C’est Tout by Jan Smith

There is a certain glory in what is constructed being defeated by the forces of time. Void of human habitation, a patina of self-identity emerges from the structures and substitutes the original man-made baptism of name and function. These spaces anthropomorphize when they are empty.

When we enter them, they die. With our presence they become shells for the purpose and habitation of our consciousness, and their essence retreats and surrenders its intangible namelessness. Such structures exist for themselves only when they are abandoned. Without stewards, they achieve this transformation in exchange for mortality and disappearance from our memory.

They live in a realm that shows itself and at the same time withdraws from us. Their acquired consciousness is like a horizon that defines itself by what we see, but also more largely by what remains veiled. The threshold of our arrival in these spaces leaves them balancing between the resurrection of our memory of them, and the renouncing of their own identity. In between these moments what remains is a subtle taste of time because it withdraws just in approaching us.

Gunkanjima, Japan

Its name translates as “Battleship Island” and is the nickname for Hashima Island in Nagasaki Prefecture. It functioned as a Mitsubishi owned under-sea coal mine from 1880 to 1974, and was key in shaping Japan’s industrialization. It holds Japan’s first large concrete housing project. At its peak it was home to over 5,000 workers and their families. At 1,391 persons per hectare it holds the record for highest population density ever recorded. Travel to Gunkanjima is prohibited.


Website: Jan Smith


205 thoughts on “jan smith – c’est tout”

  1. C’ est tout? Why the long editorializing of your picture, then? C’ est beaucoup! :-)

    No problem with the picture at all (maybe the composition is a bit squaring/confining for an inhabited if ghostly space, but this might work for others). Not sure about the double-entendre/voir that comes from the nude blur and the space around her. Everything is possible, of course…

  2. Thank you for the feedback.

    The long editorializing is due to this picture being one in a collection. I appreciate the irony and hadn’t thought of that before.

    Gunkanjima is actually not inhabited (getting there was an adventure unto itself). I tried to capture the essence of a confined, cramped quarters, very much like it must have been back then when it had the most inhabitants per square kilometer.

  3. Nice picture. It’s part of a series that’s developed on your website… all very similar. I agree that this image is one of the best realizations of the idea. I actually think it’s more effective as a single, I’m afraid I found the series a bit repetitive and not all the photos up to the same standard.

    I’ve known about this island for many years, seen it from a distance, been past it on a boat, and saw it featured in a news show on Japanese TV after the last inhabitants were finally evicted in the 1980s. You certainly deserve credit for getting there with your model.

  4. The photograph itself is o.k. – I like the only-from photography blur of the model. The last paragraph explains more about the location than either photograph or other text. For me, the explanation of structure and their self-identity exists only in the mind of the photographer / artist.

    The intention of the photographer to give life to a location may have been better realized with a short caption. Perhaps the last paragraph?

    Good composition.


  5. Wonderful image – my favourite single here in a while. It has a very nostalgic feel for me, or rather, it makes me feel nostalgia for something not easily expressed. I love the lighting and the the way the blur leads into a small sliver of clarity – it really ‘makes’ the image for me.

    By the way, the link to the photographer’s website above is broken.

  6. I find it interesting that two or three of the comments alluded to the caption/explanation. I’ve struggled with this both as an internal exploration and an imposed requirement from publications and galleries.

    The issue of whether or not to include an explanation and then how much is a tough subject to deal with. One is often confronted with the question “what type of pictures do you take?”, “what is it about?”. This seems to become a greater area of debate the more an image moves from documenting to expressing.

    Ironically, the more expressive an image is of what the photographer/artist feels, the more the viewer seems to desire an explanation. I perceive this is less asked of with other mediums such as painting and sculpture, but the association photographs hold as documentary objects seems to predispose many of us toward expecting further explanations than the image by itself presents. I suppose I’ve catered to this to great extent, given that “artist statements” or captions are almost always asked for, and I’ve therefore developed a rather verbose one. It would be much easier not to have to explore one’s feelings in order to explain what it means to me…..but there you have it.

    Given that this had an artistic intent, the mere fact that evokes the viewer (all of you who have commented) enough to leave a response is the most valid form of feedback. Liking or disliking has a secondary role. The first intention is to tease a response. Hopefully this is achieved through proper use of composition, technique, location, artistic element, etc. Feedback can then be used to improve, edit, or fine-tune.

    Deciding wether the image presents enough of a statement by itself or requires a verbal contextualization is perhaps in and of itself the strongest indicator of strength or shortcomings. The difference I suppose lies in whether the image evokes WANTING to know more, or if it requires NEEDING to know more to compensate for its faults.

  7. Jim, “Art photography, even the travel stuff ….” – art photography and travel? I don’t see the connection.

    I would say that Art photography, usually known as Fine Art, can use any avenue, but why travel stuff?


  8. Good reply Jan: give a caption and some will say “why the caption?”; give no caption and some will say “where’s the caption?”. My problem with the text is that it uses a lot of words to get to the last paragraph. Hey! But what do i know? Congratulations on being published at Burn Magazine.

    Best wishes,


  9. Apologies, Jan. I really meant UNinhabited, as you told us, of course. My typing got lazy!

    Katharina, interesting comment. I actually find this subject approach in the work of many asian photographers. (individual/physical presence “contours”, performed, acted up, evaded also maybe, and what not). Also spaces revealing of inner discomfort, inadequacies, social alienation). Jan may differ in intention (I assume he is not directly asian), but the camera work and the use of space as revealing an anthropomorphism (since the appearance of individuality is all given to theater/performance, spaces do take over in being also voices), I find quite asian.

    I hope it makes sense.

  10. Herve,

    (no worries on typing)

    Your last comment reminds me of a description I read contrasting Asian and Western architecture. Paraphrasing: Western architecture is museum based because it displays the artifacts of the home: cubby holes, niches, etc. are used to show objects. Asian architecture is theatre based. Instead of showing items, it hides them discreetly and then opens its (screens, shelves, etc.) to display the item when it is required, much like the curtains and wings of a stage.

    I hadn’t thought of this series in this light but I can identify with the comparison.

  11. hey this is wonderful. i love this shot. the texture in the building… the placement… its weighed very well. very nice work. although the web link will not work on my machine… could be things on my end… anyone else have the same issue?

  12. darn interesting, Jan. How true that much of what “asian thought” (which will be reflected in architecture, spatial arrangement too, is about, generally speaking, the restraint of/on individualism, yet it does espouse the individual, but functionally, so doesn’t show him/her off.

    BTW, I often think that Asia is as spiritual a space within ourselves, (if dormant), as it is a geographical location…. In that sense, as I said: Yep, Everything is indeed possible! ;-)

  13. i like this picture very much. first glance: abandoned… haunted… haunting. then ghostly.

    then i read the caption… my head just bobbed and my brows were knit and the wordings left me dazed and confused. i read the caption a few more times and it didn’t make a difference in how i felt.

    i do get what you say because with me i think you achieved it; how i feel about the picture now is what you aimed for in the caption. would there be a ‘clearer’ caption? wordings that are straight to the point and not too much of twists and turns of verbal play. i do know this is all about the photo and as above, i like it very much. but the wordings were too difficult for me to understand… verbose. hmmmm….

  14. Marcie, I agree the caption is dense. If it helps any it is meant for the entire series and not just this image. Sorry for the headache.

  15. John
    The person is there because I felt it facilitated conveying a feeling. Without this element the image would simply be documentary and would not serve the purpose I intended. The place is very interesting and Saiga Yuji has some beautiful documentary work.

  16. Finally…
    I got a more stable “family photo gig”…
    I might, not sure but I might have a home soon..
    Don’t wanna jinx it… But..I hope..
    Maybe by the pacific…! Maybe Venice ..
    with little Freida…!!!
    Ok.. BIG HUG from northern california ..
    I’m in Hollister now.. Another eerie little town,
    another spooky lake… on the top of a Faultline..
    Tectonic plates shift..
    The second more earthquake generating spot in California ..
    Loves it!

  17. … or maybe up in Glendale ..
    Next to Haik…
    Haik, if u listening…
    I’m looking for a big mansion
    or a studio in Hollywood .. Even
    A downtown loft would do..
    Long Beach also considered..

  18. some great great person told me to check your website… i had an amazing experience…
    (your link at BURN does not work but cut and paste does…)

    can i email you offsite so you can be my friend?

  19. Jim

    I’m starting to worry about you buddy.

    I’m not sure if you are just yanking our chain (a good thing) or if you are really as cynical and negative as you come off being. I’m thinking maybe you don’t even really exist and David Alan has invented you to stir things up a bit.
    Don’t stop, I mean, you say things that most of us would be too polite to say. And know you are here because you care.

    Gordon L.

  20. Sorry, don’t get it. What kind of feeling does a blurred naked woman convey in a building like this? Irritation? If thats’s it then you’re spot on.

  21. John
    Irritation is a new variant, but at least it strikes a nerve. Provoking an answer or reaction, even if unintended trumps matters of subjective interpretation.

  22. Gordon, the structure itself in kind of interesting in a Natgeo kind of way (and that’s a compliment). But putting a blurred nude into the photo takes away from the structure. It’s just pretentious art photography nonsense. Had the photographer actually just shown up and found a nude there, that would have been interesting. But it’s hard to imagine why a blurred nude would have been there unless someone trying to create “art” put them there. Certainly has no connection to the structure that I can see.

  23. Just beautiful. Femininity alive, playful, graceful, in a manmade structure dead, vacant, and deteriorating. Interesting juxtaposition…hopeful. I like that.

  24. GORDON…

    i too thought for awhile that JIM was someone playing a game with us…but, he is real..the news editor of his Texas newspaper….i am even going to meet him this summer in Texas….Jim is just a quite literal newspaperman…he is the most important person at his paper…..it is not so unusual he would think like this…actually , after visiting on line his newspaper in Texas i have come to the conclusion that great ART could be made by making a collage of the front pages of his paper…no joke…i mean, it could be a classic homage to small town newspapers which i just gotta love….you see there are those who try so hard to be “artists”….and then there are those who just “are”…..the only problem is that when Jim finds out that i am going to make “art” out of his newspaper, then he is going to kill me…and then the question arises: if i become famous for my art collages of small town newspapers (Jim’s in particular) who gets credit, Jim or me???

    cheers, david

  25. John

    Documentary and press is not sole kind of photography.

    And I completely dissagree with your guestion, “Why is there a naked person in a building which might be interesting to photograph?”
    You try to say that if something is not interesting for you it is not interesting at all. This is Jim’s problem very often.
    If someone will say “what interesting is in Cambodia’s daily press photos?” I will say; even if this kind of photography is important for one person only, it is interesting photography. Isn’t it?
    It’s not mean that you can’t say, “this photo means nothing for me.” this will be ok and fair.

    Of course I don’t try say you what you should say. I just explaine why I dissagree with you.

    There is some Jan’s photos I like very much. There is blue one, it’s looks like painting because strong colour.
    But after I looked at second time I have to say there is too many the same pictures.


    I think you say what you want to say through this pictures. You should go to some other directions. If you will stay with this kind of expession your works will be boring soon.
    And you should be more determined with colour. Sometimes colour is important in your work sometimes not. You have to decide you use or not colour as a strong part of you work. It make mess now.
    This is my modest opinion.

  26. Naked woman on the backdrop of something: rocky cliff, minimalist interior… it’s a very thick sub-genre of its own. I’d like to change the composition, the big heavy dark patches on the right and down below overwhelm the woman. It’s not harmonious and perhaps this is why it feels contrived. If you’re interested in counterbalancing the architectural decay then I would use something full of life, like a grapefruit.

    I tried to read the caption, but I found it too long and not to the point… sorry. Captions are good when they add something that you otherwise wouldn’t know i.e. “Nicolas Sarkozy sitting in his study next to the taxidermed lion that he killed with his bare hands.”

  27. Marcin,

    Don’t worry, I know there is not only documentary or press photography around…

    What I meant to say with my question is exactly what I meant: “Why is there a naked person in a building which might be interesting to photograph?”

    The answer from Jan to the question was: “It facilitates conveying a feeling”… I have of course no problem with that, although I still don’t know what feeling Jan was expecting to convey.

    What was conveyed with me was irritation. The irritation had not much to do with the fact that the picture was not a documentary one anymore, but more that it was an attempt to use a “disturbing element”, an “unexpected juxtaposition” (although, as Michael E. is writing, it is not that unexpected) to create a surrealist situation and that I found it was a weak attempt.

  28. If I see this kind of images I always see Bacon.
    Sometimes it is good, but not for long time.
    And Bacon telled “the human story” in his paintings, here I see only aestethics reasons. Of course it is ok, this is just other way, but looking for human weaknes or desires like Bacon or D’Agata did, means more for me.

  29. John,

    Loose, why loose? We just talked about. I like your pictures because I see the same humans weakness and desires like Bacon or D’Agata and ME looking for.

    Ps, Be careful with your wordpress, I just loose my news site after hacker’s attack. I hope you are strong protected.

  30. All very just points.

    THE CAPTION: I myself disagree with having captions at all, or for that matter, titles at all. It is refreshing to hear and a good counterpoint to the galleries and shows that do ask for statements. Enough said.

    Jim: When I first started this series it was without people and my reaction was one of feeling that this was either “Natgeo” as you said, or borderline travel stock photography. I wanted a human element in them, yet these are abandoned places. The options are limited for populating these places. I opted for nudes because buildings were of course made for humans. I see no contradiction in placing the two together.
    Why a nude? On a practical level because it neutrally bridges the epochs between the present and when the structures were built and then abandoned.

    You find this “pretentious”. Why? I ask sincerely, and not flippantly. Liberally interpreting your comments, and reviewing your pictures, I speculate that you would label “pretentious” anything that does not translate to you literally, or that the extent of “art” consists of presenting alternate color and black and white versions of the same picture.

    This brings to what Marcin and John are getting at.

    John: Now I “get” you, or perhaps I still don’t… I gather you are asking “what was the feeling you are trying to convey?” The honest answer is sadness or nostalgia. Apparently I failed with you, but looking over other comments I succeeded with others. I nonetheless do not see why a nude in these settings should be considered either “disturbing” or “unexpected juxtaposition”. That was certainly not the intent. Buildings and people (as mentioned before) go hand in hand; I would consider dressing to the period contrived, and dressing more contemporarily out of place. So why would a nude be considered shocking? (more so if it were a self-portrait which most other pictures in the series are) I would rather hope that a nude would be complimentary, and so as to make it less “juxtaposing” soften it with movement. I would consider a grapefruit as Michael E suggests, completely out of place and already overly explored unto itself.

    Casting aside the photojournalistic googles, and accepting that one might wish to create an image rather than just document through a photograph, what would you consider the appropriate presentation of the human form in this setting to be? If you were presented with this building and scenario, how would you accomplish, or try to accomplish this? What basics of esthetics, composition or mood would you seek and create? I ask so as to gain insight, but unless you offer criticism that is grounded on more tangible fundamentals, then your opinion falls within the same vague realm you launched your opinion from in the first place, and we are both left repeating “I don’t get it” to each other. It reminds me of people who don’t understand each other so they simply speak louder.


  31. Wikipedia: Surrealism is a cultural movement that began in the early 1920s, and is best known for the visual artworks and writings of the group members. Surrealist works feature the element of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions and non sequitur….

    “unexpected juxtaposition” was meant in the sense that surredalism was using that “technique”, and maybe you were trying to use that same technique.

    You want to convey sadness or nostalgia? Take away the blurred girl and it would have worked work perfectly. (look at the pictures of derelict buildings by Lise Sarfati)

    Buildings and humans go hand in hand? Sure. But industrial buildings and naked women don’t… Abandoned industrial buildings and naked women even less…

    What I would do with an empty building? Leave it empty. Keep things simple.

    I think you are making things extremely complicated…

  32. I’m not going to say a single stupid word about the photo. Everyone else already pointed out why I don’t like it, no sense in repeating it. But I will address this of yours, Jan:

    “Ironically, the more expressive an image is of what the photographer/artist feels, the more the viewer seems to desire an explanation. I perceive this is less asked of with other mediums such as painting and sculpture, but the association photographs hold as documentary objects seems to predispose many of us toward expecting further explanations than the image by itself presents. I suppose I’ve catered to this to great extent, given that “artist statements” or captions are almost always asked for, and I’ve therefore developed a rather verbose one. It would be much easier not to have to explore one’s feelings in order to explain what it means to me…..but there you have it.”

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Photographs should ask questions, not answer them. We the viewers bring the answers that’s our job, not yours. If you bring us the questions (photos) and force feed us your answers (text) what’s left for us to do? Watch TV?

  33. I struggle to engage with this. There is something in its making that i do not ‘believe’. It feels unnatural. Maybe thats intentional? I dont know. there are lots of things that take me away from it, and so i pass on by. My loss? I dont know.
    I think you must make the work you do for yourself and not for me or any other, so please take comments such as mine as only my ‘opinion’ , which is all it surely is.

  34. It’s taken me a bit of time to decide how I feel about this photograph. My initial reaction was that I liked it, with some reservations. But now, after some time, and after reading the comments, I still like it.

    Photographs of decaying buildings certainly rate up there on the list of enduring cliches, decaying buildings with naked women in them being one common variation. Graceful blurred nudes are also high up there on the list. Here we have a photo which combines the two.

    As Iv’e commented before, cliches become cliches because they work. However if one is going to use them, hopefully you do it very well, and bring something new.

    Happily, Jan is good at what he does. I like the beautiful graphics of the image. Finding beautiful graphics in decay is another cliche perhaps, but one which has a lot of appeal.
    I love the lovely grey overall tone, with the little punctuations of rust colour, then, the wonderful pink swish of the womans body, dancing. Beautiful photograph.

    Stupid, it’s true that a photograph should ask us questions. I have always believed that photographs should tell us secrets as well.

    Jim, I can appreciate your view that this photo, and those on Jans’ site are a bit on the “arty” site. That is his intent. “Art” photography (doesn’t anyone else hate that term “FINE art”?} isn’t meant to be taken literally. Jim, art photographers walk a pretty FINE line. Too often for my taste too, it does fall onto to pretentious self absorbed nonsense side. I am liking Jans’ stuff however.

    One final little anal niggle Jan. The slight keystoning spoils the formality of the composition. Just check that little perspective box on your crop tool, drag the bottom corners out a bit to straighten it out, and POOF, it’ll be perfect.

    G. Lafleur

  35. JAN:

    Apparently I failed with you, but looking over other comments I succeeded with others

    My reply here is not so much about your picture per se, Jan, but just to point at that whereas the people who bring a critical eye to an image, tend to enjoy being engaged and spend time explaining themselves (Jim starts very short, but never quite “leave the building” and does get engaged), the ones who like it rarely make you feel they spent more than just a few seconds before deciding it is perfect (or gorgeous), and of course, absolutely no time in “the building” and subsequent discussions. It makes you wonder how many would actually attention to it in a different setting, where it is not brought to them in a familiar setting, as BURN is.

  36. Normally I don’t even comment on ‘Art’ or “Fine Art’ photography because it’s not a world I am particularly attuned to… it would be like me criticizing poetry in a language I don’t understand. And when the photographer’s intentions are obviously ‘arty’ I confess I may feel a bit disinterested or even mildly hostile just for that reason… but why trumpet that prejudice, when it just reveals my own limitations? The umbrella of photography is surely wide enough to include all kinds of things not dreamt of in my own particular heaven and earth…

    But I like this photo. I liked it before I knew it was taken at Gunkanjima in Japan, and I liked it before I saw the other photos that are quite similar to it on Jan’s website. And after knowing more about the context, both of the location and of Jan’s work, and after reading the comments above, and after a good night’s sleep, I still like it… in fact, I think I like it a bit more, not because of all that, maybe a little in spite of all that, but mostly, it just hits the right note for me. Even though it’s a bit of a cliche, I think it’s well done, the composition is quite interesting and well done, and the blurred nude has just the right balance of blur and definition for me. I agree with much of what Gordon L. says above, except I don’t see any problem with ‘keystoning’.

    I thought I was pretty opinionated and parochial in my tastes… but reading some of the above comments makes me wonder at how photographers get hung up on ‘doctrines’ about what photographs ‘should’ do. Should do? Says who? And why? Seems to me Jim Powers is not the only one with a pretty rigid party line here.

  37. John: I understand but for the most part don’t agree. Whether to introduce human form, human form still or in movement, are matters of taste and perspective. To leave the place empty, although I understand the merits, is too close to the documentary style for me intrinsically identify with it at the level I want it to for nobody else but myself. For every picture that I take I record the location empty first. Comparing it to when it has movement in it, I like them less for the very reasons that you indicate would please you.

    Juxtaposing industrial and nude: This picture, and most of the series (exception being Arecibo, on my site) are actually taken in the RESIDENTIAL quarters of these places. This is deliberate and precisely to avoid the immediate response of “what is a naked person doing in an industrial setting.”

    The settings themselves are not random. They have important historical connotation or symbolism. I’m not expecting the viewer to know this off-hand, but it was important to me because it made the journey to re-discover these places worth while. Otherwise any old factory or apartment building would do—and that would fall completely into a cliche. Furthermore, they are places you will not reach easily; one doesn’t simply arrive in Gunkanjima to take pictures, and Gunkanjima isn’t merely any place either–this makes it interesting and worth while for me to go there. In fact I only had a few hours to explore, locate, compose and shoot. If I’m going to take the trouble of getting to these places (and sometimes with a model), then I will damn well choose how I want to bring those mementos back with me.

    If I am to then impose myself upon an unwitting audience then I think I do have the responsibility of trying to present what I consider the best/strongest representation of my work. To this end the comments related to inconsistent strength in my work are good barometers for improving both the actual work and the editing of it. All else falls into the categories of esthetics and debate. Some of it is valuable for the insights it offers or the dogmas it overturns in me, but ultimately is for me to consider or not.

    Where I really do agree with you is that such topics, props, and settings have all been explored before–and I run the risk of overexploiting a “cliche”. That is always a challenge, even in telling of the human story. I am sure you encounter the same challenge in your work, wherein photojournalism either over beats the dead horse of the human condition and falls into mere reportage.


  38. Stupid: I agree with you.

    Gordon: The technical issue of keystone. Interesting that you note that. This is actually not distortion caused by the lens (although there is some modest barreling). The buildings are sinking and moving about due to the inclement weather and seismic activity. They therefore droop and fall in all sorts of ways. Trying to keep in spirit with as much visual honesty as possible (I generally only dodge and burn and dust) I deliberately decided not to correct the apparent flaw despite it’s potential for distraction.

    Herve: I think you bring up a very valid point. I think Foucault referred to this as paresia–wherein both the speaker (i.e. presenter) and the audience have to agree to hear the truth. Outside of socially accepted contexts the audience will not grant the presenter legitimacy. Without agreement from the audience to be heard, the presenter risks himself to be unduly judged. Yet the opposite seems true as well–if paresia is established, then the audience might be too inclined to be clement and cheat the presenter of fair judgement. I suppose that reduces the most legitimate responses to those that are unsolicited and emerging from forums where the encounter was unexpected.

  39. Jan, very insightful. There have been many “life changing” photos proclaimed here.

    I’ve never been convinced that comments in forums frequented by photographers (emerging or otherwise) about photography were really very useful to the photographer. It often seems more like a social club, too much filled with cloying “atta-boys” than truly useful analysis.

  40. Jim

    If BURN (or rather BURN’s audience) is not good enough for you to talk about (or analysis) photography you should go to your dentist or hairdresser or whatever you want to be satisfy.
    I am always a observer, to see and try understand. I don’t want to change things, make them more simple for me, just understand them. Things have own reasons. Always.
    Operation- Reaction… Operation- Reaction… Operation- Reaction…
    Nothing more, Nothing less…
    That’s why I am still here.
    Even if I have problems with understanding sometimes.
    I am sorry my comments are useless for you.
    Maybe photographers are not to too good analysists. I am not good photographer and analysist too.
    But if you have any other option, don’t keep to yourself. Show us this light of understanding, show us this truly useful analysis.
    I am curious…
    If you know what is wrong you probably know how to fix it.
    I never know what is wrong, where the problem is.
    Is there any problem?

  41. A beautiful, distilled, mysterious photograph that points again to the sublime and the ghostly moments that surround us everywhere…this gorgeous mix between a contemporary updating of my beloved Francesca Woodman mixed with Wong Kar-Wei’s ending to In the Mood for Love…..I love your entire series, again updating Francesca’s work, making it less hermetic by taking it out into the world, beyond the 4-chambered heart of her space in Providence and her loft in Italy….so much cinema, and even Bacon’s grip on all this…

    mysterious and cinematic and bringing a gorgeous play of what we least expect…

    Again, for me, photography is about this: it’s miraculous ability to surprise, it’s black-magic light, the alchemy that allows it to change the quotidian into the sublime…
    beautiful, magic work…

    bob black

  42. marcin, BURN is as good as any forum, I suppose. The problem is that we are not the audience. We know the source of the magic. We talk about and obsess about things that explain nothing about how people react to our work. We react in ways to photographs that people not obsessed with photography don’t. The most important thing to emerging photographers is not the input of other photographers. It’s the non-photographers out there who evaluate what we produce. And they don’t hang out at Burn.

    And that is what is missing from this magazine and this forum. People who aren’t photographers. People who don’t know about the bang rings and shill coins, people who don’t understand symbolism, or bokeh or reciprocity failure. We speak a language with our photos that most folks just don’t get. I know many photographers (and artists, in general) are only interested in communicating with other “insiders,” not the unwashed masses. But we end up just talking to ourselves.

    I’ve actually changed my mind about comments here. I think they should remain under the photos, but I’ve decided that other photographers shouldn’t be allowed to comment there. Put all of this analysis in a protected area. Where we can talk shop and analyze to our heart’s content. And reserve the comments under the photos for non-photographers. Burn aspires to be both a showcase for emerging photographers and a teaching tool. But the teaching is being confused with the showcasing. The two goals are in conflict with each other.

  43. Gordon Lafleur

    Hey Jim

    Very thoughtful and thought provoking post.

    As is often the case, I find myself identifying with a lot of your feelings, and also find myself saying, yah, but!!

    I think you may be under-estimating the un-washed masses Jum. Go check out your local magazine stand, well maybe not your local one, but try one in the big city, and spend an hour checking out what the un-washed masses are looking at these days. The visual literacy and sophistication of the masses has come a ways in the past few years while you and I werent’ watching.

    I’m a small town portrait photographer. 25th anniversary of opening the studio this month. I know what sells, and what doesn’t. I’ve gotten myself into a groove of producing the kind of stuff I know people will buy. But I get a few surprises. More so in the past few years.

    For example, a few weeks ago I did a portrait of an older couple, (even older than us Jim!). I did the traditional stuff, which they bought, but then I showed them a couple of shots that I had done for myself of each of them individually. These were straight on, shoulders square, looking straight at the camera with some hard lighting. Black and white. Brutally sharp. Very tight. Neutral expression. I love this kind of portrait and have started to do a series of them just for me. Anyway, to my enormous surprise, they loved them, and bought them too. He even insisted I not retouch the small cancer spot under one eye which he had had removed since the portrait was made.

    This is not an isolated case. I am shown, over and over, that I should not pre-judge what people will be able to appreciate. Not always, maybe not even often, but more often than you would expect, people show you much more depth than you give them credit for.

    Burn isn’t aimed at the un-washed masses Jim, it is aimed at us. Emerging? hell, hopefully we’re all emerging, or evolving. Burn has had a huge impact on me. I take much more energy to my work now, both personal and professional. You wouldn’t be here if you werent’ fascinated with what is going on.

    I’d love to be there and have a beer with you when you meet up with David Alan later this year.

    Gordon Lafleur

  44. Stupid, that is the problem, so perhaps these photos and essays should be closed to comment.

    Gordon, all I’m saying is that even though there may be a lot of eyeballs looking at this site, there are only a limited few of us commenting. And a lot of that is fanboy lovefest stuff. We are talking basically to ourselves, a form of incest that can be genetically damaging to “emerging” photographers. I’ve read back through many of these threads and they have produced more noise than light.

    I’m not opposed to this back and forth among us. I enjoy it. Makes me think about what I think. But we are not who the photographer needs to hear. And I’m not sure how David will ever attract consumers of photography and art to comment here. But I’ve come to a growing belief that these pieces need to be presented here without comment or interpretation by us. Give us a protected area to carry on with these discussions about individual pieces or photography in general.

    It just seems to me that it’s too hard for the photographers featured to parse our comments in a meaningful way. There seems to be a lot of praise that resonates at the same intensity regardless of the achievement of the image. That’s worse than useless. Let the images, at least publicly, stand alone, then. Put an email link for the photographer where magazines or whatever can contact them. Separate the showcase from the chatter among our little group.

  45. Hey Jim

    I shouldn’t speak for him, but I don’t think the Davids intention starting Burn was to showcase work to the masses, or attract the comments of “consumers of photography” who are non-photographers. Although pretty much everybody seems to be a photographer these days. I wonder what the circulation of the mainstream photo mags is?

    I also dis-agree that Burn is “as good as any forum”. I’ve never come across any other forum that operates this way, or that has the depth that Burn does.

    Maybe there is a lot of ‘at-aboy lovefest stuff, really, what is wrong with that. There is plenty of other discussion as well.

    I’m not sure what you are hoping for Jim. Maybe an online photographers version of TVs “Hells Kitchen” where the chef yells, berates, and humiliates his charges into trying harder. Aparently the famous mentor Alexy Brodovich was pretty cranky, but he did inspire a lot of great photography.

    While maybe it is true that a lot of “praise resonates at the same intensity”, it is not a damn contest. Sure I like some stuff more than others. But I’m not going to start handing out ratings from 1 to 10. At the other end of the scale Jim, you seem to almost universally dismiss almost everything posted here. Which is OK, but is not any more constructive than universal praise.

    Chow for now

    Gordon L.

  46. Here is a stupid question related to the exclusive photo club vs. general public business. If you lived in Paris, during the cubist period, would you be interested in reading what the cubism club members were chatting about, or what the general public at the time thought of their work?

  47. One more point Jim.

    I dis-agree strongly that photos and essays should appear here without comments. the ability to comment and read others comments is what makes this site special.

    I studied English lit at University for a bit. You can read a novel and enjoy it. But if you have someone to guide you through it, and a group of people to talk about it with, then write a paper on it, you gain a whole other universe of understanding of it and realize how shallow your first reading was.

    I’m finding a similar process here.

    gordon L

  48. The thing that makes this place unique is the photographic talent that DAH has himself and the fact that he is willing to spend time finding and mentoring new talent! IMHO

  49. FlickR is a big tent, and definitely a format not inviting the kind of discussion we have here. What I dig on BURN, and before on Road Trip, is the genuine passion people have for not just taking pictures, but photography, especially that of “emerging” others. I do not know any other site like it, and I am still surprised that after 2 years of RT and Burn, we all engage each other with nothing but respect, and always escape the slippery path of mud-slinging and personal vendettas.

    Panos’s rants do not count of course. He is our mascot! :-)))))))))))

  50. JIM,

    I will answer to your post to me.

    Bulshit, bulshit, bulshit, bulshit!

    And I will tell you why.

    Long time ago David ask “do ours famili (parents) support us in our hobby or PASSION?”.
    I will never say nothing bad about my father but there is one thing. I come from very small country side. My first contact with art (any art) was when I was 15 and I started learnig in art high shool. This was first time when I meet people who have “needs” and some kind of “understending” and “sensivity”.
    I had this “sensivity” long time before. Quite lonely.
    Because when I was 5-7 years old boy even I SAW and UNDERSTOOD things what my father will never do!
    There was many many missunderstanding beetwen us, because we speak in different langaues.
    I was a BOY, I was clear like tabula rasa so this kind of sensivity is something what you born with.
    And this is the point!!
    This is not important we are photographers or doctors of lawyers, but that we SEE or not.
    If you will want satisfy or listening people who dont see this kind of stuff this will be like blowing a full of holes baloon!
    My photography is NICE and EASY, and there is many non-photogs who sayed “Wow” looked at, But my father still laughs at and tell everybody that I completly can’t make photos. There are too dark, and people always something doing not smyling to camera.

    Why I am telling you this personal bulshit?

    Because I am sure (I am never sure anything but anyway) that here are poeple who SEE!! That here are many non-photogs, maybe not everyday but I am sure they are here.
    I am not photographer now also!
    I will defend this audience even if I know we are unperfect!!
    Because We speak in similar language.
    I know many, many scientyst, doctors, writers who always are interesting in what photographers do, because they SEE and want to WATCH. They are interesting in many many things.

    I know you are an Editor.
    And you think that picture from first page have to be clear and easy for housewifes.
    But I am sure there is many housewife who will enjoy to see something more in photography.
    Here is the place for both of us.
    For your never satisfy opinion as well.
    But I prefer see things complicated, because I see everything in that way.
    You can say me that this is bulshit.
    But for me I hear and understand what people have to say in this formum.
    And for me it is very useful.
    If you know how invite non-photogs here, just say it!
    Do not keep to yourself!
    If it will be mixed audience it will be great!
    it will be place for new renesance!

    But just do it.

    I know we are unperfect and many things have to be changed.
    That why this place exist.

    peace (must run to work)

  51. “FlickR is a big tent, and definitely a format not inviting the kind of discussion we have here”

    I think that if you dig far enough on Flickr you can find some VERY high quality people/photographers and organizations there. I have even seen a group there discussing the goings on at this place.


    as you well know, i have wrestled with the comments or no comments issue…or where to have them…online presentation is a relatively new format for me, so i am feeling my way along….

    however, i do think that pretty much everyone walking down the street feels they are a photographer or enjoy photography or may just appreciate the subject matter a photographer chooses to present….so, trying to “please” a particular demographic is not my intent…but to think that somehow this is not a “real audience” or a “real circulation” is a mistake in judgment….”us” is a real audience…and “us” is not just “us”…about 25 people comment regularly here…several thousand “regulars” do not…

    with traditional print, due to the incredible expense involved in printing, publishers MUST produce content which appeals to a particular audience…not so online..whatever audience comes here, just comes here because they like Burn for whatever reason, not because i am trying to please them..a very different concept than traditional print…

    for me the difference between Burn and all of the photo sharing/comments sites is that the audience here produces the very content that i publish….yes, of course i publish material that comes to me that has already been photographed for another reason…but lots and lots of original work is being produced just for Burn…

    so, the AUDIENCE PRODUCES this magazine…a very different concept than with traditional print

    the other obvious difference, because of the nature and content of the work produced by you is that at least 6 private donors believe enough in what we do here to have contributed real funding to put a photographer to work..real money in real time..hence the EPF…i want to also say that i have solicited not a dollar…i did not ask for any of this funding…i do not have the time nor the inclination to be a fund raiser……and were we not in such dire economic times , i think we would have even more funding to put more of you to work…but, i have enough funding in the bank from these believers to give out two more grants besides the EPF, so i feel i am doing my bit (a very small bit) to at least do something for photographers who need assistance in finishing their projects and who have nowhere to turn….

    i wish you could see the material coming in to me now for the EPF…some truly great work…enough to publish BURN magazine for the next two years…could i hire a small staff to manage it all and to search the other sites for more , we could really do something even more special…maybe that will happen, maybe it won’t…my feeling is that Burn will have a short life…like an essay itself…i will eventually want to move on…however, i say again the audience here has flipped the traditional publication template way way over…

    i do assume that most of the readers of BURN take a special interest in the process of thinking about pictures, but even some of the writers here have stated they are not “photographers” per se…it is very true that only a small percentage of the viewing audience here take the time to write a comment …by the way my review of comments places the percentage of constructive critique at about 75%…..i do not know if that is good or bad…but i do offer every single essayist here the opportunity to go “closed comments”…none have chosen this option….

    i do receive so much e-mail from “outside” of what would appear to be our audience here and i see the stats on our audience, so i do know that we have a much much wider audience than you may imagine…and whoever this audience may be , they are growing by the day…the photographers who present their work here are definitely seen by an astute audience….many of my colleagues in the “biz” regularly tell me how much they view BURN…one of the editors of the New York Times told me she cannot get her staff off of it…BURN is banned during work hours at another major publication that will go un-named…university professors of photography write me regularly and see it as a teaching aid…so, we do have an audience…and they are “real people”….whether they are more inclined to be interested in photography more than they are in bird watching is up for interpretation…

    i have been advised by many to “advertise” Burn to a wider audience…market through Facebook etc etc …i have done nothing…..i run this “operation” from my laptop from wherever i am (now in a small hotel room with a view of a brick wall in Madrid)…a pretty Bohemian approach to publishing…my intent?? well, pretty simple…i love the power and magic of photography…i love the concept of trying the impossible: to “capture” life….

    life flies by so quickly that still photography seems to be the only way for me to get a sense of its elusiveness , a sense of the horrors, a sense of the aesthetic , a sense of revealing a moment or a space or a place with which all of us can identify….i do some of this with my own little camera which is with me at all times..however, i have always enjoyed the vision of others….

    i am just as almost childlike amazed by photography now as i was when i saw my first print come up in the developing tray when i was a young boy…i feel lucky/blessed/fortunate to have kept this all my life….if i could wish anything for an “emerging photographer” or for any “emerging person” is this feeling would be with you….the feeling of locking on to a craft/art that sustains and allows an exploration of our planet or your own personal “world” like no other….

    well, i have digressed way off of the issue of commenting and where it should be or if it should be..

    all i have done is to add another comment!!!

    peace, david

  53. What david just said.

    Jim. Re: non photographic audience. Of course the vast majority of people who view work are non photographers, but they do have a certain level of visual sophistication, they just dont realise it. We are all so media saturated from day 1 now that it would be hard not to be visually literate [here in the west at least]. But…A little story. i have gone back to wet printing [built a new darkroom in what was my kitchen even]. Yesterday I took out the folio of baseline test prints to show some people. ALL of the non photographers said pretty much WOW! Some even wanted to buy a couple as are. Then an old photographer friend of mine showed up. She looked at the work, and quite rightly pulled me on every error i had made in the prints. She pointed out how FLAT they were, how my paper choice was probably WRONG for the type of shots chosen. She quite rightly put me straight about the areas that were BADLY lacking in the pictures…Thats what photographers can do that most ‘non’ togs cant. WE KNOW the inside skinny, we see past frames and content into execution and presentation and finishing because its what we live and breathe. That is why I like having my work viewed by the best i can find, because i get USEFUL feedback and not just a pat on the back. Yes photography IS made for non photographers to ultimately view and digest, but the honing of those skills we need/use is done by exposing the work to the best you can find who make it also. And thats why I hang around here a fair bit.


  54. David, there are always way more lurkers than posters on forums. Most people are reluctant to engage others directly in real life so that is reflected in the online world.

    It just seems to me that the thing that would be significantly helpful to emerging photographers would be feedback from those who only consume images, not just a few of us who produce them. Perhaps if some of those editors and professors who contact you in email would actually take some time to post comments here directly about a featured photographers work, we would all benefit.

    I’m glad you are getting money to fund the work of photographers here. But that would happen if you used the front page of the website exclusively to feature single photos and essays, absent all of our chatter. I know you’ve vacillated on the comments issue and I, at first, thought having the comments directly under the featured material was the best idea. But I’ve gone 180 degrees in the other direction now. I love the forums, but I’m not convinced they benefit the photographer in the current format.

    David, you are the “what” that makes this magazine unique. Your eye, your choices, your passion. There are thousands of us who have been editors for years that could start internet magazines. It’s neither technically hard nor expensive. But we are unknowns and even if we had ended up featuring the same artists, we would have created still another backwater on the Internet that few noticed. But to the great benefit of the photographers you have featured, the word gets out that DAH is producing and editing a photo magazine featuring emerging photographers! And NYT editors check it out.

    David, you rock, man. If you can keep this up for two years without burning out with the pace of your life, you are a much better man than I. ;)

  55. John, I don’t disagree that other photographers can be extremely helpful in the process. But for the most part, by the time a photo or essay is selected by David and posted here, the time we could help the featured photographer is past. Incompetent photography isn’t going to show up. We debate the photographer’s choices, not his technical skill. I don’t like fuzzy, zero dof, printed down photos. And I point that out. But I’ve haven’t seen a case where the photos posted here were fuzzy, dark and blurred with image motion because the photographer didn’t know any better. So my disagreement with the photographer is over style.

    But most folks who look at photography (because their experience with photography is likely digital P&S cameras set on “P” that almost always produce sharp, well exposed, colorful photos with limitless DOF), look at these same photos and see crap.

    It’s fine if you are only interested in a market of visually sophisticated viewers. There’s definitely a market for that. I buy a lot of photo books every year representing all kinds of styles. I think as photographers we should support, financially, the work of other photographers. But I’ve always believed photography should be accessible. And, I think a lot of it is not because few photographers have any idea how the consumers of photography react to their work. We keep talking to ourselves.

    Yes, yes. I know we should just do our own thing, not catering to the crowd or falling victim to fashion and trend. But it’s silly to say that we are not guilty of that anyway, whether it’s obsession with grainy B&W images or cross-processed color.

    The more input we can get from those who consume our work, the better off we are. That input here would be invaluable.

  56. David:

    “i am just as almost childlike amazed by photography now as i was when i saw my first print come up in the developing tray when i was a young boy…i feel lucky/blessed/fortunate to have kept this all my life….if i could wish anything for an “emerging photographer” or for any “emerging person” is this feeling would be with you….the feeling of locking on to a craft/art that sustains and allows an exploration of our planet or your own personal “world” like no other….”

    Yes, me too. For a young photographer, living outside a major metropolis, being a photographer; a-live-it-24-hours-a-day-can’t-think-about-anything-else-photographer, can sometimes seem as if you are alone with your passion.

    I once worked in a factory (where the cardboard for the holes in my shoes (money spent on photography) came from). During our breaks, one man would frequently be looking Playboy-type magazines. “Look at the size of those” he would say, showing a photograph. I used to piss him off by de-constructing the photograph. “Slight blue on the background, probably Ektachrome 100, used a ringflash; see the circles of light in her eyes?” (he’d probably never noticed her eyes before).

    Here at Burn, a photographer of any skill level can come and find intelligent like-minded people (and me) who will show and discuss work from every genre. You out there, you are not alone.

    Thanks to all who make Burn work, audience included.


  57. JIM…

    you have started writing in a way that you have not prior…many thanks…your longer more thoughtful pieces are just more well taken because, well, you explain yourself better when you explain yourself…

    i think i may have mentioned to you before that i have quite a few “live appearances” where i show my work and the work of others…very often this is the “mass audience” to which i think you refer… not photography crowd…not people who have ever heard of me or know my work..i like this type of audience, but i do not produce for this audience…i find that these folks REALLY appreciate the work…since they are not coming in with preconceived ideas about what a photograph SHOULD BE, they simply look at the photographs…or not thinking they are looking at “photographs” , they just take in the SUBJECT….maybe they like the subject more because of the photography, maybe not..but, the questions i often receive after such a presentation are usually way more sophisticated than one might imagine…

    by the way, i always do/did my own work from day one totally instinctively and never had any clue what anyone thought of it, nor did i care… i did not get fired from the newspaper (almost did), did not get fired from Natgeo(almost did), was accepted into Magnum (barely) , did my books my own way (THE struggle), so somebody was approving of something, but there was never an overt “pleasing” going on in my mind….i always knew that probably 90% of the editors out there would reject my work, so i only cared about the 10% who seemed to let me fly….

    i am sure “comments”, had i read such a thing, would have totally messed with my head, both pros and cons…and the so called “consumer” never crossed my mind then or now…i am going to do what i do no matter what a “consumer” thinks…this may surprise you since i have been “consumed” in some mass media, but i always thought that if i did “my thing” somebody might appreciate it and some might not, but how in the world could i be appreciated by everyone or why would i want to??? photographers should lead, not follow…

    originally, i was not in favor of comments here on BURN….or, at least not directly connected to the presented material….i actually thought most essayists would not want comments….i was quite surprised to find that none of the essayists have taken the “no comment” option which i offer to all….i guess i was thinking “print” magazine and not online magazine which by nature is just interactive…..i was convinced by many others that well, nobody has to read the comments if they do not want…the “comment” button is a temptation for some, but not for others…you will notice that the bastions of print , like the New York Times and New Yorker writers, do now have interactive stories online…and certainly the comments from readers here like you , do stimulate me to write way more than i would if there we no comments….hopefully some of this is useful to somebody….

    the comment issue is still an issue for me ….i am not convinced one way or the other…hmmmmmmmm

    but Jim, how could we have a cold beer this summer, had you not commented??

    cheers, david

  58. I’m dead certain that without comments, I’d spend a lot less time thinking about each photo at Burn than I do now. With the comments, I see the photo, think about it, then check what others think, look at it again, maybe walk away, come back, look again, think some more, read some more, then write something stupid, or not. The comments make for a process, a long one. Without them, I’d probably flip through the images on the site in a few minutes and move on.

  59. if you dig far enough

    My point Robert. there is no digging with BURN. Totally uncomparable format, really. FlickR as a whole is not about photography, but photos. Which is fine, just not to be compared with BURN.

    On the subject of non-photographers viewers. usually, people who like a picture rarely inquire about the photographer or seek the name below (it’s always written small, unlike a book autor, a movie director, a painter, even an article writer, maybe a sign…). Photography is almost unique in that matter. The medium is simply too taken for granted. Not everybody write a book, makes a movie, paints a picture, but everybody takes pictures. Also, the top 10 of most popular photographers from the non-P viewers would make us throw her arms in the air (no Ellen MARK, no Nachtwey, no HARVEY! and made up of names people can remember). Myself, 5v years ago, I thought Capa was a war movie maker (close enough, to a R), Cartier-Bresson I had no idea AND I AM FRENCH. I probably thought Natl GEO photographers were just a notch above snapping tourists, and God, would I like to have their job! etc….

  60. David Alan

    Good discussion.

    I’m not surprised to hear about Burn being banned during business hours, and Profs getting their students to read it. I’ve learned a great deal here, and as Jim put it “it makes me think about what I think”.

    Burn has become a bit obsessive for me. I check in many times a day. It prevents me from getting my work done.I think my wife mmight be wondering if I’m having an on-line affair.

    Whatever life Burn has, or whatever it morphs into, I’m grateful for the ride.

    I’d also happily pay a subscription fee, or contribute to a voluntary fund to help with expenses.

    You wrote:

    “i am just as almost childlike amazed by photography now as i was when i saw my first print come up in the developing tray when i was a young boy…i feel lucky/blessed/fortunate to have kept this all my life”

    I don’t think I know many photographers without a similar story, me included. It’s kind of a shame that the digital age, fewer people will have that experience.
    Not that I plan to go back to shooting film any time soon (although I havn’t sold all my film cameras or enlargers)

    I’d better go and get some work done.

    Gordon L.

  61. I always get those two mixed up! :-)


    It’s OK, Robert, can happen to the best of us…….. ;-)

    One of the big difference is that with photos, people come acroos them. With photography, and BURN, we do not come across them. we’re knee deep in them….

  62. Mabe because of mood today and maybe general…

    I was thinking all day about my stupid comment to Jim, and Jim’s comment.
    And I have to agree with Jim.
    I try support BURN.
    I respect David and his vision a lot.
    But I think, like Jim said above, I am useless here.
    Because I don’t know what it is good photography and what is not.
    What photography should say or should not.
    I am the last one who shloud jugde what is right and what is wrong.
    Because I have no idea what is right or not.
    I am not sure as strong as many of you are.
    And be sure is very important and value.
    And I don’t want to talk about what I like or dislike.
    I have intuition, but it’s not enough.
    My knowlage is too small and conviction even smaller.
    So i will try do not disturb.
    Just enjoing this great site.


  63. MARCIN

    While DAH is the instigator, leader, and ringmaster of ‘Burn’, and Bob Black is the Bard of ‘Burn’, YOU are the Soul of ‘Burn’… so please do not remain silent or withdrawn. I would miss you too much! No one KNOWS anything more than anyone else… and you know as much as any of us. But in your heartfelt simplicity, you express yourself more directly and more poignantly than any of us.


  64. Marcin, I’m with Sidney here. You provide a different kind of insight that I would miss. I can assure you I don’t know a whole lot. Heck, I was once told I didn’t have the sense God gave a commode float! Wonder what the guy meant by that? ;)

  65. Gordon Lafleur


    Let me second Sidney and Jim. Please don’t feel bad about being passionate in a post, I’ve done the same here and people are still talking to me.

    I admire the fact that you try very hard to make yourself understood in a language which is not your first language., (I love reading your posts, the little voice in my head takes on a Polish accent) Your command of English is infinitely better than my command of Polish (non-existant).

    Anyway, you “know” at least as much as any of us judging by the spectacular stuff on your website. Your intuition is your soul speaking to you. We are all here to learn from each other and share our passion. You are an important part of the mix.

    Please continue to give us your input.

    G Lafleur

  66. MARCIN…

    believe me, you know everything…..do not think for one minute that we do not await your comments and your insights…you are able to articulate more than most of us in a very special way that we all understand…

    as always my friend, thank you for being a very important part of BURN…and besides all of that i am waiting for you at the Cafe le Poste in Perpignan….8pm on the first thursday night….don’t forget…

    cheers, david

  67. MARCIN: :)))))

    when i first went to Road Trips (i think it was the week or two after DAH started it), I read everything and remained silent….(yes, people, i was silent for the first 4, 5 months of David’s Road Trip blog)…and of ALL the people who use to write (pros, david’s students, newbies, friends), it was YOU that kept me going back to road trip, even more than David himself…it was your comments, your humor, your insight and your beautiful and exacting way of calling bullshit for bullshit and art for art, that i remember best…and there aint no way to better express, and no person i know (here or in the real world) whose said things more passionate and more on target than you my friend….and i am not patronizing your ass, im telling u the truth….

    Amen to all that what people have said about u already…:)))

    SIDNEY :)))) yes, yes yes, I WANT THE SLIDESHOW! :)))))))))))…i will write you tomorrow :)))

    running now for the night

  68. soul dance..
    I like this image…
    I thought it was a ballerina in an abandoned building….
    Did not notice she was nude,
    even better…
    Would love to see this image in a BIG print…
    what I feel when I look at it~
    soul dance….

  69. I’m a relative newbie, having followed the forum on and off. What convinced me to continue coming back is the level of photographs. It has a good mix and is always fresh in content. I don’t always relate to them, but when that happens I can be objective enough to understand why they were picked in the first place and deconstruct their merits and flaws constructively. The issue does not seem to revolve around if a picture is good or not–I think almost all I’ve seen here passes the minimum requirement of quality. What is to be discussed, shared, and debated is how to make images better, and matters of preference.

    The level of feedback is more honest than I’ve seen in other places. This is good, and I suspect partially influenced by association and participation of journalistic photographers who tend to be ernest by trade. Congratulatory feedback provides positive reinforcement –which can be as hard to get in and of itself–but is rarely constructive in a manner that educates the photographer. What I am not entirely convinced about is the way in which constructive criticism is delivered. I find that ironic if the audience is mostly photographers. Nonetheless, the feedback does tend to be a bit hit-or-miss, and frequently goes off on tangents between the bloggers, rather than a dialogue with the presenter.

    I does little good to say one likes or dislikes an image, or if something is bullshit or gorgeous. As David mentioned, one will naturally gravitate toward editors and a public that reinforces the choices one makes as a photographer, and will tend to discard contrary opinions–particularly if they are presented in the subjective black and white like of liking or disliking, or getting or not getting. To those who “don’t get” something, the photographer could ask why and try to incorporate the reasons into future work, or as easily respond, “you’re too parochial”, “you’re too conservative”, or simply “You’re not the type of person I was looking to get feedback in the first place.”

    In this context I generally find the inhabitants of this forum are inconsistent in how they give feedback. Reasons for what is expressed should be more diligently offered but usually aren’t. e.g. “This touched me because….” or “I found this element distracting…” or “I don’t consider this a strong piece of work because…” or “you might wish to consider, or take a look at…” etc.. I can understand if this is not forthcoming from those who are not photographers or artists, but I think photographers of any level who decide to post feedback should be more responsible about this point.

    Without this context one risks establishing echelons within the fauna of the forum, wherein the yard-stick of measuring talent limits itself simply to subjective approval by those with more experience, but not necessarily more skill, nor the qualifications to discuss the merits of a particular style or type of photography. Eventually you will stratify the community of the forum until you get comments such as Marcin’s “I am useless here”. Regardless of Marcin’s experience, so long as he contributes with reasons, his feedback is a valid as anybody else’s.

    In this regard (and taking wide interpretation of Jim’s comments) I would agree with Jim. The forum–which is the most constructive and honest to date–could fall from this position of innovativeness to an “ataboy” arena where the exchange is INSTRUCTIONAL (in the strict sense of giving instruction) rather than a fluid exchange between presenter and blogger. What’s worse, the regular denizens have a bad habit of hijacking threads and going off on tangents important to them and not the necessarily to the presenter (that’s bad blogger manners, shame on you).

    Furthermore, simply because a blogger may be a photographer with more exposure and experience does not mean that their opinion is the right one. Without responsibly explaining why feedback is being given, the blogger simply dictates approval or disapproval and the presenter will likely not learn anything, nor (oh taboo…) actually illuminate the blogger about a thing or two. This applies to bloggers who are not photographers, are new/emerging photographers, and are experienced photographers. All stand to potentially gain from the one who a) dared to submit and b) was actually selected. Given that David seems to keep quality control relatively high, I would give those photographers who pass these two criteria the benefit of the doubt.

    How to accomplish this? My two cents is as follows:

    – Establish a simple yet strongly suggested code of conduct (if there is one I haven’t seen it) that asks any and all who give feedback (positive or negative) to:

    – Try try and explain the why of the feedback
    – Not to “hijack” the thread from the presenter

    – To address the latter point, perhaps establish a few general arenas for discussion of different topics openly.

    – For those photographers who are selected and displayed: Incorporate a small box that allows them to state what it is they are looking to learn. This could range from the banal to the technical or to issues outside of the image. e.g. “I am having trouble getting this image or portfolio accepted by galleries/publishers/newspapers, any suggestions?” The answers could then be of many types and include examples such as: “Your still lacks consistency in style and this may be what is keeping x/y/z from being interested in you. You should therefore strongly consider better editing or improving a/b/c.” Alternatively the feedback could be: “How are you presenting your work to x/y/z? Are you matting? sending electronically, in person…etc.” On the other extreme the presenter could leave it blank, in which case he renounces any and all rights, or he could simply ask “Do you like this?”. I would not suggest the last question, but at least it tells the audience (regardless of who we are) what the presenter is looking for. I would hope the presenters would ask pragmatical questions such as: “I am concerned with the choice of pictures and looking to tighten the edition, which pictures do you think are the weakest?” ; “Is this picture strong enough to submit, why or why not?”; “Do you think this image is too surreal/too dark?” “What elements distract from the composition of this image?” etc.

    This would make it very useful for all and make great reference and teaching material to go back to. Without it, Burn runs the risk of…uhm…well…burning out.

  70. JAN

    After having been a participant on both Road Trips & Burn, I find your feedback about how to make this forum more helpful both to those whose photographs/essays are published and to those who comment on photographs/essays to be a model of what I would hope we will become. You are honest, respectful and clear in presenting your views. You give examples of what you mean, ask questions instead of making unsupported statements, offer constructive suggestions, and keep the tone on a high note. I would like to see your comment posted as an introduction for every new visitor to Burn, and as a resource for us regulars who would do well to reread it every so often so we stay clear and focused in our postings. Thank you for taking the time to reflect so deeply and express yourself so thoroughly. Not only are you a superb artist but a responsible thinker as well. I hope you will continue to add your voice to our discussions. We need you here.


  71. sappho as Kathleen Fonseca

    Marcin..swear to god, if you go, i will not even lurk here…you have so much heart and soul and goodness..it’s like, well it’s like a cocktail..everyone contributes a different flavor. Your voice is as distinct an ingredient as any other and when the calls for warmth and calm charm, your words are what’s worth savoring. Alas, my own flavor fell somewhat out of grace but yours is timeless. Don’t go. For what it’s worth..please don’t go..


  72. sappho as Kathleen Fonseca


    Swear to god, if you go, i will not even lurk here…you have so much heart, soul and goodness without any posturing..it’s like, well it’s like a cocktail..everyone contributes a different flavor and DAH encourages this diversity. Heaven help us if we all sounded the same: a swarm of subdued, well-modulated voices all agreeably articulated, never stepping out of line or ruffling feathers, always having good days, spreading light and joy for any who happen to be hovering within earshot. BAH! Perfection is not nice. it’s not even worth aiming for. You achieve it and then what? Nowhere else to go. Just stuck in a frozen world of rigidly high standards. Or else you fall short of your aim and beat yourself up over it till you’re useless to everyone, most of all yourself. Marcin, this comment is not just for you. It’s for everyone. But mainly it’s for you! Your voice is as distinct an ingredient in the Burn cocktail as any other and when the mood calls for warmth and impassioned charm, your words are what’s worth savoring. Don’t go. For what it’s worth..please don’t go..


  73. sappho as Kathleen Fonseca

    yikes..i didn’t know i sent the first post..man i am always sticking my foot in it..damn!

  74. sappho aka KF: your plea to Marcin although well intended oscillates between oblivious and disregarding to say the least. If after I took the time to ask for relevant issues to be discussed you still insist on hijacking the a) spirit of what this forum pretends to be, and b) my little perch on it (afterall, this is my image here and I am looking for constructive feedback), then you’ve only succeeded in antagonizing the participation of new blood.

    For all and any who care:
    By way of example as to the type of feedback I think we should try to give, I invite you to read what I posted for Brian Shumway on his essay La Chureca. I won’t be doing this for every post, but when I do post I will try to be as thorough as possible, but if posts get sand-bagged with other issues you will dilute the very purpose of wanting to share and give feedback.

  75. Marcin

    i’m jumping in here quickly because of something you’ve said

    ‘I have intuition’

    this my friend is everything, i believe…

    instinct over interlect any day

  76. Kathleen Fonseca

    Jan, ok, tell you what, i do not have all day and all night to write paragraphs about your photograph. i have spent the last few days viewing it, i have read all 104 comments and spent considerable time looking at the work on your web page. This is YOUR forum, you are so right. I think you are arrogant as all get-out but that’s ok..you have a right to your voice. So, tomorrow i will comment on your photograph. I will do my level best to honor it with my deepest thoughts and impressions. I will NOT cow-tow to your prescription, or anyone else’s for how to comment. My unique viewing experience is my right. Comprende??? i will do it my way. You have submitted your photo to Burn for comments, you will receive mine. Tomorrow.


  77. Personally, I don’t dislike the digressions (would never call them hi-jacks, but I understand that’s the name for it), and I do not think right to guide BURN participants into becoming more disciplined and selfless. Informality, silliness can very well go hand in hand with constructive discussions on the same page. If we were meeting in a room, a class, a hall, once a week to speak of photographic essays, yes, but on the net, never seen disciplining participation work. AS far as critical reviews, and sustained discussion BURN is one step above RT already.

  78. Dear Kathleen,

    Should you find the time and are willing to comment, it is most appreciated, and I realize that any time given is valuable, and in and of itself an imposition.

    My intention is not to prescribe, instead I want to make it clear that if I suggest something, I am the first to submit myself to the same measure. I try to be consistent that way, and considering the question of how to communicate with the forum was posed, I seized it as an opportunity to reflect, speak, and act. I was hoping it would serve as a measure of the sincerity and consistency of what I was writing. It was by no means meant to offend, or antagonize, and in that sense it is good you were forthcoming so that I can modulate my tone better in the future.

    I am not saying all feedback should be my way. I am only providing a concrete example of what I was espousing in terms of a framework for giving feedback and establishing dialogue that is best absorbed by the forum and those outside who may use it for education and reference. How, and if you present feedback, is of course your privilege.

    Pleased to meet you y ojala me comprendas a mi. Gracias.

  79. I have always greatly revered traditional Japanese architecture and woodworking. Deceivingly simple, refined and elegant at first glance but exceedingly difficult to replicate with incredibly complex and often hidden joinery and nearly perfect geometric, and human, proportions made by true craftsman who leave their own unique individual mark in subtle ways. It is soul boiled down to its essence. It is unpretentious and yet profound. Refined and yet organic. Balanced. Natural. Complex in its simplicity, humble and strong. Wabi-sabi. I think some of the best photographers are like this as well, both in their work and their personal approach.

  80. Kathleen Fonseca


    Ok, my thoughts, my personal thoughts, right? I was honest when i said i have been looking at your photo for days. This along with “La Chureca”. I have strong feelings about “La Chureca” but have my reasons for not posting them. They have to do with living in a Central American country, Nicaragua’s neighbor to be precise. My take on “La Chureca” is colored by my intimate knowledge of life where i live which has many, many thousands of Nicaraguan immigrants. Several have worked for me and i have sent three dead young people back to Nicaragua for burial. So my impressions are radically different than everyone else here. Which is why i think it’s best to stay silent on that wonderfully captured and produced but problematic essay.

    Your photo on the other hand inspires very little in me. Which is the reason i have stayed silent in this thread. However, having been caught with my pants down hijacking your forum (and had i known you were so testy, believe me i would have gladly seen Marcin march right out the door rather than risk your ire) i am now obligated to explain why. And perhaps it is a good exercise for me. To dig into a photo that does not move me particularly and explain why. I prefer to turn the page but here i am. So!

    I think Bob Black mentioned Francesca Woodman. I believe his exact words were his “beloved Francesca Woodman” *smile*. I won’t go that far but i found my mind constantly being pulled by her spirit as i looked at your photograph/s. Francesca related very strongly to her surroundings for compelling emotional reasons that made her self-portraits an imperative form of self-expression. I felt/feel she was a ghost who literally had emerged from the walls or the floor and who was at any moment about to fade back into them. Which in fact, ultimately, she did. Now, i know you are not Francesca Woodman and i know that the cost to her for inhabiting her abandoned places at the cellular level would not be a price most of us would not be willing to pay. However, she is the gold standard for work like this and after being exposed to such heart-wrenching emotional honesty as hers i can only say your photo does not compare well for me.

    I have a friend who owns many paintings by a painter from Argentina who works in this mode as well. Beautiful ghostly females fading in and out of a variety of urban contexts. He is marvelous with color, sublime in his paint strokes. His work sells like crazy and moves me not at all. And for the same reasons. I just don’t FEEL his gut, his heart in the work.

    I do not know your personal reasons for creating this series. i read your text and my impression is that you feel quite strongly about these places. i feel you do perceive them at a very deep level. You have enormous respect for the identity that a structure acquires both because of and in spite of their human creators/inhabitants. This is intriguing to me because i sense a great appreciation for the sticks and stones and steel and glass, the patina of age, the disintegration. Yes, i do feel that. Like a deeply sensitive archaeologist feels when he handles an ancient artifact perhaps. But i feel you are not doing justice to your feelings by placing nudes in the scene. i feel (feel, ok? fuck what i think) that you are not confident that you can adequately convey the depth of your reaction to these spaces without the prop of a human being in the scene. Intellectually of course i understand why you are placing nudes in these scenes. And for most people that would be enough. Ah yes, a ghostly human form in a space once occupied by people, long since departed leaving their energies, the echoes of their experiences and human forms. Voila. And the package is tied up with string and the experience is over. But Jan, i feel, (feel) that you are frustrated in that you want to say so much more about your connection to these places. I am likewise frustrated because the models are a barrier to me that keeps me from penetrating your heart.

    So, maybe i am way off base. Maybe i am barking up the wrong man’s emotional tree. Your photo/s are more than competent. Which is why i am not going to go into a bunch of technical bla-bla. I expect you to be a kick-ass photographer and editor. I don’t want to do that work for you. I want to get INTO your work and stay there half the day if that feels good to me, or all day as i did with “Love Hotels” for example. If you weren’t competent and your work was not engaging, it wouldn’t be published here. So i’m not going to second-guess DAH and dissect a bunch of stuff you already do quite well. What i have done is give you my very deep feelings about what i have seen and thought about all weekend. Tell me to go to hell, laugh at my impressions. You’ve already dismissed me as being oblivious and disregarding. haha. I’m glad we got the worst over with before i opened my mouth about your photograph.

    As to your recommendations as to how this site is run, well, when DAH posts new rules, or any rules in fact, then i shall comply. Please forgive me for “hijacking” YOUR forum. If there was a private messaging system here or a way to send blind e-mails to Marcin, i would have done so.

    Best to you, Jan

  81. JAN…

    thank you so much for this….you have hit the nail on the head…or rather, several nails on head…

    surely, what this all comes down to is the issue which has been plaguing me all along…comment management….

    or, for me, the even larger issue: do i want to manage a forum or do i want to publish a magazine?? two entirely different animals…

    i reduced this down in my mind to either having comments or not having comments….and i have put this issue out to all several times expressing the pros and cons of comments, and the general consensus from the folks who do comment here is quite naturally “keep the comments”….

    so much of what you are suggesting is exactly what i do in my workshops or with photographers who join me in my studio or in behind the scenes discussions with readers here…i think if you really sift through the archives here you will find many times even here on line this has happened…but, not enough…and you are so right the threads just get hijacked to the point where i then again start thinking , hmmmmm, should this really be open to comments….

    it is interesting to read you because right off you see BURN as an educational tool…you and i do not know each other and have never met as far as i know, but you have gone right to the heart of why i started Road Trips in the first place…it was an online version (or close anyway) to much of what i talked about with a handful of students in a room with me for a week or so who were at the very same time going out and working on new material every day..real people in real time with real new photographs everyday to be discussed in the manner you so describe…

    i am sure you can clearly see that i embrace a photographer like you right along with a photographer like Brian Shumway….so my “real life” classes are delightfully eclectic with different types of photographers sharing ideas , critiquing work in a civilized manner, and most importantly producing either a “set” or an “essay” which would lead them to book publishing or gallery representation or perhaps in the direction of magazine assignments…since all three of those areas are areas of my own personal interest, i try as best i can to make this a valuable experience….this program is also supplemented by bringing in gallerists, book publishers and magazine editors to share their real life experiences and thoughts as well..trying to match this online, given all of the variables you describe, would i think lead to Burnout..it is like trying to teach a class in a room with the windows open next to the playground or trying to get to a point of seriousness in the back corner of a cocktail party….very difficult….

    the material coming to me now on BURN is growing in quality by the day….it would at this point in time be a real shame to let it all slide away…

    for example, when i went to the first day of my class yesterday at EFTI in Madrid and all those young faces were looking up at me and 90% percent of them referred to BURN, i knew i could not stop now…there was a big screen, great sound system , online connection…i showed the work of Patricia, and Panos, and James, and Chris and Mike etc etc…you, of course, were on the front page…and yes i showed my own work as well…this whole presentation took about an hour….the combo presentation of BURN and my own work left the type of silence that i know so well…the silence of real reflection..the silence that comes before a photographer really goes out and tries to do something special….but, here is the interesting point…I SHOWED BURN AS A MAGAZINE NOT AS A FORUM… these students just saw the work, not the comments……even for me it was surprise to see BURN as a real life presentation…..i just wish that all of you could have seen what has happened here is this context…seen as it was last night BURN readers would really be, well, wowed!! it was simply BURN finely edited….or actually BURN in its original state….

    please help me to think about this….should BURN be school or should BURN be shown in school…

    if i can figure out a way to implement your suggestions i certainly will do so..Patricia is right..we need you here…for i really do only want to have whatever i do have a certain class and style…at the same time freedom of expression is important to me too..at times there has been a clash..i do not want clash….maybe with just a little tweaking as you suggest, we can have a BURN of which we can all be proud…

    now, i am late for meeting my students….i will tell them it is all your fault!!!

    back for more on this soonest…thanks…

    cheers, david

  82. Kathleen Fonseca


    damn, i am going to be a total wash-out tomorrow in pilates, not to mention my, er, my job..i am utterly brain dead now as it is..okkkkk…listen, guy..it’s ok. I read your long comment and i really liked a lot of what you said. You were earnest, thorough and articulate as all get-out. But i have not been “here” for days after getting seriously pissed last week and embarrassing myself with my own snarkiness. eeks..makes me turn red just to remember. So i have been tip-to’ing around reading comments (which was really great to do) and looking at photos and thinking a lot about them, all the while being verrrrry quiet. So after reading your long post here and then Patricia’s i thought nobody’d notice if i just kinda snuck in and urged Marcin to stay. i know when someone’s hurt and upset and wants to leave that a little encouragement can make all the difference in the world. Gracie and Civilian were the ones that kept me hanging on by a thread. DAH and the rest dragged Bob Black back by the short and curlies. (sorry to be vulgar but it’s almost 2am!). It wasn’t that i was being dismissive to your comment or your photograph. I have just tried to stay out of everybody’s way and not upset any more apple carts. Which, damn, one word out of my mouth and there went Jan’s apple cart. hehe..hey, i’m laughing, i’m not bitching…

    And si, comprendo mucho..las palabras no son necesarios..te comprendo bien..y lo siento mucho tambien. Somos amigos? :)))


  83. Kathleen Fonseca

    Hi Jan..

    guess i’m going to be a little more tired tomorrow but as i re-read my words, some thoughts occurred to me..Francesca’s photos were all about her and that her inhabited abandoned spaces. Your photos are about the abandoned spaces and the figures are wavering spirits melding with what surely you perceive as the earthly beings who have passed on, either literally or merely to another place. If i understand your text, the humans in these photos are really not the subject which is why after reading the text and truly understanding the depth of your respect and attraction to these old places that i couldn’t help but wonder why the people were there. Not WHY exactly, but how they enabled you to express the depth of your feeling for these buildings. And that’s when i got hung up. I really feel that these places go somewhere inside you that you aren’t getting at yet. The humans are interesting, the way they float up staircases, appear through holes in brick walls, float gracefully over littered broken floors. But they still seem superficial to me. Am i asking too much? Expecting too much? Jan, i don’t know. They are wonderful photographs but forgive me, i feel more something deeper between you and these structures. Something old, something ancient maybe. A respect that..ok, wait..you said you are the model in most of these..ok..maybe that IS your way of expressing this tremendous hold over you that the buildings have..ok, i need to think more about this. Even if they are you, Jan, i don’t think you are showing us enough. Yes, i am greedy :))…there’s a darker place you can go that you haven’t gone to yet.

    Please, i would like your feedback on this..if you don’t feel comfortable talking about it here feel free to write me at kathf@racsa.co.cr

    sincere regards to you


  84. Kat : Thanks. This gives me much to chew on. You touch a chord regarding the intellectual justification for the nudes. I hadn’t considered it this way, but it would make sense knowing myself. I tend to intellectualize emotions, and if this comes through in the work on the one hand I am pleased that I’ve managed to push myself into the image even if by fault and default, on the other I need to evaluate if this detracts too much.

    I’ve debated with wanting to use anybody but myself in the pictures and your heartfelt comments help cast more light on why I’ve had these misgivings. In this sense the self portraits are not an intellectualizing of the connection to the places, but a very real integration into them. I do harbor a sense of urgency in wanting to improve this series, because I am nearing its end. One place left to go, and as such this has to be better then those before–yet at the same time I am growing sick of myself. I doubt I will end the use of nudes in this series, but the next series will likely abandon them all together. I feel I’ve been exploring the world of emotions for too long and need something more tangible.

    (now hijacking myself)
    Costa Rica. Cafetales. Remesas. In another life I learned that 24% of immigrant workers return because they miss their family, less than 5% because they can’t find a job. I knew, made, and delivered the statistics. But I also broke bread with them. contact@smithjan.com

    David. I’m easy, any place in Chueca will do, next time I’m in town.

  85. hmmm… i went back to your picture and your website again. read your writings again. read all the 115 comments, (especially your exchange with kat) reactions, hijacks, suggestions, responses, everything, etc.

    so i come up with this word: (definitely not pretentious) but

    only you can answer this…

    you have a lot of technical know-how, definitely something that is valuable here… especially for me…
    but you also have a reluctance to your intensity and maybe i tasted that on my tongue when i first saw your pictures and read your piece…

    “the man with insight enough to admit his limitations comes nearest to perfection”
    – johann wolfgang van goethe

  86. Kathleen Fonseca


    i think you tend to be extremely demanding of yourself. More so in fact than you are of other people though sometimes they also get a smackdown. Still it is nothing compared to how tough you are on yourself. It was not until the end of my second comment that i did finally understand that your presence was your way of expressing how you feel about these spaces (i know, i’m a little slow :)..i.e. “a very real integration into them. ” Yes, i see that. And no i didn’t really get the models’ immersion in those places. Perhaps it would have been better to have selected a self-portrait for Burn. Closer to your more heartfelt experience (?)…having said that and seeing how you are thinking and your doubts..””One place left to go, and as such this has to be better then those before–yet at the same time I am growing sick of myself. I doubt I will end the use of nudes in this series, ” i will be the devil over your left shoulder and whisper seductively in your ear that now, more than ever, exactly at the moment of your deepest self-contempt, now is when you will produce the best part of the series. Why? Because you are so intimate with it, have run the gauntlet of travel, models, accessing these places and now, the last part. Your loaded, cocked and have taken aim but your focus is a little fuzzy and you will grapple with this, tear your hair out, go deeper and demand more than before. And you WILL pull it off with aplomb.

    And yes, i can well understand why the next series needs to be a little more chill. Though don’t you think maybe that if this series caused you to go all the way down to the basement of yourself to get at “IT”, that once you’ve plumbed those depths, that your vision will be much more intimate than ever before? Hell you could start shooting epidermal cells through a microscope but you will do it in a way never before possible for you.

    Just a question/suggestion..for the last part of the series, what if you came in closer to yourself, made yourself more the subject? I know it would be difficult but you’re ready to ratchet up the difficulty factor as high as it will go. Just curious. Would that break the look f the series? hmm…anyway, ok, almost 3am..yikes..take care Jan and hey, thanks for getting me to come out of myself and talk to you about this. I really feel i have grown from this experience as well.


  87. JAN

    DAH seems to like your ideas about comments, so maybe I should keep this to myself. But in the spirit of the Burn that attracted me in the first place I’ll just let fly, before the rules come hammering down. ;)


    I appreciate your thoughtfulness in critique and in answering the responses to your own photo. I’m sure some photographers published on Burn have felt the same. Some, though, seemed to quite thoroughly enjoy the low-brow back and forth.

    Adding to the presentation what the photographer desires from the audience might be a less heavy-handed way of keeping the comments somewhat in check, but that’s the only part I agree with you about.

    Burn has personality, it’s why we keep coming, not just for the photography.

    I’m assuming you were aware of Burn’s personality before you submitted, are you really that surprised that there are some superfluous comments? Didn’t you check out the site before submitting.


    On whether this should be shown in school or be school:

    It’s already both for a lot of people and doesn’t need a whole lot of help. I’m assuming when you showed Burn to the students in Spain, you didn’t have to do anything for them NOT to see the comments, Burn already exists as a simple gallery of strong work.

    It can be much more or much less, depending on a an individuals taste, if he/she decides to click on the “136 comments” button below the work. But that’s up to them, as it should be, in my humble opinion.

    Opening up topics under dialogue for things that get off track would probably help the comments underneath stay a little cleaner, if we could get everyone to agree to taking off-topic conversations to that area. That would be a respectful request that would likely be followed the majority of the time, again without the heavy-handed approach Jan seems to be promoting.

    Some of us just aren’t so serious, or just don’t write so seriously…

    Giving Bob, Panos and a handful of others dedicated dialogue pages might help too.

    Anyway, good to pop back in after a hectic week to find really interesting discussions, and good photos as usual.

    Off to check out Joe and Michael’s new edit and sleep.


    Apologies, Jan, for hi-jacking the thread even more…

  88. Having jet lag has some advantages…I’m still awake.

    For the most part I only browsed the essays and glossed over the “fine print” taking in comments in smatterings. The first time I came across the site was when I was exploring funding opportunities. I was aware of the personality–to an extent–and I am not surprised by any of it, considering the nature of forums. Heck, for years I was actively editing a newsletter of my own. Low brow is expected and it is wise to have thick skin, but not too much or some good tid-bits get blocked. I simply responded to what I felt was an off-topic but very legitimate list of issues, and the response was what I hoped for. Call it a calculated insertion if you will, and no reason to be shy about it I guess. Not meaning to be heavy handed, simply a bit louder than I would be on other photographer’s threads. Cheers.

    Grapple is a novel adjective. Unsure if you mean I am hooking others or hard to hook.

    It’s been a while since I updated my site, mostly due to lack of time. In many ways what is there is quite old by my standards. The reason I mention this is because some of the points you allude to, particularly the issue of strength and presence were troubling me since the first image of this series. So much so in fact that I returned to Namibia to complete/add to the first series, first I went to Gunkanjima though and chose a model for one logistical reason and for one sentimental reason. Logistically I had no idea how to get onto an island that was far away and forbidden. Self portraits would take too long, and in the end this was a good choice because I had less than three hours to scout, experiment and shoot. Sentimentally I sensed the place was too delicate and fragile for a masculine presence and therefore that ruled me out. I wanted something more delicate.

    Having completed the island however I felt very distant from the work and decided to return to Namibia to complete the first shoot. A key self-criticism was the lack of “power” and “presence”, in addition to loose composition and amateurish concern for detail. Looking at the prior work it felt shy and disjointed. (the second series, Mexico is exactly that, but worse and I keep it posted to remind myself what not to do until the entire series is completed). What came of that return is enclosed within a new brochure I am working on. It needs polishing, and based on the very helpful comments here, I now know exactly what images will be edited out. The comments to date (72 hrs) have really helped me with the notion of what to cut, not only in the brochure but the site, submissions, etc. Thanks to all (even those who never intended it) for helping sharpen that.

    I’m not expecting to convert you to liking these pics, but seeing as you both picked up on something that concerned me as well, you are likely able to give an impartial assessment and see if you sense I’m on the right track. If and when you get a chance.


  89. DAH, although a complete turnaround for me, as I said earlier, I think you should either kill the comments and make this a place to strictly showcase photographers, or make it Roadtrips II, a teaching tool and social gathering spot.

    Will it work as the former? I don’t know. But I really don’t think it’s working very well as the latter. It’s clearly, to me, better as a magazine than as a forum, though. I’m not sure from what you’ve said that you really want to invest your limited time on a forum.

  90. Jim, you change your opinion frequently, why are you so confident with this one?

    People need to come to grips with the key success criteria for the operating model.

    1.) Does this place attract talent with regards to photographic submissions? Is that increasing?

    2.) Does this place attract readership? Is that increasing?

    3.) Does this place attract a community of contributors in non-photographic ways? Is that increasing?

    4.) Do the people that submit work wish for comments to be switched off? Is that attitude changing?

    No one knows the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everyone.

    Sure not all commentary is perfect, no one starts off perfect, but everyone learns from practice. People need to learn to speak about photography, that’s not going to happen any other way than the way its happening now.

    this constant toggle of ‘to comment’ or ‘not to comment’ is absolutely exhausting. Unless the success criteria changes, or i don’t understand it, then i don’t see easily an alternative.

  91. Jan:

    I apologize that I haven’t had an opportunity to write anything more substantial or lucid that my initial comment on Friday evening. I was mired in another post and frankly quite Burned out…still am, so take this with a grain of salt please. I enjoyed reading your responses to the discussions born of your photograph and technique, be that a direct relationship or an ancillary one. And herein lay the crux of the problem when people (and you are not the first one) attempt to create an architecture for how Burn should work. But that architecture, as sound and as wise and as generous as you’ve articulated, is bound to fail, from the entropy of discussion/dialogue, but also from a more simple truth about conversatio. (more about that in a second).

    first, about the photograph and the series. This photograph, above almost all of the pics from your ‘decay’ series (that’s my name/thought for it), is the most powerful. Primarily because the iconography is filled with lots of beautiful collision that doesnt rest upon one motif (the body in movement or an apparition). Here the tension between her body’s movement (the soul-wing tail of her evaporation/decay) in tension with the stillness of her face, her expression, her pieta way of holding herself is not only delicate but haunting. I’m in the throws of re-reading Master and Margerita, but the image has tremendous resonance for me: the thin line of yielding tension between the body in movment and her caught/trapped/enraptured face is equisite. Most of the other body pics which photograph you or women in movement do not have the same emotional or tactile tension for me, because the exposure and movement seems to prioritize itself over the visual tension. Moreover, the relationship between her (especially as a nude) and this rain-licked, time-chewed, dust-lapped building evokes even more lush and visual associations. Strangely, this collision, this pairing makes more sense to me than some of the other pairings. It’s an example of:” when something works, all the gears click, and it doesn’t all the gears gring.

    Moreover, this image, and a few others, take both Woodman (as I wrote initially) and Bacon and update, removing the body to the exterior to set up another relationship. Woodman’s entire work is about her physical presence articulating and encorcelling space, the way her older male model (henry?, i forget his name now, as im typing at school and dont have her books in front of me), articulated and shaped the glass box and mirror he was draped over. Her work is about negotiated landscapes: the imposition of her own inner logic against the confinding exterior: we shape the land. I’ve written about this before (for Patricia) but your work it seems to me is the exact opposite, maybe born out of your Travel photography. I see your bodies (you and the models) as being shaped by the space around and a feeling or negotiation of that. Your bodies enliven the space or make it more vacant, ironically. when it works, it’s sublime. for me, not all the photographs work as either an extended metaphor or as imagery. Mostly because sometimes the long exposures seem less emphatic but more a gimmic. Notice Bacon or Woodman, we ‘remember’ them strangely as blur often, both both use movement or disheleved movement very sparingly. That’s the thing about having bodies with movement and exposure rates: it often hits us in the gut, but it too can undo us. I would love to see more of a variety, a balance between both stillness and disappearance. Entropy impacts so much because we know it came from solid forms and will again return to solids…make sense?? :))…

    as for the note about hijacking/contribution/providing feedback/dialogue. Well, I respect tremendously what you have written but disagree with almost all of it with regard to Burn. I spend a lot of time talking about photography with photographers (way too much, if truth be told): with my wife, her self a great photographer, friends, colleagues, students etc. I also spend a lot of time looking at photo books with people and sharing with people who come over to our apartment and not one time as discussion born of a particular work been linear or ‘clean’ or ‘managed.” the truth is that conversation, like photography, is an elipse, a river that meanders and circles back upon itself and breaks out into a hundred tributaries of thought and conversation and idea: the way the internet spreads and fans connectivity and ideas and connections. We CAN NOT manage or prescribe how a photograph or essay is discussed. It not only is an anemic prescription but it is not truthful.

    some people are able to articulate how they feel and why they feel (good or bad) about work. some cannot. some have the background or training or experience to talk about work, both the specifical technical and process issues as well as the metaphoric or ideological or icoonographic elements in work. Some people cannot. some people are older, younger, have worked longer, worked less, some have a wider familiarity with a wider range of photography/photographers some do not. The fact is that dialogue does not depend on symmetry but upon communication, upon expression, upon articulation and difference. If people discuss the same and provide the same feedback/ideas, all becomes stilted. More importantly, photography inspires and gives rise and birth to different things. Conversation is infectious and it IS NOT A DISSERVICE to you or your work if people talk or chatter about other things or get sidetracked. It is the fecundity of photography and BURN that allows for this free and freeing flow of ideas and words and thoughts.

    I try my damnest to address the merits of each essay/photograph and provide my own thoughts. also, I am not always sure that anything I have ever written has helped a single photographer here. When my own essay was shown, some of the things people wrote made me re-think (both reinforce or reject) some of my own ideas for the essay, but much much of what i put into my work, in terms of the projects and the thinking about them, goes long and hard. All work is a failure but that failure is the nature of our learning and our expanding. I think a photographer learns only when they are open, not jsut to comments on a blog or a magazine or teacher or friend or colleague, but most importantly, when they are open to their own sense of failure and learning. They’re attempt to understand how and why things happen, especially as they work and live.

    Yes, it might serve a purpose if photographers have a little box of questions they wish to be answered/discussed. But then what? the questions get answered in a myriad of ways and then a different discussion bubbles up, like the opera diva’s dying bubbles….see, you cannot define or constraint conversation and discussion.

    I don’t know, Maybe, as a photographer, i place the importance of my own work and working habit in a much simpler box. I work. I think, I share and I have conversation. Publishing at Burn, like publishing anywhere or having gallery exhibitions (both of which i’ve done), remains the same. It’s fun to engage your work, it’s fun to allow people to have at it, but seriously, your and all of our thoughts for the work cannot live or die based on what others say or the response from others or whether or not they meet your prescribed notion of pedagogy or analysis or respect. That must live, in the end, with yourself, in the quiet of night, when no one else on the planet gives a fuck about the work except you.

    I totally am exhausted with the nay-sayers and for the people that put up boundaries and definitions of Burn. I think the brilliance of this magazine is that it allows for all folk, all perspectives, all mannter of doing things. I do not understand why time and time again Jim questions the legitimacy and efficacy of comments. How abut this: the comments are instructive for those who see/view them as and they are not for those who see/view that as not. They, at least to me, are simply conversations. As in a home, a bar, a class, a loft, when people gather to talk about work, period. and guess what, that includes photographers and non-photographers alike.

    that this pictures’ comments have frun the gambit from discussion of your work (including the technicalities of it) from ‘wow, cool’ to an evocation of Foucault (god damn, and I thought Herve and I were the only ones ever to evoke him at Road Trips ;)) ) to the praise of Marcin (hurrah!) to the argument between you and kathy and the love fest between kathy and gracie is just that:

    IT IS LIFE…and photogrpahy is about that…the narrative of our lives…

    i hope that makes sense….people, let us stop managing the curvaceous rhyme of the talk and allow it to flutter in all it’s beauty and blistering obnoxiousness….

    otherwise, for good or ill, silence = death…..well, at least at burn ;))


  92. Joe, I’ve only changed my opinion once on this, after seeing the way it is evolving. This could easily get to be way more than DAH wants to deal with. It will be interesting to see where he goes with this.

  93. Jan, Burn is a brilliant concept. We’ll see if a working photographer that also spends a lot of time doing workshops, really wants to do this very long. Removing the comments would make his job much easier, I suspect.

  94. JOE….

    i think there are many alternatives…but, yes yes the dialogue on WHERE/HOW to have dialogue might be “exhausting” for you, but i think it part of the process of tweaking this out just right…it is actually more of a tech problem than a philosophical one because the dialogue when edited down a bit turns out to be quite amazing…by year’s end we just need a dialogue editor…the compiled best will i promise you will be substantial in nature….incidentally, everything we do as photographers (editing, layout, shooting in the first place) is “exhausting”…or, rejuvenating depending on your point of view , personality etc…so, please just bear with this topic just a wee bit longer..thanks…i want it over too…

    you said it right…trying to please everyone is the secret to failure…am i supposed to be some kind of customer service representative trying to please customers??? ouch!! even in selling my work, i do not do that, so i will not do it here either…however, constructive ideas are always welcomed…and you have come up with one of the very best..should have been obvious to me, but it took you to kick it off…now i will go look at your edit of Michael…i will comment on your edit under his essay…i am looking forward to you as being one of the guest editor/writers…

    cheers, david

  95. JIM….

    my participation in the comments is totally voluntary…i can skip them if i want, and i often do….but, like everyone else i have curiosity….and , as i said yesterday, the comments do make me write more than i might otherwise and hopefully some of it is helpful…good comments create other good comments….as i mentioned above to Joe, i think it is more a matter of where they are and/or how good they are….an easy alternative is to have a comment editor as would exist in any print magazine….but, this leans towards censorship (or, does it?) and may be counterproductive to the online experience…what do you think?? would this help?? would this hurt??

    cheers, david

  96. Jim:

    I agree with you 100% on that one! :))…and i think Burn is still evolving…and eventually the comments will take care of themselves, as they do know…the REAL need now is to lighten David’s Editorial/Selection process time…and with the eventual advent of guest editor/writers, that will go a long way….im a working photog too (though not the world traveler/workshop extraordinaire teacher david is), and there is still time to write, look, read burn and then on to business…and i’ve a wife and son ;))…it’s time management ;))…for me, that means: morning before and breaks..

    plus, Burn wont last forever….but while it lasts, let it ignite and burn ;))


  97. JIM :))

    I agree with you 100% on that one! :))…and i think Burn is still evolving…and eventually the comments will take care of themselves, as they do know…the REAL need now is to lighten David’s Editorial/Selection process time…and with the eventual advent of guest editor/writers, that will go a long way….im a working photog too (though not the world traveler/workshop extraordinaire teacher david is), and there is still time to write, look, read burn and then on to business…and i’ve a wife and son ;))…it’s time management ;))…for me, that means: morning before and breaks..

    plus, Burn wont last forever….but while it lasts, let it ignite and burn ;))

    gotta run…

  98. at the least the comments have built side contacts with many of the contributors here..
    to me the most important thing here is associations.. companions.. like minds.. connections..
    thats where the hidden value of this site is..
    as a new photographer, the longer you spend here the more possibilities arise..

    i wish somewhere more like this had existed many years ago.. there is a tangible head-start for people willing to connect with the comments sections.

  99. BOB….ALL

    as per our e-mail discussion, i really want you Bob to be the Editor of guest writing/editing for the essays…you can pick and choose your team….some of Jim’s fears that i will Burnout with overload have some merit…shifting a bit of the work load to others who are so inclined to participate would not only relieve me a bit, but would simultaneously add to what we can do here….

    a combo of work now coming into Submissions and the incredible work coming in for the EPF have given us the most amazing amount of potential content….i swear we have more content available now than do most print magazines…no joke….i could update five times a day or run BURN for two years at the current pace even if nobody else submitted anything….but it takes editors to make it happen…and one of the primary questions i have is exactly that: how often should we update? one essay per week? two? or, just whatever works?? and i have not even begun to tap into the world of the so called iconic photographers who also want to participate on BURN..it is just a matter now of hours in the day for me to work on BURN…the potential is actually quite staggering…we have created a monster!!! i need an aspirin please….

    i see for POTENTIAL(i have not asked them) editors, besides yourself…Young Tom ,Erica, Joe, Akaky,Patricia….Anton is already my right hand man….some editors could be primarily for text, some more for pictures, some for both….there will be a bit of trial and error, but why not give it a try??? salaries for these editors are at the low end!!! with me being at the lowest!!

    anyway, let’s see how it feels…and please raise your hand if you feel i missed you or you want to help us out….nothing set in stone…just talking off the top of my head…..

    cheers, david

  100. DAVID BOWEN..

    yes, yes and yes..you have just made the most OBVIOUS POINT that many of us know, but many do not….the number of photographers i have met here and then met in person is, well, quite amazing….with a whole lot of seriously good times thrown in there….i mean lots…..as a matter of fact, i cannot even now travel anywhere in the world without someone here from BURN joining me for dinner, helping me with my work, me editing for them, shooting together, in short becoming real friends…Patricia, Panos, Bob, Erica, Rafal, Audrey, Herve, Anton, Cathy, Jason, and who else??, who many think were my friends before Road Trips and Burn, were all folks i met right here and later met in person in various parts of the world…and dozens of others who i meet casually just about everywhere and at photo fests etc…i will soon meet you David, and Ben, and Joe, and Paul and Marcin and Jim and Katia and Sidney…Akaky refuses to meet me!!!….i love the camaraderie.. not the “nut” of BURN, but a very pleasant “spinoff” indeed….

    thanks for the reminder….

    cheers, david


    you posted simultaneous….can we Skype tomorrow???

  101. it´s an astonishing thing – took me years to build up a network internationally and now.. offers from everywhere..
    a mate and i are hoping to set up a few flat swaps for summer times.. swap countries..
    offers abound from europe to the u.s. and now even have a place in calcutta through bodo.. a great guy.

    without comments we would be unaware of each other..
    dah.. more working going on here.. and probably more to talk about.. a new link was sent with a further 125 photos for you to enjoy.. anytime you can .

  102. yes please on the skype tomorrow – i will be scanning all day and stuck in front of the screen..
    i have an idea or three.. many actually..

  103. Sorry to be part of hijacking Jan’s thread for this discussion but don’t know where else to go. I’m afraid “times and timing” and “welcome to burn” have become the primary platform for one person’s originally-funny-but-now-tedious Greek play. So I’ll simply say what I need to say here…

    I love Burn. The quality and diversity of work shown here intrigues and often stretches me. Exploring the websites of the photographers whose work is chosen has been a real learning experience. There are lots of people here whom I am delighted to call my friends, including DAH. From the start I have been a vocal proponent of the comments section being placed under each essay and selected photograph. Now I’m not so sure that is working.

    More and more of late the discussions are dominated by a handful of individuals who seem to have their own agendas and needs. The same topics crop up in almost every set of comments, no matter what the photo or essay that is supposedly being discussed/critiqued. Because these topics are introduced in provocative, often confrontational, ways they seem to trigger the same angry responses from the same people time after time. And there it goes…into circles of unproductive back-and-forth postings between two maybe three people. Occasionally there might be a jewel or two hidden in the mix, but trying to find it is an exercise in frustration. Besides which, it takes an inordinate amount of time.

    And then there are the insults. Well, I’ve posted my feelings about these personal “critiques” before. Suffice it to say, they are not only nonproductive but disrespectful to all concerned, including the general readers on Burn.

    So what to do? How to make Burn the world class online magazine it deserves to be? The work shown is, for the most part, world class but are we? And if we aren’t, how to remedy that?

    I don’t know. I personally have taken to being primarily a viewer of the selected photos and essays but not a reader of the comments. Until this morning, I’d read only two comments here since last Saturday, one by DAH and the other by Jan Smith. So that’s an option.

    I guess another option would be to have a comments moderator. David Bowen has offered 1-2 hours a day of his precious time to help Burn and he certainly has the maturity and balance to handle such a job. Maybe we should try it and see what happens. But first we’d need to develop a set of clear, concise guidelines for posting comments. And those would need to be posted in the menu so everyone could read them.

    I close by saying that I hope we can work out this comments business in a way that respects the photos and essays, each photographer whose work is published here, and all who visit whether or not they ever post a comment. We all know that online communication is an evolving medium and one that each of us is responsible for making ever more effective, honest and respectful. Burn is a good place to try to get it right.


  104. David :)))

    yes, of course, i will do this for you :)))…and i dont need a salary as you know :))…when u get back, let’s figure out a way to make this happen…i think a list to include would also be Tom, Chris, Joe, David B, Erica, Akaky, Patricia, HERVE(!!!), Sidney…and i would like to see, believe it or not, Jim do some of the lifting, bring to the table that experience, would pay off :))…

    ok, will write u this afternoon…


  105. David:

    sorry, im still having trouble with this Spam stuff….and each time i post something new, it gets filtered….i guess i’ll have to use Anton’s signon…anyway

    yes, of course, i will do this for you :)))…and i dont need a salary as you know :))…when u get back, let’s figure out a way to make this happen…i think a list to include would also be Tom, Chris, Joe, David B, Erica, Akaky, Patricia, HERVE(!!!), Sidney…and i would like to see, believe it or not, Jim do some of the lifting, bring to the table that experience, would pay off :))…

    ok, will write u this afternoon…


  106. Kathleen Fonseca


    I used “grapple” as a verb to mean the issues you are struggling with. Grapple is just visually a bit different for me. Not hook, no, never hook. But more like wrestling with something in a deeply personal way. I can’t speak for Gracie’s use of the word. I just found it significant that she and i used the same word within moments of each other. I will look at the link you attached but it will be later as i am really busy all day, k? It is enlightening that some of the work on your site that guided me in my comment to you is “old” and yes, seeing an update would be very interesting, especially since i invested pretty much every scrap of myself in my comment to you and have woken up wondering, doubting if i did your work justice. Always a problem for me, second-guessing myself, wondering, worrying if my comments were born out of enduring observations or my mood at the time. That’s why i usually comment on a published work way down in the thread. i take a lot of time to mull it over, weigh my own impressions against the influence of other stresses, energy levels, even the natural invigorating light of morning versus the somber artificial light when i process my photos. My impressions have to survive temporary states of mind and mood. Sometimes my impression is solidly pro or con and i go with that. But usually the work here is so layered and complex that i would not do it justice if i just let fly with my initial gut reaction.

    Bob Black:

    Jan, i don’t know if this constitutes “hijacking”, please forgive me..i don’t even know anymore what hijacking is or isn’t..:((

    I agree with just about everything you said here about comments/conversation. I used to go to another blog that featured really good photography and photographers. But there was no conversation to speak of, just five word grunts in reply to most photographs. It was so stifling that i considered it more like a duty than a joy to visit that site. Burn was/is a joy but the sense i get that some would very much like to polish or moderate the comment function is worrisome. Be that as it may, i have zero to say about how this site is run. If rules are made or those who wish for more “productive” (whatever that means) commenting cause such significant changes that the atmosphere becomes stagnant then, like water, i would simply flow elsewhere. As would others more inclined to spontaneous styles of interaction. We all will go where we feel most comfortable and where our voices are met if not with agreement, at least not by hostility. I could not possibly stifle the way i interact with photographs. I could moderate my tone i suppose but i would not compromise the integrity of my viewing experience to accommodate a restricted commenting protocol.

    As far as the “love fest” between Gracie and me…huh? Gosh, i see you guys falling all over each other on a daily basis, making plans to meet here, share drinks there, back-slapping each other from here to China and it would not occur to me to use the expression “love fest”. I think women here might, aside from Patricia, tend to feel a little left out sometimes, which is why i bonded with Gracie. It’s heartwarming to receive a nod, a wave, a few warm words from someone while negotiating these rather complicated and sometimes treacherous Burn waters. Crap, you folks think it might be daunting for a new photographer to submit work here?!? Well try to be a new writer at Burn! Especially one without a five page PJ/photo editor/author/newspaper editor published a thousand times/professor/Magnum cum Laude resume in her hand. Bob, I get that you are lobbying for free expression and for that you have my heartfelt appreciation as a kindred voice. But if Gracie and i want to high-five each other in a somewhat more girlie way than you and DAH, i don’t really see that as a love fest.

    And as for the fight between Jan and me. We didn’t fight. He was up front about his objection to my aside to Marcin. I met him more than halfway by seriously involving myself in his work and responding to it. Fair is fair and he and i have established an extremely fertile ground for future communications. So, if that’ was a fight, oh man, well it makes some of my other altercations look like the clash of the Titans.

    But yes, i think Burn should accommodate interaction that is not cookbook perfect and that occasionally erupts because of the significant creative/intellectual/life energy that flows out of every single person here. And i TOTALLY agree with you in philosophy and practice. But please don’t pigeon-hole my interactions here as some sort of extreme. Crap, i am having a difficult enough time acclimating to things here as it is.


  107. BOB….

    your choices sound fine to me….i am for whatever works…what is not working is whatever blocks are on your computer or our system…let me check to see if anything is being held up in our filter, but i do not think so….so weird that only you get blocked here …..

    cheers, david

  108. Kathleen Fonseca


    1) To undergo combustion
    2) To feel or look hot
    3) To inflame

    Of course there needs to be boundaries to prevent wild fire but a thorough dousing by rules and protocol can make for pretty soggy combustion.


  109. DAVID,

    a Burn editor, i have no idea what that means, but it sounds like it will take loads of my time up, put me at the risk of crisism and ridicule, and not pay anything, hmmm… sounds interesting, please count me in.


  110. Guys, why can’t you put what you say in a few lines? This above is one of the most boring bunch of posts ever on BURN. I can’t for the life of myself, ask Panos to stop ranting and start doing serious reviews here, same for Bob, telling him that his elliptical style veers way off from the essay, or that he has no business bringing constantly his family in as if they were BURN’s Holy trinity… :-))))

    No one has to read the comments, or every comment. Maybe in the welcome to B, we can remind readers that, but talk about patronizing. I tell you something, myself, I never read long unparagraphed texts. I just did with these above and it confirmed to me it’s, well, it’s mostly unedible! Like too much food, but being chewed up in front of you….

    Paragraph your texts, for Godsake! it will help you see what is pure verbose or going-ons, what should be shortened while saying as much, and get rid, hopefully, of the superfluous.

    Love you all!

  111. The problem with an editor or moderator is that they should not participate in discussions. You can’t be the sheeps and the dog guarding the sheeps. A true test of people wanting to do that for BURN, give their time for a good cause, is to sacriffice their voices.

    One example, maybe a bad one, but it stuck me: Anton. He does great work, helping David here, but consciously or not, he is never on the discussions.

  112. KAT…

    heaven forbid that i would ever (a) douse combustion (b) leave out the women!!!

    but, Kat please please let’s not go down a gender division road on BURN…please……i almost NEVER write to Bob…i write mostly to Joe and Jim and that is because they ask provocative questions or set up a dialogue…i wrote to Bob yesterday and today for the first time in weeks i think… and that was to give him work to do!! and i would certainly hope that i write just as much to the women as to the men…maybe i am a tiny bit less effusive with the women here, because , well, i do have the love of my life out there who reads every word and well…

    you are one of the very best writers here..i have said that several times i think….and Gracie just cracks me up….go girl!!

    cheers, david

  113. Sappho (K.F.): my comment about you and gracie was done of affection, as an example of the ‘elliptical’ nature of comments and was not intented as anything dismissive or judgmental…

    Herve :))…i agree…my hope is that, and i’ve talked with DAH about this behind the scenes, that I would generally rather help burn through editing/getting photogs (a lot of which i’ve done already, although people dont know, by getting people to submit, or getting essays here, like Mustafah’s)…and i will NOT write comments on anything i help to get here…in fact, i’d rather do that than comment, truth be told…

    no more about the trinity…

  114. JOE…

    for some reason, i always thought you were without humor…but, you just made me laugh out loud….

    you are in…many many thanks…the beer in London in on me….


    i always knew you had a sense of humor….but, do not laugh…i am putting you to work too…

    but, honestly , how can you criticize a man for writing about and loving his family??? there are many “wrongs” on this planet, but surely that cannot be one of them…..

    cheers, david

  115. Kathleen Fonseca


    no, no, i just used you and Bob because i was talking to Bob..it could be Bob and,um, well, eeks..i don’t know, Bob and whoever Bob happens to backslap. But it could be any of the guys here who are friends. I just objected to the use of “love fest” to describe a girlie way of backslapping. ‘s all.

    It is a daunting atmosphere for new writing contributors here sometimes. Everyone here is highly competent and often comes with an extensive resume. It’s been a wonderful challenge to make contributions that are even minutely worthy of someone else’s precious time to read. (re: Herve above..oh well!) I don’t ask for any favors or recognition or indulgence. i will carve out my niche or not on my own. And i hope that my gender has nothing to do with how well i do or how badly i might fail. Thanks for your compliment, it means the world to me. I was not being critical of you at all. nonononono..just making a general observation that many worry about how new photographers feel about submitting work here while those same people can make it difficult for a new writer to establish him/herself. I have been elbowed by some veterans and encouraged by others. That’s as it should be. But really, coming here and writing any comments at all is not something undertaken frivolously.

    Yeah, Gracie is very warm and giving..she contributes a lot here and does it in her quiet charming and oh so tongue-in-cheek way.

    Oh and i am going to use Kathie from now on because Katherina is Kat, as well she should be :)))))))


  116. Kathleen:

    just a quick re-read of your comment. well, i this is indeed the problem with comments. My mentioning of you was done as a ‘loving’ tribute to the ‘high fives’ u and gracie give one another and was in no way disparaging….

    i should, i imagine, redact the unparagraphed long comment: for a person that so often personalizes commentary here, i am surprised (or not) at your reading. ok,


    ok, i invoke the family council, and a promise i made on sunday: no more comments. 1 comment per pic/essay. let my work be in the editing. i am very tired of being criticized….and yea, i have humour:

    but, i am as tired of this as

    the readers are tired of me.

    david: let us talk when u return from madrid.

    until then:

    burn needs a new photograph already! ;)

    as of now, i resign from commenting about the trinity or from commenting directly, except when i ‘write’ a note for work.

    that shall be my contribution.

    have fun

  117. I don’t. David. Thought that was the point of my saying this?!?!?

    Hunour is making fun of, 90% of the time. I hope I get the chuckle from Bob that I would get in Toronto, over a good bottle of wine, Marina and Dima present, saying just that.

  118. AKAKY: That’s a terrible thing to say.

    AKAKY IRL: I didn’t say anything.

    AKAKY: I didn’t mean you.

    AKAKY IRL: I’m the only one here, except for you and Travis Bickle.

    AKAKY: Mr. Harvey said something I disagree with, that’s all.

    AKAKY IRL: I know I shouldn’t ask this, but what did he say that’s got you so riled up?

    AKAKY: He said that I refuse to meet with him.

    AKAKY IRL: That is terrible. He shouldn’t say things like that. It’s patently untrue, first of all. I know you would love to meet with him.

    AKAKY: Wow.

    AKAKY IRL: What? It’s the truth, isn’t it?

    AKAKY: Yeah, I know, it’s just that I didn’t expect you to agree with me. It’s not you, if you catch my drift.

    AKAKY IRL: Well, when you’re right, you’re right.

    AKAKY: So when he gets back to the States we can go down for a visit?

    AKAKY IRL: No.

    AKAKY: Why not?

    AKAKY IRL: Because I don’t want to.

    AKAKY: Jesus, not again. Look, can you give me one really good reason why you don’t ever want to go anywhere?

    AKAKY IRL: Sure I can. You’re a disappointment.

    AKAKY: What? What the hell are you talking about?

    AKAKY IRL: All of those people have some idea of who Akaky is and what he looks like, none of which has any relationahip to reality. They’re all going to expect someone bright and witty and thin, whereas you don’t qualify on any of those counts. No one cares to spend time with someone as introverted and inarticulate as you are. As wet blankets go, you’re positively soaking.

    AKAKY: I lost ten pounds.

    AKAKY IRL: Look, guy, you lose ten pounds every time you take a dump. That doesnt count, you know.

    AKAKY: Maybe someday we could. I could just stay in the back and watch the others.

    AKAKY IRL: What others?

    AKAKY: How the hell do I know? Whoever else is there, I dont know. I’m just tired of you always insisting I stay in the same place. It gets old, you know.

    AKAKY IRL: Hey, guy, I’m just doing my job here. Nothing personal.

    AKAKY: Oh, screw off.

  119. panos skoulidas

    “…Patricia Lay-Dorsey
    March 24, 2009 at 9:10 am
    Sorry to be part of hijacking Jan’s thread for this discussion but don’t know where else to go. I’m afraid “times and timing” and “welcome to burn” have become the primary platform for one person’s originally-funny-but-now-tedious Greek play. So I’ll simply say what I need to say here…”

    Pat, its funny you eventually admit that u r a hijacker ( whats new! ),
    I also always knew you are a little meannie… but jealous ???
    jealous from other bloggers? calling them names?
    calling them TEDIOUS?… because they dare to be funny and not “serious” as*kissers like you?
    please keep on lurking , keep on reading only DAH’s comments ( you do have this option )
    and keep the advice for your grand children…Enough with your jealousy and negativity!
    big hug

  120. panos skoulidas

    “..david alan harvey
    March 24, 2009 at 8:10 am

    as per our e-mail discussion, i really want you Bob to be the Editor of guest writing/editing for the essays…you can pick and choose your team….some of Jim’s fears that i will Burnout with overload have some merit…shifting a bit of the work load to others who are so inclined to participate would not only relieve me a bit, but would simultaneously add to what we can do here….”

    please pretty please

  121. BOB…ALL

    i would add Marcin to the list if he will accept…as a Euro talent scout….and it would be really nice to have an Asian talent go getter too…any ideas??

    yes, Jim is a sleeper…we think he is this disgruntled conservative small town Texas newspaperman…which he is…BUT, he is here everyday…he has forced more of us to write than almost anyone here…..must be a reason…an interesting one…my early career was full of Jims…i always went against them photographically, but liked them personally….i like Jim….i can’t wait to meet him…..Jim is the number one editor at his newspaper…the Jims that i knew would absolutely never have been on a BURN….so, Jim just might surprise us…..

    i do hope that EVERYONE realizes that i am more than open to ideas of all kinds from all of you….yes, i do have a vision and somebody has to be the final decider….but, there has never been any editor anywhere at any time who was any good at all who did not at least listen listen listen….if i disagree with you , it does not mean that i did not listen..to the contrary….and i could take one of your ideas and not the other….

    now, also let’s all just get real…bottom line….are we having fun or not??? we all know the answer..

    cheers, peace, et al ..david

  122. panos skoulidas

    “….dima’s dad
    March 24, 2009 at 9:14 am

    sorry, im still having trouble with this Spam stuff….and each time i post something new, it gets filtered….i guess i’ll have to use Anton’s signon…anyway

    yes, of course, i will do this for you :)))…and i dont need a salary as you know :))…when u get back, let’s figure out a way to make this happen…i think a list to include would also be Tom, Chris, Joe, David B, Erica, Akaky, Patricia, HERVE(!!!), Sidney…”

    (bob, i agree with your suggestion on the above panel..but hold on that Herve guy … for now..

  123. panos skoulidas

    …. and thank god , Patricia already admitted that she stopped reading comments…
    so ,she is simply excluding her self… which is fair enough…..
    big hug

  124. panos skoulidas

    vote for MARCIN…
    Marcin is a philosopher..
    Marcin tells the “truth”… his “truth” at least..
    Marcin has some serious balls…
    yes for Marcin!!!!!
    ( u made my day )


  125. Bob. Criticized? yes, no one is perfect, and that’s the ransom of being omnipresent anywhere, not just here (think Obama). You editing will probably be criticized. No escaping.

    I am surprised sometimes by what you write. since RT, you are actually constantly thanked for your imnsights, your essay raved about. People I correspond with privately think the world of you. There is absolutely no comparison between the criticism and the praising coming your way. If it was rugby, it would ALL BLACKS vs… CANADA (or CALIFORNIA).

    I maintain that sitting with the B. family in Toronto, I ‘d get laughs out of you guys, teasing you on your RT/BURN style. Then find a hotel to spend the night!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :-)

  126. it is why patricia has stopped.. i think it´s going to be easy enough to remedy.. perhaps a general natter room..
    i´d really like to see the forums more focused on the work and not the surrounding stuff.. that´s what i come here for and if there is a way of being inclusive and giving space for topics of discussion, including shooting the proverbial, it could benefit everyone.
    it could be a simple case of changing to a more comon forum format and leaving david to fill out the dialogue entries as he does.. so.. within a forum room there could be topics along the lines of the latest photo story right through to my feet smell should i wash them?
    then it is just a case of people respecting the different rooms , or shifting an out of place comment into the correct room.

    i am weary of moderators because it brings an element of control.. it could work although it could also be resented.. i would much rather the posters practiced self control and respected the different topics..

  127. panos skoulidas

    … and also YES for DAVID BOWEN
    and yes for JOE….
    ( we dont usually agree, but that is a GOOD thing … )

  128. panos skoulidas

    … one thing…
    Herve does have sense of humor…
    we did talk couple times on the phone – in the middle of the night -…
    he totally made me laugh….
    how can i forget that?

  129. i mean to say that dialogue on the right stays as it is – davids posts.. and a separate forum could exist alongside it for chatter about the current story / photo / length of my hair.

  130. panos skoulidas

    “….i am weary of moderators because it brings an element of control.. ”

    David B… I totally agree…
    Moderators belong to Flickr… not here…
    ( no need for sophisticated “doctors” here )

  131. i think the only moderation role which might be good is to move comments if one is posted in the wrong room..
    a separate forum.. with a box of it´s own similar to dialogue.. where chats about the current work on view would leave the front page photographers work good and clean for viewers, davids posts much more focused on what he is asking / instigating and it would also bring a more community element where new photographers could ask questions.. start topics about anything.. or just chat ..

    the thought is that bringing in non photographers, which all here agree is a worthy cause, will bring a more diverse set of conversations which a more traditional forum, could easily accommodate..

    there are some thoughts.. i´m off to cook dinner..
    any thoughts back?

  132. DAH…who IS this guy AKAKY ?? i mean really

    DAH IRL…well, i always thought from the beginning that he was a fired New Yorker writer

    DAH….why would he be a fired writer? he is pretty damned good

    DAH IRL…well, yes , he writes well, but he never leaves home…can’t “get the story” if you don’t go out of the house..

    DAH…yea, good point…

    DAH IRL..what good point?? whose pointing??

    DAH….i do not think you understand what i am trying to say

    DAH IRL…well, yes, that is your problem..you misinterpret everyone…

    DAH…well, i am a misunderstood man…

    DAH IRL….what about all the misunderstood women??

    DAH…i love misunderstood women…

    DAH IRL…well, this is no place to go down that road now is it??

    DAH….too late now

    DAH IRL…what does this hijacking of the thread of our chat have to do with AKAKY??

    DAH….well, i invited him to my home a couple of times and he never came…

    DAH IRL….maybe he is shy

    DAH…maybe he is sly

    DAH IRL….i think you are paranoid…

    DAH…now, are sounding like my misunderstood girlfriend…

    DAH IRL…well, she told me she loves AKAKY

    DAH…like i said, maybe he is sly

    DAH IRL…i think you had better get some rest…

    DAH…yes, i will do more research on AKAKY when i get back to New York

    DAH IRL..New York is waiting for you..

    DAH..yea, i know…

    DAH IRL.. man, you have a problem

    DAH…that is what everyone says…

    DAH IRL..ok, that does it…i am outta here, i need a BURN break…

    DAH.. who doesn’t ???

    DAH IRL…AKAKY, that’s who…

  133. Bob..

    oh, phew! i am sooo senstive these days because of recent stuff here..so glad Gracie and i are not pissing people off. I think she´s a treasure, sometimes her observations are so delicately worded they can be missed but i found out that if i read closely she packs a wallop of wisdom and subtle irony as well as light as mint iced tea humor. What a cool dose of joy she brings here at night. THANKS and sorry if i thought you were just another complainer.

    And also, Bob, i read almost EVERY word you write. I can´t say i understand all of your references but you give me something to strive for. You make ME a better thinker just soaking up your thoughts. Please do not censor yourself or limit your contributions. Screw Herve if he doesen´t want to read your monologues. He doesn´t speak for everyone here, just him. For him the soul of wit may be brief. I could just see him sitting down with ¨War and Peace¨, heh. But for others who relish language and expression not everything worthy comes in limited sound bites. And if you don´t pause to hit enter and the thoughts flow down like a storm fed waterfall, then we can self-indent. s´all :))

    best to you

  134. Kathleen Fonseca

    darn, darn..didn´t realize Sappho was still in the name box at my work computer.



  135. Kathleen Fonseca


    LMAO, again!! You guys are hilarious hijackers!

    sorry, sorry Jan…really..but it´s irresistable!

    Hurry David B, get us a ¨coffee and cigarettes¨ forum so we can stop messing up people´s essay and photo threads.


  136. panos skoulidas

    david bowen
    March 24, 2009 at 11:59 am
    i think the only moderation role which might be good is to move comments if one is posted in the wrong room..

    David B..
    super well said…
    thank you…
    ( some people here { like Patricia } got so used to attention, are so in love with their perfect voices,
    that they do not accept newcomers anymore…she cant post anywhere anymore without “hijacking”… she is too good to read comments now…she is ready to “moderate” now…
    Damn Pat!, how would you like if i would start complaining like you?
    “Space Cowboy” is TEDIOUS?
    “Mass Civilian” is TDIOUS? really?
    … and who the hell are you?
    the “new order”…….so you propose to create a tread here in BURN called the:
    “BURN AUSWITZ” and send the newcomers ( and me ofcourse ) over to that camp?
    So you can write your precious, angelic,paulaAbdullish critiques…???
    Pat… i know you wish for that “edit button” by now.. dont you?
    ( oh.. i forgot … you dont read comments anymore unless its signed by DAH…:(((((((( ….)

  137. Kathleen Fonseca


    what are all you guys inhaling the same drug today? I am just cracking up here and it´s all GOOD stuff! Herve, that WAS funny!


  138. Kathleen Fonseca


    Civilian is WONDERFUL! i discovered him at a pretty low point in my time here at Burn and well, what can i say? That man…crap, i am out of words..well, he´s a breath of fresh air..he and Gracie both. I don´t know Space Cowboy but i wish i did.


  139. panos skoulidas

    me too… that “civilian” guy is a tension release…
    He is an oasis here… same with Gracie..
    they barely talk about photography, they dont do critiques…
    Unlike me or Patricia they are not seeking recognition or trying to sell….
    We need those voices more than we need mine or Pat’s…
    ( Dont worry, hopefully Pat wont scare them away… Pat woke up feeling a little
    “hitlerish” today… thats all… she’ll get over it..

  140. Kathleen Fonseca


    re, Civilian and Gracie, exactly! They´re an oasis in a desert of sand and camels and Arabs..or is that Jews..no Arabs..no, Reservists….well, they´re an oasis, period.

    sometimes Gracie does talk about a photo and she´s worth reading..you weren´t here recently but she is opening up about her thoughts and observations and they are great! i want to take this opportunity to encourage her to do more..i think she is an untapped well of fresh insight.

    As far as Patricia..she´s a tough person to know. She´s deep, passionately committed to her work and has strong opinions. Much like the rest of us. I do tend to hold my breath when she´s around however..i check my buttons and zippers, make sure i´m not falling out of my top or my butt crack isn´t peeking out of my jeans cuz for sure she´ll catch it. i really like her, i just worry about offending her.

    good to see you back ´round, Panos

  141. panos skoulidas

    I wasnt writing…
    but i was reading each and every word of hers( Gracie )…
    same with Civilian..
    … and last thing about Pat… i said it million times before…
    doesnt matter how she resents me
    and no matter how much she denies it… shed is just like me…
    the other side of the same COIN…
    self absorbed,
    attention seeker,
    strongly opinionated,
    fascist at times,
    self promoter…
    JUST LIKE ME…. just like me…ok? ( at least i admit it..:)
    … but i’m the one that has to go to her designated “ovens”….
    and that is SAD….
    ( … know yourself that socrates guy once said…. know yourself…)

  142. panos skoulidas

    Goodwin’s Law
    March 24, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    ohhhhh, ohhh… another Troll/UFO… with no name..
    ( although we all know who is behind it…:))))))

    btw… its GODWIN… NOT GOODWIN…little uneducated troll…
    (..and please dont forget your medication…ok? big hug )

  143. Well, definitely, just as I wrote in my 1st post, the essay may be titled C’ EST TOUT, but anything after, definitely:



  144. panos skoulidas

    Hey, just got your voicemail….
    Im up in the mountain… no reception ( sporadic , actually )…
    but i will call you as soon as i go to the store near by…
    Im looking for a new home in LA… so im happily busy…
    but i will call you in a while….
    missed your voice malaka….
    loved your voicemail….
    ( at least you do have a great sense of humor … thanks, you brightened my day…!!!!
    big hug )

  145. Panos above…

    Thread Hi-jack in its purest form. Totally without merit, IMO really high up there with: “do not forget to get milk on your way home!”. ;-)

  146. panos skoulidas

    there is no word as “hijack” in my vocabulary….
    I want people to express themselves freely… no matter if its in the “venice thread”..
    or whatever they like… no rules..
    ( although i still agree with davidB…above …blah… etc…)

  147. HERVE! :)))))))))))

    JOKING JOKING JOKING AMIGO ;)))))))))))))…ok, see even when i joke (like then) or when i was trying to make loving of Kat/Gracie’s friendship and support of one another (ok, no more lovefest diction with ladies, y’all ;) ), i gets misinterpreted ;)))))…..i TOTALLY love when people tease me about my long-winded, eliptical, non=paragraphing, endless, silly posts ;)))))…believe me, Im a characature of the real BB (burn bb is sort of like akaky irl, but only david and Panos are allowed to steal from others jokes ;))))))) )…..no worries amigo…what i meant is just that: i think, after all this time, my writing would better serve David and Burn as organized thoughts, the way i write my essays/poems for real life and publication, rather than extemporizing here…but, believe me, i totally loved what you wrote :)))…no worries…

    ok, gotta split…got a Writing assignment to do for Burn…


  148. my contributions from this day forward (as i promised my…..oh, i cannot talk/write about the trinity ;) ) for Burn will be:

    1) help editing/getting work (as i’ve been doing already, but now in a more official capacity)
    2) writing text for pictures/essays that David wishes (or other editors) wish me to
    3) providing my own work (photography) when needed…

    ok, that’s it for my comments :))))…

    enjoy y’all

  149. Slight tangent to try and rectify some of my thoughts.

    We’ve had a few essays so far on burn which have been decried as exploitative so far.

    I don’t feel that this essay crosses that thin line, but just curious to hear some of the more prolific commenters here view on where that line lies.

    To me this essay feels sincerely compassionate and I love the photos themselves, but at what point does photographing extreme poverty cross over?

    Is it in the approach?
    Is it in the feeling the essay delivers to the majority of viewers?
    or simply the subject matter?

    Any thoughts would be appreciated, trying to jumpstart my brain this morning…

  150. kAT :))…no worries….i love the contributions you’ve made (even when i dont always agree) and i think Grace is very nice and yes, funny too…an d i dig her poetic ramblings (what else could move me if not another poet/photographer)…so, sorry for the confusion…i really enjoyed your lov….um…FRIENDSHIP AND JOY :)))


  151. JARED! :))))))))))))))))))))))))))

    brilliant…………..and hilarious!…

    now, running, brain on empty…

  152. bob/b/homer…

    if the above is true (and i must say it makes me a bit sad if so, for even though your elliptical, mind-numbingly long paragraphs were sometimes difficult for my too-small brain to absorb, they most frequently held nuggets and gemstones of knowing) you should henceforth be known as pheonix….for your comments have been absorbed by the Burn and yet your essence will rise from the ashes…


    That’s life. An audience falls out of sync. The author goes to improbable places that later become certainties.

  153. b.b.
    “more of a variety, a balance between both stillness and disappearance. Entropy impacts so much because we know it came from solid forms and will again return to solids…make sense?? :))…”

    Makes a lot of sense actually, and on various levels: from the technical to the emotional. It is technically harder to achieve and control–I like the challenge. I understand how this can strengthen the presentation, and most importantly I can relate to it. I may have arrived there on my own, but you certainly helped accelerate the process and time saved is a blessing. I’ll be playing around with this for sure. Thanks.

  154. If Jim were happy with everything he saw here, would that make him a gruntled Texas conservative editor, I wonder? There’s not much about gruntled people in the newspapers these days, just as you hear very little about ept people being whelmed by a situation. There must be a reason for this, although I imagine it’s because the times being what they are, no one is interested in eptness.

  155. This is so far, one of the most astonishing photographs i’ve seen of Gunkanjima. Impressive contrast between flesh and concrete. I was there one morning of June 2007, actually the place is weird and a dream for many photographers.

    Good job Jan.

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