Monthly Archive for January, 2008



yesterday a brief discussion came up under "student work/workshops" that i thought might be interesting to bring up right here….herve brought it up, after seeing my India student essays,  with regard to what he described as a "trend" by workshop students in particular and many photographers in general to photograph what he described as "incomplete" or "not quite" photographs….photographs which could possibly require just too too much imagination on the viewers part…not enough "explanation" perhaps….

simply put, probably most would say the above picture to be rather "incomplete" and the photograph below sufficiently "straight"….or not??? i only use these two since i made them last week and they happen to be in my camera this minute and i promised herve this discussion…and i am either too lazy or too jetlagged or both to go searching for surely  better examples….

in any case, my answer back to herve’s comment  was that i thought that what we are seeing today among serious photographers  is not what i would call a "trend" , but simply our evolution in seeing…artistic evolution/revolution  based on our intractable human nature and our most basic and eternal deepest desire to just "shake it up" .. my theory is that tastes obviously change from one generation to the next, or there are parallel and perhaps conflictive artistic developments within the same time frame…in any case, this is not a new discussion…but, we have not had it here….

so i ask you… you see a "trend" towards the non-literal in documentary photography???  if you answer "yes", do you think this is a positive or negative trend? if you say "no", do you see the positive  "norm" for photographs to be getting looser and looser with no end in sight ??





perhaps you had the chance to read my one and only comment under my "homeless" post  expressing my heartfelt gratitude to you….in summary, a warm thank you….in summary, i might really show up in some of the spaces you have so kindly offered!!

family is important to me…that is why i have the "family/friends" section on this forum…and anyone who knows me well, knows that blood family and my extended family are a significant part of my life….this includes my immediate family, Magnum bros and sisters, National Geographic lifelong friends, "my" students, respected colleagues from all aspects of our craft and an assorted mishmash of folks i have met as my photographic subjects who continue to be friends…i often do much of my work "inside" families i have just met walking down the street (as below)…

representing a new "extended family"  for me are you "out there"…out there in the ether…extending a hand…virtual friends they say…hmmmm, i never did anything "virtual" in my life…i do not think for a minute that the conversations we have here are virtual….i would not waste your time or mine  if thought this for a nanosecond….and my greatest pleasure in this last year is that i have had the chance to meet so many of you in "real life" in my trips to  all continents this last year…and some of you seemed destined to meet each other via this forum….

i leave India on sunday…..and sure enough it happened again…a true bonding with my eight students here in Rajasthan….and a whole lot of work done…good work…check out "student work/workshops" soonest (depending on whether or not we can get photos out on this line)….8 students from six different countries…three Italians, one Russian, one German, one Indian, one Argentinian and one American… 5 women, 3 men….tomorrow we will all say goodbye…all of us with plans to meet again soonest..a new family ….tonight after the slideshow  there were hugs all around and the laughter of recollection of silly things that happened to each of us during the week… now a wood fire burns….Pink Floyd plays under the half moonlight….

another sweet sweet "brick in the wall"……



just a few days ago i lived in new york…but, not anymore….an early morning phone call woke me up here in Rajasthan and i found out that i now have no place to live…not exactly what i wanted to hear even before i had my first cup of coffee….not exactly what i wanted to learn, period…disconcerting, disturbing, disorienting….

my whole building has been evacuated….indefinitely……a fire threat in the basement caused the new york city fire department to close down my building for fire code reasons….all tenants had two days to remove their belongings…..imagine….i am in India and suddenly  my precious original negatives, slides, hard drives, and books  are  being boxed and  hauled out the door  to  various  "safe" locations….to  the  homes of friends, to  Magnum  and  who knows where  else….no  time to  really remove the furniture, clothing etc., but i cannot even think about those  things…i do  not care about those things……..i only care about my "originals"…….thankfully, i am blessed with good friends  who have come to rescue my negatives, hard drives etc and are carrying out the evacuation process while i am sitting under a full moon by a campfire with my eight students on the other side of the world…very strange….

this represents  a "change in plans" to be sure….i cannot imagine now all that this really means…yet, i can only feel fortunate….everyone in the building is safe… negatives etc. are fine…no damage…..i do not even want to think what i would be thinking now if there had actually been a catastrophic fire….and i love my friends now more than ever and cannot imagine how i will repay them for what they are doing for me right now….

my workshop here in India ends in five days… original schedule had me flying straight back home this coming  monday….now i have no home…no place to go .. i quite literally have no plan…this is just a bit more serendipity than i really like …..does anyone out there have an extra sofa for me to sleep??? 

updates, mandates, and postdates

i am just a mess sometimes…but, i think most of you have probably already figured that out by now…you should see my apartment…or rather, you should not!!  nightmare!! anybody who walked in here right now would imagine that here is a man in turmoil and they would not be far from wrong…i swear, for me  it is a winter thing…this time of year is not my time of year…got my eyeballs on spring…

but, somehow i also get stuff done this time of year…i can’t ride my bike, so i get work done instead…one of the things "done" in the last few days was to secure your work  some kind of presence at the Festival of the Photograph this june…either a projection or small print show of your work….i think also we will have a presence at Visa Pour L’Image (Perpignan, France) in september…

i may  award one or two "assignment stipends"  this spring, funding up front, just to make sure we are looking fine…very soon i will list a selected  "jury of peers"  for the Emerging Photographer Fund…respected peers who will help me to think about our Fund and how best to make it work….we have already gotten some good notice online from PDN (Photo District News), there will be soon something in American Photo magazine, and Magnum will issue an international press release about our project soonest…

some of you have received private e-mail critiques from me…and some of those same people have never returned to comment or communicate with me in any way  either!!!  i guess my analysis of work is usually on the tough side for some…but, that is just how i do it…that is always how it has been in the world in which i live…critical but constructive….maybe it is somehow "softer" in person, as in my workshops…words on a page can be like a hot engraving in steel…..well, my only intent is to give you something to help you move forward….and i only sent critiques to those who asked….please let me know through whether or not you want a review…it is time intensive to give even a short review, so i will only do it upon request…

michael says he can post all of the remaining essays and singles on our new link within the week…he and i will be operating by "remote control" and with an 11 hour time difference since i fly to India today, so please have your usual patience…the website is still not exactly what i want and you may see changes from one hour to the next…we will not go "live" with this new site until we have it pretty much perfected…

please be of good cheer…..and i will be "on" again from India by the weekend….

on the road again…




my nice little winter vacation is over….back to work…i have pretty much been chilling out the last three or is it four weeks….only my self initiated responsibilities to you on this forum have kept me busy (i do have some new good news for you, but will save it for the next post)…but, mostly i have been hanging with family and friends….this was the longest holiday season of all time for me…but, a quick scroll down through this section and you can see i was "on the move" prior and may have needed a break….

i hit the trail on  friday  to India for 10 days (see post under "workshops") and then almost immediately to Oaxaca, Mexico for two weeks and then almost immediately to Oslo, Norway to join my Magnum colleagues in our first seriously organized workshop since i took on the role of "minister of education" for our cooperative….

appropriately, Jonas Bendiksen and his wife Laara Matsen have worked so so hard to get this major Magnum Masterclass workshop set up in their beloved Norway….i really think i should have said Laara Matsen and her husband Jonas Bendiksen,  because i know very well who did most of the work!!

in any case, Alex Majoli, Paolo Pellegrin, Chris Anderson, Alessandra Sanguinetti, Alex and Rebecca Webb, Jonas and yes, yours truly, will slip into Oslo in March for a springtime (Norway style) gathering of the tribe…please log on to: ….we would love for some of you to join us….

this will be my first trip to Norway….or to any country in Scandinavia….so, personally i am very excited and curious…i just have this feeling in my gut that  this workshop is  going to be very very well run…the Masterclass is being set up in conjunction with the Norwegian Press Photograhers Association, Bilder Nordic Photography School and the Oslo College of Photojournalism…man, do they have their act together!!

as a matter of fact, what i really am trying to find out by going to Norway,  is why oh why Scandinavian countries all seem so very very peaceful and very very organized and  have very very near perfect economies and  very very great health plans , while the rest of us scramble for our very very souls!!

to end up my mini all over the world workshop "tour" i will be seen on the beaches of the Dominican Republic, the green half of Espanola….please see my new post under "student work/workshops"…then, no more workshops til fall….i have a new photo project i want to start soonest and i will tell you about that once i get going…i hate to talk specifics about something until i actually start….you know, get that first good picture…

which brings me to an interesting question for you….if you talk to others a lot about something before you  really do it, does it lessen the desire to do it, or does it push you forward to actually do it ???

links and kinks


Photograph by Maciej Mosur



well, i got back late to new york from colorado this evening , but still felt compelled tonight to link you to some of your essays…now, the first thing i must say is that we are not finished…this new website is literally UNDER CONSTRUCTION….you will see a suggested home page layout, which i am actually not fond of at all,  and will change or modify drastically….but, i decided to make you a part of this new web "work in progress", so your comments are expected… please accept a few "kinks"  until we  get it all worked out…

the second thing i must say, is that good old fashioned space limitations at this point had me editing down just a bit tighter than i wanted…but, we are going to figure this one out….more importantly, you will only see right now pieces from the so-called "finalist" essays…but, there are  MORE ESSAYS AND SINGLES to come from many of you…two "singles" are shown here ….i have also done some individual critiques for this audience by private e-mail and will do more as soon as feasible…

some of the "sleepers" here may rise in your opinions to the top and vice versa…at some point very soon, i will write my thoughts on "why this ? " for all of the essays presented and will also solicit the opinions  and dialog from my  colleagues in  our craft…and , of course, something tells me that your opinions will be forthcoming soonest!!!

please remember that all of these essays were self-produced , as part of an experiment on this forum, by this  audience,  between july 15 and november 15,  2007…i was curious to see how this audience would do with an unfunded but "realistic" time limit…the Emerging Photographer stipend was initiated by yours truly after a few months of "mixing" and "inventing" with this community…

my goal is to finance photographers in  conjunction with the non- profit Magnum Cultural Foundation…  this initial stipend awarded to Sean Gallagher, with  others to follow, is  intended to support an "emerging"  photographer working on a photographic  essay who might benefit  ….for example, i do not see Gallagher’s essay as "finished" and definitely a "work in progress:..the ultimate intention here is to fund worthy photographers for whom traditional outlets for their work may not exist…. and to have the end result of their photographic work, stimulated by this forum,  appear in print and exhibition….no promises, just a sincere effort….

so, please take a look at these new photo-essayists under  "forum essays" …let’s talk……



Photograph by Partha Pal

high ground

yup, i am on high ground….i mean, literally…a mile and a quarter above the sea (2km)…where i am right now, water boils at 190 degrees fahrenheit (88C)….whereas, in new york water boils at 212F degrees (100C)….and obviously (i think) while the water quickly boils up here on the high ground (colorado), much faster than at sea level (new york),  the eggs take 20 % longer to cook…and you get 20% drunker 20% faster here on the high ground too….my science lesson for the day now ends and i await critical appraisal and corrections!!!

nevertheless, i like to be standing on the "high ground"…even when strolling down the beach…and particularly with photographs, only because that is what i do….i had no dream of any kind for this forum which was born almost one year ago, but i just love the way it has evolved on its organic own….settling into some kind of "natural high ground"….not because of anything i did, but totally based on you….your writing and now your photographs (by the way, i will showcase some new work of yours today or tomorrow…i am still waiting for the new web design, but let’s peek anyway)…

i sit now in front of my mother’s fireplace (i go to new york tomorrow) … my vacationing family is in various locations…some skiing, some reading, some at the grocery store…i love my family….but, in any 24 hour period we will challenge each other, disagree, somebody will surely say the wrong thing to somebody else, a temper or two may flare, and we will all roll along  being the happy family that we are…hmmm, is this not perhaps just a part of "family life"???  strange but true???

we are not exactly a family here on this forum, but we are pretty damned close….certainly a community and an amazing and wildly vibrant one at that….photographers and philosophers all….cool…as someone so accurately pointed out, where can you find a community of writers/photographers leaving so many comments on a simple photo blog?? i did not do that…you did!! 

as far as i am concerned, let it rip…let it roll…so much of what i see and read and view these days is just boring boring boring….so, if some of us are logging on to this "home" just to read what so and so wrote this time, then so be it…and, if at the same time we can view some good work, hear some provocative thoughts and gain a bit of insight from each other then , in fact, we are a healthy community…and the definition of "open forum" is that anyone can come and go anytime…that includes thee and me …that is called freedom my friends….

my personal intention is, of course,  to stand on the high ground…i may slip, surely i will slip… but, i will TRY  to stand high…BUT, the last thing that i am in this cold cruel world is a judge of any other human being…i may have opinions on photographs and their content, but fully admit to my own subjectivity…i have always lived in a world of sincere discourse… which can mean total disagreement and total agreement to disagree…

i would live nowhere else…and this is where i will put my support.. my support will be for different people at different times for different reasons….this is the high ground…the view is terrific….

stay tuned for more new work from…….YOU!!!!

happy new year 2008

i certainly hope everyone has been having fun… either partying last night or relaxing all day today….while you have been playing , i have been working!!  or should i say, suffering over decisions…..about your work!!

ok, here is how it shakes down (so far)…there are some essays still under question or without any identifiable caption information….i have sent emails to some photographers who just have not replied…i will give them a bit more time….

there are approximately 30 essays or  partial essays that i will put up for review on the new website due this week kindly supported by LiveBooks….and perhaps 40 strong singles which includes some very nice work from many of you…..i will also , as promised, give reviews by private email  to those who so seek…some of you just need just the right little kick to take you to your "next step"….many  of you are so so close…..

as i hope all of you remember, the purpose of this excercise was to see if our audience here on the forum could "produce" within a given time frame:  july 15 – novermber 15 2007   …. i sadly had to eliminate several terrific essays which did not fall within that time zone…the reason for this short time period was simple….to secure funding for future "assignments" for some of you for the future, we needed to see how well this audience could respond  in this fashion…this is, of course, not the only way nor perhaps even the best way to judge a photographer…but, it is not a bad place to start and a point that resonates loud and clear with most magazine editors and other funders …

i left the subject matter and style of work up to this audience….and we certainly will see the variety this freedom provided….

the essayist who will receive the first grant i have ever given (but not the last) and the first under the new Magnum Cultural Foundation  was chosen from the following best essayists:


all of these essayists will be shown soonest on the new website (i am waiting just as you!!)…hopefully  a traveling exhibit of this work and perhaps hard copy publication will also result from our efforts…to this end i am working…

the recipient of the first funding  ($5,000.) under the David Alan Harvey Fund for Emerging Photographers is:


below are a few photographs from Sean’s strong essay on the  desertification of China’s Western Gansu Province….the fast moving desert is literally swallowing up farmland and communities and is ever growing due to bad land management and global warming…i saw this essay as stylistically  powerful and journalistically relevant….and worthy of more financial support to keep Sean continuing on this significant  body of work…


A young girl stands before  a man-made lake in front of encroaching sand dunes.


A lone corn plant  in a field next to large sand dunes.


Huge sand dunes slowly creep onto arable farmland.


A camel walks past a pile of recently forested logs. Deforestation is the main cause of desertification.


A farmer sells watermelons to passing tourists. Watermelons consume massive amounts of water during growth. Overcultivation of this fruit leads to the draining of water from land, contributing to desertification.


The desert oasis at MingShaShan
has been present for over 2000 years. Recently however, as water is
mis-used by the public and local industry, the water level is slowly
dropping to dangerously low levels.


Two women climb a sand dune that  is slowly creeping into arable farmland.


As tourists fly above in motorized hang gliders, below them the desert continues to move, swallowing everything in its path, including the graves of past local residents.