Dominique James, Photographer

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The blue of distance …

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Airscape #2

Airscape #2 • Photography by Dominique James

Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide To Being Lost:

The world is blue at its edges and in its depths. This blue is the light that got lost. Light at the blue end of the spectrum does not travel the whole distance from the sun to us. It disperses among the molecules of the air, it scatters in water. Water is colorless, shallow water appears to be the color of whatever lies underneath it, but deep water is full of this scattered light, the purer the water the deeper the blue. The sky is blue for the same reason, but the blue at the horizon, the blue of land that seems to be dissolving into the sky, is a deeper, dreamier, melancholy blue, the blue at the farthest reaches of the places where you see for miles, the blue of distance. This light that does not touch us, does not travel the whole distance, the light that gets lost, gives us the beauty of the world, so much of which is in the color blue.

For many years, I have been moved by the blue at the far edge of what can be seen, that color of horizons, of remote mountain ranges, of anything far away. The color of that distance is the color of an emotion, the color of solitude and of desire, the color of there seen from here, the color of where you are not. And the color of where you can never go. For the blue is not in the place those miles away at the horizon, but in the atmospheric distance between you and the mountains.

Blue is the color of longing for the distances you never arrive in, for the blue world.

I’m very pleased to share with you, these—come, take a look at a set of 22 photographs I call “Airscapes” at http://bit.ly/1neW8XU.

Also, if you aren’t subscribed yet, please consider signing up (and invite others to sign up as well) to my free short-and-sweet monthly photography email newsletter at http://eepurl.com/QBGCv. Thanks!

[Note: All photos from the official www.dominiquejames.com photography website are now directly available for download and print order for personal, editorial, and commercial use.]

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Midnight in Manhattan

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Midnight in Manhattan

Midnight in Manhattan (Photographs by Dominique James)

Geographically speaking, the Empire State Building is not the center of New York City. That distinction belongs to a little-known pastoral patch of grass in the lower portion of Central Park called Sheep Meadow.

But the art deco-designed Empire State Building, a 103-story skyscraper occupying a considerable city block that intersects Fifth Avenue and West 34th Street, with a full height of 1,454 feet—once the tallest building in the world—might as well be, the center of New York City.

As far as anyone in Manhattan is concerned, the Empire State Building is unquestionably the heart of New York City.

For most New Yorkers (and visitors alike), the Empire State Building is the one true compass on which to navigate the city without a map. From street level, those who are a little lost and wanting to geo-locate might simply look up to see where the Empire State Building is; and then, from high up the Observation Deck, on a clear day, one can visually map out the sprawling lay of the land for thousands of miles, not just the boroughs but across other states.

Movies such as An Affair To Remember, Love Affair, and Sleepless in Seattle, among many others, have established the Empire State Building as a major cultural icon.

And above all else, the Empire State Building is an office building.

Of its many notable tenants, Filipinos might find one to be of particular interest. The Filipino Reporter, a weekly newspaper founded on July 2, 1999 by Filipino newsman Luigi Andrei Eusebio, catering primarily to the Filipino-American community in New York City (the only ethnic newspaper that holds the distinction of being a regular member of the New York Press Club), has its office at the Empire State Building.

A compass, a cultural icon, an office, the heart of the city—very few buildings can claim to be all that, and more.

Yes, there is indeed so much more, so let’s add one bit: the Empire State Building is a veritable magnet to photographers.

Countless shutterbugs have been to the top of the Empire State Building to take pictures of the spectacular 360-degree view. Because of the ubiquity of the pictures taken from its perch, even those who have never been up the building, or in NYC for that matter, can have some imagined sense of what it might feel like to be up there. (Although of course, as with anything else, nothing really comes close to the experience of actually being there to see and experience it for one’s self.)

The Observatory Deck of the Empire State Building is open to the public from 8 AM to 2 PM. In 2008 alone, over 110 million people went up to marvel at the grand view all around down below—many of them with camera, of course.

I was one of them.

According to NASA, Manhattan’s bright city lights at night, bounded by New Jersey, Brooklyn and Queens, is visible from outer space. It glows a collective, bright amber.

Because of this bit of curiosity, instead of the usual and far more common daytime images of Manhattan’s sprawl, I decided I wanted to go up there (again) after dark to take pictures of the city down below, bathed in millions and millions of electrical pinpoints collectively battling darkness with valor. Armed with a compact camera, up I went on a chilly spring evening, determined to snap at whatever there is to see of the city at night.

Of course, I wasn’t disappointed. From that clear evening, close to midnight, I was able to take many, many pictures all around, and from it, a set of black-and-white landscape photos that has more in kinship with abstract paintings than realistic photographs.

Lacking the many telling details visible in daylight, and with no colors, one can only glean hints of the familiar shapes of the buildings and of the streets silhouetted in countless glimmering, shimmering lights. You are keenly aware of the city’s palpable existence down below, even if most of it is shrouded in darkness.

The black-and-white, abstract-looking pictures, stark in minimal shades of gray, informed only by specific arrangements of lights to suggest forms and structures, with most everything hidden in shadows, turned out to be a fascinating representation of New York City at night—a seeming state of incompleteness. Naturally and quite automatically, viewers cannot help but imaginatively fill in and map out the blanks of familiar nooks and crannies. Even if the individual frames of pictures were to be stitched to form one grand panorama of Manhattan in the dark, it would still appear incomplete, and one would still strive to imagine the personal, familiar blanks.

But there is another interesting way of looking at the incompleteness of each picture from this black-and-white photo set—for me, and for many others who have lived and called New York City home for quite some time, the experience of the place is somehow encapsulated in each of those largely incomplete photos—in the low-lying buildings, in the bustling city streets, in the city corners, in the patches of parks, in the soaring skyscrapers, and in the pinpoints of light everywhere, which, while appearing to be expansive, is actually well-contained and constrained in each of the finite frames. If there’s anything true about New York, it is a city unto each and every one’s own.

Pulling back a little, if we are to impose some sort of organizational structure to this set of photographs, we can divide them into two subsets.

The first obvious subset will have to be the almost vain attempt at photo-realism, where every image is a stark, clear-eyed impression of the sprawling urban landscape from a bird’s eye view. These are pictures that, although they are, almost aren’t.

The second, and perhaps less obvious subset, would have to be the painterly depiction of the views. These pictures, consciously taken with longer than usual exposure times, even deliberately moving the handheld camera in certain patterns or directions of motion while the digital sensor is being exposed, produced artful blurs that are somewhat impressionistic.

But despite the distinctiveness of the photographic approaches, styles and techniques, all the images, individually and as a set (or a subset), aims to invoke yet another facet of what New York City is all about—or whatever it might be—to the hopeful transients and transplants attempting to dig in and latch on to its granite foundation, to the wandering, wide-eyed tourists gawking at everything with undisguised awe, wonder, and curiosity, and to the jaded New Yorkers themselves who long ago have been blinded to everything around them.

For me personally, during the almost 4 years that I lived in New York City, and from out of the countless photographs I’ve taken of everything I’ve seen there, this set of black-and-white nightscapes is nothing but an open embrace of the ravishing, glittering bejeweled city that I’ve fallen madly in love with, which to this very day, I happen to be still madly in love with.

So, New York City, I love you … still.

Come and take a look at my set of “Midnight in Manhattan” black-and-white photographs at http://bit.ly/1nokw5c.

Also, if you haven’t already, please sign up (and do invite others to sign up as well) to my brief monthly photography email newsletter at http://eepurl.com/QBGCv. Thanks!

[Note: All photos from the official http://www.dominiquejames.com photography website are now directly available for download and print order for personal, editorial, and commercial use. Thanks!]

Go West …

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USS Hornet (Photo by Dominique James)

USS Hornet (Photo by Dominique James)

I knew right away that I’d be staking a place in New York City when I moved to the United States in the fall of 2007. Part of the thrill of being an immigrant, of starting all over again, is that you can be who you want to be. I decided I want to be a New Yorker. At least, that was my plan.

But as you only all-too-well know, plans have a way of not happening as, well, planned.

Though I did live in New York for the better part of 5 years, I actually ended up traveling to many different places all over the continental United States. I traveled by plane, by train, by car, by boat, by bus.

Where did I go? Mostly, I went to places where I knew someone. Filipinos, after all, are really all over, in the US and in the world. With that as my sort-of-guide, off I went merrily gallivanting from place to place, spanning sea to shining sea.

The great state of California, which has the largest geographic concentration of Filipinos in the United States, happened to be one of those places. With a Filipino population of about 1.5 million (according to a 2010 census), it’s not entirely impossible for a Filipino American such as myself not to know someone.

And yes, it so happen that I know someone from San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and actually, in most every where else in California—friends, associates, relations even! And along the way, I met even more Filipinos. (Filipinos love to get-together, to hang-out, and to party!)

I have so far traveled to California more than 3 times (one reason or the other), and I intend to keep going back every chance I get. In my trips, I’ve somewhat randomly snapped pictures of places where I’ve been to. I never had a firm photographic plan (not sure if I should regret this, remember what happens to plans?) or theme, for all the places I’ve gone to so far in California, that’s why my collection of pictures look eclectic at best. There’s really no storyline there if you’re looking for one, but rest assured, there’s a Filipino there, somewhere where I went. And  yes, I’ve got the pictures to prove it.

Come, take a look at my collection of West Coast photographs at http://bit.ly/1soVY2r

[Note: All photos from the official http://www.dominiquejames.com photography website are now directly available for download and print order for personal, editorial, and commercial use.]

30474

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30474

Gazebo By The Lake

In the fall of 2007, I migrated to the United States from the Philippines. I moved in with my family in the small town of Vidalia in Georgia.

My stay in Vidalia lasted only a couple of months. I went on to travel to several other American cities in both the East and the West coasts. Eventually, I settled in New York City.

By way of Interstate 16, Vidalia is nestled somewhere midway between Atlanta and Savannah, approximately three and two-hour drive each opposite way.

Vidalia’s zip code is 30474. It is one of two assigned to this somewhat sleepy American southern municipality. If you must know, the other is 30475.

Vidalia, the principal and largest city of a micropolitan area (as opposed to metropolitan area) in Toombs and Montgomery county, has a population of 10,971 living in a total land area of 17.4 square miles—that’s according to the year 2000 census, the latest available. It is serviced by one Wal-Mart superstore, open 24 hours, in a location rumored to be where the first sweet Vidalia onions were grown.

Yes, if there is one thing Vidalia is famous for, and appropriately recognized by the food channel and the cooking network, it is the sweet white onion. Vidalia’s sweet white onion is in fact guaranteed by an official trademark. From historical accounts, we have farmer Mose Coleman to thank for, who in the early 1930s, made the observation that the white onions he was growing in Vidalia was much sweeter than any grown elsewhere.

Each spring, around mid-April, in honor of Coleman’s discovery, the annual Vidalia Onion Festival is celebrated. This year, it will be its 37th—with a parade, a rock concert, a cooking contest, and several other onion-themed activities—all in sweet anticipation of the bountiful harvest of the state’s official vegetable. Of course, Vidalia is also very well known for pecan and tobacco, but somehow these two other crops have been eclipsed in popularity by the incredible sweetness of its white onions.

Compared to a lot of other American cities and towns, there isn’t that many pictures of Vidalia, and the ones that you will most likely come across are typically of obscure historical nature. Very, very few, if any at all, are pictures of contemporary Vidalia. It’s as if people just didn’t bother enough to take any picture at all for quite some time. There is a palpable gap.

And so, after returning from New York City where I lived for almost 4 years, I decided to undertake a personal project: to take pictures of Vidalia. I went around a few days merrily snapping away with a pocketable Leica, all the while doing my best to ignore the often curious stares of locals peering out of trucks, perhaps baffled by what it is exactly I’m doing, pointing and shooting at all directions and all angles. In any case, my primary goal was to give Vidalia its cache of contemporary images.

From this, I was able to produce a modest collection of color images of present-day Vidalia, my personal photographic ode to a city so named by Central of Georgia’s president, William M. Wadley, at the time when the town was first founded in the 1880s, in honor of his daughter, Vidalia Wadley.

The resulting collection of Vidalia photographs from my little excursion is by no means exhaustive. I don’t even have a picture of onions! There’s more to Vidalia than a few days worth of photo go-arounds in a single season by a single camera-toting individual. What I came up with is a glimpse of what and who she is. I’ve managed to capture only a facet, so to speak. Hopefully, Vidalia residents and visitors alike with cameras will be inspired to follow suit and take pictures in order to come up with a bigger, more complete picture. For sure, and in time, many fascinating, intriguing things will be revealed.

There is one song you may have never heard of that pays tribute to Vidalia—the city, not the daughter—a 1996 song by Sammy Kershaw entitled, what else but, Vidalia.

Hopefully, though not musical by any means like Kershaw’s tribute, but through a visual essay, I am able to pay tribute to Vidalia as well.

So, come and take a look at my pictures of Vidalia, here.

[Note: All photos from the Dominique James Photography website are now available for download and print order for personal, editorial, and commercial use.]

Here is New York

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New York City

Though Pulitzer Prize-winning writer E.B. White described three different “trembling” cities, the city of New York is really many, many things to many people. Depending on circumstance, experience, and perception, we each picture it to be this or that way. It’s remarkable therefore that photographs of New York, even of the very same places, come out different from one another.

This one picture, for instance, depicting the iconic Empire State Building taken from the vantage point of the equally iconic Brooklyn Bridge, which I took in the autumn of 2009, shows a perfectly sunny and bright day; yet somehow, exudes a quiet and melancholy mood. Looking at this picture, it’s almost possible to imagine hearing the muted sounds of people going about their business in the buildings, as cars and buses crisscross the traffic grids on street level with people pounding its pavements, and add to that, the rumbling of subway cars snaking underneath.

Straight out of the Nikon D2Xs camera, the original RAW image file of this image stands on its own. But with simple adjustments in Apple’s Aperture with the Color Efex Pro 4 plug-in from Google’s Nik Collection, I managed to coax out subtle details, and in the process, seemingly created a far more meaningful and engaging image. I doubt if this will look exactly the same next time I picture the same view. I am almost certain it will come out differently.

With every photograph of New York City, this and all the countless others, then and now, and in the future, I am reminded of a passage from E.B. White’s pristine essay, “Here is New York,” which he wrote in the sweltering summer of 1948:

There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born here, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size and its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter—the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. Of these three trembling cities the greatest is the last—the city of final destination, the city that is a goal. It is this third city that accounts for New York’s high-strung disposition, its poetical deportment, its dedication to the arts, and its incomparable achievements. Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness; natives give it solidity and continuity; but the settlers give it passion. And whether it is a farmer arriving from Italy to set up a small grocery store in a slum, or a young girl arriving from a small town in Mississippi to escape the indignity of being observed by her neighbors, or a boy arriving from the Corn Belt with a manuscript in his suitcase and a pain in his heart, it makes no difference: each embrace New York with the intense excitement of first love, each absorbs New York with the fresh eyes of an adventurer, each generates heat and light to dwarf the Consolidated Edison Company.

Ahh, New York, what a wonderful, maddening city you are!

Free Download: The Statue Of Liberty

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The Statue Of Liberty

The Statue Of Liberty

BY DOMINIQUE JAMES

The Statue of Liberty is a universal symbol of freedom. It is a beacon of hope to countless people from all over the world—including myself. When I moved to New York three years ago, it was one of the first things I wanted to see. But as I went about my new life, I would only be afforded, from time to time, a very distant glimpse of her. It wasn’t until recently that I finally got the chance to see her up close. She is every bit as magnificent and as inspiring as I thought her to be.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about Lady Liberty:

“The Statue of Liberty (French: Statue de la Liberté), officially titled Liberty Enlightening the World (French: la Liberté éclairant le monde), dedicated on October 28, 1886, is a monument commemorating the centennial of the signing of the United States Declaration of Independence, given to the United States by the people of France to represent the friendship between the two countries established during the American Revolution. It represents a woman wearing a stola, a radiant crown and sandals, trampling a broken chain, carrying a torch in her raised right hand and a tabula ansata, where the date of the Declaration of Independence JULY IV MDCCLXXVI is inscribed, in her left arm. Standing on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, it welcomes visitors, immigrants, and returning Americans traveling by ship. Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi sculpted the statue and obtained a U.S. patent for its structure. Maurice Koechlin—chief engineer of Gustave Eiffel’s engineering company and designer of the Eiffel Tower—engineered the internal structure. The pedestal was designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt. Eugène Viollet-le-Duc was responsible for the choice of copper in the statue’s construction, and for the adoption of the repoussé technique, where a malleable metal is hammered on the reverse side. The statue is made of a sheathing of pure copper, hung on a framework of steel (originally puddled iron) with the exception of the flame of the torch, which is coated in gold leaf (originally made of copper and later altered to hold glass panes). It stands atop a rectangular stonework pedestal with a foundation in the shape of an irregular eleven-pointed star. The statue is 151 ft (46 m) tall, but with the pedestal and foundation, it is 305 ft (93 m) tall. The Statue of Liberty is one of the most recognizable symbols in the world, and of the United States. For many years it was one of the first glimpses of the United States for millions of immigrants and visitors after ocean voyages from around the world.”

On my visit to Liberty Island, I took many pictures of Lady Liberty. I didn’t really know what to do with all the pictures I shot, until I thought it makes perfect sense to just give one away for free.

So, as a way of saying thank you to the readers and followers of this blog, I’m giving away a free high-quality, high-resolution, full-color image of the Statue of Liberty. This is the first time that I am giving away a professionally-created photograph. You can download this high quality, un-watermarked picture in full 7. 57 MB JPEG image file right now from my Flickr gallery. Just click here and download the largest file size available. You can do whatever you want to do with this photo. I impose no restriction whatsoever. As they say, you can get it with “no strings attached.” You can use this picture for whatever purpose—personal, educational, and even commercial. It’s nice if you can credit me as the photographer, and if you can provide a link, but that’s something I’m not requiring you to do. This is the first of many more free images I’m planning to give away. To find out when I’ll be giving the next free photo image, follow me on Facebook or Twitter. And, if you want to check out what other kind of free images I might be giving away, visit my fine art photo print collection over at Zatista.

Thanks, and do tell all your friends to come over and download this professional quality Statue of Liberty photo image file for free!

New York, New York

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New York, New York 03

BY DOMINIQUE JAMES

[Monday, January 4, 2009  | Thanks to Zatista for featuring me as their first Artist Of The Day for 2010!]

This exquisitely crafted original fine art photographic artist print, showing a grand view of Manhattan from Liberty Island, is from my exclusive 15-image New York Platinum Collection. The photographs in this set have been digitally toned using a special and unique artistic Platinum post-production process. Each is printed on a thick archival fiber-based paper. All of these valuable limited-edition artist prints which are available for the first time are signed and numbered, and accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. To purchase this and other fine art photographic prints, please visit Zatista.

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