I suppose every photograph belongs to a place. Images here beg the question, where is that? They are mostly landscapes or cityscapes, photographs that capture the essence of a place. I look for the image that becomes the memory of a journey, a visit or a stay in a place. Images that define locations, that tells us why that place is important and special. Making an ordinary place look extraordinary, or a hyped up place look mundane. It could be a decrepit building or a clean-cut high rise. Images of places are very straightforward: streets, sunsets, and buildings. The challenge of shooting places is to make them stand out. Sometimes people, animals or objects appear in the frame but it’s not about them as much as it’s about the place. Because photos of places tend to cover a large area, mostly, but not always, they are shot with wide-angle lenses. In this vast area there is a wealth of detail to immerse in.
The world as it is with out much human tampering. The photographs are mostly of animals, the sun and the moon. Perhaps a better term is wildlife, but then that excludes the moon and the sun.
I am convinced that there is a hunter instinct in me when I photograph animals. I don’t kill and eat them, but I stalk them and I shoot them at the right moment. I don’t aim to the head or heart, but to the right composition, and for this, I need to be close and quiet. And just as a hunter would display his or her best kills, I too, proudly hang photos of my favorite animal shots. Good fortune and luck play a significant role in wildlife photography, but above all, patience. The more prepared and patient you are the better luck you’ll have. When I was 19 I got incredibly lucky when a wild Komodo dragon came out between some rocks, scared the hell out of us, scampered out of its crevice, climbed over a boulder and ran away. My heart was racing and I managed to take two quick shots.
In recent years it’s been birds that have captured my curiosity. It started with hawks in San Francisco, then with the bird sanctuary at Lake Merritt, and now, humming birds. I find feathers under the right light condition to be mesmerizing. I strive to capture birds in action, although the occasional portrait works too. The grace and agility displayed by birds is perhaps what attracts me the most.
I do not consider myself a ‘portrait’ photographer. I take a documentary approach when I photograph people. I do not want to be noticed by them. The snapshot is what I’m after. There is no better accolade than to hear: nice shot, I had no idea you where taking pictures of me”. I know it’s sneaky, but to me, it works. Different people react different to cameras. By in large the Huichol Indians from the western sierras of Mexico do not like the cameras in there face, by contrast the Kamoro from the coast of West Papua in Indonesia, love it. Actors behave as if they had a mirror in front of them. Some people smile, some look away, but almost no one acts normally, and that’s what I’m after. Human relations are of most important here. I need to gain the trust of the people in order to photograph them as I want to. Just like patience is important when shooting animals, trust is as important when shooting people. I’m not one who likes to direct people. I don’t like artificial lights or flashes, tripods or shooting in studios. I like to go for the spontaneous reaction in its natural setting.
Huichol Pilgrim During Semana Santa. San Andres Cohamiata, Mexico
Conceptual, abstract photography or art photography is about the world around me. It is perhaps the hardest section to define. This images leave more to the imagination; texture, shapes, color, movement are some qualities associated with this images. Normal objects in abnormal settings. The mundane and ordinary world seen in another light, redefined, reinvented. Here is where I feel the most ‘artistic’. When you make something out of nothing. Improvisation, imagination and perspective are key qualities of conceptual images. Thinking outside the box is important here. We sometimes want to make the viewer think about symbols and meanings. Juxtapositions are commonly used. As opposed to photos of places, conceptual images are not straightforward. I like to play with reflections. When I get almost mirror like reflections I experiment by flipping the image upside-down so as to blur the difference between the real and the reflection. It can take the viewer a little while to figure it out. I feel that all rules, techniques, standards of photography can go flying out the window. Moved images, out of focus, over and under exposed, are all restraints. No need for a fancy professional camera, a cel phone will do the job. As long as there is a concept there is a commentary.