Category Archives: people

boy with phone, woman with hand, waiting for James Turrell at the Guggenheim

Waiting for James Turrell at the Guggenheim

This is not my usual style, out of all my usual styles, but I like it. Like the last few weeks’ entries, there is a strange juxtaposition of the image and the context. There was a long line, about an hour, to gain access to the James Turrell installation on the fifth floor of the Guggenheim. Because the open interior of the spiral was closed off, the hall with so many of us in line felt a little bit claustrophobic, and certainly echoing the busy energy of a crowd in New York City on a Sunday afternoon.

But strangely, in that crowd, the light and space create an image of spaciousness and openness here in the photo.

Unfortunately I was disappointed in this exhibit, at least in that context on that day. The museum was all abuzz, and it was crowded. Turrell’s work is meditative, and all about opening to a slow, quiet experience of light, space, and our own role as a perceiver, as a participant in the light and space. I love his work. But on this day for many of the pieces I couldn’t slow and open enough to participate in this slow dance of perception he invites. At least that day on the Guggenheim I did slow enough to experience light and space, and humanity in 2013, to make this exposure. I had a chance to see a rather extensive show of Turrell pieces well over a decade ago in a quiet space, and I really hope I get to do it again.

A page about James Turrell is here. If you ever get a chance to see a show of James Turrell works, do it.

This print is available for sale here.

Dawn Incense Offering, Bauddhanath Nepal 2013

Bauddanath Dawn Incense offering

One of the most interesting parts of the process of The Photo of The Week for me is: how do I pick one?

I have thousands of photos that at least I find quite interesting, beautiful, resonant, or chock full of some other quality. So how to pick one?

Sometimes it’s easy; it’s something new, or part of a series. Sometimes it’s really hard, and that’s true both on a day when many images look good, and on a day when everything looks like mud and I’ve never made a good image in my life.

But the main thing is, it’s a photo that rings me like a bell. As they say, “It strikes me.” So sometimes I see one and it really whacks me. Sometimes it’s more of a haunting, and an image gets in my head and just keeps popping up like a song. Sometimes in my head it’s one way, and sometimes another. It’s like that ear-worm song that you keep humming that’s always different enough to keep you interested, but multifaceted enough to keep it coming back to your mind.

So with this image. I got it in my head a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been wanting to print it. I didn’t get around to printing it today, but in the new Lightroom 5 I’ve been playing with today I did manage to export it for the web.

This print is for sale here.

Pink Wall, Market & Umbrella

OK, we didn’t spend all our time at Buddhist sites.

(And of course we spent some great time with friends.)

There is a lot of chaos and energy in the streets of Kathmandu. Luckily I’m not afraid of a little chaos and energy in a composition.

One thing I loved so much that my heart was breaking at the thought of leaving it: the texture on the walls, everywhere. And the color.

Seriously, on the last few days I photographed a lot of walls, just to compose with the textures. My wife, who speaks Nepali, could hear people asking, “What is he doing? What is he taking a picture of?”

But here it’s obvious, the limes, the men, the wall, the kid under the umbrella. Just another tourist with a camera.

This print is for sale here.

Pilgrims by Incense, Boudanath Nepal, Losar ’13

Back to Boudha…

The old woman with the cane in the foreground walked around and around that stupa all morning, and she generally seemed to be enjoying herself on this festive day.

This is just one small facet of the huge experience of being around the circle of that stupa on that day. I’d like to post more. Stay tuned.

This print is for sale here.

Stupa Cleaner, Dawn, Boudhanath, 2013

Here is another dawn at another Stupa. It’s not just that it’s a different morning from the photo posted last; this place, Boudhanath, has completely different energy. This morning was my third time at the Bauddha Stupa; we spent a whole morning starting at dawn. All three times there I felt an intensity, an egoless happiness. My wife had to pry me away each time. I want to move there. Our friend Sarbajit lives there, right there. (and in fact this image is exposed from his rooftop). I don’t think he needs to meditate: it meditates him.

Except for the dead-on, “this is a direct photo of the stupa” images I was compelled to take over and over (some of them are in fact good!), the hundreds of photos I exposed there have a vast range of texture, color, mood, and in one insufficient word: energy. But within that multiplicity of experience, there is a commonality. There is the quiet, awake center.

People, many hundreds per day, circumambulate counterclockwise. It’s a parade of people of all ages; parents carry babies, and old folks limp slowly with canes. It’s a visual feast: clothes of all colors; birds; sky; changing light; prayer flags in the breeze; shops with all their dharma trinkets, art, and clothing displayed around. People feed the pigeons, which gather and disperse in huge flocks. I shifts and changes like mind, like life.

And right in the center of that, there is a focus, an awakeness, and a sense of devotion. There is the accumulation of the merit of centuries of that devotion and thousands of awake and focused minds. That seems to radiate, maybe from the center of the stupa. It’s hard to find a source for something like that. Probably there is no spatial or temporal source for that sense of energy that pervades this place — put it feels that way, “It’s coming from here, somewhere, now.” But no. It’s timeless. It helps me to realize it’s ultimately placeless as well. It’s something we make with our minds.

This print is for sale here.

Swayambhunath Sunrise, Woman Sitting, 2013

I’m just back from a month in Nepal, photographing and visiting with friends of my wife. Now they are friends of mine. An amazing time with Nepali people and places.

Visiting the ancient Buddhist sites (but also some of the newly built or upgraded ones!) was one of the grab-me-by-the-shirt-collar facets of this experience — and certainly one I will naturally attempt to convey through photography. There was an intensity to the experience of being in these old and well-worn deep places that will of course be beyond anyone’s skills, as a photographer, writer, whatever. It was intense in a beyond-the-ordinary way of intensity, something that tingled my skin and rang my bones like a bell.

On this day we woke well before dawn and took a taxi to this ancient stupa, Swayambhu and we stayed from dawn past lunch. I can’t remember why we left at all. I didn’t want to leave any of these places, but there was always something pulling to the next thing we had to do.

Regular readers of the blog will know that I’ve spent a good bit of my life and time exploring the resonances between physical spaces and emotional or psychic experiences — and that I explore the possibility of pulling some of that resonance through the two dimensional space of a photograph. What I felt in some of these places is beyond that possibility. I won’t pretend I can do anything like that — but time in these places in Nepal also showed me that my old sense of the power of a physical space or object was completely wrong and is now obsolete. So who knows…

Some other mind-blowing aspects of the experience I did capture: for one, the warmth of the people I now consider my friends. I did find a lot of their warmth came through in their smiles, in photos to be shared privately, not here.

Another poignant facet of this month was the experience of people shining through the brokenness of the world. Specifically in Nepal there are a lot of things physical and politically/socially structural that cause a lot of suffering. As many Republicans in the US want to “make the government so small it can drown in a bathtub,” the Nepalis experience what 20 years of a non-functioning, minimal, hands-off government does. There is no EPA, no traffic lights, insufficient electricity, running water, and garbage collection. And that sucks. The suffering from this is nothing to glamorize. The amazing thing is that the warmth and radiance of so many people shine through it. They are not buying assault rifles and hoarding cans, like many Americans in fear of decline. Actually already in a fallen-apart culture, many beautiful people shine through the brokenness like a bright light inside a cracked pot.

As a photographer, I found it trivially easy to document the brokenness. Conveying the shining-through radiance is another task altogether, and the coming weeks will tell if I’ve succeeded at that (beyond, as I said, private photos of friends.)

Stay tuned. Lots more Nepal to come.

This print is for sale here.

Balance Boy, Cornish NH

I’ve got some exciting stuff going on in photography right now. Getting to know a new and better printer, a big Epson pigment ink beast. Also trying some new beautiful papers. And working on an ambitious piece, which it’s probably better to wait and see on. Hopefully I can pull it off.

Looking for something else entirely, I happened upon this image, which is an altogether different time and place and latitude from the trellis window girl in the last post (now deleted). But also a child in an interesting space, with a trellis roof above, open to sky. This will definitely do for now!

This print is for sale here.

young boy, great lake 1986

I think it’s probably best to let this image just be there without analyzing it or giving it context.

I’ll give a little ancient and recent meta-info though.

I had been photographing only with a 4 x 5 view camera for years up to about this time. Then I bought a used and inexpensive twin lens reflex camera. I loved the fact that I could suddenly make images like the one above but still have quality that wasn’t a total compromise. Not as good as the 4 x 5, but a new world of possibilities. I also loved that the camera looked so funky and non-threatening, like something you’d find in your grandfather’s attic. Funky, stealthy, and retro. (Though something half the size of a toaster can only be called stealthy when compared to a view camera, and only by virtue of its non-threatening appearance).

The up to the minute context for this image is that I haven’t yet re-found the negative. I don’t know if it’s still buried after my most recent move, two years ago, or if it got mis-filed and buried in an earlier move, or independent of a move. “I’ll just tuck these really important negatives inside the dictionary, under “R” for Really Important. I’ll never forget that!”

So here, I scanned a silver print from the darkroom days. I’ve got a handful of silver silver prints of this image. I like it a lot. Since it wasn’t easy to print, I printed a handful while I was at it. I’m so glad at least I’ve got the prints, and hopefully soon I’ll have a nice high res scan of the negative too.

This print is for sale here.