San Diego from a Phone

Mobile phone photography interests me because the tool creates a new context for image-making. When I shoot with my phone, I’m not very aware of carrying a camera, and the pictures that I make are less nuanced. The time between noticing a subject and capturing it is short, and requires less body work. It feels natural to see something and shoot it with a phone, and its easier to leave the scene uninterrupted. Calling the thing a ‘phone’ is almost a misnomer, because in the four days I spent capturing these photographs, it was much more of a camera and a map than a voice-transmission device. These types of cameras might need a new name – the small pocket sized multi-purpose devices may influence the art they create, by their adaptability. Because I can also use the thing as a compass, are the pictures I take with it more connected …

Continue reading

(above) Baltimore

For the past few months I’ve been working with a great young company called Troopswap, which connects the U.S. military community with merchants who wish to offer them product deals and discounts. A few weeks ago, we featured a deal for a discounted helicopter tour above Baltimore, Maryland. I was lucky enough to take my first ride in a helicopter, and snap some photos along the way: Aerial photography is a great way to see the world with fresh eyes. Urban areas impress with their order and sequence, and natural landscapes awe with their raw beauty.  For inspiration, see the amazing work of Yann Arthus-Bertrand, who has been taking photos in flight for several decades.

Continue reading

The Roots in Concert

I had the pleasure of shooting the Roots in concert at the Fillmore Silver Spring on the 30th. I have been a fan of the group since as far back as I can remember and getting a chance to check out their show and do some creative work of my own was truly a great experience. They played many of their new-ish songs, including several from How I Got Over, and did a crazy medley of Sweet Child O’ Mine and Bad to the Bone. Really an awesome way to close out 2011.  Thanks to the Fillmore and the Roots for making it happen.

Continue reading

Shot of the Year

‘Tis the season of annual compilations, for all things.  Photography being my thing.  And Flickr has a group asking for contributions of “Your Best Shot: 2011.” So I’m thinking – What does that mean?  Best? I love this one.  But is it the best?  I got into black and white this year… Something about being able to frame without the distraction of color, being able to just focus on the shapes… Maybe there are technical criteria for what is best …  things are in focus in this shot, and its a pretty scene, and  I was having an adventure, looking for something sublime. But I was freezing my ass off, and worried about some mysterious park ranger arresting me… Or does best mean personally best… emotionally best?  These are my grandparents and my mom, standing in front of the Arc de Triomphe together for the first time in, I don’t know, 50 …

Continue reading

China, Final Images (A Million Hands)

Now for a bit I’m going to put away the camera. A girl is walking past with striped yellow and green socks, up to her knees, short purple shorts, and a pink sweater over a white hooded shirt. She has a brown sac over her shoulder and her hair in pigtails with a pink clip thing shaped like a flower. Now a man slightly balding with hair combed back, in grey trousers and a blue shirt, flipping his hands as he walks. Now a Blue Mercedes Benz drives by smelling like diesel. I hear the door shut after it goes around the corner. A man is playing a wooden flute instrument, and I hear the notes and know they are the same notes of music everywhere, the tones are the same but he plays a Chinese sounding song which is very nice. Earlier a girl in a yellow shirt squatted …

Continue reading

Last Stop, Beijing

My last day in China, in Beijing now. Went to the Forbidden City this morning. Beijing plays the “capital” role well and reminds me of Washington with its orderly traffic, wide streets, leafy trees, restrained architecture. Getting into the city from the airport looked very similar to coming in from Dulles, roads well lit and paved, visible signs, decent driving. It feels like a different country here, not the same one that Xi’an or Shanghai exists in. The difference between Beijing and the rest of the country seems more than between Washington and the rest of the USA. In the airport I was previsualizing my return home. It felt strange. I’ve gotten used to eating Chinese food every day, with chopsticks, and having people around all the time. Even in rural China, it seems there are always people around. I’m not sure what’s next for me as I sit here …

Continue reading

Airborne Observations

Flying to Beijing now. Last night on the dunes at one point I was wondering about sand damage to my camera, worried. I started thinking about what the camera’s purpose is, how it alters the memory of things. I tried to take a ‘mental’ picture of the scene. The camera is just a tool, a physical thing someone else created that it supposed to enhance memory, but can any external thing influence memory than the brain and memory itself? The only reason I’m still thinking about this weird and abstract concept is because of seeing the dead woman today. I didn’t have a chance to take a photo, but if I had one, would I want a photographic memory of that? It was a visceral experience, not exactly pleasant, but definitely something that will stay in my memory forever, maybe even better without a photo. The fact that I had …

Continue reading

Hot Air Balloon

This morning I rode a hot air balloon in Yangshuo. My alarm didn’t wake me and I was worried they would leave me, but luckily the driver came late. My shoe fell off as I climbed into the basket. We were in the sky by 6 a.m. I think, and the sun was just peaking up. A nice couple from Amsterdam was in too, but they were speaking Dutch and the whole thing was so beautiful that I didn’t have anything to say anyway. The flame was almost burning my head the whole time and seemed too close. We were up to 900 meters at one point, I think, the balloon-man navigated with a little Garmin GPS. He was communicating with someone on the radio, saying I don’t know what. After rising very high, we were brought down low above the river. The town seemed larger from the air then …

Continue reading