Local Talk - Q+A with Photographer Leah Morgan

Leah, we're so excited to show your work at Local as it captures such joyful moments and expressions of a land and culture historically known for expressing their love. For me, it's a constant reminder that it's a good day to have a good day. Please tell us why you pursued this project.

Thank you for showcasing Good Morning Jamaica! I pursued this project because I absolutely love the country. The landscape is spectacular, the food is delicious, the water is warm and crystal clear, and the people, well, their smiles are contagious and their love for life is inspiring. For me, visiting Jamaica is a time to bring balance back into my life. A time for me to slow down, in a place where I am surrounded by happy people and positives vibes. Every day in Jamaica is a good day to have a good day.

Each time I visit Jamaica, my love for the people, the landscape and the culture grows stronger. I am continuously impressed by the loving spirit of the local people, their value of hard work, and most of all, their smiles.  I am inspired to give back to the people that give me so much joy. I would love nothing more than to be able to take the proceeds from this exhibition and contribute it to the local communities. Giving back to the community is always the mission that drives my work as a social documentary photographer.

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Montclair is an interesting town where there is extreme levels of wealth but also poverty just around the corner and yet there seems to be dissatisfaction irrespective of social caste. How did you find the different classes of people vs. their general mood for the people in Jamaica?

I find the mood of Jamaicans is generally happy, no matter their class. When I ask locals how they are today, their response is usually given with a big loving smile and they say they are blessed. No matter what, rich or poor, big house or small house, showering with cold water or in a river, driving or walking to work, they feel happy and grateful to live another day.

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There is one image from this Good Morning Jamaica collection of a man standing alone along the shore but he is not looking out at the ocean. He is looking inland with hand extended. What is going on here?  

 That’s William. He's blind. Every day he walks alone, along the shore of Negril’s Seven Mile Beach with his cane in tow. He stops occasionally and puts his hand out, hoping someone will give him some spare change. I will continue to try to support him because having a disability is challenging enough, let alone in a place that doesn’t have as many resources. If you meet William, he greets you with a sweet smile and genuine gratitude, not just for the donation, but also for the time you invested in talking with him. 

 

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Your work has taken you all over the world and I can't help but ask if there was one project that has had the greatest impact on your discipline.

I studied with a National Geographic Photographer in Italy for many years. She made the greatest impact on me by teaching me how to get up close and personal with my subjects, encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone which enabled me to deepen my creativity.  She helped guide me into more of a fine arts style of shooting. I'm always looking forward to my next opportunity with her.

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A topic I've discussed with many of our Local photographers is that of digital/ cell phone photography vs. the more traditional camera. Do you have a POV for how or what is used in photography?

A few years ago, I might have said using a traditional camera was the best way to capture amazing images. But that’s not necessarily true anymore.  I believe it’s easier to approach a person with an iPhone because of its unobtrusive small size, and with today's technology, come away with stunning portraits.  Many of the images here in my exhibition were shot using my iPhone. 

  

I love that you extended your discipline into a charitable cause with Cards for Kids. Please tell us how you got started with this program and what it has meant to you.

 I started Cards for Kids after visiting and volunteering for several years at local schools in the Negril area of Jamaica. I noticed they needed so many supplies and necessities at these schools. Many of these children would arrive to class without items that we take for granted such as pencils, shoes or even food, which impacts their ability to learn properly. I simply can't allow that. It pains me to see families that are struggling to send their children to school and on top of that, worry about how their children are going to eat that day. I paired up with The Rockhouse Foundation and started donating to this amazing organization. The Rockhouse Foundation not only builds schools in impoverished areas, but they also provide the children with supplies, and most importantly, breakfast daily. 

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What's next for you and how best to stay in touch with your work?  

You can learn more about my projects through my website, leahmichelephotography.com. You can also follow me on Instagram and Facebook @leahmichelephotography.

 

What is your favorite coffee or tea beverage? 

My favorite coffee beverage is iced coffee. I love it and drink it all year long, even in the winter. Plus, I'm meticulously obsessive about how it's prepared, so I make it myself, using an old-school espresso maker. First, I make the espresso in advance and refrigerate. Then, I mix 2-3 shots with a little bit of half n half, agave sugar, and ice.  Delicious...which goes perfectly with the Granola Lab Cranberry Cashew Compound that I'm constantly picking up from Local Coffee. 

Local Talk - Q+A with Global Street Photographer Alan Holzman

What formal photography training, if any, have you had?

My parents gave me my first camera when I was 5 years old after I had my tonsils removed.  When I was in high school my dad and I built a darkroom in the cellar giving us a great opportunity to share the mutual passion of photography.   College, grad school and family had me place any serious photography on the back burner for many years.  About 5 years ago when I lost a job I really loved, in a school for emotionally disturbed kids, (I eventually earned a PhD in Clinical Social Work) I decided to turn back to photography.  Street photography helped me integrate my interest in connecting with people and and my love of making photos.  I feel I always develop a relationship with someone I photograph even it the connection only lasts a few seconds.

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I'm pretty much self taught.  I attend many lectures  on photography and have been involved in B & H's Event Space Portfolio Development program for several years.  This has helped me develop my skills considerably and also facilitated my acceptance into 3 group shows at Soho Photo Gallery in New York.  In addition, I've taken a few street photography workshops.

What camera/ cameras are your go-to for this particular discipline? 

I try to use film cameras as often as possible, however, I shoot with digital cameras as well.  My film cameras include a Yashica twin lens reflex, a Leica rangefinder and a Hasselblad.  Digitally I mostly use my Fujiflim x100t and my pocketable Ricoh GR II.

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There was a brief time when I was an aspiring photographer working on a studio in NYC and at the time, I recall the need to ‘get the shot’. Time, expense, film cost all contributed to this need. As film has moved to digital with time, expense and cost all but becoming a non-factor - are we better or worse for capturing that special shot?

I think "getting the shot" is more dependent upon the photographer than the gear.  Digital allows more flexibility and less cost no doubt, however, I find that film slows me down and forces me to pay more attention to subject matter.  I also enjoy the process of developing film.

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Images of people are very personal with the subject generally wanting to be viewed through a certain view. Who gets to decide on that view when you’re photographing someone?

When I photograph people on the street there is a combination of the subject's response and my timing.  Many of my street images, especially in India, are actually street portraits, where I ask a subject for permission and then they get to pose as they wish.  I often ask them not to smile but the rest is up to them.  I choose when to click the shutter.

We have galleries, museums and other venues like Local that aim to share artistic work with a public viewing audience. What is your favorite and/ or recommended channel for experiencing your work? 

I like seeing my images printed and hanging on a wall.  Physical images are very dear to me.  Whether in my home or a gallery or at Local, I much prefer a real, tangible photograph to a digital image on a screen.  With that said, I also find that sites like Instagram allow our work to reach a bigger audience.

What has been the most enlightening image you’ve ever captured - either at that moment of releasing the shutter or evaluating images afterwards?

I don't have one "most enlightening image."  However, photographs in which I've been able to capture emotion have the greatest impact on me.

What has been the most difficult shot to capture and why? 
You ask about the most difficult image I've ever captured. I don't have just one, but a few years ago I did a project in which I made street portraits of New York City police officers.  Initially, I was very intimidated.  Approaching  officers and asking them to pose was, at first,  quite stressful.  After some time I became more comfortable and had a really enjoyed talking with and photographing the officers of NYPD.

What do you hope comes of the public viewing your work?

I hope that people who come to Local and see my images are moved by the wonderful subjects that have become faces that I will forever remember.

What projects do you have coming up? 

Currently I'm working on a project about myself.  I'm scheduled for knee replacement surgery on January 30 and I'm attempting to document the entire process (not the surgery itself) from pre surgical visits to post surgical recovery.  

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What is your favorite coffee or tea beverage? 

Favorite coffee/tea:  I love a good cup of strong black coffee.  Also, Local makes a drink (I forget the name) with cayenne pepper that I really enjoy.  I'm also a big tea drinker.

ps. the drink is ‘Funktado’ :)

IG: @alanholzmanphoto

Inquiries: adhphd@gmail.com , Mobile: 973.985.1739

Local Talk - Interview with Local artist and Classic Man Barber Mike Lasovski

You are a barber by trade, and an amazing one - when did you know that you had a desire to capture and share your photography?
 

I've always had a passion for art, and I've been drawing ever since I can remember. I love fashion and music, and used to do styling for short films and sing in a progressive metal band.   Photography is just another creative outlet for me. I've been perusing it  for the last 3 years.    


In this age of cameras built into cellphones, do you take pictures on your phone or do you use an actual camera? If so, what type of camera?

I take pictures with my phone and make it more artistic by shooting different angles and using  effects. I use what I have for now, but would love to buy a camera in the near future to get better quality and details. 

Do you plan for time to go out and capture images or do you take photos here and there as you go throughout your day?

It is more about "capturing the moment" for me. If I see something interesting in the aspect of colors and angles or anything that I think would look good as a photograph, I'll stop what I'm doing and take a picture.

How does you full time job as a barber translate into your approach for taking photos? I know from hanging photos with you at the shop that your eye is quite good!

I am a perfectionist at my job as a barber and my clients know that! I don't like to leave out anything for the chance, and risk a haircut coming out not looking good. I see everything, every piece of hair. I treat my artwork the same way.

You are originally from Israel, how does your childhood in a different country inspire your approach to photography?

I grew up in the city of Jerusalem, a place that is very rich in history and culture. Jerusalem has spiritual energy, and that by itself inspires any creative individual. Also, growing up, I was surrounded by artistic friends (who later became musicians, fashion designers, photographers etc). Being surrounded by such people pushed me to develop the creative side in me as well. Photography has a universal language with which I can express myself.

What's next for building your photography craft? Are you seeking any type of arts + photography education?

I would love to take some additional photography classes and develop the skill further. I'd like to do more exhibits in the near future and reach a wider audience.

Tell us a bit about the photos you have shared with us @ Local.

The photographs reflect how I see the American culture. It is about my life as a barber. The pictures I have chosen have a dark vibe, capturing the spirit of Halloween 

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follow Mike on Instagram @mikey_thebaba.barber

Local Talk - Q+A with Illustrator Gina Stritch

How did you learn and hone your craft?

After fifty years, I'm still learning and honing. I'd say the best way to do anything is to just do it: sit down or stand up and draw, pencil and paper, pen and ink, computer, or whatever tool you have on hand.

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You interact with so many pets and pet parents, what has been the biggest learning for you?
 

I listen to what people say and draw the best drawing I can draw. I try not to intellectualize what I do. My philosophy is simple: draw the pet and make the owner happy, but NEVER compromise. Draw as if your drawing MUST stand the test of time. I don't aim for photo images, I aim for the best, simplest drawing I can draw. It's all about the drawing: pencil, ink, maybe a little watercolor, that's it. 

 

I've noted that pet sketches can come off extremely campy OR spot-on, with the artist being able to capture not just the image but the personality and character of the pet. Each of your sketches tells a different story and are so powerful, how do you approach each subject to extract that special something?
 

Source material: the better the photo, the better the drawing. If I get a good photo, you get a good drawing.

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Are there any particular artists that have influenced your approach?
 

Honestly, no, I'm into my sixth decade and am who I am. I don't try to be anyone else. I admire John Singer Sargent and many, mostly American artists. I admire the work ethic and business sense of Andy Warhol and I like the drawings of Al Hirschfeld, just to provide a few examples. Are they all commercial artists? Yes, but they were also extremely talented and intelligent and diligent.

 

Do you have pets, if so - tell us about them?
 

I have dozens and dozens, hundreds of pets, but they're all on paper. 

 

Tell us a bit about the images you have shared with us @ Local.
 

The drawings on the magnetic wall are all originals. Some are oil pastels and ink, (but I mostly stopped using oil pastel because it's messy and smears), and the others are watercolor and ink. Some are based on professional photos, but some are just good cell-phone photos. Some are popular breeds, some are unknown breeds. Some of my favorite drawings are mixed breeds. I used the drawings I used for a practical reason: it's what I had at hand. The drawings I don't have have been sold and the best artist is one who sells his or her work.

 

What's the best way for you to work with clients? Phone call, in-person meetings, simply sharing a photograph?
 

All I need is a good cell-phone photo emailed to me. I can work with a poor (hard copy) photo, tooand sometimes, maybe that's all a person has.

 

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Local Talk: Interview with Local featured artist Michael Stahl

Michael, we have known you for 14 years! I know this as you photographed our daughter when she was first born. What struck me then as it does now is that you absolutely love your craft. The initial consultation, the photography, the bracketing of images - the entire process. What is it about this discipline that keeps you so motivated?

Well, I've always been a darkroom rat.  I spent countless hours with my film and trays and chemicals making black and white prints.  So I just love the process of creating images.  I find it easy to stay motivated because every session is different and is nuanced in some way.  The important thing for me during a session is making it feel like the camera disappears.  In most cases that does happen as I strike up a rapport with the person in front of me. That's a special feeling.

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Alright...putting you on the spot - you have photographed countless families in the area, is there one that stands out for any particular reason? 

Nice try. But I cannot say that any ONE family stands out.  We've had memorable moments during session (newborn peeing on a dad, for example).  But we also do have families that we see over the years and it's very rewarding for us to see the children as they grow.  We've been doing this long enough to have toddlers that we've photographed come back in for a high school senior portraits.

 

Having been a photographer for 20+ years, what can you say is the greatest lesson learned thus far?  

Patience!  Of course there are days when our subjects might not be in the best mood for a portrait.  So we try to have a laid back approach in which there is plenty of time for even the most reluctant person to come around and present their true self to me.  

 

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What photographers (past or present) have been meaningful to you and why? Which should we take a moment and explore? 

Richard Avedon--I love the simplicity of his studio portraits.  George Hurrell for his dramatic images of Hollywood stars.  And I own Ansel Adams' series of technical books on creating the black and white print and of course his landscapes just stop you.  Bill Brandt broke a lot of "rules" with his edgy and stark portraits.

 

Montclair has been a geographical focus throughout your work. Why is this town so special for you?  

It's such an eclectic town so we get to meet so many interesting people, which results in interesting portraits.  We also love to do our part to support local organizations. The folks in town have really supported our efforts to help out the Food Pantry and animal rescue organizations.

 

In this world of cameras on a variety of devices, and filters to match any desired mood - how do you continue to articulate the essence of professional photography?  

I think it has to do with having a specific point of view and style.  I am flattered when people tell me that they can recognize our work.  Because style is not an app you can download or something one can copy.  It has to come from within.  But we also have to provide something that one cannot do for themselves.  That's why our focus continues to be well lit studio portraits.   

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Black and white seems to evoke quite a bit of emotion but color obviously has its purpose? How do you toggle between the two and ultimately commit to a particular direction?  

We default to black and white  That has always been my passion.  But color does have its place and we work closely with our clients to determine the direction to take.

 

What advice do you provide for someone considering a career in photography?  

Heed your passion.  Photograph things that are meaningful to you.  Seek out a mentor and look to professional organizations (PPA for example) for guidance and educational opportunities.  And don't forget that you are a businessperson, too.  Value yourself and your work and others will also.

 

Tell us something about photography that only you or a few people know. 

"I'm not photogenic" is BS.  There is something about everyone that is photogenic.

 

What is your favorite coffee or tea beverage?

Straight, strong drip with a little half and half--early and often!

 

www.portraitsbymichaelstahl.com

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