Monthly Archive for April, 2007



during my month long workshop marathon in italy and spain i can assure you that sleep is not a by-product….workshops are intense by nature and the attending social scene is equally intense…editing sessions tend to turn into late night discussions, where whatever we did not talk about in the daytime class sessions, gets laid out on the table of social discourse….usually in a local establishment where the bartender becomes almost a part of the class… and it has to be a place where the lighting is just right…..

i don’t really remember the trip from madrid to valencia ….. i slept soundly in the passenger seat, my only chance for such luxury in several days….spain has a lot of culture to offer the world….but, we do have to face the fact that spain is also the most fiesta driven culture in the world….and a polite early “goodnight” is just out of the question…..

last night has turned into today…seamlessly… break…..exept for a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice and a cafe doble…..last night belonged to my friend jose luis montolio (pictured above and below)….he had an opening exhibition of his “nightlife” work here in valencia and “everyone” turned out….i have posted a story about luis and his work in “family/friends” ….

i also have a story to write for you about the “art and commerce” post….

but first, the beach beckons….i need the sleep…..



art and commerce

ok, this should be good…..i am spending my week in madrid, not teaching a workshop, but working with  young photographers who attend a 10 month course here at EFTI (Escuela De Fotografia)…i am a visiting lecturer, of which they have many….EFTI is divided into two "camps"….those photographers who want to practice their craft as "art" photographers and those who prefer to communicate with "photojournalism"….some of the full-time teachers in one "camp" or another barely speak to each other….the students are socially divided as well….art students hang with each other and the photojournalism students do the same… magnum was founded with two "camps" built in at the beginning…robert capa was the classic "swashbuckling"  photojournalist risking his life with war, wine , women and song…. and henri cartier-bresson, whose friends included matisse and  picasso,  viewed photography as something more than "reportage" and explained this at dinner to jean paul sartre ….now at magnum we are even more diverse, with antoine d’agata, martin parr and alec soth "sitting at the table" with philip jones-griffiths, thomas dvorzak and chris anderson….still, even with these two groups, magnum photographers do all have one thing in common…they "bear witness"…regardless of their vision or style, they still all stick to this one precept… much further out on the artistic limb are gregory crewdson, jeff wall , cindy sherman, andreas gursky, thomas struth,  and their followers….they  craft their work as painters do….they produce the photograph that exists in their head and eliminate the "restrictions" placed on documentary photdographers to reveal a deeper "truth" … fashion magazine photographers, and some commercial studio photographers,  have always been regarded as an artistic  "cut above"  other magazine photographers with richard avedon, irving penn, philip lorca -di corcia, annie leibowitz  and helmut newton having trumped all of the other types of magazine photographers with the most major shows at the most important venues… my question to you is obvious by now……are there really two or more  "camps" ?? can photojournalists be "artists" and/or  can artists reveal "the truth" better than documentary photographers? and further, how do the slick magazine and fashion photographers mentioned above escape being labeled too  "commercial" ?? i will give my opinions after you give yours……        Madrid_st

room with a view


it is probably safe to say that i have been in more than a few hotel rooms….but i do not feel like willy least, not yet….nevertheless, i have been in the best and the worst….this one in madrid is neither…a nice clean clear view of a brick wall is not as bad as you think….

first, no distractions if you are trying to edit….second, if you leave the window open to get some fresh air, a blast of wind will not blow your expense receipts all over the bed… and finally, you will not get mesmerized by the vista and get the most feared syndrome for all photographers, “room lockdown”…this room makes you want to go out and shoot!!!

i will meet susan meiselas tonight….she and cristina garcia rodero, donovan wylie and carl dekeyser have an opening exhibition tomorrow….i am anxious to see the show….i will report on this tomorrow…..i am wondering if their sponsors gave them a better room than mine…..well now, there is something to worry about!!!

re:your comments on “talent and hard work”

first of all, i have to say that i love my audience here ….there were such thoughtful comments from all of you who wrote….so good in fact, that put together, they pretty much mirror what i was going to say anyway!!! great quotes from picasso and harry callahan and terrific personal experiences…thank you….

since all of you basically wrote my piece for me, i will just add a couple of thoughts…i was so pleased that none of you put networking in first place!! i honestly thought some of you might….sometimes i do meet emerging photographers who do want to put “the cart before the horse”….they want to meet the “right person” before they even have anything to show that “right person”…for sure, if you have something to show , it will be seen….

where the word “networking” really kicks in is when a photographer shows his or her work to an established photographer or an editor or a gallerist, the “word” quickly spreads in our little world….whenever i see inspirational work, i quickly tell all of my friends in the business to be on the lookout for whoever is the author….most of us do this….why?? because any elevation of our craft is good for all of us…nobody wants to work in a vacuum…..great work begets great work…when i see an important body of work, i just want to “high five” the photographer….your best “agent” is the “word of mouth” from your colleagues….forget the design of your business card…

some of you gave “percentages” of the talent/hard work quotient…..and luck came in there too….or maybe fate?? i have always bristled a bit when people tell me how “lucky” i am…..actually, i too feel really lucky….but, i also feel that i have worked really hard to be “lucky”….knowing when to be lucky…or “recognizing luck” when i saw it….

and maybe the most important factor of all….getting back up off of the ground after you hit hard…..dusting yourself off….climbing back up on the horse when you are in no mood to ride…in my case, this single factor has kept me going forward more than anything….whatever combo of hard work/talent i may possess, would be no good whatsoever without this sheer perseverence…..and this you need to keep forever, no matter how many books you publish or commissions you may have….

when was in undergrad school i was surrounded by a lot of “super talented” fellow students…mostly in the painting classes….but some actors, musicians and sculptors….i felt totally overwhelmed and inferior to these talented artists….for one thing, i could not even draw….i still can’t draw…i could see clearly that there was no way i could do what they did….i knew these colleagues would “make it”…it was obvious….they were so so creative….

graduation time…..everybody split…..we were all suddenly “out there” in “no man’s land”…no more late night discussions, over 10 beers, of how great everyone was going to be!!…soon all of us went in different directions…..i went off to grad school, out of circumstance, more than as a result of any “deep thought” or careful research….pure luck i guess….i tried to keep track of some of my friends…i lost some forever and kept in touch with a few……

but what happened?? i heard that the most talented actor in our school was now selling life insurance….he was totally brilliant… good as any actor i had ever seen…..and my favorite painter in school and the “most likely to succeed” student in the whole art school was teaching art classes in a grade school somewhere….where in the world had this youthful idealism gone??? i was so so disappointed….now mind you , there is nothing wrong with selling life insurance and teaching young children art is a nobel cause, but i just thought these two in particular had a different fate….

in the roller coaster ride of my life both past and present, what i see are artists with talent who also never let go, never give up, work like total maniacs and are very very very careful with the work they do and put “out there”….i think you must take whatever you have and by whatever means you have it and make sure that the work is at some point displayed, printed, published in a way that reflects whatever talent you may have…10 copies of a hand-made book perfectly done to your satisfaction, are better for you in the long run than a poorly published photo in an international magazine….

everyone has poorly published pictures sometimes…but, here is where the percentages for me come in….you must be “80% artistically selfish”….if you have clients to satisfy, to put food on the table for your family, then that is just fine….but, you must also always have a personal project of some kind going or be “lucky” enough to have your “talents” recognized by someone who will pay you to do “your own thing”….but ulimately,you are the only one who will ever give yourself the really perfect “assignment”….

please understand that i have totally earned my living as a professional commercial photographer….i am not at all arrogant with someone who is paying me to do work…..whatever income i have is from someone buying either my time or my archive….but, since my first job out of grad school at a newspaper to professional commissions i do now, it has always been and will always be a struggle….no less now as a so called “established” photographer…how can this be?? well, if you are going for that 80% percent i mention, you will suffer…it will always be a balancing act between keeping editors pleased and knowing you have to do what you have to do…as a “client pleaser” i work all the time…..i do not let up…..i make sure that i “deliver”….but, i also always have a larger view…..a long range book to dream about…..individual little slices of which i am proud….remember no large “funder” of your time and your work has your overall career in mind…why should they? they have another and important and worthwhile agenda….if you understand their agenda, you will not have to abandon yours….

one of the “super-talents” in my school was also my roommate….masaaki okada was from hamamatsu , japan….masaaki could draw and paint like none i had ever seen……and he “introduced” me to art history for which i will ever be grateful……masaaki did the layout on my little self published book “tell it like it is” (see archived story under “work in progress”)….but i learned more about another thing from masaaki than art appreciation….he taught me the concept of not making anyone “lose face”….in the west, we tend to think “i win, you lose”….in the orient rests the original “win win” concept by which you totally immerse yourself in what someone else wants and/or needs….not what you want….you must still “know” what you want, but you get it by understanding what the other person wants first….this concept has allowed me to be “professional” and still get my 80% “artistic selfishness”…well, ok, 75%!!!

i have another whole piece or pieces to write about professionalism and . personal work.. and another whole discussion is out there on documentary and the art world….i will save that for later…i have already rambled too long and i did not intend to stray from our topic, but thought some of this would relate….

ok, one last thought… general, you do have to take a hard look in the mirror… must be very honest with yourself and decide if you have at least some “natural ability” and something to “say’ with your work…you should have dreams that are way way way out there, but also figure out realistic ways to make them come true… must be the “can do” type……take care of your loved ones first, and then work like hell….your “success” should only be measured by you….only you know your potential, only you are the judge….

remember those 10 hand-made books i mentioned earlier??…..i am working on them!!!!

changes in latitude

today i travel to spain….once settled, i should have a couple of days free to catch up with posts here…now  in sicily and my internet connect  has been all but non-existant or i have been totally immersed with student work…

a quick look at the comments from my last post and i can see that we will have an interesting and important discussion…i will try to respond tonight or tomorrow morning  from madrid….as usual, please be patient with my travels and inconsistencies with net connections etc….

another important upcoming topic:  how to get into a "zen" trance at the airport and how to get some sleep on the plane!!!

talent or hard work or…??

i was just sitting down to write a piece about the relationship between raw  talent and hard work….i have my views based on personal experience, looking at many photographers develop over the years, and just having seen the daily work of 17 students over the last two weeks who have varying degrees of "natural ability"..

i will write this piece ….but first, let me get your opinions….so, what do you think is more important.. "talent" or "hard work" or "networking" or something else???

moving on

one of the things almost all of my students have in common, besides being serious about photography, is that they are invariably in some state of transition in their lives…when i chat one on one with each of them, they always tell me that a life change is in the making…sometimes a student has just gone through a divorce or are in the uncomfortable process of a relationship change….or they are unhappy in their career and are thinking that photography may offer a new light…

my approach to making photographs is really about how to approach life and all of its nuances….the beauty of the camera as a creative tool is that it is also a theraputic tool…..a way of connecting or disconnecting depending on how one views it…to really make photographs that have the "authorship" of which i so often speak, the photographer must look inside….for it is impossible to be an author if one does not have anything to say….

the digital age is an era where absolutely everyone takes pictures…it is raining pictures….we are inundated with photography….so many images floating through the ether that one could think that still imagery is somehow de-valued….i think the opposite…..any well educated person can write a gramatically correct sentence, yet few can compose a poem that resonates or write a compelling short story or novel…so it stands to reason, that just because "everyone" can take a technically good photograph, the power of authored photography will be more apparent, rather than less…

technology always leads in a new creative era….the invention of the printing press did not create authors , but it did allow whoever had real ideas to make their ideas known to the masses…the same with radio, and film , and television , and now the net….no form of new technology ever replaces the old….it is an additive process, rather than subtractive…

the power of the still photograph will grow….it’s utilitarian uses may go a bit more into the background, but it’s artistic developement is just beginning….the fact that there is so much mundane and banal work  out there, should only give a forward thinking person hope rather than despair….now is the time to invent….now is the time for the true creative person to expand their thinking and do what mankind has always done and that is to take whatever exists and push push push to the extreme spaces of thought…

when you go forward you must leave something behind….maybe a job…maybe someone…to leave something or someone behind is just flat out painful…not easy…not comfortable…not fun…..and "easy" decisions are not really decisions….only difficult decisions are the ones where we are really "up against the wall" and we weigh one thing against the other and can become totally disabled by not being able to make a decision at all…

finally, one must "jump"…pretty scary….but, once you jump, you are free…..the ecstacy that comes from actually taking a flying leap is a "rush" second to none….you cannot look in the rearview mirror….staring dead ahead…eyes on the prize….and take the people you  love along for the ride…..again, no need to subtract….just add….

when you do break free, there could be others from your peer group who fear or resent your new found freedom….when they see someone break free, oftentimes they can feel left behind, or get resentful or become insecure…take care of these people as best you can…..try to bring them along….the big ones, the confident ones, will come…they will be happy to "share"….these are your real friends…..

how can i be writing about freedom and techology in the same epistle??  easy….they are related in this case….there are truly no excuses for any of us to be held back now….there are so many doors open it is just mind boggling….self-publishing both in print and on the net, the new need for real photographic essays, on-line and gallery prints sales, and the exciting new medium (or , i should say re-vamping of an old medium) the combo of stills, sound and motion on the internet…..we are just beginning to explore….

so…..wake-up, get up, abandon cliche, get loose, work harder than ever, think, feel,  look, act, re-act, move close and just be a living integral  part of the most exciting time of your life….nobody can stop you now!!!!

a day off

today is sunny and warm and the sea beckons… students… energy…….burned out….i will head for the beach…..but, i already know what will happen……about 10 minutes sitting on the beach and i will get bored…..working on my tan just does not work….i grew up by the sea, so i do totally love the sea, but i need some type of action….throwing the frisbee or flying a kite or body surfing or volleyball….just SOMETHING, besides just sitting there trying to find my sunblock…

the problem with just sitting there enjoying the sun, is that i start thinking of all the stuff i am supposed to be doing…and , believe me, that list is endless…..the only way for me to relax and forget that list is to be totally preoccupied with watching a frisbee fly through the air…

people i meet on assignment are always asking me what i do for fun….they ask "how do you relax, what are your hobbies?"…….many times people have said to me right in the middle of when i am "in the zone" shooting, "put down your camera and enjoy yourself!….have a beer, eat this food, come and dance" …..well, i must confess, that at one point in my life i did perfect the fine art of dancing with a beer in my left hand and my camera in my right!!

but the truth is this…..when i am working and "in the zone" I AM RELAXING…THIS IS MY HOBBY!! the work, the really hard work of this pursuit of ours is just getting to the point where i can actually be shooting and "doing my thing"…meeting the literally hundreds of people i meet every year who may know what i need to know , driving all night long to find the location  that may not be the location, learning to sleep standing up in airport lines, the endless phone calls and research it takes to find out one little detail, the writing of a proposal to editors, the hours of editing and organizing, etc etc …..THIS IS WORK…..BUT the act of shooting after all of the preliminary "work", is not work at all…this is pure joy!!! 

i have just been told by our workshop staff team that the car is  leaving for the beach with me or without me….i will go….but, i am really unhappy that i forgot to pack my frisbee on this trip!!!…..


yes yes parting is  indeed sweet sorrow…..i am always amazed at the bonding and friendships which are built in just a week of working together with my students  in these photographic workshops….and this morning we will all hug goodbye, promise to write , and all hope we meet again soonest….some students i will never see or hear from again…..but many stay in touch for years and we meet occassionally at photographic festivals like arles or perpignan or sometimes just random meetings in the street in some other part of the world…some stay friends for life…morning coffee for me in new york is answering student emails…….

right now all of us are totally sleep deprived but happy…..all of the Easter processions we photographed were approximately two hours from siracusa where we are based….sometimes we photographed all night long and slept in the car on the way home…..Easter monday we all slept on the beach but then had to drive back to siracusa and "crash edit" for our final music slide show which was shown publicly in a small  amphitheater just off the piazza del duomo…such fun and so so rewarding……i will post some of their work as soon as internet connections and service here are a bit of a nightmare, but the food is great, the people are just the best, so only harveyblog suffers a bit….please see new post of some of my new student work under "student work/workshops"…

what has totally interested me my whole photographic life is exactly this bonding….i have always been curious why photographers seem to bond so well….photographers seem to truly enjoy making friends with each other…..most of my lifetime friendships are with photographers i met at an early age…my friend medford taylor and i met in grad school while scrambling to use the same darkroom at the same time…he says i nudged him out so that i could print!!…probably true….but he has put up with me ever since….in this same era, i met both jodi cobb and william albert allard (stories on both coming soon)….we have been friends for over 30 years….there is a  long list of photographers who remain friends for years and years….this has surely been one of the joys of this business for me…..even this blog  community is part of everything of which i speak….

but it does beg the question……why do photographers like to "hang" with each other????
few of my writer friends do the same…few of my friends on the "outside" have quite the comaraderie that we seem to have…hobbyists share interests, but we are professional competitors with each other…if bill allard or alex webb get a particular story it means that i do not….there is only so much funding and so many book publishers and so many grants and so many  ad accounts to go around….you could imagine we would not even know each other or speak to each other, but the opposite is true…..

is it because only another photographer can relate to our strange egos, behavior patterns and the like?
is it because we are stimulated by another photographer doing great work rather than being possessive or jealous???  i do not have the answer…..i only know that this is generally true…and it is also true in our relationships with editors as well… would stand to reason that a photographer might strike up a postive relationship with an editor for a magazine for which he or she receives commissions….but i have so so many editor friends with whom  i do no commissioned work and never will do commissioned work….for those who may doubt this , just show up in perpignan or arles or any workshop program you will see this comaraderie, this friendship, this common bond…..

out of the eight students i just had  in this  workshop, probably two of them will push forward in the world of documentary or art photography…..over the years i have seen some  do magazine work, some  have gallery shows, some  publish books and some will enter the administrative side and become magazine editors or curators…..most will use their photographic work as a means of personal expression without becoming involved at all in any commercial ventures ….

i do believe in the "circle of life"….pay back, pay forward….however you want  to view it…all i know is,  i feel terrific right now about the past week…i hope all of my class feels the same…and i hope some of these new friends will look at this week’s "grand finale" as a beginning rather than an end…..

sicily good friday

i cannot stay with you long now, because i have 8 students who will be expecting me in just a few minutes to  go over all of the work they shot yesterday….on the first day of shooting , i ask them to edit loosely and i will probably look at about 25-50 pictures from each…after today we will edit tighter and tighter so that for the final slide/music show that we produce each year, each student will have from 5-10 strong photographs from the hundreds of frames each shot…i will be posting under the "students/workshops" portfolio the work of my students this week as they progress..


this editing must go quickly this morning, because we then have to jump in the cars and head for the town of enna where we will shoot all afternoon… by 10pm we will go to an even smaller village, barra franca, and photograph perhaps all night long..i was in sicily for the first time last year and the passion of the men who carry the Christ figure is like nothing i had experienced before…it is actually quite violent underneath  the figure as the local men all fight for the chance to carry Christ….photographing this event requires physical and psychological dexterity….

my photograph here  is of simona ghizzoni who was one of my assistants last year in sicily and who assisted me several times in tuscany….simona is not with me this year…..i really miss simona  because her energy and spirit and hearty sense of humor energized our students and me as well…this photograph was made in one of our favorite night hangouts here in siracusa where all gather after a long day of working…..students always agree that the late night lively discussions we have are as much of a learning experience as anything we discuss in class…..i said yesterday it was always a little awkward meeting a new group of students….but we are starting to get to know each other  now and by the end of the week we will all have shared an experience together that will bond us for life….come back someday simona!!!