Monthly Archive for October, 2007

making excuses

the first excuse i have for not being here for so long on this forum, is that right before this long trip to Brazil/Mexico , my beloved 12" laptop crashed to the floor ..reduced to only allowing me to see the much hated spinning color wheel..much to my chagrin, i somehow have become laptop laptop = no dowloading, no blogging…

then the trip itself…how in the world did i think i could make the 9 hour flight to Sao Paulo, followed by a 7 hour car ride in the heavy rain to the colonial beach town of Paraty and with only 20 minutes to spare, put on the opening show for the photo fest??

i then had to  put on a one day seminar,  get back in the car and rush over the same route to the Sao Paulo airport where i swear snaked  the longest immigration  line (full length of the airport) i have ever had the misery to stand in to get on the flight to Mexico City, where i then had to spend 24 hours in the airport hotel with the internet down, and then finally  finally to my class here in San Miguel de Allende where i have very limited internet access….(yes yes yes, i promise to catch up on all comments by the weekend…no internet before saturday)

am i making excuses for not being here to chat with you for the last week???  absolutely i am….are they "good excuses" ??   maybe, maybe not….i generally am not excuse tolerant with other people…as a photo workshop teacher, i spend a whole lot of time listening to student  excuses, accepting very few of them, and now  here i am doing the same thing…making excuses to you…

i think it is probably fair to say that most of us tend to "make excuses" for a wide variety of our behavior patterns… ones that may not be acceptable to our colleagues, family or "significant other"…..but surely, some of them must be legit??…and it is probably also fair to say that all of us could have moved our work a little further forward at least, but we made excuses of why we did not do this book or that book or somehow did not finished such and such a project or why we just did not have enough time to totally finish a particular body of work….

how about you …  have you ever made excuses to your own detriment???  or are all of your excuses as good (or bad) as the one i just made to you???


please remember our November 15, 2007 closing date for uploading your photographs on  Digital Railroad for our little gathering of work (scroll down to `bold steps` for details)…as you know, there is a $5000. stipend to be awarded to a worthy photographer and many of you will be published here (on a new clean, large image size page) and hopefully in print as well…the stipend will be awarded by December 15, 2007

my non-profit funding status is almost complete, so grants for emerging photographers like you should gain momentum soonest…the stipend we now have should grow substantially the next time around…so truly exciting for all of us….

if you have any problems or questions about uploading, please go to:

i will be off to the photo festival in the colonial village of Paraty, Brazil tomorrow…i will post from Paraty soonest…

eye contact




the most often asked question i get when mentoring an emerging photographer is, "how can i get closer to people?"  ..they tell me how shy they are when it comes to putting a camera up to their eye to photograph a stranger on the street or in a bar or social gathering…

several times in my travels i have suffered from "room lockdown" ….unable to leave my hotel room, watching CNN, ordering room service,  and fearful of going out on the street to learn the local "ballet" of street shooting…eventually i just must GO, but it is not always easy….and so it is with  many students i have in my workshops…

the "art" of photographing complete strangers close up and personal who started their day not thinking they were going to be a photo subject, is indeed a skill to be learned and perfected….some photographers have a natural flair for this, but most find this an often unbearable challenge….

i once spent an entire week in Chile with a fisherman and his family….i met the fisherman  by chance, as i do with most of my photo subjects…. he was on a beach early one morning and  was fixing his nets…..i asked if i could take one picture….he agreed…this led to more pictures and me finally asking if it was possible to actually go out in the boat with him and fish…one thing led to another, and hours and hours and hours of fishing in bad light went by and i spent most of my time helping him haul in his nets…two days of this…..then meet the wife and kids for a family "gift picture"…..and then and then…but, what do you think this fisherman would have said if i had asked him upon our first meeting on the beach, "excuse me sir, do you mind if i spend an entire week with you and your family ??"

it is all in the approach… the handshake … the "body language" and voice….and the most important thing of all…eye contact….the "language" of eye contact is universal, international and cross cultural….your intent is most often mirrored in your eyes…..this is when you are "judged" by a complete stranger…..

for those of you who want photograph people in an intimate way, what do you do?  how do you overcome your "shyness"?   how do you make the photographs you want and yet leave everyone feeling good about the whole experience??

morning fog

there is now outside my window a morning fog so thick i cannot see the river…monochromatic…soft, mysterious….it hides the fact that i am where i am….it has taken the "place" out of what is normally an obvious skyline….new york is  temporarily "gone"……

i often contemplate "place"….both where i live and where i do my photographs….certain environments seem to be catalysts for good work done  and others not…..i tend to feel more comfortable in southern climes…new york is way way too far north for me…only because it is new york can i deal with the biting cold wind  of winter….cold is not so inspirational for me….a warm tropical dawn with  fishermen readying their small boats  for the sea moves me more than whale hunters preparing their dog sleds for a journey over the ice….

most photographers i know prefer certain "places" as well as certain types of stories….do you envision any time soon a story about Alaska from Alex Webb or James Nachtwey’s vision of Iowa or Maya Goded in China or Bruce Davidson in Japan or Mary Ellen Mark in New Zealand or Joseph Koudelka in Tahiti or Gregory Crewdson doing a tableau in Russia or Nan Goldin in Scotland ???  i cannot imagine Ansel Adams having set up his 8×10 in Indiana nor Henri Cartier-Bresson doing street photography in Hollywood…

how important do you think it is for a photographer to be in the right geographical environment to do their best work??

the fog lifts now slowly… i know where i am……



i hate to admit it sometimes, but i must be "results" oriented….i see myself as outrageously "freewheeling"….independent and free at all costs…reckless sometimes…loving loving the journey…..BUT, in seeming contradiction, i am also a "results" person…theorizing that no philosophic discussion at the end of the bar is worth much without "end results"….

so it was with my students last week….i let them know early on that we could hang, we could chat, we could bond, and perhaps become  friends, but that as a mentor i expected them to actually produce an essay of their own choosing in just a few days…change their portfolio???  yes, of course, but perhaps send them on a course to change their life….i try to get into their psyche one by one, pushing each  in a personal direction relating to where they want to go "next"…

at some point, early in the week when frustrations run high,  the students realize the class is more about philosophy than "photography"… however, the final student slide show and print exhibit will be presented to a group of their peers in a  "new york event" (about 100 invited guests) …since this particular class is geared to young emerging professionals, this is exactly what they bargained for…this is what they know will "happen"… result..

not incidentally, during the week, i got a lot of help  from my friends  Gail Fisher , Ilustrations Editor,National Geographic; Sara Rosen, Director at Powerhouse Publishing; Chris Anderson, Magnum; Mark Lubell,Director and Danielle Jackson, Cultural Dept, Magnum; Lorena Ros, Panos; and Rob Clark, National Geographic photographer….all of them generously gave their time for the students…thank you friends…

with friday night comes final presentation of a week of  hard hard work…to set the mood and establish a high level of cred for the evening,   i bring in a "warm up band"….last year it was Nachtwey, Anderson, Kashi and Appleton….

this time the lead-in presenters were,  Alessandra Sanguinetti showing her masterwork "On the Sixth Day" and Paul Fusco showing his heart wrenching "Chernobyl"…and as a surprise "jam", walked in Eugene Richards kicking off the whole evening with a moving new film "War is Close"…

yes, yes, of course there was a party!!  5am i think….but we lock the doors at 9pm to allow for a respectful showing of work by both iconic guest presenters  and the student show following….the no run out of beer what did i do with my purse  party is later..

now normally i would put this post over in the "student work/workshops" section, but i will reserve that space to show you some of the student work  (by tomorrow i think)…i will also do short stories on Sanguinetti and Fusco under "friends/family"….i put this short "results" description  of our loft workshop here now just to explain where i was last week!!

By now, all of you know me so so well, that you totally anticipate the question….right??  ok, yes, the question is:  are concrete "results" important for you or is the journey fulfilling in itself???