Saturday, December 26, 2009

Thailand Sex Worker Book

Been thinking more and more about the importance of having a strong subjective point of view in my work.

Robert Frank in his book "The Americans" has a clear subjective statement to make, he knows what he wants to say and made photographs that told the story he wanted to tell.

Philip Jones Griffiths book "Vietnam Inc." is another example of a photographer who had a clear defining subjective way of looking at things then he worked towards telling that story in photographs.

Being objective and neutral creates work that is so so grey, you need to have a strong point of view something that drives you to work your ass off to make the important photographs to go that extra mile when your tired out and want to rest.

I think back to Dorthea Lange wonderful photograph of the desperate mother in the tent with her children during the depression. Lange was tired, exhausted and worn down when she drove past but then turned back to make this iconic image. She had something to say and her exhaustion was no excuse not to tell that story.

You need to have a burr under your saddle, a driving subjective force in your heart and mind to propel you into making great photography.

I might try to do a definitive book on prostitution in Thailand, to show all aspects of that world from Western sex tourism to the local brothel world. The most important part of the book would have to be the workers, to show them with respect and honesty, to tell their story.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Looking in: Robert Frank's the Americans

Been studying a wonderful book called "Looking in: Robert Frank's the Americans". The book details the history and making of the very important photography book "The Americans" by Robert Frank.

Looking at the contact sheets that are reproduced is fascinating. There are times that 2 great famous images are on a single segment of 6 negs (1 of 6 cut segments from a roll of film) on the contact sheet. The man was really in the zone he knew exactly what he wanted to say and said it with an economy of film.

Frank also used a variety of films, Ilford, Kodak Plus-x, Tri-x, Super xx, along with several films I did not recognize.

What it really comes down to is the type of film does not matter, cameras do not matter (Frank just used one I believe with a so so lens) but what really matters is the photographers vision, Frank knew exactly what he wanted to say and he said it.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Quote: Horacio Salinas (Irving Penns former Assistant)

About Irving Penn.

"What I took away from working for him was that you have to have a strong vision of what you want to say — not just for the day but for your entire career.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Quote: Henri Cartier-Bresson

His photographic credo

"Mind, eye and heart must be brought into line."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Film Film And More Film

Spent the week developing my 8x10 film from the last Sex Worker Series. I want to get all the work developed so I can choose the best negs to use in my group show for the VAAA in 2011. Ended up doing something like over 125 sheets in the Jobo. Many of the negs look so so but there are a few that I am quite excited to print. I have to complete developing all the film (around 300 left) then make contacts and make my final selection for the VAAA show. I will only have 8-10 photographs in the show unfortunately but I will choose the best that are available based on the submission that was accepted by the gallery.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Book: Tears Of A Butterfly

Been thinking of doing a hardcover book that would be self published. I want to have a book I can leave at the gallery so that the visitors can check out some of the work the gallery did not want to show. I would not make much money on any books sold but it would be a good way to get the photographs seen by a larger audience.

The idea would be to make something up of 100 to 200 pages with photographs dating back the last 25 years or so back to my time in Oakland when I was 21.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I'd Rather Be Anonymous

Been thinking about Oct. 13, 2011 a lot over the last few days. On that date the group show will open at the VAAA. I have always wanted the work seen but have always been uncomfortable in being seen myself. One of the reasons I chose to use a pseudonym Gerry Yaum was because I just want to make the photos and not really be recognized for the work, the work is not about me it is about the people in the photographs, they are the story, they should be getting the acknowledgment not me. I have never had much of a problem with negative reactions, when people are negative I just get a bur under my saddle that eggs me forward but having someone praise the work has always made me feel uncomfortable.

I wish I could attend the show anonymously and just be a fly on the wall, I want to watch how people respond to the photographs I want to hear their comments but I do not want them to know who I am. I remember reading a story about Diane Arbus where she kind of hung around eves dropping on conversations at her New Documents show at MoMA. Diane wanted to hear what they said and know how they felt about what she had put up on the walls but she did not want the viewers to know who she was.

Maybe I can come a bit late and sort of sneak in and try to be one of the crowd, doubt that will work but it might be worth a try.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Day After Thoughts

Still on a bit of a high, heck on quite a high not a bit! Am happy that the work can finally be seen as a group. I have always shown the sex worker white background photographs individually. The photographs will now be seen together working as a team to tell a message. It will be a small team of maybe 8 images but they will be printed large working together under good lighting in a gallery setting.

I hope the photographs can humanize the Thai sex worker for people who view the show. Many times people who open newspapers and read statistics lose the human element. When they see Bla, Long or Oews eyes in a large print staring back at them maybe the statistics will fall away and the viewer will see the underlying humanity behind the numbers. If I can communicate the human side of my subjects in these show photographs then I will be happy, I will have accomplished my goal.

Group Show Photos

These 2 diptychs are part of the submission I made to the VAAA that was accepted. It should be lots of fun to print, mat and frame prints for the show. I will print each photograph to 16x20 and place a 4 inch matt around it. Am not sure if I will go with white or black metal frames. I have seen white before and it looks very nice, black is more standard style stuff, will experiment.

Bla 21 Freelance Sex Worker, Thailand 2009

Oew 28 Freelance Sex Worker, Thailand 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009

TRUCK Rejection Letter

Got a nicely worded rejection letter from "Contemporary Art In Calgary - TRUCK". I will try this place again in the future. I still have about 65% of the Sex Worker on white images not developed from 2009. When I get all the work from 2007 (still have undeveloped 5x7 film from 2007) and 2009 scanned and developed, I will try again at TRUCK.

"Thank you for submitting your proposal to TRUCK for consideration for the 2010-2022 programing season. The Programming Committee was impressed by the number and the quality of proposals submitted. As you can imagine, the number of worthy proposals we received greatly exceeded our programming resources. Unfortunately the Programming Committee was not able to accept your proposal."

VAAA Group Show

I got an envelope from Visual Arts Alberta (VAAA) today as well as Contemporary Art In Calgary (TRUCK), earlier this year I made a series of submissions to both galleries (1 to Truck and 4 to the VAAA). Anticipating being rejected I had a blog entry all written up and was going to type in the polite rejection reply I have received 4 times before from this Gallery. I opened up the envelope and was surprised and delighted to see I had been accepted in a group show along with 2 documentary photographers from Quebec.

Some of the work can now be seen, some selected images will be finally hanging as a group. I can tell a bit of the story I want to tell, am happy and excited.

The exhibit is not for a long while but I want to print it and get it ready as soon as possible, so I can move on to other work and other submissions.

Mr Elliot Erwitt was right, hard work does eventually create results. I now need to work even harder.

The letter from VAAA:

On behalf of the Visual Arts Alberta Association I would like to thank you for submitting your work for consideration in the VAAA Gallery's 20010/20011 exhibition schedule. I am pleased to advise you that you have been selected by the jury for a joint exhibition with Quebec documentary photographers Patrick Dionne and Miki Gingras titled "Humanidad and Human Voices" scheduled to run from October 13, to November 10, 2011.

The Dauntless Spirit Philip Jones Griffiths: 1936-2008

by Peter Howe

Philip Jones Griffiths and his daughter Fanny Ferrato at an anti-Iraqi war protest in Herald Square, New York. 2003 Photo Donna Ferrato

If you knew Wales, you knew Philip Jones Griffiths. To the end of his life he remained true to his Welshness, which defined him with a power that few environments exert. Both he and his birthplace are rife with contradictions. It is a breathtakingly beautiful land, and relentlessly bleak, a land of strong communities made up of fierce individualists, where physical poverty has produced spiritual richness. Philip's personality reflected this duality. He was a cynical idealist; a serious man with a playful wit; his mind was analytical but his soul was passionate; profoundly moral he could be wickedly lascivious; he was opinionated but compassionate. The one area of his life that was without contradiction, and which dominated him to his last day, was his craft. He was without compromise, without hesitation and without deviation a photographer, one of the greatest photojournalists this profession has been proud to call its own.

He was born in 1936 in a village called Rhuddlan, situated at the far northern edge of Wales. To ensure that the young Master Jones Griffiths was in no doubt that he was Welsh surrounding towns and villages bore such unpronounceable names as Waen Goleugoed, Groesffordd Marli, Pen-Y-Cefn. But however powerfully his birthplace formed the man he was to become, its smallness could never contain his curiosity. The cliché of the photographer introduced to his profession by the family's Kodak Box Brownie was to be his story, with the twist that from an early age he realized it could be his passport to the world outside of the mountains and valleys of his homeland. His parents, however, had other, more practical ideas. He was to become a pharmacist, a plan that he went along with because however tedious the job might be, it would be one that he could practice anywhere in Britain – maybe not such a satisfying passport as photography, but still a pathway to the wider world. He claimed that the decade he spent behind the counter of various pharmacies was wasted time, although there were a couple of side benefits. The training developed his analytical skills, an expertise that was to serve him well as a journalist. It also took him to London, to what was arguably the most dangerous pharmacy in the land – Boots the Chemists in Piccadilly Circus. Famous for being the place where heroin addicts could get their prescribed Methadone and streetwalkers came in to rest their feet, it gave him an introduction to London's netherworld, a subject he found fascinating, and which he started photographing.

He, of course, had a different explanation as to how he got started as a photographer, and the role that the pharmacy played: "I think that the important thing in life is always to be somehow propelled by something, and I'm propelled essentially by boredom, so when I'm bored I've got to do something else." If nothing else, life behind the counter was boring. His ennui-induced photographs were good enough to get the attention of a great picture editor, Dennis Hackett of the London Observer, who gave him valuable advice. "He said look, remember, who, what, why, where, when. Those are the five W's you've got to get right every time when you take a picture. That's what I want to see when I look at a picture. And the more I thought about it, I thought, you know, all of them are standard, but the one in the middle, the why, that is the one that interests me. Why. Call it simple curiosity; call it a search for the truth, call it whatever - but it's the Why, the middle W, that counted."

It was the "Why" that took him in 1966 to the other land that was to powerfully influence him to the end of his life – Vietnam. Of all the many fine photographers who covered that tragic conflict nobody understood Vietnam and the Vietnamese better than Philip. Others may have had a better grasp of the military, others may have been more reckless, but he profoundly comprehended the mentality of the Vietnamese, and as a result was one of the first to realize that the war could not be won, not in the way it was being fought anyway. This awareness was as a result of two things. The first was that Philip thoroughly did his homework. He was passionately opposed to what he called "fireman" journalism, where the photographer jumps into a situation for a couple of days or even weeks, and then is off on to the next conflict, without really having understood what he or she was shooting in either of them. He prepared before going to Vietnam, read about the history, culture and religion of the country. It was important to him to understand the "Why" of Vietnam.

He also made a remarkable discovery upon setting foot on Vietnamese soil for the first time. "I found my village in Wales. In a Welsh village you're taught to keep quiet, to keep your eyes open, to listen, and not to give too much away. I felt that this was the ethic that the Vietnamese themselves lived by. I was fascinated by the fact that the most powerful nation on earth – with a military might never before seen – was being regularly hoodwinked by rice farmers." Over the three years that he covered the war he developed profound insights into what was happening, and what he should be photographing. He realized that the "bang-bang" photographs of combat were, in his words, meaningless. "They only show GIs running up and down hills, and of course it was an enemy lure to get them away from the populated lowlands in preparation for the Tet Offensive. The brilliance of the Vietnamese commander, General Giap, was that he said, 'I will give the American army what they understand, which is taking a hilltop.' I'm glad I missed those battles, because they were a distraction."

He was also well aware of a popular fallacy that persists even to this day – that it was the press coverage of the war that caused the American people to lose faith in the ability of the government and its military commanders to bring the conflict to a successful conclusion. "Although the press coverage had a gripping effect, I vehemently object to the idea that the press lost the war. The truth is that the press was always way behind the American people, who were anti-war long before it was. In general, 95 percent of the press was totally in favor of the war; 4.999 percent was in favor of the war but not the way it was being fought. And then there was me and two Frenchmen." He attributed the public's disillusionment to the fact that, with a conscripted army whose troops served one-year tours and then returned home, the stories of how poorly the war was progressing came not from newspaper articles, but from the newly discharged sons, brothers and nephews of the American family. Press reports merely served as confirmation of the picture that the vets were painting. In fact in both his photographs and in interviews on the subject, Philip was sympathetic to the plight of the GIs. One of my favorite pictures of his from this period is of an American soldier and a Vietnamese child taken in the Mekong Delta in 1967. The poignant expressions on their faces are a clear indication that both were victims of the war. One of his most famous photographs depicts a group of GIs sharing their water canteen with a wounded Vietcong fighter who had fought for three days with a stomach wound over which he had taped a kitchen bowl to keep his intestines from falling out. The concern and respect that the three Americans show for their courageous enemy give the photograph its power. Francis Ford Coppola lifted the scene for his 1979 movie, "Apocalypse Now." When Philip contacted him about this "he said, 'So sue me.'"

His three years covering the war led to the publication of his greatest work, the book Vietnam Inc. published in 1971, and reprinted in 2001. It is not only the finest book to come out of the conflict, it is probably one of the best publications on war ever produced. It is unflinching in its portrayal of war, and although the reader is never in any doubt as to the author's attitude towards the bloodshed, it is compassionate to those for whom the photographer felt compassion. Whenever Philip heard someone describe him as a war photographer he always corrected them – "Anti-war photographer." His fondest personal moment during this time was after the book was published and he had left Vietnam. "I had an assignment to go back, but I was banned. President Thieu uttered the immortal words, 'There are many people I don't want to see back in my country, but I can assure you that Mr. Griffiths' name is at the top of the list.' I begged Life magazine, which had given me the assignment, to get that in writing!"

But go back he did. The cessation of hostilities in 1975 did nothing to decrease his interest in the country. In the last 30 years he made more than 20 return visits, and out of them produced two more fine books – the harrowing Agent Orange: Collateral Damage in Vietnam, published in 2004, and Vietnam at Peace, published in 2005 and reviewed on this Web site in the July issue of that year. He summed up his feelings during the war by saying, "For me, Vietnam was the most intense experience imaginable, and one that was filled with a kind of macabre humor, which of course didn't detract from the tragedy of the whole thing. But most of the time, it was the ultimate clash of civilizations – the wise, smart little David running around irritating the hell out of this huge Goliath. That's an inspiring thing to observe."

For more than 40 years Philip was a member of Magnum, serving five years as its president. It was always a stormy relationship, and he claimed that he had to live in London towards the end of his life because the agency invalidated his health insurance, forcing him to rely on the free medical treatment available in the United Kingdom. Whether or not this was true it was certainly typical of the ambivalent attitude that he had towards the cooperative. His initial expectations of what Magnum could do for him were, however, unreasonably high. "I was 16 when I first read about Magnum. In those days it was a rather more practical problem that I had. My mother had always done my laundry, and what was I going to do when I left home? I read in a magazine that Magnum did Robert Capa's laundry for him. I said, 'That's for me. That's the place I'm going to end up.' Anyway, not only did they not do my laundry, they've done very little else for me over the years, but still it was a great concept, this idea of a band of brothers who would wander around the world righting wrongs, doing humanistic photography, finger on the pulse of humanity, and the very idea that you could just keep traveling – all you needed was a small suitcase and a camera bag. Somehow you need never come home, you could just keep on going from A to B to C to D and you could sort of circumnavigate the world indefinitely; I found all that very exciting. Of course the reality is somewhat different."

He did keep on going to the end of his life, planning another trip to the Far East for this fall that he would never make. He loved being a photographer, and regarded it as a privilege as much as a profession. "I had a grandstand view of this conflict, and that's what being a photographer, or a man with a camera running around Vietnam, afforded me, and for that I'm very grateful. It was almost worth doing without film in the camera. Of course that would have been a crime, but still, what I got out of it was worthwhile in and of itself." His biggest complaint about the "fireman" approach to photography was that you learned nothing, which, in his mind, negated the whole point of being a member of the profession in the first place. He described this peripatetic journalism as "like watching a movie with the lights on and everybody talking. It seems to me that you're losing such a valuable opportunity to learn the truth of what is happening."

During the time period that I've been writing this piece I attended a Barack Obama fund-raiser. At the end of the senator's presentation my friend who invited me and who has been involved in politics for a long time said, "You know what distinguishes him from most other politicians in this country – he's fearless." This characterization also applies to Philip. The two clichés seen most frequently in obituaries are that the subject died of a massive heart attack – nobody seems to die from moderate ones – or after a long battle with cancer. In Philip's case the cliché was a truism. He faced cancer with all the courage that he showed in the other areas of his life, and I am convinced that he lived longer because of it than a less determined man would have done. The thesaurus on my computer tells me that courage "implies not only bravery and a dauntless spirit but the ability to endure in times of adversity." Philip had all of these in spades, but above all he had an uncompromising moral courage coupled with an unerring eye.

He spoke to me once about courage when talking about one near death experience he had during the war. "I've never freaked out. I don't know what the explanation is. The closest I can think of is that if you have a job to do, a mission, a passionate mission, then you don't get scared. You can do it. You find you can do it. It's the people who are insecure or really don't know why they're there, and don't know what they're doing, who suffer, but I knew. I did all of this half for me and half to show the world."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Quote: Bruce Davidson

"My way of working is to enter an unknown world, explore it over a period of time, and learn from it"

Quote: Irving Penn

"A good photograph is one that communicates a fact, touches the heart and leaves the viewer a changed person for having seen it. It is, in a word, effective."

Types of Photos

W. Eugene Smith

Philip Jones Griffith

I have been thinking what kind of photographs I want to make, what I should be trying to achieve.

Important subjects and forgotten people.

Lately I have been reviewing the work of 2 great humanist photographers, Philip Jones Griffith and W. Eugene Smith. Griffiths book Vietnam Inc. and Smith's book Minamata are both stunning examples of what a photographer can acheive. Both photographers shot important subject matter of forgotten people, they had a definite point of view, a subjective point of view which they translated into great photographs that told a meaningful story.

I need to find subject matter that inspires me that gets me angry that gets me motivated.

Philip Jones Griffiths: Brother Finds His Sisters Body, Vietnam

W. Eugene Smith: Tomoko In Her Bath, Minamata Japan

Quote: Elliot Erwitt

"Making pictures is a very simple act. There is no secret in photography. Schools are not really useful except for technical instruction. You just need practice and application for what you've learned. My absolute conviction is that if you are working reasonably well, the only important thing is to keep shooting. It doesn't matter whether you are making money or not. Keep working, because as you go through the process of working things begin to happen."

Quote: Arnold Newman

"We don't take pictures with our cameras. we take them with our hearts and our minds."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Quote: Mary Ellen Mark

Talking about her motivation for photography.

"In the very beginning, my motivation was the same as it is now: to explore the world and to look intimately at the lives of so many different people."

Monday, November 23, 2009

1999 35mm

Geez I have still had some 1999 film sitting around my darkroom in a box. Tri-x shot in 35mm in Cambodia, got to get this stuff developed sooner, these images waited 10 years to be processed.

Cambodian girls with bones at a killing fields Pagoda, Cambodia 1999

Skulls at killing fields Pagoda, Cambodia 1999

Long In Her Room 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

RingFlash Blad Tests

Played around with exposure and development using the ring flash with Blad and 80mm.

Dad 77 years old.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cambodian 35mm Stuff

Shot this on one of my 2 days in Cambodia this last trip. One is of an outdoor barbershop another if of a mural I found in a partially destroyed Buddhist temple building. Not sure who painted the mural or why it was there, it seemed to depict, murder, rape and torture.

These images were made with a Contax G2, the automatic features of this camera made me feel uncomfortable, I am hoping the Leica range-finders will allow me more control and be more fluid to use.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Possible Projects

Been running many story ideas over in my head the last few days. Things I might try to do in the future, not sure how much of this I can do and how much is fantasy but every photograph, every photographic project starts with an idea.

1) Khon thai, photos of thai people from all levels of society.
2) Rural Cambodia, photographs of people I meet on motorcycle trips through Cambodia.
3) Rickshaw driver in Phnom Penh his life story.
4) Cambodian street children, their lives their story day to day in the Phnom Penh.
5) Long or Bla's story, photographs of their lives.
6) Slum life, photographs of people living in Thai slums.
7) Refugee camps, life of various people/family's in the camps (Burmese refugees around the Thai border).
8) Bangkok at night, photographs of everything that happens in the wee hours in one of the busiest cities in the world.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Quote: Edward Steichen

"The mission of photography is to explain man to man and each man to himself."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Quotes: W. Eugene Smith

"Photography is a small voice. at best. but sometimes one photograph. or a group of them, can lure our senses into awareness.... Someone, or perhaps many, among us may be influenced to heed reason, to find a way to right what was wrong."

" Each time I pressed the shutter release, it was a shouted condemnation hurled with the hope that the pictures might survive through the years, with the hope that they might echo through the minds of men in the future. causing them caution and remembrance and realization."

"I have never made any picture, good or bad, without paying for it in emotional turmoil."

"I can never photograph without love,...I create only when I have the spirit and spirituality of life that love gives me"

"I believe if you stir human emotions, much can come out of it. I don't believe you stand a chance of changing many of the important wrongs in the world unless you reach through the emotions that stir the brain."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Leica Range-finder Tri-x Tests Continue

Went out shooting with a friend. I tried developing these films with the same dilution/time/temp as W. Eugene Smith did. The grain is noticeably smaller than the Rodinal developed negatives.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Monday, November 2, 2009

Quote: Ralph Gibson

"A strong photograph is something that impels the viewer to bring a lot to it. The perception of the photograph becomes the creative act."

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Quote: James Nachtwey Photojournalist

Why do you shoot what you shoot?

"I think the raising of people's consciousness is the first step toward creating public opinion and public opinion creates an impetus for change. It creates pressure on decision-makers, the powers that be, who make choices that effect the lives of thousands of people. Helping create the impetus for them to move in the right direction, through public opinion, is something worth doing."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sunday, October 25, 2009

New 2003 Bargirl Series Photos

Finally got around to developing these Bargirl Series Photos from 2003.

Num 25

Nit 22

Naung 38

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Been involved with photography for over 30 years now but the excitement continues to grow. Tonight I am working in the darkroom developing film and printing, my head full of photographs I want to make in the future, full of ideas. Photography is so exciting, so rewarding, fills me with so much purpose. There is nothing I would rather do with my life.

Prints For Sale on Ebay

Trying to sell some prints on ebay to help fund a return to Asia to make photographs for the "Khon Thai" project.

Bla 21 In Her Room

These photos of Bla were made in a room she shared with another lady, the room rented for around $7 USD a day. All the outside guests who visited also had to pay a fee to a man out front who ran the place. Bla brought her customers to this room for shortime sex, she told me sometimes the men left without paying her. I remember during the shoot a cockroach scurried across the floor and Bla pushed it out the door with a tissue. Shot this with a Contax G2 plus flash, Tri-x developed 1/50 in Rodinal for 10/11 minutes, 20c, with very little agitation. Not sure I like the heavy grain, have to think about this some more. I also shot some medium format and color photographs that I will post later.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Leica/Rodinal Tests

Been working with Leica Range-Finder cameras along with Tri-x and Rodinal. I am trying to get a certain grain and look to the negs/prints. The idea would be to work with this camera along with the Razzle camera making portraits in rural Thailand and Cambodia. Here are some first attempts.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ladyboy Sex Worker Headshots 2008

Nit 2008 Color Contact

This contact strip is from 2009, the third time I photographed Nit. She is in a shortime sex room she has used many times with her customers.