30 January, 2009

AMT: Super Dynamite

I wanted to showcase another recent book cover, this one a small chronicle of my other nephew. He might look like a tiny man, but good things come in small packages. Some call him by his first name, some his last, and perhaps a few by his middle name, but we refer to him by his mancode...


29 January, 2009

Time Away

Over the years I have read about many "old school" photographers who say that after they are done with a story, or an essay of photographs, they will set it aside, waiting a few weeks, a few months, a few years to finally sit down with it.

I always thought this a little odd, and being a child of the 1980's, my mind has always been about the right now.

In the words of Homer Simpson upon arrival of his first microwave oven, "What do you mean I have to wait thirty seconds, I want it NOW."

For years I never even made contact sheets, preferring to edit straight from the negatives, and knowing in my heart what I had on film even before it returned from the lab.

Now I make contact sheets, which are easier to see, and also give you a far better idea how something will print, but even still, I realize now might not be enough.

As I've noted here in the past few weeks, I've returned to printing in the darkroom, the best thing I have done in my adult life as a photographer, and yesterday I went in to print three images from a story from 2006.

These images I have printed before, digitally, and one of them has been shown twice. The contact sheets I have seen many times before.

But something strange happened yesterday. I made my first print, and as I was putting the negative back in the sleeve, I noticed an image I had not printed before.

"Wow, how did I miss that one?" I thought to myself.

So I printed it.

And as I was putting that one away, I notice another I had not "seen" before, even after looking at that contact sheet many, many times.

I made five new prints yesterday, most of them being "new" to me.

This is somewhat of a frustrating concept because it makes me realize what a rush I have been in, perhaps for my entire "career," but the positive far outweighs this small fact.

I've got the negs, and can now return and see what I have really done all these years.

I'm realizing, more and more, that speed has no place in my photography. There are times when I have to do shoots that are based on speed, but I'm hoping to do less and less of those. This bucks the current trend in imagery, where most everything is needed five minutes after it is produced, but I'm okay with that.

I think in times like we are now living in, and those times we and staring into, you have to proceed, not with caution, but with your heart.

In the end, your heart and your negatives are all you will have left.

28 January, 2009

Production Line

So, I had to make 27 copies of the same image, in 11x14. Stop! I know what you are thinking..."Print them on the inkjet man, save yourself a major headache."

Well, of course, that would have been REALLY easy, and depending on how things turn out, I might have to, but I went the long and winding road and made 27, 11x14 silver gelatin prints!

I was like a stone-age assembly line worker, cranking them out, ONE at a time. It took all day, but I think....think...it was worth it.

They are all different, which is great, even though I was trying like hell to make them all the same. But, that is why I wanted to do this run in this fashion.

Each person getting one of these babies is getting a unique object. Not just a print, but a unique print. And, the destination for these prints is, for me, really important, a destination that I really very lucky to be a part of.

So, I go to pick them up today, then try to flatten them all. Fingers crossed.

By the way, I didn't choose this print for the political statement it makes. Obviously, this image has a political statement, but for me it was simply about found art. In the middle of nowhere, out in the vast expanse of rural America, someone sprayed this. I just found it an interesting statement more than anything else.

26 January, 2009

Cover Me

I make books. A lot of books. I love making them, and I love the feeling the client gets when they see these things.

Most of the books I make are kept private, but a few are public and out there for others to see. However, many of the private books are compilations of images that I really like, so I thought I would share a few of the covers.

All of these books were done in the last month or so, a few of the nearly eighty books I have made to this point.

24 January, 2009


So back to the recent stop in Marfa.

Marfa is home to Chinati, a museum housing the works of artist and founder Donald Judd. The museum holds other works from other artists, which are wide ranging in their scope as well as their design. If you get a chance to visit this place I highly recommend it. We were fortunate enough to get a private tour, which was led by a young guy who was interning at the location. He was incredibly informative and let us explore the depths of what this place is about.


Poem from Mom "Ode to a Mouse"

"Ode to a Mouse"

the cats were celebrating
truely not negating
on their porch at dawn
out near the lawn
thumping and jumping
a knock at the door
what was the matter
what was it for
for them to make
such a patter chatter
when we opened to see
there on the doormat
actually quite flat
as plain as could be
laid a mouse truely dead
dragged from its bed
chewed to oblivion
never to live again
the cats were so proud
purring out loud
for the little mouse
we have sorrow
he has no tomorrow
he gave up his lease
and is now
resting in peace

23 January, 2009


more recent snaps, 16x20's.

Poem from Mom "Keep Touching Now"

"Keep Touching Now"

somewhere out there
waiting in our future
we will take our last breath
hear our last heartbeat
take our last picture
make our last call
have our last thought
eat our last meal
take our last step
have our last dream
make our last wish
write our last line
in a second of time
somehow we must
keep touching now
our future is heavy
it will hold us well
when we look at our past
we can tell

22 January, 2009

Elf Boy and the Massive Guns

Okay, some recent snaps of the nephew, one of them, and the unveiling of his new tattoo, wink, wink.

I gave him the nickname "Elf Boy" this holiday season because he came up with this odd little dance and hand clapping move that was really strange, but also fascinating. He looked like a demented elf, hence the name.

I had to badger him to do these images, of course, because his nine-year-old schedule is so packed with critical things like football throwing, video games and doing the elf dance.

I shot a grand total of twelve images this time, but hey, you get what you get.

21 January, 2009

Western Land

Marfa, Texas.

Prior to this last trip, the last time I was in Marfa was when I was in school. I had driven west to explore Big Bend and had taken a quick pass through the small town, a town famous for it's petroleum past as well as it's dance with the Hollywood elite.

But, other than the occasional movie poster, there was little reference to the outside world. Marfa was, and still is, about the landscape, and what people do on that landscape, namely ranching. Unbeknownst to me, modern-art was also a part of this place.

With the arrival of Donald Judd, the face of Marfa was etched with new lines, those of world-class, minimal art, and the shock waves of the creative set began to emminate from this tiny, rural community.

Judd Foundation

The roots of Judd began to take hold, as did his footprint on the community. The landscape took on new objects, those beyond the cow and oil pumps, as the ferocious, West Texas wind now blew past enormous, outdoor art installations. Buildings once used as government offices and barracks were now massive warehouses for permanent Judd installations.

I'm not sure how the locals felt but I would imagine they were somewhat shocked by it all.

Being in Marfa today is a little different. Again, I had not been for many years, but it was somewhat odd to see ramshackle homes sitting next to brand new, contemporary art galleries. I wondered how the locals felt about the art world coming to town.

We arrived late on a Sunday and in Marfa's case, the art community is closed on Monday and Tuesday, as is much of the town.

Finding food can be difficult, unless you are like me and like nothing in this world more than a gas station delicacy of some sort.

Frankly, I found the energy in Marfa to be a little...offset shall we say. I wondered if the art world was tolerated due to the money they bring to the community or does it go beyond? Do the locals turn out for the openings? Is there truth to this merger , or has the town become just another "must see," on the hipster map of the United States?

I don't have any answers. As usual, I was on the move, only staying in town for a little more than a day, but I wonder just how things play out. I wonder why Marfa? And will this idea continue, or should it? There is a vastness to West Texas that just sucks you in, but a part of that vastness that is so important is the lack of humans.

You won't find two groups of people more different, ranchers and artists, but perhaps, in the end, that is what will save this place.

20 January, 2009

Usher in Mr. Obama

Okay, I don't have any images for this post because I shot film. So, if I'm lucky, I'll have images about the time Obama is ushered out after eight years.

But, endeavor to persevere, so I'm going ahead with this post about my inauguration experience anyway.

Right off the bat, the most critical and lasting impression I took from the entire day was the "Hat
Battle Royal" between the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, and that cagey, old fighter Herbert Walker Bush Sr. Did you see this action? Don't even THINK that was by accident.

Aretha comes out with her massive, green bow hat, like WHAM, take that. And let me tell you, that was a hat that can ONLY be worn by the Queen of Soul. That hat screams, "I'm at the top looking down."

And your thinking, "Wow, that was it, that hat is my lasting impression." And then HWB Jr. makes his move. He goes Daniel Boone on all of us. Daniel Frickin Boone.

I thought for a minute I'd accidentally hit the remote and landed on rerun of Jeremiah Johnson.It looked like Bush Sr. had an entire coyote or beaver or caribou on his head. And he was grinning too.

I guess the grin could have been from the cold. Perhaps it was a grimace. Either way. Brilliant move.

Okay, let me back track.

My idea for the day was to take a chance and look for an image that was slim, thin, unlikely, but possible. Instead of heading into downtown LA, or Pasadena, places with jumbo screens for the viewing, or an area like Watts to check out the proceedings, I decided to take a chance and head to downtown Newport Beach.

Yes, Newport Beach.

NEVER previsualize an image. Never, because it never works. But I did.

I knew I would find the guy who, instead of watching the celebration from inside his house, decides to drag his TV across the bike path, wires and all, so that he, or she, can sit on the beach and watch the historic event.

Or, the lone human who sets up a one person celebration at the end of the jetty, standing on the rock, waving a flag, shouting out over the ocean, "Give me your best shot."

Or, a small, intimate gathering of people atop their balcony near the ocean, gathering, coffee steaming, to watch the day unfold.

I didn't find any of these, or anything remotely close. I found empty streets and four guys surfing.

Not discouraged easily I got back in the car and kept going, listening to ads about virtual snow, and others about how my colon is filled with spackle.

At one point I looked over and noticed a crow eating a full carton of french fries, with ketchup! Right in the middle of the street. (How the crow managed this is not clear, or where the bird got the fries at 6:30 am.)

The billboards and sign postings around the area still reflected events held for New Year's, which made me feel as if I was in a time warp.

The light was beautiful, and all I dreamed for was my inaugural muse to seal the day in my history.

You see I was shooting film, and I wasn't thinking about photo-editors, stock or "getting these images out." There are a lot of photographers on the scene and around the world doing that, but I don't work that way, and those who do work that way tend to do it really well, so not much need for me to join in.

I was thinking about my nephew, about the responsibility of a photographer, not just as my job, but as a historical device.

If I know my nephew, at this moment he is nursing a sweaty upper lip as he does battle with some video game. He is a nine-year-old male with other things on his mind.

But in a few years he might want to reflect back, and to reflect back not on the massive event, but perhaps something more personal, and that is what I tried to give him.

I ended up with about eight people, only one I had met before. Strangers really, but all united by a common bond. They were genuine in their delight and I tried to show that. This little group was a representation of those 1.5 million in Washington, as well as many millions of other people worldwide. These people represent a hope. That's all really. Just a hope of an unknown person, direction and reality, but hope is one of those things strong enough to permit folks to feel okay about being positive and looking ahead.

I shot twelve pictures total, all different, which I think reflect my morning. I'm frustrated by not finding more in Newport, but again, it was a chance. My heart wanted there to be something more, but my experience told me I would probably come away empty.

Now, I'm sitting here typing with my fingers crossed that BHO signs on a brilliant snapper or team of snappers to chronicle the next term of Prez of the US of A.

These photogs will have the same responsibility, chartering history, one frame at a time, for my nephew, and his children and their children, not just for that day, but for eternity.

Okay, on that last sentence cue the heavy organ music and melodramatic shrills and shrieks of a thriller.

Check back in three weeks to see the photos.

18 January, 2009

Western Light

I think one of the most overlooked aspects of photography, especially in those just starting out, is the importance of light.

Often times I see portfolios filled with images shot in noonish light, and most of the time, these images just fall short of their intended goal.

Look at the great photographs throughout history and you will notice the importance of light. It doesn't have to be early morning or late light, not always, as there are plenty of ways of getting nice light during different times.

I just agreed to shoot a portrait at 11am, here in California, and I guarantee the light will be terrible, but I'm also assured there will be A LOT of light, which is the advantage I'm looking for.

These images are not great images, but they are about light. These are the images you make when you feel yourself in the presence of great light and you feel like you just have to shoot something.

The curse of light slowly takes over your mind, and one day you find yourself studying every angle of every scene, finding the places you could or would shoot. Then you know your life is truly over.

16 January, 2009

The Skunk Hunter

I got a lot of emails regarding the post I did about mom and her Santa pajamas.

So, I thought I would follow it up with a few pictures I made of her on this last trip.

I try to shoot images of her each time I'm home, so I can slowly start to build an archive. Should have done more of padre when he was still around. A regret, just another in a long, long line.

These images, and the prior post, which is comprised of these same images, but in print form, being washed, reminded me of a strange fact, or view, depending on how you look at it.

I try to focus on enjoying the "now" in life. The right now. But it is so damn difficult.

As a photographer very little is about the now. The future is always on my mind. Where will my NEXT job come from? What will it be? What should I do tomorrow?

Advertising, marketing, all focused on tomorrow, next month, next year. My calendar fills months and months from now.

And the images, they reflect the past. Past moments, people, places, events. History frozen, but all reflecting things long since gone.

Or do they.

When I was washing those prints, which takes a long, long time, I truly stopped and focused. My hand moved slowly through the running water, sliding over the surface of each print, feeling the very fiber of the image. So for a brief moment I was only in the "now," even though what was reflected was only the past.

I think I will continue to battle with this, but for me, making these prints, I'm realizing now, after all these years, is a critical event for my work.

In some ways I think I might have wasted the last 15 years of my life by not doing this. I wonder what I WAS doing all this time.

You shoot, you edit, you print, seems like a natural progression, but I didn't do it.

The other side of this edge is digital printing doesn't cut it for me. I do it all the time, and digital prints look fantastic, but they are way, way too easy. You don't live with digital prints. Your hand doesn't touch water, or darkness. You hand touches only plastic. And the end result is instant.

So, in some ways, maybe digital printing is more "in the now?" It's about right now. But then it fades. Quickly.

So, from now on, I'll continue to work this way. I'll also try to focus on the now.

Fingers crossed.

15 January, 2009

The Shining Path

It feels strange to know you are staring down a path that leads to uncertain things, uncertain times.

Everything you see and hear tells you to take the safe path, the one that most everyone else is on, but for some reason you can't move that way. You find yourself staring at the other path, searching for the footprints of others, and luckily, you can see a few, just enough. It might all sound simple, but it's not.

Far from it.

"Why are you here?"

"Don't know."

"What are you doing?"

"Not sure?"

"Where are you headed?"

"Couldn't tell you."

11x14, Foma, 25 min second bath,

13 January, 2009

Lens Culture: Dogs Can't Read

Hey Campers,

Just wanted to alert the masses to a recent article regarding my "Dogs Can't Read" project. Paris-based Lens Culture was nice enough to write me up and describe this ongoing series.

So far, I've completed four cities, Paris, New York, Tijuana and Palermo, but there are others on my horizon.

This project, for one reason or another, has been a pleasant surprise in terms of the reception. People see different things in these images, and in many cases, things I did not see. Each book seems to have a life of its own.

Anyway, hope you enjoy.

Lens Culture

Poem from Mom "To Notice"

To Notice

no one ever told me
there was
no time
to notice
that deer eat red petunias
in January
that the full moon can shine
through a kitchen window
at the same time the sun
is rising
that it will be 81 degrees
at noon and snowing at midnight
that contentment could be had at home
that happiness can come with less
that blessings should be counted often
that living is in the moment
that anger and worry are damaging
that solitude is a good medication
that deer know more than we do
that life would give us a place in time
to notice

11 January, 2009

Random Pictures

No real explanation. No real reason. Just a few pictures.

Poem from Mom "Unexpected Guest"

Unexpected Guest

on the floor
by the cabin door
Gypsy's water dish
fulfilling her wish
a visitor on the edge
for her a high ledge
sat a ladybug beetle
no rhymn nor reason
to be here this season
a guest unexpected
we left neglected
looking like
a chocolate truffle duffle
colored red and black
with a head and four feet
she was very neat
we watched her
as she did shuffle
without a scuffle
in from the cold
she is so bold
getting a drink
do you think

06 January, 2009

A Texas Christmas

When the phone rings at night, and you live in a rural area, typically things are not well.

Is there a bear on the front porch?

Is someone trapped in a mine shaft?

Is your neighbor drunk and running over your cattle with his pickup?

I wanted to share a story from this Christmas, a minor story, but one that I found very representative of my life, and even scarier, my mother.

So a few days ago I was at mom's for Christmas. Some friends were visiting and were staying in the "bunk house" on the property, a recently redone, smallish building that doubles as a guest house. It's too small to be a house, but you get the point.

Typically Texas, temps were going from the 20's to the 80's and back again, and the animal world was probably wondering which way was up.

At midnight on the second night I heard my phone buzzing. I hate the phone. Have I mentioned this? I could go for the rest of my life and not talk on the phone and be perfectly happy. But, it starts buzzing and I wonder,"Hmmm, who is calling at midnight?"

I check the number and see that it is our friend in the bunkhouse, a mere 50 yards away.

"Do you have a flashlight?" my friend asks.

Ahhhhh, the infamous question.........which again, in the rural world, or even semi-rural world usually means something is a little off.

Luckily for me, and thanks to my amigo Eric, Numero Siete, I not only have a flashlight, I have the Special Forces flashlight. This baby cuts a serious beam. You can blind people for fun.

So anyway, as I'm angling down the cut log stairs of my mom's cabin, she hears me and says, "What's up?"

My friend had asked for the flashlight because "something" was under the house. I relayed this to my mom, she went one way, and I went out the front door to walk to the "bunk house" and see what was what.

My friend was outside and said, "There is something under the shower, and it's clawing at the floor."

Now, anything that will hole it's way under a house and nest in the middle of the night is probably not something I want to spend a lot of time around, and when you add the darkness, the late hour and the aspect of the unknown, I become a complete chicken.

So, my buddy and I are standing there with flashlights and S-L-O-W-L-Y inching our way around the back of the structure.

Did I mention how dark it was?

As we were doing our thing my mother had decided to take up a suppressing fire position just off to our right.

Now here is the critical point to this story.

I look over and there is my 70-year-old mother, all 5 foot 5 of her, in her SANTA PAJAMAS, holding a twelve-gauge, over-under shotgun.

Just the idea of this pairing would stun most humans, but there she was in her fully glory. Christmasy, but thirsty for rodent blood.

"I'll blast it," she said.

Suddenly I was five.

"What do you want for Christmas little Danny?" Santa would ask.

"I want a vaporized skunk that my mom shot!!"

What do you think of that Santa? How you like me now?

Ever had a request like that Santa?"

"Santa, I want fresh meat!" I would squeal.

Now here is the real kicker.

At the moment.........I didn't even give this a second thought.

Is it my time in California, my city life beginning to erode all traces of my once rural life?

Mom plus gun, plus Santa pajamas? Is this normal?

What would Santa think?

Maybe he would leave her a few dozen rounds of buckshot. A slug for being extra good.

Her nickname is Annie Oakley, and it ain't by accident. She earned it.

And Christmas was the perfect time to remind us all.

We never did find what was under there, but I can see her a few weeks from now, dressed in camo, staring down the beast.

"Come get some."

Merry Christmas everyone.

01 January, 2009

"A White Flower in the Dark"

Poem from mom.

I am the tiny white flower
in the black endless darkness
framed by the bright white light
will I make a difference
to anything
may I be presumptuous
and say that I matter
I am matter
how can I not matter
as a matter of fact
there are those who matter
like the tiny bright white stars
matter to the dark night sky
holding on to each other
because they need to be needed
by this tiny white flower
in the black endless darkness
of her white frame