Manhattan Skyline from the Reservoir in Central Park, 1995
photograph by Tenryu Shin

This is such an unfamiliar view that many, even New Yorkers, have confused it for being a view from the East or Hudson Rivers even though it is impossible to view many of the buildings pictured from either location.

Despite protestations to the contrary, New York is America's one true city. It is the only city America can offer up as comparison to a London, Paris, or Tokyo. You only think you live in a city (which you do, but it's not the city) until you come to New York. I like this image because it does what I feel an image is supposed to do. It is easy to make one city in America (or the world, for that matter) look like another. It is difficult to capture the essence of a place. In this image, the landscapes of wealth and capitalism suround on three sides the "landscapes of democracy" as Olmsted referred to Central Park. New York is both a terrible and beautiful place, and subsequently it can inspire both fear and awe.

You can see more of Tenryu Shin's photos at:

© 1997 Tenryu Shin

Inferred Presences
photograph by James Rhem

"Inferred Presences" sounds awfully grand doesn't it? But that's what I've been calling this image. The literal background about this photo is that it depicts the shadows of my daughter at the peak of one of the archs of motion in her swinging in her swing in the back yard one day, as well as my shadow making the photograph. The deeper background is probably two-fold.

First, I seem to have two incorrigible habits whose metaphoric importance or meaning as indices to who I am and what my character really is continue to ellude me. The habits? I seem to like to shoot high contrast situations and I seem to enjoy forcing various photographic mechanisms and materials toward doing things they aren't ideally suited for. So, for example, one hardly thinks of the SX-70 as an "action" camera: its film is too slow. And one doesn't think of it as a camera that does very well with high contrast or anything much but closeups in nice even light. So the choice of materials and equipment here is a bit perverse. Why make such a choice? Well, I think it is because the little SX-70 image still bespeaks an ephemeral moment honored in a unique, singular image. I'm not crazy about the idea of "the decisive moment" all by itself, but the sense of singularity conveyed in the Polariod gives the idea an amplification, a tone, that does appeal to me somehow.

Working both with and against the general expectations of photographs -- i.e., that they show decisively 'frozen' content -- I find that a stop-action photograph of the shadow of a thing offers a kind of newly vivid formal and imaginative engagement. One may enjoy what's there -- the pattern of shadow and light -- or one may enjoy the implication of what isn't there -- the child in her swing and the photographer with his camera -- or both. My hope and belief is that the photograph offers more than the usual number of handles to viewers -- more and different means of engagement. Photography as taxidermy doesn't interest me much.

James Rhem can be reached via e-mail at

© 1997 James Rhem

Back to the Future
photograph by Jim Coe

This image was made at a flea market. It combines some aspects that I like in pictures of people:
Gesture - that is, strong human body language or expression.
Juxtaposition - the setting of the figure as an "actor" onto an interesting "stage."
Weirdness - an unreal or otherworldly varnish overlaying a normal scene or event.
Dynamic Balance - a composition like a long lever, balancing a heavy object with a light one by putting the fulcrum far off center.

Although most of the technical details are unimportant, there is a technical lesson here. The image was seen and captured on 35mm Fujichrome Velvea very quickly, which is my excuse for seriously underexposing it. The slide was transferred to a non-professional quality Kodak Photo/CD ( which did more harm ). I then enhanced it in Adobe Photoshop by cropping, improving sharpness and, most important, setting curves for color balance and to compensate for the underexposure. Photoshop saved this image, as it often has. While the exposure is still marginal (note the lack of detail in the blacks), it is now usable. Thanks for looking....

You can see more of Jim Coe's work at:

© 1996 Jim Coe

Association for Research and Enlightenment, Virginia Beach, Virginia
photograph by Joel Becker

"Waterlily" was found in the meditation garden at the Association for Research and Enlightenment. Known in Virginia Beach as the A.R.E., it was established by Edgar Casey, who was known as the Sleeping Prophet. The garden has various places to sit and ponder things, paths through flowerbeds and bridges over water ponds for walking meditation.

I found the pond with soft light on everything except a nice spot of sunlight on the waterlily. On my knees I carefully held my Kodak DCS 460 digital capture camera over the water, checked for focus and exposure, and pressed the shutter button.

I was on assignment to create marketing photos for the ARE, and didn't think about the shot again until I returned to my studio and downloaded the camera card into the computer. The ARE bought shots of the buildings, but I was moved more by this view than any other.

Joel Becker can be reached via e-mail at

You can see more of Joel's work at:

© 1996 Joel Becker

Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi
June 1995
photograph by Geoffrey Hiller

In Vietnam I woke every day with the light to go out photographing. The lake was just a few blocks from the guest house I was staying in, and even at five a.m. there were people outside doing their exercises.

The lake functioned as a kind of town square. Kids played, lovers held hands and the older men and woman did their Tai Chi. Judging from appearences, all of this physical work has paid off. Without exception, all of the older people that I talked to looked about ten years younger then their actual age.

You can see more of Geoffrey's work at

© 1996 Geoffrey Hiller

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