Thursday, August 25, 2016

Jade Vixen

Close your eyes and try to think of a photograph that you can remember. What is it? Something that you remember from long ago, or something very recent? Something that you saw online, or something from a magazine or book? Currently, we are bombarded with visual images. The potential for any one image being particularly memorable is being diluted with everything else. Perhaps when you closed your eyes, your mind didn’t jump to a single photograph, but leaped between many different images— bits of each colliding into the other. Our minds move so quickly through an endless mental back catalog of imagery that it can be hard to focus on any one thing for more than a split second. Where we once just saw photographs in magazines and books and snapshots (perhaps a gallery), we now see them constantly on the internet. For photographers, this is a blessing and a curse. More people than ever can see our work— but unless it's absolutely iconic, it probably is not being remembered all that well. It is more important than it ever was to have a certain look to your work, for it is more likely that your general body of work is being remembered, rather than a few select images. Perhaps one image, again, but only if it is something that really stands out. This is quite sobering. I've always thought that is important that one creates their art more for themselves than for others to see— for since it has always been a difficult endeavor to remain relevant, it seems harder than ever in a culture that overwhelms us with optical stimuli.


When was the last time you went back to look at a photograph a second time after coming across one you enjoyed? Perhaps more importantly, why did you come back to it? If you click a like button do you do it because you want to see the photo again or just because it lets the photographer know you exist and appreciate their work? I have to admit that during any given day I am likely to come across around at least a dozen, if not a hundred images that I stop for no more than a single second to appreciate. 3-4 seconds would be a relatively long time. I have seen so many photos at this point (we all have) that I can quickly read into them and it is rare that I find an image that holds my attention for very long. Unfortunately, so many photos that are seemingly delightful on the surface, turn out to be only superficially nice upon closer inspection. When I do find something that definitely catches my attention, I am often likely to study it for a few minutes, if not longer. If I find myself that interested, I'll typically save it to a special picture folder where I can come back to it again. As a viewer, the next time you choose to give a nod of approval, take an extra few seconds to sort out exactly why it is that you like the photo so much. It only takes a moment and getting into the habit will lead you to become more self-aware of what you are really looking at every day.

This is a rather old film shot of mine, still a favorite, from the mid-1990's.


Some things that only former film photographers remember (and certainly don't miss...):

Looking at and having to edit with contact sheets. Ugh. I hated this. Trying to look at 36 little images with a loop and figuring out which were worth printing. Then you tried a print, only to find that, yep— it wasn't worth printing. I remember thinking that there has to be a better way. Now you can look at them big as a screen, side by side, whatever. Slight improvement? Hell, yeah.

Cleaning up the darkroom (chemicals, trays, sink, developing containers, et cetera) after every session, whether it was 20 minutes or 8 hours. That got old. I remember thinking that there has to be a better way. It's called a computer and a screen.

Either the extreme expense of having a lab develop film for you— or developing it yourself, which was real tedious. I remember thinking that there has to be a better way. 

Having to check how many shots you have left on a roll. The guilt of thinking that you have just shot 7-9-12 (more?) rolls of film, and the cost and tediousness of dealing with it. I remember thinking that there has to be a better way. There sure was.

Having to stick with one ISO for at least a whole roll of film (like 100, 400, or 3200). Not to mention that anything over 400 ISO was only good if you considered it fine art. I remember having to juggle two cameras at a wedding— either a combo of low and higher ISO, or color and B&W. I still keep two great cameras with me (you have to have a back-up camera)— but one with a 24-70mm f2.8 lens and one with a 50mm f1.2 lens, so I can quickly get appropriately different kinds of shots. Much better.

Speaking of weddings, having to change a roll of film right when there is a shot to be had— yeah, that sucked. I could go on and on, but these are some of the biggies that I really don't miss at all...


It is nice to get a glimpse of a lady bathing
you scrubbed your flower face and cleansed your lovely body
while this old monk sat and watched
feeling more blessed than even the emperor of China.

Ikkyū  一休宗純  Zen Buddhist monk, 1394-1481

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Sonia & Jenn

This was actually just a smoke break that caught my eye, and I took a quick snap of— the studio lights happened to still be on. That's a nice benefit of using continuous lighting. It turned out to be the best shot of a shoot that was already finished. Those kinds of things can really make your day.


I've always tried to maintain a strong lock onto the eyes. Normally, there is a natural rhythm of looking at people and looking away. When it feels right, we can hold our gaze a little longer, relishing a simple moment of human connection. We are naturally drawn into images by eye contact. There is nothing like that feeling of a tie bound by an invisible thread, as in sharing a unique moment with them. It’s very hard to articulate and explain in words that feeling that connects you to a subject, either in the viewfinder or on the printed page. When that connection is there, though, it's obvious— and doesn’t need words to explain it; we feel it.

Monday, August 22, 2016


This is one of my favorite images, perhaps because it has a unique oddness to it. It's not something that someone else could imitate very easily. In fact, I don't think that I could replicate it again myself if I wanted to. It was the serendipity of the right model doing the right thing— while by chance, I got the right angle with just the right lighting. It certainly was not something that I consciously designed or thought of beforehand. It was a happy accident.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sable Sin Cyr

Angelina Jolie lips, plus some.


For anyone remotely interested in Henry Miller but have been put off by the intense going off on a tangent/rambling (and crudeness) in the Tropic books, I would suggest picking up a lesser-known writing— Quiet Days in Clichy. Miller, in a masterful way, gives us an account of Paris like it once was. Far from the visual clichés of a saccharine city as portrayed in fairy tales like "Amelie", "Quiet Days in Clichy mingles the picturesque with the down-and-out for a portrait that would have pleased Emile Zola. Whores and cafes, breakfasts of Roquefort and white wine, poetry and squalid prose, Miller dissects Paris in the brilliant way Zola writes in Thérèse Raquin... presenting a city that is a filthy beast, but deserving not less than all your love and praise. It's straightforward, hilarious- and at times shocking, but undoubtedly it will continue to be an inspiration to those who long to live life to the fullest. I've been a big Henry Miller fan since I was a teenager, but his infamous and banned books (the Cancer and Capricorn ones) are not my favorites. I far prefer this one, along with The Colossus of Maroussi and Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch. Quiet Days in Clichy is a memoir, a nostalgic love story of life in Paris before WW II, a celebration of the Bohemian life Miller lived when he was a poor unknown writer. It's wonderful, rollicking, hysterical, and introduces fans to a whole cast of characters who became Miller's lifelong friends— people who influenced his writing and his art forever.


This reminds me of the Shroud of Turin. Which reminds me of "In Search Of...", that was narrated by Leonard Nimoy in the 1970's. My favorite was "In Search of... The Bermuda Triangle". Talk about early sensationalism! Now I tend to think, umm— how about that planes & boats disappear simply because it's a very large area that is extremely prone to nasty storms, despite that it's surrounded by heavily populated civilization? There was, indeed, an "In Search of... the Shroud of Turin", though. This image is dedicated to that episode.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Friday, August 19, 2016


"Photography is the easiest medium with which to be merely competent. Almost anybody can be competent. It's the hardest medium in which to have some sort of personal vision and to have a signature style."  ~Chuck Close

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Percolate & Autumn

Recently someone left me a comment stating that they reworked the single images of photographers found on the internet. He also mentioned that he (Alexandros “Ishkandar” Raskolnick) hoped that I didn't mind that he reworked a couple of my images. Generally, I don't really care for such things, but I really liked this interpretation of two of my images combined:

Wednesday, August 17, 2016


As an unparalleled expert in nothing, I'd like to give one suggestion on how to make window shots more dreamy and delightful: a flower in the hair. Bam! Instant whimsical loveliness. If anyone needs more expert advice on nothingness, just send me a line at

Tuesday, August 16, 2016


Full disclosure: I’ve always been a cropper. Having started with film and spending years developing black and white photos, cropping in the darkroom always felt natural. To me, it also felt necessary to accomplish what I wanted to. This despite being vehemently told otherwise by others— they said that cropping was a cop-out for not being able to get it right in the camera, and it was a form of lying. Of course, that's B.S. All photographs are lies, all photographs are crops. A definition of a photograph is to add edges to the world which has no edges. But, none the less, I had guilt about cropping. I realize now that a “perfect” rectangle or square— pulled back so you see the edges of the negative in the exposed print (to “prove” you haven’t cropped) is simply a parlor trick. Over time I've seen the work of many photographers who don't crop beside the camera— and I honestly feel that while they may sometimes get an image that looks pure and wonderful, usually their compositions in the majority of their work are kind of (if not very much so) seriously lacking. So, yeah, I crop. Not always, sometimes just a little, and sometimes a lot. Sue me. All these years later, I look back with no regrets about it.

Sunday, August 14, 2016


Over the past few years, I have been doing suspensions in collaboration with Ian. He is very experienced with rope bondage and suspension. In the BDSM world, "full suspension" refers to suspending a person's entire body off the floor with the aid of ropes, chains, or cables. A typical full suspension is an advanced and somewhat risky form of rope bondage. It involves the use of elaborate knots, and many practitioners use modular rope segments that can be quickly released in case the subject experiences a loss of circulation, unwanted pain, or loses consciousness, etc. This is one of the reasons that Ian does the suspensions. Besides that I'm not really experienced enough to do suspensions, it wouldn't be wise for me to be oblivious to someone's safety while I'm photographing them. Most of the rope work that is photographed on the floor, however, are things that I have done myself.

One of the reasons that I began an interest in doing a series on suspensions is that, both in books and surfing the net, it is very hard to find many well-made photographs of suspensions. It's not difficult to find well-done rope work, but the combination of great rope work and images seems to be greatly lacking. So it seemed to be something really worth taking on. After this portfolio builds and expands (I'd like to move the setting outside in trees, for example), I'd like to perhaps get a book published on it.

Saturday, August 13, 2016


I often do shoots where the model wants to remain anonymous in one way or another. One way is that I do not ever display their images on the internet if they are in any way recognizable. I'm not particularly fond of that method, but I can respect it. Another way is getting creative with obscuring the face just enough to make recognition of the person in question impossible. Yeah, her name isn't Valentina...

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Jade Vixen

I fancied up my "Sitting on a Bar Stool" series by draping some black velvet background over it. Voilà! Instant elegance! I love simple solutions like that.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Lady Lazurus

A certain elegance to this one– despite being one of those "Oh, look, my breast fell out of my dress!" shots that I typically try to stay away from. It probably works because it has some abstract qualities, a nice moodiness and that sweetly coy look in her eyes– even though it's still just one of those "Oh, look, my breast fell out of my dress!" shots...

Thursday, August 4, 2016


There's some kind of vague Bill Brandt quality to this one. Not any image of his in particular— just the general feel. I've read so many photography books over the years, and all of it gets sort of mashed up as influences, and then I'll just spit out a little bit. It reminds me of someone who made his lunch sandwiches with a slice of tomato, but then he took the tomato off. So then the sandwich simply had the "essence" of tomato, but no actual tomato. True story. This image has the "essence" of Bill Brandt.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016


Yeah, this is one of my tried and true shots— model laying down with eyes closed and letting hands and fingers roam, while I shoot it all from above and behind. I basically developed it as a way of getting a sure shot for paid boudoir shoots involving a green subject who is nervous and has never done a shoot before. I have some other set-ups like this, but this one is practically guaranteed to succeed every time. The secret is that she can become oblivious to my presence (eyes closed & listening to good music), with the added bonus being that closed eyes remove the need to make that often difficult emotional connection to the lens. Yeah, the cat's out of the bag... closed eyes= instant soulfulness! Not that I invented that, as it goes back to the beginning of photography with photographers such as Julia Margaret Cameron in the 1860's, and every one since. It is a nice trick to have in the arsenal, though.