morning fog

there is now outside my window a morning fog so thick i cannot see the river…monochromatic…soft, mysterious….it hides the fact that i am where i am….it has taken the "place" out of what is normally an obvious skyline….new york is  temporarily "gone"……

i often contemplate "place"….both where i live and where i do my photographs….certain environments seem to be catalysts for good work done  and others not…..i tend to feel more comfortable in southern climes…new york is way way too far north for me…only because it is new york can i deal with the biting cold wind  of winter….cold is not so inspirational for me….a warm tropical dawn with  fishermen readying their small boats  for the sea moves me more than whale hunters preparing their dog sleds for a journey over the ice….

most photographers i know prefer certain "places" as well as certain types of stories….do you envision any time soon a story about Alaska from Alex Webb or James Nachtwey’s vision of Iowa or Maya Goded in China or Bruce Davidson in Japan or Mary Ellen Mark in New Zealand or Joseph Koudelka in Tahiti or Gregory Crewdson doing a tableau in Russia or Nan Goldin in Scotland ???  i cannot imagine Ansel Adams having set up his 8×10 in Indiana nor Henri Cartier-Bresson doing street photography in Hollywood…

how important do you think it is for a photographer to be in the right geographical environment to do their best work??

the fog lifts now slowly… i know where i am……


170 Responses to “morning fog”

  • I think its very important. I always felt that the best photos come when you understand a place. You have a lot of experience in spanish speaking countries, David, you understand the Spanish-speaking cultures and you can read situations better. Im comfortable in Seoul, but less so outside it.

  • I agree with you David. The setting is as important as the subject is to one’s vision. But as you pointed out with numerous examples, one photographer’s inspiration may be another’s hell. And thank goodness for that, else we would all make the same photos.

  • Hi David,

    This has been on my mind for a very long time. I live in the suburbs. I am very bored, uninspired with what I see around me. I don’t find it at all interesting. I’m sure there are plenty of photographs here or stories even, but I don’t believe I am the right one to capture those photographs. I feel no real connection to the space that surrounds me.

    It’s hard for me to walk out my door with my camera and feel that I am going to see something new. No matter how creative I try to be – it feels forced.

    When I am in the Caribbean, where I am from, I feel my inspiration there. That is where I am most “connected”. And I am not talking about pretty beach shots or sunsets. I am motivated, inspired, without intimidation by that world. And have a deeper, intrinsic sense of the culture, no matter the island and that sense allows me a certain creative freedom. It excites me because I feel unbounded.

    Thanks for posting on this because I have often thought I am a poor creative who cannot make great images no matter where I am :)


  • David, I do think that even for the most accomplished photographers, there is sometimes something magical that happens in a given location, environment where they will do their best work. I am a huge fan of Alex Webb and have all the books he has ever published but, while I like all his work, I think that nothing is like his early work in the Carribean. I am thinking about the two books that he has published in the mid 80’s “Hot Light/ Half made worlds” and “Under a grudging sun”. Who-ever has not checked these two books should check these. In my view, that is his best work. I also like the work he has done in the Mexico border or more recently in Turkey but somehow, there was something even more magical in the warmth, light of the Carribbean…. I wonder what is this magical specific place for you David…. I have my pov but curious to what you would say…. By the way, not linked to the topic of this post, after checking one of your former post on Bruce Davidson, I started to look at his work and I discovered the book that he has done “subway”. I did buy the book and just got it couple of days ago. This is an amazing book…. As I know he is a friend, I wonder why this is the only book that he has done in color… Do you know why he switched to color for that book and seem to have stopped afterwards… I know that you are a big fan of his B&W work but this color work is very powerful!!! What do you think of his colour work? Cheers, Eric

  • I think place is incredibly important. Sometimes it is about being in a new place, for the first time, seeing, smelling, tasting all the new things in front of you. While I love this feeling, I personally find I love the feeling of being somewhere which seems so different to where I’m originally from. In a way, I’m so familiar with where I’m from (Britain), it doesn’t inspire me in the same way as when I’m here in China. My Chinese friends sometimes express their boredom and overfamiliarity with China, failing to see why Im so enchanted by it, and crave to be somewhere ‘different’ like Britain! Is the grass always greener?!

  • Great question. I too live in the suburbs and although I am always camera in hand when I walk around, I know where to find the color. It’s the same every year. The red hydrant, the fire box, the faded blue on the cement small building that I don’t know what it is used for. I can’t always be traveling so I look and I find more, more detail, more pattern and sometimes my work surprises me. I think that always wanting to be somewhere else to photograph something new yet familiar will take away from what is potentially right where you are and will prevent you from looking and searching and pushing. That said, I’m going to bangkok next month and will be photographing nothing familiar and I can’t wait. But, that’s only for a week or so. The rest of the time I’m in a suburb of Boston, and since I can’t put my camera down, I need to be satisfied with ‘searching’ around here most of the year. And, I am.

  • Realizing that I prefer certain places struck me about a year ago. For me its the North Shore of Massachusetts and Cape Cod. But even then I can break it down to very small areas: Woods Hole, the National Seashore, Provincetown. In the North Shore its Annisquam, Gloucester, Marblehead, Pigeon Cove. And then other areas make me feel strangely uncomfortable: Essex. Why is this so? Past lives? But in these places, so far, is where I’ve done my best work. These areas are all associated with water and what goes on there. I.E. I’m fascinated by the Rock Neck area of Gloucester, especially the ship refitting company that hauls up big schooners, trawlers, and tugs. It’s rare, no matter what the physical conditions, that I can’t do some decent work each time I visit these areas. And then on the other hand, other areas, just leave me cold no matter how much I think I should like to take pictures there: Hawaii. Much of it depends on how one like to work, what they produce. For me it’s b & w and I love J. Koudelka & Paul Strand, and I can’t see either of them shooting in Hawaii.

  • hi Merritt, perhaps it’s the biting greenheads and the threat of eating at Woodman’s that makes you uncomfortable in Essex!

    It’s funny, having grown up in Rockport, I have a hard time shooting on the North Shore. Sometimes when the place is one’s childhood home, the challenge is all together different than one’s adult home. I do think I could shoot certain aspects of Gloucester..fiesta and Mother of Grace, for example, but I imagine to do it profoundly or even well some magical mix of the past and the present would have to come into being.

  • I think you are right, location is important. I am always really happy to work in Paris, but the majority of my time is spent in the UK. Saying that, I have started work on a new book on Birmingham (England), and made the conscious decision that I wanted it to have a ‘Parisian feel’ – and because I want it to feel this way, I have been consciously looking for certain light, people, events etc – and the content is certainly looking more Parisian now.

  • David – An interesting subject that I have been thinking a lot about lately. I have spent most of the past 10 years shooting in very densly packed urban areas making “street” photos in B&W. New York, Philadelphia, Chicago. They are great locations and provide a wealth of subject matter. But I also have a sense sometimes that I am seeing the same scenes over and over again. Streets, people, cars, situations seem the same to me now. I have a yearning to get out of the urban settings I am comfortable in – whether it be suburbia, rural areas, foreign lands. I have been challenging myself to work outside of these “safe” areas and to work in color. I wonder if you can speak about how you become comfortable in these other areas. I grew up in New York – so it’s home – after many years of shooting in these cities I can do good work here. But I also want to grow in my work and to move forward by pushing myselft to do things and work in places where I am less at home.
    All best,
    Jonathan Elderfield
    FYI – You can see some of the B&W work on the website – including the book I published on South Philly and some of the color work on the blog –

  • It’s a complex subject, since there is so much subjectivity and personalization in how a place makes us “click”, literally and figuratively. Not sure it deserves a long answer though, for that very reason.

    For now, i am just cracking up at the idea of forcing James nachtwey in the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris, shooting kids looking at Guignol (marionettes) for 3 days.

    Joking? Yes, yet.. remember some of the emotions in that famous shot of Eisenstadt, but also in truffaut’s “400 blows”.

  • This time of year on northern Puget Sound we have thick fog many mornings, but it doesn’t erase our sense of place as it did temporarily for David in New York! Instead, it is definitely an inescapable part of living here.

    ‘Sense of Place’ is what most of my own photography is all about, it was why I picked up a camera. In my late 20s I was living in the Palouse (N. Idaho–E. Washington border) and I said, “I have to photograph this place and these people!” Before that I had lived in New York, on the California Coast, in Oregon, in Texas– all iconic places for many people and many photographers, but it was the Palouse that first made me buy a camera and turned me into a photographer.
    Some of my personal history of involvement with places, both emotionally and photographically, is currently on my website in an extended photo and text essay, ‘Six Records of a Floating Life’ for anyone who is curious to see, so I won’t repeat here what is written there. But a couple of footnotes- in Idaho I found my own natural way of seeing to be close to that of a 28mm lens. In Korea, where I did documentary style shooting in both rural and urban areas, a 35mm lens seemed more optimal for expressing a lot of what I was seeing. When I got to Japan, I had to learn to see all over again because space is really arranged very differently there and in the built-up environment a wide-angle lens will often give you a jumble of chaotic clutter. It seems a lot of the really stunning beauty in Japan is best appreciated at 50mm or tighter. At least, that’s what I thought then, and what I saw in other people’s pictures, but if I go back there it’s gonna be 28mm all the way, bring on the clutter! That’s the real Japan that I now know and accept, not the fantasy I was trying to live and project. So in addition to all those factors that may involve us or not in a place– the warm weather, the winter light, the lovely brown skins, the babble of familiar or unfamiliar tongues, the shapes of the hills– it’s also a fact that space and perspectives in the manmade or human-altered landscape are very different in different places and may call for different types of vision to make ‘sense’ of them or bring out their hidden mysteries.
    Now, I love the tropics, and have found the tropical countries I’ve visited very stimulating (and not just visually!) but in my soul I am a four-season guy (or maybe eight!- see my website under ‘Denizen of the Ancient Capital’). I certainly agree with David about New York winter- yet I used to love winter in Kyoto and the Japanese mountains. Something about the streets of New York, especially Manhattan, makes that biting winter wind and ice on the sidewalks seem crueler, harder, colder.

    I can sympathize with both Sherman, not feeling connected or visually inspired in the suburbs, and Sean, excited visually by what may seem mundane to his Chinese friends. Where I live now, Bellingham (‘City of Subdued Excitement’) is a physically beautiful place with seacoast, mountains, forests, funky old neighborhoods, well tended gardens. But it does not excite me with the passion for photographing that I felt in the Palouse, in Korea, in Japan, in Indonesia, or that I feel in Vancouver just across the border to the north. The social fabric of the place, though it has some diversity (Native Americans, Mexican migrants, a few Asians, NW hippies left over from the 70s) is largely white suburban yuppie, SUV’s and McMansions. More Laura Greenfield than Steve McCurry country, I’m afraid!

    We all have our places where we are inspired by not just the scenery and weather but the people and culture as well. I tend to come most alive when I am in a mix that includes a lot of Asians but also many other groups, and a mix of the urban and the rural with the outdoors and wilderness close at hand. Harbor cities. So in many ways the Vancouver BC area is my true spiritual home. It’s a little too rainy and grey for eight months of the year (eleven months this year!), not quite warm enough usually, and way too expensive. But I love it. Bellingham is forty miles away- as close as I can manage for now.

    Now, the place I haven’t mentioned is France. I think it was Thomas Jefferson who said, “Every man has two natural homes, his own and France.” I think this may be especially true for photographers– given the history of our craft and all those great images we all grew up with, going to France is like going home. The times I have been there– whether in Paris or the Pays– has always reaffirmed for me the joy, and the necessity, of taking photographs.


  • As far as they keep on shooting the same way it’s great to see how they adapt. Cartier-Bresson shot more 35mm lens when he was in the USA, which is quite funny. And in Hollywood he shot more Marilyn Monroe than street ;-) (well, most of us would have done the same, I guess)

    I find it strange that the overall trend is to shoot in the places that are familiar to us or *somewhere warmer*. The only one that I can recall going somewhere colder is Jacob Aue Sobol going from Denmark to Canada and Greenland.

  • For me, place is all important. For reasons I’ve already mentioned here and elsewhere, I dont leave my neck of the woods very often; the grass may indeed be greener over the septic tank, but since I’m not going there any time soon, I dont let it bother me. Also, I think when you’re committed to the one area or the one subject you have to think much more about what you’re photographing because you have to find new ways of seeing, of trying to find the new in the ordinary and commonplace. It also gives me an excuse not to go anywhere. Bad things happen to me when I go places so I try to stay put.

  • Place is as important to photography as it is to literature–and “place” doesn’t refer to landscape but to milieu or environment. Lauren Greenfield’s “Fast Forward” and “Girl Culture” are great books about California (even if not all the pictures in GC are from the west coast). The idea of place–how it is conceived and presented–is an essential part of photography.

    When you think of any great artist, regardless of the medium, you probably also associate him or her with a particular setting (physical and intellectual).

  • David, All,

    The ancient Romans believed that every place has its own spirit (“genius loci” or “spiritus loci” they called it), that places are haunted by intelligences that speak to us in different voices. Perhaps the song they sing in some places are sweeter for us than others. Sibelius would have not written “Finlandia” anywhere else than his homeland, and Dvořák in America kept dreaming of his native Moravia… There are places of the mind that keep emerging on our mental and emotional maps, and I think each one of us who’s attuned to the world seeks harmony with their surroundings and their sense of place. Seeks to find on a real map that place of emotion.

    Not sure how photographers fit into all of this, but Koudelka’s solitary tree in Northern Greece, surrounded by snow, keeps coming to mind…


  • I agree with Giancarlo; can anyone imagine Faulkner as a New York writer or Joyce as a Canadian or Kafka without Prague? Dante spent his exile in Ravenna dreaming of Florence; other than Koudelka, I can’t really think of an artist who has found a true home in exile. Exile usually has the effect of cutting the artist off from the source of their strength. Akhmatova knew this better than anyone. She could have left Russia and spared herself and her son a life of pain and bitterness, but she refused to leave.

    “I am not one of those who left the land
    to the mercy of its enemies.
    Their flattery leaves me cold,
    my songs are not for them to praise.

    But I pity the exile’s lot.
    Like a felon, like a man half-dead,
    dark is your path, wanderer;
    wormwood infects your foreign bread.

    But here, in the murk of conflagration,
    where scarcely a friend is left to know,
    we, the survivors, do not flinch
    from anything, not from a single blow.

    Surely the reckoning will be made
    after the passing of this cloud.
    We are the people without tears,
    straighter than you…more proud… ”

    Anna Akhmatova, 1922

  • For me the place came before the photography.

    I started visiting India in 1995 and out of that my love for photography was rekindled. For the first several years I was a (spiritual) tourist with a point and shoot. Then because of what I was seeing and the fact that I couldn’t “capture” it, I began to study photography. I’ve been to India every year for the past 12 years and it’s definitely been the place I’ve most associated with shooting. HOWEVER I am now in the process of moving to New Mexico and this year for the first time since I’ve been a photographer I won’t be going to India. I’ve been shooting my “assignment” in New Mexico and I have to say I have been enjoying it as much or more than India (if for no other reason than I can drink the water!) I’ve been forced to look beyond the bright colors and exotic locations and I think it’s been the best thing that’s happened to me “growth-wise” since I started shooting.

    This has also happened at the same time I’ve been exposed to David and the blog…so the question is whether the change of location was as important as all that I’ve been exposed to here. Hard to say but for me moving in a direction different than what I thought “my place” was has been a good thing.

  • One more thought on exile… I once heard Andrei Tarkovski speak at a lecture in Florence, many years ago, and while he never openly spoke of Russia, you could hear the man reaching out to his homeland in every word he said. And then again it is more complicated than that, than just longing for our native place: some of us will go away to find their internal voice in a different place than where they were born. There are places on maps that we can’t touch, and their geography shapes the contours of whom we truly are…

    Akaky, that is a beautiful poem you sent!

  • We all have our comfort zones, but there is generally a sense of excitement when going someplace new to shoot. I totally sympathize with Sherman coming from the Caribbean and experiencing the blandness of a suburb, but I appreciate Janet’s willingness to seek out something new while living in someplace similar.

    Since we are photographers and have easy access to our international peers, maybe it’s best to consider our audience. I remember looking at the site of the photo festival in France, the Rencontres d’Arles 2007. In the introductory slideshow I remember a very basic shot of a typical suburban home with an SUV parked in the driveway. It made me wonder, is this shot so important because it’s not a typical scene in France, and purhaps wouldn’t go over so well or have as much photographic merit to an American audience? If I’m missing the context, please correct me.

    I have my quirks about things I try to avoid when making pictures. Plastic chairs – modern cars – vinal siding – hate ’em. I see this stuff every day. But to someone who doesn’t, things unknown become a point of interest, then you have an audience.

    If you find yourself stuck in the suburbs, maybe you seek out the story that your audience wouldn’t expect. Find rebellion. Maybe it’s a story on encroching gang violence or heroin use among teens – or something lighter, like kids in garage bands trying to make their way out.

    Of course I’d prefer to be traveling and shooting, but still feel compelled to find something meaningful wherever I am, or wherever I’m stuck.

  • David–

    Speaking of photographers thriving in some places and not others, and being associated with and inspired by certain milieux and not others, I have always wondered how Bill Allard ended up shooting fashion models and runway shows in Paris, and what he thought about that– before, during, and after– do you have any backstory or insights that might illuminate this?


    Thanks for the poem. I too love the poetry of Akhmatova and find her life inspiring.


    Many great thoughts in your contributions! The equivalent to your Roman ‘genius locus’ is the Japanese ‘kami’, the god or spirit that infuses a place and on which all of the Shinto religion is based.

    David McGowan and Akaky–

    You both raise important points that I wrestle with all the time and have not resolved. Once I was a world traveler (no comparison with DAH, but in my own modest way) but I have not been on an airplane or owned a car since autumn 2000. Partly this is because I am very poor these days, partly it is a matter of deeply held principle. I contributed far more than my share of CO2 to the planetary atmosphere over several decades but cannot in good conscience continue to do so. So I try to focus on the world close to home, even though there is much in it that does not inspire me, particularly visually. What I do photograph locally is a very filtered and unrepresentative fragment of the whole I see around me. I try to extend that to be more ‘representative’ of the truth of my environment, but it’s a daily struggle with myself. Maybe it’s foolish to agonize over this, but I was a geographer before I was a photographer.


  • Thanks Sidney. You too!

    One more thought — perhaps one that can shed some isight on Bill Allard… Many of us (pro photographers or not) need to make money to live and some times the logic of the marketplace takes us where we wouldn’t otherwise go… Then also, some of us follow a path of self discovery and through that, they find the world. It might seem that others follow the history and events of the world and and end up finding the inner path. The two journeys can lead to very different results…

    Maybe that’s why Koudelka has always been comfortable(?) in many places: he is still pursuing an internal quest, wherever that takes him. The world is just his canvas.


  • David,

    My very backyard was a completely different world this morning. The fog was thickly present in MD, too.

    Don’t know if I have a particular geographical environment that suits my photography or if I work better in the Southwest or the Northeast or where ever… I think I do my best work when my mind and body are working together. When I’m rested, healthy, enthusiastic, driven. Creativity gracefully flows from this. (usually) This can happen (or NOT!) in any environment… for me.

    P.S. Did you happen to see my email response to you?


  • Home for lunch…

    I think the answers are on 2 different levels. One would be to be very specific about the place that “clicks” with us, and the other more about the place that don’t inspire us, leaving quite a few that do, and on a rather large scale sometimes (spanish-speaking/influence warm climates, tropical Asia, etc…).

    Curious: which one of you could really stick to one very specific place, of the dimension of one city, one region, one “zone”, and feel, on the contrary, that another locale/subject would be less natural to apprehend, and more like work, for pros?

    Funnily, it’s without photography in mind that i feel ever-attracted by the South east asian sub-continent.

    But with photography in mind, I tend to question this single-minded attraction. To answer like all of you did, i would say i have a predilection for semi-urban places, in preference to big capital cities and distant tribal ethnies.

    A good example is the Issan region in Thailand, mostly farmland, with urban regional centers, all completely affected by the changes of the last 50 years in Thailand.

    This said, if someone thought I’d be right to work on any other subject, in any place, I’d welcome the challenge with excitement. Beggars are not choosers! :-)

  • AKAKY…

    yes….i was in paris with bill allard when he shot the paris fashion scene…i was there simultaneous doing a story on french teenagers…all for an entire issue on france..such fun we had together!!!

    bill requested this shoot…as did i….we both totally enjoyed our respective work…


  • I have been obsessed with the look of NYC since I first came here in 1986, this is the place that made me buy an SLR camera and take a photo class while still in college in Boston in 1988 only to dislike and feel forced to take photos anywhere else but here in NYC. I moved here in 1990 and have been taking street photos on and off ever since. I am still obsessed with NYC I feel I have not even scratched it’s surface. There is no place I have ever been, and I have traveled quit a bit and lived in other places, that stirs my passion for doing photography then NYC. And I am almost positive if I ever move out of NYC that photograhy will be something of the past for me.

  • Spirit of place man! , The importance of an inspirational invironment cannot be overrated, I moved North of the tropic of Capricorn to be closer to the things and scenarios I love to photograph.
    To have assignments that would take me close to places that I want to go to , But then again I had a brilliant winter photographing in London over christmas ,walking up and down tow paths on the Thames , Thin ,Dim light a bit of change is a good thing !

  • Glenn,

    G’day. Checked out your site a little- loved it all, the landscapes (Astral Travelling) and the more journalistic stuff (Tronna). As good as any imagery I’ve seen out of Oz. Dinkum! Especially impressed with your East Timor coverage. Good onya, mate!


  • Thanks Sidney , You’re a gentleman and a scholar and so slouch your self, whens 5 & 6 coming along?

  • Judging from everyone’s comments, place is an important concept for photographers, perhaps one of the most central concepts. Not surprising when it is the surfaces of the world and how they reflect light that we are interested in studying.

    Place is just where time and space meet, but it is thick and meaning-filled. We photographers, and maybe we people, enshrine place with memory and its material equivalents — like photographs.

    Akaky, Ahkmatova is a wonderful example of this. The poet in Leningrad was surrounded by the spectors of place. Even the name of the city was lost to political struggle: her lonely home, the prison where her son was locked away, fellow poets and friends lost to suicide or the terror of Stalin… all ghosts of place. Yet it was still her Russia, her place, and sustained her as the poem you posted so eloquently states.

    For me, photography has been the best vehicle for exploring place. I’ve grown up absorbed in the pages of NG and it has been Alex Webb and the photographers of NG — hint, hint — that inspired me into this game.

    So what is it about photography that makes it so suitable for envisioning place, I wonder?

  • Place is everything, but it nescesery dont have too be fare away, Josef Sudek was photographing his garden in 30 years or so. And that garden was small, but his art is not. It all depends on the type of photo we do. War hopfully not at home, flowers yes.(if you have:) Some get bored of one thing, others not. So as the rest of things in life it is personally, I find it more and more interesting to photograph where I Iive, because that challenge me. Fresh images in the same old place. (I live in an suburb)
    But it could also be wery frustrating coming to a wonder place like Venice and awoid the cliches.

    Sidney like your writings and photos!


  • Obviously place is important but I’m much more subject driven (I’m interested in animals) Next year with luck I’ll be visiting a jungle (I hate taking pictures in jungles) Russia-China in the snow(If I can beg the equipment I need)and Southern Africa. Sorry Sidney my carbon footprint will be terrible next year. I much prefer Africa and I hate jungles but that’s where the story is.

    As long as it’s new I find I’m happy. I’m in love with a national park in Zimbabwe that I’ve visited a couple of times and would love to stay there for a year but I’m sure after a year I’d be itching to get pictures of penguins or seals.

    I think I’d be being lazy if I just went where I know I could take good pictures.


  • When I started photography in Sydney, I thought it was absolutely photogenic and Bangkok, my hometown, would never beat that. I mean I would never take shots like in Sydney.

    However, now, I think it’s more about photographer’s view to the city. Like relationship of a couple. There is introduction stage, getting to know each other. Then it develops the chemistry to a certain point. Some works, some does not. The more connection they have, the more compelling the works show. That is where the preference comes in the way.

    On contrary, I believe that many photographers quickly adapt to the environment and produce amazing works. Does that mean they have less connection to the surrounding?

    At early stage of photography, I prefer exploring other places even though still enjoy finding interesting stuff on the streets of Sydney. Can’t wait for my Thailand trip next month.

  • When I started photography in Sydney, I thought it was absolutely photogenic and Bangkok, my hometown, would never beat that. I mean I would never take shots like in Sydney.

    However, now, I think it’s more about photographer’s view to the city. Like relationship of a couple. There is introduction stage, getting to know each other. Then it develops the chemistry to a certain point. Some works, some does not. The more connection they have, the more compelling the works show. That is where the preference comes in the way.

    On contrary, I believe that many photographers quickly adapt to the environment and produce amazing works. Does that mean they have less connection to the surrounding?

    At early stage of photography, I prefer exploring other places even though still enjoy finding interesting stuff on the streets of Sydney. Can’t wait for my Thailand trip next month.

  • When I started photography in Sydney, I thought it was absolutely photogenic and Bangkok, my hometown, would never beat that. I mean I would never take shots like in Sydney.

    However, now, I think it’s more about photographer’s view to the city. Like relationship of a couple. There is introduction stage, getting to know each other. Then it develops the chemistry to a certain point. Some works, some does not. The more connection they have, the more compelling the works show. That is where the preference comes in the way.

    On contrary, I believe that many photographers quickly adapt to the environment and produce amazing works. Does that mean they have less connection to the surrounding?

    At early stage of photography, I prefer exploring other places even though still enjoy finding interesting stuff on the streets of Sydney. Can’t wait for my Thailand trip next month.

  • When I started photography in Sydney, I thought it was absolutely photogenic and Bangkok, my hometown, would never beat that. I mean I would never take shots like in Sydney.

    However, now, I think it’s more about photographer’s view to the city. Like relationship of a couple. There is introduction stage, getting to know each other. Then it develops the chemistry to a certain point. Some works, some does not. The more connection they have, the more compelling the works show. That is where the preference comes in the way.

    On contrary, I believe that many photographers quickly adapt to the environment and produce amazing works. Does that mean they have less connection to the surrounding?

    At early stage of photography, I prefer exploring other places even though still enjoy finding interesting stuff on the streets of Sydney. Can’t wait for my Thailand trip next month.

  • When I started photography in Sydney, I thought it was absolutely photogenic and Bangkok, my hometown, would never beat that. I mean I would never take shots like in Sydney.

    However, now, I think it’s more about photographer’s view to the city. Like relationship of a couple. There is introduction stage, getting to know each other. Then it develops the chemistry to a certain point. Some works, some does not. The more connection they have, the more compelling the works show. That is where the preference comes in the way.

    On contrary, I believe that many photographers quickly adapt to the environment and produce amazing works. Does that mean they have less connection to the surrounding?

    At early stage of photography, I prefer exploring other places even though still enjoy finding interesting stuff on the streets of Sydney. Can’t wait for my Thailand trip next month.

  • I never thought I would voice the dissenting opinion, but space is not that important for me (or I have not come across my preferred space yet of course ;-). I thought there was the old adagio that a good photographer can work in any environment-space-situation? After reading the comments, is it possible that people are confusing (or defining) space with personality/interest/background? To me, I think that your productivity in a certain space is more determined by those subjective traits (personality/interest/background) than by space itself. This is a bit tautological, of course, since your personality/interest/background are to a large extent driven by past space experience. Or maybe this is a (rather crude?) attempt by my scientific mind to explain the “spiritus loci” phenomenon?

  • Okay, after two what the hell’s and a moment’s consternation that the tantrum I threw last night (the New Yorkers here will know why)had somehow affected my eyesight, another go through of the posts has revealed the source of the confusion. Mr Harvey, Sidney asked about Mr Allard and the Parisian fashion models, not me. I know Mr Allard’s work and if he wants to take pictures of hot French babes strutting down a runway in Paris instead of bison grazing on the prairie in the middle of the Big Empty than he should go for it. I mean, is there an actual choice here, when you really think about it? Babes or buffalo; yeah, I know I’d have to think about it for a long while…garcon, garcon, ou es mon Big Mac, sil vous plait?

  • Okay, after two what the hell’s and a moment’s consternation that the tantrum I threw last night (the New Yorkers here will know why)had somehow affected my eyesight, another go through of the posts has revealed the source of the confusion. Mr Harvey, Sidney asked about Mr Allard and the Parisian fashion models, not me. I know Mr Allard’s work and if he wants to take pictures of hot French babes strutting down a runway in Paris instead of bison grazing on the prairie in the middle of the Big Empty than he should go for it. I mean, is there an actual choice here, when you really think about it? Babes or buffalo; yeah, I know I’d have to think about it for a long while…garcon, garcon, ou es mon Big Mac, sil vous plait?

  • Whoops, sorry about the double hit there. I must stop leaning on the enter key

  • Hi everyone,

    I’ve been reading David’s blog on and off for a while now and there have been some really interesting topics discussed.

    Like some of the other readers, a sense of place is at the heart of my work. Exploring the idea of what “place” means – and even more crucially, trying to uncover the unique culture and human identity which flows out of a strong sense of place – is why I photograph.

    I think that it is inevitable that a creative person is going to be inspired by certain places more than others and therefore their best work is going to made in, or be about those most inspiring places.

    Writers like Faulkner (as mentioned above) or Hemingway, Dickens, and Willa Cather all had place at the centre of their work. As did the painters Turner, Hopper, and van Gogh. Of course, I could go on and list musicians too, such as Bill Monroe (the father of bluegrass music), Edith Piaf, Roscoe Holcomb etc etc.

    Obviously it doesn’t have to be just one specific place for one to make their best work, but it is usually a certain kind of place.

    I have always though that HCB made his best work in Europe, Bill Allard’s best pictures are of the American West, Eggleston’s are of the South regardless of him not wanting to be considered a Southern photographer, and you could probably argue that Bruce Gilden’s are from New York (alongside Go from urban Japan).

    Of the photographers that interest me, I think only Sam Abell, Jeff Jacobson, Robert Frank and Larry Towell have shown a consistency is creating great work throughout a variety of places. I’m sure there are others out there, but I may also be proven wrong.

    I think the key, for me at least, is to have two or three places in which to photograph on a regular basis if you focus on long term projects. However inspiring and exciting a place is, it can be hard day in day out photographing in the same location or region, especially on those tough days when no pictures come and you wonder why you even started a project.

    I’ve been photographing rural East Anglia (in the UK) since 2001 and I feel that the project is slowing coming to an end and I have given myself one more year of photographing. But in that time I have also started projects in Cadiz and Saskatchewan. I’ve been to Cadiz seven times now since 2004 and being able to photograph somewhere different now and again has been crucial to being able to keep a continued focus on photographing in East Anglia for all that time. And now I feel Saskatchewan calling again.

    I think it is crucial to squeeze every single picture out of a place and if you work hard and really contemplate your work at times it can be quite surprising how many pictures you can produce in one place. But also just go with it and not worry about where the new pictures will come, they will just appear when you least expect it. I have found in East Anglia that I think I’ve exhausted a farm photographically, but then I take a break and don’t go there for a while and I return and notice something I hadn’t seen before. I’m just wondering how many times this can happen….

    Anybody interested in place should read The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane, recently published by Granta.


    Justin Partyka

  • Hey!

    Last week it was very moody fog in place where I’m now, but I had only digital camera any film, now when i have my m6 and a few films this fog gone! but i need it! I want make essay about this palce and I hate this place! so I need fog and gray clouds, full shadow like always here to show how much I hate this palce. but my fog just gone. so i’ll be waiting for dark.
    i think infuence of place for photography depends on photographer, but changes is always good for turn on full power.

    I like working in warm place (with this light!) and cold place (with this mood!). that why i fly to cuba and think how to get money for Island… hmmmm… or siberia!

    ok. I’m going to shoot some frames my hate…

    I’ll look here tomorrow

  • I only ever photograph in my home city of Manchester UK. For me it is important that I know the place I am photography well.

  • david….my wife has made a nice surprise to me yesterday: she ordered a Leica M8 to thank me for my strong support during the first month since we had Anne-Camille…So I will be the HAPPY owner by the end of the week…

    Can I ask you if you are shooting on Auto with this camera and mesering the highlights as you told me for slides few weeks back?

    I know I know, it is kind of a technical question, but please ususally I just ask philosophical questions!!


  • As a shy person, I don’t give myself too much credit when I don’t feel very comfortable in a place. Most of the subjects that interest me to photograph are in places where, at least at the beginning, I know I’ll feel inhibited. So, constantly I’m pushing myself.
    I think that to be in connection with the place and my “comfort zone” are two very different things (in my case). But shyness is very tricky and don’t let you see the difference so clear. That place that “clicks” me (as Herve said), doesn’t have to be the place where I feel most relaxed.

  • I really love taking pictuers in places I know but a new city or a new area in my city always attract me. for me everything is depended to people live there. their relation with places made them important , since 2 years ago I’ve worked more inside homes, in rooms, in basements you know what it means low light…. warm tropical areas with sun light? waooo I love that

  • When I read your word, I think “he is a poet or a photographer?”.
    I agree with you that the place can modify the way to watch, the way to feel for a photographer, but I also think that a good feeling with herself can help a photographer to get a good picture.
    Sometimes I feel good when I’m aloe with my camera, sometimes I feel good when I’m fall in love, sometimes I feel good also when I’m angry with all the world!
    I think that is important to know what you want to capture…and the shot, without think too much.
    Anyway, I love your works Alan, and also your word.


    PS: where I can find your email!?

  • Wonderful picture David.

    As to your topic … I can shoot anywhere but far prefer or wish for a place where people do something. That something is not important but something other than just stand around. If I could wish what that something could be I would wish for an activity that is meaningful to their existence. This is all fairly vague but it goes well in line with my feeling that I would be happy to photograph anything anywhere.

    I do however have a few exeptions. I could not photograph people being tortured or do a documentary on the porn industry. I suppose some of the work James Nachtwey has done is where I would draw the line.


    i dont want to write after looking at it, just alot it to simmer inside…..

    ahkmatova said it all…

    no need to any anything else….

    ….a short bobblack post….

  • Jonathan Elderfield :



  • Akaky: only problem with Akhmatova’s early poem: she wrote that (with sentiment and timbre) long BEFORE she met her beloved prodigy Brodsky…and Brodsky’s life and work surely contradicts the brave, upright, young Anna ;))))….

    “Surely the reckoning will be made
    after the passing of this cloud.
    We are the people without tears,
    straighter than you…more proud… ”

    pride has done lots of “wonderous” things for the russian land, indeed ;)))…i know that, as does my family, first hand ;))))…

    I’ll take Tsvetaeva and Brodsky, in their bent over shadow-shapping ;)))

    but i still taste the lovely rhyme of her magisterial tongue, akhmatova too…….


  • Thanks Bob – I appreciate your kind words. Jonathan

  • Jonathan:

    my pleasure: will look for the book here in TO: will be a great gift for my mom: she’s from Philly…and lives outside the city now :))…can i order from Amazon???


  • oops, just found it at Amazon :))))…great


  • I guess as a hypothetical this might be an interesting question, however it presumes means which may or may not reflect reality. That and Yogi or whatever equivalent comes to mind….’wherever you go, there you are’. Donald Judd managed to do good work in both Texas and NY….Vincent van Cutmyearoffdramaqueen managed good paintings in both the depressive North and the apparently depressive South…..I don’t see why photography should be any different….unless affectations preclude such equivalence?!

    I used to believe that geographical location meant something in terms of output…but I lived in Newark NJ for 18 years…consider me cured…you either make work or you don’t, it’s got butt-all to do with where you are.

  • While David is away teaching his workshop we can watch him in four great video clips!

    Maybe you can do some video blogging David? In your spare time :)

  • No David, for sure, is not important the place where you are doing a shooting.

    Is most important the mood, the inner feeling with the subject.

    I think every photographer should work in order to feed the soul before go out and shot.


  • Cathy,

    Great stuff there. Thanks for digging it up!

    I was actually at the workshop where he’s talking to the young Chinese woman. Learned a great deal there. If you have the means I highly recommend the Summit workshop.


  • Bob – FYI – if amazon doesn’t have it on order you can try photo-eye – link is here –

    thanks, Jonathan

  • story about Alaska from Alex Webb? hmm..i never saw that! Will have to find that. By the way… so good to see you in NY :-) I will be in your loft in one hour :-)

  • Michael,

    Thanks for mentioning it. I looked on their site:

    and what’s the top news story?

    “Faculty Alum David Alan Harvey creates $5,000 grant”

  • More entering the assignment, no doubt.

    Somehow, as much as i would, and I will someday submit some work to David’s keen eye, I wonder if this is the right to overload him with essay “portfolios”. I am 52, it would be great to be published and sent somewhere for a docu, but I do not think i deserve to be in the same place as a young photographer intent on striving for a career in photography. I also have no doubt that I am very far from showing the kind of promises that would make me a contender for the grant.

    In one of the little video clips, David says to the young woman “now is the time, you have to make your mark when you are young”. Yes.

    So, my question to you David is: How do you apprehend the workd of middle-aged people who have taken photography seriously recently? How best to get their work out (outside of loading up photo websites), keeping in mind what you mentionned to this young woman?

  • Herve, great question.

    It is up to David to answer but as far as submitting work now vs later I would suggest that “now is the time” since he is looking now and you are here and regardless of whether you are a candidate for the grant or not he could say something to you now in the way of advice that could make a huge difference in your work or even in your life. No need to wait.

  • Herve that means you’ve got 20 good years ahead before you start slowing down then another 20 when might want to take it a little bit easier.


  • Herve,

    Lartigue was 70 when he turned professional. Louise Bourgeoise was in her sixties before real success found her. Debbie Harry was about 32 before Blondie stopped playing spit and sawdust dives. And if photographers seem young, you should look at the average age of the average pop princess.

    David’s advice to the 32 year old at that conference was good general advice about the way the world works: by 32 it’s advisable to have decided on a career and be making it happen. But we all have different lives and, at the end of the day, if you turn up at a magazine or gallery with a portfolio, it’s your work that decides not your date of birth. You won’t get any slack for being ‘promising’ – but who does, really?

  • as for the original question of place – it’s good to get shaken out of your comfortable habits. Maybe the experiment will work, maybe not, but if an opportunity comes up to go anywhere, I’ll take it and see what comes of it.

  • A great question … much to ponder, chew and swallow, as always a gift.

    It’s only been within the last year that I became serious about photography again after I buried it under “too much shit” and expectations … but I was always watching, the sleeper. Truly this reawakening began with a place, inarguably a very special place … i could spend a lifetime in the Greek Isles … ah, the sweetness of new love. It awoke again awe and the “sense of wonder” that has grown to passion, perhaps obsession … as much, or more, about me as it is about photography … same thing really I guess.

    That’s what I’m searching for and trying to communicate I think … connection … wonder, passion, mystery, humor, love … life, and all those things that mean life. It is both selfish and selfless.

    But does a connection have to be geographical? I see pictures everywhere now like I never did before … frozen moments in glances and gestures, the juxtaposition of layers in time never to be repeated … and i am amazed. I’ve done a lot of landscape work lately, which is all about place, because I’ve found that sense there … standing alone under a full moon in the wilderness full of awe … but the pretty pictures leave me mostly empty, cold. There is no humanity in them I guess, not sure, but they fall short in the communication. They have no eyes.

    So “good work” for me is all about individual connection, whatever floats your boat … if there is wonder, awe, love … something to say, be it a literal message or just a feeling … then it may come through.

    No question, I do “see” better in some special places but it can still hit me in the most unexpected surroundings and times. I think there are infinite worlds all around us everywhere all the time … if we can only see and share. I’m just trying to shave time with a razor and a cheese grater.

    “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”

    -Albert Einstein

  • Thanks to your input about my question to David, though I must say it was not exactly about not being young anymore, and having a new passion. I can deal with that very well, thank you very much! :-)

    Just is there any difference how the profession, or even David, appreciates your striving, according to how old you are.

    as an example of what I mean: think having the same portfolio as a 23 YO, then knocking at the door of a great outift (agency, magazine, name it) saying you want to start a new life, a new career. Personally, I’d do it differently than the 23 YO (like, who wants a 52 YO assistant, especially one raising children, not my case though?), but I’d think David has somme good input in helping us late bloomers, with that.



    i am immersed in my last home class now and have not had time to peruse all comments….i will do so soonest…probably by tonight….

    i did see just above comment about whether or not to submit work with an eye on the grant…the grant will be helpful perhaps to someone, but the chosen essays will be just as helpful to those “un-granted” photographers as well…i will publish as many good essays as there are good essays…you will have good exposure and critique whether you are a candidate for the grant or not….and already funding is coming in so that i will be able to give more stipends next time around…..

    be patient please…i will come back to answer all questions and add some comments of my own….

    cheers, david

  • Ciao David,
    sorry but I do not succeed to upload the images on your serveur.
    It indicates to me that the pasword it is mistaken…
    I dont know why… I m terrible informatic! :)


  • IGOR…

    please email michael at

    we will get everything set for you…do not worry…


  • Forget the grant. Im not even bothering to think about it. Im not even thinking about getting published. Even if Im not, though it would be cool OFCOURSE, what meeting and talking with David and now this assignment has done for me is simple but huge. It changed my way of thinking. Before I would simply hit the streets, no plan, no idea, no concept, no story to tell, no project to do. random random stuff as David knows well. Talking with david made me think about stories, series. Ive taken some of the seedlings I had already planted and now Im trying to expand on them, make them grow. Im also thinking about new stories or projects, not singles anymore. So for me, even if thats all I get from this, it has been huge, and Im so much more happy with my photogtraphy as a result. So thanks, David. Just that small change in mindset is a huge step for me.

  • I will drink to that. Me too, I am ever-adding a few degrees of freedom in my photography-taking, since being here, and david will not feel stiffed I am sure, if I say it’s also thanks to everyone’s input on top of some very clear points and mottos that have been entirely meaningful.

    I just thought he might be over-burdened by portfolios so let the old horses like me graze a little more, while the younge stallions are ready to burst off the gates!

  • points and mottos written by David, I forgot to say.

  • Except for raw nature (is there still some around?) places are crafted by people. Places don’t make me feel like taking pictures. People do. If I can’t relate to the people I find it much more difficult to take pictures.

  • Herve, old horse don’t do anyone any favors out there in the pasture. Keep grazing and you’ll get so fat you won’t be able to shoot anymore :)

    You must have SOMETHING to submit just for the sake of participating. You know you want to!

  • Geographical enviroment seems to be important to the extent that it is psychologically easier to photograph longer, more passionately, and more effectively in environments that one enjoys or is familiar with- or both.

    That being said, I also believe a great photographer can take great photos anywhere if they set their mind to it.

  • Herve, you can shoot a perfect series in one night. Young photographers are really old by any other standard.

  • Mr. John Vink

    I agree with you that places are crafted by people, but I think place in some way crate peoples. I live in grey part of my grey country ( in half of the year) where lives grey peoples, what is exactly nice, but this people will be completely different than people in Spain or New Zealand, Japan or sudan (In principle that is most interesting in this :) and like I’m. So, when photographer choose place somehow he choose kind of people. Of course in different part of earth people have different problems, and photographer mostly looking for this.
    But simultaneously all human race consists with this same parts, like joy, hate, sadness.
    So wherever we go we will in home anyway… :)
    this is what I think…

    Martin (The Grey)

  • I had wanted to say the same as WiseMan Vink…but, have been distracted lately with 2 new people in my life ;))))….

    I’ve been inspired to shoot here in Toronto (something I couldnt do when i first moved here 4 years ago), same with other places that mean something to me: moscow, florida, portugal…and, in the end, it is a simple thing:

    the intersection of ghosts and presences: the life upon the land of the living and the lived…

    place, for me, is a carriage, a basket, a body within is contained our marks and skin and breath and bone…and that what haunts me and compells my own work….

    place for me has always been important, as a photographer or writer, only in so far that the contact i have spills into and throughout my flesh and skull and memory and ache and, out it spills….

    when i returned to ny on my honeymoon in 2003, i shot 1 rolls of film and all those were about marina, dima and the sound of the brooklyn bridge…for when i watched dima, i thought: christ, there went i ….


  • that’s probably what has always drawn me so physically and emotionally, viscerally and spiritually to John’s work…couldnt me more different than my own silly stories, but i feel, when i look at his stories, that i am listening to people speak upon the land, hum along my body, breathe into me…

    stories, that’s it…the rhyme and hum of voice….


  • i meant to say that now: I CANT PHOTOGRAPH NY…cause my relationship to it has disappeared, completely, i dont see myself in that place, i dont see those things i feel or know…in the end, for me, it’s always been about the stories i see or hear or am told……..unless it’s about new (most likely) forged and created friendships, relationships…etc

  • that’s probably what has always drawn me so physically and emotionally, viscerally and spiritually to John’s work

    You mean John Vink, Bob?

    Cambodia, here’s a place where history has lent the feel of human presence to the landscapes even. and it’s not just about agriculture…

    Cambodia is a country that can attract you body and soul, yet, you could find, is not so easy to shoot meaningfully, with insight, in the zone, to use a favored word by photographers..

    So, there, my own attraction would not exactly mean a personal photographic relation the type we speak about here, and would be of very little use, lest you involve that “body and soul”, beyond the attraction. Without going over the reasons why, there is just no “being there”, get the feel then shoot, with Cambodia.

    I think inversely, some countries, their people, their culture, that special feel of a place, can deliver themselves to a dedicated photographer with much less involvement.


  • Its getting to be the case that anytime I am having some sort of a “problem” or a mental/artistic “complication” I can type your address into my browser and find that you too have been the same place I have.

    For the past several weeks I have contemplated the element of “place”. It began in Amsterdam, where I wandered the alleys and tight streets seeking a photo, but relentlessly found myself disconnected and lost, with nothing more than exterior representations of lost visuals. The “problem” continued back with me into London, where I have found myself bored and uninterested in anything I can find. I’m not sure if I am homesick for the “South” back in the States, or what, but I don’t really care to take photos of anything and for the first time in my life, I took a photo of myself.

    Ah why must “art” be so complicated?

  • Matt,

    > Ah why must “art” be so complicated?

    Because human beings are.


  • Herve :))

    yes, that would be the same Mr. vink ;))…he knows much about people and their land :)))



    many photographers it seems have “place” as an important part of their creative psyche…

    but many also are totally unable to photograph where they have happily chosen to live….alex webb cannot photograph in new york…bill allard cannot photograph in the beautiful virginia countryside ..i could never manage to shoot in washington d.c. where i spent so many happy years…

    why do you think some photographers thrive photographing where they have chosen to live and others cannot???


  • Good Morning!

    Maybe for some it’s not part of their “branding” (a more appropriate word isn’t coming to me—maybe vision) and they become very private about what they show of their home base. Maybe “home”, be it a house or a loft or a city is a sanctuary that doesn’t need to be exposed.


    no, it is not about being private…they have told me they just cannot get motivated to shoot at home…i was the same in washington…loved the place, but did not shoot….


  • i don’t know if it has happen to you that you know a woman who’s “perfect” to you. she likes the same things that you, you have a lot of conversation subjects with her, you both share the same sense of humor… I don’t know… maybe she is quite attractive too…
    but, despite of all this… there is no spark there… is simply something that comes from inside… you feel comfortable with, but not hungry for…
    could be more and less the same?


    i know what you mean and i think i am the same…but, certain climes also seem to have the people and culture i prefer to photograph…


  • HERVE….

    i mentor many people who are over 50….i am now shepherding three books for my serious photographer friends who have started “late”…a good book is a good book and nobody checks their birthdate..

    remember “it is never too late to be the man you could have been”….

    for an emerging photographer who intends a lifetime in photography then starting young is generally an obvious advantage as it would be in any profession…however, there are always exceptions….young people tend to waste a lot of time (goes with the territory), whereas someone older knows exactly where to put in the time and where not to and what will work and what will not..

    if you are serious and have positive energy, then age will make no difference…just do a few extra situps in the morning!!!


  • I’d say it’s along the line of “familiarity breeds contempt” saying, if not truly contempt, in thsi ace of home not being conductive to photographic curiosity or inspiration. I know that san Francisco, where I live since 1980, ie. its street do not seem to be a great “zone” for me, just does not seem too happening on the range I see in other cities.

    There is character in the sights and some neighborood, but not much in the people, and usually we comment about it as expected from a place that has barely any discernable seasons.

    But yes, maybe it’s me, I have seen some pretty good stuff by others. Not sure how long they could keep it interesting though.

    It’s one of the best cities in the world, still, i am just talking about people, street stuff to be captured in the viewfinder.

  • errata:

    in thsi ace= in the case of…

  • I feel bad about posting 3 posts in a row, but David, I just read you explicit answer to my previous enquiry. I follow you 100%, I was just wondering about these people who will see the portfolios, which seem we can sum up as the “profession”, and wondered if they’d take in a late bloomer in internship for example.

    And truly, I do not want to waste anyone’s time, because I am not sure the “profession” is what I am after. But keep networking, ie. befriending people, not just staying home behind a screen, with your heart in what you are doing, I know this can lead to something, and in the “worse” case…..A journey!

  • David – yeah being private may be a poor choice of words, but why the lack of motivation at home? I think it’s the familiarity of home base and seeing the same occurrences day in and day out. Home becomes the place where you decompress after a long shoot—the sanctuary—almost as if you need to opposite experience of your travels for balance.

  • David,

    This seems to me actually to be a rather complicated topic! And maybe the psychology underlying why some of us have trouble photographing where we live differs from person to person. Especially since there are some photographers who seem to work quite well where they live. What is the difference between these groups? I don’t know, but I suspect it’s wound up with the psychology of travel and the exotic.

    For many years photography was either a hobby or a research and teaching tool for me, not a profession, so my own experience may not shed too much light on the subject with regards to career professionals. But I think there’s a different set of everyday assumptions and motivations that goes into engaging a place we intend to live in for a long time, perhaps indefinitely, versus a place we think of as a travel ‘destination’. Even if we are there for an extended visit, it’s still a visit.

    I know I’m not alone in having the desire to photograph and the act of traveling very deeply linked in my own subconscious. There’s something too about what we may choose to photograph in other places. Do I take a picture of something that is a lot like the place I live, or do I take a picture that emphasizes how different and unique this place is? I’m not even suggesting that this is conscious- but let’s face it, most of us are attracted to the exotic in one form or another.

    I lived in Kyoto (Japan’s premiere domestic tourist destination) for about 17 years, and I only really took photos there in a deliberate way the first year I was there, when I thought it would be a limited stay, and the last year, when I knew I would be moving on. In between I only took occasional snapshots at parties or events to give to people as souvenirs, or test rolls of slides if I bought a new camera or lens to check it out before going ‘traveling’, either in Japan or to another country, where I then took lots of of photos!


  • hi, i think maybe its because of the vision. I used to feel more inspirating by photograph things i’m not familiar with. i’m looking, i’m seeing new things and while i’m working i’m trying to reflect my feelings or the way i interact whith those new things. all these feelings, all this interpretations of what i’m seeing are happening at the same moment that i’m taking pitures, so the work makes easier.
    where i live, where i’ve been a lot of times, things that i’ve seen many many times… requires more hard work, more time to process to analyze what my feeling are, because i’m not questioning at that moment. but it’s also funny, harder but funny.
    it’s so so complicate to explaine…

  • by inspirating i mean inspired…
    damn tower of babel¡¡¡¡

  • I think it’s hard to take pictures when you’re very familiar with a place. I’m not exactly sure how the brain sees but I think it makes up a lot of what you see, focusing on what’s important, so you can drive to work for 100 days and only notice the new stuff or as often happens to me end up at work and wonder how that happened. Perhaps when you live somewhere the brain doesn’t fire off enough to get your artistic juices flowing. I’m sure everyone has had a moment in an accident where every thing slows down lets you make those vital decisions that save your live. Travelling is like that for me I notice every thing, see everything.

    David I’m guessing you do lots of good work in New York why do you think that’s different from Washington.


  • Hellooo
    I wrote you again,
    but it seems my mail didn’t reach you this time either.
    did it?

  • I don’t know why it’s difficult for some to shoot at home but I agree with previous posts that there should be a place somewhere to rest the eyes and put the camera away, where you don’t have to be “on.” This doesn’t have to happen where you live but it’s probably easier to take a break at home vs when “away” since most of us are more excited about shooting while “away.”


    i always thought i did not photograph much in washington because i was traveling all over the world working very hard and when i came back “home” to washington, i just needed to decompress…so, i was happy living in washington, enjoyed the environment, but did not feel compelled to photograph…

    however, now i still travel all over the world , yet when i come back to new york i DO feel like making photographs…and, perhaps oddly, literally at home in my funky bohemian building which seems so so unique….

    all of my early essays were very near home…i never had travel as any kind of prerequisite for making photographs…that just “happened”…however, once i did start moving to various parts of the world, i found more stimulated by some cultures more than others…all were interesting in their own way, but some had me wanting to return and others i felt i had “done it”….

    for example, i have done two major long term essays in vietnam and loved every moment, but do not feel compelled to go there tomorrow…whereas i have done many essays in central and south america and just cannot get enough…and i go happily to brazil on sunday!!!!

    cheers, david


    i am not sure where you are sending e-mail to me….please try: ….i have had several people telling me that their emails do not go through or get bounced back….but, try this e-mail account and see what happens…

    i do have some pictures to send you, so i hope i receive your e-address soonest…..

    cheers, david

  • David,

    As Sidney also suggested, I think being able to photograph at “home” or not is a very complicated topic.

    I think there are as many examples of photographers being able to photograph at home as not: Gilden’s NY work, Larry Towell’s work on his farm, and Ralph Eugene Meatyard’s work are prime examples which spring to mind of photographers who are able to work at home. Towell’s and Meatyard’s work is of their families. You can’t really get much more close to home as that. I guess Nan Goldin’s work of her close circle of friends is similar.

    My own experience was this. I grew up in the rural county of Norfolk, UK. After a few years living away and eventually going to graduate school in Newfoundland, I got this urge to photograph the region I grew up in. I think it had become to familiar to me and I took it all for granted, and when I left I couldn’t wait to leave and thought I would never return. But photography brought me back and I realised that I really didn’t know the region at all, even after all those years. But the camera gave me a reason to discover the place and come to really know it intimately.

    If you want to work close to home I think the key, to use the old anthropology cliche, is to “make the strange familiar and the familiar strange.”

    I personally think it is harder to work at home though. When you are away to work, you are there to work and work only (usually.) You can get into the groove, the zone, and stay there more easily because there is nothing to distract you. For that time, you live, to quote Sam Abell, “the photographic life.” Of course you can live that life at home too, but it is harder, and the more complicated your life is, family etc., the harder it becomes to live that life when at home.

    But I have come to realise now, after working seven years in my “home” region that once my project is finished, and a book is published (hopefully!) it wil be harder for me to stay here and call it home.

    I know Alex Webb has said that there is always so many things which also need to be done when you are at home that it is hard to switch off and just photograph. And I know what he means. I don’t carry a camera every day. I have to get into work mode and go out specifically to photograph to really produce good pictures. Of course there have been exceptions, but not often.

    David, I wonder, could you actually go and live in Brazil for a year or two and keep that visual fascination up and continue to photograph there almost everyday? I think it would probably be harder for you to work there then.

    I think this just comes back to the fact that there are certain places or cultures which stimulate certain photographers more then others. I guess it is just the nature of the craft.



  • david:

    vietnam essay?…anywhere i can see the pics?


  • i do not think that the geographical environment should be decisive in a photographer’s work. to an extent, it will affect the photographer, it happens to be a human, but i fell that the photographer should be sensitive enough to understand the change and be able to produce the encharged work.

  • why do you think some photographers thrive photographing where they have chosen to live and others cannot?

    This is kind of like the philosophy question, “why,” to which the answers are, “because,” and , “why not.”

    The answer also relates to those artist statements we all love to write where we tell why we photograph and what we think about when photographing. If, in that statement, the photographer writes something about the fun of discovery, that could be a clue to the answer to the question David posed.

    Some photographers love to absorb new experiences through their camera lens/viewfinder. I’m probably one of these photographers. Then, however, there are photographers who are happy to shoot details of whatever surrounds them, things like texture and shape. They can shoot without getting out of bed.

    Another matter might be the relationship factor. Do you want to be a fly on the wall? If so, you keep yourself a bit on the outside of what is happening. Do you want to be on the outside where you live?

    I think that there are so many factors, relationship and discovery being two, that it might be more reasonable to answer, “because.”

    Good morning all,

  • Maybe this question can be related to “Style”?

    What makes up the personal “Style” of a given Photographer contains similar answers to the question David posted:

    [“why do you think some photographers thrive photographing where they have chosen to live and others cannot?”]


  • Jason, I think you’re onto something. But I would say further that it is personality. And not just the personality of the photographer…but also the “personality” of the hometown. When the two blend well photography happens. Or maybe I should say “inspiration” happens.

  • Hi, Michael (I hope your mail box can receive my friday pix now!),

    I would say the personality of the photographer, yes, but that which relates to his photography. It seems that Alex W, James N, David, others of course, would not live anywhere but in New York, but are not super keen on exploiting the photographic wealth that city has provided for decades to some of their colleagues.

    BTW, a question to the cognoscenti: who would be some of the most marking photographer(s) whose artistic output has solely relied on one very specific space, that which where they lived? Not their best work, their only work. Brassai? doisneau? and…

  • Herve,

    To provide a name to your question: P.H. Emerson. He moved to rural Suffolk in the 1880s. Took up photography. Photographed the rural life and landscape of Norfolk and Suffolk for about ten years and didn’t produce another photograph after that.

    I’m sure there are other examples.



  • David…

    One question… we talking about “how important is for a photographer to be in the right geographical environment to do their best work??”, but what you think about “the right geographical environment to do their best developing (self-evolution)”, I mean city, school and teachers, colleagues photographers, photo gallerys, etc.
    Young photographer from New York have much more “the right” geographical environment than young boy in small village somewhere in china. Even if both are the same talented.
    So, if young photographer from new York will visiting some extraordinary place on earth (with this light and this mood!) he will be much more prepared to do his best work, than this poor boy from little village.
    And even if this poor boy from Chinese village will somehow do better pictures than this new York’s young photographer after greatest art school, he can show this great pictures his poor family only, or maybe will publish in small Chinese newspaper, but not in NG and he will not working for “the new york times”, and will not have exhibition in biggest art museum, but only in small hall in some small cultural institute in his small village, and he will died without big album about himself. Like about Newton for example…
    I have not idea that my words have any sense for you…
    You knew many photographers around the world, so you will know better than me… exist “the right” or “not right” place to do “best work”???
    This poor boy from little village have any chance to do better works than his similar very talented friend from new york, let say Sebastiao Salgado’s nephew? Ha, ha, ha

    Do you think we are determinate? In philosophical sense.

    I’m asking about beginning this search “the right geographical environment to do best work”. What creating photographers…


  • BOB…

    vietnam essays in NG …both in late eighties and late nineties….i will see if i can find exact dates..some pics should be in Magnum archives for you to see…


    well, i think you are absolutely right and i have thought about it a lot….BUT , i am the kid from the small village with no museum, no library and no nothing of any kind to do with photography…still, there i was working away in my darkroom….i did not make it to new york until three years ago…

    cheers, david


    well, all of this discussion is pretty interesting…and good points all around…

    for the first 15 yrs. of my photographic life, i only photographed my immediate surroundings…then NG happened, and i went around the block a few times…i have always done a combo of shooting my surroundings and other cultures….

    but, travel was never what i was looking for when i decided photography would be my life…even now that i travel all over the world, it is the story that interests me…not the travel to an exotic place…

    an “exotic place” is only someone else’s back yard…

    i cannot tell you how many times i have been asked when on some blue lagoon in Indonesia…”hey man , you are with NG, what are you doing here?? you are supposed to be in some exotic place aren’t you?”

    cheers, david

  • Bob Black and Whoever…

    Big three-article spread on Vietnam with photos by DAH in National Geographic November 1989. Spread on Hanoi in May 2004 issue.


  • ha, ha, ha

    “i cannot tell you how many times i have been asked when on some blue lagoon in Indonesia…”hey man , you are with NG, what are you doing here?? you are supposed to be in some exotic place aren’t you?”

    this is good!!! I think about it many times and this is truth!!

    remeber! the earth is a ball, and on ball every point looks identically, so like i say; wherever we go we are in home anyway…


    ps. sorry for english in last post.

  • David how could you find these questions?? Why I don’t take pictures in my parent’s house of my own family? it is a big question for me. so many of subject I like and take pictures from give their roots from my life in Their home, in last 10 years I’ve spent just about 2 week a year in my parent’s but no pictures! I take pix from my sisters or brother but when we are traveling together or they are in my place. I like relation between people and their pet that I am sure it comes from my parent and their pets (so many pets), I was taken pictures of a friend and his parrot and all the day and the day after I was thinking about my father talking wit his parrot. I miss them every year but their home is a place I couldn’t take picture of

  • David/Sidney :))

    thanks, found the ’89 story in Magnum archives this morning……jesus….i just realized that some of those images (skinned dog, old woman praying) are seared in my memory from the magazine,long ago….this addling world….so incredibly beautiful david alan harvey…..

    words later….


  • david:

    now looking…why havent u thought of turning these pics into a book?…

    i’ve looked at the ’89 and ’04 images at magnum….interesting juxtapostion between those 15 years :)))))


  • What if you photographed your immediate surrounding enough? There is a limited number of ways to skin the cat and then it’s time to turn somewhere else.

  • rene:

    each place is infinite in her stories and understanding…it his we who are limited in how we see or feel toward place…it’s more about ourselves, our tedium, our inimicable thirst for reinvention, even though it sits right in front of our eyes…

    i think, if i am honest, every photograph that i have made is essentially the same one, and that is both frustrating and settling, just as every word carved is the same, every line of prose or every rhyme of poem…

    why is it that we need to travel to find we’re still remaining? ;)…

    there’s a great Brazilian quote from the Brazilian masterpiece novel “Devil to Pay in the Backland”: the truth of things comes not at the beginning or ending of a journey but in the middle…..

    i will never be able to photograph well or deep or wide enough my wife and son and friends, so too the places i live…if it were not for my human boredom with place (the hunger to move, to see anew, to carve), i’d photograph one place forever…for me, my instinct to “discover” a new place, to visit, is really about trying to re-see the same thing: the thinks and places and, above all, people, around me….

    the frustration and the struggle…

  • david: quick follow up: why none of the Vietnam pics on your Magnum Profile Portfolio page: some extraordinary images in those 2 essays….


  • Bob, in essence I agree with you but not practically. Sure, Josef Sudek (my favorite photographer) photographed out of his studio for over 10 years and I understand that he has produced outstanding work. But Josef Sudek was missing an arm and in the years of his studio work he was pretty much limited in his mobility.

    I believe that had he been a healthy mobili person he would have ventured out into the country to photograph like he did in his work at Hukvaldy, or Most where he produced terrific work published in ‘Sad Landscape’.

    For I believe it is about variety, a fresh approach to subject, expanding of horizons in what you can see and photograph.

  • addendum… and it is first and foremost about content. How you capture the content might have to do with your personality. Some people are travellers at heart while some love to stay in their surroundings.

    It is about the personality of the photographer.

    Some might travel to Shangri-La but will never produce a decent body of work while others who have the ability to capture content will excell.

    Some might stay in their surroundings but will never produce a decent body of work while others who have the ability to capture content will excell.

    The key indicators in solving the puzzle are:
    1. Ability to photograph
    2. Personality (Traveler or homebody)

    Combination of these two will produce an answer that is correct yet not black/white.

  • Rene :))

    have you read Bruce Chatwin’s SONGLINES? :))…we are, at heart, a nomadic species, wanderers, singers of place, carvers of stones along the horizon, a unsettled creature, but this wilding is born of a specific meaning: we continually search for meaning, for understanding, for reconciliation…

    all place, in essence, are the same. It is our delusion otherwise. However, it is the shifting landscapes and temperatescapes and place and time that undo and renew us. in this, i would say is the compulsion for movement.

    certainly, in essence, we are all nomadic, it just manifests itself in different ways: some surf the world of their imaginations, some actively travel, some travel from channel to channel to channel, some from lover to lover, some from moment to moment…

    Sudek’s photography is still an exploration, a refining and changing and sifting, continually. Yes, i agree that each photographer’s work and movement suits their personality. I am a wander, by nature and by birth (my parents fault), but i also recognize that the wandering, the traveling, the excavation is still the same: looking and examining and imagining that which probably will forever elude me: roots. I have found roots in the soil of my wife and son, and still the 3 of us scatter, continually, ourselves around the world: n. america, europe, asia, etc…it’s in all 3 of us…

    for some, yes, a “change” can renew the eye, renew the process: this change may come from a change (as jimmy buffet reminds) in latitudes, but this change may arise from something more prosaic: a new film, a new friend, a new book, a new moment: failure….

    travel can renew and it can also accomplish nothing: for if a photographer, just as a writer or musician or banker, doesn’t have some “ethic” some sense of what makes or defines or moves their lives (the mechanics of breathing), or to use David’s word “authorship” then nothing remains…

    i spent 1 hour this morning looking at David and John vink’s pictures of Vietnam…and thought to myself: yes, both those sets of pictures are absolutely Harvey and vink in their own inimicable way ;))))…

    that’s what i mean…

    but i get you too :))

    the “ability to photograph” for me isnt a solution in the equation ;))), but something else: the relationship the photographer has to photography….

    when my son was very young he couldnt or didnt know how cameras worked and yet his pictures of Toronto, NY and Moscow all looked the same: magnificently and magically fucked up and lots of weird close ups :))))…



  • Good stuff Bob. Let’s look at one of your last paragraphs: the “ability to photograph” for me isnt a solution in the equation ;))),

    Correct. I wasn’t looking for a solution. Solutions are best for math problems. ;-)

  • Somehow I just knew you had Songlines on your bookshelf Bob.

    “I know this may sound far fetched, but if I were asked ‘what is the big brain for?’ I would be tempted to say ‘for singing our way through the wilderness.”


  • Frustration is no indication that we are in the right place or not.

    I think we are a bit, on this topic, going too much into introducing the notion of positives and negatives, determining our choices.

    I think ultimately and at the onset, we should see going to Bangkok from San Francisco, for ex., the same way we go from our kitchen to the living room. All the rest, exotism, at-homism (!), these are just details, just like having a blue or black jeans in our luggage will not affect the quality of the experience travelling.

    In some ways, to be verbose a bit, someone like Nachtwey has always been shooting in his home, and doing still-lives, if not macros, of the human psyche at and thru war.

    If what we are shooting, which is outside of us, responds to the very core of who we are, then what do miles/Kms, have to do with it?

  • Dylan :)))))…that’s it brother, that’s it :)))))

    herve: :))))…in the country of the country of the heart ;)))


  • All is one Herve. All is one.
    You are absolutely correct…Wherever you go there you are.

    So why then am I not outside right now shooting like crazy?
    I don’t know…maybe different external situations express more clearly who we are (internally) than others?

    I could take it up a notch and say where does “internal” end and “external” begin? Many say there is no beginning or end…But that might be better suited for a philosphy blog.

  • Taking pictures is only one part of photography. Davids’ blog tells us that, just to take an example close to us right now.

    What makes him whole as a photographer (a man too, I suspect) is not just exhibiting and publishing his work, but how he gives of himself to others, no camera in hand. Just to name one thing. Yet, he is a photographer.

    So for us too, without denying that a lot of neurosis come into not doing what we should be doing.

    Yes, I think that the greatness of photography is at the apex where the outer and inner worlds meet.

    It can be said of many things/arts, of course, but the obect/material we treat in P. is irremediably independant from us, and that’s where the unquenchable fascination, and epiphany too, of this craft comes in. To “own” what will never belong to you, ie. time and space (already pretty illusory). It does happen a little bit every time we click, but for the epiphany, er…. Yes, we should be out practicing, Cathy….;-)

    PS: What happened to your friday pix, BTW, I saw your name in the list?

  • Cathy,

    It’s all molecules. Just a big ol’ massive continuum.

  • David, did you ever shoot next to a bunch of other photogs being herded around by secret service agents?

    I just did it. It’s not for me; I was never so happy to come home to the middle of nowhere and feel the dense rainy air wrap around me. And, I did it on spec for sipa. So how does this relate?

    Environment, not necessarily place…


  • RENE…

    you have it right…


    yes, good point..i should do something with the Vietnam work…i do have an upcoming book which might have a good space for this…

    i do have a whole whole lot of work which needs to be filed, organized and archived….i could stop working now and do nothing but that and it would be a lifetime of work….there are many stories i have done which you may not be aware of and are not even in the Magnum archive, much less on my profile…

    i need to rent a warehouse and three assistants to get all of this done….and i am not the only one way way behind in this regard….anyway working on it…slowly slowly!!!


    i have had the “herded around” experience…just enough to know it is not for me..totally the wrong “environment” even though perhaps in a perfectly fine “place”…


    it would really be interesting to see what you would do with photographs if you went “back home”….you might want to try to figure out a way to do something “at home”…i have a feeling you would catch on fire!!!

    cheers, david

  • Yes Michael, particle physics…not that I’ve studied it…but I read the Cliff Notes :)

    Herve, sorry about the Friday confusion. I had emailed David to get the specifics and realized that I’d already missed one week, was traveling last week and now will have limited internet for the next couple of weeks so it wasn’t the right time to join in. In the meantime he added my name to the list. Enjoyed your image though!

    I do have new images on the link for my name here…changed my link as promised…check out the slideshow lower right.

  • Thanks, Cathy, beautiful, vibrant work, There are some outstanding, inspiring collection of shots under the signed names here.

  • DAVID:

    Chris A now has for you to deliver some Late Autumn Harvest something and a small Ice something gift for U…we drank together last night together….you shall receive and hear about it “SOONEST” ;))))….




  • David,

    do you have any problem with issue a book? you are famous photographer… maybe you should publish many books now… after so many years of work… maybe some more personal. i’m sure you have thousands amaizing photos witch was not publish before… not only about vietnam… but maybe you are not interesting in that?
    vietnam essay is also one of my favorite, but i see only from NG 89, and some single.


    ps. when i’m thinking about your vietnam photos i miss for old photography. now digital journalism looks Otherwise. earlier photojurnalism had more soul, especialy from 60′ 70′. but of course it is only my opinion

  • Michael S.

    Thanks for passing along. That’s a cool series. Wish I could get BBC, but no satellite here. Hopefully PBS will pick it up, or maybe BBC will release a DVD series at some point. The site is cool anyway, though.

    Speaking of shooting in our own home town, I was wondering how many of us actually shoot in their own home… Is your private space off limits, or do you keep a photo journal (a-la Abell and other photographers), or you even just keep your photo eye in shape on your private subjects?

    I, as a compulsive photographer, shoot anywhere, family/friends/my dog/my cats/backyard, even if many of those photos will remain in my CD/HD archives (to my family’s relief!) And if you do, do you have a different style and approach or you treat your intimate subjects as you would any other type?


    PS: David, ever got a couple of emails from me?

  • Hi Giancarlo…I am also a compulsive shooter around my house but it varies over time: i can put aside my camera for two months and suddenly I use it 6 hours a days for the next 2 months…I have ever been what you can call consistent shooter…

    Ask my dog how he feels about this. Luckily he loves being photographed (especially if you give him a little treat!)…

    I tried to develop a photo journal but I have an issue with this concept: it almost as the photographer has to create the action in order to photograph/maintain the journal. It is like playing your own role in your book…does the fact that you know that you are maintaining a photo journal encourages you to do more?? (not sure if I am clear enough)


  • by the way I received two weeks ago the book: “Sam Abell – the Photographic Life”…I loved this book.


  • Out of circumstance, I mostly shoot around the house for the last 25 months.
    I started working from home since my daughter and son were born (13 mos apart).

    So my photographic work is mostly of them now and I post pics online for family & friends. (this takes creativity in order for me and others to keep an interest in my photos & a challenge that is rewarding.)
    Outside of the house, my style does not change regardless of location.

    speaking of places….
    I do business with hoteliers from all over the world yet I am happy staying close to home and passing up some biz trips. It doesn’t matter where I photograph, I find the same challenges are always in front of my face.. right where I stand.

    Now you know. :-0

  • – Arie,

    I agree on your feelings about photo journals — as I do about journals in general. I would personally feel self-indulgent and perhaps a bit narcissistic about keeping one. But that’s just my personal bias. I’m glad someone does not feel the same way, otherwise we would never get the journal part of “The Photographic Life”, which is huge, so intimate and tender as it is. When I travel it’s different, as it is less about me and more about “place”…

    As for shooting at home, I am somewhat inconsistent too, but my rhythm tends to be tighter… days, not weeks. And I do shoot my dog too… and my cats… and my wife and daughter… friends… even tiles! if the light is right. It makes for some funny situations, I’ll tell you. :)

    (Yeah “The Photographic Life” is a really great book.)

    – Jason,

    My approach is the same as yours. The happy-go-lucky / spur-of-the-moment snap is just a tad more “relaxed” than the more formal work. For me a photo is a photo, regardless of occasion and subject. My wife says I’m just a bore, and perhaps she’s right!

    I like your thought about the same challenges right in front of your face. Feel exactly the same.


  • david and all….there is a quote in the book: an artist life: I think that the artist as teacher pours so much of his thinking and so much of his energy into other people that he saps his own creative springs at the source”…

    Obviously you do not agree with the quote above….or we would not be having this conversation….could you tell me if at nay moment in your life you agreed with that quote (for any reason)…youmay say that teaching has stimulated yoru photography: if yes, how? And lastly how do you see your next 20 years as a photographer: what are you looking to accomplish that you have not done already, is it possible that say in 5 years, you say “that’s enough, photography has given me all it could”….


  • Thanks Herve. I also enjoy looking at all of the work of my fellow posters. It’s going to be great seeing the work that has been submitted once it’s published here.

    And speaking of which…

    DAVID what is your time frame for comments on the early (original)submissions?


    well, i have a new book that just came out TODAY!!! “Living Proof” based on hip hop…perhaps you will see it someday soon..

    having a lot of photographs on a subject, even good ones, does not mean you have a book…a book has to be something “authored”….for me it cannot just be a “collection” of pictures….even very good pictures…

    i am very proud of the Vietnam work for example….it was seen by millions of people in NG and in various magazines and was a subject that changed the complexity of thought in people of my age in the U.S….and there are about 10 photographs from that work that i really like…but i just never felt compelled to do a book at the time…maybe i thought that having that story in magazines was enough…served a good purpose…

    anyway, as time goes by, that story will pick up “age” like a nice wine….i have another two books to do very soon….Vietnam will have to wait…or, maybe i will change my mind!!!


    i think this forum is a pretty amazing example of a photo journal..i have over the years done journals…..and starting as a 12 year old (you should see some of this in previous posts)…but this blog itself will most certainly become a book or a significant part of one.. i mean it really seems like there is a “cast of characters” out there among you…does anybody else see that or feel that or smell a book coming????

    i think we have all done in the last few months one of the significant journals in photography…but, let’s wait and see…and , mostly, let’s not try too hard!!!


    the honest answer is: i have no idea….but, i will do it!!!

    i run a pretty loose operation here…it is just me doing this forum.. story ideas just pop into my head whenever they pop into my head….i write “stream of conscious” and only go back and correct the spelling (and i probably miss on that sometimes)…

    i try to do this while also traveling around the world to do my photography and also spend time with quite a few students and also work on the layouts of new book projects….so my tennis game has gone completely to hell!!

    but, spend my time the way i enjoy spending my time…this forum is great fun for me and really is the journal i so described to Giancarlo above…when this stops being fun and a challenge and something intrinsically creative, then i will stop….but now i look at this forum as part of my “body of work”..a surprise outlet for me , but a good one…and natural….and natural is good…..and all of you are part of it…

    so, i have a stake in all of you…so i will do as i have said i would do…without looking at it as “toil” and with great care, as i do all of my “work”…

    i will go to Brazil on sunday and then to Mexico until nov. 10th i think…after that i will have some time to go in and take a good look..

    i think right now there are about 150 essay entries uploaded to “Digital Railroad”..more will surely come in close to the nov. 15 deadline….but, they are relatively easy to see….and i can look at a lot of work fairly quickly….i will do my best to give as many comments as possible to the best of the essays as soon as possible…

    cheers, david

  • David,

    Yes, you’re early B&W work posted here is cool stuff. I would love to see more of it: it would be interesting to see how much your current work has in common with that. I have a suspicion that, as much as the eye and technique of a photographer evolve, but the themes and sensibilities are usually formed very early (could we call it the artist’s “imprinting”??) That is an aspect of artistic development that does not cease to intrigue me…

    I had not reflected on the journal aspect of this blog, but yes, it makes a lot of sense to consider it that, both for its a collective dynamics, as well as your personal reflections… For me (and I know for many of the other “cast of characters” here) is always greatly interesting and revealing to read your thoughts on photography and photographers, on life.

    Smell a book coming? That is a very intriguing idea indeed. You piqued my interest indeed? Care to share more, Mr. Harvey?


  • And of course I meant: “Yes, your early B&W work posted here is cool stuff”!!!

  • Oh, and of course congrats on “Living Proof” releasing today, David!


  • God, this blog grows so fast!! I’ve been “out of order” for the last two weeks (work and sick) and now there are so many new posts here!! Impossible to read all of them!!

    I do think places and geographic environments are very important for photographers. I remember one conversation with David talking about that. He showed me the work of this great photographer: Sally Mann. A woman that took most of her great photos with her children in her backyard at home or the surrondings of the place where she lives. That was an excelent example of what he was trying to make me undertand: the important thing is the moment caught, the feelings inside, the emotions….

    But besides that, I do think that there are places where it is easier for photographers to bring out those emotions. But it has to be a deep connection between the photographer and the place. If the place, surronding or people around moves the inside of the photographer, the photography will get that soul inside. It has happened to me lately and I still cry looking at some of the pictures I took in a special place…



  • david:


    you can use those 2 bottles of Ontario goody to celebrate (big and small one)…


  • Tennis Game?! :-)

    David or Michael, did my upload make it yesterday? I sent e-mails but I’m not sure if you’re not swamped with e-mails to a degree that it slipped away.

  • David,

    I’m happy the book has eventually been released. Looking forward to seeing it…
    Is the sequence of pictures very different from the one in the dummy you showed me in Arles ?

    I also wanted to tell you that there are so many people writing on this blog now that I don’t have time to read all the posts and I therefore hesitate to write (I’m afraid what I want to say has already been said).

    But I “scan” all comments, take time to read some, and it’s mostly very innteresting.

    Thanks !


  • RENE…

    yes, i play tennis…i hate to think what would happen though if i went out there right now…but, i love the aesthetics of tennis..i love to watch the arc of the ball over the net…or not!!

    michael and i are both catching up with the uploads…we had the workshop which slowed us down, but he/we are back on it now…


    i have not seen chris anderson since he was with you…you do not suppose he has left town with all the goodies do you???


    so nice to hear from you…yes, there are a lot of comments, but i read them all just because most of them really are interesting…and if you write, i will write back…sometimes i get so busy that it takes a few days..

    “Living Proof” is the same as the dummy i showed you in France…

    how is your work going???


    perhaps it is more difficult to photograph your immediate surroundings on a day to day basis…yes,for example, perhaps Bahia, Brazil would lose it’s allure over time..although that is hard to imagine!!

    i do carry a camera at all times , everywhere…i do not shoot everyday, but almost always…for one thing, i am always shooting pictures of my friends..snapshots… next book will include a lot of these “snaps”…’

    cheers, david

  • David…

    great news. i’m waiting for time when i will buy all of your books(last month i almost get your “cuba”, but i did not had all money for it, next time…)

    i hope i will find your “living proof” in poland.
    i can say only… more!!!

    peace for all


  • david:

    chris returned from TO on Wednesday morning and was supposed to have lunch on Wednesday with A.K. from VII…make sure he gives u the wine!!! (1 bottle of late harvest Riesling and 1 small bottle of IceWine):…but, maybe he didnt return and book a flight to Venezuela and took off with the wine ;))))


  • David,

    As far as this blog becoming a book. Yes absolutely. I have no time right now to go back and look for it but I wrote to you about that pretty early on. Your journal entries are absolutely the type of thing that every photographer wants to read about and if you come in and “add” to it later with more images or however you want to do it…it will be fabulous!

    In the meantime congrats on the new book.

  • Also thanks for your perspective on how the blog “works” for you and how it fits into your life. Believe me, we do not take for granted the fact that you are able to be here with all of us.

  • BOB…

    i will make sure…he and i will be in Brazil next week together, so i will twist his arm….


    yes, i remembered your mentioning of the “book idea” long ago…


    good question….well, Washington is a great city in many ways…clean, quiet, nice…New York is raucous, bewildering, vibrant…maybe that is the answer!!

    cheers, david

  • David: keep me posted about the wine (im praying anderson didnt forget it at the bar ;))) )….

    by the way, how long will you be in Brazil?…i can introduce you to the pre-eminent journalist in the country: Miriam Leitao…she just interview Salgado 2 weeks ago…anyway, she is a remarkable person (her husband too): she leaves toronto for Brazil at end of next week…

    if you’re in Brazil longer than 1 week, let me know: or for future; she would be a great contact for you as well as a great “talk” companion :)))..

    I;ll introduce you…


  • mmm ice wine. How sweet it is to be loved by you.

    David, Tennis. I was surprised because I can’t see how you can pick up any more activity. You tell me you also write crossword puzzles in your spare time and I’ll fall off my rocker.

  • I appreciate your dot, dot, dots…

  • BOB….

    i have never met Miriam , but know her name….that would be kind of you….i will just be in Brazil for one week and not shooting (officially , that is) …


    no cross word puzzles….but biking the easiest and favorite physical activity… sailing, mountain biking ,etc etc are all in there on a part time basis…i have a slight limp from my one and only bad landing parachute jump!!! oh i forgot my favorite of all…frisbee!! carry one in my duffle at all times…can be played anywhere in the world at any time in any space…

    cheers, david

  • BEK…

    i appreciate your pretty girl/dead squirrel


  • hi david i been wantching your blog for few days and a lot of what you write here is amazing as a new photographer and looking for an a personal vision is amazing see how a professional like you take your time to share with us as i sed before i am the new kid in town but i started from the begining of this blog reading all your post and as the time pass i find that theres more that just have the camera and do click with huge lens is the way you conect with the people what makes you an amazing photographer
    sorry for my bery bad english ciao

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