The Shadow Photographers #7: Ali “Waxy” Waxman


Hey there street photographers! Today I have a very special treat for you guys: Ali “Waxy” Waxman in the next segment of the street photographers. I have interacted with Ali online and I have been constantly impressed by her work. Based out of Pennsylvania, Ali has an extremely unique style to his shots, experimenting with various flash triggers (for extremely fast exposures) as well as long exposures that lead to interesting results. Look for his exhibition information at the end of the article!!!


Q. Nice to meet you! A brief introduction?

A. My photography work explores the relationship between a consumerist desire and daytime ESPN.

With influences as diverse as Timmah Sinclair and Halsman to Building Crusher and Peter Yumi, new insights are generated from both simple and complex structures.
Ever since I was a pre-adolescent I have been fascinated by the unrelenting divergence of the mind. What starts out as vision soon becomes finessed into a dialectic of distress, leaving only a sense of dread and the dawn of a new reality.
As subtle forms become undefined through frantic and personal practice, the viewer is left with a new agenda of the undefined of our era.
Q. What got you into photography?
A. I am a second-generation photographer. I acquired my technical expertise at the side of my father (whom I’ve never met), a renowned “glamour” photographer in NYC’s heyday.
I refined my technique and expanded my creativity while shooting sports teams for Hershey Schools, weddings and pushing the limits of my equipment and squeezing out every bit of creativity in them.

Q. You have a very, very unique style of street photography. What’s the story behind it?

A. The shaky face project began at the cross streets of Second St and Walnut Sts in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. A somewhat juxtaposition of life. On one side, there sits a Hilton Hotel where Jaguars and Mercedes are being valet parked. On the other side of the street is home to the bus station. Where people beg for money and the homeless are fed by the food not bombs kids. Kids that are seriously struggling themselves, but giving everything they have for those less fortunate.

I enjoy shooting both sides of the street. And because my daughter was cast in a play not far from this cross street at Open Stage of Harrisburg, I had to be there twice a week for her rehearsals.
Let me tell you, getting complete strangers to allow me to photograph them is challenging enough…having COMPLETE STRANGERS shake their face like a dog shakes off water has got to be the hardest thing to do. EVER!
Because, this is not an isolated environment. I approach people at the bus station…where there are loads of people… Or getting out of their BMW’s….where the valets are waiting for their keys…
AND…I get a lot of people who tell me to piss off…OR…a lot of get that camera out of my face reactions…but I also get the coolest people ever to comply.
It’s getting them out of their comfort zone. Letting them go nuts of a few minutes…and I am so thankful I am there to capture the zaniness!
Q.Why the strange expressions?
A. I encourage the people I shoot to let loose for a few minutes…to relax all the muscles in the face and then shake it crazily from side to side.
Q. What is your most interesting story from shooting strangers on the street!
A. One time, I took my daughter with me to an area near a train station. I wanted to get some shots of people waiting for the train. So, I set up near the platform and began randomly shooting…
Quite soon after I began, I was approached by what looked like someone who worked on the trains. He was dressed in a florescent jumpsuit and was wearing a hardhat. He asked what I was doing. I told him I was taking pictures…
He then asked for my passport. (not sure why he asked for that rather than some form of ID)…and that made me crack up laughing. He was really mad that I laughed at his request and got loud with me…
He insisted I give him some ID…
My daughter looked really scared and intimidated by him. I responded by asking him for ID…I told him loudly, “I don’t know who you are too…If you show me identification, I will do the same.”
He was so shocked by this, he walked away.
Moments later, he returned with his ID in his hand. I then showed him my drivers license and told him, I mean no harm…just want to take pictures…
He was much more calm and asked me how long I was going to do this…I knew it was not a good scene, so I said I was wrapping it up and would leave in a few minutes.
He said that was okay and let us stay.
I used this as a tool to teach my daughter that just because someone tries to intimidate you into something, they are not always what they appear to be. You should always ask for their ID as well.
Q. Describe your workflow real briefly. From shot to website, what’s your process?
A. After importing into Lightroom, I usually do all my major changes and corrections there. Then it’s onto Photoshop for finishing touches. I also heavily use the nik collection as well. Fantastic plug ins for PS!
Q. What are your favorite subjects to photograph?
A. Currently, I am digging shooting sports in a creative way. But, I also love portraits, street photography and photographing my family!

Q.Your use of long exposures are very interesting. How exactly do you use them?
A. This technique was taught to me by an extremely talented photographer names Os Ososment. I simply created my own niche. When shooting my entended exposures, I like the use of props, and try to get an image of the subject acting way out of their usual personality.
These are difficult to shoot and take a lot of time to get it just right.
Q. Your weapon of choice? (camera, lighting, etc.)
A. I shoot Canon. My lenses include a 30mm 1.4, 60mm 2.8, 70-200 2.8 and 10-22mm. As far as lighting, I use a novatron light kit and my flashed are 430exii and 580exii. I also use triggers and remotes…
Q. If you could give just one piece of advice to budding street photographers, what would it be?
A. Develop a thick skin. And learn how to defend yourself. People are crazy on the street!
Ali has an EXHIBITION COMING UP! Make sure to check out his work directly if you’re in Pennsylvania! You go and mention my name now, so I can get brownie points.
EDIT: I, for unfathomable reasons, referred to Ali as “she”. That has been fixed, sorry! *shameface*
Message, Like, or Tweet!

New York Municipal Archives: Released Street Photography!


Hey guys, so I’ve been slacking. But in a good way. Really, I promise.

I’ve been finishing a final model shoot and have sold off my canon rebel and lenses to finally acquire the funds for an Olympus OM-D.  Stay tuned for when that ships.

But in the meanwhile, check out this Municipal Archives collection.

As for what it is, an excerpt on the page should do!

Almost a million images of New York and its municipal operations have been made public for the first time on the internet.

The city’s Department of Records officially announced the debut of the photo database.

Culled from the Municipal Archives collection of more than 2.2 million images going back to the mid-1800s, the 870,000 photographs feature all manner of city oversight — from stately ports and bridges to grisly gangland killings.

There are some amazing photographs on here, street photography and other kinds mixed in for good measure. Check it out!

What is Street Photography?


Helen Levitt

Just what is street photography?

Well, let’s look at it from the technical point of view:

Although this is an inaccurate graph (I’m a marketer, not an engineer), this roughly manages to capture what the focal length ranges are used for. But as pros will tell you – you ain’t a photographer til you’ve tried all the combinations. A friend on Google Plus uses only 300mm for his street photography. In most cases, however, street photography falls within the 28~50mm range.

But don’t take my word for it. Let’s see what others have to say.

Turn down the lights class. Take a look at the video below, from XperiaStudio:

“A good to me… is something that makes me think, laugh, and make me ask questions.”

As the two above explain, you can’t really force a good picture. You just have to feel it– and you’ll know it when you have something.

Robert Doisneau

Another explanation comes from Kai Wong of Digital Rev:

“A matter of carefully picking out a slice of interestingness from a completely random series of events that are not under your control. That is what makes street photography new and exciting every time.”

-Kai Man Wong, DigitalRev

Kai Man Wong

Had enough videos? How about a book?

Thomas Leuthard, 85mm

Thomas Leuthard, of 85mm fame, loves his 85mm range (usually reserved for “portraits”!) and has published several books about street photography. In “Going Candid,” his first book, he tries to classify street photography as:

“…the optical capture of someone’s personal view of an everyday moment in public.”

-Thomas Leuthard, 85mm

Garry Winogrand

Then there is the father of Street Photography, Henri Cartier-Bresson himself. As he explains it,

“To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event.”

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Interestingly, I’ve had a lot of family members related to photography. My uncle ran a camera shop that would develop film, very basic– Tri-X and Portra were their usual customers. My grandfather had a Leica M3 (which I unwittingly inherited) that he would polish over and over again. One of my grandfather’s friends does an exhibition every once in a while. But no one had ever taught me how to handle and use a camera.

Vivian Maier

Having observed so, so, oh so many people lift their cameras to shoot the Hawaiian scenery or their loved ones with their point-and-shoots, I thought– there must be a better way. To tell a story. To arouse suspicion. To incite anger. To make the viewer laugh.

Then it came to me– summarized in the words of National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson:

“…to take useful pictures, instead of good pictures… The main rule is, don’t be boring… Break all sorts of rules… Pictures are supposed to affect us, to connect us, to excite us… Photos of things and people we will never again see again in our lives.”

-Jim Richardson, National Geographic photographer.

He framed it perfectly.

Eric Kim, “Jazz Hands”

Every time I step behind the viewfinder today, I think to myself– “Is that something we may never see again in our lifetime?”

To cut to the chase, I feel that the goal of street photography is not only to take photos of things we find interesting, things that arouse our emotions– the key ingredient being people. People by themselves, people interacting with other people, people interacting with animals or objects– it’s the relationship (or the lack thereof) that I feel make street photography so powerful. Whether the setting be a bucolic countryside, or the busy streets of New York, I find The Experience in itself is crucial too– it helps the photographer learn to anticipate and look for events that he or she desperately wants to share, and this is what I find street photography so enamoring. But don’t forget, maybe what the photo means to you– whether it be the subject or the event that was happening– may prove to become your most powerful photos.

Phillipe Han, “Exit Stage Left”


Disclaimer: All photographs are owned by their respective photographers, copyright and all. Please don’t sue me.