Monthly Archive for July, 2007

beach bum

it happens every time…..that is, every time i go to the beach to relax …after two weeks or so of t-shirts and  barefeet and jealously watching pelicans magic flight as they skim the faces of the waves, i always make the "decision" to "give it all up" and move to the beach….

after all, my best memories of childhood are growing up at the beach memories…..  and the salt smell and waving seagrass and the mesmerizing pounding of the waves breaking on the sand all become so hypnotic that i have to force myself to remember anything else or even think about  anything else…

and to make the decision even more solid, i have both of my sons who travel the world making films, living   at the beach with seemingly little inconvenience and a terrific lifestyle….and there is another  whole cast of  "characters" down here  who seem to  have managed to carve out a permanent beach vacation…..

why shouldn’t i too live a beach life???….become a "beach bum"….well, maybe not a real beach bum…..but a working beach bum….after all, i do have ideas for shooting at the beach and it is not too hard to imagine a beach based workshop…..i mean, can’t we all discuss photography sitting in the sand around a campfire in the late "hot light"  and with blue crabs steaming in the pot??? 

i mean, do i really "have" to live in new york with all of its seductive energy ??  would i quickly become bored with the beach??

well, i will give it some more thought… i have the perfect travel companion to work my way away from the beach vacation…i will fly with my mother back to her home in durango, colorado… mother likes the beach ok, but she is a hard core "mountain person"….she will give me good advice….she always does….

by wednesday i will be back in new york…by the following wednesday i will be jammed into a too crowded too loud  disco club in seoul, korea photographing korean youth culture….and i will most likely be enjoying every minute of it….totally into it……wrapped up in a culture that is not mine……temporarily mesmerized by the pounding beat of the  techno sound  system, just  as i was by the waves breaking on the beach…..surely the beach will not be on my mind at all….

are all of us just flat out schizophrenic???   all of us jump from one world into another….all the time…it is the nature of what we do….all of you , whether art photographers or photojournalists, become "transported" from one set of spacial and psycho relationships into another with the quick stamp of a boarding pass… this healthy for us ??    more importantly, will i ever become a beach bum???




oh, that empty feeling…..a blank slate…..past accomplishments are but a background blur….new commission, new assignment… is always "a mountain to climb"   to even get to this state of "nothingness"…the state of being you are in when you actually get a "commission" and then…and then…and then…now what do i do???

the old adage  "sometimes you get what you ask for" starts seeming so so true….and when you do have an assignment, you have to figure out how you will do what you are being paid to do….stepping off a plane that has flown you to the other side of the world and walking  out on to the hot tarmac and a unfriendly customs officer is not quite the same feeling you have when you are with your buddies having a beer and dreaming of what it would be like if only you had the time and the resources to do a major magazine assignment…..

somehow the most "exotic " places can look pretty ordinary or unfriendly under certain circumstances…, good pictures, great pictures are much further away than the long plane flight…and it is the great ones that you have been commissioned to shoot…on demand ….right now….no excuses…

so for this you must get "psyched"… an athlete before a game…like an actor ready to step on the stage….no matter how much experience you have, you always know that what you are about to do is going to have some new twists and turns and some kinds of problems you have never encountered before….and you will have to solve them… excuses…no calls to the editor…you are being commissioned to take great pictures…whatever it takes…whatever the obstacles…now…today….no portfolio review….the real thing….

i remember thinking at one point early  in my career that surely a "big time" assignment for say National Geographic would somehow "transform" the subject matter….that the world would somehow  be "different" with National Geographic in it…that those "famous photographers" had "better subjects" than i had….nope…disappointment… it was same world as the world of the Topeka (Kansas) Capitol-Journal…only thing different about the world of National Geographic were  the much higher expectations of the editors waiting for my work….

more time to shoot??  not really….pictures situations move by just as fast for a magazine photographer as they do if you are working for a daily newspaper or freelancing… are events…moments are moments….whether you have a "name" behind you or not….reality is reality….more time in the field, but "more and better" pictures required at the end….and you are all alone…really all alone….no buddies at the bar ….

i now have a three week commission coming up in the first week in august to shoot  in seoul, korea…..a Magnum group  project…10 of us shooting different topics…mine is korean youth culture…..a major  exhibition and Magnum book will  follow…..

but here i am now on family vacation and i am starting to get "psyched"…starting to think….not worrying….but not taking it lightly either… will i do this???  how will the young people be?? what is the "ballet of the streets" for korea?? do koreans hate being photographed or like being photographed??  i do not know the answers to any of these questions…experience tells me i will be able to figure this out…but, i am thinking, thinking , thinking these two weeks before the shoot….slight apprehension…

i never "assume" i am going to do good work…in my mind , i must make  at least 5 very special pictures in a 2-3 week period….i should have dozens of mediocre or  "good" pictures…but, mediocre is unacceptable and even  "good is not good enough"….i am not talking about satisfying the korean sponsors….i am talking about satisfying myself….coming up to my own standards…i must now get  "psyched" to do my very best work….

in this last week i  have put a little pressure on you to "produce" in the next few weeks….in this case, we are looking at it as an exercise or as an experiment…but, on the other hand, some potentially significant  people for you  will be looking to see your work….first impressions are often the only impressions… should take this seriously….i would ….

now, my questions for you are these:  do you get "wired" and "psyched" before you shoot???   or do you go into a project totally confident and relaxed???



now is the time……i just sense it…..the most amazing summer storm is just rolling through right now 6:30am my time….inspirational!!  great light , but the whole family is asleep , so i was forced to shoot one of my rare "landscapes"…but, it is not the storm  that i am talking about..

everything in life is always timing, timing and timing….knowing when the "time is right" is a sense that perhaps some people have naturally , but surely is a skill to be developed….

i sense that NOW is the time for all of you who are interested to start photographing something for this site ….now and until  the first week of september…i am interested in  your work from july 1 – september 1…(i will of course link to your past work)…..

this "something" should be an essay of your choice that would ideally be a subject close to you both physically and emotionally…and i am interested in publishing here all types of photography….now is the time for you to  show me and our respected audience  what you  can do….

i well know  the writing skills of many of you… i would like  to see your photographic skills….most of my students and emerging photographers i know WANT a good portfolio review…..most of them NEED to just go out and work….

all of us must put our past work in the "back of our minds" and go out and create a new body of work….this is difficult, because most photographers get "married" to their portfolios….and this is totally understandable..but, experience with working almost every day  myself and critiquing the work of so many students over the years proves to me that the  best thing any of us can do is to "start over" each and every day ….

so, please start thinking…..and start working… may want to begin a new project or continue with an existing one…..i may publish single pictures from some of you or essays from others…..

please do not worry now about where all of this will be uploaded….i am working on this now….we have many choices, so this will be no problem….by mid-september we should have something magical to "put on the table"…

please start your thinking process from the heart…..give yourself the "assignment" that you would dream of receiving from a "mythical" editor …your best work will be something so so obvious… you do not have to catch a plane or a train to do good work…

i want to see how you see….i want to feel how you feel….i want to know how you think…i want to "read" you  as "visual authors"….

you cannot "say something" if you have nothing to say….and remember, the best stories you have ever read, the best films you have ever watched  and the best photographic essays you have ever seen have usually been personalized visions of what could have been a casual observation or not  noticed by someone not attuned…

i simply want to provide you with a new venue…..a sophisticated photographic venue for others to see what you are able to do in a specific time frame….please trust me in on this one…the magazine editors i know value this more than anything you can ever show them in your portfolio of "greatest hits"….

so, let’s give this a try….none of us have anything to lose….this is exactly how i teach my workshops…..i throw my students "out into the cold" and make them produce…it works….i have seen it over and over again..

details for submissions  will follow of course…..but, please forget these kinds of  "details" for right now….

just think…but do not over think….relax…..enjoy…….work harder than hard…have no fear…be instinctive….get "inside" yourself…get "inside" someone else…be a mirror….be a window…..

you now have total freedom!!! ….please use your time wisely….

your work

this afternoon i  had a "crazy" idea….i get crazy ideas sometimes…spontaneous…ideas for me  come from being  happy and "playful" or they can come from being  "down"….this one comes from the afternoon sun streaming through the window and lighting up the room….good light..happy…great light….

i  am chatting with some friends and i literally jump up in the middle of the conversation  to come over here and get this thought "down on paper"…sometimes ideas that come to me this way go away quickly…other times they "stick" and i act upon them…

ok….so how about if i were to  start "publishing" some of your work here??  as i do with my workshop students….maybe on a new page…

so many of you are asking for online portfolio reviews, but this is getting impossible for me to do properly …simply, there are a lot of you….opening a website and navigating through takes so much time if i am really going to give a photographer an honest appraisal…besides, this online review concept  will best be done through the upcoming Magnum program…

surely we have an astute audience …just read the mail..magazine editors, established photographers from all the best agencies, some gallerists  and a plethora of emerging photographers…..we have a sophisticated international community….not hobbyists….not "gearheads"….but thinkers, conceptualizers

again, this is part of my overall concept of letting the "readers collaborate"…..the "inmates in charge of the asylum"…..yes, crazy just like i said….

well, this will not be a contest…..because there are no prizes  and i will be the only "judge"…..and i will publish randomly either one picture from a photographer or an entire essay…. i promise to pay you nothing,  because i simply have nothing to pay….at least, for the moment….so, this would be just an "experiment"….to see how this audience really "looks" ….we already have a pretty good idea of how we think with words…

i must now work on submission parameters and create or use an existing  uploading site..something that makes it relatively  uncomplicated to view large quantities of work….PLEASE  do not send me anything yet….and i have no idea from a practical standpoint how much work this will draw or how much work it will be for me… maybe  i will  just try this once and see how it goes…after all, i am only  "a one man band"….this  could be daunting or it could be fun….i will only do it if it is fun….

what do you think???

summer vacation


i will fly back to new york tomorrow and will almost immediately launch into a very heavy schedule of beach vacation with my  family…so, for two weeks my friends, i think it fair to say that there will be fewer postings here….

for one thing, i cannot imagine there would be of much interest to most of you the doings of the harvey family at the beach…and for another thing, there is an unwritten  family rule that anyone spending too much time on the computer gets properly chastised by the rest of the family….

however, even on vacation, my camera is not in the bag….documenting my family has been my "job" since childhood and i try to produce a music "slide show" at the end of our time together as the "grand finale" of our precious time together…

do all of you document your families in a real way??   are "family snapshots"  taken as seriously as your "serious" work??  and lastly, how many of you have published pictures of your family??


Continue reading ‘summer vacation’


*the official Magnum website  blog will undergo a revival with editor martin fuchs coming on board soonest….martin is the current author of "Journal of a Photographer", one of the most popular european photo blogs….martin will coordinate stories with all Magnum photographers and plans lively discussions to totally make our blog user friendly and fresh…..

*as part of our continued efforts to create interesting and useful educational opportunities for photographers, Magnum will offer free portfolio reviews for emerging photographers this year at  the Visa Pour L’Image  Photo Festival in perpignan, france…..the professional photographers week is september 3-9….we have done gratis reviews for several years at perpignan, but this year will be highly organized and selected  portfolios will be discussed in an open forum…attending Magnum photographers will be paolo pellegrin, elliott erwitt, dennis stock, chris anderson, and others to be announced…..i will give you  more details soonest….

flying with martin


i suppose it is not so unlikely that I would , quite by accident , run into martin parr at the airport in London yesterday…after all, we were both headed for the Arles Photo Festival…

However, it was quite fortuitous to share an exit row seat (more leg room) for the hour and a half flight to the south of france with martin…particularly given the discussion going on in this forum now about “style”….martin parr personifies “style”… much so that he is one of the most “copied” photographers of our time…

martin is prolific to say the least…the man has 40 books…nobody has 40 books…while the rest of us are mulling over ideas, perhaps spending years shooting on a project, endless editing days, and with many projects ending up on the "back burner", parr just "does it"…he does not look back…he only moves forward…

martin says "this means not all things work out equally…some books are better than others…but i have a short attention span… two weeks is the most time i can stay in one place shooting"…

so, martin’s collected works become kind of a "sketchbook" or "diary" of the thinking process of an iconic photographer…in their "whole" lies the mind of an artist…

but martin is not only a photographer….he has become quite the curator, collector, writer and teacher…as a matter of fact, martin was a full time teacher long before he came into Magnum…

please post quickly any questions you may want to ask martin and I will try to pin him down here in Arles…..i have more to say about martin, but this keyboard is stuck in the french mode, and is not allowing me to write or think freely….


ok, i found martin wandering the streets alone last night … he was kind enough to answer the first posted questions from you…so, go into "comments" and martin speaks…


underwater photography


all of us wrestle a bit with experimentation…..when i see a student portfolio with too many different styles of photography in it, i invariably suggest that they stick to one thing…one theme…one style…jumping around from one thing to another too quickly usually connotes no personal development…..and yet, perhaps there does come a time in a photographic life  when sticking to "one thing" becomes overly repetitive and it is time to "move on"….

joseph koudelka went from shooting people in "Gypsies" and "Exiles" to shooting landscapes in "Chaos"….was this evolution or a total change in style and interest??  henri cartier-bresson gave up his "street photography" altogether at the end of his career and went back to his original passion for drawing..did he think that photography was just "not enough"??  alex webb’s masterful and complex color compositions have stayed with him for 20+ yrs. from "Hot Light Half Made Worlds" all the way to his current "Istanbul"….should he change, or is this his trademark for life???  will bruce gilden always be on "the attack" with straight hot flash and the surprise element or will he "soften" and do moody warm portraits???  sally mann’s current work looks nothing at all like her early family portraits…are some people nostalgic for her "Immediate Family" or do the galleries push her for something new and different or is sally just letting her mind roll on ???

we can all think of so many examples artists staying the same and artists ever changing….surely, artists must stay "in one place" long enough to have "finished what they started"…..

generally speaking photographers do best when they "specialize"….the best sports photographers only do sports, the best conflict photographers only shoot conflict, the best landscape photographers only do landscape, etc etc etc….but does this "commercial success" inhibit change and growth??  does it reflect more about the "market" than what a photographer may want to do??…

i do not think anyone should change or try to adapt  for the "commercial marketplace"…this is an artistic  death sentence…

so my question to you is this….. at what point should one change for "growth"  and at what point does change mean lack of artistic commitment???

by the way, you will be pleased to know that the photo above represents my  first and last attempt at underwater photography….david doubilet, paul nicklin and brian skerry need not fear…..they should just keep on doing what they are doing!!!