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Emotional Photography Mind Tricks

“Photographers mistake the emotion they feel while taking the photo as a judgment that the photograph is good.” – Garry Winogrand

 (bryan farley)

I regularly ask my students to choose their favorite photographs and their best photographs. These are separate activities; however, for the reason that Winogrand mentions above, beginning photographers often confuse the difference. Students can mistake their positive memories for positive assessments. Other times, students’ memories cloud their ability to judge (or see) their best work. In other words, if a picture doesn’t feel good, it must not be good… or so it would seem.

 (bryan farley)

Gary Winogrand is not my favorite photographer. Nor do I think he is the best, but there is no doubting his influence, especially in the world of street photography. Three years ago, during the JEA/NSPA 2013 Spring National High School Journalism Convention, I visited SF MOMA ‘s Winogrand exhibit. Two days earlier, I had taught a photo workshop to student journalists. Until recently, I assumed that the workshop was a failure, because I measured the workshop by my emotions at the time.

I wish I had remembered Winogrand’s advice and waited before judging my photos.

 (bryan farley)

It isn’t as if my photographs from the 2013 Spring Convention are incredible, but they are not as bad as I felt. I had been part of the coordinating committee for more than a year. I planned workshops. I built my expectations too. I expected that the 2013 convention would be the best and my favorite of the 13 conventions I had attended.

It wasn’t my favorite, but it wasn’t as bad as I remembered either.

 (bryan farley)

While the Winogrand exhibit was at SF MOMA, Yale Professor Tod Papageorge gave an artist talk titled “Too Much is Enough.” If you have two hours, it is worth viewing. If not, I recommend that you jump to the one hour mark and watch ten minutes. Papageorge discusses Geoff Dyer’s concept of the  Ongoing Moment and how Winogrand illustrates something more poetic than I had imagined.

 (bryan farley)

Before the convention started, I wrote a blog post titled Getting Closer to the JEA Digital Photography Workshop. When I combine that title with Papageorge’s (Too Much is Enough), I think there might be a good philosophy for street photography, especially if we wait three years to review the photographs. Getting close and being “too much” is difficult. It can be painful. It can be emotional.

 (bryan farley)

One month ago, I wrote an article for Adviser Update about photography and emotions called Motion, Movement, and Emotion. As a photographer, I must reveal my emotions to connect with people. As a teacher, I construct emotional barriers so that I can maintain a private life. I like to believe that there is a logical explanation or formula, but at best, there is a philosophy that allows some of us to process the light and the shadows.

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10 Years and Walking – National Epilepsy Walk

Electric word, life

 (bryan farley)

On Saturday April 16, 2016 I attended the 10th Annual National Walk for Epilepsy in Washington, D.C. I have attended the last seven national walks. In this post I have included at least one photo from each walk and a link to the gallery.

When I started attending the national walks, I was nervous and quiet. After a couple of walks, I became vocal and visible. Three years ago, I retreated when my wife and I separated. Two steps forward, one step….

Electric word, life

 (bryan farley)

People with epilepsy refer to ourselves as a family. Prince, who died today, was part of our family. Our family feels lonelier and quieter tonight without him. Prince was known to disguise himself so that he could appear in public. As I reviewed the seven galleries, I hoped that he attended one of our events… join our secret club. I would have joined his secret club, but I did not want to impose. I was protective of him. He was family.

The 10th Annual Walk Photo Gallery

The 9th National Walk for Epilepsy was held on Saturday, April 11 2015 in Washington, D.C. (bryan farley)

While looking through the years of walk photos, I hummed the Joni Mitchel song “Both Sides Now.” (Prince borrowed from this song when writing for The Time.)

“I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now… it’s clouds illusions I recall.”

Photo Gallery fro the 2015 National Walk

 

 (bryan farley)

My mother and step-father attended the 2014 National Walk. They have attended the local walk with me in Northern California. I needed them in 2014. I photographed the walk and visited with some friends, but I did not talk about my life. I talked and wrote mostly about “life’s illusions.”

 (bryan farley)

Just before I left for the 2013 National Walk, my wife told me that she wanted a divorce. (We had been discussing this for months, I just didn’t realize that I would feel ashamed.) At the time, I was still producing content for the Epilepsy Foundation on their old online site as the only featured blogger with epilepsy. I knew how to “talk about” epilepsy. I could even talk about suicide, but I couldn’t talk about divorce. I wanted to be the person who had kept it together. I wanted to be the good communicator, but I couldn’t even communicate with my wife.

The National Walk for Epilepsy VIP Reception was held at The Mead Center for American Theater on Friday, April 19, 2012. The National Walk for Epilepsy is on Saturday, April 20, 2013 on the Washington Monument Grounds. (bryan farley)

At the 2013 Epilepsy VIP Reception Mead Center something sustained me during the cloudy times. Someone hugged me and told me that he loved me. It reminded me of a priest, which Tony Coelho almost became if not for epilepsy. I had already considered Tony my hero for his strength. Today, I am more grateful for his kindness and ability to sense that I was struggling.

The 6th Annual National Walk for Epilepsy took place on Saturday, March 31, 2012 at the National Mall. (bryan farley)

At the 2012 Epilepsy Walk, I met a parent who walked for her daughter. The daughter was born one year after me. Every year family and friends walk for people who have died. The larger family supports those who are grieving… at least I hope we support those. I realize as I write this, I am less supportive when I am immobilized by shame.

The 5th Annual Walk for Epilepsy in Washington D.C. (bryan farley)

At the 2011 National Epilepsy Walk, it snowed. This is the only year that my children attended. We did not plan for snow, but it was beautiful… and cold. There has been snow, sun, mud, rain, wind, clouds, kites, and cherry blossoms.

 (bryan farley)

At the 2010 National Walk for Epilepsy, I took a bunch of bad pictures. I was nervous. I was also surprised by the Washington Monument sneaking into my pictures. One of my last photos from the 2010 walk was one of my favorites.

The 5th annual National Walk for Epilepsy was held in Washington, D. C. on the National Mall. Tony Coelho, the author of the Americans with Disabilities Act, also has epilepsy. (bryan farley)As a Post Script, I am including the feature photo from the 5th Annual walk of Tony Coelho and two more lines from Joni Mitchel.

 Tears and Fears and feeling proud

 To say I love you right out loud

 

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2016 Farley Family Photo Transition

We have a family photo tradition that mirrors our family. My two children and I have gone to the same location since 2008 and taken photos in an urban meadow. During the last two years, the meadow became a construction site. While our meadow became a shopping mall, our family split into two households in two cities. I guess there is a metaphor here, but I am not sure which is which. I really miss our meadow and the kids are dealing with the family transition better than I had feared.

 (bryan farley)

When we visited the meadow last year, we were surprised to find the fence surrounding our site. This year we assumed that our meadow had disappeared, although we hoped that the construction fences were only temporary. I could feel us going through the stages of grief.

 (bryan farley)

I haven’t reached the final DABDA stage yet. I haven’t accepted that our meadow is gone forever. I hope that next year the land will return to full bloom. I know it doesn’t make sense, but I still have another year to consider how we can make the next photo shoot work. Maybe we will stand in the middle of a parking lot.

 (bryan farley)

Maybe my daughter will dance outside a grocery store or a coffee shop. Perhaps we will set up our tripods near a duplex. I wish I had an answer for life’s transitions.

 (bryan farley)

This year, we discussed transition. My son expressed his frustration about losing the meadow. He did not like the change. My daughter said, “sometimes change is good,” which led to my son’s response about THIS CHANGE. While some change is good, losing the meadow was definitely not good. Eventually, the three of us agreed that if we must experience change, it is best to experience it with people we love.

You can see more photos from our 2016 Farley Family Photo Visit here.