26 December 2010

The Illusion of Permanence

Apple Trees in Bloom When my first DSLR camera was new, I walked my dogs daily in a park, so it was just easy and convenient to grab the new camera and practice with it as we exercised ourselves and the pups. The park is strung between two low hills with a valley and a small creek running through its center. It’s pretty, but not likely to make anyone’s “top ten” list of scenic destinations. I liked it primarily because it was underused, and I could walk my two German Shepherds in relative peace without running into a lot of other dogs.

There was an excellent feature of the park: it was blessed with a terrific stand of trees. It had all sorts of hardwoods, such as maple, oak, hickory, cherry, walnut, mulberry and poplar. It also had hemlock, cypress and pine. It had lovely flowering trees like crabapple, cherry and locust. Thousands of animals made their home in those branches. It was a tree lover’s dream. I photographed those trees too. I photographed them in every season and time of day, from the blistering heat of summer to the icy dead of winter snow storms. I shot bark, branches, foliage and roots. I shot the exuberant greens of spring and the fiery golds and oranges of autumn. I got a terrific collection of photos of the dogs’ back sides since I always seemed to be behind them as they sniffed for the trails of other animals. I shot a lot of pictures. The photo that forms the masthead of this this blog is one of these.

I began to feel a bit self-conscious about shooting at the park so much. Could I not think of anything else to photograph? The newness wore off of the camera and my photographic forays to the park slowed dramatically. I would still go over there to shoot when I had a new piece of gear to test, but that was all. Perhaps a dozen CD’s contain the archive of this period of near-obsessive tree photography.

brokentrees2 Two years ago we were hit with a pair of devastating weather events. The first was when the remnants of Hurricane Ike swept up into the Ohio Valley. We had winds with velocity estimated to be between 80 and 90 miles per hour. Thousands of trees came down. Then, beginning on January 26, 2009 we were hit with a huge ice storm which paralyzed the state for days. You can read more of my reaction to the storms here: Broken Trees. The wind storm was bad, but the ice storm was particularly devastating to the trees, because it broke off the top third of many of the trees completely. The best description I could come up with was that it resembled an area which had suffered an artillery barrage since so many of the trees were cleanly broken off midway down their trunks. Once the ice melted and we could get over to the park to walk again, the damage was heartbreaking. It struck me then that I would never see this park again in the state which I had grown to love. It will be many decades before nature can completely erase the scars and replace the downed titans. My photos are all that remain of the ruined beauty of those woods. I also realized that, far from having photographed too much, I really hadn’t shot enough pictures of those trees, and I wished then that I had continued to shoot them, however repetitive it may have seemed at the time.

We humans have a need to perceive the important aspects of our worlds as permanent. We delight in the new and the novel, but we need security and a sense of permanence. This need leads us to imagine much to be permanent that really isn’t. People, places and things that we love can suddenly be taken away from us. In one stormy night, a familiar landscape can vanish. In this age of ubiquitous digital photography, I am sure that many would say that we are in no danger of being under-photographed. We get photographed for everything everywhere, often without even knowing it. Is there a shortage of images? Most of us would answer that with, “Probably not.” But, if we asked if there is a shortage of images of the people, places and events that are important to us, I suspect the answer would be very different. I don’t have photos of the first time my kids walked or the place I was born. I don’t have a single shot of my high school graduation, or college for that matter. I do have a few of my wedding done by a professional photographer, but they only vaguely line up with my memories of the day. I did document my 30th birthday fairly well. I was hammered the whole time, but I still love the pictures.

As scary as it may be, I believe that we, as photographers, need to approach our mission as if nothing is permanent. We need to lay aside the illusion of permanence and record the people and places in our lives as if our photographs will be the only surviving artifact of something important. Hopefully, this won’t be the reality most of the time. Losing people and places is painful. But when it is the fact, and something important goes away, very few of us will think then that we shot too many pictures.

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When Everything Is Ugly…

Shot Up Chevy, Penrose Colorado …Shoot the Ugly. This is a bit of trick, a hook to get your attention, because I don’t think there is ever a situation where everything is completely ugly. Still, it’s easy to get into that frame of mind in the dead of winter when the scenery is bleak and gray. It’s easy to get into that frame of mind in a blighted urban landscape where buildings are abandoned and decrepit, and gray concrete stretches as far as the eye can see. As photographers, we’re faced with a crucial choice: to shoot the scene before our eyes, or wait until the season and the scenery is pretty, according to some idealized notion of the way things ought to look.

Honestly, both forks in the road are valid. Some photographers, through the skillful use of models and studios, or by travel to exotic locations, create alternative realities that bear little resemblance to the everyday world most of us inhabit. Others painstakingly document the worlds they experience with all of the accuracy they can bring to bear. Personally, I identify more with the second group, the photojournalists. I do studio work, but I prefer to be out in the world and documenting what is happening. I have those times when things look bleak and uninteresting to me, and I struggle to find subjects to photograph. So, what are some strategies to get over the “everything is ugly” syndrome?


Dive into the ugly. Wallow in it. Find the ugliest thing you can and photograph it. Edward Weston made a photograph of a dead pelican floating in a tidal pool. Most of us would look at the dead bird and say, “Yuck,” but Weston saw the tragic poetry and the composition, and created a strangely compelling photograph from a scene that most of us would call extremely ugly. Scenes such as this often evoke strong feelings and meanings, and while they may not be “pretty” photographs, the can be very powerful and effective.

Curly Tree with Snow Recalibrate Your Head

If your idea of a great photo only extends to sun-washed beaches in the Caribbean, but you live in Salinas, Kansas, you have a problem. I’m willing to go on record as saying that there’s a great photo in Salinas, Kansas that is yet to be made, but you won’t see it if you’re looking for the bikini babes on the white sand beach. Instead of searching for something that fits a preconceived idea of a great picture, let the world show you the picture. Look around. What do you find yourself staring at? What scenes evoke feeling and memories in you? These are likely to be the best subjects for your photographs.

Starlings Eating Berries Closeup Look Again. Look Closer. Then, Step Back.

A point of view is a mission-critical piece of mental equipment. It helps to have one. Zoom in, Zoom out. Walk around. A dud from one POV is a masterpiece from another. Try using a lens with a different focal length from what you usually use. Get high (like altitude) or low and shoot from different angles. Look for subtle colors and interesting textures. Find a different viewpoint from the one you usually shoot. Move your body around across the face of the planet and observe the world as you’re doing it.

Playing in the Park Take Your Own Pulse

“Everything is Ugly” is really an attitude rather than an accurate description. I don’t really like winter. I don’t like to be cold. I particularly dislike ice and trying to move around on it. I love green, warmth and the vitality of the growing season – all of those things that disappear in the dim days of winter. So, I tend to cop an attitude about winter, and it’s negative. A negative attitude will color our perceptions strongly, often without us realizing it. The only antidote for a negative attitude is awareness – the proverbial “gut check.” If you’re not seeing pictures, take your emotional “pulse.” Are you carrying a negative attitude about the place, the season, or even yourself as a photographer? Such things can get in the way and prevent us from seeing the pictures that are really there. By bringing these negative attitudes into consciousness, we may not completely get rid of them, but we can make new decisions about them. We can stop them from obscuring our vision.

Vision is so shaped by attitude. We tend to find what we expect to find. If we believe there is nothing out there to photograph, we usually find nothing and confirm that belief. If we take the attitude that there is a photograph out there, but we just haven’t found it yet, we tend to find it. Since I have never found a place where there was absolutely nothing photograph, I tend to take the attitude of “I just haven’t found it yet,” and most of the time, it pays off.

Brick Out Building

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27 November 2010

Now What Was I Doing - Photographic Theory

I love the discussions of style and technique among photographers. These debates are endlessly interesting to me. Holga, HDR, Minimalist, Pictorialist, Photojournalism, Bokeh, Abstract, and on and on – they make me think and ask questions that I might not have even considered otherwise. Yet, in our vigorous discussions of style and technique, we often lose sight of the fundamental function of photography, and that is to record. First and foremost, we are striving with our cameras to capture a visual image of the way something looks.

We all hope that something more than simple recording happens when we create an image. We hope that when we create an image, the subject and moment captured will carry meanings which will extend far beyond the instant when the shutter snapped. We hope that the photographer will bring vision and experience to the creation which will reveal layers of meaning and value much deeper than the mere surface appearance of a subject. We hope that those who view the image will bring their own experience and interpretation to the graphic which will give life to the image, extending far beyond the original impulse of the photographer to snap the image.

And yet, when all of the theory and romance of photography is peeled away, photography is a matter of recording how the light falls upon a particular subject in a specific place in a discrete moment in time. Many photographers have taken to calling photographs “captures” which carries the sense grabbing a moment and preserving it, and I like that. When we make a picture, first and foremost, we are recording how something looked at that moment. We are creating an historical record. Style, art, interpretation, layers of meaning, and the rest, come afterwards.

Now, why am I musing on these obvious fundamentals? Earlier this summer, I went driving through southern Indiana and found myself in the picturesque town of Paoli, Indiana. It has a classic 19th Century county seat layout. The court house sits in the town square, surrounded on all four sides by businesses housed in ancient buildings facing inward toward the court house. In the southwest quadrant of the square was an old building with an intriguing spiral stairway outside the building. I snapped this picture:


The stairway caught my eye first because it was an oddity being on the outside of the building and second, I liked it because of the visual contrast of the spiral stairs against the straight metal box running up the wall beside it. The photo may never make the top ten photographs of the 21st Century, but I like it. A couple of days ago, I heard on the news that a huge fire had broken out in the square at Paoli. Eventually, images of the devastation filtered out, and I found this:


This is the building that once held my lovely spiral staircase. The building and staircase are gone. Somehow I doubt that they will ever be replaced in the way they were. It hit me that buried in my archive of CD’s and negatives, is a record of how this building looked before it was destroyed. One might question the relative value of preserving a record of an old building in a small country town, but it was a part of my world, enough to trigger me to photograph it, and now it’s gone. In a practical sense, the photos could be useful for insurance claims or for a restoration if one were ever attempted. What’s important to me is that I captured a piece of my world before it disappeared. That’s enough justification for me. I recorded it with my camera.

My earliest and perhaps most powerful photographic influence was LIFE Magazine. My parents subscribed to LIFE and Time all through my childhood. In that powerful, formative time in my life, photography was what you saw in LIFE. If I could produce a photograph that looked like the black & whites in LIFE, I had succeeded. In terms of models, one could do worse than emulate the LIFE photographers: Eisenstaedt, Bourke-White, Steichen, Halsman, Capa, Feininger, Lange and so many more. The LIFE photographers were, for the most part, photojournalists and realists. They brought great artistry to their photography, but job one was coming back with a portrait of Hemingway that looked like Hemingway.

In terms of style, I have to confess that I’m still strongly, probably unconsciously, influenced by this ideal: get a good picture. A good picture means correct exposure, sharp focus, pleasing composition and a smooth tone curve of grays. I never have been a Zone System fanatic, but the closer I can get to filling all eleven zones with a subtle gradation of grays (or color), the happier I am. Overly contrasty pictures still bother me. Underexposed pictures bother me. My idea of a great photograph is still the exquisite portrait of Ernest Hemingway glaring down from the ladder at photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt. Eisenstaedt shot on a 6x6 cm Rolleiflex twin lens reflex camera. I’m such a fan of Eisenstaedt that I actually own a TLR 6x6 similar to Eisenstaedt’s. I guess that’s what you would call hero worship because the thing is damned difficult to shoot pictures on.

So, I’m amazed when people deliberately throw their cameras out of focus, use rotted film to get weird colors, or computer software to open up the shadows and suppress highlights (HDR). And make no mistake: I’ll use all of these techniques and I have done some wonderful shots using them. I’m a graphic artist by trade and I am not above manipulating the hell out of a photograph to get what I want for an ad or poster. But, when it really counts, and I’m shooting a picture that’s important, I invariably revert to get a good picture – sharp focus, correct exposure and pleasing composition. I’m a recorder. I want to capture what my eyes see. To me, this is the greatest wonder of the camera: to be able to capture a moment in time as it looked, with the meanings and memories it carries.

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My Most Successful Photograph

In the world’s terms, this is my most successful photograph. It has been published, reprinted, and sold more prints than any other photo I have done. Back in the day, it was published in several literary magazines; a T-shirt was done of it, and people continue to buy prints of it online. It’s my guitar. It’s a Garcia Grand Concert 1A classical guitar. My father bought it for me when I was in college so I could get a job teaching guitar lessons to pay my way through school. He used a single twenty dollar gold piece to buy it. The instrument accomplished its goal admirably, and I received my B.A. debt free. 

It fascinates me that of all of the photos I have done, of people, places and things, that this one continues to experience the the success that it does. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. But it does, and that pleases me, because if I had to pick an image that conveyed what that part of my life was like, I couldn’t do any better than this one.


Classical Guitar 1984

I wish I had a nickel for every hour I have spent with this guitar. It is still just as wonderful as it ever was, or more so. Guitars get better with time up to a point. Their tone improves with the vibrations that are played through them. There is science to back that up. I’ve read about it but I can’t explain it. It’s just like great old violins. The wood cures and dries, and some parts of it are shaken out by the vibration of the tones. As I understand it, the process continues for about forty years with guitars. Beyond that, the tone doesn’t change very much. This guitar was built in 1972, so it has reached that point of tonal clarity and brilliance so cherished by acoustic guitar players. Its voice is magical. It can still play me into dreams.

The photograph was shot on a Nikon FM with a 50mm lens using Kodak Plus-X Pan film. I developed and printed it in the bathroom. The location was Lexington, Kentucky.

Times change and people change, but good tools don’t change. I don’t play guitar as much as I once did. My interests and priorities have changed, but the guitar is still as wonderful and capable as it ever was. Maybe I’ll find a gifted, young classical player and give it to him or her so its voice will be heard as it should be. Until then, it will keep me company and remind me of a time when music dominated my life.


…and, yes, if you would like to have a print, RedBubble will make you a nice one. Click here.

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01 November 2010

Singular Vision

Gunfighter_1958 You have a thought, a feeling or an outrage, and it occurs to you to write it down, make a video or draw a picture that expresses it. But then you think there are millions of others out there thinking the same thing, many with greater communication or artistic skills than you have. So, you end up not writing it, not drawing it, and your vision is never captured or recorded. Mass culture has convinced you that your point of view is inconsequential. This is a loss.

Expressing and recording your personal history is vitally important in its own right. It needs no further justification or rationalization. It has intrinsic value. Because of our awareness of the sheer multitude of humanity, we tend to assume that there must be a million other people with the same thoughts and impressions that we have, and hence, our impressions are insignificant. There is really no logical basis for this assumption. The opposite may actually be true: that for at least a moment in time, our personal vision may be singular, and vitally important.

It isn’t exactly front page news, but the mainstream mass media is a polluted source of information. By “mainstream mass media” I mean the whole complex: television, motion pictures, newspapers, the recording industry and commercial publishers. They share a common fatal flaw in that they live on advertising and are accountable to business interests whose first priority is to turn a profit. Do you think that Rupert Murdoch built News Corp. in order to provide us with a deeper and more accurate description of the human condition? Does CNN care what’s going through your mind as you sit in your kitchen trying to decide what to eat for supper? Probably not. If the record of the mainstream mass media is all that future generations have of us, they will neither know nor understand who we are.

One might not care about what future generations understand – I happen to care, but not everyone does – but most of us do care, at some level, about understanding ourselves and being understood. If you make a habit of capturing your experiences, you will collect in time a picture of your life. The medium doesn’t matter very much. It can be pictures, words, sounds or objects. You can come back to it periodically and you will see different things in it, often things of which you were unaware at the time you snapped the picture or made the journal entry. Especially through the lens of time, greater understanding can come. I often have the experience of finding things in my journals and photo albums that point out something very clearly to me now, and I marvel at how blind I was to it at the time.

Syd_Memphis_1984 Sometimes, working on a creative piece can bring out something that I’m struggling with and help me to become aware of it. Prior to the creative work, there is just the feeling. The process of recording it to paper, film or megabytes often helps me to identify an experience I’m having. It may even help in a therapeutic way and allow me to make peace with something that is eating at me.

Mostly, I do this stuff because I love doing it. I love the activity of creating pictures and writing. I would do it for that reason alone and be completely content. Most of the time, I’m not doing self-therapy or creating a record of historical significance. Most of the time, I’m just having fun. Nevertheless, I believe that the personal history angle is important.

I have lived long enough to experience how lives and ideas get left behind as culture rushes rapidly forward. I have lived long enough to forget interesting episodes in my own life and I’m glad I jotted down a journal entry which provides a touchstone to the memory. Sometimes, just a few lines or a photo is enough to return a wonderful moment to memory. I have a strong sense that much has been lost and swept aside, even in my own time which to me doesn’t seem that long. Whole lives that were once important to their families and communities are now little more than records at the court house. Ways of living and thinking, some of which still have great value, are left by the side of the road in the inevitable march of days. Creating personal history hedges against this loss. It doesn’t prevent it, but it saves something.

As the artist and the subject, you can’t judge what’s important or what isn’t. You have to leave that to others. Do you think that Beethoven could have told you that the 5th and 9th symphonies were going to be really important and the 6th and 7th weren’t going to be? No, he was just Beethoven doing his Beethoven thing. I have long suspected that the Apostle Paul had no inkling that his letters were going to become half of the New Testament. We can’t know the value or even the whole content of the things we do. We shouldn’t even try. But most of all, we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be hypnotized into thinking that everyone else is thinking our thoughts, and that our own experience is of no consequence.

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Samhain Sundown

Sundown on Samhain, and I’m waiting for the witches to fly. The light half ends and the dark half begins. Night will rule the day until Beltane. Light the great fire, extinguish all the little fires, and throw the new bones into the flames.

Spirits are in the air. Little demons and faeries are in the street. Don the mask and walk between the flames to be cleaned. It is the day of the dead. Only the flames will cleanse us. We will speak with the dead, and cast fortunes in the night.

Lead the herds down from the mountains and lay up hay and fodder for the dark half. Barley, oats, wheat, turnips, and apples all must be gathered in, lest the faeries blast them with icy breath. Gather peat and wood, and stack it high by the hearth. We will need every stick.

Take the flame of beginnings to light a new way and draw the circle of light.

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30 October 2010

Letters Home

10.10ND6-020a Letters Home

This fellow shipped slides home to his spouse while hes was in the USAF Technical Training School at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wtchita Falls, TX and Viet Nam. This lot was picked fairly clean of most of the Viet Nam stuff before it was offered to me, but there is some interesting stuff to follow.
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09 October 2010

Gompenge, or Flowers in the Pond

"Gompenge", or Flowers in the Pond - Pre-Khmer Rouge - sung in Khmer. 
By Ros SereySothea, ”Golden Voice of the Royal Capital”
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03 September 2010

Jim Linderman, ::Figure Photography Magazine interview.

“I always collected something, but increasingly as I age I realize I wasn’t making collections as much as I was assembling. I was always putting similar things together, in groups…to get a better understanding of them rather than a collection of things. Even then, my schemes how to acquire things and then comprehend them were more important than the physical objects themselves. I wanted to learn, and found learning easier when I had put together a group of objects on one place, but the process was most important. I guess ownership was less important than the steps required in selecting things to look for. I’ve never had much money, and always had to scrimp and suffer for things I obtained. Even early on, that shaped my eye.”

Jim Linderman, ::Figure Photography Magazine interview.

Perfectly put, and a great interview with a legend.
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31 August 2010

This came in the mail.

This came in the mail. A little busted-up and slashed by a sullen postal inspector, but no worse for the wear. I'm happy to have the original cover.

I knew I would get it eventually. I'm slow, CDWOW is slow.

if you're a Yankee, you can only get it on The Kindle through Amazon. I hope Sniffy will get on the horn to The Queen and rectify the matter.

Didn't think I could read, did'ya?

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27 August 2010

My Trip To Sweden

Early 1960s commercial slide,
"Grafisk Konst, Stockholm"
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21 August 2010

Logo In a Timewarp

My sister saw this today and sent it to me via her phone.

It's nice to know that even after a decade of being gone, you either have a very loyal and dedicated former customer that likes you very much, OR, a very lazy former customer who has a Marmot.

Enduring artwork, logo, meme by Syd Weedon (Who also happens to be a co-author of this blog).
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11 August 2010

What Do We Shoot?

I look at a lot of photographs. It’s part of my job, and if that wasn’t enough pain, I do it in my off hours so I can tweet my favorites to my friends. Also, I study the masters of the art in a vain attempt to discover the secret of their magic. When one looks at a torrent of thousands and thousands of excellent photographs, some patterns and characteristics begin to takes shape. It appears to me that one of the characteristics that separate the sheep from the goats is in what we shoot. I don’t mean subject matter here, but rather, what it is in the mind of the photographer that triggers the snap of the shutter.

Amateurs and novices tend to shoot an idea in their heads. They don’t really shoot what they see. They have an idea, like “That’s a nice looking cow.” They point the camera in the general direction of the beast and trip the shutter. When they get home and look at their pictures, it’s a “fail” because the cow is just a small, dark lump in front of the sun surrounded by some telephone poles and half of Bubba’s pickup truck. They have responded to an idea with their camera without ever really looking at the scene, the light, the framing of the picture or anything else that might help to make the picture a good one. These pictures will usually have the subject in the dead center of the frame and will be too far away for an interesting photograph.

Advanced hobbyists and many professionals have gotten past this problem. They have learned to look at the light and to seek interesting forms. They have learned to frame their photos for greater interest. They have mastered their cameras, and are not worried about remembering how to operate the device. They shoot what they see. This is a good thing, and it makes for quality photography. I would hazard the guess that most of us are in this range of the spectrum: we have learned the rules and the devices; we’ve learned to look at the subject, and we can reliably produce decent pictures.

The place that we all really want to be is beyond technical competence. We want to shoot a memorable photograph. We want to shoot that one frame that somehow rises above the millions of other exposures to become iconic. We want to shoot Alfred Eisenstaedt’s “Kiss.” We want to shoot Ansel Adam’s “Moonrise, Hernadez” or Steve McCurry’s “Afghan Girl.” I’m sure everyone has their own list of “memorable” photos, and these are just a few of mine. It appears to me that the truly memorable photos have a characteristic that is beyond just idea and technical competence. To my eye, and this is just my opinion, but it seems to me that the truly memorable photographs have the characteristic of feeling – feeling of the photographer about the moment being captured. Something of the photographer’s history and unconscious bleeds into the photograph.

Vj_day_kiss Think for a minute about Eisenstaedt’s “Kiss.” Eisenstaedt was a German Jew, born in Bavaria in 1906. He served in the German army in the artillery in World War I. He photographed Hitler’s meeting with Mussolini in Italy. He photographed Joseph Goebbels at the League of Nations in Geneva in 1933. He had to flee Germany when the Nazi’s began to actively persecute the Jews. Can you image the storm surge of feeling that raced through his being when he captured the iconic photo of the sailor in Time’s Square sweeping a nurse into his arms and planting an enthusiastic kiss on her lips as the end of World War II was announced? That’s feeling. Eisenstaedt lived his life through the lens of his camera, and when you know the history, it appears to be no accident that he was the guy in Times Square with his camera ready to catch the celebration of V-J day.

You and I cannot retrace Eisie’s steps, although if you told me I would be given a chance to photograph Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio and Ernest Hemingway, I would be temped to try. There are many others who have captured memorable photos without the travail that Eisenstaedt faced: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz, Harry Callahan, Walker Evans, Edward Weston, Dorothea Lange, Margaret Bourke-White, Lee Fiedlander, Garry Winogrand, and Ansel Adams... I could go on. The common thread is feeling, intuition, involvement and the ability to let a bit of the unconscious bleed into the photograph. The truly memorable photographs seem to have a bit of the photographer in them. He or she is shooting a feeling, a realization about life that brings his or her whole experience to bear on a moment full of meaning which is captured in a single frame.

An aside: Do you know what Eisenstaedt would do for practice when times were slow? He would take a simple subject like and egg and put it under a single light. He would shoot the egg with every combination of f-stop and shutter speed possible (do the math), and then he would print every single negative in the darkroom just to see what the film and paper would do. The message is clear: for the greats, like Eisie, Weston, Adams, McCurry, and Cartier-Bresson, the technical skill is a given. These folks have shot so many exposures that the camera becomes an extension of their nervous system, much like the union of a great musician with the instrument. They reach the point at which the mechanism becomes invisible. As long as we are fiddling with our gadgets, we are not in the place where the truly memorable photographers live.

I don’t care for tidy summaries because they always seem to reduce good thoughts to over-simplifications, but if I had to do it with this idea, I would say that novices shoot ideas in their heads; journeymen shoot what they see, but the truly memorable photographers shoot what they feel.

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08 August 2010

The Original Octopussy

1950 Saturday Evening Post Ad for 'Ethyl' Premium gasoline. (I swear).
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02 August 2010


Behind the Sitter i...
By Jim Linderman DUL...


FULL TEXT and 100 previously unpublished Photos Available Online FREE for limited Time. Not spam…the whole book FREE. The Painted Backdrop by Jim Linderman

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Y’all please get over yonder and please vote for Jim’s books!


Bettie Page and her...
By Jim Linderman


FULL TEXT and 100 previously unpublished Photos Available Online FREE for limited Time. Not spam…the whole book FREE. Camera Club Girls by Jim Linderman

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31 July 2010

Facsimile of Self Worth

(...)You are the skin you were born into. You are the scars, the crooked grin, the disheveled bad haircut, the clothes on your back, the car you drive, the shoes with holes in them because you can't afford a car; you are the burden of your face, the size of your penis, the curve of your breasts, the pattern of hair speckled across your chest, the sound of your voice, the color of your eyes, the tip of your nose.

There is nothing else.
You realize that this is your culture: What you see is what you get. Sneak a little substance in and they talk about what brand of perfume you wear. Release 90,000 pages of documents that say the war your country is in was lost before Reagan lost his acting chops and forgot how to pee straight, and they say "How will this affect the upcoming election."
There is no you anymore. 'You' are the amount of followers you have, hits you receive, words per page, pounds you can press, zeros in your bank account. You are a statistic, a poll number, a demographic, marketable, a constituent, a mortgage, a consumer, a follower. You will be told how to cope.
Marx was right. This is the collapse.
(excerpt, via Freelance Pallbearer)
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via:  Jack.ed
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10 July 2010

08 July 2010

06 July 2010

The Iron Horse

Like millions of other American teenagers, I couldn’t wait to get a driver’s license so I could go racing off in one of my dad’s cars. I scarcely noticed that sometime between my childhood and early teens, the great passenger trains had vanished.

208-1 The Old 208 Close-up, Yashica 635 with Ilford Delta 100

After all, cars are much more fun. You can go where you want to go, when you want to go there. Cars are freedom and individuality; railroads are institutions. And, it didn’t help that when the railroads had a virtual monopoly on overland transportation, they took advantage of working people by charging exorbitant rates to ship farmers’ crops to market. When I was a kid, I never heard a single lament for the passing of the trains.

208-2 The Old 208 , Yashica 635 with Ilford Delta 100

The last time I rode on one of the great trains was when my mother took my sister and I on the Texas Chief up to Oklahoma City to visit my grandfather in Norman. It was like a luxury hotel on wheels. I couldn’t have been more than about nine years old, but I remember it as if it were yesterday.

French-Lick-Train-Station-1Train Station, French Lick, Indiana, Yashica 635 with Ilford Delta 100

When I was a kid, my dad could drive down the middle of the highway steering only with his knee while he lit a cigarette with his Zippo lighter. This drove my mother crazy, but you could do that then because there were so few vehicles on the road. In Texas, you could often drive for quite some time without seeing another car. Things have changed, and changed a lot since those idyllic days. Today we face streets and expressway choked with millions of vehicles almost 24 hours a day. Half of the time I set out to drive from Louisville to Lexington, I am delayed by a multi-vehicle accident. Today, the air is turning toxic, the planet is said to be heating up, and the Gulf of Mexico is filling with crude oil where a living ocean once thrived. In the days of my youth, gas was 25¢ a gallon. Today, people are going into debt to fill their tanks. Times have changed.

Passenger-Cars,-French-Lick Passenger Cars, French Lick, Indiana, Yashica 635 with Ilford Delta 100

I can’t help but think that our friends across the pond have been smarter than we have on the issue of trains. Only we gave up our trains – England, Europe, Russia, India, Africa, China and Japan all kept and developed their railways. Only we relegated our great trains to the pack mule role. Ours still run, but the carry only new cars, coal, chemicals and other bulk freight.

208-3_antique_effect The Old 208 , Yashica 635 with Ilford Delta 100, antique effect from Photoshop

It would be great if we would re-think our ideas about the trains. I know I would use them. I think a vacation on a train would be terrific. Just being able to hop on a train and ride to Cincinnati to see a Reds game would be a hoot. I wonder how many cars we could get off the road if we had a railway system that took people where they wanted to go. How many amphetamine-crazed truckers would have to find another line of work if our railways were truly operational? How many tons of hydrocarbons could we keep out of the atmosphere? How many Deepwater Horizons would we need if we were running the trains?

You can buy these prints and others on Red Bubble by clicking on this link

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07 June 2010

Weird Friends

My picture of the day…

Weird-Friends-2 Nikon F3, Ilford FP4


I hang out with a fairly strange crowd most of the time. But they’re interesting.

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29 May 2010

“Some of my photographs have always been a mystery to me…”

Art-Farm “Some of my photographs have always been a mystery to me in terms of how I arrived at them. Even with the technical ability to produce fine prints, I am hard put to know how it happens, yet unless technique and materials are seriously investigated and experienced, I see that moving statements are seldom made.
The process of photography ever invites me. I hope never to lose this feeling. At times I make photographs for the sheer magic of its process, and the good feeling about the very stuff needed: light, chemical combinations, some imperceptible forces at work behind the scene. I am part of the drama which takes the guise of photography.” - Paul Caponigro

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Pictures of the Day: Louisville Downtown


Belle of Louisville, Ilford Delta 100 in Ilfosol 3

MooringMooring, Ilford Delta 100 in Ilfosol 3

Hard-Rock-2 Hard Rock Guitar, Tmax 100 in Tmax

Live Live, Tmax 100 in Tmax

Click on Pictures for Larger View

Technical information: Photos shot with Yahshica 635 TLR camera and 80mm Yashikor lens; film and developers noted under each picture. Film is 6x6 cm “medium format.”

For a subject to be strong enough to be worth photographing, the relationship of its forms must be rigorously established. Composition starts when you situate your camera in space in relation to the object. For me, photography is the exploration in reality of the rhythm of surfaces, lines, or values; the eye carves out its subject, and the camera has only to do its work. That work is simply to print the eye’s decision on film.  - Henri Cartier-Bresson - on composition. "American Photo", September/October 1997, page: 76

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21 May 2010

The Colors of Photography

Alex-working-in-the-shop “Black and white are the colors of photography. To me they symbolize the alternatives of hope and despair to which mankind is forever subjected. Most of my photographs are of people; they are seen simply, as through the eyes of the man in the street. There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment. This kind of photography is realism. But realism is not enough--there has to be vision, and the two together can make a good photograph. It is difficult to describe this thin line where matter ends and mind begins.” - Robert Frank - From pages 20-22 of Aperture, vol. 9, no. 1 (1961)

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12 May 2010

New drug control strategy signals policy shift??

By SAM HANANEL (AP) – 1 day ago
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced a revised approach to "confronting the complex challenge of drug use and its consequences," putting more resources into drug prevention and treatment.
The new drug control strategy boosts community-based anti-drug programs, encourages health care providers to screen for drug problems before addiction sets in and expands treatment beyond specialty centers to mainstream health care facilities.
"By boosting community-based prevention, expanding treatment, strengthening law enforcement and working collaboratively with our global partners, we will reduce drug use and the great damage it causes in our communities," Obama said. "I am confident that when we take the steps outlined in this strategy, we will make our country stronger and our people healthier and safer."
The plan — the first drug plan unveiled by the Obama White House — calls for reducing the rate of youth drug use by 15 percent over the next five years and for similar reductions in chronic drug use, drug abuse deaths and drugged driving.
In an interview Monday, Gil Kerlikowske, the White House drug czar, said, "It changes the whole discussion about ending the war on drugs and recognizes that we have a responsibility to reduce our own drug use in this country."
Kerlikowske criticized past drug strategies for measuring success by counting the number of children and teens who have not tried marijuana. At the same time, he said, the number of deaths from illegal and prescription drug overdoses was rising.
"Us facing that issue and dealing with it head on is important," Kerlikowske said.
The new drug plan encourages health care professionals to ask patients questions about drug use even during routine treatment so that early intervention is possible. It also helps more states set up electronic databases to identify doctors who are overprescribing addictive pain killers.
"Putting treatment into the primary health care discussion is critical," Kerlikowske said.
The policy shift comes in the wake of several other drug policy reforms since Obama took office. Obama signed a measure repealing a two-decade old ban on the use of federal money for needle-exchange programs to reduce the spread of HIV. His administration also said it won't target medical marijuana patients or caregivers as long as they comply with state laws and aren't fronts for drug traffickers.
Earlier this year, Obama called on Congress to eliminate the disparity in sentencing that punishes crack crimes more heavily than those involving powder cocaine.
Some drug reform advocates like the direction Obama is heading, but question whether the administration's focus on treatment and prevention programs is more rhetoric than reality at this point. They point to the national drug control budget proposal released earlier this year, for example, which continues to spend about twice as much money on enforcement as it does on programs to reduce demand.
"The improved rhetoric is not matched by any fundamental shift in the budget or the broader thrust of the drug policy," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which favors drug policy reform.
Nadelmann praised some of Obama's changes, but said he is disappointed with the continued focus on arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating large numbers of people.
Kerlikowske rejected that as "inside the Beltway discussion," and said there are many programs that combine interdiction and prevention.
The drug control office's budget request does include a 13 percent increase in spending on alcohol and drug prevention programs, along with a 3.7 percent increase for addiction treatment.
Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Via: Ap
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11 May 2010

A Precise Moment in Time

Marian-at-the-Rathke-Ranch “Of all the means of expression, photography is the only one that fixes a precise moment in time. We play with subjects that disappear; and when they’re gone, it’s impossible to bring them back to life. We can’t alter our subject afterward.... Writers can reflect before they put words on paper.... As photographers, we don’t have the luxury of this reflective time... We can’t redo our shoot once we’re back at the hotel. Our job consists of observing reality with help of our camera (which serves as a kind of sketchbook), of fixing reality in a moment, but not manipulating it, neither during the shoot nor in the darkroom later on. These types of manipulation are always noticed by anyone with a good eye.” - Henri Cartier-Bresson - "American Photo", September/October 1997, page: 76

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05 May 2010

Ghosts of Detroit



The American landscape was littered with these once upon a time: old trucks and cars that had given it their all and run until they couldn’t run any more. They were parked in a field or a back lot and the driver walked away in search of another ride. My friend, Alan, said that he always wanted to know the story of these old vehicles whenever he saw one, and I’m the same way. My imagination fires up, concocting stories of how these old beasts got where there are. My imagination does that to fill the vacuum, because I don’t know, and nobody knows, and the old truck can’t speak for itself. I guess I could go to the courthouse and trace down the registrations on them if they still had plates, but that wouldn’t tell me how that right front fender got crunched and who knocked it out with a hammer to keep it from cutting the tire.

Someone’s grandfather and/or grandmother went a lot of miles in this old chunk of steel – no air conditioning or radio, no shock absorbers as we know them, just leaf springs that would bounce you against the roof if you hit a rut. I can’t even tell what make or model it is. The hood ornament is bent down over the logo. I would guess it to be a Ford and guess it to be from the early 1930’s, like 1932, but that’s just a guess. I should have looked closer when I was there shooting it.

By now, most of these have been hauled away and melted for scrap. A few have been gathered by collectors, restored and put in the Rod & Custom Car Show. That is how it should be. We can’t make monuments of every old machine. There were millions of them that trucked our grandparents around, and I don’t really want one in my yard. Still, there is a magic for me when I see one of these old vehicles, whether derelict or restored. There is an instantaneous transport back to an America I never knew – that time of dust bowls and Roosevelt, Bonnie and Clyde and Dillinger, Henry Ford, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Woody Guthrie and F. Scott Fitzgerald. It happens every time.

Technical data on the photo: It was shot with a Nikon FM on Tri-X film, developed in D-76. The negative was scanned and the image manipulated in PhotoShop to give it the spectral effect.

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04 May 2010

"Shop Course Popular At Brooklyn Jr. High"

I am fascinated by the stories on the back of the intended clipping, (see title)... Going from the Hitler story of Nazi party gains in the Reichstag, this would be in 1930, sometime after the September elections. Please see all of the crimes of passion, too.

Woman shoots sister to "cure her of a broken heart."
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