Archive for April 2007

Hi, everyone.

I did something unusual this weekend. I actually made some new photos - or, should I say, I photographed several models. I'm visiting my good friend Dave Levingston in Ohio and he's been kind enough to help me to photograph some of the local models here. Yesterday, I worked with models Sarah Ellis and Model Sarah in a converted church near Columbus. I took some photos with my pocket digital camera - more documentary than anything else - so here's one of Sarah Ellis on top and one of the two Sarah's next.

Today, I photographed some models in Dave L's studio in Dayton. Jackeller was kind enough to step in on short notice to replace another model who'd been forced to cancel recently. (See bottom photos.) I also worked with models Nemesis and Gaea. Later Dave and I had dinner with photographer Gary Mitchell and friend along with Gaea and friend.

Today has been World Pinhole Day and Dave L was kind enough to give me a pinhole lens. He bought a body cap for my Pentax 67, drilled a hole in the middle and then taped on a pinhole. I only made four exposures with the pinhole lens - two of them were about 50 seconds in length and the other two were 100 seconds - but I am obviously anxious to see the results. It'll just have to wait until I get around to developing the film, whenever that will be.

I just want to thank Dave L and his wife again for their hospitality. Tomorrow morning I should be working with Jacqueline Chantelle in Dave's studio before heading back home to New York.

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Hi, folks.

This will be a quick entry by me. I just want to tell people that I am now being profiled on the fine art website, Contemporary Art Gallery, which deals with many different art forms. It includes an interview with me in which I talk about my life as a photographer, along with some photos. You can see it at the upper left on CAG's home page, .
The direct link to my page is .

Please stop by to take a look if you can. Thanks.


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I’ve visited Southeast Asia twice over the past few years, and among my favorite places are the mountainous regions of the north that are inhabited by various different ethnic minority groups. These people live in the northern parts of Burma, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam as well as southwestern China and are normally referred to as ‘hill tribes’ (or ‘Montagnards,’ as the French called them).

These hill tribes have their own cultures, customs and unique manner of dress. In a world where global culture is causing everybody to dress and look the same, it really is a marvel to see people who try to hold on to something that is unique to themselves. (Well, the women do, anyway, as the men generally dress like the rest of us.)

The photos I’m posting here are of people in two different ethnic groups known as the Hmong. I photographed them last year in Vietnam. (The Hmong, as some people may know, actually sided with the CIA during the Vietnam War and were persecuted by the communist government afterwards.) The women in the dark blue clothing (top) are known as the Black Hmong, while those in the more elaborate and colorful outfits (bottom) are the Flower Hmong.

As you can also see, I’m posting photos in both black & white (from my medium format film camera) and color (from my pocket digital camera). I’ve had a discussion several times over the past few years concerning which is a better mode for photographing people – in B&W or in color. Obviously, as seen here (especially with the Flower Hmong), the color images capture something about these people that monochromatic images simply cannot do.

Yet, as I look at these photos, it’s the B&W images that have a greater impact and stay with me longer. Perhaps it’s because I’ve spent more time working on the B&W photos than the color ones. Perhaps it’s because the B&W were made with my big camera and were more carefully composed, as opposed the color digital photos, which are essentially snapshots.

Still, I think there is something beyond that. I once read that someone said, “When you photograph people in color, you’re photographing their clothes, but when you photograph them in black & white, you’re photographing their souls.” Whoever it was who said that, I think he/she had a point. While I’m glad I made these color photos, they seem better at conveying fashion rather than feeling. The monochrome image, without the color to grab at our attention, seems better suited at getting to someone on a deeper, more personal level.

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I’ve got a bunch of things to do today so I haven’t got much time for writing up a detailed blog entry. I’ve decided to post some photos from the studio session I had with model Liz Ashley in my home studio set up last summer.

Liz is a fine model from Houston, Texas, who I’d seen on the web and had wanted to work with for quite some time. I’m glad that I finally got to work with her, but I still felt rather frustrated that I had to do so in the confines of my studio. I hope that one day I’ll have the chance to work with her in a much more interesting outdoor setting.

By the way, the last image here, on the left, is an in-camera double exposure. No digital trickery with me and my work. I'm not sure how successful this image is - that's up to others to decide, ultimately, I suppose - but I do want to continue making explorations into this area.

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The dictionary defines ‘inertia’ as “disinclination for activity, change, etc” and “that property of matter by virtue of which it tends to remain at rest, or, if in motion, to continue in the same direction unless acted upon by an outside force.” In other words, it’s a force that tries to keep things from changing. When it comes to photographers, ‘inertia’can be defined as “the force that keeps a photographer sitting on his/her ass instead of going out and making some photographs.”

Such was the force I faced when I visited Montreal in February 2004. Going back to my last posting, I had photographed Kitty in my hotel room on a Saturday afternoon, after which we went out to get something to eat. Being the winter in Montreal, it was very cold out, so after escorting Kitty to the metro station, I headed straight back to my hotel room to warm up and rest a bit.

I wrote last time about how nightmarish it was to drive to Montreal in the winter, but I have to say that I was rewarded with the sight of the old city of Montreal (my hotel’s location) in the winter. Everything looked beautiful covered in snow, especially when lit by the warm glow of the street lamps in the evening, and there was a quiet sense of stillness, too. It was really a wonderful way to experience my first visit there.

On the other hand, as I’ve said, it was also awfully cold. Part of my reason for the trip was to photograph some of the city as well as a couple of models, but as I sat resting in my hotel room, nice and warm, I began to think to myself, “Do I really want to go out into that freezing cold, at night, when I can stay in here?”

Of course, laziness— er, um, I mean ‘inertia’ – often requires an excuse, so my reason for staying in was that I had forgotten to bring the spot meter attachment for my light meter. I normally use this when photographing at night to take readings off of buildings or things, and I really thought that I might have left it at home. Of course, I needed to be sure, so I began to look through my camera bag to be sure that it wasn’t there – and it was with a heavy heart that I actually found it!

So much, then, for excuses. I got dressed, put my boots on, picked up my camera gear and tripod and headed on out into the cold, dark night. I don’t know how long I was out – an hour, maybe two – but I can remember how cold the legs of my Gitzo tripod felt when I picked it up with my bare hands. I can also remember how my toes began to feel as if they were freezing when I walked up to mid-thigh in snow drifts to get a photo in a park by Place Jacques Cartier (photo #2). And I can remember that it was so cold that the battery in my camera began to fail and the mirror wouldn’t come back down after I made some exposures of the beautiful Hotel de Ville (aka City Hall, photo #3). The photo at the bottom here shows some steps leading up to a side entrance of the city's Notre Dame cathedral, and the image at the top shows a ship docked at the old city's harbor.

Despite the difficulties involved and the harsh conditions, I was ultimately glad that I had done it – not just for the good photos that I had made, but for having actually overcome photographer’s inertia!

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Montreal is a city that lies about 380 miles north of New York City. It’s a pretty straight drive up there, and in the summer I imagine that it would be rather nice. Doing it in the winter, though, can be an absolute frozen hell. I know, because I’ve done it – and all in the name of art!

It all pretty much started when I met a girl named Kitty at a science fiction/horror movie convention in New Jersey. My friend Joe had made some casual photos of her and when he showed them to me, I thought she looked rather nice and had an interest in photographing her myself. He said he’d try to introduce me to her at the next opportunity, and he did.

Knowing this, I brought with a set of 8x10 inch black & white RC prints of some of my nudes to show her. Kitty went through them, and………well, when someone says she’d kill herself if you didn’t photograph her, you can assume that she likes your photos! (I’d like to think that the killing herself part was just an exxageration.) It turned out that she was an artist, too, so I thought “why not?” and made plans to head up north to Montreal, where she lives.

I met Kitty in the fall of 2003 and so made plans to head up there a few months later, in February. I’d gone through Frommer’s guide to Montreal and found a nice hotel in the old section of the city. As I had done the year before down in New Orleans, I was going to photograph Kitty in my hotel room, and this hotel was in an 18th Century building with nicely furnished rooms. The rates were also lower in the winter, so despite any concerns about things like snow, February it was.

That thinking came back to haunt me when the weather on my day of my driving up turned out to be an ice and snowstorm! You know that things aren’t going well when you find your car covered by a sheet of ice (as mine was). I cracked the ice off and then methodically headed off on my way. Some of the things I remember were driving 40 miles per hour in the 65 mph zone and having to stop to crack off the ice that had totally encrusted my windshield wipers. Not only that, the driver’s side wiper must have been warped, as it wasn’t properly wiping off the window, resulting in a large area of ice and snow building up directly in my line of view and blocking what I could see!

On the other hand, the sight of the mountains of upstate New York covered by snow and ice was magnificent. I can still imagine the huge tongues of ice that were hanging down off of the mountainsides. I wish I could have stopped to photograph them, but I was just intent on making it to Montreal in one piece.

I did make it there safely after about ten and a half hours, but when I got to my hotel after all that time, I couldn’t get the car into the parking lot because the wheels kept spinning in the snow! (The lot attendant managed to do the trick, thankfully.)

After that, however, the trip went great. I photographed Kitty the next day and got some good images out of it. The photo at the top shows her sitting on the bed next to a lamp with the beautiful exposed bricks of the wall in the background. Kitty was also brave enough to allow me to open the windows as she sat just in front of tbem (photo 2 – the white stuff outside is snow) and I worked with a mirror, too (photo 3).

I did go to Montreal for a few other reasons. One was to visit a photographer friend of mine, Dan Cardish, who I’d known on-line but had never met before. I had dinner with him twice that weekend, which was nice. I also worked with another model, Isabelle, in the hotel room (photos 4 and 5). Having photographed Kitty there the day before, I tried to avoid duplicating those same images. This limited what I could do to some extent, but I think I still was able to make a few good ones. One of the props I used was an illustrated French translation of Goethe's "Faust" that I found in the room.

This trip was also the culmintation of the series of model sessions that just had me burnt out for a while on photographing nudes. I'll write about photographing the city of Montreal next time.

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Hi again, folks. Just to reiterate, I’m on part three of the series of blog entries about the figure nude photo shoots in did in late 2003 and early 2004. My last entry was about a trip to Ohio. This new one is about a photo shoot in early February 2004 right here in New York. It’s also a photo shoot that almost didn’t happen.

I need to again thank my friend Dave Levingston for his help in arranging this one. The photo session took place in a loft near 9th Avenue by Manhattan’s west side meat packing district – a space rented at the time by one of Dave’s friends who was kind enough to let me use it for a few hours for a nominal fee.

Two models were scheduled – Theda B. and Kate Mandala – and they both showed up on time. The space was ready, too. So how did it almost not happen? I decided to take my gear with me via the subway as I felt that I probably wouldn’t be able to find a parking space if I went by car. I myself had no trouble getting there. The problem was that the train lurched at one point and knocked over my tripod – breaking the ball head in the process!

As I was working indoors with nothing but available light, a tripod was an absolute necessity. Unfortunately, the only way to get the ball head to stay in place was to really push the locking handle hard and lock it up tight. It worked – but the down side was that I needed both hands to unlock it and recompose for each photo. Fortunately, I had Kate or Theda to hold onto my camera while I needed to push with all my might to unlock the ball head. Otherwise, the camera would have fallen over and smashed into the tripod with no one to hold onto it. It was a very awkward way to do things and a real pain in the neck, but given the circumstances, I had no choice – and, it worked!

As for the shoot itself, I began working in a studio-like space – basically an empty room with windows – but as I find such blank spaces to be rather uninspiring, we later moved into the living quarters. I think I made more interesting images there, as I at least had some ‘real’ backgrounds to work with.

The image at the top shows Theda sitting on the floor, with Kate’s legs visible as she stands in the bathroom doorway. The second image is a portrait of Kate and her beautiful eyes, made inside the studio area.

The final image here was toward the end of the session, when I just had the idea to make an image backside-to-backside. While I was composing this image, I told them that, for some reason, it made me think of the phrase “By the light of the silvery moon.”

They both laughed.

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“Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming
We’re finally on our own
This summer I hear the drumming
Four dead in O-hi-o”
- Neil Young

The killing of four students by National Guardsmen at Kent State University during an anti-war protest in 1970. That’s one of the few things I knew about Ohio when my friend Dave Levingston invited me to visit him there and to photograph some of his models. I mean, like – what is there to know??? That Woody Hayes was the coach of the Ohio State football team and liked to slap his players around? That a peace accord was reached there to end the crisis in the Balkans? Oh, yeah – a couple of brothers named Orville and Wilbur used to have a bicycle shop there somewhere.

I decided to accept Dave’s kind offer and so traveled to Ohio for a weekend in January 2004. (This is part two of my four part series of nude photo sessions from December 2003 to Februray 2004.) Being in the winter, I had to work in his studio in Dayton. Personally, a studio is not the ideal place for me to work. I much prefer a nice outdoor spot or even an interesting indoor location, as opposed to a basically empty room which most studios are. It was going to be a challenge.

One of my other challenges was going to be how to photograph Nemesis. This particular model was covered by a multitude of tattoos – and I generally prefer to work with models who have no tattoos or piercings. Apparently she had gotten wind of this preference of mine and was concerned (to put it mildly) about working with someone who has a ‘don’t like tattoos’ attitude. On the other hand, when I finally met her, she told me that she was upset that a lot of photographers chose to photograph her tattoos rather than her as an entire person.

Actually, when a model has that many tattoos, it’s pretty much useless to try to hide them, as they become another element in themselves. So, I set out to make a photo of Nemesis that would show her as a whole but would integrate the tattoos into the image, too.

I think I succeeded with the photo you see at the top. Dave’s studio had a couple of flexible mirrors so I decided to use one to capture Nemesis from both sides, including the big wolf tattoo on her back. I wanted more than a mirror shot, though, and sought to connect her figure to the one in the reflection. After some time spent with Nemesis balancing precariously on one foot trying to get a good position, we finally got it right. As I think you can see, the image is more interesting with the tattoo on her back than it would be without it. (Nemesis is also seen in photo #2.)

On my other day there, I photographed two other models – Charlye Rayne and Psyrotica (known to her friends, so I’m told, as Rotty). I was scheduled to work with Charlye for a few hours in the morning and then with the two together in the afternoon. The morning session went well, working with available light and no strobes, (photo #3) but as Charlye had not eaten any breakfast and needed (so she said) to have a big lunch, the two of us ended up spending two hours chowing down at the Spaghetti Warehouse in beautiful downtown Dayton!

This left only about an hour or so for my afternoon photo session with the two models, but I tried to make the most of it by using the mirrors and some other items on hand in the studio (photos 4 and 5). As these were flexible mirrors that curved, I decided to use them to get some unusual effects (a la Andre Kertesz). At one point I even noticed an upside down reflection and somehow managed to get it on film!

Although it was a short trip in which I had to work in a less than ideal setting and had one photo session severely curtailed by a long lunch, I think the trip was worthwhile. Of course, I got to spend time with a friend, too. In fact, I returned to Ohio a year and a half later to do some outdoor shooting (I’ll write about that another time) and am planning to make a third visit fairly soon. I want to thank my friend Dave L once again for his continued friendship and hospitality.

However, I have to say that after two trips there and a third in the works, I still really don’t know anything about Ohio!

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As promised last time, this and my next few entries will deal with the series of fine art nude photo shoots I did from December 2003 to February 2004. This entry will deal with the first.

As a non-pro photographer, I don’t have a set schedule of when I shoot. It happens when it happens. My travel photography happens for the most part on vacation, and my nude shoots are either on vacations or weekends. As I also have a limited amount of dollars to spend on it, you can understand why I may go for long periods without picking up a camera.

This was the situation I was in back in early December 2003 when I worked with a model by the name of Billie. I’d gone nearly half a year without making any photos. Having contacted a number of models to help out my friend Dave Levingston, it seemed an opportune time to end the drought. So, I packed my medium format camera gear into my bag and with tripod slung over my shoulder, I took the subway to our location - Billie’s apartment in the East Village section of Manhattan.

This was an unusual situation for me as I think it was the first time I ever photographed a model in her home. Usually I work outdoors, but sometimes in an interestingly appointed room or even a studio. A model’s apartment is a little different as one needs to decide whether to make photos that will appear to be neutral in its setting or which will try to show the space as a part of the model’s personality – the latter being what my friend Dave refers to as a ‘docunude.’ On this occasion, I guess I tried to do both.

The photo at the top here shows Billie on her sofa with her violin. A musician as well as an actress, she had both a violin and a guitar. When I suggested using the violin as a prop, she agreed, saying that while a violin is timeless the guitar would somehow seem to date the image. As I often try to do, I made images from various points of view with different lenses, as can be seen from the second photo.

The final image here is an attempt at a docunude, showing Billie standing in her kitchen. It’s a simple image, but there’s something I like about the look she was giving me. (I also have an image of her standing as a silhouette in her living room, but as I haven’t scanned that one yet, a posting here will have to wait.)

In other matters, I want to give a big thank you to Michael Barnes, curator of the Art Nudes blog. (See the link on the right.) I recently wrote to Michael to inform him of my own web log and he was good enough to include it on Art Nudes along with some kind words. Thanks again, Michael. Since I was listed on his page, the number of visitors to this site has jumped enormously.

I also want to offer a welcome to those people coming here via Art Nudes. Thanks for stopping by. Hopefully you’ll enjoy what you see and read here and will come back in the future.

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Okay, let me guess. You’re wondering why this entry has “nude models” so prominent in the title but you don’t see any nude model photos. Fair enough (and it’s not an April Fool’s joke!), so let me explain:

You’re probably interpreting the phrase “So many nude models, so little time” to mean something on the order of “There are so many women willing to get undressed for the camera who I’d like to photograph, but there just isn’t enough time (and money!) to do it all.” I guess a lot of photographers working with the nude figure feel this way, and you can count me among them. Still, that’s not what I mean this time. In this case, it means something like “I photographed so many nude models in such a short time that it just became too much!"

Much of the blame (or credit, depending how you look at it!) goes to my good friend, the photographer Dave Levingston. (I know you’ll be reading this, Dave, so don’t try to deny it.) Back in the fall of 2003, before entering the envious state of retirement, Dave needed to come here to New York on business, so he suggested that we try to arrange to photograph some models in his hotel room and we thus began a model search.

Well, I didn’t work with any there, but the process of searching and contacting models got me in the mind to pick up my camera again, which I had not done for about half a year – and pick it up I did! From early December 2003 to early February 2004, in the space of little over two months, I photograped eight different models in places as far ranging as the east and west sides of Manhattan, southwestern Ohio and the beautiful old city of Montreal.

I got some good photos out of that stretch of time, but at the end, it all got to be too much and I needed to stop to do something else. I'd needed to spend a lot of time packing and unpacking my camera bag and had to spend a lot of time traveling back and forth. In other words, it had started to feel like a job and I was feeling burnt out!

My solution? I decided to finally go to Japan. I had wanted to visit that country on the other side of the world for quite some time, but I’d been putting it off because of the length of the flight, the high cost of visiting there (or so I thought), the language barrier, etc. Enough was now enough, and I chose to finally bite the bullet and go.

What did I think after I’d spent a little time there? “Why did I wait so long to come here???” was my response. Japan is a great place to visit and in many way is an ideal destination. It’s clean, safe and modern. The water is safe to drink. The transportation system is excellent. (Before each stop on the Tokyo subway there’s an announcement in Japanese and then in English, even telling you on which side the doors will open. The same goes for the ‘shinkansen,’ or bullet train.) Even though it’s modern and outwardly western, it’s definitely a culturally very different place with many beautiful things to see. I went back again in 2005 and hope to return again.

Japan is also the land of the camera and is generally ‘photographer friendly.’ I only visited one temple complex where tripods were prohibited (because of narrow pathways) and I was able to take photos at the two geisha dance shows I attended in Kyoto. I even saw one man who had set up a camera with a tripod in front of him as he sat in the middle of the audience!

The photos you see here were all taken in Tokyo during the first couple of days of my visit in June 2004. The one at the top shows the entrance to the Senso-ji temple complex in the Asakusa section and the next one shows some game prizes I just happened to come across in my wanderings. The third show some 'sake' barrels in the Meiji Shrine, a beautiful park-like complex dedicated to the first of Japan's 'modern' emperors. The last one actually shows the current royal couple, Empress Machiko and Emperor Akihito (in the shadow) as they were returning to the Imperial Palace in central Tokyo! (I was on a half day tour of the city and we just happened to be there as they were passing by.)
Oh, and about those photo sessions with the nude models – don’t worry, they’ll be the subject of my next few postings. As always, stay tuned!

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