Crash Landing, Palm Springs, California, 2013
Gesture plays a major role in this advertisement of a young boy holding his nose and grasping nothing but air while plunging into the stylized waves at the bottom of a promotional sign placed just outside of a souvenir shop. There are no ocean waves anywhere near Palm Springs, which adds irony to this gesture and may change its meaning for some. While someone normally might grasp their nose to hold their breath, this kid seems to also be incongruously inferring that landing on a hard sidewalk really stinks. Meanwhile, celebrities past and present indifferently observe his plight from a nearby postcard rack.
Student celebration, Valletta, Malta, 2011
These are local pharmacy students, celebrating an event by marching through the streets of Valletta carrying balloons and blowing whistles. I was able to capture their exuberance here, spontaneous gestures expressing feelings of joy and prankishness.
Revelry Valletta Malta copy.jpg
The students in the previous shot -- http://www.pbase.com/image/140361476
-- were part of a large group of revelers that were roaming the streets of Valletta, singing, blowing whistles, and chanting slogans. I abstract them here as they headed up a hill under the city’s holiday decorations. One of them raises her arm to extend a finger – her gesture seems intended to guide and inspire those who march behind her.
Greetings, Ricaurte, Ecuador, 2011
While visiting this small village just outside of Cuenca, we were exuberantly welcomed by a pair of schoolchildren. One of them waved a scarf, grazing the head of the student standing next to her. The flying scarf complements her arm gesture, while the gap-toothed grin of the other schoolgirl adds another dimension to the image.
“I’m over here,” Depot, Durango, Colorado, 2010
A throng of tourists crowds the door of Durango’s depot shortly before the Durango and Silverton railroad’s morning steam train departs on its three and a half hour run to Silverton. One fellow apparently caught in the middle of the hubbub is frantically trying to hail a family member – his gesture provides the focal point of this image.
Thought, Scottsdale Library, Scottsdale, Arizona, 2010
These women had stopped just outside the Scottsdale library to have a discussion. Expressive images can come out of such simple events as this. As the woman in the background took out a notebook to jot something down, the lady in the foreground suddenly brought her index finger to her lips, closed her eyes, and simply focused on whatever she was thinking about. The gesture she uses here symbolically seals her lips, forcing her to converse with herself for a moment through the power of thought.
School’s out, Kayenta, Arizona, 2009
The six children in this image offer a striking contrast in gesture. Three of the children are waving at our cameras, which we were shooting through the windows of our van as it moved through the town. Three others stare at us as if we were aliens from another planet. The focal point of the image is the expression on the face of the child in middle of the image. As one of the older children, she realizes what is happening, and is making the most of an opportunity to make a memorable impression on us.
Visitors, Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey, 2009
Three Muslim women share a bench in the park that runs alongside of Istanbul’s most important mosque. Their gestures reflect their feelings at the moment. The woman at left seems tired. The woman shrouded in black looks intensely at the camera, her gaze intensified by the fact that much of her face is veiled. And the woman at right adjusts her head covering at they wait their turn to enter the mosque. By relating multiple gestures to each other, I strengthen the image’s message: although sharing a common experience, each person responds in their own way.
Callers, Montreal, Canada, 2009
Phone conversations often produce expressive gestures. In this case, the sharp person in the foreground seems to making an appeal to a higher force, looking upwards and using an open hand for emphasis. That hand holds a cigarette, and so does the hand of the softly focused woman in the background, who is also talking on the phone. The subject is forceful, while the contextual subject is relaxed. Yet in our mind’s eye, we can imagine them talking to each other.
Family, Newburyport, Massachusetts, 2009
Gesture, body language, and expression are at the heart of this image. An abstracted man cradles a child in his arms. A little girl wearing an oversized hat throws back her head as she seeks approval from a man who thrusts his open hand towards her. Another child seems to see none of it as she retreats into her own domain. Meanwhile a woman nurses an infant behind them. Such is the nature of family life, as human responses flow back and forth around the vividly colored shopping bag anchoring the image.
Decision, Ipswich, Massachusetts, 2009
Folded arms and pursed lips can indicate deep thoughts leading to profound decisions. In this case, it seems to be a matter of choice. The young lady in question is studying a rack of clothing at a village craft fair. To buy or not to buy? This decisive photographic moment invites the viewer to stop and ponder the question along with her.
Awestruck, Old State Capitol, Phoenix, Arizona, 2008
Arizona’s Old State Capitol building is now a history museum. Among its exhibits is the old House of Representatives chamber, which offers visitors a trip back into time. The room is kept exactly as it looked in 1912, when Arizona became a state. Every day, school groups tour the museum, and all of them spend some time in this room, listening to guides tell them stories from out of the past. I made this image of a schoolteacher, seated at a desk on the chamber floor. I used a 400mm telephoto lens from the second floor chamber gallery, high above her. I framed her behind two softly focused antique light fixtures, and found her brightly illuminated hands clasped before her as she gazed around the room. I found a catchlight in one eye, and an expression of awe upon her face. I hope her students were as impressed with the stories of Arizona’s political history as she seemed to be.
Bethesda Terrace, Central Park, New York City, New York, 2009
Built in the 1870s as the centerpiece of Central Park, Bethesda Terrace is the weekend home of amateur performers who sing, dance, and ridicule their audience. I photographed the reaction of this spectator in red, who, along with her friend in the green hat, makes this part of the old terrace into her private viewing gallery. Her vivid coloration contrasts to the mellow 19th century stone embellishments that surround her, and adds emphasis to her enthusiastic gesture of delight.
Board game, Chinatown, New York City, New York, 2009
Clutching his cell phone in one hand as if it were a good luck charm, this fellow is virtually pouncing on his opponent’s markers. He vigorously proclaims the effect of his move with both expression and gesture. I use the interplay of light and shadow to highlight the hands, and reveal part of his animated face. I leave the rest to the imagination of the viewer.
A quiet moment, Phoenix Convention Center, Phoenix, Arizona, 2009
I was photographing people passing through a vast lobby of a busy convention center. Just in front of the rest rooms and water fountains, I noticed a rectangle of light stretching across the floor. A woman stepped into this area and caught the light, allowing me to expose for these highlights and throw the rest of the long frame into shadow. Her energetic family has temporarily gone elsewhere, leaving her with a moment to touch her hair and relax her knees. Her graceful gesture represents a moment of peaceful respite, found within the calm of the soft shadows that surround her in this long, quiet frame.
Discussion, Guellala, Jerba Island, Tunisia, 2008
Guellala has always been Tunisia’s pottery town. While others in our tour group shopped for pottery, I prowled its streets, shopping for an image. I found it on a street corner, where two residents, dressed in traditional clothing, carried on an animated conversation. Using burst mode and a fast 1/400th of a second shutter speed, I was able to freeze dual gestures here. One woman is firmly pointing at the other. The other woman responds with fingers only. Notice the negative space flowing between these gestures – it crackles with energy and tension.
Body language, Sousse, Tunisia, 2008
I spent a good five minutes shooting the body language of this couple in a Sousse park. A fountain in the background creates a curtain of water as a context for a man who takes a call on his cell phone. It is as if he has drawn a curtain between himself and his companion, who sits awkwardly on the fountain railing, not quite sure of what to do or where to look at the moment. He seems at ease, his hand thrust in his pocket, his feet casually crossed as he listens. She seems impatient, full of energy, with no place to go.
Construction workers, Scottsdale, Arizona, 2008
I watched these two construction workers for several minutes as they had a discussion under a covered walkway during a break. I built this image around the gesture of the man at left, who stood in profile before a brilliantly illuminated textured column. He brings his hand to his face and raises a finger for emphasis. Coupled with his open mouth, we get the feeling that he is giving advice to the woman at right. Her gestures were passive, while his were active. She seems to be preoccupied with a wrapping, and fades into the shadows.
Multitasking, Klamath Falls, Oregon, 2008
If evocative story-telling is our objective, try to look for subjects who may be trying to do many things at once. Such situations are usually rich in both incongruity and human values. Gesture, body language, and response hold the keys to such expression. For example, this woman is talking on the phone, and carries a bag on her shoulder while simultaneously juggling keys, a bottle of water, and a piece of paper in her hands. Her body language is tense as she emerges from a storefront on Klamath Fall’s main street. She looks at us with one eye, intent on maintaining both the phone conversation and control of her various burdens. She is already harried, and the day has hardly begun. I frame her between stone columns brushed with sun. A calm sky blue background contrasts with her hectic situation. We can all relate – we’ve been in similar situations.
Hug, Columbia State Historic Park, California, 2008
This park contains a collection of Gold Rush architecture, offering visitors a living museum. This couple had been sitting for a while on top of a wagon parked on the main street – sharing a moment together out of the past. They could not see me, since they were looking into the late afternoon sun and I was standing in deep shadow. I used my long 420mm telephoto lens to make this exuberant image. The man climbed down first, and the woman screamed as she fell into his waiting hug. I used my multiple exposure feature, keeping my finger on the shutter button as she moved from the wagon to the hug. This was the gesture that says it all.
Patience, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2007
When I saw her looking out of a Santa Fe shop window, I instinctively raised my camera and made this image. Softened by the reflective windowpane, she both looked and felt real at that first glance. But Santa Fe is a place of illusions -- what seems real at first, often proves to be unreal, the stuff of fantasy. Her hand in chin gesture and facial expression evokes great patience. She will continue to wait and watch from this window without movement, sight, or thought.
Kite flyer, Shanghai, China, 2007
I framed my subject tightly here to stress the gesture – the way the hand delicately plays the string of the kite, almost as if it were a musical instrument. His expression adds context to the gesture – he is relaxed yet concentrating intensely on his task.
Curbside call, Berkeley, California, 2007
She sits on the curb of busy Telegraph Avenue, knees pressed together, elbows firmly anchored on them, covering her mouth as she speaks. There is no one near her, so she is probably not concerned about being overheard. Her body language speaks more loudly than her voice here. She folds herself around her phone – a study in withdrawal. With the coming of the cell phone, conversations are often on public view. How we feel about what we say and hear during such conversations is on public view. The body speaks as much as the voice here, and so does the camera.
(I am often asked if it is ethical to photograph strangers from a distance under such circumstances. My answer is always the same. Ethical photographers should never violate the privacy of another human being with their cameras. However, once a person enters a public space, whatever they may do there becomes public, and not private. Photographers in a free society should be able to express themselves about whatever they may see in public spaces and photograph whatever they want, and share the results, as long as it is for non-commercial purposes. The law, at least in the USA, calls it “fair use.” In the case of the images in my cyberbook, all of them are made as teaching examples for educational purposes, which in many societies is considered “fair use.”)
Café, Union Square, San Francisco, California, 2007
Six people sit in the sun, taking it easy. The woman closest to the camera tries to sleep. Her companion offers his back as a pillow while he studies a map of the city. The fellow in the bright red shirt comments on the flow of tourists from around the world walking through the square. The man with all the beer watches the watchers, a woman reads, and another man turns his back on the whole thing. This image tells a collective story, defining a moment in time where each person in this group becomes an individual by using body language or gesture uniquely.
Haggling in the souks, Marrakesh, Morocco, 2006
Haggling is an art form in Marrakesh. You generally offer one third of the asking price and if not successful, you walk away. Often, the seller will come after you with a counter offer. No matter how low the price may go, the seller usually wins in Marrakesh. I stood on a street corner, some distance away from this shop. My subjects were standing on the sidewalk just in front of it. I used a 375mm telephoto lens, making myself invisible to them so as not to affect their behavior. They never saw me because of that distance and because they were so involved in the bargaining. Using my continuous shooting mode, I made about twenty images of this encounter in three separate bursts. I liked this one the best because of the intensity of the gesture. The seller, at right, is doing everything he can to persuade the man at left to buy. He invades the anonymous customers space, his grasping fingers fail the air inches away from the man’s jellaba. My goal here was to express the intensity of the bargaining process through body language and gesture.
By the truckload, Tineghir, Morocco, 2006
A flock of sheep in search of buyers has just been unloaded at Tineghir’s weekly market. The sheep are context here – it is the gestures of the sellers that I was interested in photographing. Each of the eight people in this image is playing a role in the unfolding story. The most forceful gesture comes from the man in the middle. He seems to be in command, summoning his sheep to gather round and notifying potential customers to come and have a look. Meanwhile, money already seems about to change hands – the man at far right forcefully expresses his preferences with a single digit. The other six people are, for the moment anyway, more passive participants. The man at far left is a shepherd – he carries a stick in his hand. Moments after I made this shot, he took over and marched the entire flock away from this parking area. Meanwhile, a young boy uses both of his hands to guide a wandering sheep back to the flock. The other three people have already done their jobs – they wait for further orders. This array of gestures tells the story of a moment in time, and does so in very human terms.
Taureg Nomad, Sahara Desert, Morocco, 2006
We visited the tent of a family of Berber nomads in the Sahara. She is a member of a Berber tribe known as Tauregs. They move from place to place, depending on the availability of forage for their sheep. They are essentially cut off from the world, yet this woman still wears a wristwatch (That is not polish on her fingernails. The red color is from henna, which is rubbed over the hands.) Her face is veiled. She does not make eye contact with me. There is a cultural divide here – a dozen American tourists crowded into a tent intended for four people. She has no idea of where we came from or who we are. And we have no conception of the world as she sees it. Meanwhile, she softly folds her hands together, a gesture that I can only classify as patient. She would, I think, rather be somewhere else at this moment. I made this image from the other side of the tent with long telephoto focal length (420mm) I shot in burst mode, with all sound effects on my camera turned off. Since I look down into my flip-viewfinder, and do not raise the camera to my face, I don’t think she even noticed that I was making her picture.
Nomadic hands, Sahara Desert, Morocco, 2006
I made this image a few moments after the preceding picture. The hands of the woman seen in both of these images have known a hard life. Yet there is much grace and beauty in how she uses them. (That is not polish on her fingernails. The red color is from henna, which is rubbed over the hands.) She was obviously getting accustomed to our presence. She unfolded the scarf that had veiled her face, and lets it fall around her shoulders. As she handled it, I made this image. We don’t see much of her face here – I let her hands speak for her. There is gentle, caring, graceful quality to her gesture.
Market Day, Tineghir, Morocco, 2006
Selling cattle is a family event at Tineghir’s weekly market. Sellers bring their products to this market from the entire region. This truck carries its bovine cargo below and the family of sellers above. I was drawn to the gesture of the man in red – he grasps the railing with one hand while seemingly blessing the transaction going on below with the other hand. Four other family members arrange themselves casually around him. The sale is incongruously taking place on three levels. The sellers are high, the buyers low, and the confined product is caught in between.
Discussion, Fez, Morocco, 2006
This image is a good example of expressive body language. I made it from a distance at full-telephoto range (420mm). Three of the four men in this street discussion have their hands in their pockets. The other has his arms folded to his body. They are playing it, as we Americans would say, close to the vest. Nobody is committing themselves here. They play a wait and see game. The man doing the talking here is the fellow on the left – even though we can’t see his face, he seems to be leaning forward and expressing himself to the man with folded arms. The two robed men are really bystanders in this discussion. They mimic each other’s posture. I also like the tension created by the spacing here. The man with folded arms is allowing the smallest amount of space between himself and the others. But the tension within that narrow space is palpable. All of this is due to the dynamics of the body language. As expressive photographers, we must learn to read body language and then use it to tell our stories.
Worries, Tineghir, Morocco, 2006
These men appeared to be the drivers of trucks parked in Tinehir's central square. Apparently, their day could have been a better one. I used the full extent of my zoom lens for this image as well – 420mm. They never noticed me. If they had, such an image as this would have been impossible to make. I shot numerous bursts, and selected this image because of the variety of body language and gesture in it. The man in the jellaba at left has a downcast expression, the fellow with his hands in his pocket also looks down, while the man at right uses a gesture that is often associated with frustration – a hand to the head. And all of this is going on at the door to a truck. They do not openly acknowledge the presence of each other – they seem to be communing in silence.
Art imitates life, Rabat, Morocco, 2006
I am not sure if the young man hamming it up for my benefit realizes that he is echoing the exertions of the lady on the billboard behind him. Like most Moroccan children, he only wants his picture taken. The body language of the woman in the advertisement is exuberantly posed. The child’s posed body language also makes use of both arms, but they point inwards instead of outwards. The ad wants us to come join the fun, while the kid is telling me to take his picture. Meanwhile, the third party to this image trudges past with head down – he wants no part of either the ad or the camera. He is the only party in this image who is not posing.
Luncheon salute, Tineghir, Morocco, 2006
The boys of Dar ET-Tab, a boarding home for impovershed students, offer a luncheon salute of three fingers, summing up their school motto: "Earth, Humanity, and Freedom." Like the boy in the previous image, they are playing to the camera. But the gestures they use occur spontaneously. I did not say anything to them – they are communicating their feelings to me and to anyone who might ever view this image. This picture is about feelings, and they come to us from the heart. Each boy brings a different expression to the table as well -- the boy at left deals with a mouthful of food, the one in the middle looks away for the moment, while the student at right confidently takes his stand.
Loading up, Tineghir, Morocco, 2006
Multi-tasking often reveals expressive body language. This man was loading luggage on top of his truck in the town square, while trying to maintain his balance at the same time. I abstract him by shooting from behind, simplifying the picture and calling particular attention to his precarious posture. With a mosque and soaring clouds as background, he shows complete confidence in himself. He must have felt that someone was watching over him.
Man in blue cart, Essaouira, Morocco, 2006
I saw this man sitting in a blue cart next to a blue door, lifting his hands to his face as if in prayer. His gesture is one of those that could have a number of potential meanings. He might have been saying a morning prayer. Or perhaps he was just thinking. Maybe he was sleepy. We will never know, and that is the mystery of this photograph. This was how I found him and this was how I left him. I leave it to my viewers to interpret the gesture in any way they wish.
Jaunty soldier, Rabat, Morocco, 2006
I made this photo outside the Royal Palace, headquarters of Morocco’s government. I saw the thrust of the palm shadow on the wall, and waited for someone to step in front of it. This soldier obliged – his jaunty step is a perfect complement to the upward sweep of the palm shadow. The body language – swinging arm and a full stride -- suggests self-confidence and positive attitude.
At rest, Marrakesh, Morocco, 2006
I saw the light and shadow falling on this man as he rests with a cup of tea in a Marrakesh cafe. I exposed for the highlights, letting his face fall into deep shadow. Covering the eyes is an ambiguous gesture. Once again, I leave it to the viewer to answer the questions this image asks. Is he deep in thought? Tired? Lost in sadness? Or just hiding from my camera?
School Girls, Tineghir, Morocco, 2006
These girls display a variety of emotional responses as they greeted us in the lobby of a state-operated boarding institution for worthy students who come from outlying villages. When possible, I like to compare and contrast one response against another. Each girl feels differently about my presence. The girl at left finds my camera amusing. She enjoys the limelight. The other two girls are not as self-assured – their hand gestures and expressions convey uncertainty and caution. The girl in the center abstracts herself with a blurred hand – is she shy? Or simply excited? The spontaneous gestures and responses in this image ask questions and demand answers from the viewer.
Young salesman, Marrakesh, Morocco, 2006
I found this young man selling shoes in the souk. He seems to take my camera for granted. His eyes look away, towards the shoes. His gesture – a scratch on the ear – might signify puzzlement. I used less than a 150mm focal length, so I must have only been a few feet away when I made this image. Yet there were many shoppers on the street with me. It is possible he never saw me -- his mind seems far away.
Hands full of questions, Marrakesh, Morocco, 2006
After making this image in the souks of Marrakesh's medina, I had more questions in mind than answers. The woman’s hands to face gesture can mean different things. Is she trying to remember something she came to buy? Or is she stifling a sneeze? Perhaps a quick prayer is being offered? Her hands are stained red from decorative henna. The more questions a picture asks, the more thought provoking it can be. Ambiguity, rather than certainty, is an important principle in expressive travel photography. The more an image appeals to the imagination of a viewer, the richer and more rewarding the viewing experience becomes.
Tea Time at the market, Attaouia, Morocco, 2006
One of the largest markets in Morocco is held weekly in Attaouia, about an hour from Marrakesh. Everything from clothing to camels is sold and swapped here. I made this image of two fellows talking business in a tent over a cup of tea in the heart of the market. The man at right seems to be drinking a glass of tea and emphasizing a point at the same time. The extended index finger is a universal gesture of exclamation, direction, and authority. A tent has become his office and dining room at the same time. The other man listens but does not acknowledge what he is hearing. Is a customer? A colleague? We can only guess.
Sidewalk café, Fez, Morocco, 2006
A cup of mint tea or strong coffee is all someone needs to buy in order to occupy a seat in a Moroccan cafe for hours at a time. The cafe is a public living room in Fez, and smokers are welcome. His gesture and expression reveal a good deal of character. I was using a long lens (250mm) and burst shooting; he never noticed me. I was drawn to him by the black jellaba he was wearing which blends into the heavily shadowed background. The strong morning light on his face strengthens the detail in the gesture, illuminating both the veins in his left hand and the character lines on his face. Some might wonder why I did not convert this image to black and white, since most of the color in the image is in the skin tones. I tested this shot in black and white and the meaning changes entirely. The warmth of character vanishes in black and white – he becomes timeless, almost medieval in nature. The smoking gesture becomes cold, calculating, and stylized in black and white, while it is warm, relaxed and real in color. This exercise points up the danger of automatically presenting pictures in black and white as a matter of personal style. Monochromatic presentation can completely change the interpretation and meaning of gesture and response. As communicators, we must never choose our medium based on form alone. We should choose the form that best suits our content.