Monday, December 22, 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008


TA calling me out on this blog:

"Just reminds me how totally lame it is that you abandoned that potentially rich project just because someone frowned at it at Review Santa Fe.

This was your opportunity to do something great.

What's going on with "Closer To Where We Want To Be?" Are you going to revisit this way of seeing?"

I think Review Santa Fe was an incredibly intense and productive experience for me. I came out with the understanding that the series did not hold together as a coherent body of work and that I needed to start over.

When I tried to explain to the reviewers that I was trying to divorce the imagery from content and make pictures that dealt more indirectly with feelings of alienation and loneliness regardless of what the camera was pointed at -I was met with almost universal confusion.

In addition , after spending many hours looking at the work of my fellow attendees it became clear how far my work had to go before I could even call it a project. It lacked a clear cohesive structure.

I learned a lot while working on CTWWWTB. I learned how I wanted to deal with space within the frame, what kind of light and color I am interested in and the emotion I want to communicate. Now all that is left to decide is what to shoot.

I have been sidetracked by the Florida pictures, making a living, raising a family , the office project and most recently by Sunday Morning. But I have not forgotten about what I learned at Review Santa Fe. Soon I will take out the big camera and sit and wait for that sliver of light and time and will once again try and make something out of nothing.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday Morning #2

Shot another version of this series I am working on . This time with Archibald dream team member Suzy Poling as the model.

Friday, December 12, 2008

APA Party and hiding in plain sight

I went to the Annual APA party last night. I spent most of the night dodging vendors trying to sell me stuff I didn't want to buy. I limped around the cavernous space doing laps among the different rooms.
Earlier in the week I started playing pickup soccer after a 20 year hiatus and was pretty sore.

On the first day I felt like I was going to pass out after 20 minutes and after 30 I thought I might throw up . I stepped off the field and onto the side walk looking for a secluded place between the cars in case I needed it. After a few minutes I felt better and went back in the game.

"You back for good this time?" The leader asked.
"For sure. I haven't played for 20 years and am doing my best."

These same guys played twice a week and I knew if I quit they wouldn't let me play again. But if I kept running at full speed for another 40 minutes I wasn't going to make it.
Gasping , I went up to a big heavy set guy and asked him, "This guys is a maniac. No breaks!"
"You've got to find a place to be on the field where you can catch your breath" he replied.
"Hide me. You"ve got to hide me. I think I'm going to die."
"I usually hide in the goal but you've got to wait your turn."

Eventually I learned the best place to hide was to make sure I was as far away as possible from the ball at all times. That way there was never a foward to be guarded or a ball to be chased down.

The next time I played I only limped for 24 hours

Monday, December 1, 2008

Sunday Morning

Here are couple scans of contact sheets from the other day. I need to pick another image for Archive and am leaning towards the shot with rain gear.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Up at Dawn

Shooting... I am not sure what.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Quick Editorial Shoot Before Turkey Meets His Maker


Today we shot a quick editorial job before Thanksgiving. I asked the subject to wear dark clothing and the PR woman said she would go shopping. I figured she would just go to the employee gift shop and pick up a black t-shirt. Instead she and an assistant went on a Pailin like shopping spree. The subject liked none of it for the photograph and insisted on wearing his own grey suit. As we were starting to pack he threw on a sports coat she had bought for him. We all agreed it fit perfectly and hung on him like Corinthian Leather . We shot a few frames and sent him on his way. He packed up the jacket and sweaters she bought and headed out ladened down with swag. It was like that last day Woolworth's was in business and people grabbed what they could off the shelves. It turns out the jacket was made with baby cashmere and cost $7000.

There is a whole world out there I know nothing about.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Riding the Queen:The Butler

I have been hiding in my bathroom from my butler. He won't leave me alone and is always asking me if I need anything. Because I am by myself I think he is worried I may be lonely. He and his five foot tall assistant , Armando, are all over like a couple Filipino Jehovah's Witnesses who have hit the motherlode:a captive audience.

In the past I have stayed below in  coffin class but for some reason on this crossing they have given me a giant suite with two bathrooms, a double balcony and Claudio, my butler.

I miss my coffin. Down there it is dog eat dog. More like a floating Motel 6 than the upscale digs I have. We photographers are the Goldilocks of the working world. 

Riding the Queen:Day 1

Riding the Queen: Getting there

Flying over the country in a blackened box the stewardess all have 20 years in and talk about bidding for the best routes. The food is more terrible than can be imagined. The food carts are all banged up like roadie cases and you get the feeling of an empire in decline. If this was a German airline someone would have changed them out. Or the Saudis. The Gulf states are keeping Boeing in business.

Everyone on the plane seems to be reading magazines featuring our new president. There he is in a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up. The Black Brando. More beautiful than any woman. Last week I ran into a friend waiting in line for coffee at Pete's in Oakland and I called out to her, "Too bad about the election." 20 people whipped their head in my direction, "Just kidding", I reply.

There is one McCain lawn sign in my zip code and my kids always insist on driving out of our way to see it. In the spring during primary season they had a mock election in my daughter's class. On the ballot were Hillary and Obama. No McCain. No Romney. Not even a Huckabee or Paul.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Calling suicide prevention

I went to a big photo party sponsored by a couple vendors this week. The place was packed with reps, photographers and a bunch of people I didn't know. I ended up outside talking to  guy who has been shooting since the Carter administration. After we both established what geniuses we were he went off on a jag about how much this economy sucked and how much worse it was than 1981, 1992 and 2001. I didn't have the heart to tell him that '81 wasn't that bad for me because I was  promoted to head baby pool life guard that summer but  '92 was pretty rough because I had to live on $144/week unemployment because I had been fired again. '01 was a little shaky but I think I made it through the whole year without getting my wife pregnant which was kind of a miracle during those years. So before hitting suicide prevention  speed dial on my cell phone I begged off and made my way inside. 

Archive Ad

Monday, November 3, 2008

Office Project

I have been shooting  a new body of work and having way too much fun in the process. I have long been a fan of photo illustration. I think Geof Kern is the father of them all and then it seemed like John Sharpe represented a ton of really great photographers back in the '90s working in this space. Now fellow Santa Fe Review participant Philip Toledando and Oakland resident Sue Tallon are cranking out great work.

I have shot about five of these illustrations so far and will post them after I get back from riding the Queen. One of the advantages of going "rogue" and not having  a rep is the ability to explore ideas and other ways of looking at things. Any agent worth his/her salt is going to steer their photographers toward having a single recognized style and dissuade them from taking any of these side trips. Businesswise that probably makes a lot of sense but if I wanted to be a businessman I would have studied accounting.  

We are all winners

These two images were selected for the upcoming APA show. While the contest is not as hard to get in to as CA or American Photography it is a couple steps above the cornucopia of contests cranked out by PDN.

It is great to be a winner again!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dodging a bullet

It looks like the worldwide financial system has dodged a bullet and will not meltdown. And in even bigger news it looks like I will get a pardon and will not face the gallows for my part in Fishgate. It seems the jury is not available as a result an outbreak of "exploding diarrhea." Another happy ending!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Laid Low

The stomach flu has been running wild here at Broening Manor and wiped out half the team. I am feeling better and we are just waiting for the rest of the fam to take their turn. Not pretty.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Making a living

I have been shooting a bunch of editorial this week.

I was supposed to have 15 minutes to shoot the head of a local bank but was told at the last minute he would give me 4. 4 minutes to do two set ups on 4x5. Yikes. I was looking forward to chatting with him and helping him "process" all that was going on but we never got that far.

I had not shot a frame when the PR flack called out , "two minutes!!!" WTF. I haven't even started yet.

The other shoot was a lot better. I got to shoot 810 portrait of a couple of guys who invented what looked like a giant Mylar balloon -like the kind you see at kids birthday parties. The interesting thing about this balloon was that if you got too close to it you would catch on fire. They actually demonstrated it by setting a piece of wood aflame. I think it also had some solar power application but I liked its fire starting capability.

Big hike tomorrow and need to attend to those fish in the freezer.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Goldfish Tribunal: Part 2: The Defense

So now ,a day later, all the neighborhood kids who were not present at Fishgate plus the ones who were, have banded together against me. They are all appalled and repulsed and are out for blood.

I want to tell them that death is part of life and what I did was no better or worse than the bacon they had for breakfast or the leather shoes on their feet. I want to tell them about my friend who grew up on a farm in Indiana. I want to tell them that before he could sit down and watch Gilligan's Island he had to do his chores which included feeding the cows, changing the hay in the stall and drowning the extra kittens in the pond. But of course I don't say any of this.

A neighborhood trial is set for this weekend. Barrows Rd V. Thomas Broening. I am trying to enlist some of the fathers to come to my defense but it appears I will have to stand alone. Again.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Goldfish Tribunal: Part 1: The Indictment

My kids caught me putting two live goldfish in the freezer yesterday. I needed to cut a goldfish in half for an upcoming shoot and figured the best way to do this was to freeze the fish first. They were appalled and begged me for a stay of execution. I would have none of it.

15 minutes later while walking through the kitchen I noticed the container I had put the fish in laying empty on the counter. My kids had liberated the fish and put them in some water in their room. I put the fish back in the freezer while my children howled.

There will be a reckoning.

The Archibald Chronicles:Part One :Holding hands at In N Out Burger

My three kids and I met Archibald at In 'N Out Burger near his house. We all squeezed into a booth while we waited for our food. He grabbed my hand and one of my kid's hands and said, "Let's Pray.

Archibald is a hardcore Unitarian and his wife holds a position at the church similar to Monsignor. They are members at the First Unitarian Church of Kensington (F.U.C.K...I kid you not.)

At their church in the Berkeley Hills(where Kensington is) they are working to ban heterosexual marriage and adding the cockroach to the endangered species act. Berkeley is a special and unique place. There is an organic grocery story there called Berkeley Bowl where the patrons are the most angry and aggressive people I have known. I feel much safer at the taco truck in the 'hood than at the Bowl. I was with my four children making our way slowly through the parking lot when a 70 year old woman in Prius covered with bumper stickers stuck her head out of the car window and called me a cocksucker for taking so long. Inside among rows of bulger wheat and 25 kinds of kale the peace loving patrons seem intent on reenacting scenes from Roller Ball with their chopping carts.

My kids were a little confused. Archibald usually only says grace when he comes for thanksgiving but they were good sports.

The Archibalds have been having Thanksgiving with us for as long as I can remember. Invariably some time during the day we ask him to tell the story of the Toferky. We all gather around and he tells this tale.

The Archibalds had two sets of friends: One set were hardcore vegans the other meat eaters. The vegans wanted a toferky and meat eaters a real turkey. They were at an impasse. Like any good diplomat Archibald performed shuttle diplomacy between the two factions. The meat eater was fine with the having a tofurkey as long as there was a real bird as well. The vegans would not come in the house with the dead animal. Then they relented a bit. A settlement was reached. The vegans would come but the turkey would have to be carved in a different room and could only be brought into the dining room in sliced form. And under no circumstances could any jokes be made at the late turkeys expense.

We ended up meeting the vegans a few months later at a party. I overheard them complaining that they had to bribe the guy at the service station so there SUV would pass smog.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Contests and Easy Money

It seems like a day does not go by without an invitation to enter a photography contest. I have entered a ton of them and got accepted by a few though I am not sure it has ever done me any good.

In college I got a photograph accepted in a contest sponsored by Kodak. The prize was 20 rolls of any kind of film they made. My first thought was to get something like Kodachrome because we all coveted it and it was expensive. I was browsing though the film catalogue and came across aerial film. It came in huge 500 ft rolls and was a couple grand each. I requested 20 rolls of it and expected somebody in Rochester would figure it out and just send me Tri-X.

Months later I got a call to come down to the loading dock at the Kenosha News where I was working as an intern.

When I got there I saw a palette full of 20 boxes about the size of a giant UTZ potato chip can. I had won the lottery! I was rich! I just had to find somebody who shot aeriel photography to buy this and I was set. I asked the shipping guys if I could keep the boxes there while I found a buyer.

Not to sound like an old timer but this was long before the internet and ebay. I made dozens of calls but could not find anyone who would buy this let alone knew how to use it.

My boss at the time had a habit of dropping his pants in the the middle of a conversation to tuck in his shirt. He was in this position across the room when he said.

" You know. You are going to have to pay taxes on that."
Him:"The IRS is going to see that as income and will look upon the prize as incomeYou are going to be on the hook for declaring 40 large. "
ME"Oh shit"

I was making $12/hour and had not even started filing taxes yet.

I ended up having to spend $300 to ship back all the film to Rochester from where it came. I never heard back from Kodak.

Three Archive Options: Three Horsemen of the Apocalypse

I have to pick one of these three spreads for Archive.

The Art Student would say,"Fuck'm. You got to show something cool. Show the blurry head."
The rep/consultant would say,"You must show images that look like advertising. Something they can relate to. Show the family image"
Archibald/Other photographers say, "The family shot is too commercial and I am not feeling the blurry head. The woman in the jungle looks beautiful. Show that. "

Monday, September 29, 2008

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I Pown Canada

Just because  I may have difficulty finding Ottawa on a map does not mean it is unimportant. In that little hamlet to our north lives a genius named Tony Fouhse with excellent taste and class. He has chosen to feature yours truly in a post on Heather Morton's Blog.  

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Shire at Dawn

Took another whack at the shire this AM. I think we had all the elements to make an image now just need to wait for the film. 

Monday, September 22, 2008

Scout 2: Bad Light Good Location

We went to the shire today to shoot the final image and found crappy light. I think it will look a lot better in flat light. Good news is I think there is indeed an photograph here to be made. We will try again this weekend.

Hoping to break my own personal world record tomorrow. 15 miles. 

Friday, September 19, 2008


I found this location while hiking last week and plan to shoot it with a model on Monday. It is a little valley in the Presidio in San Francisco where a drain pipe feeds into the bay. It does not rain here for months the lushness is out of place this time of year. It looks like it could be a shire in Scotland. 

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Hiking, Greenberg and the steel cage grudge match

Photo James Balog

For some reason I have taken up hiking in my old age. I am up to 13 miles and hope to be up to 30 by spring. 

Today was like most hikes. For the first mile everything hurt and I wonder why I am wasting my time doing this. I am in preproduction on a job and have a bunch of bids out that need tending to. There has to be something more important for me to do. 

Lately I have been following the Greenberg situation too closely. Not since the APE entered the steel cage with Mrs. Broening has the photo blog world been all ahoo. 

I saw Greenberg speak and thought she came across better in her images than in front of a bunch of people. At her talk she seemed bored and disengaged.  I loved her images of crying babies and monkeys (which I thought looked like  a more polished version of what James Balog shot back in the day).

Back on the trail today.  No cell phone or blackberry.  Making my way through Puccini's operas. Around the third mile I start feeling better and at mile six I head up hill just as Madam Butterfly learns her husband has married an American.  It feels like a hit off a crack pipe and I don't want to be anywhere else and I don't want the hike to end.  At mile 1o I run out of water and  limp to the finish. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Magazine's pick and then mine.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


Turned 40 today. Got all the kids off to school. Breakfast with Archibald at Cafe Fanny and then a solo 10 mile hike in Point Reyes. I bumped Verdi on the way out to the point and Control Machete for the return.  I have no idea what they are rapping about but they seem really angry. 

I ran into a herd of elk and all the males tried to mad dog me but I wouldn't back down. All species cockrock. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Location test

We shot this location yesterday as a test for a possible upcoming shoot. Every couple months I need to come up with an ad  for Archive magazine  and thought this might be a cool place to make an image.
To my eye it looked great but through the camera it was all kind of a mess. I thought we should shoot a few sheets of film to see if maybe I was wrong. Maybe the camera knew there was a photograph here and I just could not see it. 
Maybe it was just the wrong time of day or maybe it needed  a different kind of person.
I am not ready to give up on it

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Student tries to talk photographer off the ledge

Photo By Alex Gagne
I got this email from Alex Gagne this week. It seems that the recent RIT grad is concerned out about my well being . I have heard from him and from an old friend and they both seemed worried about me.

From Alex:

"I read your blog alot and the way you talk about photography it seems like there is no hope for the profession of being a photographer and I guess I just wanted to know what you think about being photographer and if it is even possible to make a living in this day and age because in my eyes you are a very successful photographer but when you talk about yourself on your blog you make it sound like your about to go on welfare."

The last thing I want to do is to start sounding like the bitterphotographer.  

It is difficult to tread the fine line between cockrocking and sounding like a boy whistling in the dark. Sometimes I miss the mark.

In reality all is well here. It has been almost a year since I have not had an agent and that has gone surprisingly well. I thought for sure I would do it terribly but in fact is has been pretty smooth and I actually enjoy the process. Who knew?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Vacation Over

Back to work. Shot a billionaire my age today and have another shoot next week. Just booked an ad campaign for mid fall so the photo career is not over after all. There was talk of changing careers and becoming a professional hiker. Sometimes that seems about as viable as making a living as a photographer.

When my wife and I are out and about and people ask her what I do- my wife has a hard time saying with a straight face that I am a photographer. I think to most people that sounds like saying my husband is a poet or modern dancer.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Vacation Chronicles : Dolphin Love

I swam with the dolphins last week. We were at a state beach north of Santa Barbara when we saw them. From the beach we could see schools of mackerel in the water shining like Christmas lights . To the dolphins it must have seemed like the all you can eat buffet at Ponderosa Steak House.

A 10 year old girl was the first one to go in the water. She dove through the waves without hesitation and began to swim out. The dolphins were fast and hard to track and her parents kept trying to point her in the right direction. She gave up and headed to shore.

I am turning 40 next week and so I was the next one in. I am not a particularly good swimmer but wanted to see if I could get close to the dolphins.

I swam and swam and did not seem to be making any progress. The girl came back in the water and we tried to direct each other to where we thought they were. And then they were almost on top of us. Three of them together. The girl and I both let out the same sound. It was like a cross between a gasp and a laugh and a shout. We saw them again a few more times just for a second as they came up to breathe and look at us.

Earlier in the week a couple Hispanic housecleaners stopped in front of our cabin and looked in. I asked them in Spanish if everything was ok. They said yes and then assuming I spoke Spanish, they asked me what seemed like a multipart question delivered at an accelerated pace. Instead of admitting I had no idea what they were saying I just nodded and smiled. I chose to believe the question they were asking wasn't something like, "Do you know there is a gas leak in the cabin and it is about to explode?", But rather a benevolent inquiry into our over all comfort.

And so it was with the dolphins. I got the feeling they were trying to tell me something in the water. I got the feeling they were saying it was going to be ok. That the long night was going to end and we would all be alright.

(I am no tree hugger. I would water board every last spotted owl on the planet without regret or remorse if it meant protecting one of my children. That does not make me father of the year or particularly human. Every slug parent would do the same for his slug offspring.)

Then out of nowhere the lifeguard was next to us on his board trailing a life buoy. He looked like a younger more sober version of David Hasselhoff. The first thing I asked him was if my wife sent him out here. He said the dolphins might get territorial and we should come in. I was dead tired and that buoy looked like a giant floating Lazy Boy.

Honestly I was not sure which was worse. To die by drowning or embarrassment. I was not going to be towed in so I slogged all the way back dizzy and crashed on our towel while the 10 year old ran off to play Frisbee.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Archive Ad and the life of a commercial image

I think it is interesting to track the life and progress of a commercial photograph:from a polaroid to a scan of a contact sheet to entering a contest and then to see how it is promoted (above).

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Say it ain't so!

I opened the latest issue of SF Magazine and looked in horror at this image of yours truly. I broke the number one rule of contributor photo etiquette. NO PICTURES OF PHOTOGRAPHER WITH, NEAR OR BESIDE A CAMERA!!NO EXCEPTIONS!!!

On the bright side I was a able to CR a little in the text with mentions of airplanes taken and Communication Arts appearances.

When one door closes another one opens.

The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away

Wax on. Wax off.