Sunday, December 14, 2008


A question keeps coming to my mind. How do you photograph something that is exploitative without exploiting the person your photographing?

The nature of photography demands that the photographer be in the room, live with the subject. He has to be physically at the place he is photographing (at least with traditional film based documentary photography). How can the photographer be at the location and making an image documenting some kind of injustice (exploitation) without himself exploiting his subject to some degree? Isn't the act of making the photograph also an act of exploitation? Does the end justify the means? If your making a photograph to inform, to educate, to raise awareness, if your making a photograph for the greater good does the end then justify the means?

Tomoko Uemura in her bath by  W. Eugene Smrth

In this great image by W. Eugene Smith he was documenting a birth deffect caused by mercury poisoning, he was educating the veiwer about this trajedy. Was he also exploiting the young girl and her mother? Or does the fact the image speaks to the horror of the birth defects through negligence and the obvious power of a mothers love allow the artist the right to exploit.

Does the creation of a great work of art allow the artist the right to be exploitive? I don't know.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Free Film from Ilford Rep

Got some free film sent to me from a Ilford Rep today, 25 sheets of 8x10 HP5. The film retails at $82 USD plus shipping at Freestyle, can't beat that!

I have about 200 sheets of Tri-x in one deep freeze. I think I have about 100 sheets in another deepfreeze almost enough for the next white background sessions in Asia (wanted at least 400 sheets) I might get some more Tri-x (in those lousy 10 sheet boxes) or go with the HP5+, I am leaning towards topping up my supply of 8x10 film with HP5+.

Ilford seems to care much more for their customers than Kodak does. I get the feeling that Ilford really does want my business where as Kodak is a big faceless corporation that dumps products quickly and without consideration for the people that use and need it.

Quote: Sebastiao Salgado

"If you take a picture of a human that does not make him noble, there is no reason to take this picture. That is my way of seeing things."

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Canadian Based Darkroom Supply Store

This store is located in Wiinnipeg.

Hong Kong Photographs

Here is a selection of some of first Hong Kong photographs.

British/Chinese Cemetery

On the last day before I left Hong Kong I visited a very photographically beautiful cemetery. This graveyard was best I have ever shot in, filled with old trees and wonderful old moss covered tombstones. The place was also historically interesting, the graves dated back to the 1850s.

I ended up photographing in the British section of the graveyard for about 3 hours until I ran out of film. Darkness set in as I continued to explore the place. I wish I had such a historic and photographic place to shoot as this to shoot near my home!!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Quote: Henri Cartier-Bresson

"Some of my best photos were taken in those first days with my Leica. But, at the time, my general standard was extremely low; I destroyed all my medicocre negatives just before the war. Exceptional photographs continue to be rare, even though my general standard has improved. In all my photo essays I am always looking for a unique photo, the exceptional one that could be looked at for more than a few seconds. It takes a great deal of milk to make a little cream."

"Only the photograph that springs from life is of interest to me. The joy of looking, sensitivity, sensuality, imagination, all that one takes to heart, come together in the viewfidner of a camera. That joy will exist for me forever."

Friday, November 14, 2008

Salgado's Graphic Beauty

When I first got Salgado's book "Workers" several years back I was put off by the contrast and grain of the images. Today thou as I look at the photographs I am struck by the graphic beauty of the work. The grain, contrast along with the compostion of the b/w photographs work so well together. Salgado is creating an alternate reality that speaks to his voice on the subjects he photographs. The b/w, the grain and the contrast seperate the work from the reality they were shot in but by doing so he has constructed a new reality a better reality in a way, a expression of his artistic understanding of the true reality of his subject.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Studying Salgado

Been studying Salgado's work the last few weeks, there is so much humanity in his photographs. You can feel the hearts and souls of the people he has photographed. Went through the books "Africa" and "Sahel: The End of the Road", tonight I am paging through the book "Workers".

Looking at his work you see beauty, pain, suffering, strength, weakness, hope, determination, all the good and bad that is mankind. To capture all of this with a camera is something else, hard to believe he did it all. A part of his work that does not enough credit is his landscape work, often the landscape photographs are very strong and moving and give overall balance and strength to his books.

The greatest photographer alive.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Which Direction to Go?

Have been thinking a lot about the direction I want my photography to go. I am now 44years old and running out of time to make the images I want to make in my lifetime. I keep thinking to the photographer I admire most, the man I feel is the greatest living photographer. His work is the work I admire more than any other, I feel he has created the greatest and most important body of photographs of any living photographer, Mr Sebastiao Salgado.

I want to push my work in Mr Salgado's direction, to do it my way but to also create work of substance with a wider range of emotions and impact like Sebastiao Salgado. I need to tell a bigger story with a larger canvas.

Photographer races clock to honor last few World War I vets

(CNN) -- Photographer David DeJonge plans to capture a vanishing bit of history Tuesday on a trip to Arlington National Cemetery near Washington.

There he hopes to photograph 107-year-old Frank Buckles -- one of the few men still alive who fought in World War I. Buckles will lay a wreath at the grave of Gen. John J. "Black Jack" Pershing, who led U.S. forces in Europe in World War I.

The visit comes 90 years to the day after the end of World War I, an occasion that led to Veteran's Day in the United States and Armistice Day in other nations.

For DeJonge, it's a poignant reminder that time is running out in his quest to find and photograph the few surviving veterans of the war, which raged from 1914 to 1918.

"In my view, America has missed the boat in documenting this part of history," said DeJonge, a portrait photographer from Zeeland, Michigan. "It was such a pivotal moment in global history."

He has raced the clock for the last two years to photograph the dwindling number of surviving World War I veterans, a mission he embraces with a keen appreciation for the ticking clock: Eight of 12 veterans he has photographed in the last two years are now dead.

"It's a tragic loss - a tragic loss for the project and for global history," he said. "These are the last breaths of the last souls who witnessed one of the most horrific wars this world has ever seen." Watch photo sessions with remaining veterans »

DeJonge knows of only 10 living veterans worldwide who fought during World War I.

Four live in Britain, two in Australia, two in France and two in the United States -- Buckles and 108-year-old John Babcock of Spokane, Washington, who served with Canadian forces during World War I, DeJong said.

Each week or month that passes, it seems, brings news of an aging veteran succumbing before DeJonge can find the time and money to photograph him.

Not long ago, he said, two Jamaicans who fought with the British during World War I died. The last known German, French and Austro-Hungarian veterans died in the last year as well.

"These are the last of the last," he said.

DeJonge said he first became interested in photographing war veterans in 1996, when he worked on a project to chronicle U.S. veterans of several wars. The subjects included two men who served during World War I.

He tried to interest a photography organization in a national project to document the remaining U.S. World War I vets -- about 600 were alive in the mid 1990s, DeJonge said -- but that didn't happen.

So he set out two years ago to try to do it on his own. DeJonge has received some financial help here and there, he said, but has paid most costs himself.

"I have paid about $100,000 of my own money," he said.

He spends about half his time at home in Michigan, taking photographs to earn his living. He spends the other half conducting research, traveling to points distant or photographing aging vets.

"I have an incredibly supportive wife," he said.

He is trying to find money and time to take pictures of two vets in Australia and two in France, he said. And he would love to check out unconfirmed reports of an elderly man in the Ukraine who says he served with the Russian military during what also is known as the "Great War" and "The War to End All Wars."

In March, he donated nine portraits of World War I vets that the Pentagon plans to display permanently. He traveled to Washington that month with Buckles, who drove an ambulance in Britain and France during the war as a corporal in the U.S. Army.

In a White House ceremony in March, President Bush paid tribute to Buckles, who said he lied about his age and enlisted at age 15.

"Mr. Buckles has a vivid recollection of historic times, and one way for me to honor the service of those who wore the uniform in the past and those who wear it today is to herald you, sir, and to thank you very much for your patriotism and your love for America," he said during the March ceremony.

DeJonge and Buckles plan to drive Tuesday from Buckles' cattle farm in Charles Town, West Virginia to Arlington National Cemetery near Washington.

The photographer said he feels "just an unbelievable respect" for men and women who served their country. And he savors the living history lessons they provide.

"It really is like stepping back in time," he said.

Jacob Israel Avedon, Sarasota, Florida, August 25,1973

“When you pose for a photograph, it’s behind a smile that isn’t yours. You are angry and hungry and alive. What I value in you is that intensity. I want to make portraits as intense as people.” - Richard Avedon, from a 1970 letter to his father Jacob Israel Avedon

Sunday, November 9, 2008

All Night Session

Just finished a 15 hour darkroom session, starting to see double! Here are a few more images that might make it into the VAAA Ladyboy head submission for next year.

Some New Ladyboy Shots

I have finished developing all the 120mm b/w Ladyboy film from the 2008 shoot. I am hoping I can put together a submission of this work for the VAAA next year.

New Work

Am off to Hong Kong in a little more than 1 week. I have been trying to figure what kind of images I am going to make there. A few weeks back I went out shooting with a friend in the countryside, we found an old Russian church that had been abandoned for about 30 years. I made some images at the church that were in part influenced by Ralph Gibson. Maybe when I go to Hong Kong I will try doing details of things/parts of things with the Leica. These 2 photos were made at the church.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Interesting? or Profoundly Powerful?

I will donate some work to the VAAA gallery (the gallery that has rejected my work 3 times with the 4th rejection on the way in the mail as I type this). When I went to talk about the donation for the VAAA auction today I ended up introducing myself to a very nice lady that was there running the place. She actually knew who I was, remembered some of my submissions and also my group show work. Turns out the submissions committee members had some discussions amongst themselves (before they rejected the work for the VAAA) about possible galleries that might show the work. The way I understand it the VAAA will not show the work because they are Provincially funded and do not want to push things to far (translation: the subject matter and nudity is to controversial). That is fair enough, I do not blame them for protecting their funding and gallery. Not showing work that they think is good because it is controversial is a bit suppressive and cowardly but maybe the greater good is served as they can help show and raise awareness of the arts. Even if the work they show plays it safe, any art is better than no art.

The lady that helped me was kind and polite and gave me some helpful advice and also complimented me on my work. Initially she said the work was " Interesting!" I laughed and said "Yeah I get a lot of that." She then told me no that is not what she meant, she said the work was "Profoundly Powerful" which was nice, it sounded better than the first thing anyway!

I will probably make a submission of some ladyboy head shots I made this last trip in my next submission to the VAAA, who knows they might even get in!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Quote: W. Eugene Smith

"And never have I found the limits of photographic potential. Every horizon, upon being reached, reveals another beckoning in the distance. Always, I am on the threshold..."

Quote: Paul Strand

"I like to photograph people who have strength and dignity in their faces, whatever life has done to them, it hasn't detroyed them."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Quote: Henri Catier-Bresson

"...What counts in a photo is its plenitude and simplicity..."

Quote: Minor White

" The reason why we want to remember an image varies: Because we simply "love it", or dislike it so intensely that it becomes compulsive, or because it has made us realize something about ourselves, or has brought about some slight change in us. Perhaps the reader can recall some image, after the seeing of which he has never been quite the same."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hong Kong Photographs

Thinking more and more lately about the work I want on the coming 3 week trip to Hong Kong. Not sure on what kind of photos I can make there, it is a bit out of my element.

Will have to develop a theme to the images as I learn more about that world.

Thinking more and more about Africa, I want to go make photos somewhere on that continent, where? not sure!

I so want to make some important photographs, some photos that will make a difference, photographs that will inspire and that will help me grow as a person and also allow others to understand what I have seen and felt when they view the images.

Quote: Alfred Stieglitz

Looking at Minor's (Minor White) prewar photographs, he asked, "Have you ever been in love?" Minor said yes, and Stieglitz told him, "Then you can photograph."

Monday, October 20, 2008

Blads and Leica's

Been doing a bit of Ebay bidding lately on high end camera systems. One of the positive side benefits of the digi photo revolution is people are dumping their Leica and Hasselblad equipment at reduced prices.

For years I have not been able to purchase high end Hasselblad and Leica M6 rangefinder systems, but now the pricing situation has changed! Bring on the blads and M6 cameras boys!!

I want to get these cameras and start making photographs as soon as possible. The main reasons I am loading up on these systems is that the cameras are very well made and rarely break down (I have had some breakdown issues lately) and the lens for these systems are the best in the world, nothing beats a lens that is sharp and has wonderful contrast.

I plan on taking a Blad 501c and Leica M6 with 3 lens to Hong Kong in mid November to make some photographs.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Quote: Michelangelo

"What you have to strive for with all your means, a great deal of hard work and a willingness to learn by the sweat of your brow, is to make the work you produce with such pains look as if it was dashed off easily, quickly, and virtually without effort-even if that is not the case."

Friday, October 17, 2008

Great Online Articles

The Washington Post has some wonderful online articles about photography written by Mr. Frank Van Ripper check them out here:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Bruce Davidson's Powerful 'Time of Change'

By Frank Van Riper
Special to Camera Works

The healing passage of time can soften the hard edges of pain and injustice, but that doesn't mean we ever should forget. The writer George Santayana reminds us that those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. And if a younger generation – be it post-Holocaust Jews, post-revolution Cubanos, post-Velvet Revolution Czechs, post-Birmingham blacks – fail to appreciate fully the sacrifice and circumstance of those who've gone before, it us up to the older among us to remind them.

Bruce Davidson, now a famed Magnum photographer, was a 28 year-old white kid from Illinois in 1961 when he began photographing what has come to be called the Civil Rights struggle in America – when African-Americans sought through voting rights, desegregation and changes in public accommodations laws to claim the birthright of equal opportunity that until then had been only selectively bestowed.

Over four turbulent, violent years – 1961-65 –Davidson documented the struggle: from on board the buses of the Freedom Riders, from sharecroppers' shacks in the rural south, under the guns of national guardsmen, under the glare of racist cops–from peaceful demonstrations in New York City to violent, fire-hosed demonstrations in Alabama.

It was, Davidson said, the most meaningful story he ever covered with his cameras. Asked if he could think of any other event to rival or surpass it, he replied simply "the birth of my children."

Davidson's work from that period – winnowed down to 144 superb black and white photographs – is contained in a just-released book, Time of Change: Civil Rights Photographs, 1961-65 (St. Ann's Press, NYC, $65). It is a powerful documentary of one of the most turbulent periods in modern American history, a period that surpasses even the turmoil of the Vietnam antiwar movement, and certainly the controversy over the political scandal, Watergate, that toppled a sitting president.

At a time when we as a nation are debating how to counter terrorism from abroad, Davidson shows us what it was like for one group of Americans to confront terrorism at home, delivered upon them by their fellow citizens, often under the cover of law.

"The people who really were at risk were those young black demonstrators: sisters and mothers and fathers who might lose their jobs" just for taking part in a march, Davidson said in an interview. And the prospect of violence – not to mention sudden death – never was far away. On the morning Davidson boarded a Trailways bus in 1961 to accompany Freedom Riders on their trip from Montgomery, Ala., to Jackson, Miss., a long line of squad cars and National Guard troops with grim faces and fixed bayonets provided escort. But what comfort did that really provide?

"You knew those troops were white southern boys and you knew where the sympathies of the police were," Davidson recalled. The rifles the Guard carried held live rounds, but "we knew there could be a sniper in the woods and you'd never catch him."

Paranoid? Not really. The week before, another freedom bus, this one in Anniston, Ala., had been set afire and its passengers hauled out and severely beaten.

Remember: in the patriotic fervor that gripped the nation after September 11th we largely were united in colorblind grief and outrage. It also is instructive to recall a time when such widespread unity would have been more difficult to achieve, so great was the divide between what had been called at the time "two societies, one black, one white, separate and unequal." The gulf between the races, wide even now, was a chasm back then and it took people of uncommon courage and conviction to challenge the status quo. Because to do so back then literally could cost you your life, snuffed out with the casual cruelty of a Nazi shooting a Jew in Poland, or of an Albanian killing a Serb in Kosovo (or vice-versa.)

Witness for example Davidson's stark photograph of Viola Liuzzo's bloodstained car.

He writes in his afterword:

"Viola Liuzzo, a 39-year-old white housewife [and mother of four] from Detroit, came down south in her Oldsmobile as a volunteer. She would shuttle marching students to their homes in nearby communities. One night she was delivering one last marcher, when she was shot in the face at close range by the Klan...."

"Early the next morning I stood at the crime scene. As I moved closer to her car, which had run off the highway, I could see where the driver's side window was completely shattered, and where blood had dripped down the front seat and dried in a dark stain...As I continued to take pictures, a state trooper approached me with his hand on his gun holster. He waved me to move away."

I think back to that time – when I was in college in New York and when other, braver, of my counterparts were joining the Freedom Riders down south – and marvel at a courage I never could imagine. "It was a terrorist atmosphere," Bruce Davidson remembered, "but what replaced that terror was the dignity and patience of those marchers and demonstrators."

For Davidson personally the experience was dangerous up to a point – after all, he was white and he could get the hell out of Dodge whenever he felt like it, and no one would fault him. No, Davidson told me, "the real danger that counts is the danger of confronting your own prejudices. I began to feel very close to African Americans on an individual basis" because of the coverage over those years – and it shows in these riveting images.

What sets this book apart from other chronicles of the time is its quiet. That is: juxtaposed with images of confrontation and hatred are images chronicling the black experience in a number of cities, north and south: images that are gentle, dignified, joyous, sorrowful – all achingly, wonderfully human.

They illustrate well Davidson's credo, which has served him so well for so long, to show "the presence of the photographer, but not the camera."

Still, in every controversial, hair-trigger, news story such as the civil rights struggle, the legitimate question arises of how much the press influences, or even causes, events. Two instructive views, the first from Bruce Davidson, describing a tense, potentially violent scene during the '63 Mississippi Freedom March:

"At a rest stop along the roadside a marcher named Winston sat down. A group of ...white youths surrounded him. Winston attempted to talk to them. One lit a match and tossed it down at him. I had to be cautious, standing there with my Leica, not to precipitate violence. I didn't want the youths to perform for the camera; slowly I put it to my eye clicking a couple of frames...."

Ultimately the tension eased. There was no violence – at least not that day.

But for the last word, here is Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a veteran of the struggle, who served at the side of Martin Luther King and who wrote this in the foreword to Davidson's remarkable book:

"I truly believe that our acts of nonviolent resistance, along with the contributions of reporters and photographers, had an impact....Without the media and without those powerful images, I don't know where we'd be today....It was the unbelievable photographs published in newspapers and magazines that literally brought people from around the globe to small Southern towns to join the movement, inspired by those amazing pictures."

Avedon: The Roar of an Aging Lion

By Frank Van Riper
Special to Camera Works

It was in the 1970s, Dennis Brack recalled, as he made ready to photograph Ronald Reagan after the Florida Republican primary. Brack, one of the best in the business, was shooting for Time Magazine and knew Reagan well. Conversation with the ex-governor, film star and then-presidential candidate came easily.

That was quite a famous photographer who was here the other day, Brack declared. [Coincidentally, Brack's photo shoot came shortly after Reagan, the ex-movie star who never met a camera or a photographer he didn't like, had posed for Richard Avedon.]

"He wasn't very good," Reagan told Brack. The actor/politician then described Avedon's bulky view camera equipment and his unique-some might call it excruciating– portrait style.

"He was very slow," Ronald Reagan said.

Richard Avedon will turn 80 next year and for much of his life he has been fired by anxiety and the compulsion to make images. When he was a child growing up in New York in a prosperous Jewish household [his father and his uncle owned Avedon's of Fifth Avenue, a chic women's specialty shop] he sometimes would tape paper profiles to his skin so that the faces would remain on his sunburned body.

He remembers having an eye twitch that annoyed his family, but recalls too that the constant blinking was a way for him to make still pictures in his mind.

"It comes in the genes," Richard Avedon once said.

The tendency is to think of Avedon as one thinks of Picasso: an artist who has gone through many periods, each in its own way significant and successful. His fashion work, for Harper's Bazaar, Mademoiselle and Vogue, gave the staid fashion world of the 50s a deserved kick in the pants. Who else would photograph a gorgeous, willowy, dressed-to-the-nines model in between two elephants? (Well, Steichen actually, but he used a horse.)

His editorial photography, appearing not only in these magazines, but decades later in magazines from Rolling Stone to the New Yorker, always had a characteristic style that made you know the work was his.

His advertising work, often in color, was lush yet also edgy, and done with the help of an invisible army of stylists and assistants.

But, even with the inevitable overlap among these genres, it likely will be Avedon's more personal work that shapes his huge legacy when finally he is gone.

Richard Avedon: Portraits, on display at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art through January 5th, distills this great photographer's work in a way that surely he desired. The elaborate fashion sets are gone; banished too are the environmental portraits showing a subject in his or her milieu. This distillation of more than a half century of work is itself a distillation-of style.

"I've worked out a series of No's," Avedon tells visitors to his show in a text block on the wall. "No to exquisite light, No to apparent composition, No to the seduction of poses or narrative. And all these No's force me to the Yes. I have a white background. I have the person I'm interested in and the thing that happens between us." Thus there now are on the gallery wall only the subjects and the seamless backdrop, most often dead white, but occasionally a shade of grey. Full-length, three-quarter, close-up–most often singly, but at times in groups. Nothing but the person-no context to shape our opinion, no background to guide our thought. Just the person and what that person brought to the portrait session, whether he or she knew it or not.

To some this will call to mind "In the American West," Avedon's riveting documentation of everyday people from an area that surely was as alien to a native New Yorker as Manhattan would be to a cowboy. Just as surely one could think of his searing portraits of those we've come to know through notoriety, fame or a combination thereof– pictures that always offer a take we've never seen before, but once seen this way, cannot be ignored or forgotten:

A withering view of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor-a profile of well-dressed languor and weakness; a lost Marilyn Monroe, her perfect breasts haltered in sequins, her gaze vacant, her pouty lips parted; A pensive, even somber Groucho Marx after all the jokes have been told, seemingly confronting his own mortality.

Even Ronald Reagan, as always standing at attention in a dark blue suit, but with a questioning gaze that seems to ask: "are you sure this is what you want?"

Over the years Avedon has weathered criticism for these supposedly cruel or confrontational portraits. Criticism too for allegedly standing sphinx-like behind his formidable view camera until his subject weakens and takes an action or adopts a pose or expression that may be visually interesting but surely out of character. And, certainly, the pictures on the walls of the Met are strong, and often disturbing.

But cruel? No, they are not cruel. What they are is powerful in a way that confronting one's own humanity as well as the humanity of others we know or admire can be devastating.

It needs to be remembered, and repeated, that in photography, especially in portrait photography, the final image is always-always–collaboration. Only one who draws or paints has total control over the final rendering. That is the real power to be cruel.

In a 1985 taped interview with Connie Goldman to coincide with "In the American West," Avedon described perfectly, I think, how this collaboration works:

"A portrait photographer depends on another person to complete his picture...he is willing to become implicated in a fiction he can't possibly know about..."

"My concerns are not [my subject's]," Avedon went on. "We have separate ambitions for the image.

"His [the subject's] need to plead his case probably goes as deep as my need to plead mine. But the control is with me."

That control, as well as his talented eye, has enabled Richard Avedon to capture expressions and gesture that seem uncannily right, even if in so doing he might seem heartless. "I've looked for the humanity in all of the people I've photographed," Avedon has said-and it is hard not to believe him.

The process itself is fascinating, as well as instructive-though one gets to that in small pieces and in snippets from assistants. Like many artists guarding their magic, Avedon has little desire to tell-all about how he actually does it.

But this we do know....

For "In the American West" Avedon worked with an 8x10 view camera. His subjects stood outdoors against a white backdrop. Avedon rarely engaged his subjects in conversation once they were selected-from newspaper advertisements, or from Avedon's own personal observation.

But once before the camera, as one of his subjects recalled, "You never really noticed the camera-you felt his presence even behind the lens." An assistant recalled that from behind the camera, Avedon's body often would "take on the appearance of the person he [was] photographing."

"I'm best in short takes that are intense," Avedon told interviewer Goldman, adding that when he is photographing someone, the subject has to feel as if he or she "is the most important person in the world at this moment...they've got to feel that."

This is not the m.o. of someone aiming to be cruel–or ironic or superior. This is the modus operandi of one of the greatest portraitists of our time.

The Metropolitan show, drawn from actual exhibition prints from previous shows, is dominated by Avedon's now-signature monumental prints. Interestingly, two walls are devoted to much smaller images, of politicians and other public figures, made around the 70s. These are some of the weakest pieces here, but not because they are small. My sense is that pols and public figures are less likely than others to let any but their cultivated persona be caught on film.

Shortly after the Avedon show opened, photographer Neil Selkirk, who knows Avedon, wrote to his colleague and said this about the western portraits, though his thoughts could apply to almost everything on the walls:

"Individually they are exquisite and absorbing, as a group they are a collection of monoliths; as the Pyramids or Stonehenge are to architecture, nothing that follows (or precedes them) in photographic portraiture can be considered without reference to them. Can there be a more enduring achievement?"

I certainly can think of none.

Richard Avedon: Portraits. Through January 5. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fifth Avenue at 82nd St, New York City (212-879-5500) Tu-Su, 9:30-5:30; Fri and Sa evenings until 9.

Frank Van Riper is a Washington-based commercial and documentary photographer and author. His latest book is Talking Photography (Allworth Press), a collection of his Washington Post columns and other photography writing over the past decade. He can be reached through his website

The Collectors: Liz Jobey

Liz Jobey, Thursday October 09 2008 13.10 BST Article history
Ronald Reagan, former governor of California, March 4 1976, by Richard Avedon. Photograph: © 2008 The Richard Avedon Foundation

Many of the photographic portraits that Richard Avedon took in the course of his long and celebrated career are bound up with the idea of fame. His subjects were frequently figures in public life, and being photographed by him served to reinforce their celebrity. Portraits of Power, the title of a new book published three years after Avedon's death to celebrate election year in America, presumably refers both to the power his subjects wielded and to the power Avedon's style of photography conferred upon them. For the most part this involved the subject being asked to stand against a white (or in some cases grey) backdrop, while the photographer, having prepared the plate in his 8"x10" camera, stood next to it, enjoying the freedom it gave him to talk to his subjects before pressing the shutter, encouraging them to relax and, as he admitted, sometimes gesturing, or taking a stance which they consciously or unconsciously imitated, thereby producing the picture he wanted.

Frank H Goodyear, associate curator of photography at the Smithsonian Institution, as part of his essay in the book, asked some of Avedon's subjects for their reactions to the experience of being photographed and to the results. What is quickly apparent is their realisation of how far he had preconceived the way they would look: "He knew what he wanted… He came in with a concept …" (John Kerry, US senator, Massachusetts), "He obviously knew what he wanted and he knew how to get it…" (Jerry Brown, former governor of California). "He must have had a picture in his mind…" (Dorothy Zellner, civil rights activist). Though most of them recognised some semblance of themselves, one or two felt they had been set up. Karl Rove, George W Bush's former chief strategist, complained: "The portrait is foolish, stupid, insulting. It makes me look like a complete idiot."

At several periods throughout Avedon's working life he turned his attention away from fashion and advertising towards politics, notably in the late 1960s, when he began a long project on America's counter-culture movement, photographing members of protest groups and left-wing activists. This included a famous multiple portrait of the Chicago Seven, accused of inciting riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention. The portrait is a triptych, a composite of three prints spliced together so that some of the figures overlap. It is reminiscent, as has often been said, of a police identity lineup.

The Chicago Seven: Lee Weiner, John Froines, Abbie Hoffman, Rennie Davis, Jerry Rubin, Tom Hayden, Dave Dellinger, Chicago, September 25, 1969, by Richard Avedon. Photograph: © 2008 The Richard Avedon Foundation In 1971, Avedon travelled to Vietnam where he made another composite portrait of the 11 members of the US Mission Council, an ironic companion &piece to the Chicago Seven. In 1976 he filled a special issue of Rolling Stone magazine with 69 portraits of members of America's "power elite". In the early 1990s he photographed the surviving members of the Kennedy court, and in 2004, another election year and the year of his death, he began a political project which he called Democracy, a cross-section of public figures and laymen who made up what he called, optimistically, "people-powered politics". For the first time he chose to make some of the pictures in colour. Among these, just two months before he died, was the keynote speaker at the Democratic national convention in Boston: the senator for Illinois, Barack Obama.

The writer Renata Adler, who collaborated with Avedon on the Rolling Stone portrait project, describes his overpowering desire to "make" the photograph he wanted. In most cases, she explains, the sitter's and the photographer's intentions were not radically different, but there were exceptions. Years before, when a conflict had arisen between the Duke and Duchess of Windsor as to how they wanted to look and how Avedon wanted them to be seen, Avedon told Adler he had "made up a sad story about dogs to get the dour expressions he was after".

He was interested in surface and surface detail, in evidence (the title of his 1994 Whitney Museum retrospective), in the marks that time and personal experience had left on a face, and in the ease or awkwardness with which a subject presented him or herself before the camera. He positioned them within a narrow designated area between the white backdrop and the lens (Ronald Reagan apparently required chalk marks to tell him where to stand), flashed a bright light in their faces and pressed the shutter. He wasn't concerned to find the "real" person, Adler writes. He wanted "to take a picture, a masterpiece. An Avedon."

What results in this book, which collects portraits from the early 1950s to his final work in 2004, is a sometimes relentless cavalcade of middle-aged and older men in suits (there are relatively few women) punctuated by hippies, yippies and representatives of late 1960s liberal politics who protested against the Vietnam war, racism, capitalism, and inequality. In large part, Avedon shared their concerns; to be attracted by fame and power did not mean that he admired or condoned the means of its acquisition. But afterwards he felt that the early project hadn't succeeded. "I photographed hundreds of people in the late '60s peace movement," he told Sally Quinn of the Washington Post in 1976, "and none of them stand up."

One of the characteristics of his pictures is that, though his subjects are required to stand calmly, hands to their sides, not smiling, they give off a kind of glamour, the same glamour that comes so effortlessly to his fashion pictures. As portraits they exude such confidence, such clarity; their subjects are stranded in a sea of white, with every pore, every wrinkle, every wart exposed. But they are portraits devoid of sympathy. Despite the attention to detail, gathered together they begin to acquire the role of specimens, pinned to the page by an energetic visual anthropologist, keen to add them to his collection.

Many of the subjects here are long past the height of their fame - names such as Kissinger, Ford, Kennedy, Bush Snr, George Wallace, Robert McNamara, Ronald Reagan - but their portraits still hold a horrible fascination. Not all the pictures are strong: some are weak, such as the one of Salman Rushdie; there are few happy portraits (Karl Rove is smiling, but inanely); there are eerie portraits and ones of people who are used to being photographed, such as Patti Smith or Sean Penn. And there is Barack Obama, a portrait of a man trying to look calm without giving away any clues at all.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Enviromental Portraits

Been to tired lately to add much to the blog. I got a paying gig to do enviromental portraits at a petrochemical plant. It is quite a bit of fun to make these images, it involves going to many places I have never been before while photographing the workers. I am wearing all kinds of safety gear which is a bit of a challenge in itself. Taking photographs with a hardhat, steel toe boots, ear plugs, safety glasses (great on the focusing!), gas detector and 2 way radio is quite an experience!!

Having fun making the photos and also will make some decent money on this project. I can pay off some old photo debts and maybe have enough left over to buy myself a newer used Hasselblad system off Ebay.

I am also using available light mixed with flash more than I ever have before in these portraits. I plan on useing a similiar lighting setup when I do photographs in Hong Kong in November, hopefully with my new/used blad.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Self Published Books!

Been working on something new lately. I have been putting together some layouts for some self published books! I am using the Internet site Blurb prints books for people interested in self publishing, they help you create the books using their downloadable software for Mac or PC. I have been having lots of fun with this, the rates are quite cheap (hope the book quality is not!).

I plan on putting together two books at the present time. The first book will be simple and staight forward and be titled "Sex Worker" it will contain the 2007 Sex Worker images, many of which have not yet be posted on my website. This book will run under 80 pages. The second book will be a major project of 200-400 pages and include work from the last 10 years of my photography. I plan on including diary notes, contact sheets, quotes and hundreds of photographs.

Not sure if I want to try to sell the books or just do it for myself and give it as a gift to people that have helped me through the years with my photography, will see!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Who's Who, Redefined

Photographer Turned a Clinical Eye on the Powerful

By Blake Gopnik
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 15, 2008; C01

Tomorrow through Friday, a Washington Post writer will examine a particular photo from the show "Richard Avedon: Portraits of Power " at the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

Richard Avedon photographed celebrities: presidents and generals, great artists and heads of industry. And he photographed nonentities: no-name soldiers and protesters and secretaries. What makes him one of the greatest portraitists of the 20th century is that, when he's at his very best, you can't tell which is which. Forget the old idea that portraiture's about revealing what a sitter has done, or some kind of "deeper self." Avedon goes even deeper than that, down to the banal personhood that we all share. He reveals his sitters as being simply there , and real. He gives them a compelling authenticity, even if he never claims to reveal the "authentic" them.

Of course, Avedon needs all the tricks in his tool kit to simulate such unadulterated, unplanned states of being.

"Richard Avedon: Portraits of Power," which opened at the Corcoran Gallery of Art on Saturday, lets us watch the photographer achieve his no-frills portrait style. The show's 231 portraits stretch from 1950, when Avedon was 27 and just launching his career as the world's greatest fashion photographer, to shots done not long before his death in September 2004, when the 81-year-old celebrity was felled by a stroke in the middle of a New Yorker assignment.

The show's not as tight as it could be. "Power" is interpreted so widely it covers playwright Clifford Odets (the 1950 image) as well as an average couple from a gun show in Nevada (one of Avedon's last shots). It seems to include everyone who could possibly assert or be touched by authority, which means there's no one it ex cludes. A better title might have been "Portraits of People," if that weren't redundant.

The project's also risky for the Corcoran. The impoverished gallery has a long-standing reputation for pandering to ticket buyers; hosting an overstuffed survey of yet another celebrity photographer -- after last year's Ansel Adams and Annie Leibovitz events -- looks perilously close to selling out. Art lovers groaned when the Avedon show was announced. Only the hard work and scholarship of curator Paul Roth -- his catalogue essay, though more focused than the show, has 264 footnotes -- has made the risk pay off. There's an Avedon here we haven't seen much of before, and it's the one the photographer himself seemed most committed to.

I met Avedon a half-dozen or so times (he was the close friend of a sibling). When I praised the fashion photos I thought were his greatest work, he disagreed. He preferred his images of what-you-see-is-what-you-get reality.

The Avedons at the Corcoran give us the real Henry Kissinger. The authentic Andrew Young. The unadorned Ronald Reagan. The actual Duke and Duchess of Windsor. But also the authentic Abraham Rosenthal, Pete Rozelle and Evelyn Lincoln.

Who? Precisely. The crucial thing about Avedon's approach is he's an equal-opportunity authenticator. Here you are, in the presence of someone who's supposed to be the greatest recorder of the nation's great and mighty, and you can't tell the players without a scorecard.

Look at Avedon's group portrait of the Chicago Seven, famous opponents of the Vietnam War, presented larger than life on one wall of the Corcoran. (The huge, unframed photos are the exact prints that were on the wall at Avedon's landmark Marlborough Gallery show in New York in 1975.) Then turn your back on them to look at a companion image of the 11 men in the Mission Council, who led that war. You're struck not by the two groups' fundamental differences but by their underlying sameness. Strip away the beards and jeans and slouches of the protesters, and the suits and uniforms and ramrod backs of the hawks -- Avedon's portraits ask you to do such stripping -- and you're left with 18 people whose shared but flawed humanity is all that really counts. In Avedon's portraits, it's not what or who his sitters are that matters. It's that they are.

Back in 1975, this newspaper asked Avedon if he planned on photographing politicians. He said no: "There has to be a connection between me and the people I photographed. . . . I have to get the sense that we're all in the same boat." What he came to realize is that every single one of us is in that boat, and that his pictures could convey that fact.

* * *

How did he do it? Some of Avedon's "tricks" are right there on the surface. The neutral lighting and white backgrounds are his most obvious, much discussed devices: They put his portraits in the company of impartial scientific illustrations, of catalogue photographs, of ID shots -- which is where Avedon got his start in photography, taking pictures for identity cards in the merchant marine. Plain white backgrounds deny fanciness or trickery.

The preservation of his negatives' black borders (known in the trade as "rebates") is a similar device. Those borders, which became the crucial Avedon trademark, flag the fact that he is using the kind of huge, unwieldy sheet-film camera favored by the most technical of photographers. It's as though he doesn't want to risk missing a single pore in any sitter's self. Such cameras sit foursquare on the floor, often on massive stands or tripods, and they invite a notion that their subject is equally stolid. There's no interacting with such a behemoth camera; you're just a thing that's set before its eye to be recorded.

Avedon's black borders also signal that we're seeing every bit of subject that his camera did, without a drop of editing from the photographer. They are the trademark sign of a contact print, the first and most immediate encounter anyone can have with the content of a photographic negative. Avedon's borders assert the edge-to-edge authenticity of a photograph -- of his whole photographic technique. And that's supposed to rub off on his sitters.

Then there's where those black edges fall. In many of Avedon's portraits, they slice right through a figure or a body part. In his "Chicago Seven," all shoes are awkwardly cut off in mid-foot. In "The Family," Avedon's photo essay on this nation's Bicentennial elite -- its 69 images originally filled 48 pages of the Oct. 21, 1976, issue of Rolling Stone -- many of the mighty have their hands, the most expressive of body parts, cropped off at the wrist. For about 500 years, artists have used that kind of "accidental" cropping by the picture's edge as a sign of spontaneity -- as the sign of a scene not planned to look just so but captured on the fly, as it happens to pass into or out of the artist's field of view. There's authenticity for you.

The whole setup recalls a zoologist's camera blind, put out in the wild and then removed from human control. Avedon's best portraits present him as a machine for seeing. "I just popped in and did it and left," is how Donald Rumsfeld remembers his session for the "Family" series, and that squares with other people's memories. "All of the photos were rather matter-of-fact -- minimal instructions and minimal posing by him. Just look in the camera and click," recalled Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP.

Those are some of the markers of the "truth" that are right there for the looking in each Avedon portrait. But there are others that operate less openly.

You may not grasp it consciously, for example, but your eye knows that many of these portraits were taken from closer in than usual. Look hard at Avedon's 2004 portrait of a yet-to-be-famous Illinois state senator, Barack Obama, and you realize that his nose is rather larger than his ears. That gap in scale is something we only see when we're up close to someone. Without resorting to forced, rhetorical signs of intimacy -- a deliberate smile, a welcoming gesture -- Avedon can make a remote politician into someone you can get close to.

Or look at how Avedon can make Buckminster Fuller, with an ego's worth of plans for reshaping the Earth, look like the old man next door you want to buttonhole -- that you have buttonholed, since you're so close you see the tops of his shoes and the underside of his chin at the same time. That means that you're not only close, you're also looking at him from nearer to his navel than his head, another device Avedon uses to stress his portraits' neutral, scientific gaze. They forgo the eye-to-eye encounter that can make a sitter seem unique and engaging -- and too special to be just another one of us.

Anthony Van Dyck, the great pioneer of royal portraiture, perfected perspectival tricks to make his noble sitters look unusually tall. Avedon used the special capabilities of a large-format camera -- lens tilts and film shifts and other esoterica -- to reverse precisely those same tricks. He crafted a democratic vision that brings his modern royals down to earth. Fuller's legs don't seem to soar above us like the legs of a Van Dyck cavalier; they seem strangely compressed, as though we're looking down at them. Ditto for the legs in Avedon's Chicago Seven, or in his image of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1976, or in almost any of his full-length portraits of achievers.

Writers and wall texts have claimed that the great portraits of Richard Avedon, our greatest portraitist, uniquely reflect the "zeitgeists" he lived through, or his sitters' special "essences." Look closely at Avedon's portraits and you realize that, when they are most uniquely his, they work against those cliches. They give a sense that whatever pose his sitters may be taking, whatever character they may assume, Avedon has captured an averageness that matters more.

In Avedon's hands, Mark Felt gets to be the-guy-who's-just-Mark-Felt. There's no revealing the Deep Throat within.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Simple Photographs

I have been thinking lately about making more simple photographs. No flash, no multiple cameras, no deep themes. Just getting my 8x10 with 250mm Fujinon and making day light portraits. My best bet might be to go with HP5 film because I have it tested for zone development/exposure and I think it might be more readily available in the future. I love Tri-x but the film seems to be heading down the Kodak toilet, it is now only available in 10 sheet boxes.

I might follow Jocks Sturges advice and simplify my photography. Shooting street/country portraits with the 8x10 in South East Asia may be my future. I so do want to make a series of lasting important portraits of normal everyday folk.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Quote: Howard Thurman Philosopher and Civil Rights Leader

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive"

History of Thai Sex Worker Photos

I was asked by a APUG member to explain a bit about the reasons/motivations behind my ladyboy images, here is that post:

I originally started making photographs in Thailand in 1996. I had never photographed outside of Canada and the USA so it was a big expedition for me. I had read about the bar life and thought that the people (woman at that point) that worked the bars would be a great subject to document. I wanted to show the reality of their lives. When I got there (sex tourist areas) I was so nervous and uncomfortable I could barely communicate. I remember going into (actually got pulled in) my first bar and ordering a drink, not knowing the scene, not knowing the language, not having any friends, sweating like hell from the heat etc . I was so nervous my hand shook when I tried to drink my coke. This current project started there that night for real because I got to see first hand who these people were. I got to watch the interaction between the girls in the bar and the people running the bar (Mamasan) I got to see the reactions of the girls to their customers and customers to the girls and I was hooked! The more I learned that first trip the more I got involved. I started to make friends started to make a few poor photographs. I grew to feel a deep compassion for the girls working the bars.

The 1996 trip lasted 3 months, in 1999 I returned to Thailand again this time with a clearer understanding of what I was trying to say. I decided I would photograph on the streets, that I would do outdoor portraits of freelance sex workers.
(note: webpage has a typo, photo was actually shot in 1999)
I stayed in the country that trip for about 8 months with side trips to Japan and Cambodia. I found that I needed to learn to speak Thai so that I could communicate with my subjects and understand the country better, so I started the long trip down the Thai language highway!! Am still a long way from ending that journey. The photographs I made were all non nude, I wanted the images to be non exploitive and I worried that nudity might exploit the people I was trying to understand. The problem was that later when I showed the work, people would often be surprised that the girls were sex workers. I felt that my images were not communicating the message I wanted to tell. I was trying to be a sympathetic voice for the people I felt were being used by Western sex tourists but I was failing in that message. I also learned thou that the situation was much more complex than I initially thought in 1996. The more I learned the more difficult it was to understand things, you could not just go with the simple answers because this sex scene world was very complicated.. As I learned the language and the more friends I had both Thai and Westerner (farang) the more difficult it became to categorize things.

The next trip was in 2003, I went to Thailand for 1 year this time. This trip I shot color as well as b/w film. I decided that I needed to photograph in the shortime rooms and that I needed to show nudity but I wanted to show it in the proper way, in a non sexual fashion, I wanted the nudity to be honest and straight forward and true to the reality of that persons life. I ended up shooting both clothed and unclothed images in the rooms the girls took their customers to and sometimes in their own private rooms. This photo for example is shot in a room shared by 4 girls working a shortime sex bar.

My next trip was in 2007, I went all out this trip. I only had 7 weeks to travel I spent 1 week in India and 1 week in Nepal, with the 5 weeks left over I rented a room in the bar area and set up a small studio in Thailand. I took 3 overweight check in bags and 2 overweight carry on bags loaded with equipment. I took a 4800 watt Speedotron flash system and a power transformer/converter(changed Thai 220 power so I can use it with my 110 Speedotron). I had a white background, 4 flash heads, 4 light stands, 1 tripod, 1 8x10 Kodak Viewmaster camera, light meter, 10 8x10 holders, 5 5x7 holders, extra flash tubes, 5x7 back for the Viewmaster, 300mm Nikon lens and a bunch of other stuff...also about 400 sheets of 8x10 tri-x and 200 or so sheets of 5x7 tri-x.

I wanted to broaden my subject matter, to tell a more truthful story of the sex worker. I photographed:

Female Sex Workers………

Male Sex Workers…………
Ladyboy Sex Workers…….

I wanted to not only tell the story of the woman who work the scene but also of the men and ladyboys. I wanted to photograph with compassion who they were but I also felt my feelings were changing somewhat, these people were not just victims, things were more complex than that. I wanted to show them as individuals who were being exploited but also as people with a certain amount of freedom of choice.

This last trip was for 3 weeks, 1 week I was at a Thai funeral for a friends father and for 2 weeks I shot the ladyboy series that you see on APUG. The ladyboy photographs are a bit different than the other ones at least the experience of shooting them was. When I photographed the woman workers in 1999 and 2003 I felt they were being used by the system, exploited for the most part and mostly unhappy in their lives. I found with the ladyboy shoots thou that many were happy with where they were, that they actually enjoyed the life to a certain degree and that thou they might be unhappy in their personal lives the sex with foreign males was not something they necessarily disliked. The woman sex workers from the earlier years almost to a person disliked sex with their customers but the people I met this trip seemed to be responding differently.

My feelings on the scene changes from trip to trip, maybe what I feel now or what I think I understand now is wrong and maybe next trip I will learn more and my opinions will change, but that is what it is all about, learning and experiencing that world and trying to understand.

Sorry for the long winded manifesto but why I make these photographs is not an easy answer for me. I guess when it comes down to is that I do it because I am curious and I want to understand and also because I think I owe it to the these people who are often forgotten. Many times when you work as a sex worker your here one day and gone the next, disease, physical(sexual) and mental abuse all take their toll. I have known maybe 1000 people in this industry in Thailand but if I go back today maybe only 50 or so people would still be around. I always felt it was important to make photographs to remember them. It sort of becomes like an obsession, I can see the faces of the people I have met in my minds eye, I can hear their voices and I feel a responsibility to make portraits of them, to make a record that they were important people that mattered. Maybe that is sort of egotistical but I feel it is a responsibility to document their lives, sort of like something I owe them.

The ladyboy series shot in July this year is a continuation of that, an attempt to learn and understand people and a world very different from the one I was raised in.

hope that explains things a bit clearer regarding motivation and history of this whole thingy!

APUG Should I Stop Showing my Photos? Post

I have been having lots of fun at the site There are many knowledgeable film photographers there (APUG = Analog Photography Users Group). I have been posting my lady boy images to a certain amount of interest by APUG members, one person thou said my work offended them which resulted in the following forum post. I found the discussion quite interesting, if your interested check it out.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Ann 27 Ladyboy Sex Worker, Thailand 2008

Gobee 29 Ladyboy Sex Worker, Thailand 2008

Jiji 29 Ladyboy Sex Worker, Thailand 2008

Been working quite a bit in the darkroom lately. I am printing some of the ladyboy photos from July and also playing with various fiber papers. The Foma (made in Hungry) warmtone cream looks very good.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Need to Get Deeper

Been thinking about my work, I need to get deeper. All the great photographers I have studied got to a deeper level with their images, they got to another level of understanding which I have rarely reached, if at all. I need to get deeper.

Quote: Ansel Adams“

“A great photograph is one that fully expresses what
one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Quote: Susan Meiselas

"For me, the idea was that through photography one could interact with the world, be a witness to society's problems and act on them......It wasn't that photography ended wars exactly, but it engaged in debate. It was part of a social dialogue."

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Playing with the F5 and 4x5 Neg Problems

Over the last few days I have been developing the 4x5 ladyboy film and playing with my Nikon F5 (20-35mm zoom). I am getting some technical errors with the 4x5 film, fogged or just plain exposed film along with underexposed images. Two of the ladyboys I photographed seemed to be underexposed when I shot them with the Bananarama, not sure what I did wrong, damn. Other ladyboys seem OK, not happy with some of the compositions but that was to be expected going in because of the problems I had with the lens and rangefinder composition lines (not exactly the same).

The Nikon F5 is so nice to hold and shoot with, you have lots of options and it is damn fast which is great when your photograhing people on the run so to speak.

Great Photography Users Group

Found and love this site, it is highly recommended. Many knowledgeable people and lots of nice work shown.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Hong Kong Photos

I have been studying the work of Sebastiao Salgado and the Magnum photographers over the last few days. There is a real beauty and honesty to Salgado's work, a truth that is difficult to achieve on the run when your working with larger formats.

I am taking a trip to Hong Kong and maybe mainland China in November and have decided to shoot 35mm b/w film with 2 Nikon F5 cameras. I want to try to go back to my roots a bit and shoot like I used to.

I believe what I will do is take 2 Nikon F5s, one camera with a 20-35mm F 2.8 lens and the second camera with a 35-70mm F 2.8 lens. I will shoot Tri-x film developed in D-76 (old school).

Cambodian Baby Tool Kok Slum Phnom Penh, Cambodia 1999 and Cambodian Boys Tool Kok Slum Phnom Penh, Cambodia 1999 were shot with a Nikon F5 and 20-35mm F2.8 lens.

Mai Vietnamse Sex Worker in Poi Pet Brothel, Cambodia 2003 was shot with a Contax G2 and 28mm lens with flash.

I am pretty sure I can get some good images in Hong Kong(China) but I am unsure of what I will be photographing. I guess I will just have to wander and search for images but I prefer to photograph people that I feel a connection to, will see how it goes, I will do my best. Maybe these photographs will lead to more personal work in other parts of Asia or Africa with the F5s.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Quote: Diane Arbus

" Photographs should not evade facts, they should not be evading what something really looks like. "

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Quote: Vincent Van Gogh

" If you hear a voice within you say ' you cannot paint ' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced. "

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Nut 20 Ladyboy Sex Worker, Thailand 2008

This was the second photo session for Nut, I photographed her last year also.

Nicky 26 Ladyboy Sex Worker, Thailand 2008

Auria Ladyboy Sex Worker, Thailand 2008

Mamiya twin reflex with flash shot. Auria was the first Ladyboy I shot this trip, boy was I nervous. Photos were shot in a dark sex shortime room complete with pink floresent light, I could hardly see what I was doing, ended up accidently exposing 5 sheets of 4x5 and making other technical errors. When I finished the shooting two weeks later most of the nerves were gone as was most of the technical mistakes. I have to continue to make photographs often to keep the mojo going!

Pui 21 Ladyboy Sex Worker, Thailand 2008

Emmy 25 Ladyboy Sex Worker, Thailand 2008

Cake 22 Ladyboy Sex Worker, Thailand 2008

I will post a few of my work print scans from the last trip, first photo up is of Cake a ladyboy Sex Worker. The photo was shot with the Bananarama and flash in a shortime sex room.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Thailand Eyes Ban on Teen Castration

Not really photo related but found this article of interest especially in regards to my just finished portraits of Thai ladyboy sex workers.
Shanthy Nambiar and Suttinee Yuvejwattana, Bloomberg News

Paiboon Marvin started wearing dresses and makeup before he became a teenager. Now 16, he wants to be castrated as the next step toward becoming a woman.

Until recently, that wouldn't have been a problem: Boys of any age in Thailand could have their testicles removed for as little as 5,000 Baht ($150) with no questions asked. Now Paiboon may have to wait two years because the procedure will be outlawed for those under 18, after pressure from gay rights activists who say youngsters may follow a trend and regret it later.

"I don't think I'm too young to do it," says Paiboon, wearing a green-ribboned top, shorts, mascara and pink lipstick. "I know I won't change my mind. I've known since I was a kid that I'm not male."

The business school student has support from doctors who perform more than 1,000 castrations and sex-change operations annually in the Buddhist kingdom, which has one of the world's largest transsexual communities. They argue many minors seeking castration have gender identity disorder and surgery is an essential treatment.

"We should respect their decisions and age shouldn't be a fixed requirement," says Aurchat Kanjanapitak, president of the Medical Association of Thailand, which represents 4,500 doctors.

"If someone happens to have a woman's heart in a man's body and doesn't want to keep his testicles, the change should be allowed."

The Ministry of Public Health in April suspended all castrations, except to treat life-threatening conditions, while the Medical Council of Thailand draws up the first regulations governing the nation's sex-change industry.

The rules, due by year-end, will forbid the castration of boys under 18, while those under 21 will need parental approval and psychoanalysis before undergoing the procedure, says the council's secretary-general, Amnaj Kussalanan.

"Sometimes kids may make decisions carelessly because it is fashionable, or because they have insufficient information or a herd mentality," Amnaj says.

There are about 180,000 transgender people in the country of 66 million, according to Sam Winter, a psychologist at the University of Hong Kong who studies transgender issues in Asia. Castration is often a precursor to full sex-reassignment surgery.

Buddhist teachings hold that people can be reincarnated as males or females, which makes Thais tolerant of gender swapping, says Robert Thurman, a professor of Indo-Tibetan Studies at Columbia University, New York.

"The hysteria about sex is something special to the West," he says.

Kathoeys, a Thai term meaning "ladyboys" that applies to men who live as women, are a common sight in Thailand. Often dressed in high heels, with fake eyelashes and polished nails, they work as makeup sales staff, waitresses and hotel receptionists. Some end up in the sex trade.

Transsexual beauty pageants are popular, including the largest, "Miss Tiffany's Universe," which is broadcast live on television. The Kampang School in northeastern Thailand built separate unisex toilets after a survey showed 200 of its 2,600 secondary-level students were transsexual.

"Sexual preferences can change as you grow older," says Natee Teerarojjanapongs, the Bangkok-based co-ordinator of the Sexual Diversity Group, who led the campaign to regulate the sex-change industry after he met boys as young as 15 who wanted to go under the knife. "You can't change it back."

Noon, a receptionist at a Bangkok hotel who asked to be identified by her nickname, became depressed after her sex change at 19.

"Right after the operation, I started feeling that maybe it was wrong," says Noon, 28. "I wasn't ready for the surgery."

Noon cut her hair short at 21 and tried dressing as a man again. "I wasn't successful," she says. "There should be some control on sex-change and castration operations."

Thailand's regulation vacuum means some clinics fall short of international recommendations on standards of care from the Minneapolis-based World Professional Association for Transgender Health Inc., which advises against surgery on those under 18.

"It is extremely unusual for anyone aged under 18 to be offered surgery anywhere in the world," according to guidelines published by the U.K.'s Department of Health, titled Medical Care for Gender Variant Children and Young People.

Even so, some doctors in Thailand are unhappy with the proposed age rule.

Boys should be allowed to "express their feeling," says Thep Vechavisit, 55, who has castrated patients as young as 17 with parental consent and is preparing a lawsuit to challenge the new guidelines.

"They're in a very stressful situation, psychologically and socially," says Thep, who charges 5,000 baht for a castration at his Pratunam Polyclinic in central Bangkok.

Paiboon, who first had to overcome opposition from his mother, can't wait. He's turned to the Internet to find a surgeon prepared to operate in secret.

"It's my own money, my own body," he says. "It's nobody else's business."

First Contacts

Did a bunch of contacts from the 4x5 film developed so far. Some of them look quite good, think there are some strong photographs in the first batch of 4x5 negs. I will be printing some fiber 11x14 images up for a club meeting and also do some RC 8x10 prints for scanning so I can post them on the web page and this blog, should have some photos online next week.

Quote: Photographer Henry Holmes Smith

" At a certain point, humans creating art no longer need to be told what they're supposed to do. "

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Developing Film

This morning I started to develop the 4x5 sheet film from the Ladyboy series. So far the images look OK, sharpness, exposure seem fine. Sometimes the composition is not quite what I wanted but that is a result of the guess work I have to do at times with the Polaroid rangefinder in the Bananarama. I might have to do some cropping on the negs when I print, something I am not a big fan of.

Censorship and Control of Photographers in Iraq

The US gov't has learned from the Vietnam war, now they control and ban photographers that depict the Iraq war in ways unacceptable to Washington.

VAAA Submission Deadline

I found out today that the deadline for submissions to the VAAA gallery for the 2009 season is Sept 15. I have already been rejected 3 times for a 1 man show at this gallery so I thought why not make it 4!! The deadline will push me to work hard in the darkroom over the next 40 or so days, deadlines have a tendency to make me work my ass off. Even when I am no doubt rejected again at least I will have much of the work from the last shoot developed and can use it to make submissions to galleries across Canada and the States.

I think I will concentrate on developing the 4x5 Tri-x shot with the Bananarama and make a Ladyboy submission from the best of the work I am able to process before the deadline.

Who knows the VAAA might actually like to try to show something a bit different and accept the work!! hope hope!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Razzle Hall of Fame

Was visiting Dean Jones Razzle camera site today and found the Bananarama in his hall of fame section along with many other dazzling razzling cameras. The Bananarama performed wonderfully in Asia and I plan on getting 1 and possibly 2 more Razzle cameras when I can save up a bit of money.

Check out Deans hall of fame Razzles here:

Monday, August 4, 2008

Donated Work

I donated some work to help a local youth organization raise funds. Check it out here:

You can also donate funds to the center here:

Cold and Quiet

First thoughts after arrival is boy Canada is cold and quiet. The temperatures seem downright cool here after being in Thailand even thou it is the height of summer in Edmonton. The other thing that immediately struck me is that it is so quiet, no motorbikes, no jack hammers, no barking dogs or loud music, and no one yelling at me at "Come here sexy man!" The ladies in the bars yell things out when single men walk by, if your walking with a woman they say nothing but if your walking alone you always hear the calling of the girls working the bars.

I miss Thai food already, miss having a kiwi shake and fresh coconut juice/meat for 60cents, miss eating all those wonderful foods.

I could not sleep much today, was only able to manage about 4 hours in the morning then I got up and went for a bike ride. It was so quiet and relaxing to cycle through the countryside, I really, really enjoyed it. I think that we sometimes take the little pleasures like this for granted until we do not have something for awhile then you learn again to appreciate the small things like cycling while listening to birds sing.

Back In Canada

Well I am back in Canada again, after a long exhausting day of travel which included a 2 hour car ride plus around 24 hours on 3 different airplanes I am now back home typing this message on my own computer.

I managed to not get the roll film x-ray zapped for the whole trip and only allowed the 4x5 Tri-x to be zapped 3 times, which is the same as the 8x10 last year. I had no problems with last years film so am anticipating none this year.

I must now develop and print the film as time allows. I want to make up 3 submissions for gallery's

1. Bargirls
2. Sex Worker
3. Ladyboy

Exhausted, I will take a bath and sleep.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Last Meal

Had a very nice Thai meal at a local beach area here. I ate barbecued crab along with spicy papaya salad, raw oysters, spare ribs and a fried fish in a special sweet and sour sauce.

Will go for 1 more massage tonight and see a show. I also want to drop off some photographs in a gay bar area for some men I photographed last year.

Keep seeing Nit from last night in my head, she is aging fast, she looked so tired here face changes each time I photograph her. I want to come back her next year and photograph her against a white background with my 8x10 camera.

Friday, August 1, 2008

No More Film

I shot the last of my film today, all the color and b/w roll film, 425 sheets of 4x5 b/w and about 20 sheets of color 4x5 are gone!

The final totals are as follows.

I photographed 20 different ladyboys.
I also photographed 4 ladies.
I ended up reshooting 6 people from previous trips.

Overall I am happy, at this point I think I went into new areas with my work. I hope the work is good, I think it should have some impact. I hope that I can get 10 good portraits for my portfolio box set of ladyboys.

Tonight I used up the last 36 sheets of 4x5 shooting a girl named Nit. I have photographed her on 2 previous occasions in 2003 and in 2007. Nit is a sweet lady but she is getting old fast, she is only 23 now but seems much older. She has a son and has been working a shortime bar for at least 4 years. I worry for her, I hope she does not suffer the same fate as the other lady Nit I photographed in Bangkok who is now 49 and still working the sex scene.

Walking down the regular photo Soi (road) tonight after not making photographs there for 3 or 4 days was kind of fun. Many people in the shortime bars called out to me and I heard my name on 2 occasions, people were so friendly asking me to come over and talk and joke around with them. If I had more time to spend here I could establish better long term relationships. I now think that I will return next year and do more photographs with the 8x10 camera and white background studio set up. I expect to have 7 weeks to shoot in 2009 and will probably return in May to do that work. I have emails and phone numbers for most of the people I photographed and I hope to hand out some free prints and reshoot people when I return. I think Jock Sturges and Jim were right I will try to come back year after year and continue to make portraits of the same people, it is important I establish strong relationships with the people I photograph.

Time to pack and prepare for my return to Canada, am eager to develop the film and make the prints.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

2 More Ladyboys Photographed

I went out at 12am and found 2 ladyboys to photograph around 3am, now it is close to 5am and I am heading home after updating this blog. I have to load film when I get home and then wake up at 10 am to photograph 2 more ladyboys, Mat (2nd time) and Bee. After I photograph the 2 people tomorrow my film will be basically done. I think I will have some 4x5 film but all my roll film should be finished. If I have any 4x5 film left I will load it and photograph a few ladies I know here, maybe a girl I know from 2003 and 2007 named nit and possibly the girl I met again tonight Bee.

The ladyboys shoots tonight were so so. The first ladyboy was named Ann, she was pretty but difficult to photograph, I did my best but I fear I might not have any good photographs of her. The second ladyboy might be the best one of the trip, her name was Tia and she was exceptional for photographs. She was very visual and moved simply and easily during the shoot, which made my job easier. Tia told me she has made a sex movie with farang men where one shot the video and the other took photos. She seemed sad and lost and a bit confused. I think she might be HIV positive as she did not really look healthy. She was also very aggressive towards me sexually, I had to basically pull her hands away and say sorry I only wanted to take photographs. The different personalities of all the ladyboys I have photographed makes each portrait session a unique photographic experience.

Dealing with people in a polite way is my first rule. I try to be honest and straight forward and treat the people I photograph with the most respect I can, and usually they return that respect and kindness. The owner of the short time room tonight was rather rude to me but I just kept on being polite and thanking her with respectfull Thai vocabulary, when I left at the end of the 2nd shoot I thanked her again and she was somewhat less rude, she kind of nodded to me in acceptance of my thanks.

Bee Lady Sex Worker

Went down to find some ladyboys to photograph today and was sitting drinking some water when a lady sex worker I had met briefly the night before came up and sat down beside me to talk.

The girls name was Bee, 21 years old. She came from a farming community in Issan (poorest area of Thailand). Bee had never known her mother, her father died when she was young, she was raised by an Aunt with a farang husband and a grandmother. When the grandmother died the Aunt through Bee out. Bee has a son that is 2 1/2 years old. The son lives with her ex Thai husband in Issan.

Bee came to work in Pattaya and now has a farang boyfriend who is 37, she misses him but is not sure the farang man loves her. Her boyfriend is from Ireland and according to Bee he will come back to Thailand and marry her he will pay 500 000 baht in dowry along with 5 baht in gold (weight of gold for the rings and necklace at the wedding). Bee's dream is to own a house and a small business of any kind. When I suggested she use the money he is sending her to go to school she told me she was to old now for school.

Bee was friendly and nice but very street smart and not shy in the words she used. She said to me "I do not fuck other man only my boyfriend". She was walking a street thou that is frequented by freelance sex workers so am not sure how much of her story is true. She told me the boyfriend was sending her 20 000 baht a month if that was so why wsa she working a street that paid 500 baht for short time sex? She might be alone or the boyfriend might not be sending her money.

I felt sorry for her she was polite and funny, talking openly and freely to me. There is so much more she could do with her life, she speaks English well, she is a quick and smart lady. She told me "I know everything no farang can bullshit me!"

A very practical and upfront lady far to savy for a 21 year old, her life has be tough and she has become strong.

Maybe I will try to photograph her, my film almost finished thou.