Category Archives: Uncategorized

Wish I’d Shot That


photo found on the wall in providence rhode Island

Coming out of the theater in Providence; I ran smack into this very, very large photo. I don’t know who shot it or why; but I definitely had one of those “wish I’d shot that” feelings. When that happens, there is a simple acknowledgement that someone has done something that I admire; but, then, there is that petty little “I could have done that” partnered with the jealous “I want that”. When I am done stuffing all those  reactions back in to their little black box; I can get back to simple appreciation and wonder at how directly a photograph can describe a profound humanity with an intensity afforded by no other medium.

This is not a simple picture. The soft, cool palette; the order and abstraction of the composition; the relaxed elegance of the hands all combine to create a significant whole.  I want to believe that this man was in this place, at this time, of his own accord; and that this is a record of that beautiful and sublime moment where art and history collide. I may have it all wrong; this could be a totally manufactured event. Photography has become more and more suspect as its cinematic nature has been exploited (aka Gregory Crewsdon at the extreme). Still, there is hope as only a photograph can engender, that this just happened and the photographer just happened to be there.

Photography has always been for me, first and foremost, about the record; a means of communicating wonder, shock, and awe. The more it gets fiddled with the more abstract that basic tenet becomes, not necessarily at the expense of ideas and art, but, I think, at the expense of something that only a photograph can provide … simple truth. I was reminded of a couple of artists that seem to consistently create these kinds of images, Eve Arnold (l) and Dawoud Bey (r).



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Fishing Trumps Photography … oops!

Nate … sweet cast

So here is the scene … two old (92 and 84) friends … a pristene river … beautiful, rambunctious trout … spring hatches … it was a movie aching to be made … perhaps “A River RanThrough it”. What did I do? You got it. I fished … and enjoyed the camaradie of fine men. There aren’t a lot of things that get between me and the picture. Family is one, without apology. Fishing, I found, was the other. It was a fine time that I couldn’t bring myself to intrude upon with a myopic artistic energy. Oh,  but the ones that got away … really.

Fishing with Friends

Dave & Bryant … Fish on


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The Essential Portrait

All portraiture, to me, involves a certain mutual philanthropy.The core experience is the often powerful interaction between the sitter and the photographer. The camera becomes an instrument of confusion. Even before the first exposure, the photographer is empowered and the sitter revealed. The reveal, sometimes given without the knowledge of the sitter, is a gift. Reciprocity comes with the trust and respect the photographer brings to the interaction. I find this experience in the simplest headshot, and most vividly in the interaction with people unaccustomed to this sort of attention. I find it least in the celebrity portrait where the interaction is so managed that nothing is revealed except the brand. My benchmark and aspiration is the photographer Paul Strand. So much of what we do is about artifice …  Often we are selling even when there is nothing to sell. Strand always brings me back to the reason and the rule … simplify … dignify … tell the truth.

Images by Paul Strand



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Happy Holidays

Christmas Fire Hydrant


To those who believe that we are all better off if everyone gets a shot at the basics … Safety, Dignity, and Possibility.

To those who believe the natural world is beautiful and sacred, and that we need to live with it and not in spite of it.

To those who know that  we need  shelter, food, and love to be happy   …  the rest is bling.

To those who bring ideas to the table … not rules.

I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Hanukkah filled with Light


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Past and Present

Sustainable building

Dimetrodon Warren, Vermont

Bill Maclay was a “Green” architect before anyone else cared … a true pioneer in the universe of “net zero building“. Bill’s first adventure  out of grad school was a cluster housing project in the Sugarbush Valley of Vermont,  aptly named “Dimetrodon” for its cutting edge renewable energy platform. This structure has become a classic example of the Vermont DesignBuild movement.   Bill has never wavered in his quest for innovative ways to incorporate environmentally pragmatic solutions into his designs and, today,  Maclay Architects of Warren, VT is considered the leading sustainable architectural firm in New England.

Bill and I go back a long way … in fact to his very first structures … in the sandbox in our back yard. He called a couple of weeks ago, to ask if I might take his portrait for a new book.  Mixing the personal and the professional is always tricky, and I have learned over the years, that during a session; the personal aspect informs the choices and but never the process. Ultimately you have to just hunker down and do the work of directing and seeing … I call it the being in the zone.

You might note an unapologetic redundancy in the use of the background (See Stephanie) … but I am working in my own “Point Lobos”  here and will return to certain places when appropriate.

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Close to Home

Mom … in context of Dad

On the same note as the previous post (Past and Present) but in the extreme, photographing family in any other than a candid context has  always been a challenge for me. I call it the “photographing your mother syndrome”.  I tackled the problem  a few years ago with some success, but without the clarity of purpose I know to bring to it now. More recently, my wife Marni requested portraits of our two youngest for her birthday. I will always go for a candid, authentic feel; but I wanted a more formal result,  so I grabbed them off the beach, took them into the studio and shot with window light. They were amazing subjects, took direction beautifully, and seemed to enjoy the attention … which all came as a surprise to me … having expected a good deal of late afternoon pushback. My son Harry, age 11, mentioned that I was talking to them in an unfamiliar way … and I realized my professional self had taken over, I had gone into “the zone”. It is not a persona I want to bring to these relationships with any frequency … but it was interesting, to me anyway,  how clear the distinction had become.

Harry & Margaret

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The Eyes have it … Opthalmology

I have spent almost two months photographing the myriad of doctors and researchers at the Harvard Medical School Department of Ophthalmolgy. It is rare to be engaged in a project for this long and it has been a challenge to create distinctive photographs in a world of labs, conference rooms, and clinical exam rooms. In a word; ya seen one … . The upside is observing this army of very big brains addressing the problem of congenital and therapeutic ophthalmic defects.

Watching and photographing while a surgeon makes an incision on an eyeball strikes very close to home.

Fritz Klaetke (Visual Dialogue) and I decided to maximize the authenticity of the photos, and my process has been quick,simple, and available light(with a lightweight, over the shoulder portable strobe backup system for emergencies). Emphasizing the idea of in focus/out of focus seemed appropriate for the venue. so I am doing mostly long lense and tight; yet another challenge in these low light environments.

Occasionally I will go my own way with the work; just to keep things interesting.

To be in such close proximity to science and medicine for so long, on the one hand, creates a great argument for the potential of the human mind (a perspective that often escapes me these days) and the wonder of the human body: on the other, serves as a stark and humble reminder of how little we really know.

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Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence, MA


Everytime I visit this place I come away amazed … amazed at the irrepressible spirit of children … amazed at how seemingly intractable social problems can be mitigated with such simple solutions. I am sure it’s not perfect, but this place is all about respect, compassion. and understanding in the service of hope and possibilities. I always come away renewed.

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In the spirit of Christmas


I suspect that the flood of traumatic and dramatic  information that washes over us every day as we go about our lives anesthetizes us, out of sheer survival, to the hard and horrible events in the world.  It couldn’t be otherwise. This information is nothing new. We are not a gentle species and nature is a force we seem to  perpetually underestimate. The difference is that we didn’t know then; not immediately. We know now, almost instantly. Sandy Hook is an exception to this rule for me.  The horror of this event in a place so like my own, inflicted on children so like my own, is inescapable.  As we move into this season of light, of hope, of possibility in the company of family and friends, burdened by those sad, sad stories and imagined nightmares, we can still hope; hope that our children are safe in their world, hope that there are warm and loving places that we can all get to, hope that we can see the goodness laid bare and treasure it, hope that we can offer up our own goodness to the world around us.   I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a New Year filled with fine moments. In the end, that is what we have.

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