Tuesday, February 19, 2013


As miny of you are aware I've run into some legal diffficulties lately. I thought I'd be able to settle this stuff but once the Feds smell blood they are sharks! So unfortunately gotta leave the countery for a while until things cool off here. If you really need to find me and youre not guvmint types start in Casco Viejo Panama City. Ask for Blanco. No blogging until furter notice.
First Weak Pervisions

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Don Hudson: What Was He Thinking?

Don Hudson is a photographer based in South Lyon, Michigan. More of his photos can be found here. Most of the images below are from his recent book From The Archives.
This photograph was made in the staging area for the Farmington Founders Day parade. A little background.  I've never made my living at photography and consequently have been primarily a "weekend" photographer for the most part during the last 40 years.  Within those practical restraints I have favored photographing at events, where people step outside their everyday routines and there is very often a concentrated social energy on display.  And honestly, I was also out to have fun at these events!  My own particular photographic "game" that I play at these events is experiencing how close I can get with participating in this social energy while maintaining enough detachment to work out an intelligent picture.  The community of Farmington MI used the local drive-in (no longer there) as the staging area for their parades.  For me, it's often the time before a parade begins that is the most interesting, with participants in various stages of preparation and anticipation, a sort of informal haphazard craziness.  I don't remember exactly what I was thinking when I made this shot, but most likely something along the lines of:  ok, position the drive-in screen as backdrop, check, woman with bag over her head, check, kids coming at me wearing graphic t-shirts, check...now don't blow it!  Turned out I liked how the camera saw it.

And speaking of how the camera is able to see things, this shot is definitely representative of that for me.  Saline, where this picture was made, and South Lyon, where I live, are (or were) both considered horse towns, and both held annual rodeos.  I loved photographing at these rodeos, and did so at several of them.  And I also loved using flash, especially during that short time period in the transition from daylight to nighttime.  It's a fleeting moment and my senses are heightened to the possibilities of how things might look to the camera.  And whenever the flag comes out I'm usually all over it.  That's the scenario here.  Later on, after the film is processed, and I look at the contacts, I see what the camera and flash saw in that instant.  The horse's ear and shadow and the girl's hat perfectly ensnaring her expression, and the horse's seemingly rolled up eyes indicating such.  A serendipitous moment generously offered by the camera, and which I most humbly accepted.

This shot was made in 1981 in Hamtramck, Michigan.  I was visiting my good friend that day, who lived in Hamtramck at the time, and we decided to go over to where they were tearing down the historic and culturally significant Dodge Main assembly plant in order to make way for a new General Motors assembly plant.  We parked our car behind these guys in front of us who were there celebrating with a couple of bottles.  Truth be told, my friend and I most likely had been engaged in our own "celebrating".  Anyway, we saw a blast, and as a section of the building started to come down I began to shoot.  In the fifth frame (this one), as the dust cloud rapidly approached, one of the guys whooped and stuck his hand up through the open t-top.  I got the shot and quickly ducked into the car to ride out the dust storm.

Many people reading this might very well agree with the idea, espoused by Winogrand and others, that one should detach themselves emotionally from the act of making the shot when evaluating the picture.  One way to do this is to have a significant amount of time elapse between the making of the shot and its evaluation.  Generally, I agree with this strategy, but in the case of this particular photograph, made nearly 37 years ago, I have never completely detached myself emotionally.  In early July 1976, four weeks before I was to be married to my soulmate, my good friend (same person as in the Hamtramck picture above) and I decided to go to Philadelphia to check out the craziness surrounding the Bicentennial.  It would be my own significant initial immersion in photographing an "event".  We also met up with a couple of others from the Detroit area photographic community who had traveled there to photograph.  I must say that I had a ball.  At one point, on the second day, my friend and I were wandering the streets, loosely together, when we came upon this group engaged in some sort of revelry/impromptu street theater.  We could relate to what they were doing and both of us started making some photographs, and then this guy in a suit saw us and came up and asked if he could do some push-ups for us.  We looked at each other, laughed our heads off, and said something like "of course!".  This is the shot.  From that point on, on the way back to Detroit, days later, months later, and after years, and decades, whenever my friend and I would get together, and we had sailed far down that avenue of arcane discussion, one of us would turn to the other and play the trump card - "do you want me to do some push-ups?".  Much laughter would then ensue.  I think this is a pretty good photograph, but I plead helpless in its proper evaluation.  It has become personally iconic to me as representative of a camaraderie that is possible in this shared game of photography that we play.  And I swear to god, if I am on my deathbed, and someone was to mention doing push-ups, a knowing cackle would be my last breath.

This is one where I don't remember anything about the circumstances surrounding it.  I do know it was made in 1974, on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor, and according to my contact sheet I made 5 shots of this scene.  This one is the first of the five.  The next one has a person next to the tv monitor, and the two after that have a dog in the foreground.  The last one is similar to the first, with a different image on the tv.  All are shot from basically the same position with an almost identical point of view.  I'm not sure what to make of this, except to say that, as the picture might represent a ghost in the machine, the photograph itself suggests a ghost in my own archive.

At Milan Dragway near Milan, Michigan  1978.  Maybe it's because I was born in Detroit, but since I was a kid I've had a bit of an obsession about cars.  As an early teen in the mid-sixties I went to Detroit Dragway a couple of times, and remember seeing Art Arfons run his Green Monster.  In 1978 I decided to check out the current drag racing scene and paid a visit to Milan Dragway.  The Milan operation was more mom and pop compared to Detroit Dragway and access was no problem.  I remember being free to roam pretty much at will, most likely very different from what it would be like today.  But again, I don't really remember what I was thinking specifically.  But come on, a headless one-legged mechanic being assisted by a platinum blonde bouffant hair-doed woman at the drag strip?  I was probably thinking something like, this kind of subject matter is gonna demand a big effort on the composition side.  According to my contact sheet I made five shots, and this being the fifth and the one I circled.  I think I wound up with a shot with a nice tension between form and content.

This was made at a "Photo Show" somewhere in Detroit in 1979.  Not sure anybody does this kind of thing anymore, but back then there were these occasional shows put on by promoters who would secure some nondescript public facility and have local camera clubs set up booths with various kinds of models to photograph.  I don't know how the money changed hands among the clubs, models, and promoters, but there was an admission fee at the door.  I went to a few of these, and let's just say that I'm fairly certain that my head was in a different place than the vast majority of photographers who came to these events.  For me there was so much more to consider about what was on display than choosing which f-stop to select or coaxing a certain tilt to a model's face.  Sexual politics in the culture, photographing the act of photography, manufacturing spectacle for photographic consumption, these events offered up a goldmine of possibilities for photographic discourse.  In this particular picture, amidst the concrete block walls, the metal folding chairs and tables, the cheap festive balloon backdrop, the open bag of props, the makeshift lighting, the woman's awkward perch and thousand yard stare reflected back to me my own recognition of one of those laugh to keep from crying moments.

Oh yeah, this one is very interesting to me, but maybe for reasons that have more to do with how it came about than for anything that can be perceived by a viewer of this image alone.  Last summer I went to the Ypsilanti Heritage festival mostly to have a good time and make photographs in the beer tent.  Something I've always liked doing dating back to the seventies.  I mean, what's not to like?  Live music, drinking good beer, and making photographs...sounds like a little bit of heaven on earth, no?  Anyway, I'm in the beer tent, having a few beers, at the front of the stage, making photographs of the people in the crowd, the bands, the people interacting with the bands, me interacting with the people and the bands, and so on, when I notice this woman with an iPhone making a video of the band on stage.  So I start making photographs of her making the video.  When, near the end of the song being played, she swings the phone/cam to the crowd at the front of the stage at one point aiming it directly at me.  I fire off a shot at her.  Cut to the next day, and I'm on YouTube looking up a couple of the bands I saw the night before when I notice a video that has just been posted from the Ypsi Heritage Festival.  I recognize the particular song from the night before and realize it's the video made by the woman I photographed.  When her video swings to the crowd I see myself, and when, in the video, I photograph her, my flash literally freaks out the sensor on her iPhone.  That's cool!  I think, and grab a screen shot, and post it to my Flickr stream.  The result, an unknowingly collaborative self-portrait, my own image/identity in pixels, transforming through servers and internet platforms.  Fascinating to me.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Trial Balloon

This is going to sound like a sales pitch but it's really not. It's more of a helpful suggestion. As some readers already know, In-Public has developed a street photography workshop to be held May 18-19, 2013 at the Groucho Club in London. David, Nils, Matt, and Nick are running it. Not only are these guys great shooters, they're also great teachers. I think the workshop will be well worth the money. 
If £400 sounds steep, consider that the workshop is guaranteed to bump your skillset up a notch. After that fame and glory could be just around the corner. Pretty soon everyone will want to buy your prints for thousands of pounds. Say you sell just fifty prints at £800 apiece. That's a 10,000% return on your initial investment. No other security can can come close. Not stocks. Not real estate. Not even solid gold. Why sit on those gold bullion bars doing nothing under your pillow? Why not put them to work? 

Of course these numbers are speculative. Your actual mileage may vary slightly. But still, take my word for it. If you like street photography, and if you want to develop your skills under the tutelage of experts, this workshop is for you.

The May class is a trial balloon of sorts for In-Public. If it goes well we plan to offer more workshops in the future, both in London and other locations. Possibly New York or Miami, or who knows where. Stay tuned. 

And if you just want the 10-second version, there's always this.

Monday, February 11, 2013

No, this is not a cup

OK, you know the drill by now. My review of Deutschland in its original language (an extreme West Coast snark variant of English) is here.  The Google Translate version is below (English > Swedish > German > Chinese > Welsh > English). Way by I love book this anus the.

See the pictures, naturally leads to problems. How do they describe it? The world in front of the camera, the photographer's world inside the head? The tension of this - objective and subjective in the middle - photography. Szarkowski noted mirrors and windows. The other terms of these differences will be set at a different time. This is a problem that is specific libraries. This is not to doubt the song or the screen, such as the objective world. However, 8 × 10 businesses Pepper? This is a tough one. But the definition of sub-section will be invoked, analysts meal ticket, not accidental photographer.

Sometimes, under the form of the body starts working. It shows the chain reaction of a photographer in different synapses and brain, trying to escape from the common description. Photographer Sweden, in this direction, and now face much Gerry Johnson, his latest book, Germany (Mark, 2012) Sunday top

Germany by the German industry after simple square image, every page, every place, and then alphabetically by placing a mark book mark thick. Any events. Helvetica font. Beige fabric, and convey quiet efficiency. The original page feels a little like listening to Kraftwerk modern European airport waiting for. What else to be more accurate? More objective? What could be more German?

In fact, more than similar German products aesthetics cup, at least at first glance. The clean white walls and lack of people, if not sterile landscape, there are a number of towers and conical roof, the framework of the background. Almost every element in the focus and stable. Streets and roads are always in the spread of the camera angle, the vertical offset form nonconverging by the floods. One by one, the systematic image from March to impose restrictions on the way. It can be be fooled into thinking that this is one of the objectives of the German section, it is not clear whether we let art or encyclopedia.

This camouflage. To better demonstrate, Germany has become a very personal work.

Johansen central vision. He is the only one that can make these pictures, because they are basically it. Gerry Johnson as a watchmaker. The visual world is playing. This is completely different from the scattered pieces, this is it, piece by piece, carefully place the rigorous approach. The house is just. Some of the fence. Very poles in the right position. Weaving is generally compressed black, white, do you have a picture, closely followed by the cat anus. Storage and mixed type pile, appeared to be inevitable, but only in the fact that, according to Johansson

No, this is not a cup. Which is Friedlander area. This will change the landscape of John Pfahl, but it does not change. Move the camera a few inches in any direction and photos flop. This is subjective.

Johansson has adopted a similar style, different places in his earlier books. United States, Sweden, the Netherlands and the Pontiac seems to have a common vision. In fact, the majority of this fact enables photographers, contemporary photography is natural instinct highlighted native. Conversely, Johnsson them in one obvious approach is, Germany. Random open its books, it is difficult to say, we are at the beginning. This place looks, makes it clear, but the court is weaker. Finally, our unique vision Johansson

Friday, February 8, 2013

Northrup and Paparazzi

I've gotten some interesting reactions to my recent post on publishing photos without consent. It's definitely a loaded issue. Jin Zhu's reaction in particular I think is worth reading. Somehow my post was conflated with another one written the same day by Joerg Colberg deriding Paparazzi.

Although I think the two cases are somewhat related, they are also quite different. Northrup's photos were made with the subject's full knowledge and consent. In the case of Paparazzi, photos are generally made without consent, often from a distance and without the subject's knowledge. Sometimes the Paparazzi may even go to the extreme of shooting from a hidden location, perhaps a darkened room or Oswald-esque 4th floor window.

Such photos blur the line between candids and outright surveillance. It's almost guaranteed they will catch subjects in compromised positions.

Paparazzis have no shame. Sometimes they shoot innocent kids on the way to school.

Hey, what about naked kids? Anything is fair game, right?

From just the right angle, one can eliminate identity entirely and just focus on raw carnal imagery.

To me these photos are a million miles from what Northrup is doing.

What are those Paparazzi thinking? How dare they? From my point of view they're engaged in a purely malicious act. Does our right to make or take any photograph really trump people’s right to live dignified lives? Why, there oughta be a law or something.

(Photo credits: 2012 Concientious Portfolio Competition winner Hye-Ryoung Min.)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Nothing lasts

The latest Eye-On-PDX profile by Pete Brook is now online, hot off the presses. For this round Pete interviews Oregonian photographer Thomas Boyd..In other photoblog news, the Magnum blog has been recently resuscitated from the dead, with some great posts by Richard Kalvar among others...Nick Turpin's 779 may have kicked the bucket but the good news is Nick is now writing about street photography here...Liz Kuball's Until You Can't See Land has died and been reborn here, where she's now saying Yes! to everything... Slate joined the photo blogging bandwagon a few months ago with Behold. A poorman's RawFile? Jury still out...DLK still writes about NY galleries but has broadened somewhat into general photo stuff... After some down time Mark Page has begun blogging again here... Richard Prince is an entertaining diarist... One Year of Books has gone well over the eponymous time limit, thankfully... 1/125 has impressed lately with several finely crafted posts... .Dan Abbe and Peter Evans have got the Japanese photo scene wired... Several photo blogs appear to be in long term remission, among them The Year in Pictures, Brian Ulrich's Not If But When, Photo Ephemera, Susana Raab, Tim Connor, Heading East, Mrs. Deane, Photographers Speak, Kip Praslowicz... Hard to tell what's going on, if they've shifted to Tumblr or given up the ghost or if and when any will revive, which I suspect some will. Down for the count beyond revival are We Can Shoot Too, Grapehouse, and Stephen Tamiesie's blog. Please update bookmarks or feeds or however you find stuff...Are blogs even a thing anymore? Do people give still care? Or has it all shifted to other platforms? Question for discussion? Oh well, as long as I'm fading out here I may as well ramble a bit. If you're still reading at this point it means you've found the top secret decoder ring. Or else you've just highlighted the invisible text to make it legible. Either way, Congratulations! Because you've just won yourself a photo. The first person to email me their mailing address will receive a fiber print. Yet another reminder to always scan the fine print, even when it's invisible. And especially when in comes later in the mail. But don't hesitate. This offer won't last. After all, nothing does. (Including the print. Sorry folks, it's been claimed.)

Monday, February 4, 2013



I've got another book I want to do in the next year on my ex wife. You can see a dummy. Problem is she's got some depression and does not want her images made public though she didn't have a problem in the past. I have a copyright lawyer here who says my first amendment rights trumps her rights to privacy as long as I meet some requirements. He wrote her a letter stating that and I never heard back from her so I feel comfortable doing the project but will have to go it alone. No publisher will touch it with even the most remote possibility of anything legal. 


Hi Michael, 
I don't know about the legal stuff but I would be cautious publishing photos of someone who felt strongly opposed. That just seems to invite bad karma, or weird karma. And doing it to an ex-wife just sounds like trouble to me. But that's easy for me to say since I'm not personally invested in the photos. 

Jack Welpott, 1977


Appreciate your caution. But I am deeply close to that body of work and feel it must not be silenced or censored by the ex or anyone.  She posed nude for Jack Welpott and it's been widely published and made no stink about it.  Jack never asked her permission. Also my lawyer says if the photos were made with her knowledge and are not demeaning then I'm free to publish. Plus if I self publish and there's no ISBN then it's considered a bound portfolio and I'm free to produce that. But someone can sue for just about anything.  I guess I'm willing to take that chance.

Take care,


Hi Michael, 
Those pictures are great! Yes, they should see daylight. I recognize her from some of your other projects, both in Beautiful Ecstasy and Babe. I'd be happy to run some on the blog if you want. Or not. Up to you.  
I think you slightly misunderstood my last comment. I think you are probably in the clear legally. But morally it's way more murky. 


Thanks for the feedback and you are more than welcome to run the images.  Glad you feel the legal thing is not the big issue as no matter what a good lawyer says, I'm still quietly uneasy. As for the moral thing, I think it would be immoral for her to have gone through my early days posing, my graduate days posing, and my teaching days posing, understanding clearly what we were doing, understanding the nature of the field I'm in, having allowed me in the past to publish and show her, always with her knowledge of each photo being taken with approval, even allowing another photographer with a much bigger audience to publish her nude with her name attached, and then to say to me I cannot publish anything I shot of her… out of the blue with no explanation….  Now that would be immoral.  

I've offered her $10,000 in the past to come on board with it as I felt she deserved some compensation for all her work. She said it wasn't about money and that's all she said. When I was with iBid stock agency in Chicago early 2000, I made sure their contract included a share for her on any images of her that might be bought. She did not request that. I offered it.  She was ok with that then but now…….  WTF?  So that's my take.

Sorry for the rant but wanted to lay out the situation.  I'm still open to any thoughts.  Thanks for taking time to comment.

Take care,

Michael Northrup

Hey Michael, 
I'm just putting myself in her shoes. I don't think it's about money. Maybe she was fine before with the photos but for whatever reason now she's not. People change. Who knows why. But I don't think it's ok to just ignore that change and presume the situation is still the same as before. But I feel for you. She is very photogenic, quite beautiful actually. So it seems like a huge shame to keep the photos hidden. So it's a quandary. I think Larry Rivers ran into a similar situation photographing his children at young ages with their full consent and participation. Then when they got older they decided they didn't want the photos out in public. Can't remember how that was resolved. 
I love the first part of the series with photo after photo where I can't see her face. The tension is really strong. What the heck does she look like? Then the second half reveals her and it resolves. It reminds me of a recent book of a black dog in which the dog is hidden in every photo until the last one. 
This recent email interchange might make an interesting blog post as transcript exploring moral/legal issues of publication. I'd be curious to run it but only with your permission.

Hi Blake,

I'm fine with you putting up our discussion. Might get people to comment as it's kind of a loaded issue.  But between you and me, my deepest personal feelings regarding my situation with her is, unless she can show me an absolutely convincing reason for not printing them, which I can't imagine being the case, I'd risk a lot to go to press. Some things are worth fighting for and this body is were I draw the line on censorship. 

Keep in touch,


Michael Northrup

Let me back up and ask more generally, should a photo subject (assuming they consent to the image) ever have some level of control over what eventually happens to their photos? Or is it always up to the photographer? Legally? Morally? I don't think there's an easy answer here but curious to hear your thoughts.

Hi Blake,

Basically if I love an image enough I'd go to court for my rights to it. It's mine. I'm the creator. And if someone posed for me and knew it was to exhibit, then that's an unconditional release to me. The only exception is if used commercially. Then my client would want their keesters covered and demand a release from the subject. But to me, in the art world, once you pose with the understanding of the intentions of the photographer, then you're giving rights. That said there may be circumstances that might prevent me from using it. But the subject would have to work their asses off to convince me otherwise.  

Here's a real example. I have 10 years of images of Pam, taken over 20 years ago and want to do a book on her.  All the images were taken with her knowledge, with her understanding that they'd be exhibited, none are demeaning or defaming. I have shown her in the past with no problem. She has been photographed by other photographers nude and semi nude and never complained about their usage. She was published with total frontal nudity with her name in the title, by a famous international photographer and published in one of his major books and shown throughout his representative galleries. He is a world renowned teacher, a highly ethical man, a great artist photographer and greatly respected.  He did not even ask for her permission. He assumed there was an unquestionable understanding between them both in the very fact that she "posed" for him. This is the understanding that I have had in all my years in this medium and the understanding that all my peers have shared. She never questioned or sought compensation or demanded the removal of that image of her from this photographers usage.  But after 20 years of showing my images of her, she now says she no longer wants me to show those images. 

Unless she can show just cause for not publishing her then I would feel it not immoral for me to use those photos. They are mine. They are my creation. She is not literally in those photos, only her likeness. After all, a photograph is just a 2 dimensional plane with a map of varying shades and colors designed to evoke something in its viewing or mimic some reality. Pam has no rights to that object as it is not her property. It is my creation entirely. Only her likeness is suggested and only seen as such by applying a projected interpretation to that 2 dimensional surface. So if I'm expected to sit on all those images and throw them under the bed, denying me my progress in my field, my communicating with my peers, my income, my rights to this work?…. I say no way Jose and will continue to work towards publishing this work.  fini.

Keep in touch,


                 Michael  E.   Northrup

Hi Michael,
I'm preparing our email exchanges to run on B today or tomorrow, along with a few of your photos. I think they're pretty interesting.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

The polls, a year later

As long time readers know I used to run polls here in the right sidebar, way back when this blog had a right sidebar. I'd run one every week, save the result in a folder on my desktop, then every few months when I had enough I'd pour them all into big post with some analysis. 

Around this time in 2012 I was preparing to run one of those posts. But before that could happen I burnt out. I gave up blogging for a few months, and when I returned B had a different format. No sidebars, no polls. If I could figure out how to inject a poll into this new format I would. But it doesn't seem feasible. If I could go back to the old blog format I'd do that, just for the ability to poll. But alas, Blogger has rendered that template obsolete. I can't return. How's that for progress? 

But I still have last year's folder of weekly poll results, covering a period from mid-November 2011 to mid-March 2012. Some of the questions are a bit dated, but most of them are timeless. Timeless, I tell you! Or at least worth a second look.

The dates listed are when the poll closed, usually after 7 days of voting.


My vote: Saul Leiter
Predicted winner: Robert Adams
Actual winner: Sally Mann

It's a tough call for me between Leiter and Atget. Looking at the photos of both men (and the whole list), their presence dominates. I guess I went with Leiter because he seems like such a classic soulful stereotype, the lonely flaneur with a billion ideas in his head shooting the dew on cafe windows. And because his name sounds like soul. I live in Eugene. I spend enough time with that name name. Hey, I never said this was scientific.


My vote: Excite You and Critics
Predicted winner: Excite You and Critics
Actual winner: Excite You and Critics

Sort of an easy call. I mean, you're supposed to claim that you don't care about selling stuff, at least in public. Artists can't worry about the petty real world with its silly foods and shelters and currencies. Truth is, it actually feels good to sell a photo. It may be an artificial barometer but in some ways it's the ultimate judgement. If someone is willing to invest in you, that's an affirmation more meaningful than any critical mumbo-jumbo. But the critics might be watching these results, so I'm going by the book here. Forget I said anything. Hmm. International exposure plus a living income from my photos? That first one looks tempting too. 


My vote: This is Not a Photograph
Predicted winner: Kodachrome
Actual winner: Kodachrome

There sure are a lot of crappy songs about photography!  Just as there are a lot of crappy photos about music. And of course some good ones on both counts. As I write this I'm in the midst of putting a 2 hour radio set together focusing on photography-related songs. And it's hard! It's one of those dilemmas. Do I play X song just because it's about photography, even though it sort of sucks? And how far can I stretch it the other way? This is Not a Photograph is just barely about photography. It's mostly just a word in the title. Should I include that?

Yes. Because it's a great song on Mission of Burma's best album. So it gets the nod from me for best photo song. Kodachrome isn't half bad I guess, at least the first 20 times you hear it. But it's not the sort of tune that grows on one over time. I'd be just as happy never to hear it again.

If you don't see you favorite photo song here, don't blow a fuse. There are many more songs about photography I could've listed but I wanted to keep the poll managable. 


My vote: Ambivalent
Predicted winner: The Familiar
Actual winner: The Unfamiliar

I know many photographers who shoot scads of photos while traveling. But when they come home they can't find one good photo nearby. And there are some, though probably less, for whom it's the opposite. They can only shoot close family and friends. 

I'm torn between both poles. I definitely feel the pull of the unknown. When I'm walking in an area or down a street for the very first time, it seems my senses are tuned in a way that isn't possible when I know what's coming. So I see things differently, or at least from a fresh perspective which is very energizing.

But is that exoticism enough by itself to create photos? There's something to be said for the opposite approach, a sort of Siskind/Gossage philosophy. If you spend 3 hours in a city block looking carefully at everything, your response will almost certainly be deeper than if quickly passing through. And perhaps the corresponding photos will be too. And if you go back again and again and really get to know a place or a person, well the sky's the limit. 

Unless you grow bored in the process. 

I can't decide.


My vote: Move against parade
Predicted winner: Generally stay in one spot
Actual winner: Join parade

I thought of this poll a few days after shooting the annual Christmas Parade in nearby Springfield. I walked against the parade for an hour. Then stood at one corner for a while where the parade turned a ninety. Then I milled around the grandstand. Then I walked along the sidewalk in the direction of the parade back to my car. The only thing I didn't actually do is join the parade, though I have done that with certain past parades. But usually after more beer.

Shooting pictures I realized that I didn't really have any strategy at all, and the experience made me curious how others approached it, and if there was one method or other that seemed to work best. Not for the pros but for street shooters looking for odd stuff. Walking with parade traffic you definitely see more faces. But they see you coming too, so it's harder to get pure candids. Walking against traffic it's the opposite. I think this is what I like best, because attention is directed elsewhere. But it takes effort not to just shoot a bunch of backs. And standing in one spot is ok but it makes me nervous. I always feel like I'm missing something. The Rolling Stones. Hunter-gatherers. Randy Moss. Etc.


My vote: 35 mm
Predicted winner: 35 mm
Actual winner: 35 mm

A pretty easy call for me. His 35 mm stuff rocks. The medium format photos are also good but...I dunno. I mean, Tattoo You is a solid album but is it fair to compare it to Exile? Feel bad for the guy. Tough spot. 

So that's how I feel. But I was curious if that sentiment was widespread. So I threw it out there and I guess others agree.


My vote: Watkins
Predicted winner: Watkins
Actual winner: Adams

I spent time in Yosemite as a small child but my first clear memory of it was during a high school trip when I was 15. Almost thirty years later it still stands in my mind as the most amazing natural scenery I've ever witnessed. 

Maybe I let my Northwest bias creep in here. And possibly some anti-Adams snobbery too. I know California was home to both of these guys but Watkins' Columbia photos are pretty mind blowing. And of course his Yosemite stuff was also dynamite. I've always been a sucker for those old pale ortho skies.

I think what I like best about Watkins is he was basically working without a template. At the time there was no postcard vision of how Yosemite should look. His vision seems scientific and exploratory at its root. Sheer documentary, without a lot of glory or fuss. But of course it winds up being glorious anyway. Adams came at it from the other end, trying to transform the park into a metaphor for heavenly vision. It wasn't science so much as it was religion. And spawned a million acolytes in the process. I guess what this question is really asking is do you believe in God or science? Or both? Or neither? It's really asking about the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. I guess I should've just come out and asked that directly, but for whatever reason I didn't. Instead I asked who shot Yosemite better.

My vote: 15 - 50K
Predicted winner: 5-15K
Actual winner: 5-15K

Just taking a temperature check. With the rise of digital I thought people might be shooting more, but I wasn't sure exactly how much. Still not sure but we've narrowed the range a little. Who are the voters shooting 50,000+ per year? Please raise your hand because that's a shitload. 


My vote: Rogovin
Predicted winner: Rogovin
Actual winner: Meatyard

And what could be a more suitable gig than eye doctor? I'm always fascinated by photographers who pursue a serious profession for income but become better known as amateur photographers. And sometimes that profession isn't even photography. 

In some ways this poll compares apples and oranges, because these two shooters had very different styles. So asking which is better is mostly asking how much manipulation you're comfortable with in your portraits. I'm partial to Rogovin, who I think is one of the great portraitists, and yet still somehow underrated. 


My vote: Rinse
Predicted winner: Rinse
Actual winner: Develop

Of course it's the rinse, silly. I mean, there's a reason they don't baptize people in D-76.  This was another one of those darkroom brainstorms. Standing there waiting for the chemicals to work you have a lot of time to think. You come up with ideas like, "On second thought, maybe they should use fixer for baptisms," which pass quickly. 

The ironic twist is that for most of my darkroom work I use a processor so I don't see any of these in action. I feed an RC print into one end, the machine develops, stops, fixes, rinses, and dries in two minutes. Not as romantic but when you get a good photo it can still be cathartic.


My vote: Bill Jay
Predicted winner: Susan Sontag
Actual winner: Geoff Dyer

I thought for sure Sontag would take this since her On Photography book is always being trotted around into this argument or that one. And doesn't that Peter Hujar portrait of her make her look dreamy? What would she order for an appetizer? But give me Bill Jay in a heartbeat. Not only was he incredibly knowledgable and erudite, his writing is almost gleeful. He seems happy and upbeat, which is rare for a critic. The winner Dyer is still alive and available if anyone wants to invite him over.


My vote: n/a
Predicted votes: All correct
Actual votes: Strand and Edgerton wrong

This quiz is meant to give a sense of how a picture works in the brain. Does the mental image compose itself literally in the mind's eye? Or is it more of a feeling? There have probably been some neurological studies on this but I have no idea what they found. And besides they weren't done by a photographer so they don't count. I like quizzes like this where the answer seems as if it should be immediately obvious, but then you have to really think about it. It's not meant as a gotcha, but as pure fun. Quizzes are fun. Polls are fun. Think about that the next time a demographics researcher interrupts your dinner with a phone call. Gotcha.


My vote: The scene
Predicted winner: The scene
Actual winner: The scene

I suppose it depends on the definition of perfect. A remembered scene will always be more idealized than a photo. All the elements will be in their proper place and relationship. That ball in midair will be captured "perfectly". But is that really what perfect is? Maybe a big pile of laundry sprawled in the hall is perfect in some ways. Maybe a Jackson Pollack painting is perfect. But you could would never visualize one of those scenes in your mind. You wouldn't imagine that sock. 

My vote: Date
Predicted winner: Identity
Actual winner: Date

I could write a lot on this but I will save it for a longer post. Stay tuned in the next week or so as B covers photography's dating scene.


My vote: Aquaman
Predicted winner: Superman
Actual winner: Batman

All I'm saying is Aquaman has access to a universe of stuff down there that we can't even imagine. I mean it's like outer space under the ocean. And you know he'd have the best waterproof camera any superhero could afford.

I thought Superman might get some votes for having X-ray vision. But then I realized that maybe those powers doesn't apply to his cameras. Not sure how that works exactly. I can't explain the surprisingly high Robin vote, except as a vote of convenience. Perhaps people couldn't decide on any and so just checked the first box on the list (Batman) or the next one down. But the biggest question was left unanswered: What are the exact dynamics of Wonder Woman's invisible airplane? Because if she can fly it into outer space and under the ocean, it's game set match Wonder Woman. Many mysteries here.


My vote: Romney
Predicted winner: Romney
Actual winner: Romney

The voters were amazingly prescient. Remember, this poll was conducted last March before Romney had sealed the nomination. He was probably going to win it, but even then there were serious doubts about him. To me he's never appeared totally comfortable in front of a camera or in the spotlight, I think because he's not entirely comfortable with himself. Too many internal compromises and hypocritical actions. Which is a facet of any political life. But I get the sense they weigh on him more than most. I mean, Santorum is a prick but it's fine because he's mostly unconscious of how he comes across. But Romney is smart enough to know people can see right through him. I think this is how he feels when he's on camera, and it shows. That's my dimestore analysis anyway.