Monthly Archive for February, 2008

sleeping around….




home is where the heart is….a rolling stone gathers no moss….it is hard to kill a moving target….whatever…..i am just content to sleep in one bed for two whole weeks….that has not happened lately….since the three week  holiday with my family way way way back in december, i have not been in one place for more than a few days….so, to now have 15 days in Oaxaca is a luxury i am soaking up with every passing minute…

however, i will move on next week to Norway and then and then, well i just will not have a "home" for all of 2008….the shock of the loss of my New York loft at first left me dazed and confused, but quickly survival instincts kicked in….and then and then, true beauty….an IDEA!!! 

forced evacuation has led  me to voluntary exile…for my upcoming photographic project,  i MUST not have a home…i do not WANT a home…i CANNOT have a home….that would ruin everything….telling you now about my IDEA would ruin everything too…it is time for me to "disappear" into my work…

it may surprise you  that "travel", in and of itself, has never been a source of inspiration for me…discovery fascinates, but "discovery" is also right around the corner…travel has always been totally incidental to whatever creative ideas were rolling around inside my jetlagged brain…ironically, i never set out to "see the world" even though that is exactly what happened…and i did not "leave" until i was over 30…

my first 17 years in serious photography never took me out of my own country…i was perfectly happy photographing life around me and my own "backyard"…i had no sense of the "real world"…then fate forced me out the door to learn about other cultures and countries….looking through the international viewfinder became my whole "real education" …certainly this is  one of my most priceless assets….but now, that same "fate" brings me to a creatively "logical" project which will at least keep me culturally  and photographically "at home"….albeit without any place to stay!!!

i will now begin my daily Oaxaca "routine"….starting with a nice walk to the "zocalo", one of the best plazas in the world …i will find my perfectly positioned  table and chair…get some coffee and pan tostado …mull things over…think david think…maybe i will take a picture or two…chat it up with my "old friend" and waiter Pablo who will be just now seeing his children off to school…the morning light is nice, so i must leave you….

so, i just have time to ask you quickly….would "sleeping around" stimulate you, or do you need an "anchor" to do your best work??


weather report….

a storm is brewing…..90% chance of rain ..a cold front has moved in , trapping a lot of warm air, so violent tornados possible….close your windows….stay inside….eventually this storm will pass…they all do…but, be totally prepared for extensive property damage….

i am sure that all of you know that the photography licensing business as we know it, is  going through dramatic changes…Getty Images, heretofore the largest photo  licensing agency in the world, is up for far, no takers….even though they grossed around 800 million dollars last year, they "lost" 31 million….Corbis is losing money in licensing….so is Magnum (a very small "player" in the  mega image sales arena) are all photographic agencies…the traditional licensing agencies  are  now subject to getting slammed by the the biggest "storm" to come out of the skies ….EVER!!

there are many reasons for this…first and foremost is just the simple fact millions of pictures each day are being uploaded to sites which started out as "personal photo sharing" , but have turned into a place to buy photographs….cheap….art directors have to wade through a lot of junk to get what they want, but there are some gold nuggets in there… i have said before, it is "raining" pictures…lots and lots of tomatoes in the market….fewer discerning buyers who know a good tomato from a bad one…OR, just willing to go with "good enough"….

now, this does not mean that photographers are "out of business"…the licensing of photographs is only a part of most professional photographers income…but, a significant part….there is good news too…the "collector print" business is up and growing by the minute….book publishing is booming and self-publishing is definitely the "go to" new outlet for today’s emerging photographers…the net provides unlimited possibilities….there is so so much out there to be "invented" or "re-invented",  which is always the job of the "next generation"…get to it!!

i have two questions for you: 

first, how do you see these developments? 

second, and more important, do you have the copyright (ownership) on all of your commissioned work???

in two hours i am off to my beloved Oaxaca, Mexico for two weeks….Oaxaca is one of my favorite places to  photograph in the world…the weather is almost always perfect….however, this time i will take an umbrella…you never know…




new posts….

today i made four posts, including this one….all right here on “road trips”….normally, i would have spread them out over the other sections…most of you want me to go to one blog…, i will try it…well, two…i want to leave “student work” as is…but, most of my posts will go on “road trips” for at least the next week to see how it goes…so, pretend that “work in progess” and “friends/family” do not exist…gotta keep ’em up until i see how this works and can save the material we have written….

so we will see how you like everything posted right here….a test… see if you actually read stories which are “at the bottom”….this means i will always be reading and keeping “alive” the top four stories or so…let me know please if this works for you….if i have not made all of your suggestions “come true”, it is simply because we cannot make it technically happen….but, we are working on it….

“rocking with Elvis…”



"Thirty years ago, the work of David Douglas Duncan possessed my soul and pushed me over the edge to a life in photography. To have him at our seminar was like getting to rock with Elvis", says National Geographic’s Director of Photography, David Griffin, above right….. 93 yr. old  DDD ,above center, rolled into the annual NG Photographer’s Seminar in early January to  "jam" with the best, for the best….

for the last 30 years or so, National Geographic Magazine has hosted the "world of photography" in its plushy Grosvenor Auditorium named after Gilbert H. Grosvenor  grandfather of Gilbert M. Grosvenor ,left below, son of Melville Bell Grosvenor and  Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the National Geographic Society…still with me ???  the Grosvenor dynasty descends from Alexander Graham Bell,  the inventor (indirectly) of the ubiquitous, it drives me crazy  cell phone,  having invented the "crank it up" telephone in 1876.  By 1888 Alexander was among 33 other elite scientists and explorers who founded the soon to be non-profit National Geographic Society whose "mission" was literally engraved in polished brass as  "a Society for the increase and diffusion of geographical knowledge"…

even for those of you who have never been to the Washington D.C.  Society Headquarters you may imagine an atmosphere where there are more black shined shoes than Vans or cowboy boots…."formal" might be a fair description and , yes, a bit more bureaucratic than a California think tank….lots of memos and meetings…..i mean, the Geographic is in the Federal Village and only 6 blocks from the White House….WASHINGTON seeps through the walls…i mean , it is a magazine, not a space shuttle launch!!!  ..but, what would you expect?

what you might not expect is what you get at the annual Photographers Seminar….this year, besides the headliner David Douglas Duncan, were presenters  Alec Soth, Jodi Cobb, Larry Fink,  Eugene Richards, Paul Nicklen,  and Debbie Fleming Caffery  ….. the audience was, of course, just as impressive with  William Albert Allard,  Amy Vitale,  David Burnett, Kristin Ashburn, Robert Clark, Amy Toensing, Ira Block,  Steve McCurry, Richard Barnes, Maggie Steber, Mike Yamashita, Franz Lanting, Nina Berman, Stephen Ferry, Chien Chi-Chang, Callie Shell,  and Chris Johns who turned in his cameras three years ago to become  Editor of the Magazine…. and many many  other "famous photogs"  who will not be upset that i did not mention them (i hope) ….and so so many editors and biz  superstars throughout the world, like Jean Francois Leroy, Director of Visa P’our L’Image in Perpignan, France, left above….

this Seminar  is a true "gathering of the tribe" and is a major "tour de force" and "feather in the cap" for National Geographic….set up originally by Robert E. Gilka (see my story on "bosses") it continued under the guideship of Susan A. Smith, Associate Director of Photography for many years….now, David Griffin is the titular director, but he doles out lots of deserved credit to Susan and the Society "diplomat",  Michael Nichols, now officially Editor at Large for the Magazine….the Grand Master of all master of ceremonies is none other than photographer Vince Musi who also does the honors at Look3, Festival of Photograph…Look3 was  created by  the same aforementioned  tireless humanistic natural history former but always  Magnum photographer, Michael "Nick" Nichols…lots of stuff going on "down there" folks…do not underestimate ever the power of what is going on at National Geographic…

"rock with Elvis"??  i do not know about that but,  well, David Douglas Duncan changed my life with an inscription he wrote in my authors copy of "War Without Heroes"…way  back when i was 23 and we were on the same week long seminar program  together … in 1970  DDD wrote  to DAH " David, you will have a fabulous life"…..thank you David….you set an example and gave me words to inspire….could there have been any greater gift???

but now the Photographers Seminar is over…my biased ramble is over….it is time for you to speak….what do all of you think??  does National Geographic Magazine "deliver" on it’s "mission" imperitive???




saving the “kibbutz”



i am sure there is no doubt among any of us that the most published/ reproduced photographic image of all time is Cuban photographer Alberto Korda’s photograph of macho firebrand Che Guevara…this symbol of revolution and rebellion, is on t-shirts, baseball caps, souvenir flags, is a tatoo parlor favorite, and now the label of an Argentinian winery … i have a feeling this iconic image is most often displayed by those who actually have no idea of the revolutionary idealogy of Argentinian physician Che..but, so be it…an icon nevertheless….

this modern day “revolution cliche” also hangs (or rather hung) on my living room wall….mine is an original, signed, full-frame fiber print given to me by Korda himself after we had both consumed i do not know how many Havana Club mohitos…we went long into the night after the opening of my “Cuba” exhibition in Havana in 2000..Alberto died just a few months after our Havana “all-nighter” , in Paris during the opening of his own retro exhibit…

Alberto Korda was a motivated photographer…..”my main aim was to meet women”, Korda confessed in a New York Times interview towards the end of his life…and his second wife (but not his last) was a top fashion model……hmmmmmm… well, motivations aside, Korda is represented by prestige galleries throughout the world and was Fidel Castro’s personal photographer for 10 years after the revolution…you may see an interesting film by Hector Cruz Sandoval titled “Kordavision” which was released after Alberto’s death..this film and the above photograph are not so popular in Miami where many of the “non- recipients” of the Che/Fidel revolution have lived for the last 40 years…

despite the obvious international recognition of this almost always cropped photograph, Korda received no royalties…in a $50,000 lawsuit settlement against Smirnoff vodka for using this image in an advertising campaign, Korda gave the money to the Cuban Health Care system, saying “Che would have done the same”….and besides, Korda did not have copyright on the photograph anyway…the Revolution “owned” the picture….and everything else too…

Korda once said with regard to the exploitation of this image, “I am categorically against the exploitation of Che’s image, particularly for the promotion of alcohol”….all of the photographers in Castro’s revolution were “idealists” in their zeal…Salas, Corrales, and the more famous Korda…they did, however, “give” their art and their heart to the Revolution….the outcome of “dedication”, as we all know, can never be known…

so, to all of you i ask…would you sacrifice your “art” and your talent for what you considered to be a “worthy cause” ?


Photographs above by Robert Clark (my good neighbor who has given me a bed)


house of sand and fog


this house is for rent…..i need a place to live ….but, i will not rent this house….not because i wouldn’t  like living here in the dunes by the sea on the "outer banks"  of Carolina, but precisely because i would very much like living here…the sights and smells are the very ones of my youth on the nearby Virginia coast, just to the north…so i would feel at home….so much so that i fear i might let one day slide into the next and the next and the next….nothing wrong with that at all, but right now i have a lot on my mind….work to do…book ideas burning my poor brain alive…

we had a thread going not so long ago about talking about photo essays before they were done or even started…it seemed that most of us thought  that it is better to at least get started on a project before letting the "volcano blow" at the end of the bar…such is the case with me now…i am jazzed about something, tempted to talk, but i will wait….probably because it will be one month before i can even start photographing ….a whole lot of wine could "git spilt" on the ground in that time…

so, instead of writing about  projects themselves , i will ramble a bit about the "spaces" and "circumstances" from whence our ideas cometh….for example,  both of my sons live in nearby beach towns…..both of them, as filmmakers, work much as i do…"leavin’ on a jetplane" to their "jobs"….there is one big difference: they come home to small town chit chat and  i come back to new york hyperglide…

i fantasize their lifestyles….my sons tell me i could never "make it" in these towns by the sea…they both tell me i would be bored quickly…my friends tend to think the same ("city boy" one says)….can this be true???  if it is true, i hate to admit it, because right now with the winter sidelight filtering through the pines and the soft afternoon breeze and the cardinals chirping  away, i feel quite at peace and loving every second of it…hmmmm, what would be the breaking point i wonder???

now, as a "homeless" man, i am also a free man….free to choose, once again, where to live….it seems ironic that the sense of "free choice" is a whole lot  more exhilarating than  the  sense of  "having no place to go" is potentially depressing!!….but, that is just me…..nomadic  by nature…get me out of the rain and anyplace can be home…and when i am  "down and out" i  think like a wild animal…my senses  are sharp….eyes keen…natural high……clear head….ideas  flow…survival instinct adrenaline rush maxed out….too  comfy and maybe the dreaded one day sliding into another into another another  would  manifest itself….but, i am not sure  sure of this….i just imagine this…

what about you?  do your best ideas come under stress  and out of necessity or  do you  need to be  in familiar comfortable space and without "worry" to roll out your "idea of the year"  ???


i have just a quick and easy question for you, before we get back to more substantial issues…. it is a question i asked once before many months ago…but, so much has happened here on our forum since then, that i thought i would get your advice once again…

simply, should i continue with all four forums, or just go with one, and then set up categories as is more the norm??

my original theory was that i would post often here on “road trips” and have the others (“student work” , “family” , “work in progress” )updated less, but the material would stay “on top” longer in any particular new home page will be “live” soon enough and should be easy to navigate…..there is a permanent place for the work of the photographers here, galleries for my own work, listings of workshops etc and general info..

my basic philosophy is: “if the truck ain’t broke, don’t fix it”……on the other hand, i want to make things work easiest for you … for me, it makes no difference….i will post the same amount of material either way…let me know please how you see it, or rather, how you prefer to see it….