i heart the dmv

© robert bechtle

Note: this post contains no irony.

I was at an office of the Department of Motor Vehicles today, and I left happier than I was when I arrived. First off, technology has been a friend to the system. There are big boards with LED numbers, so you actually can calculate how long your wait will be. Very civilized - read your magazine, keep an eye on the big number, head to counter #4 when called. Second, it was refreshing to see a jovial (and obviously brave) driving test administrator, greeting young drivers-to-be. Third, those same teenagers were seated waiting with their parents, and there was a nice nervous, excited energy in the air.

Mostly, though, I had a great time watching the drivers license photos being taken. Another good-natured DMV employee (I swear) manned the camera, which instantly sent a digital file to her monitor. She was so pleasant and made her subjects feel relaxed, in what most would consider a horrible way to spend 4 seconds. But here's the icing on the vehicular cake - she only called my first name when it was my time to be photographed, and when I arrived at her counter, she asked quietly how I pronounce my last name. When my license was ready, a few (minutes!) later, she called out my full name confidently, pronouncing it perfectly.

Due to the low tech lighting of the camera, and to my lack of recent physical exercise, I'll politely decline to show you my new portrait. Instead, here's a painting, above, by Robert Bechtle. Were all station wagons green back then?


around here

© mark brautigam

I had a nice talk recently with the photographer Mark Brautigam. Mark also lives in Milwaukee, but I first saw his work on Andy Adams' Flak Photo site. The project On Wisconsin has Mark traveling the state with his 8x10 camera, and making what I find to be quiet, honest pictures.

We talked about projects, day jobs, web presence, big prints, photography sales in galleries, and the virtues of the c-print vs. inkjet. Mark has a new project on the horizon, but the two photos above are new images (seen here first!) from Wisconsin. The woman on the right is sitting in the fire museum in Pestigo, and I love how the details cue you in to how many hours she spends in that spot - the flyswatter, paperback, and space heater all within easy reach.

Trust me, I live here - Mark's photographs feel like Wisconsin.


i love this photo, #14

© Amy Toensing

I love this photo by the photographer Amy Toensing. It was made while she was working on a story about Monhegan Island, Maine, and shows Harry and Doug Odom, with their dog, Taxi. The two brothers, who never married, were icons on the small island - having been lobstermen, merchants and benefactors. They are shown preparing for bed in the room they shared - hanging above each brother's bed is a portrait of the other. (You can see more pictures, video clips and text from the story here.)

Amy was an intern at National Geographic in 1999 when she started working on the story. To me, the picture and the story behind it are in the classic tradition of the magazine. Amy spent lots of time on the tiny (700 acres) island, getting to know the community in an honest way. In the case of this particular image, she had made regular visits to the brothers' home, chatting with them as they played cribbage. One day, in order to show her an old photograph, Doug brought Amy into the bedroom. She knew she'd be back to make a picture of the brothers as they prepared for bed.

But it was only after she had spent honest time with her subjects that she was able to make this gem of a photo. It makes me wonder: as photographers, what simple, yet amazing things don't we see? What incredible and important picture is just down the hall?


as seen: after the fall

while walking with marilu on thanksgiving day © kjm

At my last job, I had a clear view of a ginkgo tree from my desk. One Fall day, the tree lost all of it's vibrant leaves in one dramatic session, which lasted through the afternoon. Of course, the beauty of this annual act is lost if you're not in the right place at the right time. But the trees also leave a concise and soft bed of yellow leaves after the fall.


found: thanksgiving

In a rush this morning to see family in Ohio for Thanksgiving, I only had time for this: a five minute Google Image search on "thanksgiving dinner." Hope your's is full of family or friends, dogs on the couch, and a not-so-burned turkey...


old milwaukee, #4

© kjm

Closed-down grocery, Fond du Lac Avenue.


within reach: two days

© kjm

On Wednesday, there were still vibrant, late fall leaves on the trees in my yard. Today, they're falling fast.


emerging and grateful

Shade Pull In Abandoned Apartment,
from the series Camp Home
© kjm

I was thrilled to find out recently that I was a recipient of a Mary L. Nohl Fund Fellowship, a grant for individual artists living in the Milwaukee area. It's a generous amount of money, which is intended for new or ongoing projects. Some of the funds will be used to travel back to Tule Lake, likely in February, for more work on the Camp Home series. And I'm also planning to do more research and travel for the Fast Food series.

A friend asked why I received a fellowship in the "emerging" artist category (there is also an "established" category), since I had been making pictures for quite a long time. In truth, I've only fairly recently become serious about my personal photography - what I consider my artwork, as opposed to my editorial magazine work. So this news is incredibly encouraging, and comes in a year when I feel like I'm really making some creative progress.


as seen: dtw

© kjm

Isn't it interesting how airplanes in flight are such loaded visual images these days? No reason to fear for this one, which was taking off over the Detroit airport on a recent cloudy day. The dot pattern is from the terminal window, covered with some sort of shade-producing dot pattern.


as seen: some time off in gotham

© kjm

This trip to New York was a real, if brief vacation - especially in that I didn't bring the camera backpack or laptop. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that, but I'm rarely sansCanon, and it was liberating to only sling the new point+shoot around my neck.

Some highlights: hanging out with friends Kitty+Charles, Craig+Kim, Phaedra, Mike, and Josh; chatting up top snappers Andrew, Amy, and Q.; drinks with Josiah, Bruce+Amy, and Christine at the swanky Maritime Hotel; some mighty fine hangover food at Cafeteria; good shoptalk with friends at Redux; a sweet show of Kert├ęsz polaroids at Silverstein; a serious slice (or three); and lastly, a delightful surprise finding a show by former bandmate Mark Fox at Larissa Goldston.

We're already plotting our next visit...


out to lunch - back in 5 (days)

Highway 94 Location, 2006, from the series Fast Food © kjm

It'll be quiet here for a bit, as Marilu and I meet up in New York for a few days. We'll be attending the American Photography 23 book launch (the photo above will be included) and have a full dance card of seeing art and meeting up with new and old friends.

Don't stray too far, though - I'll be back with some good news early next week.


within reach: passerine mold

© kjm

The aforementioned trip (plus a few days, I suspect) is the reason for the mold floating in this jam jar/juice glass, seated on a songbird coaster.


up north

© kjm

I just returned from a few days in Northern Wisconsin at my friend Andy's family cottage. I've been going there since we were both in high school, and the place has always been special to me. In the past few years, the look of the cottage has changed a bit - toddler games and toys appear where there previously were none - evidence of Andy's extended family becoming larger. A new generation, including his daughter Eli, is learning to love the place as well.

On Saturday, while Andy scouted out his hunting land, I spent the day with his dog Nali and a copy of The Nature Of Photographs, sipping Alterra coffee and making some pictures (birch tree and pinecone, above) in crisp, refreshing quiet.


as seen: mend

Central Avenue, Phoenix © kjm