on the edge….


I have never been one to follow any “routine” for long. I always want to get as close to the creative edge as I can. The status quo tends to get boring quickly. So when asked recently to participate in the upcoming Magnum Nudes project, my curiosity was immediately piqued since I had never photographed a nude in my life. Yes, I shoot lots of women, yet always the pictures were about moment and eyes and a certain sensuality, however all of my portraits were of women fully clothed. The assumption from my Magnum colleagues of course was that I would do well with a female nude if I gave it a good try. Even with almost direct orders from Abbas (who is running the nude project) “bring me a nude from Brazil”…

Yet alas, my dearest women friends said NO. Absolutely not. My orders from Magnum were one thing, the mantra from my closest amigas was different. They said “David you must shoot a nude dude. Be challenged. Do it”.

I was totally lost. Had no idea how or what to do. Was even a bit panicked by the idea. It simply was not what I do. However, with a little help from my friends, I did it. A small piece of this work above from my rooftop in New York. I knew nudes were not easy. I remembered this from my drawing class at school. Even skimpy bikini shots from Rio it was absolutely very very difficult to get a real photograph. Sure pleasing to the eye, but to go beyond the obvious takes some work. A male nude seemed almost impossible for me. So my personal status quo was indeed challenged. So to the edge I went.

Challenges of all kinds are popping up all around me. I have three new books to publish fairly soon. One is easy. “Tell It Like It Is” will be republished soonest. “Off For A Family Drive” will take a giant leap forward with my upcoming one month drive across America, and the other one is a secret for now. My only interest in photography right now centers on books, collector prints, and mentoring. If I can possibly afford it, I will take no assignments. I have done enough assignments. I will work harder than ever, yet only on my own projects. Even my assignments in years past always had my stamp on them. Personalized them as much as possible. Yet now is the time to go back to my roots and be 100% pure on everything I do.

This will of course affect Burn. I have been racking my brain trying to figure out how to keep Burn going and yet devote myself at the same time to my own work. BurnBooks will have a very high priority, with books coming from established photographers and the emerging alike, my formula here. Our success with limited edition books takes us into a whole new arena never imagined by me when I started my Road Trips blog a few years ago (when was that?). The changing times, daunting for some, seems like nothing but new opportunities for me. I have always refused to wallow in any kind of self pity. The publishing industry has changed for sure, yet I never felt as some do that “it is all over”. No way. Sure the old way is gone which is natural evolution. The new way is surely better for those who see the light.

Burn Magazine from now on will do essays in a different way. I am dropping our Submissions button. Our current submissions system no longer serves a purpose. It creates lots of wasted time.

New essays will now come from nominations from top editors, gallerists, professors of art/journalism, workshop teachers, and those of us on Burn just being diligent talent scouts. All essays will have a mentor/sponsor/nominator attached. A statement from each mentor will be a part of the essay in addition to the artist statement. I have ideas to go well outside of photography as well. Yet that is discussion for another post.

I am at this moment in Santiago, Chile for my opening at Galería 64. I enjoyed the opening night, the show was brilliantly hung, and yet for me discovering about 6 new Chilean photographers has been the highlight. I go to enough photo events around the planet every year to gather more than enough original work, and whatever I miss can be found by the aforementioned. We will be way more involved with every essay published here on Burn. This will do two things. Give added value to the readers here, and shift some of the responsibility to my peers in the craft. The proverbial win win.

You will not see this change most likely for a few weeks. We have a nice lineup of essays already prepared and ready to go. Yet I honestly think you will like the change. At the same time we are trying to figure out how to afford a new web design which will feature our amazing archive here. Right now readers really have no sense of our deep deep archives built over the last four years. Our archives now are hard to search. This will change. With these changes Burn will go from blog to library. For sure also Burn 03, another magazine in print, will be born.

For those of you who are serious photographers, Burn should provide a new opportunity. For those of you who prefer to simply have a look and read, the content will be deeper.

As I go to my personal edge, I am, as usual, taking you along with me. When one goes to the edge there is of course the danger of falling off. Going too far. When the nude dude was on my roof, severe storm warnings were in effect. My normally summertime crowded rooftop went empty. Most ran for cover. Only three of us said “let’s do it”.

A glass of wine sitting in the middle of the table is boring. A glass moved to the edge is interesting. All of us just need to know the fine line between total stupidity and creative danger. Walking that line is the essence of LIFE. We only get one shot.

Is anything sweeter than finding that line?


-david alan harvey-


183 Responses to “on the edge….”

  • A glass falling of the table is visually interesting too, but I would drink the wine first.

  • David,
    That image is evocative and dreamlike. Thank you for offering us that insight into your creative process. I was a bit surprised to hear it was difficult to find women in Brazil to pose nude. It seems, especially from your work, that the culture you surround yourself with is perfectly comfortable in their skin and isn’t intimidated by a camera. Perhaps a spontaneous nude is more doable than a requested one?

    As far as the submission process for Burn I have to say the proposed changes are a bit disconcerting. Will Burn go from being accessible to any photographer with a vision to those with a vision AND industry connections? It sometimes seems the hardest part about “making it” in this field is the social aspect, and the randomness of knowing the right person at the right time. Will there be a list of said editors/gallerists with nomination access, or will it be a matter of photographers contacting lots of people in hopes that one of them is “in”? Also, those photographers who are more advanced in their careers/contacts than others would have a leg up nominations, no? I would love to hear your thoughts on this, and I hope it does not come across as presumptuous. I just love Burn and its message and would love to see that continue!


  • DAH –

    Cant wait for the changes! I think it is a necessary step for this developing (online) magazine. Imagine the work that will be shown if the sources come from many different places! Although my chances of my work getting on burn is not as likely, it pushes self motivation through the inspiration of the new and possibly better images. I cant wait for a new book, Based on a True Story was one of best books I’ve bought in a while!


  • From burn to burn books now that is a great step especially as I am totally biased towards the limited edition book. Sure I miss the helter skelter of that old burn from the past but………………

  • David great to see that your priorities are your own endevours

  • I loved this shot when I first saw it…Now its full frame its even better…I said then it resonated of Chagall… Now I know it is…that flight of fancy that distinguishes your work David its here in this… genius…

    I think you should stick to male nudes for a while if they come out as even half as interesting as this! Grand photo, grand visions…

  • David, when I learned you were participating in this, I tried to picture what you might produce and saw something along the lines of what Abbas ordered.

    What a surprise! A most impressive one. And how odd to see such an unusual, provocative, mind-challenging image set against the edge of such a familiar scene. Who in the world would ever conceive of such an image, except David? Art all the way.

    And David, sometime after I returned from my first round of surgery in early July, you left a comment here telling me to expect an email from you, “soonest.”

    I was very curious about that email, but I know how busy you are and a lot of things changed with me after I encountered so many setbacks and complications and wound up in a situation where, thanks to pain and drugs,I found myself incapable of producing material I had earlier thought I could reasonably accomplish.

    But a week ago last Thursday, my surgeon removed the anti-blowout brace he had implanted in my gut. The pain eased dramatically. I quit the painkillers. My body is healing, my head is clearing, each day I feel better than the day before and in the past week I have done what I said I would do, three or four times over. At one point, I pushed the entire package aside and headed off into an entirely new direction on the same theme, but then came back to the original and finished in a blend of both.

    Don’t worry about that email you were going to send – but do look for an email from me, either late tonight or early tomorrow. It will point you to my new package.

    I agree completely – you need to concentrate more of your time and effort on your own work, but first please give the email I am about to send and the work it will point you to just a little bit of your time.

  • …it will point you to my new package…

    Damn! How do I make such errors? I did proofread, too. But I read what I thought I had wrote, not what I had actually written.

  • Frostfrog / Bill – thanks so much for a good laugh on this monday morning! Please continue to feel better every day!

    David – great photograph and an even better big picture – thanks for that & looking forward!

    Big hug to you and all, D.

  • burn 3.0 – very good.

    yes yes the edge.
    when i began photographing it was as much to know how it felt to be in many of the situations presented in respected work as to communicate and present a perspective..
    told a friend i wanted an interesting life and to experience as much as possible, so as to outgrow my parents and their preoccupations.. avoid their suburban nightmare.. teenagers, eh?

    after a while the difficulty is to settle-back rather than get to the edge.. the later becomes the comfort zone pushing the former further out of reach.

    having a young son helps :o)

  • a good moment of temporal-stretch beats any drug..
    small tugs of panic-induced calm, when the world momentarily slows down.

  • Love the roof shoot, David! This assignment from Magnum will be a “piece of cake” to Antoine D’Agata.

    Will write tonite about “ON THE EDGE” post. Gotta go.

    FaceBook “told me” that is Roberta anniversary, so -> Parabens pelo seu aniversario!!


  • This all sounds brilliant and I love how things never come to a standstill round here. Never get a chance to start getting bored and this is one of the strongest points about Burn.
    Viva Burn 3.0!

  • David…

    Is there still a chance for some of us to be mentored by you? Walking on the edge is tough enough as it is and if you’ve never been there it’s really like walking in the darkness stumbling all the way. I’m very serious about the mentoring and it’s not something I take lightly, knowing it requires dedication and time on your behalf.

  • Davis,

    Change is a good thing…puts one on the edge and makes things fresh.
    All great news except that most likely we will not see you around commenting as often. You will surely be missed! but who cannot rejoice in what you have decided to do? well…what you are already doing?!?
    You might not comment here as often going forward but most likely we will see more of your work and that will be fantastic! that to me it’s better than a bunch of words….

  • ooopsss! David….not Davis ;-)

  • Oh…before I forget….what about the “burn diary” idea?
    How will that fit with what is to come?


    it should fit in perfectly…thanks for asking…do not worry we have not forgotten it..i have just been a band on the run…coming home tomorrow….(i think) ha ha

  • “Bring me a nude from Brazil…”

    I’ve always wanted to have that kind of power. Ah well, too late for me now, I suppose.

  • PAUL

    of course ….i am not changing my life, i am simply restructuring….i will be looking for totally dedicated photographers to mentor…discovering for me is discovering…either a new project for myself or becoming an integral part of another creative person’s development…i cannot go into this anymore now because i am being kicked out of my room, must change to another and the place is a mess…ahhhh alas creative thoughts interrupted buy REALITY..damn…ha ha…back home tomorrow..back here tomorrow

    cheers, david

  • Looking at this picture reminds me that there are people in the world who do not have to remove feces filled Dunkin Donuts coffee cups from the premises because the janitor doesn’t come in till four pm. Still, you have to admire the guy’s ass-eye coordination; he managed to fill the cup without any spillage on either side. He’d have won a gold medal if there was an Olympic event in this sort of thing.

  • Patricio…
    Facebook tells “30” ..Shit…That’s right! How that happened so fast?
    Obrigada Patricinho..very sweet of you

  • Miss Roberta, that right! Many congratulations on your twenty-nineteenth birthday! And many happy returns of the day and the number!

  • a civilian-mass audience

    ROBERTAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA !!!!!!!!!!!!…Happy birthdayyyyyyyy…
    We love YOU!!!

    oime…I am on the edge…I am trying so hard to check the photo…
    Where are my 3D glasses when I need them…?:)))

    May the party begin…MR.HARVEY…geez,YOU ARE UNSTOPPABLE !


    P.S FROSTY,no worries…you might be slightly dyslexic…it’s all good/sending hugs:)

  • This image is pulled straight from my subconscious – don’t know how you got inside there , but you have rendered it beautifully!

  • David, another good evolution and I agree with Imants on both his points. All good things evolve, or pass. Good to see Burn evolve, again. The more I see the traditional publishing models struggle or fail, the outlets take increasingly cynical attitudes toward their content creators, and now, the evil empire buy its way into the archive of collective history while shoveling its latest weapons systems onto the world, the more I appreciate Burn and its egalitarian approach. Wnile you may remove the submit button I know Burn will always be open to the best work. Looking forward to it.

    I really do think this is a window on the future when the artists get their collective heads on straight, organize, create, publish and leave the traditional outlets to their spinning plates of perfect pasta in high key bokeh.


  • I join in the happy chorus – Happy birthday, Roberta!

  • Civi, Akaky, Panos, Bill and dear Burnians who shared some love also by facebook… Somehow, in your own way, you have this capacity of making me feel good, or simply better. Just a feeling to be embraced in my special day, and provoked by you who I don’t even know in person. That’s the magic, the gift, the words, gestures and consideration that are never lost on me. Im profoundly grateful to each one of you for making the Aug 20 th a happier day ..Love..

  • @ ROBERTA:

    30, ..Shit…That’s right! How that happened so fast? Think about this: Shit happens!! :-) JAJA


  • 30? Geez; I turn 50 in February. And that sure went fast… But the way I look at it is that at least I’m lucky to be still kicking at (nearly) 50….

  • I turned 50 four years ago and I’m still trying to reconcile myself to the idea.

  • Regarding the new burn order, sounds like a plan. I don’t really have an opinion. Just roll with the changes.

    Regarding the rooftop photo, as I said, it’s difficult to make serious choices after just quickly flicking once through a card. I spend a lot of time obsessively looking at my photos, slowly paring them down until I am as sure as I can be about my choices. That said, the one you show here was not my favorite, not even close. I’ve been wondering if it’s yours, or if you are holding back the best one(s) or if, perhaps, you’re shy about showing the full monte here on burn?

    Regarding the video discussion under Gladdy’s essay, here’s another one of my little multimedia thingies. It illustrates some of the points I always try to make in these discussions.

    Red, White, and Blue from Michael Webster on Vimeo.


    Happy Birthday!!!
    I am coming a bit late to the party, but my congratulations are heartfelt.
    For me, 29 was an interesting year of transition and preparation for one of the great adventures of my life which began when I turned 30. 29 was also the year I was able to buy my first real up-to-date SLR camera and three good lenses, and started seriously taking pictures. And the last year I saw my father alive.


    Seems like you could come up with a pretty good riff on “Fifty-four forty or fight!” if you put half a mind to it. It’s too late to give you my advice to the young…”Never turn fifty!” 50 was easily the most wrenching, disorienting, disappointing, and disturbing year of my life so far… and it’s been pretty much all downhill since then!


    (Somewhere in mid flight between Santiago and the US East Coast…? Man, that must be one long and tiring flight…) Having never actually used the “Submissions” button on BURN myself, I guess I have no valid grounds for objecting to its disappearance along with the other changes in the works, though I confess to feeling a twinge of the kind of reservations Danny Ghitis expressed above.

    But BURN is your baby to do with as you feel you should and must… no one can fault you for not being extremely helpful, encouraging, and generous to up-and-coming photographers… we all need to change and move on… I am looking forward to the “BURN Diary” and some of the other changes you allude to.

    Welcome back to the land of total political insanity… I hope you can tune most of it out. The level of political discourse in America has reached a new low (no mean feat!) but also a new irrelevance given the sheer weight of money that now has effectively removed ordinary citizens from whatever access to the levers of power they once might have had.

  • As for the changes to Burn; it’s all evolution after all. The idea of producing limited edition books etc is probably a wise one.

  • My concerns are similar to Danny’s. One of the great benefits is that Burn provided an overt outlet for people to see work. An outlet where any photographer could feel that they had contact with the editor. When I went to New York to try to meet with photo editors a few years ago, the biggest hurdle was getting contact information, then to get them to call me back. It seemed the editors were trying to place barriers to those of us not already on their radar. The only reason the WSJ called me back, was that the editor thought I was the Brian Frank from Los Angeles that won a pulitzer for them. Once she found out I was a different Brian Frank, she was suddenly out of town that week.

    Like Sidney said, Burn is your baby. I can only speculate that the wasted time is from dealing with the deluge of submissions; a product of the openness of the call for submissions and of the success of the site. I can only further speculate that the site’s success and the deluge have come hand in hand. How else do you find the nuggets of greatness, if not through rummaging through mediocrity?

    In short, I am concerned that Burn will become like the WSJ, and those not already in the loop will be overlooked. I have faith that you, and the rest of the Burn staff have thought this through, and that the plans keep those thoughts in mind. If not, please take a moment to consider that issue.

    Cheers and safe travels.

  • David,

    thank you for this picture and the story around. I love this picture for many reasons!

    But I wonder, how did you come to this result? What has been the creative process?
    Had you a precise idea how the picture would look like in the end, before going to the roof with the model?
    How much of the scenario was written before, and how much was about ‘seeing’ the unplanned as it unfolds?
    Did you try and shoot many other locations/models/scenario on this ‘assignment’ until you found the right one?

  • I would much rather see this blog more about DAH’s curation of the “best” (in his opinion) photography out there, photos he discovers rather than solicits. The whole emerging photographer thing has always seemed a forced construct to me, as so many who ended up here were really not “emerging.” Other essays seemed to be posted simply because they were provocative.

    As for Magnum does nudes, the result seems to me to be a strained commercial idea. A poor fit for Magnum. Not because they are shooting nudes, but for the same reason I’ve been disappointed by most of the “Postcards from America” concept. The result seems more “make work” and forced than the best efforts of Magnum photographers.

  • I am in total agreement with your second point Jim.
    …but maybe to survive as an entity, thats how the game has to be played now.

  • David Lynch, on being an artist

  • I have the same concerns as Danny Ghitis and Brian Frank.

    Thanks for the video link Paul. I love Stephen Shore’s book Uncommon Places.

  • I love blues, always have but why does every single movie documentary based on the American South always have a slide guitar as a soundtrack. I find it kind of devalues the power of the blues, turns it into something lighthearted and puerile.

  • Tonyhayesimages…

    You may find some gems in this video :)…

  • Paul, “…why does every single movie documentary based on the American South always have a slide guitar as a soundtrack?”

    Because playing Dixie and The Bonnie Blue Flag in the background suggests a certain ambivalence with the verdict of April 1865.

    Sidney, yes, it has been all downhill ever since, and I would do the 54-40 or fight, but I didn’t like turning 40, either, although the statue of the pig balancing on its nose was pretty cool, I thought. And the fighting thing is out; making a fist that means business is still not possible for me. I can take the caps off of bottles of Diet Pepsi, which may not be important to you, but it definitely is to me.

    Brian, going through my multiple submissions is not rummaging through mediocrity; it is trolling through crap. Speaking of which, we have a suspect in our Dunkin Donuts crapper caper. There’s not much we can do to him at the moment, but he seems to be using our bathrooms to smoke crack in and so we are keeping an eye on him now. Why he doesn’t use the toilets instead of a coffee cup is a Rosicrucian mystery.


    that IS the way it will go….nominations, but more involvement by me….


    who said it was difficult to find women in Brazil to pose nude? i did not say that at all…i said my women friends who are around me told me that i MUST shoot a male nude…for creative reasons…..that a female nude would be too easy…not sure how you read that wrong….i will also do women nudes for this project….in Brazil or wherever….

    you have an equally skewed vision of how great essays are published…a view held by many, but not a view i share at all…not at all…a very poor excuse if you think you need some kind of industry connection to make it as a photographer…….if you shoot a great essay for sure 100% i will see it…i swear i do not know of any great young photographer who is somehow going unnoticed…no way….

    we will be looking for nominations from editors and gallerists and teachers, but i did not say that we would not be looking!!

    i said WE would be looking as well…seems you are skim reading amigo!!! this is part of the problem..people jump to wrong conclusions..

    i will be looking more than ever!! i just discovered for example a few great photogs in Chile than i never would have seen in submissions…i am going to make it MORE of a point to be looking at portfolios etc….i travel a good bit and am even crossing this country soonest on my own family shoot..if there is anyone in this “industry” who is accessible it is me…i am only one person, yet if you cannot get to me, then you will not have the fortitude to get to anyone…

    yet the idea that “acceptance” is somehow egalitarian just is never the case, never has been the case, and never will be the case in any venue in the world nor throughout the history of the world…everybody gets a chance, but not everyone deserves a spot…how could that be?

    we will have at least three picture editors here on Burn…with emails…you can find us…easy…we are looking for your great work Danny…we are dedicated to finding great essays never seen before…we are not trying to get out of work, we are trying to go work …to work and develop the best…

    we receive almost no submissions from the commentators here…the ones who do submit, who take the time to work with us, we have published of course…and we will continue to do so…

    my suggestion is: go shoot….stop thinking too much about when where and how it is going to be published…everyone i know at Magnum, NatGeo, and here at Burn is waiting for this brilliant work….

    thank you ….

    cheers, david

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