Free beer, no sorry, free portfolio reviews…

It is past midnight.. It is late and it smells late..I leave for France in the afternoon tomorrow…I have not packed, nor have I ever learned to pack for any trip in all these years. Always get it wrong. Working on it. I am headed for four days of Magnum meeting followed by four days of Les Rencontres d’Arles arguably one of the most important international photography assemblages. After days of biz meeting with Magnum I am sure many would cut both ears off instead of one as did VanGogh in this fair charming south of France town.

Yet I always go. Never missed an annual gathering of the tribe since 1993 when I became a Magnum nominee and forever changed my life. I have already been to two photo fests this spring, am burned out on the social scene, and would not go to one now were Magnum not meeting on this 65th year in this historic Arles. The vibes in Arles buzz in way as in no other place.

My little book from 1967, Tell It Like It Is,  gets its two minutes of fame along with 10 other Magnum photographers who are participating on a presentation called “First Time”. Addressing the evening audience on July 3 with their first work, their first important work. The work that took them forward. For me this is bracketed with my recent Rio novella (based on a true story) entering the prestigious Library Actes Sud and a book signing at Les Rencontres. So my “first time” and my most recent. All the while surrounded by terrific exhibitions and evening presentations.

Burn will also have a stand where we will do free (buy me a beer) portfolio reviews. “We” being the entire Burn staff: Anton Kusters, Diego Orlando, Eva-Maria Kunz, Candy Pilar Godoy and Claudia Paladini. I do not think we have EVER had all of us together in one place. We work by remote control. By Skype. By text message (should be illegal) and by brain debilitating email. Fate has brought us all together. We are electric. On fire. BurnMagazine, BurnBooks, and BurnUniversity are all happening. Details on all will follow after the Burn gang meets after the Magnum meeting.

It all blends anyway. Magnum’s new website may unleash a whole new Magnum. For sure exciting times. Times to reinvent, times to invent, times to push push the proverbial envelope just as far as we can without losing the thing Magnum members care about the most. A place in history. A seat at the table. Burn seeks to help find new talent and celebrate the icons who may be a beacon for those forging ahead with oftentimes a wrinkled map.

If you are anywhere near the south of France June 3-8 please stop by. If you are on the other side of the world and have a lot of miles to cash in, now is the time. Everyone in this Burn audience knows well they have input in what goes on around here. Either with their voice or their pictures. Burn eliminates a lot of excuses. If you have something to say, you can say it right here and you are reaching an impressive cross section of our craft. Both the photographers and the editors and a lot of well versed serious photographer who choose photography as an avocation, rather than as a business.

I only write tonight and rambled this long to avoid the inevitable packing I must do. So let me get to it. Wishing all of you a pleasant morning/evening and ask you to stay tuned as I report from Arles in the week upcoming to flow alongside our EPF finalists.



Williston, North Dakota, from the Magnum project Looking For America, May 2012


335 Responses to “Free beer, no sorry, free portfolio reviews…”

  • MW, okay thanks for the clarification.

    Lutton has spent five years living and working in the region, studied Eastern Europe in college and clearly is a thoughtful and committed photographer, so I didn’t think it fair to lump him in with the “parachuters” and by the same token, I thought Bob’s “globe trotting” hyperbole a bit unfair for the same reason. It seems neither of these characterizations were directed right at Lutton but could be interpreted that way. As for the core of the criticism regarding Western perspectives imposed unfairly through, as Bob notes, the traps of photojournalistic cliche and cultural perspective, I can’t speak. I’ve never been to Eastern Europe.

    But I do question the need to be “fair.” That’s a little ironic since my news writing of old was once called “painfully objective.” But I got better. When I photograph my backyard I’m not trying to be fair. I’m pissed at the destruction needlessly wrought. I focus on the injustice in it, the conflicted feelings I have about it, and while I don’t call it photojournalism, it could be used that way, if not in a NPPA vein which in some ways can be the bigger lie. By the same token, was Martin Parr’s Brighton Beach work (The Last Resort) fair? Obviously not. But then, the photos didn’t lie either. In the work there was a greater truth than any depiction that tried to be “fair” could show. Hmm, likely not a good parallel … to be fair.

    Specifically, amrinovich opines, “The essay shows nothing of what Kosovo has become, a NATO military base. It shows nothing of the remnants of the NATO bombings, it shows nothing of the remnants of over a decade of internationally imposed sanctions.”

    Sounds like a photo essay to me, a real perspective, but I doubt anyone would call it fair, perhaps even “skewed.” I’d like to see it though. Sounds like he, or she, has something to say. Good.

    Further, amrinovich writes, “What appalled me the most is that Americans are still obsessed with these faux humanitarian crusades and that they continously send back skewed impressions of the world.”

    By definition, any personal perception of a place that is done with a voice is going to be skewed, isn’t it? Lutton doesn’t say he is presenting a photojournalistic overview of the region. In the first sentence he writes, “it is my personal response to the confounding atmosphere of the region.” Personal. Response. Atmosphere. That’s pretty up front. Okay, so is this about Lutton’s nation of birth then? Five years living and working in Serbia doesn’t count? Is Lutton on a crusade? I don’t see that. Is America on a crusade? Yeah, well, there’s some ugly truth in that including valid criticism of the religious overtones of “crusade” in American foreign policy and a recent President. But that’s just my opinion. Is amarinovich criticizing Lutton’s work, or the fact that he is American? Guilt by nationality?

    Are there valid criticisms of western perspectives, and American perspectives specifically, clouding the vision of photographers? I think so. Do western photographers fall into the trap of making photos they expect? Probably. And yet, this is great work with a personal perspective from someone who has studied it and lived it and actually seems to care. Not a parachuter, or a globe trotter, or a breaking news only kind of journalist.

    The anonymous poster amrinovich concludes, “Mr. Lutton is clearly concerned only with showing off that he went to a place off the beaten path for most Americans, and in turn painted it as a backwards hellhole to make his photos seem more important. The fact that the essay claims to tell story of Serbia in the wake of the the wars that broke apart Yugoslavia is laughable, laughable.”

    You know, I didn’t come away with the perspective after viewing the essay that Serbia is a “backwards hellhole.” While the visual style of the work is dark, the subject matter is certainly not all “hell.” Perhaps the reviewer of the work is confusing the dark visual tones with subject matter. And, the essay does not claim to tell THE story of Serbia in the wake of the wars following Yugoslavia’s collapse, it only claims to tell A story, and a personal one at that.

    Lutton wrote, “There are many elements that contribute to a hostile and sometimes desperate atmosphere in Serbia today. But there too are moments that show healing and a glimpse at a different future than many have seen for themselves in the last decade.”

    I did see both of those presented, actually.

    Too, there is the imperative to make interesting photos and that just doesn’t happen all the time. I mean, should there be more sunsets in the work? Pretty pictures? Gaping bomb craters, or as the reviewer wishes, should there be photos of “the remnants of the NATO bombings”? But wait, wouldn’t that just reinforce the “hell hole” vision for which he, or she, is criticizing the essay. That’s a bit contradictory, isn’t it? Even, propagandistic?

    I often have issues with criticisms like this which, more often than not, seem based on what the reviewer wants to see instead of a personal critique of the personal vision presented, or perhaps, are based on a projection and confusion of the questionable policies of a nation with the motives of its individual citizens. The next steps in this line of thinking start running toward the belief that only native photographers should photograph their own land, or that somehow, bizarrely, Larry Towell is somehow an asshole for wanting to bring his unique perspective to Afghanistan. But then, what the fuck do I know. I’m an American. Sorry. But I didn’t vote for that last asshole, I have serious disagreements with national policy, I hate corporate global hegemony, and I promise not to hate you because of your nationality if you won’t hate me because of mine (actually, I won’t hate you even if you hate me). Oh, and I am definitely not the same Thomas Hyde who was an executive at Walmart, or the dude on model mayhem. Really.

    Look, I’m not trying to “win” here. I’m not pointing at anyone and saying “you’re wrong.” I’m open to being wrong myself. I’m thinking out loud (at my peril), asking questions and, as I do more than anything else, chewing on it. The basic questions raised are good ones I think, especially in the context, at least for me, of the broader changes in journalism and photography.


    I think that may well be the single best… and I mean “best” in every way… comment I have ever read on BURN or Road Trips… thanks for your thoughtfulness, your eloquence, and your candor.


  • I was just about to write pretty much what Sydney has just written, but I will write it anyway; probably the most thought out, lucid and intelligent reply to a question I have read on Burn. Gives much to think over. I do hope that Amrinnovich will able to respond/rebut, and that others also have some constructive input to offer.

  • Will 3rd the nomination of Tom’s reply as one of the best/most lucid/well-balanced to grace the way it….:))))…Sidney: ‘the best ever’…THAT kind of hyperbole is starting to smack ridiculously close to the purple-haze hyperbole of one bob black ;))…

    my contention with Matt’s essay, in fact, is not about Matt’s work at all (like his work much) nore the specific essay (like it too, photographically, visually) as well. Moreover, Matt (from what i know from his background and encounters via this silly web world) is committed to the place and has both a historical interested and a studied education that was deepened by his committment and time spent there. So, yes my hyperbole wasn’t directed toward Matt/the specific of matt’s essay etc (though as usual, i jump in write and saunter off of late, oweing to time constraints and i havent had internet service had home now since my wife and i split up 5 months ago, so i only jump in occassionally now). My remark had to do with the tendency of a certain group of photographers (defined by the historical influence of NG and refined in the age of both the war reporter that extended to the class of world-traveling journalists)to define credibility and maturing as requiring a stint abroad, in a war zone, in a nation troubled, in a arena whose language/culture is alien, whose story seems hard hitting (war/sex/prostitution/drugs/addled youth/political revolution, the check list goes on) in order to offer a training ground for the ‘real’ documentary photographer. Those whove been around the block (and whove been to photofests) need not require more to udnerstand that this is not hyperbole but a truism of a certain generation of the profession that often does bestow that same philosophy upon younger photographers. This is NOT to say that going off to a corner of the world that excites and inspires and challenges is somehow much presumptuous than shooting in your neck of the woods or vice verse. Far be it from me to tell somehow what/where/how they should shoot, how they should gather their stories, how they should mark the days and ways of their lives. Seek out and chew upon the stories that inspire you and commit yourself to them, thats all that matters to me. Matt seems not only committed by inspired by the region and that’s a wonderful thing indeed.

    my mark is that, i (truthfully) long for stories that not reveal place but reveal the story teller’s relationship to that place, be it as other or be it as member. And I also tire too of stories by young westerners about, well, places other than their own lives/backyards. Look at Perpignan for example. The year that Sergie Maximishin book was published about his life work in russia, barely a beep, but how many other western photographers work on russia/post-soviet era were heralded? I’ve seen the same with former Yugoslavia…with africa…often with Asia too. To point now where i hunger and look for stories about N.America by photographers who are not from N.America…they’re out there…but so much harder to find. Isn’t there an oddity about this…it has nothing to do with what work is better/more authentic…but about not only an imbalance, but an imbalance in the stories that get shoveled up….that is all i’m saying…

    i remember what i loved about john gaddy’s work (and i had know idea who he was before he popped up here) was that it was committed to his life, to those around him…i found that not only honorable, but just simply rewarding (as a viewer)…even if not everything knocked me out, i felt that i was there with the story not as jaded viewer but as someone falling the rabbit down the hole….this isn’t to say shooting stories in other places don’t yied extraordinary results…jacob sobol’s book on tokyo is glorious, just to sight a magnum cat…same with Larry T’s work on middle east, central america…shit, susan m’s work on central america (the wars that politicized me) is my main visual reference……maybe its about what i feel seems to be what is expected….what is tossed aside as the right way to go….i struggled on this with michael brown’s essay on E. Russia, great great work, but it seemed way too empty and too much like NG done by a young photographer with a brilliant eye…

    maybe its simpler that this. Maybe it is about. Maybe i have just wearied of that part of my life that is defined by friends who go off around the world to make stories…y9oung photographers, often nyc-based, or paris-based….and go to the same festivals, are all swarming the same places and exchange skype chats and then apply for the same awards and same grants and it just has become tedious…the process…and the value…

    i’m waiting for the young girl who grew up in Iraq to show me her work/story….the boy’s in eastern europe who crew up both in the clubs and the craters….or the person, regardless of place or character, who is open enough to share their life with me instead of making pretty pictures of the lives of others….

    as i wrote Sidney long ago, it is never about what one does with their life (or where they are from) that matters but how one negiotates what life has done to them and through that expression and story comes the webwork that joins us all…

    and like tom, i don’t care where someone comes from, only about who they have become and how that enjoins….

    and tom, u sure you aint a inheritor from Arkansas ;)))))

    running to a photo show for Boreal as i type this…so, that’s just to clarify my quick comment…

    running, literally

    in photography that laudits the notion of telling stories elsewhere rather than focusing on stories

  • and i have not idea where that unfinished sentence under my initial ‘b’ came from…Araky IRL or deus ex machina?…:)

  • AKAKY IRL: What the hell is a laudit?
    AKAKY: Beats the hell out of me.
    AKAKY IRL: Have you been leaving spare sentences around?
    AKAKY: No, just the car keys.
    AKAKY IRL: And who the hell is deus ex machina?
    AKAKY: It’s either Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. I think it depends on who you talk to.

  • I’m going to go silent and disappear for awhile. In fact I’m going to try exactly 1 month totally isolated from all Internet, magazines and email. Been thinking this since I was in Paris sitting listening to John Gladdy’s wise words. I’ll include all photobooks and novels in this self imposed isolation, although I think I’ll finish Suttree- I’m enjoying it too much.
    I need to find myself photographically, something I’ve tried over and over again but I get easily distracted by this beautiful Burn and it’s daily residents photos and lovely words. I’m desperate to tell a story with my images and I know it’s somewhere standing right in front of my nose. I want something that’s mine, my voice, my story. Maybe it won’t work and I may miss a load of fun especially round here and probably on Instagram and a couple of other sites. But I’m going to give it a try. I realized last night that I’m not at all comfortable criticizing someone’s hard earned photo essay when I personally can’t gather two of my own photos into a story to save my life…
    So see you all very soon in August :))!!!!

  • Paul,

    Sounds like something WORTH pursuing.
    Wishing you all the best.

    And I have to agree with what some have said already….Tom Hyde…that post was amazing and so well written.
    I too hope to hear from amrinovich.

  • PAUL. If I did indeed utter any wise words(unlikely),my defense is that I was very gloriously drunk at the time and that any utterances I may have made under the influence should be taken with a pinch of salt (and a large Tequila ,obviously).

  • The biggest trap to these western so called photojournalists is their insistence of elevating the image above all else. When image becomes king the balanced perspective is skewered.
    Most unfortunately are lousy storytellers but great photographers, then again good visual storytellers are far and few between.

  • Paul don’t play the “I need to find myself photographically” game it spends too much time with”myself” and that becomes pretty non productive. Start and work at one project at a time have the pleasure of completing one and the excitement of starting a new one.

  • Damnit, Paul!

    I support you in your idea but you are going too soon. If you have not already gone, wait until Saturday, or late Friday. Tomorrow, I will need your mental support and good will, along with that of those others who come here and have proven themselves friends. I don’t want to say anything about it right now, but it will become clear tomorrow.

    If you are already gone or go before then, then good luck and I hope you succeed and do something great.

  • Tom Hyde – you think out loud very well.

  • “the photos didn’t lie either” Photographs do nothing they are just that photographs they are incapable of making breakfast let alone lie

  • Gotta hand it to Sergie he had a wicked sense of humor and knows how to visually keep a lid on it. Love those oddities coupled with everyday experiences he manages to combine in one image. He is the type of photographer one would love to hear as a bedtime storyteller……….. drifting off into a world of wonder

  • Bob; I love that work by Sergey. As usual you keep opening my eyes to new work. His work certainly makes a change from the dreaded: “man/woman/boy/girl sitting mournfully on the bed with a sad expression on the face” Eastern European stereotype images that proliferate nowadays….

  • Frostfrog…

    Just came in here quickly just a quick look around before starting my silent retreat and saw your comment… No worries I’ll wait till Sunday, sounds very interesting :)).

  • Sidney, John and Bob. Thanks. And Bob, good thoughts as always. I do understand, stuck here, as it were, in my own backyard. If I could, no doubt I’d be a jet setter, for awhile, until the emptiness consumed me and I returned. Here. Or maybe, there.

  • Imants…

    I’m dying to discover a story that will inspire me to begin and enjoy working on and if all goes well perhaps even finish. Not just go out searching for an interesting picture which has absolutely nothing to do with the previous image.

  • Paul…

    You know Anders Petersen, right? Yes, I know you do.. what do his pictures have to do one with the other? Except for Café Lehmitz?

  • Bursa Photo Fest: BOOK DUMMY CONTEST

    Deadline: September 15th, 2012

  • Hi David,

    I just booked a flight to France (am in Bucharest at the moment) but so far have had no luck finding a couch or floor to sleep on from monday through saturday nights, 2-7 July. I’ve sent out couch surfing requests, but any leads would come greatly appreciated. I can pay too, I just need to find a spot and they seem hard to come by in Arles no matter the price!

    Will surely take you up on the beer-portfolio review exchange!

    Best regards,


  • Bill get well soon – I know all too well that stress you’re in over money and medical procedures… I’m glad you found a place to seek peace. When you come back, we should talk!

  • Bill, I hope all went well with the procedure. Hard for too many people to believe our health care system is so horrendous for those 30 million or so without insurance, and many of the rest of us with crappy, expensive insurance that doesn’t cover much of anything. At least you can take heart in the fact that we have so many billionaires. Anyway, best wishes. I know you are loved by many so have to think odds are good that all will work out.

  • BILL

  • MW,
    Unfortunately you are correct!
    Dare to get sick here (US) and …
    Someone needs to write a survival book over here
    about how to survive ( after a visit / procedure to / from the doctor )

  • Bill, listen to Panos. Seriously, it’s an order. Get well soon.

  • Bill, get well soon. All the best to you.


    You are articulating a sentiment which is felt by many these days. It is so often said: “stick close to home and work on projects there.” But still photographers chase the stories far away. It is still the “thing” to do it seems. Getting up every day and falling out of your front (or back) door and photographing what you discover day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. Perhaps that is where a photographer discovers his or her true self in their work.

    Good to see you “around” again. But of course you have been somewhere…


    Justin P

  • This is all a very interesting discussion, but I fail to see why so many feel as if they have to place limiting blinkers on photographic interests. So many photographers make a religious faith of their differentiating approach to the pursuit. Why is that? If there is anything to learn from David’s emerging photographers and the essays published here, it is that there is possible an all-encompassing, all-embracing room to welcome everyone and their respective visions.

    Limiting yourself to the backyard, to colour, to film or natural lighting, can help learn craft quicker than otherwise, so that can be a good thing. Maintaining that limitation however throughout one’s creative voyage sounds dull – sort of like Sunday Service. Creativity comes through connections, and the ease in which we can make those connections. Linking to place, subject, people, metaphor, history…even the neural pathways of your brain set to a new order can give an “Aha” moment, an instant of inspiration.

    Ease up on those prejudicial limitations, and the creativity will enter. Its not a religion.

  • I don’t think there’s anything wrong with shooting outside one’s own back yard. I think it’s a good thing, actually. People should get out of their own back yards and travel the world. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with then showing what they see from the perspective of their own back yard. Often we see things the locals are blind to for having taken them for granted for so long.

    That said, if one is doing any kind of journalism or advocacy work or even semi-fictional type storytelling–pretty much anything outside of purely abstract visual work–then in order to be good it requires a significant amount of education and insight on the part of the photographer (writer, whatever). That’s why I’m always suspicious when a project form some far end of the earth comes back looking like I would expect it to look. Even more so when it conveniently tells the same story the government is telling.

    That’s why I’m open, perhaps too open, to amrinovich’s criticisms of Lutton’s Servia work. In retrospect, from just the fleeting images and news reports I’ve seen over the years, Lutton’s essay showed me pretty much what I expected to see. It did it in unexpectedly artful, visually compelling ways, but content-wise nothing surprised me. On the contrary, it reinforced my underlying, very superficial, prejudices. Of course it’s possible that that’s just the way it is in Serbia/Kosovo and that it would look the same from any cultural perspective. I’m not saying otherwise, just that the question does merit consideration.

    I agree that Tom Hyde does a most excellent job of responding to amrinovich’s points and that his comment is one of the better pieces of writing I’ve seen here. I am torn over the contention that it’s necessarily bad form to criticize an essay for what it’s not. Although I generally agree, I think that when a work could be considered propaganda, then it might be fair game for that kind of criticism. Like Tom, I too would like to see the essay amrinovich suggests about NATO jackboots and bomb craters. Does that have anything to do with Lutton’s essay? If amrinovich was suggesting that Lutton’s work was consistent with NATO propaganda, as I think he was, and if there is any truth to that assertion, then it might be a valid criticism. And of course a big part of it could be that Lutton is showing amrinovich things amrinovich would prefer not to see about his own back yard. I don’t know the answer to those questions. I just think it’s important to ask.

    Again, I think it’s great that people leave their back yards and show their homies what it’s like in some distant land, they just have a responsibility to bury their cultural prejudices and any residual government propaganda before they leave. And I wish more people from those distant lands would travel to our back yards to show what they see.

  • “If you’re your photos are not good enough your heart and soul ain’t good enough”
    Stanley Greene”

    Kapa was wrong .. It’s not about “close enough” it’s about open hearted enough..

    Also, MW..
    Backyard is not also the yard behind the house or one’s town.. We can always bring our own backyard
    and our mirror wherever we go wherever we shoot/ travel..

    We have a lot of GREAT PHOTOGRAPHERS/ a lot of GREAT CAMERA OPERATORS/ a lot of megapixels but what WE DON’T HAVE is enough Artists that have “something/ANYTHING to say”

    Most confuse ART with BEAUTYFICATION and folklor..
    In San Antonio Texas for example I found some of the most folklor Frida immitators self proclaimed artists
    that made the SA River look like a cheap version of Disneyland!!!
    Reason for this tackiness is that they confuse “cute” with “art” in Texas
    Too kitschyyyy

    feel better soon!!!!!!
    healing vibes coming your way from CALIforNIA……
    to you and yours…..

  • In fact Kapa wasn’t “wrong” at all… It’s just people thought he was talking literally about distance although poor Robert was talking about real “closeness”

  • PANOS:

    Good things you are saying. The confusion of “cute” with “art” is not just in Texas. It’s the same here in Norfolk, UK. Go to the coast where the “artsy” people live and there are galleries selling all manner of stuff – paintings, sculptures, photographs etc – all inspired by the local area. Amongst them is the very rare piece with integrity, honesty and passion – made by somebody who is “close enough.” But mostly it is just art for £££££’s sake. But the tourists and holiday home owners come along and buy that stuff up thick and fast.

    Of course there are the exception of photographers who travel to distant lands and do good work. DAH’s Rio book certainly shakes things up. Alex Webb too – he just took his way of seeing along to the lands of hot light. But alongside this there is also a trend in carbon copy photography from conflict zones and other “exotic” places. It is an expense business to go off and photograph places these days. If you are going to do it you might as well make it worthwhile.


  • “We have a lot of GREAT PHOTOGRAPHERS” —> I disagree! with the ‘a lot’ part..

    “a lot of GREAT CAMERA OPERATORS” —> I agree!.. but would even dare to leave out “great” if seen in proportion to how many camera owners are out there…

  • Panos if you think about Capa’s statement not as a physical distance but as a closeness in experiences… It seems to make more sense.

    ALL – This is a bit off topic and perhaps a welcomed break for some… I have a frustration and I’d like to work through it, perhaps some of you can help me.

    I have NO desire to be in business for myself. Yes, it’s supposed to be liberating, but it has also destroyed my family. I grew up with a family in business, and ultimately it ended with the children resenting their parents, the parents being divorced and a lot of hard feelings. I have tried on two separate occasions to run my own businesses, and both times have ended in failure. I have only been mildly successful in marketing toward the retail market – weddings and portraits – and for the most part, the state I live in is known to be fairly conservative. People here like to think photographers are merely pushing a button and not working hard enough to deserve payment. So, with that experience I’ve gone out of business for myself twice having finished few actual paying jobs. I feel as if I am not making art for myself, weddings and portraits are not of any interest to me. I AM only pushing a button – and working too hard to just be pushing a button.

    So that being said – I have a degree in design art and minored in fine art. I have learned how to submit my work to galleries and shows – however finding them is another matter entirely. What I have never learned is to successfully approach and work with NGOs, newspapers, magazines or other media outlets. I haven’t a clue! I have checked out books from the library and have some more on their way. What I see in them is I will spend 98% of my time marketing and being a business and 1% of my time will be shooting. That sounds absolutely awful to me.

    So I think, working with an agency might be my best option. I am very familiar with the reputation of Magnum and their history, but they are highly exclusive. Some of the best have tried and not been accepted in. Robert Frank for example, but perhaps that was due to his disagreement with HCB… I have applied for years, and each year I think my work is better but I generally get the feeling – its not good enough. Magnum shooters these days tend to have that highly polished, nearly commercial look to them. I’m not interested in that look for myself. I prefer the grit and grime of life, I prefer the feel and grace of film… Again – the argument of digital over film comes up in my daily life…
    To be speedy or not…

    I see folks who a year or two after graduating college are traveling the world and shooting in places all over, they may even be a member of some agency too. I feel like I’m light years behind – and trying to catch up and spending too much time doing that than perusing my photographic interests. I have never been graced with much money – Bill and I seem to be in the same boat as it were right now… I’ve had three visits to the ER two of which resulted in surgery and medications – all of which I never had the money for. I was thankful to discover the hospitals had “community care” help for me which eliminated about 99% of my bills. but in the mean time, it’s a G.D. nightmare stressing over these bills that no average person could ever pay out of pocket.

    So back to the topic… I have no business sense. I have limited attention for tax-talk and my mother is an accountant. She’s never had the time to help me understand any of it so I’m left with a creative mind and no sense to do something professionally with it. I am flat out tired of being so far behind all of the time. I have never known success, and I’d like to have one success once just to know I’ve figured it out at least once. Does anyone have any advice or suggestions they can help me with?

    Before I asked that I should disclaim, I live in Wisconsin. If you’re at all up on US news, you should know that Wisconsin is DEAD last, behind all the other 49 states and Washington DC for job growth. In fact it has been pretty much negative in growth this past year. I am currently unemployed, and seeking – almost desperately, to re-start working on a photography project that is in my own backyard: the changing face of U.S. poverty. My state is not very friendly toward small businesses or those looking to start their own businesses. Their taxes are harsh for those who are less fortunate – and they come calling quarterly, and sometimes monthly. I have been threatened with legal action while I was in business for not paying my “estimated tax” on business that the state estimated I should owe. In reality I never had enough business to have any money for them… It was generally at that point I would close the business because they were withholding my tax refunds and threatening steep fines unless I paid.

    Here is a list of things I know VERY little or next to nothing about:
    finding media outlets,
    finding funding to do my work, etc.

    All of these seem to be something an agency would take care of in my stead, and take their cut for. I would be most happiest with a set up like that… but until then, what are your suggestions?

  • Frosty, get better. Please.

  • Anyway, speaking of people named Bill, we have this from the archives. I do have something fresh, but I haven’t typed it up yet, so I fear that you guys are stuck with these leftovers.

    AKAKY IRL: Speaking of people named Bill? The guy’s gotta have a frigging expensive operation he can’t pay for and you’re doing schtick? What the hell kind of moron are you?

    AKAKY: I’m just trying to lighten the mood a little, that’s all.

    AKAKY IRL: With this piece? I don’t think so, bubba. This one ain’t gonna fly.

    It is a fundamental law of science that any relative you haven’t seen in twenty-five years will, and not through any spirit of ill will or personal maliciousness, either, although I’m starting to have my doubts about that, choose a holiday weekend you have plans for to drop dead on. This is as inevitable as the passing of time, the failure of socialism, and not knowing what you call those tips at the ends of your shoelaces. My father did this to our metropolitan relatives a few years ago; he died just before the Fourth of July weekend, thereby causing them all manner of psychic and entomological distress when they traveled here to our happy little burg for the funeral, as they tend to regard almost any form of insect life other than the cockroach as highly suspicious and probably criminal in its intentions—does anyone, after all, really know what those damn crickets are talking about all night long? I didn’t think so. For a group of people as urbanized as my relatives, the shock was almost too much to bear, and although they were very sorry my father was dead, they were nonetheless happy to get into their cars and begin the long trip back to the great metropolis.

    This time my slightly batty Aunt Cathleen was the reason for the trek southwards. Aunt Cathleen was my father’s oldest sister, and therefore you should not, in any way, shape, or form confuse her with my mother’s sister Aunt Cathleen, who died about a year and a half ago, or my other Aunt Cathleen, who is married to my father’s youngest brother Bill and has not died yet; Uncle Bill has suggested she shut up and drop dead on numerous occasions, but Aunt Cathleen appears uninterested in a sudden change in lifestyle at this time. My maternal Aunt Cathleen and my Aunt Cathleen by marriage are or were, my maternal Aunt Cathleen having died, both Irish, as is my mother, but I’ll bet you figured that out already, and were not batty, slightly or otherwise, except in those ways peculiar to the Irish condition. While I would rather my paternal Aunt Cathleen had not passed away at all, especially on a holiday weekend I had plans for, the fact of the matter is that death has done the family a favor of sorts by eliminating the longstanding familial confusion of which Aunt Cathleen we are talking about when we talk about Aunt Cathleen. Clearly, any reference to Aunt Cathleen in the present tense means my second Irish Aunt Cathleen, who is now my only Aunt Cathleen, the other two Aunt Cathleens having moved on to bigger and better things.

    Having solved the mystery of the decedent’s identity, we can move forward to the wake, which is the only part of the festivities I actually attended. I suppose I could have stayed on for the funeral Mass the next day, but that would entail two trips to the city in as many days and I would prefer not doing that; I do not travel well. The wake was very nice, if you can call wakes nice. I suppose some people do; it always seems to me that you can see the same set of old women at every wake you go to, always sitting off to the side and looking at the corpse and whispering to each other while everyone else in the room is studiously ignoring the guest of honor. I don’t know if those old women are there to gloat over outliving the deceased or whether they are there to judge how the undertaker did his job, with how well the deceased looks for someone in their former state of ill health being just one of the many criteria necessary for an absolutely superlative gold medal performance. I have not seen any of those old women hold up scorecards or appear on ESPN yet, but I am pretty sure they are angling for a contract.

    There was the usual polite chit—chat you always get at this sort of thing: how well you look, how was the trip down, how’s your mother doing, how’s everything going with you, it was nice of you to come on such short notice. I agreed modestly with that last point; it was nice of me to come, considering I could pass some of these very same people on the street and not realize that they are my relatives. I went over to the casket and paid my respects; Aunt Cathleen looked about as well as anyone in her condition could look, what with cosmetics slathered on like butter on an English muffin, veins full of embalming fluid, and that odd pink lighting undertakers seem to prefer. I am not sure why they have this type of lighting in funeral parlors at all; I imagine they believe it makes the deceased look more life-like, but it doesn’t really. Aunt Cathleen didn’t look like she was alive or asleep or whatever effect the undertaker was aiming for; she looked like she was auditioning for a spot in the Epcot Center’s American Adventure animatronics exhibition and about to learn that Anna Nicole Smith was getting the part instead.

    Things were going quite well up to this point; the younger generations of my father’s family didn’t know us, we didn’t know them, and so we were all on our best behavior. And then the other relatives showed up, which reminded me of why I usually go out of my way to avoid these people like the plague. Some people showed a certain consistency that you have to admire; my Uncle Paddy (yes, Irish people have uncles named Paddy—this is not a Hollywood invention) was an obnoxious jerk the last time I saw him twenty-five years ago and I am happy to report that time has not softened him in any way: he’s still an obnoxious jerk, the only change being that back in the day he would poke you over and over again with his forefinger to emphasize whatever nonsensical point he was making at the time. He doesn’t do that anymore; now he pokes you with his cane. Uncle Bill and my only Aunt Cathleen showed up as well, bickering about something or other. They used to bicker much more than they do now, and I am certain that anyone outside the family wouldn’t know the difference, but I’ve noticed the slacking off in their ongoing disagreement about everything under the sun. This is the inevitable result of age; sometimes you just can’t keep an argument going no matter how hard you try; and then my uncle is slowly going deaf, although he is not going deaf fast enough to suit him. He could afford a hearing aid, of course, but then he would have to listen to Aunt Cathleen morning, noon, and night, and why on earth would he want to spend good money to do something like that? This is a good question and one for which I could not provide an equally good answer, and even if I could, what good would it do? Uncle Bill couldn’t hear what I was saying anyway.

    In any case, the wake went well; I am not sure how wakes do not go well, as the guest of honor at these affairs is not likely to get drunk, do a striptease, or tell dirty jokes about the other guests, but I am sure it must happen. Not doing well is part of the human condition, as two of my Aunt Cathleens can now verify, as they are not doing very well at all these days. And for those of you interested in such trivia, those plastic or metal tips at the end of your shoelaces are aglets. No, I do not know if anyone from Texas A&M was involved in the discovery of the aglet or whether the word originally meant a coed at that august institution; I just know that’s what the dictionary calls those tips now. Argue with Noah Webster, if you feel the need. He’s dead, too.

  • a civilian-mass audience


    I am back…I was lost and I am found…

    FROSTY…yes,YOU are our BILL
    and you are a Spartian…that means that you are strong and whatever is in you that bothers you
    We cam all help you to kick it out…

    I have some extra virgin olive oil…it’s coming your way…
    Just eat it with whatever you like…
    I have your address.

    Love you FROSTY…whatever you want …feel free …
    Remember, you have my cat to take care and yes,as PANOS said…that’s an order…

    Spread the love BURNIANS…we are ALL ONE…
    I will be back to check you Out…I need a day to recover…
    What not to love!
    …the journey of life is priceless!!!

  • I don’t think it’s got anything to do with backyards or parachuting into Somalia. If you believe your next door neighbor is the horneiest woman alive and you’re obsessed day and night with her as you spy on her from your behind your backyard fence there’s no point in going to Somalia because you were slightly outraged by the latest CNN news clip. You somehow get that neighbor to pose for you whatever it takes and you will probably create the best work you’ve ever shot. That doesn’t mean it is going to be any good because if there ain’t talent it I’ll just be the best load of crap up till now. But t least it will be an honest of load of crap.
    Obsessions and more obsessions. Sacrifices which nobody close to you will probably believe in until you find successes…

  • Justin…

    Have you ever thought of getting just a boring 8 till 5 job? I studied photography 4 years at college but I’ve got a 8 till 5 job. I love live and die for photography, it’s my obsession. But I want to choose what subjects I want to shoot. I’m free, very free. Of course I’d love to be in Arles arguing about who I’m going to nominate as the next Magnum nominee. But first things come first and I will turn 40 next September and theirs a wife and two kids at home…
    Just look straight in the mirror or sit down very quietly on your own and be realistic about your plans, intentions and dreams. Be honest because all dreams can come true very true,but you’ve got to be crazy very crazy in love for that dream. If you believe in it absolutely it will happen.

  • Frostfrog…

    I left a message on your blog wishing you the very very best.
    Right now I’m sure you’re seeing dark black raining clouds floating over your life and that beautiful sunshine is somehow missing. But listen all dark clouds in the end move on and the sun always somehow manages to shine one way or another. However sad, worried and tired you may feel just remember the sun ALWAYS rises with or without us…just be patient.
    35 months ago I really damaged the ligaments in my left foot. 2 years off work,a huge limp, loads ofincreadible of pain, worries and frustration and constantly on crutches. I was told I’d never be able to walk without a limp again and obviously run was out of all my dreams.
    Well last April I began to wake up at 4:30 am as I used when I ran. I’m very stubborn I don’t accept certain things very well. I started trying to run 1 km, when I finally managed this after 5 weeks, all in secret and loads of pain I went for 2 km. Then 3 km, 4 km, 5km, etc, etc. Now I’m up to 10 km running very fast and I’m only 2 minutes off my best runs. I can’t walk properly to save my life I still walk with a very noticeable limp, but I can run with ease and without pain. Why? I don’t know and I don’t really care too much. I love running probably as much as photography because it makes me feel very free.
    So you see, everything which looks awfully bleak right now will probably turn out extremely well. But just think positive and close your eyes and imagine you’re feeling perfect and all is well. Our mind can create magic. It worked for me.

  • As Ted Nugent quite rightly said…

    “Do you want to feel good, or do you want to do good?”

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