Topic: Foreign (11 posts) Page 1 of 3


In November 2014 I flew to Paris, picked up a rental car and drove south to Alba, Italy to visit with my friends John and Donna, who lived there then. Donna was working during the days so John and I went off so he could show me around. We stopped a few times to photograph. One morning we stopped at some wine vineyards, as there was a break in the rain. This is the famous Barbaresco area of vineyards, maintained now for generations and known to produce some of the best wines of Italy.

Over a couple of hours, with my camera on a tripod and with a long lens, I pointed at the rows of vines. The lens compresses space, bringing the farther away in closer and putting the closer subjects on a similar plane. It was gray and flat, with occasional breaks in the clouds letting sunlight in. It was dead calm and looked like it could start to rain again any moment.

I have just finished a very urban set of pictures of a new apartment building in Cambridge called Zinc. In deciding to go through back files I think I was looking for a counter to the dystopian view of a contemporary world gone askew that was Zinc. The vineyard pictures I had made in 2014 in Italy proved to be just the thing: beauty and this ancient landscape of manicured vineyards in these rolling hills.

The head versus the heart. Pictures made with much thought, thinking through the angles, framing, photographing for impact and to drive the point home versus letting the process of photographing unfold, variety within a common theme, and letting the sheer beauty wash over me. No schedule, no time limits. Just working, looking and feeling the place, the smells, the air and being at someplace simply sublime. About as good as it gets.

Almost two years between these two sets of pictures. Without one would there be the other? Probably not.The Zinc pictures just shot and printed this spring (2016) are all about the work made in this crystalline clarity, jarring and cutting like a knife. In comparison there is a flow here, a pattern, one affecting the other that is important to see, to react to. Just as we need to be at our creative best when in front of something we are photographing, just as we need to be tuned and in top form when we are making the prints, we also need to be 100% aware of one body of work affecting another.

Can I say that I was thinking about the Vineyard pictures from Italy while I was making Zinc? No. Can I say that after finishing the work on Zinc, feeling depleted and a little low, I was searching for something uplifting, far away and imbued with color? Yes, I can.

This is probably a first for me. One body of work just finished precipitating the printing of an earlier body of work. Maybe I should pair them. Will think about that.

The full series is now on the gallery page of the site here.

Topics: Foreign,Color,Digital,New Work

Permalink | Posted April 26, 2016

11 Days Out

I am now 11 days out from having surgery to replace my left hip (the right hip was done back in November). One of the after effects of having all the drugs in you from surgery is that several of your systems are also put to sleep. For instance, your digestive track may need a kick start to begin working again. So then you are being given drugs to counteract other drugs. In there you sort of lose your mind. Not as though you go crazy but my  mind was reduced to working in a far more primal state: survival. Days are simple; eat, stay warm, drink fluids, rest. Not because you're  being told to do this but because this is all you've got. Gradually I did begin to surface, to be able to think. At about 6 days out I found myself sitting at my kitchen table one morning all alone crying my eyes out. Was I sad, was there some big tragedy on my life? Nope, just strong a wave of emotion coming to the surface having been suppressed by drugs due to surgery. I remember being really happy at this outburst, this catharsis that meant I was able to feel again.

Over the past few days, real thought has been possible. Hell, I couldn't turn thought off. Ideas springing forth, as though some tap had been turned on. Pictures to make, new ways of working to explore, places to go to photograph, past projects to print, or reprint or to bring to the front. In fact, so many ideas that I have to be careful I don't act on them in haste. I could find my condo for sale, a new car in my garage, new lenses arriving even though I have bills to pay, me owning a vacation home someplace. 

But in terms of pictures, these from 2012 popped right up:

In a three or four print series

From a small northern Italian coastal town called Forti Di Marmi.

Painted rental changing rooms on a private beach. Why? Good question. Not the deepest of pictures I have ever made but perhaps more of a sensual delight; strong colors, a fast rendition due to the sweep to the railings and ceilings pulling back to a flat plane, a sense of constancy in design within the group, variety within a common theme. At any rate, there they were demanding my attention, these pictures made  in 2012. The current plan is make large prints of them. I think of them as a sort of celebration.

While I can't show you where I am headed I can show you what I am working on as past projects to fully realize, or in one case, re-realize work made in the past to bring it to the front.

Stay tuned. 

12 Days Out coming up next. 

So, despite that I am still using crutches to walk around and not driving yet, I don't think I'd be going out much to shoot today anyway. This is what my outdoor thermometer said this morning.


Topics: Foreign,Color,Digital,Series

Permalink | Posted February 14, 2016

Solothurn, CH

In 1983 I made a group of pictures in the town of Solothurn in Switzerland. 

They were a breakthrough group for me. As big as Nantucket (my first series) or the Oakesdale Cemetery (made in 1997) pictures, these brought me into a new way of seeing, in making sequential  pictures and established and confirmed a methodology that serves me to this day.

This was the first time I linked pictures next to each other. Putting something hinted at in one frame then clearly stated in the next but with the whole scene around it changing. A concept totally reliant on the very wide lens I used being held level to deceive the viewer into thinking all was normal when, of course, it was not. Note the laundry drying rack coming right up into your face in the second frame. That's an indicator at the severity of the width of the lens.

I wrote recently about the  pictures from Arsenale in Venice made 20 years later. Clearly, the pictures from Solothurn are the precedent (on the site here). I don't know if you can learn something from them or if they read as relevant today, but they sure rocked my world then. Epiphany? Oh yes, for sure. The closest I can come to Solothurn in the present day is the The Wall, Chelsea, MA made in 2014. If I hadn't made the Solothurn pictures 31 years earlier who knows if I would have arrived at the same place.

Note the same crumbling wall in all three of the photographs above.

Part of the act or life of being a career artist has to be this: the ability to sense that you've arrived at something large enough to pay attention to, to remember, to use in your cache of abilities, to apply when you find yourself in front of it again. In my case, this way of working is clearly a subset of a larger structure, the series work itself. You must have that too, a way of seeing or a sensitivity to a certain form or shape or content that you've worked with before and are familiar with. Repetitious? No, I don't think so. Just working within a construct that has worked before and that is used again when relevant.

In looking at these again, now made 32 years ago (yikes!), I find huge differences in the way I was seeing back then compared to now. The pictures looked less "together", less formalized, less structured and tight. There is a looseness to the Solothurn pictures that I like very much. Blurry here? Whatever. The edge not perfect? So what.

Don't like that branch coming down and intruding into the frame? Deal with it. A little assertive and sure. I am not implying I am less now, just different.

Take that camera with its fixed 38 mm Zeiss Biogon lens out of level and all hell breaks loose. 

See why I was so excited? These three frames above sliding along that same wall with the shutters, the door, the propane tank, and the wonderful bonus of the hanging garment in plastic rendered in multiple frames was simply too much. 

And then we start a new chapter or section:

Completely irresistible.

Solothurn, CH 1983. 


Want to see real prints of these? Contact 555 Gallery and ask if they can be made available for viewing. But be careful: there is only one set of the original 1983 prints and I do not break up series work for individual sales. But know this: you can look all you want for free.

Topics: Foreign,Black and White,vintage

Permalink | Posted October 6, 2015


In 2003 I went to Venice, Italy to scout it out as a possible location for teaching photography in the summers for Northeastern, where I ran the Photo Program. My idea was to combine forces with Holly Smith Pedlosky to teach photography for a summer semester for the school. Holly had gone to Venice frequently ever since her honeymoon when she was younger so she knew Venice very well. She also had been teaching workshops for many summers in Venice and, on alternating years, in Varenna, a village on the edge of Lake Como. Sadly, Holly died in 2012 of cancer (obituary here). Holly and I spent a week or so that summer traipsing around Venice, speaking to locals about how it all might happen: working on where we would house students, where we would teach, what we would teach, where we would house the faculty, the various logistics involved and so on. Little did I know that upon my return to Boston there would be a nightmare of bureaucracy and obstacles thrown up by Northeastern in the process of trying to make it all happen. Suffice it to say it took two more years of sitting in meetings with amazingly inept people, filling out forms and explaining the concept to pull it off. Argh! It gets my blood boiling just to think about it now. I was successful, though, and ran the course in Venice for three years myself. In fact, it is still running every summer.

That summer in 2003 I wasn't only there to plan a future study abroad program, I wanted to photograph. One of the areas that caught my eye was at the arsenal, (arsenale in Italian). Arsenale is a vaporetto stop (water taxi) and is the walled fortification where the military was housed to defend Venice throughout much of its long history.

But my interest was along the back side outside the walls of the Arsenale where it was, frankly, a mess. To get there I had to get off the vaporetto at an obscure stop on the other side of the island that really led to nowhere. There were some overrun gardens nestled up against the arsenal's walls. I might have had to cross a fence to get access. One of the advantages of increased age is that I can't remember.

What I loved about this place was that it was what the locals created away from the crowds of tourists. Venice is finite, an island in a lagoon with way too many people all the time. It is a sort of bizarre Disneyworld in that it is a place that is in existence to present itself to hordes of tourists from all over the world. And to get their money. But on the outside of the back side of Arsenale locals had a few tables, grew a few vegetables and escaped from the relentlessness of thousands upon thousands of people tromping through their city like in a siege. This place was an escape.

As I began to photograph it seemed odd but I was on familiar ground for I had made a series of pictures in a manner much like this many years before. The project was called Solothurn and was from a small town in Switzerland where the series unfolded in a sort of jigsaw puzzle of sequenced pictures. My series Arsenale is like that.

You can see that here everything is the same but different from frame to frame. I wrote a little about this way of working, referring to the Solothurn portfolio, made in 1983:

Solothurn CH to be precise. Having gone to a European photo festival in the town I set out with the Hasselblad SWC and several rolls of film down the back side of these row houses on a mid afternoon mid week in mid summer. Bang! These things so interconnected and intertwined as I walked down the street, something frame left was showing up in the next one, frame right. Like a jigsaw puzzle, the challenge was to see that, search, find the connection, the thing in its new location, and move on. This was a new way of working, of course. I’d never connected pictures to pictures this way before and this one hit me hard. There are also several frames where I push the lens right into something, more than I’d done before. It was this series that showed me how good the SWC was close in.
Let’s not forget that this is very early series days and this is maybe the third one I’d done (I started making tightly sequenced series work in 1981). It was a big period of learning for me as I was now in the work, so to speak. Not trying to get to the work, not hoping to be in the work, not wishing for anything except another shoot as good as the last shoot. “In the work” means I am in the project and consumed with it. Story of my life, really.

So there I was on the backside of the wall of Arsenale in Venice, Italy, making these pictures, sliding along to place something that had been on the left now in the center and/or perhaps next on the right

with the wall the glue that held the pictures together and made them compre-hensible.

So here, twenty years after I'd made the Solothurn pictures I was  back in this process in front of this wonderful and complex place and knowing I had a way, a method, a strategy by which I could make pictures. You get that, I am sure. That there needs to be a framework around which you hang your pictures, some sort of logic or process by which you work.  At least in this manner, this way of tightly sequencing the work to strive for a whole. 

I can't really go through all of them here as the post will be too long but will place them all on the site on the gallery page soon so you can see the full set.

At any rate, the project moves on in its incremental way and arrives here

to one of those "aha" moments, this rule breaker, this foundation shaking picture which is, all modesty aside, simply gorgeous with its structure, softness, its breaking away from the back wall to establish itself as no longer dependent upon the wall for visual support. It is a core picture in the series, one that many of the other pictures pivot around and one that hits close to home for me emotionally.

And, of course, it goes very well with this:

where things have really gotten a little out of control, growth-wise. The series concludes with a little more logic, a little restoring of things to a sort or normalcy. I am not usually a cynic and this series, made in 2003, came back around to the wall again and also to some of the tools used in keeping a garden.

I will finish soon, I promise, but bear with me for one more point. While I have discussed this way of working, this sliding down something to form a whole through composite parts (not so dissimilar to what what I did with Dorothy, from the Wizard of Oz, in the current show at 555 Gallery up until Oct 17 of my Monsters work which I really hope you go see) there is another concept at play in Arsenale. Is the seminal picture of the concrete pyramid made as it was found as I moved along the back wall, in essence there as if come upon as a surprise? Or are the other pictures made to hover around the pyramid because it was known and made first? To bring you into this one core image? Is this one picture made by calculation for perceived effect or by intuition in an emotional response? There are two different motivations as possibilities at work here and there would be two different results, I believe. For the record my process in making the Arsenale photographs was the former, for I didn't know the pyramid existed until after I'd made the earlier images in the series. So, yes, I came upon the pyramid. I love that, that the artist has made discoveries just as you do as you look at the work, picture after picture. That's in there, I believe. The joy or amazement in discovering an exceptional something in front of me and all it takes is the quality of my practice and the smarts to know it is exceptional. Finally, it is a contextual thing. No way would the pyramid photograph have any interest or relevance if the other sequence hadn't preceded it. Igor Stravinsky's melody and harmony make little sense and have little impact unless there is dissonance and stridency before them.

I find it ironic that the series of photographs of Arsenale is about the outside and back of the structure and this blog has been about the inside of the series.

We are done with Arsenale and its meaning and implication. What this is, of course, is explication. The explanation of the meaning of something. In large part it is what this blog is for. In the case of my work, to bring you into it and to help you understand it better and clearer, at least from this one person's perspective. Good work? Bad work? Can't really say, I just can relate it to you as I worked it, saw it then and see it now through the perspective of many years distance.

Care to respond? Feel free. As always, easy. Email me here

Topics: Italy,Foreign,Black and White,vintage

Permalink | Posted October 2, 2015

Go Back?

Do you go back? Do you delve into past work? Either from a few months ago or farther back in time, maybe in years?

Let me tell what I do that's not all that good. I go on a big trip to photograph somewhere. If you know me at all you know I work every day. I get up with charged batteries (figuratively but also factually) and formatted cards. Off I go on the day's shoot. Each night I go over the files on a laptop, perform a very rough edit, back up the RAWS  on a separate hard drive, format the card and charge the battery to start the next day ready to go.

When I come back from the trip I download the files and begin to look at them. I decide which ones I will print, usually in series, and I begin the work. After a month or two I have several bodies of work that are complete. I show the work around to colleagues,  friends and to Susan Nalband at 555 Gallery where I exhibit my work, and then move on to the next project. Done.

Not so fast. Are what I have worked with the definitive photographs from what I shot? Have I made the best choices? Have I missed something? Very possibly. And what if I've moved on to new projects, new things I am shooting that I am excited by and that I want to see as prints? 

If you are always moving on to the next project are you leaving work behind that has real merit or significance? Is it possible that the way you printed them or showed them is not allowing the work to exist at its best, or perhaps in some way that brings new insight into the work that you hadn't dealt with the first time around? 

Does any of this matter? To wonder whether or not you've made good work you haven't brought front and center? Truthfully, probably not. In the realm of things going on in the world like disasters, wars, senseless killings, poverty, rampant injustice and inequality, your and my pictures most likely are not a ripple on the ocean of everything. It only really matters if it matters to you. The way I play this is to work to remember what I was thinking as I made the pictures. As I stood there in front of something and worked with it. Thinking of the potential of this, or the sequencing of that. Thinking of how the prints would look like this or this. Trying to figure out how to make sense of the work. Was I shooting it all, did I get everything I needed? To remember the level of commitment to the work as I made it.  If I can do that and it was high then it is a no brainer. I will print the work. 

So at this stage in my career one of my primary concerns is not to fuck it up. Inspiration's easy for it flows like a tap with no on or off. Seriously, give me a blank room, four walls a ceiling and a floor, and I'll do something with it. But I am perfectly capable of being somewhere amazing and missing something or shooting something wrong just a little to make for a disaster when back home. 

At any rate, pay a little respect to past work not realized. Make the effort on that cold winter night when the wind is howling and the temperature's in the single numbers outside and you can't go shooting. Go back to that day last summer when the air was like honey on your face and you came across that place that was magic, you knew it was. It is so rare that all is right. Perfect light, angle, perspective and your ability to  work with it. You worked around it and with it like a dancer, at one with what it was and your growing perception of it. You knew it was good and you were on. Let that work come out. Share that work with us.

From Italy, Trees, 2012

There is a tendency, of course, to think that much old work isn't as good as what you shot today. Not true. Harry Callahan, one of my teachers, had a nice way of    quashing that one. He said that he thought we really made the same picture all the time or that we really only made one picture through all our work. He prescribed equal weight to early work made when he didn't know much and to work made late in his career when he'd made countless really important photographs. 

Go back.

Topics: Foreign,Color,Digital

Permalink | Posted May 26, 2015