Friday, November 18, 2011

The Theater of the Absurd

I know that I am out of touch with many of the realities of today's high-end photography art market. However, the recent sale of Andreas Gursky's "Rhine II" for $4.3 million ( leaves me thinking.

Picasso is said to have said that the difference between a good artist and a great artist is that good artists only steal from good artists, but great artists steal from great artists.s

I am so inspired that I have taken one of my images, shown above (the first one in case you can't figure it out), and "edited out all extraneous factors."

During the holidays I'll be offering this at a mere $ 1.0 million for an edition of one image. If no one is interested in the "single image" offer, I will offer it at my normal prices.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

iphone photography

Just returned from several weeks of seeing the deer and the antelope play out in Jackson Hole and Yellowstone. I took the usual assortment of high-end photographic equipment and took about 850 photographs over a couple of weeks.

I also had my iphone4 along with an app called 360. Lots of times when I was photographing with the other equipment I'd just whip out my iphone and take a panorama. Results of a couple of the iphone images are above.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


The Gigapan is a device developed by Carnegie-Mellon University for NASA to take multiple pictures in a very controlled manner and then stitch them together into a single high-resolution image. The grayscale image is about 580MB after flattening.

The above picture was shot several weeks ago at Great Falls on the Potomac River. This single image was stitched together from 22 separate exposures using a Canon 5D Mark II with the 24-105 L lens set at 105mm.

For those of you who are techno-geeks, the above crop shows the detail if the original image was enlarged to 11' wide.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Evolution of Technology and Crow

Several years ago, long before the development of current technology, I was at Great Sand Dunes National Park. A woman was out on the dunes snapping pictures with her cell phone. I laughed and said to myself, give me a break! I thought this was about the stupidest thing I had ever seen.

Having seen the emergence of cell phone technology and what can be done when this technology is place in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing, I am now eating a large portion of crow. (Tastes just like chicken in case you are curious!)

I recently got an iPhone and have been experimenting with the imaging software available. I am blown away by what is possible and what I now choose to photograph that I would never photograph with a conventional camera. I don't know whether I am growing as an artist or returning to my childhood. Maybe these are not mutually exclusive.

On the other end of the technology spectrum, I just got a Gigapan. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Portrait

Richard Avedon said, "A photographic portrait is a picture of someone who knows he's being photographed, and what he does with this knowledge is as much a part of the photograph as what he's wearing or how he looks. He's implicated in what's happening, and he as a certain real power over the result."

I've often thought that portraiture was one of the most interesting parts of photography. I once made the statement that I only wanted to photograph people who were willing to let me photograph them the way I wanted to photograph them, not the way that they wanted to be photographed. Talk about arrogance; this is not about you but about me.

I also think that great portraits make you want to know more about the person. You shouldn't have to know them to make the picture interesting.

An interesting question has always been why are we doing to portrait? Whose itch needs to be scratched? I frequently see people that I think would be interesting to photograph. They have interesting faces. However, a great portrait takes participation by the subject. I think this may have been what Avedon was suggesting.

I'm not sure that portraits ever lie. What is recorded is open to interpretation by the viewer, but what was in front of the camera is what is recorded. The spin that we place on the image is a product of our own baggage.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Comfort Zone

Several years ago I took a course from Mark Power at Photoworks in Glen Echo Park titled, "Contemporary Ideas in Photography." In many ways it was a photography life-changing event.

The structure of the course was incredibly simple. One evening Mark would pick a particular genre such as landscape, nude, theatrical or whatever. He would then give a lecture about what was happening in contemporary photography in that genre with lots of examples of contemporary work and we'd discuss it. He would give us topics fitting that genre and the next week we'd bring in work of our own to discuss.

I also have to give a big thanks to my classmates who were creative, supportive, articulate, and trusting. They helped make the course even more inspirational and effective.

I really enjoyed the course at the time but I don't think I had any idea what a profound effect it would have on me as a photographer. Not to oversimplify but it got me out of the comfort zone in which I had been photographing for the last 40 years. I realized it was OK to explore color, surrealism, Photoshop manipulation, and other means of expression.

Over the years I have judged many camera club competitions. One of the criticisms that I most frequently gave was that they were doing the same thing today that they were doing 10 years ago when I last judged a competition for them. They were stuck in a creative comfort zone time warp.

After taking Mark's class I realized, so was I.

The "Comfort Zone" is seductive. It's comfortable, easy, not really challenging, warm and fuzzy. It's also a blinding rut. It cuts off your ability to see the broader world around you, to experience creative failure and success. Creative failure can be as exciting as creative success. You have an idea or concept, you explore it and it doesn't work. So what? You now know something that doesn't work. You never know when something that you learned in the "failure" will be the right solution for something else later on.

I guess the point of this rambling is to encourage you to step outside your comfort zone. Nothing bad happens. It's OK. Today, you don't even have to go to the trouble of developing film. All you risk is time and pixels. The time is well-spent and the pixels are cheap and recoverable.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


While I have been remiss in taking advantage of Flickr in the past, I have decided that the time has come to get with the program. To wit, I've placed a number of the "Veruschka" images on my Flickr account. You can see them at

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Homage to Verushka

Veruschka (Vera Lehndorff) was one of the great super models of the nineteen sixties.

After her fashion modeling career she started a collaboration with Holger Trülzsch to create a set of images which, because of extensive body painting, allowed her to merge into the background. Out of this collaboration came a book, "Veruschka: Tranfigurations," certainly one of the most creative photography books of the modern era and almost impossible to find today.

I have long admired her work for its creativity, vision, and execution. Talk about suffering for your art, this is it. (See the above website.)

Having long worked in the figurative genre, I was curious to see if a similar look could be achieved through the use of modern digital tools by creatively merging figure images with interesting background to achieve a "Transfiguration" look and feel.

The above images are several of a series on which I am currently working. I am very pleased with the results so far and am now on a search for crumbling walls, rust, and other interesting textures that might provide an interesting background for the nudes. Stay tuned.

If you'd like to see a terrific video on Veruschka, check out this link.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Hand of the Artist

One of the complaints often heard about the difference between a darkroom print and a digital print is that the darkroom print has the "hand of the artist" involved in its creation. From my point of view, the hand is not as important as the eye or the vision of the artist.

In these images, the color image represents what I photographed but the sepia image represents my vision. The tonality was created by the ink set I chose when making the digital print rather than toning a black and white darkroom print in sepia toner. I don't feel that this print is any less my art than if I had done it in the darkroom. What's important is that I executed a workflow that allowed me to realize my vision.

Certainly one of the great photographers of the 20th century was Henri Cartier-Bresson. HCB rarely if ever printed his own work.

Jeff Koons has an entire staff that executes his "concept." He doesn't have the craft skills to handle the brushes and do the paintings himself. Also, Damien Hirst and Andy Warhol have/had others execute their work. It even got more complicated with Warhol since he did some himself and then farmed out the same piece to others to execute.

So much for being able to see the "hand of the artist" on the work. Unlike HCB, Koons, and Hirst, if I don't have the craft skills to execute my vision, I don't do it. For the most part, HCB's prints were reasonably straight so I don't really put him in the same category as Koons and Hirst.

On the other hand, Koons and Hirst are getting high-end top dollars for their work. Maybe there's a lesson in there for me.

If you want a really interesting and eye-opening book, read "The $12 Million Stuffed Shark" by Don Thompson. It will give you a whole new perspective on the collecting, marketing, and promotion of high-end art.