Our Town: Every picture should tell a story

Dr Tom Ferraro

The camera can be a machine gun or it can be a psychoanalytic couch. The camera can also be a warm kiss or an artist’s sketch book. But mostly it’s a way of saying yes… yes… yes!” Henri Cartier-Bresson.

That’s a quote from the greatest photographer of the 20th century.  Bresson was the greatest street photographer the world has known and is famous for capturing ‘the decisive moment’. He said to do so one must love the geometry of shapes, be patient and be aware of who is moving into the frame.  Well each week I’ve tried to capture the decisive moment when I ask my subjects to pose for me at the end of our interview.  I can see that this is when they are most nervous, perhaps because as Bresson once said, the viewfinder strips the subject naked and the man’s true character is often revealed.   But I keep on trying nonetheless.

Then it suddenly occurred to me that I ought to go down to visit my friend Robert Salzbank who has been photographing me for years. Whenever I need a new head shot, a press shot or a magazine cover shot  I ask Bob to do his magic.  He owns Rampage Studio at 867 Willis Avenue in Albertson right across the street from the Albertson Post Office. 

Bob has been a professional photographer for more than 36 years and has photographed more than 3,500 events for local families. He does weddings, sweet sixteen parties, graduations and Bar Mitzvahs.  And if you need more proof go visit his webpage at Rampagestudios.com to see what a real photographer can do with lightening and talent. I asked him what his specialty is and he said ‘people.’ I asked what the secret to taking great shots is and he said it’s a combination of lighting, knowing how to use the camera and artistry. He said that the key is to relax the subject enough for them to let their guard down and to be themselves. 

Of course it is impossible for me to learn everything he had to say in a short hour but I did learn this. He said that a photo ought to tell a story and that each part of the shot is like a chapter in a book. The end result must be a pleasure to look at. He also said that you must learn to see the light and to use it well. I think this is something amateur photographers like me are clueless about. The best I can do is to turn the camera on to automatic and hope that the flash works.  I can say that there must be at least a hundred special features on my Nikon D90 and that all I know is how to turn the thing on and push the button. There was a user’s manual that came with it but it has about 279 pages in it and I haven’t found the 40 hours it will take to peruse it. 

I asked him about how to pose the subject and he said that you first talk to them, get them to relax and as you are chatting you can take some candid naturalistic shots. This sounds an awful lot like multitasking which I am also not very good at. As we finished the interview he said that photography is there to give witness to and to acknowledge the keys moments in our lives.  I know that I always tell my patients to get photographs done professionally. My family used to own many thoroughbred horses which were such beautiful creatures. But the only good photograph taken of them was by a professional photographer. 

To me when I think about our town I see more and more how we all connected.  A family will have a new child and ask Monsignor McDonald to do the christening at St. Aidans. Maybe Bob is asked to come and photograph the occasion. He gives the photograph to the family who go down to Framing Mantis on Hillside to have the shot framed and hung on the wall. A nice circle of talent in our little town don’t you think? PS. The new head shot you see of me is done by Bob. He somehow managed to make me look pretty good. No easy task.

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