Monthly Archive for May, 2012

Michael Webster – New York

Michael Webster

New York


The mythology of New York is known to anyone who has watched more than a dozen hours of television or skimmed magazines in a dentist’s office. But like ancient Greece, New York is too big to have a single, central story; its myth is carried by its demigods, or what in show business they call types.

Take a type we’ll call the New York Tough Guy. Now, there are tough guys all over the world; wherever you live you probably know at least one of them, and so the term “tough guy” will call him, specifically, to mind. This guy you know who talked about knocking a guy out as if it were nothing, and looked as if he could do it, is a tough guy, for instance.

But link these terms to New York and the focus shifts. The New York Tough Guy, for example, may be someone you saw perp-walked on the cover of the New York Post. Or he may be some actor who mugged a character on a movie you saw that was set in New York. He may be an antique figure with cross-hatched stubble, a lantern jaw, and a black eye-mask like the Beagle Boys wear in Scrooge McDuck comics. Maybe he’s tough in something other than a physical way. Some people (certainly not you, sophisticated reader) think Donald Trump is tough. Some people (perhaps you, sophisticated reader) think Anthony Bourdain is.

In any case, this image you’ve conjured matches the term New York Tough Guy more than the authentic avatars you actually know because there is Tough and then there is New York Tough, which may or may not be real Tough but which is certainly real New York. You almost have to imagine the Tough Guy standing defiantly against a filthy brick wall at night, harshly illuminated by car headlamps, and probably wearing shades, because all the New York Tough Guys wear shades. (Doesn’t Jay-Z? Didn’t Lou Reed?)

I’m not saying these people aren’t real tough guys, though I do think if somebody came at them with a knife a few of them might not react totally in character. I’m saying the Tough Guy, the Fast Talker, the Big Shot, the Wise-Cracking Waitress, the Hard-Bitten Journalist, et alia, are mythic figures. By that I don’t mean that they’re fake, though they often are, but that their usefulness is not to be found in the real world, but in the dream landscape that explains New York to the world and to itself.

This is why you often see people move to New York and immediately start conforming to stereotype. The pressure, whether overtly felt or only dimly sensed, of being part of something as overwhelming as New York blows the mind of anyone who does not have a perfectly solid-state personality, which is to say most of us. So citizens psychically run for cover under the robes and aegides of the demigods of New York myth.

(Where do you think hipsters  — that is to say, New York Hipsters — come from? New York magazine? Pitchfork media? They come from Patti Smith via Marlon Brando via George Cram Cook via Walt Whitman via Edgar Allan Poe via some ur-Hipster whom Peter Stuyvesant had to keep putting in the stocks for shirking.)

You and I could sit here all night identifying the constellations in the New York galaxy, but I wish to draw your attention to the least acknowledged member of the pantheon, who is nonetheless as important as any other: The Out-of-Towner.

The Out-of-Towner, aka The Greenhorn, aka The Rube, belongs to the mythology, too. His is a special role. Because one thing is true of all of the other New York demigods: They are Wised-Up. So they are all pretty evenly matched, and also extremely motivated to get over on one another. If they had only one another to deal with, things would quickly get ugly and stale — like the Manhattan of Escape from New York, an island of madmen with whom the rest of the world cannot deal.

The Out-of-Towner brings some air and light into the action. For one thing, he can be a victim, and replenish the ecosystem with whatever the wise guys can get out of him. He can be a foil, a straight man to set up their jokes and set off their unique qualities, and an audience to flatter the endless self-regard of the true New Yorker. And on occasion and with sufficient motivation, the Out-of-Towner can stick around and, if he has the moxie, become a citizen himself.

Indeed, every New Yorker who was not born there enters the town in this role, and struggles to divest himself of it. Why, for example, do New Yorkers respond so positively to being asked for directions? Because this offers them the chance to show that they’re not Out-of-Towners. (This is especially important in front of present Out-of-Towners.)



But there’s a catch. Every wise guy in New York is in perpetual danger of reverting to Out-of-Towner status. For one thing, the town is always changing — hot spots, catchphrases, top Filipino lunch places — and it’s a struggle to keep up. But more importantly, unless he has become so jaded that nothing at all matters to him anymore, the wise guy will always retain a touch of Out-of-Towner about him. The things that excited him before still excite him — though he has become of necessity very good at concealing it, lest he over-effuse and give his roots away.

All this is to begin to say what I like so much about Michael Webster’s “New York.” I do admire the formal schtick of shooting it all from the top of one of those horrible tourist double-deckers that strafe the streets (ah, there I go, sounding like a wise guy). But it’s more what the schtick reveals that pleases me. The tour bus passengers — sometimes cheaply plastic-slickered against rainy weather — seem anonymous, ordinary, like the opposite of the thing they’re observing. (And those few observed New Yorkers who notice them seem surprised but unimpressed.) But the New York vistas and tableaux that Webster sees are lovely, specific and suggestive at the same time; you could write novels about the five folks waiting for the Seventh Avenue bus, for instance, or just bask in their ennui. And the wonderful thing is, they are as available to those bus-riding Out-of-Towners as they are to anyone else. Like those two well-dressed Indian folks in the front row: They certainly look like they’re enjoying the scene. Maybe they, too, see in New York what we see. Or maybe — you know, we can hardly admit it, even now — they see more.

— Roy Edroso




Michael Webster is a photographer currently living in Brooklyn.


Related links

Michael Webster

Roy Edroso

well, we needed rain…

well, we needed rain...

Medford Taylor – Bulldust

Medford Taylor


I could hear the fatal thump of rabbits under the wheels of the big Land Cruiser as it hurtled through endless clouds of bulldust, up the Birdsville Track. Jock Makin, the Aussie writer, was driving us the 1,100 kilometers from Adelaid to Birdsville, into the ‘red heart’ of Australia.

In 1860 the explorers Burke & Wills died in the first attempt at this journey. Extremely jetlagged and disoriented, I secretly suspected this might be our fate as well. We did arrive in Birdsville, population 80, where I was welcomed by the entire police force…..Sgt Bob Goad. At the Birdsville Hotel/pub he revived me with the coldest most welcome ‘stubbie’ I ever drank and we remain friends to this day.

It began as a National Geographic story on the Simpson Desert and evolved into The Simpson Outback, life on the cattle stations at the edge of the desert. Once published, this story then led to a later one, Dog Fence. The Dog Fence, or ‘dingo barrier fence, stretches 3,307 miles across Australia’s interior and exists solely to stop dingoes, Australia’s wild dogs, from killing sheep.

Stuart Nunn was the manager of Anna Creek Station, the classic Aussie who, if this were a movie would be played by James Arness of Gunsmoke fame. Anna Creek was the size of Belgium and the last cattle station to muster cattle with horses. It’s all done with helicopters and dirt bikes now. After a huge steak from a freshly killed bullock, the ringers sat quietly around the campfire and talked of horses, cars, girls and dreams of yesterday and maybe tomorrow. I fell asleep in my swag on the desert floor under millions of low hanging stars to the sounds of Dylan’s Blood on The Tracks and Dvořák’s New World Symphony.

Some random thoughts about my great adventure in the outback:



Fred Brophy’s Boxing Troupe was the last of the old time traveling shows and the tent was 30 years old. On the Sandringham muster, John the cook asked me “is Africa in America or Ireland?” I was camped alone by the Rock of Ages waterhole, dinner was pork & pineapple curry and Cognac; and I awoke at 4:00 AM to the screams of a screech owl, so I went for a barefoot moonlight walk in the soft sand of the dried riverbed. Owen Pannycan is an Aboriginal stockman who claims to be 100 years old but admits he doesn’t really know for sure. I gave “Stretch” my new Swiss Army knife. He was the best ringer in the whole outback. I’m getting the ‘wearies’…….the truck won’t start……bad glow plugs…….and another puncture. The satellite phone is down and the story is in trouble back in Washington. Fixed my tripod with Superglue and gaffer tape and wait for a baby to be born in Quilpie but the baby is too slow…….gotta go. Not so happy birthday changing another flat on the Birdsville track.



Bushflies, bulldust and too many blown tires but ‘no worries mate’. The desert is uncluttered solitude and I’m learning to live alone quite well in this “clean well lighted place”. On Christmas Day at dusk on Kangaroo Island, I found a perfect magpie feather.


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Medford Taylor

at home….


I am totally exhausted. Whipped from traveling. Specifically from the recent Sydney HeadOn photo fest where (Based On A True Story) was featured at ACP, a Burn show was the most popular thing in town, and I did a workshop as well, with some brilliant essays the result. Yet too much. And wrong time zone. However, I do really get a lot out of these photo fests. I can scout out new talent, make real live contact with this audience, and see some terrific shows. Oh yes, for sure the dancing parties in Sydney in my house were almost non stop, so jet lag cannot be blamed for all. I am my own worst enemy.


Burn is just blowing up at these fests. The work from this audience is sought all over the place, all of the time. We cannot keep up unless we can hire a full time curator. You may remember we were featured in a big way at Visa Pour L’Image in Perpignan last fall. We will have upcoming a slide show in Arles, France, at Recontres d’Arles. NOW, next week the Burn EPF grant announcement kicks off the big Saturday event at Look3 in Charlottesville, Virginia. BurnBooks will have a book signing as well featuring “Burn 02”, Anton Kusters “Yakuza”, Michael Loyd Young’s new “Changes in Latitude” book, and I will be signing my new work from Rio “(Based On A True Story)”.

But right now, on this spectacular weather holiday weekend, I am at home. Luxuriating. Piddling in the garden, talking to my cats, riding my bike to the beach, reassuring my friends by email that I still love them, and preparing for Look3. For it is for sure Look3 that is my real HOME. Michael “Nick” Nichols and I go way back. Back to Magnum, back to NatGeo and well just close. A true friend. He and his wife Reba, sons Ian and Eli, are sort of part of my own family. We don’t see each other often, but we are close nevertheless. Nick’s original in his back yard showing of slides by the famous and the not so famous was like a family picnic with pictures, and has evolved into Look3.

Yup, Look3 is now a big event, but it is still totally “down home” and I have been looking forward to Look all year. I see my friends both local and international and well it is simply the place I really want to hang. If you want to come and show me work in the most relaxed atmosphere, come to Look3. Buy me a beer and I will do a portfolio review. Of course, I will end up buying YOU a beer and doing a review, but that’s just the way it goes. I do also have a two day official workshop on “How To Publish Your Book” before the festivities begin, so swing by there if you can. I might be able to help you. After that, my work is done, and I will just sit back and watch the shows, look at the exhibitions, and well just have a good time.

This year beloved maestro of ceremonies Vince Musi and Washington Post’s David Griffin are the curators of Look. Bruce Gilden, Alex and Rebecca Norris Webb, David Doubilet, Maggie Steber, Ernesto Bazan, Eugene Richards, Lynsey Addario, Donna Ferrato, Stanley Greene , Medford Taylor (“Bulldust” now on Burn) and a host of other friends are the super stars, but I will spend most of my time with this audience if you show up. I think everyone knows this already.

If you are an emerging photographer, there is just absolutely no better place to be. Editors from New York and Europe are on hand, and well if you have great work, this is the time to get “discovered”. Never that simple of course, but if I were trying to break into the biz, and I had work to show, this is where I would go above all other fests. When I was in my twenties, we never had anything like this. So Nick and crew, and me too, have tried to create something we never had. Like the way I feel about Burn.

Where was Look3 and Burn when I needed them? This is the point.

So come to Virginia. Southern hospitality. Advertised correctly as the fest of “peace, love, and photography”. Not to be too sentimental, but it really is Love3. Good vibes all around, and for sure a great way to get your summer started.

If I know you already, then great reunion to be. If I do not, then I am looking forward to meeting you.



Related links

LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph


Jeroen Hofman – Playground

Jeroen Hofman


My new project is called Playground. The Netherlands have several training facilities where members of the Fire Brigade, the Police Force and the Ministry of Defense are trained and prepared for a wide range of possible scenarios. Within the boundaries of these grounds it’s all just practice or ‘play’. Outside of them however, things are a lot more serious. My aim was to capture these facilities and the people who are trained there.




Jeroen Hofman graduated in 2002 at he Royal Academie of Arts in The Hague, the Netherlands. Since then he works as a free lance photographer on editorial assignments and non-commissioned projects.


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Jeroen Hofman

(based on a true story) SOLD OUT!

layout and design: Bryan Harvey
concept and producer: Eva-Maria Kunz
coordinator: Diego Orlando
production: Andrea Barbato, Michael Courvoisier, Candy Pilar Godoy


(based on a true story)


David Alan Harvey

Some of my friends have asked why I didn’t talk about my book here. I just cannot do that. The book is the book and I hope somebody likes it. But putting this video here by Bryan is as far as I can go. However, what I can do is I think legit. Published below is a letter from Sam Harris, (Postcards From Home), who managed to get a hold of the first signed copy. So he is, as far as I know, the only person here on Burn to have actually seen the book.

So Sam writes:


BASED ON A TRUE STORY… This book is simply amazing!!! AMAZING!! You have to hold it, feel it, pour over it, get inside it, take it apart, rebuild it, live it, smell it, caress it and then it all makes sense… FRESH, SENSUAL, SEXY, KILLER, DOPE… DAH leads by example, he could just sit back and talk about past glories, but that’s not David’s style… he’s out there doing it, living it. Now, right now… Ideas happen… ‘based on a true story’ is the living proof ; )) This book is an absolute classic. dah’s best yet! And the very best thing about ‘based on a true story’ IS the PHOTOGRAPHY.



Add to Cart     View Cart

for the “making of”, visit:


(more information here)


dakota days….


I am now in Sydney on the craziest schedule of all time. Literally going from one event to another and a workshop on top of it. Last night we projected the student slide show at the Bondi Beach Pavillion with a preamble warm up power show by Stephen DuPont. Thank you Stephen. During this past week I had Kerry Payne, Imants Krumins, David M. Smith, Andrew Quilty, Sam Harris, and Andrew Johnstone all come to make presentations to those I am mentoring here. All added to the mix and match of seeking styles and authorship by the class. Some of the student work will show up here on Burn.

Rolled into all of this was my (based on a true story) opening and book launch. Of course the most popular show in town is the Burn in Print show with many of you exhibited along with Monteleone, Werning, Frazier, Schiffer, and Nachtwey. So it can be safely said I think that Burn had a presence at the HeadOn fest in Sydney. So much so that last nights party after the student show has left me a bit bleary as I go off now to Australian Centre for Photography and an exhibit walk and then rushed to Semi-Permanent designers conference for a showing of the new book.

Woa, I overbooked for sure. Worse , I have not recovered fully from my one week on the road with Antoine D’Agata in North Dakota (above) which segued right into Sydney which rolls me right into Look3 in Charlottesville. I am taking the summer off.

All of this takes energy. Yet all of it gives energy as well. My recommendation for young photographers is to be sure to pay forward to the next generation. This is not a revelation. We all know this, and most do contribute for sure. For those of us working on Burn, we are seeing more possibilities than we can handle. A nice dilemma I guess, but one must always be careful not to get too many things going at once. I know this intellectually, but have a hard time saying “no” in reality.

Thank you for your patience here on Burn for my absence the last couple of weeks. After all, I do not want to neglect this most loyal audience on the net. All of you have built Burn, and I think all of you know you can be a part of it. My  original concept of bringing the audience into real play has happened. You should see the Burn show at Bondi right now. Or visit my classroom and see bloggers on Burn helping to teach my students. All pretty damned heartwarming. Ok gotta run. Back soonest.


Laia Abril – A Bad Day

Laia Abril

A Bad Day

A Bad Day‘ is a multimedia piece that approaches the struggle of bulimia and that is the first chapter of an ongoing long-term project about Eating Disorders. Jo is 21 and suffers from bulimia, a kind of eating disorder. Her obsession is not about being thin; it’s about not gaining weight, in spite of the huge amount of food that she ingests every day. Bulimia has taken all her time and money, and also her passion: dance. ‘If I was not bulimic I would be dancing like before’ Jo says. ‘But ballet is about elegance and perfection, and I’m a crap person in the middle of chaos’. She doesn’t look overweight and she hates her body and can’t see herself in leggings in front of a mirror anymore. She also thinks that her addiction is ‘disgusting’. That’s why she never told anyone ‘ not even her boyfriend ‘ about it. For some reason, she decided to open herself to me.

The project started, after a deep research, shooting for few weeks in November 2010, when I spent my days with Jo in her house in Edinburgh. I woke up with her and listened to her saying: ‘I hope this is going to be a good day’. With her I went to the supermarket and watched movies in her computer. I also saw her going through daily crisis, eating and vomiting immediately after. She confessed to me that she self-injures herself, specifically small cuts in her legs and feet. I saw her good days turning into very bad ones and I saw Jo acting in public as if everything was absolutely fine. And this is actually what this illness is all about, pretending that everything is all right while it’s not. An apparent normality that makes bulimia one of the hardest disorders to diagnose and a devastating killer of female teenagers and young adults worldwide.

The lies and misunderstandings that surround bulimia are what convinced me to further develop this project. I would like my images to catch the contradictory feelings and behaviors that these girls have to go through day after day. My approach is going to be intimate and psychological and will leave in the back the more physical manifestations of the of the disease.




Laia Abril, 25, is a documentary photographer raised in Barcelona. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and studied photography at ICP in New York City. She began working on documentary projects in the Balkans, covering the 13th Funeral of Srebrenica and the Independence of Kosova, first for a Spanish NGO and then for Spanish newspapers. In 2009 and 2010 she was a finalist on the Ian Parry Award participating at the Getty Gallery in London first with her photo project about the young lesbian community in Brooklyn and then with the project ‘The Last Cabaret’ about a porno sex-life club in Barcelona. Her work has been featured in magazines including OjodePez, The Sunday Times magazine, DRepubblica, and COLORS magazine amongst others, and has been recognized with various scholarships. After spending two years at FABRICA (the Benetton research and communication center in Italy) she is currently working as a staff photographer, blogger and Associate Picture Editor for COLORS Magazine combining her freelance career and keeping developing her personal project.

Related links

Laia Abril

A Bad Day multimedia