Monday, December 27, 2010

Rainy Christmas in California

Our flight to back New York on the 26th was cancelled yesterday, and the next available flight wasn't until the 29th. So Ollie and I are missing the storm, and calling on friends to clear the sidewalk in front of our house back in Brooklyn. It is warm and sunny now at my mom's place in Santa Barbara, and I'm finding it hard to get upset about the cancellation. I am getting antsy for my studio, my notebooks, and the rest of my life. I don't even have a camera with me.
I went running everyday with my brother, even on the first five days of our visit when it rained non-stop. Each day, we'd look out at the colorless sky and churning brown ocean from the cliff. Each day, my brother's response after looking at the cold and forbidding water was that he wanted to go surfing. And surf he did. Here is a photo of my dad and my brother after another rainy session.

The Heart Trade

I had a dream this week that I think was influenced somehow by looking at Adrain Chesser's work. Two men who were deeply and dramatically in love decided to trade their hearts, surgically. Each would take the other's heart and give their own in exchange. One of the men died during the operation, and the man who survived had to have his own heart re-attached.

Monday, December 20, 2010

All Tied Up

I shot this over last weekend when Carolyn was visiting, and a willing model. My new giant backdrop is a lot of fun, and this is one of the scenes I shot with it. I'm really happy with this one, but I'm aware that it will live or die based on how the black on black looks in the print. I want just a suggestion of the figure and hand..

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Adrain Chesser at the CPW Review

As one of the most startling and intriguing bodies of work I've seen in a long time, the work of artist/photographer Adrain Chesser defies definition. Some of Chesser's photographs come from a collaborative process. Chesser and his partner, Timothy White Eagle and friends decide on a concept like "the sacred hunt." They research the idea, then they have a "camp" where they perform ceremonial rituals around this idea. The resulting photograph is not an artifact or document of the performance-based work, but instead it is thought of as a spell to be sent out into the world. The above is titled "AIDS Boy Takes One for the Team" from a series called The Hunting Party. I was very drawn to the vitality of the work, the process and the idea that the images themselves could be thought of as spells.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Center for Photography at Woodstock Portfolio Review

At a portfolio review last Friday for the Center for Photography at Woodstock, I saw two remarkable portfolios. One belonged to Abigail Feldman, a photographer based in Vermont. Some of the freshest photography I've seen of children, period. Feldman avoids cliche and sentimentality, and any over-wrought self-consciousness, but still managing to make compelling photographs. Above are two of hers from her on-going series: The Savage Maddoxes.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Rope Charming

Trying to figure out how to animate this rope. I locked myself into my studio over Thanksgiving, and sent Ollie off with his dad. I wasn't happy with anything I did--there were no final shots that emerged from the round of shooting. However, I'm not too discouraged about it because I did seem to start scratching the surface of some new ideas (the above is an example). I bought a 10x12' muslim backdrop and spent a lot of time moving furniture around, experimenting with it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

"Becoming Chinese" – A photography exhibit by Carolyn Drake

I'll be asking Carolyn some questions about her work at this event at the Half King--hope to see you there! "Becoming Chinese" – A photography exhibit by Carolyn Drake.
Artist reception and slideshow: December 7, 2010, 7:30 p.m.

Drake is the recipient of a Fulbright fellowship, the Lange Taylor Documentary Prize, and a Guggenheim fellowship, as well as awards from the POYi and World Press Photo competitions. Her work is published in numerous publications, including The New Yorker, National Geographic, The New York Times, and Newsweek. Recent exhibitions include solos shows at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, UK and The Third Floor Gallery in Cardiff, Wales.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Spinning Plate

Carolyn Drake arrived from Turkey this weekend, and we had some fun- running to the park and then having brunch with some writers she's worked with. I also did some time in the studio. But I found that things weren't flowing easily. I'm still thinking about the Houdini exhibit I saw last Friday at the Jewish Museum. Trying to figure out what I loved the most: The vintage handcuffs? The trunk? The straight jacket? The footage of Houdini hog-tied, hanging upside down over Times Square in a straight jacket is worth the trip alone. It is suggested that this feat may have symbolized the desires of immigrants-- to escape the bonds of the old world, or to escape the war..
I think the symbolism goes even deeper than that, and I think that the inversion of the figure is an important part of the meaning, but I'm not sure how. In art school I made a tarot deck that included the Hanging Man-- a very game friend let me hang him by his feet from a tree in Dolores Park in San Francisco.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Josh Quigley at Michael Mazzeo

This past Friday's art tour was a month's worth of noteworthy shows crammed into one day. A giant plate of fries and an egg sandwich from a greek diner helped Randi and I get through it all. The above is from the current show at Michael Mazzeo Gallery, "A Shameless Longing." The provocative photographs feature subjects from Josh's personal life and strangers found on social networking sites.
The photo above is of Josh himself and his wife reflected in a cabinet of knick-knacks. This is one of my favorites from the show--of course I like the humor. I also enjoyed seeing a photo depicting female sexual pleasure that offers the naked man up to the eye first, for a change. Also the push and pull of this image--is there anything less erotic than a clutter of curios and kitchen curtains that look like they were picked out by Grandma? I admire the bravery of this work, it can't be easy to hang a giant photo featuring your own bare ass in your first solo show.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Big Hand

This is a test image I made over the weekend during the brief time I was able to steal away to my studio. It is based on a propaganda poster I found doing some photo research. Occasionally I come across real gems that way, another perk of my job. I like the total shift in the compositional frame-- there is no horizon. This is another place where using a flash might make things a lot more interesting.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hat Drink Take Two

From the past weekend's re-shoot of the hat pour. The model here is a guy from California who I have a big crush on--just look at how good he is at pouring wine from a hat!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Laurent Millet at Robert Mann

Somehow I missed this show even though it got a lot of press. These are my favorites from the exhibit--I like these ultra stripped down images the best. The more colorful images feel non-essential to me. I've been getting very little studio time, and spending a fair amount of time on homework for some classes I'm taking. This weekend will find me in the studio with the door closed, come hell or high water, trying to make a ghost out of talcum powder.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Worshipping at the Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery?

Photography Hero Abelardo Morrell is having two shows in NYC right now, one at Bonni Benrubi uptown and one at Bryce Wolkowitz in Chelsea. I found the transcendental moment I was looking for standing in front of the huge print of the image posted here, at the Wolkowitz Gallery last Friday. There is something church-like about this work, in this gallery, for me. In a good way.

The images are like windows--stained glass, only better. Lot of white space in between the images lets them hum. They are vibrating with possibility--is the world more interesting than it appears? Can you be in two places at once? How much of the outside can come inside without rupture? Are time and space a continuum?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Red Hat Drink

This weekend I repainted my background wall from blue to yellow and purged my studio of old rolled up mural prints, other people's artwork, a Nick Cave concert poster peeled off a wall in St. Petersburg, Russia. It was hard to see it all go, but my studio is tiny, and the situation had reached a pitch with me reaching for backdrops and almost getting hit on the head with a hammer or spray bottles. It was impossible to get something off the shelf without knocking something else over. Now it is a good place to be again, and I can look forward to working there. Here is a test from my shoot on Sunday.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Plate and Tea Bag

Last weekend I worked some more on one of these scenarios I've been trying out that require more than one model. This weekend I'm planning some nice quiet studio time with inanimate objects that can be moved around without apology.

I thought about this photo of mine recently when I was at the Letinsky lecture, and I saw my favorite shot of hers, one that contains a plate that appears almost to levitate. I would post it here, but I can't find it online.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Laura Letinsky Lecture

This image is from the series The Dog and the Wolf, after the Aesop's fable of the same name, but that also refers to the phrase L'heure entre chien et loup. This translates to "the hour between dog and wolf." This is the hour when dusk becomes night. This is a mysterious time when day and night exist together, when a dog is no longer a dog but not fully a wolf.

Going to the Laura Letinsky lecture at ICP last night was almost like a pilgrimage for me. Amazing just how different this lecture was from the Adam Fuss lecture. Letinsky's lecture left me more interested in the work than ever, which was good, especially after feeling slightly underwhelmed by her current show at Yancy Richardson. The beginning of Letinsky's 12 year project in still life began when she was in Germany, as a non-German speaker. During this time she felt she needed to turn more to visual language, as her ability to communicate with words was severely limited. This is telling, because her works can read like poems. Objects scattered deliberately like text on white, like an E. E. Cummings poem. Giorgio Morandi came up, and that was great. I also love his work.

I was not surprised to learn that Letinsky likes to cook. When she got her first studio, she solved the problem of what to photograph (she had previously always worked in her home) by picking up trash that she found on the way to the studio. This makes me think of her work as an archeology of modern life. For those who are interested, this lecture series at ICP is streaming live on every Wednesday night through December 15th.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Adam Fuss Lecture at ICP

Highlights of the Adam Fuss lecture last night included a fantastic UFO photo shown by Fuss and the longest pregnant pause by a public speaker EVER. When Fuss showed the UFO photo, people laughed. He said "Ha Ha" with derision. People laughed again and the stone faced Fuss said "What's funny about that?"

I'm of two minds about this. Perhaps believing in UFO's could be a mark of authenticity- the artist's way of showing how crazy they are- a kind of pissing in the fireplace. On the other hand, maybe not. What we now know about the sheer scale of the cosmos can be a convincing argument for intelligent life from elsewhere. So maybe he is just up on his science.

Fuss answered his own question "What is art?" by saying that for him, it was a kind of mix of the above and below. Also that the artist is "trying to find the door." All of which made a lot of sense. In the Q&A period I asked for examples of painters he liked, after hearing his comment that he is more interested in painting than in photography. Jackson Pollack was foremost. However, what I really wanted to ask was why in his current exhibit at Cheim & Read the single photo of the vagina was on the floor. But I chickened out. Current show announcement above.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Paper Experiment

I got my film back from last weekend-- here is sample from the shoot. I like a few of the images, but I'm not sure where I'm going with this yet or what is the most interesting aspect.. Will post a few more soon.

Monday, September 27, 2010

White Paper

This effort is from yesterday's shoot in the living room. I had to adjust my original idea after some optimistic experimentation due to the laws of physics. So I decided to make the best of it. I'm not sure if this Polaroid came out so murky because of underexposure or bad film stock, or both. But I kind of like it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Julie Blackmon at Robert Mann

I met Julie for the first time in person at her show at Robert Mann gallery last night. She admitted that it is a bit of a struggle doing her work and balancing her family life--she has three kids! Kids or not, the work is impressive. Meticulous without being uptight, narrative without being melodramatic, her images are refreshing in the crowded field of conceptual and staged photographic imagery. One of my favorites in the show is the above High Dive, 2010. There are two Barbie dolls in mid flight from the balcony (you can click on image to enlarge).

Blackmon is great at utilizing sets with a frame within a frame-- often a window. I love the depth of some the these images, the tableau keeps on going in the second framed image. See the above image Snow Day. Obviously I am a big fan of her work, but I have to admit that I do find myself alternately impressed by and annoyed by all the chic set dressing and props- and sometimes I wonder if I'm seeing the work of a frustrated interior decorator. But in the end, she wins me over, with or without the zebra rug.

Courtesy Robert Mann Gallery, New York

Thursday, September 23, 2010


This is the first time my personal blog content has overlapped with my Visual Science blog for Discover. Under the expert guidance of my super smart, super sexy editor Kat McGowan I wrote a piece on photographer Timothy Archibald's Echolilia project for a special issue on the brain. Watching Kat crunch raw information into an elegant paragraph was awe-inspiring. I swear I heard violins.

You can see the gorgeous photos from Echolilia and my intro about it in the Discover Fall special issue on the brain on newsstands now for three months, or you can see it online now.

Above is one of Tim's lovely photos from Echolilia.

Hot Air

I was really very disappointed by this shoot at first, and just amazed by how boring it was. It just didn't have the tension I was hoping for. Now I'm starting to like it a little better. Think it might be worth a second try- with a smudgy white balloon, or maybe a plastic bag instead of a balloon.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Claudia Kunin from Review Santa Fe

Claudia Kunin was another artist/photographer that caught my eye at Review Santa Fe over the summer. I thought she might be a good fit for illustrating an article in Discover one day. She is using a 3D process that I really like the look of. I've always liked the way the reds and greens look on the edges of things- but only without the glasses. At any rate, her work is very intriguing, and I should mention she is having a show here in NYC. Claudia writes:

"I am happy to announce that I will be presenting my anaglyphic series "3D Family Ghost Stories" as well as a few from the series "3D Theoretical Ghost Stories" in the library of the Salmagundi Club from September 24-30. The hours for the club are Monday-Friday, 1-6 pm, and Weekends, 1-5 pm. I will be giving a talk on Sunday, September 26 at 3 pm at the Club, which is located at 47 Fifth Avenue, New York City. I will personally be at the club the 24th, 25th, 26th, and the 30th.

Thanks for looking,


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Brooklyn Bridge Swim

September 11th, 2010

Today I swam up to the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge stanchion and touched it with my hand. Looking up at the Brooklyn Bridge span from the water was exhilarating. It feels really good to know that I was able to do this swim and enjoy it, especially after all the fear and worry I had about it. When I arrived at the starting point this morning I felt so anxious I was becoming nauseated. Looking out at the river I saw a busy shipping lane, with massive boats plowing through a terrifying expanse of turbulent water, and wished I could just watch the race instead. In the end it was a lark. The happy news is that I am braver than I thought.

In previous open water races I had terrible panic attacks at the start that were exhausting and frightening. This time I swam the whole way with my brother, Nathan. We also started late to avoid the crush at the front. Starting late worked out fine, the only drawback was having to swim with slower swimmers --it was a very crowded course all the way through. I found myself doing breast stroke most of way under the bridge to avoid running over people, and I never came close to finding my pace. Next time maybe I'll do a longer race.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Dying of the Light

The luxury of the light and time of summer is over. It is incredible how much less light there is all of a sudden. I'm celebrating fall already, but I'm sad that my time is up for certain shots I was working on. I shot this one on Monday- Ollie helped me by staying out of the frame, and playing star ships in the hall.

This photograph is for CH. On the difficulty of being where you are at any given moment- among other things.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Gilbert Garcin's "Le bon diagnostic"

I think we've heard enough about me and my ridiculous photo projects for a while. This seems like a good time to show the work of a photographer I admire intensely. Gilbert Garcin came to my attention when a friend gave me a book of his work. Looking at his work was like eating food. It gave me nourishment. Also inspiration, along with the soaring feeling of the boundless possibilities of the human imagination. I don't know of anyone else doing work like this. Next time I go to France I might try to get an introduction, perhaps bearing a miniature baguette..

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Honey-Catcher Take Two

A few things became very clear to me doing a long shooting session today with super hero and friend Toto modeling. My clunky Mamiya RB67 is fine for tabletop work, but for anything that involves people there is just not enough flexibility. I like to be able to move around the subject. Also, I realize that I'm so ready to go digital. I need to find an affordable digital camera that can perform like a true medium format film camera. Today I shot each scenario on film AND digital.

I have several shots I'm working on or sketching that involve people coming up, including this honey-catcher shot, and I'm trying to figure out how to handle it. It looks like I'll need to include the human face, which for me is problematic. I've been thinking a lot about how to approach this and I haven't come up with any clear answers. So I'm experimenting.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Photography Portfolio Fatigue

I've been seeing a lot of photographer's books, as usual. There are some themes I keep seeing repeated. Everyone seems to have convention photos: rabbit lovers conventions, furry costume people conventions, porn conventions, big women conventions, super hero conventions, etc. These images are usually presented as portraits, but rarely are convincing. Another theme I see in many books is nighttime urban landscapes. These always look good, but anyone can do them well. It is kind of hard to go wrong with an empty parking lot lit at night. But what can be done with these photos? And what do they tell me about the skills of the photographer? Not much.

This week I was struggling to find the right photographer for a choice but complicated assignment in the Bay Area. This shoot requires a window of time, so I can't fly someone to LA and pay them to hang around all week until conditions are right. I have a strong and reliable group I use regularly in the Bay Area, but I wanted to try someone new. I did in the end find someone, but it is kind of amazing to me how limited the supply of experienced commercial photographers is in the Bay Area. Los Angeles is fairly bursting at the seams, as is NYC. But San Francisco, no. See photo above of Randi looking at my file of photographers for the USA. You will see how fat the folders are for NYC. I have THREE folders of photographers in NYC. Two for LA, and one for everyplace else.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Training at K Pool

I'm swimming in a race from Manhattan to Brooklyn on September 11th with my brother and his fiance. As the date rapidly approaches the reasons why this seemed like a good idea are becoming increasingly obscure. Nonetheless, paperwork is required, so I decided to have my time clocked by a lifeguard at my favorite pool in NYC, Kosciusko Pool. This Olympic sized outdoor pool is in storied Bed-Sty, about 20 minutes on foot from my house. My time was a very respectable 23:48 for one mile. I was very pleased, especially because I have not been training. I was also happy to be swimming in the cold, with the dark clouds overhead. Of course I had the place to myself as it had been raining most of the day.

Today I went back for another rainy day swim after work. I found the women's locker room was filled with NY Parks and Recreation staffers smoking and playing cards at big table. After I announced that I did in fact need to change into my bathing suit the men were kicked out. On deck, the lifeguards were larking about, riding bikes and wrestling. According to my lifeguard, I was the third swimmer who was there all day. When I returned to the locker room after my swim I had to bust up the party a second time, the male staffers had to be booted again. I didn't stay in the water long because I had forgotten my swim cap and all my body heat simply escaped. I found myself getting progressively colder no matter how fast or how much butterfly I swam. When I got out I was chilled to the bone, and now I'm wrapped with blankets up to my chin. Maybe there's a reason people don't usually swim in the rain.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hot Honey Drip

OK, I've been on holiday. That's why the blog has been so quiet. Is an explanation really necessary for checking out in August? I hope not.

I shot this the week before leaving for Nova Scotia. This is a test- I really need a model to do the final shot for me- but it is one of those things that I feel bad asking someone to do: "I know you agreed to model for me- now could you lay on the floor and catch hot honey in your mouth?" It sounds like a preposterous proposition, and I guess it is. The honey needs to be hot because it flows more reliably when heated, and it does not taste good. I have to figure out a way to light it so the flow of honey shows up better.

I wonder how much of this theatre of real life is a part of the work, sometimes I think it might be more important than I realize.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Milk on Stairs

Shot this a few weeks back during one of the crazy heat waves. House smelled like sour milk for days despite intense clean up efforts. After shooting this I decided I needed to make the milk and cup closer up in the frame, and tried various other set-ups, but never got anything I liked better than this one. So maybe I'll keep it.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Cleaning up my studio the other weekend I found a slew of old polaroid test shots. This one is practically ancient- I made it when I was 18 or 19 years old, and working towards my BFA at the San Francisco Art Institute. This image shows me that I have been looking at some of the same ideas and concepts for a long time. Expressions of weight and lightness still captivate me. Also in this photo is the notion of traces, things left behind. And also perhaps entrapment..
Will I ever tire of these themes? Am I really getting better at expressing these concepts, or is my execution simply more refined? Maybe less refinement is better.. I do like the rawness of these early images.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

California Über Alles

I've just been homesick for California all summer- and finally got a visit in over last weekend. I have not been in Southern California for a long time, and it was the perfect antidote for a relentlessly hot, humid and claustrophobic New York summer. I didn't do a lick of work, and barely managed to fire off a few snapshots. It was great. Above is a giant Aloe.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Teacup Final

My favorite aspect of this one is also how the gesture seems to animate the negative space- and of course, the absurdity.

Lipstick final

As far as this one goes- I hope it is obvious what this image is about.

Necklace final

Last weekend I forced myself not to shoot, but to instead spend my studio time going through old test shots, placing them into a book, and generally making a stab at organizing my studio. This weekend I'm doing more of the same- this time working on color balancing and dust removing from some newly scanned work. Above is a final from a three image series shot last summer. I've never printed this work, but I really want to. Not sure I'm getting the skin tones right- I don't have a lot of skin in my work and it is always difficult for me to get it looking right.
This is one of my favorites from the past year- I think what I like the most about it is the way the shape of the necklace seems to draw a body into the negative space.

Friday, July 16, 2010

My Eye

Yesterday at the McBurney YMCA I was swimming along minding my own business when a giant muscle bound guy decided for whatever reason to swim against the pattern and ran right into me- knocking my goggles off and cutting the skin right under my eye and on my eyelid. Bleeding and stunned, I made my way to the side of the pool and filled out a useless "accident report" and applied an ice pack. During all this the dude (not a very good swimmer, of course) continued to swim as if nothing had happened. Before leaving I went over and stopped him. This was the conversation:

Me: "You got me pretty good.."
Dude: "What do you want me to do about it?"
Me: "How about an apology?"
Dude: "That has happened to me dozens of times and no one has ever apologized to me."
Me: "So everyone else has bad manners so it's OK for you to have bad manners too?"
Dude: "I'm born and raised in NY, this is the way we do it, baby."
Me: "Well, that's something to be proud of."
Dude: swims off

Sometimes I just hate New York.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Room of Her Own

At ICP last week I met photographer Wenjie Yang who is working on a project titled "A Room of Her Own." Yang is making intimate portraits of single women alone at home- the "rooms" or lives they have created for themselves. She is also looking for more women to participate, so if anyone out there is interested- Wenjie is currently based in NYC and you can reach her through her website.

Bloody Good Stuff at the ICP Review

A favorite project of mine this year was by a young woman named Tara Cronin who is making images using her own blood, chlorophyll, and other materials. This image above is a scan of her blood between two transparent surfaces. I'm hoping to use it in Discover magazine or Visual Science coming up soon.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Milk Test

This image is really proving to be very challenging. Will try again this weekend.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tabletop Candle

I worked most of the day on Sunday in the house shooting. Mostly dairy products- milk and butter again were my subjects. I'm working hard to get this one milk shot right, hopefully I'll have a version I like enough to post soon. Sunday was hot as hell, and with no air conditioning all the milk and butter seemed to go sour immediately. Despite the crazy heat and rancid dairy, I was glad to have a chance to work. This candle shot is a redo of an earlier version, shot this weekend.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Magnum shooters

I had a great time yesterday meeting with two Magnum photographers in succession, as they were in town for the annual meeting, this time located in NYC. First came Peter Marlow and then Stuart Franklin. I'm impressed by both of these super charming guys. Neither of them brought portfolios to the meeting- why would they? Stuart left some beautiful published books, including "Hotel Afrique" published by Dewi Lewis. They were both such a pleasure to talk to- engaged with the world and totally bluster-free.

Peter Marlow recently shot some lovely photos for Discover in London. I was so happy- he took the job seriously, did research, he helped me with getting the location set, and made such beautiful portraits and scene-setters, and with several options for me to pick from. And he did it inexpensively. All this from a guy who could be resting on his laurels. Two images above from the shoot about scientist John Coates whose research deals with men and women, hormones and traders.