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John Palcewski's Journal

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It's A Long Story

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The fourth one with the '2 for $'. The woman with the denim skirt is the drawing model of my dreams. The tilt to the right of the photo in this picture enhances the dynamic quality of her at-rest standing and twisting pose. She reminds me of early mannerist pictures from the 1500s with her elongated body, how her legs imply a sort of unstable toppling momentum, and that interesting twist to the torso, and also the thoughtful hand to face gesture that takes the story beyond the frame.

It must be your photo-journalism background, but I like your photos a lot because when I see them, I often look at some of them a little bit longer than other people's photos. I try and determine what the story is that the picture has brought to light. Maybe it's just projecting my own story onto them, but still, even then they yield up something interesting.

The first one in the next set of the woman sitting on the bench looking at you, with the standing man with the backpack smiling and looking at her, I realize that despite the slight space between them on the benches, and her psychic distance from everything, they are together. I started looking carefully, curiously, at every detail of her clothes, and the boots and running shoes that the pair is wearing, and with my magnifying glass I try vainly to see her thoughts and her life, and then the sleeping person and the absorbed reader both detached from, and embedded in their surroundings like the man and woman are. Fascinating, thoughtful.

Thanks for taking the time to carefully examine and then comment at length about these images. I'll try to respond in kind.

I've arrived at the state in my photographic career where I no longer shoot to please an editor or client or anyone else, but just to somehow capture the interesting and mysterious or ineffable stuff that passes before me in my wanderings about New York City and Ischia.

Over the past few years I've worked long and hard at capturing images on the fly, with the Nikon hanging down from the strap around my neck, and aiming in the general direction of my subject. I'm getting better at it, which is only to say that very nearly all the time I manage to get the intended subject in the middle of the frame. I keep the lens at the wide angle setting, and I usually use the auto focus and exposure mode.

Maybe 80 percent of the images are the result of my consciously seeing something, but that other 20 percent frequently contains things that I didn't actually see, but am nevertheless surprised and grateful they just happen to have appeared.

Those surprises generally are metaphors or symbols that spring from my subconscious, things I've deliberately forgotten, or hidden from memory. It gets spooky. I think dreams are like that--messages in secret code from deep within us.

I also think that the decision to press the shutter button springs from a recognition--again on a subconscious level--that what's there has enormous personal significance. Sometimes it's fun to figure out what it is. Other times, well, you feel like yes, there are dreams, but then there are nightmares as well.

I see the woman not looking at me, but past me, and the guy isn't smiling but grimacing because he clearly realizes this relationship isn't working--at least for the moment. Oh, do I know the expression on her face. I've seen it before, from my favorite ex-wife. She's saying: It's over, finished, and there's not a goddamned thing you can do about it.

Her pillow is a telling detail for sure, amplifying their story into a modern worrying mythology. Again, I like your picture vignettes a lot, am glad you respect and define yourself as a photographer rather than being PC and not looking into people's private but universal worlds.

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