Monday, October 28, 2019

Q & A with Louie Moskowitz

Louie Moskowitz is a photographer based in Redway, CA.

I've been digging your photos on IG. But I don't know much about you. How'd you starting taking photos?

Yeah, unfortunately but also fortunately IG is where I put my work up. I’ve met some great people that way. Considering I’ve never left my small town in the boondocks here, I’m very grateful for that.

I started taking photos on a cheap p&s my parents got me when I was 16, then 17 was the age I was allowed by my mom to have a small pot grow in the back yard next to her plants. Instead of saving or buying a car with the money I made, I spent more or less all of it on camera equipment, stuff I would never buy now. Haha. Then down the line I started shooting with a Yashicamat and that’s when I started turning to film, around 18 or 19. My father mainly is why I got interested.

Is he a photographer?

My Dad was an artist, a painter. He was born in the 40s and started coming up in the 70s. He got very famous in Japan and was a top selling poster artist in the states as well. Stewart Moskowitz was his name. I took a lot of photos of him at the start.

Sounds like a cool person.

He was very cool, drank a lot of wine, hung out in his studio every single day and night. But was a very loving man and a best friend.

Did he take photos too?

My dad took a lot of photos for reference for his paintings, and of family, but was not a photographer or a “techy” guy at all. Born in 1942 and painted his entire life, from when he drew with his own shit on the wall as a baby up to the week before he died. He is the reason I make art a part of my life. My great-grandfathers on my moms side were photographers. One, I have his Rolleicord that I still use, and his massive polaroid pathfinder.

So you grew up in Humboldt? On FB it says you're from Topanga. I thought you might've moved to Humboldt later.

Yes, I was born in Los Angeles and at 8 years old, when my dad was getting less and less money from Japan, we moved here to Humboldt. Redway, to be specific.

I was about 8 too when I first moved to Southern Humboldt.

Wow! Hahahaha.

Yeah, weird.

So great. What age were you when you left?

I lived there from 3rd grade up through high school, then left pretty much for good, although I would still go back to visit.

South Fork yeah?

Yeah, and I think they even had a darkroom back then. Redway School > Miranda Jr. High > SFHS.

Ahhh, I gotcha. I went to Redway school, Skyfish in Briceland, Whale Gulch school, and then to multiple different continuation schools in So-Hum. Never graduated though.

We lived out on Prairie Meadow Road about 2 miles up Elk Ridge.

Oh okay, wow! Then you really got the full experience of living here then if you were way up there!

I don't think there's any definitive experience but I fully enjoyed my childhood there. Wouldn't trade it for anything. My life now is very removed from that scene. So when I saw that you were there in that place making photos, it kinda struck a chord. I knew zero people making photos back then. As I said, I think the high school had a darkroom, and I vaguely remember some students with cameras, maybe for yearbook? As for the rest of the community maybe photography was happening? But if so I was oblivious. Certainly no street photos or anything in that vein.

I love photographing this area, wouldn’t change it for anything. And yes, there’s a lot of people taking photos here, but mainly of skylines and the stars and more landscape photos. I could say negative things about the photos of our area in this age that become popular, but I’ll sound like a jackass… which for the most part I am.

Well, there's that stuff everywhere. But I think you know what I mean. Grab candids, loose pix, snapshots, that kind of thing. I don't know if that was happening when I was there. So I like to see you doing that stuff.

Yes! I so badly wanted to move out of this area when I was a kid. Jesus Christ, I would cry about it. But after learning about the photographers you and I both stand on the shoulders of, I really started to see. I wanted to leave and make photos in Japan or New York or go back to Los Angeles and live with family. But the photos I would see, the ones I liked, were somewhat intimate with people.

Which specific photographers were important to you?

Photographers like Winogrand and Robert Frank of course...Dorothea Lange is in there, Arnold Newman, Charles Moore, Bruce Davidson. Walker Evans is a huge one for me.

I know that shooting like them is not easy in a community as tight as SoHum. No anonymity possible. So "street shooting" takes on a different flavor.

I know people here, I’m not a stranger. So I don’t feel like a complete jackass if someone is driving by, seeing me take a photo of some local, whether it be transient or not. I’m glad to be seen with my camera in this community so people aren’t shocked when I’m in the grocery store and it’s slung on my shoulder. It took me quite some time to feel comfortable walking around with my camera in plain view. I was embarrassed about it.

Why did you want to leave the area? For photographic reasons? Or some other reason?

Well I always wanted to leave…but then with photos, I really really wanted to leave... make photos in another place. After being told by a friend, Nic, who is local photographer in Arcata with way more experience than me and someone I really look up to this day, he said, “if you don’t photograph this area, I will.” Hahaha. That’s what pretty much made me really rethink my situation.

Maybe the grass is always greener? As someone who doesn't live there anymore I am SO glad to see that world through your eyes. So I hope you stay and shoot it.

Thank you Blake, I really appreciate you saying something like that. My intentions are to take pictures here ’til I die. I will travel, but this is home, and this is where I want to be making pictures with my camera (s). And to live with my girlfriend and our 60 some odd animals we have.

Follow your own way wherever it leads. I totally understand the draw of shooting in active places, cities, etc. I live in Eugene which by most standards is pretty boring photographically. But I've come to enjoy shooting here. That said, I need a periodic dose of big city about 2-3 times annually.

That may be true, but I do love the way you photograph your town. It’s not boring to me. It’s different in the best of ways.

Cool, thanks. I just shoot the fuck out of whatever's handy. Mostly it's Eugene but sometimes I'm somewhere else, so my photos happen there. Whatever, I take the same approach everywhere. Always looking.

Me and my girl used to live out in Alderpoint, and on Sprowl Creek Road, both about 40 minutes from Redway. But just recently about 3 or so months ago we moved into Redway, right across the street from my mom. I’m not exactly sure if our neighbors or thrilled that we moved a complete farm into town.

What's the complete farm? Dogs, chickens, or what? Do you raise animals for meat or products?

I’ve been talking to my girlfriend about raising meat birds, and I am probably going to do it down the road, so I’m not supporting any other fucked up meat farming practices. But it’s a hard one, man. For now we just have our beloved chickens that for the most part all have names and are our friends and give us eggs. We don’t keep them locked up. They roam the yard freely. I think our number of chickens is around 40. We have our 4 big dogs, and 5 cats, and 13 ducks... and I think 5 fish.... hahah. But we’re hatching more chicken eggs as we speak.

Damn, 40 chickens? That's a lot.

Hahahah. Yes.

We had 4 at one point. Good eggs. But then the neighbor's dog got ‘em.

We just lost 12 of ours to fucking dogs. Pisses me off so much. Very much beloved chickens, we get attached to them. They’re a lot more smart than people give them credit. Actually, in fact, most people that don’t think chickens are smart are in fact idiots.

Maybe you could express "chicken wisdom" in your photos somehow?

I think maybe I show that. Well I love taking pictures of our chickens. I wish we lived at our old house out Sprowl Creek Road. An awesome place to make photos of our birds, great landscapes.

Maybe you can describe the area for people who’ve never been there. Like Whale Gulch. How would you describe that place?

Man, it’s so hard. Whale Gulch is about a solid 45 minutes from Redway, the closest town, and the closest to the 101 freeway.

And Redway itself is pretty isolated. It’s about 40 miles via 101 to the nearest stoplight, and 80 miles to any airport. My school bus ride was about 40 minutes each way.

It’s gorgeous, picturesque, and we as kids being 12 and 13 years old would get away with smoking pot, driving around in our parents vans, doing mushrooms, acid, all while in the forest. Whether you’re on the cement road or on a hike deep in the woods you are constantly surrounded by the forest. It’s pretty unbelievable.

That's a good summation of the area. Not only the world’s tallest trees, but the freewheeling culture. The 1970s have never ended in SoHum. I think it's hard to grasp for people coming from a more conventional outlook. The extreme topography and geographic isolation is intense too. You could be just a few miles from some other ridge and it can feel like another planet. Like the road way out past Whale Gulch, to the Sinkyone. About 20 miles from my road as the crow flies, but it took over an hour to drive. What a magical, lonely place. Some of my favorite memories as a kid were out there.

And that’s great man, is Sinkyone near Usal?

Usal beach is the South end of Sinkyone Wilderness. The north end is Needle Rock. You come to a cabin/visitor thing and then drive past it to the beach/trail. Anywayze...

Oooh, I know that!

You mentioned taking acid as a 12 or 13 year old in Whale Gulch. It reminded me of a very strong acid experience I had out there in the Sinkyone. We parked on this dirt road, then hiked to I think Wheeler Beach?? It was maybe 2-3 miles but within the first mile the acid had kicked in and all the sudden I couldn't remember which way the trail went. I found myself standing on the trail but I had no idea if I was supposed to walk this way or that way. For someone like me who is extremely geographic (my dad's a surveyor) and oriented and kinda anal that way, it was uncomfortable. But just for a moment. Then we made it to the beach and all the seashells turned into tiny skulls. Perfect day.

Hahahhhaha, ah man, that’s great dude.

All of that stuff, all those memories were very private back then. I think if I had those experiences now there'd be a temptation to share on social media. Who knows which way is better?

I completely understand that, I think the better way is to share person to person instead of the empty work of social media. 12 was the first time I smoked pot, then mushrooms at 14, hahaha, and then acid at 16.

That's about par for kids growing up in Humboldt.

My parents found out I smoked pot on my 13th birthday. They grew indoor at the time, and I would steal moldy buds they were throwing away and take the only smokeable bits off. Pretty much, all my friends parents grew pot, teachers included.

Pot was the region’s economic engine when I lived there.

Since I was 17 I either grew pot or worked on pots farms for my income. To this day actually. When I was younger I would grow in my parents backyard and split it 60/40 with them, me getting 40 percent. Just to help them out because they were having a hard time. And I was living with them.

I think legalization may have put a big hole in the economy? I've heard rumors that things are crashing.

Yeah I guess, to some extent. The thing legalizing did, was made it so big asshole pot growers that were already rich are able to profit and treat their workers horribly with minimal pay. My last job was that, never in my life working on farms was I treated so bad, and it was from out of state growers with legal permits. Horrible people. Where I work now is with locals with legal permits, and are absolutely good people up and down. And I couldn’t be more grateful. I had to quit my last job. I couldn’t take the treatment. I wish it would become illegal again and I could just grow in my mom’s backyard once more.

Do you think pot (or mushrooms/acid) has had some effect on the way you make photos? On the way you see the world, I mean.

Hahahahah, probably. Not anyway I could tell. I mean acid changes you completely. When I was 18 me and friends out on a ranch in Miranda took about 6 to 8 hits each throughout the night, and that was the highest I had ever been…simply just beautiful stuff that is too hard to put into words. I still have a vile of liquid acid in my mom’s store room... Haha, I’m sure she’ll love reading that. Even though I’ve mentioned it a million times to her. Even when me and my girlfriend were moving I found a few gel tab hits in a random drawer. But acid is a wonderful and powerful thing. One time I took acid at a festival and I wore a wig the entire time, and I’m a bald man so it was very unusual. I haven’t taken acid in about two years. But I take mushrooms regularly. And there’s a few times I’ve walked around Redway at night very high on mushrooms. With my camera, of course.

Yeah, maybe that experience should replace all the MFA photo programs. Here's a bottle of liquid LSD. See me in 6 months. Who knows what kind of photos it might generate. I think a few breakthroughs might occur. Your photos are living proof. To me they’re far more interesting than most of what I see from more credentialed photographers….Ever get any good photos high on mushrooms?

There’s a photo I took of a couple, in front of a trailer in the melody trailer park in Redway. A boy and girl. The girl I had went to school with in a continuation school. And the boy a few grades below me. We took the photo and I walked around town with them. We walked up to this homeless man named Eric which I have seen around and they knew. He gave the girl a bag of shake to exchange for money, but then she asked if he wanted “white or brown” in exchange. Hahah ... and he said “white”... she took the bags and we walked off... and at some point we walked down to the shell station, and I don’t remember why, but she asked me to hold her knife while she did something, and of course her knife had a swastika on it.


At some point I parted ways to head home. And again, maybe a year later ran into her and took a photo of the same knife she had, but hidden in her boot that had her initials written on it.

Maybe it's not the mushrooms but just walking around at night. In a place like Redway after midnight, who knows what you'll find?

There’s a lot of meth here now.

You said the better way to share photos is person to person instead of social media. Do you have others nearby you can share your work with?

No, not really.

That's where social media can help. I mean, I agree person to person is best. But if you're in a smaller community it can really connect worlds. Like this chat for example.

Yeah, totally man. I’m very grateful for the people I’ve met through Instagram, as shitty a name as it may be. Horrible name actually. And embarrassing. Hahahaha.

Is there any local person-to-person photo community in SoHum? I know you had a show there (in Garberville?) recently. How was that received?

Man, no there’s not really any photo community’s I necessarily want to be a part of up here. But the show we had here in Redway was great. I put some pictures together that I felt very good about. All local. Redway to Garberville was my theme. And it had a whole booze section of the bars locally. And Redway Liquor, the only liquor store.

I left at 18 so I never got to hang much in the bars. But as a kid walking by them, I vaguely remember quite a scene going on there.

Bigger turnout at the show than I thought, but with the help of my sister and her friend that were also showing their work. Actually my sister and I will be apart of a family group show that’ll be in Los Angeles in the beginning of next year. It will be with the works of 5 members of our family, Louie Moskowitz, Sachi Moskowitz, Stu Moskowitz, Michael Frimkess, and Magdalena Suarez.

Where and when is the show? I usually make a photo trip to LA in Jan or Feb most years.

The show is on May 16th this upcoming year 2020, it will be at “These Days” gallery in Los Angeles. My sister runs an Instagram account for our family's work and to promote the show, which will post updates. That account is @familygroupshow, and the gallery’s is

Sweet. Congrats. Your sister's a photographer too?

My sister does ceramics, and very articulate drawing, and re-creations of our family’s works..Like our grandfather Michael Frimkess, who’s been in multiple Museums, like the Hammer Museum and the LACMA. Actually he is currently being completely ripped off by a man named “Jonas Wood”, who is quite literally re-creating his work and making money from it. Actually not just my grandfather, but his wife as well, Magdalena Suarez.

So your sister recreates your grandfather's works? As an homage, or some kind of conceptual thing?

Yes, my grandfather’s work is a staple in our family. Him being my mother’s father. She does painting and woodcuts out of my grandfather’s and his wife’s ceramic works.

Is it a commentary or reaction to this person Jonas Wood?

Jonas, on the other hand, may have a lot of followers on Instagram and get praise from asshole Los Angeles folk, including photographers we both know of. But he is a complete rip off artist of my own blood.

What about Nic in Arcata? Is that someone you can share work with?

Nic travels a decent amount, but when I see him it really counts for me. The feedback I get from him helps me immensely. Nic is a dude I met... maybe 5 or so years ago... through Instagram, and what a guy. This is his website he’s uploading to instead of Instagram.

I'm digging now into Nic's site. He's pretty good.

Yeah, Nic is one of a kind.

What's kind of funny about his photos is that I don't think many of them are from Humboldt. Which is maybe a commentary on what we talked about earlier, the difficulty of making work in a smaller community. Does he shoot in Arcata too?

Yes, Nic makes a lot of photos in Arcata. But he travels all over the globe and makes pictures But he once in awhile comes back to his hometown of Arcata.

I am in Arcata a few times a year. That's where my parents live now.

Wow, really? Why haven’t we got a beer before then? Hahahah. How old are your folks?

My parents are in their mid-70s. 

That’s around my dad’s age, he passed away two years ago at the age of 75.

They were involved in the arts/music scene —which is pretty much the entire community, now that I think about it— but I don’t think they knew your dad. He moved there too late, after my mom had already moved north to Arcata. My dad still lived in SoHum then but he’s kind of a homebody and not really connected socially.

That would make sense, he had been to Humboldt before, in the mid 70’s, but up near Rio Dell area, doing acid. Then 2002 we moved here into Redway.

Arcata’s funny. I visit a few times a year and I've built up a huge archive of photos from there. But I can't quite get a handle on the place.

Oh really. Why is that exactly?

Maybe because I'll always be an outsider there. I dunno.

I’m not a particular fan of Arcata.

Why not?

I don’t like it up there because of all the college kids.

Yeah, most of them are from Southern California, I think.

Douchebags, Hahah. Too many of them. Run amuck. But every once in awhile I meet a real person up there.

Yeah, kinda true. But it's not really the college kids which create the vibe for me. It's just a weird place. I always feel like there's some secret which I'm not being let in on. It's hard to photograph there. 

Yeah man I feel the same way, that’s a perfect way to describe it really. Like some secret you don’t know about.

I actually lived there for a little while when I was taking time off from college. (Does that make me a “college kid”? Haha) Same deal back then. Couldn't figure it out, not that I was taking photos back then. 

No that doesn't make you a “college kid”, I think I said that mainly because of the day and age we live in. I guess by douche-bags I just mean young people in my age range are usually dumb assholes, with horrible opinions. But every class of age has those. 

I was there in May for the Kinetic sculpture race. That should be a Great Photo Op. Very weird and eclectic. But mostly what I wound up getting is photos of people trying to look weird and eclectic.

Have you come down to southern Humboldt on any recent visit?

Not since my dad sold our property on Elk Ridge. That was maybe 5 years ago? We had a nice spot, a 40 acre homestead. It was kind of sad to see it go. But my dad is getting older, and it was time.

Wow! That’s a lot of land man!

During that trip I walked through Garberville for maybe a half hour, but didn’t spend much time there. It’s kind of funny because as a kid I spent hours roaming the town there after school. I used to know that place inside and out. But now I don't know anyone there anymore. What did Thomas Wolfe say? You can’t go home again.

Yeah, my favorite time to walk around Garb is in the morning , and my favorite time for Redway is at night. Especially taking photos of that liquor store. Jesus, that’s a staple in my photography here.

Why Garberville in the morning and Redway at night? What is it about them that makes the timing so different? Ever try it the other way? 

Well Garberville is nice, but Redway has more neon to it. I’m maybe saying that just because I live in Redway and can have a drink and walk around. Both are nice either in the morn or at night. The fog in the morning in Garberville is pretty fantastic though.

Like I said I left there before drinking age so I never spent much time at Redway Liquor. But I spent many hours nearby as a kid at the post office, and laundromat, and Mateel, and of course the school.

What kind of booze do you prefer, Blake? If I may interview you for a minute. Haha.

What kind of booze would I buy at Redway Liquor you mean?

Hahah, no not locally I just meant in general. Unless you want to take the trip down here to pay the premium prices at the liquor store.

Mostly beer.

Ooh, I just dropped beer.

I rarely drink stronger stuff. Unless it's some special occasion.

Beer is good. I just got sick of it and almost felt as if it were the equivalent to drinking bread.

Haha, that’s a good comparison. I’m 50. I'm pretty much done with hard drinking, stronger drugs, etc. That stuff catches up to you. I guess I’m sinking slowly into my boring middle age.

Yeah, I can see that. For me I love the relationship between booze and when I develop film. And pot as well, but more booze. Do you have that for printing or development?

I like to have a few beers in the afternoon as I'm printing at the darkroom. But if I get stoned I completely lose focus. Can't get anything done.

Hahah, I know the feeling! I had an absolute panic attack last night when developing some color. I smoked a roached left in my dad’s studio. I had two tanks to develop, and after I finished the first one I told myself no way can I do the other. Then after 5 minutes I convinced myself I can do it.

Film/darkroom work is kinda funny. You can get away with a lot of fudging. But it's actually a pretty technical process, so you gotta stay on the ball.

Very true! I’ve written down the way I develop multiple times to try and get it to a science. And made my own dilutions and so on. But I swear to god, I get better results when I’ve had some pot and some booze and I’m a little confused. And I’m not trying to make that rhyme.

You develop your own color film? And you have a color darkroom too?

I wish I had a color darkroom, but I develop my own color and my b&w film. And at the moment I print digitally through a fabulous printing press in Arcata. I’m over digitally processing my film. It’s degrading.

I don't think any digital process can ever replicate a nice light leak. But maybe I'm wrong. There’s probably some Photoshop effect out there.

Hahah, I noticed you’re a big fan of those!

I'm a fan of accidents. I think there's too much perfection in photography, and in the world in general. It's basically the root of most bad art.

Yes, I can get physically ill seeing too much dogshit art out there... no joke. It’s crazy how much of it is out there. Mind blowing.

Well that's kind of the crux of photography, right? To master the process but at the same time give up control. It’s the tension between domination and acceptance. Gotta have some of both. I think most photographers feel that tension internally. I know I do. I am constantly battling my ego to keep it from dominating my photos. But at the same time I need to have it involved, to know they're mine. Because that's what makes them what they are.

Yeah, I can see that. Dude, you asking me to do an interview made my ego jump like crazy, you have no idea, I was literally telling everyone in town. Hahah, man I was so nervous to do this interview to be honest. Literally shaking as I first started writing. I feel like talking about photography, especially about my photos, makes me sound so pompous. Haha. But I’m having a little whiskey now and it’s calming my nerves. But as I’m writing you and I’m drinking whiskey, I think... Jesus Christ, Louie you’re such a fucking asshole.

That’s the tension right there. Between ego and emptiness.

I try and balance it as much as I can, but in the end... maybe because of acid, since you asked that question earlier, I have personal appreciation for my own work. Of course I go through very intense ruts where I think of throwing my Leica in the river. One thing that keeps me sane is that I’m just documenting history in my town. I’m in the works of making a book called “Garberville”, that will be finished by the end of this year.

Sounds awesome. I’d love to see it when it’s ready. Do you think there’s any market for that type of book in Garberville?

I would hope. It’s not quite history yet. But people die, and buildings don’t last forever, and I’m sure the community here wants to see the town(s) documented so we can have an example of what things were like. Whether it’s 6 years or 16 years down the line.

Have you seen the book In The Vicinity by Ed Panar? Came out last year, shot around the pot farms of Southern Humboldt, where Panar has done occasional manicure work.

No I hadn’t heard of it until now, that’s great, ill have to buy a copy. I always stray away from photographing pot here for the most part. Since weed isn’t so unusual to me.

(All photos above by Louie Moskowitz)

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Q & A with Bryan Formhals

photo by Tom Starkweather
Bryan Formhals is a photo editor and photographer based in New York City.

Blake Andrews: I just brought up this old messenger thread, and it seems the last time we chatted was 2014. Did you read the thread? Something about punking _______?

Bryan Formhals: That's weird. Keep that off the record!

OK, you can delete anything later. No worries.

Cool. I love deleting. It’s editing, and I love editing.  

But you have a 500 word deletion limit, lol.

I will try to be accurate and succinct.

Your internet history is sort of a story of deletion. Or maybe a story of constant restarts and reboots? 

Is that unique to me? I think with all these platforms people are deleting or starting over a lot. Or just abandoning them.  

True, I've left a lot of dinosaur bones along the way. I think my blog may be transforming into that. Before that was my Tumblr. My website... It’s just the nature of online material, I think. What ever happened to LPV? Seems like it was around just yesterday.

I lost a lot of the old posts from LPV Magazine because the CMS provider I was using went out of business. I have all the print copies, but the blog posts are toast. I think I have them in a Wordpress backup somewhere but I’m not sure. With the LPV Show, decided to go on hiatus in 2016 because I started a new job and we needed a break. The format was getting a little stale but we have a new plan now.  

What's the new plan?

We’ve started working on a new show that builds off the photobook idea. We’ve been mixing in some other topics around walking and the history of New York City. We’ll see how it evolves, perhaps we’ll have some other types of content but no plans yet. We’ll probably sell our books and zines too. 

Is it a podcast?

Yeah, it’ll be a podcast but we’re also shooting video so that’ll be a component, but I’m not sure how we’ll use it just yet. There’s a lot of experimentation in the early stages.    

What's the format? Will it be written material? Or just audio, or what?

We’ll probably have a presence on Youtube and Instagram, and then maybe Twitter. I think newsletters are somewhat replacing blogs at this point. 

Go big or go home.

Or maybe, always have a side hustle or go home! We’re starting with modest expectations, building from the LPV audience and then staying open to how it can evolve. 

You left Shutterstock, right? So your time for other projects has opened up. Do you see this thing replacing your job and making money? Or is it more a labor of love?

Yes, I left Shutterstock at the end of March for a few reasons, one was to pursue this new project, but also work on my own photography projects while I determine the next step in my career. 

I’m doing a few small side gigs at the moment but also looking for freelance projects (get in touch!) or full time work for the right type of company. I’m looking to move into greentech, smartcities, or ideally something involved with walking and walkability.  

from Skyway

I’m not sure this project will ever be the primary money maker, but we’re planning on building it out over the long term and it aligns with the areas we’re passionate about, plus it’ll show off our production capabilities.  

I think like most photographers and artists, I’ll have multiple jobs throughout my life, that shift with the economy and my interests. I’m trying to stay focused on work that keeps me excited while staying open to any sort of opportunities. 

What's the new site called? LPV still? Or a new name?

We have a tentative name but I don’t want to jinx it! I’ve learned my lessons over the years. 

Sounds ambitious but I hope it works. You commented to me earlier about the lack of good photo writing online, good critical content. Do you see this new site filling that void?

To clarify, there's definitely good writing happening online and in the photography world. I think my comment was more related to personal blogs which seem to have died except for your blog. 

Mine's pretty dead. 

I don’t foresee this new project focusing purely on photography writing or content. It’s more a vehicle for our personal work and ideas, with more collaborators potentially joining once we get rolling. I’m mostly interested in discovering photobooks around the topics we’re pursuing. The quest is fun. I love photobooks. 

Where do you find good writing happening online now? Not to put you on the spot, but I've noticed a definite downhill trend. When I have 20 minutes and want to check up on what's happening out there, I dunno. There's not a lot of consistently solid options anymore. Maybe your newsletter will open up some new options.

I've mostly been paying attention to the established outlets like ASX, Jorg Colberg, 1000 Words, BJP, Aperture. I don't read everything, only the headlines that grab my attention. I’m focused on a few specific topics, so I tend to look out for books and articles around those topics and then just stay open to whatever new pops up, always trying to stay open to new ideas and inspiration. I do love the hunt for new photobooks and just books in general. I finally got a library card.

One thing I noticed with my blog, and maybe why it's fallen off. It's not enough to just write things and put them online. To get things seen requires a ton of extracurricular activity, tweeting or linking or whatever. I just never had the energy for that stuff. So it was a vicious downward circle I guess. No attention means no motivation to write means no attention…

That's definitely true. Creation is only half the battle, distribution is the other half. Media companies have full teams dedicated to just monitoring the data and then boosting on social media. There’s definitely been a shift in how brands and media companies approach social media. A lot of them have created Audience Development departments that focus on growing audiences across different platforms. 

How's the library book stash near you?

Here are some samples.

These are at the Queens branch?

Yes this is from the Queens library. It's a separate from Manhattan. But it's great. They have a lot of photobooks but you have to go to the Jamaica branch. I plan on making a trip soon.

It's kind of strange. Even in the internet age, libraries are pretty key. Eugene has a few good ones but I've pretty much tapped them out. Not enough new books coming through. 

That sucks. I find pretty much get everything I need at the library. Although, I did buy How to Do Nothing from Jenny Odell as an ebook.

Somehow my brain is built so that I ingest photos in a much more profound way from a page, rather than from a screen. Maybe it's just cuz I'm old and never grew up with a ton of screens. 

Our brains can't handle the amount of information we encounter online. Lately I’ve tended view online photographs as an ads because they’re often used to promote something else, often a book or a service, a personal brand.  

The Internet gives you the illusion that you can reach out and find anything. And it’s true, sort of. But there's real value in physical access. Which is localized, and can't be transported easily. That’s where libraries can find a niche. 

For photographers, that locality is fundamental. Because photography requires engagement with the world. You need to be there. You can't make photos from home (unless you're, e.g., Doug Rickard, lol). Musicians can live in Greenland. You can paint pictures in bumfuck Mongolia or wherever. But to make photos you need to be in a place and interact with it. 

The best aspect of photography is engaging with the physical world, just being out there. For me, it's part of the obsession with walking because the entire calculation changes, especially how we perceive time and value attention.

from NYC Trails
How does walking change your perception of time?

I can't wait to read this book. 

For me, when I’m on a long walk time tends to slow down and feels more abundant. Four hours can feel like a week. It's that hyper focused attention mixed with the ability to allow your mind to drift, that allows you to enter into a different perceptual space. I know that sounds like total bullshit!  I'm not a neuroscientist so I’m probably not using the right language. That's why I need to read that book. When you add photography with meditative walking, then I truly feel that you can enter new dimensions beyond our normal perception. Or I should say photographic seeing because I don't think you need to actually make the photographs but there's a lot of reverb when you see the actual photos.

I guess I agree with the premise, but books like that kinda of scare me off. I can't read anything which too prescriptive or too self-helpy.

That's definitely a bad headline but you should read the article. It's more about the neuroscience and history. I agree about the self-help angle. There's a lot of that....all over the place these days. The internet if flooded with it. We apparently need a lot of help. There must be something in the culture. 

What do you mean you don't need to make the photographs?

I think after years of making photographs, you can focus that same attention on any scene or at any moment. It's a skill. I'm sure you've had those moments where you just watch something very closely but kind of forget to make a photograph or don't choose to. Photography teaches you to pay close attention to all the details.

Dorothea Lange: “A camera is a tool for learning to see things without a camera.” That’s a quote I agree with. But maybe that act of cementing things is fundamental to photography?

A photograph is very specific about what it shows on the surface. 

Minor White taught exercises in which students would shoot with no film in the camera. I think that's where you're going with this, that it's all about process and mental attention, etc.

A photograph can embed an incredible amount of information. It's truly amazing.

I love Minor White but definitely don't agree with that exercise. For me the actual photo is very important. Without film in the camera what you’re doing is a different activity.

Yeah I agree with that, but I think some experienced photographers go through that satori moment where they are just on the other side and can focus that attention in very interesting ways. 

I agree that the mental space is important too. To get into that mindset of attentiveness. That's great. But photography also goes beyond that. 

I agree, that's why we make the photos, print them and edit them into sequences. That's the other part of it and probably for most people far more interesting than the experience or philosophical underpinnings. The art is in the artifact, right? 

Did you read the recent stuff with Alec Soth? Apparently he reached Satori?

Yes! Did you watch the short documentary on him? It seemed like he was going to be a Fluxus artist or something. Just move stuff around and 'be' in the moment.

What's a Fluxus artist?  

(Googles Fluxus to make sure I'm accurate) "experimental art performances which emphasized the artistic process over the finished product." I remember reading about it years ago when I was studying art history. It was the moment when I was like, “alright, art can basically be anything you want to call art.” 

I didn't watch the Soth documentary. But in his last book he talked about the experience of meditation and enlightenment. And I think it had a profound influence on him. He lost some of his edge maybe, I think. Sorry to be so blunt. But seriously, what kind of photos would The Buddha make? Would they be any good? I think The Buddha might make photos like Michael Kenna or Hiroshi Sugimoto. Boring as fuck! Or else, who knows, just wander around without film in the camera. Same thing.

I think Soth is on an interesting artistic journey and will probably continuously question his process and take chances on new ideas.  


If you see the buddha on the road, make a photograph of them. 

from Long Island
It’s strange to comment on Soth because he actually made a direct comment on this thing years ago, that photography was NOT a Zen Buddhist activity. Photography involves wanting, and acquisition, and collecting, and all the little things you're supposed to let go of. In his last book he touches on this too, the shift in his photographic desires after meditating to enlightenment. So I dunno. 

I agree with that. It made me think of Matt Green.  He walked every block in NYC, had a movie made about him. I saw him speak and he thought it was ridiculous to try to capitalize on his walks by making a book or art. He was just doing it. I admire that sort of spiritual approach to it.

Oh wait, I saw a preview of that or something

He's a character. You should watch it. Although, watching a guy walk in NYC might just be something people who walk a lot in NYC might enjoy.

from Manhattan Greenway

The thing about NYC, which is true of not many other places, is that everyone walks. It's just ingrained in daily life. Much more so than in most places. OK, let me rephrase that. Walking is part of urban life in any big city. But less dense places, which is where most Americans live, not so much.

Yeah that's one thing that keeps me here, although I loved walking around Philly and Denver too. I think the mid-sized American cities are interesting these days, probably more so that LA and NYC. I need to get on the ground more in some of them. 

I walked around Philly for a few hours this Summer. I'd go back. Walked around Denver for 2 days in 2017. No desire to go back.

I liked Denver but it wasn't a walking town yet but seemed to be emerging at least in those Downtown neighborhoods.

Yeah, Denver’s fine. Interesting neighborhoods. Great murals. I think I just spent too much time there, and it was really hot, and I felt my clock ticking and was ready to explore other stuff.  Anyway, tell me a bit about The Grand Canyon and what it was like to walk there.

I went to Arches first and then drove to the Grand Canyon. I got there at dusk the first night so just stopped a few places and took in the views. The next morning I woke up at dawn and walked for about 10 hours. It was wonderful and amazing, almost a dream walk. I knew I'd probably never be back so it felt like a once in a lifetime moment. But the Grand Canyon is bizarre. It has somewhat of Vegas feel to it for me. I couldn't put my finger on it. Of course it's difficult to make an original photograph on the South Rim but I didn't really care all that much. I just make the photographs I wanted to make. I love the Southwest though. I will go back at some point. I don't know where next. 

Yeah, maybe not a great place to make original photos. But for cosmic connection? Yes. I think Capitol Reef is special. But the specific choice is pretty personal. You could pick any of about ten parks down there and wander and just get lost. And maybe find yourself in the process.

I don't know about that either. I think it's purely about the natural wonder, just admiring what the landscape can look like.

The Grand Canyon

What do you mean by "Vegas feel”?

Hyper commercialized global tourism. Maybe that works? I don't know. The town south of Grand Canyon is there purely for tourists and I think it attracts an eclectic crew of people that work there. Maybe drifters to some degree?

Yes. Drifters are onto something. They've found what Alec Soth and the meditators want to achieve.

That's part of it, but I also got the feeling that it felt like being at huge world attraction, like the center of the action for some people. 

Yeah, once something reaches that level of celebrity or prestige or whatever, it becomes hard to calibrate. The spotlight always fucks things up. Always. So the Grand Canyon gets twisted through that lens. There’s no way to experience it “purely”, whatever that means.

Are you going to tell me about your Instagram strategy? 

Wait, what strategy?

You've been posting slideshows the last few months, with the visual connections, sometimes it's obvious, other times not so much. The word play sequences come to mind. It seems like a great format for you.

I just post whatever. No strategy! The word "strategy" give me hives.

Yeah, but you've done it a few times where you can read it like a weird cut up poem. Unless you deleted them all and I'm just imagining it.

The only strategy I have is to retreat from my last post. Whatever I post, the next one has to be  different and unexpected. I’m not always successful but that's my "strategy". I'm trying like crazy to escape myself and all my patterns. But it's impossible.

I think that's great. I try that to some degree, or just go with whatever I'm feeling when I’m editing. Well, it's entertaining, but probably just for photonerds. You know your audience.

Oh fuck that's exactly that I don't want to know. Let me rephrase that. I want to know what people think, but also let it go. If that makes sense.

And it shows you think visually too. I know Friedlander is a huge influence...with the dumping of photos into the buckets. It's interesting to see how you do that. Remember, I've been following you for 10 years now! So I probably have more understanding than most casual viewer..

Wait, who's interviewing who here?

Old habits.

Instagram is a weird creature. I feel its influence. But I have generally tried to retreat from influence. Especially online shit. I mentioned the influence of the spotlight earlier, and I think that’s at play on Instagram. There’s a certain performative aspect —an entertainer/audience symbiosis— which I think influences the content. 

That’s true for sure, very performative. It’s amazing how it has become the online focal point for nearly everyone involved with photography and how people make their living from it. It’s crazy. I was on it early on but deleted my first account and never picked up much momentum. It’s humbling in many ways. 

Everything is on Instagram these days. All the online photography attention seems to be focused on this one platform. I think for some photographers it's a relief since it's all visual. 

I don't pretend to understand it.

We're at a new point with social media. I don't know what's next but I feel a shift coming.

What's the shift?

I don't know for sure —if I did know I could probably make some money— but I think Gen Z is hyper attentive to the time they spend looking at screens. I think more and more data will come out about the harmful effects of screen time, social media, all of that which many people have been arguing for years.

My kids are millennials, I think (?). Born 2000 - 2005. Their entire world is screens. That's not a critique, just a fact.

Gen Z.

What's Gen Z? What years?

Mid-1990s to early-2000s The generations overlap. I'm a Xennial, generation catalono. 

I can always remember my generation because I read the original Generation X by Douglas Coupland, just after it came out in 1991.

I still haven't read it, but I like Slacker.

Slacker the movie? Best film of all time.

Yeah, I've only seen it once. I don't remember it, but it's good. I feel like watching it again would ruin it. 

Haha, just take a walk by the theater while it's playing. It's all about the process.

Peak 90s nostalgia has crested I think though, we're into the 2000s now.

I can't keep track of any of that shit. Generations this and that. I just know what I feel, and what I see in those around me. For my kids, their generation is wrapped up in screens. They have a new reality.

Yes, and I wonder what happens when they become full adults. I wonder if that deep knowledge will make them...superhuman or something. And I think it's true what you say, we are only beginning to realize the impact —positive and negative— of this new reality. The economics are huge too because you have a lot of people that can only survive in the attention economy. Some people simply can't check out, it becomes a privilege, like those parents that limit screen time or go on retreats without devices and such.

from Genesee Ave.

How would you define "attention economy"?

Where value is accumulated by the amount of attention an outlet or 'creator' can accrue which is then leveraged to make a living and earn big money in some cases. It's all of the tactics that are used to get the attention that are the cause for concern.

OK. What about the basic need for attention? Is that a concern?

Yeah, I have no idea, that's where it gets very complicated because lots of people find community online and need that type of attention just to survive emotionally.

Beyond online though. A culture which financially rewards people based on "attention". To me that seems off. 

I don't think you are alone in that sentiment but that’s basically the art and entertainment industry. Attention drives that economy. 

Yeah, the attention is the gasoline in the art world’s engine. But the dude who plumbs your kitchen. The lady who codes the city's library. The guy who makes photos of whatever. Aren't they all similar? No attention wanted or given. Does this mean their actions don’t have value?

Well, there’s certainly large parts of the economy that exists outside the media/entertainment attention complex. I think it would be great if artists were rewarded just for the creation. We need more subsidies for the arts in the United States. It's depressing.

I don't know if subsidies are the answer. 

There’s not enough money to support all the art, perhaps there’s another system that will emerge with Generation Z. 

Did you watch the Democratic debates?

Yeah I watched. It's a terrible format with 10 people.

That's the attention economy in action. It's cast as a prize-fight. Who will win? Who will gain redemption? The drama is building bla bla bla…

At this point, you need to be really following politics closely to understand the narrative. Otherwise it just looks like a bunch of people yelling at each other. Which it is. And at this point they are playing only to the base with the media trying to drive a deeper wedge so they can heighten the drama like you said.

I'm just throwing out critiques. I don't have the answers. But "attention" seems like a very thin formula for judgement. Anyway, who do you like so far? If the election was tomorrow.

I'm keeping an open mind right now but I think Warren is the absolute north star in terms of communicating her policies, many of which I agree with. I like Mayor Pete too.

Arches National Park
She's on the rise. But I think Trump would bury her. Unfortunately.

I don't know about that. The rules are different than 2016. It's a long time to November 2020. I'm sure everything we've discussed will be obsolete by then.

Yeah, everything's speeding up here as we near the end...Were you a walker as a kid?

I swung at too many pitches outside the zone so probably didn't walk as much as I should. Dominated the sandlot games though. Monster walk off home runs. I didn't start walking for recreation until college.

Haha. Baseball is the sports version of Sugimoto. Unless the A's are playing. What are you, Twins fan?

I just re-watched Ken Burns baseball. I like the history more than the game at this point. But I love going to the parks. I saw a twilight double header in Philly! Crazy. Those are rare these days. It was awesome. I'm a baseball park fan.

Yeah, but what team?

I can't be a fan anymore. I spent the first 20 years of my life obsessed with it, so it's too much for me.

Oh fuck it's not a choice.

Twins fan!

See, there we go.

I was in the stadium in 1991 for game 7. Game 6 too.

Fandom is involuntary. You can't pick your team any more than you can pick sexual attraction. It's just there.

What about if you live in Montana?


Why not the Mariners?

Where are they from again? Just kidding.

Seattle. There are regions where the fandom is split in weird ways. I kinda sorta remember an article about that a few years back.

The Mariners are closest to me. So by geography I should like them. But I have been an A's fan since age 9. I grew up in No-Cal. My fate was set early on. And then you form sort of an immunity. After that initial inoculation you can’t catch any other team.

I had a friend who was a Braves fan because his dad was from Milwaukee and watched them play as a kid. So he hated the Twins. Didn't the A’s invent Sabermetrics?

Well the A’s were the subject of Moneyball. But Sabermetrics goes back to before that. Bill James and his crew back in the 1980s. 

Do the A's have a new stadium yet? Weren't they going to move to Vegas or something?

That's part of their weird drama. The team that is unloved, unattended, with a crappy stadium. Low payroll. The underdog. There were actually rumors of a move to Portland. But who knows. 

I need to go to Portland, speaking of walking (hiking) cities.

Yeah? Look me up. I'm good for a few beers or maybe a dozen. So when did you get into walking?

I don't know if I walked a lot as a kid. I think I rode my dirt bike more. I started in Minneapolis when I lived there in my early 20s, but it was Los Angeles that brought it out more because I wanted to be outside and explore.

from Genesee Ave.

With a camera?

I didn't have a camera in Minneapolis. That started in Los Angeles in 2005. I'm might self-publish a book of LA photos this year, but also have a book ready for my Skyway project. 

Dude, you been sayin' that forever.

Haha. I know. I put it off so I could hit the 10 year threshold. It feels like a good milestone. I feel I need to take my time but the time is probably now. 

Photos are weird. They almost always get more interesting over time. 

Absolutely. Does your view change? Yes, of course.

So maybe wait another 40 years for good measure? 

One monograph of the best photographs isn’t a bad way to go either but I like making book dummies around different ideas and projects. It just takes time to fully feel they are ready, if they ever will be. How many books has Friedlander made? 

I don't think Friedlander is really in control of his books anymore. I don't know this for sure but my guess it's some outside entity (Yale?) milking his archive. That’s just a guess. Who really knows. That's fine. It's the attention economy, right? gotta ride that horse while it's still kicking. 

He made a lot of books in the day though, right? 

Yes, he made a ton of books back in the day, and who knows, maybe he's still overseeing them? I’m not sure. I just know there are so many it feels like a glut at this point. 

Yeah, I think that's one problem with the photobook world is that all the legends come out with a book every year now. What about Daido?

I don't know much about him or his books. But Japanese photographers have been known to be prolific.

Doesn't Daido Moriyama come out with a book every year? Seems like I always see something new floating around.

I can't keep track. If he does something amazing, let me know. Otherwise, let him be.

I recently read this while doing some research, speaking of old school bloggers.

Oh fuck, Jeff Ladd was the best. What happened back there? What was in the water? All these smart folks online in 2007-2010ish? Then gone. Poof. WTF? 

Was that the prime photoblog period?

Yeah, blogging was happening. Maybe someone will write the history. But when you mentioned Jeff Ladd it hit home. Such an amazing writer. Out in public for just a few short years before retreating to the forgotten realm.

He was one of the best. He’s on his own domain now, but nothing since 2017.

He's in a better place.

Wait a minute...metaphorically in a better place?

He's in Germany with his young family. Probably spending energy on way better stuff than photo crap.

Ah, got it.

And not just him. A whole movement! For about 4 years? Then kaput. I mean look at the fucking critics online now. ————? —————? —————? Are you kidding me?

Again, might want to keep that off the record!

Sometimes I wonder, what happened? There was something there for a few years. Then gone. What was it? Why did it go?

I have a hard time reading too much photography criticism. I like reading about history and process more. I think people thought for a moment that blogs could be sustainable economically and then when there wasn't some big payoff people just left. Also, a new generation arrived and I think it was a different type of audience. Millennials took over internet and turned it into a hustle out of economic necessity. 

Payoff? OMG, fuck payoff. Fuck the attention economy. The only good things ever have come from personal passion, not payoff. Sorry to sound idealist. But it’s true. And I think there was some real passion back then around blogging. I’m just not sure what changes.

Economics are real! No matter the pursuit, I think you need to be obsessed and doing it for a deep personal need to be successful or find personal fullfillment. Interesting that it was right during the great recession too, beginning of the Obama era.

Yeah, there was probably some connection to the recession, with folks out of work or looking for a transition.

That was around the time I made a career pivot. 

So maybe the next recession will spur a new wave of artistic creativity?

I don't know. I would rather not think about it.

I don't wish a recession, of course. But they are inevitable at some point in the cycle. And if we don't have one before next fall we get Trump again, I think. Good economy = Trump Win. So there’s that.

I don't know about that. It's too unpredictable at this point. There hasn't been a huge international event in awhile so…

...I'm 42 going on 43 now. I take it one walk at a time.

What kind of event?

The usual suspects, major leader dies, terrorism, war, mass shooting, natural disaster, alien contact.

Alien contact! Yes. Curious how that would fit into Trump's worldview. Trump advisor: “Sorry to bother your morning nap, sir, but alien warships are attacking our major cities!” Trump: “Hmm, how can I deflect responsibility for this? Did the aliens start planning this during lame Obama’s last term?”  Meanwhile GOP is silent, awaiting Trump’s lead. How will it play with the base? How should we spin it?

from Los Angeles 26

I can't shake the feeling that we're going to make contact with aliens (again?) within my lifetime.

My kid wants be to take him to Area 51 this September. Big gathering down there. I think it's kind of a hoax. But even so it might be an awesome photo op.

That's going to turn out to be a marketing gimmick for a TV show. I'd go and then head down to Santa Fe to view wind chime art.

My kid would def NOT be down for wind chimes.

I've been to Santa Fe. I was a weird two days. I met a Vietnam vet living in a trailer by the river and he told me I would one day be a successful photographer. I would like to have a few words with him right about now, clearly not a seer. 

This thread is too long and I'm trying to find the thing you said earlier about drifters. What was it?  I was going to comment on the wisdom of drifters…

At the Grand Canyon. 

….which are easy to glamorize, for sure. I know that lifestyle is rougher than I imagine it. I know it’s not all hunky-dory. Just yesterday they cleaned out about 2 tons of trash from a homeless camp by the river here. 

No, it's not great for a lot of them, especially with the opioid epidemic.

But there's something to it, maybe something we can learn from, the antidote to "attention economy"?  I always think of the Avedon book In The American West. One of my alltime favorites. 

Perhaps. From that book, the antidote is paying closer attention to where you live.

one of the captions is just "Drifter" (Richard Avedon, Clarence Lippard, Drifter, Interstate 80, Nevada, August 29)

Richard Avedon, Clarence Lippard, Drifter, Interstate 80, Nevada, August 29, 1983.

Do I own that book? I know I have an Avedon book. I have Nothing Personal. That has the Baldwin writing. Great book.  

Drifting…on a sea of forgotten teardrops…” Now I have that song in my head. A good walk should clean it out of there…