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Michael Webster

Brooklyn Carnival

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Brooklyn’s West Indian Day Parade takes place every Labor Day weekend. With a crowd of over two million people it is the largest parade in New York City and possibly North America. These photos are not from that parade. They are from preceding events — the Junior Carnival and the J’ouvert Parade.

J’ouvert, pronounced “joo-vay” in Brooklyn, means “opening of the day” or “dawn” in French. It began in Trinidad as a mockery of the French masquerade ball. In opposition to the costumed finery and refined dances of their oppressors, slaves covered themselves in mud, paint or oil and danced to a significantly different beat. Although mostly just a giant party here in Brooklyn, J’ouvert retains something of that political nature to this day.

I stumbled across both of these events while walking around Brooklyn in the early morning and have attended them many times over the years. I believe that, taken together, they provide a revealing portrait of the Caribbean community.


Michael Webster is a photographer living in Brooklyn.

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Michael Webster


102 thoughts on “michael webster – brooklyn carnival”

  1. I have to second Jim’s comments. For the past year I’ve become overly-sensitive to colour photographic techniques which purposely underexpose in order to boost colour saturation. Often I have to wonder if it is the shooting, or bad monitor calibration either at the photographer’s or my end. I see it here on Burn often, and I know David practises this technique – and he does it deftly and sensitively – but it has become the signature of almost all his students, and sometimes it goes too far in the extreme. “Exposing to the right” has its limitations, and unfortunately is a major weakness for digital photography.

  2. JEFF

    smiling a bit…Michael Webster is certainly not one of my students…i have never discussed shooting tech with him, but think for carnaval it works just fine…my personal tech is tranny film tech…for getting the best saturation from Kodachrome and Velvia where if the highlights were blown out, everything was gone…and i want a good black based on my printing b&w work …i shoot totally different with neg film both color and b&w and w digi as well…i think you might be exaggerating just a bit thinking that this “look” is the “signature of almost all” my students..if you look at any given class of say 10 , you might find one who has this look…i certainly try my very best to get all whom i mentor to NOT try to do what i do, so if this happens once in awhile i do not think it can be characterized as a trend…i am just dying for somebody here to go very high key..how about you? ..on the other hand when i see flat color in flat light of flat subject matter it just looks flat…rather see b&w….truth is , i do not like color much…just trying to make it work Jeff, just trying to make it work.. :)

    cheers, david

  3. Can’t understand the idea that you see this “look” a lot or often on Burn. I just went through several of the last Essays and Works in Progress and this is the only one with this look. I could go farther back I guess, but what would be the point?

    For what it’s worth… I like this look, Michael, and the essay in general. Congrats!

  4. “….truth is , i do not like color much…just trying to make it work”

    Hilarious coming from you David, as it seems you’ve built your entire career on the use of color…. a bit like me saying I can’t stand b&w…:)

    Anyway, congrats on getting published here MW. I like the tight stuff the best, the textures are amazing.


  5. Mw…

    I was missing you round dialogue… now I know why!! :) So congrats!
    I agree with Charles the tight stuff is amazing I want to see more of this type of imagery. You’ve got enough of the usual carnival parade. I also love the shots of the public standing at the side, that seems to help the essay. Demasiado Sat? No and it´s demasíado with an accent on the i!
    So MW as far as I am concerned you are doing OK just go deeper and explore the edges and perhaps the before and after the Carnival has ended. Find the unusual and forget the cliché noisy carnival and just find the whispers on the fringes.
    Cool !

    Your use of colour all comes down to have been part of Nat Geo I suppose and anyway “Tell it like it is” was shot in BW…

  6. colors
    New York….
    I liked how you showed it was NY,
    it has such a different feel than the caribbean…..
    not the celebration…..
    love the last image….
    i think it would make a really pretty print….

  7. Sitting in local park watching kids, struggling to read Pep Bonet’s ”Log Book”…all in Catalan should of brought with me my Spanish/catalan dictionary…but it’s worth the struggle lots of little insights and truths many make a point of missing out on.

  8. Well…if a feeble attempt to eke out an excuse for my yet again overuse of generalizations can be made, it would be that the regular readers, contributors and essayists here on Burn are ALL your students. And no, I won’t take a blushing, modest denial on your part, David! :))) Still, your read on my assumptions were correct…

    You keep reminding us of your preference of colour over monochrome, and that is something I keep forgetting. Decades of Kodachrome work has led you to understand the need for almost perfect exposures, and from there be confident enough to experiment around the edges. I have to scratch my head when I see photographers set EV down automatically and leave it there, because differing light conditions have dissimilar exposure needs. Underexposing cuts out much information even if it enhances the colour; maybe it is this bridge or fight between aesthetics and truth that has me all knotted.

    Of course, Michael is in good company nowadays with this technique. I was disappointed in Natcheway’s recent work in Haiti because of his underexposure, thus darkening the blue skies too much, and turning so many of the citizens into silhouettes. For me, it was a case in which the need for drama outweighed the need for truthful journalism. Which may be a galling comment on my part, because that is something that goes completely against Jim’s creed.

    High key? That is something that is a mystery to me because I have seen so many different definitions of it. But for penance, your dutiful student will now give leave and do some research!

  9. Jeff…
    It’s funny this technique you’ve just pointed out is something I have just started using when shooting digital. For years i’ve always shot ”exposing to the right” and since David commented he tried his best to get the look he was after in camera and not in post-production i’ve been trying it out. Shooting in manual and underexposing a stop…I now have lovely near rich blacks and blue skies and not the horrible faint blue or white digital sky i hated so much.
    I don’t think i will go back to ”exposing to the right” i prefer losing a little detail and even losing everything in the shadows/blacks and probably gaining a some digital noise. But at least it is nearer to what i remember when shooting slides especially Velvia, Provia and sometimes that Kodak slide film ‘something VS’…now that was so so saturated it was a little too much!

  10. i have to agree with some of the above, that this look is prevalent here — maybe not recently but over the years — yet as the editor and chief poobah and visionary, it is David’s right to favor it.

    how often have we seen the silhouetted figure in the far right of the frame, the inky blacks, the wide angle approach? despite the editorial intention to show us all kinds of images, the look on burn falls, generally and not always, into a genre, or type… it’s grainy, it’s disparate, it’s movement, it’s deep blacks… generally and not always… we get a diff view sometimes…

    all in all it is a fantastic site, despite my harping here, i love it, it’s a daily read, why not?

    how David keeps it going while flying all over the place is beyond me. someday someone will swallow it up, and david will pocket some change, well earned mind you… he’ll keep editorial control and set himself up for the sunset years… an arianna huffington for the photo crowd… nothing wrong with that

  11. Jeff.. agree with what you write, esp. after explaining it further in the 2nd comment, I was thinking the same (“are you sure MW isn’t a student?”).. and one more thing: this kind of colour might work well with carnival.. yes, it does, but it is also what is expected.. or better, it is what I expect knowing it’s carnival.. would love to be surprised a bit instead.. different essay though..

    I like for that reason picture nr. 5 most..

  12. But you don’t get that amount of saturation shown in these images by underexposing… that is either setting more saturation in camera or yanking up the satururation in a raw processor or photoshop.

  13. Anyway if anyone cares to look at MW’s other work one can see this ”look” in this carnival essay is quite different from his other work. It’s quite the other way round…very subtle and without drama…

  14. You know, I hear that Kodak is going to stop making monochrome, which is understandable, I guess; once you eliminate Kodachrome from the roster then keeping monochrome is just sort of silly. The two complemented each other nicely, I thought, and having Abbott around without Costello to balance off of is really pointless, at least from a purely economic outlook.

  15. good job MW…:)
    There might be a little of DAH or Eric Espinoza influ in there or maybe not, doesnt really matter…but i think it works fine…:)
    congrats !

  16. MICHAEL – congrats!!!
    I agree with Panos – it works fine for me, and we all have influences: photographers of the past and present but also our own feelings in different situations of (shooting) life.
    Great to see your essay up on BURN! Hope all is well!

  17. OK one more point…
    I was wrong ‘demasiado’ does not have an accent on the ‘i’. So apologies to Jim Powers.


    well, you did make me laugh out loud with the Arianna Huffington bit…and i have worked very hard on my own look, but i must say i just cannot see the “type” to which you refer…just go look at the archive here as Michael Kircher suggests…i just cannot see a type in the Burn offerings…i am just looking right down the list and the styles are quite disparate…

    you say “how often have we seen the silhouetted figure in the far right of the frame, the inky blacks, the wide angle approach? despite the editorial intention to show us all kinds of images, the look on burn falls, generally and not always, into a genre, or type… it’s grainy, it’s disparate, it’s movement, it’s deep blacks” and further you say , not recently but “over the years”….over what years? Burn is 2…please show me what you mean..nothing like that is in the last 25 essays and surely in the minority in the first 25 essays …there is nothing as you describe in Burn 01 in print..please look again….so i will totally cop to whatever it is i am showing here, but i am just curious where you see what it is you say you see… :)

    i do love your description of what will happen in my sunset years..again, smiling…frankly, i think it is because i am out shooting so much of the time that Burn exists at all…if you knew me i doubt you would imagine this magazine were i actually trying to sit behind a desk and be a “magazine editor”….that would not work believe me….anyway,many thanks for the observations…i always wonder how things look to others….come and see us…door is always open

    cheers, david

  19. Ouch!! …but fair point.

    Am not sure what I should do with this. [actually I am]
    Does not seem to ask anything of me other than to browse, go ho hum, and move on.
    Not compelled to enquire further.

  20. Michael :))

    first of all, congratulations on being published at BURN! A point that should not go unnoticed, as David publishes work that he feels offers the reader something valuable photographic and educational and though i love my Imants, I think that is a bit too harsh and unfair, as a carnival or parade on its own does not produce interesting or thoughtful photography.

    I’ll start where i left off with Chris. It is very interesting that David has decided to show Chris’ work juxtaposed with Michael’s work. Though they both concern themselves with ‘canivals’ and specially the DAY OF the parades, they are (for me) very different. They share similar strengths and similar areas for expansion (my own needs as a viewer here).

    I am not bothered at all by the color saturation, not at all, since unless the essay is soley about color for its own sake (the way a Rothko painting is about color and saturation) or is an exercise in the photographic quality of color, then the issue of color is still secondary to the content and story. An abstract or conceptual ‘essay’ on color is one thing, the use of color in an documentary body of work is another. So, if the entire photographic world decided to have the same look, i wouldn’t care, because photographic and visual voice is NOT ONLY about style or characteristics of style. Authorial voice is the intent married with the photographic tools to tell a story, either about a particular place/person/subject/time/idea or about the ‘making’ of pictures (document vs. conceptualism vs. deconstruction, etc). That Michael’s pictures have a certain look is fine with me. This is never enough to make or break a story. It is the beginning point, the entrance to the piece, but one needs more (or less) from which to evaluate.

    As with chris’ piece, i do love the deep rich shadows and the color palatte, but when it is in the service of more metaphoric or emotional moments: ambiguity, for example. I LOVE photo #10. THAT is a story: strange, lyrical, haunted by both the foregrounding in the black, the hour-of-the-wolf lighting/color and the mysterious expression/setting. That is an example of all tools coming together. THAT is what i want from a story about Carnival, as I said to chris. for me, it just will never be interesting enough just to show the pretty pictures of a parade. Maybe it’s that i get bored with them, or that i want to see the story. There is so much history in this specific parade, that i was hoping (or I want) those pictures. As I said with chris, a few parade shots to get me there, but give me pre-parade, post-parade, give me the stories in the shops, all associated with Trinidad, with the mud, the cooking, the preparation….

    LIke 10, i loved the quiet of #13 (and that weird blacking between the subjects)….and i dig alot the composition of the final image…images like 8 (on the street, away from the action) draw my attention further….as did some of the sidewalk shots, though their effect was more cold (an observer rather than someone involved in that community)…..

    I think your eye for color and shadow is nice (especially you;’re tendency to be drawn to blue hues), and now i would just love to see this story expanded away from the parade, and more about the guts of that community…prior and after, and why this parade (and the politics) are so interesting :))

    the shadows that Ellison spoke about: therein lay the story1 :)))


    first let me say that as one of the ‘loudmouths’ here, and as a major contributor and as someone who has been published and exhibited by BURN, I want to say that I was not, am not currently, and have never been a student of David’s. In fact, the VAST majority of work published by BURN in the last 2 years have no direct relationship to David or his workshops. What unites all the work and all of us is our love/interest in BURN and our respect and admiration for David. It is true that David is a dear and important friend, I don’t think that the majority of photographers published here at all ’emulate’ david in his work. We all do admire the hell out of him as both a photographer and as a person (you would be hard pressed to find a more hardworking photographer who cares about helping others and helping young photographers).

    If you look at the history of BURN (let a lone a copy of BURN01), you’ll find the full spectrum of photography: documentary, journalism, fine art, conceptual, film, digital, hand-made collage, theoretical, it IS ALL HERE)…there is NOTHING that unites BURN essays except a love of photography. It is true that there are probably more traditional-looking ‘documentary’ photographic essays, but that is probably because more of those kinds of photographers are here and working in the photworld. Look at the list of EPF winners, and you’ll find the same range of photography. It is just impossible to pigeon whole.

    If you look through the archives, you;ll see a pretty wide range of photography, at least photography that is able to be published in a ‘magazine’ format. Damn, i remember when ROAD TRIP and BURN first began, i felt like the only cat that would support David/burn when they published something even remotely conceptual or non-tradition. but, I don’t think photographers here (or elsewhere) are immitating the David Alan Harvey look. I think those who meet david, work with david, learn from him, just get juiced by his enthusiasm and work ethic. They want to be like him ;)))….and shit, who doesn’t: rio, beach house, making a pretty penny in his golden age when burn is sold to Ariana Huffington ;))))))))))) (David, i did NOT spread that rumor amigo!)…

    in the end, i think the reason why i spend so much time writing here is not only to support David/Anton/AnnaMarie/diego/et al. as my friends, but as a photographer whose life is invested in this craft and who tries to help others as much as possible, we need to do this….because we need to help each other…it’s part of the profession….

    so, please look through the archive and see how wide….better yet, Jeff, i’ll bring a copy of BURN01 when we meet at CONTACT….

    and BURNBLOG FAN! :))))))…can you work out a deal for extra coin for yours truly :)))…could use it too!

    DAVID :)))))…david, amgio, who knew BURN would make you rich ;)))….but, as my mom might say, i don’t think you should quit your day job :))))……

    big hugs

  21. … as for carnival photography it’s OK, I have seen way worse… and -1 exposure works all right here… actually, if not those deep blacks and overall darkness, the picture set would look too boring and flat… Viva underexposure!!!

  22. I will stay out of the above debate, except to note that I tend to underexpose a bit, not for the purpose of darkening the shadows, because I like shadow detail, which I can generally bring out later, even in underexposed shadows, but for preserving highlights, because once blown, a highlight is gone forever.

    I liked the essay greatly – although that is almost academic as I really never find anything on burn that I don’t like. So I am a lousy critic. If someone loves making images, has some skill and is passionate about it, I just about always like it, even if it greatly diverges from what I do.

    I generally try not to point out favorite images, but let’s see… I will take a couple of moments, go back up and see if I can find a favorite…


    I guess #7, because it really makes me wonder what kind of experience these celebrations are for the cops. Very different than for everyone else, I am certain.

    Other than the stuff I do everyday, my most recent real shoot was Kivgiq, the big Arctic celebration of Eskimo dance that takes place in Barrow every couple of years. If I were young, and had the time, I would spend the rest of the week cobbling together a burn submission, just so it could stand in contrast to the all the celebrations we are enjoying here, recently.

  23. OK, David, perhaps, no, probably I have over-exaggerated and you are kind to write “smiling” as you respond above because i bet your first thoughts weren’t so kind… :-)

    you and Mr. Bob B, he of the poetic (and yes, BB, prolix) word & eye have both pointed me straight… however… i still DO feel that there is a consistent vein in the type of pictures which are run here… i don’t expect you to sit in Rio and waste your time in contention with me… but what i’m referring to can be seen here, after just a quick look, not going back very far: laura el tantaway #4 ////gabriela #15 ///// bickford 18 //// webster 23

    maybe it’s just the current trope — the silhouette — i like all the photography, they’re good, that’s why you gave them the venue, i know how hard it is to do this type of excellent work — maybe it’s actually not so current, it’s been around forever… and burns on here…

    “over the years” == well, it HAS been 2 years, and your were a-blogging before then == so yes, over the years…

    let me add, and enquire: when will YOU be sharing more than just a snapshot here and there? or even a regular, i realize it’s not art but here’s a picture from the Ed, photographic tweet of sorts. hmmm???


    look, i think you’re building valuable content here and that it’ll have a good ending for you, you must think that occasionally, no? an magnanimous as you are, you have to realize that you’ve built content and a destination on the web. someone’s going to come along someday, i believe that.

    in the meantime, show us something else, something less brooding. can you do it? kid photography not allowed :-))))

  24. and by brooding, i mean “dark,” subject matter notwithstanding. or withstanding. or something.

  25. Paul:

    Colour is be a fickle mistress, where black and white is Mrs. Monochrome. If I can love BW longer and deeper, then I can love colour with passion, when it works. I suck at colour, and with failure after failure I keep going knowing that Cartier-Bresson hated it as well. I’m not at all against the notion of underexposure when warranted; just that under changing light conditions exposure requirements change as well. The needs of a shot done in the sunny countryside where the light is constant differs tremendously to the city streets where it is sunny on one side, in shadows on the other. The time of day makes a difference too; morning vs. late afternoon – the golden hour – vs. the evening, requires -, 0, + compensation. Then of course there are the separate needs of film over digital. The parameters are long and complex, and I expect almost everyone here knows more about it than I. Were that there was a Sunny 16 rule for exposure compensation!


    Certainly intent and content is more important than technique…no one has proven it here as well so recently as darling Vissaria! (Although frankly, I cannot find any fault with her technique.) But, are we not all students? And students of one another? I listen intently, and learn from all here; I expect that is returned as well. We agree on the importance of the give and take of knowledge and wisdom with peers and those with similar interests and passions.

    By all means bring along Burn 01 when we meet in May and share a bottle of wine…although I hopefully expect the “getting out of my comfort zone” nature of the workshops will require perfectly aimed kicks from no less than seven workshop leaders, and I may be unable to sit down to enjoy it!

  26. Parades:

    1. better light; mostly cloudy doesn’t really work unless you’re doing b&w
    2. underexpose
    3. skimpy costumes [hard to find in March in the northern hemisphere, but doable.]
    4. colored flash

    okay, got it. I’m gonna give this a whack at the first opportunity, Bob.

  27. Hey all, thanks for the comments. I respect the fact that many won’t like the aesthetics of the “look” of this piece, but admit I am a bit baffled by a couple of the comment strains. I’ll try to address that and hope I don’t come off as defensive. Don’t feel that way. I am apologetically a digital color photographer. I respect film and paper and chemicals and all that, but that’s not what I do.

    First, as photographers, consider the lighting conditions. It’s the first week of September, between dawn and early morning, sun’s up, no clouds in the sky, light’s coming in low and harsh, I’m photographing dark skinned people moving rapidly in what’s effectively a series of twisting canyons. How would you handle that?

    Well, I’ve come up with my own little strategies, as you can see. I didn’t have a lot of influences. Some of these pics were taken before I ever heard of burn or David Alan Harvey. My approach to these events was already worked out by that point. As David mentioned, I am not one of his students, or anyone else’s for that matter. Will Counts was my mentor. David’s been a big influence in many small ways, but almost all of that has to do with attitude rather than technique. The strides I’ve made in the past year have much more to do with gaining access than aesthetics. So I don’t really get the comments about influence. That’s not at all how I think. I’ve since seen many of David’s carnival photos and they don’t look anything at all like mine. If there’s any similarity at all between any of his work and mine, I’d say it’s due to the fact that we both love that unadulterated early morning light.

    And I don’t recall ever seeing the look of this essay on burn. My concern wasn’t that it looked like so many other carnival pics but that it didn’t look like any of them. I mean, when your stuff doesn’t look like what the top professionals in the field are doing, it either means you’re unique or you suck. I like to think I have my own thing going, but am always open to the possibility that I suck. Half expected that by this point in the comments Paul and Eva would have pointed out 500 other photographers who did the exact same thing only better. Lordy knows it’s early, but haven’t seen it yet. Maybe they’re just being kind?

    Regarding the color saturation, it honestly never occurred to me to underexpose to ramp up the saturation. And I definitely haven’t added to it with any kind of saturation slider on the software or in the camera. Toned it down, actually. When I talk about “getting it right in the camera,” I generally mean a combination of composition and capturing the most information as possible. The look you see is more a result of developing. I’m not averse to the digital equivalent of Gladdy’s 5 minutes in rodinal. Don’t see how the digital equivalent is any more or less okay than the chemical?

    And finally, for the dialogue aficionados, as much as I’ve babbled on about story, do you really think I’d present a series of unrelated singles? Okay, well, maybe, but probably not.

  28. And in the tradition of typos, that should read “I am un-apologetically a digital color photographer.” In this case a cigar is just a cigar, or spellcheck sucks. Probably the latter.

  29. One more comment late, and probably maudlin, but you know, most years I’m just about the only photographer out there during long stretches of these events, and I love them so much, even if I weren’t photographing them, that I feel it’s important just to document them so there’s evidence, witness, that they happened and that the participants cared so deeply. Don’t know if that means anything to you. but in this and all my other projects, it’s essentially the heart of my motivation. So many things just need to be witnessed… If I can make it a compelling story, that just does the reality so much more justice…

  30. Michael :)

    I think, always, with criticism from others (as I’ve tried to write with you vis-a-vis your own critique of other work, for example Danny’s Detroit project) is to see critique for what it is….a learning process, sometimes valid, sometimes not. shit, i’ve published my work over a wide variety of places and have exhibited the world too, some of which got folk excited, most of which simply made folk scratch their heads, and that IS ok…the key, i think, is to try to understand why people write what they do….

    what does often happen, is that critique is based on initial sentiments born of one’s own visual experience. I was just explained that to a young photographer tonight at a show opening. Your use of Chiaroscuro (which I LOVE, then again i’m a freak for Caravaggio) is a pictorial element that i not only am attracted to but believe is an emotional truth and metaphoric conveyance of the story (particularly this one)…but, maybe folk don’t always feel that (which is ok) and maybe folk also get stuck too in the juxtaposition between your story and Chris’ (and they are both ‘similar’ and wildly different)….i think as a photographer, one need never have to justify a poor critique, only try to genuinely and earnestly explain the intent of a story and the drive behind a technique….

    as i said, i do love the colors here, a lot, because i find the suggestive against the nature of this specific parade (and the history with the mud and the powder/flour/talc)….

    now, as i said, what i would love to see more of, as you further your document, has to do with the story contained in the picture, like #21…a much more narratively interesting picture than the normal parade stuff….as i wrote, i love #10, 13, 14, and 21, as there is something so authentic to THIS particular parade and story that is dancing to get out….where shadow/light and the story behind the parade (history) lay…..that, for me, is what shall make this project and story a compelling one….

    and of course the webster-blue ;))….

    tough skin, but open heart is the key to dealing with critiques :)))


  31. Yes, for me too, in general the pictures come out a bit too dark, which can work as long as the shadowed areas are not all over, or somewhere in, the frame but also provide an element intrinsec to the compositon as a color volume, so to speak.
    There seems definitely striving for a more personal vision than the precedent from Chris (IMO!), but both provide a lot of inspiration for anyone involved in capturing an atmosphere of fiesta from such events. Maybe here is missing one or 2 top shots like Chris had (like the title picture in his essay, so succesful) in hiw own essay from New Orleans. I like #18 very much, busy, almost in a single tone with variations, which has us not really looking but being there too, and the dark shades here dance thru-out the frame as rythmic counterpoints to the magentas.

  32. I don’t understand this fear of influences… Some will be deliberate and others will be accidental and there is no way round it.

  33. One thing I keep liking in this essay is the colours I am also a sucker for chiaroscuro and MW does it well. He also processes his images very well I would be very satisfied artistically if I could pull off the same quality colour-wise in my images.

  34. mmm.. can’t really decide if i like this or not.

    Some of it is with no doubt powerful stuff, but in other places it is so extreme an underexposition that keeps you from getting any meaning whatsoever.

    My two cents, anyway.


    i am enjoying my morning coffee here in Rio, totally smiling, and i swear that i enjoy this kind of repartee….i am simply trying to understand your real motive for writing as a UFO….i do of course wish you would reveal yourself and your work..i always find it a bit odd that some would choose to hide in a medium where everything is so out front..however, even this is fine and we have several here who maintain an identity not fully revealed here..i am just not getting your point…your surface point yes, your real point no….surely you can find some examples of a “brooding” nature here (surely Webster, Bickford not brooding), but if i did have time beyond my coffee ,i would go dig them up (dogs in cars immediately comes to mind, preston gannaway also , thodoris nicosia and on and on)..

    also please remember that what i publish on Burn is a small representation of the work that is being done today by young photographers….i do not shoot these essays…i just publish what seems to me to be a representation of what is going on today….i have no aesthetic agenda outside my own work….. we publish that which either comes to us or we see in various ways….i am always looking looking looking for a new eye..if YOU have one, show us please

    anyone would guess from your repeated comments that we have passed on something you shot that was bright and funny and light and hopeful..am i close? actually i would LOVE LOVE an essay like that..matches my personality way more than does brooding…and if YOU have it and you believe in it , send it again….or if this is not the case, then go shoot an essay that matches your beliefs…

    if you are a photographer, then your only real “comment” is your work…lay it on the table…everyone you have mentioned has work to show….so, please show us…there is nothing that would brighten my day more…

    cheers, david

  36. I kind of like BURNBLOGFAN… I’ve got a feeling he’s been surreptitiously moving round Burn, a seasoned viewer.

  37. Michael… no 500 photographers from me.. I said colours (saturated) was what I expect hearing carnival.. I don’t know what coverage you get over there where you live, over here it’s colours colours colours, if it’s coverage about foreign places it’s mostly costumes and/or naked female bodyparts, if it’s video it’s mostly dancing, laughing and looks like fun.. so for the most part your essay, and also a big part of Chris Bickford’s, fit the brief..

    Once saw a most interesting docu following the building of the carts, chariots? (don’t know how they’re called) of the carnival of Viareggio, done during the year preceeding the carnival.. was great to see the dedication and all the work that went into it, to discover why one theme was chosen over another..

    Personally, I have absolutely nothing against colour, or how and where or with what you process your files.. I don’t care much about technics, as long as the result works.. that’s all..

  38. David…

    I was walking the dog with one of my sons and the same thought occurred to me also…. why “he”? I really do enjoy the way BURNBLOGFAN writes… gives praise, even a little adulation and the next turn throws a devilish subtle poke and just catches one by surprise. All of course with a great sense of wit. Perfect combustion for the Burn pyre..

  39. @M Kircher — yeah, that Bregulla essay is one I’d missed — I like the tone, it’s just brighter. Maybe I’ve OD’d on misery as shown in so many essays, you know, those of the Russian homeless or marginalized or whatever, heart-wrenching, yes, deserve our attention, yes… i don’t mean to sound cold, i’m

    @Paul — now you’re flattering me :-) yes, i’m a HE… and i’ve been lurking since before day 1…
    and as for your query,
    as to my UFO status — I’m just shy, is all, and worry that on the web every stupid thing i say, these comments included, will pop up for just-about-ever. I admire those that can let it hang out; hell, i’m even reticent about updating my facebook page where my “friends” are… silly me…

    I don’t think my pictures would pique your curiousity, I’m not an essayist, i’m a commercial photographer and aficionado and collected artist (minor, but one piece in a bona-fide museum which, by the way, was more gratifying than the sum of my paid-for-hire photos over the years)… but i digress

    back to brooding — there have gotta be some lighter images for you to publish/share now and again… i do believe that most of the stuff you show is pretty serious, fairly dark, tortured, grainy… maybe if i spend an hour and troll back through the archive i’ll be corrected… and i guess i owe it to you to do so before throwing a wrench out as i’ve done… jeeez, now i feel bad… (semi-smiling)…

    gotta run, real life calls…
    thanks for entertaining my musings, hope you’re “killing it” in Rio.


  40. BBF

    you are welcomed here anytime…and at my loft in nyc as well…you should be proud of being collected and of your commercial work as well….often writers/commentators/photogs here show up at my place, we look at pictures, talk about life, and they drink all my beer and go home!! …hope you do too…. :) trying trying here in Rio but i always feel like i have not quite done it..yet….love to make myself miserable in one way, but very happy in another….go figure.

    cheers, david


    it has been a particular pleasure to have you up on Burn..your essay has stimulated a worthy discussion…as you know , i still see these cut down to the killer 15, but that is for another day…for now enjoy….i await now your next essay…thank you for all of your input here on Burn…

    cheers, david

  42. Thanks again to everyone for taking the time to view and consider my essay, particularly to those of you who left comments. And of course special thanks to David and the burn team for producing Carnival Week and publishing my little observations about it.

    I have never been to any famous Carnival such as Rio or New Orleans. These two Brooklyn affairs that I’ve shared with you are just about all I know of the real thing. So maybe I’m projecting, but I suspect that when you know one real Carnival, you pretty much know 95 percent of what there is to know about them all. Visually, the colors and the costumes and the people are fantastic. When you’re there in person, the music and the noise and the energy of the marchers on top of those visual elements are intoxicating. But there’s so much more. So much about community. So much about growth and continuity. So much about sexuality. From the costumed toddlers, children, and young people on the cusp of puberty in the Junior Carnival through the raunchy young and middle aged marchers in J’Ouvert and the older participants and observers, Carnival is a portrait of a community growing up in public. Too much of that, I think, gets lost in all the colors and festive poses, but it’s that strong community aspect that makes it so powerful. That’s what makes it so interesting. And beautiful.

    For contrast, I’ll leave you with this photo from a Carnival celebration in Rurality where any sense of community has been shattered and Carnival is nothing more than a beer promotion and not a particularly good one at that. For those of us who get to enjoy the real thing, either as participants, observers, or even by looking at photographs and feeling something a bit beyond the colors, real Carnival is truly something to cherish.

    Thanks again, David, et. al…

  43. i think that if I was MW I would have shot and presented this piece like this; still trying to work out if thats a good or a bad thing! ;)
    this piece doesn’t really have a lot of power- its mild and easy on the eyes but given the subject I think it works.
    Have enjoyed reading the discussion too!

  44. Michael Webster,

    I enjoyed reading your gracious responses above, and respect your intestinal fortitude. Maybe we were all – in our own way – suffering a little post-Carnival hangover, and decided to change up the typical content based comments, and discuss technicalities instead.

    Your comments hidden under the current dialogue concerning the influences of the Hudson Valley painters, and Goya, got me to thinking. First, it is an impressive and ambitious thing to re-work painterly approaches and genres into a current photographic style. I think of the Hudson painters primarily for their landscapes – and yes, the early morning light, the atmospherics, etc. – even though portraiture was a feature as well. Really cool to re-work it for street photography. I wish I could see here in essay comments more of the essayists’ influences; comments such as your’s helps my understanding of the work.

    Second, about Goya and his influence: I forget if it was Goya or Delacroix, but their working with black paint, as effective as it was, was a turning point. Of one (?) it was said that their blacks created a hole in the canvas, that in modern photographic parlance they didn’t expose for the shadows. From that point, painters stepped away from the dark, and toward the bright. Maybe it was then in the history of art that slavishness to dynamic range was born. Even Whistler in his nocturnes, and his studies in grey, replaced black with shaded colour. N.C.Wyeth, and son, I think, influenced somewhat from the Hudson’s, stepped away from blacks. And the debate will continue!


    Certainly you and I see eye to eye on many things (I agree that some of Laura’s work in Egypt falls under our complaints – leaving out her night work – and was surprised others didn’t catch THAT!), but I really have to take issue with you when you compare Huffington to people I like, even if you mean it favourably. She wrote a horrendous book on my idol Picasso a few decades back, and I’m unable to forgive her on that score! :)))

    Your “divided soul”, delineated razor-sharp, is what I think is of general interest to us…

  45. There is a wall sized painting that hangs in New Harmony, Indiana (used to anyway) of a young priest walking through dappled light from a canopy of large trees. Most of the painting is quite classical in style, but the dappled light on the ground is more like something Jackson Pollack might have done. Pure white and splattered as though thrown violently at the canvas. I love that painting and spent many hours enjoying it through the years, literally over omelets and numerous cups of coffee. As a photographer I’ve devoted a lot of effort to achieving a like effect. I’ve spent many hours in a nearby cemetery where there is a similar stand of trees trying every which way to capture that kind of dappled light on the ground. Likewise in the digital darkroom. Nowadays when I shoot, I rarely, if ever, think of that painting consciously, but looking for and seeing that kind of light has become instinctual. You can see a bit of that in numerous shots in this essay, particularly #’s 1, 21 and 22.

    I probably should have written a more revealing artist statement. I didn’t want to include one at all and argued to keep it brief. But it’s difficult in general to visually communicate a literary-type story and I think especially difficult when attempting it with something so colorful and at the same time mundane as a street parade. It’s not all that difficult to come out of one with pretty pictures and I suspect we are mostly accustomed to leaving it at that. But with these parades I’ve come to sense something much deeper. That sense of community, of growing up in public through the different events. That’s what I’m actually photographing, though of course I try to make the images interesting as standalones. This all is what I love so much about photography. Divining and telling a story, influences manifesting themselves, dealing with the technical aspects of light, motion, and composition in a variety of those circumstances, figuring out how to develop and present the results, discussing it all with others who care. Fun stuff all around. At least when it’s not so goddammed frustrating.

    Anyhoo, guess I should note for those suggesting more photos of before and after the parade that most of those J’Ouvert photos were taken before or after the parade. Akaky, I especially appreciate your kind words because I know you often deal with the parade through harshly lighted canyons problem. Dominik, hi, all is well. Owe you an email. Bob, always a pleasure. Jeff, thanks again. FrostFrog, I look forward to seeing your Eskimo dance pictures. You know I’m a fan of your whale hunt work. And Paul, regarding the other thread and advice capturing and developing raw photos — I pretty much explained my approach to that in the first paragraph of this note and the parts about the Hudson River School and Goya above. Basically, figure out what you like and go from there.

    Okay, I’ll stop now before I start waxing nostalgic about the Jeu de Paume…

  46. But with these parades I’ve come to sense something much deeper…….. You may have as an individual but photographic wise the focus here is still about the parade as a event and reveals little about the community beyond that. There seems a real lack of photographer subject interaction beyond the physicality of the the participants and the visual aspirations of the photographer.

  47. @ jeff hladun — sorry arianna ripped pablo — don’t think i said i liked her, just that i believe it’s possible DAH will have the good fortune to have a deep-pocked angel fly in, a la aol and huffington. he’s creating a solid archive of valuable info and images, this may have appeal to someone down the line trying to establish a credible foothold in the photo world.


  48. burnblogfan must be great to make statements ie “good fortune to have a deep-pocked angel fly in, a la aol and huffington” without any repercussions
    …after all you are just another anonymous heckler

  49. My instant reaction (and my apologies for comparing to Burnians like this), but I felt this had more heart than Chris’s festival essay. Felt much more passion and emotional tie-in between the photographer and the photographic content here. As I said on Chris’s essay, tho, I will return and comment once I’ve got some sleep and had a chance to reflect.

  50. Michael,

    Go on, tell us about the Jeu de Paume; I’ve got my own story about it. Love to hear the wind-up comments of essayists, and I’m suspicious to those that never bother.

    If I’m reading you right with regard to the dappled light, this slideshow (not mine) represents to me your pursuit:


    The images are done with a 4×5 Weegee-style Speed Graphic, using an Aero Ektar lens. The out-of-focus information is caused by a combination of the fast lens’ bokeh, and by tilting the lens and film planes asymetrically to one another. The camera system is favoured by David Burnett.

  51. @Imants

    Not sure why my statement rankles at all, Imants — it’s meant only as a positive — what the heck are you upset about? Chill, my bro.


  52. Jeff, regarding the dappled light photos, yes, the third and fourth one capture something of what I was talking about, though those are not anything near so radical as what I have in mind. Regarding the Jeu de Paume, my best museum memories date to there. It had a corner with a comfortable bench facing a Van Gogh wheat field/crows painting, a Rousseau jungle scene and a Gauguin from Tahiti. I spent some significant time there.

    Thinking more about the comments on my essay, I’m curious if people have really seen this so many times before? Not just the style but the content. Of course I’m constantly awed by the near encyclopedic knowledge of photo history that many here possess and would never presume that something I came up with had never been done before, but that said, most people outside of a few small islands in the Caribbean have never heard of J’Ouvert. It looks nothing like the famous carnivals in New Orleans or Rio. In many ways it is a mockery of them. I’ve seen very little published work about it and nothing at all from Brooklyn. Still, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I am just unaware. But I think I would actually be surprised, if only mildly so, to learn it were common for photographers to mix that kind of imagery with a children’s carnival in an attempt to show an entire life cycle of how a community presents itself in public.

    So I wonder if seeing what we expect to see can blind us to what is actually there to see? I know that happens to me on occasion.

  53. Mw…

    There is no need to have “encyclopaedic knowledge of photo history” to recognise a carnival! It may have important differences for an expert Carnival expert or fan… but just as for some, Garry Winogrand´s and Lee Friedlander´s street work may look quite similar however to the expert fan and photographer the similarities will be far and few.

  54. imants — why can’t i say that i’m optimistic about DAH’s future and the future of burn without revealing my identity? i’m not criticizing anyone or calling names, i’m not slinking and hiding beyond not wanting to publish my name, i’m not picking a fight with you, but you are with me.

    you wrote: “…after all you are just another anonymous heckler” i’m not heckling anyone, imants.

  55. Michael it seems that you have failed to convey visually your concept to the viewing audience. Attacking the audience with statements like this “So I wonder if seeing what we expect to see can blind us to what is actually there to see?” will not alter the situation, it is a matter of going back, reassessing and reworking the series of images.

  56. “Chill, my bro.” contradicts “I’m just shy, is all, and worry that on the web every stupid thing i say,”………. seeing you are not accountable for what you write this places you well and truly in the full of it department

  57. burnblogfan…

    I´ll give you a good reason to change your identity and that is simply that you and all of us are David Alan Harvey’s guests round here… and that is something we all must never forget.

  58. imants — what’s the point in arguing with you? i said something above in a good light, a positive statement of support and you decided to pick a fight. should i hang around and go toe to toe with you to see what else you decide to sling my way? i made my comments to david, he responded, i gave a statement of support, you decided that you should insult me. have a ball, keep it coming, whatever…

  59. I trust most people here recognize the difference beteen a question and an attack. Personally, I don’t think I would have recognized J’ouvert as any relation to Mardi gras and I had definitely never seen anything like it. The kids in costume, sure. Just curious what others have seen?

  60. burnblogfan all I am doing is attacking a non entity something that isn’t accountable for his/her whatever it is actions. For all we know you could be a bricklayer having some fun on the net. Being anonomous and making statements is hardly a positive attitude. If we all took your stand there would be no burn, no images, no accountable discussions. You seem to have placed yourself above everyone here he posts with links to real life

  61. burnblogfan you cannot be attacked as a person ……………..remember you are not an individual just a name with no links to treality other than the wwwdot type


    While not wanting to step into the fray here, can I ask the both of you to cool it? This seems a little overblown, and is certainly a distraction from MW’s work, which is what we should rightly be discussing in this thread. Both of you seem (to me) to be a little disrespectful to him in getting into it here.

    IMANTS – I don’t think burnblogfan meant it as an insult, and DAH took it graciously and in good humour earlier in this thread. I think it was meant as something of a compliment, however nuanced in phrasing.

    BURNBLOGFAN – I think Imants has a point. As internet communities go, this one is tiny (and perhaps the better for it, at least, it grows slowly but strongly, firmly, and that’s good). We’re all friends here, in the sense that Burnians generally know where/how to find other Burnians. Either through having discussed and swapped details and personal info, or through linking to e.g. our websites. I feel a bit slack on this point, as I am currently attempting (and failing quite spectacularly at) building my own website. But, as a commercial ‘tog, I’m guessing that you have one. Would it really hurt to post a link to it, and let people see your work? We’re all here to help each other. Aint no one gonna rag on your work just for being “commercial” (and the older I get, the less I know what that means…).

    Anyway, is there any chance we could all swallow an olive branch? Or smoke a chill pill? Or at least share an L? ;-) Peace, guys. One luv.

  63. Your sentiment is admirable, FI, and one reason I’ve been reading Burn since before it was burn, when it was Road Trips. I’ll continue to read and lurk and grab the bit of inspiration I find here now and then. But as a commenter, I’m outtahere.

    I’ve not been anything but cool, and have responded to Imants prodding with nothing but restraint.

    so consider me chilled… but… what is an “L?”

    bbf out

  64. Awww c’mon, bbf, stick around. I promise, it’s not all that bad. And Imants is just jumpy cos Imants wants to browse your work is all. I’m not saying we never disagree – as a regular reader you’ll know how hollow that rings, but there’s little maliciousness at play here, and I do think Imants’ request to see some of your work a pretty valid one (although I understand if you feel nervous about sharing, but at least just say that, if it’s the case). We’re all liable to get defensive about perceived attacks on Burn, because it is such a good and tightly knit community, and it just feels like something of a misunderstanding, but one that could be worked out. And I’m sure you’d have a unique personality and skill set to offer to the crowd if you stuck around. Like any family, we have our fallings out (and I know this to be true more than most, I suspect) but, for the most part, it’s done out of love. Love for BURN and all that it represents. So please, do stick around and keep commenting. And, when you feel up to it, share your work with us.

    And if you and Imants do feel the need to keep beefing, maybe at least move it to a dialogue thread instead?

    An “L” – so called for the pattern of the papers prior to rolling. (DAH & ‘crew’ – delete this if unsavoury for this site…please…no offence, I understand, hence my sly comment previously) An “L” is a doobie, a dutchie, a spliff, a draw, a joint, a rolled up smoke of herb.

  65. Burnblogfan…

    I would agree with Framers Intent… you should stay and come out of the cupboard, but anyway that´s up to you isn’t it…
    However I’ve got the feeling the expression “Cut your nose to spite your face”, suits you to a T.

  66. Since you all decided to have your little flame war under my essay, guess I’ll throw in my opinion as well.

    Burnblogfan, although I think it’s fair to question the accuracy of the content of your post about burn publishing proclivities, I see nothing wrong with your having made those observations, nor the manner in which you made them, and can see how you thought they were relevant to my essay. As far as I’m concerned (which is not far, I am not on staff), you are welcome to your anonymousness as long as you don’t use it to post personal attacks, which you haven’t and you don’t seem like the type who would. To me you seem thoughtful and well-educated about photography. I appreciate your consideration of my work, and I hope you stick around and continue commenting.

    If Th-Th-Th-Th-Th-… That’s all, folks, thanks again. It’s been fun.


    i did not know what an “L” was…or rather i had never heard that term..hmmmmmm…..and after a quick scan of comments i see no attacks..so did i miss a good bar room brawl or something? damn….

  68. DAH and PANOS – *blushes* I hail from “the wrong side of the tracks” although, it being over ‘ere in Poor Ol’ Blighty guv’nor, that prob’ly means I’m still posh compared to you’s Yanks. Anyone need a chimney sweep? ;-P

    It wasn’t so much a bar room brawl, more the start of handbags at dawn, but it was dragging away from Michael’s good work and discussing that too much, I felt. And it did seem to be just a misunderstanding over nothing.

    Panos i I was always under the (perhaps quite mistaken) impression that the 420 was all about blunts? That’s probably why you didn’t know the L term. Yup. ;-)

  69. mw…

    Have the comments and views posted here changed your perspective and how you will document this Brooklyn Carnival in the future?

  70. Pingback: Saturday 12 March 2011 « P H O T O J O U R N A L I S M L I N K S

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  72. Paul, sorry it’s taken so long for me to get back to you on this. But to answer your question, no, the comments here didn’t at all change my perspective on how I’d shoot the Brooklyn Carnival. I’m very open to criticism and appreciate it very much, but in this case, by the time it was published I’d already been working on it for many years and was committed to my approach. I did pretty much the exact same essay in 2011, and consider it to be the definitive take.


    And thanks again to everyone for their consideration and comments.

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