proving grounds

© michal czerwonka, via the website The Stumping Grounds

On our way back from Kansas City, Marilu and I stopped in the small Iowa town of Nevada to catch a campaign appearance by Barack Obama. In the week leading up to the caucuses, this was a classic candidate event - held in an elementary school cafeteria and filled with down jacket-clad locals, energetic volunteers, and earpiece-toting secret service men.

I have a soft spot for Iowa during election years. Back in 1988, I was a college student in Des Moines, and spent much of that year photographing candidates rather than attending class. On any given day, for months leading up to the caucuses, you could photograph candidates in living rooms and church halls, and rub elbows with photographers like Steve Liss and Ken Jarecke. This was before I had my first newspaper internship, and I learned a great deal from Dennis Garrels, the local UPI staff photographer. Dennis was kind and patient, and at the time there was a great underdog aspect (to say the least) about stringing for UPI. It was an inspiring time for me, setting in stone the idea that I wanted to make pictures for a living.

The woman seated next to me at the Obama event was serious and thoughtful about the candidates - she had seen all the Democrats in person, and was still undecided. Don't get me started on how flawed our electoral college process is, but I'll say this: If the rest of the country was as knowledgeable about presidential politics as Iowans are, we'd all be better off.


as seen: pink bathroom

dots of light from the window shade © kjm



The prettiest Christmas tree I've seen this season is the one above, made by my almost-five-year-old nephew, Kale.

Happy holidays and hopes for a more peaceful new year...


a sad Christmas tradition

© kjm

As a kid, I don't ever remember a fruitcake finding it's way into our house at Christmas. With a mom from Hawaii, early December brought a series of battered, brown paper-wrapped boxes from across the Pacific. They held wrapped presents (usually super cool, exotic surfing t-shirts for us kids) and a bounty of food items not easily found in the Heartland. Sheets of nori, sticky bags of crack seeds (li hing mui), jars of furikake, takuwan, and small blue cans of macadamia nuts. The most prized item in each of these boxes was the Hawaiian Host chocolate-covered macadamia nuts. Thirty years ago, these were exotic and tasty treats, only to been seen but once a year. Unfortunately, the candy took on a smiliar regifting role as fruitcake, and much to our dismay, the boxes went unopened. Maybe my parents would open one box, but the other five were usually taken to some holiday dinner party or office function. "They'd better enjoy those..." is what we always thought.

My Aunty Lyn still sends a box of Hawaiian goodies each year, and mine arrived today - just in the nick of time. Rivaling the chocolates these days is the homemade jaboticaba jelly, still truly a treat in my Midwestern refrigerator. And in keeping with family tradition, the box of (untouched) chocolates will be heading to Kansas City with me, to be given to Marilu's family. They'd better enjoy them...



© kjm

Christmas came early today, as my letter carrier dropped off a big heavy box (sorry, Jerry), with copies of the American Photography 23 book. It's beautifully designed, with a die cut cover and 300+ pages of pictures.

The book is laid out in alphabetical order, so my fast food pictures are in ridiculously close proximity to work by Annie Leibovitz, Mary Ellen Mark, Robert Maxwell and Simon Norfolk.


in pocket

© kjm

I'll continue to champion the visual benefits of bad housekeeping. This stone-like ball of compressed paper was found in the nylon pocket of my 20-year-old Patagonia pile jacket today. It only gets occasional wear, so there's no telling how long the paper was turning in the washing machine like a stone on an ocean beach. Likely, it's a pristine white mass of important business receipts.


lucky number?

© kjm

It seems there's a slightly chainletterish game of tag going on in the photographerblogworld. The first I read of it was at Liz Kuball's blog and, slow runner that I am, I was recently tagged by Susana Raab. Not to worry, no Nigerian banks are involved.

I'll skip posting the actual rules, but basically, the tagette is supposed to list 7 strange/interesting life facts, and then tag 7 other bloggers to do the same. No pressure, but if you pass it along without breaking the chain, our President turns into a lump of coal. (OK, I just made that part up.)

So here goes:

1. A career test in high school told me I should be a park ranger. A guy in college once asked me to be a drug dealer. I chose instead the lucrative world of freelance editorial photography.

2. I was born with the name Jason, but my parents changed their minds, and I left the hospital as Kevin.

3. I was a member of a fictitious German disco tambourine band (but who wasn't?). It was reported in the press, so it must be true.

4. My nickname in high school, Gooch, came from a reoccuring bully character on Different Strokes. Some of the oldest peeps still use it and yes, it was meant to be (highly) ironic.

5. Acting on bad peer advice, the first album I ever bought was Foghat Live. Having evolved somewhat, the last album I bought was Rilo Kiley's Under the Backlight.

6. I have a slightly greater than normal fear of dog poop in the grass of public parks.

7. I am not related to Hayao Miyazaki. Or Kevin Bacon.

I won't take it personally if no one wants to play, but I hereby tag Mel Tritten, John Loomis, Thomas Broening, Claire and Jeremy Weiss, Timothy Briner, Kevin German, and Christian Patterson.


as seen: partial cover

Cemetery, Fish Creek, Wisconsin.
© kjm


from water to ice

© kjm

A brief Art Basel Miami recap from a much colder location in northern Wisconsin. The photo above is of Mike Brenner's scrappy Hotcakes Gallery setup at the Aqua Hotel, room no. 122.

There are ridiculous amounts of art to be seen at these fairs, and the density can be a bit overwhelming. You get an over-served, post-Thanksgiving dinner feeling, with no Lazy-Boy recliner to come to your rescue. In the 5th hour of looking, another (too large) Thomas Struth picture is like another (too large) spoonful of mashed potatoes that you don't need.

That said, I should never complain about seeing lots of artwork. I took in most of the main fair, and also see the satellite fairs Aqua, Pulse, Red Dot, Bridge, Geisai, APAD, and Photo Miami. And I did get to see some real life photographers as well (wow, someone actually makes this stuff!), including Sonja Thomsen, Amy Stein, and Jeffery Salter. And a treat was meeting up with John Loomis and his fiance for lunch.

A few things that stayed with me were David Almeida's plant photos at Geisai, Mariana Cook's sweet Close to Home series at Lee Marks and some solarized silver prints by a photographer named Anthony Pearson.


don't miss it: darren hauck

© darren hauck

My local coffeetalk pal Darren Hauck has new work, in the form of a multimedia podcast, over at Daylight Magazine. Darren's work couldn't be more different than mine - he's brave and dives right in (he: molotov cocktails; me: just cocktails), and this work is a good example of that. The photographs are from two recent trips covering the elections in Guatemala, and he shares the podcast page with notable photographers Danny Wilcox Frazier and the late Alexandra Boulat.


as seen: fresh snow

If Harry Callahan Was, For Some Reason, Helping Me Shovel This Morning © kjm

Did I mention I'm heading to Miami?


heading south

© kjm

I'm thrilled to have some work later this week at Aqua, an art fair that's part of the larger Art Basel Miami, the four-day contemporary art epicenter for galleries, collectors and art makers. Mike Brenner, a heavy hitter and heavy lifter on the Milwaukee art scene, will bring his Hotcakes Gallery to warmer climes and the Aqua Hotel. Each gallery at the fair commandeers a single room in the boutique hotel, with art stuffed under beds and a hipster crowd factor of 11.

The work I'll be showing is from the Fast Food series, and this is the first time I've printed or framed any of the work. Each image will be part of an edition of 15, and I chose to make c-prints for the first time, as opposed to inkjet. There are certainly pros and cons each way, but I think c-prints are still more uniform and broadly understood in the art world. Terrance Reimer, a longtime acquaintance and great photographer, who works as a master printer at West Coast Imaging, made the mighty fine prints. I'll speak more about the thought pattern behind the size and presentation of the pictures soon.


within reach: this morning

41 Small Observations, 9:34-10:09am © kjm