Antoine D’Agata…Motel 6…Bismarck N Dakota


Our road trip across America officially starts on October 1…We are trying to decide now whether we go from east to west or west to east…It doesn’t really matter. Nor does it really matter if we even make it across. All the way is a loose goal but not a requirement. The only “must”  is that I manage a few good images. Off For A Family Drive is most surely based on family. That is the whole point. Yet “family” is loosely interpreted. Panos Skoulidas, Antoine D’Agata and I were most certainly a bonded family as we crossed North Dakota last spring as part of Magnum’s Looking for America project. We laughed together , we got so so frustrated together, we got scared together, and we suffered together. Our project pretty much fell through. Antoine did not take a single picture for it, and I took very few. Busted. It happens. At the same time, we became friends. Sure we were friends before, but we became the kind of friends you become when stuff goes wrong.

You find out about people when things go wrong.

Things will go wrong on the trip upcoming. We know damn well they will. That’s ok. We just need more right than wrong. So I am stacking the deck for right, but with a team that can handle wrong.

Candy Pilar Godoy, my first assistant in New York, and muse for (based on a true story) and I are building a team for the trek across. Panos will join us at some point to shoot video, help drive , and just do his best to do what he always does and put things right out there on the edge. Candy and I have obviously collaborated a lot. First in the Rio shooting itself, and later in the editing process where she proved herself a terrific editor as we created the Rio book along with Eva-Maria Kunz, Diego Orlando and Bryan my first born. So that was a family too. We have since traveled to Australia for the opening of (based on a true story), to Look3,  and France for a projection at Arles of Tell It Like It Is, my first published family story.

This audience can watch it all here. Just like the audience that followed us for the making of the Rio book, you can see how I try to build a narrative etc for Family Drive. Sure a diary, but hopefully educational in nature for all. Just like with Rio, I am now looking at a blank canvas. I got nothing going. Nothing. Not a picture yet. 6 weeks in front of me and not only nothing , but with this audience watching. You can watch me nosedive to earth!  For sure some of it will be a disaster as was our trip to North Dakota.

On the other hand, I like the hard edge. The abyss. The fear. The ecstasy. Why do you think I even do this?

Find out more. Join us on Oct 1 (more or less) and we will show you how it is done. I am joking of course. I have no clue what will happen nor how I will do it. Not a clue. I wake up in the middle of the night now thinking about it. Fear? Oh sure. Yet not of expectations from this audience. Fear of my own expectations is THE fear. Even my pictures of others are often almost emotionally self portraits perhaps expressed above with Antoine.

This could be epic, this could be another disaster. I have failed regularly throughout life. Mostly failed actually. Yet that is part of the deal. Part of the art. The way I like it. Going bad. Going.



43 Responses to “Antoine D’Agata…Motel 6…Bismarck N Dakota”

  • That’s the problem with most of us… We won’t risk it, failure looms too big in our eyes and colours all hope of success…
    But risking it seems to be the secret…

  • a civilian-mass audience

    yeah…the AUDIENCE is watching…!!!

    Bring it on! Forget the results…focus on the journey because in the end …it will come down to this:

    can I sing now?

  • This Road Trips won’t be the old Road Trips, this blog won’t be the same as, “Off For A Family Drive” won’t be (based on a true story) (nothing ever could!.. and who knows if “Family Drive” will even survive as it is or mutate and shift).. and that’s the beauty of it.. to me..

    Way way back in March.. seems such a long time, so many things happened in the meantime, but if I count it’s just 6 months!.. you, David, wrote:

    “OR just jump and hope the parachute opens?”

    when we had to give the “GO” to the printer for (based on a true story).. so six months later it’s again “OR just jump and hope the parachute opens?”..

    No doubt: OR just JUMP!

  • The old Roadtrips was unscripted adventure. Version 2.0 is adventure with security. It feels too much like a marketing and brand building effort (nothing wrong with that). Far from the wild and sometimes wacky Version 1.

  • Jim…

    Give the new RoadTrip blog a chance to prove itself :)!


    ahh, there is nothing better than morning coffee and knocking out a comment back to Jim Powers!! what in the world would we do without each other??

    amazing how you can critique something before it even exists… :)

    you know damn well amigo that i am looking at a blank slate…i don’t know what script you are seeing, but we sure as hell aren’t seeing it…hell, we had to scrap the rv that we were going to rent in New York and drive west, and now we do not have a vehicle at all…even with minimal “security” i have a blank slate…we honestly cannot even afford this trip….you will have to buy us a tank of gas…please…yet even when i have the big ole NatGeo behind me with untold amounts of “security” i have a blank slate…my ONLY security is my ability to take pictures..period…all this other stuff does not count..

    because of the BurnBooks Lucie nomination in Los Angeles, i think we will now start the trip there and come east…at this very moment, there is no plan…the plan changed a few days ago…so, honestly it is a little crazy we have no plan…because if this investment fails and we get no support for the trip or nobody buys Family Drive, then i will be looking for my old job at McDonalds…yet even you know that i would be shooting pictures even if was working at McDonalds…hmm, might be an interesting essay??

    so yes, our “brand building” as netted us some success or whatever, but i know damned well you will be here everyday because you KNOW very well that nobody can predict pictures nor take them and make them work in advance…

    this mis-adventure doesn’t cost you a penny Jim and i am doing it without advertisers…

    oh of course yes, things DO evolve, and change, and nothing is ever the same…er, well, except for Jim Powers, he stays the same…and for sure i would not want it any other way…

    hey wait, i see the script for a movie…the dah circus comes through your Texas town and we take you with us!! Easy Rider meets Family Vacation (or whatever that Chevy Chase movie is)…that would be hilarious….for sure you would be most welcomed….no joke….

    see you on the road Jim….looking forward….

    cheers, david

  • “The question is: How does the photographic community harness this explosion of visual energy to expand its audience? This is what needs to be focused on.”

    Pertinent here I think… from an article on lensblog, by Kathy Ryan:

  • PAUL

    yes, the risk is always the thing….i notice when i interview interns to come and help me in New York, the first question they ask ME is, how can THEY afford to live in New York?…how will working for me allow THEM to survive?…..they want it all laid out in advance…for sure this would be normal for most people looking for a job, yet all of the “non risk takers” i knew who went to work for big companies and big guaranteed salaries, have all been fired by now!! or hate the company they work for, or hate themselves for working for a company they hate..

    risks must be somewhat calculated of course..YOU must have confidence that you have at least some chance of doing what you say you will do….yet right now with the two natgeo stories i have published this year and the success of (boats) i reasonably COULD just sit on my front porch…hell i probably SHOULD sit on my front porch…but alas, i take the risk of going out to make new pictures…i don’t even need new pictures…my archive organization is already way way behind…i could make up stories from my unseen archive forever…however, that’s not how it works…at least not for me….


    oh my , you can sing whenever you want….you will appreciate that today i am driving in my old truck up to New York with Renata, one of the twin sisters from Rio de Janeiro who is on her first trip to America….she will be the star of the Bubble Lounge event tomorrow night….you of all people would appreciate this….

    i sure do wish we were geographically closer and you could be a part…we will do our best to keep you up to date….when i look up from my computer right now, i see on the wall Vissaria’s photo of the two kids in the garden…it always reminds me of the two of you…


    good piece by Kathy Ryan….she will be coming to our event at the Bubble Lounge…maybe i will do an interview with her for Burn….she is for sure one of THE voices of photography in New York…

    big hugs, david

  • After a billion years being a silent reader here on Burn this project finally made me do the “register thing”. Im looking forward to follow you and your familly on this trip.


    funny …life is funny..just since i wrote you the last note, less than an hour ago, i find that perhaps this trip will not happen at all..circumstances beyond my control… i am late on my taxes, and i can’t find my glasses….so Road Trips might indeed literally BE from my front porch…feel better now?

    cheers, david

  • a civilian-mass audience

    oime…MR.HARVEY…we are closer than we think ! we will meet soon…

    and no matter what have started this Road trip almost 5 years ago…therefore you are still traveling and we are next to you…WE ARE A BURNING FAMILY after all…and yes,JIM loves this family…
    maybe more than I do…oime,I feel better now…
    may the Spirits of the universe be with US…and may “the journey” never stops!

    P.S…RENATA is in the States?…wow,spread the news…WHAT NOT TO LOVE!!!

  • a civilian-mass audience

    oh,I will sing later cause I am not focused …three hens are on strike…hmm…no eggs…

  • Is anyone familiar with movie/tv SHOW “BREAKING BAD”?
    That’ll be my approach ;)

  • don’t wanna be misunderstood though.. I’m not Telly/tube friendly..
    Just watching it on laptop, no cable, none of that crap.. Not promoting tv either, but watch it if u can find it ( free on Netflix )

  • “On the other hand, I like the hard edge. The abyss. The fear. The ecstasy. Why do you think I even do this?”

    Free popcorn?

    “We are trying to decide now whether we go from east to west or west to east…”

    Go east to west. If you go west to east from New York you’ll wind up in Montauk, which is a nice place, or so I’ve been told, but I don’t think anyone cares one way or the other about what goes on in exotic Lawn Guyland, unless it involves people named Buttafuoco.

    Maybe this is just my lack of imagination at work here, but the words Antoine D’Agata and North Dakota still give me a massive case of cognitive dissonance. All will be well, however; there’s shots for that sort of thing nowadays.

  • What?! You didn’t file a Form 4868 for an extension! Keep doing that and the only road trip you’ll be taking is the one to Leavenworth.

  • Panos.. it’s the login that will do the trick, if logged in to wordpress all works ok!

  • Eva you are correct.. In Chrome for example I see Antoine post perfectly BECAUSE IM LOGGED IN , through WordPress account.. but when I tried Firefox it didn’t UNTIL
    I logged in again:)

  • I’ve really been impressed with what Alec Soth has done lately with Ohio and upstate New York. Producing “newspapers” within a week of those road trips is very cool. More than a little simple, clear brilliance in all of that work. I want to steal the idea and twist it a bit, went so far as to actually request a quote from my favorite old web press yeterday. Been years, felt good.

  • Young Tom I really like the newspaper idea…

  • Panos.. am sure Haik will iron out the glitches :)

  • Panos :)) Yeah, a no-color direct-to-plate print run of 2,000, even on nice bright heavy 50lb. newsprint, can’t be that expensive … hoping it will equal that assignment check I got coming. Reinvest in fun!

  • Eva the new iphone5 has wayy more glitches and its NOTeven FREE ;)

  • are forbidden to disappear like that. We miss you!
    Dave and Panos..exciting times ahead and we ‘ll be here avid for reports.The trip, subject, the characters being part of the odyssey..David will do magic again.
    Hope everyone in New York show up at Bubble Lounge and have so much fun with the most interesting people in the scene in a very unique style..Enjoy for all of us who won’t make it ! Do it for the team!

    And Burnians , if you are interested I just updated the PHOTO JUNKIE CLUB with 3 NEW posts

    1. Brazilian Photography- A winning squad of very talented photographers representing Brazil with style, grace and skills in the field. Bring the gold!
    2. Painting X Photography. Maybe the role and the room for imagery? I did the experiment: famous photographers, famous painters,pairing them out and finding interesting match-ups(CHECK THE SLIDESHOW)
    3.My little trip into documentary photography. Grab your ticket and come onboard!See you there
    No one is more welcome there than the Burn mates. Love to all

  • a small pre-election gift from my buddies:

  • im very proud to say that this point of time(not this protest show above) i was jamming with TimmyC (bass player of RAGE and dear friend of mine), i was on drums , creating a new band…until Chris Cornell and Rick Ruben showed up….
    glory days

  • a civilian-mass audience

    glory days are here to stay…I was there PANOS…more glory ahead!!!

    TOM…been years,felt good/chicken years,rock on!!!

    RENATA…do it for the team !!! BURN BABY,BURN!

    EVA…you are focused!
    hmmm…i have few shirts to iron…i might have to call HAIK!:)))))))

    BURNIANS…i am waiting for reports.ASAP.proceed to the nearest BURNING aisle…thank YOU

  • THat party tonight is going to ROCK!
    Wish I could be there.
    Have fun and all the best!


    Checking out the blog….time always gets me…reading burn comments and checking out whats new is time consuming! :-))))
    What I have read and seen in your blog is great!


    Somehow I know this trip will happen. I mean…we are all already there, no? traveling together…always on a road trip….

  • Waiting for reports? Well, the belligerent crazy guy who smells like he bathes in rancid chicken soup has just left the building. He is still grunting and groaning and talking under his breath to someone who isn’t there, who may smell as bad as he does, but I can’t tell for sure, since the monitoring the bathing habits of imaginary friends is not in my job description. Apparently he-the actual guy and not his imaginary friend-didn’t get our letter telling him he can’t come in here smelling like he just bathed in rancid chicken soup. So much for that idea, I guess. We’re just going to have to tell him he stinks. I took a long walk in the woods yesterday, which led to my family wanting to know what kind of moron am I? Don’t I have enough diseases as it is without adding Lyme to the mix? I apologized profusely, but I didn’t mean a word of it. But other than that, all is well here in our happy little burg. It is a beautiful day, the kids are in school being ineducable, as the majority of them are, and all is about as well as can be expected given the circumstances.

  • dah/roberta/eva:

    review coming…finished it last night…and had wanted to publish/post it today for your Bubble Lounge gig…but when i re-read it this morning on subway, i realized that i needed to (laugh laugh laugh) add more: more specifics about the book ;)))…

    so, tomorrow, will put it up, etc….


  • And while we wait for Bob’s review, we can check out what Panos thinks of capitalism:

  • David, I hope your road trip happens as (un)planned, but if it doesn’t and you shoot it from your porch, that could be pretty good if you shoot lots of pictures of your cats. If so, then I will be an avid follower. I post this from the very top of ANWR, where, for the moment, I have a very slow yet passable ethernet connection.

  • Bob, we all will be waiting anxiously … we are ready when you’re ready!

  • Ah…and Panos thanks for the help , big help today. I managed to send Renata the message

  • I have no idea where to put my review…so I guess i’ll leave it at the different discussions…i’m not sure how Burn now works, but so this will be my probably final comment…time to get to the work that has exploded this year…anyway, this one is for david and roberta….be well all :))….running, bob


    A review of David Alan Harvey’s “(based on a true story)”

    “For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.”–Psalm, 90:4

    “Não é o amor em si, mas nos arredores do amor que importa”–Fernando Pessoa, “Livro do desassossego por Bernardo Soares”

    “Mom, why do you always tell me I can’t do what I want when I just want to DO something?”–Conversation overheard walking on Dundas Street West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, North America, Saturday September 22nd, 2012.



    The I (am/eye) at the beginning of that five-syllable word. The “I” as ocular reconfigured alphabet and the contained trapped by its audacity to begin a word prefixed by a preposition that fingers its meaning and sound toward the gun-shot start of division and collection simultaneous, pointing to both inwardness-inside and the coitus connecting, the door left tight and warming from the world left ajar. How else to alphabetize a book that is less a book of pictures than an unveiling of a self, in all its beautiful messy imperfect sloppiness of honesty.

    A love story.

    So begin with a vowel: I

    The “I” that lends its breath and breadth in a simple and singular expectoration. The I of the author the eye of the reader that joins that act of imaginative and visual and narrative displacement and night-spawn cohesion, the joy of the falling apart and remaining-still that is the essential ingredient of fucking and all its physical and emotional (shall I add teological?) juice. The same juice that lends the mind electric. The same falling-apart and rebuilding that lay at the heart of this book. Entropy and Entanglement. Creeping vine and scattering wind. Breath and suffocation. A world entwined and cut free. A solitude caught in the making of ice, in the pacing of the blue thread like a finger along the spine, a chiropractic realigning the pages of the book. The Of You and Me joined elliptical and left behind wavering. The figure amid the glade of talkative shadows as solitary as the green palm tree that verticalizes the heart in the cavern of night, verdant and alone and firm, just as solitary as the burned, charcoaled flanks of pig-earth meat that’s bbq’d on a spit of fire, just as solitary as the child standing afoot at the sea darkened by climatic DNA and weathered geography, just as solitary as the baroque police-siren lighted red dimple igniting the noise of dance hall or favella, just as solitary as the application of makeup, just as solitary as the smoke jettisoning itself from rapture and lips, just as solitary as a bellybutton lost amid a seesea of pastel light and shapely breasts, just as solitary as a driver bored by the tedium of privilege and scaled accumulation, just as solitary as the space between gun and thought, just as solitary (do you hear), just as solitary as you and I thumbing through the corners and carapace of our lives between printed pigment and page. A thought. A breath. A shutter fingered let loose. A joining and undoing. A hope and a collapse and an unhinging and carving and a spewing and a running and a collapsing and an awakening and a cumming and a distillation distillating (not distilling) and an arguing and a quieting and a and a and a pause and an un-winging. A moment in a momentary life accordianed into a musical unflagging of pictures and moments rearranges. A think-thing. A voice, careened. A dollop of sweat cupped from the night. An ankle atrophied by AIDS’ forlorn gaze and chewing. A clock looked askance. A child. A tit. A crease in a pant leg. A diamond-sprung body. A view. A view garnered by wealth. A view negated by violence and squalor umbrella’d by the sounds of laughter cornered by screams. The same city, the same sea, the same unearthly light above and scattering along. A sky. A moment that both contains and rejects everything. A place and (and) an imagined dream. All of that inside a kited outward. A moment stopped and held like a small and life-leaving infant the touch of which pressed against will shatter those remaining ligaments and longing that hold together the world and that small skeleton of life. A hope, a hope. Just that.

    Do you get that, can you untangle the curious figments of the world alight? So ok then, close the book and defer to a consonant: P.

    Plenitude, Palanquin, Proprietorial, Protuberant, Pseudonymous, Pussy, Private, Polarity, Paracetamol, Parabolic, Palindrome, Pagoda, Polonium, Paired, Perch, Pounced, Path to the space amid: Propinquity and Palm.

    Is that really (again the vowels) U?

    Pause. Posture. (another vowel): Ache.

    The algebra of language-writ stories, photographic and tongue-to-roof-tied: a mouth tale. Ache.

    The vowels, again: O


    Life spars in an instant and then and there slips forward-toward the something and then:



    Life changes in the 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, un-lunged.


    The instant, prefigured as life, changes in that unrecognizable moment, each and every gear-knuckle and tooth-sprocket gap gaping. Agape. Lip crayoning lip, eye juicing the colours and cadences of both the night of you and the tall, bedazzled light. Fecund orifice. Battered battery of bitch’d-up botched breaks: see that between the clothes hung for inspection and the dandied black-tux like a crux of ascension? Citrus and liquor, southern longitude and northern dreamed-upon misshape, night sprayed like a teenage couple learning to palm their fingers (joint to joint) against one another taxied by spray of telephone wire, a night cabaret barker drenched in Mephistopholean menstrual light, two children (an awkward adam, a confident eve) at play at the shore at night whose apple’d orchard of temptation is the ships long off to the distant-right caged by black night, Garagem, Eu maraia pro um premio nobel da paz, Guara Viton, a perfumed bruise-blue white angel tonguing the camera’s eye with her indifference to the shadow’d boy who could carry her in her exhaustion if she’d only known, umbrella bit by an adjacent firework lit by a woman who hides her cranial loneliness amid the sleek dress of her curvaceous beauty, ecstasy tomosis miasma senseless sensibility osmosis honeysuckle nitrate spew of septum and spectrum and frame after frame after frame after frame like a series of x-rays only more optimistic in their vibrant, youthful colour and yearning, recalibrated through an orgiastic repetition, multiplicity not as repetition but as gesture, multiplicity not as show-boating but as orgasm, multiplicity not as accumulation but as archeological specificity (to dig and repeat and dig and repeat as a way of getting at the dan of the time-earth that covered that moment) stroke stroke stroke stroke until one is splayed wide by the fever of a coda and preamble that begins and concludes thus: beginnings and endings are the same:

    We are all based on a true story.

    E. COLOSSAL YOUTH (And Yes the Pedro Costa Film too)

    That man. That boy. The man and the boy. The man and the boy whose solitary appearance throughout the pages of (based on a true story) marks us as guide and as harbour from the siren’s song of that beautiful muse at the centre of this book, woman and city incarnate. Those two males, father-to-son, ancestor-to-progenity, whose simple clear strength allows for the necessary silence need in this most noisy, most cacophonous of photo-books. We need them, those two cinnamon figures in order to negotiate such a circus of lights and holler and howl and desire. It is difficult to remain still while looking through this book, while picking it apart, pictures halved and quartered and by-necessity requiring their expansion. This made, drunken arrangement of accumulated and fixed geographies and emotions and losses. Those too darker figures (against the flair burst of the Muse on the beach). Their skin the color of kiwi shell or banana whelped of time, a steadying of all the mischievous and childish madness of greens and reds and golden, pyrotechnic glamor that makes electric the head and forlorn the heart. If this young woman, Candy, is the muse of this book, its southern cross, then these two others, man and boy, are its necessary gravity and anchor (based on a true story) otherwise it would be a simple and easily read love story: a man is reconfigured by the youth and interceding of her appearance into his life and he falls anew, in love with her, with place with life. But, the story, its form and its syntax, is much more ambiguous that that, if for nothing else that man and that boy. Call it a love story in chiaroscuro. Call it what it is: alchemy and shadow and birth pain emergence. Call it the sound of a person singing about a life, still shadowed, renewed.


    Ostensibly, (based on a true story) is a collection of photographs by a one of his generation’s finest lyricists, a seasoned Magnum photographer whose contribution to documentary photography lay in his poetic and literary interpretation of people and place. A photographer whose life’s work has been less about ‘reporting’ of a place that how he feel’s its light and the play that light and loneliness work their tango with one another. Harvey is, if nothing else, a poet of the lonely, a writer who forgoes often the need to ‘get it right’ for ‘what the light and colour did to us’. More than understanding what a good frame looks like (a la Bresson), Harvey understands as well as any other, what and how light surrounds and isolates and makes worth-living surrounding and it carves and envelopes. Less about the photographic beauty of place, Harvey has always had an uncanny instinct for being ‘inside’ those spaces demarked by light and colour and drama. At centre is always a person (child, man, woman) white-water rushing over all that cadenced world around. And yet (based on a true story) is a very different book, something new it seams to me for Harvey. It isn’t new in its cacophony or its formally imaginative structure, but in its refusal to kowtow to the principle that a photography book need be comprised of all ‘formally beautiful pictures.’ This is not a photography book, but a story, a novella, a soliloquy of a person mad with love, for a woman, for a place, for the body of life.
    Shot entirely in a place that Harvey has well-documented previously, a place he knows well and is enamoured with, Rio de Janeiro (January’s River, Summer’s playground), (based on a true story) contains some of the types of photographs that one expects from Harvey. Beautiful, isolated images struck narcotic by his physical (is it reductionist to suggest sexual?) sense of light and space that allow individuals to stand guard or apart astonished by the fulsome light. One, when looking at a ‘classical Harvey image’ not to become both in love with the living and marked sad by life’s failure to assuage the loneliness. It that kind of ambiguity that makes the best of Harvey’s work so nourishing: a measured optimist who in his orgiastic love of living is still hoping that the fullness of the outside will fill those small corners of hurt that lay open and exposed. And yet, this is not a Harvey book in the mode of ‘Divided Soul’. While “Divided Soul’ was a book comprised of extraordinarily beautiful pictures, it never felt like a book to me so much as a collection of greatest hits. An iconic book and a book that powerfully argued the importance and essence of the diaspora-broken nature of the soul, particularly throughout Latin-oriented culture (see literary), it still was nonetheless a book of pretty pictures thoughtfully edited and narrated. It was a book that left the reader with admiration and respect but it was still a one-story book. As a reader and a photographer, I long for books that fuck with me and my head.

    (based on a true story) is a book for fucking with.


    At the centre of this book is a story, one story, but I do not know it. Frankly, I don’t care what it is for I have already invented my own story for it. Obviously, it is partly the oldest story in the book: Boy meets girl, girls greets boy, boy falls in love with girl, girl accepts/rejects/waits/offers/twines with boy, boy falls in love, girl shutters him into life, boy through girls sees anew, sees her anew, sees all anew, reconfigures himself. Boy follows girl along the labyrinth of her life, her body, her mind and goes ballistic. He loses himself in all of her and follows her (night to day, beach to night shop to favella and back again) and realizes that in all of that travel that is what he long searched for: a path, a carnival of awakening. Her hair, her scent, her words and thoughts and body, like Ariadne’s thread leading it out of the Minotaur’s maze. So, ok and so what. Yes, there is clearly that here. There is a muse, a white-skinned (amid all that other dark and bronze and earth-rich colour) mermaid holding a popcicle and balloon-ball and cotton dress as he is washed ashore from the holding and storage of his life. It’s clear that something in her ignited him and allowed him to see anew a place, and a manner of seeing that became young and vital again. But if this were the only story here, or if this were only the ‘real’ story I would have grown bored. Why a book when our own lives are so heroic in their boredom and negotiated hunger-filled grasping? Because (based on a true story) is not THAT story, but something else.

    It is a story about form, about the redemptive alchemy of telling stories, or inventing and sharing. In fact, I would argue that (based on a true story) is about a generous a book of pictures I’ve seen in a long time. Harvey, in truth, is not the author of the story contained within, but you reader you are the true author of this book. It is your story to configure in which ever way and order and manner you with. We’re blighted by the dictatorial power of the author, always. When we read something, we are at their mercy. As a writer and a photographer, I’m no less ensorcelled and enthralled by my own narcissistic voice (see the the absurd length above to which i’ve been scribbling, q.e.d.). Most of us, who are also photographers, create a story we have something specific in mind and we ram in down the throats of our readers. While we way offer ambiguity and complexity in the meaning of a particular image or even in a specific edit, most of us offer but one sequence and though that sequence may offer myriad readings, there is still the dictation of sequence, firm and solid as a stone–unmovable. Harvey has completely rejected this by allowing not only for a myriad of readings, but for an arrangement of sequences that are both part of the compositional form but also part of the readers ability to take the book apart and put together, reconfigure parts, sequences, pictures, the entire publication at her own will. The book comes apart.

    Much like Mikhailov’s “yesterday’s sandwich,” (based on a true story) is a fold-out book, a book whose photographs have not been bound but are lose and can be re-arranged in whatever order the reader wish. I’ve done this, as an intellectual and photographic and editorial exercise, a number of times since I received the book. The book challenges the reader to make up their own sequence and damn if I don’t like a good challenge. I’ve tried to put together different sequences depending on my mood (or level of sobriety or exhaustion) to see how ‘my’ edit would compare, or how I could reinvent this story using the same pictures. But wait, there is more. If this were its only ‘trick’ (like Mikhailov’s book which allows for re-arrangement and re-edit because all the photographs are cardboard prints), it would be ‘fun’ but not quite the heady experience that it really is.


    Origami (n): the Japanese art of folding paper into decorative shapes

    Origin (n): the point where something begins. ORIGIN: latin origo.

    (based on a true story) is a very Japanese photo book. The Japanese photo book is sui generic beast. For me, more than any other ‘type’ of book, the Japanese photography book as explored and continued to explore both the notion of the photo-based story but, more importantly, has explored how to expand and explode the medium. Where so many picture books take a decidedly linear and sequential approach to the picture-sequence as narrative, the Japanese photo book has directed both the use of pictures as a way to tell a story but also the form and ‘kind of picture’ that of which a photo book should be comprised. In this sense, (based on a true story) steers toward that channel. Not only is this book comprised of pictures that many editors might see as ‘throw aways”, a book comprised of pictures that are decidedly less ‘good/poweful/beautiful/meaningful’ than some of the more typical Harvey pictures. To wit: sausages crisping on a fire, a solitary and green-tongued palm tree, a palm from, a golden mask and all the multiple frame sheets as if taken off the editor’s light table. At first, the ossified viewer might see these as substantially less than the ‘classic’ Harvey pictures, but what Japanese photography books taught was that the inconsequential narrates the outer side blunderbuss of the ‘beautiful’ substantive picture, that things rhyme not on their own and need the cushion and crush of both an opposition and sibling to ring sound from the vowels. Many of the pictures in the book would have, even a couple of years ago, not made a Harvey edit in one of his student’s workshops. I was, frankly, overjoyed that he allowed this at last in his own understanding of what constitutes a sequence that good stories are not simply a sequence of good pictures but comes from collision and opposition and unexpected coalescence from difference. That damn palm from is right out of Moriyama and god bless that insight.

    And then there is the origami of the way the pictures are folded together. Initially, each picture is cloven and joined in relationship to another as half (or at times quartered) which reimagines each picture anew. This origami comes in reverse. Rather than build the folding of paper into a shape, (based on a true story) unfolds. After the initial read/looking, the viewer is compelled to pic the book apart, to peel apart the crane’s wings and the frog’s legs and the diamond’s carats, until we see the original pictures for what they were originally as shot. I am still at a loss as to which I prefer: the truncated individual pictures in their halving and their collision with their page-partner or their true-self unfolded. Does it even matter for both are part of the whole. Gestalt as drunken generosity.

    Which leads me to the most important form of the entire book: its generosity. It hands over to the viewer the reigns. All obsessive artists are egoists. Each of us hunger-strick by the need to both control and to carve apart. Harvey no differently (at this point, for record’s sake I should acquit myself by publicly declaring our close friendship) and he’s iron-poked me as well as an egoist when it comes to my own work. But, what ego is left when an author allows the reader to reinvent the story given them, allows the reader to create whatever they want (including the edit) from a body of work than he has worked so tirelessly on. There is not David Alan Harvey edit to this book, there is only the reader’s edit and decisions and that is an act of generosity and empowerment for the viewer that is extraordinarily rare and radiant.

    Origami as gift. Paper cranes are acts and gifts of love.

    Scattered over water.

    I. A STORY

    There is but one story though it is a maze and amalgam of all the stories highwayed and detoured throughout our life. Formally, there may be one story for Harvey contained within the folds and creases of this book but the wade of the book is shaped into something else. What story lay at the heart of each of our lives?

    What is your story? Speak it.


    Lyrical (adj): expressing the writer’s emotions in an imaginative and pleasing way.

    Polemical (adj): relating to fierce discussion; Origin, Greek polemos ‘War’

    David Alan Havey is a lyrical man and the body of his work, and the imaginative contours of his life, has been defined by the lyrical, the imaginative

    It sometimes seems to me that there have always been essentially two kinds of photographic books. One easily digestible and innocuous and comprising most of the books that we’re dieted and died upon: a string of pictures either bound by some contextual umbilicus or some authorial bibliography, meant essentially to provoke and evoke a simple response: look at these moving/beautiful/thoughtful/important/valuable/instructive/reporting/truthful/respectful/necessary photographs, look at this photographer whose picture prowess you should admire. Like laundry upon a spring day, the pictures gather and snap against one another and remind us of the ‘importance’ and the ‘beauty’ and/or ‘necessity’ of pictures as stand-alone objects, as verisimilitude, as aesthetic function, as something to behold more so because they are pinched between flat-press and gut-stuck binding. A book of photographs that is essentially about the elevation of the singular picture, of the photo as logos, of the photo as something to aspire to or at least sequence of pictures as something fecund just because it is a picture. A book, simply snug, of pictures that celebrate the art and language of pressing light against some kind of chemical or digital emulsion as a way to tell a story. The kind of book that the reader walks away thinking, ‘great pictures, talented gal that photographer.” The kind of book that often chemicalizes our aspirations to run out and take photographs and yet these books, so often, lay dormant and deceased after a few viewings because they ring sweat more from the desire to ‘be like that, make things like that’ than from the much more complex and hard-to-shake thought-fuck that is the other kind of photography book.

    And there are the picture books as play, as idea, as window in the act and function of sentience, of living. A book defined and programmed much less from either the pictures contain therein or even in the practice of picture-telling to begin with than with the idea of book as thought-fuck, as yoga-pose, as a way to re-think imaginatively how to construct a story. A book that may begin in the grammar and form of photographic practice but quickly moves toward something else: thought as movement of body and experiential reckoning. To be bitten by not a photograph, itself, but what the combination of pictures (any pictures) can do when applied against the ache and arch and thrusting of one another. Form vs. Content. Apollo vs. Dionysius. Think of Julio Cortazar’s novel “Hopscotch”, less a novel than a way to decide through the vicissitudes of language and experience, both thought and experience. Less narrative arc than arc for its own parabolic beauty.

    Polemical poetry. Not idea as argument but idea as poetry. Form as the morphology of poetry. Form as a song whose narrative may appear less obvious but within those signs and coefficients sing magically about the way we live and think and experience life to begin with. How to sequence pictures that are less about a moment scene that about the physical and sentient experience of living and thinking and forgetting and bubbling it all together like a witch’s brew.

    Harvey has always been a more a lyricist than a polemical orator and yet, can one separate one from the other? Not argument for its own sake but for the poetry of act of thinking. Ecce Homo, are we not in that galloping. Not binary but amalgam.


    How does one measure the geography of their life, tape walk the space of the land and the width of the sky that rafter’s the living of your coupled and solitary waking? How to make sense and order of all you wish to express and all that expresses itself through you and with you so that others can gather, liked palms of soft earth, that meaning and importance in their hands. The knowing and the taking, the yielding and the yarning. A night as the clock work of your life shuttled between the sweep of the day’s minute hands and hour clocking.

    A way? If even if impossible, there it is in the trying. And that trying, if even in misstep or error, is the measure to begin with. The book that only you were meant to write and patch together from the palm fronds you happen to pick up or discard. Feel the tug and the patchwork, you were meant for that strain and stringing.

    For me, the best and most true books always pitch against the only two things which matter, the love and the leaving of your life. The love for the waking of things, for the making of things, for people and time and your own life as it it measured by the joinery of others. The leaving of that and them as well. Love, be it romantic or spiritual or sexual or intellectual or divine, for the other. That other may be a person, or people, it may be some made up or making up thing. That other may be a partner, a project, a place, a project, a moment when all that seemed wrong with the world seemed for a moment to have vanished in the luminous song of being alive. This too then is reminded by the taking leave of and from that moment of propinquity. Love and Death, the one begetting the other and the spinning of the gravity pull between each. We cannot love anything without feeling that tug and strain, and yet it is that tension that allows both and each a part and apart to make sense, if for a moment, of all that beginning and ending.

    As I have watched David work his love around the moments of this past month, it is impossible for me not to see both at work, all that he loves and cherishes so much in this life: his friends and family, his art, his wondrous need to make the singing of this life as much a part of work life and the working of his life, his teaching and caring, his joy and his frustrations, his disappointment and neglect and his incorrigible power to make it right, to make right and open his life and his heart. At the heart of David’s photography, in the architecture and framing of all his pictures, the best ones, is the same out-the-window gaze and determination. The young, polio stricken child who left alone, through no fault of his or his family, who made a pact with himself that he would not allow the walls enclose him or his vision or the living of his life and vision. There it is in each photograph. That space, that wilding horizon is there in the lines of the hips and akimbo’d arms of the women he is drawn toward, of the solitary men surrounded by night and neon as they themselves drink up the dark space around without fear or measure, the sea is both larger than that hospital window and smaller, for even that cannot contain what he wishes to make right and make thirst. His is always a solitary one, but a brave and ferocious and lyrical one. Sisyphus refusal to allow the boulder to surmount his determination, his refusal to fall deadened by Tantalus’ thirst for he knows and keenly understands that it is the thirst that matters and not the abetting of it.

    Nourishment comes from the desire to seek and not the quenching.

    By the end of the month, it seems clear to me that what seems to be best about One Night in Rio are those pictures that remind me that David, that each of us, is unyielding and refusing to parse the love and loss but instead are putting them together there in the same frame. What also has been interesting is watching what seems to be David’s own growing-into that realization. Like all first moments, like all electric starts, it is never clear, born more of the jolt of production and fever than of standing back and allowing one’s own, one’s own body’s recognition of the pace and production of what seems to make best sense. As the Wall evolved and changed, I found it interesting that so many ‘participated’ in the cataloguing of the pictures, choosing pictures they liked and trying to be a part of the making and yet, that cannot ever happen. For the making, just as with measuring of one’s own life and thoughts and experiences, can only in the end be accomplished alone. Part of the development I watched, was what appeared to be David’s understanding of that too. And yet, in his generosity and willingness to expose himself and allow others to both see and bid, to speak up and against and to ask, he never once (as I probably would have done, still in my immature self and stubborn unwillingness) suggested that. He, rather princely, refused to tell his audience to shut up and leave him alone while he got down with the doing. Instead, he invited participation not to help him, an impossibility, but as a learning process.

    You cannot teach people how to make a book, how to write or photograph or edit. You cannot teach somehow how to take measure of the process, how to ‘see’ what makes sense, what is your sense. Only in the actual doing of your own, can that rhyme and rhythm be understood. Only you can write your own book, only you can best understand what ticks your speed and cantor, only you. And still, it was with that understanding that David accomplished what was best for me as a teacher. He was patiently continued even amid all the vicarious living of others. I wondered how it would end, not for him or for the project but for the viewers. How would they react to the leaving and the bereavement. For me, in truth, I wished for the end from the moment it began because as photographer, as a writer, as a friend, I wanted David to just settle into his gallop without worrying of what others needed, of what others needed from him. What I need from him, simply, is the same thing I need from all those who I love and live entwined. I need him to just live and focus on all those things which make him, that makes both his life and his photographic work so exemplary. The diligence of the silversmith, the patience and commitment of the lifeguard, even when the beach is empty and rain-spilled.

    The French in their inimical way speak of le petit mort, that confluence of life and death that comes at the moment of the bodies’ exhalation, the coming apart during the moment of cumming. The orgiastic moment not as orgy but as solitary coming apart in the coupling of one’s body with another’s. The reminder that that moment of absence both ecstatic and quickly disappearing, the beginning and the ending.

    In the end, (based on a true story) is not about the beaches or the woman/women or the beautiful light and colour, nor the lyricism of David’s frame and palette, nor really about fucking and being fucking by life and with life, but really is about something simpler. That child, even when divested by the sexing of life, shall not really ever be infirm for he shall take that falling away and remake again and again and again.

    David made this book long before he’d traveled south. He made it long ago when he had harnessed his strength and optimism to the view outside the window that both housed his polio-picked body and the world beckoning. The hills may be different, the skyline a different glow, the back-tie affairs swapped for others, but it was there long ago.

    The benefit for me, just that simple. The birthing and the giving. Fly that yourself, each of you and cadence your cantor and slipped steps. That is his gift and is at the heart of both the book and this process.


    Take a look.


    (based upon a true story) is David Alan Harvey’s most physical and honest book. Less a book about picture-taking than a think-tank of self-revelation, it is a beautifully youthful, full-of-self honest expression of what it means to be alive, what it means to hunger for light and body, for colliding crowd and sentient silence. What I cherish the most about the book (contrary to all the verbal and intellectual pyrotechnical acrobatics just scribbled above) is that it is remarkably simple and true. This is a book less consumed by proving the photographer knows how to make a god-damned beautiful photograph (something Harvey does not have to prove) than about driven by the need to share the fevered loves of his life and that be the awakening of and for the living. If Harvey’s beautiful and powerful ‘The Divided Soul’ was a simple and straightforward expression of his particular keen eye for poetic rendering of life caught between the struggle of being born of a the passionate crowd to which he is incessantly drawn and the quiet, solitary drama of making sense of the pull toward and away. Go figure.


    What else if not that?


    Shall I describe its top-spin crossing forehand. Shall I describe the relationship between its beautiful, formally ‘classical’ beautiful pictures and their conversation with those pictures that reject a certain lesson-plan of what-makes-a-good picture. Shall I talk about its relationship to Japanese photography books in its honing of thought and form, in its very-Japanese attention to the infinite possibility of a design that acts more as a gateway to what it can-be in the reader’s imagination than to what it wants to be? (oh, yea, I have). Shall I discuss the cleverness of its multiplicity, of its shape and undoing. Shall I tell you that it is both a book and an exercise in lego-heart parts that gives the reader amble opportunity for deconstruction and reconstruction and re-imagining of picture and story through a taking apart, pining on the wall tossing on the floor scattering around, the ‘pages’ which are neither picture nor photograph nor poster but more graph and imaginative decoder ring fingered by each reader. A maze, Ariadne’s hair-threat in blue pinching all those pictures, accordion like, which like a prism fracture and redact one another by both their placement (cloven when first seen because of their halved selves next to another picture) with others and then set loose by their unfolding and re-arrangement. Shall I tell you of the generosity of a photography book, of a photographer, who is willing to allow You to remake and re-imagine the book from scratch that he worked so hard to birth into the world and then gave it away.

    In a word: this is your book, your story however you deem it.


    Get this book by dint of purchase or borrowing or browsing or bereaving theft. Think on it.

    (based on a true story) is both a formally beautiful book and a thoughtful incarnation of what it means to scatter through the live-life of a beloved place and of this place you carve your own, the living we all inhabit. However, its generosity lay not in its pictorial beauty or in its formal invention or even its celebration of the photographic tongue and torque of bringing forth things, but in something much simpler. It is a celebration of the human drama and imagination and all the carnivorous hunger to which it points toward.

    Think on it, sift through it, toss it and turn it upside and each-and-every way. Then give it away and walk. Walk out into the light, bright as electrified shell-sand or verminious as night’s dark throat, and look around at all the scattering. You were meant and fit to piece together all of that, all of the debris, detritus and dendrite of your life. Not a puzzle but an unclothing.

    Snap it back to shape and lean forward.

    Q. ALMOST DONE (an aside)

    Its never done until we are undone. Maybe that is why I am writing against an ending, against the refutation of expansion. Though we must end things, and are ended, maybe in our too-long singing-out and scribbling against the boredom of endings and all their neat qualifications we become who we are. Against those who want neat, coffin-tight boundaries that can’t be picked apart nor reseeded like dragon’s teeth. Maybe we continue because the end is not now, not ever, the end.

    Maybe that is the story at the heart of this book.


    How many folds in a paper crane? How many parts to a book? How many parts to a written thought, in essay form? How many sides of you?


    Now: Go, make it your own.

    Go, for fuck’s sake.

    Strive through this life, shuttle yourself between carnival madness and simple silence. Make it your own. Not theirs, but your own. Bind your life and your seeing and unseeing to that carapace.

    A child footed at the tongue of the sea hoping and hopping at the lapping sound beneath him just at reach. Ring that and remember that and take that throughout the taking and tugging, the lifting and the losing. What do you have to lose if not that?

    Breaking slowly, click by click, and wide.

    Your ache is all our ache.

    Fly that.

    –Bob Black
    September, 2012

    This essay is dedicated to three fine men: my son Dima Black, my father Robert Black and my friend David Alan Harvey: familia, lubricare, amor.

  • …as crickets chirp in the North Dakota night…

  • a civilian-mass audience

    Don’t we love OUR BURNING ACADEMIANS…!!!

    I will be back to read all the above…thank you…

    Spain,Greece…the time is now…
    I will fight for my right to be “free”.

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