Karen Commings StreetWise Photography: Blog https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog en-us (C) Karen Commings StreetWise Photography [email protected] (Karen Commings StreetWise Photography) Thu, 04 Apr 2024 23:48:00 GMT Thu, 04 Apr 2024 23:48:00 GMT https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/img/s/v-12/u630265006-o1002577618-50.jpg Karen Commings StreetWise Photography: Blog https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog 97 120 CV as of 2024 https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog/2020/10/cv-as-of-october-2020 Exhibits

2023: "Magical Seeing," 4-person exhibit, Payne Gallery, Moravian College, Bethlehem, PA

2022: “It’s Not All Fun & Games,” 2-person exhibit, Art Association of Harrisburg, Harrisburg, PA

2022: “It’s Not All Fun & Games,” 2-person exhibit, Artspace Gallery, August,Richmond, VA,

2022: “It’s Not All Fun & Games,” 2-person exhibit, CameraWork Gallery, April,Scranton, PA

2019: “Last Call,” solo exhibit, Delaplaine Arts Center, Frederick, MD

2017: “Death Valley,” 2-person exhibit, Gallery At Second, Harrisburg, PA

2016: “Street Photography,” 5-artist invitational, Art Association of Harrisburg

2015: Alleys,” The Lens Hoods 3-person exhibit, Gallery At Second, Harrisburg, PA

2014: Mamarazzi Group Exhibit, Carlisle Arts Learning Center, Carlisle, PA

2014: Harrisburg Camera Club Group Exhibit, Yellow Wall Gallery, Midtown Scholar, Harrisburg, PA


Black & White magazine

Issue 166, January 2024: single image -Stairway to Nowhere

Issue 166, January 2024: single image – Reflections in the Rain

Issue 134, June 2019: Merit Portfolio (3 images – Carnivals)

Issue 122, June 2017: Merit Portfolio (3 images – Amusement Rides)

Issue 119, January 2017: single image - Blow

Issue 116, June 2016: Merit Portfolio (3 images – Industrial)

Issue 113, January 2016: single image - Takeout

Issue 110, June 2015: Merit Portfolio (3 images - Closed for Business)

Issue 101, January 2014: single image- Nighthawker

Street Photography Magazine, featured photographer, October 2023

Harrisburg Magazine, Stories Without Words: Good Night, Harrisburg Photos along  with the work or three other photographers, November 2021.

Street Sweeper Magazine, Online Issue, Stop the Steal Rally, North America, 2021

The Photo Review, 2020 Competition issue & Web exhibit, Love & Corn Dogs

The Photo Review 2018 juried Web exhibit: It’s On the Menuhttp://www.photoreview.org/wordpressindex/2018-competition-shadows-and-silhouettes/


Jured Shows Single Images

2023: Autumn Leaves, The Quiet Landscape, Vermont Photoplace Gallery, Middlebury, VT, https://photoplacegallery.com/online-juried-shows/quiet-landscape/gallery/online-gallery

2022: Waiting for Normal, Beautifully Broken, Carlisle Arts Learning Center, Carlisle, PA

2022: Where Everybody Knows Your Name. Pennsylvania Art of the State, Pennsylvania State Museum, Harrisburg, PA

2022: Collecting Coins, Art Association of Harrisburg 94th International juried exhibit,  Harrisburg, PA

2022: Late Night Cut, PhotoSpiva, Spiva Center for the Arts, Joplin, MO

2021: It Happened Much Later, Art of the State, State Museum of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, PA

2021: It’s Almost Over, Expanded Visions, The Ware Center, Lancaster, PA

2021: The Walking, Expanded Visions, The Ware Center, Lancaster, PA

2021: Face in the Window, A. Smith Gallery, Johnson City, TX

2020: And Justice for All, (We the People Exhibit), Carlisle Arts Learning Center, Carlisle, P

2020: It Happened Much Later, FOCUS Photography exhibit, Delaplaine Art Center, Frederick, MD

2020: My Race is Not a Crime, (Honorable mention) Invision Pennsylvania Photographers, Bethlehem, PA

2020: I Vow Never to Sit Back, Invision Pennsylvania Photographers, Bethlehem, PA

2020: Love & Corn Dogs, Photo Review competition (Honorable mention winner), exhibited  at Philadelphia (PA) Photo Arts Center

2020: Untitled #1, (Suburban architecture exhibit, http://www.mwcponline.com/suburban-architecture.html) Midwest Center for Photography, Wichita, KS

2020: Untitled #2, (Suburban architecture exhibit, http://www.mwcponline.com/suburban- architecture.html) Midwest Center for Photography, Wichita, KS

2020: Untitled (Waiting for Normal), Vermont Photoplace Gallery, Middlebury, VT

2020: Skeeball, Frederick Camera Clique, Frederick, MD

2020: Love & Corn Dogs, (Best Monochrome Image), Frederick Camera Clique, Frederick, MD http://www.frederickcameraclique.org/34thaje/97ahfvlkc6h8bfqqc6fu2inbtecbec

2020: Variety of Fine Food, (Isolation exhibit), Midwest Center for Photography, Wichita,    KS

2020: The Vise, (Architecture exhibit), Southeast Center for Photography, Greenville, SC   https://www.sec4p.com/arch-20-ss

2020: The Pink House, (Walkabout exhibit, http://www.mwcponline.com/walkabout.html), Midwest Center for Photography, Wichita, KS

2020: It’s Almost Over, National Juried Show, Delaplaine Art Center, Frederick, MD

2020: The Walking, National Juried Show, Delaplaine Art Center, Frederick, MD

2020: Photo Plates, (Structures Exhibit) A Smith Gallery, Austin, TX

2020: Good Work is Done Safely (Exhibit - Words) Praxis Gallery, Minneapolis, MN

2019: Sidelined, Invision Pennsylvania Photographers Juried Exhibit, Bethlehem, PA

2019: Drinks for Two, (3rd Place award), Invision Pennsylvania Photographers, Bethlehem, PA

2019: Something Wicked This Way Comes, (Momentum Exhibit), New York Center for  Photographic Art, Jadite Gallery, New York, NY

2019: Love & Corn Dogs, Pennsylvania Art of the State, State Museum of PennsylvaniaHarrisburg, PA

2019: International Women in Photo Association, short-listed winner, Last Call series.

2019: 8, (Women by Women exhibit), Southeast Center for Photography, Greenville, SC https://www.sec4p.com/women-ss

2019: Table for Two, Juror’s Selection, Primary Colors, New York Center for Photographic  Art, Jadite Gallery, New York, NY

2019: Love and Corn Dogs, Open Call Exhibit, Southeast Center for Photography, Greenville, SC

2019: It’s On the Menu, Millersville University Expanded Visions Photography Exhibit,  Lancaster, PA

2019: Love and Corn Dogs, (Honorable mention award), Millersville University Expanded Visions Photography Exhibit, Lancaster, PA

2019: Mucking the Stalls, (Working Women exhibit), Vermont Photoplace Gallery,  Middlebury, VT

2019: Sidelined,  National Juried exhibition, York Art Association, York, PA

2019: Drinks for Two, National Juried exhibition, York Art Association, York, PA

           2018: Rainy Day Blues (National Juried Show), Delaplaine Art Center, Frederick, MD

           2018: Radio Flyer (The Telling Image), Praxis Gallery, Minneapolis, MN

           2018: Midtown Soul, (Urban Landscapes, Suburban Scenes, Rural Impressions Exhibit),New York Center for Photographic Art, Jadite Gallery, New York, NY

           2018: Love and Corn Dogs, Honorable mention award winner, Invision Pennsylvania Photographers Juried Exhibit, Bethlehem, PA

           2018: It’s On the Menu, 90th International Juried Show, Art Association of Harrisburg PA

           2018: Rising Waters and Love & Corn Dogs, National Juried exhibition, York Art Association         

           2017: Going Down (Wandering Curves Exhibit), New York Center for Photographic Art, Jadite Gallery, New York, NY

           2017: Three Faces (Black & White Exhibit), New York Center for Photographic Art,  Jadite Gallery, New York, NY

            2017: Riding in the Rain, Pennsylvania Art of the State, State Museum of Pennsylvania,   Harrisburg, PA

           2017: Untitled Black & White, (Open Call Exhibit), Southeast Center for Photography,  Greenville, SC

           2017: End of the Night, Invision Pennsylvania Photographers Exhibit, Bethlehem, PA

           2017: The Last Call, (89th International Juried Show,) Art Association of Harrisburg, PA

           2017: No Takers (National Juried Show), Delaplaine Art Center, Frederick, MD

           2016: Three Faces of Steve, silver selection, North Valley Art League, Redding, CA

           2016: The Middle Way, Pennsylvania Art of the State, State Museum of Pennsylvania,  Harrisburg, PA

           2016: Three Faces of Steve (National Juried Show), Delaplaine Art Center, Frederick, MD

           2016: Shoshone Rest Stop (1st Place winner), Millersville University Expanded Visions Photography Exhibit, Lancaster, PA

           2016: Three Faces of Steve, Millersville University Expanded Visions Photography Exhibit, Lancaster, PA

           2016: Lemonade, Pizza & Pretzels, Invision Pennsylvania Photographers Juried Exhibit, Bethlehem, PA

           2016: Gram’s Hands, (Black & White exhibit), Vermont Photoplace Gallery, Middlebury, VT

           2016: Lovers (National Juried Photography Exhibit), Delaplaine Art Center, Frederick, MD

           2016: Obsolete, 88th International Juried Show,) 2nd Place Photography, Art Association of  Harrisburg, PA

            2015: The Party’s Over, Pennsylvania Art of the State, State Museum of Pennsylvania,  Harrisburg, PA

            2015: Ride, Invision Pennsylvania Photographers Juried Exhibit, Bethlehem, PA

            2015: Closed, Invision Pennsylvania Photographers Juried Exhibit, Bethlehem, PA

          2015: Into the Light, Millersville University Expanded Visions Photography Exhibit, Lancaster, PA

            2015: OutsideIn, Millersville University Expanded Visions Photography Exhibit,   Lancaster, PA

            2015: The Watcher, National Juried Show, Delaplaine Art Center, Frederick, MD

            2015: Power, 87th International Juried Show, Art Association of Harrisburg

            2015: Orange, Susquehanna Art Museum, Harrisburg, PA

           2015: Turnpike Commission Bldg, State Museum of Pennsylvania, Mid-Century Modern  Exhibit

           2015: 800 N. 3rd Street, State Museum of Pennsylvania, Mid-Century Modern Exhibit

            2015: Amp, Inc., State Museum of Pennsylvania, Mid-Century Modern Exhibit

            2014: No Takers, Invision Pennsylvania Photographers Juried Exhibit, Bethlehem, PA

         2014: Street Scene, Millersville University Expanded Visions Photography Exhibit,  Lancaster, PA

           2014: Laughter is the Best Medicine, National Juried Show, Delaplaine Art Center,  Frederick, MD

           2014: No Art!, Susquehanna Art Museum, Harrisburg, PA 

           2014: Elemental, 86th International Juried Show, Art Association of Harrisburg

           2013: Bisected, Susquehanna Art Museum, Harrisburg, PA

           2013: Sandwich Dog (at the Whitaker Center), Susquehanna Art Museum, Harrisburg, PA


Community Venues - Harrisburg @ Night:

           2018: Yellowbird Café, Harrisburg, PA

           2017: Martin Luther King Government Center, Harrisburg, PA

           2017: Highmark Blue Shield, Camp Hill, PA


Volunteer Photographer

          2016: Harrisburg Parks Association

          2013-2015:  Plein Air Paint Camp Hill

          2014: Heart Association Heart Walk

          2013: St. Patrick’s Day Parade Association


[email protected] (Karen Commings StreetWise Photography) https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog/2020/10/cv-as-of-october-2020 Thu, 22 Oct 2020 23:33:45 GMT
For me as a photographer during Covid-19, it comes down to this... https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog/2020/6/for-me-as-a-photographer-during-covid-19-it-comes-down-to-this          Let’s face it, the Covid 19 pandemic has put the kabash on most photography activities. Camera clubs have cancelled meetings. Galleries have cancelled exhibits and classes. Workshops and seminars have been called off or postponed because speakers and attendees are unable or unwilling to travel. Facilities are closed and caterers unable to prepare food. And in some areas people are asked to shelter in place, traveling only for food, prescriptions and other things deemed as essential. And when going to these places, maintaining a safe distance and wearing a mask are required.

          I am a street photographer and am dealing with no people, or very few people, on the streets. Maintaining six feet of distance has been easy when no one is around. No crowds to get lost in to take a photo without being noticed. No people interacting with one another to make an image interesting. Almost everyone’s face is covered.

          Still, I enjoy photographing other things. Architecture, street scenes sans people, objects, and yes, sometimes even landscapes when I can get out of an urban or suburban location. So getting those photographs is still possible, even in this situation. Travel is still allowed. I could theoretically drive anywhere. I just have to maintain a safe distance from others and remember to wear a mask.

          But is that all there is to it? I wish.

          I have a 73-year-old body with a 73-year-old bladder. When on a photo trek, I can generally wait to empty it until lunch time or thereabouts. Pre-covid-19 I knew I could duck into a restaurant for lunch and the needed potty break. Even walking around the streets of New York City, I could slip into McDonald’s if I had to on the chance I couldn’t make it till lunch. But now the restaurants are closed. Restaurants can only deliver curbside. McDonald’s is only available for drive-through. Even walk-through isn’t going to help me. So, unless I’m going to a location that has a Sheetz or a Rutters or other gas station nearby that doesn’t care if you use the toilet without buying something, I’m not going there.

          So, for the last three months, I have gone to the same few places to photograph, mostly within a 10-mile radius. I have shot the same streets, the same architecture, the same bridges, the same riverscape, the same monuments ad nauseam. With all the hardship others are going through, with all the sickness, with all the unemployment, I’m finding returning to normal for me as a photographer is just needing a place to pee.


[email protected] (Karen Commings StreetWise Photography) bladder potty break street photographer https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog/2020/6/for-me-as-a-photographer-during-covid-19-it-comes-down-to-this Fri, 05 Jun 2020 19:51:48 GMT
Only One Shot https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog/2017/6/only-one-shot             These days, the number of shots a camera can do per second in burst mode is apparently a big selling point. I can see the advantage of using burst in certain types of photography such as sports, rodeos, auto races, or other fast moving events. Even some types of photojournalism could benefit from high-speed bursts.

            With street photography, though, I find burst mode unnecessary and impractical. One would think that it would be useful in street photography; people are often moving and catching them at the right moment is critical to getting the right shot. Although burst mode is not a camera feature I pay much attention to, I have tried it occasionally while on the streets. What happens to me, however, is that I raise the camera to take the initial image of an emotional or behavioral moment I observe. Then as the camera continues to fire away, I get shots as it’s being lowered again – blurred images of sidewalks, legs or feet. Not very useful or interesting. Although digital images don’t cost anything to take, process or develop, it’s a waste of time and space on the camera card not to mention the time it takes deleting unwanted images in post. And if I keep the camera to my eye as it fires, I run the risk of the subject in question seeing me. I’m not afraid of being noticed, but I don’t want to insert myself into the moment I’m trying to photograph. I’ll leave that tactic to the Bruce Gilden’s of the street photography world.

            Eric Kim, whose blog I read regularly (http://erickimphotography.com/blog/2013/01/07/timeless-lessons-street-photographers-can-learn-from-robert-franks-the-americans/), described the methods used by one of my favorite photographers, Robert Frank, whose book, The Americans, depicted rural America in the 1950s and was/is one of the most influential photography books of all time. “…when [Frank] had photographed cowboys at Madison square garden or socialites at the toy ball, he had made many exposures of the people and the scenes that interested him, no doubt hoping that an editor would find one of use. But now, with the knowledge that he had plenty of materials, a full year to work on [The Americans], and no one to please but himself, he responded more immediately and intuitively.”

            That sentiment is described more fully in the catalog essay about Robert Frank from Phillips Auction House Just days before reaching Louisiana where this iconic image Trolley, New Orleans was taken, [Frank] was arrested for suspicious activity. He found the experience humiliating, but it amplified his compassion and sharpened his perspective while he photographed "[I] became like a cop watching people, observing them, stealing." His photography style became casual, but acute, with constant movement, quoting his friend Allen Ginsberg "First thought, best thought. .... When one releases a second time, there is already a moment lost." (https://www.phillips.com/detail/ROBERT-FRANK/NY040215/209?fromSearch=rob&searchPage=2)

            Since Frank already channeled Ginsburg to give credence to his photographic style of shooting, let me channel Michael Vronsky (played by Robert DeNiro) in The Deer Hunter to illustrate mine. When on a hunting trip with his buddies, Vronsky gives them the following advice when shooting: “Only one shot. You have to think about one shot. One shot is what it's all about. A deer's gotta be taken with one shot.” What he meant was to aim swiftly and correctly to take the prey cleanly and without suffering. When shooting street, be conscious and aware of what is happening around you so that you can see moments as they unfold. Know your equipment and settings well enough to get the shot on the first try. Be ready mentally and have the camera set for light conditions and what you want your final image to look like (e.g. shallow or deep focus range, high or low key, grain or sharpness, etc.) If you’re pressing the shutter again and again, you not only miss the moment, you could potentially destroy it.


[email protected] (Karen Commings StreetWise Photography) https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog/2017/6/only-one-shot Thu, 22 Jun 2017 13:45:11 GMT
Tooting My Own Horn https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog/2017/5/tooting-my-own-horn      Once again, my photos appeared as a Merit Portfolio in Black & White magazine. Three images from my amusement park project are in issue 122.

At a special awards banquet, I received these honors for 2017 from the Harrisburg Camera Club:

           Digital Image of the Year for Shoshone Rest Stop

           2nd Place Print Photographer of  the Year

           3rd Place Digital Photographer of the Year

[email protected] (Karen Commings StreetWise Photography) https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog/2017/5/tooting-my-own-horn Thu, 25 May 2017 02:18:37 GMT
Getting Here from There https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog/2017/4/getting-here-from-there Getting Here from There

          About ten years ago, I attended the dedication ceremony of a house of meditation. A friend of mine had a DSLR and a movie camera. While he was filming the ceremony, he asked me to take candid photos of attendees using his DSLR. The camera, a Nikon D50, was set on auto so all I had to do was aim and shoot. I felt comfortable taking candid shots and have always seemed to grab them at just the right moment.

          I had not had a camera for a few years, having sold my Mamiya 35mm film camera on eBay. The Nikon felt comfortable to me and was easy to focus and shoot. Without doing research, I bought one for myself and, keeping the camera on Auto, continued for a couple of years taking candid shots of people and animals.

          Another friend from the House of Meditation had told me she joined the Harrisburg Camera Club and encouraged me to join and participate in their competitions. Of course, my photos were definitely not competition worthy at that time, but I found that listening to the judges’ critiques during the competitions to be a great learning experience. My knowledge of my camera and of photography progressed. And so did my desire to have more and more accessories for the Nikon. What started with a camera that came with an 18-55 lens grew to include a Sigma 18-200 lens, a Nikon 70-300 lens, a 28-80 Nikon lens, a flash attachment, a tripod, camera bag and finally, when I could no longer get what I perceived I wanted with the D50, a Nikon D7000, another faster lens, more filters and a larger camera bag, heavier tripod and ball head.

          Somewhere amid all the acquisitions and experiments, I realized that the photography I loved most was street photography. The event at the House of Meditation should have given me a clue. Photographing people when they were unaware of being photographed and catching them in interesting behaviors and interactions was what I enjoyed.

          I was never happy with the focusing of the D7000, and I found its size and weight too cumbersome for street photography. Talk about being obvious lugging that thing around. A heavy camera with a long lens says “professional photographer” even if you aren’t one. And I’m not getting any younger, so the weight around my neck or on my shoulder was painful within minutes.

          Then someone sent me a review of a new Fuji on the market, the X100s which I then acquired and found its size allowed me to inconspicuously take photos while in a crowd of people or on the street. The design in silver metal looks like an old range finder camera and it is the size of a point and shoot which doesn’t attract attention. It has a plethora of features the Nikon did not and it makes street photography so much easier.

          The D7000 and the D50 and the accoutrements I accumulated sat on the shelf until I sold them.

          I would like to say that I had no desire to acquire another camera, but I can’t. The X100s has a fixed lens and I wanted a camera with the same kind of features but with the ability to change lenses. Enter the Fuji XT1 with an 18-135mm lens. The two Fujis and one lens give me the ability to do all of the kinds of photography I like to do, provide me with enough pixels to enlarge photos to a size I want, and still be able to carry the cameras around the streets without drawing attention to myself or weighing me down. I have no desire to add lenses or flash attachments or filters or any other paraphernalia.

          Was it necessary for me to go through all of that photography gear to get to this point of being satisfied with what I now have and use? To accumulate all of it to discover I don’t need it or need something else? I’ll never know the answer to that, obviously. Changing technology seems to carry with it an addictive desire to constantly upgrade. But at what point do we “find ourselves” photographically and settle on the piece of equipment that allows us to do what we love? At what point do we discover we don’t need all that stuff ? When do we stop fearing the equipment status quo and just concentrate on becoming a better photographer? I hope I have reached my turning point.


[email protected] (Karen Commings StreetWise Photography) https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog/2017/4/getting-here-from-there Mon, 24 Apr 2017 13:30:48 GMT
Acceptances https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog/2017/4/acceptances


I was accepted into 2017 Pennsylvania Art of the State, 89th International Juried Exhibit at the Harrisburg Art Association and the 2017 National Juried Exhibit at Delaplaine Art Center in Frederick, MD. And my photo, Three Faces, appeared in the honorable mention section of the New York Center for Photographic Art catalog in April.



[email protected] (Karen Commings StreetWise Photography) https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog/2017/4/acceptances Thu, 13 Apr 2017 00:10:02 GMT
Safety First.... and maybe second https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog/2017/4/safety-first-and-maybe-second           Once I stood along a major route below an overpass taking photos of the underside of a bridge. After nearly having my heels run over by passing cars, I decided to invest in a green florescent vest - the kind that highway workers wear at construction sites so they don’t get mowed down by motorists. At seventeen dollars, it was a small price to pay for my safety when doing my own version of road work.

          I’m not usually in such precarious positions, but it did have an added benefit when I wore it downtown on my way to photograph the colored lights of the Market Street Bridge one December night. It was winter, dark and cold, and I was wearing my heavy black down coat. In spite of cars’ headlights – or, perhaps, because of them – I knew that many would not be able to see me crossing the street. So, I put my hot green vest over my coat before hauling myself, my camera and my tripod to the river.

          Oddly, the vest offered an unanticipated form of protection. At Riverfront Park, a young man carrying a small plastic bag which appeared to contain his dinner asked me, “Am I allowed to be here?”

          “What?” I asked.

          He repeated the question.

          “Sure,” I answered, “and why did you ask me that?”

          He responded that, because I was wearing the florescent green vest, he thought I was some kind of cop or something.

          It wasn’t my intention to impersonate a police officer. Hell, I just didn’t want to get flattened while crossing the street. But the vest seemed to say “Official,” at least in his mind, and who was I to argue. Perhaps it would to others.

          I felt safer already.

[email protected] (Karen Commings StreetWise Photography) https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog/2017/4/safety-first-and-maybe-second Wed, 05 Apr 2017 22:00:05 GMT
Writing for Photographers https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog/2017/3/writing-for-photographers           I recently read an article by the Onward Global blog called “Writing on Photography: Q & A with Jörg Colberg.”  (https://onwardphoto.org/how-to-write-about-your-photographs-q-a-with-jorg-colberg/) It immediately piqued my curiosity. We photographers are not accustomed to talking about our work, much less writing about it, so I found the article intriguing. When entering a contest or submitting a proposal, we may be asked to write an artist’s or project statement, but seldom do most photographers in my opinion write about their work at the beginning or throughout a project. I was among the ones who did not.

          We’re all familiar with the saying, a picture is worth a thousand words, but what if it’s not..?

          “On the one hand, photographers are maybe the most literal (and conservative) of all artists,” Colberg states, “usually thinking that, for example, that which is depicted in a photograph is its subject. On the other hand, many photographers cannot disassociate what they know about a photograph from what is actually in it. One’s intentions, to pick the most obvious example, are usually not communicated by a photograph. But photographers often assume that everybody else knows what they know...”

          The exhibit of my street photography I had March 2016 highlighted this. As soon as it was hung, I saw a few photos that should not have been included. They didn’t meet the requisite intentions or theme that I was trying to convey. Had I engaged in writing about the work as I was going, I might have recognized that and saved myself the internal embarrassment of not having my shit together as it were.

          “The process of writing about our own photography helps us to clarify our thinking, and this clarity in turn helps our photographic work,” states Colberg. He believes that “ to successfully finish a project the photographer needs to achieve utmost clarity about the work. Without that clarity, s/he will be unable to produce a coherent edit.”

          After reading Colberg’s Onward conversation, I began keeping a journal about the photo projects I was working on, including pasting thumbnails of the individual images along with the descriptions. Over time, it became clear which photos were clustering together by theme or intent and which were ones that, although I liked them, just didn’t fit. Unfortunately, it’s often an emotional attachment to a photo that causes us to keep it whether it fits the project or not. Writing about the images also helped me redefine the work if it veered onto a path that I had not originally intended or anticipated. The journal enabled me describe the work so I can convey a project’s theme to someone else when writing an artist statement or project description.  And, I’ve since used this process for whittling my street photos into a coherent edit should I be lucky enough to have that body of work exhibited elsewhere.

In closing, Colberg offers this advice:

  • DON’T assume your audience knows what you know.
    Be aware that the photographer’s intentions are usually not obvious to viewers.
  • DO focus on what is actually in the pictures.
    When it comes to disentangling the real substance from the mess of our own assumptions, writing is the right tool for the job.
  • DON’T use jargon.
    Always use words that non-experts can understand.
  • DO convey your passion.
    Our writing should strive to make people care about our photos.
  • DON’T expect everyone to care.
    100,000 “likes” on Facebook should not be your measure of success.
  • DO read things you truly enjoy.
    It is necessary to read in order to write, so find some reading material you really like.

          Jörg Colberg is a photographer, professor of photography, and writer. His popular online magazine Conscientious features photobook reviews, profiles of individual photographers, and essays on photography. He is one of the review instructors for ONWARD Global Courses, where Japanese photographers learn how to develop a strong body of work over one year.

[email protected] (Karen Commings StreetWise Photography) artist statements intention theme writing https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog/2017/3/writing-for-photographers Sun, 12 Mar 2017 15:03:05 GMT
The Power of the Print https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog/2017/3/the-power-of-the-print       I try to educate myself about photographers whose work has preceded mine whether they are known for street photography or not. I recently watched a BBC Master Photographers episode about Ansel Adams (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdCq-1MJmHw). Adams was thoroughly charming, and listening to him talk not only about specific photos but also his technique was enlightening and encouraging.

      Adams visualized what the photo would look like before he snapped the shutter. To achieve complete control over the final image, Adams did his own printing. “You can make enhancements when you print,” Adams said, “but you can never escape the original visualization.”

      The print to Adams is the equivalent of two things – what the photographer saw and how he felt about it. Adams was a trained pianist, and for him, the negative provided the score, while the final print was the performance. “You interpret the original score,” he said, “but you are never far enough away to violate the essential concept.”

      In the video, Adams showed three versions of one of his photos produced over the course of several years. Each photo, processed differently, has a different emotional quality. “Well, if I were a pianist and giving a concert I would probably play a particular piece very differently in Feb than I did in June,” said Adams.

      His most famous photo, Moonrise Over Hernandez, NM, became more and more dramatic as Adams reprinted it over the course of about 40 years.

 At the Andrew Smith Gallery in Santa Fe there is an entire room devoted to the transformation the print made over Adams' career.  The earlier (and much more valuable) prints are lower in contrast, with more subtlety in the clouds; the moon is a medium gray.  In the later prints the sky is almost black, and the moon and cemetery crosses almost white.  Some of the clouds have completely disappeared.  The early prints are a more quiet observation of the scene, the later ones - well, they just hit you over the head. Kevin Shick, “Revisiting Ansel Adams Moonrise, Hernandez, NM,” (http://www.kevinshick.com/blog/2013/4/revisiting-hernandez-nm)

      Although there is a procedure for printing, there is much judgment involved on the part of the artist. Adams said that the negative for Moonrise was difficult to print. He tried many methods using different chemicals, processing times and papers. With the negative in the enlarger, he increased the light hitting certain areas (burning-in) which made the sky blacker and the clouds less bright so the moon would stand out more. With all these artistic adjustments, Adams said "it is safe to say that no two prints are precisely the same."

      With the advent of Photoshop and other post-processing software, two misconceptions have developed (no pun intended) about the final image that one produces from a negative. The first is that film photos before post-processing software were SOOC (straight out of camera) and the second is that contemporary photographers who use post-processing software are cheating by manipulating their photos. (To clarify, this is an essay about photography as art, not about photojournalism which carries with it an assumption that the photo is an unmanipulated depiction of actual events.)  I have been at the Harrisburg Camera Club’s photo booth at ArtsFest where members sell their images only to have people approach us and ask if the images were “colorized” or “Photoshopped” as if they are dirty words or, in fact, not  “real” photographs because the photographers played with the images.

      Adams, like other film photographers, used the darkroom to process his photos. What contemporary photographers do sitting at their computers, Adams did standing in his darkroom, although admittedly the options might have been fewer and results more difficult to achieve. (https://whitherthebook.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/ansel-adams-and-photography-before-photoshop/ )

      I’m reminded of a story told by I think John Barclay at a photography workshop I attended. Adams did a series of photographs of the national parks and received hate mail from someone who visited the parks and complained that they didn’t look like Adams’s photographs.

      I often wonder if historical figures in photography had the same tools we do today would they be using them. For Adams, I think the answer is “yes.” This video was created in 1983 before digital cameras became available, but there were technologies being developed. What excited Adams is that in a few years (after the filming of this video) there would be a new medium of expression of the electronic image. “I know the potential is there and I know it’s going to be wonderful,” he said.

      In the 1970s, Adams developed a partnership with the University of Arizona that culminated in the Center for Creative Photography (http://artmuseum.arizona.edu/events/event/photography-ansel-adams), and in 1975 the Ansel Adams Archive became one of the founding collections. Adams provided the negatives to his images with the stipulation that the advanced students would have an opportunity to print them. “These negatives will be reinterpreted through a fresh medium, and I think that is marvelous,” said Adams.

[email protected] (Karen Commings StreetWise Photography) Ansel Adams printing https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog/2017/3/the-power-of-the-print Thu, 02 Mar 2017 13:47:20 GMT
Recent Awards and Acceptances https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog/2017/2/recent-awards-and-acceptances Recent Awards and Acceptances

My photo, Three Faces, won an honorable mention and catalog exhibit with the New York Center for Photographic Art.

Blow, appeared in the January 2017 issue of Black & White magazine. http://www.bandwmag.com/back-issues/bw-no-116

My photo, Fantastic Fries, won 1st place in the color category at the Harrisburg Camera Club's print competition Tues, Dec. 6th. It was taken at the Reading Fair Grounds and is part of a series I'm working on. The score was 57 out of 60 points. And my photo, The Conversation (the color version of the one in my street portfolio), took first place in the digital competition in January 2017. It garnered 60 out of 60 points.

One for the Money, a street photo I took in NYC, garnered 2nd place in the Art Association of Harrisburg’s member show in September. The theme was animals. And, Obsolete, a pic of a torn, tattered phone book on the street in Philly, won 2nd prize in the Art Association’s 88th International Juried show in May of 2016.


[email protected] (Karen Commings StreetWise Photography) Black & White Magazine awards black & white publications street https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog/2017/2/recent-awards-and-acceptances Sun, 19 Feb 2017 21:35:11 GMT
Portfolio Review https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog/2016/8/portfolio-review  I recently entered a photography contest, and although I didn't win, I was fortunate enough to have had a portfolio review of the images I entered.  It was nice to hear my work discussed by someone for whom it was new and who understood what I was trying to achieve. The contest was through Lensculture and the reviews were not by the contest judge but supposedly by a Magnum photographer although the reviewer's name wasn't provided. I will never know who it was but I appreciated the fact that he or she got it when it comes to my street photography. The review follows.


Greetings Karen, and thank you for submitting your work to LensCulture’s Magnum Awards!

This is a lovely group of street images you have here. I really appreciate the poetic and thoughtful text.

I think that this dark and grainy aesthetic you’ve developed really goes a long way towards evoking the emotional response you speak to in your submission statement. To me you’ve created undercurrents of deep dramas that exists within even the most mundane aspects of life.

In Blow, I think it’s particularly effective in reversing the celebratory mood of the two central figures, and placing your audience in a space to consider a moment like this from an inverse perspective. There is also a bizarreness to the two floating faces in the background, and it’s hard to come to terms with the logic of this image, which I think makes for a vastly more interesting picture because it leaves open so much space for interpretation and speculation on the part of your viewer.

Much of the same thoughts are seen in Three Faces of Steve. The inclusion of the two faces, again with little grounding of reason or logic, to me allude to a kind of fracturing. In this case, as you directly point towards a protagonist, I read this as an image of personality, or personalities. There is a lot of tension in this image created by competing visual elements, and I can’t help but read the image as a psychological portrayal of this character, as more of an internalized portrait rather than externalized.

For me, Takeout is the least successful image of this group. The bright “Sandwich-Man” text forces a sense of specificity into the image, and moves it away from the ambiguity that I think is central to the other images here. This scene to me is too grounded in reality to allow for speculation, and it makes me aware of this space as an actual existing place, rather than a metaphorical one.

The foreground element in Closed for Business has a certain type of violence to it in its abrupt gestures. As it overlays the rest of the image it defines the scene in its terms. The distant figure in the window is indecipherable, and I think that adds to the sense of uneasiness and uncertainty that you’re depicting throughout this group.

At any rate, keep up the good work! It was a pleasure to spend time with your work and I hope to get the chance to see more form you here in the future!

Additional Recommendations

Recommended Books & Photographers


[email protected] (Karen Commings StreetWise Photography) https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog/2016/8/portfolio-review Sun, 07 Aug 2016 23:54:09 GMT
Art of the State 2016 https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog/2016/6/art-of-the-state-2016 June 1, 2016

The State Museum of Pennsylvania Announces Finalists for Annual “Art of the State” Exhibition, Awards Set for June 26

Harrisburg, PA – Finalists have been announced for “Art of the State: Pennsylvania 2016,” an exhibition showcasing the talent, creativity and diversity of Pennsylvania’s established and emerging artists. The 49th annual exhibit opens to the public on Sunday, June 26 at The State Museum of Pennsylvania with an awards ceremony at 1:00 PM and an opening reception immediately following. Admission to The State Museum will be free that day. The exhibit runs through September 11 and includes 123 works of art by 117 artists from 34 counties. This year’s exhibit attracted 1,778 entries from 775 artists.

First, second and third-place honors are awarded in painting, photography, sculpture, craft and work on paper. Cash awards for each category are $500 for first place, $300 for second and $200 for third.

Although I am not an award-winner, I'm pleased to be one of only 22 photographers to be accepted into the exhibit. The photography juror was Marc Duke, Fine Art Photographer, Leesburg, Florida

[email protected] (Karen Commings StreetWise Photography) art of the state exhibits https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog/2016/6/art-of-the-state-2016 Wed, 01 Jun 2016 20:04:01 GMT
New Award https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog/2016/5/new-award I got word yesterday that my photo, Shoshone, which I took at a small restaurant in Death Valley won first prize at the Millersville University Expanded Visions show at the Ware Center in Lancaster.


[email protected] (Karen Commings StreetWise Photography) https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog/2016/5/new-award Wed, 25 May 2016 23:14:08 GMT
What kind of person does street photography anyway? https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog/2016/5/what-kind-of-person-does-street-photography-anyway Joel Meyerowitz  offers a pretty good description of the personality of a street photographer:

“Street photographers tend to be gregarious in the sense that they can go out on the street and they’re comfortable among people, but they’re also a funny mixture of solitaries at the same time as being gregarious. You embrace and you take in, but you stay back and try to stay invisible.” (John Maloof documentary: “Finding Vivian Maier,” Ravine Pictures, 2013)

When I heard him utter this description, I felt as if he knew me. I’ve always been more of an observer of people than a participant; able to go into a crowd yet be invisible, aware but separate and detached; those are pretty good attributes for a street photographer – someone who can be conscious of people’s interactions without becoming a part of them; who can be aware of moments that occur quickly or expressions that are visible for only a split second then disappear; and ultimately to be able to react to it and describe it with a camera.

I have loads of photos though of people who have caught me taking their picture, some in good humor at having been caught in the act, others giving me the evil eye. When someone does notice me, I try to engage them in conversation, offering explanations as to why I took their photo. Two middle-aged women in NY on Halloween who had their faces made up posed after I took the initial photo then spoke to them after they noticed me. Another gentleman in NY was sitting outside a shop looking totally bored and tired. I suspected his wife was inside shopping. As I lifted the camera up he saw me and began to laugh. I didn’t get the photo I wanted in that case, but I think I made his day.




[email protected] (Karen Commings StreetWise Photography) https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog/2016/5/what-kind-of-person-does-street-photography-anyway Mon, 23 May 2016 18:29:50 GMT
Heroes https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog/2016/5/heroes I no longer buy a lot of books preferring to read on my Kindle. The exception, of course, is photography books which I feel should be read and appreciated in hardcover or paperback editions. I have the very first Kindle which does not display photos very well.

One of my all-time favorite photographers, who is still living, is Robert Frank whose series of photos The Americans, (Steidl; Revised edition May 15, 2008) transformed the nature of photography.


A great read for the street photographer is Eric Kim’s blogpost, Robert Frank’s “The Americans”: Timeless Lessons Street Photographers Can Learn. http://erickimphotography.com/blog/2013/01/07/timeless-lessons-street-photographers-can-learn-from-robert-franks-the-americans/

To see the trailer for the 2016 Robert Frank documentary, Don’t Blink, visit Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3yZAzXzS47E

[email protected] (Karen Commings StreetWise Photography) https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog/2016/5/heroes Sat, 21 May 2016 11:11:20 GMT
My Street Story https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog/2016/5/my-street-story I'm not accustomed to talking about my work. I generally let the images speak for themselves. In fact, I had a recent exhibit of my street photography at the Art Association of Harrisburg and elected not to put titles on the pieces because I thought it might limit what a viewer may see in the photo. Instead, I opted for just the date and place where the photograph was taken. Big mistake, I think, which is why I've chosen to title some of the images in my galleries. On the one hand, titles can limit what a person sees in a photo, but on the other, a title may give a viewer a roadmap or clue to what the photographer was seeing or the intent. Street photography isn't a big sell in my hometown, or perhaps anywhere, for that matter. Where I live, it takes more than a backseat to landscapes, flowers, birds and butterflies, even abstracts, - so far back as to be left in the dust, in fact. Not many people do it here, so, it's unfamiliarity too can limit what the viewer sees. After reconsidering. I opted to put titles back on the images to help people know what to look for.

I'm not going to try to define street photography here. There are almost as many opinions about that as there are photographers. Instead, I'm simply going to try to explain my street photography and what I want to accomplish. My photographs are not about the people in the images; they are about trying to capture those moments, feelings, emotions that we have all experienced at one time or another. I want my work to tell a story, to have a narrative. The presence of background activity, or even foreground activity, in a shot makes what would otherwise just be a common picture of someone on the street doing something that is seen hundreds of times a day by everyone, gives the images a storyline.

For example, in the photo called "He's An Asshole, the woman holding the sign without the figures in the background to give her context would simply be a photo of a protester. Who hasn’t seen that in one form or another? But the man standing on a chair which has become his platform as he holds his book (a Bible?) and the woman pointing to the sign holder tells us that this man was certainly railing against someone or something. The woman next to him begs us or him to answer the question, “How do you respond to the woman with the sign?” The photo is no longer just a street shot, it becomes an event with a narrative, a plot.

In Insignificant Others, two men oogle a dog while an attractive woman in a short skirt walks by unnoticed in the foreground. She is out of focus while the dog is sharply defined repeating in photo terms what is happening in the moment – the dog sharply captures their attention instead of the woman. The situation defies the male stereotype.

Roast, Grind, Brew, Enjoy depicts a couple having coffee at a table in front of the large picture window of the coffee shop. The line of sight from the eyes of the passerby goes directly to the woman’s chest as she sits in a Lana Turner type of pose. What could have been a simple photo of two people having lunch is now a narrative. The young man passing by provides another dimension to the photo and gives it meaning.

Hot, Tired and Annoyed depicts three women, presumably a mother and two daughters, in the city perhaps for a day of shopping. The family dynamic is clear and one I've experienced in my own family many times growing up. An anticipated event goes awry when someone does or says something to piss the others off, then they begin to disconnect. The face of the mother seems angry. The daughter on the left is making a phone call - maybe she forgot to feed the dog, maybe she's just calling her boyfried or any one of a hundred other things that infuriates Mom, and the daughter in the middle looks like she wants to be anywhere but where she is.

In Lost Souls #1, we see an unusually dressed woman walking down the street. Walking away from her is a man slightly bent over using a cane. It is difficult to tell his age because his back is turned, but one must ask, are they related? Do they know each other? Are they friends who are separating, or are they simply two people passing on the street. The possibilities are endless, but together as they walk apart, the sensation of loss becomes present. This is the kind of thing I would like those who see my street photos to ask and think about.


For information (and opinion) in the present state of street photography, read Michael Sweet's article in the Huffington Post, "Street Photography Has No Clothes." http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-ernest-sweet/street-photography-has-no_b_7842038.html





[email protected] (Karen Commings StreetWise Photography) black & white city scenes people street https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog/2016/5/my-street-story Thu, 19 May 2016 19:29:34 GMT
Upcoming exhibits and publications https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog/2016/5/upcoming-exhibits-and-publications I received this notice from Black & White Magazine regarding the submission of some of my Industrial photos:

Black & White 
Portfolio Contest 2016

Congratulations! Your entry in the Black &White Portfolio Contest 2016 has been selected for a Merit Award.  Several of your images will be published as a 2-page spread in the Special Issue #116 of B&W magazine, scheduled to arrive on newsstands early June. There are 81 winners in this category (there were 385 portfolios submitted for judging) so you can be confident that we felt your work stood out in a way that deserved this special attention. Once again, congratulations!
All of us at Black & White


To view my industrial photos visit the Industry gallery. I'm very pleased to have been selected for this issue. Several of my "Closed for Business" photos appeared in Issue 110, June 2015. Those too are in the Industry galleries.

[email protected] (Karen Commings StreetWise Photography) black and white industry https://karencommingsstreetwisephotography.com/blog/2016/5/upcoming-exhibits-and-publications Wed, 18 May 2016 22:05:55 GMT