Jennifer Kay is a Miami-based reporter for The Associated Press who has enrolled in Iris' IPC Visual Lab. Before moving to Miami in 2005, Kay was an editorial assistant in the AP’s Philadelphia bureau, and previously graduated in 2001 from Dartmouth College, where she was the photography editor of the daily student newspaper. Kay is looking to expand her knowledge of the visual language and to engage in the process of visual story-telling. Her blog will be a common feature for the next several month on the Iris PhotoCollective's Iris Rising series.
Shooting at Boteco was my first time ever shooting with a DSLR camera. It was such a different experience from the mini-digital that I have, which doesn't handle low light situations as well as I would like it to. The small camera doesn't have a viewfinder, so I have to compose every image in the LCD screen, and sometimes there's a disconnect between what I'm seeing and what the camera sees. With Carl's DSLR, however, I could see more in each frame, and I could see more accurately what the camera was capturing. I found a lot of comfort in the motor-drive, and having so many frames and so little time in the good light liberated me from my usual habit of taking a frame or a few frames and then over-analyzing them before looking up again. I was frustrated, though, by how much trouble I had adjusting to how the camera focused; it seemed slower than what I was seeing.
Boteco, by the way, is a word in Brazil that means something in between a bar and a disco, a place where people relax and hang out and there's music, and where there's music there is usually dancing. At this "Boteco," we were greeted with smiles and open arms. The light was this amber color, like the beer they had on draft. People sat or stood at the bar in couples or groups -- no one was ever alone, and if they happened to be a lone for a minute, one of the smiling staff members came over to talk. There was a lot of activity at all times, rarely did I see anyone just standing around, waiting for something to happen. Everyone looked good, well-dressed, like going to Boteco, or even working there, was something special.
The purpose of the visit was to document Boteco, to show what kind of place it is. I overlooked some of the obvious things like bottles lined up on a shelf or the Brazilian flag in the window because I had it in my head that the only acceptable frames would have to include people. I should have taken more time to look at these things, because they are part of the place, they are the evidence of the people who work and eat there.
Editing my photos down to five or six frames, I was discouraged by how few I had to choose from after a couple hours of shooting: I had trouble focusing, and I don't know how much of that was me, or the low light, or the unfamiliar camera.