Archive for the ‘Books’ Category
Today is official release of a book I wrote for my alma mater, LIFE magazine. What a long strange trip photography is. I shot my first job for the magazine in 1984, and managed somehow to survive editor changes, shifts in format, style, and even the change of the physical size of the magazine to keep shooting for them right through the nineties. Just about 1995 they asked me to become their first staffer in 23 years, which also meant I became the last staff photographer in the history of the magazine, as it is no longer publishing. As I always point out, being the last in a series of 90 staff shooters at this illustrious picture magazine probably means that someone writing the history of this field will probably associate my name with the death of photojournalism:-)
It was an honor to write, given the fact that my editor was Bob Sullivan. Sully and I have done stories together over the years for LIFE, Time, and Sports Illustrated. As I always say about him, he is one of those editor/writers who know more stuff about more stuff than just about anybody I know. He gave the book coherence and structure, and a sense of the English language that my location influenced photo dialect falls far short of. He can switch hats from sports to news to music to celebrities in a heartbeat, which has made him the perfect editor at LIFE, which was about all that and more.
LIFE of course continues in electronic form as one of the most popular photo sites of the web world. LIFE.com is a treasure trove of the current pictorial news of the day, as well as a rich mix of images from the archives of the magazine, many of which never saw ink on paper, and are only now just being published for the first time. I’m the guest editor at the site right now, and I had a wonderful opportunity to ramble a bit about my favorite LIFE shooters and their images. Check it out here. Also do a stint on holding cameras, and a section called “dynamic photography.”
The LIFE Guide is just that–a guide. It can take a newbie right from opening the box containing the new digital picture machine right through composition, light, lenses, and color. Predictably, given the author, it is not a dry, nuts and bolts account of f-stops and shutter speeds, but more of a mix of basic information, leavened with 30 years of field experience offering notions of when it is appropriate to bring that information into play, and fly by the “rules,” or just chuck the manual and go with your head and your heart.
It’s got lots of stuff….
Not to mention a fairly bent set of tips…..:-)
They did the smart thing of making it with a semi-hard cover, flexible but tough, and of a size that is fairly easy to stuff into a camera bag or backpack. I plow through basics such as aperture and shutter speed, rule of thirds, lens use, light and color, and even a bit about flash. It is, well, soup to nuts:-) Hoping to make the basics fun, and to keep folks who already have those basics tucked away in their noodles entertained and intrigued with field strategies, and lessons from a whole bunch of hard won (and lost) assignments.
Just caught up to this column by Ashley Gilbertson in the NYT, all about Tim Whelan pulling the plug on his tiny photo bookstore in Rockport, Me. Dang. Above is a portrait I did of Tim in his shop a number of years ago, with his beloved pooch, Maya. It is one of my favorite pix, understandably, ’cause the combo of the little shop and Tim’s company was irresistible.
It was a rite of passage as an instructor up at Maine Media Workshops. Finish your class, get paid, and go and leave a chunk of the check behind at Tim’s store. A wander (make that more of a shuffle, the place wasn’t very big) through the shelves and the stacks just made you feel good. It made you think, it made you wonder. It always ramped up my sense of curiosity about somebody else’s visual take on the world. You felt hemmed in by paper and ink, and that always felt good. And then there was Tim–easygoing, conversational, knowledgeable.
To say it was like taking a step away from the madding world is a bit redundant, because if you are in Rockport, Me., you’ve already taken that step. It was, however, quiet time, which is always in short supply. Contemplative. Dare I say, kinda like going to church–but much more fun.
I would take my classes there all the time, and, per above, Tim was always a willing and wonderful subject for a lighting demo. Ironically, I put this pic in a new book I just wrote for LIFE, as an example of an environmental portrait, a face in a place.
I can’t feel bad for Tim. He ran a wonderful shop, and I’m sure, has great friends and memories that stem from doing so. From the article, it seems like he is making a sensible move to greener economic pastures.
I just feel bad for the rest of us. Ever walk down the street in a howler of a storm, winds pummeling you like you’re a speed bag, rain flooding your glasses, stinging your skin, ruining your clothes, and just making misery out of everything? (If you’re a freelance photog, you take this walk everyday, even if you don’t know it.) You get inside, close the door, the winds abate, the noise recedes, and you just stand there, thankful for the quiet? (Except of course, for the sound of you, dripping on the carpet.)
That was Tim’s shop, to me. An easy place, apart from the storm. In a way, his photo bookstore was like a good photo. Gave you pause. Made you think. Welcomed you in. Started a conversation, at least in your head. His shelves were filled with reminders of why we do this. I’ll miss it.
LIFE is strange, right? And wonderful. It is, “Life Its Own Self,” as Dan Jenkins once famously wrote. I shot my first job for the venerable picture magazine that was once everybody’s TV in 1984. Became a staff photographer in 1994. Last one in a series of 90 staffers. Now, 26 years after my first frame, I just finished another project that, I’m proud to say, goes to print sporting that famous red and white logo.
Never written a guide before. Yikes. Lots of stuff to think about. There’s tons of info in it gained from 30 years out there with a camera in my hand. I’d sit down to write, and have this mental image of my brain as a dump truck, complete with backup warning, starting to pour stuff into my computer. Having done that of course, it would need to be shaped and formed, and I would somehow have to take my photo lingo shorthand and turn it into English. The book starts with the moment you open the box you just got, the one with the digital camera inside, and goes from those super basics right through lenses, light, color, composition to photo terms and concepts, and shooting strategies that make pictures better. Along the way, I drop in little blog like essays that relate field strategies and expertise in a fairly amusing and irreverent (hey, it’s me) way. The result is a guide that covers the basics, with anecdotes about how those basics save your butt when confronted with a photo situation that is decidedly not so basic.
Started on LIFE’s path years ago via being assigned by John Loengard, perhaps the most visually intelligent editor I have ever worked for.
A legendary shooter in his own right, he went from location work to the editor’s desk with impact and influence. (Not all shooters can do this. Many have tried, only to find they should have stayed on the street, and continued to do that which they were good at–shoot pictures.)
Not so John. He’s equally formidable with a camera, or a loupe. In his role as picture editor, to say he was provocative is to understate the case. He got you wired up for the assignment, made you nervous (at least he did me), and dropped incongruent and startling picture notions into your noodle. In short, he got you to think.
Thoughtful pictures are his forte. His book, Pictures Under Discussion, is a must for anyone who might want to do this seriously.
There are gifts that accrue from hanging in there and doing this nutty thing for as long as I have. One truly astonishing one–John wrote the forward for this book. His writing, just as intelligent as his photography, becomes a link between the historic LIFE of film times, and nowadays, with pictures as ones and zeroes. I followed suit in my writing. The book is all about digital shooting. But there are some film pictures in it. Why? Because none of the underpinnings of shooting good pictures have really changed. It remains, then and now, a situational, improvisational, nail biting, uncertain thing to do. It is first and foremost an art and craft powered by your head and your heart, and your sense of the world. The machine in your hands is immaterial. But–this powerful new digital machine can be mysterious and needs explaining. Hence the book.
I can say it has been a truly wonderful LIFE. I was a bit of a fireman for the magazine. Ever the generalist, I got sent to cover all manner of things. In Russia, I bounced around, weightless, in pseudo-space.
Spent time with Leonard Bernstein as he composed.
Went to Rwanda after the genocide.
Took the clothes off the Olympic team in ’96.
Did a portrait of Kim, “the napalm girl,” and saw how someone’s entire life can spin on the snap of a shutter.
And, in a decidedly dad moment, put my kid on the cover. (Hey, I saved the mag some dough. No model fee. How’s that for a nice, juicy rationalization?)
In short, had the privilege of seeing and recording lots of different bits and pieces of life as people live it. Learned a lot of lessons. Tried to hold up, as best I could, the tradition of vibrant storytelling that was the indelible imprint of the magazine. In this book, I talk a lot about the how to. That’s a given. “How does this thing work?” is explained and re-explained. I also offer up notions about the “why for?” the “what if,” and the “you might just want to.”
In short, I talk about being a shooter. How you do it, and why you do it.
Many of the LIFE photogs were heroes and mentors to me. I was offered a small space in the book for a dedication. See below.
This book is dedicated to those who went before. To what they saw, and how
they saw it. And to the fact that, sometimes at great peril, in impossible
conditions, with all odds against them, they shot it well and beautifully,
and shared it with us. Their work is the stuff of all our memories.
Hot Shoe Diaries was the number one reader’s pick for the arts and photography category on Amazon for 2009.
Pretty cool. I’ve gotten some wonderful feedback from folks who really enjoyed the book and I thank everyone for the kind words that have been sent my way. Very appreciative of the support, and thanks for letting Amazon know about it!
It’s been an interesting week. There was the good news about the book, and then Lynn, my studio manager for 18 years, was going back and forth with a major multi-national who had a check for us, but had the wrong address listed. It batted around the GPO in NYC for a bit, and was returned, so thankfully, they called and got it all adjusted properly and re-sent it. (As far as Lynn’s longevity with me is concerned, rest assured I am extremely appreciative. I just called Rome, and tried to put her name on the list for beatification as a saint. They asked, well, has she performed any miracles? I said, “Are you kidding me? We’re still in business!” The line went dead. Maybe I shoulda emailed?)
We anxiously awaited the check. This could be it! What a great week! First the Amazon rating, and now, a check! The one that puts us over the top! No more worries! Livin’ large. Next trip to LA, book me the Walter Iooss memorial suite at Shutters on the Beach!
It showed up, and frankly, it was disappointing.
Eighty two cents? Jeez. Undaunted, I went into a convenience store and walked up to the very nice lady at the counter and asked if there was anything in the store I could buy for .82 cents.
She looked at me hard, and didn’t even have to say, “Are ya stupid, or just plain crazy?”
I assured her I was not, and that I knew it was a little weird, but my budget limit was eighty two cents.
She tried to be helpful, but was having a hard time thinking of stuff. I suggested a box of Tic Tacs but no way. Tic Tacs are like, around $1.55 most places, except Kennedy Airport, where they are $17.26. The little boxes generally have 36 individual tic tacs, which makes them about 4.3 cents per, so I could have converted my check into 19 of those minty little guys, but they don’t sell them individually.
Newspaper? Not even close. Refrigerator magnet? I got the look again. I got outta the store, lest I discovered hassling the clerk early in the morning might lead me to discover eighty two cents could possibly purchase a big noise and a used shotgun shell.
But hey, things are okay. I just got notification from Delta that I’m in the million miler club. Million miles, just on Delta. Sheesh. Evidence, perhaps, of a life gone wrong? Dunno. But it worked out this morning. On a non-refundable coach class ticket, I got an upgrade to first! Way cool. I was thinking on it, you know, anticipating the delights of the first class cabin. Eggs Benedict? A Mimosa? Pigs in a blanket? A foot rub? An exclusive first ever in the air viewing of “This Is It”?
Breakfast. Oh, well. More tk….
The best camera is the one you have with you. True words indeed. Variations on a theme. Jay Maisel always says it’s tough to take a picture if you don’t carry a camera with you. Now Jay sports a D3, but Chase Jarvis has just elevated the Iphone camera to legitimacy with this new book. The camera’s quiet and cool, and doesn’t intrude. It is barely noticeable in the act of photography, but it is a formidable recording device, as he shows.
This book is sleek, small and well designed, not unlike the machine that made the pictures. Combine those qualities with Chase’s eye, and well, there you go. The other thing that ramps up here for me is kind of a quiet, heretofore inside thought I have thunk on occasion, which is, when I have a camera on my shoulder, I feel, you know, dangerous. I’ve got a camera, I can see, I know how to work it, and well, let’s just have a look at things. The act of making pictures can be considered inherently subversive, obviously. Why do you think there are lots of people who have jobs specifically designed to control us? Control where we stand, what we shoot, and how what we shoot gets used, where it goes, and how it is displayed. I mean there are cadres of folks out there just waiting to say, “No.” The people who are just so willing to put a velvet rope around the sense of possibility and imagination. Plus they’re generally kinda cranky. Maybe their shorts are too tight.
Okay, so I was raised Irish Catholic and I’ve got authority issues. Photography can be wonderful, friendly, healing, easy going, and enjoyable. It can be a window or a mirror, to borrow some words from my old managing editor at LIFE, Dan Okrent. But what a camera sees can also be really truthful and incisive. Clear headed. A camera can actually show us stuff. Imagine that! But hey, wait a minute, we can’t just have a bunch of people with cameras running around here!
Well, hate to clue you in Mr. You-Can’t-Stand-Here, but we do. It’s interesting to me. I have walked down corridors and paths in out of the way corners of the world with a 35mm camera or DSLR slung and it can feel like you’re walking around with the UCLA marching band on your hip. I mean, it’s an announcement, you know? “Hear ye, hear ye! Pictures are about to me made!” Sheesh. Part of the art of this is to segue, you know, slip and slide, see moments and instead of trampling them, kind of sidle up to them, quietly.
I guess it’s a variation on that old joke about the old bull and the young bull up on the ridge, looking at a whole valley full of cows. The youngster can barely contain himself. “Let’s run down there and nail one of ‘em!” he says to his elder. Who just smiles and says, “How ’bout we just walk down there?” Knowing wink. “We’ll nail ‘em all.”
Not that announcements are a bad thing always. David Turnley, an incredibly fine shooter who spent numerous years documenting apartheid in South Africa, was on assignment in Harlem, USA, for the Day in the Life of America book project in the very early 80′s. He walked into a pretty tough looking bar, and of course, he was an outsider. A white outsider to boot. He walked up to the bar tender and respectfully introduced himself and the book project and said he’d like to spend some time in the bar shooting pictures. The bar tender evidently nodded, and in a large voice announced to everyone, “This here fella’s gonna shoot some pictures. Anybody don’t like it can get the fuck out!”
It’d be nice to have someone around like that all the time.
I digress. I think what I’m getting at is that Chase has taken this camera, with its’ still nascent technology, combined it with a cool app (kind of home turf for the Iphone and many folks who use it) and also extended its’ reach to ink on paper. Everybody’s talking about convergence nowadays, and here’s a very cool, accessible example. It also gave me, along the lines of David Hobby’s recently voiced sentiments, one of those “coulda had a V-8″ moments. Christ. I mean I’m having giggles with my Iphone downloading things like Atomic Fart, and here Chase goes and builds his own app.
It pleases me no end to think of Chase roaming airports and such, and interpreting stuff people walk on, over and around into graphically striking photos. Iphone in hand, he sidles up to the heretofore unseen. Often the scene or moment is quiet, and via the Iphone, it is quietly observed. It is also pleasing to think of the combo punch of this accessible, almost invisible piece of hardware with a lens plunked into it and the potential it has for recording, interpreting, and taking in the world around us. Then launching and sharing those visual missives instantly. An updated wrinkle for the visual community. Another possibility. For me, it is doubly pleasing to think there might be some folks annoyed by this.
Photographers. Despite efforts to corral us and tell us what to do, we refuse to listen. We’re like a nerf ball. Squeeze us one way, we splurge out another. Be it the Iphone, the D3, the Red Camera, the point and shoot…..the urge is upon us all to visually record our life and times. Visual passion. Knowing. Seeing. Point, shoot, breathe.
Or maybe look hip. Below my daughter Claire shot dad on recent shopping trip. It was the only way she could think of me not looking tragically flawed. (How do people work in those A&F stores? I spent 15 minutes in there and had acoustic whiplash for the rest of the day.)
This guy Chase, man, he’s good. We’re friends, and respect each other a great deal. When I spoofed him a bit in a video not too long ago, he laughed a lot and in an email called me a “mad bastard.” Well, back to ya, man. Typically, he not only shot these for himself, but with the book and technology, he opens a door for all of us to take a ride. Good onya.
Check out his new book here.
Damn this guy, though. Here I’ve been happy shooting 2-4 Iphone pictures a day. Shit. I’m gonna have to go to 5-10:-) More tk…