Saturday, February 28, 2009

Surprises...

A few people have suggested that, since professionally, I have a background in speech arts (now we call it communications and when you interview anyone for a job they say they are ‘good with people’), I should comment on the President’s ‘Not a State of the Union’ speech rather than on the people who were using their Blackberrys. It was a wonderful presentation, full of hope and flourishes with a goodly amount of no nonsense and “We are the World”. And I mean that in the nicest possible way. It was a speech that if not predictable was at least not unexpected – well crafted, clear, crisp, punctuated with words that trigger positive emotion and I dare say inspiration. While he didn’t say much about how we are going to recover from this economic disaster, he did say “yes we can”, and “yes we will.” I love that he mentioned the First Lady and he identified people who were determined to overcome their difficulties. I thought that the fact that he didn’t pause for applause or a standing ovation – any number of times, was both charming and an example of his determination not to pause for the obvious. But what’s the difference what I thought about the speech. The stock market is still falling and it doesn’t look like recovery is eminent. But there are always surprises and that’s what makes life worth living.

Take for example, the fact that David Burnett was recognized by the people who select Photographer of the Year, as one of the top three Photographers in the world. In the world! We who know that he is always among the best, were not surprised, but he was.
Like the President of the United States not waiting for kudos, there is a certain charm in David’s surprise. What I found most interesting about the contest, and for that matter, so many of these important contests, is that the awards usually go to people who are covering wars. The people who are just terrifically talented and make something out of nothing stories have a much harder time winning recognition. Somehow, the idea of a journalist covering a story where their life isn’t in eminent danger has less value. This is not something I understand, maybe because when you see what David can do with a little light and often not much cooperation, is so staggeringly amazing.

And speaking of surprises, last night we went to see the revival of “Blithe Spirit” in previews. I usually like to go to previews because they are a bit raw and truthfully, much cheaper – unless there is a bad review and then they are finished. Anyway, the performance, despite the talent (Angela Lansbury, Rupert Everett and Christine Ebersol) was a little rough. The lighting needs work, the script needs to be polished, and there were a few problems with the dialogue. But in previews there are more likely to be surprises. Like at one point last night, in the heat of a monologue about séances, Rupert got so excited he yelled something about the ‘fucking’ situation. This is not a word Noel Coward would have used in any of his parlor comedies, and the other actors on stage just stopped dead and broke up. It took a few minutes before the play got back on track, but it was a delightful few minutes. This is not something that happens once the show opens.

This afternoon we went to see “The American Plan”. Again, an incredibly talented cast but it has already opened so everything is polished and flows. I thought it was going to be about a relationship between a mother and daughter and while, in part, it was, there were a few surprises that made it so much more. And aren’t surprises, even challenging ones, often so much better than predictability.

My friend, The Amazing Kreskin, (and yes we do call him Amazing instead of using any other first name) leads a life of surprises. He is a mentalist and makes the most astounding predictions about everything. Tom Hanks is doing a movie based on his life.
Like he predicted (in a sealed well-protected and guarded envelope), about a year before the primaries ended, that Obama would be the President. Where so many of us were surprised by these results, Amazing was not surprised. I asked him once if not being surprised takes some of the joy out life. He just laughed and told me that he didn’t know everything, just enough to make a living and make things more interesting. But he was not going to give away any secrets. And that was no surprise. We're just sayin'...Iris

Twitter Schmitter

Joe Biden was either texting some one on the House floor on his Blackberry or Twittering during the President’s speech to Congress . You can never tell exactly what someone is doing when they are looking at their lap, other than not paying attention or being incredibly rude. Either way, it doesn’t work for me. Even if the President’s speech wasn’t a “State of the Union,” a non State of the Union of that magnitude deserves the same respect… but that’s only one former White House geek’s position.

To be truthful, I am tired of new technologies that take us one more step away from having interpersonal communication. I stopped myself short of calling it anti social behavior because it is neither social nor is it anti. You are communicating but just not with another human being who can see your face or hear your voice. Both of which are very important when tone and gesture do impact on message…. but that’s only one former speech teacher’s position.

Geez, I kind of sound like I’m out of touch but, for example, what is the point of Twittering? I can only compare it to Valentines or Mother’s Day, which we all know is secondarily a celebration of love and parenthood, with the primary purpose of providing a bonanza to the florists and the greeting card people. They were both holidays created to do business—and not necessarily of the heart . But that’s only one former romantic’s opinion.

Just kidding. I’m still a romantic but with the economy being what it is I would rather celebrate with a kiss than a card. But that’s not what I was going to write about. It’s the Twitter thing. A few months ago I was invited to participate in a seminar with other bloggers and one old fart writer who was there for who knows what. Maybe he was the Dean’s friend and maybe he was supposed to provide controversy—it didn’t work. He was just an old fart. Anyway, there were a few bloggers who were talking about how many thousands of people followed them on Twitter. [Editor’s note: We officially have 5 followers on We’reJustSayin’ plus all you fabulous diehards who come without being forced.] Having absolutely no knowledge of Twitter I assumed it was like Face Book – a place where you could bond with friends who had either moved on from e-mail or found Face Book a more interesting way to socialize. And I agree, Face book is fun. So, I signed up for a Twitter account which, for the first three weeks wouldn’t let me Twitter but did allow me to be bored by the Twitter's of others. The concept is to let people know what you are doing and thinking all day long.

Senator Claire McCaskill says she Twitters because her constituency has a right to know what she’s doing. Do they really? It would be interesting to know how many of her constituents are also Twittering. I wonder how constituencies survived for oh so many years without knowing what their elected officials were doing using only a sentence several times an hour. After a while, they will have to find someone to Twitter for them just like they have someone blog about them. . And really, are they going to share intimacies and personal information beyond, “I shouted out for Justice Ruth Ginsberg”, which is a nice thing but what does it mean in the greater scheme of things. Claire cares. Ruth is OK. It’s good news but I probably could live without the information. I would rather know what the Senator thinks about legislation and how she votes—and I can get that on her web site. I doubt that she will tell us if she had sex and it was good, or that she is having problems with her bowels – but that’s what Twitterers do with their allotted 140 characters. I don’t mean to pick on Senator McCaskill. I do like her. But I wish she, just like all the other elected officials who have discovered this novel way to clutter up cyberspace, would stop it.

Let’s face it (Not Face Book it), all these new technologies are about making connections, reaching out to strangers, avoiding having direct face to face conversations and of course, making money by advertising. And Twitter, the latest fad, is just a way of self aggrandizing ordinary tasks and linking to as many people as possible – to do business. Just like the flower and card people. As they say in discussing their goals; “We plan to build Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.” Whatever does ‘inspiring culture’ mean?

I Face Book every other day. I Twitter about once every two weeks—because I don’t want to be left out (that’s about 10 letters a day.) But admittedly, I keep thinking, who cares what I’m doing right now except the police if I was beating my kids. To be honest, I can’t imagine what I would do with a My Space Page and I stopped being Linked In because I can’t remember that many passwords. Nope, and by the way, what I am doing right now is praying that I never think any of these new social interactions take the place of a good fireside chat. We're just sayin'....Iris

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

And I'd Like to Thank...

When I was a little girl I practiced two things: crying when I won the Miss America competition, and accepting my Academy Award. My mother told me, when she caught me in front of the mirror choking back tears for my Miss New Jersey response to my award, that I shouldn’t waste my time because I could not smile long enough to win Miss America—so I didn’t have to worry about shedding tears. Unaffected by her comments but realizing that was probably true (I was not a happy child), I shelved that effort and turned to the Academy — which I felt had many more possibilities for me. After a few years of reading my list of ‘thank yous’, I lost interest. How many times can you thank your Barbie dolls for their votes and confidence? But still, every year when it is Academy time, I critique the acceptances as compared to the one I would have given. Mine is, of course, always much more elegant and relevant—regardless of the category.

There have always been a number of reasons to watch the Award shows. Not among them has been the show. Whether it is the Oscar, the Tony, or the Emmy, they rarely distinguish themselves as creative or, for that matter, entertaining. It does seem ridiculous that the people who provide us with so much extracurricular entertainment have always choreographed a less than interesting presentation of their acknowledged “best in show”. The Oscar show Sunday was a bit different because it was actually entertaining. Although my favorite part of the show, the “in memorium” with the cameras zooming non-stop in and out, may have worked live in the theater, but on TV you could hardly see who was dead. Admittedly, we don’t have a giant screen, but I love to see who we lost, and it was very hard to do that.

Going to the theater, whether it be movie or stage, is my favorite activity. Over the years, long after I stopped making acceptance speeches, I thought I might get involved in some backstage related occupation. Actually, I thought I would make a wonderful director or producer but my career path went in a different direction and I wound up in the White House instead of on Broadway or Hollywood. But I have never stopped hoping for my big break. The closest I have ever come to being an active participant in the movie business came when I produced the world premiere of the film Gandhi in New Delhi, India.

It was an overwhelming, unparalleled experience. While most people agree that the quality of the movie and the appeal is what matters in making it a success, I think that the quality of the ‘launch’ and the timing for the opening also positions the film for success. I made three preparatory trips to India before the final trip when I stayed to do the hands-on production of what turned out to be four major launch events. There was the UNICEF fundraising big premiere, then there were two press premieres and a giant press conference. In addition, I was supposed to create a series of pre-premiere press receptions for the most important movie critics in India. Design a Premiere Press kit. Create a Press screening guest list. Find an adequate site for a Press conference to follow the Press screenings. Handle all technical details including equipping areas with sound and lights -- not easy in a country that had no way to provide outdoor electricity. Produce and deliver 1200 Press invitations four days before the screening. Without benefit of addresses or a mail system that understood the term delivery. I had to make all hotel arrangements for stars, VIPs, and staff. Coordinate logistics for fundraising benefit (World Premiere) including, decorations, seating, sound, lights (they had never seen a Klieg so we substituted with 10,000 candles: figure out the timing for lighting 10,000 candles. Work out the politics, security, press, refreshments, motorcades and transportation, special guest arrangements, site details, and budget. Handle all sensitive political negotiations regarding the attendance of President Singh, the President of India, and Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister. Plan a post premiere dinner reception for director Sir Richard Attenborough and his guests. Secure proper American and Canadian visas for Indian performers. The good news is that I never ran out of rupees or people, the bad news is there were only 24 hours in a day.

Slumdog Millionaire” like Gandhi, took the majority of prizes. This little film about love and hope was truly both inspirational and deserving. Rumor has it that the film was supposed to go directly to DVD but Warner passed it to Foxlight and they made it a commercial success. And wasn’t it wonderful to see all those talented young people on the stage to accept their Best Picture of the year award. My only complaint about the whole thing was, what does it say about the Academy that none of the actors in that film were nominated for their performances? Maybe with their victory the members of the Academy will think beyond the ususal suspects. We’re just sayin’.... Iris

Monday, February 23, 2009

In Harmony

Over the weekend they judged the pictures for the annual White House News Photographer’s Association annual contest. It’s known, in one of those post 20th century bids for placement, as the “Eyes of History,” which, while being a bit pretentious perhaps, does kind of sum up the totality of the work when viewed at once. Given the fact that the WHNPA encompasses everyone from free-lancers getting by on ½ wire service and weekly paper assignments, to contract photogs with National Geographic (headquartered here in DC) it is quite likely that most important, and not a few semi-important events of the year will end up in at least one of the photographer’s cameras.
For years, all through the 60s and the 70s, it was common for the Geographic photographers to sweep the coveted “Photographer of the Year” (P.O.Y.)award. There was an element of the exotic which ran through much of their work. And for the most part, everyone else, the newspaper and wire staffers, were covering more localized events, lacking the immediate exoticism of Bhutan or Patagonia, and though the pictures were often just as moving, the tendency was to acknowledge that part of the wanderlust most of us feel with a camera in our hands. Things began changing in the last 15 years or so, for a number of reasons. Newspapers, primarily the Washington Post and Washington Times, were deciding that it was important to give their readers extra content, extra value in what they were selling, and rightfully understood that with content king, it paid to have your own pictures illustrating a story. They would still rely on the ever present wire services (AP, Reuters, AFP) for many things, but whenever possible, they tried to personalize the reporting with their own pictures. This enabled, for the first time, newspaper and other daily practicioners to travel to those more exotic, and photogenic locales in search of good pictures. And it certainly paid off. Carol Guzy of the Post, was P.O.Y. several times, with her colleagues usually winning when she didn’t. And she has been followed by Andrea Bruce, whose combination of wry and emotional pictures from locations as diverse as Falujah and West Virginia, have given her something like 4 titles. It was a time of reasonable expense accounts, and editors who weren’t afraid to put their resources on the line: sending a photographer to Iraq, Africa, or even Appalachia for extended periods to get not just that front page opener, but material deep enough that the jump pages inside were rich with imagery.
A picture I liked but the judges didn't (Olympic Women's Pole Vault, the winning Vault)
One I liked, and the judges did too (1st Place/Sports Action: Korea/Cuba Olympic Baseball)
I joined the WHNPA about twenty years ago, and over those years have won a few individual category awards, but never the P.O.Y. The real advantage to entering contests, as it happens, is not the rewards you might win – for they are fleeting, indeed, but that it gives you a chance, nay, forces you, to look at last year’s work and really analyze it in a critical and self-mirroring way. We all pay lip service to our own abilities to edit and re-package our work, yet, from what I see in the contests, that remains an elusive goal. Most of us remain too attached to pictures, simply because we remember the pain and effort it took to get them, or conversely, some wonderful joy in the situation which yielded that image. For the reader looking at that same picture days, months, later, without the same emotional baggage, there will be a different interpretation. The picture has to stand on its own two legs, and can’t be held up by some artificial warm and fuzzy reaction. The need to regard your own work, and to ruthlessly edit yourself is part of a growth process which every photographer who hopes to improve must realize. There is no way to become more crafted, more able, and more sensative without looking at what has gone before, and finding those elements which need improvement. It can be a painful process. We keep kidding ourselves (“isn’t that Paulson portrait just right.. didn’t I catch his distant self?”) as to what we think might be the real knock outs
(“they can’t possibly fail to appreciate my series on Chinese Olympic cops and their umbrellas...”—oh yes they can!) So it takes a little shaking of the ivory tower by the pagan photowatchers on the ground, the ones who nearly shake you OUT of the tower, for you to see what you did the year before. And the thing is, even if you do win something, it’s rare that you don’t have some kind of guilt pangs: you KNEW that your friend who only got 3rd place actually had a better picture than your own.

Judging seems to be a world unto itself. I was twice a judge at the World Press Photo competition in Holland: 80,000 pictures from 80 countries around the world, each sent by a photographer who thought their work just a little bit better than average. Most photographic reactions are visceral. You look, you see, you feel, you react. It’s not like doing a six step math equation where each you evaluate each tidbit before going on to the next. Either, you feel it, or you don’t. If you have to really talk about it, well, then that picture isn’t the One.

But there is nothing like the buzz you get when that picture really does work. And I recently met a photographer who was absolutely enthralled by the prospect of photographing. I met this young woman last week at the Govinda Gallery, where the Soul Rebel (Bob Marley) show is currently on display.
My photo of Scratch Perry, as seen by Harmony
DB as seen by Harmony
Iris and DB, by Harmony
Harmony at the Govinda

She was relentless. She wandered here, there, this corner and that. And never stopped shooting. She was, I suppose, trying to make the show a bit of her own. And that she did. Last night, I received a few images from her take, and was pleasantly surprized at how well the pictures turned out. Her name is Harmony Holmes. And she is 3. And if she wants to take a photograph, you better not try and get in her way. She’s my kind of photographer. And though it’s only February, I kind of feel like I may have already met 2009’s Photographer of the Year. We’re just sayin’... David

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

From Analog to DuoLog

There was an earthquake in Boonton, New Jersey this morning. A most unlikely place for that kind of disaster and yet, it happened. David says it’s because too many people ate the fabulous pasta and maybe too many fagioli bianci beans at the Reservoir Tavern and that set off the rumbling in the ground. Maybe. When I heard the news my first thought was that I hoped Mom’s house was OK. Then I rethought and realized, it’s not our house anymore so I don’t really care. I no longer have to pay any of the utilities, so there was no reason to stress. And speaking of utilities, the cable bill was always an issue because every month they would add some random charge and then I would have to make about a million calls before I got someone to whom I could say, “We have the most basic of services and we shouldn’t be paying more than $15 a month. No one lives there.” It didn’t matter, there were ludicrous charges every month. I’m sure part of it as that the cable company just didn’t want to service anyone who wasn’t paying top dollar – especially the elderly and the poor.

When the British began their conversion from regular (you know – 'analog') to digital they did not assume that people either knew or could afford to deal with the new system. Smartly, they did it region by region, and over a long period of time. They sent an actual human being to every befuddled house to make sure the transition was without problems. And if someone couldn’t afford to buy a new box, they were given one. In the United States, no one comes to your house to do an installation. You are lucky if you can get a call back from a cable company. And now we have learned that the cable companies say, they have run out of the coupons for the cheap boxes. In the United States, it’s all about money and the truth is that they just don’t give a damn. And it’s not a paltry number we’re talking here: it’s estimated that 30 to forty million homes will be affected.

As far as I’m concerned, the real question is why do we need digital television. People who make the TV sets and people who produce the TV shows will tell you that – supposedly -- it looks better. And that is true. It just might look better, but how much better do you need “Two and a Half Men” to look in order to enjoy it? So again I ask, why in the world did we need this transition headache?

It seems obvious that the reason is to make the people who produce shows and TV richer. Now, I’m not against blatant commercialism – just a minute, maybe I am. I remember a few years ago when I was working in TV and we started to discus this new fangled way to view programs. I kept saying, “this will never happen”. People will rise up in anger and refuse to participate by buying a TV set that they don’t need. People will be on the streets protesting this forced expenditure. Everyone loves their TV and their programs but will they invest thousands of dollars to replace their old sets, or will they happily turn over hundreds of dollars a month to a cable company that has total distain for the public – that means as little or service as possible.

My brother lives on a small island off the coast of Seattle. He loves a few TV programs and he watches them through a great deal of fuzz and the constant turning of an antenna. Because his wife thinks TV is a total waste of time. And she didn’t want to spend any money supporting the local cable system. Oh how harsh, you may say, but my niece, having never spent all her waking hours watching crap, is an honors scholarship student at UW. This does not mean that my brother shouldn’t be allowed to watch the paltrey 4 or five shows he likes. But as of June or July or whenever the money mongers insist on the conversion, he will no longer have access to any TV if he can’t find one of those pesky digital boxes. They don’t have cable by choice, but what about the people who would like to watch TV and can’t afford to convert. Who will allow them the access they desire. “They have run out of coupons for the poor”. How do you run out of coupons? Oh you can make it inaccessible – like distribute them by e-mail when you know there are people who can’t afford or don’t know how to use a computer. Or you can have the cable companies actually manage the distribution—for sure it won’t happen if this is the case. But how in the world can “we ran out of coupons”, be a good enough reason not to permit the less fortunate to have access to the program of their viewing choice. And, to put it in the form of a question (thanks, Alex!), who are the numbskulls who came up with this cotton pickin program? We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Love Notes, '09 Version

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. After I got divorced and my ex remarried on Valentine’s Day, it was not a holiday I looked forward to. Then I met David and our celebrations of a day for love, came slowly – but they did come. After a few years we started our own traditions and one of them included a “Love Note” in the Washington Post. It was a wonderful way to say I love you, or I care, or ‘you have been a dope but at least you are my dope.’ When it started, I guess sometime in the eighties, the “Love Notes” filled about a page. Over the years it grew and at one point, the Post did a special section – 6 pages. David was dutiful in his participation and after Jordan could read, he sent one to her as well. Then, for whatever reason -- too busy, less sentimental, wanted to be more discreet in his affection, didn’t love us anymore (just kidding because he always loved her), he stopped sending them.

After a long absence from the pages of the Post, this year he sent me a 'Love Note'. It said, “Irie” (that’s Jamaican for everything is alright -- you may remember from my blob a few days ago about David’s book and show.) Oh never mind, it’s much too personal to share with anyone but the thousands of people who read the Washington Post. When I saw the ‘Notes”, and I only looked because David said he had sent one, what was most surprising was that there was only half a page of them. I wondered why so few people sent notes this year. Then I figured it must because the ‘Notes” are on line instead of in print. Try as I might, I couldn’t find anything on line. It is possible that I could not find them because I am ‘technotarded’ (a word I think my pal Jim made up to describe my constant frustration with anything technical. He always says, with love, “what are you, some kind of a “technotard?” – another word you will see in a not so politically correct dictionary now that it has been used here.) And, in fact I am, but there were no ‘Love Notes' on line.

What does this mean to society as we know it? Don’t people love one another enough to pay for a three line message in a National newspaper? We all know that match.com, Jdate, Affiity, and letsgetitonasap, are thriving. Additionally, we know, because we have seen Face Book and entries on MY Space pages, that people are not subtle about who they are, who their friends are, what parties they attended and if they were naked. So why has the “Love Notes’ page become so minimal?

Did I just answer my own query? (Among many others, I love the word query, also plethora and dearth. David used verdant in describing our rosemary bush the other day and I kind of liked that too.) People obviously don’t need to express themselves in a newspaper – why bother when people are not reading the paper anymore. I mean, if you want anyone (strangers or otherwise) to know about your love life, why would you post it in a place that no one reads.

Have you seen the size of the NY Times lately? Talk about heartbreaking. Technotard that I am, I can go online and read the paper. But I can’t see the placement of the story, on what page, or get ink on my hands – which has always been part of the joyful experience.

Yes, I know it is old-school think to have to purchase or have an intimate relationship with a dirty piece of paper, but that like so many other things that are slowly disappearing, this has made life just a bit more impersonal. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the stories, blogs and Twitter reports (OK I don’t enjoy the Twitter reports), it’s just that I have excellent interpersonal relationship skills and I don’t want the importance of those to be diminished. And when I see “I love you stinky” in print, I feel sure it is true and everlasting love because you just can’t hit Delete and move on. And note, that’s really love. We’re just sayin’....Iris

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Yesterday: Good/Bad

Yesterday was a wonderful day for David Burnett. The Washington Post did a front page Style section story about his book and his show. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/09/AR2009020903712.html

In addition, online, the Post posted a photo gallery that was quite stunning:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/gallery/2009/02/09/GA2009020902325.html?referrer

On Saturday, Roxanne Roberts wrote a column in the Post that described how wonderful the show and party were. And the most recent news piece we today. I'm sure you will enjoy this special insightful video, http://www.photographychannel.tv/video/BurnettMarley1.mov

Moving on to me... Because we know that in the end, it is all about me. I was going to write about the world of publishing within the context of David’s success because once again, the publisher did pretty much nothing but our team (Johanna, Cathy and Halle), were relentless in their pursuit of David’s well deserved attention. But I’m not going to do that because there is simply so much going on in the world that needs my attention. (David is doing OK without me).

When I was on my treadmill yesterday watching Geithner talk to the nation, I first thought, “He’s twelve years old, and his speech pattern is stilted, how will he save the nation?” Then I thought, “Wasn’t he part of the problem when he worked at the stock exchange?” (I know thoughts don’t require quotations, but they seem to make a statement a little more effective—kind of like parentheses). Anyway, as I watched him say pretty much nothing in his stilted uncomfortable way, I was also watching the stock market drop 382 points. This was unexpected—at least from my pea brain of an understanding of what I thought would happen. I actually expected that with the President’s press conference and fierce attack on partisan politics, and the Geithner pronouncements, the stock market would go up. Based on all of these mistakes, I have decided not to ever try to understand anything about the economic situation in the world.

So let’s just talk simple political realities. The President was terrific, and he said Geithner would be specific and we would all rejoice. . Geithner was neither specific nor encouraging.. The American public has disappointed expectations. In addition, Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats made a terrible mistake. They wrote a stimulus package that was filled with pork instead of stim. (Stim is my word for things that work to make the economy work—it’s a new word but it will be used so frequently after this blob, that it will be in the dictionary in 2010 and you will have had the privilege of seeing it before the rest of the reading public.). The Dems gave the Repubs fodder for their case against the Bill. This led to more partisan squabbling and in the end, the bill passed. But now, the talk, just as it was for the last two multi-billion dollar loan packages, is that we would have been better off doing nothing. If I were a psychologist, I would call this passive aggressive economic theorem.

Not that I’m opposed to doing nothing and let the results define themselves --in every walk of life. But the trillions of dollars we seem to be throwing at all these problems are are not resulting in helping the people who are losing their jobs and homes and can’t feed their families, find work or a soup kitchen. Oops I’m back on the economic situation and I’ve already said I know nothing so I have no credibility.

Let’s change subjects and talk about the woman with the octuplets and 6 other children (3 on disability), at home. The one who the media say is trying to look like Angelina Jolie. And why not. If she looks like Brunhilda, is anyone in the viewing public going to give a damn about her? My guess is that, although we will not feel sympathetic about her situation—no matter what, if she was a beast, the TV people would be paying absolutely no attention and there would be nothing for the network news to babble about. Who cares about this woman and, quite frankly, her children? The taxpayer? The clergy? The medical profession? People who can’t have children? Angelina Jolie’s publicist? Maybe the real solution for this single unemployed woman is to have Angelina and Brad adopt 5 or 6 of the kids. Here’s a brilliant idea. Maybe all the celebrities (entertainment, sports, corporate, and bankers), should do a show. Just like in the old Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney movies, they could do a show and raise enough money to save the nation. Yeah, that I can understand. We’re just sayin’….Iris

What's Your Trick?

I’m on a plane to Texas (the promise of barbecue?) for a story for a couple of days. I’m absolutely dead tired. Not in the usual kind of tired. But yesterday was a long day. Iris and I had driven up to the city (four very snappy hours when you listen to a swell book on tape or, book on CD as most of them are now) on Sunday, as part of our car balancing act. She needed to be in the city, but didn’t need the car. I had a semi-free Sunday (no NFL, not that I really care, but no college hockey either – which I like to imagine I care about) so we cruised on up 95. I must say, it was rather like the Spin and Marty show. You probably have to be able to buy Senior Movie tickets to know who they are. As I recall – there were ongoing ‘serial’ type stories, usually starring Mousketeers, to keep us little darlings pegged to Channel 2 in that sweetspot of time before dinner. Spin and Marty was the story of a young well-to-do-city boy (Master Martin, as he was addressed by his butler) who spends the summer at a boys dude ranch/camp, and becomes friends with Spin (played by Tim Considine.) We loved that show, and especially the idea that a nerdy city rich kid would bring his butler with him to camp. The butler had his own quarters, and provided major comic relief. It was kind of an insult to call another kid “Master Martin” in the 4th grade: it implied he was spoiled, stingy, and someone who was a prime target to be sent out on a snipe hunt. Anyway, Sunday I had my Master Martin moment --- all four hours of it – riding in the back seat of the Sophie-Mobile (our precious Cadillac, with a wheel base as big as Lake Erie) while Iris drove. It wasn’t that I was being “Master Martin-ish” in any excessive way, I was simply behind on my compiling of pictures for the annual White House News Photographers’s Assn. annual contest (“the Eyes of History”) and I needed some editing time. So, in that very 21st century manner, Iris drove, and I sat splayed out in the back seat, my black jacket over my head to shield he sun from the laptop screen, while a pair of portable hard drives helped me find all those pesky pictures from the last year (street scenes in Havana, pole vaulting in Beijing, the Obama clan having a “cat’s meow” time enjoying Election night, and Hillary, caught in a perfect moment of tromphe l’oiel at a Mexican café in Dallas.) which I needed to catalogue for the contest. The really tough part was sorting through and trying to figure [this is the hard part about being a photographer—being tough on yourself, and not just liking a picture because you enjoyed the moment you shot it] which were the pictures which go beyond that personal experience, and might even mean something to people who were NOT with you at the time of creation. Doing all that while listening to a terrific murder mystery on the cd player, and calculating just when would we pass by the Delaware Memorial Cracker Barrel (as opposed to the Cal Ripken one, or the McGuire Air Force Base one) to stop for breakfast. You see, it’s not quite as simple as “jump in the car, motor towards Gotham.”

I spent some of that drive trying not to collapse from fatigue on my laptop. For whatever reason, and I doubt we’ll ever really know, I kept having that “wake up at 3 a.m. and stare at the ceiling” intervention on Saturday night. At least twice that I know of. That’s the worst: when you know you’ve had one of those dreams, you wake up, and slowly go back to sleep, only to be greeted by the same damn dream again. And this is what it was all about. The scenario: I was with two other photographers in New York, and something newsy happened (dreams are so great that way.. it was all ‘generic’ no specific event) in California, so we raced with all our gear to the airport to grab the one plane which, after a six hour flight, would JUST get us landed in time, and let us cover the event. And of course the razzing thing for me was that, as sometimes happens in real life, I couldn’t find my camera bag. The plane was loading, my friends were laden with Domke bags and cameras. Me? I was trying to figure out W H E R E I’d left it. In which subway station or closet, or school room, or taxi trunk. The clock was ticking, and whatever speed I was trying to solve that problem, it was about two ticks slow of what was needed. I ended up standing at the gate, with a frustrating view of a plane backing out swirling within my insomniac soul. Well, it’s not as if we never actually leave a bag behind or a lens we’ve put down for a moment. In fact, way too often I’ll be just getting back to the car, putting things into the trunk, and nagged by that feeling that “it just feels a little bit light… a little under weight.” That’s when you realize that what you did was leave a bag (which equals the approximate weight of how ‘light’ the gear felt) leaning against a riser or in a campaign bus. There is nothing in this world that makes you feel as stupid as leaving a bag behind. Well, possibly locking the car keys in the car. But short of that, it’s all about your memory and your feeling of being in charge of your work, your life. In my dreams I kept thinking that I could still make that flight. But I didn’t know WHERE I’d left the bag. That’s the real issue in reality. Trying to remember where you left it: it should be obvious, but it’s not. You move around a good deal, you grab bags onto your shoulder, and dump them with regularity as you work your way through a shooting situation. But in the dream, it was futile. They say “resistance” is futile, but finding your lost camera bag in a dream, now that is seriously futile. Futility is the destroyer of good sleep. You awaken, you may or may not be sweaty or feel your heart racing. But it becomes so intense that fighting that feeling of futility, even as you sleep, can be tiring. I know that Sunday night, I felt almost spent. We photographers spend a lot of time figuring out what has happened with our luggage – both lost and recovered - over the years.

I still have a 40 year old Halliburton aluminum case – the big one – the “two suiter” which doesn’t carry suits. It still has the original plastic labels proclaiming “Time-Life / Continental Palace Saigon” from my very first trip to Viet Nam in 1970. Nowdays I carry my Speed Graphic kit in there, or lights, or, in the days when film was supreme and x-rays weren’t a problem, bags of Kodachrome. This week, in Texas, I brought the Speed Graphic with me in that Halliburton. This wonderfully indestructible case, which has been to 50 or 60 countries, and been in the company of Popes and Presidents, has been sprung out of shape, locks busted, dropped from baggage holds, and even claimed twice on insurance. But it keeps on ticking. Like me, it wants to keep flying, keep traveling, keep seeing the world, carrying my gear, and I’m sure if it were able to write me a note, it would simply say something like “please, don’t leave me behind.” I’m sure many of you have little tricks you use to keep track of things. Maybe you’ll share them with me. I guess I don’t mind missing some imagined event on the west coast, but I fear that someday I may unintentionally abandon my dear friend the Halli case. It just wouldn’t be fair. We’re just sayin’… David

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Oh What a Night!

cr: Johnny Bivera
The highlight of the evening was either Devin, the adorable Rasta bartender inundated with thirsty party goers (16 cases of Red Stripe, and only one bottle opener), or Jamaican Ambassador Johnson leading the overwhelming crowd in a rendition of “One Love”. Whichever your choice, the evening was a blistering success. (Note the warm adjective to describe a mighty cold evening in Washington DC. I only mention the weather because people were lined up around the block just waiting to get in. Or maybe the car traffic was lined up around the block but either way, you couldn’t get into the gallery and if you did, you couldn’t move.)

cr: Cameron Davidson

cr: Mark Wilson

What a crowd! cr: cuz Stephen Brown

DB with the Ambassador(no, he's not really that tiny!)

cr: Mark Wilson

The notables in attendance were too numerous to mention, (my cousin Chuck came from Arizona, and Karen and David came from New Jersey) but the most important note was that it was the first party I have ever been to in DC where no one was wearing a tie, and most of the guests looked so cool you would have thought they had flown in from New York, or even Jamaica. Wait, some actually did come from New York and Jamaica and that was wonderful—but even the Washingtonians dressed down and laid back for this ‘irie’ affair. In Jamaica you say ‘irie’ when everything is alright – it actually has nothing to do with me, but I like to think I am ‘Irie” as well.

Chris Murray and Ambassador Johnson. cr: Cameron Davidson
Yes, David launched his book, “Soul Rebel – An Intimate Portrait of Bob Marley” with a beautiful show at the Govinda Gallery in Georgetown. The show will remain up until March 28th and it is worth the cost of a cab ride to visit. (Come by plane, train, or bus, if you must – but come. It’s Georgetown so of course there is no obvious Metro stop.)

In the 70’s David spent some time in Jamaica on assignment, first for Time Magazine and then later for Rolling Stone (in Europe on the Exodus Tour), covering this new phenomenon of a music called Reggae and it’s emerging prince, Bob Marley. He shot about 400 memorable photos but once the assignment was finished, aside from the occasional magazine piece, like many of his stories, he forgot about the pictures. When Jordan Kai was a sophomore in college (having spent some weeks in New York cataloguing pictures David forgot he had), she noticed her friend had a big Marley poster of David’s work. Yes, it was probably a stolen frame but she was thrilled to see it and when David visited, she dragged him downstairs to see it. (as loving parents we’re not supposed to say ‘dragged’ but…) David couldn’t believe that kids who were born 5 or 6 years after Marley died would have such an interest in him or his music, but it turns out that Bob Marley transcends both age and geography. David took another look at the long forgotten photos and realized how precious they were. He brought them to Chris Murray, the energetic and talented long time owner of the Govinda Gallery and that was the beginning of this amazing project.

David returned to Jamaica many times in the early 80’s to do a country story for National Geographic. During these visits David met many other reggae artists who were producing the sound, and who were, if not great, at least colorful. And the most amazing thing was the way the music was created and distributed. For example, there was a popular tune called “Lesbian Connection”. This song was based on a nearly substantiated rumor that two lesbians had been rushed from Spanish Town (30 miles away) to the Kingston General Hospital because somehow, in their lovemaking, they had become connected and couldn’t be separated without help from a doctor. Don’t ask! Hundreds of people gathered outside the hospital. That was on a Monday. Tuesday, there was a picture in The Daily Gleaner, showing the huge crowds, drawn by the lure of a great rumor, outside the hospital. Wednesday, an enterprizing songster put the story down to words and music. The song was passed on to a barely known reggae musician, who refined music. Thursday, it was cut as a record in the studio, and the Friday it was on the streets and being played on the radio. So much for millions spent in a studio. Music was almost like another form of the Evening News, part of everyday life and culture. Nothing in the world of politics, business or show biz escaped the rapier voice of the musicians.

With CC pal Dr. Suzi Grant (note: Doctor!) cr: cuz Stephen Brown

With Harry Mattison, and Leslie Kossoff. cr: Cuz Stephen Brown

with photog John Ficara and daughter Francesca. cr: Cuz Stephen Brown
But by that time Bob Marley had passed (I always want to say passed what, when someone uses that adjective about death), and he was clearly established as the voice and the face of Reggae. Music continues to be a grand part of life in Jamaica, a place already rich with its own language and culture, not to mention a habit of winning a lot of Gold medals at the Olympics. But above all that remains the vision of Bob as the voice that brought it all into focus, a generation ago, and whose music remains today as fresh as ever. It’s been nearly 28 years since Bob’s passing, but last night, on 34th street, in Georgetown, he seemed to be alive as ever. We’re just sayin’... Iris

You can't imagine how fast 20 cases of Red Stripe can disappear

Signing a copy of Soul Rebel (Cr: Cuz Stephen Brown)


With Doug Myers, my ole Jamaican pal from those trips in the 80s

DB and IJB early, when we wondered if anyone would show up. cr: Mark Wilson

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Another One Bites the Dust

Isn’t the real problem (aside from arrogance, hubris, and an aggrandized sense of entitlement), that the tax system is so complicated no one can figure it out – not even the people who oversee it. Although admittedly, I was shocked when Timothy Geithner said that did his taxes himself and he used Turbo Tax to do it. It doesn’t pass the laugh test for me. When I got divorced, I had never even seen a tax form—my husband took care of that because he got 800’s on his SAT Board scores and I couldn’t add 2 and 2. I was living in my car, had never made more than $12,000 a year, but I knew I had to pay taxes—even then, I paid someone to figure out what I owed the government. It was so little I got audited, but that’s not the point. Although the auditor, Mr Epperidge, (I’ll never forget the name or attitude), seemed delighted that I had no income. Nevermind, we all know that we have to pay taxes -- it’s the American way. It’s what keeps the nation in business, allows us to make war and nuclear weapons, and yes, allows us to retire and be on Medicaid. Well, that was a leap from sad story to, too depressing for words.

Back to the latest appointee fallout. The new President says he screwed up. I love the “buck stops here”, but who really screwed up? I think I know. In their haste to fill positions, the powers that be looked at who made the most sense politically. Then they called those people and said, “would you like the job?” OK it doesn’t happen exactly that way in Washington. What happens is people ‘think’ they want to serve the public good. They want to be involved with an Administration that appears to want to make a difference. “Yes We Can”. Then the phone calling begins. People who want jobs call people who know the people who are selecting people that get jobs. The ‘wanter ‘ indicates an interest. The wantee’s indicate a possibility. Then the lobbying begins – it’s not paid lobbying but it is lobbying on a whole other level. The lobbyists may have a vested interest— like if their candidate gets the job they will have access to the White House. Or they might just want to help a friend. Or even more bizarre, they want to help the nation – this is always suspect, but it can happen – in our dreams.

Where are we? OK the people who are doing the selecting know who is interested. This is critical, because you never want to appoint someone who is not interested. We haven’t even begun to do any clearances or questioning about background. All we have is an indicated interest and experience that does or doesn’t match the job. What are we waiting for, the reality. Let’s talk about background checks. Given the Zoe Baird (nanny gate) controversies, we assume that the people who want jobs know that they have to pay taxes for household or personal help. In other words, even if a private business pays for your car, you have to pay taxes for your driver. In addition, you have to make sure both you and your husband or wife, has also respected the rules and paid whatever needs to be paid. Apparently, Hilda Solis’s husband didn’t get the memo. He had liens against his business and who knows what else. Geithner paid some taxes for some years but not others—I guess that Turbo tax was selective in the programs they designed. It doesn’t matter because he got confirmed—and that doesn’t pass the laugh test either, but what do I know.

The irony of all this is that Richardson, who the wantee’s knew had problems, would probably had made it through a confirmation because his problems were not tax related—they were just questions of ethics. Are you as tired of following all of this as I am? Then let’s wrap up with some questions.

How does a person get nominated before there is a background check? How does a person who wants to get nominated not realize that there will be a background check which might be embarrassing for the President? How, in these most sensitive times, do we select people who are that out of touch with the “change” the President talks about? I can’t answer those questions because it beyond my comprehension. I remember when, in the Clinton Administration I was approached about a Senate Confirmation. I wasn’t sure I would pass the test. “Well I guess I could get confirmed, because my campaign chickens weren’t illegal or immoral. And I don’t think you get eliminated for having a sense of humor. Besides, I have a letter from President Bush (1), that says what we did was in the best spirit of American politics”. It never occurred to me that I could get away with not paying taxes or having questionable ethics. But I guess I was also not a person who looked perfect on paper. And I will be forever grateful that when they looked at me on paper, it was never the measure of who I really was. We’re just sayin’....Iris

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Weight of Arrangements

What goes around, comes around, and in the world of White House photo-ops, while there should be more wiggle room for inventiveness, the weight of arrangements often means that events years apart look quite alike. Yesterday, which arguably was the most difficult day for the new Administration, with the declinations of two appointees because of tax issues, turned into a case in point. I have done a number of those events. A small classroom in a conveniently located school is commandeered by the White House (or a candidate's) advance staff for a drop by, usually to herald the incumbent’s serious commitment to reforming education, and giving our kids a better learning environment. Who could argue with those goals? Other than the possible sticking point of Federal vs. State aid and responsibility (I think “No Child Left Behind” pretty much proves my point – in that even Republican candidates ran away from it as fast as they could last year) we all want not only our own kids, but the kids next door to be well educated, and competitive in the newly challenging world we face. So, if you’re the Advance person (I know this is Iris’ speciality but I’ll give it a go) you find a school, a class, a room, put one or two small chairs in the center of what will be a reading group, and make ready for the VIPS to arrive. Yesterday the President and First Lady dropped in at a magnet school in the District. There was some amusing banter with the kids – and of course one of the little guys said he wants to be President some day, too. And as Art Linkletter reminded us a generation ago, you don’t have to brief the kids. They bring their own moxie to the event. You couldn’t have planned it any better. But last night, while I passed the muted TV, I was struck by an almost haunting moment. Without the banter, the moment seemed to slide back in history, and looked remarkably like that early morning classroom situation in September of 2001, when President Bush was reading “My Pet Goat” to some children, at the moment he was informed about the World Trade Center attacks by Andy Card. I don’t think we should necessarily retire those kind of events from the Presidential Advance filing box of tricks, but sometimes there are sublime undercurrents which resonate with a viewer, though perhaps as a photographer, I might be overly sensative.

What is perhaps more interesting is the fact that if you had just given the daily schedule a quick look, and seen that the main ‘event to cover’ of the day was a visit to a primary school, you might have wondered if it would be worthwhile. I mean, a school visit isn’t a torpedo factory or a visually striking national park. But therein lies one of the truths of good photography. You just never know when that good picture will pop up. We like to think we can suss out when something will be a photo-rich environment or when it will be a dog. But most of those guesses tend to be more wrong than right. The picture from yesterday’s education event, which might be considered taken out of context of interaction with the little tykes, was certainly not the picture either the White House or the Photographer thought they’d end up with when the motorcade left the White House grounds.

But good photography is about paying attention, and being able to react to those little moments which are subtly contained, beyond the obvious. It’s a good photograph taken by Reuters photographer Larry Downing, a terrific shooter and long time DC veteran, a guy that very little gets by. Larry is always looking, always trying to find that moment that wasn’t supposed to happen. The surprise. It’s what we all strive for in this business, and yet it remains elusive. But the nice thing about it is, when you see it, you know it. So don’t be so quick to pooh-pooh a visit to an old folks home or a trip to the recycling center. You just never know when a good picture might find its way through the noise, and end up on your front page. We’re just sayin’…. David

Monday, February 02, 2009

New Rules


A highly predictable Komodo Dragon
There are many new rules at US Airways. “It costs $17.00 to check a bag,” the embarrassed fight checker inner told me. “You have got to be kidding,” I replied because really, what else was there to say. Unfortunately, he was not kidding and I reluctantly turned over me credit card. “I’ll take it inside”, he said. “Then it will only cost you $15.” I think I must have said “thank you, but you’re kidding,” again. But when I turned and spied the additional information, I was too blind with rage to remember anything. The new cost for one bags is $17, two is $27 and three is $102. Yes, $102. That sounds a bit excessive,” I said, “You might as well buy the plane.” “I wish I could” he said.

After we got through security (not easy because in addition to removing shoes, taking off coats, taking computers out of bags, change out of pockets, this group determined that we had to run naked around the magnetometer three times—OK I’m exaggerating but not much), we then proceeded, in an orderly fashion, to gate B6. Once there we were informed that, if you didn’t pay the $17 to check baggage, you would have to gate check anything you couldn’t eat in one sitting (over 22 inches). “I know it used to be 26 inches” she explained, “But it’s a weight vs oil issue.”

What oil issue? What weight issue? Why don’t they weigh the people instead of the bags and just have bigger people pay a charge. Oh, and how come when oil process went up so did the cost of airfare but when it came down—the airlines didn’t lower their prices.

Anyway, she was at a loss and said that because it was Feb 1 and it was kind of a surprise New Rule—she wouldn’t charge for putting the bags below. However, she went on with her blabbing about how wonderful the airline was and how gracious they were even to fly us from one destination to the other. It was a no-win and I didn’t pursue the conversation. It was kind of like having a conversation with the idiots from Wall Street who insisted that the only way they could keep those ‘talented’ people who ran the firms into the ground, and their ‘brand’ was to pay them millions of dollars in bonuses. It’s impossible to argue with the ridiculous because you cannot win an argument when all the information is based on false presumption and lies. They count on the inquirer to throw their hands up in defeat or frustration and then they just maintain the status quo.

But this is not what I wanted to blog about. Over the weekend I was at a Public Diplomacy retreat where the goal was to find a way to for the government to actually implement a public diplomacy operation. It was kind of a lions and tigers and bears event on two levels. First of all, it was at White Oaks, the Howard Gilman retreat where they actually have cheetahs and zebras and antelopes (and a few tigers). We took a tour of the jungle beasts before the conference and then faced the human wildlife.

Public diplomacy is not public relations—although there is an element of the latter in the former. Long and complex definition short and for our purposes --It is people to people diplomacy with the goal being to meet American foreign policy goals or improve relations with the rest of the world. You may have noticed that the US has not won any international popularity contests of late. After two 24/7 days. Tara, one of the smartest and most articulate people I know, suggested the way we succeed at making the system work is to weave public diplomacy into the fabric of American Political life. In other words, we need to think about the way we relate to the rest of the world in everything we do—that includes all the foreign policy decisions we make.

It is unclear what will come of our efforts but something surely needs to be done to repair our relationships around the world both in and out of government. I think that part of the problem is that the diplomats who have the power in the State Department put a greater value on political diplomacy than on public diplomacy and that now they are having a crisis in judgment, capability and credibility because what they have learned over the last eight years is that public diplomacy is certainly of equal value if not even more valuable.

Oh and by the way, at the end of the conference an old friend said that of all the wildlife he encountered, I remained the most unpredictable. Wasn’t that a great compliment? We're just sayin'...Iris

Sunday, February 01, 2009

just a Week away

I'm sure anyone within the sound of my voice (and it has been known to carry) already knows that I have a photographic exhibit starting next Friday Feb. 6th at the Govinda Gallery in Washington -- as well as Publication date (Feb. 6th!) of the new book SOUL REBEL (here is a remarkably convenient link to Amazon.com ) ..but yesterday we picked up the "slit Camera" picture.. 7 feet wide by about 3 feet deep.. and it was so impressive to see a picture from 33 years ago finally printed in a way that makes you say "WOW!!".. Shout out to David Adamson and his great team at Adamson Editions who have definately figured out how to print photographs.

The opening is 6-9pm next Friday, and if you're anywhere near DC, come have a glass of wine and check it out...

here is a little video on yesterdays Print Shop Adventure

video


Govinda Gallery
1227 34th st. NW
(near N St.)
Washington DC
202 333-1180

copies of SOUL REBEL will be available for sale

Cool Runnins'....

0
the first supply of books arrived today at the Gallery
What an experience this has been. My first ever book (42 years in this business!) came out this week and my first actual show (if you don’t count the lobby of the Colorado College student center.. which I guess you COULD count, but since it was an academic atmosphere and not a “wow, let’s try and sell some prints” atmosphere, I think I sort of wouldn’t count it) of photographs will open next Friday at the Govinda Gallery in Washington DC. It’s one of those amusing stories which seems pretty unlikely, and the closer you get to D-Day, the more unlikely it seems. Regular readers of the blob will know that I had, some 33 years ago, spent time in Jamaica doing a story on the then new (to us) phenomenon of Reggae. We all had heard of Calypso: there wasn’t a kid in the U.S. who spent the decade of the 60s without at least once crying out – probably in the 9th grade gym shower area – “Day – OH!” We really didn’t know what the hell it meant, since none of us had ever loaded bananas onto a Southhampton bound cargo ship, and other than Mr. Bigler, the 8th grade History teacher who wrote down every infraction of school rules that each student committed, neither did we have a clue what a “tally-man” was (as in “Come Mr. Tally Man, Tally me’ bananas...”) So, OK, Calypso was vaguely known, even in Utah. But Reggae,. and the Rastafarian beliefs of many of the most prominent Reggae singers, remained something of a mystery. And remember, this was still decades before you could hope onto your PC, check, out Wikipedia and get at least a cursory understanding of what it was. So, I went with a TIME reporter to Jamaica, and spent a week meeting, interviewing, and photographing many of the better known Reggae artists. That included Bob Marley and the Wailers. We met at his home – Tuff Gong – a complex of several houses, on Hope Road in Kingston. He could not have been more welcoming. We stayed for a couple of hours, and talked about everything from politics, to music, to the culture and “street scene” in Kingston. Near the end of our rendezvous, I asked Bob to grab a guitar, and run past one of my cameras. It was an old Canon P body, the shutter of which has died an early death. So rather than throw it all away, I turned it into a “slit” camera. Where the shutter had been, I put two pieces of black cardboard, just a fraction of a millimeter apart, creating a tiny slit through which a part of an image could pass. This camera was a crude, and I mean very crude, imitation of a race-track finish line camera... the kind that tells you who won the race, and by how much. Essentially, to work, the film must pass by the slit. It doesn’t actually expose it so much as grab the passing image of the subject (you have to have the subject go at a high rate of speed in the opposite direction of the film – the lens turns everything around – and you try and match subject speed to film speed, and lay that image on the film. The better you do it, the sharper the image. But trust me, it seldom works. Even if you have created a fancy electroincally controlled one (like Bill Frakes used to take an amazing picture of Marion Jones at the ... was it 2004 Olympics.. or perhaps 2000 in Sydney.) Mine was much more basic, and I kept asking Bob to Run that way -->... he kept obliging me, and in the end though he probably thought me nuts, ran across in front of my camera nearly a dozen times. From that I got 3 or 4 images that were acceptable. They become very long – two or three, or sometimes four times longer than a single 35mm frame – and then present minor problems in finding scanners that will handle that long a piece of film. But it creates a very particular look and in the show of pictures which we put together for the book and the exhibit this week, there is a really wonderful rendition of that picture: 7’ long, and almost 3 feet high, it really is a PIECE of art. And large like this, it takes on a very different look than simply looking at an 8x10 that you can hold in your hand.


Four years ago, when Jordan was starting Sophomore year at Emerson, on one of our first visits to school in the fall, she excitedly led me down to a friends room in the dorm. And there, on the wall, was a poster of Bob Marley, standing in the yard at Tuff Gong with his guitar. I knew that picture. Jordan, who’d spent that summer working at Contact Press Images in New York, sorting my photographs, knew immediately that it was one of mine: she had spend time organizing the Marley prints. I’m not really sure if the poster company actually licensed that picture from one of our agents, or perhaps just ‘appropriated’ it from a magazine publication.

Chris with a print of Bob's eyes...
But more than those details, I was moved by the fact that school kids, all born some 5 years after Bob had died, still felt he was one of their heroes, and someone whose picture, whose image and spirit, they wanted in their own private space. When I thought about that, I realized it was time to do a book.

But I still wasn’t sure I had enough for a book (though I also travelled with the band in 1977 for Rolling Stone on their European tour.) I went to see Chris Murray at Govinda, whose first reaction was “where have you been hiding these?

the 7 foot print, waiting to travel to G'town
Well, they weren’t hidden: they were just waiting for a little inspiration. Now, having found that inspiraton, the pictures are fairly just jumpin’ for the walls. A nice big stack of books arrived today at the Gallery. I have been there twice this week to put my penciled in name on the prints. And today we went to see what the big slit-camera print looks like. It kind of looks a little blurry which isnt’ even a little surprising. But the amazing thing is that if you lower your view to be very close to the plane of the image and look at Bob, all of a sudden he is normally proportioned, a case of a camera making something look unnatural, and then minutes later, by changing your perspective, you nearly return it to a normal action shot. David Adamson of Adamson Editions and his crew deserve a shout-out for making the prints look so great. They ll all be on the wall by Wednesday. Pencil in next Friday if you’re going to be in Washington...

Govinda Gallery
1227 34th ST NW
between Prospect and N streets.

From 6 till 9, and as they say in Ohio the day of he election... Vote Early & Often!
We;re just sayin'..... David

David Burnett
703-626-1696