Foggy Night (Prospect Heights)

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Max on Subway Escalator (DC)

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Cyclone

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Oceano Dunes

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Feather on Beach (Cambria)

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Point Sal

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Max, Mateo, and Quinn (Park Slope)

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Trinity Church (Wall Street)

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Winter Kudzu (near Aberdeen, MD)

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Max, Ninja

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After fighting bad guys for awhile, it was time for a potty break…
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Wind Turbines (Around Sacramento)

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Shot from a 767 on the way back to NYC.
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After Christmas (Crown Heights)

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Sand on the Dunes (Pismo Beach, CA)

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Besides stills, I also shot some brief video segments at Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes State Park with my new Nikon D800E. I didn’t have a tripod with me, so the framing is a bit shakey, but pretty good considering how briskly the wind was blowing. I edited in iMovie and slowed down the blowing sand by 50%. The music is Yo La Tengo’s Tears Are in Your Eyes. Click the image to play the video in a popup.
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Waiting for the Bus (Williamsburg)

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Max (Oso Flaco)

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Dunes (Pismo Dunes State Park, CA)

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One of my favorite places to photograph in the whole wide world. As I’ve mentioned before, these dunes excited Weston more than bell peppers.
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Hammerhead and Minnows (Monterey Aquarium)

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Visual Haiku Redux (Ogunquit, Maine)

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Sleeping Beauty

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Surfers (Goleta Beach, Santa Barbara)

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Foggy Night (Summerland)

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Agave (Summerland)

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Oceano Dunes

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This is one of my favorite parks in Central California. Soft sand, amazing panoramas, and it feels like an Edward Weston photo is just a click away.

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Fresh Snow (Aspen, CO)

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Oceano Dunes

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Oceano Dunes is a fantastic state park. You can get the feeling of infinity (until you notice the cars driving on the adjacent beach). It was here that part of the Ten Commandments were filmed and photographers, including Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, made some iconic black and white imagery. The best time to visit would be at sunrise when the shadows are long and the night winds have had a chance to erase the assault of daily footprints. I can’t wait to go back.
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Oaks in Fog (Golvita, CA)

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Point Sal Hike

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Point Sal Panorama

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Shell Beach

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Max in the Bath

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Five Years



Near the end of a French movie, L’Homme de Sa Vie, there’s a scene where a man visits his dying father in the hospital in Paris. He has not seen his father in over twenty years because his father threw him out of the house when he discovered his teenage son was gay. When the son enters the hospital room after embracing his mother, all we see is his face as he circles the bed and all we hear is the sound of labored breaths, his father’s. About forty-five seconds pass as you watch the son breathing in sync with his father, his expressions transforming rapidly from horror to compassion to grief, the breaths’ slow progressions mimicking the reckoning of lost time. Then you see the room from above, the bird’s eye view: the son lying in the fetal position next to his motionless father. I began to cry as I watched this on my laptop, and when I looked up, I noticed that it was one-fifteen in the morning on March 6th, which would be 3:15pm in Tokyo, which was about the time my father died five years ago. I’d selected this movie fairly arbitrarily, mostly based on the reviews and the praise of its cinematography (also because it was free to stream with my Amazon Prime membership). There was very little mentioned about its gay subject matter and nothing explicit about the end, so the ending was a total surprise and, it turns out, pure coincidence.

Five years ago, my father had been in a coma for over nine months. I’d flown to Tokyo to see him in the nursing home several times and on this trip, my brother and I had agreed that his “vegetative state” was pointless and undignified. Papa, we were certain, would not have wanted to “go on” for so long. This was around the time of the Schiavo case, when a family’s private anguish over euthanasia became a political debate, the intersection of God, power of attorney, and the economics of the healthcare system. When does life stop being a life? Like a fetus, a person in a vegetative state can’t communicate anything. There may be brainwaves, but unlikely any type of cognition. My father, indeed, by this time had been reduced to a breathing corpse. Early on, occasionally I experienced slight hints of squeezebacks when I gripped his hand, but now there were none, and though his eyes were open, they stared motionless into space. Still, I played music for him, Beethoven and Bach usually. The morning of March 6th, I’d played a Woody Allen CD, a monologue which I thought the real Akio Takeuchi would appreciate, a piece called Down South about the KKK. Then I put on Samuel Barber’s Adagio, which to me is a work about longing and loss. It was my last visit; later that day I’d board a flight back to New York, which likely meant that the next time I’d see him would be at his funeral. This trip had been for about ten days, with each day including a two-hour visit where I mostly played music for him and tried to tell him what was happening in my life, an exercise which seemed about as pointless as talking to a fish. On the last day, however, I forced myself to say a lot more, how I felt about him, that though I had a lot of conflicted feelings, I still loved him and was very sad that I would never hear his stories anymore. As it neared time to leave, I gripped his cold, limp hand and said goodbye several times, as if rehearsing for some grand finale. I pressed my head on the pillow next to him and kissed his cheek and told him I loved him and when I looked up from the bed, I noticed a video camera pointed at our faces, a video camera which was likely providing a live feed to the nurses’ station. Then I said my final goodbye and squeezed his hand very firmly and when I was loosening my grip on his hand, I noticed his eyes roll away and a tear slip out of one of them. Shocked at the possibility that he’d heard and understood me, I lingered awkwardly for a few minutes. Then I left.

It was noonish, the sky which had been mostly sunny, was now mostly overcast. In ninety minutes I was on a bus to Narita, a light rain falling on the windows as Tokyo receded in the grey gloom. When I presented myself at the airline counter to get my boarding pass, the agent handed me a note: Call your brother. A few minutes later, at a green public phone, I learned that my father had died while I was on the bus.

There are two sets of photographs in this posting. The ones above this text I took while walking to the nursing home to visit my father; the ones below were taken after I’d said goodbye and was returning to the train station. I feel the first set expresses a kind of hope, while the second set seems resigned to death. Finally, in black and white, as befits Buddhist funeral custom, are two shots from the wake which began the moment I saw my father again, at the funeral home a few hours later.

While the grief has long ended, the sense of loss continues. Papa, my father, was certainly the first and most important man of my life.




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Reflections (Chelsea)

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Cactii (Shell Beach)

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Max Is Excited About Halloween (Prospect Heights)

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Max is 2!

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Two Flowers (Santa Maria, CA)

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Tree Detail (Ochoco National Forest, OR)

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Homage to Escher (Prospect Heights)

A few screws, a little time, and this...
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Henri Cartier-Bresson Retrospective at MOMA


The photographer who took some of the most influential photographs of the 20th Century (and made the word Leica a household name) is having a giant posthumous retrospective at MOMA. This photo, taken in April of 1945, though less artful and more strictly photojournalistic, is one which has always resonated with me. Besides the explosive emotion, there’s a novel’s worth of content which can be extrapolated from the scene. For those of us who were schooled in the decisive moment street photography aesthetic, HCB is a god. His genius was not only in his timing, but in his distance. Asked once about what inspired him to trip the shutter when he did, he said, I’m paraphrasing, “La géometrie.” True, but like Bach who pretended that all his compositions were nothing more than mathematical variations, form is clearly married to passion throughout HCB’s work. What makes the show, which opens Sunday, a real treat is that many never before seen photos will be on view, some of which are included on the HCB, The Modern Century’s web preview.
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Atlantic Yards Construction Begins (Prospect Heights)


You’re looking at the future site of the Brooklyn Nets stadium. In 2011 with lots of traffic. Below is a closer view, with the building in the top right containing the home of Daniel Goldstein, the founder of Develop Don’t Destroy. Most likely all buildings around here will be razed first before the eminent domain showdown for Goldstein’s property and a few other holdouts who refused to be bought out by Ratner’s deep pockets.
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Construction Kids Shop (Prospect Lefferts Garden)


A few shots from publicity shoot I’m doing for Construction Kids, a Brooklyn woodworking school for toddlers and young kids.
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Mother and Child

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The Snow's Falling

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Glove on Cab Seat (SoHo)

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No Shoes (Prospect Heights)


A little movie I made at the Dean Street playground during the snowstorm. Music by John Lee Hooker.
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Snowstorm (Prospect Heights)

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J.D. Salinger, R.I.P.


JDS in 1950, photo by Lotte Jacobi

One of the most influential American writers of the 20th Century died on the 27th. The Catcher in the Rye remains one of my favorite books. I wonder if his children will reveal if there was a manuscript their father was working on all these years.
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Snowy Birds (Prospect Heights)

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Max on New Year's Day (Prospect Heights)


We tried a restraining order, but he refused.
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Agave (Summerland, CA)

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Barren Tree (Santa Maria)

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Should Have Been Burned?


Yesterday marked the official publication of The Original of Laura, Nabokov’s last work in progress. Dmitri Nabokov, the author’s son and executor, agonized over the decision not to burn and send these roughly written 138 index cards worth of notes into the wild. For diehard Nabokovians, it’s a treat, but I don’t think it will do the master stylist’s reputation any good. Reportedly, Lolita, too, was supposed to be consigned to the fireplace, but his wife Vera rescued it and now we all have one of the 20th Century’s masterpieces of literature. But that was a finished novel and this is just the opening notes. For more about TOOL, check here and here. The Times of London got the excerpt exclusive. Will I buy it? You betcha.
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Irving Kriesberg, 1919-2009


We had nearly completed documenting over 60 years of his work, when he died on November 11th. An obit is on the NYT here.
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Composition vs. Meaning


The above photo was taken in 1991 in the Bronx by New York Times staff reporter Angel Franco. Composed with the urban blight in the background, this Halloween picture of Guisette Muniz, then 6, elicited an outpouring of Times' readers emotions (and gifts). Readers interpreted Muniz's expression to be sad, vulnerable, and worthy of pity, when in reality she was scared--not of the desolate neighborhood--but of her uncle who was inside the apartment in a frightening Chuckie costume. Read more about this photo in the Times here. This also fits nicely with Errol Morris' series in the Op-Ed webpages on propaganda and photography, a fascinating read here. The subject of how photographers compose, put frames around what they see, is worthy of many books of essays. Context is everything.
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Sunset on the Water (Turnbull Bay)

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Fence (NSB)

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Clouds (Florida)

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Steam (Upper East Side)

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Max Is Walking!


After a couple of weeks of baby steps into our arms, Max is proudly walking everywhere, usually with his arms out in true take-me-to-your-leader zombie fashion
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Studio Finally Ready to Rock and Roll

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Cowboys (LAX)

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Union Square

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Gandhi Statue (Union Square)

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Youth League Basketball (Prospect Heights)

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Dead Chick (Prospect Heights)

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38 Witnessed Her Death...

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Steam (Dumbo)

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(Split ;-) ) Beaver Street (Financial District)

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Gowanus Canal

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Trees (on 95, near Baltimore)

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Jellyfish (National Zoo)

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Handkerchief by the Curb (Park Slope)

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Bike and Graffiti (Park Slope)

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First Big Snow

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101 at Sunset

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Pismo Beach Trees

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Cloud Behind Tree (Santa Maria)

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Jack's Garden

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Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Park

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The Kiss that Ends the War

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Another of Snow on the Trees

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Snowy Night

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Contact Sheet: A Photo a Day

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Max's Eye and Mouth

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Max's Swirl

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Winter Cometh

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Barren Trees

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Max Dreaming an Obama Victory

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Max's First Election

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Studs Terkel

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Halloween

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Bowling Green Shadow

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Santa Maria, Oso Flaco, Morro Bay

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Propaganda Photos: Which Came First—Chicken or Egg?

If you haven't been following Errol Morris' indefatigable research into which of Roger Fenton's two pictures of the Valley of the Shadow of Death came first, it is definitely worth a read (part1, part2, part3). Like a one-manned JFK assassination inquiry, Morris tries to refute Susan Sontag's claim that the photo with the canon balls on the road was staged, "a fake." This whole subject is fascinating for photographers like me who strive to document reality, but know that aesthetics often trump when the subject is mundane. Here are the two photos in question. Now, which was shot first and why?
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