Friday, May 21, 2021


In This Issue:
  • Why take photos?
  • AUA (Ask Us Anything - a Gary and Tony video event)
  • Seminars, the Next Generation
  • Two new ebooks out!!
  • 15 things about the Sony A1 you probably didn't know (even if you read all the online reviews)
  • More!

Why Do We Take Pictures?
Vietnam, 2018

Well, I can tell you my story.  For most people, the reason is so we can have snapshots.  Snapshots jog a neuron in the person looking at it, and bring back a fond memory (but not to others who don't have the shared experience).

For me it’s a little different.   Like a lot of people, I grew up reading National Geographic and I fell in love with the idea that these photographers were out exploring the world and bringing back stories.  I had built the association in my mind that owning a camera somehow gave you that license to explore – to see places you’ve never seen, and meet people you’d never otherwise have a chance to meet.

Soviet Union, 1988
So this idea has taken me all over the world – not as a tourist, which never appealed to me, but as a story gatherer and as an ambassador.  It took me to the Soviet Union, where I was documenting a historic cultural exchange between Soviet and American high-school students who were seeking peace between the two superpowers.  It took me to China at the cusp of their rampant transition to capitalism.  Most recently it took me to Vietnam where I was documenting the work of Hearts for Hue, who were helping the country’s neglected people to become self-sufficient. 

In a way my work as associate editor of Cameracraft magazine for the last 9 years has expanded this role – I write about other photographers who are doing interesting things with their cameras – not just exploring the world but making a social statement as well.  

Nepal, 1993
I started writing the camera-specific books at the urging of a friend – he knew of my NASA background and thought I’d be the perfect person to explain all this technical stuff with our digital cameras.  The books were initially aimed at beginners – “The Friendly Manual with Professional Insights” – but as the cameras got more complex and the camera-buying demographic changed it slowly morphed into “Professional Insights for the Experienced Photographer”.   And they’re all written with the same underlying philosophy: There’s nothing so complex that it can’t be explained with proper care – even if you have to take your time and explain things in layers.  

That was also the philosophy of the Friedman Archives Seminars – where I take two days and conduct the most intuitive course you’ve ever experienced.  The seminars will resume, but read the next section for more on what's next.
China, 2003.

I'm writing this blog post as a means of reflection - like so many others, I haven't taken an interesting picture in over a year (Covid beard portraits not withstanding), and in a new era where everyone possessing a smartphone is a photographer, the world is oversaturated with great yet overprocessed images, and where images on Instagram get maybe half a second of eyeball time, what meaningful content can a professional bring to the table?

The answer: Tell stories.   That's always been the answer.  The challenge becomes finding a story worth telling.  One story that sticks in my mind was a Cameracraft article I wrote a few years ago about Anthony Karen, a photographer who spent years hanging out with the Ku Klux Klan and documenting their lives, values, and stories.  Without bias or passing judgement.  I thought what he did was rare and allowed a glimpse that outsiders just would never be able to see.  His work resonated with me.  (Here's the Cameracraft issue in which it appears.)  Another photographer whose work I can't shake is Aaron Draper, who took glamor-lit portraits of homeless people he met across the U.S.  It had a direct impact on their lives.  (Cameracraft issue here.)  This is work worth doing.  I want to do more work in that vein.

Cuba, 2005.
We'll see what happens.  We have to get settled in our new digs first.  

Seminars - The Next Generation

I've been conducting The Friedman Archives High-Impact Photography Seminars since 2007.  Back then, ordinary people bought high-end cameras with the vague goal of getting "better pictures", and my earlier books catered to that level of experience.  The seminars were designed for beginners (experts loved it too!) and I've received countless emails from attendees saying how much their photography has improved thanks to me.  

Time has passed.  Normal people don't buy cameras anymore, they use smartphones.  And those serious enthusiasts and professionals already know the basics.  My demographic has shifted.  My books got more technical and less tutorial as a result.  My seminars ought to morph too.

So let me ask you: If I came to your town, what would you like to learn?  I can create a new seminar from scratch based on reader feedback.  Let me know the most difficult subject you have trouble tackling in the comments.  Go!  

New Books Out

The best camera in the world, the Sony A1, now has a book worthy of its capabilities.  And I've made a video sharing some of the more obscure features that you just won't know about if you only read online reviews.  Here it is, The 15 Things about Sony's A1 You Probably Didn't Know, recorded in the new unfinished studio (#14 may surprise you :-) ):

The Spanish translation of the RX100 VII ebook is also out!  Please help spread the word.  

The A1 will be translated into Spanish next.  Stay tuned!  

Dancer Update

Those of you who have followed this blog for awhile probably remember the photos I took of a Bharatanatyam (traditional classical dance in India) back in 2016.  (Still worth a read if you missed it.)  Since then, the dancer has made her public performance called an Arangetram (a 2-minute excerpt can be found here).  

It's now five years later and I recently learned that, coinciding with her graduation from college, she collaborated on an original art project with the Los Angeles Master Chorale.  The piece is called TaReKiTa, and is based on the bols (sounds) of the tabla, a traditional Indian drum.  As the composer puts it, the result is “ecstatic, energetic, rhythmic music that feels good on the tongue.”  

You can view the short video below.  Very catchy tune!  You can also learn more about this project on the project's home page.

TaReKiTa from Los Angeles Master Chorale on Vimeo.

Zoom Talks for Photo Clubs

""Exceptional presentation!  With gifts no less.  Fans really thought it was great!"

I've been doing this a lot lately, and it's probably one of the few silver linings of the pandemic.  I've been giving 1-hour talks on several different topics to virtual meetings for photo clubs all over the world.  And I've been surprised to hear the clubs tell me how good it was (aren't all of their presenters engaging?)  

Anyway, I can do this for your photo club too!  Get in touch with me and I'll give you more details.

Kansas City, KS photo club.  
Ask Us Anything

Finally, as soon as my new studio is up and running I'm going to Baptize it by holding 3 live Zoom events for an evening of "As Us Anything", a one-hour, unscripted free-for-all where YOU set the agenda and Tony Phillips (author of the Fujifilm and Olympus books) and I answer your most burning questions about photography, the meaning of life, and public key encryption.  (Well, that last part is optional.)  I'm considering charging $5 to attend since I've learned that people don't value wisdom that is free, and holding it on 3 different days at different hours so as to be friendly to as many countries as possible.  Let me know if this would be of interest to you!  Send and email to Gary at Friedman Archives dot com .

Until next time,
Yours Truly, Gary Friedman

Quality time spent with my granddaughter.  Notice the different colored rubber bands.


  1. The braids in the Covid beard portraits photo left me wondering if dreadlocks would follow and what sort of mid-life crisis inspired you but I suspected an explanation and was relieved when the article climax picture comment revealed 'Quality time spent with my granddaughter'. You're a good grandpa and a good teacher!

  2. Hi Gary, I would definitely join one of your Zoom meetings. Please carry on with your blog, books and tutorials, all of which I appreciate a lot. Best, Samuel (Basel, Switzerland)


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