Summer of 13


I feel this morning just a wee twinge of fall in the air here in the Outer Banks of NC. Oh yes it is still summer, but I can feel and smell what’s coming. I won’t think winter yet of course but the change of seasons always makes one think things over a bit. Reflect.

The summer of 2013 was all reflection in my case. I took most of the summer “off”, stayed home, rode my bike, made prints in the darkroom, and had a summer I have not had since I can remember. Yup the summer of childhood. One of those summers we all tend to leave behind once “responsibility” strikes and we must all go to work leaving behind childhood fantasies and dreams.

Pretty funny I guess, yet I never bought totally into giving up the fantasy. For sure I did learn to accept at least some responsibility in life, yet I never could get those summer dreams out of my head. I have been hanging on to my summer dreams summer passion summer romance the whole damn time! I shouda coulda woulda followed all the rules I guess, but on the other hand the “authorities” have not yet come knocking on my door and arrested me for arrested development, ha ha.

Did I get away with the crime of never moving totally into adulthood? I think maybe I did. I am rolling down the highway of life and I don’t think they can catch me now, and I ain’t looking back.

Does this mean no reality at all? Of course not. I have had to deal with all the same realities as everyone else. Yet just keeping a piece of my bicycle dreams alive all along has allowed me to escape the doldrums of aging that I see so many people living. And I do not mean “old” people. I see “young” folks who lose the dream at 30. Or even before. Logically I suppose it is an age thing, yet I am not so sure.

What I see is that the dream can live or die at any age.

Photography for sure has saved me. With pictures I could always go somewhere all by myself and where nobody else could go or had ever been. A singular adventure. I discovered this at an early age, and well here I am with the same damned dream the same wonderment the same excitement of freezing a moment in time. So either I have gone nowhere all along or I am living in my imagination or maybe both. On the other hand, who cares or why the hell not?

Yesterday for example, I could not stop seeing pictures everywhere all the time. They seemed to be falling out of the sky and all I had to do was reach out and grab them. Nothing at all difficult to do. Gifts. So easy it was a little disconcerting actually. Now not everyday is like that, yet I do seem to have a lot of days like that. No idea why really. Oh no, I do not mean that everyone else is going to think I had a great day of shooting, but I don’t care about everybody else. It worked for me. And for sure that is the state of mind I try to get those I mentor to see and feel and believe and live.

After the success of (based on a true story) I had about 5 minutes of “job well done” pleasure, and then quickly moved into the space where one must be to move forward. We all need to move ahead in exactly the same way after success as we do with failure. “Failure” means you must get your act together and do something. “Success” means exactly the same damned thing. Actually it is even harder after success.

Now I am sketching all over the place. No rush. I am shooting some medium format b&w film, going crazy hourly with my iPhone, and playing with several different digi “serious real cameras”.. All work. While at some points in my occasional forays into “adult behavior” I did tend to lean linear, I am now thinking that a smorgasbord has every right to have a place at the table as a meat and potatoes dinner. Why would I let a camera or a technique or anything at all get in the way of just raw and fierce and passionate? Even if I am “wrong” it is all part of sketching. A process. And no way around it. This stuff cannot be “decided”.

I went off the straight documentary rails with (based on a true story). I hope nobody thought I could ever come back. How could I?

So now I am just a “boy on a bike”. Not a bad place to be.

As I sometimes do here on Burn, I ask a question of this audience.

My question this morning to you as I have my third coffee is: How do YOU set yourself free? You must have an answer.



(photograph above shot on Pea Island in the Outer Banks NC of “Tonico” Monteiro and Alexandra Lettrich)


95 Responses to “Summer of 13”

  • then there is instant oats

  • The discerning eye finally gains folklore status

  • “…and eventually one cannot see the forest for the trees.

    The diluted image ……………”

    Imants, I am certain that for one, your words will be true. Yet, another may see that forest in new wqys, observe details he had previously been unaware of… a spider perhaps, eating a fly in a web spun up in the high branches of a tall tree.

    This one might climb up that tree to get a better look at that spider, reach it, and then, from this high perch, look out through a gap in the high branches and see the whole forest as he never seen it before.

  • Gustavo Aragon Garcia

    David i love de way you write with the keiboard and the way you write with the light

  • Thank you, Frostfrog, for saying what I am feeling but could never have found the words to say. I have had more fun with photography in these past two days than I have had in the past two years. I had gotten so caught up with working on projects, that I had forgotten about the wonder of simply seeing and clicking. There is something so freeing about removing all expectations, relevance and desire for recognition. To me, Instagram is all about photography for photography’s sake.

    And I am loving connecting with both new and old friends here on Burn. I’ve missed you folks! Thanks for welcoming me home.


  • most spiders see Mr Fly Spray the trees will be long gone replaced by sterner stuff

  • ……..sterner stuff like Mr Face Book where albums will allow users to create a gallery that can be used by as many as 5000 friends, each of whom can upload up to 20000 photos in a single day

  • Yes, Patricia. You are welcome and I agree. I just got home from taking my wife to the fair and it was so much fun to post the experience live as it happened, and then quickly repost to my blog. And yes, because I am using a very limited tool, it causes me to look at things differently. I’ve been very busy all day and still haven’t made it to your feed, but I will start following you before I go to bed…

    …Imants… sometimes it is good to lighten up for a minute or two… I know you are a talented and very serious photographer/image maker, but give it a try sometime… it just might give you a new sense of freedom… for a minute or two…

  • not talented, not serious, freedom from what?

  • “freedom from what?”

    Excellent question…


    yes, i agree…the sheer fun of photography is definitely an Instagram thing…did not know you were on it, will take a look and follow…


    you amigo are ON Instagram!!

    why is photography on Instagram necessarily “nothing special”? sure, might not be , but might be as well..

    after all it is just a platform…yet in your pocket and easy to see at all times…does not preclude anything else done with the same or other images…i have a few pictures that were on Instagram that are also limited edition collector prints on a museum wall right this minute….so what’s the prob?

    if people feel good about shooting and sharing then why not? could be art or could be new baby or could be what if there is a lot of junk out there on Instagram? one quickly learns to pick and choose or who or why to follow.. i would call that freedom!

    moreover i PROMISE a good book to come out of BurnDiary….no bullshit…a book built before your eyes in real time…

    hey my trees and shrubs are growing like hell after your fertilizing advice….come visit and you will see what i mean….and well there are a lot of trees “out there” yet some are more special than others…we choose the ones to make special..right?

    cheers david

  • I never stated that I was anti instagram that it was a non platform Yep photography is heading towards a better space “nothing special” just another form of communication and now it can be a language of the masses no longer the realm of the few. No more bringing in strangers for family portraits, it is now a daily occurrence along with instant oats. Historic essays are created at a drop of a hat, weddings parties are augmented realities, just another day.

  • the photographic Kolkhoz is alive now if only the tractor divers were as astute

  • Hey Imants,

    Care to share that fertilizing advise??!?!
    I need it….which reminds me….gardening and been outdoors is another way to feel free

  • How do YOU set yourself free?


    but…one of the myriad problems you realize just a week later, is that you’re in a bigger “jail” than a week before. therefore that “trick” aint really working that well .:(

  • now fall is coming, I am waiting for your new photos form home David. Full of energy, emotions of people and nature. However it’s sounds; I hope you stay in home. I like the boy’s on a bike pictures and texts.
    How do I set myself free? well I’ll give you an answer when I find it :D

  • Hey Pat, already congratulated u in Look3 but i think its good to repeat it: big Congrats sista :)

  • Everyone loves Instagram…I really should get myself a cellphone and see if it works for me…I wonder if anyone makes a cellphone that can only make outgoing calls. Seems to me that there’d be a big demand for something like that.

  • I like the idea of tractor divers, though.


    English is one of the common languages….everyone speaks a language..yet how many poets, playwrights, novelists are there? no such thing for “flat line” with a language or any human endeavor imo…some will rise above….human nature…a common language only means some uncommon spikes will occur…the flip side of course when there were few photographers, so many were merely technicians….so we gain we lose we move forward…

  • How do I set myself free? By choosing not to live in America. I left for Bucharest, Romania where people appreciate culture, good food and aesthetics unlike in America. In the US, I always fall into a deep depression. In Europe, I get to live a romantic life! Here I feel free, outside of the American imperial bubble and the lie that is the “American dream”. The US controls the world through continued mass killing. I’ll never understand how America is called the “greatest country in the world” and the “the last superpower”. There’s no free healthcare! I am unclear on what you get from living in the US?! Bad food and obese people?


    freedom from preconceived ideas…freedom from cumbersome gear….lots of types of freedom…..we refer to a bird in flight as “free” is not necessarily “from” something….having freedom does not mean you just got out of prison…

  • tractor divers are the Kolkhoz photography fraternity that dives under the old photographic regime a bit like the save the forest mob.

  • Take Shakespeare out of the education system and he no longer rises to the top………… Then again many are happy with the poet, playwright, novelist that resides within themselves even if it has no great value or useful to others.

  • Carlo it is all quite simple, one sees a tree, shrub flower etc and want to fertilise/water what they see.
    What needs the goodness and nourishment in the root system near the drip lineslow release trace elements are best in suburban gardens. Sandy soil needs a fair amount unless they are native to the particular area, heavy clay/compressed soils usually suffer from water-logging so good free drainage is needed.

  • David, I agree. You won’t find any argument from me, now or in the past, stated or implied, on that statement…

    Although I was in prison once for two days… in Juarez…not jail…prison… when everything got cleared up and I got out, the feeling of freedom sure was wonderful. It meant something a little different than it had meant three days before.

    And that was after just two days…

  • Imants,
    Thanks for illustration!
    Awesome…I will have to try it.
    Having some trouble with recently planted fruit trees.
    My soil is sandy….
    I think they are bouncing back.
    I started using worm castings.

  • Akaky

    Actually, you don’t need a cellphone. Get an ipod touch, does everything the iphone does except make phone calls.

  • Or, Akaky, if you don’t need a cellphone, a mini jukebox, a portable game console, or a pocketable computer; if you are only interested in making photographs, you could get a camera that is only a camera. A camera that is only a camera does everything a cell phone camera does, but it is made specifically for the task of making photographs. It’s like if you only need a knife for filleting fish. A Swiss Army knife may have a tool for that, but you would do better with a Rapala knife.

    But for those of us who need a phone and like having a computer handy, it’s nice that they come with decent cameras as well.

    As for Instagram, I am judgmental about a lot of things, but that is not one of them. It seems like one of the more harmless forms of entertainment. If people like it, that’s great. Doesn’t seem to be for me though. Last night I biked down to Manhattan Beach for sunset, something I do fairly regularly. I rarely take pictures there, but since I have a new camera, I found myself doing a few experiments. Then I remembered I have a phone camera and thought I’d take a pic for Instagram. So I took one, then spent a little time processing it, then uploaded it, and by that time it was almost dark. I’d missed the sunset. I have a picture of it, but it’s not the same thing as experiencing it. Not by a long shot.

    As for the idea that more people are taking pictures now, I doubt it’s that many more. At least where I’m from, I think every single person I ever knew had some kind of camera, usually a Kodak Instamatic or Polaroid or the like, and they took pictures of special events such as birthday parties or vacations. What’s changed, I think, with digital is that now everyone can process and publish their own photos. I find it interesting that given so much power, they mostly choose to process them to look like they were taken with Kodak Instamatics or Polaroids. The limited cameras back then, and Instagram-like filters now, have a democratizing effect. They make just about everyone equal as a photographer. A good camera, of course, will not make anyone a good photographer. But a limited camera will make anyone a limited photographer. Sure, a few Walker Evans types will do significantly better than the mean within those limits, but that’s not the point of the exercise. The point of the exercise, for the great majority, is to have fun and produce mementos. I see nothing wrong with that. Seems a good thing actually. Certainly better than shooting with guns, to name just one alternative.

  • MW…

    Why do you do so many experiments with cameras? Surely if you got down and just shot 200 images of street life, you’d get the same results plus maybe a couple of keepers.

  • “Certainly better than shooting with guns, to name just one alternative” I dunno; it puts food on our table…. ;-)

  • Paul, because I am a storytelling photographer not a street photographer. That, and most people don’t like being photographed when they’re just walking around minding their own business. I count myself among them and I really don’t like bothering people for no good reason. Generally speaking, it has to be important to some story.

    Think of it like boxing. To train for big events, I spend a lot of time in the gym skipping rope and punching bags. I don’t train by going out and picking fights with strangers.

    Others have different approaches and that’s fine. Be true to yourself. Of course there’s a delicate balance between being true to oneself and pushing to overcome one’s natural inhibitions, but at some point I think it’s best we come to terms with who we are and run with it. I’m at that point. And as you’ve seen, I can photograph people in the street when the need arises.

    Ross, you have a life most of us can only envy and gun culture-wise it sounds like the bygone days of my youth. Here in the U.S. these days, gun culture is something else. That, and all the real hunters use bows these days, or so I’m told.

  • Circling back to the theme of freedom and photography. As far as taking photos, almost all of the enjoyment I get from it comes from the practice. I typically don’t enjoy the act of photographing during project work. Sometimes it’s due to job related pressure. Sometimes the project calls for photographing people who don’t want to be photographed. Sometimes the story involves some kind of existential nastiness. Photographing people who had lost so much after Hurricane Sandy is one example. I genuinely hated that. My Bunker Mentality project is another. I felt physically ill during most of those shoots. Going to the park or botanical garden and practicing strobe techniques on the flowers and trees, on the other hand, is infinitely enjoyable. Like Jim Powers, it works as mindful type meditation.

    The enjoyment from telling stories is more likely to come in the preparation, processing, editing, publishing, and feedback. The preparation requires a lot of thought and analysis and often practice to ascertain and master the look I choose for the project. The processing further refines the look. The editing is the best part, actually putting the story together in a way that (hopefully) works. Publication and feedback provide their own rewards, or at least valuable education. But a lot of the process is more work than enjoyment. It’s more of a need than a pastime.

    Perhaps some that is similar to what Patricia is talking about with the Instagram fun as I know she grapples with discomforting stories as well. That’s one of the great things about photography. We can make serious work of it and still enjoy it as a pastime. People in most professions much prefer to pass their spare time doing other things.

  • “That’s one of the great things about photography. We can make serious work of it and still enjoy it as a pastime. People in most professions much prefer to pass their spare time doing other things.”

    mw..yes, I’ve made my living for more than 40 years making photographs, but I’m still a keen amateur in my spare time.

  • Hey Paul….I do not mean to take your place ;-)
    I come across good quotes from time to time too.
    I post them when I sense an affinity with a topic:

    To say a photographer has a vision is to say the photographer has something unique to say to about the world. Why do some photographers have something unique to say, when so many others just shoot pictures that are general and lacking vision? Most people would say it has to do with talent. Maybe. But maybe not. Maybe it has nothing to do with talent. Maybe it has to do with the ability to express one’s feelings. The person who presents a strong vision has figured out a way to express his or her feelings, while others are struggling to do that. Talent, then, becomes not so much artistic talent, though that may be a good part of it, but rather emotional talent.

    Rodney Smith

  • Carlo…

    Keep on posting quotes :-)
    Here’s one I discovered the other day…
    “I write to discover what I know.”
    -Flannery O’Connor

  • “please be horrible!
    tear down your photography into pieces.
    don’t bother about glamour,
    destroy the surface,
    take care of your innocence,
    your fantasy is more important than reality

    remember, your pictures are jumping like rabbits into your
    camera when you understand
    photography is not about photography”

    Anders Petersen

  • MW…

    I will shoot anything but tests. That’s why I asked David if he had finally done the S2 test against the Mamiya print. I only suggested street photography as an example it could be anything but tests. :-)

  • “tractor divers are the Kolkhoz photography fraternity that dives under the old photographic regime a bit like the save the forest mob.”

    Really? How quotidian. I imagined that they’d be the harvesters of kelp forests, pushing their John Deeres to the outermost edge of the performance envelope while keeping a sharp eye out for great whites, orcas, and, most terrifying of all, environmentalists.

  • Belarus tractors were the preferred targets John Deeres were the college kids dreams

  • Ricardo Vasconcelos


    Some years ago, it was photography that could indeed set me free, still is, dont get me wrong (!), the thing is that when it becomes a routine, you need to have something to set you free and rest you mind for some hours. i found my guitars and music gear in my old (childwood) house, now its on my house and thats it, i play guitar, i download some tabs and play untill my fingers and nails hurts. Thats really what sets me free. Takes me to my childwood, to my rock dreams, no better place to be on your mind and soul.

    Thats my “thing”!


  • MW “you have a life most of us can only envy”

    I’ve been surprised how many have said that to me over the last 18-months to 2-years. However most don’t really mean it. Well if they do they don’t really want to commit to it (or even take steps to begin it). Usually it’s just lip-service because they aren’t prepared to give up the luxuries and lifestyle they have become accustomed to.

    The worst culprits (again from personal observation) are those who spend their time preaching from the sustainability “gospel” but their actions don’t really match their words…. This is not a dig at you; just an observation in general :-)

    Anyway; I reckon freedom is more a state of mind than anything else….

  • Freedom.

    The camera provides too many decisions for me. So freedom for me is found in recreation or lost in laughter.

    I am very lucky too! I have exercised this often. I have been able to enjoy unique feeling of freedom with a team of Alaskan Huskies pulling my sled through beautiful and wild winter weather. Certainly on one of the most beautiful trails I have ever seen. I imagine this is freedom for them as well. To be what they were intended to be.

    I love reading these answers. All very interesting.

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