(based on a true story)



So I took this picture about half an hour ago. In Rio. Well, Renata is in Rio and I am at home alone in Carolina talking to a black cat. Renata is a character in my book about to go to press in Italy which was shot in Rio. My not so secret fantasy night in Rio. (based on a true story). Yes the real title. Go figure. Presses roll in 20 days. Hmmm, maybe I put this in? Blending fact and fiction all the way.

What about you? If you are a documentary photographer, ever think about fiction? In photography fiction and non-fiction tend to be done by different photographers . Writers cross all the time. My work in Rio is all “real” but real only to my immediate surroundings. For this book I did not “go anywhere” to take a picture. Wherever I happened to be, was where I was going.

There will not be one word in this book. Zero text. Almost no title. That is why I want you to read it very very carefully.



408 Responses to “(based on a true story)”

  • Well….I’m actually thinking about writers, funny you mentioned that. I’m wrestling with the concept of “time” in telling a story or actually presenting a current project.
    I want to tell it without the limitations of time. Writers transcend and bend time to tell their stories and it all makes sense in the end. I would like to do the same.

    About RIO…I still think of it as the blurring of dreams and reality.
    Can’t wait to hold it in my hands and a get a real good feeling of it to immersed myself in it.

  • That is one killer picture, I hope you put it in.

    I seldom think about fiction and photographs. I don’t often associate the two. With Rio, I have the same take as Carlo. It seems to me that truth, reality, dreams and fiction can be somewhat blurry at the best of times. More so here. How delicious. I’m extremely curious to see what you have come up with.

  • I have been thinking a lot about portraits. Formal portraits are perhaps hyper-reality, or, fiction some people would argue. I am slowly pulling an essay together, it’s evolving.

  • Fiction

    Only Picture remains true throughout.

  • Oh yes to fiction, to get away from my surroundings perhaps even my life, although not those who are beside me.
    Fly me away…

  • I continually observe how those who don’t pursue a creative endeavor be it photography, drawing, painting, writing, music are never as aware of their surroundings – life, as we, who do live by whatever creative expression drives us on. So when their eyes are “opened” by something an artist has seen which was always there right in front of their noses which is a fact and non ficticious is for them some kind of fiction.

  • Oh Harvey, you are the king of riddles. Fact AND Fiction!
    Let’s talk soon.

    Paul O

  • No fiction can beat the reality I live right now.. sometimes, reality beats fiction..


    i cannot remember exactly at what point you showed up at the loft…but i think you know i was crossing every kind of line that i could find to cross….our experiences in life are not linear in our memory or even in the moment lived…life seems much more multidimensional than the calendar shows…this is what i too want to explore..


    yes yes, it comes down to PICTURE….when pictures are used in a book or show, a narrative may or may not develop…IF a narrative is part of the way you are using photographs as language, then surely exclamation marks, commas, and periods play a part in the overall “telling”..i.e. some photographs in a narrative may be in fact serve as punctuation…nobody remembers Hemmingway because of his punctuation. Yet for sure his use of the “period” was a part of his style. Always. Still in the end it will the pictures absorbed remembered. Yet for sure the context , the presentation plays a part. The table must be set. A clean well lighted place.


    hey Paul ready to talk to you anytime…i am a bit hard to catch these days..between now and May i am in full on production…yet let’s give in a try..


    i always always think the same…just because of my camera i feel that life is way way more intense because of it… i feel my primary job as a mentor is in getting people to link in to that idea…once photography becomes in your life, an integral part of your life, then it flows….any situation increases in value the minute the camera comes out of the bag…

    i have earned a living “bearing witness”..but i never did like the burden of feeling like what i was showing was “the truth”…i felt like i had integrity of intent and a sense of being honest about whatever was being portrayed, but i knew surely that it was not the ONLY truth…merely a perspective….with (based on a true story) i like the release of energy that came from still bearing witness yet perhaps adding some mystery…

    i would like to have somebody say to me after reading my labeled fiction, “hey there was a lot of truth in that”…there is


    i await with great delight for your portrait portfolio…


    i feel like a made you a little crazy in New York etc..the “behind the scenes” is not always a pretty picture….i only wish for a final result so compelling that you see the smelly engine room of this ship as part of the beauty of sailing the high seas… :)

    cheers, david

  • DAH….I love it! Although you have not heard from me as often as others have contributed……I follow every word and image daily for inspiration and education. Burn is my muse. I love the idea of fictionalized realties with images only and your RIO project as a launching of something special to look forward to. Using still images without words in a fictionalized dream like realty narrative is certainly challenging. I am currently working on a project involving nostalgia and memories being fictionalized by the Cuban Americans in Little Havana, Miami used to form their life/reality as they thought it was/is and to continue Cuban pride to new generations of Cuban – Americans. Thanks to all for Burn.

  • David,

    I was there in the early stages…I saw groupings of “moments”…your memories as you say on the wall.
    You said very few of them will actually make it. All I could think was the amount of pictures you had to put on the wall and take down from the wall, put some aside and do the whole thing again. In a way I was shocked and fascinated by the sheer amount of work going on and had to be done. I did not get to see the dummy so it will be a total surprise when I hold the book in my hands.

    Blending time and even places are worth dismantling. There’s a big chance you will not succeed but then there’s the bigger reward of having tried.

  • David..

    I’ve never been a girly girl.. always wanted to deconstruct to see how stuff works.. to me the most fun is to build the sandcastle, not to look at it, don’t care about getting dirty.. :)

  • http://www.lettersofnote.com/2012/02/book-is-like-man.html

    I think this article on John Steinbeck kind of fits in perfectly with this dialogue…

  • For documentary photography, for me it’s fact: in the sense that it has to be a reality of the situation that I photograph. It can be a portrait that I choose the setting, lighting for, or a moment that triggers me to make a photograph of someone at a later date but the impetus must come from the reality that I am documenting.

    That said, once a photograph is out there and published in books, magazines etc. I can see how the original purpose of the photographer can be lost. I read recently (BJP I think) of a photographer who integrated his captions onto his photographs (a text layer I presume) to make sure that the photograph could not be printed without his caption. Neat.

    Let’s not forget that the reality we show in any documentary work is self-edited and that the reality we show is, to a greater or lesser degree, ours.

    Great question.


  • Recently I took a photo that had the look of a children’s fairy story about it. So the next time I was at the farm I decided to shoot as though it was for a fairy story; and it worked. For me it was a way to break from the pure documentarian way of shooting…. Not fiction per se; but shooting reality as though it was fiction…

  • I still think that stories can work even if they are presented out of sequence. Think of Gaspar Noe Irreversible.

  • FICTION: the only thing that is REAL!
    theres no reality, only our interpretation of it..
    whats “real” for me it could be pure fiction/fantasy for the guy next to me..
    in other words: its all in our head..
    theres no such a thing as :true fact (unless you’re a cop or a lawyer or a scam-back of that nature )

  • MIKE R.,

    Duane Michals comes to mind (love his work).

  • let me share my experience (3 hours ago)
    i was walking my little doggie Lola (black color dog) and i was wearing a “Suicidal Tendencies” BLACK t-shirt, my earphones/ipod and shooting on Instagram in a park close by..to make a long story short,next thing i know im surrounded by police..Two cop cars and a police Van cornered me…I really thought something going on so i stopped in case a photo could pop out..i was looking around for the “crime scene” but i was all alone in the park, so i felt that knot in my stomach…”they” were here for me ..!!??? i was the only one in the”crime scene”..but what was the crime? my tattoos? my black anti-police t-shirt ? my fierce (laughing) 6 pound poodle (Lola)?
    it was just profiling..
    now listen what that uneducated cop told me:
    “Do you know why you are surrounded”? i said ” nope”!!!!???
    He was like: listen , we got an ANONYMOUS call by SOMEONE that you harassed “SOMEONE” in the park!
    “Someone”??? there was NOBODY in the park at that point…it was around 9am and everyone at work..i was ALL ALONE playing with my poodle in the park…thank god my iphone recorded through the app Edmondo my exact route so i can prove that there was no way for me to be in that particular location (behind the park ,in the parking lot that that fictional “harassment event” took place ..
    The cop realized that he was talking to someone that finished school unlike him obviously…He didnt expect that i could defend myself…
    He admitted in the end that he “watches” me for days, walking my dog and he couldnt figure out who am I!
    So he decided to PROFILE me i guess as a drug dealer or something… He CREATED A STUPID LIE about somekind of anonymous phonecall and bullshit stories that make no sense..when i asked him “what was that crime that this “ghost wearing black tshirt had done, but that set him off…
    1) He asked for drivers licence.
    2) i complied of course.
    3) he said it wasnt enough.i needed to carry a second form of ID with me, but that uneducated cop didnt know is that i ALWAYS CARRY MY PASSPORT CARD WITH ME…not the actual passport but the passport card (size of a credit card)..He freaked out of how “prepared” i was and started mumbling , sorry, its for your protection, its a nice neighborhood- obviously telling me i dont look good for his standards and his low IQ obviously)…and i thought im all good and ready to go..
    well., yeah right..the other officers were giving him weird looks, we all knew the captain was humiliated literally HARASSING ME and my dog, EMBARRASSING ME IN FRONT OF THE PUBLIC…people were looking at me like i was Al Capone…sure that i must have done “something”…really really embarrassing im telling you ..
    then he turns to me and acts like he was doing me a big favor:
    He said: im gonna run your shit on my computer and if you have NO WARRANTS against you (which i definitely dont…i mean geezus…) then i will let you go!
    And of course he did run my “shit”, and of course im clean., and of course im sitting home with my laptop sharing all that with you, sipping my 11th coffee , still shaking of how badly i got treated for something i didnt do and honestly accused for something that NOBODY ELSE DID EITHER…scary stuff.. He never explained to me what that “other criminal did”, all i know is he made everything up so they can stop me and interrogate the “weird looking stranger (which was me)..Again the only common thing according to that cop i had with that FICTITIOUS CRIMINAL was that we were wearing BLACK T-SHIRT!
    BULLSHIT…Anyway im ok now, very pissed off, i want to go after that guy and sue the whole police department but i cant afford a lawyer but worst is then i’ll be severely targeted, pulled over all the time etc…So…. he shook my hand in the end for me being cooperative (why wouldnt i??)and did me a big favor of letting me go “this time”!
    oh my god…he wanted me to “say something” he wanted me to “react” but i refused to play his game so he HAD to let me go..
    True story based on a fictional event…and then its my fault i play song like this below:

  • …riddles and bullshit………….. a wonderful combination http://www.etrouko.com/

  • Just read these interesting statements by Torbjørn Rødland:

    The only photojournalistic images that remain interesting are the ones that produce or evoke myths.

    A photographer in doubt will get better results than a photographer caught up in the freedom of irony.

  • “…riddles and bullshit………….. a wonderful combination”

    Very true, Imants – and one can’t get elected to public office without ’em!

  • Panos,

    Lola is very intimidating! you have to understand….

  • ___any situation increases in value the minute the camera comes out of the bag___

    So much truth in that, as soon as you start taking pictures you enter a sort of state of pure focus, it’s purely living in the moment. You’re doing nothing more than living that situation 110%, it’s a very beautiful thing nothing else matters except that moment in the present. Of course it’s only temporary, but that moment become a lot more real, because you participation reach a different level.


    Couldn’t agree more, your fiction is the non-fiction of the others. I love that because it gives a whole new dimension to any body of work, it becomes a living thing.

    MIKE R

    I see what you mean, but even with the caption a photograph can be seen in a really different way by someone. It doesn’t change the original purpose of the image, but it’s just a way to show that sometimes there more to one picture that what we can see at the first look. Some people can go to far in the interpretation of an image, but in the end it all comes down to what it means to your own eyes. Of course documentary photography works with facts,but even a fact can have a different interpretation based on our own understanding of the situation

  • it’s a good thing they didn’t run her record!

  • lol…she has her ID too around her neck, with her name address vaccines everything legit….anyway ok, sorry for that, back to our regular programming…

  • I’m only teasing!
    that’s a horrible experience you had to go through for nothing really….and now it all probably feels like a dream.

  • @ PANOS:
    Funny and sad story… I imagine the cop: The same as in the Simpsons… fat and eating donnuts.
    Got two questions:
    1. What happened if you don’t have your ID in your pocket in US?

    Nothing to do with that scene, more in relation to Burn.
    Remember the SA exhibition “BurnED Garden” some time ago?
    Well, I have the chance to make just a little one here, where I’m living, so presentation is this Saturday, and the idea is to have fun, meet people and sell some pictures…
    2. What was your strategy to sell photographes in the wall? How you negotiate prize?

    Thanks!! Shine an have a nice day with your dog!

  • Carlo..i know i know :)))

    no strategy really except from heavy advertisement on local press..
    price wise..if you can collect more than $200 for an 11×14 inches then consider yourself a great successful salesman..but if u can try to make folks happy..i gave my Beyonce print for free…create friendships..its even more important than sales..
    but we did a silent auction..not prices…biding like ebay…start low from $100 and let people “compete”..
    its way more interesting than price pictures in an absolute way..some photos ask for donation..play around..have fun and you will succeed! good luck
    again: silent auction is the way to go!

  • . What happened if you don’t have your ID in your pocket in US?
    dont even try it.. they can arrest on the spot no questions asked..
    now if one happens to be undocumented???? years in prison awaiting deportation.very simple and very frightening…(btw all that happen to me, and im an American Citizen…imagine if i wasnt;(

  • now if one happens to be undocumented????
    here political incorrect to call someone “illegal” immigrant nowadays!
    “Undocumented” is what they like now!
    Arizona targets Hispanics with violent methods..searches and if no “papers”? bye bye…
    but police in general especially when bored then they start power tripping on anyone that doesn’t wear a suit and a tie:(

  • but i saw the same methods in Greece, Zurich airport ,everywhere in europe and the rest of the world..its universal :(…police brutality is a wide world phenomenon i think..

  • Easy Panos don’t get stressed it will save you from buying crap

  • Give a guy that kind of power and you can be sure he’ll eventually abuse it.

  • Probably why we will not give you power Micaël ……………….

  • Micaël, Imants :)

    i dont know about you guys..to me its not even about a cop police or anything..when im playing with Lola when i have my new Frusciante song on me earphones i wanna be left alone…i dont wanna be touched, interrupted, questioned, interrogated…nothing..thats why exactly i chose to play with dog…but those “blue men” keep getting on peoples asses noses etc etc..they are strangers to me and i wanna keep it like that…in my little universe they dont exist..i refuse to acknowledge them..one love!

  • It doesn’t change the original purpose of the image …..but if that cannot bei communicated the original purpose becomes null and void

  • .i refuse to acknowledge them
    oh well, i wish they(blue men) would do the same…

  • Panos we bombard your little universe to make sure you don’t become a compulsive gambler ……….. the dog will come back and bite you on the arse http://www.imantskrumins.com/

  • little blue men love to infiltrate dreams….

  • wow awesome…Imants i love it…thanks 4 the nightmare:)

  • Oh thats true, they always come at the worst of time, next time you’ll probably be on the can at a restaurent reading a good magazine.

  • Day off from work today! Kids are on holiday also, some new holiday the local schools have evilly conceived. So I’ve decided the three of us and the dog are going up into the local sierra and see if the only natural creek on this island is full of water. It will be the first time in two years I pull out a camera and try out some landscape photography, so I’m interested in seeing if my way of seeing has evolved. Tripod is a no! Feeling slightly apprehensive because of my injury and because my expectations are running too high and that’s always a bad start…

    “Expectation is the root of all heartache.”
    William Shakespeare

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