30 April, 2008

L Fink at the Hammer

I wrote about this happening a few days ago, but I thought I would add a few visuals. A history here, with a style and direction unique to our industry. Regardless of the meaning, regardless of the method, just doing it, and still doing it. Above the fray.

Location Photos

Okay, just printed these four yesterday for a Palm Springs location. Warm-tone, as they requested, and rather large. The squares were 20x20 and the 35mm were 16x20 prints. I used a polished rag paper, which if you are looking for paper that "resembles" traditional silver paper, then this could be a great place to start.
Look, EVERYONE making paper is trying to find something to match silver. And let's not forget, they have been for a long, long while, and they are getting closer, but to me, they should just relax and make a good paper. There is no sense in trying to "match" anything because the reality is they never will.
You might technically match the look, and if they do, great, but they are missing the point. The prints, silver and digital, are MADE differently.
Why do collectors favor darkroom prints? Because the printer MADE the print, and no matter how hard they try, they can't produce two identical prints. Consequently, when the collector buys a silver print they are a buying a unique object.
Now the digital crowd can't stand this reality, and have many ways of trying to wiggle into this conversation, but the reality is they are just different items. Is one better than the other? No, not at all, and in fact I make probably ten digital prints for every silver print I make. Time, convenience, and certain films, I think, look better printed digitally then traditionally.
But I do understand the collector point of view.
Is this changing? Of course. Is it changing for the better? Not really, more because the paper is going away. It is really nice to spend time in the dark making prints, just as it is making them with the latest gadgets.
The most important part is making the images in the first place.

29 April, 2008

Photo Notes: The Photographer's Companion

The Photographers Companion

I was in Perpignan France for Visa Pour L’Image, years ago, and an older, very famous photographer was giving me a few minutes of his time. “Look, photography is great,” he said, “But make sure you write everything down.”
Luckily for me, I was ahead on this particular idea. I’ve been keeping a notebook, not a journal per say, but just a book, for years and years. I carry this book with me, all day, everyday, and can’t imagine going anywhere without it.
I write down my lists, ideas, thoughts, etc, but I also will detail conversations, events, happenings, observations, etc, and you have no idea how handy this can be.
First of all, you remember far more of what you write down than what you try to memorize. You think you are going to remember the conversations, the details, but things can fade quickly and having these notes can be critical.
I think keeping a book also forces you to confront what you have seen and to slow down enough to figure out what happened. It makes you recollect and reflect.
So, I’ve included a sample of one of my books, this one a craft brown, moleskin notebook. I have used many, many different kinds of books, but this one tends to be a very nice size and easy to carry. The photo you see is a 5x5 print to give you an example of the book size.
What I do is take my current work, edit it, then print the selects and keep them in the books to have somewhat of a visual look at what I’m doing at the moment. These books for me are not art, not even close, and believe me I have friends who also keep books which are magnificent pieces of stand-alone artwork. I’m not in that category. The most important aspect for me is the writing, which at times is like torture, but at this point, writing like this is crucial to my being able to function. Not sure why but I know it to be so.

Photographing Brothers and Sisters

I was recently looking for images that were the worst pictures of me ever taken. I was doing it for a joke, and to remind us just how great bad pictures can be. I realized that many of the worst pictures of me included my brother and sister. Why? Well, because when we were younger, and still to some degree today, we act like differently when we are around each other. We act like...like…brothers and sisters.

The first two images are from a recent shoot, brother and sister, and are pictures that I like and pictures I think work well. It isn’t easy photographing siblings, but it sure is fun. Now I have to say, I had an advantage here because this was not the first time I photographed these two. There are many other images, but I like pictures that tell you things without necessarily showing you what you expect to see.
The last photo is an example of what I was describing before, my brother and I fighting while rafting a river in Wyoming. If you were to photograph us today, chances are, we would be doing the same thing. Some things never change.

28 April, 2008

Photo Project: Homework


How many of us photographers are saddled with this burden? The grass is always greener. Passport stamps. Yep, you know what I’m talking about. As my mother says, “Some of us in the family are born with wheels for feet.”
Well, this is all fine and dandy, but for me, there are plenty of times when I have the wanderlust but can’t really do anything about it.
Responsibilities, finances, etc, etc, there are as many reasons not to travel as there are to travel.
So, when you are stuck with this reality you find ways to satisfy your needs. I realized after many years of going wherever I could whenever I could that there was another unknown land right under my nose.
My home.
All these images, and many more like them, were all made in or around my house. These are just the tip of the iceberg and this body of work will continue to grow whenever I find myself “stuck” here.
I’m starting to like being stuck.

27 April, 2008

Tijuana Photo Trouble

So in honor of yesterday's cartel shootout on the streets of Tijuana, I thought I would explain what happened to me the last time I visited this city while working on a project.
I love Mexico, and for the most part, I have had great experiences while working there.
Border cities are major transition zones, not just in Mexico, and you know when you visit these places you are, chances are, going to run into the best and worst of humanity in need and in transition.
I drove to Tijuana to continue a project called, "Dogs Can't Read," a look at dogs and graffiti in four cities around the world.
I had been to TJ many times before, but it had been a while since I had walked the streets.
Driving down early I parked near the border on the San Diego side and walked over, my normal procedure when I work along the border.
I try to keep a low profile, working with one small camera and lens, a second, strictly as backup in my non-photo backpack. I look no different than a tourist down for the day looking for a ceramic Bart Simpson.
I realize immediately that something had changed in TJ. The dogs were gone. During my research I read about aid groups who had started foundations in the city to save the wild dogs, and it was apparent that they had been making a significant impact, a bummer for my story, but more importantly, great for the dogs.
I had my walking shoes on and headed due South, toward the mountains, figured I would just have to walk much further to get what I needed.
Tijuana, like most other cities in the world, is covered with graffiti. The spray in TJ is unique to the border world, and very unlike what you would find in New York or Paris. The messages here are political, but based on the most basic of human needs and rights. There are gang signs, but they are weaker and are simply there as ways of telling the viewer where the taggers are looking for inspiration.
I hit the mountains, headed East, and slowly began picking up more and more dogs. After a few hours I found myself in West TJ, and decided to head back toward the border crossing.
Shortly after making the turn I began to feel a little more on my guard, you know the feeling when you can just feel the energy in the air and know you are in a place where you need to be more alert.
The streets were broad, wide and gated, and there were NO people on the street. I ducked into a store, which ironically had a dog out front, and asked the owner, "Hey, what is up with this neighborhood?" "You need to watch out gringo," he said and shook his head.
I stood inside the store for a minute, just scanning the street, watching, waiting. Nobody. Zero. Dead quiet.
I walked out, photographed the dog, then headed East, walking on the sidewalk.
About twenty yards up the street there was a gap in the fence to my right, and the moment I passed I notice motion and three guys came through the hole.
I knew right away this was bad news.
They walked passed me, much closer and faster than they should have, and kept going.
I took the camera in my right hand and wrapped the strap tighter and tighter around my right wrist and held the camera in my right hand like I was holding a hammer.
The guys got about ten feet in front of me, scanned the street and turned around to face me.
I stopped.
"What are you doing gringo?" they asked.
"Working on a project about dogs," I said, in Spanish, and then immediately asked them about World Cup soccer, thinking I could change the subject and move on.
It didn't work.
They came closer, a large guy, a medium guy and a small guy.
Okay, at this point, I knew this was not going to work out verbally. I made a quick assessment. The large guy looked fat and slow and was already sweating like crazy. The small guy was, well, small, but the middle guy was the real issue. He was the one doing the talking and he was wired.
I made the mental decision that if and when this little "event" went South, he was going to get my Contax mashed in his face. I can't tell you what a horrible feeling this was, and I DETEST violence and fighting. I figure if it comes to this, both parties have failed in basic human relations. But, within a few seconds I knew I was going to have to do something drastic.
The idea of my project, getting images, etc, was gone, and all I could think about now was what to do first, where to run and how to get out of this. Nobody knew where I was, other than that I was in TJ. If something happened to me here, it would be a long while before things were settled.
The guy in the middle started to make his move, just beginning the move to grab me. My right arm began to cock back, and suddenly there was an odd noise.
Screeching brakes, metal doors sliding and trigger mechanisms, or what sounded like trigger mechanisms sliding into place.
My three new friends had their hands in the air and their faces did not look as happy as they did moments before.
I froze.
To my left was a full-size van, the sliding passenger door was open and the driver and passenger, both wearing black ski masks, were standing in the street with automatic weapons pointed at me, and at the three amigos.
It was, I think, Grupo Alpha, the anti-drug police that call TJ home. Now typically, you want to avoid these boys. I've had friends who have had issues with them in the past, and GA basically does what they want. These are the guys that wear the ski-masks, ropes and hang off the back of the assault trucks as they drive through TJ. Unless you are working with them, it's best to just get out of the way.
The passenger began stuffing the three guys into a tiny, metal cage in the back of the van, and the driver, with one arm on his rifle and the other hand stretched out to me kept saying, "Okay gringo, get in the van."
I knew that if I got in that cage it would be a LONG day and probably NIGHT and DAY and NIGHT, etc.
"Sorry, I'm not getting in the van," I said. I explained what I was doing, started rambling about dogs and graffiti, in Spanish mind you, and thought if I just kept talking he would get frustrated with my horrible Spanish and let me go.
His hand kept slowly, really slowly waving, and all I could see was his eyes through the slit in his mask.
"What were you doing with those guys?" he asked.
And then it dawned on me. He thought I was buying dope.
I said, "I don't know them." "I'm working on a project about dogs," while I pulled a business card out of my back pocket.
I handed him the card, kept talking, as he studied my card and kept slowly waving that hand.
Frankly, I was scared. I have no problem admitting that. I'm no thrill seeker, action junkie, risk taker, etc, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"Get the f%$# out of here gringo," he said and lowered his weapon.
"No problemo," I said and lit out for Zona Norte, the shady area just to the East of where I was standing.
Now normally Zona Norte is sketchy at best, but after my little close call, it felt like lobby at The Four Seasons.
As I walked away I glanced back as the cage door shut on the three guys, and I actually felt bad for what they had to be going through.
For the rest of the day I kept to the Zone, Central TJ and actually made most of the better pictures.
This experience has not altered my view of Tijuana, Mexico or the border areas. I was an outsider on foreign soil. Nobody asked me to be there, and there are many people in the border area who are really hurting. When you are hurting you do what you have to do.
This wasn't the worst situation I've been in, not by a longshot, and I don't suppose it will be my last.
The cartel war will ultimately punish the locals more than anyone else, those civilians caught in the middle.
This cartel war is three years old and I have seen virtually NOTHING in terms of coverage.
Let's hope there are photographers out there covering this time in history.

Packing Up

My friend Eric and his allotment of "stuff" as he heads out for his next trip.

A manual focus camera, looks like R6 Leica, two of them actually, and other assorted items. A nice, light load in today's world. No need for say laptop, backup laptop, drive, backup drive, cards, card reader, backup card reader, discs, chargers for cameras, laptops, converter for camera and laptop charger, and oh yes, mental storage for knowing how much computer time you will have to spend in your favorite travel destination. No need. Just shoot.

Okay, Eric just checked back in for a list of what he was taking.

2 Leica R6's w/ 28& 60
1 leica m-2 w/50f2
Microtrack 24/96
24 rolls of fiml trix/ Neo1600
gossen light meter
vivitar 283 w/ off cam cord
two cohiba red dot cigars
1 2.5 oz. flask of Belvenie 12 doublewood single malt scotch
cable release
1 nikon coolpix 8400
and enough nonsense to use it all.

1 gittzo tripod

26 April, 2008

Morning Coffee Photo

One of my favorite inventions of all time....espresso coffee. You just can't beat it.
Zeiss, 35mm, f/2 and great, early morning light from the side, highlighting the steam from the coffee. An old cabin chair and the anticipation of what that precious, black fluid will taste like.
I always have a camera with me, and I end up making many of these type images. These are not "done" for anyone, and do not have a specific purpose, at least at the beginning. Where and how they may end up being used....could be about anything, but the point is the pleasure it is to make these type picture. Alone, no assignment, no client, just shooting. Liberating.

25 April, 2008

Morocco Photo Moment 4

Okay, we are nearing the end of this Morocco trip. I ended up proposing to my wife in Essaouira, a beautiful white-washed town along the ocean. There are no cars inside the walls of city but the streets are packed with humans and animal alike. One of our favorite places on the entire trip.
This image is trying to make something with the harsh light of midday. One thing about harsh light, it always throws hard shadows, and if you print those down they can add to an image.
Leica M6, 35mm f/2. Tmax 3200

24 April, 2008

Morocco Photo Moment 3

Yet again we visit Morocco, but this time from the edge of the vast expanse of desert. We spent just a single night out in the sands, but it was well worth the trip. Our timing was lucky, full moon, which lit the night like a well-oiled torch. You could see for miles in the white light.
We also spent a night in a cement room, more like a cell, close to the road which led us into this region. This room had baked in the sun all day and was as hot as any room I've ever tried to sleep in. Our plan was to sleep on the roof, but a sand storm forced us inside. The wind raged and the sand evaded all attempts to force it outside. I woke in the middle of the night feeling a little odd, only to switch on the flashlight and see the room was filled with sand. EVERYTHING was covered, including our sweat-soaked bodies, luggage, beds, etc. Again, worth every second.

23 April, 2008

Morocco Photo Moment 2

What more could you ask for? How about more Morocco snaps? Same story,same trip. I'm rolling these out a few at a time, but there aren't that many so don't worry.

Leica M6, 35mm f/2 and Tmax 3200. I can't imagine what it would be like to have say...six months in a place like this. As opposed to say...six days. You just can't force photography.
Case in point, modern photojournalism, which in some cases gives us fantastic, in-depth coverage, but in many other cases gives us unbelievable quantity of images in real-time speed, but many of the reports lack depth or quality. It is those in-depth pieces that hold up over time, not the quick hit stuff.

But, we all typically find ourselves in the "compromise" mode, and frankly I'm jazzed anytime I have ANY time to work on my own projects.

These images are from Fez, one of the most amazing cities I have ever seen. Ironically, walking out of the medina at night, I ran into someone I had worked with on a project about being Muslim and living in America. He looked at my wife and I, and our friends, and asked, "Do you want to see an amazing place?"
He took us to a school, part Islamic school if I remember correctly, and also part music, which was located inside one of the oldest Mosques around. It was just us and the students and he got us permission to make pictures. One of the best experiences of the trip.

22 April, 2008

Morocco Photo Moment

In honor of a recent blog I found I wanted to go back and feature a few images from my last trip to Morocco. I was technically on vacation, so it was not a "real" work trip, although with the amount of travel we did and range of experiences we had, it makes it difficult to say we were on a REAL vacation. In fact, can't remember the last time I had a REAL vacation. Not sure I woul
d know what to do.

All Leica, 35mm, Tmax 3200 film, pure street shooting I guess you would call it. For me it all starts with the light, without it, hard to make great pictures, and as you know sometimes you get find great light and others times no. When you have limited time in places you have to work with what you get. Morocco light, after 8am is harsh, if I remember correctly, so you work early, late and work around the edges of the light during middle parts of the day. You can backlight, rim light, work inside out, etc, to try and snatch images.

The first two pictures here are from Marrakesh.

21 April, 2008

Paolo Nozolino: Photographer

Okay, one of the least known and often overlooked documentary photographers has to be Portuguese documentary photographer Paolo Nozolino.
He has several books to his credit, including Far Cry, a signature of his work and a perfect example of a photographer finding a look and making it his own. You can find this read at Steidl perhaps the world's best photo book publisher.
I've never met him, or really heard much about him at all other than a small photo in an old Leica manual. But, he is the real deal. Darkness, layers and light, combined with a grain and texture to his work compliment images that most photographers might walk right by.
And, his prints. Oh......those prints. And the book printing. Like having a bound collection of silver prints in your hands.
Check him out.

19 April, 2008

Distinguished Speaker: Robin Wright

Last night I was fortunate enough to attend yet another of the Newport Beach Public Library's Distinguished speaker series featuring mega-journalist Robin Wright. If you live in this area and don't know about this series, or have not yet attended one of these events, hang up from this blog and get your tickets for the next shindig.

As for last night's speaker...not really sure where to begin. If you based your assessment of her credentials on her experience in a SINGLE Middle Eastern country, you would be amazed at her depth, history and comprehensive reporting from the scene. Now, throw in the rest of the Middle East, Africa, and many of the world's other trouble spots and you are beginning to get the picture of who this woman is and a little about what she has done. Beginning in the late 1970's or early 1980's, she was either in attendance or reporting on most of the major events in the region. She has interviewed Arafat, Kadafy and even Ahmadinejad the current lightning-rod leader of Iran.

Her lecture focused on the "Future of the Middle East," a topic critical not only to the European theater, but also the rest of the world. Most of us think our relationship with the Middle East is most easily observed at the gas pumps, but it goes far beyond that, and our current, political situation shows just how much we have to learn in regards to this area, the population, religions and our future if we are to coexist.

Her lecture was encompassing, but featured two points I thought most poignant. First, odds are, we have not seen the last of the terror attacks on our soil. Not that this is a big surprise, but the planners are still planning and killing us is a at the top of the daily "to do" list. Second, and perhaps most important, there is a sliver of hope from the region. Wright said that for the first time there seems to be a feeling that fundamentalism might not be able to provide for the future, that war, killing and driving wedges between peoples is not the future the population wants to endure.

The greatest leaders of people have always been those that unite, and many of these fundamentalist groups have yet to learn this, or don't believe this to be the main goal. Imagine the power of feeding your people, of building infrastructure and of providing a vision of a future that offers even the promise of peace.

Just for kicks, I've included my notes from the night. Good luck reading them.

Images on Blurb

My images from the Blurb site and their new Photo Book contest, which I encourage everyone to participate in. Grand Prize, $25,000 to pursue whatever future project you wish to pursue. A grand idea, and a nice sum to accomplish something.

Morning Thought

Mom checking in with a morning thought....

" The heart and the hand is a powerful connection. Life is short, mingle with your inner thoughts, after you identify them."

This of course as she watched a vulture pick clean the remains of deer. Let's not forget.

18 April, 2008

Anatomy of a Friend's Wedding

Occasionally, when the stars align and schedules meet, I'm able to make pictures at friend's wedding. I love doing this. First of all, they are friends, so you can do anything you want. This day, one camera, Zeiss, one lens, 35mm f/2, just like I used to do when I first got into this craziness.

17 April, 2008

Larry Fink

Larry Fink last night at The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. A great presentation, sponsored by Aperture West and their fearless leader Michelle Dunn. The lecture was filled with humor, philosophy, politics and great pictures. Larry said some fantastic things, especially regarding his method of working, working selectively and the concentration it takes to work with a medium format camera as opposed to working with digital. I wish every young photographer could have been there to hear it.
Larry has been teaching at Bard College for years and it really shows in his lecture style and the depth in which he descends into his method. There isn't much blasting away, "looking for the luck," which tends to describe the modern method, but instead there is the watching, the waiting, the anticipation, and then at the moment of truth, the single exposure.
An art that seems to be nearing the endangered species list.

16 April, 2008

Blogs of Note

Okay, a few recent finds, blogs of note if you will.

My Marrakesh

Fridas Notebook


I had these linked but they didn't work. So, you have to Google.

I Got Tagged

Okay, just got tagged, so it is my responsibility to answer some questions and move them along to someone else. I'm reading that there is a lot of hot and cold on this "tagging thing" but the reality is the person that tagged me is very intelligent, interesting and kind and regardless of what "tagging" has become, at it's core, is what I consider to be the most important aspect of the web, which is learning more about each other and connecting to more people around the globe. I can't see anything negative about it.

What was I doing ten years ago?

I was working as a photographer specialist for Eastman Kodak Company, covering the Los Angeles area and working as a liaison between the company and professional, commercial photographers in the area.
A great job in the grand scheme of things and a job in which I was able to work with a lot of great people, many of whom I am still friends with and in communication with today.

Snacks I Enjoy?

cheese puffs (my tragic downfall)
not really a snacker

Things I would if I was to become a billionaire:

I would first hire a sound and trusting financial advisor. Second, I would figure out the best way to help as many people as possible with this money. I would continue to shoot and travel, and would also start a grant program for documentary photographers both in the US and abroad. I would also downsize from my current footprint on the planet. I would probably move to rural location and take myself off the grid, solar, catchment system for water, etc.

Bad Habits:
Gee, where do I start.
Getting obsessed with work.
Don't write enough letters.
Living a "small" life without continuing to explore each day.

Five Places I have Lived:

Jobs I have had:
Picking up nails (no kidding)
Breaking beaver dams (no kidding)
Hot tub installer (no kidding)
fragrance model (no kidding)

Things people don't know about me:
I set my pants on fire with a branding iron.
Once won a shotgun shooting contest
have ZERO drawing or sketching ability
first assignment I covered was a bomb threat

15 April, 2008

The Contact Sheet

One of the most wonderful things in the world is the contact sheet. As a photographer you know you can't run from your contact sheets. You have 36 images, or 16, or 12, or 8 depending on what film or format, and when you place these sheets out before you, your entire process is there for anyone to see.
If you ever get a chance to look at the contact sheets of one of the masters, by all means, take advantage. You can learn as much or more from the images they did NOT choose than from the ones they did.

My First Prints

I think there are some things to be learned from these images, the first I made while in photo school, back in the day. First of all, these were made and printed in 1990 and they still look like the day I made them. Real, archival, silver prints, mounted.

I've noticed something in today's digital photo student, several things actually. First, little is taught about editing, and when we put digital cameras in our hands, in many cases, our brains seem to shut off and we end up with far more images than we ever needed or wanted in the first place. Consequently, students don't like to edit. The common scenario seems to go like this.

Student: "I was wondering if you could take a look at my work, I only made a loose edit."
Translation: "I shot too much and didn't edit at all."

Student: "I was wondering if you could help me pick by picking out your favorites."
Translation: "I was hoping you could edit it for me."

I think the important thing about these images is that they were EDITED, then printed, and not quick machine prints, or digital prints made quickly, but rather made in the darkroom, dodged, burned, etc, and then mounted. There was a thought process the entire way, something that I think is lost often times in these days of instant gratification.

The lost art of editing is, in many ways, going full circle, from the thought to the capture, to the edit and then the print. When you print, especially in the dark room, it doesn't come after quick decisions, it comes after you REALLY edit, and decide which prints you will dedicate yourself too.
Not only am I not opposed to digital printing, I do it all the time, but it is a VERY different experience than printing darkroom prints.
Why do you think so many collectors want silver prints as opposed to digital? Ask them.

Kayak Newport

Underwater point and shoot. A friend's BEAUTIFUL handmade kayaks.


Mom checking in with a story about vultures.....

Vultures as a whole are not a problem here in our woods. They circle their world watching the living waiting for carrion to provide them the means of sustaining their lives. As rigormortis sets in a once living creature, the vulture seeks it out and devours it, cleaning the land of yet another lifeless creature. Consumimg the flesh of dead animals is repulsive to many forgeting that we humans do it all the time. The only difference is, that we usually cook it before we eat it. This large bird of prey, is covered and colored by brownisn, black feathers except for an unfeathered red head and yellow feet. It is a quiet bird and does not usually cause a disturbance as it it circles overhead. This is not the case here at our cabin in the woods. I don't mind when they come and sit on their favorite branch in a tree near the cabin. They hold their wings open, and sit for awhile allowing their wings to dry and clean. I don't mind when they circle our woods skimming the tree tops carried by the wind currents looking for their mext meal. They don't look big and ominous to me, but they do to someone else who lives here. If the vultures are circling our woods, this means they are circling my hunting dog Gypsys 60 by 70 foot, cedar post rabbit fenced area that is home to most of her prized possessions. She becomes extremely nervous when they appear and rushes in all directions after them whining and barking until they surrender and leave. She is frantic knowing they are after her and her favorite things she has so carefully hidden in her fenced area. There are times during this activity she tries dig up items and locate a new place to bury them. She will outwit the big, quiet, black birds who want her things. The neighbor dog, Hoss gives her warning barks if he sees the vultures before she does. His barks can aften be heard just ahead of the vultures arrival. This situation is a big worry to Gypsy. She is a bird dog and likes most birds. She plays with the doves, finches, titmice and jays. She even tolerates the squirrels in her own way. Its the vultures that have become her Achilles heel. She says we don't really need them. She will be happy when they are on the endangered species list. Her bad dreams are all about vultures. She counts Hoss as loyal and faithful friend. Together she is sure they are going to solve this problem. Sweet dreams.


14 April, 2008