INTERVIEW: "Q & A with Richard Misrach"

Monolake 2, California, 1999.

Questions and Answers: Richard Misrach

“In preparation for the High’s installation of On the Beach, Richard Misrach took time to answer a few questions about his influences and experiences over the course of his career” for his new solo exhibition titled “On the Beach” recently opened at the High Museum in Atlanta.

Your photographs often draw attention to human impact on the environment. Why is this issue important to you? Do you have a positive or negative view of the direction in which we are moving, given all that you have seen?

RM: It is the great paradox of human existence. We must exploit our environment to exist, and we risk destroying it (and ourselves) in the process. It’s an extraordinary delicate balance and a compelling subject for one’s life’s work.

But there is also a deeply personal element to the work because I love being in the landscape: I find an aesthetic pleasure there that I don’t quite understand. My pictures are as much, maybe more, about the existential mystery of what I experience in the landscape than about civilization’s relation to it.

As far as the future of the planet, it’s hard not to worry. Just because we haven’t set in motion an irreparable calamity yet, is no insurance that we won’t in the future. Our nuclear arsenals, overpopulation, energy challenges and pollution remain growing threats. And yet, more than likely, it will be the unexpected that will be our undoing.

You have typically focused on the American landscape, free of human figures. In On the Beach, figures populate many of the scenes—why? What brought about this change?

RM: After 9/11 several images of people falling/jumping from the towers were published in newspapers. Those images were some of the most terrifying and heartbreaking I’ve ever seen. I was haunted by them.

In the past, I photographed people in the landscape where they usually introduced a sense of scale and relationship to our manmade environment. The people falling from the towers provided a whole new kind of scale: a relationship to the abyss—the abyss that haunts all of us. Because of those pictures, I found traces of our relationship to the sublime—fear, resilience, defiance, peace and joy—even in the most ordinary activities by the sea.

You’ve been asked a lot about how you made the photos. What inspired you to assume that particular vantage point? How does it enhance the images and/or the message behind them?

RM: The unusual “god’s eye view” draws attention to itself implicating the photographer in the process. This was important to me, as I was struck by the fact that right after 9/11, people carried on with their lives as if nothing had happened. People were vacationing and I was working; it was really weird actually.

It reminded me of that great Bruegel painting of Icarus falling into the sea. As Icarus plunges to his death, the farmer tills, the ship sails, life goes on.

My photograph of the handstand evokes the painting while inverting it—the legs represent the resilience? Obliviousness? In the face of our national tragedy. Even at the moment of such a profound national tragedy life inexplicably goes on.

Also, there is a sense of voyeurism and surveillance embedded in the all seeing vantage point. It is a relatively benign reminder—nobody is really compromised—but the camera is always watching in our Google satellite world.

To create the On the Beach series you used an 8×10 view camera. Can you talk a little about the technical advantages and challenges of working with a large format camera?

Untitled 696-05, 2005

RM: From a technical standpoint the 8×10″ camera was the wrong tool for this project. It is a cumbersome suitcase that requires reloading for each shot and has slow shutter speeds. It is not good for quick captures or stopping movement. By the time I would set up the camera, focus, load the film holder, pull out the film slide and depress the shutter, my subjects had often literally swum out of the frame. So many great pictures were missed.

That said, the fine detail afforded by the large negative, when I did get what I wanted, was crucial to achieve the intimate gestures and grand scale of the work.

You are perhaps best known for your images of the American West. What drew you to that landscape? How do you choose a location?

RM: I was born in Los Angeles and surfed and skied growing up. The western landscape was my universe. Since 1968 I have had five Volkswagon campers which I’ve used to travel the West for 2 to 3 weeks at a time. I throw in my camera, food, film and some coolers with film holders, and head off without any destination in mind.

If it’s hot, I stay north, cold, I head to southern deserts. Basically, I wander around chasing the light from dawn to dusk and see what I can discover.

I usually found that if I had a preconceived idea for a project it wouldn’t amount to much. Discovery—an aggressive receptivity, if you will—of what is in the landscape provides the inspiration for new ideas.

With the advent of digital technology, photography has consolidated its position as the medium of the masses…what are your views on the prevalence of photography on the internet and the use of digital? How has it impacted your work?

RM: So far the omnipresence of imagery on the internet hasn’t had a huge impact on me. However, digital production has completely changed the way I work and think about photography. I haven’t shot film in almost two years and am now making all of my own prints again (haven’t done that since the 1970’s). Some prints are as large as 10×13 feet!

Having full access to the new technologies has encouraged me to play and experiment in ways that take me back to when I was a beginning photographer. And given that everyone now in college will have the same opportunities—access to the means of production and radical new tools—the medium is destined for big, important changes. I can’t imagine a more exciting period for photography.

Over the course of your career photography’s place in the world of fine art has shifted and evolved. Do you feel that the way that photography is perceived/accepted has changed significantly since you began?

RM: Despite historic claims to the contrary, photography was marginalized by the art world for a long time. However, in the last decade and a half, photography has been at the fore of art world practice. Moreover, when I began photography the idea of making a living selling work in galleries wasn’t even a fantasy. Now, for better or worse, photography has entered the art marketplace big time.

How did you break into photography and what advice would you give to aspiring photographers?

RM: I think it was in 1968 that I saw the work of a young photographer, Roger Minick, hung on a wall in a small gallery at UC Berkeley where I was a student. I was deeply moved by the content of the work and the beauty of the prints, and I knew immediately that was what I was supposed to be doing with my life. I had never felt that before. Advice to aspiring photographers—follow your passion and work hard. If you are worried about career or marketplace, find another line of work…

Picked up via American Suburb X

Joel Meyerowitz LEGACY

That old Mr Meyerowitz has done it again with his latest book published by Aperture due to be launched round about now.
I remember hearing about the parks project a few years ago and thinking what a wonderful (and mammoth) project to take on.
This will be an important book for photography and a unique documentation of New Yorks parks as only Meyerowitz could do.

Did you know there are nine Royal Parks in London? I only know this because I have been pitched for a job to photograph them. Stand aside Joel I might be in the bushes....

What weighs half a ton and makes you look like a miget.

On occasion I have being known to go a bit smaller and lighter and dig out my Pentax 67. I stole the camera from my wife after she went totally digital. Having swapped my Mamiya 7 for three 10/8 lenses and a packet of gum drops I thought the Pentax was a pretty decent alternative even though it weighed four times more and sounded like a sack of spuds being dropped each time you pressed the shutter. In no time at all I had taken the Pentax, added a wide angle lens, (which cost me three pounds), a cable release and a big lens hood. I had made the camera my own and I was now in a Pentax six seven state of mind...
I like the idea of just walking around with a camera without the whole rigmarole of a large format set up although I would never really use it for any serious work as the neg is just a bit too small for those big juicey prints.
Well without whaffaling on that fat 6/7 broke down today, jammed like a three wheeled Asda trolley. Up to until now I had found the Pentax to be quite a reliable piece of kit and had even managed to pull off a two hour -20 degrees shot at Utah Salt flats last Christmas (the winder froze, but it didn't jam, see image above).
Naturally I took the 6/7 beast to my operating table in the garage and began surgery with the help of a penknife and a small set of screw drivers. Within seconds I had removed the cap on the top of the film winder crank and was faced with a small screw which obviously I removed. I was then blinded by a glint from a shiny metal washer which proceeded to launch from its position sending small ball bearings and springs everywhere. Several choice words later I was on all fours not really knowing what I was looking for other than very small components my fat fingers would never be able to pick up. This lasted for many hours until I finally admitted defeat as the parts where nowhere to be seen. The Pentax was now well and truly knackered..
And so I lay the once mighty Pentax in the photographic draw of peace (in pieces) and vow never again to take a camera apart (well at least not a Pentax).

And so a dilemma which faces us all from time to time. Do I;

Get the camera fixed which would probably cost more than the camera is worth.

Claim it on the insurance and put up those premiums.

Tell my wife I have broken her beloved camera where upon she attacks me breaking both my arms and all my fingers. But then when I am in hospital she feels so guilty for her actions that she buys me a new camera.

Cannibalize the parts and build an almighty 'ultimate' camera capable of shooting any format and even has room for a digital back..

Keep dreaming.

A to Z.

I came across this and thought it would go nicely with my gallery survival guide I wrote last week. An A to Z of things all B Moders should know.

Archival: Refers to the way a negative or photographic print is processed - usually meaning that the negative and print have been washed long enough to eliminate chemicals which could later cause discoloration or other types of degradation, and that a print is additionally made on a fiber-based paper. Also refers to materials used for matting, storing, and protecting photographic prints and negatives from the deterioration caused by chemical reactions.

Artist's proof: A print which is made for the artist's use and is not included in the numbering of the edition.

"C" print or color coupler print: Negative to positive printing process. A print that is made when photosensitive paper is exposed to light that passes through a negative film.

Contact print: A print which is made by placing the negative directly on top of the paper, thus producing a print the same size as the negative.

Digital file: A computer file which contains digital information, including a digital image.

Digital image: An image made up of light-sensitive units called pixels that can be captured in a number of ways, including with a digital camera or a scanner.

Digital print: A print that is made from a digital file. Digital files can be printed on high quality ink jet printers (IRIS, Epson) or on traditional photographic papers using a laser printer (KristÕl).

Digitally re-mastered print: Refers to a high quality reproduction that is made from an original print or a copy negative. It involves scanning the image, correcting any imperfections, and returning the work to how it originally looked. One of the benefits of this digital technique is that the work is very finely articulated, so much so, that when it is enlarged, there are often details present that were not visible in the original print.

Emulsion: A light-sensitive compound that is usually suspended in gelatin and applied to films and papers.

Giclée® print: Refers to a print produced using a combination of computerized imaging and high quality ink jet printing.

KRIST÷L: A fine art archival print process that incorporates the technologies of the Heidelberg Tango drum scanner with the Cymbolic Sciences LightJet 5900 laser printer. Printed on one of three Fuji Crystal Archive papers, these prints offer vivid color and sharpness with an estimated life of 60 years or more.

Ilfochrome/Cibachrome print: Positive to positive color printing process. A print that is made when photosensitive paper is exposed to light that passes through a positive film (i.e. slide).

IRIS: One of several digital printers that prints from a digital file. The IRIS is a high quality ink jet printer which lays millions of blood-cell sized drops of ink on a substrate up to 40 x 50 inches large. The inks used by artists in IRIS printing are archival and, depending on the paper, can last up to 75 years without noticeable fading.

Modern photographic print: Contemporary print made from an old original negative. Sometimes when a modern print is made, both the date of exposure and the date the print was made are noted.

Negative: An image in which the highlights, colors, and tones are the reverse of those in the actual subject. The film negative can be used to make a positive print.

Palladium/Platinum print: A palladium print is a print formed by exposing a negative in contact with paper sensitized with a palladium (a metal) compound, and developing the exposed paper in potassium oxalate. This process makes an archival print that lasts far longer than any other type of photographic print. Another prominent characteristic is the wide tonal range that the process produces. The ultra-fine mid-tones can be represented in 25 tones from white to black. Because the process does not require a gelatin surface, the emulsion soaks into the paper, thus forcing the paper to become an integral part of the final product.

Polaroid SX-70: One of many instant cameras, the SX-70 uses a process called dye diffusion in which a chemical developing pack and three layers of emulsion are sandwiched together with a backing layer. After the image is exposed, the pack is broken by pulling the photograph through rollers at the front of the camera. Development of the image takes place within a couple of minutes.

Print edition: The limited number of prints that will be made from a negative, transparency, or digital file. Usually this number is noted either on the front or back of a photograph, using a fraction-like number. The top number represents the sequential position of the print (first, second, third, etc.) while the bottom number represents the total number in the edition.

Resolution: A term used in both traditional and digital photography to describe the quality of the image. A high resolution digital file has 300 or more pixels per inch. Film is considered to have high resolution when it has a slow asa (speed) thus having fine grain.

Silver print: A term encompassing all photographic prints made on a paper sensitized with silver salts. Most black and white prints are in this category.

Slide: Usually a 35mm, mounted positive transparency made from any number of "chrome" films. The ilfochrome (positive to positive) process can be used to print a slide, or, if a "C" print renders the desired effect, an internegative of the image needs to be made first.

Substrate: The material on which an image is printed, usually paper.

Traditional photographic processes: The processes that use film and emulsion-based photographic papers.

Transparency: a film positive.

Vintage Photographic Print: An image printed around the same time as the negative was made.


I thought of would start this one with an image from George Tice. An absolute marvel in the fine art market of photography. It surprises and shocks me that I have not mentioned the likes of Mr Tice on here before, but that's probably because I am too busy moaning about pixelization or some twit with a silly hat and a leica. The above image has been with me for some time, torn from a magazine and magnetized to the side of my fridge along side a Polaroid of one of my puppies. The Petit's Mobil Station (1972) is by no means a timeless image (the car in particular tends to ooze the 70's) but it's nostalgic rich atmosphere makes it pretty easy to live with and I imagine I will always warm to it each time I reach for the milk.

So this brings me to the question; What will happen to todays fine art imagery? and in particular todays landscape photography. It seems obvious to me that the work of the Americans Misrach, Meyerowitz, Shore and Sternfeld of today will very much be collectable in the future (they are my favourites afterall) because large scale images of Americana will always be appealing and this lot will be more affordable than Westons and Adams in years to come. But what about the rest.

While it may seem obvious that the likes of Andreas Gursky will always command a high price to at auction I think its fair to say that many of his Dusseldorf school followers will fall by the wayside and become forgotten. I cannot imagine that today's popular deadpan, minimalistic, muted large scale imagery will be as popular in five or ten years time. You only have to look back at the eighties when people where donning their walls with photographs (or posters) of people kissing in public or models on the beach with their sandy jubblees out to see how often the market changes. Of course this is only my opinion and theres a very good chance that a lot of these images may be as popular in the future as they are today, may be even more so..

As for me and the other thousands one step up from the bottom, well who knows. But regardless of this we should always remember one thing...



The Hidden and Unfamiliar.

There's a great little talk by Taryn Simon here.
She has certainly projected herself into photographic stardom with her fasinating work. To be honest I was always more interested in the content of Taryn's work more than the actual photography and was a little put off by the fact that all her images require a lot of necessary text. But once you study the work and look a little deeper it really is top drawer with the images and text form a unique look at things we rarely talk about, this my friends is real talent.
Sometimes a photographer just seems to pop up from nowhere and you think to yourself 'Where did they come from?' and 'Why are they suddenly getting all the glory when thy have only been around five minutes?'. But the truth is, they have probably been working away for years to produce a large body of work, this takes real commitment and a belief in what they are doing. Most of all it deserves a proper look..



I couldn't help but notice today that Todd Hido is having a new exhibition at the Bruce Silverstein gallery in New York. At first I found it quite odd that old Hidey Ho (he wont read this) was showing his 'Roaming' series again which to be honest I seen in the flesh and didn't take much notice. But no, this new work 'The Road Divided' is apparently completely new, but I guess if you are going to shoot an entire exhibition through a dirty car window eventually its going to start getting repetitive. Maybe that's what you get when you cant be bothered to get out of your car and set up a tripod, but to be honest though a lot of those scenes are snowy and it looks quite cold..
I am hoping at this very moment you are feeling shocked at my apparent hatred of all things Hido, but this is certainly not the case at all. I consider Todd to be a photographer of great merit with his over sized book 'Outskirts' becoming a triumph in the photographic book realm and an influence to every night time photographer wandering the dark streets and looking like a potential shoe burglar.
I kind of lost interest in Hido's work when he started photographing girls in dirty rooms he had just emptied (I posted the video on here somewhere under Hidey Ho or Hide and Seek or something) and then of course with his Roaming series which he should of just called A Road Divided. I could go on and on, and on, but that's just dull, besides there's a much darker reason for my dislike of all things Hido which is this; Every time I show someone one of my night series, especially if theres a house in it, they will automatically say; "Oh look, its just like one by that Todd Hido fella". Oh, and theres also the fact he was one of the judges for the blurb book competition and never even gave me a mention! (probably because he's jealous..)

Sure he's a nice chap though.


Doyles guide to the gallery..

Lets face it folks, the photography industry is a tough nut to crack. I could go on about photographers copyright, photographing in public places, crap day rates, assistants with egos etc, etc. But instead I thought I write about my main photography area, The Gallery.
Hopefully some of you will find this honest approach useful from someone who has worked in the Gallery market for 12 years. I will make no pleasantries here..

1. Galleries are about one thing, money, they are a business after all and should not be see as some magical portal and an easy way to make money. Remember this and you wont go into one with sweaty hands and crumpled prints..

2. All galleries take 50 percent. Its wrong and something you want to fight, but that's the way it is and it stinks.

3. Usually the artist is expected to provide prints at their own cost. Be careful here because galleries tend to want everything you have. If you only have portfolio prints let the gallery use them. Don't go out and spend hundreds (or more) on new prints for them to show clients (I have been stung here in the past). They will more than likely get damaged (finger prints, creases etc) from handling and you will only have to produce more at your own cost. I have always done this and will print up the image if it sells unless I have a copy already.
Big prints for a show are going to set you back, but this is where a lab may want to sponsor a show and do the prints at a reduced price or even free providing they get noticed and you get all the edition printed with them.

4. Galleries should pay for the framing of your work, with most galleries having a regular framer and some even having the service in house. A lot of galleries tend to get a bit cheap here and it is imperative that you keep them in check. I once had a gallery selling work for thousands of dollars in fifty dollar frames (I was not there to see it). You have paid for the prints, make sure they don't go cheap. (I have always found this baffling when galleries do this!). You wouldn't stick an Edward Weston in a clip frame would you?

5. Every gallery will try to represent you exclusively. This is something you must think about carefully. Exclusive does not mean you cannot place work in other galleries, but you do need to liaise with the gallery that has signed you and they will want a cut of what you sell. For example, you may be exclusive with The Doyle Gallery and have a consignment (more on this in a moment) with The Marcus Gallery. If the Marcus Gallery sell a print they may take 50 percent but the Doyle gallery may take 10. 15 or even 20 percent leaving you with as little as 30 percent of the sale. Sometimes a second gallery will only take 40 percent but you can be sure that the main gallery will take a percentage and you will, at the most come away with 40 percent of the sale.. The key here is to Consign work to the gallery and avoid exclusivity. This does not mean you are not represented by the gallery but it usually means that you agree to hold work with the gallery that you don't have paced anywhere else. For example, my North Shores work is exclusive to the Getty gallery and is available no where else.
If you do a show at a said gallery it usually means it will be exclusive at that gallery for a set time and then eventually moved on when it becomes an archive.
I have different bodies of work at different galleries but tend to spread my archive across a few galleries so that I have work available to all, ie, in the States and Europe.

Remember, every gallery wants you for themselves, they are greedy. But you need to make a living and if the gallery want you, they will go with it. That is not to say a gallery may work really hard for you and make a killing. In this case why go anywhere else. It does happen, but its rare. I spent four years with a gallery and they did just that. Then they took on another twenty photographers and I was lucky if I made twenty pence a month.

6. If a gallery like your work (and think they can sell it) they will take you on. Thats it, there's no magic method. Afteral its just one or two peoples opinion. If they dont like it try somewhere else and dont be offended. A lot of the time galleries dont have a clue how you made an image and know little about photography, they just know what they like..

7. Make sure the gallery understand about different print types and have high archival standards with regards to printing, mounting and framing. If they dont know about this they should not even be trading.

8. Its the galleries job to sell the work not yours. You have done your bit. Make sure they earn that stinking 50 percent.
Guess lists here are a big factor. Do not give a gallery your best contacts, instead invite them to your show yourself. Never hand over their contact details. Do you think the gallery will just invite them to your show? (remember they are a business). A gallery will always be after your contacts, especially if they are good buyers or a little famous. I find it quite an insult when a gallery ask me if I can invite a few 'well to do' people to someone elses show. It will never benefit you and you may in fact loose out in the long run.

9. Make sure the gallery are financially secure enough to be able to pay you upon receipt of payment. You would be amazed how many galleries get paid from the buyer and then use your money to pay their bills instead of paying you. This is especially important with smaller galleries and its worth checking that they are insured and members of AIPAD or a similar organization. Be particularly aware of this if you make a big sale. If the gallery gets in trouble you will get nothing..

10. Make sure the gallery keeps on top of you editions, pricing and number of prints they hold. Again its their job not yours. This is imperative early on when some galleries can be a bit flippant, especially about inventories of work. The last thing you want are prints getting lost only to be rediscovered years later and sold without your knowing (does happen).

Well there you are, if I think of anything else I will post it here. I have been as honest as possible and should a gallery owner read this they would probably sit in a white corner and weep.
I should point out I am very happy with my galleries at the moment, but thats not to say they are perfect, but neither am I...


Would you like me to look after that for you..

As of late we have had the pleasurable company of an old college friend of mine, you could call it a part time lodger kind of scenario.
As you can imagine we tend to talk about the olden days when we where more handsome (I am actually more handsome now), much slimmer, drank lots of beer and chatted to nice ladies. There where no digital cameras of any kind back then and film ruled the day, and indeed the night.. These days of course things are quite different and I was particularly awe struck when our new lodger pulled the Hassalblad Mk II from his Billingham bag. It was like the Fabriche Egg of the camera world with its full size LCD screen lighting up the owners face like the opening of a treasure chest. Upon holding this almighty digital thing of beauty I wanted to make for the door (or a window) like a robber but then remembered I was in my own house. The image quality as you would expect was incredible with a sharpness I can only compare to a 10/8 contact on glossy paper. I immediately started to fantasize about having no lab bills and imagined myself stood on a mountain top at dusk admiring the instant previews like a polaroid and knowing I had it in the bag. I imagined passing through airport customs without the fear of my film being x-rayed and how great it was that the camera would fit in my hand luggage. This had to be the camera I had been looking for and I was sure I could continue in the same method I use at the moment with film. But alas my little friends of the Mode there was one big problemo. With a maximum exposure time of 30 seconds there is just no way I can use such a camera for my work (keep in mind most of my exposures start around a minute and up into the long hours for the effect I want). Its a real grey area with digital and lengthy exposure and there seems to be many problems that have not been considered for the likes of I. And so with a tear in my eye I reached for my mighty 6/17 panoramic and tried to convince myself that this was as good as the Hassblad. The fact is, my camera looked liked a small child had made it from old tyres and bottle tops compared to the mighty Blad. But of course its not the camera or how the camera looks that matters its what you do with it. But thats not to say I dont want it and may have to stage an elaborate plot when my temporary lodger is asleep...
Well I thought my mother was the only one reading this blog and although she admitted to losing interest after my first post, she still has a look now and then. But as I was not about to begin writing about 'Cross Stich' and 'knitting patterns' to keep mum happy I thought I would continue the therapy of the mighty B Mode writing. So now here we are 18 months later, up and down like a flaming rolla coaster.
After my Jerry Maguire style rant I had an overwhelming amount of encouraging responses both in email and comment. So much so I feel like taking my clothes off and producing a limited edition series of nudes available only on this blog. Of course I wont be stripping and will continue my honest blogging and try to keep a pulse on this diverse subject.

Thanks be to all. Now where's my pants.


Stuff the art market, I'm off with my camera...
Live rich, die poor..


When I was a boy..

I feel a bit like Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire today. You know that bit at the start when he writes that essay from the heart, well here's mine.

As I walked through the rain to my latest exhibition in Canary Wharf I beheld the wonderment to a body of work that was first realised about ten years ago but only shot this time last year. From my humble beginnings at the Colour Care Lab located in Boots the chemist and then working with Jean, possibly the worst high street photographer of her generation. To messing about at college and landing a job with Robin Bell the best black and white printer in London where I met all the big names in photography at the time. I had come a long way from the days of smelly dark rooms and crappy jobs.
In April 2003 I had my first solo show in London. It was all I had ever wanted for many years, heck, I even sold two 30/40" prints before the show opened which was a big deal for me at the time. The shows continued and I spent my time either travelling and producing new work, or in the darkroom printing. I moved out to Los Angeles in 2004 confident that the galleries here and in the USA could sell enough to keep me going. In 2005 I had my first book published (no, it was not a Blurb book). The book was launched at Paris Photo where upon I sold more work in three days then I sold in an entire year.
In my first year living in the states I clocked up 60.000 miles just driving around and taking pictures which form most part of my archive to date. I was living the life most landscape photographers dream about. No ties, working at my own pace, shooting whatever took my fancy. Just me and my dog Piglet.
One beautiful autum morning in LA 2006 I got up early and went for a run through the Hollywood Hills. After about 45 minutes I reached the top of a trail above the Hollywood sign. At that moment I felt a sharp pain in my back and was barely able to walk back to my apartment. Three months later I was back in London recovering from spinal surgery. It was the darkest period of my life and I was unable to work for twelve months. I thought everything would be as it was before. The work, the galleries, the print sales. But I was wrong. The Galleries had closed and the market (certainly in the UK) had seemed to vanish over night. But this did not stop me, in fact it made me all the more eager to produce a new body of work, only this time a little closer to home. The North Shore project took about twelve months from start to finish. After making the final edit I was completely satisfied with the results. I got the best prints, best frames, best location, several sponsors and Getty's name behind me. I thought to myself if this doesn't work nothing will.
I wish I could now say that this show has made all the difference. But my friends I would be wrong. To be honest I don't think London has ever been good for selling photography, not even back in the early days when prints where selling before the show started. These days people would rather by a big television to watch X Factor than buy a piece of art, (and I include every artist/photographer here) a big flaming TV that will be worth nothing in a couple of years and pack up when the warranty runs out..
I have tried to kid myself that things will improve within the business of photography, but even as an optimist I cannot see it getting any better regardless of a recession or not. Its sad to think the country that invented the medium is just one big washout and thinks that a cel phone with a camera attached is a good idea.
I am tired of pretending its all good, and I am tired of flogging that dead horse. In fact who reads this blog anyway.

When I did my works experience for the local newspaper at the tender age of 14 a photojournalist said to me;

"You cant make a living taking pictures trees and sunsets.."

22 years later I get the point.


Here's some advice for young photographers.

Marry well or have rich parents.
Philip Jones Griffiths


I can only imagine that the announcement for the winner of this years Blurb book contest left quite a few people in tears, especially for the ones who thought they would win the mighty $25,000 prize and may have just bought a new Hassleblad or something of similar value..
Its very clear why Rafal Milach won this years coveted prize as his book does not look like the usual crappy Blurb quality and he has used the process well, plus his work is superb.
Lets face it, we have all had a go and tried to fool people that we have just had a book published (taking the logo out fools no one!). The dead give away with Blurb (apart from the reproduction which looks like a colouring book due to its 4 colour printing process (my canon desktop has 12) is the fact that when you pick the book up, it falls apart. For Holiday snaps and hand outs to friends its fine, for anything else its absolute pants.
I should also point out that I consider 99 percent of the Blurb entries to be, well, not worth the paper they are printed on.

Everyone these days has;
A Website.
A Blog.
A photography book published,
A digital camera.
No technical understanding of photography.
The ability to think there work is brilliant and better than anyone else's.

Swell Lacey Terrell..

I stumbled upon the work of Lacey Terrell recently, liked it, and so of course posted it here without delay. There are three bodies of work and although the offSet series is my favourite, the other work is well worth a look.
There's a nice showcase of my work here.
Selfless self promotion, you cant beat it.


Red Interior, Provincetown, 1977.

By Rosalind Smith, View Camera Magazine, May-June, 1995

The thermometer reads in the 90's and a sudden southwest breeze picks up, stirring the water in the bay and flecking the ripples with sunlight. I am standing with New York photographer Joel Meyerowitz at his summer home in the East End of Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod, overlooking the site of his inspirational books Cape Light (1978) and Bay/Sky (1993).

"It's just sky and water," Meyerowitz says, "but on any given day at any given moment it changes and becomes a different color or atmosphere and I am caught up in it as an artist."

What is this special moment out of the endless film going on out there that makes Meyerowitz snap to attention and take a photograph? it might be a light shift, he tells me, or perhaps the wind picks up or there's a smell that changes. It may be even less tangible, but it is something that he recognizes and responds to. A memorable example is the shot of a clothesline full of orange and striped blue and white sheets furling against the grey shingles of a simple summer cottage set beneath the dense blue sky. It is the essence of summer on Cape Cod told in a tale of colorful laundry snatched by the breeze.

Joel Meyerowitz speaks of photography with a reverence that borders on mysticism. For him, photographing is about the process of being in the present. "We tend to sleepwalk through our lives—to drift," he explains. "What inspires me is a response to that sharpened sense of being here now and that is the underpinning of my work."

"Then," he continues, "there are other considerations like where I stand, how fast I react, and how much I am willing to throw things off the perfect composition. I always want to add something to my picture so it continues beyond the edge—a good photograph always implies that there's something going on beyond the frame."

Here in Provincetown there is a horizon, a sky above, the sea below. It's a natural continuum. Meyerowitz compares it to street photography where life is tumbling into the frame and he must make crucial decisions. He may center an event or he may move it to the side so that it becomes one of many things happening within the frame. By displacing his subject he allows everything in the picture an equivalency and creates an opportunity to look left or right, close or deep into space. "It is always something to consider," he advises, "what goes on inside and outside the frame. It's part of the photographer's vocabulary. The slightest move with this 8 X 10 camera changes everything." He invites me to look through the ground glass and I see that one inch gives me vast hunks of the horizon. The frame pulses with change. Suddenly our view of the beach shifts. A minute ago there was nothing there. Now two people have set up blue and white striped chairs and a beach umbrella. Meyerowitz is alerted. "Look, you can see his pink flesh through the back of that chair and the ripple of sunlight through hers. It's not pure sunlight, it's modified through the umbrella. A view camera will see and define those difference. Ah, this is interesting—the chairs have been set up so beautifully, classic in a way. It's worth a photograph."

Dairyland, Provincetown, 1976.

He decides to add the striped boards of a nearby bulkhead. Now it is no longer a pure picture of two chairs and an umbrella. There is something else to think about. The chairs are on the right, the bulkhead on the left. Again he moves, this time a bit out of the yard. Someone is setting up a billowing red and white sail. Now there is red, white and blue in the image. he weighs the decision whether or not to include it. "I am putting the bit of sail in because I want the viewer to see it. It is not an accident. A photographer must turn the camera and take in a bit of this for sweetness and a bit of that for tartness-it's like a great dessert."

For Meyerowitz, the idea of accident is unacceptable. He quotes Louis Pasteur, who said, "Chance favors the prepared minds." "So, if I am prepared and I have a camera in my hand and the chance occurs and I am there, I make a picture. If the event went unrecorded, then that would be an accident."

Pasteur's wise words are well heeded for someone who lugs around 25 to 30 pounds of equipment. So that he won't be stuck unpacking a camera, Meyerowitz carries his 8 X 10, fully mounted on a tripod, around on a small pad on his shoulder. He also brings along 10 holders which allow him to expose 20 sheets of film. This means that each shot has to count. "One must be absolutely in touch with ones subject," he warns. "It's an elegant little dance a view camera does."

Once more he's on the move. Now a child with a silver bowl has joined the scene and Meyerowitz sees it as a minor key, a reference in its shape to the umbrella. "Watch, he's going to put it over his head—there's something to pay attention to here-any minute the bowl will become an umbrella—the child will have his umbrella and the people will have theirs-a whole new relationship will happen." his attentiveness to the whole scene has enlarged the subject and it has now become "life on the beach. If someone sees the picture some day and asks me 'How did you get that shot,'" he states, "I will answer, I was just paying attention."

Although he uses a 35mm mainly for his commercial work, Meyerowitz favors the view camera. "It has such generosity of spirit," he states, "it's so big minded. The photograph will describe this scene precisely. It will zoom in on those people under the umbrella, then take a trip across the beach and see the layers of seaweed left by the tide. The shadows will tell what time of the day it is. If you were a sleuth, all the information that you would want would be in the picture."

"With and 8 X 10 you get under the dark cloth and you see the image upside down. It's all there, suspended. People hang from the ceiling like chandeliers while a chandelier hanging from the ceiling becomes and enormous growth coming out of the floor. You can play with those things."

"Whenever I look at good 8 X 10 photography like Atget or Edward Weston I always turn the work upside down just to have the fun and to feel the kind of kinetic energy that is in the frame and is contained when they made the picture and is somehow spent when the film is turned right side up. I would like readers to see my pictures upside down so they could get into my space, see how I look abstractly and try to make a distinction about working in the upside-down world of the view camera."

The camera that Meyerowitz is referring to is an 8 X 10 Deardorff field camera manufactured in March, 1938, the month and year he was born. He uses a 10" wide field Ektar lens which is the equivalent approximately of a 35mm. "It has enough of the wide field to make me feel that when I stop and say this is the spot and I look in the camera, what I see is what I felt. I don't have to walk further into the picture or step further away. I've learned to see like that lens now and it puts me right in the place. You know that old expression, 'I am a camera?' Well, it's important to try to find that in yourself."

Meyerowitz admits that he never expected to be working with a view camera. As a student at Ohio State University, he majored in art, art history, and medical illustration. he then moved to New York where he became an art director and graphic designer. There he met Robert Frank who was to change his life. He found that his views of photography which had always defined it as a still medium where nobody moved, were outdated. Here was Frank, moving and bobbing and shooting two young girls who were "living their life." Meyerowitz got a 35mm camera and subsequently began to work as a street photographer. For a short time he photographed in color, then switched to black and white. In the late 1960's he committed himself completely to color, doing his own color printing into the 1970's.

The early 1960's when Meyerowitz began his career, was a time when people were shooting for the sake of the medium. Many of the big magazines had folded and there was little or no photographer in the art world. he met Garry Winogrand, Lee Friedlander, Diane Arbus, and Ralph Gibson. "We had the time of our lives," he recalls. "There was no hierarchy, no ambition to be the hottest gallery photographer. It was a time when purity of form took precedence and the idea of making a living as a photographer was absurd. Adams's and Weston's were selling for $25.00. We were a small fraternity of fellow workers who loved the medium and each others work and we produced pictures that had energy, immediacy, and a point of view."

In the late 1960's his career began to take off. There was an advertising campaign for Volvo cars that was followed by national advertising jobs for Seagrams, Nike, IBM and recently for Tetley Tea, an assignment for which he used his view camera. many solo exhibition followed the publication of his first book, Cape Light and include the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and the Provincetown Art Association and Museum. Other books followed; the latest, The Nature of Cities, was recently published in Italy.

In 1970, Meyerowitz won a National Endowment for the Humanities award and in 1971 won a Guggenheim Award. Numerous others have followed and his work is included in major collections such as the Seagram Collection, George Eastman House, AT&T Collection, and the San Francisco Museum of Art.

It was in 1976 that Meyerowitz made his first 8 X 10 photograph. "I sat in this little house in Truro on Cape Cod. It was astonishing. I was trying to get the camera to work. I had just set it up on a tripod and I was looking at everything upside down and I said, 'Hey this is beautiful,' and I took a picture. It became one of my all-time best photographs and it's the first picture in my book Cape Light. Beginner's luck."

For Meyerowitz photography has become a game of sight that he plays with his camera. On the one hand he works rapidly to catch the ephemeral moment, looking for some spontaneity, a bringing of his 35mm experience as a street photographer where movement is everything, and the seemingly resistant quality of the 8 X 10. "With a view camera," he warns, "you have to take a good look at what you photograph and be exquisitely precise about the things you see. You're responsible for every element in every corner of the frame and you can't say, 'I meant to do this differently.'" for Meyerowitz it's the moment when a wisp of red hair is caught in the sunlight across the face of a young girl and we catch a glimpse of the patch of freckles on her shoulder, the traditional mark of a redhead. Or it may be the irresistible sight of a mound of sand emerging out of a pure white fog.

His standards are high and he says that the criteria for his own work as well as the work of others is never the subject. "When you look at the best bodies of work in the history of photography, they are pictures of the reality that was available at the time and they tell us about the intelligence, persistence, humor, inventiveness and passion—the poem inside the heart of the photographer.

"Photography is a mute medium, but if you look at picture after picture you begin to know something about a place, but you also begin to know about the person who made it. If you look at all the work I've done you will know something about the particular way I make a picture, what it is that calls me out again and again.

"That 'something' is what makes you catch your breath, that moment where you are watching the world and you gasp. It's innocent. Every day of our lives we say "ah" about something. That's what's so wonderful about photography."

The Return..

Back with a bang and my second showing of the North Shore series went down a treat in the new Getty venue at Canary Wharf. For those of you that don't know the Wharf or indeed have not been for a while I would encourage you to pop along even if it just to pretend your on the set of Minority Report.
A big thank you for to all who attended especially that beautiful women that offered to buy all my work if I spent the night with her. But sadly upon further discussion she could only offer me monthly payments of five pounds, so I had to pass..
Lies aside it was a great night and now only time will tell as to its success..

On a much sadder note I spent the last ten days in the North land with my family as my dear old Grannie of 102 slipped away peacefully in her sleep. I have often heard of photographers being emotionally charged with things like the death of a loved one or some other tragic event (seems fitting to mention 911 ). Personally I was compelled to photograph objects that triggered memory, in particular things I associated with my childhood, like a toy for instance or an old book. I spent one whole day doing this and I have to say they where the hardest pictures I have ever made. The last shot I did was my Grannies jewellery box, a gut wrenching experience, but something I felt I just had to do. After I pressed the shutter I felt like never making another image ever again. It was as if there was nothing left to photograph.
As photographers we have a duty to be true to ourselves sometimes. Photography is important, Its important to the photographer. .