Without a camera: a post made entirely on iPhone. by Mike Dawson

The last week has been... Vexing. I find myself in moments where I'm confronted with transcendental beauty or a situation demanding a high ISO sensor, and all I have is a somewhat shaky hand and an iPhone camera. Still, these moments bear notice, even if they lack the nuance, depth of field, and high dynamic range we've become accustomed to.

Gathering blue

Gathering blue

I have an irrational attraction to construction sites -- So much so they almost received their own heading in the blog. This beautiful seldom opened door could not be passed without being photographed but I would give a lot to have walked by with a 35mm lens and a good body. It's been locked ever since.



Lorde, United Palacw Theatre

Lorde, United Palacw Theatre

I saw Lorde at the United Palace Theatre. No one checked our bags. I didn't bring a camera for fear of confiscation. People tried to use their phone flash to get shots of her on stage. Their knowledge of optics made my heart bled and my soul ache. Still, she sounded beautiful. 


I believe this image speaks for itself. It may be for Cornell's 150th anniversary. I see it out my window. I'm waiting for lightning and storm clouds to begin swirling above before some sort of unholy symphony we'll all forget tomorrow.

Never leave home without a camera if you can avoid it.



The Birthday Project: Will by Mike Dawson

Rat pack super spy

Last Wednesday I had the following exchange on Facebook:

SWK: "Hey, are you coming to my birthday Saturday?"
MED: "I was planning on it , but you know, flaky."
SWK: "So... I'm having this OTHER birthday that you weren't invited to and I was wondering if you'd come..."
SWF: "...and bring your camera. And take photos."

True happiness is a birthday text message on a charging iPhone.

I couldn't refuse a friend on their birthday. Especially an attractive friend with attractive friends in an attractive space with interesting light. I'm very happy with the results and very happy to wish Will a happy ((cough)) 40 ((cough)) th birthday.

kpop meets die hard

Hopefully next year this effort will get me upgraded to the A list.




I have a set of portraits from the night but I haven't gotten permission yet to post. Hopefully more to come.

The Invisibles by Mike Dawson

The world is, at best, confusing. People vote against their own interests on a regular basis. Healthcare decisions are often more based on profit or avoiding liability than a patient or family's wants and needed. Teachers spend as more time testing students and documenting lesson plans than they do teaching. Are you depressed yet? Yeah, me too.

But the thing that really confuses me are attractive people who are impossible to photograph. Some people, like Justin, below, cannot take a bad picture. He sees a camera and his face, expression, and demeanor are immediately perfect. Is it because he's an actor and comfortable on the stage? Is it his personal dedication to style, not pictured below? Is it because we've known each other for almost 15 years? Or is it something else entirely?

Justin, always on point.

Then there are the friends who are incredibly beautiful where I cannot take a photo that looks even remotely as attractive as they do in person. My friend Kasumi is beautiful. Striking coloring. Adorable smile. Piercing eyes. And somehow: I cannot get a good photo if she knows I'm looking. And if she doesn't know I'm taking a picture, I can't get her in focus. Why is this?!?


Example two: Eli. Eli is bar manager for Dinner Lab. Charming. Friendly. Devilish smirk. And somehow always blurry.


Why is this? Are they vampires who can't be captured by even mirrorless cameras? Do they move backward and forward at rest where normal people fidget laterally? Do they exist in 4 dimensions instead of the conventional 3? Is this a lack of camera love or a level of animated charisma that isn't easily captured in a stolen moment? Would capturing the perfect photo be a tragic like pinning a butterfly in a box or a triumphant achievement?

The world may never know. But in the interim, I will continue to try.

The Birthday Project: Judith by Mike Dawson

Since I was a child, I've had an obsession with birthdays. In the last year I've been asked to shoot some close friends' birthday celebrations and started to wonder what would happen if we treat an event that happens once a year as though it was a wedding, graduation, or any other once in a lifetime event. I've been spending the weekend shooting my friend Will's birthday festivities, and this has sent me back in time to Judith's amazing 40th. These pictures were from a flash-free period and slightly more... impressionistic, which in some ways it enhances the memories of this event and begs the question: Should a picture represent what we see or what we remember?


w, downtown manhattan

Back in my early twenties there was a Saturday night where I traveled to three boroughs in order to avoid missing any of my friend's birthdays. I arrived at the last in Queens around 2:30 in the morning exhausted as people were streaming out the door and awkwardly stayed for about fifteen minutes before realizing that as much as the birthday boy appreciated the tribute, he'd appreciate being left alone to go to bed much more. I think that was about the time I realized quality might trump quantity and that "important obligations" are often in your head. This is underlined by the fact that ten years later,  I don't remember who ANY of these parties were for.

please let me take pictures when you renew your vows?

please let me take pictures when you renew your vows?

I found the flash.

I'm not sure where this project is going to go. A birthday portrait a day for 365 days? It's NYC, and I think I know enough people to pull this off. Birthday suits? A vague business venture? I know there's something here I want to work on, and I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes. 

... and yes, there are approximately three months left to shop for my gift. I'm not picky.

Remainders by Mike Dawson

I am feeling like my creative block is a bit lifted and wished to share some ancillary material referenced in the last post.

First off, one of many moose:

If he was once alive(?) is there any worse fate for the remains of a sentient being than hanging on the wall of a vaguely Twin Peaksian, somewhat gay bar?

This shot, from earlier in the week when I was more inebriated but far better rested proves that a.) An iPhone is sufficient light for the a7 to take a portrait. b.) Exhaustion makes the hand shake far more than drink. c.) I am irrationally jealous of people who are stronger than me.


And finally, Hong-An was beautiful as always at Florian's party. (Which was not the event pictured above).

"I am giving side eye to the man above, despite never occupying the same space in real life."

Discipline and Flemish by Mike Dawson

A mere three posts in and I have run into my first creative block. I had a plan: Take glamorous shots of Florian's birthday and brief New York foray, edit and post those photos Sunday afternoon, and then move on to Soft Grunge, a monthly Park Slope concert series.

This did not happen. But in the name of self discipline and keeping promises, a post will still be made. A great photo can be the result of a perfect moment, the right lighting, or a real connection with a singular subject, but more often a great photo is the result of hundreds of acceptable or sometimes horrible photos, meticulously pored over and then edited to achieve a result that looks effortless. Creativity can be spontaneous and beautiful but it's frequently a tedious slog that gets us to a beautiful result.

Inspiration. Perspiration. Etc.

I did attend Florian's birthday, a friend of friends, who I had never met in real life but had long admired from his work on his photography site Stolen Photons. Florian is a Dutch polymath, professor and photographer, writer and translator who recently traveled across the sea by container ship. (He is actually not Belgian, but I stand by my pun.) I had a lovely time at this event, but I learned an important lesson: Being sufficiently exhausted is functionally indistinguishable from being drunk, and a steady hand is nearly impossible after several sleepless nights of high humidity and disturbing dreams.

Case in point: This photograph almost captured the pixie glow of another guest lit by her iPhone except of the many, many pictures I took, THIS was the most in focus.

lit by cellphone

Finally, my wifi went out twice during the creation of this post. I returned, retyped, continued. And now it's done. Inspiration. Perspiration. Etc.

Please check out Florian's work, one photo posted below. It's truly inspirational (perspirational?) and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.  

Florian  " Life and views from the bridge and from our quarters" --    Stolen Photons

Florian "Life and views from the bridge and from our quarters" -- Stolen Photons

John: The simple joys of a friend who loves to be photographed by Mike Dawson

Last night I went to the opening of a photo show with my friend John. The show itself was enjoyable but the real joy of the evening was hanging out with a friend who completely and unrepentantly loves the camera and will tolerate being asked to pose when they're ready to go:


And then request that you keep taking their picture until you're both happy:

"Are we done yet?"

And even "borrows" props for the shoot while you get your equipment ready:

"I think I'm a DJ?"

Thanks to all of you strong souls who tolerate and enjoy being photographed. Without you, my life would be nothing but landscapes and a little bit more lonely.

Labor Day and Lobster Rolls by Mike Dawson

Click for animated gif. Make sure you're seated first.

Click for animated gif. Make sure you're seated first.

I was stuck at home over Labor Day weekend so a couple of friends and I decided to bring the beach to Brooklyn. Our crack team consisted of Tex, child of ranchers from landlocked Nebraska; Mike, guilt-ridden former vegetarian with a self-diagnosed minor shellfish allergy; and Justin, the mastermind of the operation with years of experience in crawfish boils in Louisiana and southern Florida. 

A moment of silence / kiss the cook

The process took an emotional toll on Justin but the finished result was beautiful.

Some were less affected by the lobster's brave sacrifice and the strong, humid, boggy smell permeating the kitchen for the next hour. Some of us drank seltzer in the other room and dreamed of dry land and fragrant pine forests.

Lobsterrine / We all grieve differently

The finished product was amazing. In the end Chef Justin substituted fresh rosemary for tarragon and dropped the celery entirely as unnecessary filler. The results were bright and light yet remarkably filling. They were served with guacamole a la Tex, fresh figs, and Syracuse salt potatoes with melted butter, my favorite food on earth. A lovely way to spend a holiday staycation. [Tarragon Lobster Roll]

Lobster rolls, finished product