Monthly Archive for April, 2008

one of a kind….

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photograph of Mary Ellen Mark by Michael "Nick" Nichols

 

she was always a "star"….in high school she was the head cheerleader for the football team and super student….in college she received a Fulbright Fellowship in photography and went off to Turkey to first make her "mark" as a pre-eminent photographer…i cannot think of any photographer who has consistently produced for an entire lifetime in quite the way as has Mary Ellen Mark…at times with a coy and "girlish" personality, and other times as  hard as nails , Mary Ellen has always had her "eyes on the prize", knows what she wants, and goes and gets it…

using the now extinct 20×24 inch Polaroid camera to make spectacular, literally "one of a kind", black & white prints, Mary Ellen has been photographing high school prom night since 2006….she has three more proms to photograph this year and then that will be it…over for her project…over for the the super big Polaroid…end of an era…please read a story on MEM prom work by Francine Prose in the summer 2007 issue of Aperture magazine…last weekend Mary Ellen came to Virginia (seen above) to shoot a high school prom and will have prints in her retrospective "legend" exhibition  from this local event….MEM only had 15 assistants with her…  i ended up grilling steaks for all of them, at a dinner hosted by Look3 producer Jessica Nagle,  therefore becoming number 16!!

Mary Ellen joins Joel-Peter Witkin and James Nachtwey as the "legends" to be exhibited and on hand  at this 2nd annual Look3, Festival of the Photograph, from June 12-14 in Charlottesville, Virginia…please check the link to see all that will be presented by festival  maestro Michael Nichols …last year he put this photo fest on the "international map" and this year promises us even more….see this YouTube video…

added this year will be one week shooting workshops (June 7-12) being taught by Eugene Richards, William Albert Allard, and , yes, your own DAH…i think we have a few spaces left, so click the link if interested in a challenge…these workshops will segue right into the festival…

i believe you already know that many of you will have work from our forum here (entries from Emerging Photog Fund) presented in a half hour slide show as a special feature for the festival…this could become an annual feature, this will become at least one outlet for you here….as you know, i am trying for more….the good news for me is the workshop will be over by the time the festival starts, therefore giving me some "hang time" with those of you who show up, and some shooting time also with some local families…

ok, the logical, and perhaps soul searching question for all of you…..do you have dreams of being recognized as a "one of a kind" photographer?

 

time ??

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many photographers  seem to have the "rush to publish" syndrome…get out a book, any book, just as fast as possible…well, not Joseph…in 7 days in 1968, Koudelka photographed his first book material…but, it has taken him 40 years to publish it…

at the Magnum office last week Joseph explained  to our staff about his famous Prague watch picture…even he was confused about the actual time on the watch….he came to show us his new book "Joseph Koudelka:Invasion ’68 Prague"….i naturally asked him "why did you wait so long to do this book?"..his answer:  "nobody was interested at the time…i was not interested at the time"…

as the Russians rolled into Prague in August ’68, Joseph had amazing access, riding around on the Russian tanks, shooting everywhere all the time…this book  is quite an amazing piece of good old fashioned photojournalism, with i think about 250 pictures…some you probably know…some are "new"….

Joseph poured us all a glass of wine, flipped through the pages of the book, told some good stories, and then, looking at his watch, abruptly left  saying "i must go to work" .. quite literally like a man late for "work" or something…funny…

so, what time do you think it reads on the watch???

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off for a family drive….

this last weekend i met some of my family in Colorado..we were so gathered to say goodbye to my youngest brother Craig who died peacefully, but suddenly , saturday before last …i now joined my mother Maryanna, my sister Patricia, husband Paul, and daughters Sara and Maria, and my brother Gary and his 35yr marriage bride Becky….

from birth, Craig has always drawn our family closer…my mother’s last child, Craig, was born with Down  Syndrome..a tradgedy to be sure, but either a family "splitter" or a family "bonder" as the only possible results of coping…we bonded then,  as now…catalysts come in many forms…

the mantra for my work  has always been,  authorship , authorship, and AUTHORSHIP…and in "keying" off of something PERSONAL …surely this was something that came to me instinctively or perhaps i just "had" to photograph in this way because of some childhood experiences etched so deeply in my psyche…who can know??

now i draw a big circle… with  "edges" out there so far that there are literally "no limits"…..i am full ON for what feels like  one of the most important ,  or  certainly the most personal,  "adult" project of my life….

                                                       

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i have no assignments to aid in production….nor have i  sought assignments …i feel compelled for many reasons to make this  essay  totally "clean"..preferring to produce  this "on my own",  at least in the conceptual stage…….in any case, this work will be "pure", ok almost as pure, as the little album (above) i made for my grandparents at Christmas in 1958 (see Gallery section here off of "home page")…my whole American Family  project is now  "keyed off of " my original ’58 holiday family gift using  6 or 7 rolls of film to document my  family at home….it was photographed  in the very year that our special innocent always happy always  Craig left our home at age 4..forever a "child"…Peter Pan…innocent..only in the last 6 months was Craig re-united with my family, under the care of my mother and sister…a sweet goodbye to be sure…

for the last several months , i had been planning to cross the U.S.and work on the project so explained below…yes yes a "portrait" of America….sure, done before…..and done very well before…Frank, Kerouac, Thompson, Winogrand, Twain, Steinbeck,Least-Heat-Moon, Pirsig,  just for starters…i think about these authors… i light a candle to all those writers whose books i devoured and made me both  question and respect, or those photographers whose work has given me a "lust" that has driven me for a long time…

it is with this "lust" (and i cannot think of a synonym right now) that i now will spend the better part of this year and maybe next,  photographing my country through its families!…vignettes…portraits…fantasy…reality…..med format film…b&w and color neg…..supplemented maybe by  SX-70 or disposable camera snaps…anyway, i am planning the exhibit before the first roll of film has been processed…very big prints, snapshot board, home movies, etc etc…and maybe one hand made album for exhibition purposes only….

so i am off….ROAD TRIP !!!  i will look in the rear view mirror of course…but, looking down the road ahead, knowing for sure that the unexpected will happen (guaranteed) , a "treasure" uncovered,  is where i want to be..

"road trip" , especially a coast to coast trip, is an  American teenager’s fantasy…i guess  some "adults" stay stuck on the concept as well..

in any case , here is a letter i wrote about my project  to our Magnum staff a few weeks ago:

"My plan is to literally drive zigzag across the country from New York
to California. I will meet, photograph and video tape a conglomerate and representative demographic of the U.S..  For example, I could
photograph a  wealthy socialite family in the Hamptons , a New Orleans
gay couple raising a baby, an Iowa farm family who lost a daughter or
son in Iraq, a Native American family at a powwow, an exhiled family
from Tibet, a Mormon wedding , a Bar or Bat Mitzvah family scene , a
Vietnamese fishing family, a Muslim executive with her husband, a
Mexican Quinceanera  fiesta , Buddhist monks, a Sufi with three wives,
a West Virginia coal miner and his wife, and  a surfer dude with his
tattooed 15yrs. old bride and Frisbee catching Lab retriever.All of the people that make this immigrant country "tick" in
the first place. Anyone will quickly see that my  American
Family will be (if it works), in fact, a "stylized portrait" of our simmering international stew….

I think our timing is perfect. The U.S. is re-defining itself in a
way not seen since the 60’s.   Personally , I am so so curious to find out "who we are" . Let people speak. There is an obvious  natural "flow" for me with this new work.  I started at 14 photographing my own family , went on at 21 to live with a black family, publishing a small book (Tell It Like It Is) .. in the years that have  followed, i photograph all
over the world on a variety of stories all  influenced by those
first two "important" projects in my creative developement.  So, this
project is an evolutionary step. 

Serendipity will play the largest role  in this as
will my online forum which I will use to keep my readers "in the
loop" and also perhaps lean on them a bit to help me find a family or two… I will give back to my "reader/collaborators" as well creating perhaps a "traveling workshop" of sorts.. So, this  will be a  collaboration  with Magnum, my on-line loyal readers and , most importantly,  all the families I will meet."

ok, i think you get it..i probably over explained…sorry…  but , here is the deal….offer me lunch and i give you a portfolio review!!….travel along with us and fill up my car with gas (getting  expensive) and you might just get an almost  free workshop, or  find a great family for me to photograph  and get a  signed print (see how entrepreneural i have become???)….seriously, all of your ideas are  welcomed..

i have given myself the next 6-8 weeks to get started, see how it feels, even some time to think about maybe backing  out….it happens….i would hate to eat all of the above enthusiasm right here in front of everyone, but i would if ,at any point,  i could see i was going nowhere…

right this minute, this seems "right" ..poignant…i have freedom, i have no excuses…. i am  very much "on the line" with all in my peer group (past and present), and my peer group includes my friends and you…part of my extended family….nothing virtual about it…nothing virtual about the "weight" of this undertaking either…

so, come and join me…when and if appropriate….with this kind of project it probably would be easy at  times and fun to have some of you around when i am shooting….so, let’s just see how it goes….i can post from the road and keep you updated etc etc..i can fantasize some amazing "on the road" gatherings…

so come hang out….this will not be a "reality show"…… just reality…

i love you Craig…i move forward in your memory…

inside/outside

i am this morning having my coffee in London….just trying to figure out the weather patterns….i have seen three different "seasons" in just the last three hours…from warm sunshine to cold windy black skies and everything in between…i mean, what kind of job could being a UK "weather forecaster" possibly be??

however, this post is not to be about changing weather patterns, but about changing cultures, although i am really starting to think that weather and culture are totally interconnected…would Charles Dickens have written about the same stories  had he lived in Tahiti??  but, i digress…

my ancestors came from these British Isles….clamored onto small ships and ended up in the Americas looking for freedom and a new life…i cannot trace my family back to anyplace specific in the U.K., but my name is no surprise to anyone here…."Harvey" fits right in….belongs….

yet, i have never done any photography whatsoever in the land of my heritage…nor, have i even been to Ireland or Scotland where my bloodline also extends…there are a whole bunch of family names connected to me from both places….but so far, i have just not felt "the pull"….i just have not been compelled…

a few weeks ago, one of the comments from a reader here suggested that photographing a culture other than your own just could not be as well done as by someone who was actually a "part" of that culture…"inside"…one of them….the comment even went on the say that perhaps as photographers we did not even have the "right" to be so bold as to even attempt "identification" with a culture other than our "own"…

of course, even the word "culture" means basically three things or a mixture of the three…nationality, race, religion…so, in my case  as an American, where in the world would i begin my "identification" ?? the cliché  "melting pot" concept is , in fact, clear reality….and is becoming more of a reality in most countries of the world….

i am very interested in your comments regarding any of us to have the "right" to photograph "outside" of our own "territories"….sure we have the freedom to do so, curiosity drives us,  but can we really "see" through someone else’s eyes?  or , does it even make any difference at all??

for my work, i have photographed both "outside" and "inside" by own "culture"…probably , well surely, leaning towards the "outside"  …. what about you?  do you find yourself leaning in one way or the other?

if you do go "out", what gives  you the sense that you can portray another nationality, race, or religion in any meaningful way, or even have the intellectual  "right" to do so???

samba nights…

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i hear a sad song…i do not understand the words, but i can "feel" it is sad….deep, melancholy, and goes with the mood of the city…dark, mysterious and sometimes full of dread….i wander São Paulo, with not a clue where i am,  but i am told  that i am now in the heart of Samba….Barra Funda , an "oasis" amid the chaos, the neighborhood  where Samba began…originally the "voice" of slaves, now the musical expression of choice for many Brazilians….

just when i am wondering why, and for how long, can any culture endure one of the worlds most quixotic megacities (19 million), with the highest of all crime stats (5,000 murders annually)  and traffic stats (1000 added cars each day) , the music picks up a beat…sounds now happier and the people dance and sing….joy washes over everyone….in celebration, we drink cachaça …warm, sweet and straight to the cerebellum….whew (how will i get home?)….made from the very sugar cane which promulgated slavery in the first place…but, i am smiling reeling along with everyone else….clapping, dancing….more cachaça…and more more…

suddenly the music stops… é o fim….abraços goodbye….thank  you…muito obrigado …i hope we meet again……….yes, i do…

 

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threads…

many of you have noticed  our new (hopefully temporary) "restriction" on the number of comments per "page" (now 50)…getting to the most recent comments is now more difficult when we have over 50, which is almost always the case…we could go back to having the most recent comments at the top…however, when we tried that once , almost none of you seemed to like it….you still have to scroll to the bottom to post anyway and reading a thread "in reverse" seemed to annoy most of you…

please know that i will check your comments no matter when or where they are posted…it is easy for me to "see" the "whole picture"…i wish it were easier for you..i cannot imagine why this service thought this was a "good idea" to break up our thread "flow"….in any case,  please post comments wherever you want…even if you post on something from weeks ago, i will see it…i totally stay on top of and respond as quickly as possible to the last two or three posts and i also check way way back from time to time.. many of you have probably noticed that i can send  private e-mails to you easy enough and i do this when appropriate..any delay from my end should be attributed to  my personal travel scenario etc etc…i am now in Brazil for two more days, but will work on fixing this new "design" as soon as i return to New York….

please note new post below…..cheers……

taking aim…

there is a little discussion going on in the previous post about  "war vs. peace" photography and photographers…we can keep that one going, but i would also like to broaden the discussion a bit and chat about "subject matter" period…

how important is it with what you choose to photograph in the first place? do you think "great photographers" choose inherently  "great subjects"?? 

so, just to get you thinking a bit more….please note that Ansel Adams did not set up his large format camera in Iowa…what would have happened if he did??  can you  imagine Salgado shooting in a shopping mall in Los Angeles?….in discussing Allard, most of you referred to his photographs from the West (how important is the graphic element of the cowboys hats?) ….what about his stories on Thai elephants or Cyprus?  ….does Nachtwey "need" conflict or war to be "great"?  does Annie Leibovitz "need" celebrities to make her work sing?? must Mario Testino have "beautiful people" in front of his lens to be Mario??

these are just questions…questions that come up every time i meet with a photographer trying to find her/his way…i am not giving you my opinion (yet)…i want yours….

most "professional" photographers are, by nature,  required to make any subject "look good"…they earn their living by  lending their expertise and talent to a wide variety of subject matter….certainly the mantra for most professionals  is the general thought that they should be able to go anywhere, anytime, and make "anything" look "dramatic" or at least "picture worthy"…

however,  most of the photographers you mention here in your comments  and  actually "admire" do not do this at all…are they "smarter" by choosing the "right" subject or are they just "driven" to do what they do??

the long and short of it: are some subjects just "visually loaded"??  how important is this to you?  where and how do you want to "take aim"??