes has been with me to the top of the Empire State Building, up some bridges, onto power line towers, in and out of helicopters, and trod ground in Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Siberia, South America, and coast to coast back home. I guess the Ecco folks were pleased to see their shoes atop the tallest man-made structure on earth, but also mildly embarrassed by their disrepair. So, they sent me a new pair. They reached out on Facebook, and next thing you know, I had a new pair of size 11’s. Haven’t used them yet, as there’s still life in my old ones, but it’s nice to have brand new shoes in the wings.
The other cool thing about the marriage of the internet and the camera is that the resultant, instantaneous, widespread migration of your images can make someone like myself, who started looking through a camera way before it was also a phone and a tweet machine and all the rest, appear somewhat with it, even to my kids. The pic, as I mentioned, still gets rerouted and retweeted, though it has all died down to a comparative simmer. But with one recent mention, my daughter picked up on it again, and shouted out the below.
So, that’s kind of cool…..what an amazing world we live in….more tk….