PEOPLE I meet, PLACES I go, and THINGS along the way.

Welcome. I photograph environments and the people who occupy them, from portraiture to street and travel photography. If you want a quick look through my work please check out the Portfolio and Short Story links at the top of this page. If you want to see a broader range of my personal and professional work, are looking for usage, or want to buy prints for private or corporate use, please contact me. Thanks for visiting.

Englebright Photography
Englebright Photography
Englebright Photography
Englebright Photography
Englebright Photography

Photography

After a Summer Hiatus

I took the summer off from my blog.  Actually, I just didn’t have anything to share or write about, and before I knew it I hadn’t posted anything in three months.  Nobody reads it anyway, so I don’t think I was missed.  And, the world doesn’t really need another blog post.  But I do want to share a new project I have embarked upon, The NYC Surfers’ Portrait Project.  I am photographing New Yorkers who surf off the Rockaways with their surfboards and in their wetsuits in urban environments that somehow relate to their life besides their surfing.  I am then asking them to write a short description of their relationship to surfing and the Rockaways and how the location in which they are being photographed is significant in their life.  I hope to have 25 portraits done by the time I am finished.  I don’t think I will get done by the end of this Summer/Fall, but I hope to get the majority of them finished.  I then would like to have the work exhibited with the subject’s comments.  Here is a diptych of my most recent portrait.  The final work will not be diptychs, but I think some of them work well as such.

 (EP_150819_081_v1.psd: ©2015 Robert Englebright EP_150819_128_v1s.psd: ©2015 Robert Englebright)

Photographing a Drag Queen

I recently accepted the opportunity to put my talents to good use for a non-for-profit organization that raises money every year for the NYC LGBT community.  It is  ”Broadway Sings for Pride”, the result of Neal Bennington’s need to address the high rates of suicide within the LGBT community.  Since 2011 he has been putting on concerts with some of the best talent on broadway, television, and in the music industry.

I was sent a list of people who needed to be photographed.  I saw on the list, “Sam Given (RENT at the Hollywood Bowl directed by Neil Patrick Harris) would love to do a classic drag queen shoot” and immediately contacted Neal to have me photograph Sam.  I knew immediately upon speaking with Sam that we were going to have a fun shoot – a wonderful package of positive energy.   The only dark cloud was cast by a guy wearing an American flag tie who made a point of telling us that God did not approve of what we were doing.   But that cloud quickly passed because we weren’t going to let it rain on our gay parade.  We shot mostly in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where Sam was providing his own piece of art on display.  Our main ideas were shooting in front of one of the fountains outside the Met Museum; photographing him blowing bubbles; and having him retouch his makeup in a storefront window.  Then we wanted to get a shot or two of “street scenes”, and we found the vendor of a food cart who couldn’t wait to have his picture taken with her, er….him.   So, we accomplished two of the most important things: we got some great shots and we enjoyed ourselves.

Not Much To Say

My blog writing is probably like many people who attempt it:  sporadic and uninspired.  Part of it is my Midwest upbringing – I don’t like to toot my own horn and deep down in my soul it feels a bit too self-indulgent.  But I do like to use it to share images that I have photographed and feel happy about.  So here I am, sharing a couple with you.  I photographed Lewis Gardner, a character actor, on Tuesday.  I was going for a noir-ish sensibility to the portraits, and I feel like I succeeded.  I also wanted to try out some new Lumedyne strobes that I recently purchased for location shooting.  I thought I would combine the strobe with the ambient light.  In the end I think the most successful images were the ones with available light.  But that will probably change as I get more comfortable with the strobes and begin to understand how to use them for my purposes.  So here are a couple of the images I created.  Hope you like them.

 

A man in a trenchcoat and cap stands on a street in the East Village of New York smoking a cigar. (Robert Englebright)  A man with a clenched fist sits at a bench in Tompkins Square Park in New York City. (Robert Englebright)

The Last Snowy Saturday

Decided to share a few images from this past Saturday.   Hopefully it will be the last snowy Saturday.  Went to Central Park early and then down to Union Square Farmers Market with a friend.  The last image was shot in Midtown before a meeting.

What Is It To Be a Photographer?

Personally, I don’t think owning and taking pictures makes one a photographer.  I will preface my remarks by saying I am old enough now and have been in the commercial photography business long enough now to sound like an “old-timer.”  I can remember when you could actually get an appointment with creatives to show them your portfolio.  I can remember when Reps/Agents would actually take on new photographers to develop and nurture their careers.   I can remember when defining oneself as a photographer implied certain technical skills and commitments of time and effort.  What is a common culprit in these changes?  It is no secret:  the digital age.  Pick up a DSLR with automatic everything, start taking pictures, upload them onto a file sharing site, and viola!   I wince now when somebody tells me they are a photographer.  What does that mean if you are not making a living at it or engaged in it with such engrossing abandon that it is your life?  Is somebody a painter if it is just a hobby?  Are you a photographer in quotation marks, or in parentheses, or with an asterisk?  Or does an “and” come before it, such as “I am an office manager and a photographer.”  If I ask enough questions I typically  find out they don’t even have the most rudimentary understanding of the mechanics of the camera (f-stop, shutter speed, and what those things control), a concept of light, or composition, or most importantly how to put all of those elements together to create a visual language with which one communicates.  As Phillip-Lorca DiCorcia has said:  ”Photography is a foreign language that everyone thinks he speaks.”   That quote says volumes.

Go to just about any photography forum and there will be threads ad infinitum complaining about the current state of affairs.  And they will most certainly be “old-timers.”  Reading this without the virtue of seeing my smiling face, you probably think I am complaining.  Not really.  It is on my mind a lot now that I am back in the thick of trying to restart a photography career after 15 years away from it (away from the career part, not the photography part) – now that I have stopped using quotation marks, asterisks, or parentheses.  I came across a quote some time ago from Edward Weston or one of his contemporaries complaining about the ubiquity of imagery due to the invention of the 35mm camera, so the proliferation of “photographers” and “photography” is not new.  Change is inevitable, and I understand and accept it.  The main point I am making is that it is now easier to claim to be a photographer without actually being one.  One doesn’t need a darkroom.  One doesn’t need to set apertures and shutter speeds.   Cameras are cheaper (the amateur ones are cheaper – the professional ones are more expensive).  The boundaries have disintegrated.  And the elitist stance that I may appear to be taking by having to define what is a photographer is made because of the effect this is all having on the profession.  I can’t help but feel like the bar has been lowered regarding what it is to make a living as a photographer and the possibilities of doing so.  But I do see the bright side (pun intended).

What do I need to do in this changing market?  I need to elevate my work and have it seen by clients who appreciate a photographer with a deep understanding of the craft and the profession of photography:  an easy formula difficult to execute.   That means creating intriguing and appealing images.  That means concerted efforts to have my voice heard above the shouts of all those other photographers out there.  I have seen a lot of great work by a lot of great photographers generating imagery.  I need to make sure I am generating that same level of work.  In New York City I am told I need to present a singular voice in my work that identifies me.  That has been the most difficult job.  It is thrilling to be trying.   It is thrilling to be challenged.  The next year will tell if I am up to that challenge.

What got me thinking about all of this is an article I read in the End Frame Department of PDN this month.  Here it is online if you have a PDN subscription:  http://digitalmag.pdnonline.com/pdnonline/march_2015#pg98 .  The article by Holly Stuart Hughes is about Stuart Pilkington, which I won’t go into except what is written regarding his response to the work of such photographers as Stephen Shore and Joel Sternfeld.  Pilkington says their work has a quality of “mindfulness” (a popular word these days).  He says as he does more and more of his own photography he sees that “…you become more hyper aware of your surroundings,” and that “…the banal or familiar takes on new interest.”  Holly writes, ” When you’re shooting regularly, he says, the world around you ‘becomes a treasure trove.’”  Oh so true!!  THAT is what it is about.  He has defined what it is to be a photographer.

With that, I will leave you with an image:

A woman dressed in leopard print tights, a bike, and a fanny pack picks up a bag of vegetables at the Farmers Market. (Robert Englebright)

A woman dressed in leopard print tights, a bike, and a fanny pack picks up a bag of vegetables at the Farmers Market. (Robert Englebright)

A Trip to San Francisco

 

 

 

I recently returned from a trip to San Francisco with close to 2000 images to edit and get down to about 40 so that I could create a manageable representative gallery.  One reason for the 2000 images is due to how I sometimes shoot, which is in brackets, usually in 1 stop increments.   If I was off on my own shooting I  would have shot many many more images because I’d be exploring whatever caught my attention photographically.  As it was, I was almost always with a friend, and although he was patient and accommodating I can never really “Get Lost” while I’m shooting if I’m with somebody else.  That’s one reason why I love photography so much – it allows me solitude even in the presence of a crowd.  But when I’m with somebody else I can’t do that.

This gallery represents a snippets from my experiences during the week I was there.  I would have gladly spent an entire week just exploring one subject, like the Castro District or the Monterey Bay Aquarium, or even the Japanese Tea Garden.  I may try to combine images from my trip 2 years ago with images from this most recent trip into a single gallery of San Francisco.  But for now, take a look at what I’ve managed to edit down to around 40 images.  Give me some feedback.

A Dying Pigeon

I was out early a couple of mornings ago with my camera on my way to the 7 train through Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.  At the entrance to the park, and beneath the huge overpass of the Van Wyck Expressway,  I saw a pigeon lying on the ground.  It was an odd sight for two reasons:  first, the pigeon continued to lie there as I got closer and closer to it instead of walking or flying away as I approached it; second, it was surrounded by long blades of grass that had been bunched up around it, like a nest.  When I got to it I could see that it was dying.  The bird would fail at its feeble attempts to keep its head up or its eyes open.  I assume somebody placed the grass around the bird to make it more comfortable and possibly to help keep it warm in the below freezing temperatures.  There was no way the grass would have gotten there any other way (the bird was surrounded by concrete for some distance).  For all of the pigeons in New York City it is actually unusual to see a dead one.  I was moved by this sight.   It’s typical to see a wild animal either alive or dead – not one that is passing from one plane of existence to the another.  There was something mystical about it.  There was also something wonderful about the idea of a person taking the time to go pick grass and place it around the pigeon.  I must admit that this would not have occurred to me.  New York can seem like a dehumanizing environment of concrete and steel with people bustling by without actually acknowledging one another.  This is necessitated, of course, by the sheer volume of people one passes in the course of a day.   So this display of humanity and of concern for another species effected me.  That’s what this photograph is about.

A pigeon lies dying on the sidewalk in the early morning sunlight of Winter surrounded by grass that somebody had layed around the bird to make it more comfortable. (Robert Englebright)

Stuck With the Seagulls For the Holidays

I was planning to go home for a week to see my family over the Christmas holidays.  Unfortunately I had the bad timing of getting very ill the night before I was scheduled to fly home.  So, I stayed here in New York City in a bit of a melancholy mood.   I woke up one morning before sunrise feeling especially glum.  So I decided to take my camera and walk across the street to the park, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, to see if I could lift my spirits.  Even if I didn’t find anything to shoot or I shoot things that I may not have an actual use for as an image, the act of getting out with my camera and exercising my eye is often helpful.   As it was, I was attracted to a colony of gulls that had gathered around a couple of large shallow puddles of water created from a recent rain.  The sun had just cleared the horizon and began to peak out of a low-lying cloud, giving the birds a beautiful soft edge of warm light around their bodies.  I was trying to find an interesting angle and composition.  How visually interesting can I make a scene of a bunch of gulls standing around?  Luckily I had the light on my side.  It occurred to me to lay on the ground at the same height as the gulls and see how that looked.  I used a very shallow depth of field, and ended up with a few shots that I liked, and have settled on sharing this one.  I like how the flare works to lead your eye to a single bird, which luckily also happens to be in focus. So, my spirits were lifted that morning.   Thank you, gulls.

 

A ground level shot of seagulls gathering around a shallow pool of water on a cold winter morning in December. (Robert Englebright)

A ground level shot of seagulls gathering around a shallow pool of water on a cold winter morning in December. (Robert Englebright)

 

Through Strange Lenses

A couple of months ago I came across the work of Jimmy McIntyre on YouTube.  It was an instructional video on how to apply luminosity masks to images through Photoshop.  It was impressive, but just watching that Youtube video ended up to be just the tip of the iceberg.  He has a great eye for photographing landscapes and especially cityscapes.  He really understands light and composition, and shares his knowledge through his blog, his contributions to online magazines, the aforementioned Youtube videos, and more importantly through his instructional videos.   I bought them about a month ago and have been watching them as I get the time.  I am about half way through and they have already transformed how I post-process landscapes and cityscapes.  Luckily because of past experience as an assistant I was in the habit of bracketing exposures of landscape and cityscape so I have images I could work with as I go through the instructional videos.  There is a lot of information to absorb (and I have awful retention) so I’ve gone over the vids several times.   One of the most compelling aspects of his work is that the images have a very wide dynamic range without the distracting look of HDR that you get when you use an HDR rendering software.  I’m looking forward to going out armed with my camera, tripod, and the knowledge I have gained from his “classes.”  It’s been transformative in how I look at creating landscapes and cityscapes, and I look forward to learning even more.  In the meantime, here is one of the first images I’ve worked with armed with what I have learned so far.  But I feel like this is just the beginning:  I’m still in class and haven’t yet graduated.

Surfers stand with their backs to the camera as they watch the sun set beyond the beaches of Cabarete, the Dominican Republic (Robert Englebright)

New ImageBrief PREMIUM Service

I was recently invited to upgrade my account with ImageBrief to the yet-to-be-rolled-out PREMIUM service.  Upon doing so I was pleased to get an invitation from Ken Pao to meet with him and the rest of the ImageBrief gang here at their offices in SoHo so that we could discuss what the new service will entail and we could bounce questions off of one another.  After sitting down with Ken and Meg, one of the co-founders, they began to enlighten me as to what direction ImageBrief hopes to go with this new service.  I left the meeting energized and optimistic.  They are enthusiastic about what they are doing, and that enthusiasm is infectious.  As it is not yet finished I do not want to misrepresent what will be available with the final product, but let me say that I think they are on to something here as a model for connecting creatives in ad agencies, magazines, etc. with photographers.  With feedback from both creatives and photographers they are actively seeking to provide a new platform for getting us together.  I am excited by the prospects.   Historically, one thing that a great product does is create a demand where there was not not one before, and that is what they are doing.  It feels innovative.

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