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Previous | Next :: Colin Dempsey in the Diner on The Edge of America : Chelsea Square Diner : NYC | December 26, 2011, 11:55 pm

Colin Dempsey in the Diner on The Edge of America : Chelsea Square Diner : NYC
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One of the big pleasures in my life is to move about and meet all sorts of people. To get to be involved in the lives of all sorts of communities. Sometimes I am having a pretty profound experience sometimes I am just drifting on through. But very often I am photographing people I have just met. In public spaces I am often photographing people without having spoken to them. I just have to judge how they are experiencing this. Mostly people are unaware or only vaguely aware, this is probably the best state of affairs in terms of photographing without influencing what is actually happening. So that the photograph is a proper representation of what would happen if the photographer were not present ...... a true reportage photograph. These are my favorite type of pictures.

When we were doing all the 'Diner On the Edge of America' workshop activity I was attempting to convey to the participants the very necessary skill of judging how people are feeling or likely to react to your presence with a camera.

We had a lot of fun doing this. My fave bit of this was around a learning experience presented by a group of cops who had arrived to eat an evening meal together....... on my list of things that might help participants to be guided toward making images that captured the life of the Diner...... I had put : Make a picture of a cop drinking coffee.......... :-)) ....... So here was the perfect opportunity to shoot that picture or something pretty similar :-)) ........ So I asked who wanted to give it a go....... a couple of students went over to make the picture........ but came back empty handed saying the "The Cops Don't want it" ...... so obviously I was saying you need to do it differently.......... This stuff is very nuanced...... its certainly not a prescription that can be applied absolutely........ but it has a a vague protocol that I was attempting to convey to the participants........ anyway I ended up drifting over and chatting to the cops...... then making some pictures just to prove it could be done :-))

Making pictures in a public but closed space like a diner without upsetting people isn't about being invisible its primarily about winning the room....... so that you have won acceptance...... one of the things to attempt immediately is judge who will be upset....... who is being upset....... you must either make it OK with them or make it clear you are not photographing them. I try to be very good at this. It is critical that no one complains, because you then lose the whole room and normally permission to be there with it.

This photograph above. I shot it without speaking to the guys on the table because I knew they were cool.

I had spoken to numerous other groups of people sitting in the diner at the same time to win their acceptance because I knew they might be upset if I had not cleared it with them prior to shooting in their direction.

But not these guys..... I had judged they were cool. I shot this stuff without speaking to them or without them really taking much interest....... perfect.

Then when I was back in the Diner another time I saw them again ......... I knew they were cool....... so I went over introduced myself and showed them this picture as it had appeared on the blog......... they were cool, I knew they would be....... we had a nice chat.

In the last couple of days I received an email linking me to the blog of Colin Dempsey the main guy in picture...... his description of how he experienced being photographed was just as I had hoped and expected ......... and he had put up the picture :-))....... You know I was totally right........ he really is a cool guy ..... check out his blog :-)))))))))))))))


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