beach bum

it happens every time…..that is, every time i go to the beach to relax …after two weeks or so of t-shirts and  barefeet and jealously watching pelicans magic flight as they skim the faces of the waves, i always make the "decision" to "give it all up" and move to the beach….

after all, my best memories of childhood are growing up at the beach memories…..  and the salt smell and waving seagrass and the mesmerizing pounding of the waves breaking on the sand all become so hypnotic that i have to force myself to remember anything else or even think about  anything else…

and to make the decision even more solid, i have both of my sons who travel the world making films, living   at the beach with seemingly little inconvenience and a terrific lifestyle….and there is another  whole cast of  "characters" down here  who seem to  have managed to carve out a permanent beach vacation…..

why shouldn’t i too live a beach life???….become a "beach bum"….well, maybe not a real beach bum…..but a working beach bum….after all, i do have ideas for shooting at the beach and it is not too hard to imagine a beach based workshop…..i mean, can’t we all discuss photography sitting in the sand around a campfire in the late "hot light"  and with blue crabs steaming in the pot??? 

i mean, do i really "have" to live in new york with all of its seductive energy ??  would i quickly become bored with the beach??

well, i will give it some more thought… i have the perfect travel companion to work my way away from the beach vacation…i will fly with my mother back to her home in durango, colorado… mother likes the beach ok, but she is a hard core "mountain person"….she will give me good advice….she always does….

by wednesday i will be back in new york…by the following wednesday i will be jammed into a too crowded too loud  disco club in seoul, korea photographing korean youth culture….and i will most likely be enjoying every minute of it….totally into it……wrapped up in a culture that is not mine……temporarily mesmerized by the pounding beat of the  techno sound  system, just  as i was by the waves breaking on the beach…..surely the beach will not be on my mind at all….

are all of us just flat out schizophrenic???   all of us jump from one world into another….all the time…it is the nature of what we do….all of you , whether art photographers or photojournalists, become "transported" from one set of spacial and psycho relationships into another with the quick stamp of a boarding pass… this healthy for us ??    more importantly, will i ever become a beach bum???



54 Responses to “beach bum”

  • sounds like you have a plan for Seoul. Glad to hear it David. 3 weeks in Korea?

    Beach bum? WOuld ypu WANT to be a beach bum? I took a 3 week vacation in SE Asia…was bored of the beach after a week. I have a feeling youd get bored to death too.

  • Hey David,

    I am sure you would enjoy the beaches in bermuda. Have you ever thought about doing a story on Bermuda?


  • Do you really think that the creative swelling lobe in your brain will let you sit passively on a beach effectively removing it from much of the inspiration that causes it to live?

    It all comes in moderation, and of course the grass is always greener? Who’s to say you have to choose one or the other, can’t you have both?

    Is it just taking the photographs that drives you, makes you feel alive in those moments – or is it being there, ‘able’ to take the photographs? They just let you tell the story, but being there – that’s what keeps the blood flowing.

  • Hey David.

    If you haven’t already got a book to read on your flight to Seoul, you absolutley must take “Beachcombing at Mirimar” by Richard Bode. It’s a wonderful meditation on our connection to the ocean. The openness, the tides, the beach and all that is in it, on it or about it. It’s mercifully small, a quick read. A true joy. (Warning though, it’ll only encourage that recessive Virginia Beach bum gene you have!)

  • Hi David,

    I attended a seminar in Bermuda with Flip Nicklin (he shot stories foe the Natioanl Geograohic) and he told us that a picture is in fact three pictures: close shot, medium shot and far shot (that gives the context).

    Maybe you believe that your one time shot pictures are the best because you did not get “tired” (=”overworked”?) of the subject. Maybe the single shot is more spontaneous, which allows your internal self to express itself on the picture (sorry I could have said this better in french…but I am trying!)


  • The first problem with living your life as a perpetual holiday is that after a while it stops being a holiday and starts being work. The second problem with living your life as a perpetual vacation is that you can’t take a vacation from it. The time you spend between vacations makes you appreciate them more when you get them.

  • Why not the beach? It seems these days that one can live just about anywhere, whether it be beach, mountains, small town America, rural Africa, anywhere. As long as you have good communication with the world at large and a career that permits remote communication, why should it matter. What matters is the “bum” factor. We should live in a place that adds to our inspiration, not a place that sucks the life out of it. For me, I need to live where I can get a job. Fortunately, it’s also a place that nurtures my inspiration. But for you, David, you can live anywhere. Move to the beach, just don’t become a bum.

  • David, I thought you already WERE a beach bum–who just happened to maintain an apartment in Brooklyn (which is, of course, a seaside town).

  • Not all the beaches are the same. I stayed for a month this summer in a village with a beach to make photos (some of which I’ll show to you in the ‘portfolio review’ you mentioned if you don’t mind), but this ain’t your regular beach: summer home of poets and painters in the ’80s, THE place for rock’n’roll kids in the ’90s and now some sort of a mix of all of that.
    So, I dindn’t get bored at all there, altough I am a city person and that place is actually a village.

  • David,
    you are a beach bum, but you are so many other things too. We love seeing your family here every year, and as you know, my house always has an open door for you. Many thanks for sharing your photo ideas with me.

  • david alan harvey


    yes, i fly to seoul on august 8…..i will give you my hotel and other contact info as soon as i have it…i will do a quick 4 day workshop which has been organized for me and then shoot for two or three weeks for the magnum book project….

    i look forward to meeting you and seeing your work…


    everyone has there own philosophy and way of working…while i am a big fan of flip nicklin, i could never think in the methodical way that he thinks….but, he does a completely different type of work and this may make perfect sense for him and what he does…

    i never thought of a story in bermuda….i always thought it was nice golfers vacation spot, but not much more…am i wrong????


    only joking about envying people on “permanent vacation”..but i have considered the beachside as a place to live….i am sure i would be bored with pure “vacation” in just a few hours…both of my sons who do live by the sea, work very very hard on their film projects, but then when they do come home they are in very pleasant circumstances….


    you have it right…and for me, new york is energy giving, not energy draining…


    yes, you have it right too…


    i am anxious to see your first book layouts…and give that portrait idea some thought….

  • david alan harvey


    of course, you are right….i could never be passive….and, yes, “the grass greener ‘ concept is the war that all of us fight all of the time…


    i know the richard bode book….wish i had written it!!!

  • david…

    “i never thought of a story in bermuda….i always thought it was nice golfers vacation spot, but not much more…am i wrong????”

    Oh yes you are wrong!!!! :) This place (small country of 65,000 inhabitants, island that is not in the caraibes as many believe) has an inherent complexity attached to its historical background (which reflects on today’s life and interaction between these communities). Four communities (essentially) co-exist: black-African (60%), Portuguese and white (40%), and expatriates….religion has a huge presence here.

    As someone said to me, “you always have to worry about the sleeping waters” = this island is multi-layered.

    I have been living here for six years, and I just start to get a feel for this country.

    If you have never visited Bermuda, I encourage you to do so. You would be welcome to stay at our place (if you are not allergic to our pug Newton).


  • David, if you have the soul of a beach bum, then you are always a beach bum, no matter where you are.

    To answer your question, I think “we” (photographers) are curious explorers interested in the world around us; we are not schizophrenic. Furthermore, as someone who is socially handicapped, my camera often serves as a translator, smoothing over communications between myself and my surroundings, particularly when I land in a new place. Then, later, I see my photos and wonder what the heck I was doing. Rinse, repeat.

    If you decide to do a beach workshop, I would take out a third mortgage to make it there (and would probably need to tell my wife *after* the fact)!

  • Why not a beach workshop in Bermuda? :)


  • David,

    I never knew how attached to the ocean I was until I came to the Sierra’s. At 12,000 feet I longed nothing more than for the beach. I am in Bishop, CA right now, waiting on my friends to come off the mountain, I contrived a wonderful case of high altitude pulmonary adema and had to essentially run 7 miles down the mountain. It was well worth it. I got some wonderful things for my essay on the interaction of tourists and the “natural world”. It is beautiful here, but I am ready for the city!

    Two years ago my family “gave it up” and moved to the beach, and my father is incredibly happy for it. I cannot leave the city, I love it, but some time at the beach is refreshing. Cannot wait for some surfing in Santa Cruz!


  • even with all it’s traumas, life is too short and too sweet–seeing it rush by so swiftly makes me want to hold even longer to those “beach” moments (especially with family)–as well as immerse myself in other cultures and experiences. maybe that is one reason I love photography–trying to “hold” onto the moment as well as to “tell the story” for others
    by the way, lovely image of the dunes etc.–different view of the beach rosemary

  • at heart you already are and will forever be a beach bum… no matter where it is that you live…

  • at heart you already are and will forever be a beach bum… no matter where it is that you live…

  • at heart you already are and will forever be a beach bum… no matter where it is that you live…

  • David,

    I can’t say I know you, but my impression from the range of projects in your body of work, this blog, and the list of places you’ve traveled to… I find it difficult to see you in any one place for very long.

    I’m afraid I might have the same bug: born in Italy, moved several times within the country itslef and Europe, moved to North America 11 years ago, changed city 3 times in as long… What can I say? I was born a gipsy.

    Maybe you were too? :)

    – Giancarlo

  • David,

    i am one of invisible readers of your blog. every time i visit,
    i feel the energy from you and many people who comment their ideas.
    this is really exciting thing to be with. i deeply appreciate it.

    i registered your workshop in seoul. i am so excited to meet
    a man of profound mind in photography.

    actually i am not a professional photographer but i’d like to be
    a person who cultivate the friendship with photography in his life.

    as you mentioned in roadtrip, during the workshop, i will try to
    “feel then say it”, not try to “impress” to anyone.
    i know that for the amatuer photographer like me, it won’t be easy
    to have one at once. however, i will try my best.

    i wish you a big success on korean youth culture project.
    young koreans…they are really something!

    thank you


  • David,

    What is the Seoul workshop all about anyway? I never even heard of it……

    As far as my work, the portfolio is complete except for one more shot Im going to have printed…and then its all yours to see:) Looking forward to meeting you David.

  • David, you might like this quote…perhaps my all time favorite (I am a travel junkie).

    “This is the utopian moment of travel: when you realize that what seems most unattainably marvelous, most desirable, is what you almost already have, what you could have – if you could only strip away the banality and corruption of the everyday – at home.”

    –Stephen Greenblatt (from his book Marvelous Posessions, p.25 — very good stuff)

  • David

    We are very similar in this. I also dream about house on beach and I could not imagine that I leave my town.
    Especially because lofts in my city is very very expensive and house on beach is almost in my coverage (very old house near Russia border).
    Wind, waves, clouds… hmm…
    But big city is big city. When compare my city to new york I live in country. But this is my city. I love it!
    Crowds, rush, noise… hmm…
    In this I’m totally schizophrenic…

    My problem is money, I can’t earn enough money out of city. And my wife is city animal. I’m happy when I come back to my city after work. So answer is only one.

    Well… my thought for us is… it will be time for rest someday, now it’s time for life!


  • Variety is the spice of life. Being a beach bum means having sand in your underwear. Not great, all the time. ;-)

  • david alan harvey


    actually, i do not know much about the seoul workshop either…it got thrown at me at the last minute by HP in seoul who asked me if i would mind doing a four day workshop before i started shooting on the youth culture project…i had previously been sponsored by HP at a photo expo when i was in seoul about a year ago..

    i do know it starts on the 10th and ends on the 14th…i do not know if it would be something interesting for you or not….i think it is two different groups…i will find out all info in the next two days and let you know…or maybe you could check it out on-line…

    in any case, for sure we will meet….

    cheers, david

  • david alan harvey


    i will be pleased to meet you in seoul…

  • david,

    i really appreciate your kindness.
    thank you.


  • Years back I had a neighbor who was schizophrenic. His view of life and how he dealt with the stories of his life left no time or room for creativity. So the answer to that question is no for sure.

    As photographers we are some of the most blessed people in the world. Without us the world would not be witnessed and recorded for others to see that do not have the same drive to witness and record.

    Living in Maui I get to look at the ocean and the mountains. To the left out of my studio is the ocean; to the right out of my bedroom are the West Maui Mountains. I can’t imagine living anywhere else; however, I cannot imagine being here 24/7. So when the urge hits I hightail it to the airport to experience NYC, Paris, Israel…all the places that intrigue me but never permanently call me to reside there.

    What does happen, almost always (except for my Austin experience!!!), is I begin to fantasize about living wherever I am shooting, putting my life and all that comes with it on that “beach”. Then the taste of home begins to seep back. This getting into wherever I am shooting allows for an at home and comfortable look in the photos I take because I become a part of the place and the people I shoot, if only for a short time.

    So not schizophrenic–excited, intrigued, blessed, happy.

    Thank God for air travel.


  • hmmmmmm… lee, most people dig austin.. i’m curious what happened to you here? generally speaking, most everyone here likes to make sure that visitors have a good experience.. it’s too bad if yours didn’t work out that way… but then again, i can only imagine my perspective if i lived on beautiful Maui!!

  • Attending a wedding of a friend’s daughter. I had all these visions of spending time listening to music, etc., but with the wedding and my friend’s reluctance to do the late night stuff, it turned into a rather dull and not fun experience. I have been to Austin before but only briefly. I have heard many good things about Austin; I just did not experience them. Maybe next time, if there is a next time, you can show me around.


  • deal! i’m glad to be an ambassador for this town… just lemme know! :)

  • david:

    im a hopeless beachbum…in fact, not a weekend goes by when I dont lament to Marina that I feel set adrift, away from my beloved tongue-of-time (ocean) and lip-of-lap (sand)….it’s where my life began (san diego), continue (sea surrounding taiwan), first read Homer (Ocean city, NJ), lost my virginity (florida), rediscovered photography (la, venice, big sur, marco island)….and first when (as a family) to unlearn photography (portugal)…more later, as im working on another deadline, for Turkey Magazine, but for now, how about this:

    would you be interested in visiting the beach in the autumn, when the people have left, the wind ties itself tighter and the light grows heavy?…write you later about that…

    okay, a brief look at some work: 15 photographs from one of my longterm projects: about Faces (and some writing there too) and 15 photos from marina’s project about, well, you’ll see:

    i’ll send you the link to the Turkey magazine shit in August…running…


    p.s. ontario ice wine goes lovely in november near the atlantic :)))

  • hello all….

    i will be all day today in airports…back home in new york tonight and will try to answer as many of you as possible….

    new postings also over the weekend giving all of you details about the Magnum free portfolio reviews in perpignan… workshops….and exactly how and where to upload photographs for this site…..

    the beach seems far away at the moment!!!

  • Bob … you wrote about some Turkey Magazine? what is it? can u tell me plz? I will go to Turkey next month and have some (hihi.. 19)ideas for a storys.. i am looking for some place to publish that..
    btw Bob.. i like a lot your and Marina’s project :-)

  • david, have a safe trip back home. I am now very close to finalyzing my topic for our group experience. i would appreciate your view on still versus video. let me know if you want more details on bermuda (per my message above).


  • Hi Aga! :))…thanks so much for the kind words: i’ll pass them on to Marina too :))…the Turkey magazine is called FotoMat (i think), im not at my home computer, but when i get home, i’ll look them up for you…i can send you the name of the editor who contacted me….send me a PM at LS :)))….the work i’ll show in september will be more “story-oriented” that the Faces stuff: which i view more as a long series of poems about people ;)))


  • David
    Just got the August NG,Mexico=lovely
    To Ireland for August, see you in Perpignan.

  • Bob.. thank you… i found her (editor) on LS, and magazine, too :-)

  • david, can you tell us more about Sam Abell, your colleage at the Geographic. I like a lot his ideas about introducing layers to the picture, creating space…do you relate to his work?


  • lee ..

    yes, i am a bit the same….i tend to fall in love with the place where i am….i guess that is some sort of positive quality for the work i do…


    i have never been to austin…just cannot seem to get invited!!

  • rosemary…

    i was thinking the exact same thing during my last days with the family…i suddenly realized that maybe one of the reasons i liked photography was because it seemed the only way to “grab” or hold on to those irreplaceable moments in life that are gone before we know it….even when we do know it!!

  • bob….

    just absolutely terrific work….and the words to match…

    hello all…

    ok, everyone who is out there shooting right now for publication here… please listen…….

    do what bob black does!!!


    the man goes out there with only two things:
    heart and soul…..the pictures follow…..

    i have never met bob black…previously i was only vaguely aware of his work….i only know him through this forum…

    but i do know bob black…but only from seeing some of his work….and the boy writes some pretty damn cool words too….

    but, now i have another PLEASE for you…
    do not think that because i like this work of bob’s, that you should go try to duplicate bob!!!… quite the contrary…

    i have very broad tastes in photography…you cannot get too broad for me….narrowness of vision is “the enemy” as far as i am concerned…so i love great sports photography, great natural history photography, great fashion photography, great landscape “still life” photography, great conflict photography, greet street photography and great totally narcissistic introspective photography..

    i can tell when someone has “done it”….and whenever any of us struggling insignificant souls can “done it”, then that person gets a “high five” from me….

    so show me something….i am challenging you….be brave…..get rid of all of your inhibitions….go a bit crazy….

    remember…i have a stake in your work..whatever my reputation, it is on the line….just like it is at every workshop i teach…that final student slide show i produce of student work seems like a very creative thing for me…but it is the work of other photographers, who i have “coached” and i step out of my shooting role and into the role of some kind of director or producer or some unknown title….but it feels good…

    so, whatever i publish on this blog of your work is going to be a reflection on me as well as it is obviously on you…

    certainly, i am being very audacious in asking any of you to go out and shoot an essay for this blog…

    now i can afford to pay you nothing….but i should, and i would if i could, and i will if i can….

    so, we only have one thing going on here….trust….both ways….

    those of you who have read this blog from the beginning have totally seen how this all evolved…it literally evolved on these pages….i never had any ideas like these before i started writing here….i suppose it is just some kind of logical extension of my workshop mentality and work…

    this whole thing could end up being very very cool…something everyone in our business and outside really looked at…talked about…thought about…a new kind of forum…produced by the “audience” or the readers themselves…we create the “experience” and wait and see who shows up..
    perhaps, however, this whole thing could be a big bust…an embarrassment….a “what the hell did harvey think he was doing?” thing….there have been many of those…just ask my friends…

    but, it is too late to stop now…i have “stuck my foot in”……so now my friends, please do the same….

  • david alan harvey

    david ryder…

    nice quote….did not know it, but i do believe it…

  • Yeah it’s so true, but I can’t fight the itch that I’m starting to get to travel again…here it comes, just like it always does…

  • david alan harvey


    honest answer….

    sam abell is an old friend from National Geographic…both he and bill allard were “in place” years before me, and both inspired me tremendously at the magazine….

    sam has one of the best “layered” pictures ever taken by anyone with his cowboy “castration picture” he shot on the charlie russell story…

    i certainly love much of sam’s finest work, the bulk of which was shot somewhere between 1970 and perhaps the late 80’s…..his work during that era is to be admired, at least in the context of National Geographic during those years…

    sam is also, by all accounts, a master teacher….he has set the highest standards for all of us for workshop teaching and is a booksmith with impeccable taste….clean,clear,linear….

    you are right to admire the work of sam abell….

    however, for a variety of complex compound reasons, sam seems to have stopped photographing seriously, or at least “on the edge”, many years ago…

    i yearn to open a magazine or a new book photographed by sam and be inspired once again…but, his work now looks “tired” to me…maybe it is just because i have seen nothing inspirationally “new” for such a long long time….

    allard, on the other hand, continues to surprise, influence, and well, the man is just “out there” working…

    to be fair, sam can only be held accountable for what he has done… not by what he has “done lately”…nobody “quantifies” an artist by “how long” they produced..only by “what” they produced….

    henri cartier-bresson made most of his iconic images in about 7 years….picasso has 70 yrs. worth….

    perhaps sam himself would declare himself more of a teacher than a current photographer…i do not know…

    but, the reality in photographic peer groups like National Geographic and Magnum, is that photographers have their own “inside judgments” about each other…

    these may or may not coincide with the photographer’s commercial or editorial success or even their “popularity” with “fans” or students…i am sure this is so so true in any of the commercial creative arts like music, filmaking etc etc…

    many have felt that sam “dropped out” too early…

    having said all of this, and giving sam the full “benefit of the doubt”, i do await anxiously for his upcoming book on the amazon…

  • David, I wonder how closely the Magnum staff read your blog, because “Today’s Pictures” on for Aug.2 is “Beach Towns” and has one of your Salvador pictures as the opening image.

  • David, I wonder how closely the Magnum staff read your blog, because “Today’s Pictures” on for Aug.2 is “Beach Towns” and has one of your Salvador pictures as the opening image.

  • Within tens seconds of being at Slate I had to deal with three…THREE freakin’ pop-up adds! Ugh. Hate that.

    On general principle alone, I didn’t stick around long enough to check all the images. Just hopped over to Magnum itself.

    Thanks for the heads-up, though, Nick.

  • O, David…..

    my grandmother used to say to me when i was young (and getting ready to leave her and my grandfather for the summer to return home): “honey, its too early in the morning for tears…”. ;))))…since, i’ve always been an easy one for tears, hasnt seemed to stop; )))….thank you, genuinely, for your kind and thoughtful and remarkably generous words. They mean a great deal to me and I cherish them and shall reward you in the fall with both a bottle of fine icewine and an even finer hug(s)….

    so let me, for your audience, return the favor….


    I dont mean just make beautiful and sad and heart-pulpy photographs. I mean live, bridge distances, create community, open your selves to the fact of this breathing life. We are nothing without one another, for even in our often isolated and lonely pockets of self, we realize that without the other, we are nothing but blood and bone and air, that too quickly evaporating. David Alan Havey has, without surcease, sung the song of life. He, continually, has created, unselfishly, community. I do not know what richer way to spend a life than to tell stories, to share them and to listen, above all listen and encourage others to do the same. There are few people in this swelling world that spend, often at their own expense and work and lives, ensuring that others are healthy and fed and encouraged and brought to life. David, in the most essential way, is a teacher and builder of things: lives and spirits and essences. I mark the measure of a person by the character of their lives, the navigation of their spirits, large or small. We all know David is an extraordinary photographer, but for me, this is less important than that he continually seeds those around him with encouragement and life and challenge. We are nothing without community. So raise high the roofbeams y’all. That is the essence, for me of a character.

    Do what DAH does because there is little meaning in the tending of your life but that: to give back, to arch yourself into this life and drink upon it and share that and inspire others. As a photographer, the only thing that has ever matter to me is that my work (and its a constant failure) is only that: oxygen, a part of my bone and flesh and life. Not more important, but just as integral. I spend more time listening and watching and thinking than i do shooting, because I want my pictures to be simply that: the character of the living of things. I was once asked for advice (my advice now would be to shoot, listen and drink with David ;) ), and all i could say was this: shooting comes from a place that has little to do with photography: the rhyming of your life….


    and this for you David:

    my grandmother use to tell me: ‘bob, life is like a square dance: stay under the barnroof long enough and you’ll arm your partner…’ I believe in that: that we are meant to be connected and will connect with those people who feed us and in whom we are nurture and can nurture: distance, truly, and time, an irrelevancy. I wrote yesterday the same to Tamara Voninsky, my friend from Sydney. The older i get, it just become more cloudy: that we, miraculously and in wonderment, join our lives with others with whom are lives bloom. I met my wife when i was 35, though she was urchined on the other side of the globe…i met david through the backdoor of LS and this forum, without ever intending to meet him or thinking even about magnum photographers or frankly, photographers at all: we are bowed and bridged to people, a constellation of lives that make our lives rich and i always feel blessed and always amazed at the people who i can join my life with: i dont believe in fate, but i do believe in propinquity…like the greeks idea of soul mates: those people who we were attached at the ankle before being cloven will eventually find each other…my life, folks, has been a testament to that….my friendship (soon to bloom this fall in real life; )) ), with david is an example of that…

    do not seek out others, but live as well and as honestly as you can and your life will join for those to whom it was meant…

    i feel happy and blessed to know and talk with David because, like all the people who enter our lives, my life would have been poorer without….

    thanks david…


  • thanks david for comments about sam abell…there is something good in each and every of us and that is what I want to discover…i went shooting very early this morning and took with me your idea about doing crazy things…i asked this guy (paul) to be my sbject for the morning…he accepted…we talked about our lives, what we like…we decided to go and see a boxing event on the island soon…that is what photography is for me: the meeting of people who would not meet otherwise, the sharing of a portion of our lives ….

    all the words shared with another human being will not be captured in a still photograph….that is to me a major limitation…how to capture this moment in all its dimension? how to stay close from the experience? when I photograph, a im just saying, I have been there with X, and trust me we had a good experience together for a moment in life?


  • Michael, I use a browser with popup blocking so I didn’t even know slate has popups, sorry.

  • colin…

    sorry, i missed your comment first time around…yes, i think it is possible to “have both”…why not??


    will you come to perpignan?? i have a feeling you are shooting something very interesting…

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