All Roads lead somewhere..


Somewhere in the Mojave, September 2020.


A hole in the ground, so big and sort of round.

 The desert quest continues as the vastness of the Mojave seems to become, well less vast. 

Although I tend never to rephotograph the same thing, I do revisit the same places. The image here is a great example of how you can drive past the same scene ten times unaware of what may be hiding. Little did I realize there was a large pit full of old cars. It was like discovering a tomb or a bone grave yard, the cars like mechanical beasts laid to rest hidden from view. 


I have worked in hot humid conditions before with my Salton Sea series which although uncomfortable, was also very rewarding. Adding smoke from the recent fires in California and the current heatwave certainly makes things unique and interesting, but I would rather neither existed.

The journey continues..


Hot and fast...

 As mentioned previously, I love the fact that despite what goes on around me, the desert never changes; The same light, the same heat, and a quiet stillness you only find in a desert environment, and more often than not, void of people, especially in the daytime. 

The decision to shoot in the middle of the day has many benefits. No people (as mentioned) because its just too hot, no need for a tripod, (because its very, very bright. ) And a freedom to move quickly (often forced as its so hot). Spending very little time in these places means I am shooting instinctively with less pondering over subject matter. So often in the past I would talk myself out of making an image simply because I spent so long 'waiting' for the light to change and would over thinking things. These images are very different with a quick in and out approach, but I would never call them snap shots..

My wife (a celebrated portrait photographer) was once approached  by a client who said; 

"Why do you get paid so much for shooting a portrait when it only takes five minutes.." 

Her answer;

"Because I can do it in five minutes.."

The quest continues....


Out in the desert even bush fires go unnoticed

Mojave, July 2020

Moving along with my desert project now after finding several goodies in the past month or so.
With this one its all about finding stuff, often by chance, that couldn't really be repeated.
I purposefully make no notes on areas I have been with no directions or maps and never visit the same site twice. My theory behind this is to create a 'snapshot' of the desert rather than seeking out a particular location and hanging around for the light to change. Of course I would be a big fat liar if I said that's what I originally planned...


Bit daft really...

The days of scouting out derelict buildings are probably over for me now, but here and there I still pop in a smelly wasp infected hole of a place (see above) never really knowing to find.
There was a time when everyone seemed to be 'urban x-ing', hoping for and abandoned hospital full of wheelchairs, or an old cinema with the seats and screen still intact.
I think it was all about the thrill of it, the photographs didn't really matter in the end, they were more proof that you were there... Bit daft really....


Evidence that we exsist...

At first glance the desert often appears empty of civilization. But the further I drive into it, the more evidence I seem to find. The road you didn't think to take, or just somewhere you never thought of going is often where the goodies are. 

 Some dudes car. Mojave, June 2020

AMIGO. Mojave, June 2020


Hitting the road again with The Pudding...

Mojave June 2020
The Mojave really is like a giant car grave yard: Roaming the desert a bit like dinosaurs, you find them either alone and abandoned, piled up in mass graves, or used as props..


In a world online and digital, its good to see people still using the written word.


Deserted Desert..

 Throughout my life I have often found that after a life changing event, be it an injury, winning the lottery, bereavement, and in this case lockdown, people always want to go somewhere else other than where they are. This usually takes the form of a holiday,  some kind of retreat,or maybe just a day trip to the sea side.
Here in California its been either the beach, or the desert, and in that regard I am no different.  What has been interesting is seeing just how many people are going out to the desert, on their own, to find solitude after being shut-in, on their own, in solitude....But enough of my ramblings.

The desert was a delight and certainly no different to any other time I have spent out there (maybe that's what brings people out here). It was certainly hot, but hey its the desert..


The reality of digital photography.

Salton Sea. C Type hand print shot on film for the AOP Awards, London, 1998

Despite having no desire whatsoever to enter any kind of photography competition these days. I still like to keep afloat of whats going on. Looking through some recent competition invites (you know the ones everybody gets and charge you to enter) I realise just how much digital has changed photography. 
In regards to my forte, landscape photography, most of the time its hard to imagine what the original scene may actually have looked like, and there in lies the problem I have with digital imagery.  
The most important aspect of my work has been, and always will be, an accurate depiction of a scene. Adding or subtracting elements has no interest for me and renders an image as something else, now usually just referred to as fine art because there really is no other  name for it.  
Once the wow factor came from seeing something, like the above image, and realizing it actually exists.  But sadly these days HDR would have us believe otherwise. Its bad enough that retouch, which has always existed since portraiture began, has become so perfect that people believe he or she looks that way has become the norm. But to have this lie now spill over into all realms of photography is to me absurd and pointless.
Thankfully I can still do what I do, the only question is, will people believe its real.


Class of 2020.

It's certainly been an interesting year with my students.  An exceptional group with each one adapting to the current situation despite having to go online and work virtually.
I have put together a mini montage with some of my favorites ranging from basic photography 101 to MFA.

 David Bess. MFA
 Jackson Philips Photo I


Megan McIntyre Photo I 

 Emma Waterman. Advanced Photo.

Kento Sun. Commercial Photo


 Adam Buck. MFA
 Alejandro Barrera. Commercial Photo

Hannah Greisen. Photo I


It's times like this when my memories mingle and think of past road trips and the joy thereof.
Most normal people think of time spent with family on a beach somewhere or a country home. I on the other hand like to remember the odd stuff, perhaps a cafe which only sells toast, or a walk through Marfa Texas with my good friend Dazzle.


New Year Eve..

Another very appropriate looking lockdown image, but this ones taken from my 'Nine Days' series.

And now in reference to global quarantine, I wonder whether people are actually, writing that book, getting in shape, or just becoming a better person.. It's like one long drawn out New Years Eve.


The Desert will always remain..

I feel really privileged to now live in a State (California) where many great photographers have tread and made great pioneering images. In particular, Edward Weston was an influence for me early on and throughout my college years up and along the northern coast of England where the sun rarely shone.
I have been making images in California now for more than 20 years and started in a time when the dollar went a long way, always helpful on your first road trip. My first trip was solely a black and white affair with my Weston influences looking for desert dunes and Joshua trees.

 Mojave 2000

I loved California so much I came back a year later, but this time was very different as I had switched to large format and colour film.

For Sale. Mojave 2001
This was a real turning point for me and I would go on to shoot this way for many years producing several projects, some still ongoing.

Mojave 2020

In a time when a lot of people are reviewing their own past journeys and longing to get out somewhere, its nice for me to think of those early trips and fulfilling my ambitions as a photographer.


"The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."

With the worlds occupants still inside we can always travel in our minds.. No one wants to hear that sort of toot at the moment I am sure, but its what I woke up thinking of this morning..
My neighborhood, like most others at the moment of course, is strangely quite (obviously), but interesting all the same with things I have never noticed before. 

It is important for me to remain consistent in my goals as a photographer and stay on track. All to often in these circumstances we set ourselves unrealistic goals. It's a bit like New Year resolutions of gaining a Six Pack, running a marathon, or just being a better person. Very often when we have 'spare time' thrust upon us we never use it.

I hear the optimists cry;
"When life gives you lemons make lemonade... "
But then what...Why not, take those lemons, plant an orchard, and build a lemonade empire.. Its a bit more long term..

Anyway, I have no idea where this is going so shall leave you with my favorite overused quote and an excuse to show my latest images:

"The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." 
Marcel Proust.


Unihabited verses Isolated..

I read a dull article over on the Peta Pixel blog the other day regarding the current lock down and how photographers should avoid the obvious cliches of empty streets and discarded face masks etc.
Yes, I am all about trying to look at things from a different 'angle', but obvious cliches are often a good starting point and can lead onto other 'less obvious' things..

What I did find interesting is that they used a 15 year old Todd Hido image (used it just like I am using mine here) to demonstrate a point and added that now the image had an entirely different meaning. 

The concept of an image changing its meaning over time is an interesting one and something I hold dear (as mentioned on here not long ago).
I certainly do not believe for a second that Todd Hido intended his image from his House Hunting series to be regarded as a poster child for quarantine, but as people interpret images in their own way it may have become just that.

Very often the streets I photographed were not void of people, I made them that way. Therefore although my images represent empty streets, in theory they are not.

 MD Virtual Water 2004
 MD Vegas 2000
 MD Thursdays by The Sea 2004-2012
MD Death Valley 2016

 Photographing empty streets and places totally void of people is very different. These places often feel very different and the images often give a very different haunting quality, for example, there are no lights on anywhere...

It seems strange to me now that my latest series was made out in the desert and became an attempt to find places that are totally uninhabited, seeking out isolation when now it has been thrust upon us..
 However, let us remember, uninhabited and void of people are two entirely different concepts evoking very different emotions.. I think..


The efforts people go to to get rid of a sofa... Miles from anywhere a welcome insert into my project and may be my favorite sofa image.



I'm all for photographing empty streets during the present crisis, but streets void of people is something I have always done. 
I would get people to disappear through long exposure, or a very short one, so now it almost feels like cheating..

Anyway, there's always time for photography, whatever the situation..