“Shooting Myself…” (Photographically)

“The first time I became a ‘paid photographer’ was almost a decade ago.”

“Technically, I had taken photos well before that, having been bitten by the bug in college and shortly after becoming ‘that guy with the camera in your face’ during vacations and road trips. But it wasn’t until about 9 years ago that I was actually paid money to photograph something. I started small (as I imagine most shooters do), with events, parties and red carpet affairs…all very easy to find in NYC. Before long, however, and with help from friends in high places, I found myself with access to fashion shows, VIP happenings and the occasional star-studded wedding.”

(photo: Fidel Amos)

(photo: Fidel Amos)

“A year or two of that kind of photography put decent money in my bank account, but I found myself wanting more. Not more in the sense that I wanted to do more volume, I simply wanted to do the kind of shooting that held a little more substance. I didn’t just want to shoot more photos, I wanted the photos that I shot to mean something…I wanted people to FEEL what I was shooting, not just see it. It had become evident to me that I enjoyed taking random photos of people on the street much more than models on runways or celebrities at functions, so I began putting my focus into portraiture. I remember reading that a certain photographer had prepared for taking portraits of others by practicing on stuffed animals. For some reason though that sounded strange to me, as shooting a non-moving object hardly seemed challenging, so I practiced by shooting photos of myself.”

(photo: Fidel Amos)

(photo: Fidel Amos)

“I can’t honestly say that I took away much from that (other than the fact that being on the receiving end of a lens was more intimidating than I thought), but it did teach me one very valuable lesson: you can’t lie to a camera. Sure, you can make yourself up or undress yourself, you can pose differently or hide certain physical characteristics or imperfections by keeping them out of frame. But in the end you look like what you look like, and you are who you are…there’s no changing that.”

(photo: Fidel Amos)

(photo: Fidel Amos)

“Of course, this was a decade ago, not everyone and their grandmother’s had yet gotten their hands on Photoshop and various other applications that can make just about anyone look like just about anyone else, but that’s not really what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the photo the second you take it, while it’s in the camera, raw for the world to see. Paul Strand, an American photographer and filmmaker, once wrote: ‘It is one thing to photograph people. It is another to make others care about them by revealing the core of their humanness.’ In the end, he’s right, we’re all just humans….and that’s what I try to show in my photos. True, I’m no master photographer, I’m still learning every day, with every person that I shoot.”

(photo: Fidel Amos)

(photo: Fidel Amos)

“But after adding a few years of portrait-taking to my resume, after having photographed hundreds and hundreds of people in the streets, homes and jobs of various cities in countries around the world, I can safely say that I’ve learned a lot more about what it is to be human….and what it means to photograph that humanness.”

“That’s why I take photos.”

(photo: Fidel Amos)

(photo: Fidel Amos)

“….and that’s why every now and then, I still shoot myself.”

– F

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Filed under The Story Behind The Shot, Why I Do What I Do

“The Photo-Bombing Bubble…”

I was walking in Central Park one day, when near the Bethesda Fountain I spotted a flash mob beginning a performance in front of a man and a woman. After they were done dancing he got down on a knee and proposed. When she said yes he hugged her, it was touching. I put my camera to my eye to take a picture…and that’s when a giant bubble appeared out of nowhere and floated right into my shot. A street performer on the terrace below me was creating person-sized bubbles from a bucket full of soapy water.

(photo: Fidel Amos)

(photo: Fidel Amos)

Of all the pictures from all the cameras in all the cities in the world, that bubble had to float into mine…at that exact moment in time.

– F

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Filed under Blog Quickies, New York City, The Story Behind The Shot

“Disaster Strikes…But What Can I Do?” (Nepal Earthquake)

Planet Earth as a whole is an unbelievably large place; oceans to seas, mountains to plains, cities to villages, it covers nearly 200 million square miles.

Often times when we hear of a tragedy occurring on a different continent or in a different country than ours, it doesn’t have the same effect on us as it does to those living where it happened. This doesn’t mean we’re not paying attention, it doesn’t mean we care less…it’s just simply difficult to be able to see, feel and hear about the various disasters, big or small, that occur around the world on a day to day basis.

 

Yesterday however, for the first time since I can remember, a natural disaster occurred thousands of miles away from me, yet I felt it in my being…the earthquake in Nepal. I was blessed to be able to see Nepal a couple years ago while on assignment with several surgeons and medical staff from Mission: Restore. It is a beautiful country, and the people we encountered there were friendly, generous and hospitable to us every step of the way.

 

As I scanned the internet for more information on what was occurring in the cities I had visited while there (specifically Kathmandu), I came across a photo of Patan Durbar Square, which now lies half in ruin. I had taken a photo in the exact same spot, from the exact same angle that this photographer had taken theirs. The place where I had been standing a few years ago was gone, demolished, covered by brick, stone, mortar and dirt. I stared at this particular photo for a very, very long time. 

(Patan Durbar Square / In 2011, and today)

(Patan Durbar Square / In 2011, and today)

 

I tried to mentally reconstruct the buildings in their entirety as they had been when I was there. I tried to picture myself being there after such a disaster struck, would I be able to help, or would I be as helpless as so many others I had seen in the photo? I then imagined being there moments before the earthquake hit…would I even be alive now?

 

Perhaps distance, time and space is enough to keep us from physically being side by side with others when tragedy strikes, but with today’s technologies, means of transportations and online methods with which to share infromation, we can get to them quicker and help them much faster than we ever could in the past.

 

If you have the means, if you have the resources, if you have the time, share those things…via Mercy CorpsUSAIDDirect ReliefUNICEFHabitat for Humanity and so many others. It doesn’t matter if you only have a couple dollars to send, a tiny little bit of help from billions of others just like you reaches much, much further than you think.

– F

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Filed under On Assignment, The Good In Mankind

“The Doc Meets The Dude…”

(photo: Fidel Amos)

(photo: Fidel Amos)

I took this photo while on assignment in Dehradun, India with a non-profit group consisting of surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses from around the world. Locals in the area had heard of the team’s arrival and came from miles away to receive free medical care for their burns, scars and wounds.

One of these locals was an adorable little boy our team aptly named ‘The Dude’, as he didn’t speak English and none of us knew his name. Although he suffered from extreme burns to his hand and face, his presence at the hospital was a cheerful and amicable one.

In this photo he is meeting for the first time one of the surgeons that would later tend to him…and he was all smiles about it.

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Filed under Blog Quickies, Diary Of A Traveling Photog, On Assignment, The Story Behind The Shot

“Perhaps One Day Things Will Be Different…REALLY Different.”

“Some people say racism in this country is a thing of the past. They say that ‘all men are created equal’ and that the signing of bills and the passing of laws 50 years ago has kept it that way.”

“Others say that racism is alive and well. They say that blacks are still looked down upon by whites and that things will never change. They say the recent events in NYC (let alone the rest of the country) speak for themselves; those events being (but not limited to) a white officer killing a black man by choke hold during what appeared to be a non-threatening situation, and two officers being assassinated by another black man as revenge for the first incident.”

“I try to hide my eyes from stories such as these. I try to pretend that it’s simply a ‘cops vs the bad guys’ scenario and keep to myself. I try to remember what it was like growing up as a mixed-race kid, being accepted by everyone I knew because although I was a different skin color, I was still a pleasant human being. The only problem is that doesn’t work because I wasn’t raised in the United States of America...”

“Things are different here.”

“They are obviously not how they were in years past, but they are still nowhere near as good as they could be. I still hear stories of black on white / white on black crime, initiated simply because someone was black or white. I still feel uneasy feelings during certain instances in my life…instances caused simply by me being ‘not white’.”

“I still find newly-carved swastikas every now and then, such as this one that popped up overnight on the same bench I sit on every day waiting for my 6 train ride home.”


Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 2.24.38 PM
“Perhaps one day things will be different…REALLY different. Perhaps one day black and white, 
Jew and Gentile, male and female will all be considered equal…TRULY equal.”

“And perhaps I’ll still be alive to see it…”

– F

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Filed under Hear Me Roar, New York City, Really America?, This...I Just Don't Get

“Americans Need Help Too…”

Everyday on the news we hear about millions of people who are homeless and starving in cities and countries other than our own. We hear about places we can drop off used clothing items, addresses we can mail money orders and websites we can donate to. We hear about hungry children, broken homes and abandoned family members.

(photo: Fidel Amos)

(photo: Fidel Amos)

But how can we help any of those people in any of those cities in any of those countries…when we can’t even help ourselves?

– F

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Filed under Blog Quickies, Hear Me Roar, Really America?

“There Has To Be A Way…”

The United States of America. I love this country, I love another country as well because I grew up there and consider it home, but having lived here the last 20 years or so makes makes me as American as I am Italian (as does the combination of my American father and my Italian mother). One thing that I’ve seen, in the USA as well as Italy, is the ever-increasing number of homeless on the streets. I feel a certain pain inside my soul when I see someone in those conditions, not because I don’t want to help, but because I can’t help…at least, not by myself. Although this is a beautiful country we live in, we can’t seem to find a way to take care of our own citizens…let alone anyone else’s.

There has to be a way to come together as a whole. There has to be a way to provide food, shelter and decent living conditions to the civilians of this great nation…especially to its veterans, who have fought tooth and nail for it. I know that it’s possible. I know because I have been around the world, and I’ve seen the good that mankind (and womankind) can do. I know because while in Union Square here in NYC one day, I saw a man approach another man. They didn’t know one another as far as I could tell. They had only the shirts on their backs and the bags in their hands. But when one asked another if he could have a cigarette, a cigarette is what he got…no questions asked.

If two people who have nothing can give to each other, why can’t we all..?

(photo: Fidel Amos)

(photo: Fidel Amos)

-F

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Filed under Blog Quickies, Hear Me Roar, New York City, Really America?, The Good In Mankind