Archive for the ‘People’ Category

The Big Easy   1 comment

St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans, LA

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

I recently returned from a trip to New Orleans with my youngest son during his senior year high school spring break. New Orleans offered a varied mix of culture, history, food and local flavor deserving of  any southern city of its size.

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

My son and I avoided the decadence often associated with the city and instead, walked along the alley ways of the French Quarter meeting a few of the eclectic people and places along the way. Street musicians dotted the streets and entertained passerby’s as the sun warmed the day. I have always been intrigued by street performers. These are individuals who do what they love and despite the obvious financial hazards of street performing, are willing to entertain with a smile in the hopes of a small contribution to their well being.

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

Eager to venture off the beaten path, we took a day to travel outside the city. At the top of our list of places to visit was the Oak Alley Plantation.  Cameras in hand, and tripod at the ready we waited until each room emptied or the view was unencumbered so that we could quickly set up the shot and take a few photographs. Strolling the grounds after our tour, we walked the length of the walkway lined by the live oaks, stopping as we went to photograph the plantation and take in the beauty of the magnificent trees.

Oak Alley Plantation

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

The trip to New Orleans was a short one, but my son and I squeezed in a drive through St. Bernard’s Parish, a trip to a the marshes on Lake Pontchartrain, Oak Alley Plantation and plenty of walking through the city. We ate well and enjoyed each others company. It will be a lasting memory we will share.

As always, thanks for stopping by.

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i paparazzi   Leave a comment

Dinner For Two

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

I am often struck, as I travel throughout the world, how often I feel like any one place feels like another. That where I am in that moment could easily be a thousand miles away and look and feel exactly the same. It underscores how very much alike we all are. How we want the same things for ourselves and the ones we love. That we need to fill our hearts, minds and bodies with nourishment is no different today than it was 50 years ago. This scene is being repeated a million times over as you read this text. Don’t you think that’s crazy? And even more mind noodling, is that it will take place again and again and again beyond our days.

A recent epiphany came to me. According to a Google search I just conducted, the oldest person alive is 115 years old. That means that 116 years ago not a single living soul on this planet existed. No one, not one of us existed. Very likely in 116 years from now, none of us will exist then. It’s not a morbid fascination, but the realization that life really does go on and that this scene will be not much different in that foreseeable future. People eating, socializing, laughing, and crying, all the while as time goes by.

This is why photography so fascinates me. It stops that moment and cements it into history. A record of a single brief 1/125 of a sec when time stood ever so momentarily still.

Today we reflect on what was by comparing the history of things to the present. Black and white photography helps us put some perspective, albeit of an infinitesimal amount,  of that recorded history.

And so it is, that history repeats itself, and will again in the future, with or without me to help record it.

Dinner For Two

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

Little Five Points, Atlanta GA   Leave a comment

I Live The Answer

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography

What is it about abandoned shoes that is so intriguing? Am I the only one who wonders about their bare footed owners? Abandonment is a pretty powerful emotion, one that conjures a multitude of feelings.  Abandoned objects make a great metaphor for these feelings, and something as intimate as a shoe does that for me.

The shoe suspended and dangling from the wire, suspends in its presence the story of its owner. The miles walked in it, the places it has been, silent like a fly watching dutifully on the wall. I can’t look at an abandoned shoe and not think these thoughts. It overwhelms me.

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography

There is the abandoned and there is “the” abandoned. Little Five Points in Atlanta is an eclectic mix of bars, old record stores, clothing on consignment and restaurants all coming together at an intersection that attracts every variety of person you can imagine. There are to be sure, those whose lives have fallen on hard times and for whom Little Five Points is home.

I’ve written before about how I am attracted to and afraid of street photography. This particular visit was part of a “Photo Walk”, where photographers gather for a social gathering and to take a few photos. I felt uncomfortable taking this particular photo, but that discomfort was soon overshadowed by the gravity of the life of these two men whose life I stepped into for but a brief moment.

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography

Aptly named “reflection” this last image completes the triptych. I suppose I could wax on about the masks, the reflections, the sense of luxury and the hollowness of the mannequins, but it was only when I brought them together for this post did the irony hit me. Art and photography should challenge our sensibilities, it should reflect our emotions and feelings and it should juxtapose one realty with another.

Peru Revisited in B&W   Leave a comment

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography
 
© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography
 
© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography
 

I’ve written about my visit to Peru in several recent posts and continue to be drawn to a few particular images that move me in a way very few of my photographs have over the many years I have been a photographer. Sometimes, words simply do a disservice to images and therefore I am electing to write nothing about these in favor of letting them speak for themselves. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

As always, thanks for stopping by.

Posted August 4, 2012 by Paul Coffin in Black & White, People, Photography, Portrait, Travel

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It is OK to look how you feel   Leave a comment

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography
 

I wrote recently how I discovered something new about people who live in another culture who are not exposed to the cultural customs associated with photography, like smiling on queue for the camera. We have become quite expert as a society in hiding our true emotions, especially when they are permanently recorded on a medium like photography.

The Shipibo children of Peru, who live along the Ucayali river in a remote area of the Amazon rain forest expressed a range of emotions when confronted with a camera, and to my surprise and delight they were always genuine, vulnerable and completely honest. I have many pictures of smiling, truly happy children, but have chosen to show three here that are anything but.

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography
 

It is impossible for me to strip away my own deep-seated cultural filter, to interpret what these images say to me outside my upbringing and “trained” eye. Yet what I love about each of them is that they challenge me to do so. While I have the benefit of having personally met and interacted with each of these children, I am still moved by their expressions. No doubt there were many moments of pure joy and happiness that I captured, but at the moment these images were taken, these children looked how “I thought” they felt. Only they can say for certain.

 
© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography
 

The picture above is my favorite picture from the trip. I snapped a half dozen pictures before the young girl stared off into the distance, reflecting on something only she knew. It is a reflection of my own feelings of my experience; sometimes melancholy, sometimes deeply moving and most certainly thoughtful and introspective. Visiting a culture vastly different from my own, certainly one as remote as this, forced me to see myself and the world I live in, in a very different way. I knew it would be a gift I would leave with, forever shaping and challenging my notions of human expression.

Posted June 29, 2012 by Paul Coffin in Art, People, Photography, Portrait, Travel

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Mother and Child   Leave a comment

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography
 

There is no doubt, that the special bond between mother and child is universal. This is not more evident than when a child is held by their mother and her gentle embrace supports them in her arms, the security of that embrace reflected in the child’s face.

The beauty of any art form is the discovery of something new and unexpected, and the revelation of how that art communicates in a way words alone cannot. I had several such discoveries while in Peru I will share in the coming blog posts.

Today, I wanted to focus my thoughts on the mothers of the remote Shipibo village in the Amazon rain forest, that I encountered while in Peru.

Discovery #1

Without exception, the mothers I encountered who were holding their babies wanted to have them photographed. They often raised them to just below eye level and shielded much of their own image in favor of their child’s. This was puzzling to me. It is not entirely unusual, but I sensed that the preservation of the image of their child was more important than the image itself. It was a record of their existence, that I believe they intuitively understood carried with it the permanence of longevity.

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography
 

Discovery #2

The beauty of a “real smile”.

It is understood, at least in North American culture, that when a camera is pointed in your direction you should smile. It is an odd custom we have developed. Many a family portrait has been taken, with one or more unhappy family members forcing a smile; a smile not able to mask the truth in the image. The people in this remote village were not so trained. Indeed, often, I found myself smiling from behind the lens in the hopes of coaxing even the most subtle of smiles. Ironically, it worked, and the results were less about posing and more an honest response to my delight in taking their pictures.

The children in particular were fascinated with seeing their own image in the displays on the back of the many digital cameras being handed around while we were there. They too were not “programmed” to smile, so when they did it was genuine.

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography
 

I have always had a thing about smiley eyes. I used that expression once while we were in the village and one of our teens pointed out this was a favorite term on the Next Top Model TV show. How unfortunate, that once again we should package and program the simple idea of how eyes can reflect a smile, sometimes even more so than how lips can. Despite that disappointment, the image above is one of my favorites. The intensity of the mothers eyes looking at me (and not the lens) reflects the sincerity of the moment.  It was a moment in time I was blessed to me able to capture and to subsequently share here as a small gift to her.

How ironic that these pictures should find themselves on the world wide web. These mothers may never know, but these images now reside in the worlds largest and longest lasting archive, a lasting record of them and their children and the tender moments they share as mother and child.

Posted June 27, 2012 by Paul Coffin in People, Photography, Portrait, Travel

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Pucallpa – The industry of the River   1 comment

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography
 

I’d like to say that the boat we boarded to begin and end our mission on the Ucayali river, was moored on a  dock in an area that was suited to easily boarding and departing, but unfortunately, it was not. Instead, we literally were pushed up against a muddy, much polluted river bank in between the fisherman’s loading area and a local boat builder. It was not what I had expected, but it did offer some interesting views of a world more foreign than I have ever visited.

The days started early for those that made their living from the river, and the constant sound of the humming motors, like a whir from a lawn edger or ailing lawn mower, was my wake up call. Sunrise cast a warm glow over an otherwise dirty and exhaust smelling embankment, with hard working men carrying blocks of ice, bananas and what looked like saw dust to each of their boats.

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography
 

The conditions were harsh, hot, humid and exhausting and yet somehow, through it all, I managed to get a smile from a local fisherman as I peered though my lens and snapped his picture.

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography
 

No matter the conditions, whether in the village, on the river bank, in the city or in the local tourist towns, people smiled at me. I didn’t for a second ever feel resented or reviled. It was a pleasant and unexpected surprise. It would be easy for me to judge those I encountered and compare their lives to mine, but that would have been presumptuous and egotistical. Instead, I accepted their happiness for what it was, a celebration of life.

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography
 

It is odd now, a week later to reflect on that world, as it was then and is now. Mine, a fleeting presence, left with an indelible mark.