The Long Term



Today I dug through my ICP photo archive and found the very first image I took of April and Desire, the subjects of my current “long-term” project. When I looked at the metadata I came to the obvious yet surprising realization that I have known these girls since September. September. I have had a nine month photo-subject relationship; relationship being the key word here. When I first met the girls, they were two in a sea of a gaggle of girls dressed to the nines for their modeling club dubbed “Supreme Luxe” or SLM (Supreme Luxe Models). Fast forward through various trips to the mall, walks home from school, and here I am in May, being told by Desire that I have inspired her to be a photographer or that according to April, I have been adopted by both April and Desire’s families. So you mean I’m not just a photographer, I’m a character/subject in this story too? That’s pretty incredible.

It’s only now, while looking at this uninspiring “sketch” photo I took on a day of unsuccessful street shooting, that it is beginning to hit me how much I’ve learned from my year at ICP. I think many of us have been given the greatest gift this year—that is, to really delve into a subject matter and to give people a voice no matter how subtle, lighthearted, sad or complicated their story is. To be able to walk down the street, look around, notice a beautiful moment or interesting person and suddenly realize that everyone has a story to be told is a really incredible feeling that only us photographers have the courage and strength to explore.  We have been so lucky this year to be given the safe space to practice this process. Yes, I know, my sentimentality is a little preemptive, but I thought I’d share my little epiphany. Hope you’re all practicing safe color correction and print procedures! 


Large Format…Good for the Soul.

Ulysses enjoys a glass of wine at Juniors restaurant in Downtown, Brooklyn. © Cassandra Giraldo

This semester has proven itself to be, once again, a source of constant anxiety and pressure. I look around at school, and everyone looks like they’re on the verge of having an ulcer. No smiles in sight really. I decided to take up the large format class this semester because I was tired of watching as other students merrily made prints in the dark room and fooled around with the awesome analogue equipment in the cage.  I wanted to join in on the fun, and so large format, while a daunting and laborious process, was actually a gift to myself.  I was pleased to discover that the slow, cumbersome, methodical process of large format was a therapeutic one, and that all of the sudden, my eyes were seeing more than they had in a while, that people seemed endlessly more interesting, and that my fear of approaching strangers completely dissipated. This whole new way of seeing has completely changed the way I approach my small camera work and I really feel liberated. I think it’s important that we all give ourselves a break once and a while. Let go for just a second, give yourself an assignment/personal project, and shoot it with a camera you’ve always dreamed of taking out of the cage.

-Cassie G.

My Father’s Land

Bogotá, Colombia.

Click image for more.

Over the holidays, I was lucky enough to spend two weeks in Colombia–my father’s native country, with my family.  The last time I had visited, I was seven years-old.  Ever since my first visit, the country has remained a magical and fantastic childhood memory. I was happy to discover that my childhood memories were not so farfetched, and that the country was actually just as magical as I had remembered it.  Photographically speaking, the rolling green hills, the ubiquitous stray dogs, the colors of each home, textile, or fruit was nothing short of inspiring.

Suddenly, the rules of color that I had learned about in Bill Armstrong’s workshop were applicable, and I finally felt that the uncanny color harmonies, that only Alex Webb is able to capture, were within my reach.  Every day, and I say this without exaggeration, I saw people in clothing that coordinated with the buildings or setting around them. It was remarkable. It wasn’t luck or happenstance, it’s just the way it is. Which is probably why Latin America is a photographer’s dream.  I could go on about my experiences in Colombia, but for now, I’d just like to share some photographs that represent some of the unexpected color harmonies I was seeing left and right.

-Cassie G.

An Argument for Pizza

Elaine Viola. Fulton Mall in Downtown Brooklyn.

Earlier in the semester, my seminar class would partake in looooong circular discussions about ethics in photojournalism. One of our most heated discussions centered around accepting things/giving things to your photographic subjects.  As many of my classmates remember, and remind me every so often, I was put on the hot seat when I gave an example in which I was given something by someone I was photographing: a slice of pizza.  The assumption was quickly made that I was given this slice of pizza by a male or female that was interested in me for the wrong reasons (this idea has minor sexist undertones, but we don’t need to get into that…).  You see, I wasn’t given a slice of pizza by someone who wanted to be more than just friendly, but a fifty year-old woman whom I met while taking pictures around Fulton Mall in Brooklyn, and who I got to know very well in the span of a couple of hours.

Elaine (the evil pizza-giver) approached me while I was sheepishly taking pictures of passer-bys, and asked me if I was a photographer.  A friendly conversation ensued, I asked to take her picture (not forgetting why I was at Fulton Mall in the first place), and volunteered to walk with her to her next destination. It just so happened that she was heading to Family Court to get some restraining order papers dealt with.  She welcomed the company, and before I knew it, I was getting to know the intimate details of this woman’s life, as I shared a bit about me. And so began a relationship of GIVE and take.  As Alessandro had mentioned in his previous post, I truly believe that it is important to give a little of yourself to your subjects in order to achieve depth in your images. Now, there are definitely times to be stoic and distant, don’t get me wrong, but I find the after life of the images that come out from this process less powerful than the ones in which you’ve truly come to understand your subject, their story, and their relation to you.  Because what is the point then of being a documentary photographer or photojournalist if not to GET CLOSE TO PEOPLE in both the literal and figurative sense and to understand WHY it is you’re doing so.

Now, of course I’m only speaking for myself, and well, I guess it’s a good a time as any to come to terms with the photographer I am.  I am the photographer who takes her subjects seriously. Perhaps too seriously sometimes, but at the end of the day I am the kind of person who just cares, enjoys listening, and is interested in people in both an anthropological and aesthetic way.  Elaine insisted on buying me a slice of pizza, no ifs, ands, or buts, as a thank you for keeping her company in court.  I accepted because I realized that what was happening was more than an exchange between photographer and subject, but an exchange of kindness between two human beings.  And so, I hereby declare that I will never let the photographer overtake the human in me, because we are all both, however dialectically, at the end of the day.  The photographer is a taker and voyeur at the most basic level. It is our job to take it to the next level, to add depth, in whatever form we wish (because we’re all different kinds of people).

Oh, and did I mention I love pizza?

-Cassie G.

Growing Up in New York: Supreme Luxe Models

Hey guys, here’s a series I’m working on for my final picture making assignment, “Growing Up in New York.” I’ve decided to document the lives of a group of thirteen year-old girls from Brooklyn who call themselves the Supreme Luxe Modeling Team.  These images were taken at Kings Plaza, a shopping mall in the Marine Park/Mill Basin section of Brooklyn. I’d immensely appreciate your feedback on where I should go with this. Thanks ya’ll!

Photos: Cassandra Giraldo