santa claus

yes, yes i was taught in my childhood that there was a Santa Claus…it was pretty confusing even then, because the story of Jesus in Bethlehem, and wise men and angels and fat Santa showing up at midnight in my home and then somehow wriggling  down my chimney and leaving toys under the tree (if i had been a good boy that year), was a story or a combo of stories that left me totally perplexed…however, as i rushed to open my packages with my name on them under the Christmas tree, i just left the stories alone….i had my new electric train or baseball mitt, and that was that…

a camera came into my life at about 11 years old, and by that time Santa was "personified" as my father…i always figured….. anyway, at this point, i only wanted a roll of film in my stocking hung by the mantle with care….i did not realize at the time, that this very camera would lead me around the world to ask many more questions than just whether or not there was really a Santa Claus …and much more than finding out whether or not our red and white Santa was the end game of a Coca Cola ad campaign in the 1920’s…

december is a special month for all faiths…particularly for the sons of Abraham, with Chanukah and Eid-Al-Adha and Christmas all rolling around on top of each other…now, the Buddhist and Hindu moon based calendars get complicated for me, but when i saw the full moon on Christmas Eve and early Christmas day i knew it was a good  omen for everyone….

in all of my travels certainly religion and politics come into my mind a lot…most of what i have photographed for thirty years  is a by-product of one of the two or a combo of the two….the mixture of the two usually bringing about results that i do not condone  nor understand….i continue to be totally confused about the human animal in our various incarnations of amazing grace  and simultaneous amazing willingness to self destruct….and yet and yet, i lean towards photographing the light…the hope …the moments when it has all gone right…realizing that surely all is not really "right", but this little moment to be shared has a real "rightness" to it…i keep thinking mankind should be getting better…learning from past mistakes and moving "forward"…however, it often does not seem to be the case..i see this in the work of many of my colleagues…great work……but my "belief" is in the ultimate dignity of man ….not a religious belief….just belief, albeit often flawed…

as i drove along in my mother’s car on Christmas Eve morn , i saw the almost full moon going down between the foot hills near durango…this is just the kind of picture that would make me cringe if i saw it in a student portfolio (below)…but, i took it anyway….obviously, i did not even get out of the car….just a snapshot…a memory….nothing more….never to be printed or published or archived…..just a Christmas 2007 memory…..a poignant memory for me because my father died on Christmas morning in 2000 at home with our family at his side with these peaks in his view…a rather beautiful passing of a life…..

i wish all of you a blessed holiday season….i would wish for you happiness above all with your families and companions….and i know i know i know this sounds perhaps trite, naive, etc etc.., but i just cannot help myself….if each of us puts one little daily "brick in the wall" towards "understanding" or "sensitizing" then we will have made our contribution to the elusive "world peace"…leaders and organizations will not do it for us….it is only us, and each of us counts…

your thoughts????


86 Responses to “santa claus”

  • Add a “sense of humor” to the daily list of needs, and we just might get there, someday.

  • new years resolution no:1
    By the end of the day,(every day),bring home ONE good worth sharing photo… please…

  • Yes, we all are a brick in the wall and I really believe that one voice can and does make a difference. We should not lose faith and breathe, smile and always look on the bright side of life should be the mantra.

    Understanding, communication and smiles. Lots and lots of big smiles coming from a pure heart. Those are my thoughts.

    David, remind me to tell you the story about the forth wise man… you’ll love it!!

    Merry Christmas to you and everybody around here!!!

  • sorry, just a correction to my written english: “Fourth (4th) wise man” ;)

  • firsth of all… Happy New Year and hollidays… unfortunatelly i am spending this time in bed because i got ill…

    every year at this time i start to think a lot… about last year and about next year… and it makes me tired a bit :-) but this year is even worst :-P… this year was AMAZING so… next one can be only worst ;-) hehe

    2nd thing… David… i really like that photo.. it’s a view through the window?

    3rd thing….
    “Not everybody can read a newspaper, magazine or book. But, everybody can read a photograph. The most powerfull weapon in the world has been and can be a photography. Military weapons can only destroy. Cameras in the hands of photographer with hearts can capture love, hope, passion, change lives and make the world better place…. and it only takes 1/500th of second.” Eddie Adams

    Cheers, Aga

  • I think what was said above about a sense of humour above echoes my sentiments… certainly it leads to understanding more easily than seriousness, if one thinks about it…

    On another note, I too snapped a “student” full moon Sunday night ( but could not ignore it… for me it is a passing reference to where I live, where I am at; if nothing else, a dedication to this country, this city, at a time when so many speak against it, when there seems so little sense of belonging here and adding meaning to that.

    Perhaps a bit serious there towards the end, given the need for humour, but I think a “light” eye is ultimately better than a dark one, to tie in to what you were saying. Even when there are enigma’s like Parr ;-)


  • to me, the image is beautiful and the thoughts as well. sometimes in families or friendships or in this web community, we have misunderstandings that make us sad and/or angry, but we can learn from them and move on to greater understandings of the world at large and the decision that peace is the right path.
    i was fortunate to go to the Kennedy Center on December 22 to a performance of the Master Chorale of Washington. The audience joined the choir in singing “Let There Be Peace on Earth”–the first stanza:
    Let there be peace on earth
    And let it begin with me;
    Let there be peace on earth,
    The peace that was meant to be.
    Peace to all and a very Happy New Year!
    I look forward to seeing the posted photographs

  • David

    So many things in your ‘Santa Claus’ posting… can only respond to a small part of it without writing pages and pages! Of course I am in total sympathy with your thoughts and your prescription for adding a little light whenever we can. But when you characterize your snapshot of the moon setting over the Durango hills as being ‘just the kind I cringe at when it appears in a student portfolio’ it sends waves of questions through my mind along the lines of ‘What really is a good photograph?’ I’m more confused than ever… as confused as you are about Santa Claus, politics and religion, or whether there is such a thing as progress in human affairs.

    To illustrate your story and your state of mind at the time, the photo is perfect. Maybe not highly original, maybe not a photo that ‘only DAH could take’, maybe no broad areas of bold saturated primary color or silhouettes of exotic figures or multiple layers of meaning… maybe no sale value for publication in a major magazine… yet as a record, as a memory, as an illustration to accompany a text, it is perfect. I’m not saying you’re wrong to cringe when it shows up in a portfolio… just that it shows we take photos to many different ends, they live in many different contexts, that photos in life, photos in art, photos in business, and photos looked at twenty years from now, may not all be the same thing, should not necessarily all be judged by the same standard. I’m second guessing here, but probably when you look at a student portfolio, you’re asking things like ‘what is striking here? what is original? what shows that this student has not only mastered technique but has a distinctive, and a stylistically consistent, eye? what is deep, multi-layered, haunting? what moves the story along?’ In other words, I suspect you’re largely thinking in terms of things that will enhance the potential career of the student as an individual and a professional who must sell pictures to eat in a contemporary commercial world (???).

    Even though I can understand and accept that, my interest in photography in my own and other people’s lives goes far beyond that… and the contexts in which pictures are taken, and the contexts in which they are used and seen, is far more complicated than whether or not they are published in National Geographic or Stern or Mainichi Graphic, or hung on the wall of an art gallery or museum. So I’m still asking myself the basic questions about ‘What is a good photograph?’, my answers change from day to day, and I don’t expect I’ll ever have a definitive answer to cover all situations. I remain confused, even as I revel in the infinite complexity and dimensions of photography.

    That said, I’m still dying to hear your feedback and see your picks for the online portfolio!



  • David,

    If I may modify your metaphor, my internal struggle is more akin to working towards removing bricks from the wall that keeps others at a distance. I think we all have deeply embedded fears of differences, be they differences in appearance, behavior, religious beliefs, political ideologies, culture, etc.

    I try to read about thoughtful opinions that oppose my own beliefs; my beliefs that have been ingrained by my experiences and by the beliefs of those who influenced me in the past. It’s difficult to do, and I often fail.

    However, my obsession with photography has helped perpetuate my efforts, and has facilitated the destruction of my own wall, in that my desire to capture compelling photographs induces me to notice and observe differences in others, and that draws me in to learn more about them. As I’ve heard so many well-known photographers state, the more diverse cultures they experience, the more they see that people everywhere are all the same- they want the same future for themselves and for their children: peace, happiness, and longevity.

  • There is peace here in my little cabin in the woods, my wife is singing Joni Mitchell songs, as we drink Bailey’s and coffee on a white Christmas nestled down cozy and snug with our dog at our feet, in the cabin we built together amidst the spruce, cedar and fir shouldered with newfallen snow, huge flakes falling in the hush … beauty and wonder all around … my heart is full.

    Peace be with all … this is such a special community … i see many more great things in this house that David built …


  • Not much happening in the way of Buddhism around late December, in Thailand, they even did what nobody in Europe or US would ever plan doing, voting on the 22nd of December!

    I think leaders are human too, and that their failings are only a reflection, if not the result, of the failings of other people, whole populations, less powerful than them at the time. That is where is the hope as well, there is no human being that cannot redeem some of these failings, because all human beings are capable of love.

    Despite all the sufferings in the world, our lives are the contrary of daily news. It is the good news that leave the strongest imprints, that inspire us, never the bad ones. A bad news only affects us for not being good, never as an achievement in itself.

    A kid from the Ghetto escaping murder or death, and hopelessness, redeems the pain perpetrated and felt by hundreds. A cambodian escaped from the Khmer holocaust, speaking for the horrors lived by a million others, redeems the lovelessness of the forlorn place he escaped.

    Love is stronger than hate, hundred fold, but love often needs courage, and courage needs making choices. All that happens the worse in the world is because we keep ignoring we do have choices and refuse to make them. When we refuse, we are small and too human, when we make them, we are coming into greatness that only a human being can achieve, however there could millions of inhabitated worlds in the universe and beyond.

    In that realm, there are only good news. I am no practicing christian, have little interest if God, as an entity, exists or not, but I found these possible words from Jesus to be able to resonate deep in every one of us:

    The Kingdom of God is spread upon the Earth, and men do not see it.

    Bad News? Nope, best news ever!

    PS: I hope I did out-trite David with this one…:-)))

  • david! i wish you, and all people here, all the best for christmas and becoming new year!

    my thoughts…

    this holidays i think about my grandfather. i remember two christmas eves with him. first, long time ago, when i was a kid, and when i realized that ‘gwiazdor’ [polish santa claus] is my covered grandpa…
    second, the last christmas i had with him. he was sick. he had cancer. my whole family was there, and he was shadow of the man we knew. but he laugh at the time we were opening our gifts, he forget, he was happy. this is how i remember him – happy man laughing.
    and than i start to think that i did not photographed him, he passed before i start to do that. and i used to photograph people i love or respect… what about him… i wish to have possibility to spend day or more with him, to chat, to document his life. to thank him in this way for what he gave me…
    now i think it is still possible to photograph him… to do it through the people he loved and who loved him…

  • Your post reminded me of a quote I keep around, “We ourselves feel that we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean wold be less because of that missing drop.” – Mother Theresa

    Yeah, I’m an optimist by nature, despite all the evidence to the contrary. After years of working with words and in government, I remain awestruck by the power of a single still image. It can cut through time and translation, giving us a basis of understanding and motivating us to contribute — one brick, or drop, at a time.

    How lovely that your father was able to see such a remarkable environment on his last days on earth, and that you are able to experience it now and remember him. The enormity of nature is somehow reassuring.

  • David, glad you are enjoying your holiday: there is nothing better than being with family and friends. I must agree it is difficult to understand how it is that man is not getting better. One would think as far as we have come educationally and scientifically we would somehow do away with suffering and war, selfishness and greed.

    In my own life I had to raise the question, and it is still one I think about often: can man redeem itself? Will we ever learn from our mistakes? We don’t seem to, I think we are getting worse sometimes. Can man redeem himself-a big question indeed.

    I will wish you the best, some rest, and a wonderful holiday season. Peace.

  • I too prefer the thought of “removing bricks” from the wall.

    I’m so encouraged by the dismantling of border controls throughout Europe just last week expanding into the former eastern block countries. Particularly too that some of the nations involved are not EU countries. This is great news.

    However, as this happens the debate continues about constructing a wall between Mexico and the US. This is bonkers.

    Let’s continue to search for reasons to dismantle the walls. What say you all?

    Hoping for peace and prosperity in 2008 and beyond.


  • First David, let me also wish you a great holiday season… Christmas is also a very special time for our family…This is actually the first Christmas that we have spent in the US and my parents were over here with us in Cincinnati, leaving tomorrow to go back to Europe…Few days of long tchat, discussing politics, family matters and of course photography…. Long debate also, discussing where we will do our next travel together, father and son… Seems like we may well go again for Easter processions but this time, we may be heading to Antigua in Guatemala…. I do not know if you have been there at that time (it seems that you have been everwhere…), but I am told that this should be a great experience…hopefully as fund as the time we had in Sicily. Beyond the usual family reunion, Christmas also brings special memories as my little daughter Tia was also born 3 years ago, the day after Christmas, when we were still leaving in Rome…. She is a very special little princess who makes everything around her so so special!!! The world through her eyes is very naive but very simple, genuine. You are blessed David to be able to stay naive….to be able to see the good…. Keep this always… It is also one of the many reasons I like your photography so much…Your photography is full of joy, emotions. No need to war, hate…It is all about feelings, “moments” that seem very special. Even in your last book “Living Proof”, it is so great to see these tough rappers go back home and then act like Teddy bears with their daughter as well…. Very hard to resist a child, especially yours!!!!! Come to think of it, there are actually quite a few pictures in your different books that show kids… I love for example the last picture of your cuba book with the daugther hugging her father who is looking at the sea…. Makes you want to be a father and hold your own daughter very tight!!!! Many say that photographing kids make it easy photography …I am not sure if you agree or not but I certainly find in kids that sort of naive look at the world that appeals to me. Many of my pictures have kids in them one way of another…Not always deliberate but I often realize this afterwards. I am drawn towards kids!!! So hopefully, we can all keep some of their innocence look at the world!!!!! Again, have a great holiday David! I cannot wait to see in Jan the work of all who have submitted an essay. Will be great to see what this community has produced. Hope to see you in 2008. Cheers, Eric
    PS: I have now got agreement from my company to take a 3-4 months sabbatical in 09…I am so excited to be able to take a break and hopefully take on a real photographic assignment of my own…Still time to wait but great to know that this is coming!

  • From the late, great Carl Sagan….

    “Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

    The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

    Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

    The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

    It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

    Wishing all a wonderful holiday season.

  • Just popping up to say Merry Christmas and Very Happy New Year to You and all our community members of this blog .. Peace .. Sandip

  • May peace and harmony prevail!

    May all beings everywhere be happy and free,
    Peace, peace and peace be everywhere

    lokah samastha sukhino bhavanthu
    om shanti, shanti, shanti

  • david. the power of your tenderness is far-reaching. one of the things i love most about you. that link is not missing.
    feel the sadness about your dad. anne henning

  • David, As trite as those moon pictures are, the twist of throwing a rear-view mirror into the mix and looking behind the camera draws me in. I saw the same moon, on the same morning, setting into the waters of Pamlico Sound from my bedroom window. I admired the scene, then crawled back into bed. The image is only exposed in my mind.

    I remember getting the news of your dad’s passing, then think of my own father’s passing 4 months later. They were both loving and nurturing people from a great generation. They would be saddened by what has transpired in the world since they left it. We owe it to them to try to improve things in some way, at least a little bit.

    As you know, your family is very special to us. Please give them our love and best wishes.

  • Once I read a “trick of the trade” back during the ancient film days. You take various pictures of the full moon at different positions on the negatives, carefully keeping track of where each one is. You rewind the film, put it in the freezer for safekeeping, then go back and double expose the negatives with whatever you want with the full moon.

    Never tried it myself; too much trouble and I could never figure out why you’d want the moon if wasn’t there in the first place.

    Moon and car remind me of something else entirely. Is moon a verb?

    When I was in graduate school, studying poetry writing, my major instructor once told me that if something feels so poetic that you have to write a poem about it, suppress the urge with all your might.

    Also learned that it is better to write about/photograph the one person lit by the moon than the moon.

    Christmas is an enigma to me. I have never celebrated it. Most people I know do celebrate it but say it is not a religious holiday. Everyone talks about family and friends, and the whole western world advertises it, then shuts its doors (restaurants, stores), and I sit at home with nowhere to go.

    Chanukah is barely a holiday. It is perhaps the most minor of the year and is given notice only so little Jewish kids can get presents too. That is not a cynical statement; it’s really true.

    To get a different perspective, I urge people to watch Zeitgeist the Movie. Google it and watch online. It is good.

    David, how long will you be in NY, once you get back?

    Happy New Year to All,


  • “Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.” Gandhi

  • “Is moon a verb?” It is if you’re not wearing pants.

  • Akaky, I think you have to be wearing them. Part of the act of mooning is to pull them down. (Isn’t it?)


  • Michael, It depends on the context. “I will moon..” : pants on. “I have mooned…” pants off. “I have mooned and I will soon again…” : busy, dedicated person.

  • Then there are “The Moonies”. A spooky lot.

  • “Shoot the Moon Right Between the Eyes…” John Prine

    Joan, you conjugate well.


  • I’m sure we all have a ‘crap’ pic or two that brings back some fine memories. My favourite ‘crap’ pic is from Hong Kong (10 years ago). I was on Lantau Island facing the Big Buddha, balanced my old Fujica on my broken tripod, set the timer and smiled. The focus was off and the IQ was bad, but every time I see the picture it reminds me of how different the world looked to me all those years ago (i can also hear the timer clicking away!).

    I usually get friends telling me how much my photography is better than theirs and how they’d like to take such ‘great’ photographs, but i always tell them that if in 10 years time when you look at the photo and remember the scene then the photo has done its job (regardless of IQ).

    Seasons Greetings!

  • We should gather collective cheese and each of us should post a full moon picture :-) Cheers Folks!

  • Hello David…

    Two weeks from now (January 11, 2008) you will celebrate one year Blogs anniversary! Do you know what you will write in post? How you feel?… BlogMaster… :) Maybe one year it’s nothing and you need ten years to say “ok! This is IT!!!”
    I’ll be waiting for answer this two weeks… if i must…



    i have read all of your comments..provacative as i would expect, and thoughtful and well, just plain old thank you…..and i want to respond…but, frankly right now i am scrambling to get the new website set it is either that or comment to all of your comments…will try that tomorrow….

    peace, david

  • hola from casa munoz in trinidad y feliz navidad! trinidad is as as beautiful as you described and rosa is still making the greatest coffee in town. hope to catch you soon in new york and share stories.

    abrazos for now,

    rosa, julio, carmen, y AJ. and luna de miel (julio’s horse)

  • for those travelling to trinidad this is the new website of casa munoz:

  • Let me pose a variation of the question: would anyone display a photo that was not up to your own technical standards as a photograph if you thought the photo had something to say?

  • David, still debating here where we might be traveling next. While Antigua in Easter is still the most likely plan, I was just curious to know from you who is so well traveled all over the world what places have remained very special to you….I am sure that you can do great pictures no matter where you go but is there a particular place that seems even more magical to you and where you would return or recommend others to go? Other options I am considering is Bahia and I know you have also been there….Just curious….Eric

  • My last days of the year are a bit out of focus: struggling with an effing awful atopic dermatitis in my eyes … just hope the new year will bring me new vision :)) … JOYFUL HOLIDAYS TO ALL OF U D.A.H. BLOGGERS!!!

  • David, I like the image and I am happy you share it with me! Yes, it might be a little “kitschig” or sentimental, but it was a pleasure to look at it and the rear view mirror is a nice element. You look forward and backwards at the same time – the future and the past.
    Sometimes we tend to have “scissors in the head” as people say here in Germany. We cut out ideas, things beforehand without giving them a chance. Glad you did it anyway and I think you should not apologize for taking it or even explain and justify it. It is a picture you took in a certain mood and it is valid to be shown. It fits well to what you wrote!

    Talking about being a good and helpful person reminded me of an experience I had in December 2005. It was an early Sunday morning and I was driving to work. Along the way I saw a man walking with plastic bags along the road. It was a road where people were not supposed to walk because the cars drove fast. So, I thought I better turn around and tell the guy to use a different road. When I stopped beside him I noticed he was a beggar and I asked where he wanted to go. He named the city where I was going and so I told him to jump in the car. He told me that he had already walked many kilometres that day and was hoping to go to a city which was some 30 kilometres away in order to collect some money there the next day. He explained to me that in Germany every city is supposed to give money to homeless people – enough for a day (perhaps 10 Euro) so they can buy some food. But only for one day then they have to go to another city. His name was Manfred and I guess he was in his late 40ies. He was chewing on a piece of bread, but he only had one tooth left and the crumbs were all over his beard. I asked him about his life and he told me about his childhood. I cannot really remember the details, but it was not a happy story and his parents didn’t treat him well. Manfred somehow got on the wrong track, lost his job, his home and then he became a homeless person. He had lived this way for the last 20 years or so. I asked him if there were places that would give him shelter for the night, but he said that he was afraid of the other homeless people there who might rob him so he preferred to sleep on cemeteries because there no one would disturb him at night. Manfred said he wouldn’t want to live in any other way and he was quite happy the way he lived. It was early in the morning and I was in no rush and because I noticed that he had difficulties walking I decided to drive him all the way to where he wanted to go. I dropped him off at the entrance of the town at a petrol station that was open, so I thought he could get something to eat and drink there. I only had one banana with me as my daily food and so I gave it to him plus 10 Euro cash I had with me. Manfred was very thankful for that and he said that no one has ever been so kind to him. To me it was the least I could do and because I had to go to work we shook hands and said good bye. I never saw him again, but I often remembered this encounter. I had several cameras and gear with me in my car, but I took no photo. The next night snow started to fall and we had a very severe winter that year. Later I thought I should have dropped him off at my mum’s house where he could have taken a bath; get some food and a warm bed.
    I feel it is not always easy to help in the right way. I could have done more, but on that day, at that moment it was the best I could do. It is never enough that is the trouble, but we can at least try. It also made me aware of the privileged life I have and I am very thankful for that.

    Early this December I went with an aid convoy to Romania to deliver 31 000 Christmas gifts to children in need (some images you will find here: It was the best week of this year! It was a magic, spiritual trip which is impossible to explain! There is nothing more rewarding than to help other people!
    I wish all the best for 2008 to you all!

  • Hello David and all,
    I only have a moment…under deadline on a couple of projects but wanted to drop by and say Merry Christmas (belatedly) Happy New Year.

    I love the “snapshot” you posted. I think that is one of the main reasons I love photography. How a very simple photo taken for a “memory” can sometimes resonate with others for reasons that are beyond understanding. It made me smile inside!

    That is one of the small little bricks that often we never know that we have laid.

    Thanks so much!


  • Merry merry to you all.
    And wishing you a great and creative 2008!

  • Thanks for the link to your site and the Romanian Xmas convoy, Reimar.

    I hope that in its second year, the blog will have more acknowledging of each other’s links and contributions, sometimes, the replies on David’s entries read as if different e-mails in his box.

    For ex. The students/WS section, where David leaves us alone to add afer he posted the work is a good example of a place that deservesa lot more input and exchanges. Let’s not be afraid to be critical too, if that’s why people are afraid to post. It does not mean negative.

  • Akay, with regard to your question “would anyone display a photo that was not up to your own technical standards as a photograph if you thought the photo had something to say?”: an interesting question, raising many issues. Of course we all have to deal with less-than-perfect light and indeed with the technical aspects of photography current at the time. Ernst Hass, a pioneer of colour photography made many wonderful photographs that were, in part, influenced by the technology of the time i.e. Kodachrome at ISO 12!
    National Geographic photographer William Albert Allard (who I rate highly) has spoken of taking photographs at the “Hail Mary” side of exposure latitude. Both photographers produced results that, while not perhaps technically perfect, were fantastic. Sometimes it’s a case of not better, not worse, just different.
    So yes, as long as the photograph has something worthwhile to say and it’s the best that circumstances allow, I’ll show it – always bearing in mind another Allard quote (I paraphrase here} “be careful not to show a sub-standard photograph to a picture editor: he just might use it”.

    I love your posts Akay.



    yes, i have heard that phrase my whole life about supressing the sentimental thought re: poetry….hmmmm, but it does beg the question , does it not, exactly how many books of poetry did your college professor write???


    you are so so correct…challenging is not negative!!! my only reference to a “negative” that would be negative would be if there were a “back biting” element to the awarding of the stipend….that is all ….anything else, that is provocative or really needs answering, even if uncomfy to me, is totally FAIR GAME!!!!


    you sort of asked and then totally answered your own question about “what really makes a good photograph?”…obviously there is no answer…nor can there be…nor should there be…perhaps, over time, and study, and referencing, a certain “taste” may develop, but this is ever-evolving…enjoy making phtographs…enjoy looking at photographs…do not even try to quantify phtographic work…way way too subjective by nature….

    we will get into all of this more during the analysis of the portfolios to be published first week january…..



    cheers, david

  • David,

    When viewed on a cell phone your pic actually looks like some kind of natural bridge where the mirror creates the opening under the bridge.

  • David and all….

    just returned from 9 hours of driving…wine curled like hoars-breth along the curve of my tired tongue, feel like writing something, but resist….

    instead, will share a long song from one of my beloved runethatthemouth poets, my man from Virgina CHARLES WRIGHT….AlanHarvey: since ur own hear was once bent by those shadows and crocus-swells of that sad and beautiful country, i choose Wright to sing u all some winter’s/newyears sleep….

    words in a few days, after i’ve divested my body…much travel in 9 days…

    for y’all, the best of all there is and now charles wright:


    How soon we come to road’s end–
    Failure, our two-dimensional side-kick, flat dream-light,
    Won’t jump-start or burn us in,

    Dogwood insidious in its constellations of part-charred cross
    Spring’s via Dolorosa
    flashed out in a dread profusion,
    Nowhere to go but up, nowhere to turn, dead world-weight,

    They’ve gone and done it again,
    Spring’s sap-crippled, arthritic, winter-weathered, myth limb,
    Whose roots are my mother’s hair.



    Landscape’s a lever of transcendence–
    jack-wedge it here,
    Or here, and step back,
    Heave, and a light, a little light, will nimbus your going forth:

    The dew bead, terminal bead, opens out
    onto a great radiance,
    Sun’s square on magnolia leaf
    Offers us entrance–
    who among us will step forward,
    Camellia brown boutonnieres
    Under his feet, plum branches under his feet, white sky, white
    Church bells like monk’s mouths tonguing the hymn?


    Journal and landscape
    –Discredited form, discredited subject matter–
    I tried to resuscitate both, breath and blood,
    making them whole again

    Through language, strict attention–
    Verona mi fe’, disfecemi Verona, the song goes.
    I’ve hummed it, I’ve bridged the break

    To no avail.
    April. The year begins beyond words,
    Beyond myself and the image of myself, beyond
    Moon’s ice and summer’s thunder. All that.


    The meat of the sacrament is invisible meat and a ghostly
    I’ll say.
    Like any visible thing,
    I’m always attracted downward, and soon to be killed and

    Vessel of life, it’s said, vessel of life, brought to naught,
    Then gathered back to what’s visible.
    That’s it, fragrance of spring like lust in the blossom-starred orchard,

    The shapeless shape of darkness starting to seep through and
    The seen world starting to tilt,
    Where I sit the still, unwavering point
    under that world’s waves.


    How like the past the clouds are,
    Building and disappearing along the horizon,
    Inflecting the mountains,
    laying their shadows under our feet

    For us to cross over on.
    Out of their insides fire falls, ice falls,
    What we remember that still remembers us, earth and air fall.

    Neither, however, can resurrect or redeem us,
    Moving, as both must, ever away toward opposite corners.
    Neither has been where we’re going,
    bereft of an attitude.


    Amethyst, crystal transparency,
    Maya and Pharaoh ring,
    Malocchio, set against witchcraft,
    Lightning and hailstorm, birthstone, savior from drunkenness.

    Purple, color of insight, clear sight,
    Color of memory–
    violet, that’s for remembering,
    Star-crystals scattered across the penumbra, hard stars.

    Who can distinguish darkness from the dark, light from light,
    Subject matter from story line,
    the part from the whole
    When whole is part of the part and part is all of it?


    Lonesomeness. Morandi, Cezanne, it’s all about lonesomeness.
    And Rothko. Especially Rothko.
    Separation from what heals us
    beyond painting, beyond art.

    Words and paint, black notes, white notes.
    Music and landscape; music, landscape and sentences.
    Gestures for which there is no balm, no intercession.

    Two tone fields, horizon a line between abysses,
    Generally white, always speechless.
    Rothko could choose either one to disappear into. And did.


    Perch’io no spero di tornar giammai, ballatetta, in Toscana,
    Not as we were the first time,
    not as we’ll ever be again.
    Such snowflakes of memory, they fall nowhere but there.

    Absorbed in remembering, we cannot remember–
    Exile’s anthem, O stiff heart,
    Thingless we came into the world and thingless we leave,

    Every important act is wordless–
    to slip from the right way,
    To fail, still accomplishes something.
    Even a good thing remembered, however, is not as good as not
    remembering at all.


    Time is the source of all good,
    time the engenderer
    Of entropy and decay,
    Time the destroyer, our only-begetter and advocate.

    For instance, my fingernail,
    so pink, so amplified.
    In the half-clerk, for instance,
    These force-fed dogwood blossoms, green-leafed, defused,
    limp on their long branches.

    St. Stone, say a little prayer for me,
    grackles and jay in the black gum,
    Drowse of the poetry head,
    Dandelion globes luminous in the last light, more work to be


  • re: your “student” pic, I do that stuff all the time, can’t seem to stop myself. Some of ’em I just cut when I edit, some of ’em are desktop wallpaper. sometimes, when non=photographers see them they say “oh how pretty!” and I cringe a little. sometimes I print ’em anyway, because I think I’m being too self conscious, and 99% of the people in the world are non photographers and will like it anyway. I could be wrong though.

    re: doing good because every little bit helps: yes. I always think of the butterfly effect: little differences in initial conditions vastly affect the outcome. So yeah, doing good is good. Even if it is a little thing. pax- Matt

  • I read Matt and I think someday we will have to open the proverbial can of worms: what is a “good” photograph? Do good (ie. not bad) photographs add up to good (ie. authored, speaking) photography? Can bad (ie. rules broken) photographs add up to good photography after all too? And all the nunaces between good and not good. Is 99% of the world “wrong”? That’s a lot of people to box in, Matt!

  • David, my ex mentor has quite a few books out. His name is Miller Williams; the father of Lucinda Williams.

    I’m looking forward to your new site. I’m working on a remodel for mine, also. Lots of work!

    Hope to see you soon.


  • sorry herve, I was generalizing a bit too much. good is not the same as pretty; the photos I was speaking of as “desktop wallpaper” are at fault precisely because they don’t say anything. They may be technically well executed and geometrically composed as nearly perfect as I can, but they’re empty. They don’t say anything to anyone wasn’t there (if you were there, and they do say something to you, then they’re worth keeping, even just as a journal); they’re just pretty, you know? Pretty doesn’t mean good to me. (seems like I remember a fable to that effect). I don’t have any hard and fast rules for how to judge a photo, though.

    I meant “good” in an overall sense, though: work for social justice, recycle, that sort of thing. Making good photographs counts (to me of course), or I wouldn’t be making photos at all. What is good in a photograph is a huge subject, and since this isn’t my blog, It’s not my place. I think I will go write about it on my blog, though, and if you really want to know what I think, that’s what’s linked as my web site right now. Just click my name. later, matt

  • Hi David,
    This is the first time a write but I’ve been reading your blog for almost a year.
    I just found out you’re coming in february to Mexico for a NG workshop and I was wondering if you could tell who I can contact to present my self in case they need a mexican spanish-english speaking assistant.


  • Hey David…. happy new year !

  • @Herve: at some point I started to think that bad pictures might not follow the rules, but great pictures just break them! There’s nothing more boring for me than a well executed pretty image. I mean, what is there to take home or to chew? And if the picture is –even worse- completely finished? Why would you look twice at something that unambiguously delivers a message? I realized a while ago that when I’m drunk I experiment less with the framing of the shots, there are less strange tilts and everything is sort of stereotypically safe. Hum. I hate many of my “better” shots because they were shot in that safe way. Oh well.

    Happy new year in advance to everybody!

  • Feliz año David…gracias por el tiempo que nos has dado y lo que hemos aprendido, pero más que nada por tu amistad sincera.

    un abrazo. Carlos Rubín

  • A good photograph is a photograph about which someone has said, “Hey! Good photograph!”

    A crappy photograph is a photograph about which someone has said, “Yikes! What a crappy photograph!”

    And, of course, paradoxically, that can be and often is the very same photograph!

    Pretty cool huh?

  • Hoping all here find many reasons to smile throughout 2008.

  • blessin’s for the year 2008 to all and sunder…


    i am STILL scrambling with your uploads!!!! but by this evening or first thing in the morning i will at least show a list of the essaysists who will be featured and the recipient of the dah stipend..

    i am a bit of a prisoner to the tech side of the new website…suggestion for all in the future: do not try to do what i am trying to do over the Christmas holidays!!! seriously, all is just fine, but i do just have to wait for certain things to happen which i do not understand to open the new site where your work will be shown…all of you have been so patient….just a little bit more please…it is really out of my hands at this point….

    i do hope all of you have had the best of holidays….and now the days are getting longer!!

    peace and happy new year!!!


  • Wishing everyone a great 2008. Happy New Year!

  • Speaking of being a prisoner…David, are you being held prisoner by the snows of Colorado? Back in the NY kibbutz?

    Whatever the case, have a great New Year’s celebration!


    still in colorado..not prisoner of snow…good skiing!!!!….back in nyc by the 5th….


    in looking carefully at the metadata of some entrants we noticed many pictures shot outside of our stated time frame…the time frame of july 15-november 15 was set up so that editors etc who viewed your work would see what you could do in a realistic time period….we also found one entrant who had in the metadata a picture credited to a magnum photographer!!! we are assuming these are all honest mistakes, but just want to make sure that everything we publish here falls into the very few “rules” and limited structure we had set up…

    cheers, david

  • David,
    I find it highly dubious that someone could mistakenly send a picture shot by someone else… and I’m pretty sure you do too but you are diplomatic… But, are you sure it’s not one of your Magnum colleagues who, for the fun, took part in the “contest” under a pseudonym ? ;-) It could also be someone who just wanted to test if the picture in question would be “detected”. Regarding the time stamp of the pictures, I think it may be the case that the camera is set to a wrong time. Not everyone pays attention to these things.
    For example I have a M8 and although I now know most of the settings, I don’t know how to set the time and I have never checked the time of my pictures. So it could be completely off without my having noticed.

    Happy new year!

  • hello david… hello everyone,
    just a quick message to wish you all happy new year. may it be what you want it to be! saludos,

  • I must say that even considering oblivious mistakes to change dates or do it wrong on the camera clock, I have had problems with the Canon reflex this year, so that coming back from my winter trip, last April, some shots were dated November 2007!?!? there is space for honest mistakes, definitely.

    Of course, as for my own participation here, no problems, lovefest happens only once a year, late September, and due to computer crash, having lost all summer work, I had welcome david’s extra time, but make it a one day shooting “essay”, as if sent by some agency to cover this cool, fun and happening day in SF’s calendar.

    Be safe in celebrating the NYear, everyone!


    sort of strange that in the last hours of 2007 michael and i are catching a combo of honest mistakes and perhaps flatout deceit…

    one of the essays i liked the most, turned out to be shot over a year ago….this could easily have been an honest mistake or a misinterpretation of the rules because one of the pictures was shot in the correct time frame..

    and the photographer who i thought only had one picture entered shot by a Magnum photog, upon investigation had his entire essay “borrowed” right out of the Magnum archive…yes, it could be a joke by the Magnum photog, or not a joke by someone else…in any case, it took up a lot of time to figure it out and did not have michael and i laughing at the end, if it was intended as a joke!!!

    now, you may ask, why are we just catching these “errors” now??…pretty simple really…we just we not looking for this sort of thing…we had our hands full just going over all of the material….neither michael nor i caught these discrepencies because we both were assuming “honesty” all around…

    stay tuned….

    cheers, david

  • Well, it would be fun to see the essay in question, if only to see if I would have been able to recognize one of the pictures… I’m sure fellow fans of the Magnum website would like it too :) Could be the next game for winning one of your camera bags ;-)


    ok, wrapping it up for the night… i am sure you do not mind if i take new years eve off!!..back first thing in the morning with at least an announcement of the best essays…and there are some very very nice ones!!!

    happy new year!!! david

  • As difficult as this is for you, at least you are catching it. Better than finding out about it later. I guess this sort of thing, joke or not is not uncommon. I fell in love with the portfolio of a “foreign” photojournalist last year on a photo sharing website and then discovered he had taken the entire thing from Emilio Morenatti, a great PJ. When the “officials” of the site found out about it they tried to contact the guy, thinking it might be Emilio using an alias but the imposter was never heard from again. Needless to say, the portfolio was taken down. Oh well…Good work guys! We will all celebrate together tomorrow.

  • You know, I (and I suspect others) was/were willing to give some leeway here regarding the announcement and all…you said first week of January, I didn’t realize you were going to end up with first DAY of January! Good for you, man! You really do rock. One last time, thanks for all your hard work. You’re pretty crazy…but we love you for it!

    Enjoy your celebration…of course by the time you see this you’ll probably be “suffering” your celebration! In either case, peace!


  • –For MICHAEL C.

    Hi Michael. I just sent an important e-mail. Let me kow if you receive it.



  • 10 minutes till 2008…taking a moment between a party and ringing in the new year to send thoughts of a very good year to you all..

    with regard to the mistakes, as my sister says ‘even boundless compassion has its limits’….I’m sure you have to draw the line somewhere..I wish you well with it~!

    peace and joy to all!

  • 10 minutes into 2008. Happy New Year David!

  • Happy New Year 2008 David and ALL THE PEOPLE HERE………


  • David,

    Since I will likely be in the train when you make the announcement, I post a last question now… I think you once said that you would publish all “good essays” regardless of the number of good essays there would be. A few days ago, you said that you were going to publish 6-10 essays. This leads to the question: are there only 6-10 essays that you consider good (of course an essay might contain good pictures but might not be cohesive enough to be a “good essay”)? Or are there in fact too many good essays so that you chose to publish only “great essays”?


  • A bit wobbly this morning and blanketed lightly by the fresh-white new year, itself blanketed lightly by the fresh-tonguetip of a newyear snow last night, i’ll try to make this shot-short…


    HAPPY YEAR YEAR! I wish each and everyone of you a simple thing: a year, though it may be full and absent, turned by joy and sadness, wealthy and slightly bitter, dreamed upon and ached for, wet and bone-carveddry, i wish for each of you something quite simple:

    that you are given the wealth and grace of time to spend more time with those you love and who love and seed you than you do away from them, as my wife’s mother said to me in russian: more time at home than at work……and for that, whatever is your home, and in whatever manner that shelter make take (spouses, children, friends, photograpy, travel, rested like a dime upon a palm), let it shelter and enrich you and pace out the calm of your days, above all else…

    and yes: some drunkeness and some silence and a swelling heart and a diminishing waist….

    where distance of all things didnt yet matter too much….

    all and only that for each of u (and for akaky to publish a fr*cking book!) :))…

    big wet white hugs

    ps. as to the weird thing about the submission with Magnum stuff….well, maybe it’s a test my one of David’s buddies: if so, just use it for another contest: guess the magnum photographer/story whose pics from the archives they came…im an optimist on the first day of the year and wouldnt trouble too much: what’s a life without shit stirring anyway ;))))


    running (wobbly)


  • To: Aga, Alun, Akaky, Ana, Arie, Asher, Bob B, Carlos, Cathy, David McG, David U, Eric, Erica, Glenn, Gunnar, Herve, Joan, Joni, Kelly, Lance, Liam, Martin, Mike C, Mike K, Mike S, Pablo, Paul, Rafal, Rene, Sanchez, Wendy, and many many more, but especially to David Alan Harvey:

    Thank you all for the wonderful community you have created here over the last year by putting your thoughts and feelings into words we can all share, and best wishes to all of you for a new year filled with the bounty of friendship, experience, and discovery! As they say in Korean, ‘Chaemi manhi posipsio!’ which literally means, ‘Please see many interesting things!’

    In gratitude and appreciation,


  • Happy new year everyone.
    Wishing you all the best in 2008.
    And like lots said before me, thanks for this amazing community. Everyone makes it with the comments and great conversations. And I just love it to bits.

    Hope my submission somehow went through at all. I shot mine this summer in Palestine, when I was working on a long term project. What I submitted is not really finished yet, since I didn’t have a lot of time over there to spent on it, but I loved the challange of getting a new idea on the spot and working in a certain timeframe, next to my own project. That alone was great about this whole assignement.
    Sorry to hear some people didn’t care about this at all and cheeted good or badly intented. For me it was the only reason to try.
    And I’m curious about the whole Magnum megadata thing as well. Very strange thing to find out.


  • Thanks, Sidney, all I can say is: likewise, this is the only site on the net where courtesy in conversation and communication is upheld at all times. There is an incredible feeling of thoughtfulness, kindheartedenss about others, as a community, lurkers and post-ers, Which is new to me since I have been net connected.

    Happy New year, indeed, all, while following David’s first post lead by adding a little sunrise “allegory” from unfree Burma:

  • Right back at’cha, Sidney!

  • Sidney! :)))))

    thanks so much….and ditto to you too mate (love the Korean saying! :)) )…

    you couldnt have expressed it any more eloquently :))

    the reason, for me too, to hang out here is the incredible and stimulating and ultimately embracing conversation that has been unearthed…dah’s commitment to commitment and sharing ….

    it’s what has made this place such a haven for me too here these past 10 months :)))

    running to play in snow :))


  • Throw a ball for me, Bob.

  • paul :)))

    u got it brother! :))))…i always think of you and your sons when im with dima :))…ok, he’s tugging at me…now off and running, snow balls in hand :))))


  • Hello David,

    Christmas must be a time of very mixed feelings for you. And reading your opening statement made me realise how much I’m missing family and home at this time of year – it’s been 2 years.

    I love your image of the mountains, partly because it reminds me that all my memories of Colorado are good ones – and often the photos that mean most to me never make it into print. Paul’s falling leaf as a for instance – I see he’s on your forum here.

    I have a couple of wishes. For you, may the year be filled with success, joy, contentment and good health.
    And, at a time when so many focus on conflict, that many more will focus on peace. I believe we create the world we see on some level, and in my book, this extends into photography.

    Take good care, best wishes to you all and thank you for taking and propagating so many images of peace.


  • I have been recommending a book called “My Stroke of Insight – a Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey” by Jill Bolte Taylor and also a TEDTalk Dr. Taylor gave on the TED dot com site. And you don’t have to take my word for it – Dr. Taylor was named Time Magazine 100 Most Influential People, the New York Times wrote about her and her book is a NYTimes Bestseller), and Oprah did not 4 interviews with her.

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