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Michal Daniel

In Your Face

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Rules. “Don’t stare, don’t point,” said mom. 
”Ask permission before making pictures,” say others.

That’s not for me. I want to get as close a look as I can, right in your face if possible, without you paying me any mind. If I can make a picture while you’re doing what you’re doing, unguarded, even though I’m right there in your face, that’s my goal.

But working with a visible camera impacts the scene. Not only can it irritate people, overt camera use also alters the entire existing dynamic, often destroying the very moment one wishes to record, before it is recorded. So my intention is to record the moments, while leaving everyone be, without them feeling observed.

Hard to do. Few succeeded like Walker Evans did, his camera hidden under his overcoat, lens peeking through a button hole. But even Evans kept his distance and could not get in people’s faces without his intent being noticed.

In 2001, after a quarter of a century of trying to be invisible with a standard camera, I finally found the perfect photographic tool which I use to this day: a plastic digital camera that fits on a digital organizer. The camera and organizer are now obsolete and the camera’s highest resolution — 640×480 pixels – is today the lowest resolution on the market.

640×480.net is where I put my keepers.

“Don’t mind me, just organizing here,” is what I exude in the process of picture making.

The Eyemodule2 — or “eyemod” as I call it and its output — is small, silent, and doesn’t resemble a camera. It’s just a bump on my PDA. When I use it, I look like I have a reason to be holding it, staring down at it, in the palm of my hand — a reason having nothing to do with photography. I behave as if completely absorbed with digital organizing, paying no attention to the people I photograph. To them, I simply seem like any other self-absorbed pedestrian.

I do love the digital Brownie “personality” of this camera, its color palette, tight dynamic range, near pinhole depth of field and the softness of its cheap lens. When enlarged to wall size, the eyemod prints start to resemble watercolor paintings. But all that is secondary. Most importantly, the tool helps me achieve my primary goal: recording people’s unguarded public selves, from the nearest proximity possible, while unnoticed, and leaving them to continue, undisturbed.

In the introduction to Walker Evans’ book Many Are Called, James Agee wrote of our guards: “Only in certain waking moments of suspension, of quiet, of solitude, are these guards down, and these moments are only rarely to be seen by the person himself, or by any other human being.”

This is my collection of some of these unguarded moments.


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Michal Daniel



147 thoughts on “michal daniel – in your face”

  1. This makes me feel uncomfortable, really intrusive, yet captivating. When you have the knowledge that the subjects of these intimate portraits have no idea their images will be blasted across the web. Is it cruel?

    Very rarely do you get this close face to face with complete strangers, I might be partially this that makes me concerned.

    I am drawn to it though, the textures, the intimacy, the feeling that it is not quite right.

  2. these must have been a lot of fun to do.. the camera distortion makes everyday people into david lynch characters and exaggerates expressions to the point to caricature in some cases..

    the low resolution makes them look like tv grabs to me.. moments caught straight from the box of life perhaps.. yes – compelling stuff to me


    Michal, hat’s off to you! You have proved what a camera (any camera) can do when it is put to it’s proper use! I am amazed looking at most of these faces…what expressions! Yes, since they are unguarded, this is so raw and strong! I could have gone on and on and on looking at these faces without even a trace of boredom…

    You made my day Michal…wish you all the best…



  4. IMO, this is a good example of how photographs do not need a literal story to create a powerful and personal body of work. These images allow the viewer into the relationship between photographer and subjects, and really encourage the viewer to feel, rather than be told a particular story. I really like this work. Congrats.

  5. Absolutely wonderful stuff.
    I’m not a big fan of in your face stuff, but this is something else. What marvelous faces, what marveous fun. I absolutely adore the last shot of the sequence. Brilliant.

  6. Kathleen Fonseca

    POR FIN!!! EXCELLENT..these amazing faces are so graphically rendered that they are more like caricatures. i would not really call these portraits. They’re so distorted, interpreted by the lens in such an extreme way that they have slipped the finite bounds of reality and taken flight into the imagination. Your ordinary people have become characters. I could write a short story around any single one of them. AND you made your magic ‘in camera’. Getting “it” in camera is my own personal gold standard. Not that i am against photoshop or above using it. Just that i sooo respect when ‘man’ pulls fabulous imagery out of a box with a lens on it. I am incredibly excited by the lo-res quality, the gritty, smeary textures with the punched up edges..not a bit smooth, no creamy bokeh, a-o!!..just freaking great..you walked a fine line when you produced this..it’s easy to think, lo-res, lo-fi, throw it all against a wall and it’s so messy it all sticks. not so..not so. Even more difficult to demand good photos from lousy equipment. You did it. I am jubilant! You have no idea what a shot in the arm you have actually given ME though i would not go out shooting the way you do. I will still use a traditional camera and still claw out my candid street moments my way. What you did was give me the courage to keep on keeping on. I can’t say enough for this essay. Thanks, Michal, thanks DAH, thanks..wow.


  7. KATHIE!!!

    yknow when im down like this,
    i would have loved to listen to Mr No.5
    brag about his young ‘uns and em shipwrecks

    ive missed you..
    thanks again michal

    auntie gracie
    (mrs. no. 2)

  8. Kathleen Fonseca


    ohmygod, aren’t these faces just the best? I sooo get what you mean about Mr. No. 5..YES, YES, that’s what i meant, that they’ve risen above their grain of sand presence on this earth and become so much more..they’ve assumed literary stature somehow…their uniqueness has not simply been respected but exalted.

    And i missed you too GraciousGracie..our late night zzzz’s..your wisps of poems like murmurings in the dark..the way the house creaks, the tree sighs, and gracie murmurs..

    now..goodnight, Mrs. #2,

    xoxo Ms. #4

  9. Yes. this has been my goal in photography also but rather than catching a particular person, i’ve been striving to capture groups, from 2 to whatever, interacting unconsciously.
    To capture the way we are is what photography’s great art is.

  10. Ummm, I don’t get it.

    For some reason I feel like Jim right now. But, so what? You get to get close without anyone being the wiser. Walker Evans? I really don’t see the parallel.
    The subject matter doesn’t surprise me a bit. Shooting fish in a barrel. With the end result being what?… portraits of strange-looking folk–at least Arbus got to know her freaks — and the visual quality was amazing (not just technically, but compositionally/soulfully).

    This leaves me cold… I don’t see the point — and am well aware that I may be missing something. Sorry if this is harsh, but I’ve had a few well-deserved beers after a long week…

  11. Hi Michal,
    This is a new dimension of the portrait photography. This is a daring approach, you are so close to the subject that it is difficult to reach there by most of the photographers. Moreover the expressions are original in nature, the faces are sometimes get distorted but that does the diminish the appeal in it.
    Good experimentation work.

  12. Very exciting essay that I understand, among other interpretations, as a demonstration how technology deeply integrates our lives at a point we do not notice it anymore. The closiest portraits make me think about David Cronenberg’s Videodrome

  13. JARED…

    you are not being harsh…that is your honest opinion…i am a bit surprised that you do not find some of these portraits intriguing, but so be it….please get in touch with me http://www.david@burnmagazine.org at some point so that we can come up with ideas to best serve your university peers….

    cheers, david

  14. ALL…

    i am traveling today to Toronto for the Contact photo fest and a series of Magnum workshops….so i will be off of BURN for most of the day, but will do reports from the field and post again as soon as possible…you have enough to chew on for the moment…

    while i do find these portraits by Michal rather fascinating , i certainly would not one taken of myself…when i looked in the mirror to shave this morning, i saw the equivalent of one of his images..that was enough for me…maybe just cheap mirror glass???

    please enjoy your day…

    cheers, david

  15. michal
    the snap on the back of your blurb book is a killer – brilliant.

    HONESTY MIRRORS:: horrible.. unfortunately we have one in our flat and now that i have glasses of the correct strength for my eyes i avoid it at all costs.

    BOB n DAH
    enjoy.. enjoy.

  16. Burn is veering off into the banal and weird. When enlarged to wall size??? 640×480 enlarged to wall size? Oh, come on.

    Burn seems intent with officiating at the death of photography.

  17. Very compelling Michal, I love the way some of the people shown are in mid expression. It does seem to be a bleak place; did you choose your subjects to project this particular view of humanity? By this I mean is such a melancholy, lonely place the habitat of the majority of people in their unguarded moments or are these people chosen to project a particular mood to the audience.

    I must admit that I would be uncomfortable taking such photographs. While we all wish, at times, for an invisible camera; would we really be happy with it? I certainly would not want to get caught using such a device as yours. Openly photographing is one thing, such stealth photography is another. That said, I can see why you use this technique and love the way you are using technology to produce something that was not intended by the manufacturer.

    Congratulations on such a riveting essay,


  18. Jim, have you seen these photographs enlarged to wall size? No? Neither have I: but I’m happy to take Michal at his word. I have read before that some of the early digital files that you would expect to be eclipsed by the latest camera and print technology look rather good when printed large. Not the same as the latest techniques, but good.

    Besides the enlargement issue, what did you think of the photographs? The technique?


  19. “Burn is veering off into the banal and weird” That’s a pretty outrageous take coming from a wrestler of your note Mr Powers

  20. imo permission is an element of photography chosen by the photographer. you either work with or without it. that doesn’t mean you can appreciate both sides. each has it’s place. i happen to work “with” i love this place.

  21. With both old digital technology and moving subjects, it takes considerable skill and talent to overcome the substantial shutter lag. So kudos for harnessing this aged equipment so effectively.

  22. I know quite a few people doing variations on this theme. Most do it by hip shooting and cropping. The final effect is the same, and I tend to like it. Not something I do much myself these days, but the emotional impact is undeniable. Does tend to polarize opinion somewhat though.

  23. Utterly surreal. The Man Ray of our times. I personally adore this essay but then I am one who considers it a compliment to be called weird. The “death of photography”? If so, I am happy to be a pallbearer. Michal is a damn genius IMO and I am delighted to be introduced to his work. Would I want to be his subject? Why not. Hey, I look worse than this in my bathroom mirror.

    To my eye, this is visual poetry. No, it’s not pleasant or flattering or even true-to-life. But it IS real and gritty and original. It would not ever be my style because I really love making connections with my subjects, even in my street shots, but it sure as hell works for Michal and that’s all that counts.



  24. Thank you David and thank you all!

    I am overwhelmed. When I got to Kathleen Fonseca’s message, tears came.

    @ian aitken – I am very aware of the inherent “cruelty” of making these portraits/caricatures public, but that is part and parcel of all portrait photography.

    @jared iorio – When I spoke of Walker Evans, I had “Many Are Called” in mind: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4156233

    @david alan harvey – First, thanks again!!! Second, I’m glad I made you look in that mirror of yours, through my eyes! Bull’s eye! :-)

    @david bowen – The on on the back of the book is my favorite as well…


    I consider it the signature image of the set. Though the photo was made without Johny knowing, he is not a stranger to me. On that day, sitting in an East Village McDonald’s, I thought I may be seeing him for the last time: he just found out that his girlfriend died of a heroin overdose, in Florida. Next time I saw him, he was clean, employed, and when I told him of the photo, he demanded a print. I was over the moon with happiness to deliver it, the next day!

    That particular image is also the one I had in mind when I said that some of these have been blown up to wall size. As such, it was purchased for the corporate collection of Northland Organic Foods:


    It is hung in their corporate mansion, facing the main window. I’m told that at night, “Johny rules the neighborhood.”

    David edited what I supplied to him, to make this slide show. I asked him not to take any images out of the mix but he ignored me and slashed away anyway. Here is the complete set as I see it, in the order it appears, in the Blurb book:


    @Jim Powers – Here is one, hot off the press:


    I use interpolation software and massage the image during the enlarging process, so when it is finished, you don’t see any pixels. The closer you get to the wall sized print on canvas, the more the image appears to be a like a water color painting. I do not think what I’m doing is killing photography. I’ll leave that to all those who stage, invent and then photograph fantasy, abuse Photoshop, or both.

    I have to bring up one more thing. The eyemod is not at all the only camera I use. I make a living as a live entertainment photographer. Here is my other website:


    Here is more about that:


    Thanks again to you all! I’m thrilled, moved and truly happy!!!


  25. I have to agree with Jared on this one. Although I do find some of these portraits exciting and intriguing, I think these portraits are low fruit. Not necessarily because they were captured using the PDA camera, but because most of the people in the photographs happen to have naturally expressive faces.. I didn’t see a moment captured, just voyeuristic and slightly exploitative snapshots of visually interesting people. I know photography can take many forms and the aesthetic is not inherently “low fruit”, and plenty would argue that this series of photographs has far more levels of meaning beyond the purely aesthetic. I actually like the idea of using the PDA camera, and I suppose one could look at this series as a statement on technology and privacy. It’s just that these photographs feel unethical (plenty of room for debate I know!). Like secretly taking a photograph of a passed-out homeless person with a cellphone camera because the photographer doesn’t have the compassion or tact to look beyond the surface.

  26. Richard Mark Dobson

    Amazing pictures Michal. I get a sense that instead of looking at these people I am them. So close I can hear them think, like I’m inside their heads……brilliant!

  27. I have loved Michal’s project 640×480 since the moment I first met him and I am very happy to see his work here. For me, what I love best is how this work has evolved and bent from his earlier, beautiful and very traditional work (his beautiful work of his homeland Czech republic is very special) and it’s relationship to some of the work he does with theatre. Knowing that Michal is originally from Czech Republic, I can’t help but here that strange and magical sense of humor, of the oddity, that is Czech laughter, love and literature. Laughable Loves ;)))…and i do love all the swelling, pixelation that comes with these small, hand-held devices, especially important in our TV/ComputerMonitor/Cellphone/Digital camera lives. In some senses, it feels much more like the life of urban living than do the beautifully composed med format pics also common now. For me, it is still that humor, that collision and that authenticity that excites me….

    death of photography?….egads…..i say, the fully, exploding, meandering, bifurcating, multiplying face of photography….that photography is not, not any longer, the province of newspapers, expensive-equipment phootgraphers, wealthy or narrow-minded, but photography is, one of the great collective expressions….we are snapping the world around us, passing it along the web and facebook and cell phones and more of us take more photographs than ever before…this doesnt mean the pictures are better, nor does it signal the demise of the practice, but it’s expansion….just as digital moving cameras doesnt mean Studios will not produce movies but that movies might better reflect the diversity of the lived life around…

    thank you so much Michal for sharing your mad, strange, celebrant photographic life. I am so thrilled to see you here.

    hellos to that other photographer in the family :))


  28. @Mike R – “did you choose your subjects to project this particular view of humanity?”

    I don’t know who said it but they were right: every portrait is a self-portrait. I am extremely aware of the fact that on the street I photograph only people who fascinate me. And I am dead certain my fascination with them stems from identifying with them. I truly am all the people you see in these photos.

  29. what characters!!!
    what fun!!
    the lines on a face
    tell the story…
    where are these characters?
    I will,
    no doubt,
    be looking for them on the street…
    once again,
    it is VISION
    that takes a photo,
    not the gear!!!!
    in your face…..
    Curious David,
    which one did you see in the mirror?

  30. John

    “I know quite a few people doing variations on this theme. Most do it by hip shooting and cropping”

    Lisette Model and others have used this technique. Kinda like mining the negs for gems.

    One of the reasons I like this collection of photos is the low tech aspect. I’ve always used the latest whiz-bang gear in my work, but love using very old low end cameras, point and shoot cameras and home-made contraptions. Thirty years ago I shot hundreds of panoramas with a fixed focus Olympus half frame camera. It’s just plain fun.

    Michal is a working pro with a sense of play. This collection is an inspiration. I’d LOVE to see some of these big.

    Gordon L

  31. Jim

    “Burn seems intent with officiating at the death of photography”

    Jim, the digital revolution is nothing less than the re-invention of photography. I love it.

  32. Very impressive and fascinating work. It certainly demonstrates that the obsession with ever higher resolution pixel counts on camera sensors is techno-fetishism and marketing nonsense that has little to do with being able to take arresting images.

    As several commenters have mentioned, the portraits are really more like caricatures, and since they may be portraying the subjects in a less than flattering light, there might be some privacy issues here… My understanding of fair use editorial photography legality in the US is that as long as subjects are not intentionally portrayed in a demeaning or slanderous way, then permission is not necessary for publication in a non-commercial editorial context. I wonder if a few of these might push that envelope a bit, at least in the eyes of the subjects? Which raises a few questions in my own mind for pondering… when the photograph is an act of stealth, does the degree of physical closeness itself become an issue, not just legally but also ethically? I think it’s uncharted territory, because in that sense, this series of ultra-stealth and ultra-intimate portrait-caricatures are actually quite ground-breaking.

  33. I have to comment on the “distortion” factor. A lot of these images were made as a pan. Most of the people in them were walking toward and past me. The eyemod has a very slow moving scanner, which writes each line of pixels horizontally, before it moves on the the next, lower line. This slow scan, while panning, results in distorted backgrounds. But as long as I am panning at the speed or my moving subject, they are not distorted, only the background is. I know, that is what creates the optical illusion of distorted faces. But in fact the faces are distorted very little, if at all. Here is an example of extreme movement distortion:


  34. Michal,

    Thanks for the link. I never for a moment thought that you wouldn’t be acutely aware of the potential legal situation of what you’re doing. While the court decisions affirm the legality of stealth photography as art in principle, at least in New York State, they still leave many questions open… But as I said, I think your work is quite ground-breaking, and the future of this kind of intimate stealth work vis a vis privacy law is probably still uncharted territory. It will be interesting to see how things develop.
    Incidentally, I looked at your website and really enjoyed your theatrical photography, most especially the Minnesota Opera’s “Lakme”.

  35. Uncharted legal territory for sure, Sidney. For this and many other “staying clean” reasons, I will never allow any of these images to do anything but to stand on their own, or as a set, for purely “artistic use.”

  36. Akaky, I love it when people look at the toy, while I’m making the photo. But don’t let that fool you. That does not mean they know they are being photographed. It means they’re trying to figure out what that is in my hands, and what I’m doing with it. Last thing on their mind is that I’m making their portrait.

  37. Bob Black brought up Czechoslovakia in Transition:

    Web: http://www.proofsheet.com/transition
    Book: http://is.gd/woa9

    I think it is interesting to pull up here because nobody would ever guess these two projects were done by the same person. It points to the fact that each project demands its own point of view, and therefore its own tools. And it’s up to each of us to decide what that means, and how to implement it.

  38. Ouch #5 makes my teeth hurt! (and I don’t have the greatest set in the world).

    Love this. When I was in Japan I thought of all the great photos one could do with a cellphone as half the population is texting most of the time no one would know what you are doing (turns out that Japanese cell phones can’t have the shutter sound disabled by law – of course that’s no longer a problem as phones go global).

    Death of photography? Give me a break. More like breathing new life into an old horse.

    And when I hear of the wall size prints I think of Ute Barth and Thomas Ruff. I’m sure you’d really HATE those two Jim (wink wink).

  39. Michal! :)))))

    exactly :))))))))))….ok, i have to shut up. doing the editor stuff, means i must not give too much of my opinion ;))….but, I am happy you are here and have shown your Czech project…a great collision and range between the two, which both tilt toward the same idea:

    celebration and reverence for the beauty and oddity of life :)))




  40. Kathleen Fonseca


    To love this essay you must truly love the landscape that is the human face. Not everyone does. We all enjoy varying degrees of empathy. Fascination with faces and expression varies from one person to the next. Autistics lack the ability to empathize to some degree or another which produces social alienation because they cannot read and interpret visual social cues. Many (most? all?) are even repelled by eye contact. i sometimes think it is almost as difficult to be ultra sensitive to human expression. I can be moved to take a photo because of powerful or even sublimely subtle human expression when actually the photo meets a ¨so?¨ reaction from others who regard the expression as too commonplace to warrant shooting at all. This confuses me because i used to think we all ´saw´ the same things when we look at people. It has become clear that we do not. How many times have i looked through the lens at a total stranger and suddenly seen overwhelming sadness, illness, despair, seething emotion, that i could not ´see´ with the naked eye. I am sometimes so struck that i take the camera away from my face to look at the person again, blinking to somehow clear my vision thinking the camera has deceived me. When i am editing i am hyper aware of the effect of altering levels, curves, or contrast on the expression and personality of the subject. With a simple slide i can turn an innocent child into a lolita, a sympathetic expression into one of melevolence, young and immature into wary and street hardened. This is not a power to take lightly or with moral indifference.

    Michal, when i said your photos have been distorted by the lens, i was not referring to the physical dimensions or characteristics of the face, it´s geometry as it were. I was referring to the distortion that results from elminating mid tones and heightening contrast contrast. Your camera has created exceptionally strong portraits of people whose faces were already out there in terms of strength, edginess, mental or emotional instability, substance abuse or wear and tear from hard lives. Your attraction to extreme facial expression and the use of a camera that sees none too delicately are a perfect marriage resulting in overhwelmingly strong characters that inhabit the far extreme of human expression. Expressions that most will appreciate because they´re that strong, that over the top. It is unfortunate that so many are inhibited by legal considerations and privacy concerns to really enjoy the experience of this essay. Life is so short, i will let Michal worry about these concerns while i enjoy the hell out of his work.

    ¨Like secretly taking a photograph of a passed-out homeless person with a cellphone camera¨

    As a street shooter who sometimes shoots from the hip, sometimes through the viewfinder, sometimes asks permission, sometimes interacts, sometimes doesn´t, i am upset by this statement. You might see stealth shooting as being completely amoral. I can only speak for myself but the kind of photo you describe is one i would never take. Also children in vulnerable situations, cripples, sickness are others that i think very hard about. Never say never but till now, i shy away from those subjects. When we look at Michal´s photos, we share the same responsibility to respect the subject as the photographer who shot the photos. If you laugh at, despise or feel contempt for one of Michal´s subjects then you defeat the purpose of the photograph. YOU the viewer takes the photo into an insulting and demeaning place. If, on the other hand you appreciate the infinite variety of human expression and the uniqueness of each of us then you honor the subject. That does not mean that all photos will be flattering to the vanity of the subject, just that it is up the photographer and the viewer to honor the unique soul and landscape of the subject. Not sure if i am making this clear..it´s hard to actually write about but this is what i really feel and the moral code that i shoot by.


  41. “When we look at Michal’s photos, we share the same responsibility to respect the subject as the photographer who shot the photos”

    I don’t see stealth shooting as amoral, as a documentary photographer it is often necessary to shoot from the hip or take photographs of people when they are unaware that they are the subject of my photographs. I use the example of photographing the homeless person because I feel like Michal’s photographs border on unethical voyeurism. I do appreciate the infinite variety of human expression and all of our unique qualities, but knowing that many of the people being photographed in this essay would feel exposed, degraded, and taken advantage of, I think this appreciation is easily lost. In this situation the photographer didn’t respect the subject, so how can the audience be told to be respectful?

  42. I can’t seem to get into the true spirit of critique here. You all go places I’ve never been. Everything I have seen in Burn has merit in it’s own way. Like, dislike, neutral… I don’t know.

    OK, let’s give it a shot: Michael, I am drawn to these images and at the same time repelled. I like some of them but somehow feel cheated because of the “sneaky” way they are taken. There is never any indication that your subjects are even now aware that they are in a book that they can purchase! I suspect that I put such great value in connecting with my subjects or if I cannot, I try to create something that does not debase or embarrass. Is this important? I think so, but that is my thing.

    The images have an interesting quality about them but in a manipulated and somewhat arty way. Perhaps that is why I cannot make a thumbs up or down about them. I keep asking myself are these what they are?

    Red Beans and Ricely yours,


  43. i love this work. of course, i am also a fan of moving in and getting close – but this takes it to a different level. these are raw, interesting and fun to look at – i could look at more! i would love to buy one of these too!

  44. I dunno…. Personally i’m not totally sold on this. I love that you are doing something different and very unique (although a little Gilden), but I also feel that you are kind of ridiculing these people a little. You seem to be focusing on a certain type and depicting them at there worst, almost trying to make them look bad. I wonder how these people would feel if they stumbled across your work? Have you ever spoken to any of your subjects about what you do?

    Maybe i’m being too sensitive here?… We all take sneaky frames every-so-often, but I one of the things I love most about photography is my interactions with my subjects when I work. Maybe that’s why I find it a little difficult to connect with this work personally. 10/10 for a creative approach though!

  45. Michael — I don’t believe you’re doing anything illegal or unethical taking these portraits at all — but I believe the case you’re citing as legal precedent was actually not heard by the courts — and that they threw it out on a statute of limitations (1 year) technicality, avoiding the issue altogether.

    By the way,for what it’s worth, this essay is growing on me — maybe just from hearing you talk about it, maybe because of the photos, not really sure.

    DAH — I have an email coming (tomorrow). After putting together the magazine I’ve been working my real job, job, job type job non-stop. Safe trip.

  46. Michal

    “David edited what I supplied to him, to make this slide show. I asked him not to take any images out of the mix but he ignored me and slashed away anyway. Here is the complete set as I see it, in the order it appears, in the Blurb book:”

    Interesting that your “signature shot” was not included here. I have to say I agree with Davids choice to leave it out. It and the other shot of the heavily tattooed guy I find the least interesting of the lot. The shots are interesting because of the tattoos, but otherwise are not as strong as the other stuff, which is amazing.

    It is sometimes hard to have an objective perspective when judging your own stuff.

    This is amazing stuff Michal. I’m reminded of Leonardo Da Vinci’s caricature drawings, and some of Lisette Models work. Good on ya.

    Gordon L.

  47. Wow, these are very raw and close. I like the Gilden reference and don’t see that as anything negative. I see you are not searching out the sexiest people alive but have an essay of just the right amount of frames in my opinion. Some of the perspectives seemed rather wide or distorted which is what makes these devices unpredictable and even fun. Am going to check out your 640×480.net.

  48. Michal— I never tire of looking at these. This time, I had the thought that you are putting us closer to these people than we get to anyone but our parents, our children, our lovers.


  49. I think some may find these images uncomfortable because we’re not use to still images of people, in the midst of expression. Usually, a portrait or candit photograph is rather still, not in movement and certainly not close up.
    These photograph’s remind me of those images we see of sky divers faces, or athelet’s faces when they are in their process. Sort of in trauma.
    Love to see a series of people laughing close up.

  50. Kathleen Fonseca

    Hi Matt

    “but knowing that many of the people being photographed in this essay would feel exposed, degraded, and taken advantage of”

    How do you know this? I could just as easily say the opposite, that everyone depicted here would be thrilled to see themselves in this project and i would be just as wrong as you. That would be my subjective take. Just as it is yours. We don’t know so why should we play God? How can you say that when you shoot candidly from the hip that you are respecting your subject any more or less than Michal is respecting his? Don’t you see how judgmental and self-righteous that is? As far as naturally expressive people being ‘low fruit’, have you not considered the wealth of expression provided by a subject like this? Why on earth would a bland, expressionless 45 year old businessman (for example) be fruit higher on the tree than any of these individuals? It is extremely challenging to capture a subject as expressive as these. Why? Because they are superficially easy to shoot. But capture a uniquely expressive person in a particularly telling moment with lo-tech equipment and do it superbly, as Michal has done..ah, now tell me, is that high or low fruit?


    I am truly surprised and sad really to hear how many are concerned about the ethical/legal/privacy aspects of these photos. Do you not ever think about how many times your mug is captured on videos during your day-to-day activities and archived who knows where and for who knows how long or for who knows what purpose? And does anyone examining your precious face for security or investigative reasons give a crap about your unique qualities or whether you have been caught in a flattering moment? Is the difference here one of guilt that you are seeing Michal’s amazing faces and you are fascinated by them? And what, i really would ask what, would happen if no one ever went onto the street again to capture the way we live, what we do, and that we are here? The thought makes me literally ill. Someone needs to know that Michal’s subjects exist, that they are fabulously vital, interesting people who have lived full lives that are written across every square inch of their faces and earned the right to ‘tell’ us how and what they feel during just one fleeting moment in time. One precious moment that will never come again. I feel so fortunate to have ‘met’ every last person in this essay.

    ok, well, yeah, so..


  51. Hmm…

    I have the same reaction as Paul. some of the images I am attracted to, and then I realize the subject had no idea they were being photographed, and it’s spoiled for me, somehow….

    Some of the distortion is a bit much – some of the images are very compelling, though…

    I don’t know why….but at this point I think if I knew they were taken with teh subjects knowledge, I would be amazed…as it is, I feel sort of cheap, as if I’m peeking where I shouldn’t…hard to explain.

    But certainly an interesting approach, and Michal has seemed to have mastered the method….

    good light, all.


  52. I try not to be picky about how we use words here on Burn but I’m afraid tonight I must make an exception. I know it was not meant in a negative way but please folks don’t use the word “cripple” when referring to persons with a disability. Unfortunately Jerry Lewis and his Labor Day muscular distrophy telethon has given people the erroneous idea that that word is still acceptable, but that is one of the many reasons why most disability organizations and individuals protest Lewis’ depictions of the people he “helps.”

    IMO the most respectful way to refer to such individuals as myself is to say we are persons with a disability.


  53. Kathleen Fonseca, I’m crying. You know exactly why. All I’m going to add is this. How many times have we all looked at photos in the paper, made by who knows whom, without paying any attention to all the people in the frame, splattered all over the front page. Death, destruction, mayhem. Anyone ask these people if it was OK with them to be in the frame? Worldwide? Unconsidered, really? Just a sideline, to the “Main Event,” whatever horror it may be.

    My intent is to do the exact opposite. To try and see. To try as hard as I can to see. And when I succeed in seeing, really seeing, to share it.

    No more, no less.

  54. That’s shaky ground all that political correctness……..things change meaning from country to country and with language sometimes a direct translation leads odd structures and meanings. Remember this site is international and I am not sure that all are willing to tow line of the American ideal

  55. panos skoulidas


    I think I like you..
    Reason: you have a WICKED SENSE OF HUMOR…
    you are what I need for my LATE LATE SHOW…
    I wish u could live in LA so we can hung..
    I mean really … I mean iam really really a bad comedian..
    I always wanted to be a comedian and I ended up abusing a little Leica instead..
    Again man.. What’s not to love about you??

    Now.. Another reason that I love you is that you are the only person published here
    that makes me Agree with Everyone … But…but half way..!!
    Half way???
    WTF does that mean???
    Ok.. I’ll explain as short as Bobb can do…

    let’s go straight to the point..
    Your essay is what we call in Cali..
    “hey SMILE… you’re on CANDID CAMERA..!!!!
    …and then the victim smiles..
    (hey at least I’m on TV the victim thinks.. and ALL IS HAPPY..)

    In your case though.. The victim does not have this satisfaction…
    Like at all.. You know what I mean????
    Even the newer version…
    PUNK’D from MTV ( u know Demi Moore’s gold digger…Ashton Kutchner)
    at least in the end they know…
    Someone here mentioned B.GILDEN…
    I would say this is the EXACT OPPOSITE..
    180 degrees…
    Of course you are NOT HONEST..
    of course you are full of shit..
    Of coures this is not fair..
    Of course this is not photography..
    Of course you don’t have the “balls” to
    confront the core and spine of photography..
    Of course you are an insane , perverted CHEATER…
    but my oh my …
    Do I love what u do..
    Is it “Howard Stern” eligible…
    Of course it is…
    Man I love u,…
    You made me laugh..
    I need friends like you..
    You are a genius..
    Yes u are…
    But this time… I will agree with Jim..Jared and
    Half ALL…
    this is just a genius PRANK..
    definitely not photography …
    And I know u know..
    And I know you don’t care..
    And that’s why I love you..
    Big hug

  56. “Do you not ever think about how many times your mug is captured on videos during your day-to-day activities and archived who knows where and for who knows how long or for who knows what purpose?”

    True enough,Kathleen but a,perhaps, very important distinction is that these images of Michaels
    are being monetized for commercial gain by an individual and are not purely documents of
    historical record.


  57. Imants, I’m sorry if I offended the international readers on this site. That was certainly not my intent. Personally I am always grateful when someone who has true expertise in a subject offers me advice in a respectful way. As a woman who lives with a disability myself, trust me, I am not talking about “political correctness” here. I am talking about simple respect.


  58. panos skoulidas, next time I’m in LA, the beer is on me! My brother Martin lives there, so hopefully sooner than later!

    Mark Tomalty, monetized? Not yet. The money I spent on learning what I know and putting it out there has not come back to me, by a long shot. If it ever does, I’ll try my hardest to share it with everyone that made it happen. My guess is that will happen after I’m dead, so you’ll have to speak to my son about the monetized part.

  59. Alan P. Hayes, long time, no see. Miss you, Sir! And I thought you had this book. My mistake.

    jared iorio, the most important work to me I hated when I first saw it. Robert Frank’s Americans comes to mind first. Hated it. Glad my stuff is making its way under your skin. :-)

  60. Kathleen Fonseca


    From Wikipedia:

    “A cripple is a person or animal with a physical disability, particularly one who is unable to walk because of an injury or illness. The word was recorded as early as 950 AD, and derives from the Proto-Germanic krupilaz[1]. The German and Dutch words Krüppel and kreupel are cognates.
    The word generally came to be regarded[who?] as pejorative when used for people, in the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada during the 1960s. In other English-speaking countries, the term is still widely used without pejorative connotations.”

    Patricia, please don’t talk to me in third person. This is the third time i have had to ask this in this forum and it’s beginning to upset me. if you object to something i say, i think you and i know each other well enough to simply say so and know there will be understanding. So, in terms of simple respect, i will not use the word cripple again in this forum and i would ask that you not speak to others in the highly disrespectful third person.

    Many thanks for your consideration

  61. Nobody really asked how these came about in the first place. Why? Why do this? Because I walk my neighborhoods. Because they’re my neighbors. Because I live with these people. I walk past them every day I’m in there. Because I know them. Because I love them. Because they will be gone and if I don’t record them nobody will remember. Because they’re me.

  62. Michael

    I don’t believe the legal process would view it this way.
    I understand your point about not realizing any significant profit to offset the cost
    and time in perfecting your technique and imagery but, I would imagine, that selling
    prints and books would constitute monetizing the images.

    Make no mistake, I find many of your images in this set very compelling but it doesn’t take
    much imagination to realize what could happen, in a litigious climate, should but one of your
    subjects see their image on display and be upset with the interpretation.


  63. Kathleen Fonseca


    “To try as hard as I can to see.”

    Yes, i know. We walk and walk and walk. We look and look and look. We see someone, we gauge the moment, we hold our breaths, we miss the moment, we move on, we try again. Studying faces until we’re dizzy blind and dazzled by the sea of humanity all around us. Just one face, one moment, one incredibly unique person whose face speaks a human truth that cannot be denied. Just one sculpturally perfect clay-crafted face with eyes, mouth, light, psyche, worn and torn into a human truth. How much is that to ask, how hard should that be to find?


    yes, i know, it is very, very hard. And your newspaper/media thoughts are also appreciated. How often do i see photos here of tragedy and death and the poor widows and children are screaming in horror and shock and it’s right there on the front page and in the evening news channel. brrr…gives one chills.


    You know, you ‘might’ almost have me on that argument except that we honestly do not know that our faces and movements on tape are not being used surreptitiously. That’s the climate we live in now. I am not paranoid. I don’t spend time wondering if the bank is analyzing my transactions on tape in order to develop new marketing strategies on my ‘behalf’. I don’t know if my travel history or hotel stays or meanderings down the streets are not being recorded to document my movements. No i don’t think about that. Yes, i do consider that widespread abuse of my privacy when i choose to shoot my beloved public who i cherish for their generosity of human expression. Making money on my efforts? hahahahaha, mainly the only thing i hope is to do a book and dedicate it to all the “Josefinos” (people of San Jose) who have shared their quiet moments of expression with me over the years. And to make that book somehow available at cost to any and all who would like to have it.


  64. Mark, I know. I’m not a lawyer. I’m wide open. So be it. Should the law come down on me, I’ll cease and desist. Would not be the first time. The last time the law stepped on me, I was the first – and then exclusive – importer of Fomapan film into the US. Kodak stepped on me then. Google it, you’ll know. One step at a time…

  65. Kathleen Fonseca


    Yes, you and i see things exactly the same way..i never ‘met’ anyone who felt like this before..thank you so very much…maybe see you in court when we’re both sued for our unflattering capture of one of our beloved subjects. I hope that never happens but i will take my chances, as you will, cuz it’s what we gotta do.


  66. Another thing. I’m not making these pictures for you living people. Not at all. I’m thinking a hundred years from now. With all my personal stuff.

  67. mark,

    this is how i started your essay
    and this is how ill end it tonight.
    (fade… thanks again… zzzz)

  68. Michal, duuuuude, Michal. you are geek with a gene. All i can ask you – what the eff you gonna do after buying all eyemodules and there is none left? or you bought them all already ?
    i had been visiting your vga site on and off for quite a while. since handspring was born.

    awesome work… awesome. i’ll treat you to that beer you gonna buy for Panos when you are visiting your brother.


    PS – i have an idea for your crappy vga photos :). just wait.

  69. Yes, Haik. I did buy enough for what I need. On eBay. Cheap. I have about twenty eyemods waiting for the one I’m using to break down. At least ten have already met their maker. Sad comment on technology, waste, all that. I know. All I can do is make the best of it. Trying. Looking forward to the brew with you! :-)

  70. One more thing and then I’m going to bed because I’m toast. Anyone too scared to speak up, please speak up. I want to hear from you more than anyone else. Thank you for your courage!

    Going to bed overflowing with feedback, love you ALL for it, wish this priceless feeling were something I could experience every day!!!


  71. My first reaction as I was watching this selection was that it must have something to do with the elderly. About the time I reached this conclusion photos of younger generations started appearing. Because the subjects are not aware that they are being photographed, it reminds me of surveillance. My idea of surveillance is that people are generalized as suspects. These photos also seem to deem the people as suspects through the grotesque and unflattering way that they are portrayed.

    Despite the unflattering shots, I think the color is intensely beautiful. I would really like to see the larger prints in person (mainly to see the painterly effect.)

    Best Regards.

  72. Chris Mitchell

    I can totally relate to these images and your method Michal because I am completely shy. So many times I dont go for the shot for that very reason, getting over that hurdle is going to unlock alot of things for me. As for the presence of a camera changing the dynamics of a moment, that is another one I have experienced all too often. So many people have tried to tell me that I cant photograph somewhere or they act all weird because a camera is around, of course there could be something that I’m giving off too. It’s all part of the journey I suppose.

  73. misha !

    brilliant to read you interacting so closely with the people commenting here – always interesting and has supplied more links and information to play with.

    could ´in your face´ be an antidote of kinds to the theater photography? i mean to say – photographing what is happening on a stage, through rehearsals or performance, is photographing a presentation – something carefully arranged to look good.. costumes.. movements.
    i spent a year as an in-house photographer to a theater a few years ago and at the time i remember my more random and unpredictable work being a very important distraction..
    moments back stage and more candid happenings still provided an element of randomness.. not enough though.
    so i wonder, to what degree do you think your street work is inspired by your other work?
    where the street work *has to be* in their faces, from experiance the theater work *has* to be from the middle distance.. which for me as a fixed distance to photograph from felt as un-natural as what was happening on the stage.

  74. on legal issues – i would not worry.. and don´t think you do :ø)

    i think the best work is being shot for future generations, as you said yourself, in which case the legal ramifications are irrelevant.. in any case as a long term project you could easily take this around the world..
    the only problem could be model releases for advertising applications or if the location has a set of draconian laws on candid photography… so the tattooed image used supplied with model release, since you already knew johny?

  75. David Rozing

    I like these images, nice faces, maybe little over the top in the type of faces. Most of the faces are kind of “mainstream” ugly ugly, but therefor photo- beautiful, more impressive:) But it also weakens the essay a bit for me because of this cliche, I miss variety there in a way, the more subtle/ cleaner ones, for all I know this one could be about old skins, wrinkles;)
    It’s a fresh look on faces for me, didn’t really look at it this way, it being this unique and impressive as a subject, natural, not manipulated, it looks different, stronger, not (so) controlled or manipulated by self awareness, honest.
    These expressions are lost, not recognised in the moment, these frozen ones you can look at, shown in a way, close, intimate, real, raw, beauty, perhaps because the images/ faces are so honest also a bit embarrassing, revealing more than one would like, for me, the low quality of the images works because it is also raw, basic.

    Bye, David

  76. Barrie Watts


    I’ve looked at these images several times now. They grow on me. I initially felt uncomfortable, intrusive, raw, ugly, didn’t know what to think of them upon my first look. One thing, I kept coming back, so that’s good ! You can’t ignore them, so that’s one hell of a compliment.

    That’s the good thing about Burn, a new surprise every day. Compelling viewing, something to awaken the senses.

  77. My goodness, dear Kat, I awaken this morning to find that I am once again in your doghhouse! I did not mention you by name regarding the use of the word “cripple” because I did not want to make you feel uncomfortable. If I’d had your email address I would have emailed you personally. Mine is playdorsey@comcast.net. Please send me yours.

    Regarding wikipedia including the word “cripple” and giving its definition, I guess that source cannot always be used as the Authority with a captial “A.” Sometimes we/you/I might do better to listen to a person who knows a subject from the inside.


  78. ALL…

    i can see a good dialogue going on and i would love to jump in here, but i am a bit rushed at the moment in Toronto….i just cannot be on much of this week for discussion…however,as always, i am taking whatever time i have for BURN putting it into the editing process and working behind the scenes to develop new stories and ideas with many of you … …some amazing things are coming in to us now…i will post new work this afternoon….stay tuned….

    cheers, david


    Great discussion all. Michal and I, in the past, have discussed this very issue (individual privacy vs. public perception) and is with the sticky notion of freedom (my boundaries intersect the boundaries of the other), this is an area that is not only an important legal, ethcial and moral one, but an elemental starting point for all people to think about and wrestle with when they pursue photography and determine with what means and to what end to they wish to arrive. When the DiCorcia case first broke, three years ago, I wrote an essay about it at Lightstalkers, and followed that up with a text regarding the French law of privacy (an individual is the ‘owner’ of their public appearance). It is tricking grounds, however, one thing that the law has not quite understood (though they ruled in favor of DiCorcia) is that in truth NONE of us OWNS our appearance…it is suspect, defined, used and ‘processed’ every moment of the day when someone looks at us. People with sight (excepting those who are blind, of course) continually look and watch and see and make note of people all around, and then promulgate that information: in blogs, in conversations, in jdugements in reaction to people. Moreover, the tricky bit too is that our laws and our conceptions (metaphysical and legal) have not quite caught up with technology. Soon, we’ll have ‘cameras’ embedded in our eyes, or will be able to wear lenses (like contact) that photography…thus more exactly mimicing our biological way of ‘seeing’ the world…what then? the problem with the French idea that each person ‘owns’ their public identity is a slippery one, though born from a very french philosophical tradition, undermines a more fundamental biological and sociological (pyschological too) basic notion: we are not necessary who we look like, nor to we in truth have autonomy from the Other’s judgements/perceptions/values (see Levinas for a brilliant and profound understanding of this). What to do with all that?…at some point, for me at least, it comes to the murky idea about intent…as well as value. What are the gains (financial, social, judical) earned/taken from photographing people. The relationship between our Social contract/responsibility and something more fundamental…I do not wish to write a long trieste about this, at least not now in role of an editor, but this question, raised by work such as Michal’s (or gilden’s) or any one of my students snapping away pics of strangers with cellphones, digital cameras…my son and his friend making films of people with their hand-held sony camera they think are funny…(and he and i have spoken at great lengths about this)…

    At some point, I promise to write a Post about this, drumming up conversation…in the mean time, I trust and hope that you continue to discuss/debate/argue this issue…as well as the use of language…(i’ve had this discussion to with Patricia, David, other writers)…how does one balance their individual need for ethic, for moral identity, human autonomy and respect versus anothers idea of that language, identity, credibility, respect….

    One of the things, i think, we must remove from ourselves, is our, nearely ingrained, notion that our identity, our nomenclature of worth/value, is important but does not mean that another’s should subscribe the same….tricky stuff…

    language can wound, so can imagery, but is the wounding about the inherent nature of words/pictures or about our inability to transcend, our inability to allow for messy other’s work/ideas/words/behaviors…

    i hope you all continue…important and critical stuff..

    and thanks again for Michal, for being so thoughtful and willing to engage :))…I appreciate it immensely..

    carry on


  80. david bowen, about photographing theatre vs. street, you’re absolutely right. It is an antidote for me, always was. Actually, street is where my heart has been all my photographic life. Theatre came much later, when I was asked to apply my street photography skills to help publicize a documentary film that friends were making about a now defunct troupe. One thing lead to another after that, I got a grant to do behind the scenes theatre, then got a job doing publicity. Very quickly it became apparent to me that in theatre work, there is very little room for my personal creativity. That is not why they hired me. They have me there to record – in the best way possible – what has been carefully presented. It is not about me. It is about them, their process, their creativity, their needs. On the street it’s all mine. I pour all of myself into it, my way, for my reasons. Yin and yang. Glad you asked, even though you already knew. :-)

  81. david bowen, I don’t have any model releases from anyone, not even Johny. But for selling a piece of art, as such, not for any other advertising purpose other than to hang on a wall in a corporate mansion, I don’t need one. Nor do I need one for the books because they don’t represent anything but art. The images are not used for any other purpose except to make them available as artistic objects. With all that, as far as I know, I’m on solid legal ground, for now…

  82. Because of the “multimedia” nature of BURN, I find it necessary to point out the brilliant movies my good friend Bill Ulrich made from my stills:


    NYC21 is made from eyemods, The Miser is from one run of the play, photographed with a Canon 1DmII, Hold consists of singular street and theatre photos, and Hurry Slowly was his first, made years ago, from my Czechoslovakia in Trasition photos. Here is Bill:


    This one on his site was made from photos I made over a period of months, while the new Guthrie theater was being built:


    In my humble opinion, Bill is a genius, breaking new ground.

  83. I have been familiar with Michal’s images for some time..I keep thinking about what I want to say and it still isn’t flowing out of me, but I am fairly clear that I am most drawn to about you Michal is your absolute….F***, I can’t find the !! words. You imbibe life, marry it with your concept, have a dedicated, devoted, real love affair with it, and honor the process of putting it down into a physical quantity that can be adored and examined and cherished beyond the moment. I don’t see a separation between you and your work, and for that, you raise the craft to art, but more importantly, you honor the muse to the fullest and you are rewarded for it. Though I find it powerful and compelling, this body isn’t my favorite, but for me that doesn’t matter one bit because I have a larger map of you as a photographer, and i get this road even though i may not want to long dwell on it..

    and speaking of “hat’s off” (bob’s congrats to you) I think you know how moved I am as a photographer by the series you did with the camera under the hat..and I must must have a book of these if not a portfolio of prints. I wish you could find a way to make these accessible to all, but also, to me :)))

  84. Erica, now I can’t find the words of appreciation!! The under the hat work is no longer linked to my sitemap because I don’t want kids to accidentally come across it. Here it is, please enter only if you’re an adult:


    I do have a Blurb book of these ten, but it’s not made public, for obvious Blurb reasons. But next time we’re in the same town together, I’ll be more than happy to get you one! :-)

  85. Kathleen Fonseca


    i am not angry with you. I have tried in the past to e-mail you to both addresses but my e-mails are refused because of some kind of filter on your end. I think really the Wikipedia entry was interesting because it specifically mentions that use and implications of a word from country to country can vary, even among countries speaking the same language. It is so very true in Spanish. What is an adjective meant affectionately in this country can be a dire insult in Mexico for example. I think there should be allowances for these differences when considering whether the person using the offending terminology is an ignorant and callous individual or someone who just isn´t aware of their offense according to another country´s customs. It is really impossible not to cross boundaries of political correctness when crossing cultural borders on a global site. I might be from NJ but i have lived many, many years in a Latin culture and we would fail every single test for political correctness that your average Californian would pass with flying colors. Morevoer, i am sort of happy about that. While initially coming from a good place, current PC standards in the US have grown to be be overly restrictive and well, rediculously uptight. But you kind of have to view those changes from the outside to see what i mean and i am not saying this about you or your sensitivity to the crass abuse of disabled persons by, well, too many of us.

    I would never hurt your feelings or offend you on purpose and i think you know that. This is the second time i have said something that has met with your disapproval and i am truly sorry. I am learning from you a great deal about how to be more sensitive to those with disabilities of really any sort. But to be chastised in third person is my personal button at Burn. If you speak conversationally to me directly as opposed to succinctly in third person, it would be a far different exchange. Far from being uncomfortable i would respect the courage it took to come to me honestly and openly and speak your mind.

    My e-mail is dyathink1124@mail.com

    Sorry, Michal for hijacking your thread momentarily. You already know how i feel about your essay :)))

    thanks mucho and bushels, Patri´


  86. Chris Mitchell

    I have looked at this essay several times Michal, I love it. Keep it up. Looking forward to seeing more in the future.

  87. I don’t know why these photographs produce a discussion about legality and such. Nothing wrong with them. You’re not expected to have privacy in public spaces, and these -although close- are quite covert, so the main worry for the subject is probably the invasion of personal space than the fact that a photograph was taken. It’s as if the term ‘public’ hadn’t yet sank in.

  88. Beautiful, strange and telling piece of work. The distortions and “imperfections” seem to tell quite a story about the person being photographed. Very interesting concept, and well executed. I could easily see this becoming a book project.

  89. WOW. When it rains, it pours. Just got a PDN ringy dingy. Interview about this can of worms of mine on Thursday. David Alan Harvey, you ROCK MY WORLD!!! :-)))

  90. Hypnosis. I can not look away. Michal Daniel your work is mesmerizing. The ordinary is truly extraordinary once passed through your filter….
    Thank you for showing us the world through your eyes.

  91. Yeah baby, momentum is building … putting the bus in gear. Congrats Michal :))

  92. Can’t WAIT to post the link. I bet there will be questions about that whole “approach” of mine, just like there have been here.

    Had to go back and look. The last and one and only time my stuff was in PDN, was on the cover of the February 1993 issue, feature story called, “The Twin Cities: Nation’s Second Largest Design Market. A panoramic rehearsal theatre photo of mine was top billing. Such a lovely spiral, to here…

  93. Michal,

    Thanks for making Burn so interesting and allowing the can of worms to open. David, thanks for planting the seed. I feel young again! One day I’ll go public with my blurb book.

    Troutly your,


  94. “but knowing that many of the people being photographed in this essay would feel exposed, degraded, and taken advantage of”

    “How do you know this? I could just as easily say the opposite, that everyone depicted here would be thrilled to see themselves in this project and i would be just as wrong as you. That would be my subjective take. Just as it is yours.”

    Really? You think these people would be thrilled? I’m not being self-righteous, I just see a difference between ridiculing people by taking close-up photographs when they are unaware and taking a frame where a person is part of a greater scene. If this project is moral, what isn’t?

  95. Matt McInnis, please not the fact that the “ridicule” you find in my photos is all yours. I did not have it in mind when I made these images. I did not have it in mind when I collected them into this set. I would not be ashamed, nor have I ever been, to have anyone in my images see themselves pictured through my eyes. Is it immoral? Through your eyes it clearly is. Through mine it is not. I’ve already stated, upstream, what I feel is use of images that goes against my skin. But that is my opinion. Just as yours is, well, yours.

  96. hey michal.. fantastic about pdn and thanks for bringing news back about a positive burn has spun..

    i think matt is giving you good practice for the interview..

  97. Jim P.: Death of photography? So what? Who cares? End of the word as we knew it? Happy trails and good riddance…. If anyone cares to join me coming back from the funeral, I will go out and keep taking pictures. Duh!!!!!

    Michal, here’s one essay I don’t know if I REALLY like it (beyond appreciating what you did and how you did it, which I do). I find the manner, the idea, the dedication in it, and even the technique used totally valid and the talent undeniable. But after 3 faces, i kept hearing myself thinking “yet another angle on the unbearable heaviness of being (might as well used this turn of phrase, since you are originally czech)”. Simply said, I am not sure this is, these days, what attracts me, looking at photos: how marked we are, as humans, by life, by sins and deeds, personal or hereditary, local or global.

    Also, unlike others, I can’t help thinking the markedness on their faces is either your own (achieving a sort of Dorian Gray self-portraiture), or else, an effect of incestous co-sanguinity, rather than the ffect of their individual life history.

    It is a difficult dilemma to answer and pinpoint, why “noticed” (PDN assignment) photography (and styles underlining that philosophy) does tend to gravitate towards drama and the downtrodden aspects of life (real or unfactual-cameras do lie), rather than towards the nothingness/now-ness of happy moments (images/souvenirs of which we actually do remember the best as (for ex.) our end approaches, and help erase all the drama captured incessantly on film or in our psyches).

  98. Kathleen Fonseca


    I think YOU see these people as ugly, ridiculous, foolish, whatever. That’s why you see this project as ridiculing the subjects, as portrayals that the people would find ugly, that they would feel degraded by. If you saw beauty in expressions earned by pure living, in age, experience, emotion, wear and tear..if you saw this kind of reality as beautiful then you would have faith that at least some of these people would totally get off on their portraits.

    Life is not the subject’s best smile shown at the best angle in the best light. That’s not frigging real, that’s Memorex. This is not real either. It’s a crappy camera’s interpretation according to its limited technology. Neither is a paint brush real. It glops on the paint, it streaks, scrapes, dabs, dots, and dribbles a face into being. But would you say the subject would feel demeaned by that kind of interpretation? Even if he knew he was being painted, he has absolutely no control over the artist’s creative translation of his face onto the canvas. Lord, think about Francis Bacon’s interpretation of photos onto canvas, or Gerhard Richter. How do you think their subjects felt to see their faces become mere fodder for an artist’s quirky, sometimes perversely unique expression?

    How about caricatures by Al Hirschfeld that graced the pages of the New Yorker from 1935 till he died at age 99? His drawings emphasized distinctly unglamorous characteristics like jowls, baldness, burly eyebrows, honkin’ noses, big ears, droopy lids, meaty lips. Yet He was declared a Living Landmark by the NYC Landmarks Conservancy. Here’s an irony from his bio that appeared in Editorial Cartoon News in 2003 upon his death:

    “Only once, he admitted, did he set out to portray a person unfavorably: it was an ironic depiction of David Merrick, the producer, whom Hirschfeld drew as a demonic Santa Claus. The picture yielded mixed results.

    “I did everything I could to make him look bad,” Hirschfeld said, “and what happened? He bought the original from me and used it on his Christmas card!”

    So, Matt, let yourself enjoy these portraits. You don’t have to protect Michal’s subjects. Trust him to do his job of seeing and interpreting and respecting his subjects for all the good that they possess within them. Look at his people with new eyes, see their beauty because it IS there! We don’t have to carry around such a heavy weight of judgement and righteous protection of these people. Trust that no harm has been done here. Michal is in love with what he does and with his subjects. I KNOW this because i feel this also when i shoot. It is a love affair that lasts a moment and each of these photos, each of these people is beloved to this photographer.

    And as for this question:

    “If this project is moral, what isn’t?”

    My answer:

    Child fucking porn is immoral that’s what.

    best to you

  99. “I think YOU see these people as ugly, ridiculous, foolish, whatever. That’s why you see this project as ridiculing the subjects, as portrayals that the people would find ugly, that they would feel degraded by. If you saw beauty in expressions earned by pure living, in age, experience, emotion, wear and tear..if you saw this kind of reality as beautiful then you would have faith that at least some of these people would totally get off on their portraits”

    I completely understand what you are saying. I think my interpretation of this project, the peoples faces etc. doesn’t matter. What I find beautiful differs from the next person, and I DO find beauty in the faces of these people. Age and experience doesn’t necessarily equal ugliness or something that should be looked down upon, and that isn’t my argument. I also understand your point about caricatures by Al Hirschfeld and painted portraits that may have significant artistic interpretation. This project just rubs me wrong, its the combination of its sneakiness AND its choice of characters. I think ethics should be discussed, and starting that discussion shouldn’t prompt anger. Photographers have a long history of being ethical watchdogs, and sometimes that lens (excuse the pun) should be turned on the photographer. This is a valid essay, I’m not saying that at all, and the responses and questions it has brought up in discussion makes it a valuable post on Burn.

  100. Kathleen Fonseca

    tTere´s no anger at all, Matt..this conversation with you has probably been more helpful to me than anyone else. It helps me to think through unfinished business i have within myself about shooting people from the hip. Anyway, i understand your feelings. I do. it´s your reaction to this project and that´s how it is. But what we have talked about has been important, just as you say. Very important and i am grateful for your enthusiastic input.

    take care, you :)


  101. Kat-
    ditto. much thanks for your insight, it has definitely challenged my views and pushed me to acknowledge my prejudices. Cheers to a good discussion!

  102. The discussion taking place here has transformed me as well. When I submitted these images to David, I did not imagine this. Sorry I’m all weepy and sappy again but this is the best anyone could ask of the internet.

  103. Kathleen Fonseca


    xoxoxo..you are definitely a cool person to talk to!


    You are nothing but a sentimental fool..hehe, and i say that with the greatest respect..

    xoxoxo to you too!

    best to both of you

  104. Michal! ;))))

    didn’t i warn you a bit back you of the beauty of being here? ;)))))))))…..that is still what, in the beginning, many didnt’ get, but is now beginning to bloom! :))))

    When i told DAH, i’d absolutely do the Editor’s gig (with writing thrown in), i thought: what better way to do something free (if u must) then to work with a close friend and bring challenging, inspirational, and (i hope) engaging work and ideas :)))

    now, dont be too transformed my friend ;))))…cant afford to loose the ‘U’ in you! ;))


  105. My only disapointment right now is that Jim Powers never came back here after saying, on May 3, 2009 at 6:36 am, “Burn is veering off into the banal and weird. When enlarged to wall size??? 640×480 enlarged to wall size? Oh, come on.

    Burn seems intent with officiating at the death of photography.”

  106. jim is jim, michal is michal
    my only disappointment is that you never commented on my comment. :)))

  107. must you be reminded of the loook of disdain
    when you missbeehave!!

    auntie gracie

    (btw, i am still giggling ever since your essay’s been up.
    i also see myself in all of these people – whoever said that.
    i have been every single one of them.)

  108. Luis Gottardi

    Michal…how wonderful to see you and your work again, and specially in this space. I feel privileged and grateful to have seen it develop, growing pains and all. Unlike the controlled space and suspended animation of Evans’ subway portraits, yours are dynamic, dripping with the countless permutations of the street. The human face inside its defense perimeter; at a range that only intimates, doctors and priests ever see us and in that autopilot half-dream that we spend most of our lives in.

    Passionate work like this is a natural fit for such a passionate venture as Burn.

    — Luis

  109. Luis! Thanks for being there, seeing and undertanding, verbalizing what I was doing, when I was just beginning with this. You are one of the pillars on which these pictures stand. I’ll always try to live up to your standard!

  110. Well, the PDN interview sure was intense! David Walker’s questions felt like being photographed by Bruce Gilden, with a heart. Bam of a flash question after question, with kind follow-ups in between, for non-stop fifty minutes. Felt as comfortable as expected, with the spot light in the eyes, being grilled about all that questionable in your face stuff, perpetrated for all these decades. Can’t wait to read the edit!

  111. I was told by PDN that if all goes well, I can look for this work in the next Fine Arts Issue. Fingers crossed, knocking on wood. If there is a link, I’ll post it here. Thanks David, thanks all!

  112. Michal Daniel

    My July copy of PDN has not yet arrived, but a friend called to let me know hers has, and my stuff is in it. Yes! Nothing on-line, though, otherwise I’d post the link. Thanks again, David!

  113. Pingback: La photo du mardi #17 : 640×480px – Michal Daniel « Taorama.net | This is not an exit.

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