28 February, 2009

Self Portrait

Just did this self portrait, hope you enjoy.

27 February, 2009

The Mastermind


For those of you who don't know, the end of March, beginning of April ushers in the fourth year of The Palm Springs Photo Festival Connect 09. I've been in the photo industry for a long while, and have attended just about every event out there, from festival to tradeshow. There are newer, international festivals I've not yet attended, but as far as the US is concerned PSPF is the best event going.

Regardless if you are a photographer or not, if you have interest in making pictures, looking at pictures, this is the event to attend.

The mastermind of this great stage is LA-based photographer Jeff Dunas, seen in the attached image.

Jeff knows more about photography than anyone I know, and I'm not talking about the nuts and bolts, which he does know in great depth, but I'm talking history, styles, books, prints, printing, collecting, etc, etc. There is no aspect of imaging that he isn't in tune with, which is very rare in this photo-world.

One minute he is mixing his own chemistry, toning and creating master prints, real, silver-based prints, and the next he is shooting tethered digital on an ad campaign or celebrity shoot. It doesn't matter what, or how, he just does it.

But enough of the unauthorized biography.

Back to the festival. Jeff, due to his history in the photography world, knows people, a lot of people, including the legends. He really does, and not only does he know them, but there is a mutual respect, which consequently is what, I think, is the foundation of the entire PSPF.

This year's lineup is one you have to see to believe. Workshops, symposiums, lectures, reviews, shows, projections, panels, interviews, parties and an atmosphere that is unrivaled. This is a real festival. If you need a dose of tech to quell your inner geek, you can get it. But if you need more of a intellectual study of the nuance of fine-art, well guess what, you can get that too. And, everything in between.

You could literally go, never say a word to anyone and still have a great time. Where else can you do that? Okay maybe the DMV, but that is it.

So, turn off the TV, get off the couch, put down the doughnuts and register people. If my threats aren't enough to motivate you, then how about a small taste of the lineup......

Larry Fink, Steve McCurry, Debbie Fleming Caffery, Keith Carter, Frank Okenfels, Jay Dusard, Greg Gorman, Juergen Nogai....

These are JUST a few of the workshops people! Oh, and this was just brought to my attention.....Duane Michals is coming too, just by the way...in addition...Duane Michals people.

It's time to saddle up and head toward the springs.

Poem from Mom: "Git"


I am leaving the city my job and my wife
to go out and live the rest of my life
I have cried aloud at circumstance
too buried alive to take a chance
press on the accelerator to go just go
my excuses written in stone I know
created for me by me so I can't go
clinging to questions answered no
how can I possibly not leave
how can I possibly not grieve
breaking chains of self worth created
those that hold you safely seated
they could not possibly exist
without my constant assist
yes they could do it
it could make them more fit
so pack up your bags
and git

26 February, 2009

New Book: Maroc

By Daniel Milnor

Just posted this baby up.

Am loving these small books, and based on the response I've had when showing them around, so do others.

A New York Family State Of Mind

It has been a while since I posted about my kids work, so after being encouraged by the folks in these snaps I thought I would post up about this little scene before you. These images are from my "family photo-essay" work, which I do more and more these days. I've begun to do these all over the country, and this was my first New York shoot, but if all goes as planned, there will be many more of these New York contributions coming along very shortly.

As many of you know, I've been doing documentary work for years, so shooting in this style is something I'm very comfortable with, and in fact, is my favorite way to shoot. This is just a tiny taste, but hopefully it will give you an idea of how a shoot like this works.

In short, I spend the day, or days with the family, sorta like the long, lost uncle who emerges from nowhere to reengage with the family, only I'm not related, but I AM an uncle!! Actually, one of my "regular" kids I photograph three or four times a year recently asked his mom, "Is Dan my uncle?" Love that.

Anyway, back to the story.

A New York day, Brooklyn, subway, Chinatown. I prefer to do a real day, or gathering or event in someone's life, as opposed to a "fictional" day of photo-ops. You can never substitute for real, and you can really see when snaps are faked.

These shoots are so much fun for me because I feel like I'm back working at a newspaper, assigned to follow a mayor, a politician, an athlete, or police officer.

My Leica(Zeiss/Contax) in one hand, my Blad in the other, a bag of film, and the opportunity to just follow and watch.

New York Family Continued

A little black and white to keep the masses happy!

On Approach: Continues

A few months ago I released a small book called "On Approach," a book showing the various angles and lines as planes approached the John Wayne Airport in Orange County. I did this project, like many of my others, on my own. If I had waited for someone to fund this, or a magazine to express interest, it would, chances are, have never happened.

I rode my bike to shoot most of these, another angle to the story(Yes, the funny looking bike.) I wanted to find something close to where I live, something interesting, different, etc, and a project that didn't require travel or anything exotic.

I released the book, it was chosen a "staff pick" by the folks at Blurb, and consequently rocketed up in the ratings and hits area. I've sold a few, would like to sell more, but more importantly, I really like the images. The response to this book is fantastic, so I carry a copy with me when I'm making my rounds, and it never fails to gain reaction.

I've had designers tell me they like it, photogs, editors, pilots, art agents, PR folks, and most importantly, mom, who gave it a four out of five skunk rating. (Nearly unheard of)

Needless to say, I'm continuing this project. At this point, I'd call it therapy. Shooting, I think for most photographers, is the best time of all. What we do is about 90% business, so when it comes time to actually work, and you can work on images that inspire you as the photographer, there is nothing better.

You would think this would be the norm, but like any job, there is usually a "wintery mix" of assignments, jobs, paths we must follow to curl our toes in the grass of the photographic promised land.

Doing this project, so close to home, and void of strings, has allowed me to develop at least two other projects, all within minutes, via bike, of my house.

You might be asking, "Why are you doing this?" "Who are you shooting this for?" "Why are you printing this if there isn't a buyer, magazine, final destination for these images?"

Cause that's what I do. I'm a photographer!

When I was very little, I went fishing with my dad and my grandpa. My grandpa was old, didn't move well, and as we sat in the boat, something odd happened. First, he had has his underwear pulled up really high, which I never figured out, but that is another story. What happened was a spider built a web from his elbow to the oar holder on the boat, which should give you an idea of how little movement I'm talking about.

If I waited for approval to shoot, create, edit, print, design, publish or anything else related to photography, I have visions of this same spider, living in my studio, merrily building a web from my elbow to say...my computer, or monitor, or desk.

So, as I look to my left, sitting on my desk, I see five more books, done this same way, solo. They are books about Morocco, bullfighting, desert racing, planes and even foreign lands. They represent my best work, plain and simple, a window into my inner machine.

Today I will start another, fingers crossed.


25 February, 2009

Santa Fe Lecture

Going to be part of a lecture and show in Santa Fe regarding the "The Soul of Photography." If any of you are around during this time, feel free to come by and have a look.

Poem from Mom, "Mouse Gift"

"Mouse Gift"

a little mouse
came to call
so very small
chewed very well
dead we could tell
five feral cats
laid claim
for their mouse game
proud as could be
for all to see
at their porch door
on the mat on the floor
keeping score
there will be more
our praise was swift
for their generous gift

23 February, 2009

"That's Him Officer!

Over the years I've heard from many different photographers, from many other parts of the country, that say, "I could not shoot your style where I live," meaning my style was too arty for their client base.

I always wondered about this, thinking that perhaps there is some validity to the idea, but in the end I don't know for sure.

Case in point, magazine photography. Let's say magazine photojournalism, something I truly love and wish I saw a lot more of.

The PJ pictures of the past few years have taken on a slightly new direction, filling our pages with hyper-complex, tilted, dark images that, most of the time, I like, even when they don't work. These images are not easy to make, make well I should say, and I think about one out of ten actually does work. But, we see a lot of them. And these same images are landing on gallery walls, which I also like, again, even if they don't work. I like the idea that we are contemplating them.

Now, who do these images relate to?

The editors and the photographers, but I don't believe they relate at all to the vast majority of readers. In fact, I think most viewers when looking at a tilted image will immediately ask, "Why is this crooked?" I know because I've heard them ask it.
And when looking at an image lacking critical focus, or containing a motion blur will ask, "Why is this blurry?"

I think we tend to place to much in the "benefit of the doubt" category when it comes to those viewing our pictures.

I'm not sure how many people are going to give a hyper-complex, tilted, out of focus image the time it requires. I think these images are done for a variety of reasons, none of which relate to the viewer.

But here is the kicker. I don't think this should change. I don't think the photographer should stop making these pictures, or change their style. Why? Because then everyone starts making the same pictures, something we have seen FAR too much of in recent years. Don't believe me, take a look at the wedding field, or portrait field. In fact, I think in some ways, success today is based on conforming to the standards created by the industry itself. Safety in numbers?

Take fine art. What's been hot for the past few years, disconnected urban moments, in color, printed 8x10 FEET. Huge prints, based mostly on the reality we now have the technology to make these prints, and the idea that if it is larger it is worth more. Oh, and hyper-small editions. These are trends, and there are plenty of folks who have decided to chase this trend, which again I think is odd, but not something that should be changed. Why? Because within about a year, this style of work will be so flooded on the market that it won't be selling like it did, and it will force the market in a "new" direction. Open additions of micro-prints? Who knows. It might take longer than a year, but it will change.

I think what is so great about all this is it turns the mirror, once again, back to the photographer and asks, "Okay, here we are again, so tell me, what is it you really want to do?" The most difficult question to answer.

If you are living in small town, rural America thinking that "arty" work won't sell, perhaps now is the time to give it another shot. Or if you are living in hip-town, ultra-cool, double earring, flame shirt, suede pants land and want to shoot weddings in 3D while wearing your blue ruffle tux from high school prom, then I say go for it. You just never know, and if this is what is TRUE to your heart then it can never be wrong.

Let's quit standing around lining up to conform and show our true colors. Or true black and white for you purists out there.

We're all derivative, but let's not get carried away. In a police lineup, you don't want to be the person picked out.(not basing this on experience.) But in a photo-lineup you do!

One of the greatest aspects of photography is that there really is no right or wrong, only what we desire to do as the creative.

Mom on Photographers

Mom checking in here with a little note about photographers. Not sure who she was writing this to, but I thought there were some interesting aspects. She's also my mom, so a slight bias could in order here. She is probably carving up some small woodland creature as we speak, or prying it from the jaws of her beloved Gypsy.

"What you want is the unique style found in a good photographers pictures. Practice makes perfect and he has practiced. He knows the intimate details of his craft, like a pilot knows the cockpit. When you hang one of his pictures on the wall it contains his years of experience and his unique style developed by those years. The click of the shutter pulls you in and his eye holds you for the print. You don't tell a mechanic how to fix an engine, don't tell a photographer how to take your pictures. Trust can be difficult in an untrustworthy world, but make no mistake you will not be disappointed. He has not spent some of his time taking pictures, but all of his time. If you look, I mean really look you will see the difference in a professionals work.
Their pictures are the ones that hang framed on walls projecting their message for years. They are well taken on good material, a work of art. They transcend. They stand the test of time saving bits of your life for posterity. They know how to do it. Call a professional photographer and let them take your pictures, you may catch them just in the click of time."

22 February, 2009

Time On My Hands

One afternoon, one roll, a little time on my hands. This is a theme I've been working on for a while, something very different from what I've done in the past, but I like it. A very low success rate with this stuff, but that is half the fun. Most of the time, when I make these images I have NO idea what I'm getting. Then, out of what I did get, wondering what will be printable, with my skill set. If Ansel was alive I'm sure he could bang out these prints, but not me. I'm learning people, but taking baby steps.

What I like about this work is not knowing. When you can't see the image, you have to think more, perhaps wonder more, which is what keeps my interest up.

I also like the experimentation, and if you see these prints, 16x20, the size I printed them, it might make you wonder. If you saw me making them, you would laugh. I'm sure more than one person uttered to themselves, "Look at that idiot." Basically this is odd film, an odd technique and an odd method of getting the look. But, it works, at least for me. It's also one of the few ways I found of producing work locally that I really like. Portraits and this, for the most part, my most successful.

These images have to be studied, and these little web version won't do them justice. There is much going on in the dark spaces, and the sky, which you really can't see.

This is only the beginning. I'll be out experimenting more on this.

21 February, 2009

Poem from Mom: "ballet d’action”

“ballet d’action”

the audience is seated
the theatre is quiet
expectation is in the air
minds are happy
a time of pleasure
is about to occur
the curtains open
ballet d’action starts
the stage and theatre
are dark black and quiet
violin strings
move their vibrations
spinning their webs everywhere
suddenly strings lighted
by bright white moonlight
appear like spider webs
crisscrossing intertwining
above bellow and around
the theatre and stage
enter glowing white angel dancers
all sizes and ages
moving like spiders
over the webs
their wings emphasizing their plight
of frenzied flight
caught on their own sticky strings
and strangers tricky creations
flowing figures floating and spinning
dancing for their freedom
from the darkness and the sticky webs

20 February, 2009

Dream A Little Dream

Email to a friend:

"I had a dream I was on the football field during a college game. I wasn't IN the game, but was in the huddle and on the field, right in the middle of the action. The only thing was the field wasn't flat, it was sharply inclined, and very short. One team was playing uphill and getting killed. The other playing downhill, with speed and force. I just remember yelling," Geezzzz," as these guys came by me at breakneck speed, pads and bones snapping. I had no helmet or pads, and each play would run for my life. Then suddenly, I was back in the huddle waiting for the next snap of the ball and my possibly death. I think I'll write this up, send it out and see if anyone else has had this same dream. I woke exhausted and wondering, "Why me?"

19 February, 2009

You Can Lead A Photographer to Water...AND You Can Make Them Drink

I'm confused.

If you've read this blog you will already know this little fact, but I thought I would state it again, just to cement my position.

I don't get photographers. I don't. Well, a few I do, but the rest, not so sure. Including myself sometimes.

The last time I did any research, I came to the conclusion that the photo-industry was supposed to be a creative industry, filled with pioneering individuals who bring to the table style, vision and creative direction. Perhaps times have changed, but I think the basic idea of this is still...somewhat valid.

But, what I don't get, the confusing part, is how many of us stand around waiting to be told what to do?

I think we should all stop using these phrases, "I can't." "I have to." "I'm stuck doing it this way." "I have accepted my fate for better or worse."

Let me give you an analogy. When the plumber comes to your house at 2 am because your friends put fireworks in your toilet, do you tell the plumber you would prefer him to use a wooden plunger as opposed to his metal snake tool? No, because if you did he would either ignore you, leave, say "no" or ask you what your problem was.

Also, when he has finished snaking the M80s of your pristine bowl do you turn around and say, "Well, I think that job was worth about $30." No. It doesn't work this way. The plumber says, "Look, your friends are maniacs, and this is going to cost you $300 to fix." You have choices, call around for another plumber or pay his, or her fee! Plumbers don't stand around being told what tools to use and how much their work is worth.

But photographers do. Our first dreaded question tends to be, "What is your budget?" I always found this a really odd question because what should we ever expect to hear? "Aahhh, I've got eight dollars and a coupon for free ribs." "Great! I"ll take it."

I can't tell you how often I speak with photographers, globally, who are so trampled I can't stand it. I feel bad for us, in a way, but also realize we need to change the way we do things. Nothing will improve unless we adapt a new plan, starting from today.

"I hate digital but I have to use it." I've said this myself and have heard it HUNDREDS of times from other photographers. Take a look around, there are A LOT of really fantastic photographers NOT using digital and doing just fine. In fact, check out a few of the major magazine profiles, and often times, the featured person is using film. In fact, I've seen magazines where EVERY feature was presenting film users, but every add in the magazine was highlighting digital equipment. We have been sold that digital is "just another tool," but behind the scenes we are told you have to be using it, and in reality it is the ONLY tool. Many of us are faced with clients who think they have to use it, but really don't have valid reasons for why. "Wait, I thought digital was better?" How many times have you heard that? This is simply an education issue, educating yourself, and your clients, in regards to what tool works best for what job. If you like film, stand up for yourself and make your argument. You might lose a job, but so what, in the end what benefit is it to make yourself miserable when doing what you love?

And as for budget. I think the "what's your budget" question should be put to rest. Clients, like us, are in business, something that you can't forget, even when clients are your friends. If the gas station attendant asks me today, "What do you want to pay for those ten gallons?" I would love to say, "Ummmm, nothing?"

Lastly, we need to stop being conformists. Many of us seem to stand around, look what everyone else is doing, then get in line to try and haggle away with everyone else, then wonder why people lowball each other on price. Well, if your work, and my work, and my Uncle Melvin's work all look EXACTLY the same, why would anyone really want to pay a decent rate for ANY of us? Anyone? Anyone?

I think we all must stop, perhaps Saturday at 11:23 am and asked ourselves, "What is it that I REALLY want to do?"

If you pursue what is in the DNA of your creative heart, and I do as well, we will develop our styles and our signatures, thus creating unique work, which in turn has an inherent VALUE.

Here is the most important part of this. IT AIN'T EASY.

It is far easier to conform and fight for scraps. It takes boldness to go alone, but in the end what benefits is the INDUSTRY, as well as what you leave this Earth with, and what you leave behind. In the end the images are the only thing that matters.

Look at the history of our industry and those you can remember, those that left their mark, were those who stood tall and demanded to be heard.

Maybe I'm wrong, or off base here, but I can't imagine a client saying to Salgado, "Your black and white work is okay, but we want you to shoot tethered digital." I have a feeling he has more creative control than that. But I don't know him, and could be wrong.

A few days ago I was able to attend a June Newton lecture, the wife of legendary photography Helmet Newton, and someone asked, "What freedom did he have while working?" She responded, "The clients told him to do whatever he wanted to do."
Why? Because HE was the photographer. HE was the creative one. HE was the one who brought vision. The clients realized if they wanted a fantastic Helmet Newton image, the best thing they could do was get out of the way and let Helmet Newton create it.

Think about it.

The idea of this rambling mess is that our personal work SHOULD be our commercial work. How fantastic, and fun, and thrilling is it to work on "your" work?" It is the best. And, get this, clients, friends, family, etc, are equally as thrilled when you create this work. They really are. How fast does your heart race when you are working on something you KNOW is good. How fast does that heart race when you know you are making "real" pictures? It's the coolest thing in the world!

So, to practice what I preach, I have begun marketing, using the same techniques I've used in the past, but now sending links to my personal work, and fewer regarding my "commercial" work. I'm sure this will be PAINFUL, akin to hammering my thumb with a fence post driver, but it NEEDS To be done. If I had to guess, I will be faced with irate people receiving my emails, angrily asking to be removed from my list, additional people thinking I'm out of my mind, and those who are just confused, but I think, in the end, justice will prevail.

I think if I don't do this I will continually be bound only by the needs of the people viewing my work, instead of the limits of my imagination.

Now, I gotta go bang out a digi headshot on deadline. JUST KIDDING!!!!

Go forth, be strong.

18 February, 2009

Minor Details Blog: For All You Parents Out There

Okay, for all you parents reading this blog, this one if for you. In short, this post is about a blog titled "Minor Details," which describes itself as, "imagination agents for commercial, residential, recreational habits." The theme is about finding great things for your great kids.

I was lucky enough to spend time with the creator of this blog, and actually make a few photos here and there. Jennifer Ward, the creative director, is a "mother, wife and paper airplane pilot," based in New York, and is one of those people you find yourself in creative awe of. Jennifer is the type of person you want to hang out with, hoping that some of her creativity will somehow rub off on you. Just a little would be enough to jump start most folks.

She covers just about every angle of the kid world, from their spaces, to their places, and much in between. I try to visit this blog as often as I can, just to see what is what in the New York state of the kid mind.

I look back on my childhood, to the bowl cut, my red and white polka dot, train conductor hat, and my jeans with the skyline of city acid washed in, and wonder, "What if?" my mom had had the internet and this blog???

What could have been..........


17 February, 2009

Poem from Mom, The Ending

The Ending

it is not the beginning
that holds the fascination
it is the ending
the beginning is over quickly
and sputters like a car
that won’t start
the end is always there
we spend our time
walking on the water
slowly sinking
peeking to see
the next beginning
of the ending

12 February, 2009

The Grass is Greener....Maybe.

I don't know if this story is true. I can't even remember where I heard it, or read it, or if I made it up.

The story goes like this.

A successful commercial photographer, from the United States, is burned out. This guy is "successful," works all the time, and is viewed by those around him as being one of the "it" guys in the commercial photo-world.

But again, he's burned out. So, he decides to take a break, to take off and do something for himself. He envisions time away, a return to his photographic roots.

So, he flies to Guatemala and begins making pictures, not for a client, not for an assignment, an art director, etc, but just for himself, like he did before he gained his reputation in the pro-market.

Guatemala is in celebration mode, with what I think was Easter Processions or Holy Week events, so there is much to be had, visually speaking.

(Popcorn break....maybe a beer here people.)

Okay, where were we.

As his boots scrape along the cobbled streets and the air shrieks with celebratorial horns, he begins to feel as if he is relearning his craft. Perhaps his inner child, once in a shame spiral, has begun to close the umbrella and realize that the clouds have parted and sun shines once again. (Okay, way over the top on that one.)

As this photographer works he looks across the narrow street and sees another photographer working. Younger, thinner, with more hair. Black pants, black jacket, Leica in hand, shooting the same scenes. (Okay, making this up at this point, just filler, hang with me.)

It's impossible not to notice each other, really impossible not to do the "bro nod" registering the presence of one other.

Time passes, many winds of the advance lever, many failed moments, but a few that just might work. Life is good, there is no phone to reach for, no tethered rig to take the surprise out of life, only the pocket full of film to wonder about.

As the days events wind down and the revelry tapers off, both photographers end up at the same intersection and make their introductions.

The younger photographer is from Eastern Europe, is on a longer trip through Central America, and is staying at a hostel close by, but they decide to head to the American photographer's hotel which is the same distance, but has a better bar. (Photographers, bars, a long, long relationship here.")

Beers all around. Gallo if I remember correctly. Glug, glug, glug.

The talk is about photography, about Guatemala, about what they have seen, heard and photographed. They handle each others cameras, one using the tiny Leica, the other a larger, modern slr. Nothing to serious.

And then something subtle yet dramatic happens. The young photographer pulls a box of images from his small shoulder bag. 5x7, black and white silver prints.

What's in the box is only his life, his entire photographic life, existence, etc, is on these small prints. His life's work, the pursuit, his passion, whatever you want to call it.

The images are from all over the globe. One shot here, one from there, great, powerful, simple moments.

Deep inside his heart the American photographers feels a pull he cannot deny. Jealousy? Envy? Awe? Admiration? All the above?

This person across from him, and this magic box hold what he knows, or believes is a representation of the ultimate goal.

The conversation continues but the American is distracted. He hears himself speaking but doesn't know what he is actually saying.

He begins to describe his life, as he has no prints, no remnants of his life, other than the family photos riding next to his passport.

He describes his work, his studio, his clients, his ads, etc.

The younger photographer asks more and more questions. He is contemplating what is next in his life. Where does he want to go? When will his luck run out? Or his money?

If he could get one or two of these ad jobs the American is describing then perhaps he could continue his pursuit with more ease, with more wiggle room.

He listens to the American with envious ears, slightly jealous and admiring this guy who has managed to land the big jobs.

Both participants looking across the photographic fence at the potential of the other's grass. If I could only get to another place. If, if, if, I could only get........what?

I don't know the moral of this story. Or the lesson, if there even is one. But, I've found myself in both of these positions over the years, and look back and wonder what would have happened had I made the other choice. What if I took that damn blue pill instead of the red?

Maybe the moral is that certain questions must be answered, or maybe just should be answered before we proceed.

Starting with, "What do I really want to do?"

I See You

A few days ago I was drilling holes in my library wall in an attempt to install new bookshelves for my rapidly growing photo-book collection. I'm not exactly skilled at home improvement, so this simple gesture took all of my concentration.

By some miracle it worked. I hit the studs, the screws hit home, the shelves held, and as of a few hours ago, my books were still standing.

After the shelves went up, I slowly began to gather the stacks of books and place them on the shelves.

I noticed something that stuck with me throughout the day, the night and into the following day, like that cloud over Pigpen in the Peanuts cartoon. First, I should have made more shelves...idiot!

I also realized that my favorite books, and the photographers who made them, all had something in common; an immediately recognizable style.

All I needed to see was the image and it unleashed the power of their individual style, regardless of anything else.

Moriyama, Webb, Salgado, Mann, etc.

When I see these names, see their images, hear their names, it instantly creates a legion of imagery in my mind. Like fingerprints in their uniqueness. Like memories.

Now you might think this is an obvious point, but I don't think it is. Today there are photographers working who have this distinctive look and feel, but there are fewer and fewer of them, and if I had to guess, the future will reduce this number even more. And, some of the most successful of the current crop really don't have any style at all. Or perhaps their style is that there is no style, which can be said of cultures as well, some of which are thriving in this fashion.

Even Bruce Lee, when cornered on the boat on the way to Han's secret island, replied, "My style?" "You could call it the art of fighting without fighting." What? What he meant to say was, "I'm going to try my best to remove your head," but doing this could have jeopardized his employment at the tournament of death. When being hired to do battle perhaps you want to remain below the radar until you are called upon. Same is true for the photo world????? (This was a kick ass analogy. Get it? Come on, kick ass??)

I'll give you a photo case study. Me.

I printed in the darkroom the other day and created six new pictures. After I was done printing, and was in the process of the great, final wash, I realized these images looked like they could have been done by six different people.

Perhaps in some way, this could be a good thing, but I think overall, it isn't. It took me years to really figure out what my style was, years of trial and error basically. I do like different looks and formats, but I know what my style would be if I had to shelve everything and choose one thing.

I probably won't have to do this, but you never know. Being a photographer today, a real one, is so damn difficult, and with the current economic situation, it will only get harder, and a part of me thinks that perhaps the only thing that will survive is our true style. And a part of me thinks this is the way it should be.

I think with all the different kinds of work I have done in the past ten years, I've really lost a good portion of my style. I think the ONLY way to get it back is time in the field, time ALONE and time NOT on assignment, not connected to the constant chatter of the social networking sites, the blogs, the cell phone, etc, and return to the idea of disappearing into your mind and your vision.

I think sometimes we think you can make up for this stuff with gadgets, gear, post production, shows, press, etc, but I frankly believe this is pure charade.

When you strip everything down you are left with only the images. The tricks of today are the laughter of tomorrow, but when something is really strong, it stands alone, in need of nothing other than the viewer.

Images like this don't happen often, and can't be created later. They just happen, and typically, when they do, you know it. You don't need to see it because that 250th of second becomes a part of your soul.

So as I look into the near and distant future, I wonder to myself what it is I REALLY should be doing. Should I shelve the distractions, both photographic and otherwise, and commit to rediscovering my path? This is far easier said than done, but I have to consider it.

I'm older now, have responsibilities, so the layers of doubt, of question, of fear are far more complex and powerful than ever before.

I realize I've skirted the edges of the cliff that leads to "content" and know I would rather never photograph again than walk further into this style of photographic being where the bulk of images flash across your retina but never make the trip to your brain.

However, I did just read, I think, somewhere, that a significant portion of the public eats fast food something like twenty times a month? Did I read that wrong? But, if I didn't, it might explain a lot about photography as well. Ouch! Safe, expected, controlled, conformed, mainstream, dare I say....nope, can't say it. Remember the Bruce Lee reference.

I keep hearing, "Yes, but you have to make a living." Agreed, but is it better to choose this mainstream path, or do something else for your income and then work solely on "your" images for your personal needs? I think this second choice would actually be far better for my industry, and only far worse for my ego. A very successful photographer recently wrote a post about "reskilling" or "retooling" his life, learning another trade to make the living so that he could continue his work. I think that post was like a rifle shot to a lot of people. I know it was to me.

I'm fortunate, have a good business, one that I try to evolve and change every four to five years, and I really mean change. I have to work hard to keep changing and starting over, but it is totally worth it(All but the losing my style part.) I'm more alive today than I was twenty years ago, when it comes to making pictures. At least until my bookshelves come crashing down on my skull. Or they stop making film and I have no reason to shoot any longer.

I think it is a fantastic job, working as a photographer. It really is. However, I sometimes wonder if I'm at a crossroads, where I have to begin looking at a broader scene, but with a far more focused pair of eyes.

PS: the attached photos are unrelated, done while I was writing this. Just fyi.

Keep snapping.

Poem from Mom, "Wrong Place Wrong Time"

I am throwing balls at the lever
that will release the seat
the person in the cage
is sitting on getting them wet
as they suddenly fall into
a tankful of water
the only catch is
I am the person on the seat

11 February, 2009

The Library Is Now Open

Well, after dealing with piles of books for months, years, decades, we have unveiled the new library. As of yet there is no infrastructure for visitors, but email or call for your appointment. These babies are meant to be viewed, so reserve your space now. All the cool kids are doing it.

Books by: Dunas, Moriyama, Mauskopf, Gaumy, Salgado, Nozolino, Caffery, Modica, Kennerly, Page, D Hump, Brewer, Beard, Fusco and Salas, just to name a few.

What you can't see in this photo is the OTHER side of the room, also with books, non-illustrated books.

Sleeping on the floor is not allowed. Nor is living in your car in front of the house.

10 February, 2009

Poem from Mom "The Woods"

"The Woods"

the earth is spinning
its ocean of tears
the woods hears it
shouting to deaf ears
something is off center
closing the door
to our survival
somewhere there is
a disturbance in the force
around our planet
an earthquake is shaking
a tsunami is drownding
a fire is devouring
a plague is killing
a hurricane is blowing
a tornado is roaring
droughts and floods
hungry people knowing
not knowing not stopping
not loving enough the gift
we were given to hold us
the earth that is crying out
telling us to listen
man has lost his balance
his place on the planet
as he drives into its destruction
mother nature is telling us
without the woods
we will not be
listen to the woods

08 February, 2009

Ready for Liftoff

Just spotted, signed, numbered, captioned and sleeved 27 copies of an image for a "project" I am a part of.

A few images from around the office.


Most of the blogs I read, about photography anyway, are either way too technical, too sales tooly or too phony, but occasionally I find a blog that hits home.

Ross is an interesting dude, wicked smart, but also well versed in the art/design/history/photography world, but most importantly, he has a sense of HUMOR.



Main Entry:
\ˈhyü-mər, ˈyü-\
Middle English humour, from Anglo-French umor, umour, from Medieval Latin & Latin; Medieval Latin humor, from Latin humor, umor moisture; akin to Old Norse vǫkr damp, Latin humēre to be moist, and perhaps to Greek hygros wet
14th century

3 a: that quality which appeals to a sense of the ludicrous or absurdly incongruous b: the mental faculty of discovering, expressing, or appreciating the ludicrous or absurdly incongruous c: something that is or is designed to be comical or amusing

His blog touches on a range of items, and just has the feel that it is the same as the paper version he might be carrying around with him. When I talk to "industry" people, they often complain of "oh geez, I don't read blogs because there are too many and they just aren't interesting." I think this is because most blogs are not honest. In my opinion, a blog is like a journal, so if you can't write it like you would your journal, then why bother?

In addition, Ross is a very talented photographer, who works in a unique way, and also has a recognizable style, something that is difficult to find in today's photo-world.

His humor lives in his pictures. So, check out the blog, and check out his site. And he has Canadian hair.


07 February, 2009

Two Amazing People

Okay, when I was about six-years-old, I won a stuffed crocodile at Kings Island amusement park. There were plastic ducks floating in a small, fake river, and I chose lucky "13" and won this baby. It was as long as my leg, and I think I slept with it for at least a year, or until it got too disgusting to keep around. I'm sure it found its way into the landfill, and based on the materials it was manufactured with, it is probably still smoldering underground.

Point is, I was excited.

A few weeks back, Design Within Reach hosted a book signing with truly legendary photographer Julius Shulman, in his 90's, who was gracious enough to come down from LA and sign books.

My wife and I have a book, which we took to the opening to get signed.

However, in addition to our book, DWR also have a book raffle, which we entered.

I'm tooling around, snapping here and there, eating cookies, checking out "designed" things, etc, and my wife enters the raffle.

A few, short minutes later, they make the drawing and I can see over the shoulder of the person pulling the ticket. If you listened closely you could have heard me say, "I don't believe it."

Guess who won? Really, guess who won??? Three guesses. Guess.

Yes, my wife. And as evidenced by these images, her excitement level was on par with my "Kings Island Spectacular" from all those years ago. She even got a kiss. I don't remember a kiss at the amusement park. Too much "stranger danger" banged into my mellon to think about kisses.

So anyway, I'm hoping that her excitement wears off on the rest of the world. Is that too much to ask?

Here is a link to J. Shulman.


05 February, 2009

Trial and Error

So yesterday I'm printing these images, and starting to think I'm beginning to get the hang of things.

Same enlarger, same easel, same paper, same everything.

Fresh chemistry.

I get a negative in, take a read, make a print. It's a little off.

So, I make some adjustments, some mental, some physical and begin to make another print.

The base exposure was 25 seconds. But I then had to add about 40 more seconds of burn, here and there, corners, etc.

I'm dancing at the enlarger, clumsily, but I'm working it. Hands are moving here and there, I'm making odd shapes with my hands, concentrating,

I finish the exposure. I move to the burn, I dance. I dance a little more.

"Perfect," I think to myself.

I then reach down to lift my perfect print and realize I never put a sheet of paper in the easel. Nothing. Nada.

I was printing on metal.

Luckily I was alone.

03 February, 2009

The Bitter Fruits Of My Effort

So yesterday I had a horrid day in the darkroom. I knew the honeymoon wouldn't last, it couldn't.

I did everything wrong. Everything.

I dunked the first print and it took nearly 1.5 minutes to emerge. Something wasn't right.

So I changed the developer. The next print came up in 15 seconds, great, but it looked like SH^%.

Too dark, too muddy, too.....blah.

I burned more paper but it wasn't any use. I just wasn't there. The stars, the wind, the world, was off axis and my prints were far from stellar.

I changed negatives and it did nothing.

The bins filled with my waste.

I wanted to turn the lights on and watch as my wasted effort faded to black squares.

I printed with the second bellows set on 2 1/4 when I was printing 35.

My corners were hot.

I had dust.

I finally got a print where I wanted it only to head out into the light and realize my entire box of new, 16x20 paper was old, fogged and yellow around the edges.

If the counter was higher I would have banged my head repeatedly, but was too lazy to bend over.

And then something funny happened.

There was someone printing with me. An old school rock and roll photographer. Long white hair flowing out from under a backwards cap. A bounce in his step.

I confessed my sins of failure to him, casually, as if it was no big deal , and he turned around with a big grin and said, "Ya, I kinda like it when things like that happen, it gives me a chance to play around with things."

I looked down at the faces of Mick, Jimmy Page, David Crosby and the ever dominant Neil Young. The photographer told me tales of the old days as he quickly printed through negative after negative from 35 years ago.

There was pure joy and history in his words and it was the remedy I needed.

I wondered if any of my struggle was real. Should I believe what I see?

I changed the lens. I changed paper. I changed the negative. And I changed my attitude.

I could feel the fire. If I'd have been wearing plastic wrap my fire would have lit the room. It might have been an out of control kitchen fire, but it was a fire.

I started making prints.

My limbs moved with fluidity(kinda), tai chi of light, defending and feinting when needed. I counted to myself, forced myself to consider and reconsider every move.

Slowly the final fix grew fat with success.

Life had realigned.


Okay, last year I kept everyone in the loop in regards to my garden, so I figured I'll do the same this year.

As you can see, so far, things are simple, the peas have said to the rest of the crops, "step aside, coming through."

This abnormal weather has somewhat freaked them out. 85 degrees in January isn't quite what my "winter" plants were expecting.

Lettuce, spinach, beets, cilantro, jalapeno, peas,

02 February, 2009

Snaps Ready for the Wall

Three prints ready for hanging. Just dropped them off this morning. Digital prints....wink, wink.

PS: previous post was in regards to my documentary work, nothing more, although I'm printing portraits in the dark now too.

A Kick in the Teeth

All readers should have a mid-80's power ballad on while reading this.

As I have stated in past posts, I've recently returned to printing in the darkroom after a fifteen-year break. What drove me to print in this method was many fold. First, I was looking forward to a new challenge. Second, collectors I had spoken with preferred silver prints to inkjet prints. And finally, and most importantly, my realization that I had little attachment to my digital prints.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with these digi prints, and in fact, in some ways, they might be superior to my traditional prints.

However, like I said before, I don't have an attachment to these digital prints, and in fact have destroyed many of them over the years. You monster, why destroy your prints? I'm glad you asked.

Let's look back ten years into our glorious past. There I am (Vest, mullet, huge glasses). Shooting, editing, making prints. I do a story, make my edit, get my desktop printer revved up and begin to spit out sheet after sheet of pure genius.

Fast forward two years. In some cases, my sheets of pure genius have become sheets of magenta madness. Or, perhaps the prints were still neutral but my digital darkroom skills had progressed far beyond where they were. Or, perhaps my latest, greatest desktop printer had been replaced with a newer, fancier, smarter model and I realized, "Well, I guess I should reprint these things."

So, what do you do with the old ones?? Me, I shredded them.

And before you go thinking I'm a kook, alone on an island of temporary, destructive insanity, think again. I'm not the only one.

Who has hung around a tradeshow minutes after the closing bell? Huh? Anyone? When the construction crews come to turn the building into an ice rink or monster truck stomping ground?

Guess what you see in PILES around the floor. Prints, many, many, recently printed "works of art," tossed aside like that soggy pickle that comes with your BBQ plate. (And yes, I know about shipping costs, but I have NEVER seen this done with analog prints.)

Here is my key point...brace yourself.....

Something happens to us, all of us, when something becomes really, really easy.

It, whatever "it" is, loses something.

We don't have to fight for it, and consequently, part of the magic, the mojo, the blood, is lost. Well, actually, it isn't lost because it was never there in the first place.

This also applies to the front of the equation. Making images at high rates, with absolute ease, with less commitment, also dilutes the image gene pool.

Imagery, like our prints, has become disposable.

Again, you can think I'm a kook, and perhaps I am, but think about it. What have we been led to believe? Imaging is now "Fast, cheap, easy and if you don't like it.....just throw it away."

I can't imagine this NOT having an impact on the perception of photography, right down to it's very core.

I heard one editor recently say that they edit approximately 250,000 images PER WEEK!!! Let me say that again....PER WEEK!

How is that possible? And I'll bet there is someone out there right now saying, "Oh man, I see a lot more than that."

And I'll tell you why I bring this up.

I just had a MAJOR gut check.

The day I finally realized I was headed back in the darkroom I also realized I had to pick something to print.

That's it. I had to pick something.

What? What do I print?

Before, I printed it all. Bingo, bango, it spit out in minutes and I had myself a humdinger print.

But now.....now.... I have to REALLY THINK about what I'm doing. This new print won't be spit out. It won't be fast. I will have to work for it, sweat for it, concentrate, and focus on only the image. I will have to transform it, read it, sense it and make it live.

And you know what? I really didn't know what to print.

Suddenly, my images were not that good. Print after print, made digitally, and with ease, didn't make the cut.

My gut check was realizing that over a twenty year "career" I could probably "edit myself down" to twenty images for my entire life.

Ya, how you like them apples? Talk about getting kicked in the teeth. It's painful, but in some ways it is a really nice pain.

The pioneers of this field, this endeavor of photography, set the quality and commitment bar a long, long time ago, and I have to live by that code, that bar, otherwise, I'm part of the dilution process.

Tomorrow I will return to the darkroom and tonight I will once again have to face.....myself...and the truth, however painful, of who I am visually.

It is now okay to turn off the power ballad.

01 February, 2009

AMT: Super Dynamite Update

You might look at this photo and wonder, "Who is that?"

Is that the world's smallest bank robber?

Is that the world's smallest Zapatista rebel?

Nope, it's AMT: Super Dynamite showing off his new ski mask. He wears it well.