No Pictures Please by Akaky

When I was a young man, a time I like to think of as only yesterday and the calendar likes to tell me wasn’t, I had no suicidal tendencies.  Yes, I bumbled my way through the usual raft of silly foibles allotted to the young and hormonally overwhelmed male. There was the time, for example, when, in a fit of dubious self-confidence brought on by a prolonged reading of Mr. Hefner’s philosophy, I hit on our high school’s homecoming queen in the biology lab, not realizing that her boyfriend, a middle linebacker of moderately Brobdingnagian proportions and extremely choleric disposition, stood just around the corner conferring with his fellow jocks on a some matter of great import to them all. He heard my lame attempts to pick up his girlfriend and reacted, as you might imagine, badly. This, in turn, led to the one great athletic accomplishment of my high school years: running from the biology lab on the third floor to the front door and down the street to the bus stop in less than ten seconds despite the best efforts of students and faculty to get in my way. If you were in my path that day, let me take this opportunity to apologize again for knocking you on your ass; the cause was more than sufficient, or at least I thought so. But a foible now and again is one thing; a suicidal tendency is something very different.

I bring the matter up because now, in my near dotage, I have acquired a suicidal tendency.  I did not intend to acquire a suicidal tendency; it just arose out of the circumstances, the way that sunrises and syphilis do.  The breeding ground for this unwanted and unnatural tendency was photography. I realize that you may find this a bit unbelievable; photography seems such a harmless hobby, like phlebotomy or collecting Bronze Age Hittite harmonicas; but as Hemingway once pointed out, all truly wicked things begin in great innocence.  I may be getting that quote wrong, but the one thing of Hemingway’s I can quote accurately, that the rich are different from you and me, they have more money, he didn’t actually say, and since the point of gratuitously tossing in a quote from some great literary figure is to make me look more intelligent and well-read than I really am, I am not going to quote fake Hemingway when I can quote the real one.  Be that as it may, Hemingway was right. My grandmother took up quilting afghans late in life and became a fabric fanatic, spending weeks at a time quilting huge afghans with a grim determination that was somewhat unnerving to see. I suspect that she either couldn’t or wouldn’t stop, and so she kept at it, converting tons of wool into brightly colored afghans that no one in the family wanted. I have an attic full of these Afghans now; they are cheaper than fiberglass insulation and they are reasonably polite when they are not plotting jihad all night long. Frankly, I wish they wouldn’t do that; I’d prefer not to come home from work and find my house blasted to splinters by a drone-borne missile, but as they’ve been up there for years, I fear that I am obliged to put up with what I cannot get rid of.

I took up photography in a similar spirit of innocence. It was just a hobby, you see, a simple diversion to help while away what little free time I have. I didn’t expect anything to come of it at all. Yes, I was an innocent then, not knowing the difference between an f-stop and a bus stop, and if I’d given the matter any thought at all I’d probably think that an f-stop was a bus stop in a red light district (it could be—stranger things have happened, you know). In those halcyon days, a Leica was something Chico Marx said to express approval, a Canon was the sum total of the world’s literary masterpieces, and Nikon was the 17th century Russian Orthodox patriarch whose liturgical reforms sparked the religious schism between the Orthodox and the Old Believers. I was very foolish then, very foolish indeed. The camera companies do not tell you that this particular hobby is addictive; if you check carefully, you will note that they do not have to put the potential side effects of their products on the side of the box the way the tobacco companies do. They ought to, just so people will know what they are getting into.

Having acquired a camera, in this case a film point and shoot manufactured by a large Japanese camera company whose name I will not mention here unless they pay me for the endorsement, I immediately began photographing everything in sight, especially my mother’s lilies, a practice I would recommend to any beginner who asks (none has); if you can photograph flowers and pretty girls together then so much the better—the inherent interest of the subject matter will often compensate for any deficiencies in your compositional skills. Most of the photographs I took in this period went beyond the merely amateurish and roared off like a biker with a couple of quarts of Jim Beam under his belt into the realm of the surreally awful, but I kept at it, yes I did, and in time I bought an SLR, so that I could go on creating vast piles of unnecessary landfill at an ever-greater pace. After several years of photographing the local flora and fauna, and becoming bored with them both, I thought that I might change my subject matter, there being, as Fred Astaire tells Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face, no market for pictures of trees. Actually, there is such a market, but if you’re not Ansel Adams, nobody is interested in them.  And as Adams had sequoias and I don’t, it occurred to me that I might take pictures of people instead.

A fateful decision, that, for it has led directly to my developing the suicidal tendency (remember those? This piece started with my moaning and groaning about suicidal tendencies. Really, it did; you can go back to the beginning and check) of taking unflattering photographs of women.  I don’t mean to take unflattering photographs of women; the pictures just come out that way. I fear that fashion photography will be forever closed to me because of this. Take the photograph above as an example. Despite what you may think based on the evidence I’m presenting here, she is having a very good time, even if this picture makes her look as though I’d just hit her in the eye with a large glob of potato salad. Clearly, no fashionable young woman (and she is a fashionable young woman) wants people to see pictures of them looking as though they are wearing a large eyeful of potato salad as an accessory. It is difficult, at best, to do delicatessen chic properly, and so most women do not try. In short, women tend to object to someone taking really bad photographs of them and they will go to extraordinary lengths to make sure no such photograph ever sees the light of day, and the young woman pictured above will probably object violently if she ever finds out about this. I thought about asking our host here to not publish the photo at all, but in the end I decided to go ahead anyway, even if this means she will have my eyes gouged out with a red-hot fork for my temerity. While I am not looking forward to the inevitable eruption of feminine wrath, I am not prepared to give up photography, although once I am one with Oedipus, I suppose I’ll have to take up some more useful activity, like joining a cult or selling life insurance. I am not looking forward to this, but then, I won’t be looking forward at anything at that point. Such is life, I guess.


Photograph and Text: Akaky


73 thoughts on “akaky – no pictures please”

  1. i’m not overly fussed by the photograph. the writing is good.

    a book with commentary and photographs such as this combined together might just work though.

  2. Nice words indeed.
    I would like to see how far you are willing to go in this pursuit.
    What are you trying to catch?
    and for who?
    Does this image represent the intent?
    Should I view this with or without the knowledge of your words? [the latter now being academic]


  3. what an enjoyable read…i really like your style of writing! may be not a fashion photographer as you say, but you are definitely a great writer of rare variety…it is pure fun to read your piece. i think everybody has a some history or other like yours, but we don’t come out clean but you do! :) i don’t dislike the photo either, particularly the moment. thanks for sharing your thoughts…



  4. ok, DAD: ;))))))

    won’t clog u’r time, but only this:

    not son to pop, not photographer (with suicidal tendencies) to photographer (with suicidal tendencies), but writer to writer: jus this:

    smile agape: brilliant!

    I could read read Akaky Akakiovich every hour of the depleted day……and as Hemingway once said, i think:

    “fuck it, just give that man a drink!”

    THANK YOU and thank Burn would giving us some rich rich text!


    p.s. Ben, well, im pleased to read that you’re reading long texts now ;)))))))))))) (teasing!)

  5. p.s. and yes, a book of Akaky’s writing accompanying his photographs would be, well, just the wish list gift extraordinaire for ur’s truly….make it happen, for christ’s sake, Dad! :))))

  6. BOB…ALL

    i want to do more text driven pieces here…they cannot really ever be any longer than what Akaky just wrote, but for the net we will do the best we can..just as a certain type of “punctuation” for BURN, to run every now and then….. this, of course, brings up you my literary friend…and Panos too..and Kathleen too …and Sidney too…and whoever else might really be good at a text driven essay with only one picture…you up for it???

    cheers, david

  7. I found the writing to be very entertaining and witty…a nice round-a-bout piece of text introducing us to the work and giving us fun and painful tidbits about the photographer as well, all tying together with the piece at hand and the style as such. Thank you for thinking outside the box, Akaky…

  8. Ever thought of becoming a script writer Akaky?

    Your text here very-much reminds me of the comedian Ronnie Corbet. He sits in an oversized armchair and begins to tell you a joke, then he wanders from his subject, tells a few other jokes in-between and finally, as an almost afterthought, remembers the punch-line to the original joke.

    The test of anyone being successful at any pursuit is that they can do “it” repeatedly. You are consistently funny Akaky: you really could write scripts for a living. Think about it.

    Best wishes,


  9. akaky challenges my love for picture only books.

    more writing would be great…

    like it akaky.. and the smiling “don’t photo me” photo as much…


  10. I agree with Mike R. Akaky must already be working as a writer in some capacity, no? If not, you should be.
    I can relate to the photographic addiction and suicidal tendencies :))

    Hang on to those afghans. They could actually be valuable if kept in good condition.
    Protect them from moths :))

    More photographers writing about photography…of course. Bring it on.

  11. DAVID

    I would love to do a text-driven essay with one photo. I’m in the middle of moving at the moment (no change in contact info, just an apartment shuffle that is SUPPOSED to be temporary) but I will collect a bunch of image candidates for submission once the dust settles… sometime next week.

    Incidentally, website searches proved fruitless, and in directly contacting both Photography at the Summit and Art Wolfe Studios I was given NO reliable information about when your workshops are scheduled… neither place has its act together: “so-and-so is out of town until next week and I can’t find out”, “we can’t confirm the dates but please send us your deposit money anyway”, etc. Total disorganization at both venues. So much for relying on other people to keep your schedule straight…

  12. This is a great reminder that photography doesn’t have to stand alone and can be used in unconventional ways to express meaning. The writing is wonderful. Has Burn thought of posting photo essays with written pieces? how about collaborations between writers and photographers.. or audio and photographs? In the age of the internet and multimedia art and journalism, this piece reminds me to keep an open attitude towards new possibilities.

  13. “..and the young woman pictured above will probably object violently if she ever finds out about this.”

    well she shouldn’t. she and the photograph are stunning. a masterful use of flash that leaves her hair black and shiny – no dulling effect at all, beautiful skin tones. and just look at the depth of those beads! despite the pearls, the ring, and the lace, this photograph reads more ‘punkrock girl’ than ‘oppulent society.’

    also, nice composition that reminds me a little of a playing card – queen of black hearts? turn it upside down and see…

  14. DAVID: :)))

    Text based stuff IS a great idea…and you know, I am on board for that too ;))))…I WILL GIVE Burn the Poem/Prose that was chosen as a finalist for the CBC Literary Award this year…if you want it, Burn can publish it…in terms of word length, it’s about the length of Akaky’s brilliant piece…let’s discuss next week…

    SIDNEY: I THINK A TEXT piece by you would be GREAT and exciting. I LOVED your ‘hijacking’ of Time thread…i just didnt/dont have time to write until next week, but I love your description and the connections you’re making…i’d love to see the Korean slide shwo you’re putting together…anyway, a Think Piece from you would be great…

    thanks again, to finally putting Text on equal footing here Pics….that’s what i expect from Burn: BOTH! :))

    running away

  15. MATT…

    yes, i have thought of combining written pieces with a photo..that my friend is exactly what this essay by Akaky is!! you may have missed my comment above….in any case, i asked Akaky for this piece to go with this photo….we will do more of course….if you have any ideas or have a penchant for writing, please let me know….i will be pleased to consider an offering from you…

    whoops, sorry…i misread your question…you meant normal photo essays with longer text, right??? well, we certainly did that with Bob Black …and i welcome more lengthy text when it is really good…we have done audio with photographs Matt..please check the essay archive ( see James Chance)…and a good essay with nice audio track is coming this weekend from Andrew Sullivan…


    laughing…well, so much for that thought….anyway, i will try to get to the bottom of this….

    (20 mins later) ok i called Art Wolfe….you are right…what a nightmare of an explanation…nobody knows what is going on…i confirmed my approval of this program 2 weeks ago and sent them photos etc etc…

    (2 hrs later) ok, they will have everything up on their website in a couple of hours…i start my workshop in Seattle on April 11th…will you be around???

    cheers, david

  16. panos skoulidas

    i really dont know where to start…
    Everyone knows how much i admire and crave Akaky’s sense of humor , in particular…
    There has been so many nights , waking up in the middle of a dream. thinking…
    Is “he” gonna be there tomorrow ???
    What if “he” stopped writing ??
    What if my anti-republican sentiment will turn him away…??
    There has been many times that i thought :” man, if “he” could only photograph the way he writes..

    ….146 years passed by…
    And now i’m writing under Akaky’s column…
    Akaky graduated… he is not the little young teenager with the big thick glasses & the braces anymore..
    He just had a new “bridge” and a triple “bypass”….
    Now he does shoot , the way thinks and writes…
    Now Akaky is important…
    Now Akaky is published in Burn…
    Now Akaky is famous…

    (but still, cant figure out how to develop his film with normal contrast…& he never will… because now its a “style”… Akaky’s style…)

    congratulations Akaky… You are now officially “BURNed” :))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))

  17. Akaky, I almost regret the fact that your text is so absolutely wonderful (hilarious and pensive at the same time, amazing stylistically, not to mention the fact that it captures the masochistic tendencies and uphill struggles of every photographer so well) because it risks diverting attention from the photo itself, which is also exquisite. Apparently, great things can eventually come even out of photographing flowers for years and years. Where can I see more of your work? Many thanks for both text and image, my friend!

  18. AKAKY – no one makes me laugh or smile like you. i love your words, your humor and your style. the photo and the writing fit so well together. and she does NOT look like you threw potato salad on her. next time i want to see a self portrait though… the mystery is killing me.

  19. DAVID,

    I have to give lectures on April 8 and on April 15 in Bellingham. It looks like I will be in Seattle April 17-19 (Japanese Culture Festival at Seattle Center). Any possibility you will stick around that long?

  20. DAD-AKAKY!!!!

    As your unknown antipodean scientific experiment daughter I would like to say I am very proud…

    Love the pic and the text is pure 21st century Thurber on Speed!

    Big congrats!!!!

  21. DAVID,

    OK, the info is now up on the Art Wolfe website and I see that your workshop runs through the 15th…surely you will need to hang out for a few days afterwards to see Charles Petersen, Katia, Tom Hyde, etc. etc. (??) so it’s looking good for a rendezvous. I might even be able to make it down on the afternoon of the 16th… if someone in Seattle can offer me a couch for just that night…???



  22. kathleen fonseca

    DAH and all:

    For fabulous, compelling text and photo essays, please DO see “The Fat Baby” by Eugene Richards. i’m not sure which i like more, the photos or the stories.


    From the comments, i am probably the only one so compelled by the photo that i am skipping the text (for now)..i know, i know, bad me. But this photo is just so excellent i can’t take my eyes off it and have it open on another screen as i type.

    ohmygod, what i like..that black nail right beside that white eye, those gleaming pearls, that diamond ring, a toothpaste ad smile and that totally incredible sideways s-curve of peekaboo lace. This is one sexy chica..she loves the girlie stuff and she’s full of spark and fa-fa-fa-fire. A delightful quirk is that i can’t see her other eye but i console myself, those 3 black nails and those long slender fingers tell me much more than another eye ever could. I always like so much when there’s a lot going on outside the frame. Something hinted at but never revealed. Like a jumpin’ party at the neighbor’s house that i’m not invited to. How unforgettable will this night be for her? How hot is the party, REALLY?..it’s allllll up to our imagination and what we concoct in our heads is often a helluva lot more interesting than reality. i imagine she’s seeing someone terribly important and terribly exciting. Why isn’t there someone like that in my life to make me light up like that, i wonder? Especially if i see them while i’m dressed in peekaboo lace and my hair is shining like wet ebony and my pearls and my pearly-whites glow like a wedding dress in the sun and my big eyes pop open and gleam like a porch light and let you know that it’s you, baby, you that thrills me to my toes.

    This is a William Klein kinda photo and that’s a compliment. Just great, great..now, back to our regularly scheduled program; i’m going back to read your text. Sorry for skipping it the first time around, Akaky…i really didn’t want words to steal this girl’s light..she shines brighter than a full moon over mayhem.


  23. AKAKY,

    This is your moment of glory, and here I have been hijacking the thread… I humbly beg your indulgence. As you know (or maybe you don’t?) I am one of your biggest fans, and not only do I love the text, but I also love the photo… mostly I can only echo the praise others have been justly lavishing on you… but no one has mentioned that what really makes this photo, and simultaneously makes it match the text, is the young lady’s bulging right eyeball… which is the center and focus of the whole composition, is at the precise angle to hint at demonic comic madness while still seeming ‘natural’, and while the black pupil echoes the painted fingernails, the white of the eye reverberates in the sparkling teeth and the pearls… the more one looks, the more sophisticated this photo seems… Big congrats, Tovarich, and many happy returns…



    I wrote the above before I could read Kathleen’s post… she has covered more bases than I possibly could, and with more eloquence and imagination than my crude abilities could ever muster… so I stand back and doff my cap to you both… Master, and Mistress, of your respective Arts.

  25. kathleen fonseca

    Sidney..can i confess a secret to you? shhh…c’mere and let me whisper in your ear so nobody hears..now listen, one of the reasons it’s so fun writing here is cuz i know you’re reading. yeah, so there.

  26. kathleen fonseca

    haha, Sidney, you are no slouch yourself..”bulging white eyeballs” and “demonic comic madness”..that’s fabulous cuz you are so right! There’s a little hint of mania there. Something maybe a little bit too, too..wow, you ARE right!

  27. kathleen fonseca


    read your text. Hilarious! Potato salad, huh? Funny thought for sure but i think i’m glad i took lots of time to really wander this photograph’s highways and bi-ways without that visual perhaps talking me out of the journey before i even got started. I think it must be tricky to include text. We want to enhance the viewing experience with the written word not go the other way. Maybe potato salad suits the reality of this young woman’s personality far more than either my or Sidney’s interpretation but i don’t know that and i don’t think i want to know that. Kind of the same thing happening in the photo of Dmitry. I didn’t want to know if he was really tall or if the jacket was really big. i wanted to imagine things for myself. i see a strong personality statement here..it kinda socks me in the stomach..she’s thrilling! And then the text and i wonder if i was a bit foolish to endow her with so much mystery. Do you kinda see what i mean?

    Thanks for a fun read and a delightful photo, potato salad notwithstanding ;)


  28. panos skoulidas

    I REALLY wanna say one thing….About you…
    you are full of PASSION

  29. dear akaky – whoever you are,

    i wasn’t so sure if i should go grab a dictionary or hold my bladder…. haahaa

    great piece master writer and great prompting DAH (betwix great text and great photo – great idea!)

  30. This essay seems to be more about the writers palpable effort at cleverness than about the photo. When I read an essay, I don’t want to be drawn away from the subject of the essay by the essayist’s devices. I want them to remain hidden, pushing the essay forward without raising a neon “this way” sign.

    It is clearly aimed at a sophisticated readership, and that’s o.k. It’s just that the writer seems to be trying too hard to appeal to a niche audience. The result is that it sounds self-consciously clever.

    Obviously I’m out of step here with this evaluation, because the writer has drawn such universal praise. But I love the essay form, and the writing stye just kept getting in the way of the essay for me.

  31. panos skoulidas

    Jim ,
    I hear you…
    but let me tell you this…
    Akaky is another example of DAH’s “free online workshop”…magic..
    You should have seen his earlier work ….Even a year ago …
    but he tried hard… hard , hard, took advantage of DAH’s teaching and…
    you see the results…
    Huge LEAP forward…
    ( i said it before… I thought that Akaky will “die” as a writer…
    but now im convinced… he will “die” also as a photographer…:)))))))))))))))))

    ….he used to shoot from a mile away with a 10,000 lens… NOT ANYMORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    VIVA AKAKY…HE literally took it to another level….
    And guess who do i blame for that ???????????
    DAH, of course… who else?

  32. panos skoulidas

    … lets bet about next Akaky’s lens purchase…
    I bet he will trade in his ZOOM for a 21mm…
    and donate his 80-200mm to GOOD WILL…

  33. jim – i think the genius of akaky is that he probably doesn’t try hard at all.. or if he does he makes such pros flow easily for us.. perhaps the secret of great snappers as well…

    how many shots did frank take for the americans again ?

  34. panos, I’m certain there is a history with this writer. But with any luck, Burn will attract a broad readership, most who don’t have a secret decoder ring from the ‘Road Trips’ days. The stuff that shows up on the front page of the site will be evaluated purely on merit by people who don’t have any context about how far someone has come.

    It may be that there should be a clear declaimer at the top of the front page that these images and essays are the unfinished work of unfinished photographers. Then both the work and the photographer can be evaluated in the proper context.

  35. panos skoulidas

    “…But with any luck, Burn will attract a broad readership,…”

    no need to disagree… actually, the “broad readership” thought is much “welcomed”…
    Do not forget also the “entertainment” side/part of burn…
    Evaluation ( i believe & hope ) is only one side of the story…
    Otherwise we will end up being something
    between “Dancing with the stars” & “American Idol”
    And Akaky ( and not only ) is lifting & carrying that “entertainment weight” as well…

  36. panos skoulidas

    …”Then both the work and the photographer can be evaluated in the proper context.”…

    Jim , im not sure you will disagree but “photographers evaluations” shouldnt be the main course in our “menu” here…
    Otherwise people would be nervous to post until they achieve “perfection” ( which is usually attainable only after death )…:)))))
    And Jim you probably already noticed ( in another thread ) that lots and lots photographers are INSECURE as hell and so nervous to post and the excuse usually the same..PERFECTIONISM… ( usually newbies , though or “pros” )
    and when i say “pros” i mean simply people that their tax return says “photographer” ( i used to be one of those too for a while… laughing , until i decided to “lighten up” ans started shooting really from the HEART… not just the brain )

  37. Jim,
    There is a disclaimer in a slightly different wording without harsh usage of “unfinished”:
    burn is an evolving journal for emerging photographers.
    How could you not see it? I am shocked.

    I love you, Jim. Never ever leave.

    David B.
    how many shots did frank take for the americans again ? Did you know that Oedipus is not a fragrance?

  38. panos skoulidas

    “…and when i say “pros” i mean simply people that their tax return says “photographer” ( i used to be one of those too for a while… ”

    correction: i got to be honest… Still my tax return says “photographer”,
    but some of my business checks write on the top “PanosFotografiaServices DBA TowingServices”…
    In other words when i decided to lighten up, when i accepted the word “Towing” in my life,
    i magically got rid of the insecurities and all those stOOpid fears…
    and i started posting, linking, photographing… having fun…
    You see, i believe that its easier for me to stand NAKED in front of a mirror, than a BODYBUILDER…

  39. wow, Akaky,
    I was under impression that all women like to be photographed but none seems to like the picture. no exceptions. no matter what.

  40. Haik, the problem with the current declaimer is that David’s concept of “emerging photographers” is so broad. Everything from relatively recent converts to serious photography to working pros seem to meet his criteria.

    I often wonder how much of the gushing praise heaped on most everything posted here is true admiration and how much “encouragement.” I know that, personally, praise is of no value to me in improving what I do. praise usually comes from friends, people just trying to be nice or people who think that the best photography is naked babies growing out of flowers. I want to hear why my stuff doesn’t work, not why it does.


    this is an interesting thought Jim has brought up…for those of us who have been here awhile and realize we have had an online workshop going for a couple of years, we see clear progress..and since teaching is the one thing i put a lot of effort into besides my own work, it is definitely a source of pride for me when one of my students takes a flying leap forward….but, as Jim so correctly points out, someone new coming in here will only see what is “up” and have no idea of the mentoring context and will only judge by what he/she sees…

    i will say this…when i teach even a week long workshop , i push my students so hard that the final result is something that i am quite proud to show to ANYONE..and i do…my final show in New York for my students is in front of a very discerning crowd…the whole photo/art world of New York…or, should i say, a good sampling…

    i also wish all of you could be privy to all of the “behind the scenes” mail i receive from professors and students alike who do see BURN as an educational tool….whether this can ever transcend into something the “man on the street” would deem valuable is something i cannot judge…in my own work i never gave it a single thought that i should somehow do anything ever that would appeal to EVERYONE….i always assumed no matter what i did that i was playing to a small audience….for me, a small audience that is a refined audience is my goal…hence my love of books over all other mediums which are seen by a relative few compared to my work in a magazine…

    many many times i do have situations where i show either my students work or my own work to “civilians” (non-photographers)..just “normal” folks….those people we all assume to be the so called “mass audience”….these people are not doing the referencing we do here…nobody is dropping the names that get dropped here in connection with a certain style or type of work(Google has made everyone a history professor..cool)….these people are just looking at the work straight up….this sampling of a “mass audience” usually reacts with great enthusiasm because one of the “powers” (not Jim) of photography is in its inherent nature of accessibility…it ain’t hard to read a picture….that is unless you make it hard, which sometimes happens here…

    in any case, i am not going to think about this too much…i have watched editors at newspapers and magazines trying so so hard to figure out what their readership wants…what the advertisers want..trying like hell through readership tests and surveys to give people just what they say they want…you know something?? i do not think people know what they want, but they know it when they see it….i will put my money on instinct every time..yes, gut instinct…..trying to psyche out the mass audience actually takes away from their intelligence…i think we should give people more credit than we often do….

    sorry i digressed a bit….anyway, i think Akaky’s essay/photo would appeal to anyone who does not subscribe only to People Magazine (3 million)….maybe the New Yorker (250,000) crowd….too small an audience??? i doubt Akaky cares one single bit….he would prefer the niche New Yorker crowd to the People Mag crowd any day ( i am only guessing)…c’mon Jim, Akaky is clever..for heavens sake, let him be clever…his private e-mails are just like everything he writes…the man is always “on” so to speak…as are you too…

    Jim you also have your own writing style….blunt, but with often the hammer hitting the nail right on the head…so i would like to see you write a piece..that is with a big PLEASE JIM….with a photo or photos….almost everyone else here writing has “put up” on the table their work….laid themselves bare….are you ready to do the same???? all of us would love it…and i will bet the “folks out there” would love it as well….

    cheers, david


    here it is the most beautiful day of the year (a winter spring day…know what i mean?)…and i have to go to the airport…hmmmmmmmmm…off to New York….to pack for Spain etc….anyway, i will be “off” most of the day , but back by tonight or early tomorrow morning to find out what this eclectic crowd is up to….


    Jim, just read your note…we posted simultaneous…i have invited you gratis to one of my workshops..as an observer, student, whatever you want to be…if you check with my students you will find out quickly that gushing praise is definitely not what my class is about….and behind the scenes here with some of the essayists, they will tell you the same….and you would see the process of going from point A to to point B…you might be very surprised amigo..


    yes, Jim…i do interpret “emerging photographer” very broadly…no disclaimer…why are you so so stuck on this one?? and why oh why do you never read my interpretation of “emerging photographer” which i have written so very specifically to you at least a half dozen times??? nobody else seems to be “stuck” on this one….in any case, i do hope you are an “emerging photographer”….i would like to think that you are…please have a great day…ciao amico…..

  42. JIM

    There you go, into those categories again! (hehehehe….)

    So why don’t you define how a photographer should be defined then- say me for instance?

    Akaky’s portrait is a really strong one, its gives me an insight into the faux shyness of the woman and her relationship to the idea of being photographed. Its different because its nervous and sweet, not a overproduced and STANDARD portrait. The reason it works for me are the hand gesture and angle and the very contrasty B/W- because the contrast emphasises the sweeetness (which is normally associated with soft-visually that would be a flatter rendering of the portrait, which wouldn’t work as well) The rest of Akaky’s photo’s are really great, great use of negative space and they make you feel something a loneliness perhaps- and its the communication of some feeling that I am a sucker for!

    I like Akaky’s text a lot, but I also know this is probably not his strongest piece, he does seem a little more self conscious than his usual style- but hey not everyone is perfect all the time

    I can see why people think that the comments get schmaltzy because yes there are alot of people just here encouraging one another as well, but whats the problem with that?

    I have stated the reasons I see and feel what I do about this piece in a pretty straight forward fashion now I have time to write but I don’t always have this much down time and nothing to do. So maybe thats why people don’t put much more than congratulatory bits here, its a lack of time.

    If its more discussion about the piece you want then its up to you to somehow initate it, we have had plenty of firey discussion here, but just constantly whinging about the category the work should be in is getting my goat a bit…

    I do agree with some of the stuff you write but c’mon Jim start something up, don’t be seduced by the idea that cynicism becomes you…


  43. yep – many photographers work here has been projected in my class, and using the developing work as well as finished pieces has been superb for illustrating the stages of development.. in that respect i think burn is a stand alone magazine and as a teaching resource for motivating the students it’s been one of the best

    hello 2AR if you’re reading..

    as an aside i think a number of my students have submitted single photos and i know of at least one full time writer who follows the posts..


    i heard that rumour..

  44. panos skoulidas

    “…but, as Jim so correctly points out, someone new coming in here will only see what is “up” and have no idea of the mentoring context and will only judge by what he/she sees…”

    hmmmm, i see what you saying…
    the “trip” is as important as the “result” if not more..
    but people ( newcomers ) need to see the “trip”…
    very important…
    we need to figure that out….

  45. A civilian-mass audience

    Thank you Mr.Harvey.Thank you for not trying to psyche out the mass audience.
    You just put a voice in our mouths… We are out there , everywhere ,reading every day,watching close all the essays , all the comments.Happy Birthday Burn!!!

    “Universe”,the whole world is watching!!!

    Love u all,
    Love your photos!!!

    From beautiful Europe.

  46. Jim,

    thats a good question. I guess you were never on the receiving end of a DAH portfolio review. I think, having been in such a position, the best encouragement David can offer is a swift kick in the arse if he really thinks what he is seeing isnt up to scratch. The best thing ever to happen to my own photography was such an awakening it forced me to really get down to the business of distilling what I want to do with my own photography.

  47. MATT:

    I guess you (and 95%) of the viewers missed my text at B0nes ;)))))….that IS about BOTH!….i guess i was pre-mature in offering the readership a Text that STANDS BESIDE the pictures…..

    have a read of my essay excerpt….the Bones essay is accompanied by at Text i wrote…in fact, i also make text and photos together…for last years’ EPF I wrote and send David a text (which i turned into a small book)…anyway, there for those who wish to read….Ben, a second shot?? ;))))..

    and by the way, while i love Akaky’s text (always do) I think it’s perfect because of the strength of this photo too….i swallowed them together…

    oh well ;))))


  48. kathleen fonseca

    “When I read an essay, I don’t want to be drawn away from the subject of the essay by the essayist’s devices. I want them to remain hidden, pushing the essay forward without raising a neon “this way” sign.”

    i am totally in agreement with you here, surprise, surprise. The writing did not draw such “universal praise” by the way. i deliberately steered clear of it in my review of the photograph which i find absolutely nothing to criticize unless i want to nitpick for its own sake and even then..hmm..nah, i just liked it a lot. Then i read the text and realized that it would have distracted me from a genuine and UNIQUE viewing experience. And i said so and i said precisely why. i did not pan the whole essay because Akaky seems to have as much need for written as for visual expression. Which is why i also recommended “The Fat Baby” by Eugene Richards as an example of text and photography that work together seemlessly, imo. However, while self-deprecation is good i think Akaky went a little overboard with his suggestion of potato salad in the eye. He ruined it for me right there. If you sabotage yourself and your work by alluding to what i see as a detracting and distracting visual reference then you deprive me from a genuinely rewarding viewing experience and i go home disappointed.

    You continually question this site and it’s aims. And i am gobsmacked how patient DAH is with these repeated challenges. What would you like him to do, post a big banner at the top of the page like “BURN School (or Not) for Emerging or Thinking About Emerging or Those Who Have Recently Emerged but Are Not All the Way Out or Those Who Might Be Professional Photographers Who Might or Might Not Be Photojournalists and Who May or May Not be Artists Who are Also Sometimes but not Always Writers and Who Sometimes Do not Care If They Ever Sell a Photograph but Who Then Again Might Change Their Minds and Those Who Don’t Care About Any of These Distinctions At All and Finally For Those Who Just Like Viewing and Writing About Exciting Photography”? You seem to want this site to be like a strictly ordered meal at the Rainbow Grill when it’s really a highly evolving and dynamic meal down on Mulberry Street in Little Italy. In both places, we’re all fed, we do eat, but i far prefer the thrill of the unexpected that i experience at Mama Tia’s to the the uptight mannerisms at the Rainbow Grill. So, mangia, Jim!

    Panos: re: Passionate…er, yeah, maybe just a little bit. :)))

  49. Rafal, my words and pictures have been published in newspapers thousands of times over the years. So often that I rarely even byline stuff anymore. But I do want to participate in the forum and appreciate the opportunity.

  50. I don’t find a form that will accept a photo and essay. If I’m missing it, someone let me know.

  51. JIM…

    if you just have one picture to submit along with a written piece, just enter it under “submissions” in the “singles” category along with your text….if you have several pictures (photo essay) then do the same under “essays”…OR send the text to me: david@burnmagazine.org and put the single up as suggested…sorry, i was flying , hence the delay in responding…i look forward to see what you put up…

    cheers, david

  52. Thanks, David. Single photo with essay. I’ll put the photo up through the singles category and email the essay to you.

  53. Pingback: Be Thou My Vision | PixelatedImage Blog

  54. AKAKY: Hey, I’ve got great news…

    AKAKY IRL: Really?

    AKAKY: Yes, really. One of my pictures…why are you eating cold pizza for breakfast?

    AKAKY IRL: I like cold pizza.

    AKAKY: It’s seven o’clock in the morning!

    AKAKY IRL: Six o’clock. Daylight savings time is an abomination I refuse to acknowledge.

    AKAKY: And fresh garlic, too? You have to go to work soon.

    AKAKY IRL: So?

    AKAKY: You have to work with the public all day long. What are they going to think with you stinking of garlic?

    AKAKY IRL: The public can go suck eggs.

    AKAKY: That’s hardly a constructive attitude for a public servant.

    AKAKY IRL: Look, guy, have you actually seen the public up close and personal? I spend all day looking at them. Remember, these are the same people who care what Paris Hilton thinks is hot and would watch American Idol all day long if they could. You look at them for eight hours a day and it makes you wonder how the Republic has lasted as long as it has.

    AKAKY: But…

    AKAKY IRL: I’m sorry, but didn’t you have great news?

    AKAKY: What?

    AKAKY IRL: Great news. You had some. Or so you said. So spit it out and let me finish my breakfast.

    AKAKY: Oh, yeah, Burn published the picture and the essay.
    AKAKY IRL: They did? Well, that was nice of them. Did you thank them?

    AKAKY: What?

    AKAKY IRL: Did you thank them, as in saying: Thank you for publishing my picture and essay. Did you say, thank you?

    AKAKY: Not yet.

    AKAKY IRL: Then you best get on with it, bubba, before they start thinking you’re some kind of rude and ungrateful bastard. Not saying thank you almost always leaves a bad impression.

    AKAKY: This is true. I’ll do it today.

    AKAKY IRL: How did your thing go over?

    AKAKY: Very well, I thought. Some people like the picture and the essay, some people liked the picture and not the essay, some people liked the essay but not the picture, some people didn’t like either. They were nice about it, though. And a lot of what they said was stuff I’d thought myself before I submitted the essay.

    AKAKY IRL: Ah well, that’s life, guy; you can’t please everybody. You can’t even please yourself half the time.

    AKAKY: I guess not.

    AKAKY IRL: It makes no difference in the long run, you know; she’s still gonna want you dead.

    AKAKY: Yeah, I know. I said in the essay that she was going to gouge my eyes out with a red-hot fork for showing that pic to the world.

    AKAKY IRL: Who are you kidding? She’s gonna want take your eyes out with a dull spoon. That way it’ll take longer and she can enjoy it more.

    AKAKY: You know, I can always count on you for a happy thought.

    AKAKY IRL: That’s what I’m here for, guy.

    AKAKY: Is there anymore of that pizza left?

    AKAKY IRL: Yeah, there two or three more slices in the fridge.

    AKAKY: You mind?

    AKAKY IRL: Nah, go knock yourself out.

    AKAKY: Thanks.

  55. I’d like to say thank you for all the positive (and even the negative) comments about the photo and the essay. I’d especially like to thank Mr Harvey for thinking it was worth publishing, Anton for putting up with my grammar obsession, and to Lisa H. for spotting this picture in the first place. I doubt I would have submitted it at all if she hadnt said how much she liked it on Facebook. (Lisa, AKAKY IRL apologizes again for selling you off to the Antipodes, but he says you wouldnt have liked Ohio anyway.) Again, thank you all very much.

  56. akaky–

    i finally have a minute to come and rest here, to see this photo again and smile.
    i want to tell you how much i love it and how much it makes me miss my crazy french mother
    who looked just like her and was that vivacious and animated.

    thank you for the memories.
    really gorgeous photo.

  57. Akaky!

    great job, with both the photo and the essay. I’m glad you submitted it, as you know I’ve liked it all along…

    good light,

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