bob black - loomings

Bob Black

Loomings Upon an Horizon

Author’s Preface:

It has been more than a year and a half since I completed “Loomings Upon an Horizon” and I have not, until recently, looked at it since except to show it as part of an author’s talk and projection in January 2012.

I have set it adrift and moved on to another and maybe fuller project. It has been a somewhat painful and embarrassing experience looking at it again: akin to recalling a former messier and awkward self. But one abides and in that humour, smiles at the ungainly self one often is.



The above story is an edited version of the final book. I should say that I’ve never been interested in individual photographs, per se, but what pictures do in combination with others, including all the repetitions and motifs you’ll find here and in the longer version, the good with the bad, the confident with the cow-licked and dog-eared.

In my own projects, I rarely experience individual photographs as “good” or “successful” but instead as notes or syllables in the story or emotion I am trying to convey. With the exception of the final tree, I’ve never really liked any of the individual photographs but am instead interested in the noise they make together, notes in a musical score or the texture of brush strokes in a painting.

The original includes drawings and a few poems as well as pictures not included in the BURN version. A longer form of the picture sequence (without the drawings or poems) can be found at the link provided below.



Much of “Loomings” is comprised of a hand-made book (tape and all) but because of the length, it seems not only self-indulgent but, remedially speaking, unfair to ask readers to wade across its full, bloated body here. In this age of already prolonged exposure to the dimming flicker of the LCD squawk, spending too much time glued to the computer screen just feels plain wrong.

Allow your eyes a well-deserved rest away from the buzz of the clicks and hisses. Have a peek and then go out into the world and drift and survey and listen. Also, as for the long author’s text below, I can’t separate the pictures from the words nor the syllables from the tri-x grain. A family. Read it or not, do with it as you will. Brevity has never been one of my graces.


I would like to thank the photographer/writer Ling Ang for her openness in allowing me to quote from her poem for the project. It means a great deal to me, the words and the friendship.

Most importantly, I wish to offer my deep appreciation to David Alan Harvey and the editors at BURN for their gracious patience and humour in wrangling me into shape. Lasso’d without the rope burns.




Related links

Bob Black


“There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness is the true method.”—Herman Melville


“It passes, but it does not pass away.”–Laszlo Krasznahorkai


“And I

am the bodiless

The spectre

The comma nestled between the verbs”

–Ying Ang




Picture this: pollen of garlic light.


The horizon like a finger of wet chicory. The lift of language barrier’d and ballasted by the curve of the land along the sea’s long liquid neck. There, stretching go we.


Swift the sound of scattering wings that clip the space between a window in front  of you and the far-lost long-ago window through which you once pulley’d down the sky: a kite of birds and telephone line, eclipsing.


Stones gather beneath a fallow wall the way tab and tip and beer-caps drift as if dust into the knees of gutters and grassy corners. It is we not the place which is unkempt, is it not?


Bone and feather-less wing, knobby beak and elongated rib of our throat: all that is left of our singing when the song has gone wrong, all that is left when the singing has gone rung, wrong-by-wrong.




So there it is,

Life changes in the quick, a click of this and twitch of that until cut and tissued and forgotten like a careless nick. And all the spanning and the planning. Is it easier said than un-done?


And yet that spark, sparred in the instant, then and there, slipping forward-toward the something and then always (regardless) away.


The change in that unrecognizable mount the way breath fractures its step from the copper in-take of our concavity through the silent soft hum of an exhalation the way the curving land beneath our feet bumbles and joists and cantors without recognizable knowing the earth our death our thoughts the days  dotted by our forward moving and if but we are still enough at times or tumbleweed-headlong-over-heels enough in our racing that moment that cardiac infraction a blip can catch us just long enough in its stilled web for us to more than know it but to see and feel and quarter it like geometry as recipe as the sound of her voice tango’d to the shadow on the wall an intact-tact and of that we need only to touch the transformed carving moment once to know it makes up the days and ways that make up the who of the what we are sung from.




Stick these moments together and exhale. Scatter these photographs each-from-each and turn aside. Have you caught up?


Sung at last and un-lunged.




We create that which invents us and name it home.


Do we not?


And though the world rises before us, we are its constructor. We stitch together from a tapestry of twig and feather the nest from our surroundings, kingfishers tucking at the muck and stain, the light and ligature, tucking the world into our beaks and carrying it over land and time until we’ve perched and begun to shape it into a loamy hull. These hull our refuge.  And all the small crooks and knuckled branches, the memories and experiences, the quotidian and the quixotic churned and chewed into the clay that will shape the world we call home. Along with the detritus and deposits, an accumulated crew of observations gathered and held before us until it remains fast, the outline and scaffolding of “you.” The joinery a loom of trickled time shuttled back and fourth into an assembled shape, the finery a tapestry of earthy materials become a frock that we wear the days of our lives. We call this garment a village, city, nation, home, the turf from which we believe an understanding can emerge, our identity, our malleable, squeaky self. But we are more. We are inventors. Look around. Look around.


What then is this task, the task that we have each set for ourselves in our waking, that which has been described and spoken of as “identifying” and as “seeing”? The hum inside the organ of our being. And what is this thing called place and what is that which we imagine as knowing? Is it not a conjuring, an awakening to the alchemy of our own creation? How is it that we begin to make sense of our whereabouts, how to carve out a home, a patch of time and swatch of hobbled earth into which we can locate ourselves:  between the pitch and pull of the earth? And how does one begin to carve, from the ripened world, a small pocket of safety and calm that defines the place from which you have come and into which you return when left mossy and shorn?


How does one begin to know of which and of what they are.




“Loomings Upon an Horizon” is long and it is conflicted.


Just as I am, conflicted. It has been more than a year since I completed ‘Loomings’ and I am a very different person now than I was when I had first set out to navigate some dreamed-up voyage that I had once hoped would set me free of the intense inwardness and abstraction of most of my work, set me free of the joinery of all those faces and voices I was compelled to ruminate upon and ruin with my unseeing and unsaying camera. I had wanted, in a word, to escape. To escape my own work and my self and the deluded self and thinking that I seemed reluctant to shear away. To escape not my life, mind you, nor my family (at the time the anchor holding firm the meaning and manner of my life), but the alphabet of what I had always photographed: people’s faces, people’s eyes, specific places in such a cloistered and claustrophobic manner that the work rarely seemed capable to speak of anything but only of ‘me.’ All those faces were my face, my blindness and my struggle. Take to the land and to the sea.


It has been difficult to shape ‘Loomings” into something seemingly coherent or cohesive for it has  for the length of much of its creation meant more to me as a private rumination on the importance and solace of trees and land, meant more to me as a kind of self-examination (or rejection) of the kind of pictures I had already made, as a kind of catharsis or tackling than  as an actualized photographic story. In fact, even now, especially now as I look at it again more than a year after I had even last looked at the pictures, the sequence, I see only its failures and sloppiness. I had always viewed the pictures more as drawings, sketches that allowed me to continue with two larger bodies of work with which I had been obsessed than as something brought to fruition. I say this not out of false humility but because it’s the way I feel about it. To photograph land without a metaphysic but with a desire to break my own photographic tics against the size and strength of the land and the sea.


What began as a kind of sketchbook, a cahier of sorts, to balance or blanche the two longer projects, “Loomings” turned into a way to escape all those intense faces and rhymed-racking that I was struggling with, including my own face, my own blindness and my own disappointments. Its gestation first began several years ago when working on a small body of work, private reflections on the great writer Antonio Lobo Antunes and Portugal, and now ends with that first photograph. A tree at night and its timbre in the wind.




In this work,  I had hoped to describe just one simple thing: the small and intensive pockets of silence, the knocking of the wind’s cantor through a canopy of trees, the spray of the sea’s tumble, the notched scouring of the sky as the memory of my father’s face when he carried me as a child, the scent of green mountains verdant and tinctured by sea oil in Taiwan,  the curve of a hill penumbra’d by the sun, land and sea as a hermitage that tented the under-top and undertow of my life. I wished to make a series of photographs not about what the land looked like but what its power and nourishing and silence felt like. The size of its certainty large and small. I realized that pictures could not accomplish what I had felt by doing simply, nothing.




More than two years ago, I had promised Magnum photographer and BURN Curator/Publisher David Alan Harvey that I wanted to make an exclusive project for BURN Magazine. At the time, I thought it would be much more interesting for photographer, a photographer, to try to make something with the magazine itself in mind. Well, for good or ill, this is that promise. In the subsequent year after suggesting it to them, “Loomings” underwent many changes and variations, in both concept and picture. What I had hoped at first to be made up solely of pictures without any people or reference to people, I quickly realized seemed frustratingly impersonal. As in life, I tend to wear my emotions on my photographic sleeves and instead grew to need to photograph not the relic of the land but what it felt like to struggle and to find succor and awe in both the land and the people in my life who shared those places in my life.  No matter how we sheer and shore, no matter how we reconfigure the land and our lives to our own hungry need, the land observes and absorbs us and does not let go even in our forgetting. To work images from small abstract gestures, the stroke of black ink upon rice  paper as a means to sing out the world, to write the letters of the lives around in small, cow-licked strokes.


In truth, “Loomings” is a kind of calligraphy. In fact, more than photography, it was inspired more by painting and drawing (ink and charcoal) than by the tradition of photography. At its heart, within my own heart, is the compass of Chinese scroll paintings and calligraphy. My childhood among the wind-fed verdant cities and hills of Taiwan or at least the place that sits inside the hermitage of my memories.


Strokes of words comprised of the shift of shade and vocabulary of light.


And seemingly with less and less time, I snug up longer and longer against the tree of doing little more than thinking or reading or just listening. Eyes open and drawn to that which scatters through me. This too, the doing of nothing but sitting, sometimes feels like a failure. Though it is to that failure that I am increasingly drawn. The heat-tug of time played out along our making of things and digesting of them. For in the end, “Loomings” really isn’t about anything. I have no grand design nor want to convey any large or significant meaning. If anything, I hope that it conveys my deep love of the earth around especially how light and shadow work their dance in the magic of the land. If anything, I hope that it conveys my deep love for photography and its remarkable and endless flexibility; its extraordinary generosity in allowing for us to seize and stretch it into whatever tale or notion we wish to tell. Although much of it is visually dark, I hope that others see this not as some kind of angst-ringing suffocation but rather about trying to confine my own photographic practice to some basic tools: a brush and ink with black and white, not for nostalgia or romance but for dietary reasons. What is the color of a letter? Letters, though seen in black most often, convey the color of surfacing around and do not need a wide palette to suggest the multifarious forms that abound. Light in the suggestion, color in the scarping hill beneath the palm of sky and cloud. The alchemy of this waking world.


Toward that finger-stain’d horizon each of us go, sprocket-after-sprocket, click by click, f-stop breath, as all things tumble into and at a time.




An approximation of love even when in error.


And too many words and too many pictures and too little time.  Alas.


But even in the error, from the error really, comes a love more precise than its original approximation and that all I have learned from the leaving and the losing of things points toward something simple. Not photographs but the living underneath and entwined and enmeshed in the world makes for the singing, makes of the singing out to it, if even with these bewildering and imperfect gestures, essential for in that clinking and clanking I’ve learned to recognize the timbre and the clamor of my heart lit sloppy but undeniably a mess, but childishly hungry and bedazzled by unrest and ignition of our gravitational life.


Nothing more deep or artistic than that.


So be it.




All that surfeit of light and surrounding life giving and graving and snapping above and through the geography of life and its sound, inimical.


Though all things may vanish, they do not pass away.


–bob black


Author’s note:


I want to thank David Alan Harvey for his inimical generosity and patience for who but he and where but BURN could a photographer publish such a broken and long-winded series of pictures. Who but David would allow such looseness and such an ungainly and addled series. Too many pictures, too many words. For him and his sustaining belief, I am always grateful and filled by love. It goes without saying that the above text does not have to be read. It isn’t an explanation but instead a kind of sibling, the whiskey in the beer. Take it for what you wish.


And so, this series is dedicated to my father Robert A. Black, who taught me about the sea, my mother Margo Woodward, who taught me about the sway of a garden and to my dear friend Marc Davidson who taught about endurance and acceptance: with light upon the horizon and reckoning.



Bob is a writer and photographer currently based in Toronto.  He has exhibited and published his writing and photographic work in a variety of publications and venues (yada yada yada) though he’s a bit fatigued by the taxonomy of all of that now. Instead, he is more interested in a good bottle of wine and  long chat or slow walk than where those pictures and words have and will end up. Truthfully, he wishes he were handier around the house and still aspires to win a Father-of-the-Year award more than anything photographic or literary.  He is currently trying to finish a Children’s Book for his son and is at work on a project that will contain a ridiculous number of pictures he’s too embarrassed to even mention. But that’s another story. Most importantly, his home is always open to wayward and neighborhood cats. Just paw at the door and come in.


166 thoughts on “Bob Black – Loomings Upon an Horizon”

  1. I love the super blurry – grainy pics 8,9,15 etc and the pics that look like an Xray gone wrong. Exactly the sort of thing I don’t normally like but somehow Bob manages to make it sing.

  2. Congratulations Bob, you do this so well. I love this stream of consciousness genre of photography: I like to look at it and I like to take it. It’s refreshing not to overthink things sometimes.

    My favourites are 1,4,14,28,48,53 and 58 – with 1,28 and 48 heading the list. These have the more recognizable subject matter but some others would look good printed big and hung on a wall. Didn’t like the tape over photos as I always want to see the photos. Haven’t read the text, visual rules for me.

    Inspiring! Running to shoot,


  3. One of the very few reasons I ever log onto to Facebook is to see Bob’s latest book and photography inspirations, he’s always got something interesting and inspiring to share with his friends. I love this essay, I first saw it last year and it really shook me awake. The problem is, it always provokes within me a need to hang up my camera and give up forever everything photographic. I’d love to feel so free as to express myself with such violent abandon. I’d love to see them in real life, I can imagine as huge prints strewn untidly all over a table in Bob’s garden with all us Burnians sitting round having a few beers. For me the images go far beyond the medium of photography, they remind me of paintings, songs, beautiful guitar solos, love, shouting out loud, dancing, nights with big fat full moons and being free and without any creative restraints. I’m sure I will later come back to look at the essay and comment a bit more, but the sun is going down and I want to seize some life with my camera before dark spreads round here…

  4. Bob has a strong SIGNATURE …
    Authorship … And that’s why Bob inspires..
    And that’s why I second Mike R above..
    Makes me wanna go out and shoot and if “somebody” can “do that” to me and inspire me?
    Ahhh, that’s what I call : a Friend and great artist =
    Bob Black!!!

  5. ALL:

    As some of you may know, i dont have yet internet at home, (typing this at the library near my apt), but i will do my best to answer all questions and comments…as I’ve said a billion times, what matters to me the most is conversation (even in argument) about the living of our lives, and the chatter that builds the foundation of our lives :)))….so, please feel free to ask or say anything you wish (positive or critical, its all good to me, really)….a quick note about some technical aspects, this project was shot with a bunch of cameras and thus much of the difference in appearance: an old rangefinder, an old slr, a holga, a diana, and a Lomo LCA….film trix…if you want to know about the development of the film or why some pics look like xrays gone wrong (i love this discription) I can chat about that too :)))….

    above all, i want to thank David at the top for his faith and patience and support. it’s meant alot to me, as a person, especially in the past year of life changes. big thanks to Eva and Diego for managing to reel this behemoth in with such kindness and patience. and i want to thank Ying Ang for her poetry and inspiration….

  6. HARRY: :))

    Thanks so much. i really appreciate that. I totally love your ‘an xray gone wrong’. it’s actually truer in spirit and more poetic than I originally thought. much of the grain comes from the use of TRI-x and when i develop my films I overdevelop them and push them to dissolution…often times when i scan the negatives or the prints, this results in the weird pixelization because the computer has a hard time of making sense of the intense grain. this is even more true with the super long exposed images or images shot with a pin-hole camera (there are several in this series)…believe it or not there are real people and objects in those, but i was hoping for a kind of visual cacophony, to test how much we can NOT see something and still SEE it…its all related to my blindness, which i’ll talk about later…my eye disease, and what it did to me as a child, lay at the heart of both how i see and how i wish to use photography….a kind of wrestling with the devil…to harness this thing that hurt me profoundly as a child and to turn it, i hope, into joy and celebration…to wrest sight from that which creates unseeing….


    thanks so much. i appreciate it. :))…As for the tape, that part of the series/book, some love, some hate. actually, there’s a reason for that, which well, maybe i’ll chat about later. It has everything to do with the idea of palimpsests…and stitching back together a life that cracked and hurt…and when someone sees the stitching, scars, for me, it always seems even more tender, more alive, more human…plus, i love (when you see the book in real life) the texture of the black electrical tape…before photography, i was a painter, and i’m always trying to think how can i add that PHYSICALITY to photographs (thus my love of grain)…..i miss alot the physical act of painting and drawing and making objects, so i always approach photography in a physical way…i shoot the same, more with my body than i do my head or eye…and when i print pictures, there has to be that element…photography seems to begin with an intellectual idea, but in the end, when photography feels right to me, it is all about the body, all about the physicality of the moment, of people, of places…as David always reminds his students and others: to be in the moment, the zone…and that’s a physcial thing…like language…like fucking…like walking, like dancing…thus the tape: trying to add a physical dimension to my pictures…to touch the photogrpah…to fuck it…to lick it…to put it back together…etc….thanks so much for your thoughts…


    thanks so much amigo. i cant think of a more lovely thing to do than sit around with wine/beer and chat…we dont have to look at the prints ;)))..come visit whenever you want, there is always a couch and plenty of wine awaiting anyone who wants….as for shooting; yes, please go out into the world and make your life shine….

    PANOS :)))…man, you do not know how much your friendship has helped me this past year…more than i could express and share publically…but you must know how your own madness and delerium has been an anchor for me in times of falling….what as can i say brother…will say to you in person, later this year :)))))…

    anyway…i must run…will answer more tomorrow :)))

  7. Bob; I’m in the same boat as Paul, but he said it way more eloquently than I could ever dream of. Your work (“Bones of Time” seen on Burn) was one of the first pieces to showed me that photography had an entirely different sort of picture beside the photo library stuff that I was shooting… So thanks for that.

    And also; a big thanks for all the encouragement you have given me throughout the last couple of years; it has truly made a difference. But most of all it is wonderful to see your images and words here! :-)

  8. I am in agreement with Paul. Toronto has you and so many other interesting photographers that if one dares to try and compare oneself it can be very disheartening. On the flip side it also means exposure to some pretty awesome local photographers and their work.

    Pure emotion Bob. Only you. : )

  9. Bob, I don’t comment much here. But could not hold back. This series is special. It affected me enough to take a walk in the woods. Alone. For the first time since my beloved dog died 3 weeks ago. And I absorbed my loneliness. Rather, I transcended my loneliness. Temporarily at least. Yes, these images have a certain dreamy weightlessness to them. No gravity for me today. Floating. Thank you.

  10. This is a level of thoughtfulness and creativity that is difficult to wrap my head around. I love it, don’t understand it, envy it, hate it. All of these things because it makes me think. It makes me think things I’m uncomfortable thinking. My own mortality, my insecurities, my limitations. But how can it not also drive me? It can and it does. Not to shoot like this. Not to be like Bob. But maybe to think more. Contemplate more. Consider more. Not just more, but better! Deeper. Pisses me off! (Haha) In a good way, I guess. Damn you, Bob. And thanks…

    …I think.

  11. Bob I seem to remember you once mentioned number 48 was a photo you made in Andalucia. Am I right? It’s a beautiful landscape image, I can feel the Mediterranean heat roaring away, because heat does make a noise. Did you hear the ever present cicadas shrill and see the midday shadows like agitated brush strokes on a canvas? Yes of course you did…
    And you made me stop and love… Good art does that, reminds us to stop and live fully.

  12. BEautiful
    oh yes,
    grain is so sexy…..

    what Paul said:

    ‘they remind me of paintings, songs, beautiful guitar solos, love, shouting out loud, dancing, nights with big fat full moons and being free and without any creative restraints.’


  13. Bob,

    About 4 years ago you left a comment on a project I had posted here on Burn. I remember waking up that morning, looking at my phone (and, apparently, my RSS feed) and seeing that my project had been posted on Burn. You were among the first to comment. It was really early, and I remember that comment you wrote caused me to jump out of bed and run over the Apple store in SoHo (as my home computer was not cooperating) to check the essay out. Your comment was what stuck with me from that whole experience–a lot of people derided the project and I was ill-equipped to respond in real time.

    I don’t spend too much time online these days. Mostly headlines, a slideshow here or there. But I do still have my RSS subscriptions intact and on the occasional Saturday night I’ll go through and see what’s posted.

    Thusly, I came across your link here on Burn and was really, really impressed. I find myself as of late drawn to this kind of photography (the more expressive/evocative rather than the indictment/didactic take). And I love what you say about how you don’t find yourself drawn to whether an image is “good” or “successful.” That is is for small-minded folks. This is exactly the kind of philosophy that I try to impart on my photography students.

    Thanks for the great work.
    Cary Conover

  14. Hey Bob
    Thanks for putting these out there but I’m going to go against the grain (bad pun intended)
    and take a position of not really getting much from this series.
    Out of focus images have never really done anything for me and these don’t change that feeling.
    Perhaps the style is a byproduct of the eye issues you mention in one reply and is a reflection on
    how you see or present to us on how you see.

  15. Bob…

    I would really appreciate hearing how you develop your film. Do you wet print or are all these digitally scanned negatives, or scanned prints?

  16. I think it is an amazing piece of work, Bob.

    Paul and Michael Kircher express it much how I would like to be able to express it :)

    The way I am pleased and challenged with your pictures is very much appreciated. Well done!


  17. Bob Black… For the inspiration, for the daring trick (aka talent) of choosing original roads, medium and streams to shape your voice, the views and statement to keep to yourself or to share of yourself (make sense? ) to create this wonder,that afliction, disorder, the weirdness on confrontation,the entanglement in some pace of life, the challenge of what art should be…for what I can put in words…thanks bob ! thank you very much

  18. Interesting work. I like the long form and the mystery. A piece like this practically begs you to question what it’s all about. To ponder, if not solve, the mystery.

    The text does not help, at least not in any obvious way. Almost all the words serve to obfuscate rather than clarify. Whether that obfuscation is by design or some kind of psychological flight from the true nature of the work is an interesting question. Where does the craft end and the subconscious take over?

    For example, Bob writes “In this work,  I had hoped to describe just one simple thing:”

    Fair enough, but after the colon, rather than list one simple thing, he lists seven complex things. How do we interpret that? Bob is quite literate so presumably he is aware of what he did in that construction. Is he indulging in a bit of humor? Is he subtly telling us that there’s no such thing as “one simple thing?” Or is he setting himself up as an unreliable narrator? “Call me Ishmael,” so to speak?

    Wouldn’t it be nice if the author were somehow forced to sum up the meaning of a work in one short sentence or phrase? Yes, it would. Fortunately, that’s what titles do, eh?

    So let’s consider the title “Loomings Upon An Horizon.” Does that solve the mystery of what this piece is about, or at least point us in the right direction?

    My first thought, of course, was “where else would fucking loomings be?” They are, by definition, on, or slightly above, the horizon. No, actually, my first thought was “what’s a looming?” Truth be told, at that point I didn’t know that a looming was an abnormally large refraction that increases the apparent elevation of distant objects, making them appear closer, and sometimes allows an observer to see objects that are located below the horizon; nor that they are a common occurrence in the far north, like in Russia or Canada or the northern seas. I was also unaware that “Loomings” is the title of the first chapter of “Moby Dick.”

    Looking at Bob’s photos with that knowledge provides a different perspective. The objects he shows us on the horizon pose questions, or provide comment, on the nature of reality. The trees, the people, the distant buildings in the photographs are not real, they are refractions of reality, a reality that exists just beyond the horizon. The way the photos are processed — very abstract, indistinct — reinforces this theme. And they, along with the text, tell a story of the author’s search for that elusive reality.

    Although the underlying idea that photographs do not accurately capture reality, merely a refraction of a reality that exists always just beyond the horizon and can never be captured, is hardly an original thought. Nor is the idea that trying to capture them is a vain endeavor. You could even describe that theme as the great white whale of art. But art isn’t about portraying original thoughts. It’s about portraying deep thoughts in an original way. I think Bob succeeds at that. The “loomings” paradigm is deep, it’s original and it works. Now with that in mind, look at the photos again and see if you can’t find any deeper meaning in all those large white shapes on the horizon.

  19. ALL:

    First of all, thanks so much for all the thoughtful and generous comments. I really appreciate them as well as the support. Actually, it is always a bit embarrassing as in truth (Nancy P can verify since she knows me in real life), I actually prefer to talk about others work and kind of ply away at my own in silence. Plus, much of my work is really a kind of excavation and a re-working of ghosts and moments and feelings and experiences that have defined me, story-telling as a kind of rumination and examination (not so much therapy as just a calling out, a rhyme to set the darkness ringing, as Seamus Heaney once described)….so, before i try and wade in here again, maybe a bit of a preference about how I see my own work, or rather, how I explore and the reasons that lay behind it.

    I want to start by quoting Hilary Mantel. In her novel about Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII (Wolf Hall), she writes:

    ” It’s the living that turn and chase the dead. The long bones and skulls are tumbled from their shrouds, and words like stones thrust into their rattling mouths: we edit their writings, we rewrite their lies.”

    Mantel is talking about both the role of a novelist (historical as well) but something more fundament: how we excavate memory and turn falsehood (what we imagine folk were like, what we believe our experiences were, even though they’ve passed and our memory and truth-believing of them mostly failure-filled and discombobulated. I feel her description is about succinct as I can imagine of how I view photography in general and my own practice. The versimilitude and exactness of a photograph is a lie, for there is not factual truth in a picture, whether documentary or abstract, conceptual or instantaneous, its just a mirage, a reflection, a physical expression of a moment mediated by a box and chemistry (or mathematics, in the case of digial pics). I’ve never looked toward photography for ‘witnessing’ (even journalism) but as it as a means of story telling and expression. We’re all story-tellers, it is the only thing we really know how to do with our senses properly and it is what limns our lives and attempts to make sense of so much senselessness and wanting. A photograhy is chasing the dead, existentially and metaphorically, psychologically and temporarly, and that inhabits and motivates my own practice.

    I’m a pretty emotional and open person, and my work the same: expressionistic and confessional in a way, though obfuscated by lots of woody things (words, grain, doubt, feelings, ideas, concepts, etc) as a way to beat out the story and the thing I wanted or had hoped to express. 2 weeks ago, I just finished re-reading Agee’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, and what struck me this time was not only again the glorious (and quite difficult) prose (biblical) but the abstract and innovativeness of both the prose and the form of the book. But what really stuck in my gullet was its essentail lament. Agee seems at time to be castigating himself with the impossibility of his endeavor, of the challenge, to write about the lives of these tennant farmers and he howls at how impossible it is to incorporate everything he feels about them and their lives and the act of living to begin with, that he wishes to put every possible idea and experience into each sentence as the only way to make sense. I understood that. I once told a friend that the trouble with writing, or even the trouble with telling someone a story in real life is that in order to tell the REAL story, I’d have to begin with the beginning of my life, of anyone’s life, for all stories need that, river from that….otherwise, it just seems truncated. this is a frustration that i wrestle with in both my prose (poetry is easier for me in that sense) and my photographic works. How to express and tell what it is I want to say, show, offer…


    As for the ‘story’ or ‘meaning’ of Loomings, well that’s up to each viewer (meaning or just meaningless stuff, both reactions are legitimate and ones that I have felt myself toward the work) but there is a story here, or rather sever. I should begin by saying that each project I’ve ever created has some basic story, or idea, fusing its force: “and our memories brief as photos” was about reconciling one’s face with a reorientation toward culture, ‘bones of time’ was about my relationship with my son and my relationship as a child with my father, ‘oxen of the sun’ was about recovering my memories of taiwan and how it defined me increasingly as an adult, ‘loomings upon an horizon’ was about loss and finding meaning within something larger than ourself: land, sky, sea, death, family and the pursuit of reconciliation. There seems to me much more ‘white’ in Loomings than ‘black’ and in that sense, for me it is ‘uplifting’…the picture that begins it The woman standing by the shore with the mother and child in the background, gets mimic’d in the final image of the lone tree tree from Portugal (2nd last frame) and joins them (and me) together…

    the title came from the opening chapter of Moby Dick. At the time I was editing ‘Loomings’, I was reading Moby Dick and in a way its kind of a companion or rather a kind of inspiration in terms of what I was really searching for…..i dont wish to make too much of that, but there is a picture of a skull and one taken in a hurricane in florida and of course, all that ocean and family and well…….but to speak more specifically of what I was trying to show or tell, seems kind of silly or unfair…i’d rather have it open…my experience of the work and the shooting and the editing and its narrative is only one version. if it works at all, i hope it is open enough to allow for whatever the viewer wishes…

    it was shot in florida, ontario, nova scotia, new york, portugal, spain and russia and kind of is a humming of that….

    there is death in there, and i did lose some friends during its editing, but i hope above all it paints something simpler….that the act of meaning in my life comes from both the examination of what happens, of what is lost and gained, played out against something else:

    to just use a camera, the way i used to use a brush and the way i use a pencil or keyboard, to show how much and how rich life, in all its attendant experiences, gives breath to my life…

    it is in our blood….

  20. …still digesting Bob’s horizons… but what about Tomer Ifrah piece on the Moscow Metro published just minutes before “Looming…” and with the comments section closed?

  21. ROSS :))

    thank you so much for our love and support. thanks too so much for your words about ‘Bones’. All my work, in truth, has come from a very simple place and actually from a thought that’s never been terribly ambitious which is this: I just want to express with that extraordinary play of white and black and light and shadow how in awe I am of life and of the lives of the people around me. They’re my carbon and my oxygen and I never really wanted to photography anything except the life around me and if lucky to express an idea or two about what was happening in my life. I’ve always just wanted that. It’s totally narcissistic but well, what can i do. The people in my life and the places I’ve seen have fed me so much energy and inspiration, love and hurt, that I dont see anything else to do except to express that and those thoughts in a way that i hope makes sense, or rather, in a way that conveys what it is i’ve experience. And I’m incredibly proud of you and happy for the work you’ve done and continue to do. All we have is this one opportunity (ichi go ichi e) and that must define all. I’m waitng for my goat :)))

  22. ALL:

    ooops, I realized i dropped the main idea from my first long comment: what defines all the projects i make. Maybe this will be helpful in trying to see or feel what it is and the way i photograph. All of my projects deal with Blindness. I was born with a serious and congenital eye (rare) called Coats Disease. Without going into detail (there is google for that), it left me blind by the time I was 11 in my right eye. It defined who it is I have become and the way i see and view the world. As a child, especially as a teen, it was particularly traumatic. My eye use to drift (like sartre) and i could never look at the entirety of my face at one time. I looked like a monster (to me) or a drawing by Picasso (when he was in a particularly foul mood). What i mean by that is, even now, I am unable to see my face, or any other face, by looking straight. When looking at a face my left eye only sees 1/2 (the right side of who I am looking at) and in order for me to see the whole face, I must shift my eye to see the left side. What did this do? To me, looking in a mirror, as a teen, it became a horrific experience as I never felt i looked normal and couldnt see other’s face in a normal way (seeing 1/2). thus, i learned to look at small small detail in people’s faces in order to construct what they ‘looked’ like. Its one of the reasons i photography faces so much (especially in close up or abstract ways). I’m battling and trying to make the faces look beautiful, not beautiful in a conventional way but in the way i saw my own.

    Also, by the time i was 10, I’d lost my depth perception (this was at the time pretty sucky as I loved to play tennis and baseball and was quite good and then one day, i couldnt hit a tennis ball or a baseball coming at me). With time, i learned to see ‘depth’ but this I later learned was from the plasticity of the brain. The brain, and its plasticity, is a remarkable thing. I learned (reading Oliver Saks) the the brain will re-program itself from memory after time to see in depth, even with one eye. In my case, this took a number of years, but I eventually learned how to see depth using certain cues and other things I’m not totally aware of. Though, much to my lament, i’m still unable to see 3D movies (as a child, i was always upset that I couldnt read those 3D books given to children in school, with the red/blue glasses). Even with the relearning, i still see the world slightly different, slightly flatter, or rather, kind of geometrically. It’s hard to articulate this, but my photos rarely seem to have volume (because of the development) and that’s kind of how a see: not hierarchy of objects, but all a collision.

    but it is the emotion of blindness and the challenges it has posed in my life that lay at the heart of my photography. How can someone who was briefly blind as a kid, and still blind in one eye, make pictures. I can i show the feeling of blindness? How can I push the limits of a photograph to both show and expression, viscerally, what it means to be blind and how that sensorial loss is often made up by other heightened senses, including emotion. How can i make a picture show nothing (totally abstract) and still allow the viewer (me) to see something…

    that is what has driven all my work, or rather, is the underlying architecture of my work.

    and of course, Franz Kline, chinese calligraphy, poetry and ummmm….

    well, i guess that’s enough of that for now…

  23. ANDREW :)))

    thanks so much. i really appreciate that. Time we drink next time i’m in nyc!

    PANOS :)

    Brother, you always make my heart spin, with laughter and joy! Love love the flics about Lola too!!! :))

    NANCY :))

    Thanks so much. That is what i love about you. In that sense, we’re totally alike. Like you, I’m one big emotional creature and what i love about talking with you is your fearlessness with accepting that and being unapologetic about that. All we have is that. It has always seemed to me that the folk who were the most brave, and the ones most important in my own life, were the ones unafraid to say something, even if messy. and yes, I feel really happy and blessed to be in Toronto with so many talented picture takers and more important so many just great and good and generous folk. T-dot rules

    MIKE :))

    thanks mike. I should tell you too as a kid, I used to always tape up my shoes and i love what it made it look like. maybe i’m giving away too many clues about my work, but its all there too. And I loved how Diebenkorn used tape to pull aways layers in his paintings, i’m just reversing the process…in stead of pulling away paint with tape, i’m pulling over images with the tape…masking, for sure, but i hope also allowing viewer to create what they think might be under those strips of black :)))…mysterys and fun….

    VIRGIL :)

    First of all, let me say that I’m sorry to hear about your dog. It must be a tremendous loss. I remember when my brother’s dog died and he actually had wanted to take his own life to accompany, because dogs are companions and also children, our children and anyone who has had a talk (and doesnt have their own kids) understands that. This essay, for sure, was defined by a lot of grief and sadness including the death of some people in my private life. And I didnt want to be maudlin but want to harness that hurt and loss and build toward something more sustaining. That our lives are defined by loss and death, the one truth, but that those deaths connect us to all things and all people (i guess the meditator in me) and that joining is what gives meaning. For the ‘why we are here’. A clock (or any mechanical machine) always has the exact number of parts it needs, not more not less. Life is kind of like that. We’re here because we’re its parts, and we’re connected to all the other fly spinning parts. my exhalation is your inhalation. losing a loved one is about as hard a job given to us as I can imagine, but it is also because of them and our presence that their going away means so much: it fills us with meaning and when we die, so to our own deaths for those after. a great big clock. and how that silence feeds us so much. If my pictures offered you a push to take a walk, I’m thrilled. Walking, about my favorite thing to do. And I’m so happy to have seen your Essay published here as well. So wonderful :) thanks amigo.

  24. MICHAEL k :))

    hahahahahahahahahah….you know brother, I tell myself ‘damn you bob’ pretty fucking often, but mostly because I’m always fucking up with something: writing, pictures, friendships, teaching, words, photographs. Sometimes, I wish I could jsut do something right (on the bad days)…so, i’ll take your loving damnation :)))…means alot to me. Now get those pictures up on that cafe wall! hugs

    PAUL :)))

    yup, yup, yup! :)))…That pic was made in Andalusia! (there are actually several pics in this series from Andalusia)…and i love cicada’s…the louder the better…they’re stinging song always feels like childhood to me (from the south) and I remember when my son first heard Cicada’s (on a trip to South Carolina), he was as entranced as I was when a kid. I also associate Cicada’s buzz with movement and grass and wind through trees…and you know, best of all, i love the shells they leave behind…maybe those shells have been in more poems i’ve written than any other image…i miss them terribly…and thanks for the gorgeous Arvo Part…i love his music and ironically, I edited THIS version for BURN listening to some of Parts…how did you know? :)))

    DOMINIK :)))…THANKS so much…hope it was as fun as riding the waves in Central America on a long board :))

    WENDY :)))…THANKS so much…one day i’m going to steal your Vertical Comments…because every time i see them, my heart goes a tumble with music :)))

    CARY :)))

    of course I remember your essay and i remember you’d written me that as well and you know, what matters are not qualifications of good/bad in work (for me) jsut about making, the joy and the struggle and the grief and the satisfaction. I too often worry that so many, young and old, get so caught up in trying to make something ‘great’ or to compare their work, that they lose the essential joy of just working, of discovering, of being frustrated and then finding one’s own voice…i too always tell young photographers just follow your instinct, learn through failure and frustration but also celebrate the work you do, for if you dont no one else will and no one else will quite make the work you were born to make, just as your life and your voice. I remember that Pauline Kael once lamented that schools take out the sheer playfulness of making things…and that’s an apt observation…surely life isnt all joy and play, but if you give up the one thing that you were born to do (create, and every person was born into the need to pick up and create shit, to share stuff)….all that matters. so nice to see you here again :))

    MTOMALTY :))

    Hey, no worries at all. Like i said, all thoughts are good to me and welcome. and btw, keep the puns coming. you must be Montreal’s pun master! :))))…its ok that it doesnt make sense or doesnt work for you, i totally understand. Shit, sometimes it seems to me too abstract and too emotional and too much about pushing photography rather than just making pictures. Yes, my blindess has a great deal to do with how I shoot and why i make certain projects and how i develop film, how i chose to play with exposure and light source and all that. I know, pretty much, now wht a picture will look like given the light and the settings and the movement, etc…but there is still the mystery that happens when i have film developed and something goes wrong, or something goes right. it is that mystery to which i’m trying to celebrate and that defines my work. Its about how much can i destroy a picture, how much can i ‘manufacture’ sight from unseeing. And the grain is about, for me, the texture. as i said, i was a painter, and I need texture. Ifyou ever have to chance to see a print from Mario Giacomelli (one of my photogrpahic heros), you’ll see how much his prints have so much texture…like small drawings…and that is what i want my pictures to be like: rather, so that they feel physical…not intellectual, but the emotion that comes from contact with life and land and people…emotions of course come from the head, but they begin with the body and that’s i guess why my pics look the way they do…its not about ‘blurry’ but about something simpler: physical expression of experience….anyway, its totally cool if its not interesting. :))…i’m fine with that and really appreciate your honesty and frankness…and the pun :)

  25. PAUL:

    first, i always use TRI-X (although, there may be 1 or 2 frames here when I used ILFORD Delta) and when I develop the negatives (some where developed by me in a kitchen or living room and then (because i didnt want to deal with chemicals anymore) and some where developed by Ed Burtynsky’s lab in Toronto). I always have the film pushed +3 or +4 on top of how i shoot, which can make the films sometimes insane, or jsut a mess. the negatives are really really dense (like thick mud) and sometimes hard to print. Some of the prints here are wet, some are from a dry darkroom, some of scans of actually pages from a book I made, some are scans of the negative. I’ve kind of incorporated all those various things: print, book page, negativ, copy of print, etc. A kind of collision of styles and original source material to coincide with the variety of pictures….i almost never print in darkroom anymore (i begin more interested in other forms for my negatives), but the original, older prints, still look so rich to me, that i’ve had a hard time forgetting them…most of my prints sit in a big tupperware box in my closet…scary actually ;)))

  26. THOMAS :)))

    THANKS so much ;)))…well, i sort of wish i could make funnier pictures and someday want to do a project about humour…i’m much funnier (i hope) and less dark in real life…that’s what people who meet me always say, ‘youre way more fun in real life than your photographs lead me to believe’…i dont know if that’s a compliment, but i’ll take it :))))…

    ROBERTA :))

    where would BURN and most of us be without your inspiration and thoughtfulness and joyous love for life and photography. I know i’ve become a better person just corresponding with you and seeing you work your life-magic on DAH and Lance and Chris and the rest of the Folk around these parts :)))…a starburst of life, you are indeed :))

  27. MW :))

    Mike, totally understand. So, let me get at the text first. As you know, generally, I hate artist’s statements. I dislike to read them (or rather most of them) and don’t like what most statements do (explain or justify work). As a writer and poet, words and language are a big part of my life and my photogrphic practice. When I write prose (or poetry) for a particularly photographic project, there is always a specific purpose. sometimes that prose is meant to join the pictures, or become poetic expressions of the pics themselves. Sometimes, in the case of Oxen of the Sun, it becomes a kind of narrative to join or dance with the pictures. In the case of Loomings, the text is trying to do what you guessed: cloud it, block it, obfuscate it, break it. I wrote most of the text after and your understanding of the text is, umm, exact ;)

    when i wrote about one simple thing, i was indeed kind of beginning like Ishmael. That one small thing is ‘death’ but one realizes (see my note about about Agee) that one small thing is actually comprised of myriad things, endless really, and their accumlation becomes that one big thing. the same way Moby Dick is, in one sense, about a whale chase, or chase for god, but ends up about a lot of other stuff…in fact, some of the parts of Moby Dick that i best love (and seemingly hated by most readers) are the digressions, the chapters on different kinds of whales, and knots and sailing vessels and all the diversions,,…and the ‘voice’ i was trying to write in was just that: a person who’d lost something and was chasing it and was being consummed by the multidude of words that seemed to be spilling….there is actually a poem that goes with the text, which I’ll leave here, it if will help.

    I’ll leave the poem tomorrow, as i’m at the library now…but that was the orignal ‘text’ and than i figure, no, let me write a piece that is both ‘explanation’ and ‘avoidance’…

    but, as you the title is what the piece (both the pictures and the writing) means…

    that thing that is on the horizon both waiting for us and coming toward us is both 1 thing…and, alas, many….:))))

  28. MW ii:

    btw, thank you so much for the beautiful interpretation of Loomings (the project)…i wish I had been that articulate and as always I really love the depth with which you see and reflect upon projects. You’ve expressed, what I’ve attempted to say with Loomings…

    now, go back and re-read Moby Dick :))


    just looked at the Metro piece…would love to write something about that place and the pics too :))…Moscow metro has a special flavor and life unlike any other Metro system i’ve been on…i love the system (and not just all the architecure) but the trains and the people above all…maybe the author will open up comments later….

    anyway, i’ve probably said enough for one day ;))

  30. Bob, I knew that you had sight problems but your explanation is most illuminating: and most gracious.


  31. Eva… I get that and respect Tomer’s wishes. I just feel even with closed comments both essays deserved a little space in between them. Could have put Bob’s up and let it marinate for a few days, have a good dialogue. Then put up Moscow Metro for a day or so… let folks take it in give the photographer some focused exposure (even without discussion). Then move on to next essay. Just a thought.


    first off, many thanks for the book…i cannot “digest” it until tuesday but i will take my time by the fire with your book…i hate to rush through books…very thoughtful of you amigo…sorry we missed in DC

    over the years i have many times published stories simultaneous…up to three at a time…my feeling here was that readers much prefer a story on top where they can comment….surely you know that few come in here on the front page anyway…rss feeds and FB is how people get here i think for the most part anyway….you are still thinking print…and me usually too!!

    proof that it does not matter: go look at Burn FB…..and right now overall, the Tomer Ifrah essay is receiving 35% more traffic than is Bob’s essay…

    BUT Bob’s essay is 135% longer than is Tomer’s essay….so it all evens out…or , err, Akaky take over , i am out of my league…:)

    cheers, david

  33. Bob!

    It is long long story …
    not because of sheets of pictures… because you show us life and death and you tell the memory and oblivion.

    It is very sad, sensitive and beautiful story but you describe it with calm voice and your own unique personal perspectives.
    I love it very much.

    and Thank you for sharing.

  34. MIKE R :)))

    well, i’ve always been open about my life and the eye disease. I could write an entire novel about the experience and how it transformed and formed me (for both good and ill), and I still struggle with it (physical problems ever couple of years and some issues of self, etc) but, i guess that will have to wait for another time when I’m not as tired…or rather, for a chat with wine :)))…thanks so much for asking

    AKAKY!!!!!!! :))))

    and some of those are expensive cameras…go figure ;)))….i think my head’s been out of focus since I was a kid…must be the 7-up ;))

    YOUNG TOM :)))

    thank you amigo….that’s all we got brother, all we got :))…

    MARCIN :))…

    THANKS so much…glad to have you here :)))


    135% longer, damn…i’m getting to be like a baseball player, intestinal fortitude or something ;))…

    MTOMALY: :))

    gorgeous pictures…i love the shaft of broken light over the frozen Montreal river very much and the blackness of the dog….and of course the title ‘gloomings’ is hilarious…i in truth, they’re quite luminous and still and, well, the way a child (or an adult trying to remember as a child) imagined the world…at least that’s what they speak to me….best think about photography and inspirations is that its endless and the it transforms us and we transform it :))))…lovely work, continue continue….

    PANOS :)))…DAMN…YEA, love the Lynch…big time and the video…and I absolutely am mad crazy about his last film ‘inland empire’, a masterpiece that really was overlooked/underthought…color color color is coming…just must finish Wan Li book and then maybe that’ll be for me and b/w…i wish I had Lynch’s hair :)))..thanks brother

  35. KYUNGHEE :)))

    thank you so much. its kind of my own ‘island’ ;)))…and what else to do with life but try to sift through calmly and openly…its all we have. I cant wait to see your 2nd book :)))))….will make me very very happy…thank you so much

  36. DAH… thanks for the explanation You’re right, I don’t do RSS feed stuff. I come directly to the site… like a magazine!

    Good to hear everybody is getting some love!


  37. If anyone is interested in seeing the difference between my left, seeing eye and my right, blind eye, here are 2 pics taken of the inside of my eyes 4 years ago….i’ve actually done a series on the inside of the eye (with color), but those pics are waiting for the right moment…anyway:

    the inside of my seeing eye (and what all of your eyes look like): the inside of the eye is a revelation…a cosmos until itself..

    and the blind eye:

    cheers, b


    i am so so pleased we finally got this published…like a fine wine, these kinds of essays just cannot be rushed..thank you for your patience…

    this is by its very nature EPIC…and does what i look so hard to find in most essays, a real visual literacy and an an introspection that is deep…full of all your fears, and dreams, and pain, and joy..a microcosm of who you ARE….Loomings IS Bob Black….

    you are not afraid to unveil, to reveal, to share, to expose, and to illuminate your inner self…this is indeed treacherous territory for many say they are exploring their “inner self”…yet you actually are doing it…clearly….and yes even concisely….you choose the “long form”…well fine…so be it…your way….your method…your stream of conscientiousness…your mirror….

    in a world of sound bites and fast hits on the net, it is nice to see something where we must dig in, get our feet wet, and for heavens sake THINK and explore a bit…information presented on a silver platter is, well, information….often useful, utilitarian, but most likely vacuous by definition….

    you have thought Loomings through…..tweaked it….babied it…over thought it..under thought it…hated it…loved it…..most likely got up in the middle of the night and paced the floor over it in a hot/cold sweat…all the stuff that makes things actually HAPPEN….part of the deal

    take your warm hugs now and enjoy them….ride it…for photography does indeed provide its moments….ecstasy never comes in large doses, dammit, but does happen….

    this is your moment….

    cheers,hugs, david

  39. DAVID :)))

    hey Amigo, what can I say after that?…Just that I am so thankful for your belief and support and friendship and mentorship. As I’ve said long ago, I can’t imagine any other place I would rather publish or share my work than with this community. As I get older, it just seems to be the place with which I feel the most at home. Much of that has to do with your helmship and leadership of this magazine. But it is your undying faith and love and support of photographers and photography that is the most inspired. As I’ve said long ago, a photographer of your history-book level and your success, could very easily have skated and rested on his laurels, but your ceaseless hunger for pictures and new directions has been a remarkable inspiration to many of us, both old and young. An iconic photographer who not only started a magazine to showcase new work but also donated his own $$ to create an award/fellowship for emerging photographers (people may have forgotten that the Magnum EPF Grant awarded annually was started by David out of his own pocket) and the leadership (look at the books you’ve produced for others) and tireless giving….its just a beacon in a world often foggy and adrift….

    and i am deeply appreciative that you had the patience to stick with me. Your suggestion to edit the beast down was the best thing i’ve done in the last couple of months and it helped guide me to seeing the bones of its innerself…and I will write later today about the editing process, because it was so important and i owe that to you….

    well, above all, i take away our friendship…and use that to river my own unsteady way…

    it means more than i should express publically ;)))..otherwise, it might get to be embarrassingly emotional…

    thanks amigo, from the deepest place in my life :))


  40. Bob, looking at your pictures is a big, big joy and inspiration to me! Thank you so, so much!

    Great images that speak to me… looking at the grain, the strong blacks and whites, lines and compositions let me go on a journey with you and my own imagination. Simply great!

    As Paul and several others pointes out, your work inspires me to take out my camera and go out and take pictures. And who knows, maybe one day I will take out my black and white chemicals and enlarger… hope somewhere there is some Tri X film to buy… it would be fun for sure!

    One thing is clear: you are certainly the master of creating true art with your images!

    Enjoy the good vibes!
    Big hugs!

  41. PAUL :))

    Good question! I have (surprise, surprise) a long answer for you :))…

    First, yes I do not have a digital camera. But I have used digital cameras and actually love them. I have a cellphone (very cheap nokia, which isnt a smart phone) and have enjoyed shooting with it actually, but havent figured out how to transfer the pictures from my phone to my computer. However, I once did use a digital camera for almost 2 years. This was back in 1998. In 1997, I inherited an old rangefinder and an old slr from my grandmother after she had died. At the time, I wasn’t a photographer although I loved photography. I was a painter and was actually interested in making films. I didnt think ever about making photographs myself until my grandmother died. She had been a photographer (the first woman to own and operate a photostore in Philadelphia). When she died, she left more than 30,000 color slide prints and this was a profound revelation: the power of photography on a personal level. I received 2 of her camera’s and started to ‘learn’ about photography. I was living in Los Angeles at the time. I saw some pictures at an exhibition of Moriyama and I was stunned. At the time, most of my photographic knowledge was for documentary/journalistic work and work that comprised the ‘greats’ of photography. In High School I was obsessed with Arbus and the Vietnam war photographers and I loved Penn and Avedon and Steiglitz and Mann Ray and Ansel Adams and Eggleston and Duane Michals (who was the first Artist/photographer who i fell in love with). but, i was always more concerned with painters and sculptors and filmmakers and conceptual artists. Phpotography (with the exception of Michals and Arbus) seem not as ‘vital’ to me, or rather, it didnt speak to me the same as Fine Art…Throughout college, I learned more. I met Siskind and Callahan in Providence at a museum and I started to ‘teach’ myself about photography, even though I wasn’t making pictures. I just started to fall in love with photography and looked at as much photography as I could during university and afterward. Then In 1997, my grandmother died and bequeathed me the cameras and I started to fuck around. And man, was I in love. But, I was a pretty bad photographer!! that the moriyama pictures woke me really up.

    In 1998, I left LA and returned to florida and I started experimenting with learning how to use a camera and film. I even took phpotographs for the NYTimes-owned magazine that I was writing for. then one day, my brother (who was a high school teacher) brought home a Sony digital camera for me to play with. I mean, that was 1st generational digital. The kind that used a floppy disk and you could only get like 5 pictures to a diskette. I was obsessed and fell in love with it and especially all that pixelated noise it generated. I made lots and lots of pictures (all color) and was really having fun and doing all kinds of while stuff with them and photoshop, it felt like painting, where my film stuff and old cameras felt more like a chore (i was still learning). Eventually, i started sharing my digital photography on the internet, including at a russian website called and At the time, alot of the russian photographers hated it and denigrated me (because this was before people really used digital cameras, generally). After a few months, i said ‘ok, you want to see my ‘real’ photography?” I took down all my digital stuff and started sharing my film work. and I never used a digital camera after that.

    then around 3 years ago, another photographer and gallery owner who liked my photography and had seen one of my shows, asked me if i was interested in digital photography. I said yes, but i only show film at the time. I explained why i loved film (the grain, what i could do with low light and my body and etc etc) but that I loved the possibility of digital as well. I’m not a luddite and I actually love how digital photography and digital manipulation as transformed the medium. I am crazy about instagram and digital manipulation and all that stuff. The reason why i love using my Lomo LCA is because it feels like a phone…only with film inside and little control. And, after the photographer let me play around with his Richoh to make a project, i started to think, time to switch to digital.

    I still havent switched yet. I cant really afford to buy a new camera but I am ready to ‘go back’ to the kind of weird and physical color stuff I did 15 years ago with that 1st generation Sony. So, I’m not adverse to digital equipment at all and actually, i feel its time for me to move on. I’m trying to finish this big book project ‘Wan Li’ and then i sometimes thing once that is done, i’m going to go to digital camera and color…but, i dont want a ‘good’ digital camera. I want a small, point and shoot and use this with other things. What is so exciting about photography (and technology) is that it is endless in its possibilities. I know some think of my work as more traditional (because I only own film cameras and only use trix) but this is just because I liked what I got from using those tools. I dont think i’ve even fully yet explored the b/w + film possibilities (i have another project using xerox photos), but there will come a time when I go digital…

    The reason why, up to now, i ‘prefer’ film is simple: i love the texture i get from the chemistry at play with the silver and the light/shadow. I love that film pictures still are textural and seem more physical to me than digital. Also, with film cameras, I CANT KNOW what happened. In fact, i often wait a long time to even develop my film. sometimes weeks, sometimes months, and in a special case, 2 1/2 years and countin…it makes me patience and reinforces the physcial act of shooting and the act of waiting. When I shot with a digital camera, i always looked immediately. So, its also a question of meditation, of waiting of learning to accept that one cannot know right away what they’ve done. I like that with my filmcameras, I must learn to wait….and I must learn to let go…and all this builds surprises…sometimes disappointment, sometimes exhiliration….

    but, at least for now, that raw physicality of grain and of chemistry just speaks to the way i feel life and how i feel about making objects….

    now, if someone one’s to by me a digital camera, i’d willing use and work with it ;))).
    hope that all makes sense :))

  42. REIMAR :))

    thank you so much for your generosity and thoughtfulness. I deeply appreciate that. Well, i know how happy and inspired I get when I look at other photographers. In fact, its always interesting to me because I always feel best inspired by others, much more so than my own work. I mean, generally, i’d rather spend the day looking at pics and essays at BURN or reading Aperature or sifting through an exhibition or looking at new Japanese picturetakers or even going to a World Press show then thinking much about my own work. dont get me wrong, i do believe what Arbus believed when she said ‘I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them.’…i feel this about EVERY photographer, which is why i love so much to look at other work people are doing, no matter how similar or different from my own. I just feel inspired by other’s work, whether icons or newbies or students…its all part of the same carnival…and if this story inspires you to go out and write upon the sky with your own tongue, then I am happy :))…that’s all we have,our stories and the sharing of them. thanks so much R! :)

  43. Bob; I have been playing around a bit with a $8.99 kids digital camera. The effects are really interesting! Noisy; colour shifts etc, it’s great fun!

  44. ROSS!! :)))

    oooohhhh!!!!…that sounds like what i’m sniffing around for!!…:))…I have to run (and it seems like my comments as always are a bit, ummm, long-winded) but if you have a link, let me know. …i’d love to see also some of your work using it….i’ll write you at FB tomorrow and follow up on our chat, must go teach now…


  45. Hey Bob, I really appreciate all the effort you put into understanding the work of others, was happy to do what I could to return the favor in some small way. Though to be honest, that’s just the kind of thing I like to do and am happy when something worthy of deep analysis comes my way. I’m glad I ended up liking your project but figured you’d appreciate the effort to understand it even if I ultimately didn’t.

    The Moscow subway thing is something else altogether. Although many of the photographs are very good technically, who really gives a fuck about yet another subway project. At this late date it’s pretty much the equivalent of a Drawing 101 class going to the Louvre and sketching the Mona Lisa. What’s the point?

  46. Bob…

    Thank you very much for all your marvelous answers. This essay and everything surrounding it has been an absolutely brilliant photofest celebration. Lets not stop and keep on :)!!

    You know what I love about film and is the big hole I miss in digital? The gamble, the unsureness, the maybe I got it and the perhaps not. I also love not remembering what I shot on that finished roll of film waiting in my studio. And there is something biological about film grain which is a little bit removed from us Homo sapiens…

    Cormac McCarthy on writing…
    “Anything that doesn’t take years of your life and drive you to suicide hardly seems worth doing.”

  47. Paul,

    Take one day, go shoot your town or your kids or whatever strikes your fancy that day and turn off your LCD preview. No looking at all. In fact, wait one day before putting the card in the reader. It’s not exactly like shooting film but it’s pretty cool anyway.

  48. Bob, already so much has been said, and so thoroughly. I just want to chime in and tell you that I really enjoyed this, and have been wondering over the last day or so, why it was not forgettable to me.

    I say this to you meaning it as a compliment: To me this series is like one of the many hand made quilts that my grandmother owns. Though I would never see one in a store and want to buy it (the style is just not for me), I deeply cherish them, and have been given one of my own… which I sleep with almost every night. The quality of the materials, and the love which they represent are unmistakable.

    Though this is not the kind of work that usually grabs me, I am none the less grabbed by it… because it is clear how much time and love is involved. It is utterly genuine; and thats always a wonderful thing. Congrats!!

  49. Each of us struggles with the task of finding our own unique voice as artists and as humans. We start out as originals but soon lose our wonderful rough edges as parents. teachers and the other kids insist that we fit into their ideas of what and who we “should” be and do. The better we play their games, the less we remember of our own. As artists our task is to, as Bob puts it, excavate the layers we have lived as society’s child, digging ever deeper into the crevasses of often painful memories to find the gold dust of our true selves. Few dare to dig to their core for the cost is high.

    That is what Bob Black has dared to do. The few years of his journey that many of us here have shared have shown his courageous willingness to become naked and vulnerable as a newborn baby, sometimes experiencing great pain in the process. It is out of this courageous journey into the depths of his past and present that Bob’s art emerges. No, it is not easy to understand or pigeon-hole into any pre-determined box or genre, for it is uniquely Bob’s vision with eyes that may not see out very clearly but always see IN with razor sharpness.

    What a privilege it is to get a glimpse of such authenticity. Thank you, dear Bob, for being who you are and for sharing what you see, think and feel in your art. You may never become “famous” but to my way of thinking you are and will always be a Master of your craft.

  50. “An xray gone wrong”. That’s brilliant.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this rather poetic piece of photographic intensity. Will digest some more and comment further later.

    – Paul Treacy

  51. MW :)

    hey, thanks so much again. Yes, your insight into both the statement and the work just made all a flutter like a kid at their prom :))…its the kind of thing we all hope sometimes someone will get, that recognition that they’ll be a few folks who delve into things and come through it with a sense of what the journey was about. I mean, for me, the greatest aspect to being alive (and goes the same for making things, reading a book, writing, meeting folk, forming relationships) is the transformative and electric chemistry that happens from both the tempest and the calm. Its why its so hard (and feels so debilitating) to just sit, to just allow life to course by. Into the muck I say and from that the beachy calm of the sun’s drying lox…:)))…thanks again so much for putting the time and the weight into thinking and feeling through all that craziness :)))….

    PAUL :))…that IS it exactly! the physicality of film hasnt let me out yet of her talons and even when i shoot stuff with my silly phone, or have borrowed another’s digital camera to experiment, only film still gets me viscerally and somehow ignites my insides in a way that paint or charcoal used to…but, the most important aspect to using film cameras is that it requires patience and it requires you to forget and to wait and to reflect because you cant really ‘do over’ based on chimping at an lsd screen. it forces a moment, it forces the act of shooting to be physical as well, a kind of pirruet. it alwasys becomes a gamble, because you cannot delete a frame and reconfigure, you must rely on both hope and instinct…and even when i double or triple expose an image, i understand that i might be losing a frame i actually may have preferred but it a risk, a risk from committing to something other than whether or not you got something….a practice. If there is one think that I lament (including with myself at times) is the nature of our collective impatience now…we want everything immediately, and on juiced up on the sugar of the instantaneous, the right-of-now/right-away. I mean, i cant even imagine a life without knowing that it’ll take me days or weeks to read a book, so all the NOWNESS of things just makes me sad and using film and old cameras forces me to remember…and it has helped disciplined me…so that when it is i decide to develop the rolls, that moment becomes so magical, both in its joy and in its disappointments…

    and yup, McCarthy was write all along. Were that the one thing I could bequeath my son, that would be it….:)))

    MICHAEL K :))

    how about extend that. spend 1 day shooting and turn off the lcd screen and not print the card for 2 weeks…just wait…it’ll be a revelation, i’m sure…it is what makes me feel sad when i’m around many photographers now, especially many young ones I mentor, shooting-looking, shooting-looking, shooting-looking…its almost as if they’re not even looking/feeling the world, but have a staring match with their lcd screens…..besides, the world looks a whole lot richer in front of the camera than from behind ;)))

    ROBERT L :))

    thanks so much. Yep, yep, that’s it. that’s a wonderful metaphor and yes, that’s why i love hand-made things and things that, even if no one else will like, are arrested from sleep because of the life sewn into them by their maker…here is a quick story…when i was 14, my grandfather died. my grandmother gave me all his socks (he loved colorful socks). I wore only those sucks until they were filled with holes and threshed about, and got rid of the final pair after i graduated from university…everytime, i opened by sock drawer, I thought of him…and i swear to god, i felt as if they not only protected me but allowed me to be happy…those things that come down to us through love, those things that are made or are of another become the highest bridge for me….and you know, damn if i couldnt use a hand-made afghan blanket (my grandmother made them too) myself to make the winter day wave over a bit easier :)))…thanks so much for that Robert :))

  52. PATRICIA :)))

    Well, i’m kind of speechless, you know. And that’s kind of a hard thing to do for me (ask my son! ;) ). All i can say is that if there is one person who has taken their own life toils and mined it and turned it into both rays of hope and celebrant strength, it is you. All your achievements are a guidepost really of inspiration. I am personally deeply proud of all you’ve accomplished with your work, your book, your exhibitions and most importantly your unstinting faith in yourself and others. You can’t keep a good woman down! As for the not ever being famous, well, that’s not really important at all to me, never was for we’re all the same in the end, just carbon and blood and water and dreamy star-turned creatures who’ll be forgotten. That I can spend time with family and friends and celebrate all that creates is good enough for me. btw, I hope you’ve watched ‘Searching for sugarman’. you’re city baby, and what a hero he is. that is kind of how i’ve always viewed my own life. family and friends and just living above all other. the fame game or even recognition game is just not that important. Sending you much love and bigger hugs Patricia. thanks so much for that love :))


    Paul, yea, i’ve been thinking about the description since the first day. pretty brilliant :))…and keep the kids coming ;))…thanks so much


    you make a great case for film…and all of it right on imo…with film you must keep moving FORWARD..not knowing for sure, you keep trying and trying..moving forward…and exploring more and more the subject in front of you…with digi all of us are in the very moments of creation taking a step back…looking at what we just did….becoming perhaps too self satisfied with the digi image on the screen…most of my life i have been a film shooter…and still shoot med format film and “polaroids” now…yet i find myself mostly shooting digi for the same reasons almost everyone has gone to digi..yet i too have caught myself looking at the screen as things are still going on in front of the camera…how many great moments have i missed while looking at what happened just before?

    sometimes however i also know for sure i have shot much looser because of digi….running out of film is real….i remember getting to frame #30 for example and for sure i became a different photographer for those last 6 frames…tighter…too tight….with something going on and no time to change film, i would become “careful” with those last 6 frames….no way no time to get “loose” ….so for this i do like digi…i can run with an idea for longer with digi than i can with film….and changing film, especially med format, seems to take an eternity IF in the middle of a “thought”….so i probably have missed about as many pictures changing film as i have in being tempted to look at the screen…who knows?

    i have a nice new darkroom….and plenty to print….yet i must admit i am not as drawn to the darkroom as i once was…why? well for one thing, i am in a small dark room…for hours and hours….the magic of watching prints come out is still the same, yet where the darkroom was once the only place i could go to realize my work, i can now do the same and watch the birds in the trees or the weather change AND get a really fine print…

    all of the tech side of our art/craft are trade offs…every damned thing we do eliminates something else….one way we get this, the other way we get that…simply finding a comfort zone and having a passion for whatever it is we are working on is the only thing that matters….i am really weird….i like the instant gratification and looseness of my iphone and the connectivity to others with say Instagram and at the very same time am tweaking 60×40’s meticulously for a show in Dubai…and at the same time making family pictures in the darkroom….all of it rewarding, all of it photography and all of it images that just MUST pop out of my head….

    your reasons, as i said, for sticking with film are good ones….and oh yes, there is another really really good reason for film…and i know this because for the last two weeks i have had a whole team helping to organize my archive….my film archive is a nightmare for sure, yet i can handle it…see it….that cardboard box has Cuba transparencies in it…film….get it sleeved and look at it on the light table…..tangible …real…

    my digi archive is a worse mess….that cardboard box has hard drives in it…hard to think about…new firewire cables dont fit the old drives…are the old drives even working? how long will the drives last? my film archive has moved around dozens of times since i was a kid, but it is all still HERE…never stored properly my old negatives seem perfect, and even my old Kodachromes from 50+ years ago are perfect looking even though often stored in attics and basements etc…

    the push is to get the whole thing into the Magnum archive and on some server somewhere that we all hope does not break or get a virus or get terrorized….even the film must be digitized to have value in the modern world…

    so film is a working method only these days, not a final product…your film here is digitized so we can even see it here on Burn….

    sorry for the ramble..

    in any case, keep doing what you are doing Bob, for whatever reasons or by whatever methods….getting it down , getting it done, realizing your vision , is all that matters…

    cheers, david

  55. Bob
    I can’t stop viewing this essay. For all the reasons you and others have articulated so eloquently. But I always stop and pause the longest at 49. That image causes my mind to go silent. All the mind noise fades to heavenly silence. I don’t know who first said it but “death is not the opposite of life…it is the opposite of birth. Life has no opposite”…sums up how I experience this essay.

    And funny you should mention Rodriguez. I’ve been listening to his music obsessively since I first heard of him many months ago. 40 years too late. And last night I watched Searching for Sugarman. A truly unbelievable story. A beautiful soul. My new hero.


    very well said…thank you

    and we all look forward to your upcoming book Falling Into Place….keep us updated please….and i will do an interview with you here on Burn…

    you inspire us all with your fortitude and insight..

    cheers, david

  57. VIRGIL :))

    yes, death is not the opposite just the continuation. I’ve always wondered why so many people (religions, politicians, adults, the old and the young) always speak about Life After and rarely speak of Life Before. I dont mean this in a religious sense, but in an existential sense. our lives before we come into this world was just as long, or rather, not our ‘lives’ but life in general was existant prior and continues and we’re shaped that way and when we vanish, it just chains us forward, or rather, just chains the continuance of things…its hard to accept, because we cling so hard (rightly so) to all that we love and cherish and all that makes our lives incandescent. But loss, and we all experience it, defines all things. In fact, for me, it makes things precious…that all the things i love (and once loved) will vanish, as will I, and yet that remain inside…and that joins me so much to all things and to all those i loved. i cant hold on to them, but they ignite me regardless and i feel that gift of having had them (grandparents, parents, friends, partners, colleagues, etc) in my life: for they have made me the person, have bequeathed their life into mine….and i only hope i can pass down that same fervor and love to my son, all things great and small, we’re bound and lit up. As for the picture (49), that is my son. He was walking by himself, staring at the ocean in Novia Scotia (Cape Breton) and he looked both incredibly strong and grown up and also melancholic…and i started to cry a bit when i saw it, so i quietly walked behind him and shot into the sunlight…and i thought, how he is already a man, and all the grace and goodness and sadness which that entails…and i was proud of him and a bit sad and i just thought, i already see myself in him and that continuity was a blessing…and that there he is, a man, staring out to see, strong and unsure and well…maybe that’s the picture in the series that is also a selfportrait too…thanks so much Virgil…hugs

  58. DAVID :))

    Amigo, well if there is someone who loves a ramble it is me :)))…great comment…and, i must run now to teacgh, but I will follow up at Lunch in response…I agree with what you say exactly…and i understand totally and am ready to move to digi just a time and money issue…but, will write more at lunch…

    lots to think about and respond…for me, all tools are good and the more tools that free a photographer, the better :))

    more later

  59. DAVID :))

    i COMPLETELY agree about the necessity of the digitalization of pics/negatives/archives. And, actually, i love the fact that we can get that film (or pixels) out into the world quicker and via digitalization. I mean, shit, maybe only a few people would have seen any of my work in its ‘real’ form and that’s cool. I actually love that digitalization has freed us from the cumbersome task of film and from the cumbersome task of reproduction. and you are exactly right about using digital equipment to free the shooter. I felt that way when i used a digital camera in ’98-99. for long time, i missed that freedom until I was able to learn how to be totally lose with rangefinder and slr and then the pinhole worked its way into my life as did the Lomo and Holga. Now, shooting with my phone feels like the LCA and its lighter and smaller and like a toothbrush, and I love that so much. can be even more quiet and unobtrusive and physical…

    and i too have not much interest in being in a darkroom. I do miss the intense quiet and solitary magic, but at the same time, i realize that there’s something else to do with printing digital files…jsut working on them is a different experience than being alone. though alone with a computer still is kind of the same….and i think you’ve expressed it exactly correct: that you have both mentalities and both work ethics: attention to detail in your med format stuff, and lose lose lose with your iphone: they help and enhance one another….and that’s key…

    and i’m sure the real secret is that while different tools change the phtoographer, in the end, we each end up being the ‘same’ photograher…as soon as we figure out who we are…

    and in your case, its even that much more important that you have the negatives and have recovered. I mean, i just will repeat the importance of ‘Tell It Like It Is’ (exhibition please and re-publication) and of course that extraordinary College pic you posted of the young boy….that film can still be preserved…

    but, yes, for all the reasons you’ve articulated, I think that what is important is that a photographer use whatever tools allow her to sing out in the world and to embrace what allows her to make and feel that she has a place in what she’s done…whatever form, its all good to me…

    and to surrender to patience…and that all things that rise converge….

    someday, i’m sure i’ll be wielding a digi…maybe that Child’s camera Ross mentioned :)))

  60. I think you all are giving Bob and Paul horrible advice regarding digital. Telling them to not use the back screen and wait two weeks before processing is like telling a small child who has just been given a set of blocks to put the square peg in the round hole. Of course reasonable people can disagree, but my strategy has always been to figure out what’s unique about whatever camera (or film back in the dark days) I’m using and then shoot to its strengths and weaknesses. Not try to make it work like something else. Something it’s not.

  61. MW:

    YES, that is exactly correct. However, my suggestion wasn’t about treating the use of a particular camera or system differently than intended (but i like that idea very much too in order to challenge convention), but to try something different as an act (building patience for example). I agree completely with your “my strategy has always been to figure out what’s unique about whatever camera (or film back in the dark days) I’m using and then shoot to its strengths and weaknesses. ” That is not only sound advice but an important challenge. What i was referring to was how to break patterns imposed on people by technology.

    for example. The LCD screen. A useful tool, for sure, but also a bane. I have a close friend in Taiwan who is a camera engineer and works for Sony, Nikon and Cannon on LCD and button design and one of her tasks is how to make the ‘experience of looking/using lcd’ (her words) better. Technology kind of imposing itself. In other words, rather than focus on what digital means/does, but creates a need. I kind of want folk not to be so reliant on contrived need rather than decided upon need. Here is another example: if you use Facebook, its intent is to look at feeds/walls/posts as much as possible: its intent…sometimes this is good but over time it re-orients…and i was suggesting that rejecting some of the applications of technology (or non-technology) is healthy and food and reforming…

    just as i hated all the old-school people who rejected digital and argued that silver prints are better or film cameras, i also think its important we dont worship modernity either….inevitabilities do not have to be manufactured upon us…we dont all have to workship facebook or buy apple products but try to orient ourselves to our own compasses….

    rathered than manufactured consent :))

  62. Oh, I’m not against trying something different or using a camera different than intended. The #49 like photo I tagged you in over on FB is an example. But by my way of thinking, it’s usually best to master the way things are intended to be used before trying to master different ways of using them. The old, you have to know the rules before you can break them effectively trope. Not always applicable, but generally good advice. And seems to me all the advice above is a bit outside that paradigm anyway. It’s not trying something different. It’s trying to do the same thing with something different. Not the same at all.

  63. Bob Black,

    I’m still digesting this one….just like your posts, this one is a LONG ONE.
    Part of me loves it and part of me hates it.
    The first frame is so impact full that somehow what followed was a bit of a let down. Not all of it but for sure the way I first saw it. That one frame set my bar so high that I was disappointed with the rest.
    I see the more literal ones as opposed to the more abstract ones to work better as a whole and still retaining “the feeling”….the abstract ones add too much noise that it becomes distracting and monotonous. Like watching TV late at night in a foreign country…a confusing experience.
    I can see how it all works in the end (after viewing it many times) but that does not mean I find the execution as it is necessary.
    Something along the lines of “less is more”….
    Amongst all the echoes bouncing back and forth a discernible voice emerges. I hear it…but it’s hard for me to concentrate on its message.

    This song reminds me of your work:

  64. Bob, I just dropped into Burn for my first time in 10 days. I knew I would experience something amazing upon my return – but, wow – there was Bob Black, published in amazing contemplation, thoughtfulness and wonder. Congratulations and yes, like others, I find this work to be both an inspiration and the kind of discouragement that makes me contemplate, for a moment anyway, the possibility of just throwing my cameras away.

    Sadly for me, I forgot my reading glasses when I left home to come here to Hawaii where my son will wed on Friday. This adds some extra blur to the blur of the pics and that is okay, because I can certainly make them out and the added blur just kind of intensifies the theme.

    If I concentrate, I can read text, too, but it gives me a headache and so I can’t stick with it – and when it comes to Bob Black, text demands to be stuck with.

    Thus, I am pretty much skimming and skipping over the text, including in comments. So I am missing much of the experience.

    Maybe I will buy some reading glasses, or maybe just wait until I get back to Alaska.

    My recent absence from Burn is not a departure. I just realized I needed to cut my internet time down and figured I could take in all the essays and the essence of the Burn discussion if I dropped in every Saturday instead of half a dozen or more times daily, but, given our travels here to Hawaii and the fact that I used Saturday to go take a look at the big waves on Oahu’s shore, I didn’t make my Saturday visit.

  65. MW… I get what you’re saying but remember the “advice” to Paul wasn’t so much “here’s how you should always do things with your digital camera”, it was simply a suggestion for him (temporary at that) after his comment to Bob: “You know what I love about film and is the big hole I miss in digital? The gamble, the unsureness, the maybe I got it and the perhaps not. I also love not remembering what I shot on that finished roll of film waiting in my studio.” Again, not exactly like shooting film but might scratch an itch he’s having.

  66. Hey Michael, no offense intended. I offer this stuff in the spirit of bullshitting with people I like and respect. And this is an old, old conversation, often prefaced by something along the lines of “the grass is always greener…” Well, sometimes it is, but more often than not, I’d say, not. But it’s getting late in the afternoon and I’ve got things to do, so in teh spirit of the modern age, I’ll let a youtube clip express my feelings on the subject rather than make any further effort on my own.

  67. CARLO :))

    Thank you very very much. I really appreciate your patience and insight. I understand completely what you’re saying and if I may, let me explain, or describe to you, the importance (and use) of that first picture and its relationship to the others. First, I have also always loved the first photo (incidentally, DAvid Harvey deserves the credit for putting it as the lead photograph. I’d originally used the text frame first, but I love that david used this image prior to the Text image) and it kind of is there for a reason: let me explain>

    It seems the MOST tradition image (or one of them) in the series and maybe one of the most ‘beautiful’ in terms of its geometry and framing and metaphoric power and mystery. And I knew I would always finish the series with the final lone tree in Portugal, so they play off and mimic one another. It is also a deeply person photograph and I have a great love and attachment to it and it is one of the pictures in my archive that people who know my work often remember. And yet….it’s too ‘obvious’ to me…it’s too ‘photographic’ to me, too ‘cinematic.’ Actually, this is my mentality, but I wanted to see if pictures that are ‘less strong’ can stand up, can make just as much of an emotional impact as that one. that picture is also an early photograph and reflects more the photographer I used to be than the one I’ve become. It’s also more ‘youthful’ to me and much less ‘pained’. And so I knew that having the image at the beginning, it would create a certain expectation and that if it’s followed by pictures that are more prosaic or constructed (like the ones with tape), it would produce a kind of dissonance and again great a dialogue. but, as i wrote in the Prologue, I never am really interested in 1 picture for long, and i definitely am not interesting in making a series, or a book, with one ‘good’ picture after another, like beautiful laundry hanging on a wire. I want something else. I kind of want all that conflict to be the point. There are actually pictures as ‘strong’ as the first that I never used in the project, and have kept for my Wan Li project, and its’ always a risk.

    And I understand the monotony of the abstract and ‘noisy’ (the grain) pictures, like tv. but, the funny thijng is that I have that SAME experience when i look at too many ‘good’ pictures. I want something else. Maybe its just because I prefer abstraction to representation. In my poetry, words collide. In my old art, the same. I just get tired with the ‘representation’ of things. But, this is not only a personal orientation but maybe too because i have SO MANY photographs in my head (both from history adn my own work) that I’m constantly trying to go against them. But, i understand how people can get bored with much of this work, and particularly the pictures that arent as ‘strong’ as the others. Funny, one of my favorite photographs is #43 (landscape), #44 (beach in portugal at night with boat upside down and broken trash can) and 50 (a cowskull)…and yet, those rarely get responses making because they just look like noise…but i love them, and as prints even more….

    I once wrote about ‘anti-essays’ as essays…and that kind of got misconstrued, but I kind of mean it. How to make a series, and a book, that is against most principles of photography and yet have the same impact….maybe my problem is that i look spend all day in front of a kline painting or a diebenkorn or watch jospeph beuys or spend my life reciting Paul Celan…all delerium…a kind of burning buzz in my head, always…:))

    and thanks so much for the beautiful song :))…i hadnt heard before…

    thanks so much for taking the time and patience to deal with it, overkill as it is :))

  68. FROSTFROG ! :))

    hey Bill, Alohoa! :)))…lucky bastard. thanks somuch for taking the time away from the beach, surf, pineapples and sun to look at my essay (are you crazy!!!! ;)), go back to the beach or climb those hills). I really appreciate your words and that you took the time, sans lumieres, to actually hack through the essay and please dont kill your eyes on the text. the text is or will still be there and i think works better read with whiskey late at night, like a drunken sailor at see singing out to his lass on land! But, I’m so happy that you’ve chimed in and thankful for your patience and support. It means a lot to me Bill.

    Now go play! :))

  69. MW:

    i LOVED that picture of yours of the boy by the gorgeous tonuge of sea. its strong strong strong, btw. Well, i guess all i really believe is simple things. forget the rules. yes, learn them or at least learn what they mean to you or how they apply to you but, well, rules were meant for teachers, not students. I say set the asylums free :))


  70. I can envision a similar product conceived by you, Bob
    Call it the CyBob. Utilizes a vintage 1Mp camera that records any color situation and,utilizing
    a complex algorithm, defocuses the image and converts to a hi contrast,grainy rendering.
    Degree of effect is determined by the mood slider :)

  71. Bob / David, I remember reading a White House photographer recall how he watched photographers chimping the LCD screens of their cameras when the President had only just walked past them a few yards. Anything could have happened and they were chimping!
    I turn the auto review off and chimp later. As for the majority of us who don’t have Magnum to take care of our archives, print, print and print some more: when you breath your last your prints may have a chance of survival but your hard drives may well end up on Ebay.


  72. Carlo…

    I saw Mecano live in the summer of 91. Long, long concert and very beautiful music and a very beautiful girl who accompanied me to see them.

    A quick little tip, maybe will maybe not help you with Bob’s essay. Don’t “look” too much at it.. Just breathe deeply and feel it. There are no hidden secrets it’s just life. Close your eyes and tell me if you can see your memories and experiences perfectly clearly? I can’t remember mine perfectly, image wise they aren’t perfectly distinguishable…blurry, warm, loud…

  73. “Your heart’s desire is to be told some mystery. The mystery is that there is no mystery.”
    Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West.

  74. MTOMALTY! :))))))))))

    damn, that is some wild wild stuff….loved the interview and bit…cybob ;))…i wonder…actually, a cyborg has been secretly typing all this stuff for me…that is just extraordinary…and fucked up too (in the best sense)…you gotta read, btw, Oliver Saks…makes your head spin…MOOD SLIDER IS ALL! ;)))…brilliant, thanks for that…

    MIKE R :)))…yup :)))


    yes, that is IT…and yet we need to invent mystery, ’cause what else can we do ;))…

    ok, must run…done teaching, time to go home…

    i’m still trippin’ over the cyborg thing …damn!!

  75. Bob, way late to the party, but congratulations. Amazing as always.

    I feel at a loss to comment on this. I have to admit, I’m intimidated.

    I knew this was yours instantly. First time through, mostly way over my head, and all the while, at the end I am moved. I feel something. I look inward. I feel the power and the intensity of my twenty-something self.

    This is such a jolt.

    I finally managed to wade through your statement, and all the comments. When I say wade, it is because I, unlike you, have major trouble processing text. I love words, but my mind wanders, my eyes continue to read, but my mind goes else-where. I have many many photo books, and have never read the text in the vast majority. I, unlike you, also love, and relate, to individual images, less to how images work together and tell stories. This is something I’ve only recently realized. I consciously force myself now to try and think in sequences, rather than individual images.

    I love the opening image. For me, it is all I need here.

    Anyway, thanks Bob Black. This is amazing.

  76. GORDON! :))

    Thank you so much for your loving and thoughtful response. I really appreciate that. As for that first image (woman on the beach with mother and child in the background), yes I completely understand. It is also one of my favorite photographs (i have actually 10 from the day i shot that pic that I like a lot) and has always seemed to be one of the photographs in my archive that people really enjoy. Same with me and yes, i think (for a long time) much of what I feel in life or wish to suggest in this series is contained in that photograph, for sure. It’s one of the reasons why I used it at the beginning. It is a deeply personal image for me but I also wanted to see if the other images, the later work, the more abstract work and less-obvious ‘strong’ work could work. In truth, that first picture is married to the final picture (the lone tree at night in portugal) in this series (before the final text frame) and they have a conversation with one another for me (besides both their emotional suggestion) and i felt that both are kind of 2 sides of me: one romantic and loving and hopeful and entralled of the power of mystery and acceptance and the other sad and lonely and hungering at what is lost. The woman at beach picture (to me) is a really optimistic and youthful photograph (an ode sort of to my favorite filmmakers) and the final picture (with the cypress tree at night) is a more matured and saddened person. And I totally understand if all the spaces in between are less powerful. Ironically, the photograph that I’ve sold the most copies of is the Tree At Night (last photographic image here), so its kind of interesting all that space and emotion traveled…

    and that’s it, for me at least, not the individual image but the relationship between images and narrative and i’m always interested in the music or the story or the emotions that become (almost foundational) writ up when images collide and aren’t so obviously connected or so obviously ‘equal’. Some of this belief and aesthetic comes from being a writer and realizing that it is always the internal stuff of sound and words that build the overall effect, including dissonance and contradiction. It also comes, i imagine, from mmy love of Japanese Photobook tradition, which is often defined by books that do not act as studied, easy narrative but the odd pointing of disparate images in union….

    as for the text ;)))…yea, dont sweat it. I didnt write it as an ‘artist statement’ (though, i guess i do add some kind of explanation) but as a kind of monologue from the ‘voice/person’ whose story is this series…like a speech of the hidden voice and all that…as Michael Webster so astutely understood, a kind of Ishmael speech…some of which I hope is strong and beautiful and some of which is cacophonous and repetive and confused and obfuscating…maybe its me in that statement that is trying to use words as, not explanation, but as voice of this ‘book’….but, well, it doesnt matter…

    and thank you so so much for yout love and kindness Gordon…still hope to see BC someday and that cottage of yours :))

  77. NATHAN :))

    thanks so much i really appreciate that. And I want to congratulate you again on having your wonderful essay published as well. I’ll tell you something my son (when he was very young) once asked me: “Dad, how long can you keep looking at your pics until you get sick of them. I mean, its the same pictures right?”…

    been chewing on that for 6 years since he said it….:))

    big big hugs :)))

  78. Bob,

    You continue to be a great friend and a tremendous inspiration. It’s so refreshing to look at your work within the context of our digital world. It’s not about film, it’s about time. You’re doing something here that’s difficult, slow and visceral. Kudos to you for bringing the feeling across so effectively.


  79. BOB:

    I am not even going to try to read and digest the tomb of comments that have followed Loomings.

    But just wanted you to know that I am happy to see this work. As with Bones, the pains and pleasures of your voice sing out once again.


    Justin P

  80. MW

    oh yes you are quite correct…very often comparisons of the old and the new are a really tedious waste of time/energy…still it is human nature to do so…all part of our collective never ending learning process which surely includes back and forth evaluation….for sure however i never give “advice”..not a word in my lexicon….suggestions for maybe how to think about something are simply suggestions….not advice.

    it is all about trade offs…switching cameras does make for different literally sees differently with an iPhone than with an 8×10….i think it is more about camera feel and size than digi or film….

    it seems to me by looking carefully at Bob’s work for example that he needs to be fluid one way or the other….Bob’s words match Bob’s pictures and both match Bob if you know him….this is the ONLY thing to think about…are the pictures Bob? or Michael? or whomever?

    the hardest thing in photography is of course the hardest thing about life in general , and that is to totally find oneself…so so easy to get lost in the expectations or the parameters of others….we do not live alone….interaction with others is part of the deal…however IF you can co-exist with others and use the bits and pieces you learn from others and still maintain your individuality, then you can ring the bar bell whether or not you are shooting with digi or film.

    all of us do everything in our power everyday to avoid facing ourselves…we get distracted…we want to get distracted…we come up with every reason in the book and beyond to focus on the trivial…to get lost in minutia is a “vacation” from facing up to our own reality or perception thereof…

    the reasons for pushing that shutter button at any given moment vary wildly…and why would it matter anyway with billions of pictures being taken at any minute of the day? why do we need to freeze a particular moment or create a composition and then show that result to others? the thunderous taking of pictures these days is a phenomena that i think even the “experts” in human anthropology are wrestling over…it is quite obviously a human “need” at this point that we did not even know we needed a few years ago…or should it even be a surprise? i think not….photo sharing is simply sharing…and sharing is what we do…how humankind operates…how we build bridges and rockets and how we create art….all the same process.

    why aren’t we burned out on the whole deal? haven’t we seen enough already? why would any of us need to see one more photograph? certainly not “necessary”…well we never never tire of looking at each other…no matter how many faces you have seen, you want to see more…we cannot get enough of each other…and by whatever hard wiring we all have that creates this insatiable desire, this thrill, to look with awe at a face, two eyes, a nose, a mouth , and ears which we have all seen a million times with wonder is the same damn hard wiring that makes us want to look at more pictures….we are looking for the really special face and we are looking for the special photograph in the same way…all of us with different interpretations of “special”….

    Bob has hit almost everyone here with his vision…his WAY of seeing the world around him….try to analyze it and you cannot…each image seems easy to “make” and yet we know for sure that there is a uniqueness that you cannot quite put your finger on…the image and the sequence of images….try to figure it out, and you absolutely will not….digi or film is a small side discussion, not the biggie…

    the best we can all do is to have a well balanced diet of viewing work and then working ourselves…getting it all to come together is no small feat…seems like it would be easy but is not….or it is actually easy but we make it hard which makes it not easy!!

    anyway, none of this is advice!! just some food for thought..and to share…that’s what we do.

    cheers, david

  81. Bob,

    There’s not a single frame in your work that I find boring. What I’m referring to is the monotony, that’s what I perceive to be the problem….for me of course. THe way I see it.
    At the same time I understand that this is your vision and this is the way or one of the ways you are choosing to tell it.
    A new understanding is emerging in how I relate to essays and how I view them. Plenty of times I look at an essay and cannot for the life of me comprehend how one frame relates to the next. But when I watch a movie or documentary for instance from one scene to the next images appear that seem unrelated but it does not seem to matter that they do not. Is it that moving pictures are in constant movement that one cannot keep up with the information being presented? I don’t know….but somehow this does not seem to be the case with still photography and essays. At least with the more poetic and conceptual ones….
    I can understand your essay Bob if I view it like a movie not as stills.
    Do you know what I mean?
    I’m not one to believe that everything needs to be explained and that everything needs “captions”…not at all. Some things are best left un-answered….nothing wrong with that.


    I saw Mecano in 87 if I remember correctly….I was a teenager living in Venezuela. The concert was at a bullring….how fitting for a spanish group….thinking about it now this is how the romans must it felt in the colosseum without the carnage of course….just the entertainment ;-))))

  82. IAN :))

    THANK YOU SO MUCH Ian. Yea, i think (or maybe its because I’m older) that too many folk (young and old) worry about rushing rushing work and life and love and respect and acknowledgement and all that. Maybe I used to be a bit like that too (but most of my life, I’ve never really worried too much about rushing stuff) but for sure over that last little while, I’ve really grown comfortable with time and with what happens or doesnt happen. Maybe, too often now, we’ve been programmed to both rush and to gobble up what we think we deserve: accolades, work, attention, completion etc. but what always matters is just the commitment to whatever polar star pulls at your gravitation rounding. for me, it seems like it takes me even longer to do things, but i’m ok with that…and thanks so much for lending your voice here. You know I proud I am of you and your own work and accomplishments and your beautiful patience in allowing your own life to sift and drift along its rivers. See you I hope next weekend…big hugs and love :))

    JUSTIN :))

    thanks so much Justin. I’m afraid I’ve burried the work with my own long comments ;)))…you know, that’s just me :))…Hopefully, in soem of the long things I’ve written here there is a nugget or two of honesty and love and openness and maybe even inspiration. I’ve always believed in being open about work and life and what I’ve always LOVED so much about David and BURN is the openness and the conversation. I mean, all we have in this world are stories and one another. I’ve always loved it best here when photographers were participating in the conversation of their work, fielding questions and comments and maybe offering insight into their own compositions and songs and life. I guess, for me especially, who loves to talk to people and loves to ask questions, it only makes sense. I hope my long ramblings have been a joy to others and not too tedious ;)))…sending you big big hugs :))

  83. DAVID! :)))))))))))

    NOTHING more important in this entire thread than what you’ve just written. That is what all people, photographers or barbers or otherwise, should remember. That is an entire life worth of learning in that one post.

    thank you so much for saying that, singing it out into the world!

  84. CARLO :)))

    yes, i understand absolutely and agree, absolutely! Like I said, when I read a book or a sequence of poems or watch a movie, it is the internal logic and internal poetry that seems always to me to make sense of the bigger whole. that’s why I always re-watch films that I love or re-read books I love or look endlessly at photography books i love (David’s ‘based on a true story’, i’m sad to report is so dog-eared and bent at this point he’d probably kill me if he saw the state it is in , same is true with all the thinks i love best).

    Let me say a word about monotony. Actually, i think of things less about monotony than challenging it through repetition. Philip Glass, when asked about why his music is so repetitive to the point of monotony (same was asked of Michael Nyman), and he responsed that he uses repetition as a way to challenge and manifest and create ENDURANCE, to show ENDURANCE. THIS is absolutely true of why i do the same in all my work: long with repetition (including duplicates of same images in some of my projects) because the truth is that LIFE is always about negiotating repetition, routine, boredom. and also, this past autumn, I read David Foster Wallace’s novel Pale King which has as its goal the attempt to express boredom, repetition, routine as both an act of bravery and strength but moral probity. To NOT focus on what is always exciting but to focus on the prosaic, the continued the commonplace. This forced sense of monotany (where pictures look the same, where sequences resemble each other (this is much truer in the longer sequence of Loomings)) is part of the intent and gamble…my favorite filmmakers often do the same (what’s goddard if not repetitive, tarkovsky, bella tarr, haneke, fellini, etc) and yet each time it comes alive and aflight….

    and let me confess too :))…i think we each get bored with what we make and do. In fact, at this moment, i’ve been wrestling with a ridiculously long picture project (Wan Li) that I hope will have 1,000 pictures and you know with Loomings, one of the BEST things David Harvey did for me was to ask me to cut the long version down. this took about 3 days. I love the editing process (even though my work probably doesnt strike many as having been edited) and its in the editing process (which can produce a myriad of versions and meanings) that I start to figure out which version will work the best for me (thought there is never a perfect or right sequence and as with DAH’s b.o.a.t.s. the more variations the richer) at a given moment. When David asked me to cut down the longer version, it was thrilling and a great exercise and also educational (yes, we never stop learning) because part of i wanted to do was to see if I could cut it nearly in half would the meaning remain the same, would the music and repetition be intack, would it still make sense, still be long enough to ‘challenge’ the viewer without losing them…David was right…

    it provide a glorious exercise and one to which it made the experience not only more helpful but in the end, allowed me to fall in love again with not only Loomings but with the ideas and emotions and reasons why i made it in the first place…

    call that the cinema of life my friend :)))

    what elese do we need :))

    big hugs

  85. Bob,

    Great examples, thanks for the insights!
    Agree with the boredom aspect of our lives…perhaps it’s also the fact that if things come easy we tend to discard them as trivial…unimportant….and what comes with hard work it’s to be treasured. But sometimes that is not the norm or lets say it does not always pan out that way. It’s not a rule. Sometimes things come easy and they are great..nothing wrong with that….and sometimes you put lots and lots of effort into something only to be rewarded with nothing…work wise that is….the lesson has been learned if you are wise and can see a lesson where no one will see anything…or worst…a waste of time.

    You speak about music…funny because often times when I see images I hear a soundtrack.
    In your work I hear many soundtracks colliding or actually in parts. SOme images have a more beautiful and serene track and some have a harsh sound to them.
    It reminds me of this:

    Lyrics below:

    You’re number eight. Your name is Jane, with black hair, braids, and black lines around your eyes… Shades to hide your habit. I don’t know your age, though you guessed mine… My sign. Your sign! The opening line is always just the same. The same intention, destination. You and me and rainbows.
    Loaded guns attract. We know the rules, we don’t react. We wait in hope, we don’t expect – You and me and rainbows.
    Down here everything is fine. We have a straw, we have a line. We have a bag, a rock, a mountain with a string of shepherds driving lions. Aiming skewers at the sheep… face down, asleep in onion fields. The frying fields. The worms… they peep through holes which once were eyes. They thrive… they bake although we painted out the sky and the sun. There’s only thunder, and you and me and rainbows.

    Let’s hide out in the lay-by, let the time fly by. Tonight’s disguise – a car crash with our wheels like shattered stars, our dashboard charred. Our windscreen… a graveyard for the flies (we’re fast!) The hungry flies are circling, mourning as the watchers squat with cameras, cakes and flasks. They’re spying, spitting as the blue light flashes, axes swing. We’re broken wings, but still we’ll fly and we’ll reach our destination – you and me and rainbows.

    And if we turn the lights down low and watch the sky cry through the window… Will I watch your fingers grow and stretch like butterflies? The shadows flexing, licking toes, and blinding as slowly sun sets on the same old hill. The same red glow. We’re quite alone – just you and me and rainbows.
    Everything I own is in the corner of your room. It’s covered with a sheet just like it died – but I will take a broom. I’ll sweep it new again, arrange it… Oh, I’ll grow a dozen hands. No I never will neglect my world again. I’m safe beneath my blanket. Call it home… For you. For me… and rainbows
    Loaded guns attract
    We know the rules, we don’t react
    We wait in hope
    We don’t expect
    Just you and me and rainbows
    Looking down

  86. Just for the record…I’m not comparing your work to the references I have provided just now and in my previous posts….just that your work reminds me of certain things.
    Just to be clear.

  87. David :)) Well, well said. When I think of photographers, I think of this kid. An open palm with an idea, or a photo, or a guinea pig sitting in it is, as Bob says, all we’ve got.

  88. CARLOS :)))

    dont worry about comparing work or referencing the work to others or others mediums of expression. I do it all the time when looking at others work (be it photography or writing or music or theatre or film or anything, its are associative, sensoial selves, so I’m not at all bothered by that) as well as working on my own. I tend to be a referent kind of writer and photographer and in some sense most of my photographic and writen work is working off or in relationship to others whom I admire or were inspired by or even upset by (the original genesis, for example, of Loomings long ago was that I wanted to try to make a piece about landscape that was in opposition to the way most landscape photography, traditionally, has been done, though the transformation has taken it far afield of that original idea).

    Thank you so much for the music. Yes, I do understand the association, though I hope my voice, or timbre, is a bit gentler ;)). In fact, music is a big part of how i work with editing something, whether a poem or photographic piece. I write in silence, just as i photographic in silence (actually, when i’m shooting intensely, its impossile for me to talk during and for a long time after, and is why i almost never photograph with other photographers around or with groups). Once I’m in the photographing mode, it takes me along time (believe it or not) to actually use words adn others words (talking to me) becomes really painful and physically hurts. Same is true when i’m writing (poem or prose). Once i’m in that space, spoken language disappears and all i hear in my head are sounds and meaning and the internal language of prose or poetry. However, when i’m editing/revising, i’m always using music..and depending on the project or the intent of photographics, i’ll choose different kinds of music. Much of the way music works on me has an influence on both the sequence and the images i choose…then i’ll look in silence and see if the same physical sound of the sequence makes sense in my head….its never, the editing process, just about the good/bad pictures or good/bad sequence, etc….

    and yes, that thing about what makes something great has a strange relationship to time or effort. Some of the best things i’ve written came quick and easy and effortless and some of the best things i’ve done took a very long time and were difficult and frustrating and hard…and vice versa…its a strange alchemy and no real rule….all i try to be is open to what the possibility is…to be there when something comes fast and easy…but also patient enough when it dosnt work and needs time and thought and revision adn tossing away…jsut to be open to the muse or the effort…and now rules but to be open and aware and most willing…and most importantly enough, to be accepting of whatever process works at a given time and for a given work…there is no real book to that answer…that’s always a mystery…except to just be open, etc….

    as i wrote long ago, Fear is no match for acceptance…and i mean that in life as well as life…

    and i try to live that way now…jsut accept all and embrace what comes and what is lost and try to learn and love the totality of it all…

    thanks again, i’ve enjoyed our conversation…(but i must run now for the day )


  89. Bob,

    Thanks for sharing all these “behind the scenes” sort of speaking and your working process….
    It’s the kind of stuff I find fascinating. Really…thank you for taking the time. I know you are always running and teaching and using a library computer. If that’s not dedication and love for what you do I don’t know what is!

    I have also deeply enjoyed our conversations here

  90. BOB.

    If I were King of all the Alphabets I would launch pogroms against the adjectives and the adverbs.
    banish them to the isles of latinia and esperantonia.

    But I am not…..yet!!!

    Love the first picture.
    If you ever want to do a print trade I would love one of that.
    The essay is you. it has your signature all over it.
    No mistaking who created this piece.

    Saying that though,I do find most of it impenetrable, but then I am shallow and easily distracted.
    Happily so.
    Also ,unlike you, I am all about subjectively judging images. Dont care at all about what or who its about. It works or it doesn’t. its why i like the first image so much. I mean, the geometry is all wrong,its been burnt in with a blowtorch, the grain and contrast are right at the limit……..but its a great image.
    So Big Big congratulations, enjoy the moment and I will drink a large cognac in your honor.


  91. CARLOS :))

    My pleasure. Just last night my friend Mark Davidson (to whom this series was also dedicated) and I had dinner and chatted. As I told him, part of what I love about BURN is the conversation and its just part of who I am to want to share (about work, about life) and if it can help another photographer (young or old) feel more compelled and hungry to sing the life of their own making, that it is worthwhile. I also am not terribly found of photographers who keep their work a secret (method, style, technique, thinking, etc) because we’re all in the same boat…so why not share. I never hoard or crave that kind of entitlement…so, like i said on Day 1, anyone interested in either the method or the way i work, can ask…and yea, i’m a bit stretched thin between running to teach and running to library computer, but it is all good…the ride has been terrific and i hope that i’ve been able to share not only my thinking and methods but a part of my life too….that’s all we have: abiding the sharing of things :)))

    GORDON :))

    Maybe next year. i plan on visiting BC ….make sure the fire is lit and wine is available :)))

    JOHN! :)))

    First of all, let me say that I hope you are well and that your health is strong again. I’ve thought of you often this year as I’ve dipped and climbed through my own stuff (life stuff) and just often think if you are ok. I do miss your firey and honest and wicked (lovely) voice and ideas….who is more frank then you….and thanks so much for the thoughtful and kind words. Yea, let’s talk later in the summer about a print swap :)…would be lovely, indeed!…and…i can nominate you king (as long as you dont too quickly execute your loyal servants and scribes…the old adj/adv madness, i plead guilty….something my high school teacher just to ruler-beat out of me…somehow that failed ;))…so, now i try sometimes to use adjectives as verbs (especially in poems)….who knows ;))….as for judging, that is totally cool :)))…we do that all, and just orient each of us differently…and, for good or ill, i guess i gave up long ago caring so much about individual pictures in hope that something else bubbles forth…some times it doees, sometimes it doesnt :)))….when i printed the 1st image in the darkroom a couple of years back, i printed like 10 versions using magenta filter and hand burning and all that shit…could never get it to look like i wanted, so i just let it come…the magenta filter was turned way up and some hand burns over the enlarger light (which you can see in the image, if you look close enough)…thumbprints too….ahhhh, the good old days…i’ll share some cognac with you this evening as well…sending you big hugs for your beautiful, subjective self :))



  92. Tom Hyde,
    when I read your post, I knew the photograph before I clicked on the link: one of my favourites from William Albert Allard.

  93. I wish I could bat this stuff out like Bob can. Most of the time I can’t get to the verb before thinking I should find a better noun.

  94. First, a technical consideration: I’ve never seen the effect of souping Tri-X to the extent that the silver starts to droop and melt away. The lighter zones in many of these images have that scumbled look of Rembrandt and Titian’s white lead areas, lightly darkened with centuries old varnish. This is a new experience for me; it marries painting and photography directly which is highly exciting. The aesthetic joy of good brushwork in a photograph.

    Also, I notice the excessive souping “democratizes” and averages out the images Bob has taken in high light (which is a real bitch to do well), with lighting situations that are easier to manipulate in his other images. Already, just in the development of the negatives, Bob is introducing an editorial linearity into the essay. It was Bob who introduced me to the idea of “souping”, that is, leaving the negs in weak Rodinal for hours, maybe even overnight, in order to elevate the contrast. It’s an approach that requires patience, taking the discussion of digi vs. film to a different plane. Bob admitted sometimes he would just forget about the development…only to be remembered the next morning when he saw his cannisters in the bathroom, kitchen, or wherever he’d do his magic. Maybe it was one of those techniques accidentally stumbled upon, where the rules are forgotten about, the expectation of failure looms, and the discovery of a new way of seeing happens? It marries well Bob’s visual impairment, his letting-go of life’s vicissitudes, his patience and his genius for elliptical associations.

    If there is an obvious marriage of the photographer to his work, the photograph as mirror, as self, it is here in Loomings. We all pick and choose the masters of the past and present, from which we wish to emulate and imitate; Bob to me, travels the path of Van Gogh, Bacon, Moriyama and D’Agata. More of course (I’m self-editing…and forgetful); sufficient to say we all draw our own line of study and reverie. I think it has much to do with how those before us have dealt with the problems we face in our own work. Unlike the world of painting where at least until recently, there was a direct lineage of aesthetic problem-solving, photography seems to allow the individual the freedom to pick and choose past solutions tailored to their own problems contained within their character and personality. I like that in Loomings I can smell the trail Bob has travelled, the apples that he has plucked, the feast that he cooked. Yummy!

    Bob right at the top says he has dropped Looming some time ago, has changed in his wisdom and world-view, has matured. The idea that past work is just a stepping-stone for the present. It is my starting-point for final thoughts; lately I’ve been reading all I can about Vasari, considered to be the founding father of art history. In describing what separates bad art from the good, and good art from the great, Vasari’s final judgement rests on the notion of the artists “facilita”, the appearance (not the reality) of ease and spontaneity in the work. (It’s better expressed here: )I think of this when viewing the final, grudgingly-abridged edit of Loomings. We all know the ease in which Bob can go on and on…and on. I also know of his difficulty in the paring down, first by his own hand, and then later by outside forces, of this essay. I’m thrilled that he has embraced the editing of the editing fully. There has resulted a fine essay which has Vasari’s hallmark of greatness: a seemingly easy voyage to the horizon for us to enjoy, with a certain obliviousness to the sweat and equity it cost.

  95. AKAKY :))))))

    hahahahahahahahahaha…..ummm, its the verbs by which i get tongue-tied…..thus, deflecting to the adjectives…i learned that from AKAKY IRL ;))…

    and you know when i’m writing (especially a poem), I hear my HS Adv Placement English teacher all the time: ‘bob, focus on the verbs, not the filler stuff already!’…damn, did she ever have me pegged…

  96. JEFF!!!! :))))

    First of all, let me just say once again THANK YOU so much for your thoughtful and generous comment. Especially happy that you shared a link to Vasari (talking about him would entire an entire new thread, which I’d love to jump in on, maybe later in the day!!). I’m also very happy you’ve shared our chats about souping. Maybe it’ll be helpful to give some more prosaic background about this too :))

    When I lived in Florida and was just starting to make photographs and learn about the entire process of what it meant to use learn the craft, I tried to talk with everyone I could and learn from whatever resource I had. At the time, I lived on a small island on the SW coast of Florida and most of the film processing outfits I found where just small labs that developed folks travel and family snaps. Eventually, I found a professional photographer who shot weddings and also had his own lab. I chatted with him about film and specifically how film is developed and how to accomplish what with film. This was coupled by reading reading. At the time, I was still trying to figure out the camera, and he was trying to figure out what I shot and how i shot. For example, he never understood why i often liked to shoot into direct sunlight (hahahahahah, he once said, ‘you know you are not supposed to do that you know’). This was more intense because the sunlight in SW florida was intense intense and actually, i think i learned the most about how to use and abuse light by being able to shoot in such dramatic and film-killing tropical light (during the height of the day)…later, when I came to Toronto, M and I met a russian phootographer who knew everything about the technical side of photography, including printing and negative development. We started to develop our own negatives (yep, with Rodinal) and tried at first to do it the ‘right’ way but than somethings intervened: life. Once I was letting some negs sit and i got distracted from the timer and actually forgot there was a canister sitting in the kitchen..(i was watching a film)…and um…yea, the rest was history…i then tried to see different times for pushing…and sometimes for just cooking the whole film, where the silver was just mush…i also had read what Akaki had done with his own negatives in the early 60’s and was fascinated…and, as with what i tried to do in camera, during the moment, i was interested in pushing the boundary of acceptability…not only to the viewer, but primarily to myself…what could i do, to destroy it, and still love it…or feel inspired by it…

    I should the russian photographer my negs and he was horrified. he said, if i wanted high contrast, i could do this in darkroom and with magenta filters but that the denser my negative, the more difficult it would be to make prints (he was right, of course) but i didnt care…i like the break down and the texture….and over time, i just learned how to use light and camera without thinking, knowing what would became an extension of my body…just as i know what push +3 +4 will do (when developing film) will do…more or less….it began as an accident, but an accident with an intent….i was willing to sacrifice good pictures, or good negatives to see what I could learn…maybe that is part of what I’ve always tried to tell others…be willing to lose in the service of learning and experiencing and opening new paths…

    as for influences…i was once asked about my ‘style’…something i hate. i’m not sure i have a style. yea, of course, the pics look like d’agata or ackerman or moriayama or giacomelli or peterson or whoever, but i never thought of that…i always thought more about franz kline paintings…and i was kind of doing this before i discovered them and actually for a long time i was depressed when i saw moriayma, ackerman, d’agata etc…i thought, fuck, they’re famous and now what do i do (like a silly guy, i had thought i had my own vision/technique, hhahahahahahahahahahah), but that lapsed…cause i thought my work was closer to drawing and to poems and to calligraphy (even more now, as people will see whenever i finish Wan Li)…style and outward appearance is like a language and we all share similar languages….no one owns ‘style’ or technique…only the story matters or rather the service of a technique in the aid and abetting of what they wish to say or express….

    in the end, all my work will be about something simple, i’m afraid: and that is how one guy spent his life trying to deal with blindness and how that served to reconcile himself to loss and love and all that seeing, and disappearance, and acceptance means….

    all i learned as a kid…and just acquired the tools by living and listening and trying…

    thanks so much for your wonderful descriptions…

    I’ll write more later today

    big hugs…hope to see you soon Jeff :)

  97. JEFF:

    oh, and a word about the ‘democratization’ of the images. I’ve written about that extensively above (and you and I have spoken about that as well), but you are correct. Part of the notion that I’ve struggled with (and seems antithetical or heretical even) is the hierarchy of ‘good/quality’ when it comes to both assessing and organizing pictures. Yes, of course, there are some pictures that I feel a stronger affinity toward or love more or accomplish more of what I’d hope (same, of course, is true when i look at anyone else’s pictures) but when I put together a piece, I really want there to be an equality, or rather, a societal equality in terms of how pictures play and perform off one another. Can the ‘weak’ pictures contribute in the same way ‘stronger’ ones contribute.In a poem, this is often achieved (in least how i write) by positioning strong, lyrical or even large words (words with depth and breath and multiplicity of meaning) with simple or prosaic words. I’ve always love that dissonance and how big and small words play off each other in both sound and meaning (multisyllabic with monosyllabic for example) and how that contributes to the over-all power of a poem….

    the same is true with pictures and this can be accomplished in a number of ways (for example in Loomings there is a dance between White pictures and Black pictures (in feeling, in aesthetic in light, etc) as well as what well may be ‘strong’ pictures with lesser or more prosaic ones. This was intended…jsut as i like to have techniques work toward equating pics…as you so wonderfully articulated…

    anyway, must run to an important school meeting…more later…

  98. BOB…

    wonderful to see your work here (again) with it’s unmistakable slow dark syrupy presence…
    what i like most about your work is that slow question that fizzes and bubbles. anything but instant, these images make me think, trying to unravel the mysterious. Did i manage to decipher? Nope! does that matter? Nope : ) of course not, it’s the process and the journey, the engagement that i thoroughly enjoyed. Whenever pictures become poems i am hooked. So massive thanks Bob for doing it and putting it out there. Congrats! Well done! hope we get to meet sometime and share that bottle of red and some good times…
    cheers, Sam

  99. slow dark syrupy presence… hmmmm… also light & bright… what i’m trying to say is not ‘dark’ i.e not negative – sure you know what i mean : )

  100. i so wanted to say something smart and crisp, brilliant.
    so mr black can say something to me personally.
    but as i wade through possibly the longest burn essay DAH has allowed here
    i dont even struggle why i somehow understand what my eyes feel like they cannot
    i realized it’s 2 am and now i feel like i must go back to bed and dream.

  101. Bob…

    Do you think you would of been able to create this essay/story in colour? I don’t mean in a technical sense but how colour isn’t as abstract.

  102. how colour isn’t as abstract

    I suspect Rothko, Pollack, and just about every other artist hanging in a modern art museum would beg to differ.

  103. IMANTS :))))…

    thanks young man!!…you know, I’d trade my entire archive for that cottage of yours and a lightstalking peak at that Tasmanian sea ofyours…that’s breathing life :))))….big hugs

    SAM! :)))

    First of all, a big congratulations to you for the past year and for the great and deserved awards and accolades that your Family book has received! You know how much I love that book and series and yes, I cant wait to sit down with wine and a chat and hope to get my mitts on it in the flesh!…and thanks so much for your generous and kind words. Yes, syrup indeed…and yes i totally understand. I never think of this work (or any of my work) as ‘negative’ at all…yes, often dark but often light-filled…sad for sure at times, but i think in the end accepting…and you know often times its just impossible to penetrate anything (which used to frustrate me) about life, experiences, others, meaning of things, until i realized that what matter was the small details of life, of living of language of another person, of the life around and yea, even of art…and in the attend just the countenance and the accepting…not necessarily to explain or ever fully unveil but to shape and shift within the acceptance of all that…sometimes is just wonderful to wander around the house at night, sockless, without light and to feel the rooms and the earth and the world tilting below, without necessary penetrating why or explaining why it moves you so…and that’s mostly how i increasingly feel…..thanks so much Sam! :))

  104. GRACiE! :)))))

    but my dear you have already said something “smart and crisp, brilliant” already here (and many many times before. let me just quote you: “i dont even struggle why i somehow understand what my eyes feel like they cannot”….maybe that is the way through the dark wood of life…or rather, that is how I have come to understand that…maybe that is what Dante meant all the time when he finally met Beatrice in Paradiso, isn’t it…and of course, above all else perhaps, the chance to dream….just having your voice is crisp enough…thank you so much Gracie…and btw, please, Bob…not Mr. Black…i’m not THAT old ;)))

    IMANTS! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! :))))))…yup yup yup…love it…thanks mate!


    Interesting question. First, no I could NOT have made THIS essay (or any of my other Black & White work) in color. First of all, as I wrote in the long statement, I dont so much treat color as nostalgia or a classical framework/tradition in photography. I was once horrified when Martin Parr spoke of photographers who use b/w now as being, umm, disingenuous (and i LOVE PARR). Parr suggested that photographers (or he seemed to be suggesting) who work in B/W were trapped in a kind of nostalgia and he wanted to show the world (for the future) what the world looked like to those who were look back. Actually, I found this not only odd (photographic color is a lie just as b/w) but also just as disingenuous. All photography is interpretive and a bit dictatorial. It is an expression of the picture maker, above all else and in many ways it makes no difference (in terms of its ability to show or reflect or ruminate upon the world) whether pictures are in color or b&w. The 2 media serve different purposes and conjure different responses (including responses in the brain) and both acquire and reflect very different experiences, at least on a superficial level. As I wrote, I use b/w (for the most part) for dietary reasons and not at all because b/w is more ‘classical’ or more ‘iconic’ but because i wish to see HOW MUCH i can ring from the tools of just that spectrum. the use of b/w is also very much related to my love of ink and drawing and calligraphy. If you ever look at calligraphy done with red ink (at least for me) it looks odd and just feels odd and not as powerful as black ink. A bit of red or green ink can in fact evoke, especially in small amounts or strokes, but doesnt seem to have the same visceral and emotional experience. I have the same experiences when I’m looking at, say, Franz Kline’s paintings…or Zhang Huan’s ash paintings or sculptures. That extraordinary simplicity and muted focus just becomes and extraordinarily physical response….

    all that being said, I have always been overwhelmed by color in painting and those who rung color the most sublimely have always been my favorite painters and the ones to whom I return again and again and again to: Caravaggio, Van Gogh, Matisse (who i prefer to picasso), Schiele, Rothko, Diebenkorn etc etc etc…in fact, 2 years ago the MOMA had a towering show of Abstract Expressionism, which later came to Toronto, and once again, it was Rothko who tore out my heart. Pollack was like Kline (and not a colorist, though he used color, just as picasso wasnt a colorist) and I love some of his paintings (and of course above all his physical, earthy technique) but it was the early work of Rothko and his later towering colorfields that have always lit my head electric. The same is true with color photography….but…

    I still havent yet figure out how I want to use color. I dont SEE color at all in Toronto and most importantly I dont FEEL color here. The first time I felt color again was when I was in Nova Scotia, during the Wolf Hour…and of course in the south of Spain and South of France…and I’m still working through that in my head. When I used a digital camera for those 2 years in 98-99, i used only color (obviously) and i never converted the files to b/w (i actually hate when photographers do this, maybe that’s why i’ve stuck with film for so long) but i used color in those images more in a painterly way, as strokes and geometric form rather than as properties of light. I am actually interested very much in trying to become a color photographer as well. There are a few photographers (to me) who have made extraordinary work in one or the other but they’re rare. The choice of b/w or color, generally, seems to come from an orientation toward light or toward more abstract elements….I kind of feel how Roger Ballen feels about color, which is feels is a lie. Photographic color, generally, doesnt look anything like color and light in life and that is what interests me actually about it and exploring it…i just must figure out how…because with b/w, especially with trix, part of the point of the gesture is contained in how silver reacts to chemistry and what that grain does on the negative….color is less textual but more voluminous and i am interested in that…but i have far to go before i get there…

    LOOMINGS, or any of my older work, or even the new Wan Li, seems impossible in color because of what is doing of how it suggests. Although, i will say there will be color images in Wan Li (not many, but a couple) and those images at this point have less to do with photography, as a craft, then with suggestion about something else (my eye)….and so, if Loomings had been shot with color film, it wouldnt look the same (including the actually subjects/framing/light determinations) but most importantly, it wouldnt feel the same….it would be something else entirely….

    and most importantly, i dont know how to shoot the sea in color yet…unless it’s like a Rothkoesque muted color….and for that, i need specific light and specific color (greens, turgoise, vermillions) and there have been only a few bodies of water which i thought (i’d shoot this in color)…the sea for me is black or white or gray…looming…like a person’s body…a person’s body for me is always in black and white….their mind and heart in color….and that is what differentiates it…

    btw, color IS ABSTRACT….maybe even more abstract, to me, than black and white…and that intrigues me and haunts me too….

    we shall see how long

    Loomings is about PHYSICALITY…the physicality of land and sea and sky and the physicality of love and the physicality of loved ones and the physicality of loss…

    and since I feel physicality not in color, LOOMINGS could not be in color….

    now when i want to make a project about light (actual light) and about the future, that will be in color for sure…

  105. All of this commenting on Bob’s out of focus pictures is all very well and good, but what I really want to know is who decided that this Punksareusanytakers Phil was the groundhog of all groundhogs, the one true meteorological rodent before whom we must all bow down? What was it about this particular woodchuck that made him and not, say, the woodchuck who is even now undermining the foundation of my garage, the go to rodent in weather forecasting? And how do we know that Phil is on the up and up? How do we know that powerful skiing interests and the sellers of snowmobiles have not entered into a secret cabal to extend winter in order to maximize their profits? How do we know that this oversized rat’s predictions of an early spring are just red herrings to allay the public’s suspicions, a way of hiding the fact that there are dark corporate forces at work behind the scenes here? What’s in weather forecasting for Phil? Inquiring minds want to know, dammit!

  106. typo when i wrote

    “I dont so much treat color as nostalgia or a classical framework/tradition in photography.”

    i meant

    I dont so much treat b/w as nostalgia or a classical framework/tradition in photography as i do a dietary exercise ….and what i was suggesting about Parr’s frustration (or so he seemed to be expressing) with contemporary photographers using b/w, what I was surprised that he hadnt realized that choice of b/w or color isnt only about versimilitude…or for documentation……actually, modern digital color looks and feels much less than life than kodachrome, for example, but i love how people use heightend keys with color for all manner of reason….

    the ONLY question is seems to me a photographer or viewer should ask is the most simple: does it work, does it feel/think right…does it adhere to its own nature….the other questions (b/w vs. color, film vs. digital, big cameras vs phones etc) seem just schoolbook grammar exercises….nothing more…interesting to think about (and i think about them alot actually) but in the end it is about what is organic in a project and in a photographers way of living and expressing what they wish to express with whatever tool or style or technique that seems to make sense….

    someday color, i hope i can make it sing in different ways as well…

    ok, must run…library is kicking me off…

  107. AKAKY:

    how to we know it isnt all a right-wing conspiracy…i mean, we know how the right loves to obfuscate and distract ;))))))….

    btw, here in toronto it is frigid and gray, so a good day for your beloved PHil:

  108. Bob – Thanks for the thoughts. I have taken your advice and have greatly been enjoying Hawaii. It is Saturday, my now normal day for dropping into Burn. I knew Loomings would still be dominating the discussion.

    John, I too hope you are doing well.

    See you all next Saturday when, instead of Hawaii, I will dropping in from the Arctic.

  109. Bob, I know it isn’t a right wing conspiracy because I am a dues-paying member of the vast right wing conspiracy and have been for years, and the lemon danish at the meetings of said vast right wing conspiracy is still the same old stale stuff you can get in bulk from Sam’s Club. You know something’s up when you get fresh danish at the meetings and there’s been no fresh danish for at least a year and a half now.

  110. a civilian-mass audience

    aha…where are you KATIEEE and SPACECOWBOY and DAVIDB…and ALL MY BURNIANS…?
    our BOBBY delivered …” Loomings..”!!!

    I am bringing ouzo and olives and hell,yah…I am singing…

    What not to love
    what not to love

    running …hihiii
    like BOB BLACK!

  111. Bob, your thoughts on black and white vs colour resonate deeply with me. Like you, I also draw, in black and white only. I love line, I love pure graphics, I think I understand.
    Colour is a whole other dimension. I do not draw or paint in colour. On facebook, most recently, I have posted two images of Martha, one in black and white, and a similar image in colour. I’m not sure which one is closer to “reality”, or to what I was trying to say. I like them both. I’m trying to puzzle out why.

    Of course it’s a pointless discussion I’m sure. One is not better than the other, but the syntax and the experience of viewing either one is different.

    Your view of the world Bob, as a one-eyed visually impaired person is surely different than most people’s . I assume I’m seeing that in your photographs. In your photos I see simple graphics, big forms, movement, a nuance not usually experience by us normally sighted people. Clearly this is your gift to us. To point out what is obvious, but is usually obscured by detail and complexity.

    Looking forward to hosting you here on Vancouver Island.

  112. BOB BLACK and ALL

    this has been one of the most interesting discussions yet on Burn in terms of getting to the seed of “what makes Johnny run”…….i thank Bob for, not surprisingly, jumping in and really giving us all some insight into his thinking and reasoning process…never presenting himself to have empirical knowledge, yet simply telling it like he sees it…again, Bob IS the way he writes, the way he photographs, the way he lives…

    as Bob has so eloquently pointed out, it does not matter how you get there, as long as you get there…to strike a chord in the human experience that goes beyond the utilitarian use of our craft, our art…clearly Bob appreciates many styles/approaches/methods, yet only does his thing…we can really only do a few things, or maybe only one thing really well, yet all of us can surely do our one thing better if we soak up the blood , sweat, and tears of those who do other things…

    the human animal is limited basic survival terms one man is a better hunter, another is better at building a fire, and another is better at cooking the meat..once everyone is well fed, and a roof is over our heads, and we are warm and safe, then art comes in…art is the ultimate fulfillment beyond pure survival…the ultimate symbols for all societies once food, shelter, clothing and territory have been attained by gut instinct, and war, and all of the other positive and negative aspects of human nature, then it is time to build the opera house…

    does this make art a luxury? well sort of…it surely makes it the last thing in the chain of human experience after all else has been attained….however, even in military combat, during bombing runs etc., works of art are generally spared…not targeted…there must be a real need..a real appreciation beyond governments, beyond war, beyond politics….after all a brilliant stone sculpture is still only a piece of rock chiseled by a man into a specific form…to what purpose? to what end?

    we need i think more than anything to be fulfilled by what is not utilitarian….poetry, music, films, literature, painting, sculpture, and yes photography all serve to fulfill this “need”…for us to rise above the nitty gritty of pure survival….perhaps our ultimate purpose….after all, in the end, it is only art that survives….

    ok, sure, this is only one essay by one man…yet the exponential effect will reach many…no, not because of the number of times it will be seen, not by the circulation of the magazine, or number of books sold etc., but by the way that it will affect others to do their own thing…the passing of an idea, a thought, a philosophy, is i think the most important thing one can do with their life…to do something, and then tell others how you did it in its most basic incarnation…..again, simply sharing….

    Bob Black is one giving dude…with a small spark comes fire….and with a good fire going, we all gather…

    cheers, david

  113. Well done, BB, and nicely said, DAH. (Minor minor minor) note, DAH, I think you meant art is the ultimate achievement? Penultimate meaning, I believe, next to last? In any case we get your drift. And while you and bob shoot and write, I will go back to the cave and “tidy up.”

  114. Literature is news that stays news, which applies to all the arts, I think, and is true even if the coiner of the phrase, Ezra Pound, was a traitorous fascist looney tune who should have been hanged after the war.

  115. Bob thank you so very much for all your replies to my never ending stream of questions. It’s really been brilliant and highly inspiring to read. I’m sure I could find more questions for you :))) but I do realize you have a life outside your local library!!

    “Poetry is what happens when nothing else can”.
    Charles Bukowski

  116. I always wonder when a regular posters essay/work appears how much is a response to the person and how much is to the work itself

  117. Imants, I suspect that being a regular poster will help you get your foot in the door, but if you don’t have the goods then being a regular poster isn’t going to get you published. Being Henry Fonda’s kid may have helped Jane get into show business, but if she couldn’t act then her career would have ended back in the early 1960’s.

  118. IMANTS

    we rarely publish commentators work here…in 2012 only only MW and Gladdy i think….and now Bob, and of course you several times in 2010,11…commentators are of course always welcomed, but few submit work….

    frankly , i think this crowd is pretty straightforward in their assessments of work regardless of source and i certainly choose based on the work..i would have no reason to do otherwise…

  119. I guess the difference is that people are more informed about the poster of the work so there is a bit more of a personal refence.

  120. DAVID, ALL :)))

    first of all thanks so much for that DAvid and everyone…and yes, I’ll be back to answer the rest of the comments…

    but for now, I want to shift focus and have everyone take a look at Lijie’s project and essay….she deserves the spot light now, please :)))…

    so, i’ll be back to answer, but just want her work not to get some of the attention

    with lots of love and hugs :))

  121. Bob, finally get to see your latest offerings. OK, not in the best of places to view and take it all in, in a net cafe here in Thailand, between 2 kids playing warring Video Games with big and loud noises every time they hit the target or something… :-)

    Plus I do not think it is a project that we should have absolutely something to say about right there. You are more in the category of artists whose appreciation has not to come forcibly in a timely or scheduled manner, and for instant gratification kicks.

    Still, in your constant experimentation to probe and dance (especially dance!) around your own truth and self, you are nothing but inspiring for all of us to search those depth in ways we might not always be ready to undertake but that your own work dares us to have the courage to find.

    Hopefully, what David once wrote, that the best essays on BURN are the least commented, is not really the case.

    Thanks for being Bob Black, and thanks for being my friend.

  122. ALL:

    FIRST of all, again, thanks so much! I will answer all comments, but will take a few days off so that others can concentrate on my friend Lijie’s remarkable and important essay. She deserves the spotlight now and I hope everyone takes the time to look at both The Innocent as well as all her work. :)))


    I’m so happy you’re enjoying your time in Hawaii. I could us a vacation myself and hopefully they’ll be alohoa pictures on your blog soonest ! :))…Welcome back!

    FEANARE! :)))

    Thank you so much for that. That’s so lovely and well, what else is the waking life for but to allow for the continuation of those dreamsongs that visit us along our lives :)))…the hope for more and for richer and more crazy as well! :))

    AKAKY! :)))…i hear ya, i hear ya…especially about the stale danish…

    PANOS! ;))…yea, or at least are thinking of something else, but are to hesitant to say ;))

    CIVI! :))…nice to see your beautifully excitable self back…feels like old times!…what a lovely return :)))

    GORDON I: ME TOO…me too!!!! :)))))

    GORDON II: :))…yes, i cant wait and will let you know when i come west…yes, i LOVE LOVE color too and love to look at color pictures and am making baby steps with color photography…for me though, graphic intensity is about b/w…color about abstract feelings and emotions…and, well…i guess i answered that color vs. b/w on saturday… :))

    DAVID :)))

    THANK YOU amigo for everything you’ve done here with Loomings and everything you do. That’s another great post and damn, you’ve been on a roll with great comments under loomings…something I hope that over time people will return to see what you’ve written…i agree in total….sharing as a way of setting the spark that burns the body and the head and the heart incandescent!…alive…hugs hugs :)))

    DQ :)))))…thanks so much amigo…indeed indeed..

    AKAKY: hahahahahahaah…well, never really loved Poud as a poet either (and read his entire Cantos)…and he was a traitor and antisemetic……but he was also mentally hill…shouldnt be hung…maybe only G.Bush II ;)))

    PAUL :)))…it has been my pleasure and a real joy…and I would keep going on and on…but time now to switch folk’s attention to a different artists work :)))

    IMANTS ;))…well, i believe that LOOMINGS was published because its decent work and I hope that people wrote alot here because they were interested and curious and they knew that I would answer all questions and comments and I hoped that this sparked a good and interesting dialog…it would have been interesting to hear from negative commentators (surely Jim or others must not have liked it) and i would have loved to engage in a discussion…but the series didnt (nor does it ever) work for everyone and so that’s all ok…i’ve really tried to give it my all to be there for everyone and to be open about my life and the work and the process of both the making and the thinking :)))…so, hopefully people responded to that not because I comment often at BURN but because the work warranted the interest and my responses helped people to feel comfortable to ask questions :)))))…be well…

    JULIA :))

    bolshoi bolshoi spasibo dorogoiya!!…bolshoi privet Davidka tozhe…and kiss to the little ones..:))))

    HERVE! :))))

    I thought you just won election to Thai Parliment?…or was that a rumor I heard from one of my friends in BKK? ;))…THANK YOU so much for Being herve and for being so generous and so sensitive with this work. Actually, about watching it in Thai cafe, when i first showed my son, i looked at it with his earphones on listening, i think, to hiphop ;))…andyway, i hope i get to see you this year when you return…i mean, you should be able to get some trip as a newly electred representative to visit Toronto on some cultural venture…I’m waiting for you herve…its been long enough :))…thanks so much for your wide and generous heart!..


  123. a civilian-mass audience

    oi,BOBBY…I am always here…watching,following ‘YOUR VISION’…so many BURNIANS…
    you are ALL amazing…and I am not talking about “photography” …I am talking about your heart,your soul,your good energy and spirit …

    “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret; it is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

    Antoine de Saint-Exupery

    the Greek fighter

  124. CHARLES! :)))

    Hi CP! :))…hey, no worries…and yup yup yup…it’s all about the negative space :)))…as Lao Tzu reminds in Tao Te Ching: its the hole in the middle around which the wheel revolves :)))…same true in life…thanks so much for popping in…hope all is well with you, mrs. you and the little lion cubs! :))))

    big hugs

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