Dushanbe

Dushanbe, Tajikistan, 2019

It’s always an interesting and exciting proposition to visit a city for the first time.  When that city is in a country that I have never visited before, it is even more so – especially when that country is in a region of the world that I had not been to previously.
However, when that city is a national capital and it’s a place that you had never heard of before???  Well, I guess that takes it to another level altogether.

Such was the case when I began my journey to central Asia – the region of the old Silk Road – last year.  I had begun my trip with three nights on my own in Istanbul, which is certainly one of the best known cities in the world.  However, I still remember looking at my travel documents from the tour company and reading that after Istanbul I would fly to Dushanbe.  My first thought upon seeing that was “Where is that???”
Dushanbe, for those that don’t know (as I did not know then) is the capital city of Tajikistan, one of the five former Soviet republics in central Asia.  The name is derived from the Tajik word for “Monday,” as the village from which it grew had a major market that was held on that day of the week.  While I was certainly familiar with the names of fabled Silk Road cities like Samarkand and Bukhara, the name Dushanbe was new to me.

Arriving into Dushanbe was also a little unusual, as my flight from Istanbul left at 9 pm.  After passing over the Black Sea and then the Caspian Sea, plus the lands in between and beyond, we finally landed in Dushanbe at around 3 am, so the drive to the hotel – which is when one usually gets one’s first glimpse of a new place – was not very revealing.
However, after a group visit to the national archaeological museum later that day, I had a chance to do some exploring on my own.  In a situation like this, on my initial visit and my initial walk, I try to keep to a path which I can easily retrace back to my point of origin, so after leaving my hotel, which was on a fairly quiet street, I walked to the corner, made a right turn, walked for a few blocks and then made another right turn onto what looked like a major avenue.

One of the things that I sometimes do when I take my first walk in a new and unfamiliar place is to simply observe before I begin to seriously think about photographing, and that’s what I did on this occasion, especially when it comes to photographing people.
Dushanbe may not have the great medieval monuments of some of the places we would visit later in our tour, but it is a pleasant enough place in which to walk, and I did take a few photos of some things that caught my eye, plus one man who didn’t mind being photographed.

As I walked back to the hotel, the roll of film in my camera not yet exhausted, I was searching for some interesting scenes to photograph to finish up the roll.  Not having found anything by the time I reached the hotel, I looked across the street and there it was – a young man sitting in front of a house playing a guitar.  My camera and I did not appear to bother him as he continued to play, so I finished up the roll then and there.

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Constantinople

Interior, Sultan Ahmet Mosque (aka The Blue Mosque), Istanbul, Turkey, 2019

I hope that all of you reading this are safe and coping well in the midst of the current worldwide pandemic, despite the upheavals that have been wrought upon all of us.
I’m certain that I’m not the only person whose plans have been changed due to the current situation.  Today should have been the final full day of a photographic trip to Morocco of a little more than a week, but instead I’m sitting here at home writing this.

Decorated Street, Istanbul, Turkey, 2019

As I had already planned to take the past week off from work, I decided to just stay home, anyway.  One of the advantages of this is that I was able to spend more time than usual scanning my negatives. At first I was working on photos from my recent trip to Hawaii, but then I decided to switch my focus to my travel photographs, which I had not scanned for a while, beginning with those that I made last year in Istanbul, Turkey, before I continued further east for my three week trip to central Asia.

Aya Sofia and Tram Tracks, Istanbul, Turkey, 2019

So, as a follow-up to that, here are some photographs from Istanbul.  These were made in the Sultan Ahmet section of the city, which is basically the city’s historic center on the European side of the Bosporus – the waterway that divides the city between Europe and Asia.  This area contains three of Istanbul’s biggest attractions: the Aya Sofia (aka Hagia Sophia), a Byzantine era cathedral turned into a mosque and now a museum; the Sultan Ahmet mosque (aka the Blue Mosque, so called because of its blue interior tiles); and the Topkapi Palace, where the Sultans ruling the Ottoman Empire lived.

Roasted Corn Vendors in Front of Aya Sofia, Istanbul, Turkey, 2019

While Istanbul is the city’s current name, it only officially received that designation in 1930, having previously been called Constantinople, following the Roman emperor Constantine moving his capital of the Roman empire there in the year 330 CE.

Minaret near Aya Sofia, Istanbul, Turkey, 2019

Looking forward, I’m going to see if I can keep scanning photos on a daily basis. A few weeks ago, I told myself that I would try to scan at least three negatives each day, but that never happened.  Starting this week, I’ll be working remotely from home, so I will no longer have entire days that I can devote to myself, but at least I won’t have to spend time doing my two hour daily commute, so hopefully I’ll be able to use some of that time saved for my photography.
Be well and stay safe, everyone – and let’s all travel with our photographs until we can get out and visit the real places again.

Egyptian Obelisk of Thutmose III, Hippodrome, Istanbul, Turkey, 2019

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Five-O

Nude, Hawaii, 2020

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but this year is my 25th year of doing art nude photography, and as such I decided to celebrate by going on a 25th anniversary tour of sorts by signing up for a number of photo events and doing some planning of my own.
Well, it looks like things will not be going according to plan due to the coronavirus pandemic that has come down upon us.
Today, for example, I was scheduled to arrive in Morocco a few days ahead of time for a photography event with four models.  (I was scheduled to leave last night.)  That event has been cancelled.  The good news is that I was able to cancel my hotel booking in Marrakech without having to pay anything, thanks to the kind hearts of the hotel’s understanding management, as I cancelled after the no-fee deadline and they could have charged me the full amount of 237 Euros.

Now I’m just waiting to see what Air France has to say about the air cancellation.  I cancelled my flight a few days ago and requested a refund, but due to what I’m sure is a large demand, I haven’t heard anything back yet.  Interestingly enough, I received a message from Air France yesterday telling me that my connecting flight from Paris to Marrakech had been cancelled, and having recently looked at my reservation, no replacement flight has been added to my itinerary, so hopefully that will allow me to get a refund.  (Hopefully the worst that can happen is to get a credit good for a year.)
This is the next question:  will my group photo event in Iceland scheduled for late April still go on?  Though I’d like to go, the possibility of having to wait hours at JFK airport in New York waiting to be tested for coronavirus, standing shoulder to shoulder with other passengers, followed by a two-week self-quarantine, is not exactly appealing to me.  Some other participants have requested a postponement for similar reasons, so let’s see what happens there.

I have also been planning a solo photography trip to Europe for several weeks in June, so I need to decide eventually whether it’s worth continuing on with that.
On a more positive note, a week ago I did return from the first art nude travel adventure that I had planned for this calendar year – to the state of Hawaii.  I had never been to Hawaii before, so I thought that this would be an opportune time to do so, and I joined models Anoush Anou and St. Merrique, along with three other photographers and organizer Aaron Feinberg of Art Nude Workshops for several days of rigorous hiking and good photography on the island of Kauai.  Here are a few photos that I have scanned, with more to follow.

As for this week now that I was scheduled to spend in Morocco, I could go back to work and try to save my time off for later, but right now I’m thinking of just staying home so I can avoid riding on the subway and catch up on work that needs to be done here – which includes, of course, scanning photographs.
Be safe, everyone.
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More From Mexico

“Nude, Mexico, 2019” with Dasha U

Photographing art nudes for the past 24 years has lead me to visit a number of places for the first time, from maritime Canada in the east to California and Oregon in the west and New Orleans in the south.   Last year I went to a place even further south that I have already written about:  Mexico.
I’m glad I went, as it gave me a chance to use the Spanish that I had studied for three years in high school and gave me a chance to experience some of the wonderful and authentic Mexican culture.

“Nude, Mexico, 2019” with Kate Snig

Of course, the models I photographed – Dasha U, Kate Snig and Sienna Hayes – were wonderful, too, as were the locations chosen by the people at UTadventures.
Here are three more photos from that trip last year.

“Nude, Mexico, 2019” with Sienna Hayes

 

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A Fragile Beauty

Doge’s Palace, Venice, Italy, 2017

The city of Venice, Italy (or as it’s called in Italian, Venezia) is one of my favorite places in the world to visit.   It’s a unique place, built on millions of wooden piles driven into the bed of the Venetian lagoon hundreds of years ago, and possessing a beauty that can be found nowhere else.

Roman Statue of the Four Tetrarchs, St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice, Italy, 2017

It’s also a place that has been in the news quite a bit recently, and not for good reasons.  First, there were the great floods that swamped the city in November, with the water level rising to its second highest recorded level ever, causing a tremendous amount of damage.  Then, more recently, the opposite happened, with water levels so low that many of the famous canals were almost dry just two months after the flooding occurred.

Colonnade, St. Mark’s Square, Venice, Italy, 2017

People can debate whether such things are the result of climate change, which is a global challenge, but for Venice itself, the question many have been asking is this:  can Venice remain a vibrant, living city, or will it become an open air museum for tourists to visit but where no one will live anymore?

Canal Reflection, Venice, Italy, 2017

This fragility makes Venice an even more special place, and as I look at the photographs that I have made there, I ask myself if one day they will become historic documents of a bygone world.

Gondola, Venice, Italy, 2017

I’ve been to Venice three times – in 1990, 2009 and 2017 – but as I watch and hear the news about it, I feel that I need to go back more frequently to document more than I have of it so far, for both its great history and its now fragile beauty.   (Perhaps a visit one winter to photograph the annual Carnevale is in order.)
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2019: What a Long, Strange Trip It Was

The year 2019 was a fairly active one for me, including visits to five countries that I had never been to before.  As promised in my final post of last year, here’s a recap of my photographic activity.
The year got off to a good start with not one but two publications of my work.  One of them was an issue of Model Society’s magazine dedicated to the English model Elle Beth, who I had photographed in London in 2017.  I had not intended for my photos to be in this initially, but the editor had seen my photos of Elle Beth after the layout for the issue had been completed, and he said that he liked them so much that he wanted them to be included in the issue. In the end, they were included in the opening story that introduced Elle, where the editor said that they fit perfectly.

Another publication success was with the French magazine PHOTO, which published its annual contest issue in January.  Finding out about this publication was, I admit, a bit of a surprise.  As it normally takes about two months for an issue of this magazine to reach newsstands in the United States, I asked a friend in France to take a look at the magazine to see if one of my photos was in it.  He wrote back to say that he had not seen any of my photos, so when the magazine did finally come to the U.S., I was taken aback to look through the issue to see one of my photos there, after all!  (Unfortunately, the magazine has stated that the release of this year’s issue has been delayed until February, so I may have to wait until April to find out.)

As for doing photography, that began in March with my first ever trip to Mexico, where I joined UTadvetures for a week of art nude photography in Yucatan, featuring the models Dasha U, Kate Snig and Sienna Hayes.  I really did have a great time there  and I loved the Mexican culture – and I think I made a lot of good photographs, too.

“Nude, Mexico, 2091” with Dasha U

 

“Nude, Mexico, 2019” with Kate Snig

 

“Nude, Mexico, 2019” with Sienna Hayes

Next in line was a trip back to Utah in early May, joining Monique on one of her Desert Adventures along with model Eva Luna.  I had attended this event the year before and I thought that going back again would be worthwhile, which it was.

“Nude, Utah, 2019” with Monique

Unfortunately, my Pentax 67 camera developed a problem, as the mirror kept getting stuck in the up position, so I was forced to go with my backup medium format camera, the Fuji GW670 rangefinder.  While not as versatile as an interchangeable lens camera like the Pentax, the Fuji, with its fixed lens, is nonetheless a very good camera and proved to be a capable alternative.

“Nude, Utah, 2019” with Eva Luna

However, this turn of events forced me to make a choice, as I would be heading out on my biggest trip of the year just a few weeks later:  do I try to get the camera repaired and hope that it will be ready before the next trip begins, or do I go out and buy a new one?   The answer that I settled on:  both.   Fortunately, I live in New York City, where finding a camera repair shop is not too difficult.  I brought the defective camera in and was told that it would probably be ready by the time I went away again, but “probably” is not “definitely,” so I was still concerned.  Just in case it would not be ready, I decided to look for another Pentax 67 body – and I found one in very good condition and at a very good price, so I bought it.
As it turned out, the original camera was fixed on time, so I now had two working Pentax 67 bodies.  While taking the rangefinder along as a backup did have the advantage of being a self-contained camera (and one which does not require a battery to operate), I decided to take the two Pentax bodies with me so that I could still use all of my lenses should one camera fail to operate properly.
Regarding that trip commencing in late May, it was one of the grandest travel adventures that I had gone on in some time, with three days in the ancient city of Istanbul, Turkey, followed by three weeks in the central Asian countries of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.  I had wanted to visit these former republics of the Soviet Union located on the old Silk Road for many years, so when I saw a good trip there with spaces available, I went for it – and it was not disappointing.  Seeing the mountains of Tajikistan, the great historic monuments of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva in Uzbekistan and the very modern city of Ashgabat in Turkmenistan were all things not be easily forgotten – and meeting the people there was a great experience, too.

“Corn Sellers in Front of the Aya Sofia, Istanbul, Turkey, 2019”

 

“Travel Office, Dushanbe, Tajikistan, 2019”

 

“Second Hand Shop, Samarkand, Uzbekistan, 2019”

 

“Dinosaur, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, 2019”

While that trip may have been the biggest and most exotic highlight of the year, my photography was by no means completed for the year, as I decided to give Utah a second try by going back in late August with UTadventures for more art nude photography with models Anoush Anou, Muirina Fae and Viribus Femina.

“Nude, Utah, 2019” with Anoush Anou

 

“Nude, Utah, 2019” with Muirina Fae

 

“Nude, Utah, 2019” with Viribus Femina

Unfortunately, I had to deal with another equipment problem in Utah, but this time it was not my camera that was the problem, but the ball head on my tripod.  Somehow, a key piece had got shaken loose during my flight from New York to Salt Lake City, and while I was still able to use the ball head, it was a lot more difficult to handle and took more time to get in the position that I wanted.  (It still needs to be repaired.)
Next, another positive thing then happened in October, when not one but two of my photographs were awarded with Honorable Mentions in the annual Black & White Spider Awards.

Nude, Iceland, 2014

 

Untitled Nude, 2018

One of the reasons I went to Utah in late August was that I would be undergoing surgery to my left knee in early September and I wanted to get in some final days of photography in case my knee would keep me on the sideline for longer than planned.  It did keep me from photographing for a couple of months, but in early November I picked up my camera again and went back to photographing something that I had begun to do the year before but which I have not yet written about:  college football.  Here are some photos from the three games that I photographed, with a greater explanation for my choosing to photograph football coming in a later post.

“The Defense Rests, Yale Sideline, Yale vs. Columbia, Yale Bowl, New Haven, CT, 11/2/2019”

 

“Yale QB Kurt Rawlings Eludes a Defender, Yale vs. Princeton, Princeton Stadium, Princeton, NJ, 11/16/2019”

 

“Fans in the Stands, Yale vs. Harvard, Yale Bowl, New Haven, CT, 11/23/2019”

So, 2019 was a pretty busy year for me.  What’s next in 2020?   Well, as this new year will see the 25th anniversary of my first art nude photographs being made, I have already begun to make plans to make art nudes a highlight of the year.  As always, stay tuned.
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Winter Celebrations

Park in the Snow, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 2004

So, I see that it has now been over two months since I last made a blog post.  That is not how I had planned it, but when you factor in how busy I’ve been at work, how I’ve been feeling less than 100% lately and how it becomes more difficult to do something the longer you’ve gone without doing it….well, stuff happens, and I am sorry for my absence.
Still, now that we have passed the winter solstice and the days will begin to get longer (even if it may get colder), I do want to write to wish everyone a joyful holiday season and a happy Chanukah, Christmas, Saturnalia, Kwanzaa, Festivus (“for the rest of us”) or any other festival that you may celebrate at this time of the year.  I hope that 2019 was a good year for you and that 2020 may be even better.
While I have not made any blog posts for a while, I have sometimes made a year end post to sum up my photographic activity for the year, and I hope to make one next week to perhaps make up a bit for my having been silent here for a while.
Until then, enjoy the season!
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More Spiders

Nude, Iceland, 2014

A few days ago, the annual announcement was made of the winners of the Black and White Spider Awards.  This was the sixth year that I’ve entered, and in the past five years, I have not won a first, second or third place award, but I had been awarded with two Honorable Mentions – one two years ago and the first one two years before that.
This year, I made a step forward – not by being in the top three, but by receiving two Honorable Mentions.  One of them, which is at the top of the list of Honorable Mentions on the contest’s website, is a photograph of Rebecca Tun in Iceland’s Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon on my trip there in 2014.  The other one (at the bottom of the list, ironically) is of Sienna Hayes made at a local beach last year when she was visiting New York.

Untitled Nude, 2018

(Regarding the list of Honorable Mentions, as they are not listed on the contest’s website alphabetically by either image title or photographer name, perhaps they are ranked in order of votes or points given by the jurors, which would put my image in fourth place.  Of course, they could just be in random order, too.)
I was able to make the photograph of Rebecca as she was kind enough to arrange her schedule so that she would be in Iceland when I was there so that we could work together, and I thank her again for doing so.  I also thank her for volunteering to go in the freezing cold water, too.  I had envisioned photographing her on the shore of the lagoon with the icebergs in the background, and this I did, but then she told me that she wanted to go in the water, so I said that she could, but up to a point.  (She also told me that she wanted to swim out to one of the icebergs, but there was no way I was going to let that happen.)
The photograph of Sienna, by contrast, was made early one morning at a beach that’s not too far a drive from where I live.  Unfortunately, the beach is not very large and when the weather is nice (as it was that day), people tend to come out relatively early to run, walk their dogs or go fishing, etc.  This is what happened on that day, so although we were able to make some photos out in the open early on, eventually we had to retreat away from the water’s edge, where some people had gathered, to an area of tall grasses further back where we were hidden from view.   I guess you never know what you might get if you don’t keep trying.
That same sentiment holds true for competitions, as well.  This year, three of the photos that I entered in the Spider Awards were nominated for an award, with two of them being singled out for Honorable Mention.  In looking over my entries from years past, I saw that one of the photos that was nominated was entered before but did not get a nomination, and the photo of Rebecca had been nominated previously, but had not won anything – so again, you’ll never know what might happen if you don’t try.
Another thing that I’ve noticed is that of the four photos that have gotten Honorable Mentions, three have been made in Iceland.   Is this a sign that I should go back for more???
You can see the winners and honorable mentions in my category (nude/amateur) by clicking here.  All of the nominated photos can be seen here, too.

 

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The Registan

The Registan Square, Samarkand, Uzbekistan, 2019

“The noblest public square in the world” – Lord George Curzon, 1888
Sometimes, when people decide to undertake a long journey to visit a country or region, they have in mind certain places or things in particular that they want to see, and perhaps even one place that is foremost of all.  In Rome, it might be the Colosseum or the Vatican.  In Paris, the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre.  In China, it might be the Great Wall and in Jerusalem, the Western Wall.
When I decided to finally go on a trip to central Asia – the old “Silk Road” – which I did in late spring of this year, I was interested in seeing the great architecture that was built by bygone empires of years past.  Foremost of these architectural gems was one place:  the Registan Square in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.

Madrasah of Ulugh Beg, Samarkand, Uzbekistan, 2019

The word “Registan” means ‘sandy place’ in Persian, and that describes the material that used to cover the area, but it later became the most important public square in Samarkand – the capital city of the empire founded by the great conqueror Amir Timur (aka Tamerlane) – and came to host major events ranging from royal proclamations to public executions.
The three magnificent buildings seen there now (all of them formerly madrasahs – Islamic schools of higher learning), with their wildly intricate designs and lavish tiles, began their lives after the time of Timur, beginning with his grandson – the great mathematician and astronomer Ulugh Beg.  The building named after him and where he is said to have taught mathematics is on the western side of the square (the building on the left in the photo at the top) and was built between 1417 and 1420.
The other two buildings were built over 200 years later, however, and were ordered by ruler of Samarkand at the time – a general by the name of Yalangtush Bakhodur.  The madrasah on the eastern side of the square and facing the first one, the Sher-Dar Madrasah, was built from 1619–1636.  Some years later, the building between them on the north side of the square, the Tilla-Kari Madrasah, was built between 1646 and 1660.

Madrasah of Ulugh Beg (detail), Samarkand, Uzbekistan, 2019

Of course, these great structures deteriorated and fell into ruin over the years and the magnificent buildings seen as they are today are the result of many years of restoration, much of it done by the Soviets when Uzbekistan was a part of the Soviet Union.  When Lord Curzon, the future viceroy of India, saw these building and made his comment quoted above, they were still in a state of disrepair, so even then these structures must have still possessed a great deal of power and presence.
Regarding the photographs here, the one at the top shows all three of the former madrasahs (which are now are home to shops, of course).  The other two photos show the exterior of the Madrasah of Ulugh Beg and one of its many architectural details.  So far, these are the only photographs from here that I’ve had a chance to scan (and are in fact the first three photos from the first roll made here), but more will follow as time permits.
To read a nicely written story about the Registan (which I admit to having consulted in writing this post), click here.
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Duet in the Desert

Nude, Utah, 2019

I’ve posted some photos recently from my art nude photo trip to Utah last month, but so far, I have not yet posted any from my first art nude trip there this year with The Desert Adventure back in May.
Here then is a photo from that visit to the Beehive State (yes, I had to look it up), featuring models Monique and Eva Luna in a vertical panorama.  When most people think of panoramic photographs, I think they tend to think of horizontals that take in the grand sweep of scene.  Vertical panoramas seem to be more of a rarity, though I think that they can work, too.
As it is, though, I was actually forced to crop this photo from a 6 x 7 cm negative into the vertical panorama by circumstance.  The floor of the large rocky enclosure where this photo was made was very wet and muddy, and the only place where we could put down our belongings (including my camera backpack) without them getting covered by the slimy stuff was on a large rock just to the left of where the models were standing.
I admit that I would like to have had the option to show more of the scene horizontally to perhaps allow the image to “breathe” a bit more, but as it is, I am not unhappy with the final result seen here, and if anything, it emphasizes the vertical nature of the scene.  (Monique, who is standing in the alcove above, actually had to be given a boost so she could reach it.)  While I had to crop the image like this to avoid showing the rock, I am just glad that the rock was not any closer to the two models than where it actually was.
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