Monthly Archive for December, 2007

santa claus

yes, yes i was taught in my childhood that there was a Santa Claus…it was pretty confusing even then, because the story of Jesus in Bethlehem, and wise men and angels and fat Santa showing up at midnight in my home and then somehow wriggling  down my chimney and leaving toys under the tree (if i had been a good boy that year), was a story or a combo of stories that left me totally perplexed…however, as i rushed to open my packages with my name on them under the Christmas tree, i just left the stories alone….i had my new electric train or baseball mitt, and that was that…

a camera came into my life at about 11 years old, and by that time Santa was "personified" as my father…i always figured….. anyway, at this point, i only wanted a roll of film in my stocking hung by the mantle with care….i did not realize at the time, that this very camera would lead me around the world to ask many more questions than just whether or not there was really a Santa Claus …and much more than finding out whether or not our red and white Santa was the end game of a Coca Cola ad campaign in the 1920’s…

december is a special month for all faiths…particularly for the sons of Abraham, with Chanukah and Eid-Al-Adha and Christmas all rolling around on top of each other…now, the Buddhist and Hindu moon based calendars get complicated for me, but when i saw the full moon on Christmas Eve and early Christmas day i knew it was a good  omen for everyone….

in all of my travels certainly religion and politics come into my mind a lot…most of what i have photographed for thirty years  is a by-product of one of the two or a combo of the two….the mixture of the two usually bringing about results that i do not condone  nor understand….i continue to be totally confused about the human animal in our various incarnations of amazing grace  and simultaneous amazing willingness to self destruct….and yet and yet, i lean towards photographing the light…the hope …the moments when it has all gone right…realizing that surely all is not really "right", but this little moment to be shared has a real "rightness" to it…i keep thinking mankind should be getting better…learning from past mistakes and moving "forward"…however, it often does not seem to be the case..i see this in the work of many of my colleagues…great work……but my "belief" is in the ultimate dignity of man ….not a religious belief….just belief, albeit often flawed…

as i drove along in my mother’s car on Christmas Eve morn , i saw the almost full moon going down between the foot hills near durango…this is just the kind of picture that would make me cringe if i saw it in a student portfolio (below)…but, i took it anyway….obviously, i did not even get out of the car….just a snapshot…a memory….nothing more….never to be printed or published or archived…..just a Christmas 2007 memory…..a poignant memory for me because my father died on Christmas morning in 2000 at home with our family at his side with these peaks in his view…a rather beautiful passing of a life…..

i wish all of you a blessed holiday season….i would wish for you happiness above all with your families and companions….and i know i know i know this sounds perhaps trite, naive, etc etc.., but i just cannot help myself….if each of us puts one little daily "brick in the wall" towards "understanding" or "sensitizing" then we will have made our contribution to the elusive "world peace"…leaders and organizations will not do it for us….it is only us, and each of us counts…

your thoughts????


changes in lattitude/attitude

tomorrow is the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere….dark ….spring seems a long way off…jimmy buffetland  is but a dream….and yet, cold bitter charles dickens winter does not really begin in my mind until after the holidays…because it seems we squeak through a good bit of winter with no problem because of so many family activities, gathering with friends etc etc…the "hammer" does not really come down until new years day…at least , this is how it works in my mind…

i am off in half an hour to see my mother and family in colorado…no work….just good cooking, get my laundry done, family games, and keep the fireplace going…relax….try try try to stay away from the computer, cell phone, and all the entrapments of "real life"….escape to home….the best trip of all….my "jetlag" time table is so mixed up now, that it does not make any difference….i can always sleep in my mother’s house…

at some point in the next day or so , i will catch up with all of your comments and respond…the bag/book winners should receive their "stash" before Christmas…everything is to be  fedexed out to the "magnificent seven" today….90% of what i am supposed to have done by now is done…there is always always that other 10%!!  but, mostly i will try to forget that undone 10%…chill out….pretend all is well all around….

i cannot resist one short question to you before stumbling down the stairs and step into the pre-dawn cold and waiting  airport bound taxi with a probably "too early morning grumpy driver" (i am in a good mood, so i will attempt cheerful conversation)…, does the holidays season somehow make you depressed because the year is "over", days are short and busy,  and you did not quite get everything done ??  or are you uplifted by family gatherings  etc. and  the chance to "start over" with the new year coming?? 

biz meeting

i am sitting now in a business meeting….i am even a member of our board…yet still, like an errant schoolboy  , i am restless, shifting in my chair, fighting sleep and having trouble paying attention to the graphs, charts, and numbers being thrown around…i have now been in Paris for two days and only know that it is freezing cold outside…i will not savor the delights of the city….

all of this is very important business for Magnum….we have survived for 60 years because SOMEONE was paying attention to all of this…and even i am much better at understanding the business side of our craft than previous…..but , i am very grateful for  all of the other members who are much better suited than i for "balancing the books" at Magnum…i can barely balance my personal accounts…

i am only on the board, in fact, because of my activities with  the Magnum Cultural Foundation and our education initiative….but, i did my presentation hours ago and so now i am writing to you instead of making suggestions for a better four office coordination program…i am, in effect, "scribbling" on my laptop in the "back of the class"…but i am still, sort of, listening too…

balancing a creative life with a business life has always been difficult for me…how about you??  does business acumen help you with your photocraft, or are you like me…more interested in photographs than in flow charts??



tough call…

about five minutes ago i had to make a "tough call"….i made the decision not to name the stipend recipient today as was originally planned…i am so sorry to disappoint those who have probably been anxiously waiting for the final results…but in my desire to make my self imposed  "deadline" of december 15, i was running the risk of rushing the edit….i just flat out need some more time…’s why…

looking quickly at the 250 "portfolios" overall is amazingly easy, but once inside each of your folders and looking closely, i have a much more challenging job than i originally thought…or, even thought yesterday!! first of all, less than half of you put in the metadata any kind of information on the essays at all…i was spending way too much time just trying to analyze the content of many stories….in some cases, there was not a clear breakdown from one story to the next, if there were multiple stories….i may send a few private emails to some of you requesting more info….and with about 8 exceptions, most of you need a serious edit…i think maybe there were only 3 or 4 of you who had a 20 picture cohesive essay…most could be cut …and i have no problem in doing this……i love to do this……but, it will  require some thoughtful time consuming work and contemplation…

i would rather "catch a little flak" right now for being late with my decisions, rather than think i  committed "rush to publish"….one of the "sins" of our craft….

picking the one recipient of the grant can be done fairly easily…this is not the problem, nor even the point….i am down to a healthy handful…if i had to, i could make that decision right this minute…but, this photographer is only part of the equation…in a way, the smallest part….because what is impressive is the whole body of the best of your work which will be edited down to a nice tight collection…..i will probably publish online about 6-10 of the finest essays….and perhaps 30-40 singles….this number could come down when i see the whole package…the worst "look" would be if i run too many pictures….

i will tell you right now there is some interesting variety in your work…a very nice combo of color and black & white and of straight documentary and more subjective interpretation…in most  cases, "bearing witness" to a subject, but with a very broad interpretation of narrative…and i am so so pleased about this…there will be many different "styles" in our final show….

now my schedule during the upcoming holidays is like everybody’s schedule during the holidays…do we not all  somehow need to be everywhere at once???….in any case, i am off to Paris tomorrow for a Magnum board meeting and then on thursday to see my family in Colorado…home cooking…yes, apple pie….to be realistic (a word i rarely use!), i think the best thing is to make the announcement the first week in january…with the work of the stipend recipient and the chosen best of everyone else all viewed together on the new website being constructed specifically to display your work….

many of you have been with me through the whole thinking process of this forum…it is, and always has been, a "work in progress"….i do apologize for the delay, but i do hope you will appreciate this extra time as time spent making sure i "got it right"….

i will continue looking at comments here and in the previous two or three postings….to answer any questions and just to keep up our usual musings….for me , this was a tough call tonight….i anguished over making it…..but now , it feels better just to have "cleared the deck" and done it….how about you??  is it easy for you to make "tough calls" or do  you dwell on decisions you do not want to make??

on a roll..

we are on a roll…a rockin’ kick ass roll…..i know that times have changed when i leave the buzz of one of my own parties and sit down at my desktop to write to you…but, i just can’t help myself….

i have been looking at your work…you know, all the work you guys so faithfully uploaded BEFORE you even knew i had made the crazy wild decision to drop in some funding to support your efforts….let me tell you, we are on to something….for the longest time i was afraid to look at your work…afraid that i had created a rube….afraid that it just was not going to work out…the way i usually feel when i start a workshop class…some of you know what i mean..

but WE did it!!!  this is just going to go down good….4 months of work from 250 of you….not all of it good….most of you have no idea how to edit…but, i do not care…for what i saw made me feel as good about something as i have ever felt about anything…whatever happens after this makes no difference…we did something….something creative..something new…and new way of building an audience that turns around and creates it’s own online magazine…or book …or exhibit…or none of the above…or whatever…probably a "one shot deal", but we still DID something unique…tomorrow i am supposed to announce the recipient of the first David Alan Harvey Fund for Emerging Photographers, under the non-profit umbrella of the Magnum Cultural Foundation …you may imagine it feels pretty cool…i hope that you will all feel the same very soon……

let’s just hope i can make it by tomorrow….after all, there is a Magnum staff party going on in my apartment right now…these friends make Magnum "happen"…i try to give a party for them at least twice a year…however, now i am being rude to my very special guests…i should get back to being host….but, do not worry, i will get back to your work soonest…i will leave no stone unturned…..

thank you so much…

abrazos, david

magnificent 7

your answers have been tallied for which iconic photographers, previously listed, carry a camera during their "off hours", and which do not…now, since i did not set a deadline for this (big mistake), and since i am too lazy to figure out the international  time zones for when some knew about this contest, and since it is the holiday season , i will have to give out multiple awards…

out of 70 responses, 7 of you got it right.. and from david ukaleq b. , we know there was a mathematical probability of 70 (coincidence) possible combinations from these listed photographers (read his post and understand!!!)…in any case,   7 camera bags (my old ones), and 7 signed  copies of "Living Proof" (my new ones), will go out my door for the following responders…yes yes, that good ole’ number 7 !!!




winners are:




Salvadore Moreno



Tom Leininger


the winning combo was:

with camera….erwitt, davidson, blenkensop, koudelka

no camera…..rodero, greenfield, nachtwey, mccurry


so many of you were close…missed by one….but, two photographers threw most of you off…..most thought mccurry did (i have never seen steve with a camera "off duty") and davidson didn’t (bruce is always shooting)…some of you must have tried to figure it out by the kind of work done, which does not seem to reveal much in this context…now, i must say , this is totally based on my personal observations of these selected photographers…some disputes could arise….but, since this is all in good fun, i hope you will accept my conclusion….and for the "magnificent 7" who "won", please post an address for me to send your books and bags….


my personal mode with regard to "camera…no camera" (from a note i posted to bob black):

"i always have my camera with
me…but, i do not always photograph everything around me all the
time…like you, there are no pictures for me unless i am ready to make
them…i need to be in the mood….or moved…and no matter what i do
or how hard i try, i cannot "capture life"…i wish i could…but it
slips by anyway…frustrating….the camera does not help…but
sometimes i like to think that it will..that "recording" will somehow
preserve the moment…stop this "freight train" or slow it down…a
futile attempt …what it does do however, is allow me to savor a
situation just a bit more than i would have otherwise…because when i
am shooting, no matter how casually, i do "enter" the scene on a deeper
level than if i am just standing there with my hands in my pockets….i
notice more, feel more, become more….the resulting picture may only be
a reference… but as i sometimes go through the countless cardboard
boxes i have stacked around of un-catalogued pictures, what a joy it is
to discover some random snapshots of some "unimportant" event that just brings
a smile to my face and simply brings back a memory that i might
otherwise have forgotten…and if an old song from "yesterday" happens
to play at the same moment as  i am doing my archival rummaging,
then i feel "the power" of remembering and living as in no other way…"

camera……no camera

ok, time to lighten up a bit after probably going too far down the dark road of betrayal…although actually mostly positve energy came back with the comments from the "fake" post…as a matter of fact, all of it was positive…thank you all…

but, now saddle up for  a little quiz…and prize (yes yes , one of my old camera bags and since it is the holiday season also a signed copy of "Living Proof")….and surely there will be an interesting discussion following…

i am going to list eight well known photographers…who happen to be friends and so i know their habits….four of these photographers only carry a camera with them when they are on assignment or working…i have never seen these four ever shoot a picture….the other four always have a camera with them and often shoot their daily life or us hanging at the bar…

to win the prizes, you must pick which four "do", which four  "don’t",  carry a camera always…the first person to get all eight identified camera-wise correctly is our grand prize winner…

it should be obvious that whether or not  these photographers "do" or "don’t" has nothing at all to do with the power of their respective works….

so, which four have camera??    which four , no camera:


elliott erwitt

philip blenkensop

james nachtwey

bruce davidson

lauren greenfield

joseph koudelka

steve mccurry

cristina garcia rodero




in Bangkok last week i bought  a fake watch….on purpose….just to see how it would work….the genuine  Panerai  diver’s watch sells retail for $6,800. (guaranteed for one year to go 300 feet underwater with no leaks)….i overpaid a street salesman 30 bucks for my fake Panerai (not guaranteed for any amount of time or to even last one run through the shower)….still, as i rolled it over in my hand and looked closely at the apparent precision , i could not imagine how even a fake as good as this could be made to sell for such a low price…the "fakes" of many products sold in the streets of Bangkok are quite impressive..

however, i also bought another "fake"….or, i should say, "bought into" another fake….but, not on purpose….a fake person ….looked real, but turned out not to be….please do not try to guess who…this is nobody you know or who has ever been mentioned on this forum….and this is about biz , not love…

the fake watch will amaze me for every day that it lasts…the fake person is gone in my mind forever….i try to be a flexible man…i can take all kinds of abuse…and i often make friends with people that others may find not so "popular"….but, to be dissed, betrayed or manipulated by someone leaves me cold and disillusioned….i just hate the feeling…

i am sure that most of you, at one time or another, have had this feeling of being betrayed…..something like the helplessness one feels after being robbed or vandalized…you want to shake off the negative vibes, but they are slow to go…how do you deal with these feelings ??  do you just shake it off or are you more paranoid the next time around??

by the way, the fake watch just keeps on ticking….matched with my plastic "satellite timed" Casio, it is keeping very good time…and has survived four hot showers!! will it go down to  300  feet underwater?? i will never know…but whatever happens to this "fake" watch, i will never be disappointed….i wish i could say the same for person x……

after hours

"postpartum" workshop depression has set in for  jim and mike and me….the energy has been sucked from all  of us….and maybe the students are feeling the same… is all over….terrific success by all accounts and yet and yet why such a letdown??

i am still in bangkok….facing the 17 hour non-stop right over the north pole flight back to new york is just not something i am in the mood for right now…i have justified my hanging out for a few days more by having michael  encourage our tardiness back to our studio… we are telling ourselves that since we are both here together, we can get a lot of work done from bkk…yea sure…..well, anyway we will only be a couple of days behind schedule….and we have the enormous job of looking  at all of your submitted work when we get back to nyc….well, i will think about that tomorrow!!!

now is the time to sit around the pool….except now i have no pool to hang around….i have moved into a less expensive hotel, but clean and nice enough hotel, now using my own funds….a few students are still around…katharina hesse, tom hyde, chris baer and james chance….we all hung out a bit last night…pretty low key…we were all too tired to talk about much or shoot much…i shot a few token snapshots while james chance, above, shot a pretty decent game of 8 ball…..last week, chance  did a nice little story on bkk construction…..please see new bkk student posts under "student work/workshops"….

so, how about you guys…ever experience a total letdown after doing something that worked out well ??? and , more importantly, how do you bounce back??