Notre Dame

Notre Dame and the Seine, Paris, 2000

Like many people around the world, I am saddened by the news of the great fire that has devastated the medieval cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.   Though there appears to have been a lot of damage done, especially to the roof and of course to the spire that collapsed, hopefully it can be successfully rebuilt.
I have visited Paris several times, but not for a while.  I think my last visit there was in 2001.  Here’s a photograph that I made of Notre Dame the year before.  I had read that it is difficult to use a tripod on the street in Paris, so for this nighttime photo I set my camera on a small table tripod, which I placed on the thick stone wall of a bridge crossing the river Seine near the Place St. Michel, as I recall.
I used a spot meter to take a reflective light reading off of the façade of the cathedral, which was likely around two seconds or so.  For shutter speeds of greater than one second, reciprocity failure can kick in, meaning that beyond one second or so, the light coming in through the lens at the proper shutter speed may be insufficient to make a good exposure (for scientific reasons I won’t get into now), so extra exposure is needed.  Typically, for a two second exposure reading, I will make exposures of four to six seconds.
Whichever shutter speed I used for this particular image, I appear to have gotten it right.
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Getting Hazed

Untitled Nude, 2018

I returned home last week from a week-long photography event in the Yucatan, Mexico.  It was my first ever trip to Mexico, and hopefully not the last.  (I went by airplane, so I guess I flew over the wall.)
One of the reasons that I went was that I had never been to Mexico before, but another was that one of the three art models at the event was Sienna Hayes.  I had photographed Sienna when she was in New York last summer, and as I found her to be a very good model to work with and got good images, I decided that it would be worthwhile to work with her again at greater length.

I’ve had the first set of film from the event developed and am currently working on scanning them, but for now, I thought I’d make another post with photos of Sienna from last summer.  (You can see my first post here.)
Hopefully I’ll be able to make some posts about the Mexico event before too long.

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Bent

The Bent Pyramid, Dahshur, Egypt, 2017

Everyone knows about the pyramids of Giza in Egypt – the Great Pyramid of Khufu, plus those of his successors, Khafra and Menkaura.  These monuments of the Fourth Dynasty in Egypt’s Old Kingdom are renowned, but they were not the first of the pyramids built by the ancient Egyptians.
The first of those pyramids was the Step Pyramid at Saqqara, built for a Third Dynasty king named Djoser.  (It was originally a single level tomb building that just got bigger and higher.)  There were some others built, too, prior to the pyramids at Giza, perhaps the most interesting and unusual being the Bent Pyramid at Dahshur.

The Bent Pyramid, Dahshur, Egypt, 2017

What is unusual about this pyramid is that, as its name suggests, it bends in the middle, with its lower level inclined at an angle of 54 degrees, but about midway up shifting to a shallower angle of only 43 degrees.  I have read in a recently published book that this change in inclination may have been intended from the start, to make the pyramid resemble a squat type of obelisk found in certain Egyptian temples, but over the years most people have thought that the change in the inclination was not originally planned, but was a necessary change in order to prevent the pyramid from collapsing.  (This would also show that the pyramid form was developed by the Egyptians over time by trial and error, rather than being constructed by space aliens, who would presumably have known how to build them properly.)
This pyramid was built around 2600 BCE for a king called Sneferu, the first king of the Fourth Dynasty, who actually had three pyramids built – the Bent Pyramid, an earlier one at Meidum that partially collapsed in antiquity, and a later one, also at Dahshur, that was the first true straight edged pyramid built, which is called the Red Pyramid and is only slightly smaller than the famous Great Pyramid at Giza.

The Bent Pyramid (foreground) Looking Toward the “Black Pyramid” of Amenemhat III, Dahshur, Egypt, 2017

I mention Giza again at this point to also compare it to the site of Dahshur, as comparing the two is like comparing the ridiculous to the sublime.  Everybody who visits Egypt goes to see the pyramids at Giza, at while it is certainly a must-see site, it also has a circus atmosphere of sorts, filled with lots of tourists plus locals forever trying to sell you all kinds of stuff and trying to convince you to ride on their camels or donkeys.
Dahshur, on the other hand, is the complete and total opposite.  Perhaps because the pyramids are located near an army base, when I visited in 2017 the place was almost deserted, with just a handful of other tourists (if any) and not one person there trying to sell anything to you.  For this, I think Dahshur may be my favorite place in Egypt.  It is the Egypt of old, the Egypt as I would like to imagine it – with nothing there to occupy your mind but the wind and the sand and the stones of old.

The Step Pyramid, Saqqara, Egypt, 2017

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Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!!!

“Well – surprise, surprise, surprise!!!”
I can still hear Gomer Pyle’s voice ringing in my ears as I think of that phrase that he seemed to say so often, and that’s what I kept thinking about last week after I paid a visit to the Barnes & Noble bookstore near my office one day last week.  I had an event to attend that evening, but it didn’t start until almost two hours after I finished work, so I decided to take a stroll over to B&N to look around for a while.
The first thing I did was to look at the magazine section, and there I saw some copies of the January/February issue of the internationally distributed French magazine PHOTO, which is its annual contest issue, for which thousands of people around the world send in work to be included.  I have been submitting photos to this competition since the late 1990’s, when people needed to actually mail prints to France, though now photos can be uploaded online.

Nude, England, 2017

The first time one of my photos was printed in the magazine was in 1999, and since then it’s been on and off, including a long six year drought from 2008 to 2013, followed by three straight years of getting in.  (Go figure.)  I knew that I would have nothing in last year’s issue, as I waited too long to make my submission and was unable to log into the magazine’s website on the last day for entering – and the website appeared to have changed that final day to a day earlier, as well.
I made sure that I submitted on time for the current issue.  As is usual, I had to wait until I – or someone I know – actually saw the magazine once it’s been published to know if any of my work was included, as the magazine does not inform people if any of their photos have been selected.  Although it’s released in France in January, it typically does not seem to reach U.S. newsstands until sometime in March these days, so I was rather surprised to see copies of it in February.

I had no expectation of seeing any of my photos inside, however, as I had written to a Facebook friend in France who had told me that he had looked at the magazine – twice – and had not seen any of my photos included.  He had, however, told me that my good friend Dave Levingston had gotten a photo in, so it was to see his photo that I picked up a copy (thankfully not wrapped in plastic as it sometimes is) and flipped through it.
I eventually reached the section for nude photographs (“Nu” in French), and sure enough, there was Dave’s color photograph on page 76.  I wanted to see more of the magazine, so I looked onward – and there, on the very next page, and to my great surprise, was one of my own photos, as well!  You can imagine how I felt upon seeing this, not having expected to see any of my work included, but obviously I was very happy and pleased by this rather pleasant surprise.  Why my friend in France did not notice my photo I do not know as I have not asked him yet.  Perhaps he was looking at the photographs, rather than the names of the photographers printed beneath them, and simply didn’t recognize my photo.  (Whatever the reason, I do not hold him at fault.)

As for the photograph itself, it was made in England two years ago, when I was working with an English photographer who goes by the name Imagesse.  I had seen him and his work on a model/photographer website, and had decided to write to him because I liked his photos and to ask for recommendations about models to work with.  (I had gone to London to attend a weeklong language class there, and decided to try working with models the weekends before and after the class.)
I had also suggested that we perhaps try to meet to work together with some models, and this we did.  Ultimately, we chose to work with three of England’s finest – Rebecca Tun, Ivory Flame and Ella Rose – and they are the three that you see in the photograph here.  It was a full day outing, beginning at the ruins of an abbey (seen here) and continuing on to some other locations where we unfortunately had to dodge other people much of the time, finally ending up at one of England’s most famous Neolithic stone circles.  Despite the difficulties, it was nonetheless a fun day, and in addition to working with Ivory and Ella for the first time, it was very nice to get out of London to see some of England’s bucolic countryside and some charming small villages.
I hope that I will have a similar opportunity again.
(Oh, and if you want to hear Gomer Pyle, click here.)
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Celina

“Nude, Utah, 2018”

I went to a workshop in eastern Utah last spring with two models.  One of them was a beautiful young woman named Celina.
Here are some photos of her.
I really don’t have much more to say than that.  Sometimes, photographs simply have to be allowed to speak for themselves.

 

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Support

“Support,” Venice, 2017

Venice is a city of many visual splendors:  Piazza San Marco, the Galleria della Accademia, countless narrow streets, elegant piazzas and quiet canals.  Naturally, however, Venice’s grandest sight is the great waterway that curves its way through the middle of it all – the Grand Canal.
The city on the water was in its usual splendor when I visited there in June of 2017, but there was something additional to be seen on the Grand Canal at that time. Reaching out to the Ca’Sagredo Hotel were a pair of giant hands rising out of the water.
Designed by artist Lorenzo Quinn (son of actor Anthony Quinn), this artwork installation was called “Support” and was meant to show the hands supporting the building, which – like the rest of the city – is at risk from rising waters, especially due to global warming.  The supporting hands, as I have read, were meant to show what people can do to prevent such things from happening.
As to this photo, I could have tried to make a closer image showing just the hands with the building, but as I saw this traghetto – a gondola used to ferry passengers from one side of the canal to the other, on which people frequently stand – just leaving to cross the water, I decided to go with this wider view to include the gondola and give the photo a greater sense of scale and a greater human element.
Let us hope that this magnificent place, “La Serenissima” – the Most Serene Republic- will remain with us for many more years to come.
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The Mosque of Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali Mosque, Cairo, 2017

One of the most notable buildings in Cairo – perhaps THE most notable – is the Great Mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha located in The Citadel.  It was built primarily between 1830 and 1848, and though located in Egypt, it was built in the Turkish Ottoman style.
For those who don’t know, the Muhammad Ali for which this mosque is named is not the American boxer originally named Cassius Clay, but rather the 19th Century Ottoman ruler of Egypt who was born in Greece to an Albanian family.  He is considered to be the founder of modern Egypt and had the mosque built in memory of his deceased eldest son.

I visited this grand building on my trip to Egypt in 2017.  While most people visit Egypt to see its famed antiquities, this seems to be the one relatively modern building that people are taken to see – and deservedly so.
It is an elegant building, made of limestone but also with alabaster in its lower reaches, with beautiful columns and very fine metalwork.   Cairo has some of the finest Islamic buildings in the world (several of which I visited and photographed on my trip to Egypt in 2018), and while this particular mosque was not built in the native Egyptian style, it is nonetheless a site to be see and admired.

To follow up on Muhammad Ali, when I was in Alexandria, Egypt, last year, the hotel room two doors down from mine had a plaque on it, as some doors did, to indicate a famous former occupant.  The name on the plaque was “Muhammad Ali Clay.”  I guess that’s one way to distinguish the older one from the newer one.

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Sitting on Top of the World

Lhasa, Tibet, 2016

I began looking yesterday through the photos from Tibet that I made during my trip to China in the summer of 2016.  I had visited Tibet previously for two weeks in 2007, and though this more recent trip only took us to Tibet’s capital city, Lhasa, for just three days, it was still nice to be back to the place known as “the roof of the world.”
As I saw when I was there the first time, Lhasa is in many ways just another big Chinese city.  Yet, the spiritual heart of Tibetan Buddhism remains, though always under the watchful eye of the Communist authorities.
On my first full day in Lhasa on this recent trip, I could have gone with other people in my group to climb up the many steps to the Potala Palace – the home of the Dalai Lama before he fled to India in 1959 – but as I had not felt well the day before (which included spending eight hours on an airplane for a two hour flight), I decided to take it easy instead and went for a walk on my own in the vicinity of the Potala.
The first part of my walk took me down a more modern street which housed a lot of shops dedicated to repairing and selling motorcycles and motorbikes.  This particular scene, in the photo above, struck me as being interesting, with the woman on the left looking very modern, wearing earphones connected to a digital music device, and the older man on the right holding a Tibetan prayer wheel on his lap with his right hand resting upon it.  The photo shows a bit of the dichotomy that exists between traditional and modern Tibet.

I continued my walk by heading to a Buddhist temple that was not too far away.  On the way, I passed this man (in the second photo) who was sitting and chanting what I imagine were Buddhist prayers.  Behind him are paintings of Buddhist figures.
While I suppose that the coming of the modern world is inevitable, it’s nice to see that traditional scenes of devotion like this still exist.
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In Print: Elle Beth

So, we have once again come to the beginning of January, so I wish a happy new year to all of you.
As always, the new year is a time of great expectation when we wonder what lays ahead during the next 12 months.  For some photographers, those can be questions like:  Will my work be exhibited?  Will my work be published?  What opportunities will I have to photograph, and will anything worthwhile come of them?
When it comes to publications, I do have one piece of good news to report:  some of my photos will be included in the special edition devoted to model Elle Beth to be published this month by Model Society.
I had admired Elle’s portfolio for some time, so I was grateful to have had the chance to work with this stunning young woman from England when I visited London in the summer of 2017.  I photographed her at an artist’s residence in East London for several hours and returned home with many fine photographs from the day.
I had thought of submitting some photographs to Model Society for inclusion in its publication, but I had never gotten around to doing so.  Therefore, it was a nice surprise when, after I had posted some photos of Elle Beth on the website, David Bolt of Model Society wrote to me, asking if I could submit the photos for the upcoming special edition devoted to her.   As the issue was mostly laid out, he could not guarantee that my work would be included, so I was again happy when he wrote to me telling me that not only was my work included, but that it would be up front accompanying the words that Elle had written about herself.
So, as you might expect, I am excited to have my work included in this issue and look forward to seeing it, both as a PDF and in print.  I’ve been told that it includes the work of 23 photographers and will be over 100 pages.  For now, if you’d like to see a preview, please click here.
I will be posting my own photos of Elle Beth sometime soon.
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Sienna

“Untitled Nude, 2018”

I worked with the model Sienna Hayes this past August.  We had corresponded with each other for a while, trying to arrange a photo session together, and finally her schedule aligned with mine and we were able to set something up on a visit she made here to New York.

Location is always a problem for me, but we were able to get out early on a weekday to a local beach before too many people arrived.  I had considered using this place as a location for photos for a while, but this was the first time that I had actually done so.  It’s not a very large place, but it seems to be workable if one gets out early enough and the tide isn’t too high.

Here are a few of the photos from that morning.
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