Vintage Photographs & Memories


I’ve been scanning some old photographs of late, family photographs of friends no longer remembered, among others.  Found a few classics I’d like to share.  The top I am pretty sure is probably of a Peruvian couple, judging by the gold, and the style of dress in my parent’s apartment in Philadelphia in the 1960’s.  I love the classy styling of the couple, and of course I am heavily influenced by chiaroscuro lighting of the Rembrandt or Vermeer ?? behind.  That has all the hallmarks of my father’s touch as does the well-stocked bar.  He lived in a permanent state of the art history student’s dorm room.

karenpeterdonkonickiss1960Here we have some long-divorced couple, whom shall remain nameless, pictured in better times in the 1960’s.  Do note the  copy of Valley of the Doll’s on the bookshelf as well as more highbrow aspirations.

Roger Ballen at the National Museum of African Art: Recap

Roger Ballen at African Art

Roger Ballen at African Art

Ambivalent is the word I would use to describe Roger Ballen talking about his art, which is appropriate as there is an ambivalence to his work as well.  Mr. Ballen, who was born in New York but has lived in South Africa for over 30 years has an interesting accent, at times resonant with the bass tones of New York, then mixed with that charming melange of lost Dutchman at high tea after 30 years in the bush that is the South Africa iteration.  In town in conjunction with the opening of his show, Line, Marks & Drawings: Through the Lens of Roger Ballen – which I think is pretty ballsy for the Smithsonian and a DC public institution, personally, dare I even say SERIOUSLY AMAZING – and I hope those ant-Christ people don’t get all over their congressmen for this.  All I have to say is stand down piss-ant-Christ people, these are some beautiful prints.

The film versus digital debate was alive and well.  In the galleries, my own informal poll, including my personal opinion, AND that of another couple I was eavesdropping upon, revealed that the silver gelatin prints were preferred, both in tonality, sharpness without the over crispness of the inkjet.  The inkjet just looked crunchy next to the silver gelatin, I am sorry, but that is how I feel.  Anyhoo, that said – it was pretty darn impressive.  I mean the conceit of the line as a theme to the show was a bit obvious and ordinary.  I would have preferred some more psycho dynamic structure – Mr. Ballen asserted that he was one of a dying breed aka film photographers, and I had to agree and felt very sad and lonely as a younger member of that dying breed and film becoming so precious.  And I just hate the digital process I am sorry. I miss the darkroom.  I am still fighting it, I admit.

Of film, Ballen asserted, ” The nice thing is you don’t know what happens to it, till you make a print of it.” Sensing a rapt audience, he continued, ” The film has it’s own life, it’s own chemistry, it’s own being.” And then he finished with, ” It can give you a life that you haven’t given it.”

He says his new work is a leap to an extended reality, and that the line tells you who you are so let’s start there, and then proceeds to riff on the line, molding it into the idea that it is some Odyssean journey of the unconscious, only he doesn’t say it quite like that, and he says it rather much longer.  The drawings to me are like his version of outsider art – he doesn’t really describe his relationships to his subjects and the collaborative quality of their encounter, and I do not ask (Impulse Control Success Story!) him if he just brings like a gallon of whiskey there to these locations  and they all hang out and see what happens, because I am pretty sure that is what happens. He appears a pretty closed book about the engagements he has with his subjects.

Speaking of books, it’s a quite lovely volume with excellent duotones, highly recommended.

Roger Ballen Artist Talk & Book Signing at Smithsonian Museum of African Art Thurs. June 20 in DC


Oh yes he is.  Roger Ballen will appear in conjunction with the opening of his retrospective, “Lines, Marks, and
Drawings: Through the Lens of Roger Ballen” at the African Art Museum at 950 Independence Avenue.  Go African Art!

Artist Talk: Roger Ballen

Thursday, June 20, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., Ballen will discuss his work with Subler and Kreamer during an Artist Talk held in the museum’s Lecture Hall. The talk will be followed by a Q&A and book signing. The event is free and open to the public.

I LOVE this town.

Consumed in the Oxford American

OxfordAmericancoverSerpent, West Palm Beach, FloridaWas delighted that a photograph from my series Consumed was featured in the Oxford American, illustrating  a story by Harrison Scott Key, who almost wrote the Star-Spangled Banner, but instead wrote an article on his Greyhound travels.  I love the use of allegory in my work.  If there is a snake in it, I am often thinking about Flannery O’Connor and the nature of evil and temptation.

Consumed will also be in a group exhibit at Central Michigan University this October with Mark Menjiver, Paho Mann, Jason DeMarte, Hillerbrand & Magsamen, and David Welch.  Road Trip!

Recent Clips: American Lawyer and Garden & Gun

Joan Claybrook of Public Citizen

Joan Claybrook and Clarence Ditlow of Public Citizen


Received a few recent clips to paper the blog with.  Had a fun shoot for American Lawyer photographing the formidable Joan Claybrook of Public Citizen.  Joan seems like a pretty capable woman, interested in comandeering any task, in this case the art direction of our shoot.  Luckily, I won her over with my self-deprecating humor, and readers, she acquiesced.  This is why there is not a lamp coming out of her head in this photograph.  Take your victories where you can.

Maggie Kennedy of the delightful Southern lifestyle magazine, Garden & Gun, contacted me a few months back to run some images I shot of William Faulkner’s home, Rowan Oak, from my personal project, Sense of Place.  I was delighted to be able to oblige her with some photos of the entrance way to his house and the typewriter.  Is there anything more satisfying than republishing personal work? Ok there is, but it still makes me happy.