seeing with your eyes

© kjm

I just finished a backpacking trip in the Northern Cascades of Oregon with my friend Steve. It was fun to catch up with Steve on our somewhat annual trip, and the location and weather were spectacular. On trips like this, I usually don't bring my camera with me - it's a nice little vacation from taking pictures. There's lots of picturesque things, as you can imagine, but sometimes it's frustrating not having ALL your gear, in order to make a picture correctly. Without the whole kit, I'd just assume do without.

My brother-in-law Mark has a phrase for my nephew Kale when he's in china shop-type situations: "Look with your eyes." (A particularly good phrase for Kale, as Marilu and I think he's a bit of a Mini Zen Master.) So, channeling Kale, here's what I saw, and will hopefully remember: A pin-dropping quiet forest of enormous Hemlocks; an insane variety of mushrooms - from enormous, Grateful Dead hat size, to sponge-like, to creepy and slimy; tiny red salamanders swimming in a shallow lake; a plate of Trader Joe's Indian food and garlic naan; a snow-capped Mt. Hood; strange, unopened pinecones that were gnawed on by some little creature, leaving a pile that looked exactly like pencil shavings; a glassy mountain lake at sunset.

In full disclosure, I did take a few pictures of Steve, with his point & shoot, that I'd like to submit to the NY Times' Why We Travel column. Vacations have to be paid for somehow...


room at the inns

© kjm

Marilu and I took a break from the Phoenix heat (still!) to spend last night in Flagstaff, AZ. It's a great place - with laid back and friendly folk, a mountain town fashion aesthetic, no Starbucks in the town proper, and regular trains that can clear your sinuses with the volume of their whistles. It's thanks to the history of those trains that Flagstaff has a bundle of historic hotels - and the fact that the town sits right on Route 66 probably didn't hurt. We chose the charming room no. 42 in the Weatherford Hotel, above left (tip: avoid no. 59, which sits practically in the hotel bar).


i love this photo, #12

The Empty Plate, New York, 1947 © Irving Penn

I came across this wonderful Irving Penn picture recently, and I don't remember having seen it before. Which is a bit odd, because his book, Passage, is one of my all time favorites. This photo, to me, falls somewhere between his carefully crafted still life work and the richness of his portrait work. It also pleasantly reminds me of the work of Laura Letinsky and of this photo by Kelly Shimoda.


early places: searching for semi gloss

Corner Of The House On The Napholz Side © kjm

The house could really use a paint job, but our low-bidding-and-laid-back house painter is being a bit too laid back. The days are getting colder and shorter, and he's gone MIA. I'm not sure if it'll get done before the end of Fall. I helped my brother paint the house one summer, and Bruce Springsteen's album, The River, had just been released. As we painted (he up high, and me safely on the ground), we played the album on Kurt's Dual turntable (sweet!), and propped his big teenage boy speakers out the window.


my so called collection, #8

Herman's bed, Kenner, Louisiana 2002 © alec soth

Amy Stein posted recently about finding affordable photographs online from places like Aperture, Blind Spot, and SF Cameraworks. She has a great picture from her Stranded series available right now over at Humble Arts Foundation.

In 2004, I was able to get this Alec Soth picture from the Museum of Contemporary for about the cost of two months of winter heating. At the time, I had the money, and that's not always the case. But even if I didn't, it'd certainly be worth wearing my winter coat in the house for a while...


within reach

© kjm

One of the things I love about having a blog (besides the lucrative product endorsements), is that it's a place for certain pictures to have a home. A danger of doing assignment work is that you can put yourself in sleep mode until the phone rings. It's possible to be aware of interesting images around you, but what would I do with the picture once taken? Even the work I consider personal is defined somewhat rigidly by project. Easily brushed aside in some professional sense, the danger is losing the curiosity and spark that started me off in the first place. I tell young photographers to take lots of pictures - why should that be any different for me?

I don't know him, but I'm a fan of Channing Johnson's blog. The pictures he posts are small and heartfelt, and it seems like his camera is always in his hands. In my case, I've started to shoot more of what I used to pass by, and some of those subjects are in the space I occupy. It probably helps that I let things sit untouched, but I swear that's not on purpose.


as seen: the world as flat

Nightstand, Ox-Bow © kjm

I'm in Michigan today, on an assignment to photograph at Ox-Bow, an art school and artists' residency. It's a wonderful place, and though it sounds like brochure-speak, I felt more relaxed the moment I arrived yesterday. I met a local artist named Stephen, who told me about having had a brain aneurysm two years ago, and how he was still working to reconnect and realign his thoughts. He told me how, after the aneurysm, he lost the ability to see in three dimensions. He had regained the ability, but it still was causing problems for him artistically. Isn't the act of photographing is a bit like the opposite - seeing things in three dimensions, and then capturing them in the best way in which they'll be seen in two...?


as seen: a man in uniform


I had an assignment last week to photograph an 85-year-old WWII veteran named Keith. We had a lively conversation about his time in the war, about the manner in which he was shot by a German soldier (remember: never throw a third grenade from the same spot), and about my Japanese American relatives and family friends who had served bravely during the war. Truth be told, probably 75 of my 90 minutes with Keith were spent talking. As his lovely wife Carol put it, "He can talk all day about the war - and he does."

But this was one of those great assignments where you get a free pass into someone else's life and stories - and it made me miss newspapering, where these moments happened more often. Over the phone, I had asked Keith if he had any mementos from the war, which might look good in a photo. When I arrived, his old dress uniform was there, and when he put it on, it still fit him like a glove. Carol, who'd been married to him for 56 years, smiled and told me she'd never seen him in it.


tinytinygroupshow, #3

I had intended to open this show pre-Labor Day, considering the theme. But since it's still in the 80's here in Milwaukee, and I haven't yet put my white shoes and belts away, there's still time to Go Outside And Play.

Note: you might need to click on your screen once more to enlarge the show)

[ tinytinygroupshow 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. ]


lights on, nobody home

N. Milwaukee Avenue Location
© kjm

Thanks to photographer Michelle Nolan, who pointed me toward a closed-down Burger King in Chicago recently. This one was pretty fascinating, in that there was serious graffiti on the outside of the building, and from the sidewalk, it seemed like it had been closed for a while. But inside, there were random lights on, the floors were mopped, and everything was orderly...


happy labor day