holiday lights….

i am always telling my students and those i mentor that the most obvious and best projects are just at your front door….so it is a concept i endorse and have indeed lived…yet, i need to re-learn it all the time and the subtleties therein…so sure, it was clear and obvious that i would two years ago launch on a drive across country and do medium format work on American Family…keyed off all the work i had done on my own family…good idea, and i moved on it…what never occurred to me until a combo of  the family exhibit in Madrid last spring (which i viewed as a work in progress at the time) and something my son Bryan said to me yesterday, is  that i was indeed “done” with this project after taking the very first picture….after all, isn’t a family album complete even if there is only one picture in it ? how many pictures does a family album make? everyone always asks me regarding projects  “how do you know when you are finished?”….my usual answer is that you just “know”…you  simply feel it is done…

the incredible revelation for me on this one was that i was finished as soon as i started….so, i am done….

in other words it is a movable feast…always a work in progress and always ready to be shown at any time…..for this one there could never be an end and at any point it is finished…i can do a 15 print show as i did in Madrid , or a 100 print show , or a 1,000 print show using the contact sheets alone , or a combo and with hard copy albums and big prints and videos, well, the whole bit……a two book boxed set…one of my own family who i have documented since 13 til yesterday….and the other the med format work of families from all over my country….this of course could have no end internationally once i complete the U.S. work.

my love of family and extended family runs deep…my relationships at Burn, Magnum, NatGeo, are akin to familial bonds (often with all the drama to go with it!!)…that will lead to yet another book (trilogy?) no joke just called “Photographers (i have known)” for i have religiously documented them (i have everybody)  as well and all of my students  and Burn audience etc etc etc…for those of you who have met me, i most likely have taken your picture, right?… this work is family as well…

Sally Mann      Charlottesville, Virginia 2008

so, forget all of my pictures of the world ….what will be important is all the work i did “on the side”…the family snaps…yup, those will be IT i am sure….knowing that now makes me wish i had tried harder…but, i guess that is the whole point…i didn’t TRY…it simply happened….

this simple revelation is of course totally a game in my head…nothing physical has changed…nothing has happened…EXCEPT the way i am thinking about something….a something that was right in front of me…yet this,  as we all know IS everything…for those of you who have studied with me, this is a real work in progress right before your eyes….just as Road Trips and Burn have been as well…i am sure you can all see it…and feel it…there is no way to beat that which is organic…authenticity is the benchmark…

as we swing into the holiday season and the end of 2010, reflection is always our mantra….throwing out that which does not work and moving towards things which do….i doubt any of us get it exactly right, but willingness to change and push new initiatives forward is after all our being….

are you finishing something up or starting something new? or both?

yes, my holiday lights are up all year…they  get blown around in the wind, fall down, get skewed, a real work in progress….just like me..


2105 Responses to “holiday lights….”

  • CIVI!! :)

    and yes, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to BURN!
    Thanks to David, Anton, Haik, and all others in the background enabling this,
    and thanks to all who actively participate and make this to one of the coolest communities.
    If not even THE coolest community.

    what not to love!

  • December 21, 2008

    this is my last post on this platform…..please go now to:  
    our “road trips” blog is now simply called  “Dialogue” on the new Burn homepage…all of your comments should be saved, in order as here, and we can continue as per normal….plus we will have many new features…not all of them up yet, but we are working on it….weird, but i feel a little sad to say goodbye here….but, ready to say hello there….

    peace et al, david

    Two years since the above comment! WOW!! 

    I rememeber, as it was posted yesterday in 
    Two years ago, I used to checked once a week Road Trips, was the page that I found something new with NatGeo (photo of the day). 

    Today I can not stand to not see burnmagazine two to three times per day. (Luckily I have not and I’m not insane with the iPhone, if not…) I think is the case, here of the majority in “Dialogue”
    A year later, a grant to an emerging photographer was released, Alejandro was the winner, with a gorgeous project (Felicitaciones!!!), shortly after a magazine… (I never saw anything called “Magazine” with more than 300 pages, think that “burn-brick-magazine 01″ would be the correct name…), a Lucie Award, Interviews in Lens Blog, parties at the loft (hope visit it soon), etc…

    Thanks to all the photographers across the earth, but especially to David and Anton, who made this possible and without asking any money (nor at the beginning, not now).

    I’m self taught, I did not attempt photo-schools, only once at PhotoEspagna (learned a lot), hope will be in a DAH workshop here in Europe, but my school are mainly books, libraries, shoot, shoot, and still shoot, nevermind the camera or the film, but shooting with the deep of the soul is the point.
    Bur since this community appeared…Burn is like going back to the school every day, and being in the classroom, sitting in front of the teacher, hear, see, think, “cogitate” to make the best to move and go forward. 
    One of the best schools in these times, with the big classroom in the world!!

    Thus, a happy birthday and many thanks to David, Anton and everyone else who made it possible.


  • Reading comments backwards and mixed up.. hi Thomas, hehe, cool title ;).. Ross, thanks for that link, Larry Towell has been, some years back, a revelation and an eye and mind opener.. Imants, thanks for the slideshow, cool music also, funny..

  • Hello again!! @All (About “VIVA FREEDOM”)

    I post my comment a bit late … but just now, I have time to write a bit … the cold outside makes me to stay more in front of the computer …

    I think, it would be great to create different rooms. Leaving in the main page of burn the “main essay” comments, and the “work in progress”.

    Below or in the right side, It would be interesting to  have other forums or discussions:
    with titles, i.e.
    – Technical stuff:  lenses, film, body, medium format, panoramic format, etc…
    – Computer stuff:  PhotoShop, Lightroom, Bridge, etc … 
    – Grants, exhibitions, job opportunities and that all this sorted respectively.
    – Multimedia: Videos and web sites

    Like the lightalkers web site (more or less).
    So, if I don’t know which is the best way to push my film, I can simply write my question and started a discussion.
    In this way, it would be less “melange”, not only one Dialogue for everything.

    What do you think?

    Something I do not like … is the small amount of time that remains each story in “Dialogue”, when a conversation begans and get interesting, it’s time to change… I remember Fast Food was quite good… but It only lasted a few days … I think it should be open. The same to “Ability to tell” should be nearly infinite. 
    Always open to discuss questions or ideas.

    Well, again Happy Birthday and Merry X-Mas.
    Hug to all, Happy 2o11!!!

    Sorry for my english…

  • Hi PaTrIcIo…
    You seem to be enjoying and learning just as much as I am!!
    I shudder at the thought of finding…
    -Technical stuff: lenses, film, body, medium format, panoramic format, etc…
    -Computer stuff: PhotoShop, Lightroom, Bridge
    On Burn.
    My very modest opinion is their are enough blogs and websites about these things…
    OK I´m a bit radical on the technical side I hate all the technical side of photography, learnt all I needed at college and don´t really want to think about it anymore!
    Nothing wrong in something coming up about a slight technical question but that´s it.
    I like this idea…
    Grants, exhibitions…
    I don´t know, Burn is special and I wonder how much of this magic is because of the free creative spirit through out this online mag.
    Anyway Happy Xmas PaTrIcIo!!

  • Lee,
    I thought this may inspire your available light portraits.
    Now the following is interviews and more information just in case you actually like what I´ve linked and you´re short of time for exploring the web!

    This is if you persist with flash which is a good thing…
    I hope the clouds blow away and you´re just too busy watching the eclipse to see this link. Good luck!!

  • a civilian-mass audience

    BURNIANS…I love you ALLLLL

    I am stuck in a white terminal…people are upset,sleeping on the floor,
    Empty eyes…You can see the picture…
    It’s our BIRTHDAY…BURN once,BURN twice…you know the story…

    Come on…WAKE UP…it’s our birthday and we are partying…
    It’s our Birthday
    It’s our birthday…

    I hope I am I. The right aisle…but I don’t care…cause today it’s our birthday…

    P.S …regarding the list…you can always exchange…euro,dollars,drachmas,liras…
    Oime…out of free wif

  • Civi, thanks. Bit of a coincidence that I just mentioned the innovative things the Brooklyn museum is doing on their 5th floor. One of my favorite paintings there is a Marsden Hartley.

  • Civi…
    Burn Birthday!!
    This seems so far and so close…

  • Eva beat me to it…

    Congrats to Patricia for 3rd prize with Falling Into Place and Anton for Top Finalist with 893-Yakuza..and to all the other winners and finalists…

    More Snow and Ice here….still like living in narnia before the death of the Ice Queen. Ice on the tree limbs doesn’t even melt during the day….

    Good light, all, and may your holiday time be filled with fun and joy and not frustration….

    and to all
    Now to read what this thread is all about……

  • CIVI…thank you for the mention in the list – will now look more at many of those artists for influence….safe and hopefully un-delayed and un-eventful travels to you….

    About seeing technical topics on BURN, I am on the side of the fence with Paul …. I would not like that, I think…there are many, many sites with such excellent technical discussions that I believe to bring them here would dilute that which makes BURN special to me….the artistic kibbutz feel, the influence not so much as to *how* to do something technically “right” (is there such a thing?) but *why* to do it, *what* to do….to push each other and discuss those inner parts…

    And while learning lighting from a master such as DAH would undoubtedly be a most valuable experience, I think that I personally would take away good technique but more than that, good artistic “intention” from it…

    That said, those who know me know that I can drift into techie-talk much too easily :)

    such an excellent example of another part of the value here….a member says “I have concerns/trouble/self-doubt/no idea of XYZ”….and other members chime in with “Hey, check out this and this and this to get some ideas on XYZ…”. Well played.

    On the birthday of BURN…a quote about the definition of Road Trips….posted before but for those who may not have seen it…

    “I don’t know if you meant what you said quite the way you wrote it but you have hit the nail right on the head, this place is AN OPEN ROOM, A party in an open room comings and goings occasional bottlenecks in the doorway, a couple quietly ageing on the couch nodding sagely, someone holding court enthralling all around, then someone vomiting in the pot plant.

    There’s a chandelier in this room and some appreciate its beauty and form, some think it’s just a bloody light, some know how many facets are cut in the crystal centrepiece and which Bavarian craftsman built it, and then some just swing from it.

    There’s a bookcase as well, where arguments, knowledge and opinions fly off the shelves, some are hit, never to be seen again, some come back stronger, ready for more, some look for a long forgotten stash behind the classics.

    Some enter in a frenzy, engaging all and sundry in a mad circumnavigation, naming countries, tearing down cities, building empires –Then, Poof! They’re gone! Some are in the corner staring at the lava lamp.

    Some enter quietly, circling conversations, earwigging, finally finding a group that fits, and joining in! It’s self validation – shit, I don’t suck that much after all! Some are taking a Leatherman tool to the drinks cabinet.

    Some come in desperate that the special someone who will make dreams come true and happy ever after will be a reality if they can just bend the ear of the host, take him by the sleeve and take him off to the bathroom for a special one on one, Some are in the street staring up through the window ,dodging the occasional TV or other white good that is thrown ( photography is solo rock and Roll), not coming up, not knocking on the door walking away, collars turned up, hat pulled down. Some are drinking out of jam jars because someone just broke a tray of glasses.

    Someone’s creating a scene, diverting attention away from the matter at hand, Drama! This room is filling quickly, time to spill out onto the street, who’s turn is it to go down the off-licence? We’re running low.

    There’s someone smoking on the balcony.

    If there’s anything extracurricular that grows out of this, it’s working title has to be “The Open Room “.

    Posted by: Glenn | August 24, 2008 at 01:59 AM

    good holiday light and cheer, all

  • A very good showing by many photoraphers featured in burn.
    well done all.
    The winning work is well deserving but the overall standard was very high indeed.

    Patricia Lay Dorsey. Congratulations patricia, a fantastic result for you. I told you at the time ,and I still say, that your opening portrait is a fantastic piece of work, full of feeling and life.


  • Ehm.. a little less cryptic, what I mean is that this burn. thing is an organic thing..

  • DAH… Yes, I am back time to time… but it’s sooo hard to read all comments.. it’s soooo much!

  • Speaking of tech talk….would someone who knows how and can explain point me somewhere to figure out how to set up my iphone and gmail account to use a reader to follow burn comments? I’ve never used a reader, so much of that tech-speak is new to me…tried to make it work once and never saw anything, so I obviously didn’t do it right.

  • Eva, not sure how my travels are going to fall out this year. Hoped to go to Maine in January (don’t know what I’m thinking with winter in the east). Haven’t figured it all out yet.

  • Paul thanks for the links. If the light is available I can do a good portrait. It is when I have to supply the light or the light needs to be equaled out that I am working on. Will read your posts soonest. No moon only cloud cover and much needed rain. sigh.


    WEB –
    in google, open
    log in with you credentials.

    To add a subscription, in the Google-Reader use the button “Add subscription”
    the RSS Address for burn, top-level is:

    For the comments, use the “Feed for this entry” link (you find it for each essay or dialogue, below the “xxx Responses”, copy it and paste it after clicking “Add subscription”.
    Repeat this for every essay or dialogue, you want to follow.

    Now you have the RSS Feeds via the Web.

    Setup for the iPhone.
    Use a RSS App, like Feeddler. (The free one does it usually, the paid ones give you some more options)
    In the RSS App, sign in with your gmail credentials, it should synchronize immediately which your reader in google.

  • below the xxx responses, copy the link, not the text. (Just to be clear :)


    The comment feed is

    The post feed is and it is the default. your reader should find that one automatically.

    There are also link Entries Feed and Comments Feed at the bottom of the page – a tiny ones. Use those if you need them in the future.


  • Haik,

    Thanks for the Feedburner link for comments. I didn’t realize it had a separate feed!


  • …and, I just realized that I can star those comments that are gems in Google Reader, so that I can refer to them later. Sweet!

  • Well getting back to holiday lights…
    My very most urgent and worrying photographic goal for 2011 is to find an idea for an essay. At the moment I am totally stuck. I´m using Eva´s 3 short questions she offered and thinking of the many ideas DAH has posted over the last couple of years… but for the moment no such luck. The one and only hint my subconcious has suggested is it isn´t going to be about landscape photography.
    So right now looking within myself and what is sitting on my doorstep.
    Any insight, advice and experience from any of you and DAH will be most appreciated!

    For those of you who have problems in getting down to a daily creative routine may I offer some inspiration:

  • By the way Civi…
    thanks for the lovely teacher quote yesterday

  • Paul, what about putting those questions and suggestions aside and .. well, you have kids, right? Family.. a dog.. cat? It’s the easiest thing (with easy I don’t mean it’s easy to make good pictures, but it’s easy because it’s there, all the time).. holidays are coming up, don’t know if you do the Christmas thing, trees and all that, with the kids..

    Or, no camera. At all.

  • Ok, but that’s just me, I’d have a look here and see what I could find:

  • Eva. You can almost hear all the HCSP boys and girls sharpening their mamiyas in anticipation. Wouldnt surprise me to find a few of them making the final cut. A dedicated mob for sure…but then so are trainspotters.

  • Isn’t it great to see all those Burn names at the FotoVisura awards? :-)

    Paul; Re: the essay; What are you interested in? What is right before you? Under you nose, so to speak. Who has an interesting job, story, lifestyle? Don’t over-think it, just start shooting and have some fun! :-)

    I still think Audrey’s essay about her parents and David McGowan’s Garage Sale were great essays. A bit like the current “Mute” essay, storys that are right under everyone’s collective noses! :-)

  • Eva!
    You´ve just given me a very good idea…blessing the animals festivity!! 16 Jan that´s round the corner, now this will be good warm-up short term project.
    Well I´ve been shooting the last two months the kids quite intensely on 35mm Tri-X, just wanted something a little more physical than digital. The first time I ever saw my eldest son when my wife gave birth was through my M6 viewfinder and of course I´ve got the image!
    Eva have you ever been to Mallorca?

    John what are the HCSP boys?

  • Paul parker. Its a very large flickr group dedicated to street photography.just google HCSP and it will take you there.

  • HAIK,

    using the comments feed you mentioned means all comments are in the same feed independent from the origin (essay, dialogue). Is there an issue using the feed link in the dialogue session per essay, except one needs to setup per essay?

    (I’m using it this way to have the comments grouped in the respective dialogue, which I find well-arranged, especially with the different threads going on)

  • John, what’s a trainspotter?

    Paul, kids on tri-x sounds good to me :)
    You have quite a few things going on one after the other in your place.. now of course all has already been done, but have YOU done it (if that is what interests you that is)? Could be interesting to tie together all the festivities during the year.. to tell it your way.. I mean it’s there, as Ross says, under your nose.. see, it’s all I do, taking pics of family, friends, neighbours, customs, and perhaps one day I’ll can put it all together.. in the meantime I follow the different threads..
    Been to Majorca, I was eleven, and completely in love with the young steward at the hotel.. that was about, ehm, at least a hundred years ago..

  • EVA…
    As someone who is also looking for an essay, I missed your three questions…..what were they?

    No issues in using per-post comments. I just think it is inconvenient since you have to subscribe to all new feeds as they are posted. Unless you have an automatic way of detecting the new posts and “hooking” them.
    In general the action is around one dialogue post anyways :)


    As i told him privately earlier this year and then here at Burn when he was awarded one of this year’s EPF finalists, When The Spirit Moves was my favorite essay of the finalists and winners this year. It is such a gorgeous, rich, heart-pulpy soulful song of life (and I know Chester, first hand), but most important it embodies what (for me) is so important and wise about documentary work: to carriage one’s belief with the belief in the lives around….and it aint just because we share a similar aesthetic, but because Justin’s work is not only beautiful and thoughtful but is born of a place with great heart…and he, as a person, has a big gulping heart as well…so happy this morning..

    and big big hugs and CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR PATRICIA….so so happy for her and Falling into Place, as I told her privately, i hope that this fixes more attention on that book of hers and also encourages here to continue…in front of the nose, upon the doorstep….so so excited and happy for her! :))))

    and of course all the finalists :)))

    big hugs around


  • and oh (kick my ass), i forget to Mention CONGRATS ANTON FOR AN AWARD FOR 893…that magazine is on the top of my bedroom bookcase :)))))….sorry, i’m working on 2 hrs of sleep….and 2 photogs coming over for a review/edit in 1 hr and so much to do….

    david :))) I’LL WRITE SOMETHING i promise…not tonight, but shooting for tomorrow night…will try to make it wine-fueled, love=ticked :)))))….and friday, i take to the air….

    ok, running literally


  • HAIK,

    I see. Thanks for the clarification. Yes, my way takes a little more effort. :)

  • andrew b..

    The questions were not as much about finding an essay idea itself, as a response to Paul’s question about how to go on with photography, he coming from landscape photography and thinking about giving it up..

    Here’s the link to the questions, the whole thing goes back up through the page before that though:

  • i miss Hydra today

    Leonard on Marianne (the story)

  • ALL

    i will be occupied with family activities for the next few days…might get in here for a short comment or two between now and Christmas, but maybe not…wishing all of you the very best holidays…and please know how much i appreciate your participation here…yea, you all make me crazy sometimes…which only proves one thing…we are family to the core

    cheers, hugs, david

  • I realize that in the worlds of serious photojournalism and serious art photography, this holds little meaning, but it feels kind of nice, just the same: My blog has just won the Bloggers Choice award for Best Photography Blog of 2010.


    just ready to sign off and saw this…THIS is EVERYTHING…congratulations and a great way to end up the year …good on you Bill….

    cheers, david

  • Congratulations Bill, as one who checks in every day I can say that the accolade is well-deserved!


  • Yea Bill. Wow. I like your blog a lot too. Thanks for being so faithful with it and congratulations!

  • David,

    I hope to swing through town this evening, perhaps we can catch up at Carver’s. Thursday afternoon is free and clear…perhaps we can catch up then if not tonight. Looking forward to it. Best, Jeremy

  • “Tonight is the longest night of the year,” said the Green Woman, “and it is on this night that we must awaken our spiritual energy and send it forth and bring back the light of the sun to the Earth, because the Earth is in great need…” And so it went, just before the winter solstice yesterday, as a man made a fire with a bow and a stick, and a woman dressed like an extra in a road company production of The Lord of the Rings intoned the sort of New Age drivel one comes to expect on such an occasion. There were the usual jeremiads against technology and corporate greed; you cannot, apparently, worship Gaia without bashing the shareholders on occasion, and our Green Woman made much of this week’s lunar eclipse and its spiritual connection to yesterday’s festivities.

    Please color me unimpressed. That yesterday was the longest night of the year was the one fact in this woman’s ongoing spiel, and this fact is only true if you live in the Northern Hemisphere; if you live in Australia, it was the longest day of the year and probably a great day to go to the beach and enjoy yourself. In fact, with Christmas falling on a Saturday this year, your average Australian will probably spend many a long hour at the beach with the family, swimming and eating fried chicken and working on the tan while laughing at the poor Pommy bastards up to their backsides in snow in dear old Blighty, content in the knowledge that the horse great—great—great—great—granddad tried to snaffle in London way back in the day was the best thing that ever happened to the family; without Granddad to the fifth power getting caught and sentenced to transportation to the Antipodes, you’d be freezing your backside off now too.

    I suppose this baying at the moon was the sort of thing that impressed the hell out of your average noble savage back in the days when being a noble savage was all the rage, but let me point something out here: my spiritual energy—always a low flame, I will admit—and the spiritual energy of everyone gathered together in that small park isn’t enough to light up a cigarette, assuming you could smoke one during the festivities, much less bring back the power of the sun to the Earth. The reason for this is simple: the Sun hasn’t gone anywhere. What occurred yesterday is that the Earth moved on its axis and from here on out the top part of the planet will be getting more sunlight than the bottom part of the planet. Please pardon me for pointing out that our collective spiritual energy didn’t have a damn thing to do with it; if none of us were in that park intoning New Age drivel, if ancient tribes of Hollywood extras did not sacrifice virginal platinum blondes to the all-knowing moon when the director barked, “Action,” if hordes of refugees from adult responsibility did not strip naked, smoke weed, and howl at the moon tonight, something I hear goes on a fairly regular basis in California’s state legislature, the Earth’s movement on its axis would still have happened. In short, Gaia doesn’t need our spiritual energy to do anything. I repeat, for those of you who are hard of reading, the winter solstice was going to happen anyway. Sir Isaac Newton, a strange little man with an odd predilection for drawing and quartering counterfeiters; a revolting hobby, to be sure, but we all need something to take our minds off our troubles, I suppose; explained how all of this worked in Principia Mathematica some three hundred years ago. He also explained how lunar eclipses happen too, and I hate to rain on anyone’s parade here, but the spiritual link between the winter solstice and the lunar eclipse isn’t a link at all; it’s just something that happens every so often. The last time it happened was 1638 and the next time it will happen is 2094, at which point the kids at yesterday’s get-together will be ancients and can bore their grandchildren to tears with stories of how dumb people were back in 2010. So all of that good spiritual energy you felt while chanting and moving around the big fire in a circle was probably the sugar rush you get when your body metabolizes the jelly doughnut you had for lunch instead of a ham sandwich. Doughnuts are a good thing, spiritually and gastronomically.

    As for the standard denunciation of technology, let me point something out here. Christmas began life as a Roman holiday, the feast of Sol Invictus, the Invincible Sun, which came back to life every 25th day of the tenth month of the Roman year. Once Constantine Christianized the Roman Empire, he saw that he had a perfectly good holiday with nothing to holiday about anymore. Being a clever man, Constantine did what millions of other people have done in the years since then: he regifted. He put the celebration of Christ’s birth on the vacated holiday, despite the biblical evidence that Jesus was born in either the spring or summer; as I’ve mentioned in another context, in Judea shepherds do not tend their flocks by night in the middle of winter on the off-chance that a wandering heavenly host with nothing better to do with their time will come drifting by blasting out Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus in high definition stereo sound. But why was the 25th day of the tenth month the date of the holiday? Because when your most technologically advanced timekeeping device is a sundial, the 25th day of the tenth month is the day that clearly shows the days getting longer. Our Green Woman who despises technology so much only knows that the 21st day of the twelfth month of the Gregorian calendar is the longest day of the year because improved chronological technology can now tell her to the nanosecond when the big moment is going to happen. Without said technology, the Green Woman would be spewing her spiritual energy on the wrong day. On the other hand, I have to admit that watching the guy start a fire with a bow and a stick was pretty cool, but then I am easily entertained. Starting fires this way is a useful skill if you’re a Boy Scout or a Green Beret, but I think I will stick with the microwave oven, if it’s all the same to Gaia.

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