Friday, May 30, 2008

Copy Stand in SF Mag

The Florida Chronicles Part 7: Parting Shot and the Waiver

We shot this woman and her daughter on the last day at the end of the day. We were both exhausted and packing the gear up when I saw her floating in the pool. I thought she was beautiful. She was graceful like the manatee we had hoped to see. I told Erich we had a long drive and we should go but I couldn't stop looking at her. He asked if I wanted to put the camera back up. I said no I was too tired. He said we came all this way let's get one more. I relented.
I walked over to her and asked her if she would sit for us. She said why me? I told her the truth. I told her she was gorgeous. I am not one to flatter when I don't mean it and I think she could tell. Her family was teasing her and her sister kept telling her to flash the camera.

I helped her climb on the rock and handed her daughter to her who felt lighter than my kids at that age. I made two exposures on the camera and then shot a polaroid on an SX-70 to give to her. We packed and headed for the parking lot.
As we were driving away we saw the woman and her family and friends getting into their cars. I rolled down the window to thank them. They asked if we wanted any company and I politely declined. As we pulled away I could see the sister flashing me.
Some couples have a waiver rule. If they ever have a chance to be with George Clooney or Angelina Jolie then they are automatically granted a one day free pass from the marriage. No such agreement exists in my relationship.
On the plane coming back Erich and I both decided if we had been single we would have liked to have accepted the invitation. It would have been something special. Like the Gator appetizer.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Florida Chronicles Part 4: The old 8x10 in a tree shot

The Florida Chronicles Part 3: Kids in Trees

The Florida Chronicles Part 2:The Meal

Gator Appetizer. Followed by fried shrimp, fried fish, fried scallops with a side of fried okra and fried hush puppies.

The alligator tasted like a cross between chicken and oysters with an amphibian aftertaste. You can see why this dish never took off in the rest of the country.

The Florida Chronicles Part 1

We got back from Florida yesterday. Last month I saw an article in the Times about the fresh springs in the Florida panhandle. I shot there 20 years ago when I worked as an intern at The Florida Times Union and remembered how strange the people were and how beautiful the river was.

I don't get that many ideas and thought it might be a good idea to take the 8x10 out there and see what we could find. I spent the whole last week dreading the trip and wondering what the hell I was thinking in going to Florida. Why there? What's wrong with Oakland?

A few years ago I got it in my head that it would be a good idea to go to New Zealand. Where that thought came from I have no idea, but a couple weeks later I found myself on a pay phone on the South Island begging my wife to call Quantas to see if I could get back on the plane and come home. I had flown 20 hours and driven five more and felt completely overwhelmed. My wife talked me down. I ate something and slept. I spent the next nine days in a camper van by myself shooting, having the kind of experience you never forget. It was during this week that I came up with the idea to shoot the animals in a movie theatre. It came to me fully formed as if it had been faxed from the Wizard of Oz.

The FLA trip was a challenge. It is surprisingly difficult to shoot people floating down a river with an 8x10 camera. Who knew? We would see someone we wanted to shoot and by the time we explained what we were up to our potential subject was 30 ft down stream.

We finally got some people to stop and then found a pull out where people had more time and were willing to sit for us . And then the camera ended up in a tree and my assistant ended up in his underwear. But that is for another post. And that was before things got strange.

Friday, May 23, 2008


Off to northern Florida for some shooting. There are some springs around Gainsville. Hoping to find some fried alligator sandwiches.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Giant Campaign

I am up for a giant campaign...

but it needs to be shot on the moon. I own the moon.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Foster City, CA

I went out last night with the wife to take pictures. We had a blast. She wanted to know if I got the shot. I told her I had no idea. When was the last time that happened? With polaroid and digital it has been years since there was any question whether I got the picture I wanted. You always knew right away. Now it feels a little like shooting with a blindfold on and makes that moment when I open the package from the lab exciting again.

It is like when I first starting shooting with my Nikon EM when I was fifteen. It took the Riteaid a week to process the film and there was always at least one gift: a photograph I didn't remember shooting that seemed to be shot by some other person. It was always better than anything I had planned and I was always grateful for it.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

What does it mean?

I have been trying to make sense of this new body of work I am creating. Most of the time I am happy to go about my way oblivious to the bigger picture and concentrate on making the next image and hope I am not duplicating myself. While preparing to go to Review Santa Fe I have asked people what I should expect. I got some good advice from former attendees Mark Richards and Tim Archibald. They said I should be ready to talk about the work in a clear concise way. Jorg Colberg (not an attendee but a good recource on these matters) basically said to make sure I put my best foot forward and make sure the work is presented well.

I got this email from Jamey Thomas. We work together sometimes and he took the time to comment.

"Thomas, I've been following and enjoying your blog and thinking
about the images you're shooting. I'm assuming having a blog is an
open invitation to feedback so I'm going to take you up on that
invitation. The things that I keep coming back to are you and now;
why are you making this work, what do you want to say with this
work, what about this work makes it yours and what does this work
say about the here and now, why is it getting made now, by you?
Maybe that distills it: why is this working getting made now by you?
And that's not a shallow question because I certainly appreciate
that you are making it, now, and know fairly well what it entails
and how much of yourself you have to bring in order to make it. I
know how hard it can be to pull over. One thing I believe is that
great art argues for things, it has an agenda, it strikes a balance
between pornography and propaganda (see "The Invisible Dragon", by
Dave Hickey) in order to put forward something the artist feels is
important, meaningful. When we look at great art in a museum most of
that is gone because the artwork is plucked out of its place and
time and interned in a current institutions with its own agenda. But
if you think of a great renaissance altar piece, an impressionist
landscape or even a Mapplethorpe image of gay guys fisting and think
about what they meant in their own time and place I think their
"purpose" becomes more obvious, or at least the fact that they had
an intended purpose is clear. You don't need to know or have an
answer. Certainly you can make the work and see where it leads. Or
you can put forward any number of perfectly legitimate answers or
explanations. But this stuff above is what keeps coming up for me
when I think about your work. When Struth was getting up at dawn to
take empty cityscapes 20 or 30 years ago, was it the same? Is it
simply different person, different place? Are they documents, with
beautiful light, of the neglected and unseen, similar to the Bechers
plants and mills? Certainly after looking at them over ti
me I begin to understand them as you're pictures and they do cohere
into a body of work but my idea is that if you understand what you
really want these pictures to convey, their power will increase.
Sincerely, Jamey"

The truth is I do not know what I am trying to do. It started with the picture above. It was a scouting shot for a commercial job. I put the polaroid on the scanner and when the image came up on the monitor something happened. For a reason I still can not explain the image had some emotional power. It is kind of ugly and awkward. Up to that point I had worked very hard to make pictures that were perfectly composed and as beutiful as I could make them. And here, by accident , I stumbled upon an image that moved me. So when I sit down at the table at Santa Fe and I am asked what these pictures mean I will say I am chasing an accident.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Communication Arts Photo Annual


The Cure

Photo by Rob Prideaux
I got a call from a former assistant last week . He had just met with a picture editor to show his portfolio and the meeting had not gone well.The editor was not feeling the work and gave him a bunch of feedback he didn"t know what to do with. He was in distress.

I bid a job last week. The call with ADs went well and the word was I was The FAV. We were able to meet their budget and I was excited to begin work on the project. Of course, as often happens,  they ended up going with someone else. 

In both cases the solution to our problem is  the same. Shoot more. And then shoot again. Look at what you have shot and shoot again. 

All questions will be answered. All wounds will be healed. It is why we all picked up a camera in the first place.