Never a straight line…

I guess we all know the shortest distance between two points is not really a straight line. Matter of fact, in reality, I have never done what I set out to do. Things change. Stimuli gets altered. Circumstances vary. The wind changes direction. All  pretty normal for me. The way it has always been in my experience. So while some of you may think it a bit odd that I would turn the camper van around and now go back to Los Angeles on what was originally billed as a journey from Los Angeles to New York, my old friends who know me well were just waiting for some version of the same. They will smile and say “of course”.

Fact is, I did not run out of gas, but I did run out of time. There is no way to get from where I am now in Durango, Colorado to New York within the two weeks or so I have left to do this chapter of Off For A Family Drive. Sure I could “make it”, yet that is not the point. So I am turning around and heading back to where I started and yet taking a different route both geographically and psychologically.

This is all part of process.

For sure it happens every single time  to me one way or another. The creative process is never a straight line. Check out the video below. Shot a few weeks ago in Chile. How can this video relate to this trip? Well it does. Because the “trip” is nothing. It is all about state of mind. So I am going now to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas. Just those two places will wrap up this chapter. There will be more of course. Maybe done in a different way. Technique is just technique. So stay tuned. You may be very surprised in how this adventure turns out. Does any really interesting trip turn out the way anyone on it thought it would be? Oh no, it is the misadventure that becomes way more interesting than the original concept.

For those of you who were planning to meet us in New Orleans, sorry. Not now. Yet later for sure.

Vegas? hmmm, not my town in theory, yet I am a gambler to the core.

59 Responses to “Never a straight line…”

  • David,
    Beautifully done. Beautifully articulated. Very enjoyable.
    Hey. Can you spell h-u-r-r-i-c-a-n-e?

  • David,

    You could spend a lifetime photographing what lies between Durango, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, and L.A. and never get bored.

    Anybody looking after your house and cats?
    Sandy’s worst impact is looking to be in Delaware, Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and the southern Jersey Shore.

    Sicaru Guye!

  • Bonus points for anybody who understands “Sicaru Guye” and tells me what language it is.

  • Sidney, that would be Japanese for “scary guy”

  • Brillance. Sheer brillance.

    One of a kind.

    I am left in awe.

    And thanks for the closing statement on struggle.

    I keep waiting for the struggle to get easier.

    It never does.

    It gets harder.

    You tell me that’s a good thing.

    You would know.

  • It was inevitable. I rest my case. :)

  • Gordon,

    Not even close, and no cigar!

  • ‘ts OK, don’t smoke anyway

  • Well, the gut says what must be done …but you looked like you were heading straight to Austin!

  • also.. I would like to say, I always love the certainty with you explain your thoughts
    -it is a lesson in itself.


    Did you feel any tremors from the 7.7M earthquake off Haida Gwaii and Prince Rupert at 8:04 this evening?
    Tsunami warning in effect for northern Vancouver Island… I’m assuming (and hoping) it won’t affect you.

  • …so glad “nobody” talks to me anymore…
    I’ve no answers…
    But but but I have the most….
    hmmmm…I feel enlightened ..
    Lets put it this way..
    I learned a lot about my limits and the limits of others..

    True fact: I ordered Gin, beer, scotch whiskey , beer again, scotch, medical Mary jane…
    I’m all Real

  • the earth did not move for me Sid, was watching Hunger Games on the telly

  • “Nobody” in this pub I meant… So we are moving to the next one :)

  • Hi Panos. I love picture # 3 of you. I hope your trip has been good. Wish you would come and stop by here, sometime.

  • Beyond the consideration that a rolling party is not good for serious photography, I think there is a serious discussion around all of this. All of this technology, all of this constant access, the constant banter, somehow diminishes what we are doing. We’ve had a front row seat to a failure to launch, and I’m pretty much convinced this approach takes the edge off of any ultimate result.

    We’ve bought into the technology and the lure of the Internet (and I’m no luddite, I’m surrounded by technology every day), and just because it is there and it is accessible doesn’t mean it will ultimately turn out to be a good thing for any of us, particularly creatives. And, with photography, you really have to be there, physically and in your head.

  • Jim…

    I don’t see any failure round here. The failure is not to try it out. To sit back thinking, “should I of done it or not.” That’s the failure of many and anyway sometimes the map is far more interesting than the territory.

  • One presumes too much, imo, to judge an unfinished thing, which one hasn’t seen, a failure.

    Regarding Paul’s comment, I’ve seen some beautiful maps, but never one that was remotely as interesting as the territory.

  • All I’m saying, Paul, is that modern times has surrounded us with a lot of noise that can be antithetical to “doing the work.” The evidence of that reality is everywhere.

  • BTW does anybody know what’s the name of that piano piece in David’s video?

  • ‘All I’m saying, Paul, is that modern times has surrounded us with a lot of noise that can be antithetical to “doing the work.”’

    That’s funny, Jim. It actually sounded more like you were saying quite clearly that Harvey’s road trip can already be deemed a failure. And by the way, just because you are “surrounded by technology everyday”, that does not mean your are not a luddite.

    But beyond all that, and this isn’t easy for me to say as I can be a pretty cynical dude at times, but man! your consistency of negativity is astounding! I mean, seriously, one has to be impressed with your steadiness in that area. You really can’t be that way in real life. Can you?


    (To be taken as respectful joke) ;^}

  • Yep. I’m just the same in real life.

    Built my first computer, an Altair 8800, from a kit in 1976. Interfaced it through an ASCII interface to a Type 33 teletype machine for I/O. Those were the days.

    Technology is having troubling effects on our lives, the ultimate consequences we cannot completely understand, but will very soon, I fear.

    As for Harvey and his band of merry men, that was just a bad idea. IMHO, of course.

  • I’m not at all certain that the bucket has fallen over the edge of the table on this Road Trip. DAH is just changing his route in order to pursue quality over quantity. I was more worried about how, by having us always peering over his shoulder in Rio, we may have had unduly influenced his creativity. Instead (I think) he thrived on it. So may be the case here. My fingers are still crossed!

    I’m enjoying this project in a larger context: Magnum’s “Postcards From America” Project is on-going. Co-incidentally, while David, Anton and Panos were discovering North Dakota (what could go wrong? :) ), Rochester was being explored by 12 of David’s associates. Presently, there are a few of them discovering Florida, again co-inciding with today’s Road Trip. I’m interested in all this because the collegial, collective approach to creativity David with his Tortugoins are undertaking, seems to be running parallel to the efforts of the Postcard contributing photographers. Imagine – instead of running solo creatively, these photographers are attempting to work as a team, with competitive zeal and communal inspiration.

    I also wonder, and this addresses Jim’s thoughts on the nature of the internet, if the open discussion and questioning it facilitates has helped promote this approach to the creative process? I know for sure that if this resource wasn’t available to me, my education and understanding, the lessons I have been taught, the conversations I have had, would have certainly retarded my understanding of the mystery.

  • Jeff,

    hear hear!

    Here, here, and there!

  • Fair enough, Jim.

    However, you thought not only was this Road Trip idea bad, but you thought the idea of Burn was bad, the idea of comments section for Burn was bad, the idea of the Rio online “workshop” was bad, and so much more…

    Thankfully, for all who benefit (see Jeff’s comment), Harvey keeps on keeping on. He inspires people and he continues to produce great photography. Failure? Hardly.

    Just my humble opinion. ;^}

  • Jim…

    I think we’re spoilt for choice these days. I’ve been fighting away with a GX1 for the last six months continually comparing it to other cameras I own and never getting used to it’s way. That’s because these days we have too much of everything and that is sometimes is bad. If I honestly knew for sure there would be no other camera I could realistically afford in the next 12 months and didn’t own five or six other cameras I’m sure I would of adapted easier to this camera because there would be no way round it.

  • The only misgiving I saw from the beginning of this RoadTrip (although there was no other choice because of the Lucie awards) was starting from LA.

  • It ain’t over ’til it’s over and it ain’t over.

  • I really hope Grand Canyon and Las Vegas would be only another place in your trip… This trip is being so interesting in so many ways…
    About the interview, 10 mins but a lot of things to take into account… Go for the things you really want and like (most times is very difficult…) , search your own voice, the camera is not important (I take pictures with the mobile and I like it, and in my last trip I went with only a 35mm lens and it was enough…)
    “Demasiado comodo es igual a demasiado aburrido”… ha, ha…great!

    Best wishes from one “conquistador” country ;-)

  • Well, Jeff, the Internet has given us unlimited access for our work to millions of people for essentially free, but has reduced people’s attention spans to minutes and devalued everything. You make your choice and you pay your price.

    I honestly, and this is again just my opinion, believe that David is going to a place with this project that all these folks buzzing around him can never go, and they are simply noise. He’s just at a different place in life than they are. Could be reading it completely wrong, but I know I’m certainly coming from a different place with my personal work at age 62 than I did at age 40. A very different place.

    I’m sure David will jump in on this.


    Mike you know very well how hard it is for me to be away from OBX for this storm….i would have been on a plane yesterday if i thought Sandy was going to make a direct hit on Nags Head…..i rode out the last two hurricanes at home and so sorry to miss this one….i will call you today to find out how things are with Denise and you…S curves? you still connected?


    you are the most caring man….my son Bryan, his Michelle, and my friend Frank, who actually will join the next segment of this adventure, is watching after my house and cats….thanks for asking….


    what’s wrong with starting in L.A.? California my birthplace….again, you are focused on the equivalent of a piece of gear…the “trip” is like a lens…nothing more….don’t confuse experiences with results…

  • ALL

    i have read all of these comments….and there is a bit of truth to all of them….i do find very interesting that so many conclusions are drawn so so quickly..yet of course i know also that being online and open invites exactly this type of critique….accepted, and thank you

    for sure had this audience been with me on any assignment i ever did for NatGeo or any book i have every done, the comments would be the same…if you looked at me in “mid creation” of anything you all could easily be writing exactly the same…i never look good in the middle of anything….ask any editor at NatGeo…my “halfway shows” almost always have every editor scratching their heads…nobody can ever figure out what i am doing…so i am trying to show just chill…wait…kill the book if you want, but just relax a bit on the process…if i was not here online, you would never know the car turned around…you would just see the final pictures/ final layout and probably think all was ok.

    remember please most of all, this book will look like a scrapbook…a family album…a mix…the intent..not supposed to be a NatGeo story, not Divided Soul, not Living Proof, and not (based on a true story)…i already did those….

    angst and suffering and changes of heart are with me always…and yet i think any way you want to look at my process in general on anything is that i am indeed a results oriented person…i am simply not linear…ever…linear thinkers just won’t get it….the reason i took this particular process online and to a wider audience that i might not normally do was to show exactly what is being shown…i think it will be helpful to some…the wise will learn…

    i honestly do not think many in this audience have any idea what i go through on any project…this blip on the radar screen of production is like well in my world, nada….

    i do totally agree with Jim at this point that a large group moving together does not work for me at all in terms of a certain type of work..ok fine…yet the type of work i am doing on this segment might just benefit..even Jim knows well Family Drive will end up in some epic way…he knows my track record..he knows i have faced much much tougher conceptual blips than this one…for me, this is an easy fix…half of our group heads home tomorrow..

    i can tell you for sure that even a few days on this road trip for anyone will be an experience to be cherished for life…all of us feel this deep deep…in fact as we now put our Walmart fast prints all over the inside of La Tortuga, that none of us would trade this experience for anything…

    for sure the internet “noise” is also a reality which actually drives me forward even more towards books and exhibitions…listen, there has always been “noise” for me….i think that whatever projects i have done, my single biggest attribute is doing my own work amidst “noise”…

    does anyone really think a u turn in the car will somehow stop me from shooting with gusto for the next two weeks? please…the really intuitive types will realize i think this will only increase my work….the direction of a car is like well a big fat nothing in terms of making photographs…reducing the size of the group of course is maybe better, but even that i am not sure 100%…we will see.

    one of the people with us, Brandon Li, who does leave tomorrow, has made a very interesting film on this process…wait til you see it…it will be a few weeks to edit, but looking at the clips i can tell this will be quite an amazing document…

    quick reminder: i am sure some of you know that Off For A Family Drive is already a hanging exhibition that has hung in i think 5 different venues in Europe….that was chapter 1 (not literally) where with med format film literally made “portraits” of about 30 American families….this will blend nicely i feel with the ragtag snapshots that have come out of this trip that has been so much fun for all of us….

    the very best “live workshop” aspect of this trip will come now…

    it is 4am…i leave in an hour to visit a Native American family on the Ute Reservation in Ignacio…might try a tripod S2 portrait…might go loose…just depends on the vibe….

    you know something, forget every damn thing i ever wrote here…right now, right this moment, you know what i feel? lucky dude…i love being a photographer. period..what a really special way to feel…same way i felt at 14…no, not a “different time of life”….i would wish this feeling for all….

    abrazos, david

  • a civilian-mass audience

    What not to love

    and as FROSTY says

    “It ain’t over ’til it’s over and it ain’t over.”

    MR.HARVEY, I am not a photographer …and yes,a special way to feel…!!!

    Spread the love,spread the flames…civilian’s house is open 24/7…!

  • a civilian-mass audience

    “I can’t speak for others whom I don’t know. All I know is that we all have our own journey. My journey will be different from yours. We may cross paths in the future; we may not. I am not going to tell anyone what their journey should be.”

    and the journey counts for me …not the destination”

    aha…I rest my case too…:)


    the only line that matters, the only path that matters is the one you took and the one you’re one….

    as to the question of failure (good god), only this, 2 lovely failures to whom I owe alot of my own thoughts on failure to:

    1) beckett, of course: ” Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail Again. Fail better”

    and 2nd, part of which i left on Saturday under the Christopher’s current essay:

    2) Jack Gilbert: (about marriage and the triumph of failing)

    Failing and Flying
    Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
    It’s the same when love comes to an end,
    or the marriage fails and people say
    they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
    said it would never work. That she was
    old enough to know better. But anything
    worth doing is worth doing badly.
    Like being there by that summer ocean
    on the other side of the island while
    love was fading out of her, the stars
    burning so extravagantly those nights that
    anyone could tell you they would never last.
    Every morning she was asleep in my bed
    like a visitation, the gentleness in her
    like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
    Each afternoon I watched her coming back
    through the hot stony field after swimming,
    the sea light behind her and the huge sky
    on the other side of that. Listened to her
    while we ate lunch. How can they say
    the marriage failed? Like the people who
    came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
    and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
    I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
    but just coming to the end of his triumph.
    –jack gilbert

    onward dasher and dancer, prancer and vixen, comet and cupid and donner and blixon…..!


  • ummm…that should be:

    the only line that matters, the only path that matters is the one you took and the one you’re ON….

    (who knows where the dappling ‘e’ came from in my original post…;)


    You’ve got half the answer right.
    But what is the literal meaning of ‘Sicaru Guye’?

  • My understanding is that it means ‘have a safe trip.’


    “Go in beauty.”
    Certainly used in the context of ‘have a safe trip.’
    I owe you a beer at very least!

  • Next time you’re here or I’m there! Cheers.

  • Cheers to all non-linear pursuits!

  • “linear thinkers just won’t get it…”


  • David…
    After reading your last comment I’m convinced you’re in the “Zone” :)!!

  • David,
    keeping things loos and be open to changes i thinks thats a must! like what you said in the interview, “demaciado comodo es igual a demaciado aburrido”, been expose to the kind of media implies critics and that has to be part of the work is a lucky thing this times and the internet has now I think.
    keep it going! sure i want to see the final result of this trip

    and hope your house and cats are good too!

  • Goodness, I just love your words and thoughts. True as they come. I am learning, watching and learning, and I love what you are doing here.

  • wow!
    So nice interview… wonderful David!
    I your words= energy…
    thank you

  • “Literal thinkers just won’t get it…” I think we’ve just been insulted.

    AKAKY IRL: Thinking’s got nothing to do with it, bubba. I know we’ve just been insulted.

    AKAKY: Oh. Okay. I’m glad that’s cleared up.

    AKAKY IRL: Always glad to help, guy.

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