Suspect Photography

words and images from david george brommer

NYC for Beto Phone Bank 3 Days Before the Mid-Terms

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I’m lucky to engage in many interests and am part of a community to each one. They are varied, and one of them, paintball, tends to sway to the political right side, the other, table top war-gaming, swings left. I wont get into the nuances of each, suffice to say I am passionate about each activity, and my social media reflects it. I hear from the right views and I hear from the left. Like most of us, I tend to shout on social media because of the polarizing politics of post 911 America. Those who either regurgitate (re-post memes), spew, pulpit (virtue signalling), express, state, and declare tend to do it in an echo chamber of like minded people.  I’m guilty of that, and I’m proud to state that due to interests listed above, I have followers from both sides, so occasionally a good dialog occurs.

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That being said, I am keenly aware that stating your political views on social media may be cathartic, but it really isn’t changing anything. After two years of Trump America, I decided I’d be more involved. Summer of 2018 I discovered a Gen X Texas Congressman who was running for Ted Cruz’s Senate seat, Beto O’Rourke. Ironically I got turned onto Beto by following an article about how Cruz’s campaign sought to demean Beto by posting shots of him when he was playing in a post punk Grunge band and the pics went viral because apparently Beto was hot. I fell down an internet rabbit hole of Beto and learned quite a bit about him. He’s a Texan, I agreed with his platform and the way he expressed himself. I felt a kindred spirit in Beto and shared as much on Social Media. I spread the word, but wanted to do more. My “politik” friend, Justin Heyman and I had long talks. He is a more experienced activist than I, and outlined what could be done; mailing post cards to swing voters in Texas, donating to campaigns, and phone banking.

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I committed to all three and am a Beto backer in earnest. I joined a phone bank taking place in a Chelsea design studio, Stonestreet Studios. When I confirmed for the phone bank the option to post on Face Book was offered, my feed motivated two others to attend.

Justin exclaimed, “Democracy is contagious”.

 

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The phone bank experience was euphoric, instead of screaming into a contained cyber space, you are directly connecting with real people whose votes matter to advance an individual you believe in. This particular phone bank was located 5 blocks from my home, and took place from 5 pm to 8 pm. Three hours given to democracy is a meager sacrifice in any estimation, but sometimes actions can snowball into something far larger. On this gambit I set off as instructed, a MacBook air and iPhone in hand. I emerged out of an elevator into a working studio filled with young women, young gay men, and the heady air of hope. We introduced ourselves by stating our names and why we were here. The women where concerned about the right for them to receive healthcare and governance over their bodies. The gay men worried over the homophobic tone of national conversation.  I smelled a little fear on a few, but overall the tone was of warriors out for blood and ready to battle. Ted Cruz was detested unanimously and everyone knew what was at stake,

Beto had narrowed the gap and Texas may very well turn blue.

Victory was in sight, but not in hand. The hosts who lead the phone bank explained as much, backed up by being in Texas the week before canvassing. There was an excitement in the air as the process was laid out for us.

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This night would prove to be “throw your jacket down on the ground democracy”. We packed couches, crevices, desks and studio floors to make calls.

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A script we were told to follow (it was known that you could deviate wording as your confidence in the message grew) that essentially started off as informing the Texan recipient that there is an election on Nov 6th and could Beto count on them to vote for him. Upon a confirmation you would then go into determining from them a plan to vote. How would you get to the polls? Before work, or after work? you know, “the polls are only open from 7am to 7 pm”. One of my 50 calls that night I connected with a woman who didn’t know her polling location. I took her address, located her polling location on line then asked her to get a pen and paper and write it down. Right down to which door to enter. Then you end with asking for a promise to vote. The word of a Texan is no small thing, it is important that Beto supporters actually do vote and posing this question has a positive impact on participation. Rosie the event organizing explained that.

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The calling element was quite interesting from a technology standpoint. Integrating your mobile phone and an online interface you followed a flow chart of canvassing and recording outcomes. One dial in with an id and you stay connected as you follow a registered voter sample. In two hours I “called” about 50 numbers and spoke to about 15 who had pre-voted Beto, 15 answering machines (you just hung up and logged as a call back), 5 times chatting with spouses or relations and securing their support, 5 hang ups (Texans are polite what can I say?) 7 wrong numbers, and 3 voting plans. Those last three were the golden ticket you hoped to find in your effort. That’s where you make a difference. One gentleman named Thomas I spoke with was an 84 year old who said he’d vote “for that Beto, he seemed a good honest guy”. I went over the address of the polling location, he waited to till I finished then declared, “Yea I know where it is, I’m gonna walk on over”. He was sweet and it was an honor to connect with Tom from Texas.

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The UX of the system was more or less stable, but had an uncomfortable lag that you have to adjust to. Overall I was impressed with the tech. It could identify if the sample had voted in 2016. It worked best with head phones and embellishing your script with enthusiasm increased by how familiar you became with the process. A lovely Spanish speaking woman shared the couch I was calling on. She was extra valuable to the movement as she spoke fluent Spanish and hearing her canvas in soft fluid Spanish was invigorating. My friend Justin and his wife Nadine were diligent as well. Everyone had a laptop perched on their laps and a phone gripped tight in hand. There were sandwiches, cookies and an engaged atmosphere. Will Beto win big on Tuesday? That I cannot say, but I’ll say thirty people spending a Saturday night before the big election in NYC who were calling Texans and doing something proactive and proven to aid Beto’s victory.

It was a lovely feeling and an honor to state, “Hi, my name is David and I’m a volunteer for Beto O’Rourke’s Senate Campaign”.

 

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If you are a patriot, and passionate about your feelings being an American and want to do more, I suggest visiting the website of your candidate and learning how you can volunteer and make an actual difference.

To learn more about Beto for Texas click here.

All images made with an iPhone Xs Max and processed in Snapseed.

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The Tuscan Neighbor

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Giustino of Cortona

We have a neighbor in Italy, his name is Giustino. He is a venerable character now, but spent his formative years as a farmer and real estate man in Cortona. Since I have known him (about 15 years), he has always been old, but very steady and strong. His property hooks around ours and for years he has toiled in a labor of love tending the olive and fig trees as well as a vast tomato garden. He keeps the land immaculate and I have always admired the techniques and skill he employs. The story is told he bought the house and land for a relative, but they didn’t want it, so he kept it as a pet project of sorts. Driving his little Fiat from Cortona to Terontola in the early mornings to work the land, Giustino would be at it as I woke up almost every morning. Giustino is a sweet man to speak with even though I can barely understand him. I greet him each day with a bellowing, “Boun Giorno Senor!” across the rosemary bushes. He smokes a cigarette every half hour on the mark as he works and his voice is a gravely tuscan accented Italian. He speaks with a smile, the edges of his lips up turned, bright eyes deep-set into a face that has worked under the sun for all its years. In Italian, they would say he is, he isn“persona gentile”. I truly grew to love the man over the years.

This year when we arrived the first thing i noticed was his ill-kept garden. Where Giustino tilled the land and pruned the fig trees, carefully arranging the cut boughs around the trunks, weeds had overtaken. The tomato vines were strewn across the ground, not staked and were yielding poorly. I barely recognized the land, as i had never seen it return to nature but only under the sure hand of Giustino. I feared the worst, for it was obvious that finally the years had prevailed on my neighbor and the land would be wild with out his steady efforts.

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Working under the Olive tree’s shade

Then eleven days into the trip, as I woke up and walked out to the gardens I heard a familiar sound, the “Tick, Tick, Tick” staccato of Giustino working the land with a till! Was it phantasm or phantom of Giustino’s soul spirit bound to the earth? I hurried over and spied him behind the fig tree, clearing the ground beneath it. I ran back into the house and grabbed my trusty Sony RX10 mk 2 and positioned myself so as to be hidden and make exposures while observing my suddenly alive and kicking neighbor. He paused for a moment and rummaged through his jacket pockets to procure a pack of cigarettes, then sat down on his ramshackle well and took a smoke break. I silently laughed and was reassured. Time and the reaper be damned, Giustino lives!

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Taking a smoke break at the well

It turns out earlier in the year, Giustino got into a car accident and hurt himself direly while totaling the Fiat. His family won’t let him get a new car and Giustino is subject to the whims of neices and nephews providing rides down to Terontola from Cortona. We spoke, and he is ok now, but was bedridden for several months. He is disappointed he can’t continue as he had, but regardless, keeps his back bent into the work when he can. He lamented how embarrassed he was to have his field look as it did when we arrived. Steady and with dedication over the next two weeks Giustino secured his daybreak rides down and miraculously for one so frail, he cleared the land, trimmed, cut and organized the excess boughs and brought the field to garden status.

On our last night’s aperativo in Cortona, we ran into Giustino sitting with his friends at an outside bar. It took him a moment to recognize us in the shadowy street but when he did, his eyes lit up and that chiseled smile warmed us, and somehow deep inside, I know next year’s summer will bring us together again. Long live Giustino!

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Done for the day.

 

A final note about these images for the gear heads our there. All images shot with a Sony RX10mk2 jpg right out of the camera with the monochrome picture mode applied.  My NIK Silver Efx is now out of date with the latest Photoshop CC2018, so my normal digital B&W workflow was upset. Instead of doing the update, I did an ever so slight edit to darken corners and minor curves adjustment in Photoshop. The image quality out of the Sony RX10 continues to amaze me. I have raved about this camera in earlier posts and really think it’s just a solid performer that is capable of wonderful image making in the hands of a proficient photographer.  I included in each picture’s description the camera settings.

Next blog post will be my summer drone work of Italy.

~David

I Just Shot the Best Photograph I Have Taken In Many Years.

Hey Sailors

Sailors in Central Park

 

Last Sunday afternoon, I shot the best photograph I have taken in many years.

That statement will depend upon the beholder, but in my not-so-humble opinion it is acurate. I’m actually not proud of that because it was so easy to execute on first glance, but was it really? Also I live up to my earlier work, which this is not, but then again, it is. If I sound confused, I’m sorry. What I really am, is amazed. Amazed that I saw this, at that the right moment, and executed it properly, perhaps even perfectly.

This image is complex, lots of things are happening and the light is just right. The composition evolved into the perfection it is. The subjects, 3 sailors along a fence and a buff guy with no shirt emerging from a field.

I love it because it’s homo hot, yea, I went there and said that. At the core of my work I want to challenge viewers and take them to dark places inside themselves and let them shine light inside themselves. For the past several years my work has been very academic, but with this image, I feel I have reached back to my roots and mission. To be clear, I don’t want my work to make you feel uncomfortable, I want it to turn you on and question what makes you uncomfortable because you got turned on.

I also love it because I have learned so much. Pierre et Gilles are terrific influences on me, albeit in color photography. Those two bring homo eroticism to the forefront, but other influences are present too. The work of my friend and mentor, the late Len Spier. Len’s work is super spontaneous, black and white, and instantly classic. Mel DiGiacomo distills lessons about being ready, searching with your eyes to find quirk in everyday life. Both of them are black and white shooters, I have sworn off color for over two years now (I only miss it occasionally).

It would seem that every lesson I have learned is present in this image. I turned a corner in Central Park around 6 pm and found my decisive moment. Immediately moving into position and pulling out the only camera I had with me, my iPhone 6. I turned it on, and swiped left to bring up the camera mode. Meanwhile the Frisbee players in the field overshot and the disc landed right of the sailors. One bent down to pick it up. There were four, now there were three. The picture was happening really fast, the moment was almost lost. I leaned out with my right hand, and took two shots in a row. I didn’t have time to solve the change in composition the fourth sailor made by leaving the frame. I was afraid the entire dynamic of the scene would be lost. It wasn’t. My quick composition was enough. I captured it. But I thought it was lost, because I would have to crop the fourth. A day later, I reviewed it and started to notice while I lost the fourth sailor/subject, I gained the frisbee player. And he was hot and shirtless. A small post crop would remove the fourth and the frisbee would become a circular element that sailors and players alike seems to be looking at. The errant frisbee gave direction to the image. It would seem that afternoon in the park, the photo gods smiled upon me.

Photo nirvana occurred. You might agree or disagree with me. It doesn’t happen often. But when it does, it reminds me why I’m riding this horse called photography.

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The unedited version from iPhone 6.

Here is the original image, and the snapseed processed version.

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Edited in Snapseed.

The above image was processed in Nik Silver Efx. I wish I had had my Fujifilm XPro2 with me, but I didn’t want to be burdened. I’m thankful for the iPhone. What’s the best camera? You know the answer to that.

~David

My Beloved Fujifilm XPro1 is up on Ebay!

I know it’s hard to believe, and it breaks my heart… But since I bought my XPro2, my XPro1 is simply getting dusty. Time to share the piece of gear that excited me so for near 4 years.

Here is the link to the camera on Ebay. The Auction ends February 5th at Noon EST.

Mention you saw it from Suspect Photography blog in the comments and I’ll send you a nice Day of the Dead Triptych.

Have fun!

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Bull Riding in NYC

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I got a last minute invitation today to photograph the third and last day of PBR- Professional Bull Riding event at Madison Square Garden. Armed with my new Fujifilm XPro2 camera I hightailed it over to meet with long time friend and fellow photographer whose gig it was to shoot for Load It, an international trade magazine for productions. I hate to say this, but I think I have known photographer Todd Kaplan for very close to 3 decades. He’s a tried and true working pro- always gets the shot. Shoots with Canon. Good guy.

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I heard we would have access, so I imagined cowboys in dressing rooms, ready to test their mettle on the backs of beasts. I grabbed the 18mm and 35 mm lenses in eager anticipation. I should have known how crummy the sodium vapor lights at the Garden are.

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The Monster girls posing with their boss. At least he said he was their boss…

The cowboys were getting “in the zone” so no portraits of them occurred, I figured to make the most of the it and test out that new and improved AF system on the XPro2. I switched to high speed mode, AF servo and activated all focus points in with a wide AF center box. Ready to go!

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Auto Focus Mode tracked the action no problem!

I’m usually an aperture priority kind a guy, but for this, I put the lens in A mode and set the camera to 1000 sec shutter speed. I opened up the auto ISO to a 12,500 cap. These settings worked like a charm!

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8 frames per second and 1000th of second shutter nails the shot like the photographer was born in the bull pen. He wasn’t.

I shot these in the Film Sim mode using Across Green Filter setting. I figured the green would un-harsh the crappy stadium type lighting in B&W. My quick edit had me using the good old reliable Nik Silver EFX. I used the #22 ambrotype toning. I figured a warm look matched the classic bull riding theme of the photo shoot.

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The bulls are the real stars.

Here is Todd working, it’s a tough job, someone has to do it.

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MSG back stage, things are a little weird.

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I finally found the picture I wanted, this cowboy was from Colorado, but has recently moved to Missouri. He works for 3 1/2 months, then gets to go home for a few weeks. He was cordial and really interested in the people he meets on the road. A gentleman. A gentleman cowboy.

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The last thing I’d like to convey, there were protesters outside of MSG. The crew I worked with Todd shooting were very professional and the cowboys taking care of the bulls were very respectful of the bulls. I saw no mistreatment and the bulls appeared to be .. well… bullish.

XPro 2 for sports? Yes!

~David

XPro2 First Thoughts and Review

Processed with Snapseed.

Fujifilm XPro2, 35 mm 1.4 lens, Cub Leather Strap, John Varvatos T-Shirt.

I just took delivery of the Fujifilm XPro2 and it will surely be replacing my beloved XPro1 as my primary camera. I’m quite thrilled, and since I’m old school, I like to hang onto photo gear and not get caught up in the great gear race of the latest. I mean, great photographers have been taking great photographs for over a 170 years now, how bourgeois to think that only the latest camera will make you shoot better!

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NYC High Line Rain. 18mm f 2.0 processed in Snapseed on iPhone.

On a rainy and cold Christmas Eve morning in NYC I took a stroll on the High Line with one of my favorite lenses, the 18mm f2.0. Before I left the warmth of my apartment, I did what I always recommend, take the manual along with cup of hot joe in one hand, and the camera in the other hand. Run page per page through the manual. There was a host of new features and a slight update on the menu system. I downloaded the Fujifilm Remote App and installed on my phone and tablet. The weather was totally miserable, and the normally very busy Highline empty. In a word, Perfect.

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Close up wide open on the Highline.

First thoughts are hallelujah I finally have a camera with a dependable wifi so I can use my iPhone and post the hyper quality image I get from a “real” camera as opposed to the super ease of iPhoneagraphy (which I love but makes me feel cheap and dirty). I was never able to have any success with Sony’s Memory App but Fujifilm delivers a pretty intuitive and easy app for controlling the camera and managing files transmitted to mobile devices. Note that when you transfer a file via wife to a mobile device, it sends a 3 mp file. On your cards are the big files. This blog post is comprised of only images downloaded to my phone, then airdropped to my MacBook for creating the blog post.

Processed with Snapseed.

Evidently New Yorkers are not ready to have Donald Trump as their next president. Wide open 18mm f2.0 and processed in Snapseed.

Down and Dirty on The Xpro2 from an Xpro1 User

 if you are here just for the pix, you might want to scroll past this part. 

I don’t want to cover what other camera bloggers have written, this camera has been out for a few months and admittedly, I’m late to the game. I’ll add that yes, the focus joystick is the absolute bomb. We all love to play with shallow depth of field, and this is an effortless way ensure that the focus point is exactly where you want it.

I noticed other things such as the now built in diopter and not the annoying Nikon style rubber eye cup. It’s hard to believe the XPro1 didn’t have a built in diopter now that I think about it. That’s a throwback to old school that I could live with out and a welcome feature on Xpro2.

I’m not sure how this is going to help, but when in OVF if you push the OVF/EVF arm towards the lens, a little magnified EVF window pops up in the lower right hand side of the viewfinder. I hit it by accident and had a devil of time figuring out how to remove the little pop up window (the lever now goes in both direcitons). I look forward to figuring out how to leverage that feature.

If you want your Xpro2 to be all it was born to be (LOTR reference) make sure you go into power setting and switch on “Performance Mode”. Thanks Big B Brandon for that tip. The factory default is a middle setting. Performance mode helps focusing by engaging phase detection. I have learned to live with the fact that the XPro platform is a battery hog and just roll with extra batteries. Seems that the XPro2 is the pig that  the XPro1 was. Well what ever we are used to that, if you have a problem keeping batteries charged and on deck, then I suggest you go look at Leica M camera.

The Exposure Compensation Dial has more tension than the XPro1 did, so a casual brush up agains your gut doesn’t result in a +2 exposure mistake you notice later. My first thought was a locking button on the dial would be great, but the tension is just right and a lock is not necessary. Somebody at Fuji was listening.

More Buttons and dials! Yup, pretty much you gain joystick, dials and buttons to customize any which way. The dials push in, turn and simply add tons of customization. I’m fortunate have video game training so my fingers can dance across the camera and do exactly what I want. Well.. almost what I want. I’d love to be able to assign the Fn button to activate the wife transfer instead of going through the menu.

The Grip (which I feel is essential if your hands are larger than Trumps) now has a hole to be able to change the battery (yea we do that a lot) and not have to go through the rigamarole of removing the grip as with the XPro1. The grip also has a machined arca-style QR built into it. #lovethat. Memory card slots (yup, now two of them) are accessed in the side of the camera as opposed to next to the battery. Two slots may entice me to shoot raw when I shoot Jpeg. Pretty cool update and modernization.

In short, if you are a XPro1 user, run, don’t walk to B&H and buy this camera now. Click here for the goodness.

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The next four years are going to be great for art, oppression has that effect. Glad I had the 18mm, to get this shot I was pressed agains the opposite wall. Wide Saves Lives.

I’m excited the focus system is now really snappy and accurate. I appreciate that, since I like to shoot wide open and have limited depth of field. I need to nail that focus! And the XPro2 delivers.

I did an unboxing video. It’s funny because Elvira (my dear mother in law) helps out. Check it and please, subscribe to my youtube channel)

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Happy Holidays and let’s toast to no matter what camera you have, make some most excellent photographs!

~David

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ed Brommer & Bradley Beach in Film

This year I decided that I wanted to continue my work photographing Day of the Dead in Mexico. I had first visited and photographed the holiday in 2013. I used the Fujifilm Xpro1 and have a blog post of the work you can find here. I was quite pleased with the work, but had been recently influenced by Rodney Smith and Paul Caponigro to shoot film. I hadn’t shot with my Hasselblad 501 in years, so I thought this would be a good reemergence as such.

I decided to test it out and see about how I would pack it. I’m extremely retentive when it comes to packing for travel. It’s the back packer in me. I first grabbed the Think Tank Speed Racer bag that is preferred by National Geographic field photographers. They know something about travel right?

I packed a Hassy 501 with 50 f4, 80 2.8, 150 F 4 Zeiss glass. One 120 back and a roll of Tri-X to photograph two subjects, my Father and Bradley Beach.

My father is 91 and is a survivor. He outlived all his friends, co-workers, siblings (and their husbands) and one wife. Ed loves his cars. He picks them out carefully, and all through my life, he had cool cars. I asked him to stand in beautiful light in his garage, with his latest prize, a loaded Buick LaCrosse. He had the vanity plate since the 80’s. I gave him the Seahawks sweat shirt back in ’94. He still wears it.

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Ed Brommer in his garage, fall 2016 New Jersey

I used the 80 mm 2.8 Distagon with Tri-X rated at 320. Meter reading was taken below Dad’s chin. 250th of a second f 4.0. Cha-Click-Unk.

I spent my summers in Bradley Beach as little kid in the 1970’s. It had a great influence on me, and when i return to Bradley I always get a tear or two in my eye from the sweet memories. This snapshot is the fountain on the board walk at LaReine and Ocean Avenue. All my life, I have seen this classic Jersey Shore fountain.

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Fountain, Bradley Beach, New Jersey.

I enjoyed making these images but what I learned was that the kit would be way too heavy. The Speed Racer bag is made for DSLR with a long zoom lens, while I could pack it nicely, the weight of that glass, especially the 50 and 150 was just prohibitive. The second problem I had with the film workflow, was the cost. I dropped off the roll of film to CRC on 22nd Street. They offer three levels of scans, 2.5 mb scans + processing would be $16.00. I know from experience, never ever get the low grade scan. The next was 15 mb for $30.00 per roll. Whoa, way to costly for me.

 

So I decided to pack my Fujifilm Xpro 1 and a few lightweight easy lenses and roll with that in Mexico. At least I got to make these two cool shots and dust off the Hassy. I still love that sound and dig the grain from the Tri-X.

Work from Day of the Dead 2016 will be posted soon. I took a year off the blog to see if it would change anything. The only thing it did was keep me off the screen and outside more.

~David

 

 

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