Robin Williams

It was in the early 1980s that I was asked to spend a day with the luminary actors of the day to shoot and direct a series of fundraising Live Aid commercials.

The room was so filled with a wave of egos I felt I would drown in the storm.

Robin Williams oddly took a seat next to the dolly where I was operating as cameraman/director and spent a few hours watching the performances . I had finished doing Robin’s piece, but he stayed seemingly enjoying the performances of the others.

I finished shooting Pee Wee Herman, who performed in his own inimitable way, when Robin touched my shoulder and said. “Boss are you open to try something?

I smiled and said. “it would be my pleasure” Robin asked me to ask Pee Wee Herman to participate. Pee Wee was pleased to improvise with Robin.

Robin’s instructions were to have Pee Wee do his piece with the exception of him stopping when Robin held up his hand to repeat what Pee Wee said in Russian. The piece was so innovative that the egos in the room burst into applause .

The script supervisor held up her hand and advised me the piece was three seconds too long. Robin smiled and said. “Boss I can do it again just wiggle your little finger on the operating wheel, three seconds before you want me to stop.

The camera crew laughed as in our experience in the many years we have done commercials no actor was able to repeat a performance or control their time. I said “let’s have a go. Script nudged me five seconds early. I wiggled my finger on the operating wheel at the three second time and Robin finished a better second take than the first.

More applause.

Robin was not driven by ego. He loved ideas and to possibilities the minds and energy could offer creatively.

Robin Williams, was an inspired imagination, sparked by instinctive observation.

It was my pleasure to watch magic come from imagination. I never felt that Robin had usurped my position as director. He proved experimentation inspired creativity.

I can say that Robin Williams was a great artist.

If you check the list of luminaries I have directed in the past sixty years, my complement to Robin is not to be taken lightly.

Melvin Sokolsky

New Tools

The new tools have created instant photographers.

The smart phone is an addictive tool that rewards the user with instant gratification.
Just press the button and you can shoot anything; and it actually presents a decent image.
Stanley Kubrick had to spend hundred of thousands of dollars to shoot the candle lit images in Barry Lyndon. With a smart phone you can shoot a cup cake with few lit candles and light up the faces and room of the birthday party. Does that make you a photographer? Can you create one ofa kind images that will become part of the history of photography?

If that is not you interest you should stop reading this now.

The learning process is a series of failures that stimulate your imagination. In turn, over a period of time you develop your ideas and voice that can become a part of the history of photography. In the past you had to actually light the subject by cutting and diffusing the light wit bathing a face and making a decision. If you were unhappy with the result you had to redo the lighting until you were pleased.

That trial and error developed your signature lighting. It could take years before your peers could recognize who took the picture. Now you get an umbrella light that gives you a proper exposure at a given distance. The Problem is you photo looks like everyone else. Corporations are creating tools standardize images; that hamper the development of personal visions.

Truth In Photography

As I walk up my drive way to the mailbox I marvel at the nature all around me.

I stop to watch a lizard sensing my presence, sees me and scurries away. I see a hummingbird moving its beak deep into a red flower that is reflecting its color into the birds shimmering iridescent breast feathers. A breath taking experience I witness many times in my dreams

What does this have to do with truth in photography?

The camera is capable of capturing images in nature that are as true as the film and tools at the time are capable of rendering an image by a sighted photographer. Oh! I should have said before the event of Photoshop. But, I dare say the image is never as vivid as what I saw in my minds eye or my dreams when taking the picture.

Many brave photographers venture in war zones and capture images that reveal painful images of the never ending wars humans create as a never ending reminder of the sadistic nature of humans. If the photographers moral rudder is true the we may consider the image a representation of truth.

I realized very early in my career as a photographer that I was most interested in creating worlds that excited my imagination.

I was always uneasy taking pictures of people who were unaware that I was photographing them. I felt it was an invasion of their privacy. Street photography was not my thing although many of the street images I did take were considered with esteem.

I was most interested in creating worlds. I would imagine an image. And then create it in reality. Which entailed designing and building the set and then photographing the imagined image.

When I was invited to join Harpers Bazaar, the art director Henry Wolf allowed me to shoot anything that pleased me. The first few years were a thrilling ride.
I would shoot a series if pictures and they were published, many times, with unease from upper management.

After shooting the Paris 1963-1965 Bubble and Fly series many letters from subscribers writing glowing reports about my pictures. I was trusted to have greater freedom.

The following years demands from upper management, called for a more collaborative atmosphere. This loss of freedom made it difficult to participle which in turn in stymied my output.

Introduction

Daylight slowly transitions to night.

I am walking down a busy street of fancy boutiques and restaurants that slowly light the street.

I am struck by the faces that are being lit by smartphones. It seems that everyone it texting as they walk along. As if by radar they avoid bumping into each other. I slow down to observe the lit up faces expressing instant joy and satisfaction. Two young women stop at a fancy clothing shop window and expertly snuggle against each other to take a selfie. As if professional models, they pose through a routine that amuses and at once, obviously could not taken place before 2007. It seems everyone is recording their trip through life, in abject joy, and occasionally anger.

I am sure that all of you have witnessed the scene I am describing. It occurs to me that the communication tools are better than ever. The smartphone is more sophisticated than the computer that sent Neil Armstrong to the moon, not to mention that it takes better pictures. Sorry Hasselblad!

In the movie Barry Lyndon, it cost Stanley Kubrick over half a million dollars to shoot in candle light. Today any non-photographer smartphone can shoot a candle light picture and send it to anywhere on the planet.

I guess all of you are wondering where I am going to take my diatribe about the smartphone and how it is going to effect the world of photography.

I am going to post on social media my views of the positive and negative effects this new phenomena and how it will affect photography and most importantly imagination.