30 October, 2008

Eddie Adams Workshop

A few snaps from The Eddie Adams Workshop I was able to attend a few weeks ago. A great event and one in which I saw several bodies of really fantastic work.

27 October, 2008

Fire From A Match

Mom checking in with another poem. I like this one a lot.

a handful of ice is what it felt like
when I touched you knowing
I had lost you to a younger
more beautiful world
which would renew the lust
of our youth when we did not
know what time would carry with it
changing our looks and thoughts
catching on rough spots between us
we never really tried to iron out
listing like a sinking ship in the rough seas
created by years together never bailing out the
darkest recess of the boat we were in
wondering where the laughing teenagers went
who knew nothing of tomorrow
holding hands with fate not failing
because of promises made in black and white
and the mask of dwindling youth
the fire from a match was
all there was

26 October, 2008

Los Ninos

More kids. More kids. More kids. These two were super fun, and really focused on what we were doing. If only everything in life was a grand as spending time with little people like these two.

24 October, 2008

Review Photo Plus New York

Okay, I'm leaving New York, so what a perfect time to cap off the past four days with a review of sorts.

WARNING: I'm not a reporter, and I'm not really interested in much of what happens at a show like Photo Plus. My main camera is 30-years-old and cost $65, so cutting edge I'm not. And, when I go to a show like this I can't help but laugh at things, which means I'm really laughing at myself, kinda.

But first, kudos to Jet Blue and their new terminal in NYC. It just opened two days ago, and I'm sitting here in a hot spot writing this. There is a sushi bar, good style and design, other good foods, and at some point will have their security system worked out. Today was a little touch and go. Most airports are depression centers, with no power outlets, that force you to talk to your inner child as he or she whimpers for greener pastures. But not this one, it works I think. I probably don't need the surf shop, but hey, who am I do keep someone from buying a 10'6 thruster pintail on the way to Detroit?

But also, kudos to the guy in the "Buck Hunter" t-shirt I saw earlier. It was one of those cheap black t-shirts you get at a truck stop. Looks like a cheap, peel on sticker of a "monster buck" with a bullseye over it. I love anyone who flaunts their lust for shooting things. I grew up hunting and fishing, so don't think I'm opposed, and I eat meat, but I've never had the urge to say, "Hey, check me out, I'm thirsty for blood!"

Oh, and as long as we are on kudos, here to the candy "Sugar Babies." In an age of health and fitness, this candy pioneer chooses to say, "Hey, you want a bag full of sugar?" "Right here baby!" I'm gorging to the point of sickness as I write this.
"Stewardess.....you have any more of those motion sickness bags?" "Line em up, I'll knock em down."

Okay, on to the real meat of this discussion. Photo Plus Expo. I feel like a guy on shore leave in some distant land. My throat hurts, my eyes are red, my head hurts, I'm slightly sweaty and I can't remember much of what happened to me in the past few days. I lectured, I saw many people and new photo-trinkets, but my review is one of cautionary feeling. Caustic perhaps.

Photo Plus could be called Photo Minus, just due to the shrinkage normally associated with cold water, which has fallen over the photo-world like a brain cloud. The show is smaller, seemingly much smaller than past years, and there seemed to be a lack of actual photography. Even last year I remember a large show by Albert Watson, but this year, I don't remember seeing even a single show. Technology is what fuels the public's appetite, and their lust for new gadgetry is running at epidemic levels. Version 2.0, or 3.0, forget it, you better have 7.0 ready to go cause they want it and they think they need it.

From my observations, the gadget of choice for this show, by far, was the new Canon 5d Mark II, which had a line forming like a giant serpent, snaking it way through the maze of the Canon booth. The revelers were mad with tech-lust as they stood in line to get a peep at this new beauty. From what I hear on the street, pre-orders are beyond expectations, and rumor has it foreign governments are mobilizing troops to contain rabid shoppers. Look for gas and rubber bullets at a camera shop near you.
Get on the list now!!! I mean stop reading this and get out there!
The camera looks to be, for the price point, head and shoulders above anything else, but I don't find this surprising as Canon has owned the pro-digital market for over a decade. And I mean owned, like Tony Montana in Scarface kinda owned. Like like Al Capone. Like it wasn't even close. Is that clear enough?

I also thought that Sony had made some nice progress in their new style and positioning. I think they have a nice new camera and friendly sales and tech force. I dig Sony. And, they make really cool Mini-disc players/recorders, one of the coolest devices ever made.

Leica too, and I am so pulling for this legendary operation. I still think the best camera ever, and most historical in importance is the Leica M. Their new camera is a stretch, but has also put all other medium format companies on notice, which you can see by the price drops in recent days. The battle royal is on. Get a front row seat and feel the sweat as it lands on your lapels. I tried to look at this new camera, but the rep and his demo model were surrounded by aging "Leica Devoted Followers," which means a bunch of older guys who probably spend every waking moment online in debate over one Leica thing or another. If you allow them, they will talk for DAYS about anything Leica, although I'm not sure how many of them actually USE their cameras. They have wild ideas about what Leica should do, and are not shy about cornering Leica people like a coyote cornering Bambi. "You should put a wind lever on the new body," or "you should make a camera about of Leggos." You never know what this crowd will deliver, besides knowing with absolute certainty they will be clogging the Leica booth at Photo Plus. So, I never got my hands on the new camera. There is much buzz about this baby, but I still think what the masses are looking for is a full-frame M. But what do I know?

On a side note. I love the wedding companies. They always bring a carnival/car sales feel to a show like this, and believe what you want about that, I find it fascinating.I've been involved in the wedding world for some time now, but don't feel as if I've ever really been a part of it. And I'm not alone. I walked the show with another photographer, specifically looking for these folks and basking in their approach, and success. Power on wedding snappers. And remember, any wedding photo can be made exponentially better by adding a unicorn.

On another side note: Kudos to the vendors that still use soft-core models to sell their products. Models in seductive poses are a sure thing, I don't care what you are selling, and as you walk the show floor this is painfully evident. Suddenly you will fall up on a packed group of men, ALL MEN, clustered together, jockeying for position as a young model flaunts her best poses. I haven't seen crowds of men like this since the old days of seedy Times Square, before Mayor G cleaned up the city. What is lost in the pure joy of booth-soft-core is the near complete boredom of the model. What is odd is that many of the photographers working with these models don't look like people who ever work with models and it shows in their presentations. Typically, these shoots result in four men staring at a laptop screen and positioning too many lights as the model nearly collapses from boredom, lack of attention, and the realization that their booking agent betrayed them. When people shoot tethered, there seems to be NO relationship with the model, none, and it shows in the work. Just to help out, I will sometimes lurk at the back of the pack, waving my arms to get her attention, then mime to her, "I understand," "I'm with you." Solidarity and complaints are the only things that will get us through this.

Back to our show, currently in progress.

Blurb was also on fire, the print on demand publisher, one of many these days, but the one that has photography at the core. I consult for them, or advise, or lecture or something along those lines, so you can take this part of this report with a grain of salt if you choose to do so, but I actually mean this. Blurb sponsored the final chapter of their Photography Book Now Symposium, which ended with a full-day presentation regarding book publishing. Darius Himes from Radius Books was the MC, and what followed was 4.5 hours of book soup baby. Designers, publishers, and photographers(me included) took the stage and spoke about the life of the book as object, the book as art and the book as perhaps the future of many of us. There are a few really nice reviews out there. If I wasn't such a lazy person I would link them in. The Jackanory Blog has one, and everyone seems to know this site.

Blurb is owned and operated by a photographer and it shows. They are obsessed with photographers and the needs of those equally obsessed with image making. They didn't have to do ANY of this, the contest, the panel, the symposium, but they did, and I'm sure it was NOT cheap. They are like parachute pants and white high-tops, so cool you just have to have them. Check them out. Oh, and they annouced two new things, a new size, 5x8 for printed books, as in novels and such, and also premium paper for their photo/art books. I have two books printed on this new paper and it looks grand.

The nightly parties were also scaled back as the world ponders the idea of clubbing each other for food. Photo Plus creates a party frenzy of who, what, where and when. There are multiple parties running at all times, and the name and fame obsessed photo-groupie will have a hard time keeping up. The night normally goes like this, "I'm going to the PDN party, then Sony, then Kodak, then Nikon, then the ICP opening, then eating dinner at 3am in SoHo, then having coffee at Aperture and taking a power nap on the street outside of a gallery in mid-town." It's crazy. Nuts. And, you can never win. Photo Plus creates the high-school like ultra-cool, dork-uncool rivalry as well, where folks deemed as cool break off into tiny pods that disperse from back-alley exits in an effort to "scrape off" those deemed "not as cool." It's a site to behold, I highly recommend it. I'm normally in the "not as cool" category, so I've seen this technique used many times, and now have a deep respect for the strategy involved. It's just one of those ugly truths we all know exists but are mortified to write about...UNTIL NOW!!!

On a sad note, my camera of the future was NOT introduced by anyone. My full-frame digital rangefinder with REAL optical viewfinder, fixed lenses and RAW capability was, once again, passed over. Someone, probably a small brand, will one day make this thing, and the entire photo-world will buy one, or two, and the mega-companies will realize what they missed. I'm going to hold my breath until someone makes this....okay, I'm starting now....................okay, I give up.

Photo Plus is well worth the effort, but not because of the show. It's worth going to the city, getting a little photo-dirt on you and rubbing elbows with many other photographers, at least until they try to scrape you off. In the words of the Uber-New Yorker, Gordan Gecco, "You want a friend, buy a dog."

Photo Plus is a voyage through what is left of our once mighty profession, and if you love sorting through junk at yard sales, then this show is for you. At the basis of all this are the people, and regardless of condition, photography holds within it, a core group of fantastic, creative, driven people, and in many cases they are in the city during this time.

I think the only thing that will save this business is the redirection of our focus back to the images, and their value, and not the hyper-temporary equipment used to make these images. The digital revolution was based on consumerism, and we see with world markets, that is only going to get us so far. What remains, even amid the ruins, are the images.

Just go.

17 October, 2008

More Unexpected

Ahh, being a kid is a great thing. Just look at the look in the eyes, of the new, the unexpected, the unknown, all seen with freshness and new eyes. I sometimes look like that after I eat as well.

16 October, 2008

The Unexpected

We often think that we need all kinds of equipment to be photographers. And I also think that one of photography's primary weaknesses is that it has always been associated WITH equipment. The idea of studying photography gets lost because those new to it think they just buy the right equipment, and presto, suddenly you ARE a photographer.

There is little intimidation because learning equipment is easy, so within a short time you are making pictures, regardless of their significance or success, they are being made.

With painting, sculpture, etc, you are staring a block of clay perhaps, or a blank canvas, and suddenly the lack of knowledge is impossible to ignore.

There are new cameras out now, as there often are, but these new bodies are getting all kinds of play, exposure(no pun intended) and seem to be the focus of our entire industry in some ways.

But me, I don't care. I try not to even notice because I know that in a few short months there will be more new cameras, more new software and the likes, and for me, it makes no difference.

I've never liked new things. Frankly they make me a little nervous, so I'm happy with the old, and I realize that these new things have nothing to do with what I'm trying to accomplish, which is to see better, to get better and to be able to have more freedom to do the things I want.

I could literally go back to the same camera I started with, a Nikon FM2, and be perfectly happy, and the crazy thing is, I'll bet that exact body is still out there, working and in the hands of another photographer as we speak.

So recently I traveled to the heartland to do a portrait shoot and decided to take a camera I've had for years and one that I never use for portraits, and decided to only take a wide angle lens, also something I typically don't use for portraits.

What I got were, I think, my favorite portraits of the trip. Now these might not be mom and dad's favorite images, but for me, they are different, and are the look I like as much as anything else.

I also like the fact that because this camera is so small and is around my neck all day everyday, I get images with it that I would never get with a bigger, more pronounced camera.

Last week, at a lecture, I heard a conflict photographer say, "This entire ten-year project was done with a Leica, and nothing against digital, but it could have NEVER been done with the modern digital gear," meaning it would have been too dangerous to walk around with the large, modern bodies, in a situation where it was deadly to be known as a photographer.

So, in a few short days, I must travel again, for another portrait and I'm toying with the idea of ONLY taking this old camera. Believe me, it feels really odd to show up with this thing and have the client say, "Where is your gear?" or "Your not going to use that are you?" But the result is all that matters, and stripping myself of the security of gear is to force myself to actually see.

15 October, 2008

Paradise Found

I was sitting on the grass of a hillside just outside the barn during the Eddie Adams Workshop and an older gentleman walked up, looked over my shoulder, and said, “Boy I love that camera,” as he peered down at the Contax G2 sitting in my lap.

I didn’t recognize this person at the time because it had been years since I had seen him and I had met him only once, briefly, roughly eight years ago.

If I had known who it was I would have stood up and shook his hand.

For those of you who don’t’ know Bill Eppridge I highly recommend taking some time to get to know his work.

However, I think most of us, as Americans, at least those my age or older, will already be painfully but respectfully aware of his legacy.

Bill was a photographer for Newsweek Magazine, and the photographer responsible for photographing the campaign of Robert Kennedy.

All I can say about this body of work is that is triumphant in it’s tragedy and a living, breathing reminder of lost innocence, in not only a country, a people and a time, but also in the lost innocence of photography of this nature.

This body of work will never be duplicated, not even close, and should stand as a reminder of the idea of freedom, respect, reporting, relationships and the significance of photography as a recorder of history.

“I stopped being a photographer and began recording history,” Bill said of the moment when Robert Kennedy was assassinated.

Granted unusual access, Eppridge was with Kennedy every step of the way, including those last moments forever seared into the minds of human beings worldwide as the fateful day came undone.

Let me remind you, these images are not only monumental, historical images, but they are beautifully done. The black and white is crisp, contrasty, sharp and retains a depth and focus that is not seen in today’s reportage world. He used basic ingredients compared to what we have today, and for some reason it just looks better than anything else I’ve seen. And, let me say, he was not out shooting hundreds, thousands of images at a time. When the shots rang out he had few frames left on both cameras, and admitted that the first image was out of focus, but the remaining three or four pictures were all....perfect. He thought, he composed and he made them count with history on the line. For this I have great appreciation.

I was fortunate enough to be at the workshops when the lights dimmed, the doors closed, students took their seats, and Bill unleashed this work on all of us. It was impossible to not be moved.

If you haven’t figured it out, I’m slightly jaded about the photography world, in a good way, but with work like Bill’s, nothing else matters. You are confronted in a way that seldom occurs. You are confronted by his lifelong commitment to photography, and by the images that will remain in your mind’s eye because they are too good to forget.

As I walked out of the building shortly after the final image faded to black, I ran into a friend who was standing there shaking his head from side to side. “What?” I asked.
“That was incredible,” he said, seemingly unable to come to grips with what he had just seen.
THAT is what photography is all about.
So, if you have a moment, take some time and take a look.


14 October, 2008

More From Mom

white, pink and blue
morning glories
dancing in the breeze
just outside the window
where I write
I am not sure
but, I think
the hummingbirds
have gone for the winter
looking for more summer
they do not visit
the morning glories
anymore at my window
stopping to look
in at me as I write
they know it's time to go
perhaps someplace in Mexico
looking for warmth and food
we will miss them
the lonely winter is coming
the morning glories will fade
we will watch and wait
white, pink and blue

08 October, 2008

Just Passing Through

It's nice to shoot when you have no real agenda. It is perhaps the best time to make pictures because it is pure. Just you, your thoughts, the light and your eyes.

06 October, 2008


So I went to the largest imaging show in the world. In Germany, Cologne to be precise. It was grand. Really, ten times larger than any other show I have seen. In fact, I only saw part if it.
At one point I found myself searching for a friend. Never found him. Still haven't seen him. He could still be there, lost inside the bowels of that place.

This show isn't a photography show, not by any stretch, but rather a show of the mechanisms that support the imaging world.

Here are a few snaps.

05 October, 2008

We English

Check out this blog by Simon Roberts. He has some very interesting posts regarding editing, and breaks down his methods while working on a project titled, "Motherland," which was published by Chris Boot.

Think about what you are reading, about things like reading of his spending one year making the pictures. Not a quick hit approach, nor was the subsequent editing and proofing system.

We English Link

04 October, 2008

The State of Affairs

Yankee Stadium Link

Several days ago I was photographing a young boy, about 2.5 years of age, and we ended up in a magazine section at a grocery store in Indianapolis. I know that might sound odd, but I think the images will turn out rather nice. Unexpected, and shot with my old Contax G2, a camera that is on my arm most days, these days.

Anyway, at one point, this little guy was sitting in a cart and the cart stopped in front of the magazine stand, right in front of the bodybuilding section.

I made a few images, two I think, before he was moved and we continued on. But right before I moved on I noticed several of the sports magazines, major ones, and on the cover I saw images I have grown to expect.

Color, studio, controlled portraits of sports/celebs. They were predictable, told me nothing about these people, but were the kind of image that seems to be virtually the only thing assigned anymore.

I wondered to myself, "Did the photographer enjoy doing this? "Did the player enjoy it? It didn't appear like the players enjoyed it, and in fact you could almost see what was going through their mind, "Oh man, who thought this scenario up?" You could feel the reluctance through the images.

I wondered to myself, "Why do we do this?" Still?

Now the same can be said for much of the celebrity work I see as well. CONTROLLED, but not interesting. Would I rather see ANOTHER controlled, staged image of Will Smith, or would I rather see a real image of him, on a Wednesday, at 4pm, when he wasn't working. A REAL photograph. An informational photograph, one that explains more than what someone looks like.

But, in the age of control, it seems that fewer and fewer of these images are being made. Are the days of William Claxton gone? Jim Marshall? I think so.

So a few shorts days ago we saw the end of era in sports, in sports history and American history for that matter. We saw the end of Yankee Stadium, perhaps, it could be argued, the most important American sports venue of all time. And what images did we see? The expected. I'm not saying there are not great images out there, that someone, somewhere made, but I didnt' see any of those. I kept thinking, "Okay, somebody, hit me with something with soul," something besides what I KNEW I was going to see. And, the sports magazines, where are you? I guess the Americana magazines are all gone.

So I have this friend in Florida, a photographer, Andrew Kaufman. He shoots a lot, and a little if you know what I mean. Name a format, a style and he does it. He makes books too, and creates on his own, projects, single pictures, etc. Andrew shot Yankee Stadium. And, I think he did it in a way that is different, and in a way that shows what it felt like as a FAN to be there, not as a photographer on assignment needing to fulfill a certain image requirement. Nor do the images appear as if he was rushed to make them, which brings me to another point.

Magazines, quit rushing for the sake of rushing. I think a lot of people would gladly wait a little longer to see a better story. Give us something more.

Now Kaufman was kind enough to send us a snippet, and I've also included a link to a lightbox on his site, so if you have a moment, take a peak.

You might like this work, or not, but I think you will agree it looks different. Now, according to last reports, this work had not been published yet, which is some ways, to me at least, in my twisted mindset, is a good thing. Some things need to sit, fester, before they are unleashed on the public. But, this stuff SHOULD be published somewhere.........anyone............anyone..........


Some people have been asking where I have been, where the posts have been, and I have to apologize for slacking off on the Smogranch front.

I have been in a state of perpetual pack and unpack, jetting from one place to another, for work, and for shorts periods of time. So, little time to post anything more than simple observations, mostly unrelated to the photography world.

Don't get me wrong, I write everyday, and take notes on most situations I find myself in, but most of what I jot down isn't really intended for the blog world, unless you are looking for a cure for your insomnia.

So, I'm home now, for a few days, and will try to post later today, tomorrow, etc, But, we are supposed to get rain today, the first in months and months, so I might be outside just watching the day pass.

After my shoot, and subsequent quick trip to Los Angeles, and after I catch up on paying bills, returning calls, emails, talking to mom, sis and bro, etc.