on work and focus

© chrys laramy

I have work in a group show opening tonight at the Elaine Erickson Gallery. The work in the show is by artists participating in the Milwaukee Artist Resource Network's mentor/mentee program. As the name implies, the program pairs working artists with emerging artists. Participants meet to discuss their work and processes, their inspirations and direction. It's a great program, and I was proud to be a part of it.

I worked with the photographer Chrys Laramy, who had recently moved to Milwaukee. While living in Minneapolis, Chrys had completed a very personal documentary project involving the death of her baby son. She was looking for a new direction of sorts, and one of the things we discussed was still life photography - even though neither of us had much experience in that area. She was spending time at home with her son Morgan, and this type of project was an easy place to start. Chrys made a series of images of rocks she had collected - the one above is my favorite. I think it taught us both that it's good to change gears sometimes - even if it's not a creative direction that you keep heading in. I, myself, have stacks and stacks of paper in my office, and am pondering a still life project involving them somehow...


tinytinygroupshow, #1

the introductory show(!): Evidence

is a mini electroexhibit of photographs based around a basic theme. There are no gallery hours, price lists, commissions, lengthy wall texts, or attractive gallery assistants. There will be no openings, so please don't ask for free wine and cheese. tinytinygroupshow is merely a place to have a brief look at some photography, by photographers known and unknown, in a manner that hopefully provokes thought.

Click on the image above to view the show...


wish i were (still) there, #3


I'm heading to Spain this week for one of my favorite clients, Virtuoso Life. These two pictures are from my first assignment for them, in the Burgundy region of France. I spent a week on a canal barge, photographing the landscape, food, wineries, and the small local villages. This upcoming trip will be wine-related as well, and I'll be traveling with the writer Jeff Koehler, the author of a wonderful cookbook on paella. Jeff and I met while working together on a story about Barcelona, where he lives with his wife and kids. I can't cook to save my life, but returned from Burgundy with a recipe for gougere (above), a puffy French cheese pastry. Early attempts with Marilu failed to capture the fluffiness (they were more like petite French rocks), but we've since made some great batches.


i love this photo, #5

©kristine larsen

I love this photo by the photographer Kristine Larsen. I just recently saw Kristine's website for the first time, but I'm quite sure I've seen her work in magazines. Her website is filled with interesting images in several categories. There's a great group of 'mall portraits,' and a set of photos from lower Manhattan, titled 'before and after.'

This photo, which I find cinematic and a pleasingly mysterious, is in a group called 'illustrations'. Kristine explains that she doesn't use the computer for her illustrations, and the photo took three separate shoots to get just right. She learned a lot about bubble-making fluid technology in the process. It was shot for a business magazine, but unfortunately never ran.

To me, the scene looks like a suburban 4th of July block party, in which all the participants have suddenly disappeared...


as seen: a stylish portland ride


Makes my Honda Civic look like a ... well, a Honda Civic. But at least I removed the bowling trophies from my hood years ago, in an effort to lessen my carbon footprint...


where my heart is, occasionally


I have some photos in the latest issue of Metropolis Magazine. It's my first time, so I'm thrilled about that. I'm starting to shoot more architectural work, but it's still only an occasional diversion from the editorial work. The pictures were shot for the Milwaukee firm of Johnsen Schmaling Architects - they call it the "Camouflage House" because of the relationship with the trees and land around it. It's a gorgeous house, and I spent a long day last winter photographing it. It seems Sebastian (Schmaling) and Brian (Johnsen) have won just about any award possible for the project, and rightfully so...


my so called collection, #4

I collect old postcards. Particularly ones from around the turn of the century. Back then, there wasn't a place on the address side of the card to write a note (known as "undivided backs" in postcard collecting lingo). So the writing had to be done on the front. I love the graphic nature of imagery that occurs when handwriting is blended with pictures. And didn't everyone have nicer handwriting back then? Maybe it was the pens...

This particular one was sent from Los Angeles to Dayton, Ohio, in 1907. It wins bonus points because the handwriting is upside down. When I used to keep a journal, I'd write upside down on particular entries that were especially personal.


i love this photo, #4

© Danny Wilcox Frazier

I love this photo by the photographer Danny Wilcox Frazier. The picture was taken in Skopje, Macedonia, while Frazier was working on a story about an Ethnic Albanian who had traveled back to Kosovo from the United States. He says the photograph "showed the tension of the time - life was returning to normal, but there was still unease resonating in shadows." I love the visual depth of the picture - it's a great example of an image that keeps unfolding, the longer you view it.

Danny's a photojournalist who lives in Iowa City, and has spent years documenting life in rural Iowa. His first book, "Driftless: Photographs from Iowa," will be published this fall, as a result of winning the Center for Documentary Studies/Honickman First Book Prize, juried by Robert Frank. Frank paid what may be the ultimate compliment to Danny's photographs when he said, "Frazier's work will survive."


arrange 'em if you got 'em


No, I didn't smoke these myself. Jim, from the hardware store next door, provided the goods.

I made my first photo illustrations in college, in the pre-computer era, and later with early versions of Photoshop. As was common in those new Photoshop days, some were awful. I remember one which involved the elements of clouds and an hourglass - enough said.
These days, I have an old client, Cincinnati Magazine, where I was the photographer on staff years ago, who hires me to do a monthly photo illustration. They're usually of a humorous nature, to illustrate a column by the writer Steve Kissing. This one was about living with a partner who's trying to quit smoking.

Have a healthy weekend...


wish i were (still) there, #2


Two summers ago, I spent a week photographing in Door County, Wisconsin for a story in Minnesota Monthly. Door County is Wisconsin's thin peninsula that juts out into Lake Michigan. The landscape and architecture is reminiscent of Cape Cod. This photo was taken at the Rusche family produce stand near Sturgeon Bay - it's hard to imagine that its changed much over time. It wasn't cherry season at the time (something the area is known for), but the father went into the house to bring me some frozen cherries. They were simply put in the freezer after being picked, and wow, was that delicious and refreshing...


end of the road, for now

Motel sign in Weed, California. ©kjm

I'm back home now, after two weeks on the road. It was a fun trip, and also a reflective one (more on that soon), with a few days of pure wandering, good regional ales (Mirror Pond + North Coast Brewing Co.), a near miss seeing a cousin (next time, Marissa!), and a really nice stay with Steve and Jen in Olympia.


i love this photo, #3

© David Seidner

I love this photo by the late photographer David Seidner. The picture is from his book, Artists at Work, in which he photographs the environments of rock startists like Brice Marden, Cindy Sherman, and Jasper Johns. He includes a black and white portrait of each, but it's the photographs of the studios that I prefer. This picture is from Joan Mitchell's studio, and it reminds me a bit of a Peter Beard collage. It's not a dramatic image, to be sure. But it's a bit voyeuristic (who among us could have had a studio visit with Joan Mitchell?), and I tend to romanticize artist studios. After all, don't we wish to know what inspires an artist?


stickers on my closet door


Still on the road, but here's another recent picture from the series about my childhood home...


as seen: landscape near ono, california


Six reasons why I'm smiling:

1. I worked really hard for the past two days on a shoot for Cottage Living - long days, and I think I made some really nice photos. So today's drive seemed like a cold beer at 5pm.
2. It's my first time really seeing Redwood trees. When you stand next to one for the first time, you think all the trees you've ever seen in your life have been shams - hollow shells in comparison.
3. I took more great roads today - California highways 254, 36, and A16, if you're keeping score at home. Slowgoing, lots of turns, and virtually empty. One mountain stretch, between Bridgeville and Dinsmore, went miles without even a painted center line. How often do you see that? Guard rails? Nope.
4. No cell coverage for almost my entire day.
5. Good music. Some really eclectic radio stations, with a certain soft spot for The Greatful Dead (is that like reverse payola?). And I burned a cd last night with some of my favorite road tunes - like Green On Red's 'Keep On Movin'' and Van Morrison's 'Caravan,' which takes me right back to my earliest roadtrips with Andy.
6. I found floaty pens for Diane and Marilu. It's a bit of a scam, collecting floaty pens. Once your friends know that you collect them, they just start pouring in, from all over the world. The one I found today was from the gift shop at the Chandelier Tree, one of the redwoods that you can drive your car through. It's classic floaty pen material - it'd be a crime if they didn't sell one.


drive on the dotted line


I love a good road.

In William Least Heat Moon's driving days, they were marked in blue on the map. Nowdays, the great ones are usually red, and lined with dots. For the past few days, I've been driving Hwy 1 along the California coast, from San Francisco to Ft. Bragg. Let's just say this one deserves every dot.


as seen: san francisco


Sticking with a Japanese theme, two images from the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco.

Marilu and I spent a fun day Sunday with friends Ken and Mary Louise, following the amazingly happy and sweet wedding of Sandi and Josh. We wound down the coast from Sonoma to San Francisco, and stopped in Golden Gate Park to see the new Herzog & de Meuron building and the Japanese Tea Garden. It was my first time there, and I'd love to visit again with my 4x5 and some black and white film...


my so called collection, #3

© Lisa Britton

This photograph, a toned fiber print, was made in Kyoto by the photographer Lisa Britton. Lisa, who teaches and makes art in Cincinnati, lived in Japan for a time. The title of the picture is "Tabi and Geta." Tabi are the cotton socks, and geta are the wooden Japanese slippers.


portrait sure things?

©Chris Buck

I don't photograph celebrities. It's not a policy, mind you - it's just that no one ever hires me to do it [attention-getting cough here]. I did share an elevator ride with Fabio, though, and George Clooney once opened a door for me (chivalry isn't dead in Hollywood). But if I were asked to photograph a celebrity, here's my list of what I think would be portrait sure things. Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying it's an easy niche - there are time restraints, publicists, egos, 2nd and 3rd assistants, and gigantic fans to position. And the photographers that do this work, do it really well. I once did a great workshop with Andrew Eccles, and I love the work of Kwaku Alston. Chris Buck is my favorite portrait photographer working. But anyway, here's a list:

The Top Ten Celebrities That, Given A Normal Amount of Time And Good Catering, Would Be Pretty Easy To Make A Great Portrait Of:
1. Beck
2. John Hodgeman
3. Tina Fey
4. Cat Power
5. Moby
6. Philip Johnson
7. Naomi Watts
8. The White Stripes (does that make this a Top Eleven?)
9. Yo Yo Ma
10. Bjork


an american (with a blister) in paris


Americans and foreign languages - argh.

Me: [entering a tiny corner shop, after realizing I'm developing a blister on my heel] "Bonjour! [Pause] Do you have...bandages?"
Old Man Behind the Counter: [Confused look] "Sandwiches?"
Me: [slower and making a wrapping motion with my hands] "Bandages?"
O.M.B.C.: [Still looking confused] "Sandwiches?"
Me: "Bandages?"
O.M.B.C.: [Just a shrug]
Me: [Leaving] "Merci!"


i love this photo, #2

©Scott Peterman

I love this photo by the photographer Scott Peterman. I was only aware of his work this week, but I read about him in two different places. The first was a story about Portfolio, the new Conde Nast business magazine, and how his photo was chosen for it's first cover. The second reference was in the PDN Annual, which just thumped on my doorstep today. His book, titled "Scott Peterman" (sort of like a first album?), was featured in the photo book category.

The work reminds me of a project photographing garage forms by Steven D. Foster.

©Steven D. Foster

Each of Steve's images are only a few inches wide, and are traditional darkroom prints. When I first saw the work a few years ago, I couldn't stop marveling at the gorgeous quality of the prints themselves. I would have loved to be in the darkroom watching Steve print this little marvels. Mostly, I admire how Steve is celebrating common forms here, seeing something beautiful in what most of us can't see.


the window in cheryl's room


A new photo from my ongoing series of photographs from my childhood home.

my so called collection, #2

© Michael Wilson

I used to live near a tiny little cafe in Cincinnati called Myra's Dionysus. It holds fond memories for me, partly because I started going there at an exciting time - I was starting my first real job in a fresh new city. But mostly, the food was delicious and cheap, and the place was filled with a good spirit. There were lots of nights with wine and great vegetarian fare, and Myra running to and from the tiny kitchen in the back.

It was at Myra's that I first saw the work of the photographer Michael Wilson, and this sweet gem of a picture. I got to know Michael after I bought this picture, and I have a great respect for him and his work. He photographs musicians for record labels, but he doesn't fit the stereotype of a rock star photographer. He once invited me to a shoot, and it was clearly his lack of bravado and low tech charm that won over the band.

I haven't seen Michael in years, unfortunately. I once asked him if we could trade portraits - each making a picture of the other. He liked the idea, so maybe it's time to give him a call.