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….”

  • I was surprised there wasn’t more talk here about Outer Banks. I get that it’s not remotely edgy, but I think it illustrates an important part of who David is and the photography is, of course, excellent. This one, I think, is great in that timeless kind of way.

    And for Jim Powers to keep silent after the way he constantly bitches and moans about anything that is the least bit edgy is a bit mysterious. Isn’t this the kind of thing you approve of, Jim?

  • http://instagr.am/p/PCWD4zhrRt/

    ON THE ROAD TO MEXICO CITY, going to visit Frida…
    See you all in a week… If you really miss me (lol),
    check mi Instagramones cavrones!!!
    Mucho love …
    Happy new month everyone!!!
    ok gotta go! Agave Elixir waiting:)

  • “Bridges to the island were not constructed until the 1930s and the only form of transport on or off the islands until then was by boat, which kept them cut off from much of the mainland.”

    So says the BBC, which ought to know better, dammit! If there’s no bridge to the mainland and your only way on or off the island is by boat, then you are not just cut off from much of the mainland, you are cut off from the mainland, period. My apologies to all for the persnicketiness; it has been one of those days here in our happy little burg.

  • Odd that NatGeo (or BBC in their very short edit) doesn’t have my favorite pic from the published essay online. Guess they can’t give away everything.

    Funny, I got my POS rental car stuck here, briefly …

  • I bet there are a lot of brilliant photos from the OBX essay which didn’t get past the tight NatGeo edit which I hope one day will see the light.

  • a civilian-mass audience

    Happy Birthday PAULLLLLLLLL…!!!

    yeah, one day I hope I will stuck there too…:)))

    Enjoy the ride…MY BURNIANS!

  • CIVI!!!!

    Thank you very much! :)
    It feels rather odd turning 40 today :))

  • @ ALL:

    A small interview of Anders Petersen in Turkey, talking about “importants things” in photograhy.
    8 minutes. I don’t know him personally, but I can tell that is a someone very interesting and funny.


    I need to take one advice from it: Need to unplugged my brain more often when taking pictures.

    Have a nice week

  • Happy birthday Paul – you young man! But take heed – you will turn around three or four times and you’ll be 60! So shoot, shoot, shoot!

  • Frostfrog…

    Thank you! I will take heed and it’s something that’s been nagging my mind for a couple of weeks. How time flies past and unless you are 100% aware of the fact chances of doing something worthwhile photography wise run out.

  • Hey, it’s Brooklyn Carnival time again. I didn’t photograph it this year, except for a very few pics that the participants asked me to take. No, I went all in with video this year, which was particularly difficult this morning. It was far and away the best light of any year I’ve ever been and there were more bands and marchers than I’ve ever seen. There were maybe a few more photographers, but still none in the best spots where I spend most of my time. Man, I could really regret this and thought about ditching the video a lot throughout, but went ahead and stuck with the plan regardless.

    Anyway, I only took three still photos. Well, technically more than three but only three situations with the same people. Here they are. And here’s hoping I can salvage some video that I like at least 10 percent as much…


  • MW…

    The colours and hues and tones have nothing to do with your images fom last year. I bet it’s a mixture of different camera and another kind of light. Very interesting.

  • And this is my favorite image from my holidays. Linked to instagram but shot with my Panasonic GX1…

  • Paul, no the colors have more to do with my mood this morning. I developed those photos to go together, none of them would work in the overall project.

    You seem to have made a bit of a leap with your photography lately. Congrats.

  • MW…

    Thank you! The fact that I just turned 40 has been nagging my mind for a couple of weeks and changed my outlook on my photography. I’ve always had this sense of urgency to create images but now it’s been intensified. I’m not a big fan of printing BW prints from 35mm negatives but the fact that size wise 35mm cameras are light and easier to use has made me put down my medium format cameras. This way of thinking 6 months ago would of been impossible…

  • “And for Jim Powers to keep silent after the way he constantly bitches and moans about anything that is the least bit edgy is a bit mysterious. Isn’t this the kind of thing you approve of, Jim?”

    Didn’t realize there was a topic here about the story to comment under. It was a good story and the photos very DAH, which is also a good thing.

    As for “edgy” photos, they are now so common they aren’t edgy anymore. Shooting the darkest stuff possible seems to be the route photographers are taking to get noticed, though. Kittens, unless they are eviscerated and laying on the street, just don’t work anymore.

  • Sorry Jim no pussy but I found this on the street http://www.iamparanoid.org/

  • In a similar vein to Imants’ comment above, but without the work-unsafe illustration…

    You may not believe this, but in the years between 1960 and 1980 and even for some years afterwards, pubic hair was everywhere you looked here in this our Great Republic. One could scarcely open a magazine in that halcyon and very hirsute era without seeing pubic hair in such profusion that the confused reader had to check the magazine’s cover to make sure he was looking at the most recent issue of Playboy and not some religious tract featuring a gaggle of elderly rabbis debating some arcane point of Talmudic lore. The movies of the time were no better in this regard. A moviegoer in those years could hardly sit down with his bag of popcorn and start to eat it before the screen bombarded him with bush so thick that he half-expected to see images of grim machete-wielding conquistadors chopping their way through the foliage as they searched for the seven lost cities of gold. The television news covered story after story of the bush wars in Africa, especially those in Angola and Rhodesia, and John and Yoko appeared bush-visible on the cover of their album, Unfinished Music 1. Popular music proclaimed the glories of hair, Broadway presented Hair, the musical, with pubic hair front and center for all to see and emulate, and merkin manufacturers did a booming business in providing the pubiclly unendowed with a shaggy cover for their inadequacies.

    Now, a little more than a generation later, all of this has changed, changed utterly. Merkin manufacturers who looked forward to a furry future of ever-expanding market share have gone out of business or have gone into the life insurance business. Pubic hair, which once stood on the commanding heights of American life and culture, is now so out of fashion that many people under the age of twenty-five have never even heard of it. Those who have would no sooner display a trace of pubic hair in public than they would throw away their cellphones. It was not always thus. How pubic hair rose from a despised place in the American psyche to the heights of fame and fortune and then fell again as it lost the imagination of a generation is one of the tragic tales of the American experience.

    Before the turn of the late and utterly unlamented twentieth century, very few people in the United States had ever heard of pubic hair, and if they did it was certainly not a subject they would have brought up in public. Most people who had heard of it simply assumed that pubic hair was yet another example of European decadence that no decent American would ever be interested in, much less discuss with his wife. No, we had left that sort of thing behind us when the Pilgrims got on the Mayflower and headed west across the Atlantic to Massachusetts to found their shining city on the hill. In that shining city on the hill there was no room for, and certainly no toleration of, Papists, priests, freethinkers, or pubic hair, and after a few generations of official suppression pubic hair had slipped out of the Puritan consciousness in much the same way that the idea that Native Americans had a right to their land had.

    The Puritan suppression was so complete that more than a century and a half after the landing on Plymouth Rock, at the very founding of this our Great Republic, not one of the Founding Fathers brought the matter up in any way. Thomas Jefferson did not mention pubic hair in the Declaration of Independence, James Madison and Gouveneur Morris did not include the regulation of pubic hair among the enumerated powers of Congress in the Constitution, and Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton never mention the words at all in The Federalist Papers. Even among the voluminous literary and scientific works of Benjamin Franklin, works written over the better part of sixty years, there is no mention of pubic hair, not in the Silence Dogood letters, not in Poor Richard’s Almanac, nor in The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin either. Franklin’s Polly Baker says nothing at all about pubic hair, although the careful reader may suspect that she knows more about the subject than she is letting on, and even as distinguished a tome as Fart Proudly does not make so much as a passing reference to pubic hair. By the beginning of the 19th century, the memory of pubic hair had disappeared in the United States entirely.

    This began to change slightly in the mid-19th century in the great wave of immigration caused by the potato famine of 1845-1849. As the coffin ships disgorged more and more of Ireland’s wretched refuse on America’s shiny new floors, rumors swept through the nation that not only were the Irish lazy, dirty, vile, and Papist, but that they might think nothing of bringing filthy European notions like clericalism, socialism, and pubic hair here to the United States. The very idea shocked many good Protestants to the quick, and more than a few of these good citizens joined the anti-Catholic, anti-foreign, anti-pubic hair Know Nothing Party in order to protect their country and their families from what they saw as a gross indecency. These people need not have worried; in the end, pubic hair did not show its face in public, despite the testimonials of a few artists and other bohemians who’d spent some time in Europe and picked up strange ideas while they were there. For the average American, pubic hair was what it had always been: a subject so taboo, so redolent of Papism and European depravity that no decent person would ever bring the subject up and only the most hardened member of the demimonde would allow a customer to discuss in her presence.

    The veil of silence surrounding the subject began to fray slightly during the First World War. The war sent millions of healthy young America boys to France, and there were few places in France more popular with those boys than the Pigalle district of Paris, the notorious Pig Alley, as the doughboys called the area. Pigalle was Paris’s red light district, and in that district many a decent young American boy learned more than he’d ever known about a lot of things, including the French proclivity for cultivating pubic hair. By the time many of these young soldiers had returned to the United States, not only were they familiar with the idea of pubic hair, they could readily identify the most popular French styles such as the Imperiale, the Balbo, and the queue de singe. Despite this exposure, however, the returning doughboys could not interest their wives and sweethearts in pubic hair or the newest Parisian styles of bas-coiffure, and any interest there might have been was lost in the prolonged boom of the 1920’s. Pubic hair was too subtle a pleasure for that money crazed boom time, a time when the heart that did not break would turn to papier-mâché.

    If pubic hair was too subtle for the 1920’s, it was too expensive for anyone during the decade of the Great Depression, except for those malefactors of great wealth who could afford to indulge such proclivities and who were, in fact, the only people anywhere in the world who could. It was a bad decade for pubic hair. Spain and China, always the leading exporters, found their markets drying up first due to the bad economic times, and then by both countries’ descent into civil war and foreign invasion, respectively. France, the other great exporter, should have benefited from Spain and China’s troubles, but did not, because of the vicious internecine political battles between the Right and the Popular Front government of Leon Blum. And there were more troubles ahead.

    The troubles that made it next to impossible for these countries to export their pubic hair soon merged into the greatest conflict in world history. With France and most of China under foreign occupation, and Spain’s economy devastated by the civil war, it was impossible for a civilian anywhere, even in such neutral states as Ireland, Turkey, and Switzerland, to purchase pubic hair. In the belligerent nations, such as Great Britain, for example, the supply was so small that the government forbade its private ownership. Even in Germany, which had access to the French market and what was left of the Spanish market, the supply was so small and so precious that entire divisions of the Wehrmacht stood guard over the supply and the RAF constantly bombed the storage facilities in order to deny the Germans access to the material.

    After the war, the desire for normality and the beginnings of the Cold War dictated that pubic hair return to its status quo antebellum as one of life’s great unmentionable subjects. American society’s demand for a return to good old-fashioned American values, however, now stood in direct conflict with the lived experience of tens of thousands of young people, many of them veterans. In The Kinsey Report on Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, Dr. Kinsey showed that many men did not regard the cultivation of pubic hair being in any way abnormal. When The Kinsey Report on Sexual Behavior in the Human Female came out some years later, Dr. Kinsey’s finding that women felt more or less the same way about pubic hair as men did created a storm of controversy, with pastors denouncing Kinsey from their pulpits from one end of this our Great Republic to the other, and led inexorably to Lenny Bruce’s arrest at the hungry i in Greenwich Village on a charge of public indecency for using the word bush in a joke. The times, though, they were a-changin’.

    After two centuries of suppression and repression, pubic hair burst through into the public consciousness in the 1960’s. The happy alignment of the youth movement, the civil rights movement, and the antiwar movement created an atmosphere in which pubic hair was not only tolerated, but actually encouraged, especially by young people who wanted to reject what they saw as the outdated and wrongheaded mores of a corrupt and materialistic society. Fueled by the energy of the youth movement, pubic hair found its way into every area of the country, despite the best and largely Sisyphean efforts of social conservatives and J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI to suppress it. Pubic hair was everywhere young people were. During San Francisco’s 1967 Summer of Love, pubic hair was not only acceptable, but also virtually mandatory for any young person who wanted to be taken seriously. Two years later, in July of 1969, pubic hair reached the apotheosis of its acceptance in the United States. First, Neil Armstrong brought pubic hair with him to the moon on Apollo 11 and no one thought that this was in any way strange, and second, pubic hair finally went completely public at Woodstock, largely due to the intense storms that swept the festival site, storms my mother attributed to Neil Armstrong bringing all those rocks back from the moon with him.

    By the 1970’s, even such conservative organs as Playboy understood that it was no longer possible to pretend that pubic hair did not exist and began displaying it in prominent places in their magazines. The final arrival of a long delayed acceptance could not, however, hide the social problems that came with the intense cultivation of pubic hair. Many critics pointed out the spike in drug usage among people who also had pubic hair and the sudden explosion in the population of pubic crabs. These crabs, once endangered almost to the point of extinction, became a major nuisance to cultivators and motorists alike as their natural habitat returned to normal. Everyone agreed that something had to be done about the problem, but few ideas proved very practical and very few people wanted to go to the extreme that one small North Dakota town did, where the inhabitants set fire to great swatches of pubic hair and waited with shovels and baseball bats in hand for the crabs to come scurrying out. The ASPCA sued to stop the crab bashing, but the court threw the suit out, citing the town’s right to rid itself of social nuisances like crabs and Communists.

    The 1970’s, which began on a positive note for pubic hair, ended badly for it and other Seventies phenomena like disco and leisure suits. Once the thrill of the forbidden was gone, pubic hair became old-fashioned quickly, and then the Brazilians happened. Over the years, Brazilian swimwear manufacturers had managed to reduce the amount of cloth in Brazilian bikinis to a level that would not be enough to produce a good-sized men’s handkerchief in any other sweatshop. Despite the minimal outlay in costs and materials, Brazilian bikinis became a worldwide sensation, and all around the world it quickly became clear that the wild, untrammeled, Ansel Adams type forest of pubic hair would not do in a world where single strands of twine had become a fashion statement. To accommodate the new style, and in the face of intense opposition by many environmental groups, vast forests of pubic hair came crashing down, either by clear cutting or being dragged out, roots and all. The disaster, from an environmental point of view, was total, and those great forests remain to the green movement a symbol of pristine nature falling to the crassness of human style.

    That style is with us yet, and the places where pubic hair once grew in abundance now resemble an endless vista of strip mall parking lots. Pubic hair has vanished from the scene with a completeness that almost defies description. Occasionally, one hears of it in a humorous context, as when a scoutmaster recently fought off a rabid beaver that attacked a den of Boy Scouts on a camping trip. There have been sporadic efforts here and there to revive the pubic hair craze, but they’ve all failed due to a lack of public interest. The devotees of pubic hair need not fear. Eventually, it will be back. Few things are ever really lost; styles come and go, and after a generation or two, they return once again, almost as if they had never gone. There is no new thing under the sun, as the Preacher says in Ecclesiastes; there is only the old returning with a new name. It is ever thus.

  • Jim Powers: “Kittens, unless they are eviscerated and laying on the street, just don’t work anymore.”

    Damn, Jim. You make me feel lost. I’ve had a unique, fun, challenging and interesting career played out before an appreciative but very small audience and at a certain point in the 1990’s, I realized I was headed for an old age of poverty for both my wife and I – BUT, I believed I had an ace in the hole, one that I could convert into real financial support at the end – my cat work.

    In fact, this is what I was going to make my first iPad ap book on – Cats. Cats from all across Alaska, from the Southeast Panhandle to the farthest north Arctic neighborhood on the continent proper, from up and down the Yukon River and the Kuskokwim, too; from the Aleutian Islands to a porch from which one can sit and on a clear day actually see Russia; from Prince William Sound to Bristol Bay.

    Now you tell me this doesn’t work anymore????? That I am soon to be reduced to an old of poverty and misery????

    Whoa, whoa, whoa is me!!!!

    And to make matters worse, I have stayed entirely away from Instagram! Just one more thing for me to spread my time and energy on and now it turns out it is the one thing that really matters.

    Double triple whoa is me!!!!!!!!!!

  • Bill, it’s woe is me, not whoa is me, unless you’re a runaway horse, I suppose. Then it’s whoa for the horse and woe for you if you’re along for the ride.

  • a civilian-mass audience


    I would like to receive reports from our BURNIANS,KATIEEEEEEEEE…in Costa Rica…ASAP…

    Here in Grecolandia…we don’t have drugs,food,work …but we might have a Formula1 circuit:)))
    oime…only in the land of the free @#$%&

    VIVA BURN!!!

    please,keep reporting…I love you ALLLLLLLLLLLLL…

  • Whoa, Akaky!

    Having growin up Mormon, a culture in which “Woe is me,” is quoted daily, and in the west, sometimes right in the midst of cowboy culture even having worked for a short spell as an erstwhile cowboy myself, I am very familiar with “whoa” and horses.

    The older I get, the more I make this kind of silly mistake. “Whoa, frog, stop it. Woe, woe, woe! Whoa!”

  • Frostfrog, do not worry. With kittens out of the running, you can now focus your efforts in your declining years on compositing Google Street photos while basking in the approving glow of your monitor.

  • An interesting behind-the scenes look at the making of photo book I hadn’t heard of: “Sweet Life” by Ed van der Elsken.


  • Jim – First, you rob me of all hope, then you restore – brilliantly. And the brighter my monitor, the more brilliant my future. :)

  • Akaky, end of the Bush era. Thanks for pointing that out.

  • You’re welcome. I was very fond of the Bush era myself, but all things must pass, I suppose.


    Many thanks for that link to the story on Ed van der Elsken and “Sweet Life” which I too had never heard of… I would really love to see the whole book… just the few pictures from Hong Kong and Japan have me deeply intrigued.

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