underwater photography


all of us wrestle a bit with experimentation…..when i see a student portfolio with too many different styles of photography in it, i invariably suggest that they stick to one thing…one theme…one style…jumping around from one thing to another too quickly usually connotes no personal development…..and yet, perhaps there does come a time in a photographic life  when sticking to "one thing" becomes overly repetitive and it is time to "move on"….

joseph koudelka went from shooting people in "Gypsies" and "Exiles" to shooting landscapes in "Chaos"….was this evolution or a total change in style and interest??  henri cartier-bresson gave up his "street photography" altogether at the end of his career and went back to his original passion for drawing..did he think that photography was just "not enough"??  alex webb’s masterful and complex color compositions have stayed with him for 20+ yrs. from "Hot Light Half Made Worlds" all the way to his current "Istanbul"….should he change, or is this his trademark for life???  will bruce gilden always be on "the attack" with straight hot flash and the surprise element or will he "soften" and do moody warm portraits???  sally mann’s current work looks nothing at all like her early family portraits…are some people nostalgic for her "Immediate Family" or do the galleries push her for something new and different or is sally just letting her mind roll on ???

we can all think of so many examples artists staying the same and artists ever changing….surely, artists must stay "in one place" long enough to have "finished what they started"…..

generally speaking photographers do best when they "specialize"….the best sports photographers only do sports, the best conflict photographers only shoot conflict, the best landscape photographers only do landscape, etc etc etc….but does this "commercial success" inhibit change and growth??  does it reflect more about the "market" than what a photographer may want to do??…

i do not think anyone should change or try to adapt  for the "commercial marketplace"…this is an artistic  death sentence…

so my question to you is this….. at what point should one change for "growth"  and at what point does change mean lack of artistic commitment???

by the way, you will be pleased to know that the photo above represents my  first and last attempt at underwater photography….david doubilet, paul nicklin and brian skerry need not fear…..they should just keep on doing what they are doing!!!

96 Responses to “underwater photography”

  • I think change is also a product of aging and maturity. Not everyone enjoys the same health or nerves at 60 that they had at 20. And so they adjust and adapt while still enjoying what they do.

    Sometimes change is also a product of personal growth and maturity. I’m glad Picasso changed from his ‘blue stage’ to the cubist style that produced Guernica and other paintings.

  • david alan harvey

    yes rene….good points…and, of course, picasso was so so prolific and made so so many changes throughout his life..

  • As someone who suffers from professional ADD, it is often difficult to discern what/who I am vs. what/who I see myself becoming. The latter usually results from experiencing the work of someone incredibly inspired and talented, so my mind yells “I want to do THAT”. And I do want to do “that”, at least until the next insipirational work knocks me over.

    But when I look back at the products of my labors, the most valuable assets I have are the result of a long-term committment and focus. I think patience, persistence and self-forgiveness help during those times when what I’m doing seems pointless and irrelevant, and carries me over to completion, sometimes even successfully.

  • hi david,

    this is a subject i’ve been thinking a lot about lately. i’m in the process making a “general” portfolio of my work as well as specific ones for different projects. sometimes i wonder, have i got a style? then i wonder if i want one? one of the things i took away from the work shop i did with alex majoli a few years ago was the idea of attitude. he said develop and attitude to the subject. i took this (rightly or wrongly) to mean that it was possible to develop a set of thoughts, ideas, perhaps a philosophy towards the subject as a result of having an understand of the subject itself and let that inform the way in which i photograph.
    while i was in cadiz on the workshop i also saw donovan wylie’s book ‘the maze’ (donovan was also teaching a workshop) for the first time. this had a huge influence on me. i saw how, over the period of a year donovan came to understand the logic of the prison, this then lead the way to the style in which he photographed, a style that replicated that logic. it was the subject that provided the key to how it should be photographed, not a set of preconceived notions or stylistic principles that donovan brought with him. another big influence was the piece written in the magnum stories book by luc delahaye. he said that he came to realise the “the dumbness of trying to have a ‘style'”. perhaps having no style is a style in itself?

    is it valid to adopt a theme/project and shoot it in a style that suits that theme/project and then move on to a new theme/project and a new style that suits it? i’m inclined to believe that it is. the thing that sometimes worries me about having a ‘style’ is the possibility of pigeonholing ones self – falling into a type of self imposed visual dogma that limits what one looks at and how one photographs it.

    perhaps picasso had the right idea. after all what does producing a life’s work in the same style ultimately prove?

    i hope you’re enjoying a damp london? if you have a little free time perhaps we could meet for a cup of coffee. it’d be good to discuss in person.


  • Hola David,
    I spent 3 years painting and selling my work very well. Then, my gallery identified what kind of my work was marketeable and which one was not so he start giving me this “list” of things he wants me to do. I did it once, the picture was sold and I felt terrible,and I just quit the gallery…

    Now I paint once in a while….I don’t sell as much but I don’t live from painting anyway…I do some little “gathering” in my house and sell my work directly….the work that I want to do…I fell a lot better.


  • well i think Sally Mann had to move on as I suppose she was literally confined to her back yard in her Immediate Family work.

    Successful photographers seem to gain their recognition in concentrating on one style or a particular body of work that sometimes seems to just hit the mark. Kind of like a ‘hit’.

    People like Picasso just seemed so bold, leading the way. The changes he made to his own style in many ways changed art throughout the 20th century…what a genius. I like that ‘Boldness’…to boldly go where no man has gone before.

  • david alan harvey

    hi jason…

    i think you have it right….”style” is very hard to define in most cases…..style can come from either technique or from approach or both…eventually the way you look at things will produce a style or a visual philosophy…real style cannot help itself…it just shows up…becoming self conscious of style would probably mean you have no style!!!

    but being involved in a particular subject over a relatively long period of time will at least give you commitment and you might have a “style” for that particular subject….but i think style comes from inside….your feelings to the surface….

    for example, i do “see koudelka” in both his people pictures and his landscapes…i see the same eye , the same loneliness, the same “distance from emotion” that becomes rather emotional..

    i will be at the magnum office tomorrow…i might be able to break out for coffee if we are not so far from each other….02074901771 is magnum office….

  • I think people change for “growth” constantly…at least I hope they do. I hope I do. If you are a true explorer of the world around you, over the years you will most probably “grow.” And with you your work.

    I suppose a decision to grow can be made in a more conscious way, but I have to think that it has more to do with “evolving.” When you evolve your passion evolves.

    OK, I’m repeating myself. Ugh. Hope some of that made sense.

  • hi david,

    wow that would be great. i have a meeting about an assignment early tomorrow morning, i’ll be free from 10.30 or so. i’ll send you my number via a private email if thats okay. i can also give the office a call when i’m finished.

    hopefully i’ll see you tomorrow.


  • Hi David,

    I think that artists are “seekers”, they explore and any changes in their art is ultimately a manifestation of that exploration. At least it should be. I see with photographers, one thing that is said often is that a photographer should have a “vision” and you should be able to communicate that vision through your portfolio. Your portfolio should communicate a vision that sets you apart form other photographers and thus will make you more attractive to potential clients. So the photographer says – “How do I get a vision? – especially if vision = clients = moolah.”

    I believe that your vision/style will come out of you. It will grow, change, adapt as you do. Take jazz as an example. Miles Davis – an incredible musician, changed his style constantly. He was a constant innovator. Perpetual motion. Miles has been quoted as saying he doesn’t play ballads because he loves playing ballads. John Coltrane. Another artist that was in constant pursuit of that “thing”. Sometimes we get upset because we fall in love with a particular artist’s style and we want them to keep doing that. We are quick to condemn any shift in his work. But artists are human.

    I think if your style changes because you have changed, that’s a beautiful, natural thing. I think if you change because someone told you that is what sells, then you are a vendor of artistic things – not an artist.


  • Hi David,

    I think that artists are “seekers”, they explore and any changes in their art is ultimately a manifestation of that exploration. At least it should be. I see with photographers, one thing that is said often is that a photographer should have a “vision” and you should be able to communicate that vision through your portfolio. Your portfolio should communicate a vision that sets you apart form other photographers and thus will make you more attractive to potential clients. So the photographer says – “How do I get a vision? – especially if vision = clients = moolah.”

    I believe that your vision/style will come out of you. It will grow, change, adapt as you do. Take jazz as an example. Miles Davis – an incredible musician, changed his style constantly. He was a constant innovator. Perpetual motion. Miles has been quoted as saying he doesn’t play ballads because he loves playing ballads. John Coltrane. Another artist that was in constant pursuit of that “thing”. Sometimes we get upset because we fall in love with a particular artist’s style and we want them to keep doing that. We are quick to condemn any shift in his work. But artists are human.

    I think if your style changes because you have changed, that’s a beautiful, natural thing. I think if you change because someone told you that is what sells, then you are a vendor of artistic things – not an artist.


  • Personally the happier I am with my work the more I want to do something else. I think it’s a natural thing to want to push and try to be the best you can perhaps Bresson thought he had done as much as he could with the medium and wanted something that would stretch him? Luckily I’m never that happy with my pictures. David, have you ever taken a picture that you thought was perfect? Do you think you might want try something else if every picture you took was perfect?

  • David,

    We met very briefly during the SHOTS screening at the LOOK3 in Charlottesville couple of weeks ago. I was one of the SHOTS photographers. Needless to say, I’ve been a fan of your work for years and I have been lurking around your blog for a while.

    I wanted to contact you via a personal email but I can’t find it on your blog. Would you be so kind and drop me a quick email that I can respond to?

    My email address is:

    Thank you,
    Marcin Szczepanski

  • I’ve been reading around this blog for some time now but commenting for the first time… No other photographer involves (and respects) the readers/viewers as much as David, it is really fascinating and refreshing. Where does that energy of yours come from?
    I believe that any change of style which is not a result of a personal/inner change is a fake of a sort and it will not result in anything great. My answer to your question ‘at what point should one change for “growth”‘ is One shouldn’t unless it is a natural thing driven by, well, ‘inner forces’ (for the lack of a better word).
    All the Best,

  • Identifying your style…People who see my photos tell me they recognize my style now. I still don’t see a definitive style. I go for a certain mood in my lighting and I am drawn to certain scenes. The fact that people recognize my style tells me that my style is observable and I can see that I am naturally drawn to a certain composition. Movement plays a huge part in what I am attracted to in my photos. That is why I am so attracted to your work David; you capture movement and life and reveal the excitement and emotion of the moment.

    In the end I think what is important is that you grow in your work, as Velibor states. That requires a commitment to doing the work for yourself first and then the work that supports you will follow.

    Being able to identify when you need to change you style is important such as moving out of the backyard because you have exhausted the subject. I find that the Sufis and whirling dervish stuff I am doing pulls me less and less and that the “book” might very well be the end of that subject matter for me.

    In the end I think it is one of those ambiguous questions that we confront every day of our lives as artists and in our every day life too. And throughout hisotry there has been one constant–styles change.

  • Change and growth are a natural thing. Who’s to say change necessarily means lack of artistic commitment? I believe a true artist is true to themselves. I agree with the comment above. Styles change whether the artist stays in the genre or not. Styles mature as the artist begins to understand their craft and who they are. Embrace it.

  • david alan harvey

    lee and kevin

    i did not want to confuse individual artistic style with “stylistic trends”…there is a big difference….yet, they both do change…

    change does not necessarily mean lack of artistic commitment….and i did not mean to suggest that it did… i only asked that “at what point does change reflect lack of artistic commitment”…

    obviously if a photographer changes his or her approach or style every week for example, then this could mean lack of commitment….

    the “trends” which also change, are an entirely different issue…


    yes, i think you have it just right…


    great question….no, none of my pictures have ever worked out quite right…hmmm, maybe the pursuit for elusive perfection keeps me going…since i have not gotten it right yet, i guess i will just keep trying!


    you are right on!!!


    yes, picasso changed so many times…but, he also totally “finished what he started” each time….


    i am amazed at how much artistic integrity you are able to keep for yourself and yet you earn your living as art director in an ad agency….is that correct???

    of course, most of the famous painters we know were also “commercial artists” painting for commissions most of the time…so obviously “commercial” success does not mean necessarily any lack of artistic achievement….

  • david:

    as to the question about growth, i say: listen to the arch and ache of the bones. they stretch and widen and enlong until they’ve snapped past the place of sky where they’re meant to leap and then bellow back into themselves and begin their aging descent again: bones, the sound of our bones, that’s for me the question about growth:

    we follow the same patterns, even in our disappearing away and elongating into them: its like, for me, the timbre of one’s voice: one day one understands the chunky sound of that…..not to search for style but instead to grow into the bones you were first fit for and meant to cage…..

    by the way, make sure you check out my pals from SMOKE (idalina, jukka and company) when in Arles…if you need a # or email, PM me at LS :))))

    busy as hell, putting together a new projection project here, bitting off more then i can chew….or rather digest ;)))…

    be safe and swallow some solei francaise :)))


  • Hi David –

    I’m new to your blog, thank you for taking the time to maintain it and share ideas.

    Funny — even reading the comments, I could tell which were yours without reading the signature first — even your emails have your “style”.

    You ask: “at what point should one change for “growth” and at what point does change mean lack of artistic commitment???”

    Reading your post, the first artist I thought of was Picasso, as I’ve admired him since high school (so long ago) for his endless drive to create. I remember the David Douglas Duncan books about him, how he’d even make something from a plate and fish bones after eating dinner. In some cases, like his, I think “change” IS the artistic commitment — the commitment to be open to creating, whatever form it takes.

    I’m relatively new to photography, but the one thing I have finally come to understand is that is personal. It seems that some people are true to themselves by really delving into one theme or style for years, decades even…while others need to experiment more often to keep things uncomfortable and challenging. And some even do both: keep to one topic or area, but evolve their style, bit by bit. As, I think, is true for most people who are really good at anything.


  • I dont believe in style. I think style is simply the visual representation of what we are shooting. I personally love gritty urban scenes. So when I take photos of them they come out with a certain style but I dont think its really a style as much as subject matter. Lately Ive been doing a series on Taekwondo. The photos are very much different in “style” from my urban shots. has anything changed about me? No, the only thing that changed is the subject matter. Instead of old building, streets, etc Im shooting kids (mostly) doing Taekwondo. You could call it a change in style, but you’d be wrong. Its just a change in the subject matter. I think that its only natural that people change, because always being stuck in shooting one thing is ultimately boring. I was really impressed in Martin Parr’s evolution in subject matter and his approach. I hope he takes another U-turn soon. Then there are people who never changed and who are interesting, although that far more difficult to pull off.

  • david alan harvey


    you mention martin parr….i think that martin’s pictures of urban gritty scenes and of taekwondo would both look like “martin parr pictures”….

    alex webb’s “Istanbul” photographs look just like his “Amazon” or “Mexico Border” work…that is stylistically

    bruce gilden’s new york work looks very similar to his tokyo work…

    so certain photographers do retain a “style” no matter what they shoot…

    usually “style” shows up with a combo of emotional attachment, technique and compositional arrangements….photographers and other artists usually cannot help but let “themselves” into the work regardless of subject matter….

    interestingly however, i doubt that you would find martin parr shooting in a russian prison or alex webb shooting at the north pole or bruce gilden shooting farmers in iowa….

    serious photographers tend to pick subject matter which reflects what they want to “say”

    so “style” must be a combination of how a photographer sees and what he or she chooses to photograph in the first place…

    choice of subject matter is very much a part of “style”

    can you imagine salgado or gene richards or nachtwey shooting in the grand canyon?? can you imagine ansel adams in indianapolis???

    i do think photographers on a certain level have a “look”….as i said earlier, koudelka’s landscapes look just like his people pictures…the emotional quality is the same even though the subject matter changed…but even though joseph changed his subject matter from people to landscapes he “edits” where he goes very very carefully….

    same with d’agata….can you imagine him shooting a kid’s birthday party???

    there are some elements which will cross over regardless of subject change….but choosing the “right subjects” to help get across the artistic “message” is something that i have seen all of the iconic photographers do…to this they then add their “look”…

  • david alan harvey



    yes, we all love to bring up picasso as an example of almost everything….he did it all….

    an interesting question would be, did he think he did it all??

    i will see david douglas duncan soon…he hung around picasso quite a bit as you say…i am going to ask him what he thinks about that…was picasso frustrated like all the rest of us, or was he “satisfied” in his prolific being???

    yes, of course, change can be artistic commitment….it depends on how you change….

    if you start 100 things and can finish none of them , then i would say change is equivalent to not being able to make a decision or not really having anything to say at all….but if you “change” what you do 2-3 times in your life, then i would say change is artistic evolution…all of this is very very subjective and we can all think of various examples who prove or disprove the above…

  • david alan harvey


    i do hope i meet your friends….no time to go to LS now…..that is a full time job!!!!

    we will meet by fate or tell them i am the bald guy drinking a coke with no ice….

    yes, it is all in the bones…which makes all of this so so easy…everyone tries to make this hard…..the most obvious way to do things seems to be the hardest for people to find….

  • …..not to search for style but instead to grow into the bones you were first fit for… (from Bob, above)

    This pretty much hits it spot on for me. I remember being told at school to search long and hard for your “style” (as the best way to commercial success). But i really think that this is something that should come naturally while you are doing something that feels “right” for you. You’re own interests, how you see the world, how you want to express that, will all come out in your work. Trying to fit within a self imposed restriction of a style is….err…restrictive. Working as a director, I’m forced to “compromise” everyday; you have to with so many people involved in the processes (with often seperate visions). But somehow my style will still be in there somewhere (i also agree with those who said that you may not even be able to identify with, or be aware of ,your own style….this does not mean it doesn’t exist…)

  • david alan harvey


    yes, you are right….”style” must be something totally natural…if you “try” to “create” a style you will not have one….

    your work is particularly collaborative, but yes the “you” will come out in there somewhere…

    my oh my..the sun has just come out in london!!! miracle!! this is the end of my keyboard life for the morning…


  • Hello to everybody! :-)

    I haven’t been here almost 2 weeks… and i am back again :-)
    I see so many new posts… i will need a lot of time to read everything :-)

    btw… underwater picture is hmm… very interesting :-)
    I always wanted to take a picture under water…and i thought it’s problem that my camera is not waterproof.. i see it’s not a problem :-)

    Cheers!!!! :-)


  • sun in london? Enjoy the 30 minute window…I can almost see the hordes of people running for the park :)

  • I was listening to an interview with musician Norah Jones the other day. Though she has put out some brilliant work, won a host of grammy awards, and sold more albums than any other woman in the 2000’s, she mentioned that she was struggling inside. It was hard for her because she wasn’t sure what kind of music she wanted to make yet.

    That’s a feeling that I completely empathize with. Finding your vision is a long process, and you will change and evolve to discover it. But I think that she was put in a hard position in that everyone grabbed a hold of what she was doing and told her that it was brilliant, but she wasn’t so convinced. She was perhaps looking for something else, something deeper. So you’re in an awkward position when this kind of thing happens, because you will always have some nostalgic die hards who don’t understand the idea of artistic evolution, and who will always pit you against your own previous work.

    I certainly reserve myself the right to change as an artist. I am more loyal to truth than consistency. But seeking truth is a process, not grabbing a hold of whatever is “next”. So a balance is struck, a fine line to walk. And there’s no mathematical formula to it, it’s something that every artist has to figure out for themselves.

  • david alan harvey


    you are back!! welcome home!!

    i was just thinking this morning about you and wondered where you had gone…making photographs i suppose….

    any new work for me to see????

  • david alan harvey


    yes, i can totally understand this…it sort of relates to the discussion we had about “fame” a couple of weeks ago…and in the case of nora jones and her industry, it is even more poignant…

    you have your head on straight….

  • david alan harvey


    it was not even 30 minutes!! but, i did have my sunglasses on for a short time….

  • David… I was totaly in different world last 2 weeks :-)
    I was a guide for my Ilker … He was firsth time in Poland so we were traveling a lot!
    We haven’t seen each other more than 3 months so we tried to travel as much we can and spend time together… enjoying time without internet…
    and now,it’s time to back to reality (haha.. if we can call internet that is “reality”).. and i am sitting next to the screen and sending new pictures to agencys

    Nice to see post about “style”… i had a converstation with my friend about “style” few days ago…
    I will read your post more carefull and i will be happy to add my thoughts to discussion :-)

  • david alan harvey

    hi aga…

    i am in london seeing my girlfriend for the first time in awhile too…we will go together to arles photo festival…so “normal” life for a few days!!!

    yes, i am always happy to read your thoughts…

  • David,

    Next time you are in mud island with a day spare give me a shout and I’ll give you a tour of the Cotswolds, I might be able to lend you wellies and waterproofs – personally I’m thinking of building a boat if this carries on.


  • So… :-)
    think is very hard for young photographers to have their own style… I am shooting only 3 years and i can tell what i “like” shooting, but with style will not be so easy to describe…
    I would rather say what i don’t like.. for example I can not imagine myself taking pictures on Safari or shooting African village :-)… i feel closer to documentary “style”… postindustrial, Silesian, religious stuff but with litle irony and “smile” (because i am smily person :-)) .. maybe North with snow and husky dogs… for sure not sports photography and not wilde life photography… for sure not art :-)

    I hope i will find it some day soon :-).. for sure i am closer to find it than 2 years ago :-)

    i think that is not too good that photographers are imitating famous photographers… or trying to be “fancy” as somebody…
    I had one month ago portfolio review (i was writing about it before on your blog)… and i am very glad, because now i see that people shoot such similar pictures sometimes…
    for example – WPP… many pictures has hands on the firsth plan or reflections… now i see it’s so comon… it’s not hard to shoot pictures like that… much harder is to tell story by pictures..
    so maybe more important than style is to be a journalist.. PHOTOjournalist…
    art is not enought…

  • ps. Say hello to your pretty girlfriend (i saw she is also talented! :-))

  • Back from my own back yard just now…What an eye opener. As Oprah says, an ah ha moment. Cliche, I said, of my own backyard in a previous discussion post. My comment was I found the photos I take in Maui cliche, calendars and photo books at The Whalers General Store filled with famous artists’ work just like them. And done exceedingly good.

    Because so many have seen Maui’s breathtaking beuaty and so many have photographed her. What does this change about my professional work, my style–seeing an inspirational photo op of the West Maui Mountains in morning light right out my bedroom window and thrilled by the photos I captured? Does it change my professional style? Or does it reopen my eyes to what is just outside my window?

    Am I now going to begin selling landscapes of Maui, somehow producing a more inspirational one than the hordes before? Or does it enhance my ability to produce the work I do as a professional? Effectively changing my style.

    I think it is all of the above. Somewhere along the line these photos I took this morning will show up in a professional space and the beauty I captured will be perfect for the piece it appears in. And it opened my eyes to things I had closed off before.

  • Welcome in Europe David…

    You have always a good questions….
    I think that artistic path depends on possibilities and self-consciousness of every photographer.
    Photography can be read in two ways. Firstly every photo exist apart and who is photographer is not important. If he changes his style or not, doesn’t matter. Photo is photo.
    But who want to be “The master of one photo”?
    Style, way, characteristic this is stuff for others photographers or people who like and interesting in photography. I think every good photographer is artist, and every artist should be recognizable. We need it… like air..
    We need to be the best, sole. One look and everybody should know whose this picture is.
    You alluded about Picasso. He is good example. Sometimes art it is journey. You see one pictures or painting and you want more, after you see ten, twenty, and then you sight real value of art. Because you see details, grey, and what is most important, you sight other person through the picture on museum’s Wall. Somebody’s mind.
    Sometimes people thinks that Picasso is great painter because he invent cubism etc. yea… but when you know his works you see, he is a beautiful piece of son-of…..itch. Beautiful mind.
    This is something more than new style in art.
    But before somebody will want see something more in your works you have to invent new style in art, and hang on this f…ing Wall…

    Well… Koudelka, Salgado, Webb or You… you always can change your style. Firstly because you HAVE one. Second you hang on this supreme wall. And for receivers your change will something new, signal of your mind. You have a possibilities. Enjoy your work and life… The Masters are free! And never grow up!

    For every young photographers… you need style. Without that nobody will looking for your mind. Without mind yours work it is only photos of somebody.

    I don’t have a style…
    But I have mind… I hope…
    my mind don’t think in english still…

    This is not “underwater photography” but “justnearwater photography”…



  • david alan harvey


    yes,that is exactly it!! you are evolving in the most natural way…


    how can you know about who my girlfriend is?? are you really a private detective??? i do not think i ever gave her name on this blog…hmmmm, now she will be mad at me (again!!)…she likes to be private…or rather , i should say, she does not want to be known as dah girlfriend, but let her work stand on it’s own…i am sure you know what i mean….

    well, now that is the topic for another blog!! what happens when two photogs are also a couple??


    you are back too!! my two Polish friends come back on the same day….

    well, your english continues to be the very best english i can imagine…very expressive and with STYLE!!!

    and now we are on the same time zone at least….

    every picture in london now is from underwater!!

  • It seems to me that what we are really talking about is the point where style becomes indication, or worse, typecasting. Style is the man, as Matthew Arnold pointed out over a century ago; no one can read a page of Hemingway, for example, and confuse his work with Faulkner’s, or confuse a Van Gogh painting with one by Ingres. If style is the quintessence of who you are, then your style will come through no matter what genre you are working in at the moment; as you say, Koudelka always looks like Koudelka, not because his subject matter is the same, but because of how he looks at the world.

    One of the worst insults an actor, especially a Method actor, can throw at another actor is that they are not really acting, they are indicating, that is to say, they are not experiencing the emotion they are portraying—they are merely going through the motions. You can see this in Hemingway’s work; if you read A Farewell to Arms and then To Have or Have Not or Across the River and Into the Trees, you can tell that in the first book Hemingway is the master of his style and he uses that style because it allows him to best express what he wants to say. In the latter two books, the style is a joke; you can tell Hemingway is just phoning this stuff in because he wanted to go to Cuba for the winter and needed the money. The critics called him on that, pointing out in their reviews Hemingway was basically parodying himself in those two books, that Hemingway was using his style as a crutch to cover the lack of anything meaningful to say.

    This sort of thing happens in all the arts and has to be guarded against; in photography there’s the story of Robert Capa telling Henri Cartier-Bresson to call himself a photojournalist in order to avoid being known as that Surrealist photographer and falling into mannerism, which I think is the visual arts equivalent of the acting sin of indication. Documenting reality keeps, or should keep, photographers from believing that how they convey the story is more important than the story itself. Reaching the top of Mount Suribachi was important, a major achievement in the struggle to take Iwo Jima, and would have been whether Joe Rosenthal was there or not.

    Does style change? Yes, slowly, over the course of time; a man is not the same person at fifty that he was at twenty-five, and watching someone try to maintain the youthful façade in the face of changing reality will usually cause some pretty vile jokes at their expense. So the artist has to change with the passing of time, but I think that change has to be organic, something that comes from within the artist themselves and not something dictated by the latest fashion. If you are true to who you are, if you are true to your vision, then I think eventually the audience will find you. People, I find, tend to be a lot smarter than most folks (including myself sometimes) give them credit for; they have an appetite for the truth, and if you give them what you see as the truth as honestly as you can then they will come around eventually.

  • Your girlfriend appeared somewhere in these pages. Seems like I saw a photo and not just a reference or two but maybe it is just one of those other beautiful girls you take photos of. Peace to you David. Love your teaching.

  • I am very good detective :-)
    but i will not tell anybody who is she :-) i promise :-)

    hmm… couple photographer.. good topic to write a post! :-)
    Sometimes is hard, sometimes is just perfekt! :-) … but i will wait with comments until you will write a new post :-)

  • Aga …
    I understood your point of view.
    But I’m far away from it….
    If you are want be only journalist, photojournalist you don’t have to do anything more, because you are. You know how to make a good technically picture. You don’t need anything more. You need only good story. Of course like many journalist you have right- telling story, be in a middle of top moments, or be close to ordinary life. Your way is a good job in magazine or newspaper, because only their paying for journal photography.
    In some way you are on end of your path. You are good as a photojournalist. Sometimes you will have to shoot some sport, but this is event too…
    Of course I agree with you, many of photographers want have own style so much, that they forgot what is important in photography. what mean good photography and what is manner.
    I often read interview with photojournalist who underline that they don’t want be “artist”, they want be “journalist”. This is ok. Everybody have own world. But you have to define who you want to be.
    If you want to be a photographer you must agree with many of kind of artist, who working in deferent style, who sometimes are mannered, and sometimes are hard to accept. Because they want to be a creators, demiurges. If you want be a photographer, good one, you have to create your photography. Do not coping anybody else. You can’t know how your photography will looks like. This is very difficult staff, I say most one. That why so many photographers lost themselves. This is height level. You can be “photojournalist”, and you don’t have to shame of it. Like D’Agata for example. “artistic photojournalist”
    But if you want to be only a “photojournalist”, you must agree with Anonymity, because you gives peoples news. And you can’t be too much good as a photographer, because your subject is your destiny, not quality of images. Sometimes quality killing subject. More than war, malaria or aids. At the other hand if you have height quality photos, you are at the border, very close with “artist”. So this is circle. That why I say that you are on end of your way. You are good enough as a photojournalist. You can gives good news. This is easy…

    Of course you can be “little artist”. You can making photos with open heart, be better that photojournalist and worse than real artist. And telling stories…

    I want to be photojournalist because photo takes soul of people which I shooting and I need a good reason to do it. (my archive in not enough, publishing is more)
    And I want to be artist because I don’t want know how my photography will looks like. Even if I will have to do it after “real” work.
    But I’m better as a painter than photographer. In photo I’m “very little artist”.
    Time is “tic-tac”

    photojournalism is not enough



  • david alan harvey

    now i want everyone to do me one little favor…go back to the top of this page….re-read all of it…

    something amazing has happened here…i sort of joked about this becoming a literary magazine instead of a photography magazine, but the collected wisdom above is palpable…

    i look at other photo blogs ….i have never seen responses like the ones we have here…there is masterful , well written , well thought out prose going on here…

    as we have spoken about collaboration of one kind, we have created a collaboration of another kind….natural, organic….

    the perfect beauty of it is that we could not have done it if we tried!!

    the very “acts” of creativity that we have talked about these last weeks have actually manifested themselves in spontaneous creativity itself right before our very eyes…….

    i thought it was supposed to be my job to inspire you and what has happened is that you are inspiring me!!! now, that is a deal!!

    i have a whole lot more stuff inside to get out….things for you to think about..write about….this is just the “tip of the iceberg”…so saddle up…..throttle up…rise to the occasion….

    i will start the engine…you drive the car…

  • Although I guess it can be helpful to read a famous photographer’s thoughts, I find it rather self indulgent that you write the posts the way you do. Even if you may try to claim that you are ‘like us’ and suffer from jet lag and all the other aspects of the human condition, you are simply not like the people reading your blog! You are a very well known photographer with Magnum who gets published in National Geographic, has major exhibitions and enjoys a social life among the New York art world’s elite. I know you mean well, but I just cannot imagine Joksef Koudelka for instance writing such a blog. Granted he doesn’t own a computer, but. . .

  • Josef Koudelka, sorry

  • To continue. . . I can’t help but wonder if life is really that hard when you have a Magnum meeting to go to, lots of exhibitions by other famous photographers to attend, an exhibition of your own opening, lots of other photogs over at your loft, Arles to go to, an M8 to shoot with lent to you be Leica etc., etc., etc.?! I don’t buy your ‘inner’ musings, sorry! This digital age does provide some advantages but I also see how it can lead to excessive meditation. . .

  • Mr. Ellicson, David is lots of things but one thing for sure you can count on. What you see and read is what he is and what you get. Sit back and read for a while and try not to be so critical before you have the rest of the story.

  • David…

    Once you wrote that you are the best in having camera in right hand and a cold beer in the left. I remember movie about you in television, about your work in cuba. Was the moment when you dancing with old lady. I don’t remember you have beer in hand but sure you have inside. You laugh, and she too. This is purpose of photography! when you dancing and laugh in work and somebody paying you for that, you can change your style as often as you wish! Like I say masters are free!

    Only then problem with loading film is…

    Time to coffee…
    I have a few days in darkroom now…


  • Mr. Ellicson:

    You seem to have missed the point of this blog entirely. Mr. Harvey is not trying to convince us that he’s “suffering like us” or whatever your criticism is. This blog is an extension of his work as a teacher, and it has become a community of people who enjoy discussing photography, with David acting as the conductor. I think everyone who reads and/or participates this blog agrees that it fulfills a need for communication and community in the photographic world. I certainly don’t think Mr. Harvey’s side musings about Magnum or whatever are offensive to those of us who are not involved in that world. It’s the life he has cultivated for himself and he’s obviously loving it so what’s the matter with that?? Should his success prevent him from sharing his thoughts and life with other people? That’s clearly not what David Allan Harvey is about and bless him for that!!!

    I love this blog. I love what David has to say and how he says it (many times it’s exactly what I’ve been thinking about or what I need to hear), and I love reading what other people around the world have to say. It’s great to know that all these fantastic people are out there and I hope this blog continues to grow…

    And back to the discussion… I think Style comes from within.


  • Davin,
    Do you really think that because someone is with Magnum, works for NG and goes off to Arles and stuff like that, only has it the easy way?
    David worked very hard to get where he is now, and if you read earlier posts you can read how he got there in the end.
    Even when you have a lot of things going for you, you can still doubt yourself, question your work and reflect on the way you’re going there.
    And jetting off from one place to another for assignments, not seeing your family and close friends a lot because of the work, can’t be very easy. Maby it seems glamoureous when you don’t have it, but I think it wears out pretty fast.
    Knowing David a bit in person, I know that what you see is what you get. Or over here, what you read is what you get.
    He’s an amazing and very honest person and I think by seeing what he writes on this blog, the way he answers posts, thoughts of everyone that is contributing, you would see as well.
    He gives you advice and all the help you need, looks at your work when you ask him to, and not because he has to, but because he wants to.
    Sorry David for this defense email, I know you don’t really need it, but I just couldn’t help myself.

  • There is an saying from forums…don’t feed the troll.

    The best light is very early and very late. The best stories are the hardest to access.
    Happiness from hard work?

  • Lourdes de Vicente

    Back to te style question i was wondenring if it’s possible nowadays to create your own style in a new concept. I mean: Isn’t everything invented??. have we got the chance to do stories in our own way and could it be a new and unseen way??.
    Is the influence of other photographes a “cut in your wings” to your personal style??

    i don’t know maybe you can help me with this. Sorry for my bad english but it’s too early for me and my brain isn’t wake up yet ;)

  • Coming out of lurk mode for the first time here:

    Let’s give Davin Ellicson the benefit of the doubt and not be so quick to label him. We are all expressing our opinions, and if his is an honest one, it’s as good as any.

    Having said that…

    Davin, it sounds like you’re under the assumption somehow that all this was simply handed to David. I’m sure David will chime in once he sees this, and what he may have to tell you about the following may surprise you:

    a) What happened on his very first assignment at National Geographic, along with the letter he received from the editor.

    b) What happened on his first application to Magnum.

    I’ll put it this way: Personally I don’t think I have what it takes to get through the hurdles he’s overcome to get to where he is now.

  • Oh yeah, also sorry for the defense note you don’t even need; and for my bold assumption that you even want to go off-topic on your own blog, or talk about the past, because of one person’s post.

    Lurk mode ON…

  • I see a style as a blend. Your style is your own because no-one is using quite the same blend as you. You respond to your influences, your experiences, your equipment and your subject and somewhere along the line you find yourself happy. I’m hoping thats how I find my style and if I find someone in or close to my parking space then it’d be fun to chat to them and see how they got there.

  • In any work i’ve ever done, I always start out with the idea to move away from projects in my past…to do something different stylistically (to make a change or correct things i was unhappy with). Inevitably there is always something i am unhappy with, and maybe it’s that i’m seeing part of my style and that i’m SO familiar with it that i shy away from it (like the strangeness of a recording of your own voice?). Do people ever find contentment with the style of their work, or is this the one element that pushes your work forward?

  • This is something that I think about on an hourly basis.I have beenessentially taking pictures of the same scenarios since I was 18, “Bushies and Blackfellas” was one definition of the work I do when not working for a living.Many things have changed ,Been to many places as a professional press photographer but the things I am drawn to have never changed only my approach has.To be in a place where you know there are pictures to be had ,if only I can get them to reveal themselves is the constant motivation.
    Style is something that comes from life ,a result of every person you’ve met,every book you’ve read,every song you love,every woman/man you’ve loved, every failure-real and imagined.
    Style is a result of life anything less is contrived and a pale imitation of something someone else has done before.

  • I just find blogs like this one a bit self indulgent that’s all. Of course I know David Alan Harvey has worked very hard to create such a life for himself and that he is also a human being and has good days and bad days and deals with all that anyone else deals with. I think it’s a funny time right now where people put such information up for all the world to see. This can be good but lead to excessive public musings. Just my opinion.

  • hi david,

    just wanted to say thanks for yesterday, it was a pleasure. i sent my number via private message on lightstalkers; it’d be great to meet again.




  • Glenn said, “Style is a result of life anything less is contrived and a pale imitation of something someone else has done before.”

    I have this theory–there are ten templates of life. Over the centuries our story falls into one of those templates. Just philosophyzing (sic) here so take it for how it is offered…

    Just listened to Dennis Stock’s narrative on Magnum of his interest in and assignment with James Dean. He spoke of style. His statement went sort of like this–

    At that time in Hollywood there was a wave of style imminating from the actors’ studio. He used Brando and Newman as examples of the current wave. Then his comment was that [he recognized with James Dean there was a different one coming]. He was introduced to Dean early in Dean’s career.

    Interesting how he used the descriptive a wave of style imminating from the actors’ studio. And then a different wave coming up in James Dean’s style. Indicating to me that style is imitated and styles change based upon the initiative of a new style maker.

    It is very difficult to have a style that no one else on this planet hasn’t already found. It could be in an obscure village by a child with a disposable camera but I can assure you that any given photographic style is replicated (unknowingly) somewhere by someone.

    The two important things about style is that a shooter have it (not necessarily just one) and that it is real for the shooter.

    Maybe it is time for a new topic. Couples in photography doesn’t immediately interest me as I am a single shooter but it will be interesting to see what is said on the topic by this blog group.

  • David, nevermind the intentions for dah’s blog. If just one person can find insight from the words that are posted here, isn’t that worthy? Some of the thoughts and stories shared here by everyone has really helped me understand myself and my photography lately. Try to read with an open mind and you just may discover something special. Happy shooting!

  • Yes, I was probably writing out of amazement that a photographer of David Alan Harvey’s stature still has such basic, human struggles! Somehow, I thought that if you had book signings and festivals to go to in Europe and major assignments that everything would be A ok pretty much all the time. I do remember David Alan Harvey saying that a reader of this blog might begin to think that his world is a fantasy one with chance meetings with Josef Koudelka on the street and an idyllic life style. . . It would seem that way! His life does seem to be a lot more happening than mine! I wish I had such a life! But I am alone in Romania trying to make my way as a photographer and photograph the last of Europe’s peasantry before the EU ends it all. Maybe I can come in from the cold in a few years with a book printed and an exhibition and a few drinks among the New York art crowd. . .

  • Oh Davin, I’ve seen your Romanian photos in, was it Diplo? They’re lovely! (I just went and had another look in Blueeyes too, I knew I remembered your name).
    I think the books and exhibitions and the magnum membership and the odd beer with Koudelka compensate, some of the the time, but they don’t cure jetlag and long distance relationships or being garotted by muggers who steal your only camera and leave you for dead in the street and etc(if David and Davin can complain about the trials of being a photographer then I’m bloody well going to start too.)
    What I’m trying to say is, I don’t know if we ever get to come in from the cold, not really, and the good bit is the bit you’re doing at the moment. The other thing is a bit of an empty bubble – see Bill Jay on How to to be famous sort Of. Or dont: it’s funny but sour. Better read Why People Photograph instead.
    If you think photographers have it bad, try talking to some ballet dancers. I sat down to a lunch with a bunch of dancers, the one to my left fixes me with her praying mantis eyes and gives me as her icebreaker: “you know, I’m in CONSTANT PAIN…”

    so umm, what we were talking about? Change? I’ve heard it’s as good as a rest, maybe we all need to try it.

  • Davin: my LS friend, you sound wearied….and, though none of us can profess to understand the motivations or syncs or pulpy beat-heart-skips that guide what another writes or speaks, it seems that you’ve overlooked a fundamental human (yup, that’s for all of us, including those of us who were well known or unknown before the web begin to bridge and gum our bodies and thoughts together virtually): we need, in whatever manner that may be, to connect: to insite connection or rebel from it. I, usually, too find the blogosphere generally boring, just as a find most of what I write (or make for that matter), generally boring. However, it is undeniable that the world, the bridge of cabled-speed as threaded for each of us to see a fundamental truth: we all wish to speak out and connect, we all wish to self-aggrandize and to share, to honor and call out, to bewitch and be bewitched: in a world: voice inside and upon each other….

    i too find myself spending much too much time leaving comments (here and at LS) much (for now) to the time away from darkroom or, more in truth sleeping. but, i also recognize, it is a fundamental connective thread: the world Davin is spun together in ways (forgive me, maybe you’re still too young) that are extraordinarily sleek and miraculous. For example: you would not, most likely, have met your idol, Mr. K, without your own connection to the blogs/on line communities: LS. We all grope for meaning and connection and David’s resources (his life his energy his time his character his compassion his humour, yea his concern too for himself (we all have this)) are splayed across the map of the world: his blog is NO different than the rest of the vehicles of his life, before the web and will be long after……

    we are all infinitely small and yet, oddly, beautifully, often painfully, we’re spread wide and thin through disappearance….

    that david has chosen to “speak” in this form is no different than the way you have chosen to document or speak with the Eastern European peasants you are trying to write upon. Like Berger (read pig earth, once in europa and flags and lilac), you are too telling an essential and important story and so too David here:

    in truth, he’s rhyming my friend: his blog is setting a lick upon which the others merely follow and strum upon: the oldest story in the world: telling tales over beats: that’s all he is doing and people are connected and connecting…real or virtual, that’s for them to decide, but the truth is simpler Davin…much more fundamental….

    I dont come here ’cause I need a Magnum photographer to tell me anything, nor do I come here to squat with a celebrity, I come here (now and again), ’cause I dig David’s heart and I love his honesty, his candor and, yes, often his insight and wisdom. Though Im not always in agreement, but I cherish about David’s blog is that is is fist-motherfucking-fist wide in size and beautiful: He’s allowing people to sing, including you Davin, including you, for had he not, you wouldnt also have had the chance to chime in your own melody here….

    that’s the key my friend, the riff….

    I did David cause his photography is not separated from the thumping beat of his big-hearted body….

    an man, as a 40 year old photographer and writer and father and husband who also tries to constantly give back in a world that mostly gives a rat’s ass about others, that’s a cat, David Alan Harvey, that I’ll join along in song any night of the week…..

    listen to stories Davin…that’s really what’s going down here……

    all the best

  • p.s. O typo alert, typo-alert:

    I did mean to write “i did David cause…”….(god almighty!!!) ;)))))

    that should be: “I DIG DAVID CAUSE…”…

    christ, my wife and his girlfriend are really gonna get pissed ;))))))


  • i like to go to workshops–not only to learn but to laugh. This blog is great–it’s beautiful and sweet and funny. And I do appreciate the good advice. It’s a lot like a workshop.
    On style–I read a little story in an inspirational magazine a few years ago. I wish I could remember the photographer’s name the story was about. After the death of his daughter, he completely changed his direction. He went from color stock photography to fine art black and white photography of the Everglades. It was gorgeous–using his pain to create beauty. Rosemary

  • david alan harvey


    no self indulgence intended….if i were self indulgent, believe me , i would not teach or try to help emerging photographers think about the world they are about to enter….

    i would just be self indulgent!!! and enjoy my life all by myself!!

    i try to write stories that are mostly about other people..i am fortunate to know some of the people you may be interested in knowing a little more about….that is also why i publish my students work….if i do publish my own work it is with the intention of being helpful..showing a thought process and mistakes and misgivings…and if i write about myself it is only a starting point and i try to spin the story in your direction..

    after all i am supposed to be a communicator….isn’t this a wonderful new way???

    my mother was a teacher….she taught me that no matter how far i went, that i should always extend a helping hand to others who might be less fortunate or just needed a little nudge…

    that is also why i am setting up a non-profit fund to help emerging photographers perhaps do some independent work….i might fail at doing this…i could just spend more time doing my own work…but wouldn’t THAT be a little self indulgent??

    it is quite simple…the net has given us a new medium….it seems that we should use it…as far as i can see, the most interesting thing about this forum, is all the writing that all of you do….it is your writing that is important…not mine..

    there are many great photographers, like koudelka, who would definitely not do a blog…he also would not look at your portfolio or teach a class or maybe even give you the time of day unless you were in his “league”…not that he should…he and others owe the world nothing but their work…it would be a whole lot easier for me to have that same attitude….

    once, when i first was nominated into magnum i was re-buffed by one of the world’s greats….this photographer shall go un-named because this photographer is still a “hero” of mine and a great influence….

    but, at that moment, i swore to myself that i would never be like that….i did not see that arrogance or his “self indulgence” was beneficial to him as a human being…and i believe we are human beings first and photographers second..

    and, in that light, even when i am shooting and doing “my own thing”, i treat my subjects exactly the same way i try to treat the readers of this forum…it is my nature….

    i hope it shows up in my photographs of others and i hope it shows up in the work i do here…

  • In your Work in Progress strand you promised to talk about “intensity” for projects.
    I am only 19-years-old and have a hundred-thousand subjects I would like to explore. I find something new to shoot everyday and a new way to shoot it. Being that I am so young, I feel like my life-experience is changing more drastically, day-to-day and that causes me to be ever examining a style with which to shoot, or at least one to try and begin to develop. It seems like at this point in my life, intensity means an awful lot, and I would really appreciate your elaboration on the subject. -Rush Jagoe

  • Sorry about the blank post. Not quite sure how that happened. -Rush

  • Setting up a non-profit…you will need lots of patience. I just today got clearance on one that I have been working on for two years and spent thousands of dollars in legal fees. Need any advise just ask.

  • David,

    You sound really genuine and I have to say that my possibly lame musings on your blog followed by peoples’ replies and now yours, have helped me through a rough few days. Apologies for taking away from the strength of this on-line community.


    Davin Ellicson

  • David….
    the “traveling camera” concept was done…Today I just discovered this..take a look….sorry

    Carlos Rubin


  • Hi, David,

    Before taking up the camera, I used to make comic book art, and before that I used to paint in watercolor. When people ask me why I went from painting to photography, I always tell them I didn’t like waiting for the ink to dry. Seriously though, I think my artist-self was just looking for the right tool to focus and express its Vision. True enough, when I got into photography, it felt like a large window opened up in me and a dim part of myself was suddenly brought to light. In just a short time, I was making photographs my paintings would not be able to hold a candle to.

    But despite finding this “match” with photography, I’m sure I will still keep trying my hand at other forms of creative expression. Communication is a lifelong process after all, and looking for the most effective means of putting across what we have to say at the time we need to say it is simply part of the game. Maybe that’s why HCB “gave up” photography for drawing or why Gordon Parks decided to go into filmmaking and learned to play the piano later in his life. It’s all about fulfilling our purpose the best we can.

    My two cents.


  • You know, it’s almost always a mistake for me to go back and read comments like the one I posted here. I invariably sound like a bilious schmuck.

  • I think one should always tinker, explore, be open for change, discovery and growth. It comes to us as much as we go to it. This is often best done personally and at times in private. And then one must have the discipline and the rigor to take those discoveries and constellate them into a cohesive vision as best one can.

    It is all process. At least the creative part is. The business part is another matter entirely.

  • I hear you about the self indulgence and arrogance. Why be like that? Though I dont think people do it on purpose and maybe they dont really know the effects…or remember how it felt when they were rejected earpier..although many probably were prodogies from the start so they just never got to feel the ejection. I really value your openness. I mean you are a magnum photographer, national geographer..all the stuff dreams are made of yet you are open to those of us who have no stature in this business. Some of us maybe will, many of us will not. Yet you go out of your way to communicate us on a daily basis….schedule permitting LOL.

    And in the end, isnt it just much more fun to be open and friendly? I think greatness isnt only measured in your own work but how you influence, mentor and bring along the next generation to follow in your footsteps.

    You are right about Koudelka owing us nothing. Nobody owes anyone anything..we owe things to our family, we owe things professionally to our employers, but thats really where it ends. Thats why this place is so cool. You do this out of your own free will.

    Some people have the need to be negative. Thats just how they are. I dont think Davin was trolling, I just think he is one of those people who are negative about things. Thats fine, thats who he is. Im just glad you arent like him.

    Anyway, just finishing up shooting and printing the portfolio for your eyes David. I guess I wont be visiting Mr. Koudelka with it;) But im glad Ill be showing it to you.

  • Rafal! I already apologized! C’mon! I was questioning the idea of blogs and the sharing of the minutiae of one’s life. . . I was thinking out loud when I should not have been. I quickly saw from David’s post that he is the OPPOSITE OF SELF INDULGENT as he said–he’s willingly sharing so much and the focus is not necessarily on him. But hey! It’s his blog afterall and the focus has every right to be on him! I rest my case and will say no more. Salut.

  • I wasnt really criticizing you. But, ok, sorry:)

    How’s Romania? What was your reason for going there? Sounds like an interesting project. Good luck with it.

    Its interesting what David says about getting shut down by a famous photog the first time he applied. How did that make you feel and did it spur you on to do something different? What was the reason for that rejection? I think HCB was againt martin Parr entering Magnum, thats what I read somewhere. Do you know anything about that?

  • There’s a post on Alec Soth’s blog which mentions Philip Jones Griffith’s opposition to Martin Parr’s membership:


    Jones-Griffith wrote a letter to all members urging them to reject Parr – here’s a quote:

    “He is an unusual photographer in the sense that he has always shunned the values that Magnum was built on. Not for him any of our concerned ‘finger on the pulse of society’ humanistic photography. He preached against us and was bold enough to deride us in print while his career as an ‘art’ photographer mushroomed”

    Despite Jones-Griffith’s opposition, Parr made it in by one vote.

    NB. The commentary by Gerry Badger quoted by Soth further down the post is not serious – it’s satirical.

  • david alan harvey

    hello all…

    this has been a most interesting post…certainly the one with the most comments from you ever on this forum….

    i have had problems with the net here in arles, so i just have not been able to get on and respond the way i would have liked…i think i have solved the problem now, so i will try to do a bit of “reporting” for you…and i will also go back and respond to as many of you as possible…


    i was not offended by your comments..i can tell from all of your comments collected, you are a fine young man…i only felt they required response…it is fair enough that any of us at any time can be questioned about our “motives”…and this forum is intended for discussion and that is what we are having…

    if anyone goes “public” with his or her photographic work or writings, then that person is subject to whatever critique comes…that is part of the deal for me here and for all of you who publish authored work of any kind…

    please do post us a link to your work if possible….i do try my best to look at as many links as possible…part of my “reward” for even doing something like this is to see work i might not otherwise see…

    i promise to take a careful look….i generally respond by private email to those whose work i have seen…

    in our complex world today, it is too too easy to “mistrust”…and all of us have some pretty good reasons to be skeptical in general…

    a rule that i have for myself is this…unless i personally have been “betrayed” by someone or an institution, i try to give them the “benefit of the doubt”…

    it is so easy for all of us to slide into cynicism….cynicism is our enemy..because cynicism will eat you alive faster than a blood seeking shark….

  • I think HCB asked something like “why does he have to make such ugly pictures?” I think it was Peter Marlow was trying to pursuade him in the pro Parr group…I think! Anyway it’s easy to feel uncomfortable looking at Martin Parrs’ work as i think we all relate to it in some way. I think people mistake him for ‘taking the piss out of the working class’ or as Philip Jones Griffiths says “kicking the victims of Tory violence” his latest work is portraying wealth in the same distasteful way. I think Martin Parr said somehing about portraying the absurdity of the world.

  • Hi David

    A while back you said you would email me a quick critique on my work, I never got it I not sure why, maybe you forgot , maybe the email simply never reached me, maybe my work is so bad it wasn’t worth your time! I don’t wish to push you on it, don’t worry if you’re too busy. Some other time maybe.



  • david alan harvey


    i am so sorry…i must have just forgotten…i just took a quick look at your site and i am sure i have never seen it before…and now i am rushing out the door…

    i have left a note for myself to do this in the morning…stay on my case..i will get it done!!!

  • Hey no problem David! absolutely when you have time, there’s no rush.
    Have a good night.

    Many thanks


  • David, In your blog you mention Alex Webb’s consistency of style over a 20 year period. I am a great admirer of Webb’s photography, and always think of him as having a sort of “third-eye”. I loved “Hot Light/ Half Made Worlds,”Sunshine State” and the Haiti book,(Although I was more moved by Maggie Steber’s “Dancing on Fire”,done at the same time). While Webb’s latest work, “Istanbul”, contains some wonderful photographs, it is generally disappointing. I found the book repetitious and perhaps a tighter edit would have made it more compelling? On the whole it was a tiring read, and while I frequently re-visit his other books, I am much less inclined to do so with “Istanbul”. Webb has unique vision and a distinctive style which differentiates him from equally accomplished photographers. But perhaps it’s time for a shift in perspective? I would love to see the results of even the slightest move away from the rigorously formal and abstract. Maybe something less cerebral?

  • david alan harvey


    yes, i will do this….you are at exactly the age, when things should move forward in a significant way…..you are at a time of experimentation which is just the way it should be and yet you must also make key decisions for yourself…actually, this process is never over in a creative life, but you do want do set down a solid “base for your pyramid” soonest…

    can you send me a link to your work??? that would be the best way to start a discussion… for me to give you the best advice i would need to know a bit about you and your background and motives etc etc…

    you will pick up a few pieces if you go back into some of the previously published stories
    here, particularly under “workshops”, “family” and “work in progress”…

    in any case, i look forward to seeing your work…

  • From the wikipedia:

    “In the Mahayana tradition, Bodhisattvas take vows to work for the complete enlightenment of all sentient beings. A Bodhisattva strives to become fully enlightened as a Buddha so as to have the best abilities to help other beings, and takes the vow to not enter into (passive) Nirvana before all other sentient beings have achieved complete Buddhahood.”

    Just substitute “David Alan Harvey” for “Bodhisattva” and “emerging photographers” for “sentient beings” and you’ll get the idea.

    Also, from the discussion way up, Koudelka would be the Buddha reaching Nirvana, having released all his attachments and no longer concerned with emerging photographers.

  • Hola David..como estás?
    If you have a chance, can I have some feedbak about my work?…I’ll really apreciate that….I’m really don’t know which way to go right now…please remember I’m only an “amateur:” but I really want some advice…I want to take some workshop next year in the right direction…


    saludos..and please…keep doing what you do in this blog…is very very important for us to have this forum.


  • david alan harvey


    i just spent about half an hour with your work…overall you have some very nice photographs….in your documentary section , i would edit those down about half…..your very strong ones get brought down a bit by some weak ones…i could “fix” this section in about 5 minutes….your polaroids and holgas look particularly good, but again a quick edit would make these look even stronger….your paintings are amazing…

    there are many ways you could go now …but i think the best thing for you is to keep up the strong single imagery you have going in puerto rico….a book which combined your painting and photography and your writing would seem to be a natural…done properly, it would show you as a natural contemporary biographer for your country….

    i need to sit down with you somewhere…either puerto rico or new york….i need to be able to move things around…pace the floor….think early, think late….

    if i do a book making workshop , you should try to make it…i have done book workshops before and they are absolutely the most constructive….i do not have one planned right this minute, but pls. stay in touch….

    saludos, david

  • David,
    you can’t imagine the value of this feedback for me…thank you so much for your time….I’ll follow your advice…I feel exactly the same way but I don’t know where to start…sometimes part of my editing work responds to the way my friends are reacting to my images and I guess that a bad technique…

    If you do a “book making workshop” in New York or any other place, please let me know… if someday you have a couple of hours in NY, I’ll take a plane to see you.

    In the mean time, have a great vacations with your family and thanks again for you feedback and this vauable forum you have created for all of us.

    un abrazo.

  • Carlos:

    To borrow from Preston’s post, you have just been led to enlightenment by a Bodhisattva.


    If you have the time, I’d like to know what you think about my photographs as well, especially my Batanes and Banahaw images.



  • david alan harvey


    i will happily take a look at your work…but not right this minute…i just got in from london and am too exhausted to make a good critique for you….i will try tomorrow…

  • pierre yves racine

    Hi !

    I had no Internet access last week so I’ve just read all the comments and it’s good to see that an interesting blog turns into an interesting forum…

    Now, the question I would like to ask is :

    Is it valuable to theorize about style ?

    Reading some comments, I would say it is.

    But is it valuable to theorize about your OWN style ?

    And, more than that, can’t it be dangerous ?

    This is something I’ve been wondering about for some time and talked about it with friends.

    Now I try and explain what I mean and where this comes from.

    I’ve seen the work of so many photographers and artists in general who can’t reinvent themselves and stop being creative after 10 or 20 years of work.

    Does it come from fame (cf previous post) ?

    Or is it that the photographer has understood what his style is and therefore can’t create something new ?

    Let’s take an example : HCB, in 1952, was asked, by Tériade I think, to write an introduction for his book “Images à la sauvette”. In this well-known text, he brilliantly conceptualizes his work.

    Now, for me, HCB’s interesting, creative and free work was created before 1952, in the 1920’s, 30’s….

    After that, though some pictures are really great, I think that, form a stylistic point, he kept repeating himself, just like so many photographers did.

    Maybe that’s because he knew so well what he began to do intuitively in the 1920’s that he couldn’t do anything else. Especially when he became well known for that (here again, cf. “fame”, everything is connected).

    Now David, enjoy your hollydays… well deserved !


  • For me, you shouldn’t analyse why you are taking the pictures you are taking.

    You take the photos that you need to take. Let others categorise them into a style.

    And let others determine whether or not you style has changed over time. Just take the pictures.

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