14 July, 2009




13 July, 2009

Poem from Mom "Lost in the Line"

"Lost in the Line"

lost in the line
subject to verse
stanzas to find
poets curse

ebb tide moves
holding falling
can't hide
your calling

slanting verbs
lumpy adjectives
woven curbs
a poet gives

dance the dance
quintessential dandy
the keyless chance
inside coated candy

poets keen tell
always lip rhyming
posting so well
clever drift lining

holding on clever
will not succeed
stalwart endeavor
all you need

11 July, 2009

Movie Review: An Unlikely Weapon

So yesterday I did something rare, at least for me. I went to the theatre and saw a movie.

Over the past few weeks I had received many emails from friends and fellow photographers regarding the release of "An Unlikely Weapon," a film chronicling the life, and photographs, of legendary Associated Press photographer Eddie Adams.

A movie about a photojournalist. Okay, you already have me there. But a movie about a photographer who created himself in the battlefield of Vietnam, and now I'm all in. The imagery of that war, and the power it had on the collective mindset of the world, was what got me into photography in the first place.

I was young enough, and isolated enough to have ZERO memories of Vietnam. Nothing. Not even one nightly news show from the confines of our Indiana house.

So when I saw those pictures for the first time I was frozen. THIS is the power of good photography.

Eddie Adams is one of the crew that immediately pops to mind when photographers think of Vietnam, of photojournalism, etc. This is very much the case because of one particular image he made, an image that many people feel changed the course of the war.

The film goes far beyond this one image, and if you don't know the image I'm referring to, look it up. You will know it. I don't need to really go into depth here, but in short, Eddie's picture was of the South Vietnamese officer shooting the Viet Cong prisoner in the head in the middle of a Saigon street.

I would imagine about now this image is in your mind, whether or not you are looking at it in real time. THIS is the power of great photography.

But I have to say, the movie allowed me to see things from a different angle, especially regarding this image. Not only did I learn of how Eddie felt about it, but I also learned more about what happened to the guy pulling the trigger. What I learned reinforced the absurdity of war, not just Vietnam, but all wars, and also magnified the cruelty that ranges on long after the shell casings have stopped falling. The politics, the shame, the unfairness, etc, etc. It goes on and on.

I was fortunate enough to meet Eddie a few times over the years, but unfortunate to not really have had any long conversations, just brief encounters, twice at his workshop in upstate New York, and once at a party at his famous Bath House Studio in NYC.

Speaking of his workshop, the movie also touched on this, and how the program really came to life. It is a unique platform, and the list of my friends who have attended is long. Most of them are still making it as photographers, and I know, as least in part, it had to do with Eddie's program.

The film goes on to chronicle his life after war, the celebrity work, years of reinvention and studio building, but it also touched on that unquenchable thirst for perfection that many creative people have. The unrest, the drive, the passion that can manifest itself in both positive and negative forms.

I think for me it also made me miss some things about the past. I think when Eddie was at his prime the idea of being a wire service photographer was such a cool thing. There was a respect level, a way of working, etc, that I just don't see today. I've never been a real wire service photographer, only done some stringing here and there, but the days of that field being what it was intended to be seem to be long gone. It's too bad.

And lastly, I found one really funny, but poignant moment in this film that left me laughing long after I departed the theatre. There is a film segment showing Eddie photographing what looks like some guy herding cattle from a small airplane. The guy is only about ten feet off the ground, and he comes flying up, right above the cows, then pulls up at the last minute. There is Eddie, right on the other side of the cows. It's absurd. If the slightest thing went wrong, you would have had a smoldering mass of beef and Nikon parts. The camera pans to the left and you see Eddie laughing and saying something. A smile on his face.

That moment to me was what a photographers life is all about. You could describe that moment, like I've done here, but it doesn't come close to really being there. Photographers live these moments all the time, far more than the average civilian. I think these are the moments that make photographers go on. These are the moments we live for. You file them away and draw from them when things are not going right, or you need a good laugh. I wonder just how many of these moments he had, and these are the things I would have loved to discuss with him.

I strongly recommend seeing this film, supporting its creation, and learning more about this guy.

The photo I have included here is of Eddie's son August whom I met last year at the workshop. My fingers are crossed he is out shooting as we speak.

10 July, 2009

Masterfile Newsletter

This just went out yesterday, from the agency that syndicates my kids stock images. Note the super-duper image on the left.

09 July, 2009

There Has To Be More 2

I wanted to add something to the last post. I didn't want to sound like I was being too down on gallery/museum opportunities. I do believe this world grabs a narrow audience, a sliver of the big picture, but that sliver can be fun, and also important in establishing work, selling prints, gaining recognition, etc.

So go after them already.

But, my point was to say, there is much more out there to do in terms of showing work. And, depending on the work, the traditional route of gallery/museum/publication, might not work.

Last week I photographed several people who I would venture to say have never been to a photo-gallery, and probably never will. I would also venture to guess that they have probably been to a museum once or twice in their life, but probably decades ago. So, how do I involve them in the exhibition? Invite them to a gallery show they are never going to attend?

Nope. Not enough. There has to be more. I have to invent how to get the community involved. It's my responsibility as a photographer. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me to spend all this time engaging with a community, and then not have them involved in some way.

So, I'll figure something out. And, if the work is good enough, then perhaps the gallery/museum pursuit at some point. But first things first.

07 July, 2009

There Has To Be More

A few years ago, the World Press Photo organization placed their traveling show of contest winners in the mall in Santa Monica.

In the preceding years, this same exhibition was held at a museum in Los Angeles. It was a nice museum, and one I will continue to frequent, but I have to say, when this mall shift happened, I didn't really know what to expect.

But it worked.

It really worked.

Suddenly, this body of work was in front of the masses of people. You can't compare a crowd that will attend an evening gallery/museum affair, with a crowd at the food court on a Saturday at 3pm. It's not to say that one crowd is better than another, but what I've learned is that the art world attracts one, very slim type of audience, while the mall is more like the United Nations of gathering places.

Over the past few months I've been looking at a lot work in galleries and museums, and I have say, I'm thinking that the future might be in other places. Galleries and museums serve their purpose, probably always will, but depending on the type of work you do, and depending on your goals, these places considered the pinnacle for artists and photographers, just might be the last place the work needs to be.

This might sound crazy. Or maybe not.

Two weeks ago I saw two exhibitions of the same work, on two separate continents. After viewing the second version of the work I realize I was not really being pulled in to what this body of work was about. In fact, I was being driven away. I was being driven away by the absolute silence of the exhibition. I was being driven away by the "cover charge" of getting in. I was being driven away by the security person sitting on their chair ten feet away, reminding me that photographs were not allowed.

God forbid anyone take a photo of a photo exhibition.

I was being driven away by the absurdity of the entire idea of what the idea of an exhibition had become. Outside the exhibit walls an entire mega-city was at hand, and chances are, less than one percent of the population would see this show.

I wondered what the photographer must have been thinking. A feather in his cap, "I'm in the such and such and such and such museums." But in the end, this makes less and less sense. The work was about everyday folks, just the type who will never seen the exhibition. The work was about reality, about life, not about sterile atmospheres and status of the artist. Certainly you can't hang your hat on this when you are actually making the images, interacting with the people IN the photographs, because frankly, many of them might not have ever heard of these museums or care of their existence.

I think we all have to question our motives. And man, sometimes this can be a crippling blow when you are honest with yourself. Are you shooting to win contests? To win fame? To win money? To fuel your ego? And if you are, is that wrong?

I've been lambasted in the past for suggesting that photographers consider their audience once in a while. I suggested this after seeing magazine after magazine running "arty" snaps for a audience that is waiting for meat and potatoes. I would look at images and think, "Who besides the photographer or photo editor is going to even begin to understand that picture?" And then the magazine acts shocked when the subscription rate goes down.

It's not to say these images shouldn't be made or that pictures should not end up in museums and galleries, but I think we are at a time when we need to realize there is far, far more out there.

Realize too that many of the people attending gallery openings, museum openings spend more time looking at other people than the art itself. And also remember that the average time people spend looking at art in museums has dropped dramatically in recent years. And, lastly, people spend more time reading the caption/ desription than they do looking at the actual piece.

On a wicked little side note, I'd bet the first two crowds of people to back me on this would be gallery and museum people. They know they can only feature a minute amount of work, and if you hear between the lines, they are saying the same thing. Look elsewhere.

You see where I'm going with this. It's time to reinvent. And multimedia/web is NOT where I'm heading. I know all the suave industry studs are saying this is where we are all going or we minions face extinction, but I heard this same thing with digital ten years ago, and the best photographers, in my mind, are still shooting film. The web is NOT a great space for viewing images. Yes, you heard that right. I don't believe the web has any soul whatsoever. It's great for information needs, and for being able to see something quickly, but please, can you taste it? Feel it? Wear it? Nope. In the end your just staring into a box of light. Nothing more. There is so much information on the web, and our attention spans are so short, that no matter how great a piece is, a photo is, typically, it is forgotten within minutes after being viewed. How many bookmarks do you have? How many times have you said, "Oh man, I'm bookmarking this and am going back to it over and over," only to never see that page again?"

This post is a beacon of light. Sounds impressive right? I'm not saying there is a higher power making my fingers move on these keys. What I'm saying is that the door is open. The only thing limiting us with the exposure of our work is US. It's US!

We gotta forget about what we are "supposed" to do, and do what we can FIND to do. Let's do what we can dream up and start acting like creative people once again.

And now to end this agonizingly long post with more hyper-specific information to back my claim I will relate this entire idea to a recent motion picture scenario. A few weeks ago the summer blockbuster Transformers came to life on the big screen. I think it might be the second movie in the series. I did not see the first, probably wont' see this either, but I can't remember the last time I went to see a movie at the theatre. So this thing comes out and all I hear about his how the "critics" pan it as not only being a terrible movie, but one of the worst things to ever come down the pike.

In the first weekend it grossed something like 400 million.

This is my point people. It might be safe to say there is a complete detachment from what the critics (maybe gallery and museum) relate to a body of work, and what the public (400 million) have to say about the same piece of "art."

A photograph can mean different things to different people at different points in time, and might have no influence on the critic due to market forces, personal taste, etc, but at the same moment, to more open minded audience can be profound.

Okay, I lied, I've got one more story to relate. I have one body of work I've shown around more than any other. In this group of images, there is a single image of a man carrying a dead sheep. This picture gets as many questions from "every day folk" than any image in the entire body of work. What is going on? What is he doing? Why does he have that? What does this mean?

When I show the same work, the same image, to the more refined, photo community person, I've had more than one person voice their disgust at the image, the idea of what is happening in the image, the savage nature of an animal being killed, only to stop looking at the rest of the work entirely! Boom, done, over. The book is closed, faces are made and the review ends abruptly. The first time this happened I was surprised. Now I wait for it.

I think there is a vast middle ground that most of us have yet to even begin to explore when it comes to showing our work. This is a good thing.

Who said, "I have not yet begun to fight." Think about it that way. There is so much out there, so many choices, so many ways of doing things that we haven't done yet, and all that is holding us, well okay ME back, is MY limited thinking.

I was on an island before, at least it feels that way at times, and now I feel like the island broke free from the sea floor and is drifting further out to sea. But I have to say, the view is incredible.

My New Wedding Studio

I wanted to introduce you to my new wedding photography operation.

The big one does my editing.

The medium one does my archiving.

The little one does my book design.

I ran an ad in the Remulak paper looking for "go getters." These three showed up.

06 July, 2009

The Documentary Life

People ask what type of photography I do. Sometimes I answer, "documentary work."

People seem to be interested in this. The idea of this. But, I'm not sure how the reality, or thought of documentary work actually meets up with the nuts and bolts of actually doing it.

What I'm about to list is not a complaint, quite the contrary. This is what makes this work so fantastic, but it does come with a price.

So, the last twenty four hours of my life....

Caught in monsoon storm near midnight, run for cover but drenched, soaked, muddy, covered in bug bites.
Get stuck in car for one hour as flooding shuts down escape route.
Up at 5.
Drive for one hour.
Stumble on ultra-small rodeo, stop to shoot.
Shoot two rolls, make contacts for further shoots, including guy who chews 12 bags of tobacco per day.
Cow barfs up snot ball down my pants right before being sent out squeeze shoot.
Drop base plate on rock while reloading, bending it. Bend back with car key, keep shooting.
Back in car. Drive for one hour.
Stop horse racing track to shoot and scout location. Shoot one frame.
Back in car. Drive for one hour. Eat jerky and dried mango.
Stumble upon Mescalero Apache annual rodeo.
Stop and shoot. Light SUCKS. Can't shoot anything.
Back in car. Drive for one hour.
Stop to shoot and pull info for upcoming shoot in August, BTK info center.
Back in car. Drive for one hour.
White Sands National Monument.
Shoot for three hours, while hiking through park, 100 degrees plus.
See guy with camel in distance.
Run over dunes to catch him, leaving water behind to save time and weight. Stupid.
Shoot two rolls.
Back in car. 4pm
Drive for 1000 miles.
Get caught in monsoon of epic proportion which closes interstate, forcing me off highway.
Get caught in dust storm forcing me off highway again.
Hit enormous black object in middle of freeway, going 75 miles per hour. Somehow manage to avoid ANY damage to car.
Begin to see things. I think.
Stop for truck stop coffee, getting stuck behind meth user paying for combination of gas and snacks with coins, making small piles on counter of gas station.

Arrive home 4 am.

23 hours of straight doc mayhem.

Up at 9 to begin client dealings.

Again, not a complaint. This is what, for me, it takes to do this work. I have limited time, limited resources, so you KNOW that at times, life is going to really suck, but it's all self-inflicted. I could have stayed home. Waited. Waited until I had more time, resources, but chances are I would have never left.

And, what I left out was sleeping in the car, due to lack of hotels where I was, with windows up, in 90 degree nights, due to security concerns. Six homicides in last month in this area.

And in the end, what do I have? The last image. This tiny bag of film. That's all. Nothing yet. No guarantees.

14 rolls total. 14. 504 clicks of the shutter, which on paper sounds like a lot. It isn't. And what will I "get" from this?

MAYBE a few images. But how many will make the grade? One? Perhaps two? Yep, this is the reality.

What was so great about this was everything I just listed. Getting back into the field and making pictures. It had been a long time since I had done this, far, far too long, and I realized immediately how much of these skills I had lost. Atrophy. But, it came back, slowing but surely.

I had grand plans, but realized it was essential to do less to get more. Leica, 35mm, Tri-x. ONLY. Nothing more. Could have shot medium format color and shot "strangely" and compiled a huge body of work, but I knew in my heart that was only a short term remedy for what is really a lifetime sickness.

Waiting, watching and having the experience to know I can kid myself, or anyone else. That GREAT pictures are rare, and I have to be ready at all times, but also ready to accept the fact, that on this trip, or any other, I might not get anything. Honesty can be ego bruising and painful, but refreshing nonetheless.

So, as I sit here, thinking about processing this stuff, by hand, I am thinking of only one thing. When can I go back? When can I do this again?

05 July, 2009

Taking a New Job

I'm taking a new job. It's at a daily on Remulak! I'm not coming back.

Poem from Mom "Rearview Mirror"

"Rearview Mirror"

rearview mirror
rumble seat ride
those left behind
creating their myth
voyagers black tar roads
huddling winter strangers
sinking from dangling chances
and lost unkept promises
waiting in mapped patterns
for dreamless dreamers
finding twisted highways
fearing to go
fearing not to go
hope behind the darkness
of velvet curtain stillness
rustling in the silky breeze
their maze in the mirror
tuned radio voices calling
hearts cargo in the trunk
where kept secrets are packed
in old deeply folded detours
hiding in the rumble seat
windswept in the rearview mirror

02 July, 2009

Recent Prints

A twelve day trip, ten rolls of film. After quick inspection....about a half dozen images I really like. There are many more that will "work," but MAYBE a half dozen that will get print. Others will be scanned, and sent, scanned and archived, etc.

I have a self portrait, as you can see here, that looks really great, in my opinion, and I have no recollection of shooting it. I just the contact sheet, then the negative, and said, "Hmmm." It was shot on a London street corner, that's all I know.

Leica, 35mm, Foma warmtone matte, 11x14,

01 July, 2009

Square Peg In A Round Hole

This is what you get when you have film cut and sleeved in rows of six, and then try to make contact sheets on 8x10 paper.

Another great mystery of the photo world, like 16.7 inch paper. Negs can be cut in 5's or 6's, but then you have to find paper that matches, so either 8x10 or 8.5x11. Of course not many folks make 8x5x11 paper, and those who do know they have a nice product and slap it with a high price.

So, all I had was 8x10, hence the odd, cropped, somewhat botched look. They still work, made about 8 prints yesterday.

30 June, 2009

The Urban Abstract Landscape

This post will begin with an observation, but mostly importantly, will finish with a quote . An incredible quote I must add, and one that made me believe my observation was perhaps...right on the money.

A few years ago I began to notice a certain type of image that was popping up, over and over, in many of photography's avenues and outlets.

I had seen similar work before, but it had only been in textbooks, or photo-history books which devoted many pages to the 60's and 70's, especially in the area of color photography.

Fast forward to today.

So this new style of image. I'll call it the "urban abstract moment." Always in color, obtuse, typically void of people, based on a simple pattern, or lack there of, bordering on genius, but hovering dangerously near falling into the category of image that really needs to be explained.

You know me, this sort of thing gets me thinking, wondering...questioning. Why? Why this? Why now?

I've got a theory or two.

First, it's detached in a way. There are no people, most of the time, which means little human interaction. I think this could be a direct and sobering reflection of our complex society. More people than ever, more people than ever living in cities, and more isolation than every before. Days, weeks, months spent in cubicles, or in front of a monitor don't lend themselves to forming humans rife with diverse interaction skills. Add the cell phone and iPod and we have created our own version of a human technology bubble.

Second, I think this is somewhat easy work to produce. It's odd. Again, no people, no time required to engage what you are photographing. It's there and it's not moving. Go get it. And don't think not having to get a model release is not part of the success of this work.

Third, it has been accepted. Packaged, printed, sold, again and again, and is a safe direction to chase. This work isn't about complex lighting, endangered species, social issues, celebrities or war, it's mostly about suburbia and artifacts of our society.

What's odd, at least for me, is that I've seen work of this nature I believe I really like. But then I see another body of work, of the exact same ilk and I have no ability to explain why one group is better than another, and suddenly I can't explain why I even liked the first group to begin with. And then I fall down. And then I can't get up.

I find it a hard style of work to grow intimate with, to develop with. Get it, develop....okay, I'll shut up.

But again, here is the real kicker. The art world loves it. They do. They really love it. So I get it. I know why I see so much of it. It's sellable, hangable, printable, frameable, bookable and devilishly stylish in a completely disconnected way.

Yes, the "disconnected moment" is also used to describe this work. But, alas, who cares right? It's photography, let's not get ahead of ourselves.

So, a few days ago, I'm in London. I'm standing on the street corner, hanging out, like I'm prone to do, but I happen to be standing in front of a photography gallery, one that is considered an elite space.

I see this group of people approaching....two men, one woman, and a baby in a stroller. Looks to be a small, family outing in mid-voyage time and space.

As they get closer to where I"m standing, the guy in the lead says, "Hey, a photography gallery."

And this is where things get interesting.

The second guy pushing the stroller looks up and says, "How about another picture of someone in an urban landscape?"


"How about ANOTHER one of those?" "How many people have that?" The residue of his sarcasm left a gushing torrent in the street.

I was left with only the sound of a squeaky stroller wheel and my amazement at what I had just heard.

I wanted to spin and say, "Could you repeat that?"

That was it. That was my observation, signed, sealed and delivered so contritely on that small English alley. It wasn't just me. There were others who recognized this work, this style and also had questions regarding it's place in our photo-world.

As always, I have no answers people, just more questions. During the time it took me to write this there have been great hordes of urban moments scavenged from our communities like minerals from our precious lands.

This is just an observation, nothing more. We are all influenced by trends, and I think this is just another in a long line. I just happen to see this one as much, or more, than anything else at this time. I really do believe our outside forces dramatically impact our photography, and that is what I find most interesting about this specific image style.

A Message

Someone wrote this on the back of the seat. Cab, NYC. Heading in from JFK. A great message. A dirtball thing to do. Cabbie was cool.

29 June, 2009


Okay snappers,

If you are out there, and you have a project, and you have a book, and you like money, or need money, or could find a use for money.......MIGHT want to enter this baby. Just a thought.


Let me repeat that.


Grand prize. Other prizes too. Blurb contest. Easy.

Poem from Mom "Our Place in the Day"

Our Place in the Day

our place in the day
centering the peaceful instant
detached searching to connect
sunlight shines through
a cottontails pink popsicle ears
looking like wet roses
on a foggy morning
a mother hummingbird
teaching her baby about
red hibiscus
texas yellow bells
hummingbird feeders
and feral cats
intense beauty clear message
fulfilling wanting eyes
quiet still presence
invading impalpable paradise
braiding us still tighter
ursurping our undertow
two souls in the breeze
dangling in its clear motion
showing us the way
touching nothing but the day

28 June, 2009

My Interview with Macworld UK

This was done right before the London stop of the Blurb workshop series we just completed.


Poem from Mom "Sinking Down"

Sinking Down

sinking down
into the soft gray
glove covered hands
that are polishing
the solid sterling
silver tray
tap dancing on the
mossed granite graves
that echo the names
so carefully etched
clapping hands reaching
for us helping us
keep time
Five Foot Two
Eyes of Blue and
Ain't She Sweet
See Her Coming
Down the Street
mom at the piano
playing the music
we danced to
on her etched name

Memory Lane

Just back from my four city Blurb tour with much on my mind. The death of Kodachrome wasn't really on my radar screen until a visit with my aunt, uncle, cousins, etc, and a discovery of a masterful print from the 50's. I'm prepping something on this right now, but first, prep for shoot, unpack, pack, etc.

More later.

16 June, 2009

Poem from Mom "Flight of the Word"

"Flight of the Word"

flight of the word
at a desperate pace
wanting to be heard
entering the race

getting to hot
running at will
finding no spot
not being still

looking for line
wanting a verse
a poem of any kind
nothing is worst

just a lost word
who needs so badly
space to be heard
taking it gladly

never lose heart
words are needed
for lines to start
in a garden seeded

words put in soil
to patiently grow
their place to toil
is all they know

14 June, 2009

Long Overdue Book Review: Beyond the Fall by Anthony Suau

It was recently brought to my attention that the World Press Photo of The Year for 2008 was taken by a photographer named Anthony Suau.(With Leica and Tri-x by the way.)

Now when I started in photography, back around the 1990 time frame, this guy was at the top of the photojournalism game. Pulitzer Prize, Capa Medal, etc, etc, so I've known about him for a long while and known him to be a great photographer, so seeing his name in the winners column of World Press was no surprise.

It also reminded me that I had several of his books, his "Beyond the Fall," as well as a more recent book regarding politics, the name of which escapes me.

So, seeing as his name was fresh in my mind, I thought it a great time to revisit his work, and his books. Moving to my bookshelf I pulled down "Beyond the Fall," and took a gander.

People, this is a great book. I mean a really great book. This is perhaps one of the best reportage books I've ever seen. It's not like I didn't know this, but it has been some time since I have seen these images, these pages, read these notes.

I've seen a lot of reportage books since I bought Beyond the Fall, and frankly, the vast majority of them pale in comparison to this book.

What got me right off the bat was, "1989-1999." Ten years folks. Ten years to make these images.

Now legend has it, back in the day, ten years was the cut off time for those making books. A photographer would work for approximately this long before taking on the idea of creating a definitive and final book impression of the story. Obviously, not everyone managed this, but a fair number did, and there is absolutely no way to substitute for that much work and time.

With each turn of the page I heard myself say, "Oh, I'd love to have that print."

This book covers the former Soviet Union in transition, over a ten year period, and I'm talking virtually all aspects of life. You have politics, war, family, commerce, health care, history, landscape, and all not just done, but stamped with his point of view.

This book is almost all black and white, and looks to be done with just a lens or two. There are so many fantastically layered images, it could be used as a teaching aid on how to properly use a wide angle lens. And, there are many images that are more art than reportage. Yes, I said it. They are fine art images, masquerading as reportage. You have any idea how difficult this is?

What I see in these images is an intimacy you just don't see that much anymore. It's probably the time in the field, his access and his ability, coupled with a real understanding of place, culture, history and transition. I don't know if I've ever had this type of relationship with a project, which really sucks, but just means I have to work harder.

I'm pretty sure one of the reasons we don't see much of this work today, or projects of this scope, is because the industry won't support it. Budgets have been hacked, deadlines have been shortened. advertising has been lost. And, advertisers are controlling content more than ever before. Most American advertisers probably aren't thrilled to see this type of work in an issue with their ads, hence the infrequent use of reportage on the cover of major magazines. Celebrity sells much better, so does just about ANYTHING else that is safe, homogenized, colorful, etc.

Each section of the book could be a book in itself, which is really what we do see more of today. Pieces of the puzzle, but rarely are we given the entire puzzle to sit with, contemplate and put together.

Looking at the pictures from Grozny I found myself wanting to find Suau online, just to pick his brain about the story behind the photographs. I could say the same for the quiet moments of Yeltsin alone in the Kremlin. "How did you GET IN there?"

Looking at these images I was taken back to the Romania stories of the early 90's, the war in Bosnia, the turmoil of the region, and could see that Suau was there every step of the way.

If he never snaps another image, ever again, the work in this book, in my mind, cements him as one of the best American documentary photographers.

What is truly mind-blowing to me is how little I hear about this guy. Okay, I live in Orange County, but even still, that shouldn't matter THAT much. I have a feeling, and I'm making this up off the cuff, he is a guy that just does his thing and probably doesn't spend a lot of time telling people how great he is, which is the modern method of becoming a legend(Monday I will begin my great crusade of self promotion.). If you tell people long enough how great you are, inevitably there will be some takers. No, I have a feeling he is out shooting. I just wish I could see more of what he was doing.

I think, in short, this book is a lesson to all photographers, a reminder of where the bar has been set.

Revisiting this book is, for me, is an exciting trip, like taking a voyage through history with someone who had a front row seat.

13 June, 2009

Poem from Mom "Lost and Found"

"Lost and Found"

paths need direction
they show the way
like nowhere maps
going nowhere
ambling needlessly
stomping the ground
making the ants run
breaking the flowers
looking for stuff
broken eggs in a nest
no chance at life
walking alone
making the most
of the finish
timepiece wound
wings on the wind
no horizon
lost and found

11 June, 2009

Chemistry Together

Okay folks, here they are. Still sealed in anticipation of what they hold in their magic. I know, I know, I'm crazy, but I've got film processing in my future once again.

If you have never processed your own film then this post will be difficult to grasp, but let me tell you, there is something about "souping" your own film that is immensely satisfying.

I was in the darkroom a few months ago, with a photographer I had asked to watch print, and midway through the first print he said, "What I really enjoy is doing the film."

I know it might sound odd, but there is something magical about it.

I think it might be simply because rolling, then processing is what you learn first in the lineage of manual, analog life, and I think it sticks with us.

I can remember being in the dark, with the rest of the class, at San Antonio College in 1990, rolling my first roll of film. My eyes WIDE OPEN yet unable to see even my hands in the pure darkness, hearing the frantic, excited voices around me as we all learned of this other life impossible to view.

I rolled my first roll on top of itself. In short, I ruined it, but I didn't know enough to know I had ruined it until I popped it out of the tank and had the slippery, pink emulsion come off in my fingertips.

Roll two was a success, and I've had the curse from that moment on. You realize there are endless possibilities with this photo-life, endless, only held back by our imagination, our passion and our will to enjoy, explore and yes, suffer.

Doing your own film can allow you to live, breath, outside the mainstream world. You can be completely alone, isolated and yet producing.

Sure, there are issues, headaches a plenty. When we get worn down by the photo-life it is easy to say "let the lab do it," or "I'll get dust spots, and I hate doing that." There are a million and one reasons NOT to do your own film, but when you reduce the cons to what they really are, most are just tiny pebbles in our shoes, that if allowed to grow, suddenly become larger than life.

Much of my work will continue with the lab, the professional lab, in Los Angeles, that does my processing, scanning, and my beloved contact sheets. You see I need things that they have and I don't, but for a nice little portion of my work, I want to bring the personal relationship back. I want to live with these images from start to finish.

Doing your own processing also allows for much experimentation. As you can see, I, on the recommendation of a friend, bought HC-110 developer. I don't know of a single lab in the United States using this developer. Most labs have standardized, and for good reason, but this particular syrup will give a particular result, unlike any other.

Doing your own film allows for the real exploration of what is possible, not only in theory, in your mind, but in practical application.

Hot developer, uncommon chemical ratios, violent agitation, four hour development times, etc, etc, all with unique results.

I know a lot of photographers look back on the times in their careers when they were running film, making prints, and either laugh, as if that is beneath them now, or cringe because they hated doing it.

But for me, I look back with fond memories. There were many times of frustration, of printing on deadline for the Daily Texan, bleaching eyes with pure bleach because my exposure was off, or spotting prints, fingers smelling like fixer, editors bitching and moaning, etc. But man, that was fun, and I felt truly alive. And, I felt like a photographer.

It seems odd that something so simple could be so important, but for me, I realizing, it really is. Will I continue to process film in the years to come? I don't know. I think I will, but hey, i thought I would be Mr. Technology at this point, and we all know how that turned out.

Printing in the darkroom the other day I took a break and walked into the main area of the lab, and there stood a young, high-school girl processing film. While I was printing I kept hearing this slamming noise and couldn't figure out what it was. It was her, slamming her four-reel tank into the sink bottom to clear air bubbles from agitation. It made me laugh. But I could see, just by looking at her, that she too had the photo-life bug, and getting her hands wet, stained, etc, was an integral part.

So if you run into me in the coming months, years, just know if we shake hands, you might pull away with residue of the photo-life on your hands.

10 June, 2009

The Straight Story

"Polaroids" fake of course.

So a few weeks ago I wrote a long post about tilt-shift lenses and how I thought they were basically a gimmick that made just about any image look good. I never posted the post, but I'm still thinking about it. My wife and I were on a short trip and she was using this lens. We were sitting in the car joking that anything you pointed that lens at suddenly become a prize winning picture, just due to the blurred area, short depth, etc. We sat in the car and made 35 different pictures that were a-m-a-z-i-n-g to use a terribly overused word.

But, what I realized was when we stripped away the gimmick, we were left with a bunch of nondescript pictures. The tilt-shift WAS the photograph. If shot in the same position, from the same angle, all things equal, without this lens, you wouldn't look twice at the picture, let alone print it, include it in a book, etc.

It made me realize something. In my humble opinion, shooting a STRAIGHT, 35mm image, and getting a picture that is truly fantastic, is perhaps the hardest game in photo town. I look around at much of the images I see today, much of those pictures that seem to get the most press, and in many cases the images are HEAVILY manipulated. This manipulation can come in many forms, tilt-shift just being one of those methods. Software is probably the biggest offender. Much of what I see is so over processed I find it difficult to find the original image, and when I do, typically I'm left with just a routine picture. Layer masks, vignettes, hyper-color, selective sharpening, tilts, shifts, throws, heaves, blurs, zooms, spins, thrusts, all lend themselves to hiding the original image, or making up for an original image that was never there. And this doesn't just apply to ad work, or fashion, or celebrity, the areas you would think most logical for manipulation, but also news, documentary, etc. I've seen plenty of pictures in these genres that are dodged and burned, tweaked, at such fine detail that you end up with images containing light that is doing things that light just doesn't do. Light typically doesn't come from multiple angles at the same time, on four different planes at the same time. I see faces of refugees peering from under tents, with faces beaming, from unknown light sources. I see landscape pictures where it is impossible to even tell where the light is coming from because every blade of grass has been "touched."

I got to thinking....why is this so rampant these days? Why do we so rarely see straight images? I think I know why.

Three reasons. First, time. It takes TIME to make straight images that stand alone. A lot of time, and we just either don't have it, or don't want to spend it to make pictures. Second, making straight pictures that work is really, really difficult. There is nothing to fall back on. You can't bang out a picture, then layer it up, mask it up, tweak it up and "make" something out of it. You can, and people do, but we all know these images aren't anything grand. Images that are made AFTER you leave the field, to me, aren't images at all. They are visual fast food. Lucky for photographers, people love fast food. Three, competition. There are so many photographers today, and so much competition, it forces photographers to go faster, further, more crazy to get attention. Talk about overused phrases, how about "extreme."

I look back in history at the number of legendary folks that shot straight pictures, and come the advent of the electronic age, the numbers seem to fall off a cliff.

I know for me, it's a lot easier to make a picture with a Hasselblad than a Leica. Why? Square. Square. Square. That too is a gimmick in a way. Most people don't look at a lot of square images, so seeing them in itself is different. It's easier and I know that. I also like square for design purposed, and being able to make a square print as opposed to rectangular, or a square book for that matter, but I won't deny that the overall look can make a basic image look more than basic.

I think the time and effort required to make great, straight images is just so damn high that the business of photography has found a way around doing it.

Something else that popped into my brain regarding this thought. A few years ago I noticed something about a high percentage of the "documentary" work I was seeing, especially that work that was being featured in print and exhibited in galleries. The color, environmental portrait had suddenly become the new "documentary" work. At Paris Photo the vast majority of "documentary" work I found was presented as a color, portrait series. Group after group, story after story, medium format, color, portraits.

So a while back I did an experiment. I did a story like this. "The Thoughts of Strangers." I went out looking for people I didn't know, then asked them if I could photograph them, and asked if I could inquire as to what they were thinking the minute before I approached them.

Oddly enough, all but one person said, "great."

A funny thing happened. In two days I had a completely new, completed set of images. Done. Thirty pictures. I realized this was a great way to work if I didn't have a lot of time. They were medium format, color negative, simply done, and designed in the right way, they "appeared" like a great story, a great body of work.

Only thing was, they weren't a great body of work. When you boiled them down they looked like images that were shot in two days, but I tell you what..I could have sold this project. I could have shown this around, and I'd bet there would have been takers.

There are aspects of this shoot I really like, but in the end, the body of images are not what they could have been with more time, and more focus. But who has time and focus?

So yesterday, I went to the darkroom again, made about a dozen contact sheets, which I messed up big time, but that is another story. And, I also made three "straight" prints from 'straight" images. These were pictures shot with Leica, without assignment, just tooling around in my daily life.

As I watched these images come up, I felt like I was looking at prints from the 1960's, although all these images were made in the last two weeks. I'm not advanced enough in the darkroom to do anything tricky, and in fact these images required no dodging, and little burning.

I'm not saying these are great images. That is my point. Great and straight don't come around that often folks, and because of this we see all this over the top window dressing. We've created this photo-world of instant gratification and over the top magic and show that we can no longer, in many cases, actually take the time to make great images. Instead, we fabricate them.

In fact, many of images I see are more fabricated than captured. What is your field to post time ratio?? Huh??? What is it really? 1:2? One hour field, two hours post? One designer told me after looking at an awards annual in photography and design, "I can't find anything real anymore."

I can only speak for myself, obviously, but where I see this going is the continued dilution of the DNA of photography itself. I know, I know, that is heavy, but think about it.

Photography used to be about...what? History, reality, and now? Speed, manipulation, and most important...temporary fragments of an unbelievable reality?

All you have to do is listen to non-photographers. You will hear more about Photoshop and images being lost or thrown away than anything else.

I still think the photograph is the best way of recording history. It doesn't require anything but a viewer, and does something "mysterical" to the brain. See, I invented a word for this post, mysterious and magical and came up with "mysterical." The reality of the written word just wasn't good enough, so I layered up the language and blew you away with my stylish wizardry.

I'm going to focus on making real images from now on. Straight stuff. Nothing fancy. I'll probably end up working in a coal mine, but perhaps, for the survival of photography, that could be the best possible thing.

09 June, 2009

Poem from Mom "Endure"


foggy days rainy nights
alone in silence lost questions
pushing the knob on the top
of the top up and down
tilting spinning holding on
knowing this for sure
if we can't adapt we must endure
change is sticky routine boring
hard decisions easy ones
tapping fingers typing
good times bad times
holding tight to the page
oreo years of layered days
remembering you again and again
as I wanted you to be
finding your way into the misty night
holding me in the truth
telling me to endure

The Unkept

Cambodia 1996. Back of a moto, herking and jerking across Phnom Penh. At the time, there were no lights, no street lights, or street names, no building numbers, nothing. It was fantastic. You had to be careful at night, but once during my time there I took a midnight moto ride through the city. The streets were ink black and deserted. A full moon.

I think people left me alone because I was so shady looking. They probably said, "Geez, that guy can't even afford a haircut, let's cut him a break."

I hear now the city has changed, almost beyond recognition, as have Siem Riep and other towns. I don't think I want to go back and see what the world of tourism has done. I think I'll keep my memories intact.

08 June, 2009

Get Serious

I still remember, all those years ago, heading off to the the Museum of Television History in Los Angeles. Most people seemed bent on getting to watch the first episode of Gilligan's Island, or The Brady Bunch, but not me. Me, I went right for the Nixon press conferences regarding Cambodia.

There was Millhouse, with enormous wooden pointer in hand, pointing to a map of Southeast Asia. "Cambodia?" "What are you talking about?" "I've never heard of it." "Never been there, never will be, etc, etc." "Next question."

I was riveted. Through my pursuit of the iconic moment I also found an early broadcast from Soviet occupied Afghanistan, a brilliant piece with Dan Rather who had gone across the border with the freedom fighters. I think it was also my first introduction to the extreme importance of a safari style shirt, jacket, outfit, jumpsuit, costume, etc.

People this is a critical link in any wanna be photographer's arsenal. I dare say as important as what you have around your neck.

Getting the right safari/bush jacket or shirt can take years of pounding the pavement, years of trolling back rows at Army surplus or sometimes it happens in a stroke of pure luck. Some would call it genius.

This is one of my top get ups. Lapel on shoulder is key. Something to flap in the wind as you stare down at...at...perhaps an invading Turkish army?

My advice is to get out and look the part. And I mean now.

07 June, 2009

Poem from Mom "Java Trench"

"Java Trench"

inside the human wall
deep in the earth
plates are shifting
wanting movement
lining the scale
holding destruction
moving power
birthing waves
reaching beaching
faithfuls fate
from the depth
fingers grasp
the hourglass
turning in it over
and over and over
wanting the hour
it holds
as the plates shift
in the Java Trench

Al Queda Takes Down Another One

I just heard some disparaging news. At least it was disparaging news to me. To others the news will come with relief, glee and the sound of chalk on chalkboards as the name at the top of the list is crossed off.

Salgado has gone digital. Yep, it's true.

Was it the unbelievable quality? Nope.

Was it the ability to shoot unlimited images? No.

How about being able to see those Galapagos animals seconds after he snapped them? Nope, not that either.

Salgado went digital, at least according to what I read, because of airport security.

The world's greatest documentary photography, reduced to the pixel by the residue of Bin Laden and those blue coats at the TSA.

Yep, it seems that his problems traveling with film were at a peak during his recent project, forcing him to change what had been his method of working, dare I say from the beginning.

Scanning his 220 film, multiple times, had reduced the quality down to 35mm levels, and the desire to print big forced him to make a change. So, the images he captures on digital are written back to film, then printed analog. This might seem odd, but people have been doing this for years.

If I had to guess, and guessing is my best attribute, I'd say this will end with this project. I would imagine, in the future, as the need to make wall size, house size, airport runway size prints takes over the art world, as it has for the past four years, the digital print will also become a part of his world. The sinks will dry, the lab coats will hang on hooks from the back of doors no longer required, and fat, negative cabinets will be replaced with monitors, cables, surge protectors, raids backed up on raids, as our best world treasure in photography experiences his own migration into the slippery world of digital imaging.

He has success on his side. I would imagine that behind every terminal will be a young digital ace, fresh from tech-school, able to perfect every pixel of a world we all used to know as being flawed. No longer. Most of us come to digital closer to the other end of the rating scale, forced into digital by clients no longer willing to pay for film and processing, clients on skeletal budgets, used to getting things for royalty free rates from photographers willing to offer up anything they have and anything they can get, just to keep the machine moving.

I will imagine that he will be at a level, right from the beginning, where he won't deal with perpetual upgrades, software issues, corrupted drives and mismatched profiles. He will probably not have to spend day after day, night after night, solving electronic issues that come with "being digital." Others will do it, and for this I would imagine he will be grateful.

But, in the end, as long as he keeps shooting, and speaking, and donating, and being a walking example of what is possible in the world of photography, well, that is all that matters.

The geeks will run with this, like they always do. As I write this they are mobilizing in the streets, like carnaval without the floats. "See, I told ya," they will yell, fueled by another high-profile member of their camp, THE feather they dreamed of having in their proverbial hat.

But allow me for a moment to retrace where this post started. Airport security.

A lot of people ask me about film, and about traveling with film, and I have to say, post 9/11, for me, traveling with film has been EASIER than ever before. I don't travel like Salgado, not even close, and I know his situation is far different than mine. But for me, pre 9/11 was tougher. I had a more difficult time getting hand inspections. Now, I've yet to have an issue.

With having said this, there are certain countries that just won't hand inspect, even though having a hand inspection is your right as a traveler. Some will give you different reason after different reason, others no reason at all. Some countries see an American passport and your cooked, done, over, no chance. This has happened to me in France and Switzerland. In France it was veiled but also clear enough to figure out. In Switzerland it was clear. I was lucky you see, the airport security guard started screaming at me, yelling about Americans in general, how horrible we are and that any flight with Americans was a "high risk flight." I explained my mom's family was from Switzerland, which only seemed to incense him even further, as if I'd betrayed my motherland from the womb.

Oh, and I forgot to mention, I shoot a lot of ASA 3200 film. In fact, I've traveled more with this film than any other, and I've yet to have a ruined roll.

I think for a lot of photographers somewhat troubled by their transition to digital, blaming airport security is an easy way to say, "Okay, I know I've got to do this digital thing, so blaming airport security will at least make me feel a little better."

Not to say that airport security isn't a horrible mess at this point. In short, nothing they do seems to make much sense at all, unless complete confusion is their goal, and frankly, it might be. Might as well try it, works for the government right?

Take four trips in the United States, ask for hand inspections and you will get four different scenes. You might get an easy inspection on all four, but chances are, they will all be done differently.

You know me, I'm inquisitive. I ask. "Hey buddy, what's the drill?" I've been told countless different tales of this rule, that rule, this regulation, that regulation, etc, In short, I don't think they have a clue.

I'm scared to death of airport security in the United States.

Overseas, another story. These folks tend to have their collective acts together, more than we do. And in some places, they are downright militant. But again, I don't see this as a bad thing. I wanna be safe, and I don't want to ride coach with Richard Reid , or his lousy iPod music or vegan meal.

I don't think Bin Laden, or any of his boys knew just how far reaching their acts would be. I certainly didn't think I'd hear the world's best photographer having to change his work due to the effects of the world of terror, but it appears as if the change has already been made. I can see Bin Laden, sipping his morning latte from the basement of the Pakistani Presidential Palace, chuckling as he turns the paper to his second in command, "Look, we forced Salgado to go digital," his second in command sneering as he returns to his People Magazine, uttering to himself, "I hope he backs up his work."

And let's also not forget the power of the art world, the only world left in photography that seems to have money. If the art world wants big prints, photographers will print big, end of story. It doesn't matter if you are a contact printer, if the gallery says, "Hey, I think I can sell those if you make your contact prints eight feet wide," then that contact printer, chances are, is scheming a way to make a negative eight feet tall. I've seen it happen a hundred times.

I don't think the traditional documentary channels are really viable anymore, at least not like they used to be, so all photographers must look elsewhere, for other, more profitable channels, and at the moment, the art world is the space being chased. Big prints are the rage, and I don't think anyone can escape this. Digital makes big prints a snap, no pun intended. Get it, snap?? Okay, forget it.

So in the end, what did we learn? I can ramble? Due to me having written "Al Queda," "Richard Reid," Bin Laden," I'm now on a watch list? And yes, another photographer due to reasons beyond apples to apples is headed down a new path.

I wish him the best of luck and hope like hell he continues his work for decades to come. And, I hope that somewhere out there, perhaps in a small, mountain village, in a remote land, a young kid is pouring over the pages of a book of black and white photographs, making the decision to follow in those very footsteps.

Until then my friends, I'll be here, at home, polishing my lead bags and lighting candles to the Gods in blue jackets that roam airports like a pack of vipers. I fear not.

04 June, 2009

The Page

Back in the day, this was it. This was your life. Your career, your impression.

The single page.

Your portfolio. Your chance to show those few that you were legit.

Now, we have all means. Electronic, still, static, fluid, email, text, blog, site, book, magazine, etc, but as early as a few short years ago, all we had was this.

"Put twenty slides in a single sheet and send it along," was the order of the day.

My first trip to New York, it was all I took. I had my Leica and a page of slides. And I got work. I also had a really bad necktie and hair past my shoulders. I think the hair and the tie were so bad it actually worked in my favor.

I remember people staring at me on the streets of Chinatown.

I like the idea of a portfolio like this. 99% of the time this page was never projected. Even then people thought, "I'm too busy, I can't project these," so they held them up to window light, desk lamps, anything that provided a backlit glow. It was a lousy way to look at work.

But, just like today, people, for their time, were moving too fast. Maybe this was a good thing. It gave you a chance. Maybe if people went slower they wouldn't like your work, but a quick glance, even at the entire page, not even as individual slides, just might work.

My first photography job, the editor never even looked up, or at my prints, just nodded through the haze of a four pack a day room and said, "Your hired."

Back then there was more spirit to portfolios. I don't mean they were better, but people were more real I think. I think people now chase the market, showing only what work they think will get them more work, and not perhaps what they truly want to shoot, or what style they actually prefer. We are specialized now, and there are far, far more of us, all jockeying for less jobs.

Back then you would see people on a limb, pages of pure nonsense, or pages of pure genius, but thrust about with casual concern, as if to say, "You don't like me, that's cool, someone else will."

Now our presentations are slick, and are perhaps judged more than the photography itself. I've seen incredibly complex, fancy portfolio designs, made of wood, metal, plastic, paper. I've seen boxes, cases, trunks and all designs that make the ultra-hip look flawed, and yet hold images that aren't as interesting as their packaging.

I think what I like about a page of slides is that you can't hide from it. They all look the same. Until the time when the cold metal of the loup is pressed against the clear, plastic sheen and your photographic soul has its guts put on display. There is nothing cute, nothing but the work to do all the talking for you.

I love great promo pieces, love, love , love books, as you know, and will continue to make more of those as promotion than anything else, but I have to say, there is a part of me that cherishes the day of being slammed by some old photo editor as he tossed my slides in the trash can and said, "I don't want to hear your war stories." His thick glasses fogged by rancid breath, overheating as he ranted about this "punk kid." I thought it just might come to blows.

As we move forward I'm realizing more and more how much I can learn from the past, and just how good we had it. I'm hoping to do this same thing, years from now, looking back on days like today, but I have to say, I've got some doubt I will feel the same. We live in a different time, not better or worse, just different, and those formative years are nearly impossible to replace, retrace or relive.

So, I'll leave you with this page, a page of random stuff, not a portfolio, but if I can find one of my old portfolios, intact, I'll scan it and send it as well. Peace.

Poem from Mom "Ticking Clock"

constant strolling
thoughts roaming
flaming goals
endless glomming

leeching souls
hovering past
opening goals
longing cast

hummimgbirds know
blue morning glories
grabbing brain glow
captured stories

curving roads
groovy lanes
lock load
line claim

festering greed
grinds down
poetry seeds
by the pound

no more verse
always can
still terse
good plan

no key today
lock stock
futile clay
ticking clock

03 June, 2009

Straight vs Flashed

Paris, a long time ago, a self portrait, the tower. Camera at arms length, shot straight up, low percentage, Leica M4-P, no meter. Just a click. But I got it. I like it.

The first image is the straight print, Kodak Ektalure, the second, developer spread by hand, then flashed, stopped and finally fixed.

This print was in a box, a handmade box, with many other prints, made in a darkroom in San Diego that was literally a cave. Printed underground, hung to dry on a clothesline, like something out of a movie.

I forgot about this print. I forgot about all of these prints. They were left in my smoking hot garage, over the years, through the elements, and a few weeks ago I found them, resurrected them. Saved them.

Even through all the heat, dust, summers, winters, they looked just as I had left them, as if they were brought from a tomb.

I look back on this image with hyper-fond thoughts. I was working for Kodak at this time, mostly in Southern California, but I had convinced them to allow me to attend the Visa festival in Perpignan. We were on our way and stopped over to spend a few days in Paris.

At the time, I could not do any kind of commercial assignment, due to my working with Kodak. So, all I had were my M bodies and my tri-x. Photography was pure. I just shot whatever I felt like shooting, took my time, processed, printed in the darkroom cave.

I remember the shoes I was wearing, a style of sandal I had read about in the LA Times, and one I had seen over the years on my travels, Chupplies, or something along those lines. I had two pair made at an old shoe store in downtown LA, across from the paper. The shoe maker told he mine were the last shoes he would make. After decades he had closed up shop and began working in a factory in Long Beach.

I wore those shoes into the ground, a black pair and tan pair. I loved those shoes. I miss those shoes. I thought I would be able to find them again, but after all these years, nothing.

These images, for me, seem like they are from another life. So much has happened since then. Life seems to be much, much faster, much more filled, but there is much about this past time that I miss.

Paris is still there. I think. I've been there since, but don't have any images I like more than this. Nor do I have any silver prints from the more recent trips. I'm working on that.

02 June, 2009


Hey Campers,

I wanted to let everyone know about the upcoming Blurb workshops. A great series, with some fun people showing fun things.

SUBJECT: Blurb Photography Book Workshop series

This June we’re hosting the Blurb Photography Book Workshop series, featuring photographer Dan Milnor, graphic designer Bob Aufuldish, and Lightroom guru Jerry Courvoisier. In these 4-hour workshops you’ll learn about the principals of book design, editing your images in Lightroom for optimum results, and how to use Blurb books to promote your work.

You can also participate in a photography book review prior to the workshop. Having your work reviewed is NOT a requirement to attend the workshops. Once you purchase a ticket for the photography book review, we’ll contact you to set up a specific time to review your work.

Photography book reviews begin at 4:00 pm; the workshop kicks off at 6:00 pm (expect it to last until about 10:00 pm).

All the details are below, and we hope to see you there.

San Francisco – RSVP at http://blurbworkshopsf.eventbrite.com

New York – RSVP at http://blurbworkshopnyc.eventbrite.com

London – RSVP at http://blurbworkshoplondon.eventbrite.com

Chicago – RSVP at http://blurbworkshopchicago.eventbrite.com

Flashing Can Be Good

Typically, when you hear about someone flashing it comes with police reports and strange, fringe elements of our society that people don't want to talk about.

But, I'm hear to dispel the myth. I think flashing can be good. Darkroom flashing I mean. That's what you thought I was talking about right?

Flashing, doing what we were told NEVER to do. "Good Gosh Millhouse, don't turn the light on in the darkroom when your working, it will ruin your life!"

So for years, I kept, hard and fast, to this cardinal rule. NEVER turning the light on. Then, I made a mistake. I made several mistakes, all at once, and and new door opened, one which held almost infinite possibilities.

I made this picture several years ago. This is a scan of the print, done on Kodak Ektalure paper, a gem of the distant photographic past, a legend if you will. Ektalure was unique. It was also loaded with Cadmium, a not so great part of our distant past, at least in analog terms. Cadmium, a heavy metal, is still around in many forms today. Just ask our toxic barge operators, the guys in clean suits.

Anyway, back to my ramble. I had this print half in, half out of the developer, was running my hand over it for some reason, then accidently turned the light on. Realized my mistake, turned the light off, stopped, fixed, and went, "Huh."

Then the gloves were off. The darkroom was filled with flying developer, rubber gloves, spray bottles, flashlights, those green sticks that glow in the dark, fireworks, gasoline and jet fuel.

Other printers quickly moved away, realizing how far I would take this new technique.

This, a contact sheet, I believe from Southern France, gypsies. There are other flashed prints from this series, others I will upload in the coming days.

I thought, all those years ago, that these prints would fade, wouldn't last, but they look exactly like the day I made them. Crazy I know.

My scanner doesn't fit an 11x14 prints, but you'll get the idea.

By the way, those two frames that are squared. My edits. I remember shooting those. Leica M4-P, 28mm. Right at the barely handholdable level. I was so close to that guy on the left, a stranger, and was holding my breath, knowing I was probably going to get a little camera movement. It was so quiet, and I was still able to squeeze off a few frames.
Flash on people.

01 June, 2009

Polaroid from El Mirage

This baby was taken a long time ago, on El Mirage Dry Lake. I was shooting and traveling on my motorcycle with 4x5 Crown Graphic, and Polaroid Type 55, a unique beast of a film that is no longer with us. For you geeks who think you can fake this look by scanning the border and applying your digital file to the middle, think again. It wasn't just the border, it was the lens and falloff of the camera that also made this look.

Not to mention the tones and feel of the "roid." It was a grand thing. You can still get this film, in limited quantities, and for a much higher price than what was originally intended for this product. There are rumors of someone buying the machines of Polaroid and reviving this once great entity, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

This was a fun way of working. Slowly. Methodical. One sheet at a time, packing and unpacking the bike. Spending time with people. talking, telling stories, hearing stories. You can't do a drive by with a 4x5.

I used to shoot portraits, and commercial jobs with this camera until parts and pieces of it began to break off and fall at the feet of the client. "Ah, something just fell out of your camera," they would say. "Oh ya, I don't need that anymore," I would answer as I quickly tried to distract them.

I really miss this damn thing. A friend just made me a 4x5 pinhole, which I have yet to use, but I will in the coming days.

31 May, 2009

A Long Time Ago

Somewhere in Mexico. Working on something, some project, some trip, some unknown.

Looks like I picked a really nice place to hang out.

Poem from Mom "Plain White Paper"

"Plain White Paper"

ink pen in hand
i wrote my name on
plain white paper
i looked at it
and did not know
who it was
ink pen in hand
i printed my name on
plain white paper
i looked at it
and did not know
who it was
i wrote a poem
on plain white paper
and signed my name
i knew who it was
some of me was
left behind on
the plain white paper

The Man

New York Times article on Salgado and his stopover in Los Angeles.


27 May, 2009

3000 Miles

I love walking in some place and seeing my images. Sometimes this happens in "wall form" where an image is hanging in someone's house, an office, a space of some kind. Other times it happens in book form, or in my case, "Blurb Form," a form that is rapidly becoming a household description.

In this case, 3000 miles from home, a softcover, 8x10, vertical format, mix of color and black and white.

I like to see where the book is, precisely where it lives in the house. And, how worn the pages are. I don't want books that are delicate, fragile or too expensive to actually leave out. I want a book you can't imagine leaving alone. I want books you leave out for everyone to see, to handle, to wear out.

Even though this was my book, I looked through it over and over. It was just the right length, a tight edit. Shot over several years, in at least four different formats.

I'm going to order one for myself when I get back.

24 May, 2009

Flickr Gods

Okay, found two people on Flickr that are brilliant photographers, one I knew about, the other I did not. Now, you have to find them. Seriously, just get on there, start clicking, and like peeling an onion, you will find gem after gem.

This is how I found the latter. Saw one image, said, "Hmm, that is nice." Clicked to this persons image bank and was blown away. Never heard of this person, ever, in 15 years of doing this.

So, kept looking and found more and more and more.

I know, I'm a loser, I'm just learning about this jackpot. I'm pacing myself.

23 May, 2009

I Have a Question

I have a question.

As you know now, I've joined Flickr. I've done this, after all this time, because I just kept looking at the work being shown on this public space and was continually blown away by the quality, depth, range and level of personal commitment.

It got me to thinking. And when I get to thinking, typically, I have more questions than answers.

How can it be that Flickr contains far better, more powerful work, than our professional sites, our professional magazines and our professional outlets for photography? I think this is totally accurate. Just take a look. Sure, there are literally millions of images on Flickr that might find themselves in the outtake pile, but there are many, many more than are simply fantastic. And yes, there are pro sites that contain wonderful imagery, but many are simple slick content sites.

I think professional photography has been diluted to such a degree by the technology which currently is front and center in much of what I see. The means of how a photo was made, and consequently the workflow attached to the back end. And, for being a "creative" industry, photography sure loves its conformity. "The future is multi-media." So now what, I've got to start shooting video LIKE EVERYONE ELSE, so that my work can look like everyone else? Please. Lets stop and take a deep breath and look at the pictures we professionals are producing. Our pictures are sharper than they ever have been. We have a higher bit depth. We have better software. We have more control. We have the ability to shoot more than ever before. And look at us. Look at our work.

Something doesn't compute.

Let me ask this. Where do you see more soul? Flickr? Pro industry? Huh? Take a moment, just like Jeopardy before you scribble your best answer for Alex to read aloud. In the form of a question people, "What is Flickr Alex?"

I think, in great part, we have lost our personality. I think anytime the commercial aspect of something becomes the overriding factor, the quality and soul of the work begins to fall off. Anytime the people involved in a shoot, who are not the photographer, become the overriding factor, the quality and soul of the work begins to fall off. Sure, there has to be a collaboration, but I find, more and more, the photo-voice doesn't come from the photographer.

Flickr is a bunch of people who love photography making pictures and posting them online. There is no confusion.

Part II

One of my concerns about Flickr was the security. Anytime you put images up you are risking infringement of some sort. As one friend put it, "You want more exposure, you get more risk." I'm also leery of the major, online, content providers of the world who are always seemingly behind things like Orphan Works Bill, etc. They are angling for something, and that something might be our images in places like this. Just a thought.

So anyway, back to the great Flickr. I've decided to join, to put images up, but only ONE kind of image, ONE format and ONE style. Just 35mm, black and white, totally unrelated to anything imagery. Photography purism in a way. Nothing commercial. Nothing shot for someone else.

I think this is what makes Flickr so grand. Yes, there are plenty of working photographers posting work for various reasons, to gain exposure, etc, but for me, the power of this site is that it is driven by people who love photography more than anything else, and want to share that love with other like-minded people.

I keep thinking professional photography will have a reality check, but I think that would require an admission that things are not moving in the right direction, something I don't think the industry can "afford" to do, both literally and figuratively.

In the words of a Poison song from the 80's, "Give me something to believe in." And at the moment, it's Flickr.

I think that the pro's and the Joe's (Flickr) can totally learn something from each other. I think from the pro's you can learn about the business, about marketing, etc, and from Flickr I think the concept of shooting what we want, how we want, and living with that style. I've always found it strange to hear from so many photographers, "Well, I have to shoot it this way, and use this type of camera and provide this type of image." Regardless of what style they really have, they conform, and then we wonder why things are homogenized?

Shouldn't be just be photographers, and work the way we feel best suits us? Doesn't that make more sense than reading a magazine and buying what we are told is the hot new thing, producing work that we are told is hot new thing, etc.

For example: Billy shoots pinhole cross-processed pictures. Everyone loves Billy' work. But if Billy wants to work for such and such a client he has to rent a digital back, tethered to the laptop so the client can see. The work looks nothing like what Billy is known for, and frankly looks like it could have been shot by anyone. But Billy has the connection. So, the great photographer, Billy the Pinhole Kid, has been reduced to a content provider.

How many times a day does this happen?

What I would love to see are photographers who are not afraid to spread their creative wings. Our commercial work should be our personal work. Period. End of story. Do I really need to see another commercial photography site? No, never. For any reason. Ever again. B O R I N G

But, I'll bet you that commercial photographer, who is providing this "image front" for the world to see, has a body of personal work that is far more interesting and far more who they really are. Show me that. That is what we really need. That is what the world needs.

And that is what I see on Flickr.

I have a feeling I will be spending far more time on Flickr in the coming months than on professional sites. With pro sites I'm rarely if ever surprised anymore. With Flickr it is like reading a choose your own ending book.

It just goes and goes.

I think most photographers are creative, interesting people, and there is so much more we do if we just make an attempt.

Here's to doing something different this Saturday.

22 May, 2009

It's Official

It's official.

I'm on Flickr.

I don't know why exactly.

I'm burning out on Facebook, Twitter, etc,

My head, at times, really feels foggy from all this.

But, alas. I'm there. Now I have to tell the entire civilized world, and if I can get the uncivilized world to click on me, I'll take them too. Bring it on.

Story from Mom "Old Hunting Dog Has Her Day"

gypsy is my english pointer hunting dog
she has lived her 12 years to do one thing
to hunt birds and upon occasion other critters
she picks up their scent tracts them points them
and waits or breaks her point and chases and catches
we are older now and don't walk the fields anymore
but we carry on the the hunting tradition every morning
after she goes outdoors first thing I break and hide
small pieces of dog biscuits around the inside of the cabin
when she comes in extremely excited about this
I go out on her porch and hide some more biscuits
when she comes out and finishes her porch hunt
she sits down next to me as I drink my espresso and bats at my arm
she then shakes hands speaks and sits up for more biscuits
now this is fun for her but not the same as a real live bird
well yesterday good fortune brought us a real live bird
a white winged dove flew into the cabin window on her porch
she was asleep on her sofa as apposed to her highway 218 red leather chair
I ran out to see if the impact had killed the dove
I observed the dove and decided it was struggling
it was going through the final death twitches signifying the end
my decision was to get gypsy and let her have her way with it
I went into the cabin and pryed her off the sofa
I told her bird out here and opened the door to her porch
as her feet softly touched the porch floor she hit a point on the dove
it was still shaking a bit but sitting still
I nudged her telling her it was ok to get it
suddenly there she was bird in mouth one happy dog
she headed out into her fenced area with her prize
when she dropped the dove to clean all the feathers out of her mouth
it tried to fly or run and hit the fence where she retrieved it again
she spent alot of time with this most prized possession
by the end of the day it was gone what a treat raw meat
I will admitt but would not want anyone to know
I eyed that dove and the thought crossed my mind
that it would taste pretty good to me for dinner that night
but today it would be gypsy who enjoyed this magnificent bird
by the end of the day there were a couple feathers and alittle raw meat
on the cabin porch floor which she finished before heading back to her sofa
and a night of sweet sweet dreams about dove hunting ending her perfect day
I noticed a big smile on her face as I checked this happy old hunting dog
a loyal superb companion to me for so many years