live from the dream hotel

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sometimes i sleep in the back of a car….sometimes standing in line at the airport….i can pretty much sleep anywhere…..however, sometimes i stay in the finest hotels…that is, if i am on an expense account of some sort….now is such a case……

there is now an almost full moon rising above the high rise buildings towering over the smallish swimming pool in a hip "celebrity"  hotel in the middle of chaotic  Bangkok…..just a few weeks ago the "Black Eyed Peas" were hanging around this pool of the Dream Hotel…both nachtwey and i originally almost rejected this hotel for our workshop site, because both of us were thinking bamboo and koi pond motif rather than a Southest Asian version of Miami Beach art deco….but, what do we know??

my girlfriend (below), who had to split Bangkok four hours before my arrival here two weeks ago because of a family emergency, has returned now to check out the full moon with me….my friend and printer and general techno genius, michael courvoisier,  is here along with co-teacher james nachtwey and a whole host of my old friends …and new friends in the form of 28, yes 28, students…..

this pool is where we do our slide shows…..big white wall over the pool and hi def projector and terrific sound system…nice place to hang out with a cold beer and slide show rolling…..jim and i did our shows last night…Manit (above), famous Thai art photographer who just sat down beside me, shows tonight….. student show friday…if you are anywhere near Bangkok, please come..

ok, i have to let go of this computer now because we need it for this evening’s 9pm sharp presentation….and i must not be rude to my evening presenter…..

just one quick question for you….if you had come to Bangkok to take our workshop, would you have preferred the bamboo koi decor or would you be rockin’ in  the cool Dream Hotel???

 

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78 Responses to “live from the dream hotel”


  • Dave,
    Missing you in the city, but glad you’ve got a good workshop going in Thailand.

  • Bamboo Koi all the way. Enjoy your stay. Hey Hey Hey. ;-)

  • How does it compare to the MArriot in Seoul?:)

    Speaking pf which, I saw Chien Chi’s photos from Korea on the Magnum page and I saw a photo of the two waitresses who took our picture at the breakfast. I was hoping to see some of your photos but didnt.

  • I read your description of “Dream” Hotel and just came to me the vision of you and Natchwey dressed like Sonny Croquet and Ricardo Tubbs dancing at the rhythm of Black Eyed Peas…
    what a nightmare…
    No my friend I prefer the other hotel… whatever it could be…
    saludos…

  • I wouldn’t mind either as far as the beer is cold.

  • The dream hotel indeed sounds like a dream to me right now. I do my best to avoid envy but there is perhaps nowhere in the world that sounds more inviting at the moment than to be in the mix with you all, poolside, water dancing beneath the slideshow..give me the dream any day, I have enough reality.

  • The bamboo and koi place sounds traditional and romantic and everything…but after travelling halfway round the globe–and all the potential craziness that would entail–I’m thinking the Dream Hotel would probably be my first choice.

  • Bamboo koi decor vs. Dream Hotel??? Cold(er) beer???

    How should I say this succinctly… I would sleep in a moth eaten tent in a parking lot drinking lukewarm tap water to attend a workshop with you and Natchwey.

  • Not that I’m one of those “contentment” junkies, but I’m sure I’d be happy either way—but yes, the beer does have to be cold or the wine, room temperature and the company—inspiring!

  • Bamboo and koi for me… but maybe a slide show at the Dream just to see it and to go swimming.

    David – I left you a message under “workshops”. Enjoy your week and may the shows be inspiring.

  • Hum, as long as you hang out with good friends, the place doesn’t have much importance, otherwise Bamboo Koi for sure…

  • I’ll be in Bangkok this Friday! Starting a workshop with Nevada Wier on Saturday. What time is the slideshow? Hopefully I’ll make it!That would be awesome! I’d definitely pick the Dream Hotel. We’ll be at the Shangri-La. :)
    Janet

  • DAH:

    I love Manit Sriwanichpoom’s work!! :))…his dream-concepts are as if from the Dream Hotel already :)))))))))….

    not necessarily a big hotel fan (unless it’s from a Wong Kar Wei flick ;)), or broken down, wasted-away variety):

    david: i dig your pic of Manit: it capture’s his beautifully weird-dream like art! :))…

    when u get home, send me an email, as have to know if we should stop in town, as marina, dima and i will be in Philly for X-mas, and marina and i would love to drop by!…

    running
    hugs
    bob

    p.s. about hotels: for me: i like to lay my head wherever there is good talk, good booze, good company and without people fucking next to you to keepyou awake ;))….

    i prefer strange, Bs: to meet and talking with the owners and to get lost in the tongues of other languages….

    Nachtwey looking at our stories…i hope he’s tipsy (or stoned) when you both look at my story: does the aesthetic details good ;))

  • If there’s a choice then it has to be a little luxury. Why not? So long as I’m not making a big carbon footprint I’ll take the hotel. Such pleasures are few and far between.

  • To answer the question, I would prefer whichever hotel were more affordable (read “cheaper”). Boring answer, I know, totally devoid of aesthetics and romance…Who invented money anyway?

    David, I sent you an email about visiting. As soon as this cast is off, I’ll be making plane reservations. Let me know when you will or won’t be around.

    Have a good rest of the week.

    Ciao,

    Michael

  • What really sounds suggestive for me is the nice atmosphere with your fellows, students, girlfriend, beers and full moon…. Sounds like you’re having a great time!!!! Enjoy it…

  • This is a question so far beyond my limited range of experience that I have no clue how to answer it, so I’ll say the expensive one, especially if I can charge the bill to someone else.

  • Great to hear from you David.
    The pool side picture is great but it could be anywhere, shit that could be up the street here in LA, one of those hi rolling hot shot spots. However, knowing that its actually in Bangkok makes it really exciting for me. It really sounds like a lot of fun. I bet that place is pretty cool, but I would probably lean towads something more removed, where I maybe could hear the sounds of nature, maybe a more meditive spot, trees, birds, fire pits, locals only type of thing. Maybe thats wishfull thinking, hey, I can have a little dream? those places still exist, right?
    Anyway, I wish I could make something like that out there. Sounds Awesome!

  • Would prefer any hotel, good bad or losy just to attend the workshop;) What about an european version?

    Nice shots. M8?

  • David wrote: “…both of us were thinking bamboo and koi pond motif rather than a Southest Asian version of Miami Beach art deco….but, what do we know??”
    .
    I ask myself the same question. What do I know??
    Sometimes life becomes spicy going with the option least considered. Enjoy!

    Confession time:
    Thanks to you, I am slowly finding my way, my style. Little by little.

    For the record, what attracted me to you as a photographer years ago was based on a NG article revealing your simplicity. Somehow it struck a cord deep within. No, I didn’t want to be like you or copy your work, I just was left with internal peace and a certain understanding about myself.

    I think my recent internal unrest/struggle has been related to breaking from this simplicity. Its been building up for months.
    However, last weekend, I forced myself to strip all equipment down to one camera and one fixed focal length. Nothing else. Simplicity.
    (Remembering that NG article to center myself.)

    Last night, I was dancing with friends on the dance floor- camera in the right hand, beverage in the left [doing the DAH shuffle]. Pure internal peace; pure bliss!

    Thank you for just being yourself and sharing.

    -jason

  • only good company is important… with good company i can sleep on the ground, with bags flying arround be, even without tent…
    when company is bad or i will be alone, even dream hotel will not be good

    have fun David!

  • Well, Aga, I guess that I count cold beer as good company :oD

    I’m off to meet some friends on Saturday and I’m a bit annoyed that most of them did not want to stay at a ‘flea infested den’ as some online reviewer put it.

  • If the bamboo and koi place is equallly as luxurious that’s the one I’d choose. There is a hotel there (sukkothai?) I’ve seen photos of that has old temples and other old buildings incorporated into the design…looks gorgeous. I’m all for preserving traditional architecture rather than recreating the same look we just left behind in America..I just don’t understand going halfway around the world to hang at Starbucks and eat pizza….and stay in a hotel that looks like it should be in Miami. If the hotel people are trying to cater to foreigners looking for something “familiar” that’s bogus…If it’s actually contemporary Thai design then I suppose there is a place for it.

    Then again, I’m moving to New Mexico to rebuild and live in a house made of mud and straw (adobe) so I’m definitely a purist.

    Nothing like a good shower and a nice bed after a day running around in the craziness, great architecture or not.

    After all the attempts I’ve made to study with James that were cancelled, it will be ironic if he sees my work because of you.

  • That’s right Cathy, I’ll take the luxury and the koi too..that would be the best dream..

  • Dream Hotel…Bamboo Koi….either Or , six of one half dozen of the other ,I just got back from an assignment in Dili , East Timor ,had one of those rooms that you can’t wait to get out of – Broken A/C , power Cuts , adjacent to an open sewer.
    Can’t be too comfortable hey?
    Otherwise no work would be done, I’m sure my time for nice hotels will come!

  • For me, in Bangkok the question that would matter about the hotel is, is it on the river or not? Of course David in New York lives all the time with that fabulous East River view from his Kibbutz, so maybe he’s jaded and doesn’t crave so deeply the view of the Chao Phraya which is really what to me Bangkok is all about. I used to fantasize having some long-term gig in Bangkok that would allow me to live in a house on stilts along one of the klongs in Thonburi and commute to work by boat. In cities built on the water, the water is where it’s at!

    Sidney

  • I’d have to agree that the Dream Hotel would be one where you and Jim are teaching, cold beer a definite plus. (Somehow I doubt a lot of sleep is getting done.) Koi optional.

  • David,
    I’m with bobblack regarding hotels. He even mention Wong Kar Wai wow!

    What I have dificulty in visualize is Jim swiming with hawain shorts and a cold beer in his hand. I just don’t know why…

    Glad you all have full moon, swiming pool, your girlfriend, students environment, slide shows…and they say it’s a dog’s life being a photographer ;)

    May you all enjoy it ’til the limit. Hopping one day I can attend one these workshops in Europe…Portugal to be more exactly :P

  • Sofia.. and I am hopping to attend one of these workshops in Poland :-) David… plz, dont forget to make one in Poland! :-)

  • indeed the dream hotel is quite “funky fresh”.. i wouldn’t care, i’m just glad that we have a bigger room for our morning-meetings, and more comfortable seats :)

    by the way, i havent seen you drinking a cold beer at the pool, only these fancy, juicy cocktails.. or was that just an orange juice? ;)

  • Jason,

    “D.A.H. Shuffle.”

    Thanks so much for that phrase! So that’s what I’ve been doing all this time!? How cool.

    MK

  • Honestly? It wouldn’t matter! I live in Malaysia.. which is just next to Thailand.. so near yet so far. Have a workshop in Malaysia next time, please? :)

    Anyway, i like that picture at the top.

    All the best!

  • Michael K…Dude!
    So you have done the “DAH Shuffle” before?
    NICE!
    I tried it for the first time as an exercise to break up the seriousness surrounding photography.

    I Felt like a ‘bar fly’ shuffling along the floor with a half hazard purpose.

    What a blast!
    j

  • Just back from Islay so I’d take either right now, as long as its warm!

    Its not where you stay, its who you’re with? Also the quantity of real ales on tap.

    Have a good workshop!

    Hmm.. can we all prescribe the neccessary intoxicants for the reviews of our portfolios? Does your hotel do absinthe?

    Cold beer and slideshow…sounds like heaven!

  • Jason,

    Yes, I do the “DAH shuffle” on occasion. And it usually is accompanied by odd looks from some folks. Of course it’s best used in settings where at least some people know you! Weddings, parties, family gatherings, etc.

    My wife is not a big fan of my trying it out with her, though. When we dance it should always be about the dance!

    Fun stuff though!

    Peace.

    MK

  • For me the romance is all in the very low key funky places I have stayed all around Asia, so David and anyone, count me in for a beer tab a few times the amount of the room I stay in any given night.

    Been enjoying cold but extremely fair skies in Paris, which is always good for snapping away, I may arrange a little pix diary gallery of sorts to share my stay in paris with the Road trip gang.

    Enjoy the hotel David, who knows, maybe the red hot chili peppers are the next band staying there, I hear their singer has a hot thai GF.

  • Actually, I’d probably be on Rajdamri Road at the Courtyard Marriott. LOL, Dave, have a good one.

  • DAVID:

    for you, your dream hotel…just finished writing a brief essay for the Balkan projection Im showing this week showing work by andrew t, velibor, michael b…and, given your light, thought this for you…

    “History begins in the ache of our bones, weeds over and out through the entirety of our thoughts, detours around the crowns of our words and plants itself into the soil of the land we call home, the beginning and ending country of our fleshy lives. History as carriage of breath and story, finger-picked fruit and shade of skin, poked-at place and found corner of shade. Place not as that place writ large and carved in books intemperate but of the full compass of home where people carve out the land of their living and return, in grief and madness or calm and ordination….”-bblack…

    now, for sure going to philly, can swing by nyc if ur there…if not, will wait to end of jan…send a note when u return…now, off for a few days…

    b

  • hello David!
    If you are in the middle of chaotic Bangkok, this dream hotel is the best solution.. the bamboo and koi decor is nice… but what is true?
    Enjoy your stay and we talk soon!
    hug, Paula

  • David,

    sometimes you ask funny questions… I prefer Dream Hotel… ok, but how I get to bangkok right now?

    have a good time!

    Martin

  • David,

    It was absolutely awesome meeting you at your presentations on Sunday even though I was fighting a cold. The moonlight on the rooftop in the middle of the city makes the slideshows even more inspiring. I will definitely be there on Friday to see what the students come up with.

    Of my experience in Bangkok this trip, I prefer the location that you can travel around than the atmosphere of the hotel.
    sI stayed at my brother’s out of the city for the first three weeks here and I found that it was too hard to get out anywhere although I saw very interesting subjects along the way. Whereas, now I am just not far away from where you stay.

  • David,

    It was absolutely awesome meeting you at your presentations on Sunday even though I was fighting a cold. The moonlight on the rooftop in the middle of the city makes the slideshows even more inspiring. I will definitely be there on Friday to see what the students come up with.

    Of my experience in Bangkok this trip, I prefer the location that you can travel around than the atmosphere of the hotel.
    sI stayed at my brother’s out of the city for the first three weeks here and I found that it was too hard to get out anywhere although I saw very interesting subjects along the way. Whereas, now I am just not far away from where you stay.

  • David,

    It was absolutely awesome meeting you at your presentations on Sunday even though I was fighting a cold. The moonlight on the rooftop in the middle of the city makes the slideshows even more inspiring. I will definitely be there on Friday to see what the students come up with.

    Of my experience in Bangkok this trip, I prefer the location that you can travel around than the atmosphere of the hotel.
    sI stayed at my brother’s out of the city for the first three weeks here and I found that it was too hard to get out anywhere although I saw very interesting subjects along the way. Whereas, now I am just not far away from where you stay.

  • David,

    It was absolutely awesome meeting you at your presentations on Sunday even though I was fighting a cold. The moonlight on the rooftop in the middle of the city makes the slideshows even more inspiring. I will definitely be there on Friday to see what the students come up with.

    Of my experience in Bangkok this trip, I prefer the location that you can travel around than the atmosphere of the hotel.
    sI stayed at my brother’s out of the city for the first three weeks here and I found that it was too hard to get out anywhere although I saw very interesting subjects along the way. Whereas, now I am just not far away from where you stay.

  • Aga,
    Let’s raise hands for workshops in countries that start with P! Like Portugal and Poland. :)

  • Hi David,
    Hope all goes well with the workshop and that the students have a successful slideshow on Friday.

    I’m sure that they all brought a portfolio of their previous work to the workshop and that you have seen many portfolios in your time. So let me ask you a question: what, in your opinion, constitutes a good portfolio(aside from good photographs of course). What size should it be? How many photographs? What about the layout and do you prefer an electronic (laptop) presentation over the traditional book?

    What do other readers think?

    Yes, I’m putting together a portfolio: how did you guess?

    Best wishes to all,
    Mike.

  • Rockin at the dream hotel….if I had known Michael was hanging out with you I would have had to made the trip to the Dream Hotel.

  • Michael Rawcliffe,

    Regarding portfolio size… about 20 of your best images are more than enough for any reviewer to get a good feel for your abilities/style/vision. If you’re sending out a lot of stuff, say for magazine work, a cd might be the smart move. If you happen to be able to walk in and sit face to face I’d say bring an actual picture portfolio. There’s nothing like the tactile sensation of paging through real photographs! But maybe that’s just me.

    Good luck with it!

  • Sofia.. i really like your idea ;-)

  • Sofia, Aga … me too… but Poland should be first!
    Martin

  • I’d go to Poland or Portugal for a workshop!

  • who can say no to a ‘dream’ hotel! but still my vote goes for the bamboo koi decor because this bamboo stuff sounds really cool. after saying that, i must add that when it’s a matter of an opportunity to work with you, i suppose, anything will do for me.
    wish you and your team all the best…

  • None of them. When I have a camera, hotels are anything but a place to sleep. I would never leave my crap-gray town in Brazil, fly across the world just to lay down beside a swimming pool and drink beer.
    I’d stay on the streets, live the city, be bored with it… try to find some of those unique moments that insist to stay hidden right behind our boredom on empty streets and crowded markets. Expensive hotels make photographers stay away from those men they would be looking for (that’s, at least, what I really like to do). Waste of money, waste of time and, most of all, a waste of human experience.
    So… let’s just say I could not do something really special if I stayed in a fancy hotel. I like hanging out the streets and make use of the money I’d spend in the hotel room for something more interesting, something like train tickets… at least trains take you somewhere else! That’s the point.

  • Alysson, I hear what you’re saying but for me that little luxury would allow me to rest in some security and comfort. Nothing like worrying about the security of your kit while trying to rest to exhaust you and lessen your receptivity to those magic moments when they do present themselves.

    I’m all for maximum immersion but I’m also keen on quality rest and a little downtime when the security of kit and person are taken care of. Only then can I really immerse myself in the assignment with rested mind firing on all cylinders.

  • Alysson, I think it was more of a marketing question. Where would you most rather attend a workshop?

    DAVID: really small world – I just heard that Nachtwey lives next door to the woman I’m going to visit when I come to see you and that he rents studio space from her ex. Is NY really that small?
    If you get a chance show him this: Hi Jim, I am in awe of your eye!

    ciao

    Michael

  • It is interesting how people define “human experience.”

    Believe me, the humanity that’s found in spiffy little upscale hotels like the ‘Dream Hotel’… quite an experience!

  • Yeah guys, I understand your point. Maybe I’m not interested in people who spend their time in fancy places (not only hotels), and that’s why I should not stay in places like those when my purpose would be “taking pictures”. Maybe what I really like are the markets, crowded streets, children laughing and those popular manifestations of culture… and once I know that those people could not afford going to those places, I should not stay there too if it was of my interest walking among them. That’s what I like doing with my camera. Sorry for any trouble, friends.

    Michael: I know it would not be possible with David or any other photographers of this world, but (some kind of dreaming nonsense thing) I’d really love to attend a workshop on a moderately troubled zone, with experienced photographers who could share some of their experience on working on those places. Some kind of training mixed with “dangerous” workshop assignments. Once more, I know it is not possible but… I have to say I’d really like to see something like this. Maybe some troubled region like South America (I live here and it is not so dangerous as it might seem) or the Caucasus. Just and idea for a location. That’s all.

  • Alysson
    I am kind of with you on opinion about the hotel, seems like the really nice hotel maybe a little isolationist. Disconected. But Paul makes a good point though, about security with the camera gear. I use 4×5 equipment, its pretty bulky and not easy to be discreet, but, probably I still would take that risk. Only thing though, for a seminar, you probably need something like this hotel? I don’t know what it takes to prepare something like that. I just know that I would need somewhere to load and unload my film holders. A big light tight tent.
    ps. Loved your work in Brazil, very revealing!
    ( curios about what you are shooting with, no tech threads, just wondering )

  • Alysson,

    I had this discussion with a friend yesterday and there is my contribution to your posts. I am not sure why you would not want to stay a a fancy hotel…the truth is that you do not belong to the country you are visiting. Yes you like the people, teh smell, the colors, the culture. But if that’s the case, change you life: let everything you are behind you today and move there. Experience their real life and struggle for few years. Many people want to do what I call “Poor tourism” – You want to go in a dangeorus part of teh world for a workshop…again ypou speak as someone who after a week or two will have teh option to leave the hell… I would have a lot of respect for yuou if tomorrow you go (say in Soudan) and you learn what real danger is over an extended period of time, what life is for these people…

    Other than that, I am not sure what you want to get from these fake experiences: maybe some excitement? at the end of teh day, you wil lreturn to your world anyway.

    Arie

  • Alysson,

    I had this discussion with a friend yesterday and there is my contribution to your posts. I am not sure why you would not want to stay a a fancy hotel…the truth is that you do not belong to the country you are visiting. Yes you like the people, teh smell, the colors, the culture. But if that’s the case, change you life: let everything you are behind you today and move there. Experience their real life and struggle for few years. Many people want to do what I call “Poor tourism” – You want to go in a dangeorus part of teh world for a workshop…again ypou speak as someone who after a week or two will have teh option to leave the hell… I would have a lot of respect for yuou if tomorrow you go (say in Soudan) and you learn what real danger is over an extended period of time, what life is for these people…

    Other than that, I am not sure what you want to get from these fake experiences: maybe some excitement? at the end of teh day, you wil lreturn to your world anyway.

    Arie

  • Arie has a good point here…Alysson please don’t take this personally, I am not directing this at you (since I don’t know you at all) just from your comments an interesting subject has been brought up.

    I spend months at a time living in a small town in India where there is every experience of humanity going on all at once and yet it is surprising how many people want to come and photograph only the suffering. For the most part these are not professional photographers so it’s not like the work is going to get published and bring attention and donations to help these people. So why they want to “focus” on the homeless and suffering is a good question. Is it an opportunity to live out their fantasies of being a photojournalist? Are these images stronger just by the nature of the subject matter so one doesn’t really have to take a great photo to get a lot of “wow what a powerful image” comments? Is this what people think they’re supposed to photograph when in third world countries??? Maybe a little of all of the above?

    Going back to Alysson…I have a question about this comment
    “Expensive hotels make photographers stay away from those men they would be looking for (that’s, at least, what I really like to do).” Interested in knowing what that means…

    FYI there are workshops given by Maine Photographic Workshops that combine travel with photojournalism…usually in a positive way, such as this one on Photographing World Relief Efforts in Uganda
    http://www.theworkshops.com/catalog/courses/index.asp?CourseID=2784&SchoolID=20

    take care,
    Cathy

  • Alysson,

    I now get what you seem to be after. It’s what you’re interested in. Nothing right or wrong about it. It is what it is. I hope you find the workshop you are looking for.

    But often I think people get a little too romantic about the downtrodden of the world and make the mistake that that’s the only human experience worth documenting.

    I also find it redundant to check out someone’s website (I’m not talking about yours, I haven’t looked at it yet.) and under “Travel” there is always the inevitable set of portraits of very “exotic” looking people. What is the photographer saying with these photos beyond, “Hey, look where I went!”? Not much, I’d say.

    Anyway, you’ve sparked an interesting discussion and I appreciate it.

    MK

  • Michael,

    Our opinions seem to be pretty similar.

    I think the “exotic portraits” also fall into the category I mentioned above:

    “an opportunity to live out their fantasies of being a photojournalist? Are these images stronger just by the nature of the subject matter so one doesn’t really have to take a great photo to get a lot of “wow what a powerful image” comments?”

    A LOT of people, including myself at one time (previously, not now) see a portrait like the Afghan Girl and want to be Steve McCurry. I’m glad I had the opportunity to try that because I see now that (for me at least) those types of photos are a piece of cake…great lighting, exotic person and you’ve got a pretty interesting image. The challenge now (for me) is to make an equally interesting image WITHOUT an exotic person. I think the non-exotic are more interesting actually.

    So when you see all those similar portraits consider that photography is a process which will lead some to move beyond what they’re doing…which is a good thing… but you gotta be where you are now in order to get where you’re going. :)

  • This conversation is getting more interesting. Convenience is a relative term – it means different things to different people.

    From being 6 years old I grew up as a part of backpacking community who ‘escaped’ the city for the weekend into nearby hills and mountains. We would sleep on tarps without tents, build primitive roofs in the woods, sleep on abandoned camp kitchen shelves in the winter and so on. I did this until I was 17 and then when I settled as an adult person from 20 till today.

    So for me a modern hotel is just not the way to go. I don’t HATE it but i hate it. I prefer sleeping in someone’s house on the floor, in a tent, or anywhere that feels simpler, primitive and close to the environment that I reside in. This makes me feel that I soak in the experience better.

    My way doesn’t have to be a choice between nice hotel and slums of a city. Here is an example of a week at Key West that I did last spring with my family:

    First night we missed the gate and Long Key campground so we spent a night at Holiday Inn at Key West. Everything was fine, we took a little trolley round trip to key west and on the way we passed the beaches, Hemingway’s house all nicely done while sitting on our butts. Up to this point our experience was not much different from watching the Travel Channel except that we could smell the destination.

    We got off the trolley and walked to the city beach and to the Hemmingway’s mansion and other common tourist sights. The next day and subsequent two nights we spent at small campground and Long Key. Our tent was right next to the beach and we had to walk to the bathroom and showers. But we heard the ocean waves from our tent, we were steps from the campsite to the water and spent numerous times watching the pelikans or the Barracudas chasing prey. We learned a lot from the local people who worked at the campground about the place that surrounds us. We walked the coral reefs and saw stingrays. On the way to the showers we saw coconuts on palm trees and lizard and various birds. We made fire and watched the sunset… We experienced much more than if we were at the hotel because we would have to drive or walk a long way to all of this and most likely we wouldn’t do it.

    That is why I would prefer a bamboo koi. In my imagination it is more immediate experience than a big hotel with electricity and tons of rooms with four walls.

  • Both pictures were taken with my cell phone:
    A Key West Hotel

    or a primitive campsite view from our tent?

  • Good illustration of your point Rene and very nice shot from the tent. Sounds like you had an incredible childhood. Have you considered trying out for “Survivor?” :))

  • Michael Kircher,

    Thank you for your reply. I agree that often “less is more” and especially for a picture portfolio but for a “photographic essay” photographer this can be limiting.

    In such instances I would suggest whetting the appetite of the viewer with a photograhic portfolio and then providing a link to a web site.

    I enjoyed your photographs!

    Best wishes,

    Mike.

  • Cathy
    Just following up your thread, which is a heavy one. I cant really put my finger on it. Photo Safari. Going from a nice comfortable hotel into an impoverished zone or contrary staying closer to that zone. maybe not directly but something similar, or as Rene mentioned couch or floor. Can you connect more closely by your environment. I think it makes for a more real experience.

  • Cathy and Michael- I’m interested in this topic regarding portraiture subjects. I agree that the web seems saturated with Steve McCurry wannabe’s, but I disagree that it’s a “piece of cake” (no offense, Cathy- you have definite talent): McCurry’s portraits are often copied but rarely if ever duplicated. He captures a subtle yet tangible essence that took me years of staring at his photos before I could begin to perceive the difference between his skill and others.

    Also, I think all portraiture subjects are inherently interesting, exotic or not. It’s the talent of the photographer (such as McCurry) that extracts and captures something from the subject that will compel the viewer.

  • wrobert,

    I get your point about being isolated. Maybe David got some feedback from his students about this that he can share with us. Were they relieved to get out of the “real world?” Did the seperation bother them? I’m guessing not.

    I do both…stay for weeks or months in a small bunker of a room and bathe from a bucket of water (that I heat with a plug in coil in cases where I want warm water…that is when there’s electricity) as well as in much more luxurious accomodations. I don’t think it makes any difference in terms of the photographs or relating to people because (to sort of quote Arie) I am who I am regardless of where I’m staying. If I’m just there visiting, I am a tourist, not a local no matter how bleak the accomodations. I could try to tell myself that I’m more like the “locals” because I have a crappy room too but I don’t think it makes any difference to them…

    I guess there are some who think they will become too “soft” if they let themselves experience comfort AND/OR there’s also the guilt factor “How can I come to their country and live like this when they have to suffer?” That I definitely experience a lot, even when staying in the crappy rooms but unless I take the money for the room and give it to them I still don’t think it’s going to make a difference in their lives whether I feel guilty or not.

    If you haven’t heard enough from me today, here’s one more issue…Did the building of the luxury hotel give jobs to the local community, which would be good (for example) or did they tear down a local village to build it-not good. I think the eco tourism movement is a much better option and things are going in a much more “conscious” direction that way. You can actually stay in a place that is doing good and make a difference that way.

  • Asher and others,

    Asher, I’m so glad you mentioned my “piece of cake” comment before too much time elapsed and give me a chance to clairfy what I meant by that. Good example of how hard it is to communicate well thru writing! I am hoping you understood my intent there but it could definitely sound like I’m saying it’s easy (for me) to take a photo as good as McCurry’s. Definitely not the case!!! My portraits are nowhere near as good as his but the point was that it was easy for me to take a portrait of an exotic person in good light and think I was doing something “special” but in truth that “specialness” had a LOT to do with the subject being exotic.

    Just my way of telling Michael why I think a lot of people take the “exotic portraits” he was commenting on. I think it’s easier to get a lot of “what a great photographer you are!” comments on those than on portraits of average joes, especially for the beginning photographer.

    Thanks for giving me the opportunity to explain!

  • Asher,
    I agree with your “often copied but rarely if ever duplicated” comment.

  • Hmm..
    You gave me alot of food for thought there. Just got to say though firstly, so funny, I am laughing, this old wherehouse that I converted to a simple studio, has no shower, so for that last 6 years I have been taking “bird baths” as I call them, yeh, pretty mental, ( I do love this old space ) but its the same principle as you mentioned. It always reminds me about how we take such simple things for granted, as a shower for example…here I am just dreaming of the luxuary…anyway, you really put some good points on the table. The one that is screaming in my ear is the jobs created from that side of the picture, but then what about mom and pop. cottage industry. People need security though, I realize this, not everyone can have cottages etc.
    I was just thinking also what you said about photographers who are not journalists, and kind of exploiting people at base level for the wow factor. thats a heavy thing to consider. In contrast Alec Soth springs to mind, his images from Colombia are extremely beautiful and artistic, but not sensationalist.

  • Hehe Cathy. ;-) Survivor. I have never seen an episode but I have a vague idea what it’s about.

  • HELLO ALL….

    well well a lot of comments about where to stay or not to stay!!!

    in the end, it made no difference one way or the other…the students and jim and i got so caught up in the stories (which were not shot at the hotel!!) that the place where we all stayed and showed work was irrelevant…it was nice to have a spectacular viewing spot for the final shows however…

    i certainly never never need a fancy hotel…the only thing i ever think about in that regard is safety and security for my equipment…i only worry about my film or cards being stolen or something…i even set out a “decoy” camera to be stolen if someone breaks into my room….the “real stuff” is hidden under the rug or wherever….

    you guys also got off on another thread about exploitation and separation which i will get into on a new post soonest….

    new student work and new posts all around coming today….

    cheers, david

  • Cathy,
    I’m enjoying your comments. They are certainly on track. Regarding exotic/non exotic, Mary Ellen Mark does both, and I like her “unfamous” better in most cases. Some of those people she shoots are just the plainest looking folks in the world, and the portraits still make you look twice.

    I like to stay at someone’s house, if possible; it is easier to get day to day life shots as well as gaining the trust of someone who might end up talking to you.

    Just random thoughts…

    ciao

    Michael

  • the “real stuff” is hidden under the rug or wherever….
    ————————
    Your first real technical advice on the site, David….Now we know where to start! :-))))

    Hello everyone, Been busy with the family here in paris but eager to barge in and join the conversation. About Mc Curry and downtrodden photo-tourism, Basically, IMO, it’s always down to authoring. Photography is a terribly referential craft, and a hard one to make self-referential, not on account of sharing one moment, one emotion (who knows if the guy/gal who takes a lousy shot “a la” afghan girl is less “feeling” for being a snapping tourist?) but on account of using the means of the media, one’s vision and the means to render it.

    That is, the referencing if any, is not a duplicating then, but part of the syntax, the phrasing or style if you want of the photographer ( M. Parr comes to mind, trite and triviality meet authoring).

    So, I think the idea of genuineness in facing downtrodedness, traveling as a more or less concerned tourist, is quite independant from the debate on photography.

    Just too many people are satisfied with snapping a “good” shot away, in reference to someting else. No sin in itself, I do it all the time, but believe the total freedom that photography allows to become an author happens inversely to this type of shooting.

    yet, I think a lot of what we shoot, a lot of what is a photo, has its own (self-)criticism built in the print or final image. So, who knows, maybe in way, 12 “a la” shots of the Afghan girl or else may become some kind of authoring in itself?

    It’s the questions (hard ones, but gentle hidden ironies too), that can reveal themselves in a photography or a series, that bring the authoring to fruition. And friction.

    Last, there is a selflessness often popping out of travel snapshots, but also to so much photography from beginners, amateurs and “unachieved”, that is fascinating, and revealing, but for me, never in a way to downsize the photographer, or box it in as this or that, en groupe ( ie. really concerned, unconcerned, close, distant, “feeling”, superficial, etc…), until the individual reveals his/herself to be so, in person, which again is quite independant from the shots they’ve taken.

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