On the Road

By Harvey Stein Back to


Woman in Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina

I took my students to this world famous cemetery to photograph the tombs and buildings that closely surround the cemetery. Eva Peron is buried here. We went on a Sunday morning in February, 2012, summer in Buenos Aires, and it so happened that there was a major burial about to happen. The richest lady in Argentina was being buried, as a result, there were throngs of media and people milling about waiting for the ceremony to begin. This woman was standing beyond the crowd, I liked her bearing, strong look and colorful attire. I used on camera flash as the main light, underexposing the ambient light two- thirds of a stop to slightly darken the background. As a result, she is brighter than her surroundings and she becomes even more prominent. I used a 16mm focal length lens. This allows me to be close, involved with her and simultaneously get lots of environment into the image.

Two Women Talking, Siena, Italy

I taught photo workshops in Italy from 1996 to 2008, and it’s one of my favorite countries. It offers great food, history, art, scenery and very accommodating people. And a favorite city is Siena, it feels very medieval in its architecture and streets. For this image, taken in 1999 with my Leica M4, 35mm lens, I was standing at the entrance on a bus (this is an outdoor bus station) waiting for it to leave and saw the two ladies talking very excitedly. I waited and took probably four photographs, this being the best. Of course, her facial expression says it all. But I also enjoy the passengers waiting on the other bus, each is in his/her own space and world, some weary, some patient, some daydreaming. I always carry my cameras, especially on buses, trains, airplanes, even subways. You never know when a great photo opportunity will occur.

Hooded Figure, Querétaro, Mexico

I find Mexico fascinating, such a very different culture, yet so close to the U.S. It offers sights not even imagined here, and the warmth of the people is intoxicating. I’ve been photographing there since 1993 and hope to do a book of my photographs made there. This image was taken in March 2008 during a silent procession in Querétaro as part of the Easter holiday. The procession dates back to the 14th Century and it’s been said that the Ku Klux Klan got the idea for the use of hoods from this event. I plan workshops around major proceedings in the country. For Mexico, an amazing week is Semana Santa, Holy Week. It’s filled with religious processions, mostly at night, that offer exciting shooting possibilities. I used flash with a slow shutter (1/20 sec) that properly exposed the person and simultaneously underexposed the background, but with enough light to give some details behind the person. He is stopped, but his slight movement caused some ghosting on his left side and my movement caused blur in the background. I’m low, shooting up with a 28mm lens, for me, this all adds to the mysteriousness of the scene.

Carly Through the Van Window, Outside Taos, New Mexico

I love New Mexico, it’s like being in another country, it thrives with three cultures, Anglo, Hispanic and Native American, often in an uneasy truce. The state is beautiful, startling and a bit surreal. I’ve taught workshops there for the International Center of Photography (usually in August) for the last 10 years. Carly was a student in the 2011 workshop; we were traveling in our van from Taos (our base) to Las Vegas, New Mexico, an old town with a storied western past. We stopped to photograph a landscape view off the road and I asked Carly to stand behind the open door. The frame of the window provides a compelling visual, and looks quite large in relation to Carly and the background as a result of the 16mm lens. An added benefit, not that I noticed right away, is a profile view of Carly in the mirror. I love using mirrors, window frames, etc., anything that enlivens the images with strong lines and shapes.

Three Youths, Luang Prabang, Laos

I traveled to Laos, Cambodia and Thailand for my workshop in February, 2011. It was the first time in Asia for me and what an adventure. In nearly a month, I must have photographed nearly 1,000 people, and not one person I approached said no; a paradise for photographers who specialize in photographing people. I found these three young men hanging out off a main street in Luang Prabang, a French influenced, beautiful, small and accessible town on the Mekong River in Laos. I was photographing monks asking for alms very early one morning. It’s around 7am and lots of people are already on the streets. This is the first image of 10 that I did of this group (I always try to take many images of a subject, people included, if I like the situation). In subsequent images of them, I got closer and we spoke some English. But I like this photo best, for it’s environment, and the differences shown among the three. One is wearing a tee shirt and without shoes, one is somewhat bundled up, one is smoking and wearing gloves. I enjoy the youth leaning on the tree, as if it were made for him to use exactly in this way. Because the lightisstilllow,Iusedaflash,exposedat 1/25th of a second and again employed a 16mm lens at 640 ISO.

About the Author

Harvey Stein
HARVEY STEIN is a photographer, teacher, lecturer, curator and author of five books of photographs: Parallels: A Look at Twins (1978); Artists Observed (1986); Coney Island (1998); Movimento: Glimpses of Italian Street Life (2006) and his new book, Coney Island 40 Years, published in June 2011. He is the director of photography at Umbrella Arts Gallery and has curated/juried 20 exhibits since 2007. Stein’s photographs have been published in magazines such as The New Yorker, TIME, LIFE, Esquire, American Heritage, Smithsonian, Glamour, Forbes, Playboy and People. He is a faculty member at the International Center of Photography. Some of his work can be seen at harveysteinphoto.com and at coneyisland40years.com, the website devoted to his new book, Coney Island 40 Years, published in 2011 by Schiffer Publishing LTD. It includes the photograph featured on this page.