Sometimes you just do not want to be finished. Sometimes you could just roll on along. For awhile longer. Just a bit more.

This is the second time I have had an assignment from National Geographic to do a story on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Back in the late 80’s I did an overall coverage of the outer banks . However, this essay is personal. Plus I will do the text. OBX is an example of both the best and worst of man’s use of a fragile environment. Honestly, it would probably best if nobody lived on these constantly moving shores. Home to  folks who have just decided that just where they shouldn’t be is just where they wanna be. Misfits, fishermen, surfers and pirates. Folks like me.

I think you are looking at around 40 photographs above which represents the final editing. Down from thousands of clicks to  the 40 picks we  will show tomorrow.  This 40 will then come down even further to about 12 that will be published.  The result of two years off and on photographing right from my front porch. Sometimes literally. I have traveled around this lonely planet quite a few times for NatGeo….my university to the world….the only real education i have. My official formal education is  imperfect…Yet the  life of steeping in a subject is more than perfect.

This recent work on my life by the sea will be presented to Chris Johns, Editor NatGeo,  on Thursday. Presentations at NatGeo are hard to describe. So much is riding on these shows that anyone who did not say they were more than nervous when getting ready to present would be lying. Months of work is being decided on. Stories can die right at this meeting. I have had stories killed. Nothing personal. The story might just not work. Everybody, the very best, have had work which needed help or hit the cutting room floor so to speak.

Rare air has its price.

What I want to do this week and part of next on Burn is to meet the decision makers. The editors. The ones who decide who gets an assignment , who does not, and why. Chris Johns is a super pro NatGeo photojournalist and natural history photographer who is now THE Editor of the Magazine. The first pro photographer to hold such a position. I will interview Chris for you next week. Maybe he will even answer a question or two for you,  but I cannot promise. During the upcoming days I will introduce you to several editors starting with Senior  Photo Editor Sarah Leen who is the editor for my OBX story and also an example of a long time NG field photographer who six years moved inside to make a difference. Sarah is a mentor for many photographers. Both emerging and established alike.

Photographers  always work hand in hand with a picture editor at NatGeo. Someone who watches over the whole process. This editor works closely with the photographer helping with research, coordination with the writer, and a support to the whole visual side of the story all the way through the layout process. To make sure there is a usable coverage, to make sure the creative juices are flowing , in effect a “coach” a “guide” a “director”  to help the photographer just get it done. No small task. This varies from photographer to photographer and from story to story depending on many factors.

I will let the editors tell you how THEY think about it.

I feel good about this down home story. A personal diary of sorts. My best pictures? I always think I should have done better. I just feel good about having a chance to give some a  taste, a compelling reason  for why I feel exhilarated by this land. Yes, this land, this sand, this drifting dune I have chosen after banging around the world to hell and gone.

After doing the Rio book bit online, I realized how fascinated people are by the process. The motives. The USE of photography becomes way way more important than the photography part of photography.  See my best explanation of process here. For real.

Anybody can speak the photographic language now, as we use any commonly spoken language, yet alas there are  only a few poets among all the correctly speaking. So I love these new challenges , these new ways of telling the stories we all want to hear.

Technology changes fast, yet  surely the desire to hear or see or feel an amazing  recollection, a compelling  story, a colorful representation, a honest portrayal,  will not change.

In an effort to give this audience what I think is the most educational things we can do here on Burn , I will do more process stories. Stories about who did what and how in hell they did it. Stories about the decision makers from several top magazines and newspapers Starting now with NatGeo , but moving soon to The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Mother Jones, and on and on to give you some insight into the process for contemporary print and online magazines in terms of commissioning work. Talking to editors who are looking for the next super talents.

Burn will always be stories told  from this audience and from legends alike. The same mix of 75% emerging photographers, 25% icons will roughly hold. We will  do more commissioned assignments leading towards Burn 03 (later in 2012) and I think all of you know there will be a Burn show in Sydney, Australia paralleling the opening of One Night In Rio at the Australian Center of Photography in May of 2012.

I have way more to tell. Yet I find one idea at a time is best here on the net. I will be back in the next few days to suggest more to come, and of course to always listen to your thoughts. Well, most of them :)

69 Responses to “FINAL EDIT OBX”

  • a civilian-mass audience

    “Phases of the creative process: Preparation-gathering impressions Incubation-letting go of certainties Immersion/Illumination-creative intervention/risk Revision-conscious structuring and editing of creative material.”
    Gail Sheehy

    may the spirits of editing be with you…ALL of YOU…!!!
    no thoughts to contribute…at least for now:)))

  • After the riobook, the contact sheet momentum still flowing here in Burn! Love the fourth one (the guy fishing in the wind).

    DAH: When you have the meeting with NatGeo, you speak more about you and the relation to OBX and NG does their own final selection afterwards or on Thrusday you edit with them together?


    PS: Last week, with plenty of time and tranquility, I saw every contact sheet of the Magnum Book released some time ago. It was a great source of inspiration, really love Paolo Pellegrin panoramic images in gAZA.
    wish a happy new year to everyone!


  • Music, movies, books.. I prefer to be alone to enjoy them, ’cause when really good (to me), I cry..

    I was far from being along in A’dam last year, the place was packed.. but it was dark in there.. good thing, ’cause watching and listening to the OBX bit, way way too short, at the Worldpress Photo talk, had the same effect.. it went straight to my heart.. I don’t really know the reason, I’ve never been there, do not know that much about the place.. but the feel that came through.. oh boy..

    Definitely a story that has it all! And looking forward to the process stories on Burn.. what not to love (hi Civi)?

  • @ALL:
    I’ve just finished reading “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacsoon, I really nice book about a visionary guy from Silicon Valley, CA.
    Here is something that I underlined, and I want to share:

    “Your goal should be making something you believe in […] the Apple Marketing Philosophy was
    EMPHATY, and intimate collection with the feeling of the customer;
    FOCUS: In order to do a good job of those things that we decide to do, we must eliminate all of the unimportant opportunities.
    INPUTE: It emphazided that people from an opinion about a company or product based on the signals that it conveys. People DO judge a book by its cover.

    Will tell you more…

  • David, I would say “Good luck Thursday!” but I am confident your story telling will carry the presentation.

    I got to through that process once. It was great fun. Maybe because I thought it was done deal and did not realize it could still be killed.

    I look forward to seeing what you got from your front porch and wish I could be in Sydney.

    As for your teaching, process and all, I feel like I have been continually immersed since late September. Loft – Rio Book – now I am two parts in to my own blog presentation of my experience at your loft. It is putting me back there once again. Now you promise to keep the process going. I am certain I will come along.

    I don’t even want you to look at my Loft blog series now – not until you are done with your meetings at National Geographic and can cool your brains a bit… ha! As if you ever slow down!

    But be aware of it. And when you get the chance, please start at the beginning – not the end, the way blog posts that you come to late make you want to do.

  • Sounds good! In a weird way, ‘the process’ is like ‘the hunt’.
    the end result is of course lovely, but the adventure getting there (in hindsight) is the best part.
    So having said that really looking forward to more process posts here on Burn!

  • What an interesting idea for a Dialogue – exploring the front, middle and back-end of the editing process. Yummy!

    From my first impressions there are 34 images in this essay. The format in which they are shown is a bit of a tease. I can just barely see both the form and content of the frames, and the flow of the images within the storyline. For many of these photographs I’m relying on my memory of past postings. Still, it is enough.

    Is it the nature of a National Geographic essay that all of these images make it into the story, or is this just your initial edit for Sarah Leen’s consideration? Or has Sarah already assisted/directed this stage? Is it usual for the department or magazine editor to pare down the body for either editorial or space considerations? Does your role as writer of the essay give you more say and authority in the final format?

    Over in Rio it was generally held that the editing process was a singular, personal one; that there is no simple way to describe the creative approach of the maker. Yesterday, Eva posted a link to Anders Petersen’s interview, in which he said his editing was thought-out and considered, and that he had his audience in mind during his decision-making – all opposite to his approach to the taking of the images. I don’t know if thinking the editing through can lead to one to describe the process; maybe that can be explored in this dialogue. I for one, am looking forward to it.

  • Damn I love that place. And that rolling pier, weathered old boards shaped to a wave, even the name is perfect. Of the few OBX photos I saw more than a year ago in your backyard David, the woman in the window at the pier has stuck with me. Is that even a real photo or have I in memory merged two into an idea(l)? Looking forward to seeing this in print.

  • David,

    Quick question…did you make this edit thinking that you will add descriptions later… sort of like captions or did you make the edit thinking that these stand on their own? or the essay itself will make everything come together? thinking about it further….only a handful will make the final edit this thursday no? this is your final edit not NG final edit…correct?

    Well I for one am looking forward to hearing from the editors and decision makers! a big thank you for that!
    2012 is starting strong strong strong!

  • Jeff..

    Good questions! BUT! David is cheating! There are at least 4 more images that got cut off (look closely to the right side of the rows!) making the square crop in instagram.. this is bad, this is TEASING.. argh.. and looking over the edge of the screen, on the back of the monitor does not help, pics are not there!! ;))

  • David, did you find it easier or harder working from home or was it pretty much the same. Personally love local work but find home life very distracting.

    A stupid technical question for Chris Johns. How on earth did he get the picture of a mosquito drinking out of the eye of a bird. Also does he think he’ll get back to shooting?

  • DAVID,

    when I saw this post this morning, I saw your presentation of OBX at the World Press Award Days in Amsterdam last year again (I have it on the iPhone). It was just great – and was humming that song all day at work :)

    Last week was a documentary about NatGeo about the best pictures, and they also showed the wall where the essays are to be discussed (at least it looked like it). So, good luck, and I am looking forward to seeing the pictures in print in June.

  • “This 40 will then come down even further to about 12 that will be published”

    got it :)

  • Positive vibes to you for Thursday, David: looking forward to seeing the work and hope you get the yellow bordered cover!

    I’m really looking forward to more process stories: the inside stories are always so illuminating.


  • Really looking forward to it, David. Great way to kick off 2012, and I’m stoked to be in the audience!

    I’ve got so much to learn and I want to learn so much.

    Best of luck to everyone this year, may your dreams develop into some awesome photographs for us all to share in.

    Viva le BURN!!! ;-)

  • David…

    Wishing you the very best of luck!!

  • Eva, Carlo: I didn’t see that part of David’s introduction where 40 is turned into maybe 12. I thought the layout was final, as per the title.

    Sigh, looks as if I should start “unediting” my reading skills…

  • David,

    There are three things I’m 100% sure:

    1. It will be such a racking challenge to the editors (Chris included) to choose among the 40 photos, to select, to have a explanation for “why” or “why not”, be down to 12 images and to move on without thinking on those 28 left aside. All of them carry a O particularity
    2. With your photos and your writing , the article can’t be less than personal, emotional touching in all the levels and layers. Yes…I’ll be one of them crying, previous experience with the slideshow. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve watched it , the feeling of “knot in the throat” is the same
    3. The new steps and innovations on Burn rising again the creative process tends just to overmatch all the expectations. You felt , we felt this at the rio book. The process itself interests a lot as fascinating route leading to elucidations and it couldn’t be different considering the curiosity, learning and exchange standpoint directed to it. I’m anxious and excited for those new interview series with the editors and more doors to defragment the process.

  • The same mix of 75% emerging photographers, 25% icons will roughly hold

    and a few submerged ones, per favor! :-)

  • Mulling over this.. I wonder, is this edit (the 40) your ‘Night in OBX’ or is this ‘OBX’..

    I mean, how much is this specifically tailored to NatGeo vs. what it would be if it was for, say, a book like ONIR will be, meaning in your free choice.. or, in other words, how much weight did NatGeo have in the back of your mind.. not while shooting, but during editing..

    And then my eternal question: what will be of the ‘leftovers’? You do not seriously think to bury any of this in your hard drives, do you? Done for the article, does not mean you’re done, or you ever will be done with this, OBX your front and backyard..

  • Just when you think it can’t get better:) … sounds like more incredible learning on the way.

    I love that I’ve had my own small taste of the beautiful obx- Beaufort, Atlantic Beach, Shackleford Bank, Cape Lookout. It’s just pure magic. To have your personal story of the land there will be incredible, serious treasure of this country.
    Best wishes! I’m guessing you will present in the same slideshow/music style as you would show elsewhere or does it go differently for a meeting like this?

    As usual deeply appreciate everyone’s insightful comments -cheers y’all

  • And there’s more questions coming up, as I reread the OBX post up here:

    “In an effort to give this audience what I think is the most educational things we can do here on Burn , I will do more process stories. Stories about who did what and how in hell they did it. Stories about the decision makers from several top magazines and newspapers Starting now with NatGeo , but moving soon to The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and on and on to give you some insight into the process.”


    “Burn will always be stories told from this audience and from legends alike. The same mix of 75% emerging photographers, 25% icons will roughly hold. We will do more commissioned assignments leading towards Burn 03 (later in 2012) and I think all of you know there will be a Burn show in Sydney, Australia paralleling the opening of One Night In Rio at the Australian Center of Photography in May of 2012.”

    You (DAH and team) are the decision maker/makers right here, on Burn.. how do YOU go about this, both the assignments for 03 and who’s on the paralleling show in Sydney? Separate things? Connected?

  • Are you a past, present or future oriented person?
    Check this out… it’ll blow your mind!

  • @ALL:

    About Steve Jobs:

    “People would confront a problem by creating a presentation. I wanted them to engage, to hash things out of the table, rather than show a bunch of slides. People who know what thy’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint.


  • @ALL: (another one)

    “Less but better” and “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”

    Below a short script from Jonhy Ive, designer at Apple:

    “Simplicity isn’t just a visual style. It’s not just minimalism or the absence of clutter. It involves digging through the depth of the complexity. To be truly simple, you have to go really deep. For example, to have no screws on something, you can end up having a product that is so convoluted and complex. The better way is to go deeper with simplicity, to understand everything about it and how it’s manufactured. You have to deeply understand the essence of a product in order to be able to get rid of the parts that are not essential.”


  • Michael,

    That was funny! I kept clicking next, next, next…


    nice link….I was surprised that I could recognize a good number of them…at least I think I can ;-)
    I think what this really shows is how iconic these pictures have really become.

  • Jeff,

    That part about 40 going down to 12 was not there the first time I read it. I noticed that it seemed longer when I came back later that day and re-read it. I had posted a question similar to that answer so I thanked David for it :) I’m not implying that I had anything to do with it….
    I always read these archival posts more than once because things get added later or get rephrased.

  • RIP Eve Arnold (April 1912- January 2012)

  • Thodoris awesome.. Here’s another one:

  • one more..very very VERY INTERESTING…

    Crises of Capitalism

  • ON a lighter note:

    “…This is a notebook Newton acquired while he was an undergraduate at Trinity College and used from about 1661 to 1665 (see his inscription). It includes many notes from his studies and, increasingly, his own explorations into mathematics, physics and metaphysics. It was judged ‘Not fit to be printed…”

  • Hey, Mr. DAVE.. you got hair ;))

    Aren’t photographs the best thing? Memories long gone without them..

  • once again, BIG THANKS to THODORIS that opened the above “Pandora’s box”!
    big hug to ALL!

  • “Aren’t photographs the best thing? Memories long gone without them..”

    Sometimes when I look at my families old photo albums I smile

    Sometimes I cry

    Always I remember

  • John, I agree: cameras could be called Time Machines and photographs Time Capsules. Before photography only the wealthy would know what their ancestors looked like. Seeing ones parents when they were young is bittersweet.

    Panos, the “Not fit to be printed” comment reminded me of Fred Astair’s screen test notes. They supposedly read “Can’t sing, can’t act, can dance a little”.


  • David, if the story is accepted can we see slightly bigger photos and make our own edit down to the twelve? It would be great to see if anyone here agrees with the Nat Geo final cut and, indeed, if that cut agrees with your own.


  • Eve Arnold made it to 99! We should all be so lucky.
    Her environmental portrait work left an early influence on me, especially “In China” and “Men at Work.”
    Sorry that she has gone, but she certainly led a full life.

  • There’s a short tribute to Eve Arnold, the first female photographer to join Magnum, and several of her photographs on Lens Blog today:

    Something that warms my heart is the camera she is holding in that first photograph with Marilyn Monroe. It is an Asahi Pentax II with a 50 mm Pentax lens… one of the earliest SLR’s with a pentaprism (for right-side-up viewing in the finder), and the first to have an auto diaphragm shutdown on the lens so you could focus with the lens wide open and it would shut down when you pressed the shutter. This was the first ‘serious’ camera and lens I ever owned, a hand-me-down in the early 70s from my brother who bought it in Japan when it was new.

    Expect a much more detailed obituary for Eve Arnold in tomorrow’s (Friday’s) New York Times.

  • a civilian-mass audience

    THODORIS,PANOS…thanks for the links…you made me…understand me …better


    and I will keep this for now…

    “Sometimes when I look at my families old photo albums I smile
    Sometimes I cry
    Always I remember…”

    Thank you.

  • a civilian-mass audience

    EVE ARNOLD is going Upstairs…

    Safe Journey ,our friend…safe journey…

  • John..

    You’re right, memories are there.. and even memories that are not our own, but that we have heard of.. going backwards in familyalbums I know more than I could ever remember.. reconnecting with people I’ve never known, but have shaped who I am.. weird stuff..

  • This seems to have now become the default dialogue page, so I will note that I just put up part four in my David Alan Harvey Loft workshop series. In a weird way I do go back into family albums, so it is not totally off-topic. I fear that it is of a nature that will drive away 30 readers for everyone that it holds. But I have gotten into this vein and must ride it out. When this done, I will revert back to something closer, but maybe not quite, to the past and see if I can start winning some readers back.

    This is the master link to the series, to include all posts as I make them:

  • Bill..

    you’ve opened a can of worms.. on a very personal level..

    But that’s not the purpose of my comment.. just bumped into this:

    Not Alaska, but COLD! You might perhaps even know the photographer.. or just enjoy the video and pictures..

  • Good mornig everyone!
    Still posting some stuff about the Steve Jobs Biography:

    …engineers are taught to make a decision analitically, but there are times when relying on gut intuition is most indispensable.

    Below a whole paragraph about Apple engagement, focus, aim and commitement, months after the released of the iPod:

    “The older I get, the more I see how motivations matter… We won, because we personally love music. We made the iPod for ourselves, and when you’re doing something for yourself, or your best friend or family, you’re not going to cheese it out.
    If you don’t love something, you’re not going to go the extra mile, work the extra weekend, challenge the status quo.”

    Wish you a good week-end!

  • it was just a truly warm meeting yesterday at NatGeo with the Editor (who i am going to interview right now for Burn)….there is still process to come…..i must write the text….a layout must be done in the next week…to get this story into the June 2012 issue, will take lots of work, fast….i think it just perfect if i keep all of you right in this loop….just so you know how THIS is…not to say there are not other ways, other ways to think about pictures, but this is a good time to explain THIS way…

    for sure very few realize the process to magazine publication….things always look easier or less complex than they actually are….

    anyway, stay tuned…this interview exclusive to Burn with Chris Johns, Editor NatGeo…i cannot promise he will have the time nor the inclination to answer your questions…i will gently ask…if he does, it would be a first….students always ask me how editors think, how they choose, how and why they decide this or decide that….you who are here will at least know way more after this interview than you did before….right from the number one source….

    cheers, david

  • Ok.. PHEW.. was turning blue, now breathing again.. just kidding, well, sort of.. looking forward to see how this evolves.. :)


    great quotes from Jobs…yes, this is what makes people do great things….must be 100% PERSONALLY involved…i mean you gotta CARE…


    speaking of, thanks for CARING…much appreciated..only sorry i did not jump in here sooner…i literally did not and do not have much spare time..thanks for your patience….

  • excellent news! great it all worked out. What is more nerve recking…..the meeting or knowing what’s ahead after the approval?
    I’m looking forward to that interview. THANKS YOU!

    As civi says: “what not to love”?!?!?!

  • David..

    Thank YOU.. for caring about us, this audience here.. would be so much easier just doing your own stuff, instead you take the time and energy to give what to me seems the logical, yet unexpected continuation to theriobook workshop. Between you and Frostfrog there’s enough input to last for a while!

  • “I used to point out, at art school you can teach the craft; it’s the poetry you can’t teach. But now they try to teach the poetry and not the craft.”
    David Hockney
    I think David Hockney should join us Burn :))

  • So this is a different magazine, not NatGeo, but it’s about getting educated, study study study.. and fits in right here I think.. and I gotta kill the time while ironing.. one hour video, stumbled over the link on twitter.. and I can see why it had such an influence on some to become photographers tehmselves, like DAH, if I remember well:



    the photographer is always at the heart of the stories at NG…after all it is a picture driven magazine and only the photographer has actually “been there” and is often working off her/his own idea in the first place…so photographer involvement has always been a part of the NG experience…still, the editor, in this case Chris Johns makes the final decisions….yet he is not a tyrant , nor have i ever seen a tyrant at NG…the decision are not made in a vacuum, and really depend mostly on space limitations or on type of content appropriate for their demographic….

  • DAVID :)

    no time to write, just saying: good luck with the edit and NG selection. Will be looking in June :))….I’m no NG editor for sure, but I would totally lead with the Photo Crew pic and you with that golden surfer hair (where have the years/follicles gone? ;)))>….love that old pic…an a great intro….

    sure the essay will sing :))


  • @ ALL:

    One more quote to start this week-end:

    “Despite being a citizen of the digital world, or maybe because he knew to well its isolating potential, Jobs was a strong believer in face-to-face meeting. There’s a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by iChat or e-mail. Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what you’re doing, you say wow!, and soon you’re cooking up all sort of ideas”


    “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them”


  • I just came across this post while googling Sarah Leen, who I will be fortunate enough to meeting with at Review Santa Fe this weekend. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to receive her “coaching and direction” which as you mentioned is the role of a good photo editor. Thanks DAH.

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