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.