Category Archives: Musings

0’s and 1’s, Yes or No!

Ray-O-Gram, 2011. Would Man Ray have approved?

If photographers were scientists we would still be looking at the night sky and wondering what those little dots of light were. As a group, I suppose like many groups, we are resistant to change. I remember when The Nikon F2 was introduced. What an uproar! “Why did they ruin a good thing?”, “don’t fix it if it ain’t broken”, “what can it do that my workhorse F can’t do? Then, everybody had one. The F3 came out, same reaction. Then the F4, blah, blah, blah. That seems to have changed in the digital age. Long lists exist for the new Canon which won’t be delivered until March, and based on past performance, that means July. Everyone wants the latest handheld photo computer, and by that I mean camera, to turn over the responsibility of figuring out how to take a good picture. But as cranky as this sounds, I’m on the waiting list. I actually like the Digital Age, and got my first DSLR in 1999. At first I would quietly mention on conference calls that I wanted to shoot digitally…art directors balked. Slowly, acquiesced. And now it is just assumed, since so many art directors only know digital photography.


But this brings up a question I’ve had for a while. If the icons of photography were around now, would they embrace the digital image? Would Cartier-Bresson  have thought “nice picture of a kid, but if I put a coupla bottles of wine in his hands in Photoshop…wow, a real winner!” How about Steichen’s 36 hour exposure of apples and pears? He took it on a darken porch so that the time and change in temperature would make the fruit move ever so slightly during the exposure. Would he have simply added Gaussian Blur in post, if he was shooting today? Would Ansel Adams have used an electronic greyscaleto get the perfect Zone System  to correct for a bad exposure? Today

everyone can take photographs as perfect and as boring as Ansel without even knowing the Zone System. Would Robert Mapplethorpe have used Transform>Scale to make his Penis Photos more startling? (Probably not, sort of like “coals to Newcastle”!)


I don’t know. I hope not, but maybe. Afterall, Edweard Muybridge was adding night skies and false moons to his landscapes in 1868. Of course, he is best know for his naked motion studies. The fact that he murdered his wife’s lover in a jealous rage, got off, and then immediately abandoned his wife and child  for Central America are just historical asides.


So, what do you think? Is it just the eye that counts? Does the artistic end justify the means? When you have your mind made up, let’s talk about Mozart? Would he have written his music on an electronic keyboard if one had been around?

The Shootist

I’m a good shot on the shooting range. Better than average even with my variable focus eyeglasses. At a carnival I once won a gigantic Pooh Bear for my daughter by getting the crossbow arrow completely inside the miniscule red star. It did take me two shots though. So with a handgun, a rifle, or a crossbow I’m a good shooter.

With a camera I’m a lousy shooter. I just suck. That’s because with a camera, I’m not a shooter, I’m a photographer. I’m proud of being a photographer. I hate the description of a photographer as a good “shooter”. I always have since I first heard the term in Chicago of the ‘80s. I was working on location through a big catalog house and people kept calling the other photographers “shooters’. I find it demeaning and insulting. Shooters shoot at things. Photographers bring something of themselves to the photographer. Even commercial photographers. I’ve been lucky in my career to have people want my input on what we were creating. They wanted my vision. They wanted to hear me say “ let’s put your kitchen appliances in a sculpture garden” or “the TV should be in a completely empty room because it’s the first thing you unpacked when you moved in”. Those were the most fun, but of course some clients were gun-shy, but none ever turned me into a “Shooter”. Yeah, it’s cost me some clients, but that’s OK.

Then there’s the opposite side of the coin. During the years I worked in Paris, I often heard “you’re the artist”. Always “the artist” to the French, until they didn’t like what you did! I had one client who didn’t like how I shot their furniture. At one of the typical Paris breakfast meetings at chic cafes, he told me, because of my defense of my point of view, that I made a better lawyer than photographer. Although trapped deep in a banquet, I walked out.

Well, I don’t consider myself an artist. I paraphrase Edward Weston: “Being a photographer is good enough for me”. Me, too.


The 21st Century

Hello from Portland

So I’m entering the 21st century…I now will be blogging. Stories from the past. Stories from the present. Speculation about the future. Whatever seems fun, whatever seems relevant, and sometimes, whatever I just feel like saying.

Actually I’ve sorta been blogging via Instagram. As I get more and more into it, I like it less and less. To me it should just be about vision. Low fidelity vision. Take it with your iPhone and post. No stupid filters to make the mundane interesting, just what you see. No images from your library, Photoshopped beyond belief. No images that make you think you are now living on Neptune. And most of all, no inane comments from inane people. Most of the comments are just ego strokes. “Beautiful”, “wonderful”, and my favorite “amazing!!!”. Does anyone remember what amazing really means? I am amazed when I look up at the night sky, not some cute photo of someone’s cat. And, I LOVE cats. Don’t comment on my photos. If you like them, understand them, or resonate with them…then “like” them. That’s enough. I like to follow Daniel Root, Cirof, Laura Jennings,and Hornbecker on Instagram. Their photos are no bullshit.

I have the same trouble with Flickr and Tumbler. I’m not even sure how they are spelled. To me, they are just a place to be stroked. Same comments apply. Do you need justification of your work by people you don’t know?  People who may have absolutely horrible taste, or just want you to stroke them back? Years ago, Lloyd Ziff told me “there is no such thing as good taste. But there is bad taste.”I recently heard about a Master’s of Photography thesis where the candidate put his work on one of these sites and then edited by choosing the one’s that got the most positive feedback. In my old-fashioned mind I thought that was ludicrous, just ridiculous. I know when my work is good and when it isn’t. I’ve always been my best critic and I believe in myself.

So as you can see, I’m entering the 21st century…but sort of kicking and screaming. I’ve never been easy, so don’t expect it here!