Monthly Archive for June, 2007



yes, "jetlag" just goes with the territory…some people get "hammered" and some people do not….i am one of those who suffer most from a time change…."jetlag" and the effects of time change is the one thing that kills my energy level which normally  allows me  a 14 hour work day…  and  4-5  hours of  sleep  is quite enough….

but my flight to london tonight should not be a  "jetlag" trip….usually the easiest of trips… is the travel with a total "flip of the clock" to say southeast asia,  which puts me down for a day or two…

i will not be able to post again until monday or so….i do have comments for "at home and abroad", "dancing"  and "family influences" which i may do today, but more likely next week…i am scrambling to pack now and i have never learned how to pack, so please be patient…which bag??  how much stuff?? hmmm, i just cannot get it right…

i will be at the Arles Photo Festival next week  and do hope to meet some of you there….my plan is to post from Arles, if good internet connections are available….

i continue to be overwhelmed by your letters….the thoughtfulness and writing skills of this readership are quite amazing by any standard….the  writings of all of you collected together would make quite a book….are we somehow making a book together???  well, let’s not think about it too much….we do not want to spoil the spontaneity of this  "moment in time" dialog…

soon my mind will be on boarding passes, passport control, long lines, catching up on reading, and the joy of seeing my bag on the conveyor belt …..please be of good cheer my friends  and we will chat again soonest….

at home and abroad


we have talked about so many things that go into our psyche for getting ourselves "set up" to make photographs….few photographers  just "jump up out of the chair" and take an interesting photograph….seemingly , a whole set of parameters must be in place…..

we must be in the right mood…..the right place…..the right light……the right subject…..why do so many things have to be "right" before our creative energy can kick in??…..given a certain skill level, why can we not take a good picture anytime, anywhere??  or can we ???

one of the pre-requisites for many of my students for even taking the camera out of the bag is,  yes, you guessed it…travel….many give me "travel" and/or "adventure" as their primary motivation for working at all…well, wait a minute, not only students, most of my professional colleagues as well!!..

bruce davidson and sally mann made their reputations by not traveling at all..they work in their own "back yard" ..however, most photographers prefer to leave home and travel "abroad"  or go to a "far away place"  before inspiration kicks in…

first of all, is this true for you??  and , if it is, why do you think you must "escape" where you are in order to "create" where you are going??  after all, wherever you are going is someone else’s back yard….




i always pride myself in being kind of a "specialist" at having my camera in my right hand and a cold beer in the left,  and gliding around the  dance floor shooting….after all , it makes no sense to  look like you are "working" when you are working….my theory has always been that to get spontaneity you must be spontaneous…  and get  "inside" the subject…

but all photographers work in different ways and have their own philosophies on how they do what they do….for those of you who are interested in getting "inside" the heads of various Magnum photographers in a workshop or seminar setting, i am now your "go to" person….somehow at the Magnum biz meeting last weekend,  i was officially "elected" or actually  "drafted" to organize our new education program…Magnum’s first "minister of education" as someone joked….

my goal is to produce quality international workshops etc. to fit the needs of  those of you  who  so desire such a program…it will take some time to do this….but, within the next two  months i  should be able to  have  a schedule  for you….and, of course,  now is the perfect time  for you  to  express  what you  want and need….

i personally prefer week long workshops where the emerging photographers pick a subject of their choosing, shoot intensely, and receive equally intense daily critique’s resulting in  a final  group slide  show and exhibition…but, in some cases,  a  one or two day portfolio review or seminar approach could work best…the First Impressions portfolio review we just did here in new york worked extremely well by all accounts, so we may use that model in other cities ….

please let me know what you would like best….week long workshop with one Magnum photographer or seminar and portfolio reviews with several of us…i may also try to tie in these programs with the existing photo festivals in perpignan, arles, and charlottesville…right now the door is wide open for suggestions, so please let me know…

in the meantime, my loft workshop in new york ("at home with dah") is rushing at me like a freight train…we are scheduled for the last week in september and are reviewing  portfolios now…there will be a 10 student limit …. this workshop is for advanced photographers only  who want to take a serious "next step"…

you may contact my coordinator marie arago ( for details….and check out lance rosenfield’s piece on "Digital Journalist" to get some idea of what happened last year…i will have a link to the slide show we produced soonest…and , given my new job, i will try to attach a multi-photog Magnum component to this existing workshop….perhaps a one day seminar inserted into this  program for photographers who do not have a whole week to spend shooting, but would like to get their "feet wet"…

my whole philosophy is to work very very hard and have a good time doing it….join me if you feel the same…dancing techniques to be discussed…..



the party is over…..or , rather i should say, the parties are over…i have no idea how many exhibit openings, after parties, magnum 60th functions i have been to in the last week….but it was a lot…

the lightning speed flurry of almost out of control activity i had in the last four  weeks in preparation for my own show and then rushing to everyone else’s show has totally subsided……..peace….sunset…reflection….i only have a few really easy things to do in the next few days…by saturday i will fly off to london and then to the arles photo festival….but looking at  four days of relative tranquility seems like a vision of a japanese garden…

but you know how it is….whenever big events are over, there is a kind of "letdown"…..not meltdown (although that at times seemed totally possible), but letdown….a loss of energy…..a slight malaise….just a low dipping  curve in the graph of life following extreme efforts….

but everything relatively relaxing is out ahead of me now….soon in london with my best friend….show and hanging with my colleagues at arles….followed by  two weeks at the beach with my family….my heretofore high stress life is now looking very very serene…

but, what will i do ??   will i be smart and catch up on scanning, organizing hard drives, getting pictures in the archive, printing, and  putting up on the wall new prints for the next book or will i totally "waste" this valuable time by riding my bike around town, hanging out with friends, and having long lunches….hmmm, i just do not know….

but i have noticed a quixotic  phenomenon about the way things work for me…when i am way way too too  busy, i get all kinds of things done that i have no time to do,  and yet when i do have time to do all the things i need to do , i get very little done….just does not seem right does it??….

so, how does it work for you??   high speed "putting fires out" marathon leading to the best of what you do or a reasonable  slow pace with a rock solid steady  drumbeat of activity making your work its finest??




it has always been curiously interesting for me why photographers seem to automatically form communities….of course, gathering together is a primal aspect of human nature which guarantees survival of  our species…all of us speak constantly about, and set demands for, our independence and individuality ….and yet we usually do this is in the secure warm company of friends, family, or a peer group….

there are a plethora of organizations for every type of professional group…in any city there are dozens of "conventions" daily for dentists, engineers, teachers, mechanics, farmers, mountain bike racers, wine makers , stunt pilots,  etc etc etc and on and on and on….so on the surface, there is nothing particularly unusual about a gathering of like minded souls…

i have just spent four days at our Magnum annual meeting in new york, which this year celebrated 60 years of community…there have been literally thousands  of hugs and kisses and handshakes and expressions of love and friendship and speeches and reverential moments of silence for those passed on and moist eyes and invitations to "please come to my home"…i have never quite witnessed anything like it in any peer group that i know of… cannot just be "survival" alone that has created this community….

for me , this has been particularly apparent at Magnum, but a sincere gathering of the "tribe" and a general comaraderie  has always been there from my days in grad school, newspaper staffs, National Geographic,   group photo book projects, workshops, seminars, etc etc…

the basic curiosity for me is that photographers actually seem to "like" each other…i cannot imagine a room full of writers, for example, spending four days and nights with each other….photographers are often rivals for the same magazine space, the  same galleries, the same book publishers…..yet, we tend to  "high five" each other at every opportunity…..

so, my question to you  is  simply….why???   why do these  disparate personalities  find  comfort in  a  group ??   i have been trying to analyze this conundrum for years….maybe some of you have the answer……


business meeting…


i now have about 20 minutes to "get my act together" and be on time for a magnum business meeting….actually, there are now three full days of magnum business meetings staring me square in the face….numbers….graphs……charts…..project approval….more numbers….

just a few hours ago we were all having so much fun at MOMA and the after party and the after party after the after party on my roof….and now this…..numbers….reality….i have a headache already…

at some point all of us do have to face the undeniable fact that we are in business….we have to sell our pictures….just like a farmer has to grow tomatoes and then get them to market…..growing the reddest, biggest tomato is not the only part….you have to get them to market….

magnum did not survive for 60 years without some kind of "business plan" although all of us sort of smile when the term is even mentioned…..because none of us are "businessmen"….most of us cringe at the thought and i,  for one, certainly chose photography as a profession and a life  to avoid the very business meeting i am about to attend….

are all of you out there good at the "business" side of our art??  what is the proportion of your time spent in taking pictures as opposed to thinking about balancing your check book???

i  suppose you already know what my answer is!!

family influences

most of us recall being influenced by an iconic photographer…

but i have a feeling family members play a very large role for us regarding  a life in photography….  either positively or negatively….

after talking with many students over the years i hear stories of  parents sort of  "looking  at the ceiling"  when their son or daughter tells them that they have a photography career in mind….

perhaps their parents  had visions of their best and brightest offspring going into medicine or law or business or any kind of "real job"….in addition,  many husbands or wives wish their spouses had a more secure career…

in other cases, a parent or spouse literally "makes" a photographer’s career and becomes a real "partner" in their development….

what role have family members or "significant others" played in your work and your career???


farmers and surfers


yes, we really do have all types of photographers and personalities in magnum…here larry towell and trent parke hang out after our long long day of portfolio reviews in new york…there were 7 of us looking at the work of 60 photographers for our first ever "First Impressions" review (see "portfolios" post previous)…

this is our big week….our annual meeting of magnum photographers from all over the world starting with our 60th anniversary champaign toast  at the Museum of Modern Art where we were founded….since the first of june , we have 90+ events going on all over town as part of the Magnum Festival…exhibitions, seminars, book signings, etc etc…

for those of you who are in new york now, please join us for a drink and "hang time" at the Half King Bar, 505 west 23rd street this evening between 7-9pm….no event… just late afternoon light and a cold beer with joseph koudelka, alex webb, lise sarfati,paolo pellegrin, susan meiselas, alec soth , jonas bendikson, maya goded, trent park, larry towell, martine franck,  etc etc etc …..pretty much the whole bunch of us…yes,me too….

do not be shy, just come on by….



am i speaking of the environment??  yes, i am…the environment for creativity….and just like the environment on our fragile planet, the "environment for creativity" is always in fragile balance or imbalance….it can never be taken for granted….and it does not come without a price….it must be garnered , cared for, protected, and otherwise cherished for what it is…it is both a gift to  and a creation of our "self"….let it slip away and it could be lost forever….

in my often helter skelter apparently disorganized way of going through life, i do try to stay totally focused, zeroed in on, nailed to the wall hard,  on this one thing…creative environment…there is no "right way", and surely sometimes  i totally feel that i do it the "hard way"…. but it seems to somehow "work"…barely..

you must find your way….and there is no way that i can tell you what that is….everyone has a different resource for "lighting the fire" inside….the conflict photographers i know are fueled by situations that many people would run away from and a desire to "show" the world the dark side of mankind in an effort the "curb" some of our darkest instincts…..the natural history and landscape photographers i know are fueled by a sense of peace and serenity and often a concern for the fragility of land and wildlife….the purely art photographers i know are fueled by a need to express inner thoughts which are manifested by an ingestion of life experience and an esoteric way of expression ….the humanistic and street photographers that i know are fueled a sense of caring and celebrate the common existence of either the ordinary or the ordinary turned extraordinary by exterior forces not of their choosing….

i have totally oversimplified, but i hope you get my drift….simply put, you should figure out what "fuel" lights your fire, starts your engine…..then fill up your tank and drive very very carefully….or another way to look at it is you start life  with a full bottle of wine….do not spill any on the ground…

right at this moment i am totally exhausted….two years of shooting  and recent weeks of show and book preparation all manifested themselves in my "Living Proof" opening thursday evening….i doubt i will ever have as rewarding an opening ever again….the right venue, my family present, my friends from the "hood" honored, my magnum colleagues and peer artists  giving me "my turn",  and so so many of my students and friends from this forum (including two who flew from spain and one from france)…the night was clearly "the big warm"….it was an "event" rather than a "gallery opening"…as larry towell told me, "it was a happening"…and the few hours of celebratory "joy" was absolutely worth every drop of sweat that went into it….big price…but full value….(check out new "magnum in motion" piece)


but now what??  vacation???  beach time??  family time?? or back to the "drawing board"??? i would say all of those things….in my experience, i think all will lead to a recycling of energy…for without energy none of us can move any of the pieces on the chess board…without focused deep concentration, none of us can do what it is we say we want to do…and yet this effort cannot be forced….there must also be a zen relaxation……a peace….a harmony…..a flow…..serendipity….and a knowledge that you must go with the flow of "nature" and not try to fight it…. and accept this fact…. the road you start on can twist and turn like a rattlesnake , but could end up leading you somewhere so much more interesting than what you expected…

so, protect your creative environment…it is a renewable resource, but you must "harmonize" with your surroundings….amazing, something just happened while i write so so strange and perfect… the perfect song for this mood just came on…bob dylan is  singing "Knocking on Heaven’s Door"…..bob says use your time wisely…..i think i will start right now sticking some new pictures up on the wall…no time like right now to start thinking about the next book!!!

p.s.  it is now 5 hours later from this original post…just posted two new pictures from rooftop ("work in progress")…see what i mean about serendipity!!


night before last, i locked myself out of my apartment…i had to leave in the middle of a friend’s birthday party and  take  a taxi over  to  marie’s house….she has keys to my place… you may know marie as my friend/manager/confidante (see story on marie under "workshops")….marie had to get out of bed in her pajamas and come  out to the car and  give me the keys and "that look"…you all know "that look"…sorry marie..

yesterday morning i got up to go to the grocery story to buy coffee and cheerios….i pulled the door shut to my place and this time locking in BOTH sets of keys, mine and hers….locked myself out twice in a row!!!

at this point i realized i was on "overload"…too too much on my mind and a little exhausted and burned out from the virginia fest, setting up my show, etc etc…..and i do not normally "burn out"…but when i start making really stupid mistakes, it usually means "burn out"….

all of us need to know our limits….but , i hate limits and therefore am subject to making many mistakes, some much worse than this….but, i keep trying to learn how to "control myself"….in this spirit, please, if you have time,  read the  "comment"  i made just now under "fame"…

my intention was to write that piece right here….but, i was writing away and forgot where i was!!!!