Trapped In A Protest

I shot this footage in September while on assignment at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. I got trapped in a protest between two walls of police. I’m glad I did. It was an interesting moment.

Life in Uptown during the DNC was a carnival in a fortress. Miles of fences and barricades kept out nearly everyone who didn’t have credentials. Inside the walls were media, politicians, protesters and more media.

If you watch and listen close to this video, you’ll notice:

Hundreds of police forming a human barricade on either side of the street as protesters advocating for more than a dozen causes try to make their cases.

Most of the protesters appeared to be affiliating themselves with the Occupy movement. But as they congregated on Tryon Street, a group of anti-abortion protesters, carrying giant photos of aborted babies, arrived looking to steal their thunder. As the Occupy folks chanted, street preachers on opposite corners screamed at them through bullhorns: “You should be ashamed, you dope smoking perverts.”

Meanwhile, a couple blocks away, the leaders of one of our nation’s two ruling parties gathered to nominate a candidate for president.

For a while I thought I had lost this footage to a corrupt memory card. A few days ago I found that it was salvaged. (You can see a few of the images I shot while on the ground at DNC 2012, here.)

Switching Tumblr Gears

I’m changing my Tumblr’s focus. Til now it has been a photo blog where I collected scattered images I shot as I made my way around the “new South” where I live and shoot.

I no longer intend to feature my work there. (You can see my work on this blog and at ShawnCetrone.com.)

I’ll use Tumblr to share share what moves me: Stunning images. Compelling stories. And a few other interesting things.

I don’t mean a mish mash of my ramblings or disparate dispatches from the Web. It won’t be a running feed of photos or a Pinterest-style splatter of “inspiration.”

I’m aiming for an evolving collection of links to remarkable work. Images – still and moving –  that punch me in the gut. Push me (and you too, maybe). Make me want to take my feeble offerings home and hide them under the bed for their inferiority.

It’s called Voir.

Hope you enjoy.

Finding Wealth in Paying Homage to a Master

Image

The New Yorker is celebrating its Photo Booth upgrade by unlocking an archived tribute to Richard Avedon, the photographer who defined the fashion genre.

It’s a beautifully penned Postscript by Adam Gopnik, a friend of Avedon, whose words paint a portrait as striking as some of those captured by the master himself:

Though he held a tragic view of life, he brought to that view a grace and mischief and energy that stripped the existentialist position of its sourness and made despair about the final outcome of life a reason to live all the more. His best-known photographs, from the Parisienne leaping over a puddle in high heels to his dying father’s desperate face, all share a belief in the heroism of self-assertion, a belief that every leap is a leap of faith.

It’s easy to take pictures today. And everybody’s doing it. Often without consulting the photographic wisdom of those pioneers and revolutionaries whose shoulders we unwittingly trample upon, smartphone cameras and mega-pixel munching DSLRs in hand.

How many of us, while deleting less than instantly gratifying images from our LCD screens, ponder those who paved the way and broke the barriers?

Whether that has devalued photography’s thousand-word exchange rate or served to enshrine the craft’s most stellar specimens, is a debate for another time.

There’s no doubting the wealth of inspiration to be drawn from paying homage to those who came first, not only laying the foundation, but producing the imagery from which our work infinitely derives.

A piece that appeared in the New York Times in 2009 described Avedon like this:

In both appearance and personality, Avedon cut the ideal figure of a fashion photographer, and five years after his death, at age 81, he remains that. His photographic style has been widely imitated, not least by Steven Meisel. Generations of models have sprung across mid-tone seamless backdrops, or sat pensively in cafes, or pretended to be in love or quite alone — all because of Avedon. And yet if his images retain their special power, if the experiences and emotions they present seem lived and not merely imitated, it may be because he is the more complete photographer.

I’m not sure how long The New Yorker’s Postscript will be publically available. So enjoy it while you can.

You can find online galleries of Avedon’s work here: www.richardavedon.com.

DNC 2012: On the Ground in Charlotte

Along with 15,000 other media, I was on assignment at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte this week, or as it’s better known: #DNC2012.

While there I hung out with four aspiring broadcast journalists from Fort Mill High School whom PBS invited to cover a breakfast panel discussion. (That’s two of them in the photo above, chatting with Minneapolis Mayor Raymond Thomas “R. T.” Rybak, Jr. You can read my story about them here).

The atmosphere on the ground is nearly surreal.

Uptown (downtown to anyone not from Charlotte) is walled off by concrete barricades, huge trucks and what must be several thousand police, many of whom were trucked in from outside cities. Inside the walls is a carnival filled with media, delegates, more media, politicians, celebrities, protesters and more media.

And they’re all talking at once.

Even street preachers are screaming over each other.

I roamed for a while, camera in hand, to try and capture a bit of the flavor.

Here are a few moments from Wednesday:

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All images ©2012 Shawn Cetrone

Babies with Knitted Hats and Blunt-rolling Celebrities are Not Alone

On his extremely helpful and clever Tumblr called Ask Me Anything About Photography, photographer and advocate for the craft Zack Arias responded to a question asking him which 10 overdone photo compositions he’d prefer never to see again.

I love that question and agree with all of Zack’s choices.

Not that anyone asked, but as a staunch anti-cliché activist, I can’t resist responding with my own lists: one for photography and one for writing and journalism.

Photography

1. A baby lying on faux fur, wearing a knitted wool hat.

2. Couple’s portrait where one (or both) of them holds a chalk board with some word or phrase scrawled across it.

3. Someone sitting or leaning on a rusted car or truck.

4. Firefighter silhouettes.

5. Self-portrait of photographer holding camera.

(As you can see from the above shot, which I took for a Photo 101 course in another life, I’m guilty of at least one of Zack’s peeves.)

Journalism and Writing

1. “He/she is not alone.” It’s a tired phrase used most often in newspaper articles that open with an anecdote. Something like this:

“When Toddison Swillinghouse followed his doctor’s recommendation and took the new prescription drug Limpiox for headaches, he got some unhealthy surprises.

Swillinghouse says he experienced half a dozen surprise side effects that have made his life much worse, including erectile dysfunction.

He is not alone.

Thousands of Limpiox users across the country have reported similar side effects, according to a new study.”

2. “Tis the season.” Check your newspaper this December. You’ll see “tis the season for” giving to charities, dancing sugar plums, recycling, finance titans taking stock of rivals, and anything else that happens that month. You’ll find a sleigh-load of other Christmas clichés too. Thieves will be denounced as grinches. Chestnuts will roast on an open fire. Things will happen “faster than you can say, ‘ho, ho, ho’” — or barf, barf, barf.

3. Misuse of “literally.” 500 Days of Summer (an awesome film) nails it:

4. “Outside-the-box thinking” or “thinking outside the box.” As my friend Greg Lacour Tweeted: “If you find yourself repeatedly using the phrase ‘thinking outside the box,’ you’re not.” 

5. Celebrity profiles that start with the star in a restaurant, limo or high-end hotel. The story begins with descriptions of what the star is eating, what she’s fiddling with or what he’s talking about on the phone. Rappers dig into bags of weed and roll blunts. Pop stars munch on truffle fries. These anecdotes almost never move the story forward.

What are some photos and phrases you could stand to live without?

Shooting Fireworks and Lemons

As intoxicating as it is to chase the still image, to embark on creative pursuits, we photographers – film makers – creatives – multi-hyphenates must be, at our cores, problem solvers.

Even when we’re on vacation.

Case in point:

My wife Sandra and I took our four-year-old daughter to Charleston, South Carolina for July 4th. I read that the fireworks show at Patriots Point was up there with the nation’s best.

They would be fired from the deck of the U.S.S. Yorktown aircraft carrier docked there. They’d explode over the ship, illuminating the fighter jets and helicopters parked on deck. Pretty awesome.

Packed a camera. Planned to shoot the traditional way: Put the camera (a Canon 7D) on a tripod. 50mm lens. ISO 100. F-stop between 5.6 and 16. Shutter speed on Bulb. (It’s ideal to shoot fireworks remotely to avoid camera shake while pressing the shutter down, but I decided not to bring a remote).

First problem: We got to Charleston and realized I didn’t pack my tripod. Shit. Called a photographer friend who lives there to borrow one. Turns out her husband had hers and was out of town. All she had was a mini tripod, which stood about a foot tall. I took it.

We got to Patriots Point and staked out a spot on the lawn just a couple hundred yards from the ship. The perfect spot to shoot from. I planted that tiny tripod and set up.

Turns out organizers were trying something new this year. They fired from a barge farther away. The fireworks exploded over the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, about a mile from the Yorktown.

When did I find this out? After dark, when the first fireworks erupted, of course. Worse: From where we sat, the top of a beer tent blocked our view. No way to get a decent image. It was enough to make me consider tossing my camera back in the bag.

But, figuring I had just a few minutes to capture the show, I hustled instead. I squeezed through the crowd over to the beer tent, assuming there had to be a table or two over there. There was. And one was completely clear. I stuck the tripod, with camera attached, on the table.

I pointed the lens toward the exploding colors. Leaned over the table awkwardly to peek through the viewfinder and focused by waiting for a firework to explode then sliding the focus point to the bright spot and locking it in. Thankfully that worked. I spun the dial to Bulb, stepped away from the table, waited for fireworks to shoot into the sky and pressed the shutter lightly as I could, holding it until I felt I had what I was looking for. Every so often I’d peek through the viewfinder to change the composition a little.

I managed to get the shots you see in this post.

This story isn’t going to rank on any scale of impressive photographic feats. But it illustrates what we creatives do daily. Even in seemingly simple situations we must think on our feet, adapt and improvise. Our mission is, at least in part, to snatch the shriveled lemons we’re handed (or give ourselves) and find a way to start a lemonade stand.

I planned an easy peezy July 4 shoot with family. Ha. As if.

Filmmaker. Photographer.

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