Dmitry by Max Sher

Dmitry, a student of the Vyksa Religious School, Nizhny Novgorod Region, Russia, poses for picture in his class. An Orthodox religious school prepares boys for entering the seminaries and trains girls as church choir singers. There is a heated debate in Russia these days on whether to include religious subjects in the curriculum of the public schools. Many believe this move, if implemented, would further split the already polarized Russian society.


Website: Max Sher


77 thoughts on “max sher – dmitry”

  1. Not sure about this one… I like the way in which the subject is framed, looking incredibily tall, and the subtle palette of the wallpaper/door… but I find extremely distracting the fact that there are no straight lines (ceiling and furniture convergent lines): it seems that the boy is going to drop too.

  2. there is a great deal of photography out there which is similar to this.. clean, simple and unfettered by aesthetics.. although i often wonder if we are looking at the ´emperors new clothes´ with work such as this.

    an interesting story accompanies the portrait.. it is not to my taste though, since to me it says very little about the character of the subject… who may or may not bear a striking resemblance to prince harry in the uk..

    max – the galleries on your lightstalker profile betray a deeper understanding of photography and i wonder – what is it about this particular photo which inspires you?


  3. Jim,

    Yes, this photo is static and this is a snapshot like 99,8 % all of all images in whole history of photography.
    Don’t you like static image?
    What do you like in photography?
    What do you looking for in photography?
    may I ask?

  4. My first thought about this image was that it represented a coming of age…a little, yet tall, boy in a man’s clothes…clothes he will grow into…a man he will become. He is the next generation, and he looks unsure how to feel about it.

    There is a quality about this that is SLIGHTLY reminiscent of Diane Arbus…I’d be curious to see it in black and white…

  5. “….Yes, this photo is static and this is a snapshot like 99,8 % all of all images in whole history of photography….Don’t you like static image?”

    Hey Marcin Man,
    you cracked me up… you are a funny , funny, funny motherf****r…

    ( I somehow put your words in the mouth of that kid in the photo… with a slight romanian , “dracula”
    …laughing,… belly hurts…!!!!!!!!
    Good morning from the cold and pretty Big Bear……
    peace y’all!!

  6. odd…
    very odd…
    unspoken tension..
    my favorite part~
    the triangle of light
    formed by his shoulder…

  7. I was initially not impressed with this shot. It looks like it was quickly executed. The tilting and the empty space above bothers me. But the more I looked at it, plus the caption info, it’s really just a simple class picture. I hated my class pictures in school. Perhaps the snapshot composition is intentional, and in the style of the documentation.

    Max, did you go in and just take one shot of each student, as a document, or did you shoot many and this is from the final edit? At any rate, I do like what appears to be natural window light on the subject. I wouldn’t mind seeing it shot tighter. I do like the interesting color contrast between the wall and the Dmitry’s face.

    This must be a piece of a bigger story.

  8. I really like the subtle tension in this photo, even without reading the text.

    It might be that the light fixture hanging over and behind the boy’s left shoulder (viewer’s right) looks like a big spider.

    The only criticisms I have are that the angle may be a bit low, and it might have been an even more effective photo if either the boy’s entire body was visible or just head/shoulders.

    PANOS- you crack me up! I looked at the photo again, imagining the boy speaking Marcin’s words in a Transylvanian accent!!

  9. marcin, I’ve liked a number of the photos posted here and have said so in the threads associated with them. But no one responds to those. I just don’t like these deadpan staring into the camera photos. I prefer photos of the living.

  10. It’s interesting to see someone still using the square format Max. I personally am not a fan as too often it includes superfluous detail. This photograph, and many on your website, show the muted colour found in northern latitudes.

    This particular photograph suffers (for me) from too much background. It’s an odd composition; did you use a waist-level finder? I’d really like to see more of a head and shoulder photograph: the collar would give just as much a link to the introduction and would allow us to see this young man more closely.

    Best wishes,


  11. The portrait is well done but lacks good compostion and also maybe there could have been a more interesting place to place your subject. Maybe together with other images from the same story the image might be stronger?

  12. This is part of an essay – I bet Max will say just that – let’s wait for him. I also like the angle and the look in his eyes – he ain’t deadpan – he is a kid shoved with grown up theories that make no sense. … and the shirt – it’s religiously good.


    Can I photograph you?


  13. It intrigues me a bit. slightly less formal version of the straight snapshot everyone seems to be doing at the moment. There is something there, but mainly I am looking at the ‘way’ it was shot, rather than the shot itself.

  14. Personally, this photo does nothing for me at all. I wonder how I would feel about it if I took it???

  15. funny you say that Ross, cause i opened up the page and am multi tasking with a zillion windows open sending photos to be printed for an book thing, and i saw it and thought..when did i take that? i don’t remember that one..why did i edit it out, it is pretty strong..what misses? hmmn..colors are a bit flat for my liking, not sure if it ‘hits’ all the way, something, something..but overall, intriguing, took my attention..I like it

  16. I like the shot, and I admire that burn is posting up images like this. its really different from james set, and I think the types of photography givin credence by dah and burn are very diverse.
    I photograph in this straight forward way with portraits. I like it. although had I made this portrait I may have had a slightly different approach. I personally find that I prefer to keep my vertical lines plumb and horizontal level…boring…when I take this route but thats me. having said that, there may have been circumstances that governed how the shot was executed, like a lack of room to pull back on etc.
    its a wonderful shot though, and I find it leaves me asking questions and looking for answers.
    interesting work Max, look forward to seeing more.

  17. Haik, one of the truly good things about being a photographer is getting to stay behind the camera.

  18. Have to admit there are a number of elements in the frame that bother me: The door behind, the furniture and the ceiling moulding. I feel with this type of minimal shot it has to be clean, and possibly more… parallel? Or am i just too stiff?

    I do however like the minimal colour palette and the overall mood/feeling of the shot, which is a combination of the colour palette, deadpan expression and flat light. I just feel the composition is a bit lazy. The image did strike me though when I first saw it. I must give credit to that.

    How tall is he?

  19. Maybe its a mirror behind? Either way it is the brightest highlight in the image, which distracts my eye from his face. Toning it down a little there would help hold the viewer on his face.

  20. i love how his arms and torso seem to go on forever – good choice in perspective.
    his well-lit face just glows amidst his muted environment.
    very captivating.

  21. kathleen fonseca

    i guess because i shoot from the hip on the street i have grown accustomed to lots of extraneous stuff in the frame. I have a great interest in context that predates my involvement in photography. i want every detail i can get. Like reading a book. That´s just me. So i love the wallpaper, the lamp and even the other verticals; the door frame and the bookshelves on either side emphasize the boy´s height. But that´s not the point of my comment. When i first looked at this photo i immediately thought of that joke photo of the cat that went around the internet several years ago. Here was this normla looking cat but he´d been photoshopped to be absurdly long and fat. This boy´s torso is so elongated that my eye was grabbed and held by dimensions that i know to be all wrong. The deadpan (to use Jim´s word) expression of honesty and innocence offsets the gawky dimensions of his body. I would not want to see his hands, waist or legs because they would settle things into place for my disbelieving brain and that would ruin the magic. This is a boy who has probably sprouted up in height very fast and all his dimensions are weird; feet too big, arms too long; adorable, gangly adolescense without the dopey smile tbat usually goes with it. As all parents knoe, he will grow into his height and his jacket all too soon. This snapshot captures and emphasizes an all too brief moment in this child´s life.

  22. This portrait is absolutely superb. I’ve stared at it for a long time and there is not a single thing I would change. I love the huge black shape, and the row of shiny buttons. The slightly off center composition, the amazing little triangle of green light leading us into the next room, the bits of furniture, the gas lamp, the wallpaper, they all contribute even though they are wonderfully understated. Then there is the boy himself, his otherwordly gaze, posture, odd oversize clothing, and complexion, make him almost surreal, an alien.

    The straightforward portrait has a long history, both in the naive “snapshot” tradition, and by people making art without letting themselves and their photo-egos get in the way too much. August Sander, FSA stuff, Irving Penn and Avedon to name a few. Sander wasn’t actually trying to make art, but to create an honest document. Mike Disfarmers Heber Springs portraits were naive snapshots to be sure, but ended up being far more.

  23. kathleen– exactly!
    this photo works for me precisely because
    he did not include the hands or even a hint of the wrists.
    that would’ve ruined it for me, i think.


    love the new (old) format!
    will be so much easier to catch up now.

  24. Здравствуйте, Максим. Приятно видеть вашу работу здесь, в Burn! :))) Я буду писать на Английский так будет легче для меня описать вам мои чувства по поводу этого портрета.

    Max: :))) I like the portrait VERY MUCH. Yes, there are small visual elements that ‘bother’ me about the picture as a ‘single’ but these ‘problems’ do not take away from the emotional and aesthetic value of the photographer. First, let me say this, strangely, this photograph reminds me of Gogol’s story Вий, (Viy), the story of a young man (older than this boy) let out of a seminary and who encounters the devil and must say prayers for a dead women for 3 days. A remarkable story and in this photographs is everything in that story. On a visual note, it is because of this gorgeous and strange ‘elongation’, which makes this young boy appear incredibly LONG (like a spirit), whose arms are endless and this contrasts greatly with the muted color and light. It’s a weird, demonic tension, between the length of his torso and arms and the simple expression and youth of his beautiful and tender face. THAT IS MAGICAL VISUAL TENSION and what photography is about: the subtle use of visual elements to create depth of an image. I also see it as a conversation too with the extraordinary work of Lise Sarfati, in particular her book ACTA EST. Acta Est is one of my favorite books about russian by a non-Russian photographer and has had a extraordinary influence. The tension in the lighting and cool tones ads to this flavor and is in a long tradition of Russian portraiture, mostly unknown still in the west. I can’t help but think too of Mikhailov’s Case History…it’s the strange sense of sadness in the photograph and bright light upon his face with the single lamp, like a gallows, hanging from the back:…a young Pechorin (Герой нашего времени) ;))))….My only lament is, as others have written, with the upper half of the picture, i would have loved the ceiling above the walls crown cropped, leaving only the white molding and the lamp (the top 1/5 of the picture seems superfluous). Same comment about the bookcase on the right, seems superflous. However, I love the sense of place and the strange ‘mannerism” of the photograph. And I love the work that you have shown at Lightstalkers. Maybe we will meet when Marina and I return to Moscow this summer. Do you know Sergie Maximishin?…or Alexey Tixhonov?….or Evgenie Morohrev?….CONGRATULATIONS for publishing here.

    На русском

    Мне нравится портрет очень много. Да, Есть небольшие визуальные элементы, которые ‘беспокоить’ мне об изображении как “единый”, но эти “проблемы” не отнять от эмоционального и эстетического значения фотограф. Во-первых, позвольте мне сказать это, странно, эта фотография напоминает мне рассказ Гоголя Вий, (Вий), история молодой человек (в возрасте старше этого мальчика) Пусть из семинарии и кто сталкивается с дьяволом, и должен сказать, для молитвы мертвой женщины в течение 3 дней. Замечательный рассказ, и в этой фотографии, это все в этой истории. По визуальной отметить, что из-за этого великолепного и странные ‘удлинение’, что делает этот мальчик, как невероятно длинные (как и дух), чье оружие безграничны, и это в значительной степени контрастирует с приглушенный цвет и свет. Это странно, демонических напряженности между длина его туловища и руки, и простые выражения и юность его красивой и нежной лица. ЧТО ТАКОЕ Волшебный VISUAL напряженности и какие фотографии о: тонкое использование визуальных элементов для создания глубины изображения. Я хотел бы также видеть его в разговоре также с Чрезвычайным работе Лизи SARFATI, в частности, ее книга ACTA EST. Acta Est это одна из моих любимых книг о русском языке, не являющихся гражданами России и фотограф имеет чрезвычайный влияния. Напряженность в осветительных и прохладных тонов объявлений на этот аромат и в давнюю традицию русской портретной, в основном еще неизвестных на Западе. Я не могу не думать о слишком Михайлов Дело история … это странное чувство грусти в фотографиях и яркий свет на его лице с единственной лампой, как виселица, висит сзади: … молодой Печорин (Герой нашего времени) ;))))…. Моя только сетовать, как и другие письменные, а верхняя половина картины, я бы любил потолок над стенами обрезанное корону, оставив только белый формовочных и Лампа (рейтинг 1 / 5 картина представляется излишним). То же замечание о книжном на правом, по-видимому superflous. Тем не менее, я люблю чувство места и странные ‘маньеризму “в фотографию. И я люблю работу, которую Вы проявили в Lightstalkers. Может быть, мы будем отвечать, когда Марина и я возвращаюсь в Москву этим летом. Знаете ли вы, Sergie Maximishin? (он мой друг)… или ?…. или Евгений Мохорев ?….

    Поздравляю! :))


  25. I’m like “hypnotised” (is this english word?) by this one, I stayed so long staring at it!
    The boy is posing, which I would normally dislike on a picture, but somehow… dunno. maybe the smile?
    Normally I find this kind of picture quite boring. And the light looks a bit basic too, but…

    Maybe one of the rare pictures I would still enjoy framed on a wall, that you have to see everyday. If it was perfect this would be boring. (though, Usually I’m very bored with most pictures that have some intentional imperfection like not straight, strong flash, blurs, etc.)

    Now, thinking of the boy talking about still images with Dracula accent, this picture would put me in good mood every morning when seeing it on the way to work!

  26. Max,

    I am a fan of this image in the moment. The “background”, the doorway- the furniture and anything else, which may be unsightly all seem to parallel the awkwardness in Dmytri. I’m a redhead as well you see and personally connect with this photograph. I can recall similar body language.. To me it really has nothing to do with his hands- or lack of (in photo).. the wallpaper or the lighting.

    Send the image link to a redhead you know,.. ask them what they think of it…

    That’s my 2 cents

  27. There’s a charming awkwardness to the boy, the composition and the background that makes it all come together, at least for me. And I can relate to this particular POV. It’s pretty much how everyone looks to me from the seat of my scooter. I’ve also visited Max’s galleries and recommend them highly, not only for the images but also for the text. Lots to learn there…


  28. This is a strong image… Everything works for me here including the “imperfections”. It actually works because of the imperfections (furniture etc…). And the absence of hands in the frame is great move on behalf of the photographer. Also, somehow, as if at the very moment after the exposure the boy will grow into a man that will fill that jacket… not a year later but instantly…weird, strange, I like. I like.

  29. I’m kinda with Jim on this one.
    If this image wasn’t pushed to the forefront, as it is here, I’d never notice it.
    If it was in a magazine I don’t think it would compel me to stop and look longer.

    It’s not really this specific image that doesn’t do it for me but rather the style, which
    is pretty popular these days, which doesn’t affect me in any significant way

  30. kathleen fonseca

    Bob, Gordon, Katia, Robert Johnson, Jim:

    “On a visual note, it is because of this gorgeous and strange ‘elongation’, which makes this young boy appear incredibly LONG (like a spirit), whose arms are endless and this contrasts greatly with the muted color and light. It’s a weird, demonic tension, between the length of his torso and arms and the simple expression and youth of his beautiful and tender face. THAT IS MAGICAL VISUAL TENSION and what photography is about: the subtle use of visual elements to create depth of an image.”

    Bob, You said this so beautifully. You vocalized the spiritual sense of the photograph that i responded to but couldn’t express. Thank you for getting it soooooo right. The boy is like an angel made human yet oddly still out of this world. Gordon said “alien”. Robert Johnson said “haunting”. Katia, you mention the contrast between the glow in his face and the muted background. I think the phrase, “Magic Visual Tension” exactly describes the compelling nature of this portrait.

    Jim, i truly, honestly am perplexed that you do not see this child as a “living” subject. This portrait is ethereally subtle, yet powerfully alive. i can practically feel his cells multiplying and growing at a breakneck rate and yet his silent demeanor belies his urgent development from boy to man. The photo’s quiet energy overwhelms any nit-picky imperfection. i wonder if Dmitry was playing basketball with that long body, lunging toward the hoop with elegant feline grace whether that would have persuaded you that a heart does indeed beat within his silent chest and therefore worthy of the snap of a shutter. Same kid, different moment. Well, this moment for me is far preferable to one that might be considered more alive in your book. It’s interesting and gratifying to know that there are photographic subjects and genres for all of us. For each of us who doesn’t get the quiet and poetic (love hotels, for example) there is another for whom it quite takes our breath away.

  31. Ofcourse he is alive, Dmitry didnt shoot a corpse or a mummy therefore Jim’s whole one-liner really makes no sense. I guess Dmitry should have made him skip rope or smell a flower since this is “too static” for Jim.

    Really, Jim, Id like you to define what a snapshot is to you. Im actually heavy into snapshot style shooters, and Id point out some names like Goldin or more recently Billingham, or closer to DAH somebody like Sobol who do actually employ the snapshot style to great effect. I should also I guess mention Trent Parke’s Christmas Tree Bucket here too. Those are works that use this aesthetic or style. This? A SNAPSHOT? The first time I ever heard anyone call a fairly formal composition a snapshot was here, by Jim. How is this a snapshot Jim? What according to you, is a snapshot? One thing that does bug me is the line of the ceiling. God how I wish it was straight. I do really like the clutter and especially the wallpaper for its fantastic color and textures.

  32. henri cartier-bresson

    if this portrait is absolutely superb then i’m Henri Cartier-Bresson.
    I also prefer photos of the living…

  33. “i can practically feel his cells multiplying and growing at a breakneck rate and yet his silent demeanor belies his urgent development from boy to man.”

    Piffle. Odd sentimentality. How do you know the boy is tall and gangly? The photo is cut off at the sleeve cuffs. It appears to me he is wearing an outside garment and framed to enhance the illusion of height. As for cells multiplying and urgent development, it appears more to me that the photographer has either said, “Look here, don’t smile,” or the boy is trying to look spiritual and not succeeding very well. The photo, to me, hides the boy’s humanity rather than reveals it.

  34. Jim/others. I think the point here is that you may be missing the wood for the trees. The fact that all here are seeing different interpretations in this. That for some it conjures up moods and related feelings, while for others it asks questions to which there no answers save those we bring ourselves to the looking, means that on one level at least it is doing its job admirably. As i have said above, it is the devices used to make it more than the image itself that intrigue me personally, but those themselves are still questions. Good image for discussion in my book.
    Clever man that DAH methinks.
    NOTE. I do hope the artist does not mind us all charging all over his work in our dirty boots.

  35. Thanks David and thanks all of you for your insightful and detailed comments, I really appreciate, and I am terribly sorry I could not respond earlier…

    To David Bowen: what inspires me about this photograph (although I admit there are imperfections in it) is that Dmitry looks like a boy from the past (and the room detail also adds to it), someone from the 19-century Russia, a sort of a fictitious character from the Russian literature. He looks like a survivor of that old Russian civilization we lost with the 1917 revolution. And that’s actually what I’m always looking for when traveling around Russia: the remnants of that old civilization, not the stones or monuments, but the very spirit of it and the people who embody it: to a very small extent, it still survives deep in the Russian heartland – in such small towns as Vyksa.

    To Mike Halminski and Haik: this photo is not part of any bigger story. It was shot when I was on a one-day assignment for Ogoniok magazine in this small town of Vyksa about 350 km east of Moscow famous for its old steel mill. We just drove past this school and I thought why not drop in. We were fortunate to meet three pupils (one boy – Dmitry and two girls Varvara and Arina – if I remember right) – others were on vacation (it was in July), so I just took a few photos of all of them – Dmitry alone and girls together (pl. have a look here in the lightest room we could find in this building. Why this caption then, you might ask. I just thought it would be interesting to add some general political background to this single photograph because I believe the photo and its caption strengthen each other and thus provide a wider perspective for the audience. I might be wrong, I don’t know…

    To Mike R: I do use a waist-level viewfinder, I am more comfortable with it, sort of.

    To Bob Black: Thanks Bob for your detailed and thoughtful feedback! You caught my main thought about this photo – the boy does look like a literary character to me too, and that’s why I like it! I would gladly meet you in Moscow or St.Pete or elsewhere anytime. I do know Messrs. Maximishin and Tikhonov, not Mokhorev, although I of course know his work very well.

    Sorry if I missed someone’s questions and thanks a million again!


  36. ALL…

    i e-mailed Max to make sure he knew his picture was published here…he assured me that he would jump in soonest to answer any questions and give his take on his take…

    personally, i just can’t stop looking at this photograph….it drives me crazy for all the reasons some suggest (awkward lines) and compels me for all the reasons others suggest (ethereal)….i look at dozens and dozens of submissions here every day, but when i saw this one, i knew i just HAD to publish it…and , of course, i knew very well that it would draw fire….

    there really is “no accounting for taste”…taste comes from our personal experiences, personal prejudices and for sure mostly from the amount of experience we have in looking at a wide variety of work over our respective lifetimes…still, “value” is subjective…i think many tend to totally personalize a photograph when they see it..often feel threatened by something which seems to have gained acceptance that is different from what they do…or imagine that they “could have taken it easily” (which is rarely the case)…imagine that it would not “fit” into any of the venues for which they are accustomed to supplying….most often these parameters are set up by others…it seems that rarely do photographers just look at a picture and see the picture on a gut instinctive level …they immediately jump to other reference points (contests won, last story in a magazine, exhibitions heralded)..usually these are “learned” reference points or “hooks” put upon us by others …

    ok Max, where are you?? get in here and explain your motive….and mostly answer one simple question: did this boy’s coat go all the way to the floor??? gotta love it….

    cheers, david

    p.s. i now see that Max and i were posting simultaneous….

  37. john – i think there is more interesting work on max´s lightstalkers account and i appreciate that this photo is bringing a lot to the table in terms of discussion and peoples interpretation..
    it reminds me a little of the psychology trick of asking 10 people what an inanimate object, such as a glass of water, is thinking..
    the answers will depend upon those asked projecting themselves into the glass of water and therefore simply describing their own state of mind.. or perspective.. since the glass of water gives nothing away.

    it´s not a photo which i engage with, despite the pink face blending with wallpaper and the shocking blond hair.. long cuffs..
    i remain drawn to the visual distractions of the bright door frame.. the lack of crispness on the boys face.. i think it could be a good portrait.. i just don´t think it is a good portrait.

    photographs such as this can engage me although only if they stand up to technical scrutiny.. not that i only enjoy crisp focusing and framing, but because i think that is what this photo is trying to achieve.. other photographs which hold a great deal of atmosphere on maxs lightstalkers account have a different intention and i can appreciate them more.. i try to see what the intention has been with each photograph alone.

    it´s like looking at a photograph held in a badly cut mount or tatty frame – distracting.

    apologies to max and please forgive my frankness – i genuinely enjoyed much of the work you have online..


  38. max and david above – i´m sorry to have been posting at the same time..

    max – many thanks for your response.. i still think the photo works within the context of your other work and have enjoyed looking through it all..


  39. David,

    You wrote “…often feel threatened by something which seems to have gained acceptance that is different from what they do…or imagine that they “could have taken it easily” (which is rarely the case)…”

    I have been thinking about how following BURN affects my attitude towards my own photography, and I agree with what you wrote. I find that sometimes when I’m shooting, subconsciously I will be thinking “what kind of reaction would this photo generate on BURN”. It’s not necessarily a bad thing (on the contrary, I learn much here), but I think at least for me, and perhaps for others here, I need to retain some balance of what I want to say with MY photography, and keep that in perspective with what the BURN community collectively writes about other photographers’ work. Does that make any sense?



  40. I do not like nothing on this picture, but… I can not stop watching it over and over again, it has something that is so intriguing.

    Guess a picture which invites you to keep your eyes over its a good picture.

    Congratulations Max.

    J Sors

    PS. The best wine is the one you drink because you like it, not because someone else set is a good one.

  41. asher – i find it best to ignore the critics while shooting.. and seek advice for exhibits or the like..
    there is enough to think about while shooting with the shapes, layers and moments mantra in mind ..


  42. Max,
    Thank you for providing the link to the picture of the two girls. That is a precious image. And also thanks for more of the story behind the shots. The fact that you first drove by the school, then decided to turn around and go back says a lot about the spontaneity of the picture… plus using the waist level viewfinder.

    How many times have we, as photographers, gone by a photo opportunity and not turned back, only to be haunted later by what we missed.

    Thank you for sharing with us.

  43. To David Alan Harvey: Nope, he wore some sort of a seminarian’s jacket – a short one :) It was just too big for him and the sleeves too long :)). Still he wore it with a rare dignity which I also like.

  44. Max :))

    bolshoi spasibo!…Alexie and Sergie are friends of mine and Marina’s (my wife)…and we hope to meet you when we come again to russia in the summer :)))…

    klass roboti! :))


  45. To Mike Halminski: thank you, too Mike. Well, talking about the photo opportunities that’s something we all miss so many times, and so many times I have to FORCE myself to turn around or drop in somewhere.

  46. Jim:

    “How do you know the boy is tall and gangly?”

    That’s the genius of this photograph, we DON’T know..we can only guess. Ergo, my question, how do you know he isn’t (tall and gangly)? It’s offensive that my reaction to the photograph is “piffle and sentimental” and yours is, i presume, logical and therefore, valid. The beauty of art is that we are free to jump in, wander around, daydream, feel, intuit, free-associate, speculate, think, recollect, be excited or moved, wonder, share, criticize and nitpick even to copy. And that freedom to react in one’s own way is not piffle. It’s thankfully a right we still enjoy as human beings.

    But would i expect that level of tolerance and generosity of spirit from you? hahaha, next question please?

  47. kathleen, as Freud is famous for admitting, sometimes a woman is just a woman and a cigar is just a smoke. Reading raging hormones and transitions into manhood into an obviously posed straight up photo of a young man seems a bit of a stretch to me.

  48. Max..saw your LS galleries for the first time..very happy to have ‘found’ you. I particularly like the way you animate the inanimate and the way you use your perspective / low horizon and vanishing points, your quiet storytelling; your narrative is quite like that of an absorbing novel, the kind you keep reading in the tub, even after the bath water has gone chilly. i think you could do with slightly better scans and a bit tighter edit..that aside, fabulous work.

  49. Friends, I think we give Jim Powers way too much power here. Yes, he likes to get us going and once going, he loves to keep up the sparring. But in the end, Jim never budges an inch and, often, all we get is more and more frustrated and angry. He reminds me of the grade five boys I used to know who made trouble just to get attention. As I learned in the classroom, the best way to respond to such attention-seekers is to give them attention when they are behaving not when they’re acting up. Perhaps if we ignore Jim’s digs and only respond when he brings up topics that deserve our attention, we wouldn’t get caught up in these cycles of negativity. And maybe our friend Jim would focus more on sharing the fruits of his years as a photojournalist and less on trying to get our goat. What do you think, is it worth a try?


  50. Jim, It was actually Rudyard Kipling you are quoting. I believe it is in his poem “Betrothed”. It goes:

    “A woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke”

    I read a great response to that line. “a good woman can make you smoke – before and after sex. A cigar can’t do that.”

  51. I am not a great fan of such static portraits. And when I look at somehow similar photographs (which are so many) I am expecting to see ideal compositions no imperfections. This photograph is full of what seems to be imperfections – but all together they do work perfectly here to my taste. It is very clever to leave the pals of the hands out which makes the boy seem longer than he is and the doorway behind him just accentuates the angular and awkward qualities of the figure, something robotic as Bob pointed out. Very good portrait to me. And it fits into Max’s style very well. Could be a part of the series (may be it is? I didn’t find these series on lightstalker site).

  52. kathleen fonseca


    a ¨bit of a stretch¨..haha, good one!


    I try, but i will try harder..thanks for the slap upside the head..

  53. “Perhaps if we ignore Jim’s digs and only respond when he brings up topics that deserve our attention, we wouldn’t get caught up in these cycles of negativity.”

    Well, Patricia, perhaps it would be helpful if you supplied a list of topics that “deserve” your attention. It would save a lot of time.

  54. Oh Kathleen, my comment was not pointed at you. Not at all. I just get tired of seeing so much of our precious time and energy used up on Jim’s thoughtless remarks. Life’s too short.


  55. Patricia, I’ve praised several of the photos and essays here. Must I praise them all to be worthy?

  56. In the immortal words of Dave Mason:

    “So let’s leave it alone, ’cause we can’t see eye to eye.
    There ain’t no good guys, there ain’t no bad guys.
    There’s only you and me and we just disagree.”

  57. Did burn go down for a bit? I just submitted a comment, only to have the site dissapear along with my comment. I’ll try and remmember what I said.

    A note to Jim, Cartier Bresson and others who do not “get” this photo or others of its ilk.

    Jim, being from your generation, (Im over 60) I can appreciate where you are coming from. I’m a small town portrait photographer. Most of my customers, and most of my colleagues would not get this photo either. I certainly could not sell it in my community, nor I suspect could Max to Dmytris’ mom.

    Much of my own personal work consists of portraits of this “ilk” inlcuding favourite portraits of my children. My wife hated them I love them. They tell me much more about who they are than photos with a big smile. (moms won’t buy a portrait unless the kid has a big smile).

    I don’t like everything I’ve seen here on Burn. I am trying to set aside my pre-conceptions and biases about what a photograph should look like. I’ve learned a lot here, and find the discussion sometimes educational, inspiring, and sometimes with a fresh look, I can see value where I saw none before.

    Outside of what I’ve seen on Burn, there are some photographers who’s work though accepted by some, I just do not get. Some stuff from the “fine art” community especially I simply feel is pretentious, self absorbed, bullshit. Maybe it’s my own limitation.

    This photo, along with the work of many of the celebrated photographers of past and present would be thrown out of next weeks print salon at our annual Professional photographers of BC convention. What is “good” photography is very narrowly defined and governed by a narrow set of rules. The panel of judges are “master” photographers who become masters by being able to fit into these rules and hang enough prints over the years to be awarded the designation.

    More than 20 years ago, I joined this association and went to my first convention because I learned that Arnold Newman would be speaking. Arnold showed us a slide show with his famous images and told stories about them, and his experiences. Fascinating stuff.
    Finally he shocked everyone by waving his hand toward the back of the room where the prints from the print salon were displayed and said:

    “all those pictures back there are plastic sausages. You people are just producing plastic sausages. I’ve seen those images in salons all over the world for the past 30 years”

    People were taken aback. Who the hell does he think he is? I thought right on.

    I’m a musician. I love music. I love to play music. I love a lot of different kinds of music. But I don’t get jazz. Hate it, makes me crazy. Don’t understand it. However I know two people who are famous jazz musicians. They are highly trained gifted passionate people with a huge following and they play gigs all over the world. Millions of people enjoy jazz. Does jazz suck? More likely I’m either not capable or musically evolved enough to appreciate it.

    So rather than assume that those of us who love this ABSOLUTELY SPECTACULAR image are pretending to do so just to appear hip, I invite you all to try and set your photo-egos and pre-conceptions aside, and have a fresh look at this photo with new eyes. You may even discover something wonderful.


    Gordon Lafleur

  58. kathleen fonseca

    oh, Patrica, i know it wasn´t directed at me personally, but your comment was so timely and spoke so clearly to my frustration that i had to thank you. Life is indeed way too short. Period.

  59. kathleen fonseca

    oh, Gordon, it was my own private shorthand..just putting an exclamation mark on your wonderful post..take care, eh?

  60. i love this picture. strange, awkward body, oversize jacket, body angles/furniture angles, the face blending with the wall paper. beautiful work!

  61. David Alan

    Glad you liked the comment.

    I’m loving Burn. Being able to comment means having to pull together my thoughts into coherent form. Thankyou for the opportunity.
    I’d love to attend a workshop with you at some point.

    Gordon L

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