Daily Inspiration #425 by Alec Jacobsen


I’ve stumbled upon your site a number of times over the last few years but noticed today for the first time the “Daily Inspiration” section. I’m a self-taught photographer and always looking for feedback, so I figured I’d send a few shots your way.

Of the three attached, two are from a project in Kasensero, Uganda and the other is from a project in Paraiso, Dominican Republic, and all are taken with an M8 and a 35 Summicron (picked the pair up last summer before a series of international projects and have worked primarily with them since). A bit about each, then:

(2_pool_L1003198): Kasensero is a fishing landing site in southwestern Uganda, famous for being the site of the first AIDs diagnosis in Africa. I was there to tell the story of the vicious cycle of HIV in town (infection rate of 40-60%) as fishing brings fast cash to young men (who are mostly temporary residents) who buy prostitutes. So, I was looking for a shot that could really summarize the seedy and dangerous feel of the town. In this case, the guys playing pool are all upstanding citizens (the belly on the right is the elected Town Chairman Kayamba John), but Freddy’s look (the boy in the middle) struck the accusatory note that I was looking for.

(Uganda_AIDS_14): Drug use and alcohol abuse are common in Kasensero and so I was on the lookout for a shot to illustrate that. I happened upon this boat pilot smoking dope and he was happy to mug for the camera.

(11_basketball_): This is from a rather happier story about the laid-back town of Paraiso (“Paradise”) in the Dominican Republic. Most nights of the week, men and boys play pickup games in the park where the lights stay on even when power is out in the rest of town.

Thanks kindly for taking a look. If anyone’s got a few extra minutes, I’d love your thoughts on the full projects at alecjacobsonphoto.com.


-Alec Jacobson





  1. Thank you for sharing. Excellent documentary pictures. I myself use a Leica M8 and a Fuji X Pro 1. Though the X Pro 1 is in any way superior even to the newest Leica M, I still think, I get better pictures with the M8. Do not know why…

  2. In response to your request for feedback, I like your pictures and I like them even more with a minimal lightning of the shadows. Minimal so as not to lose the atmosphere and still get more of the detail. For example, the smoking man’s face in picture 1 is far too interesting to miss out on. Doesn’t need to be bathed in light, of course not, just to come out a little more. Hope this is helpful – the intention is appreciative.

  3. Alec,

    I checked your site. Some very good shots. You remind me of a guy a met a couple of years ago named Karl Grobl. He spends most of his time traveling to remote places to photograph people and events, but mostly the people. You have a similar style. To a westerner your best shots show we are so different and at the same time so much alike. Keep it up.

    As a critique, I would have picked some of your other shots to post here. You have one of a lady taken from behind. Her face is turned to the side and her face is illuminated in profile. It is stunning. You have many really good shots of individuals and groups. The placement, colors, expressions, mood, all really work well. I particularly liked the fat guy sitting outside his house at dusk with his wife standing in the door illuminated by the light inside.

    The photo you posted here of the guy smoking is interesting but his face is in shadow and it is hard to see. I think it would work better if you lightened his face.

    The last shot you posted here highlights how the subject is the most important thing. You were right to wait for the right expression. The blur is unfortunate. It detracts but the guy’s face still grabbed my attention. A sharp photo with the wrong expression would have been a dud.

    This is where the tool becomes significant. I had a chance to travel with Karl Grobl once and learned how this style of photography involves shooting a lot in low light. You do that too. It is necessary to really capture what many places are like. You could not get the shot of the fat guy relaxing in front of his house at the end of the day if you could only shoot in daylight. Grobl used a Nikon D3s because it is a great camera and he could take shots at 12500 ISO. I had an older Canon DSLR that would only go to 1600 ISO. I had to haul a tripod around while he could shoot hand held with no difficulty. Fortunately you have lots of choices now for smaller cameras with great IQ at high ISOs. You have mastered the Leica look. Time for a new M?

    I look forward to seeing more posts. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks for the note, George (and John and Mikael). I think taking the light up in the blunt-smoking shot is definitely a good call (I’m generally editing on a laptop and so my judgement of exposure can be very much a function of screen angle) and I’m glad you like the profile shot from my site (it’s a couple years old, so I decided to pull from newer work for this post).

      I’d love to try out the new M, but the post-college budget doesn’t allow it, alas (though, anyone who’s interested in contributing to the Help Alec Afford a New M Fund should get in touch…). Your note brings up an interesting point, though, that’s been on my mind recently. Shooting my d700, I routinely crank it up in low light, but I really don’t miss that when I shoot my M8 (or, at least, 99% of the time). Ultimately, moving from Nikon to Leica was a downgrade in every technological sense (less resolution, lower ISO, fewer frames per second, not full-frame, not as well weather sealed, etc.), but with the Leica, I have to look harder for light and embrace some grittiness (that I think often comes along with low-light situations), and I’ve generally gotten better shots as a result. Before I was fairly obsessed with high ISO, but I’ve found very few situations where there really is no light and where I couldn’t get by with ISO 320 when it came down to it (there’s a shot on my site of a woman lying under a mosquito net after giving birth that would not have been possible without high ISO). In any event, that’s been on my mind recently.

  4. Alec – the third shot is simply world class! bravo. The work on your website is seriously impressive, I’ll be keeping a watch out for more!

  5. Really nice pictures! I enjoyed them so much I went to your website and checked out your other work as well.

  6. I’m really glad you kept the last photo in even though it has a little motion blur. His expression is a great catch. Thanks for sharing! I like the pictures.

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