Suspect Photography

words and images from david george brommer

Category: Brommer Projects

Do we really need a Black & White Challenge? The Answer is a colorful YES!

Eastern State Penitentiary Sony RX10 B&W Jpeg

Eastern State Penitentiary Sony RX10 B&W Jpeg

Recently on social media, and in particular Facebook, the Black and White challenge has gone viral. The parameters appear to be that once you are nominated by a peer or friend, you have to post one image a day for five days, and on each post, you must nominate another photographer to do the same. The result, if the challenge is accepted, creates a pyramid of photographers posting B&W images exclusively. These rules are stated in the post of the photograph, and of course the nomination tags the photographer. When I did it, I liked to tag the person who nominated me, and on each daily post I made, I also tagged those who I was nominating during the duration of the challenge.

Eastern State Walls

 

I believe this to be a very interesting social media phenomenon, since it is creative and not just a social media useless trend, like the Bill Gates Millions chain e-letter. You can engage it many ways with deepness, like challenging a photographer who is known for color (I challenged Brandon Remler) or a more timid social media poster and film guy from Japan, my friend Mark Hammon. What was interesting about nominating Mark was that the mainstay of his photography circle is Japanese, so the challenge is spread globally.

Eastern State Pen View

I nominated my wife Barbara, who is a capable of making stunning color images and the occasional b&w. She took it to a new level and put the parameter of “some of her favorite things” and her posts are of objects and places that she loves instead of arbitrary images. She also nominated an Italian co-founder of the Cortona on the Move Photography festival, thus expanding once again across cultural and geographic boundaries.

Eastern State Walls

 

I tried to find out where and who the originator of the challenge is, but alas, that appears to be lost in the web. The Phoblographer made a good post about the challenge as well. Their post elaborated on what makes a good b&w shot. Pretty cool. Another aspect is that the level of photographers participating is very high, Sean Kernan is in on it. At this point, the challenge has gone through my photographer circle and some stunning work has been posted.

The above images were all shot at the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. The reason I chose to include this catalog of images for this blog post is that the location begged to be shot in b&w.

 

I believe this to be a blast, and very good for our medium. It’s actually a useful social media endeavor that can be challenging and interactive. Social Media is always evolving in unexpected and welcome ways.

 

What about you? Have you accepted the challenge?

The Trees – A New Series Takes Root

 

 

The mist is my new favorite weather to shoot in.

The mist is my new favorite weather to shoot in.

“There is unrest in the forest

There is trouble with the trees

For the maples want more sunlight

And the oaks ignore their pleas”

Rush– The Trees

 

I’m so thrilled, in the pursuit of creating images using the RX10 for an upcoming presentation on the camera I stumbled upon a new series that is taking shape, The Trees.

 

Watchungs2

 

I like to use the long fast lens on the camera to find a pattern and texture of the trees. I am shooting jpegs, and then putting them into Nik Silver EFX2 for a black and white treatment.

The Mist in the forest at Shenandoah National Park.

The Mist in the forest at Shenandoah National Park.

 

Diagonal Composition

Diagonal Composition

Bird Watch #4 Neighbor Mountain, Shenandoah National Park

Bird Watch #4 Neighbor Mountain, Shenandoah National Park

 

I’ll be honest, I don’t really care for Nature photography. But this series is resonating to me, I mean I do really like trees. They are old and wise in general, they have a mystical quality. Being pagan it’s like photographing gods in many ways.

 

 

 

 


Watchungs3

I hope you like the trees.

Watchungs4

~David

CBGB- The Last Day OMFUG

The Last Day of CBGB

The Last Day of CBGB

This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco

This ain’t no fooling around

This ain’t no mud club, or C. B. G. B.

I ain’t got time for that now…

 ~Talking Heads – Life During Wartime (1979)

CBGB was the iconic NYC club that defined the punk era in America. The letters CBGB were an acronym for country, bluegrass, and blues, which was the brainchild of Hilly Kristal who opened the club in 1973 at 315 Bowery. CBGB soon became a famed venue of punk rock and new wave bands like the Ramones, Television, Patti Smith Group, Blondie, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, and Talking Heads. From the early 1980s onward, CBGB was known for hardcore punk.

Seeing bands play at CBGB’s would always be a blast, and just having a drink at the venerable club was always exciting. The place had tons of character, and I’m not even going to go into what peeing in the bathroom was like. As a matter of fact, when the Metropolitan Museum of Art did the show, Punk: Chaos to Couture they featured a installation piece of the bathroom! CBGB was storied, and an important landmark in NYC. However NYC is an expensive place, and Hilly got his club in trouble. In 2000, CBGB entered a protracted dispute over allegedly unpaid rent and a deal to renew CBGB’s lease, expiring in 2006, failed. The club closed upon its final concert, played by Patti Smith, on October 15, 2006. The end of an era.

 “There’s new kids with new ideas all over the world,” Patti Smith declared outside the club at the last show, “They’ll make their own places — it doesn’t matter whether it’s here or wherever it is. but It’s a symptom of the empty new prosperity of our city”.

Upon learning on the eminent end to CBGB I set out to photograph it as part of my loose project entitled, “NY Out of Business”. On a cold and windy late October day I set up my Deardorff 8×10 camera and wide angle 8 ¼ dagor lens in front of CBGB’s. Cars and vans were always parked out side, so I set up as close to the curb as possible and made my exposure. Fearing the high wind would have rocked the camera and caused a blurry image due to a low shutter speed I returned the next day only to find the premiss white washed and the awning skeleton removed. The last vestige of CBGB and her punk heritage was obliterated. Luckily, I shot it just in time.

CBGB's Last Day

This was made by scanning the 8×10 negative and correcting for perspective with photoshop using the transform tool.

A year later, the awesome clothing designer John Varvatos leased the property and with deep respect to the orignal punk ethic, integrated as much of the enterior to his shop. Walking in the Bowery Varvatos store is almost like entering a punk museum. He saved the landmark from becoming a 7-11 or worse. Thanks John!

Here is what the store looks like now.

John Varvatos

This is the original shot from the Deardorff. I was too close to correct the perspective, so after scanning the negative I was able to correct for perspective in photoshop.

CBGB 8x10

CBGB I miss you, one more piece of NYC that has gone to history.

~David

The Raven Wing : A Study of a Harley-Davidson Sportster and Lust

WatchungWall

Wind

In my hair

Shifting and drifting

Mechanical music

Adrenaline surge…

Well-weathered leather

Hot metal and oil

The scented country air

Sunlight on chrome

The blur of the landscape

Every nerve aware. 

~Rush, Red Barchetta

 

A long time ago in a place far away (1990 and Rahway NJ) I walked into a Harley Davidson dealership with my childhood friend (and then roommate) Ed Fry. They had just gotten something very special in, the oddly named new model, Fat Boy motorcycle. It was huge, like a back streets brawler and had an attitude you could taste, smell, see, feel and hear. I’ll be honest, I have always harbored a fear of the motorcycle; it seemed too unsafe, too unprotected, and too easy to crash with my devil may care attitude towards speed. I couldn’t afford the bike back then, so I bought a pair of gloves.

 

LateShow

 

Life and time passed. I took a road that would not include a Fat Boy. A Harley Davidson is not like any other motorcycle. Riding and owning a Harley says something about your attitude that is not easy to quantify at once, because it spans many aspects of personality, means, and commitments. It’s part Rock and Roll, part Rebel and very Bad Ass. You either get it or not, you either can handle this or are secretly intimidated by it.

 

 

TrashnVaudville8street

Over the years I harbored the idea of riding a hog as they were called when I first spied that Fat Boy. One time coming out of late night speak easy in Seattle a ruffian/artist going by the name of Reuter offered me a ride across town to Pioneer Square on his bike. It wasn’t a Harley, but it was big and dark and fast. I rode bitch and hung on as we sped across a deserted 1st avenue. Damn what a way to cross-cities. In 2002 I got to spend 3 months studying Italian in Milan. During that time I secured the loan of a scooter and learned how to ride on the mean streets of Milan. Those Italians are daredevils I tell you. I actually love a scooter in the city, they are very nimble and make short work of hellish traffic. And you can park virtually anywhere once you Velcro your plate. As a wedding gift my in-laws gave Barbara and I a shiny red Vespa. Scooters might not be big motorcycles but in the city, where your top speed rarely exceeds 30 MPH and you close navigate the other cagers (enclosed cars), trucks, and taxi cabs you gain a skill that is akin to Olympic levels. We have ridden that little red jammer everywhere, but it was the long-range trips that begged to roll out on more powerful motorcycle.

WashingSqPark

This year we had a brutal winter. I longed for a motorcycle, a nice big roaring V-Twin beast of chrome, Iron and rubber that could take me further. Twenty Fourteen would be the time, and NYC would be the place. I hit up the local Triumph-Ducati on 6th and Spring in SoHo. Sitting on an American, the Triumph line of cruisers, I knew a cruiser would be my bike. The café racer style of the Bonneville T100 and the sprightly Thruxton were certainly rating high on the cool factor. While I can wave the American flag along with the best of them, I really have no issue with a British made bike. Triumph has bikes for all; adventure, hipster, brawler, classic, ultra-sporty and lets face it, Great Britain is the ultimate ally of the Allies. But… and you knew it was coming right? No V-Twin. Triumph engines are parallel twins. V is for Vendetta, V for Victory right? I digress… sorry.

 

A clean 1200 V-Twin

A clean 1200 V-Twin


In the fall of 2013 I had a great visit to Harley Davidson NYC with my fellow bad ass photographer (notice as we get deeper in this post the badd-ass-ness just keeps getting louder) Jason Geller. He had the bug for a two-wheeler as well. The trip out to Queens was well worth it; the staff was excellent and they really helped me discover the Sportster 1200 Custom as the bike that was what I wanted deep down. A Fat Boy might be in the future, but I need a little less weight and nimbleness for the city. The XL1200C comes stock with key options that fit my needs really well. I would just have to add saddle bags and the bike would be pretty darn perfect. Over the brutal winter I was reading everything I could about Harleys and checking out Ebay. I found Staten Island’s Lombardi Brothers, a dealership that has been in the same family since 1905! The showroom is tiny and packed with bikes. They listed a 2008 1200 Custom in vivid black. The price was half that a 2014 would be, and it was perfect at 3400 miles. Over a snowy day I took the Staten Island ferry across to check out this bike.

 

They gave the Raven Wing a nice bath before turning her over to me.

The dealership is one of Harley’s oldest. Family owned since 1905! Same location too!

 

Lombardi Harley is a 15-minute brisk walk from the Ferry. When I got there, they were a good bunch of guys and they showed me out back, in a little snow, my soon to be new ride. Right off the bat, the Skeleton Skull looked me in the eye and the bonding occurred. I knew it, the bike knew it, the dealer knew it, and the Carthaginians knew it: this was the one.

 

OurFirstMeeting

 

Mechanical creations of such beauty need a name, and this would be the Raven Wing, named after the fast attack mounted Space Marines of the Dark Angles Chapter. The Raven Wing is fast- the fuel injected 1200 CC V-Twin 5 speed can hit a ¼ mile in 4.3 seconds.

Watchungs Reserve

 

I added a set of cool bags from Viking Leather. The Raven Wing needs to hold stuff for the paintball and photography journeys. The mounting hardware provided by Viking isn’t the best and easy to mount, but the bags are super cool and not overpriced like the Harley saddle bags. Barbara and I had a big fight over the chrome studs. I won.

 

WestPointCombatClassic

The Raven Wing at the West Point Spring Combat Classic, I rode up to the Point at 4 am in the fog on the Pallisades Parkway. I couldn’t see a thing and the pot holes were like lunar craters. Notice the Planet Eclipse Ego 11 with SOD sticker… yea SOD paintball for life!

 

I’ll be the first to admit it and Barbara the next, but riding the bike obsesses me. It’s thrilling, exhilarating, and just plain fun. The throttle is very heavy, and the Raven Wing gives throaty roars when it revs up through second and third gear. The front suspension rises up and you get pulled back into the saddle while hanging on. The Raven Wing is like a wild horse you have tamed, it is heroic to ride but still a little scary.

 

The Cloisters make an excellent back drop for such a noble steed.

The Cloisters make an excellent back drop for such a noble steed.

 

Funny thing about riding a red Vespa and a black Harley-Davidson, the women check you out and smile when on the vespa, but on the hog the dudes check you out and give you thumbs up and nods. Dudes always hating on the Vespa, saying it’s pussy. Nah, the Vespa is confidence and intelligence for an urban explorer. The big Sportster is something entirely else, but not any more masculine, it’s an attitude thing. And hey, the chicks dig the Vespa and the guys dig the Harley… so what’s it going to be those who would say the Vespa is pussy?

 

Bleecker  Street, NYC and home of Magnolia Bakery.

Bleecker Street, NYC and home of Magnolia Bakery.

 

Now if you’re a rider, this part is something you are familiar with, and if you’re not a rider, let me elaborate on riding which is both cathartic and tactile. It takes all extremities to ride, your left hand is on the clutch, left foot on the gearshift, right hand on throttle and front brake and lastly your right foot is on rear brake. All your visual senses are on overdrive looking for road debris, potholes and shitty drivers. Your brain is firing off instructions to your arms and legs and processing data at alarming speeds. You simply are in sense over-drive. Shifting gears is evaluated with your ears and feeling the engine (whine and vibration) while a moment of laxity and it’s the curb for you. It is wonderful to ride, and if you are bothered by the daily grind, when you ride, the grind is gone. It’s magic. It’s called the thrill of riding a motorcycle.

 

Weight of the World

 

So one last story, this past weekend I was at a red light, and a young African man was crossing by and admired the bike, I gave him a wave and he really took a close look at the bike, smiled big and held his hand over his heart and became revenant. The Raven Wing, a HD Sportster moved this man, his emotion was tangible. What is it that can spur such a response? I don’t know exactly, but I look forward into riding into conclusions.

 

Self Portrait at my dream castle, the Cloisters.

Self Portrait at my dream castle, the Cloisters.

 

This post is dedicated to Ed Fry, my mechanic and blood brother. Rest In Peace Brother, a piece of you will always be riding alongside of me down the Highway to Hell. 

 

Two Icons, a V-Twin and the Worlds Fair Jump Towers in Queens.

Two Icons, a V-Twin and the Worlds Fair Jump Towers in Queens.

 

~David

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coney Island Polar Bear New Years Day Swim 2014 : A Guide To Photographing This Tradition

Rush_to_ocean

The mad dash to get in the water first. Xpro1 – Zeiss 12mm

Attention Suspect Photography Fans- Finding Photographic Style and Composition in NYC 4 Day Intensive Workshop April 17th to April 20th 2014. Early Registration Discount By March 1st.

The first day of the New Year is celebrated by New Yorkers at Coney Island in the form of a brisk dip in the Atlantic Ocean. This has turned into an event which is organized by the Polar Bear club of Coney Island, an organization  founded in 1903. This year the event drew close to 4000 viewers and 2500 swimmers in an extremely festive environment filled with characters, personalities and lots of photographers. I was actually quite surprised at how many shooters turned out, the day was a who’s who of NY photographers that showed up; from the venerable Harvey Stein, the Daily News veteran  Todd Maisel, iPhone extraordinaire Ben Lowy, man about town Louis Mendez, Brooklyn’s Kevin Downs and a motley assortment of many local photographers. I got the idea to shoot the Polar Bears a few days prior (looking for something cool to do New Year’s Day) and I texted my friend and fellow photographer Brandon Remler to see if he was game for it, and found out he had already plans to go, so I hitched a ride with him (creative minds think alike aye?). The board walk was crawling with photographers when we arrived at 11:30 am.

The seminal NY Street Photographer Louis Mendez covering the event.

The seminal NY Street Photographer Louis Mendez covering the event.

Covering this event to make photographs is exciting, fun and actually fairly difficult. Here is my take: first off, set a parameter. I wanted to capture portraits that resonate with the oddity of the moment,  the anticipation of the action, and the shivering resulting from it. Coney Island is an old place (my Grand Mother and Grand Father met there in the late 1920’s) and has distinctive landmarks that beg to be integrated into the final image.

hulk_n_wonderwoman

Characters abound. This is a husband wife Polar Bear team. The wife parked the invisible jet behind the wonder wheel (where else?).

The first part of the day is the action on the Coney Island Boardwalk. The music was provided by a DJ  and the result was a party filled with electric energy of the new year. I slapped on the 35 mm f1.4 for this and opened up between f 4.0 and f1.4 depending on the “width” of the photo. The shot below needed a little more depth of field because I wanted to catch the stuffed polar bear and the lady, and shooting at 1.4 would have given me focus on just one of those elements. I stopped down to f4.0 to capture both.

polar_bear_lady

too_cool_4school

A very typical character you can find on the board walk of Coney Island. I love the tattered leather and the macbook.

Coney_mummer

Elements that give a sense of place like the roller coaster are important to keep in the frame. I didn’t expect the tongue, but fired away when she stuck it out.

I love to shoot wide open and blur the background, but essential to this shoot was Coney Islands uniqueness so I was trying to get the parachute jump or the roller coasters in the background. The 35 mm f1.4 destroys backgrounds into a soft bokeh-ness so if I wanted that background to be demonstrative, I would have to really think about how far I was from the subject and carefully position myself to include those elements in the frame.

jaws_attacks

We’re going to need a bigger camera.

The action is carnival like, and people dressed up and cavorted for the many cameras. It was easy to make a portrait, all you had to do was get their attention and ask for the photo. I found you could also direct them a fair bit and roll out with some nice work. I would wait till the subjects were not being harrangqued by any other photographers so I could get their attention. You can see in their eyes if they are working with you, or the photographer next to them. The lesson here is wait your turn and make the photo yours.

run_to_water

The first wave of Polar Bears head to the cold surf.

The dip in the ocean occurs at 1 pm, so around 12:30 we made our way down to the beach and joined a crush of photographers. The Polar Bear Club makes a channel about 75 feet wide for the swimmers to run down the beach and hit the water. It gets filled up fast, so stake out your spot early. My plan was to shoot wide (Zeiss 12mm), and get in as close to the swimmers as possible. I set the camera for manual focus at f22 and just used zone focus to capture the run. I also put the camera into hi-speed drive mode and shot at 6 frames per second. Editing later on  you can find just the right shot and a lot of ones that clutter up your hard drive.

first_splash

This is my favorite shot of the day. I love the composition, but I did have to crop heavily, there was a Nikon 70-200 2.8 with lens hood sticking into the frame from the left side.

OMG_cold

The police boat on the horizon is an interesting element to include.

Winter_Splash

I did get tired of the police boat in the background, but the back lit splashes never gets old. One problem was the sun was just above the frame and wreaked havoc with the exposure. I was at +2 Exposure Comp to make this one.

After the swimmers took their dip they returned to the shore and an army of photographers converged on them. They showed great attitude and fortitude and posed for us. But again, you have to be proactive, smile at them and ask for the shot. Subjects looking into your lens will connect far better than subjects looking over you shoulder.

have_a_cigar

He couldn’t keep his cigar dry, but that didn’t stop him from smoking it.

I_did_it

This girl was skinny, so the cold was electric but look at that smile. A true NY’er and we don’t need the Giants hat to prove it.

This couple had just gotten engaged and were celebrating by taking the dip. I think everyone had a story, but with LBGT rights being the #1 story of 2013 I had a special warm place in my heart for these lovers. The woman on the right is proudly displaying her engagement ring. Let love rule!

married

How do you celebrate an engagement? In 32 degrees water thats how!

So what does a Coney Island Polar Bear get aside from a jolt of excitement? They get an official certificate stating, “I Did It”! Aside from crazy NY locals, this event also attracts thrill seekers from across the country.

I_did_it.too

This Polar Bear is loud and proud of her accomplishment.

This family came all the way from Sunny San Diego for the celebration and dip.

This family came all the way from Sunny San Diego for the celebration and dip. The family that freezes together stays together. They could have done this in their home town, but it wouldn’t have been the same.:-)

This work was all shot with the Fujifilm Xpro1 and my trio of favorite lenses, the Zeiss 12mm f2.8, 18mm f2.0 and 35mm f1.4. I was aperture priority and on the beach was always at +1 1/3 exposure compensation. I shot with B&W Yellow filter to bring out a little more contrast in the sky. The entire shoot was processed on my iPad using Snapseed. For those of you who find the FujiFilm Xpro exciting, please visit this blog  that collects all artistic articles about the camera. I also brought along my Fujifilm Instax Neo-Classic Instax camera. I gave away about 15 pictures throughout the day. Like I have written before, this camera just emanates good photo karma and it makes subjects happy when you  hand them an instant photo as a take-away.

Pin_hole_man

I saw Xpans, Graphlex, Hassy, and even a pinhole camera to capture the day with.

I am definitely going again next year, and to make better images I want to try mounting the camera on a pole and shooting remote to get a higher angle. I’ve noticed the press guys had fishing waders on and were in the shallow water making shots. I think this is needed, as I found it very hard to make images without lenses and other non “polar bears” in the image.

and the last image... the lone photographer capturing the surf of a new year. Complete with black fedora.

…and the last image… the lone photographer capturing the surf of a new year. Complete with trench coat and black fedora.

Regards to the brave Polar Bears of Coney Island  and see you next year.

~David

Day of the Dead in Mexico: A Photographic Exploration Of Dia De Los Muertos

Day of the Dead Boy, Zacatecas Mexico

Day of the Dead Boy, Zacatecas Mexico

In the fall of 2013 I attended the Morbid Anatomy Day of the Dead Field Trip called, “Death in Mexico” exploring Dia De Los Muertos. I had seen photographs of this holiday from my friend and mentor Harvey Stein and I was certainly interested in learning more and turning my cameras eye to capture the macabre beauty of the celebration. Accompanying us on this trip was Salvador Olguin, a Monterrey born historian of Mexican cultural artifacts with an emphasis on studying the relationship of Mexico and death. He was our Beatrice as we travelled into the underworld and offered insight into the history and artifice of the Day of the Dead.

Salvador Olguin in cemetery, Guanajuato

Salvador Olguin in cemetery, Guanajuato

Background of the Day of the Dead

Mexico is wonderful country that has its share of issues and grandeur. Faced with a complex history of tyrants, corruption, poverty, and of course drug trafficking Mexicans are acutely aware of death and have the most interesting way of negotiating what we in the USA put at arms length and treat with abject distance. Something completely unique to Mexico’s Day of the Dead is that is has a sense of humor, a moribund smile of sorts.

Sculpture, Zacatecas

Sculpture, Zacatecas

The holiday is celebrated on November 2nd and can be confused with Halloween, which it is not. Day of the Dead is about honoring the deceased by building altars, visiting grave sites, and offering (ofrendas) foods, flowers and drinks to the departed. This all adds up to a festive environment where children paint thier faces in sugar skulls and adults arrange parties in the cemeteries and cities. The festival has its origins linked to the Aztec goddess Mictecacihuatl who presides over the underworld and rules the afterlife. She a flensed goddess and is often depicted with a skull agape. Very fitting since in death, our bones remain as all that is left of our mortal trappings.

Sugar Skull Girl

Girl with sugar skull and instant photo portrait, Zaccatecas

To gain access when needed or to just pass on good photo karma to my subjects I also used a Fujifilm Instax Mini 25 instant camera. If you want to charm your subjects and get them to open up to you, a smile and an Instax shot is your ticket.

Man with sugar skull and military costume, Zaccatecas

Man with sugar skull and military costume, Zaccatecas

You could find altars to the dead in civic building, markets, universities, and even just occupying a niche in the street. This altar was nestled between a parking lot and a major street in the city of Zacatecas.

Simple altar on the streets, Zacatecas

Simple altar on the streets, Zacatecas

Mexico is practical, they don’t feel the need to be modern, if it works, they will adopt it to suit their purpose. Using a mule to carry your cactus drink across town for thirsty denizens is not for a tourist show, the man has a work mule and it does it’s job better than anything else the man has, so he uses it. No license, no department of health, just a real world application. I imagine we could have found this same image 200 years ago, but a modern car would not be parked across the street!

mulevendor

When we were planning this trip I considered what I wanted to get out of it photographically. I wanted to capture the spirit of the day of the dead and the people of mexico. My parents brought me to Mexico when I was 13 years old and what struck me was the sincerity of the people. Shooting with a super sharp lens I walked about with a smile and pointing at my camera to my subjects in order to make these images. I found a purity in the shooting of these mexicans on their holiday, and went for a wide open aperture to soften the background so to make the attention fall on the subjects while hinting at the environment.

Jicama, lime, and chili  snack man, rest stop between Monterrey & Zaccatecas

Jicama, lime, and chili snack man, rest stop between Monterrey & Zaccatecas

Our trip took across four cities and I found interesting subjects at highway rest stops, in alleyways, and on the streets. As I shot the images and edited them I began to fall in love the subjects. Take for instance this father daughter team, it was taken at the Festival of Skulls and it may just be the most honest image I have ever made. The affection is evident in the fathers closeness to his daughter and the child is innocent in a way that North American children have lost in our modern age.

Festival of Skulls father & daughter vendor, Aguascalientes

Festival of Skulls father & daughter vendor, Aguascalientes

The celebrations culminated in parties in the cemeteries. Families would gather in a festive way on the graves of their dead ancestors. These little girls were above their grandmother. I believe that no matter where the spirit of their grandmother is, the smiles of her descendants warms her soul.

girls at grave

Young girls celebrating over grave of grand parent, Guanajuato

breadofdead

Selling Pan de muerto (bread of the dead) on the street, Guanajuato

Mexico Sunset on highway between Zacatecas and Monterrey

The landscape could be ominous between the cities as seen in this sunset.

We visited the Mummies of Guanajuato, where well preserved mummies from a cholera outbreak were on display. These images were shot through display glass and I had to keep the lens touching the glass to avoid reflections.

mummyhead2

Mummy Head

To see more of this work, I have created a book with 76 plates and resources on Blurb. It’s not a cheap book, its $120 dollars but it is 12″x12″ and I’m quite proud of it. Please take a look here, I have the full preview permission set so you can see the entire book.

 

My Day of the Dead Triptych is also available on Fine Art America. This site allows you to choose varying sizes and presentation styles. I have priced them very affordable, so if you’re a fan of this work,  you have a choice of ways to own the photograph without breaking the bank.

Art Prints

The work I shot during the Day of the Dead was photographed exclusively with a Fujifilm XPro1 camera and three lenses; the Zeiss 12mm f2.8, Fujifilm 18mm f2.0 and Fujifilm 35mm f1.4. Settings were raw+jpeg, b&w mode, auto iso to 6400. All jpegs were imported into an iPad and final processing was done using Google’s Snapseed.  This is a workflow I have been using for over a year now and am very excited to present it in a new seminar at the B&H Event Space December 30th at 4 pm.

Resources for learning more about Death in Mexico

Morbid Anatomy – Brooklyn based blog, library and cabinet, museum, and educational collective that survey the interstices of art and medicine, death and culture.

National Museum of Death – A museum in Aguascalientes dedicated to the culture of death in Mexico. A must visit for those with an affinity for the macabre in art and culture.

El Museo De Las Momias (“The Mummies’ Museum”) – A museum exhibiting The Mummies of Guanajuato that consists of naturally mummified bodies interred during a cholera outbreak around Guanajuato, Mexico in 1833. The bodies appear to have been disinterred between 1865 and 1958. During that time a local tax was imposed requiring relatives to pay a fee to keep their relatives interred. If the relatives were unable or unwilling to pay the tax, the bodies were disinterred. Ninety percent of the remains were disinterred because their relatives did not pay the tax. Of these, only two percent had been naturally mummified. The mummified bodies were stored in a building and in the 1900s began attracting tourists. Cemetery workers began charging people a few pesos to enter the building where bones and mummies were stored and eventually a formal museum was founded.

and lastly, here is the entire tour from Morbid Anatomy’s Death in Mexico field trip. A wonderful trip, with wonderful people and the opportunity to make great photographs of super interesting subjects.

The tour group photo picture.

~David Brommer

Veteran’s Day Post – A Photographic Salute

BeachesTryptich

The three landing sites of the American forces, Omaha Beach, Point Du Hoc, Utah Beach. Platinum Palladium print presented in triptych.

The heroic deeds of the landings at Normandy and the Allied triumphs of WW2 are the defining moment of a dying generation. I have a keen interest in what remains of these sacred locations, both in images & words. In April of 2011 I began the project “Battlefield Cant” and visited the Normandy D-Day landing beaches and battlefields photographing with my trusty wooden 8×10 Deardorff camera. Being deeply affected by reading the accounts of our soldiers, I was motivated to start a collection of quotations from American veterans who fought in these locations.

Bunkers

German Bunker overlooking Point Du Hoc

The project is called, “Battlefield Cant”. The project title was made from the following:

Battlefield n. the field or ground on which a battle is fought.

Cant n. the phraseology peculiar to a particular class, party, profession

“Battlefield Cant” is a series of photographs from the European battlefields of WW2 and prose from the soldiers who fought there.

 

Omaha Beach, Dog Green Sector

Omaha Beach, Dog Green Sector

Omaha Beach – Dog Green Sector

“I started out to cross the beach with 35 men,

and only 6 got to the top, that’s all”.

  ~Lt. Bob Edlin

 

This is the beach made famous in Saving Private Ryan. It is estimated that on D- Day, 3,000 American Forces were killed in action at or near this location. The honor of photographing on this hollowed ground is one of the finest moments I have ever spent behind a camera.

 

Point Du Hoc. Site of the Rangers assault on the cliffs.

Point Du Hoc. Site of the Rangers assault on the cliffs.

Pointe Du Hoc

“The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers, at the edge of the cliffs shooting down at them with machine guns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After two days of fighting, 90 could still bear arms.”

~President Ronald Reagan at the memorial dedication.

 

A brutal assault that was needed to silence the big guns that could range both Omaha and Utah beach, this was an essential target to nullify at the start of the battle. The Rangers were elite and were up to the job, but at a terrible loss.

 

Utah Beach was taken with minimal losses. Thankfully.

Utah Beach was taken with minimal losses. Thankfully.

Utah Beach

 “We’ll start the war from here”

~Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt

 

When I went to photograph at Utah, I was greeted by a festive scene, horses on the beach, children playing. This site was now a recreation area and I could have been on Long Island for all it appeared. However, on D-Day this was an essential landing beach that saw artillery bombardment and the blood of Americans being spilled to secure it. I had to work to find these dunes to photograph, Utah was challenging to find the spirit of the place.

 

Bullet Hole from Paratroopers battle in a church in Sainte-Mère-Église

Bullet Hole from Paratroopers battle in a church in Sainte-Mère-Église

Excerpt from “A Paratroopers Prayer”

All mighty God, Our heavenly Father, who art above us, and beneath us, drive from the minds of our paratroopers any fear of space in which thou art ever present. Give them confidence in the strength of thine everlasting arms to uphold them. Endure them with clean minds and hearts that they may participate worthily in the victory which this nation must achieve. George B’Wood, Major Chaplain 82nd Airborne.

 

While I was scouting for locations in the middle of the day I entered the main church in the center of Sainte-Mere-Englise to find some respite from the hot June heat. At the entrance there was a info point telling the story of how a few Germans asked the priest of the church to hide them from the American Paratroopers that were scouring the area. The priest told them, “hide in the vestry, but don’t drink the wine”. The germans hid, and the priest went out side, found some Paratroopers and told them there were Germans hiding in the church. After a fast battle, the Americans cleared the church and killed the hiding germans. When I scouted the location I found evidence of the battle in the form of a hole in the glass that contained a Mary. This was left over from the fight, and the locals were putting their prayers on paper and inserting them in the bullet hole.

I was alone in the church, and proceeded to set up the Deardorff and make an exposure. It was very dark, and the exposure long. About 7 minutes factoring in reciprocity and bellows extension. I was proud I nailed the exposure, and during the long time, next to the statue was a prayer book where I found the Cant for this image.

Here are a few more images from the Project Battle Field Cant.

German Batteries.

German Batteries.

 

Memorial at Point Du Hoc

Memorial at Point Du Hoc

 

Sherman Treads

Sherman Treads

 

I launched a Kickstarter Campaign to fund this project and help send me to the next two locations to complete the project. I need to travel to Belgium and shoot in the snow for the Battle of the Bulge and then to go to Holland to photograph the battlefields of Operation Market Garden.

My choice of gear to shoot this project is very specific. I don’t feel comfortable shooting with a digital camera, these locations and the deeds that were done by the finest men of the United States of American deserves more than zero’s and ones, they deserve large format photography! All the images were shot on Ilford FP4 that was donated by Ilford for the project. The primary lens was a Dagor 8 1/4″.

I look forward to completing this project and printing the work all on Platinum Palladium.

My deepest gratitude goes out to the Veterans who fought in WW2. For them we owe all our thanks.

 

Brecourt Manor

Brecourt Manor, the baptism for Easy Company 516 PIR 101st Infantry.

 

~David

 

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