Importance of Taking Notes when Photographing

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that my Uptown photos have enjoyed renewed interest. As a result, I have started scanning more of the negatives from the film that I shot in the 1970s. When I was shooting back then, I carried a little note book with me. After each sequence of shots, I would write notes about the scene, the people, the location, and what I talked about with the subjects.

As I have been posting more images, I have consulted these notes. While taking and transcribing them seemed laborious 40 years ago, they are yielding a wealth of historical information. This information would have been lost otherwise in the fog of memory and time.

This was never proven more to me than yesterday. I came across an image of a black man wearing a white suite, white shirt, white shoes and white hat on one of my contact sheets. He was standing outside an Uptown bar. I wondered what it was that would make a man dress in such an unusual fashion. When I read my notes, the log states, “Professional boxer who fought under the name Spider Webb.” Assuming he not just someone pretending to be Spider, he dressed flamboyantly as part of his professional identity, as many entertainers do. Spider Webb retired from the ring in 1960 with a 34-6-0 record. And Spider Webb did reside in Chicago.

The lesson in this for young photographers: document what you do.

I should note that while I have no reason to doubt this man, many of the people in Uptown did give me aliases for one reason or another, such as one amputee who told me that he was Duke Ellington.