Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

The Kiss, By Alfred Eisenstaedt

It is V-J Day, August 14th, 1945, and as part of the celebration in Times Square, New York, a sailor kisses a woman dressed in white who he doesn’t know. The image was captured by Alfred Eisenstaedt and became an iconic photo on the cover of Life Magazine:

© Alfred Eisenstaedt

© Alfred Eisenstaedt

At first the two kissers were unknown and over the years there have been several people who have claimed to be the iconic couple… the end though, it is generally agreed upon that they are George Mendonsa and Greta Zimmer Friedman (though this is still contested).

I came across an article I thought I would share that the sailor, George Mendonsa has passed away at age 95. The article is an interesting one, as is this one from Wikepedia that also talks about the other people who have claimed to be the couple in the photo.

Life On The Road

Who doesn't have dreams (at least at certain times and at certain ages) about living a portion of their life traveling and experiencing the world. But, for how long? And for what reasons? What kind of life is it? It's pretty easy to think about the positives, but what are the negatives? There is a lot I could try to say about photographer Jimmy McIntyre's heartfelt and wonderful (I think so anyway) article entitled "Why I'm Giving Up Life On The Road". I found it a very interesting and worthwhile read and wanted to share it. I do find that I like his current idea of two week trips!   

Of course, seven years on the road is quite a long time and I would think that one probably has to give up such a lifestyle at some point in time and at some age, no matter how good the reasons for adventure are. So in many ways I take it as an article that would encourage me to travel were I younger. The tough thing is knowing exactly "when the party is over".  

Quick Quotes: Guy Tal

The point of living a creative life - rather than just engaging in creative pursuits on occasion - is not merely to produce aesthetically pleasing artifacts, but to bind one's creative work and living experience as two dimensions of the same life in all its details, always unfolding and evolving in parallel. 

Guy Tal

The photographs - mine and others - that I consider most favorably are not those that merely serve as visual trophies for enduring some difficulty or experiencing a stroke of good luck, nor those relying entirely on interest and aesthetics inherent in the things photographed. Rather, they are those photographs that express a photographer's passion for - and harmony with - the life they live and the things that make such a life better and elevated in their own mind: not photographs of objective things, but photographs about subjective things.

Guy Tal

I thought these two quotes from Guy Tal's recent LensWork monograph offered quite a bit to think about in terms of how to breathe life into one's photographs.

Fan Ho

Ever hear of the photographer Fan Ho? Neither had I! But when I discovered his work I was simply blown away. Turns out that I had seen and recognized some of his images, but I had never known who took them. Take this one for example:

Approaching Shadow (1954)    © Fan Ho

Approaching Shadow (1954)    © Fan Ho


His use of light and shadow, framing, high key, contrast, and the 'decisive moment' is truly amazing. It made me wonder how I had not heard of him or his work before this. It is always a pleasure to discover an artist who you hadn't heard of and whose work pulls you in and makes you see things in a new way.

Unfortunately, Fan Ho was one of many artists and performers who passed on in 2016.

Here is a video (made, as will become apparent, before his death) that reviews some of his work:

Recently a couple of books of his work have been reissued and I am looking forward to receiving my copies. They can be found here.

The Story Behind The Photo: Charles Ebbets

Many people are familiar with this iconic 1932 photograph by Charles Ebbets of 11 ironworkers having lunch atop a steel beam 800 feet above New York City. I ran across a wonderful video relating the backstory of this image and images like it. And yes, there were some photographers that walked out on the steel beams......let's just say that as someone who has difficulty with heights I would not have been one of them!

It is a short five minute video that I really enjoyed and that I think is well worth watching!

Quick Quotes: Galen Rowell

I began to realize that the camera sees the world differently than the human eye and that sometimes those differences can make a photograph more powerful than what you actually observed.

Galen Rowell

I read this quote by Galen Rowell and said to there is part one of the answer to the eternal, infernal question "did it really look like that?"

Quick Quotes: Irving Penn

A good photograph is one that communicates a fact, touches the heart, and leaves the viewer a changed person for having seen it.

 Irving Penn

It is incredibly difficult to make a really good photograph.  Communicating a fact is easy, touching the heart is more difficult, leaving the viewer a changed person is something to aspire to......

Penelope Taylor's Infrared Blog

You can meet some great people on photography workshops! And on the last one I attended with John Barclay in Death Valley I met a whole slew of them, one of which is Penelope Taylor. Penelope is a great 'regular' photographer in her own right, but recently became totally intrigued and beguiled by infrared photography. So she went out and learned how to do it with a vengeance!

Her infrared images are different.  She plays off shadow and highlight in unique ways, as in her photograph below.  And all without the dark black sky with bright white clouds that are so typical of infrared. 

© Penelope Taylor

In addition she uses infrared for subjects that are not typically photographed this way. The image "Rogue Wave", seen below, could well have been photographed using the visual spectrum of light. Would it have looked the same? Honestly, I don't know. But I have seen the print of this image and the subtle range of tones and light are absolutely gorgeous.


"Rouge Wave"    © Penelope Taylor

Recently, Penelope has started a blog devoted to infrared photography as well as a Facebook page dedicated to her infrared work, and I plan to be a reader of both! If you are interested in seeing more of her infrared work you can read along as well at her Penelope Taylor Photography blog and her Facebook page. They will definitely be well worth many return visits!

Quick Quotes: Dan Winters

Lately, I have been reading "Road To Seeing" by Dan Winters. It has been some time since I posted a quote and something he wrote in the book stuck with me.  He was discussing the great W. Eugene Smith's photo essays and realized he would never produce essays like Smith's, recognizing that this was at least partly related to life taking him in a different direction than the path that Smith took:

"It is important for us not to compare our work to the work of others, as challenging as that may be.  It is simply human nature to look outside ourselves, rather than face that which exists internally. Comparison is ego based and unproductive in the long run"

Dan Winters

Road to Seeing
By Dan Winters

I like that!

What do I think of the book overall?  

A bit of a difficult question.  When I wrote this post and scheduled it for the New Year I was only about a third of the way through the book.  Now I'm two thirds of the way through and my opinion is a bit different.  Let me explain.

The first part of the book is focused on Winter's adolescence and early adult life as he winds his way through finding his calling and 'advancing' through the various stages of becoming the renowned photographer he is today. It is this part of his writing that I found most compelling, as it includes insights into 'seeing' and interpreting life via photographs.

The middle third of the book, where he talks about specific 'celebrity' shoots, how they evolved, and his ideas behind each of the sessions I found far less compelling. Yes, it was of some interest to hear Winter's thought process behind each shoot but the section lost, at least for me, the message value.  Maybe it is because I don't shoot many portraits.  Maybe it is because I won't find myself photographing celebrities. At any rate, I found the focus to be more on the celebrity than the 'bigger' message.

And of course none of this should detract from the fact that the photographs are both beautiful and beautifully reproduced.

At almost 700 pages it is hardly a quick read, but, as we said in high school, it goes quickly because there are lots of (gorgeous) photos. At $60 it also isn't a 'casual' book purchase. I hesitate to give a final opinion as I still have another third or so of the book to go, but I would have to say that though it has 4.5/5 stars on Amazon I would personally only give it a 3 overall, though it clearly has 5 star moments!

Quick Quotes: Minor White

"Reaching a 'creative' state of mind through positive action is considered preferable to waiting for 'inspiration'."

Minor White

I have been doing a fair amount of reading about the creative process lately and this quote sums up a good deal of important information.  Inspiration, at times, just arrives.  But the vast majority of the time it comes to those who are working, and working hard, at creating. It's the 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration thing. 

It reminds me of the time I asked my teacher, the late Nancy Rotenberg, how to work through those inevitable periods where it seems like you can't find anything that inspires you to make photos.  Her answer was to just get the camera out and start photographing whatever is there in front of you.  Work at it and the inspiration will come.  She was quite wise!

Quick Quotes: Ruth Bernhard

There is no such thing as taking too much time, because your soul is in that picture.

Ruth Bernhard

This quote by Ruth Bernhard, a photographer best known for her classic nude studies, is one that I find comforting.  I frequently find myself spending long periods of time trying to get images to appear just the way I would like them to.  I sometimes think that perhaps I would be 'more productive' if I left the images at 80% of what I want them to be, because most people would probably not notice the subtle changes....but I never do leave them till I have them just right, at least from the standpoint of my vision. I guess that is because my soul is in them!

Quick Quotes: Ibarionex Perello

"Living a photographic life doesn't necessarily mean going into business as a photographer"

Ibarionex Perello

There is a lot to that simple statement.  What does it mean to LIVE a photographic or artistic life?

What does it mean to BE a photographer or artist?

What is the difference between an amateur and a professional (hint: amateur comes from Latin or Old French and loosely translated means 'lover of something')?

Charlie Chaplin once said "That's all any of us are: amateurs. We don't live long enough to be anything else."

Yes, there is plenty to think about here!

Ibarionex Perello is a photographer and founder of The Candid Frame Podcast.

Quick Quotes: Robert Doisneau

"If I knew how to take a good photograph I'd do it every time"

Robert Dosineau

I love the wry and only semi-sarcastic humor in this quote!

Doisneau was a French photographer who died in 1994 and is most noted for his Parisian street photography. His most known photograph was made in 1950 - "Le baiser de l'hôtel de ville (Kiss by the Town Hall)" - seen below.

Robert Doisneau's "The Kiss"    © Robert Doisneau

There is a bit of an interesting story associated with this image.  Rather than rewrite it, I will quote from Wikipedia:

"In  1950 Doisneau created his most recognizable work for Life – Le baiser de l'hôtel de ville (Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville), a photograph of a couple kissing in the busy streets of Paris,which became an internationally recognised symbol of young love in Paris. The identity of the couple remained a mystery until 1992.

Jean and Denise Lavergne erroneously believed themselves to be the couple in The Kiss, and when Robert and Annette Doisneau (his older daughter and also his assistant at the time) met them for lunch in the 1980s he "did not want to shatter their dream" so he said nothing. This resulted in them taking him to court for "taking their picture without their knowledge", because under French law an individual owns the rights to their own likeness. The court action forced Doisneau to reveal that he posed the shot using Françoise Delbart and Jacques Carteaud, lovers whom he had just seen kissing, but had not photographed initially because of his natural reserve; he approached them and asked if they would repeat the kiss. He won the court case against the Lavergnes. Doisneau said in 1992, "I would never have dared to photograph people like that. Lovers kissing in the street, those couples are rarely legitimate."

The couple in Le baiser were Françoise Delbart, 20, and Jacques Carteaud, 23, both aspiring actors. In 2005 Françoise Bornet (née Delbart) stated that, "He told us we were charming, and asked if we could kiss again for the camera. We didn't mind. We were used to kissing. We were doing it all the time then, it was delicious. Monsieur Doisneau was adorable, very low key, very relaxed." They posed at the Place de la Concorde, the Rue de Rivoli and finally the Hôtel de Ville. The photograph was published in the 12 June 1950, issue of Life. The relationship between Delbart and Carteaud only lasted for nine months. Delbart continued her acting career, but Carteaud gave up acting to become a wine producer.

In 1950 Françoise Bornet was given an original print of the photograph, bearing Doisneau's signature and stamp, as part of the payment for her "work". In April 2005 she sold the print at auction for €155,000 to an unidentified Swiss collector via the Paris auctioneers Artcurial Briest-Poulain-Le Fur"

It would appear that Bornet was well compensated for the kiss!

Quick Quotes: Eddie Adams

"Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world.  People believe them, but photographs lie, even without manipulation.  They are only half-truths."

Eddie Adams

And while I am quoting Eddie Adams, why not make it a twofer.....

"If it makes you laugh, if it makes you cry, if it rips your heart out, that's a good photograph"

Eddie Adams

Two quotes that say a lot.  I have always been particularly interested in the perception of truth in photography (see my article "Truth and Photography").  I love explaining to those who are unaware that even in the 'pre-Photoshop era' photographs could be heavily manipulated in the darkroom. For example, one need look no further than Ansel Adams' photos which, while gorgeous, were significantly manipulated and not a true representation of what was in front of him. None other than the great Bruce Barnbaum said (I guess this qualifies as making this quote post a threefer) "Photography has often been equated with reality - what you see is what was there.  It becomes reality.  This is the reason people feel that Ansel's famous 'Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexixo' was a special moment in time, when, in fact, it's an image so greatly manipulated that it can be truthfully stated that the moment never occurred.  It was largely created.  The actuial moment was used as a starting point for the image, while the image is a dramatic alteration of the starting point.  It is a wonderful interpretation of that moment by Ansel."

Who was Eddie Adams?  It's not a name that most are familar with and he's not related to Ansel. Interestingly, at least to me, is the fact that he was born just down the road a bit from me, in New Kensington, Pennsylvania. He died in 2004 and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1969.

Adams was, among other things, a combat photographer who covered, and survived, 13 wars. His best known photograph will be immediately recognized by anyone in the 50-70 age group; those who lived during the Vietnam War era:

© Eddie Adams, Saigon Execution

© Eddie Adams, Saigon Execution

Well this photo certainly rips your heart out.  But what about truth?

In 1998, Adams wrote about this image in Time Magazine. You might not anticipate what he had to say, I know I didn't. He wrote (taken from Wickepedia) "Two people died in that photograph: the recipient of the bullet and GENERAL NGUYEN NGOC LOAN. The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapons in the world. People believe them; but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths. ... What the photograph didn't say was, 'What would you do if you were the general at that time and place on that hot day, and you caught the so-called bad guy after he blew away one, two or three American people?'.... This picture really messed up his life. He never blamed me. He told me if I hadn't taken the picture, someone else would have, but I've felt bad for him and his family for a long time. ... I sent flowers when I heard that he had died and wrote, "I'm sorry. There are tears in my eyes."

I would also like to bring up another issue to think about here.  I am not a fan of reality shows. In fact, you might call me an 'anti-reality show' person. I mean, I really don't get the genre. And one of the reasons is that once the camera is introduced (and, of course the participants know the camera is there) how real is it?  How can people's actions not be influenced by the fact that they know they are being filmed?  

In this vein, the famed photography critic Susan Sontag wrote the following about Adam's iconic image, "he would not have carried out the summary execution there had [the press] not been available to witness it". In this case maybe so and maybe not.  But I think it is hard to argue that the presence of the camera can, in some instances, change the behavior of those being filmed or photographed.

Well, I included a lot more than my usual for this Quick Quote post, but I think that there is a lot here to think about! 

Just Jo (Johnson)

I was truly surprised and delighted when fellow photography workshop participant Jo Johnson, who is a superb photographer in her own right, asked to interview me for her blog.  I had never been interviewed about photography before and it was actually quite a lot of fun and her questions really made me think quite a bit.

So I am going to provide a link over to the blog and interview. But here's the thing.....keep reading because Jo's blog is fascinating.  You see, she is something of a history buff as well as a photographer, and she artfully weaves her images and words into fascinating historical tales (all true).  In much the same way as some of the history writers we love, Jo makes history fun, interesting and personal. After that check out her photos as well!

Quick Quotes: Don McCullin

"Photography for me is not looking, it's feeling.  If you can't feel what you're looking at, then you're never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures"

Don McCullin

As my teacher Nancy Rotenberg used to say, you have to go 'beyond the handshake'. This quote further elaborates on that idea.  If I can't feel it nobody else will either, especially when viewers are, by necessity, (since they can only look at a print or computer screen) once removed from the reality I was standing in front of when making the photograph.


Quick Quotes: Robert Adams

"No place is boring if you've had a good night's sleep and have a pocket full of unexposed film."

Robert Adams

I always enjoy quotes that relate to the fact that you don't have to go on expensive, exotic journies to remote places in order to make interesting photographs.  I suppose that is why I enjoy photos of the "Intimate Landscape" so much......because they can be found almost anywhere.