Photography and art making as play.

Category: holidays

Monday, September 7, 2020: Labored Day

This may be a stretch in terms of a holiday link, but a good part of my Labor Day weekend was spent revisiting my career as a professional photographer specializing in corporate/industrial editorial assignments. A friend of mine had expressed interest in seeing samples from my commercial portfolio, most of which pre-dates the digital age and exists largely in slide form.

I hadn’t shown that work in more than 25 years, and since then, the presentation had gotten broken up in the course of 3 different house moves and a shift in career focus from business to higher ed. Putting something together for her involved emptying a closet full of cartons, spending hours going through boxes of slides amidst the resulting chaos (see below), and then more hours restoring order.

It all goes to prove that sometimes retirement still involves work!

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Title Slides from an Ancient Career Retrospective:

My first job in photography was painting a white bathroom black for use as a darkroom . . . or was it a black bathroom, white?

I rarely photograph people at work smiling. If work was really enjoyable, it wouldn’t be called work.

A professional photographer is one who makes every mistake in the book — once. After 16 years, I’m still an amateur.

Two of my favorite pieces of photographic equipment: Swiss Army knife (with toothpick); airplane air-sickness bags (good for separating each day’s exposed rolls of film).

Things go wrong so often on assignment, I now take it as a sign that things are going right. If there are no problems during a shoot, then I really begin to worry.

Photographing in cluttered, aging factory environments quickly gives rise to the aesthetic known as the “art of exclusion.”

The question I am most often asked: “Do you photograph women naked?” To which I reply: “I only take my clothes off when I bathe, sleep, or skinny dip.”



Tuesday, July 14, 2020: Bastille Day

July 14 is Bastille Day in France, a holiday that celebrates a major turning point in the French Revolution. It seems an apt occasion on which to interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to speak of something infinitely more serious than photographic images.

Based on our history and comparatively high standard of living, I think it’s very difficult for most Americans, including myself, to fully comprehend the reality of having a madman in the Oval Office, one whose willful negligence and arrogant stupidity are sending millions of citizens to their sickbeds, and more than a hundred-thousand to painful deaths.

To vote this monster out of office in November is to give Trump the benefit of democratic and civilized norms that he’s been regularly trashing for the last 3 years. I’m not sure what the answer is but an election might be too late. This nation needs to do something commensurate with the scale of his malfeasance. Two hundred plus years ago, the French had a remedy that begins with “g” but that’s no longer an option.

One place to start would be for companies to stop advertising on FAUX News, the state propaganda outlet for spreading Trump’s lies. Twitter and Facebook should delete his accounts. Network news anchors and reporters should just get up and leave whenever a government spokesperson or GOP toady starts spouting crap. Mike Pence’s smarminess needs to bleeped.

Enough with the private asides that acknowledge how monumentally unfit Trump is for the presidency, especially during this period of unfathomable loss. It’s long past time to say these truths out loud. I’m looking at you, Republican congressman or senator, as well as former administration officials who still have an intact conscience.

We also need to hear from the bigwigs at major corporations, those who bring in the big bucks for exercising “leadership,” “vision,” and “competency”— one of the few constituencies perhaps that Trump cannot ignore. In this ever-darkening era, their concern for the bottom line, like the band on the Titanic, means little compared to the necessity of speaking out forcefully against behaviors that wouldn’t be tolerated for a nano-second in their companies. If executives like Goya’s CEO can’t tell the difference between a leader who unites a country and marshals all of its resources to fight the gravest of threats, and a “builder” who routinely stiffed contractors, defrauded banks and students, drove 5 or more businesses into bankruptcy, and carried that failing, corrupt legacy right into the presidency, they should go back to their planet of origin. Robert Unanue, you make the residents of Plato’s cave look like enlightened beings.

Americans cannot afford to be passive participants in this nightmare. Every sector of society must rise up and let those in power know we will no longer accept the disconnect from reality, ignorance, dishonesty, and unchecked narcissism that are Trump’s defining traits. The stakes are too high. The times demand that we take this country back, away from the precipice that gets closer and closer with each passing day.

As parents, we don’t allow two-year-olds to hold us hostage with their destructive tantrums. Why are we allowing this man-child to wreak havoc on on our families, friends, neighbors, and institutions?

Trump is a lights-flashing, alarm-sounding menace—as dangerous to the country as any lethal pandemic or foreign enemy. The sooner he is out of office, the more hope there’ll be for America and the world.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020: Earth Day

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Tuesday, April 21, 2020: Holocaust Remembrance Day

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Tuesday, March 17, 2020: The Wearing of the Green

Taking time out in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

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The Wearing of the Green

Tuesday, December 24, 2019: Christmas

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 And warm wishes for this holiday season to lovers of photography who have no other choice but enchantment with light.  


Wednesday, September 11, 2019: A 9/11 Remembrance

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Thursday, July 4, 2019: Make America Great Again

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Monday, May 27, 2019: Memorial Day

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Memorial Day is traditionally the day when Americans head for the malls to take advantage of holiday store sales honor their war dead, but maybe it’s time to set aside another day of remembrance—one that honors the victims of lynchings, mass shootings, extrajudicial police killings, and lethal criminal violence. These are the people who weren’t able to enjoy the freedom and security that our soldiers fought for and died to protect. Their shamefully high numbers are a stain on our nation’s conscience.

(A note on the image):

The picture is a composite of photographs that depict: (1) the 1930 Marion, Indiana lynchings of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith (Lawrence Beitler, photographer); (2) the 1882 lynching of an unidentified Afro-American man; (3) a memorial to the victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting (photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images); (4) an American flag.

From the first link:

“The iconic photograph of the incident inspired Abel Meeropol to write the poem and song “Strange Fruit,” which Billie Holliday recorded in 1939. 

Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh,
And the sudden smell of burning flesh!

Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for a tree to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.”


Another version, sung by Nina Simone with disturbing images of other lynchings.



Monday, February 18, 2019: Presidents’ Day . . .

on which we honor two great Americans (by buying more things on sale), and look forward to a new national holiday when the current occupant of the White House is no longer in residence.

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Photography and art making as play.