Thursday, April 29, 2010

Organic Marriages

We heard about another marital breakup today.  This news seems to be a common feature of our stage of life. To our own surprise, we woke up one metaphorical morning recently to find our marriage a much more complicated thing than we ever thought it could be.  We were the "perfect" couple, or so we were frequently told.  Maybe that was wishful thinking on someone's part, that there really is such a thing, like unicorns or great white whales.  The news would appear to be bleak, according to current figures.

We have come to learn that marriage is not a thing apart from us in which we dwell, but a living entity that demands the same nurturing, tending, and attention that a garden does in order to thrive and produce.  Leave a garden untended, and the weeds take over, the flowers go to seed, the lettuce turns bitter.  Our marriage is a good one, twenty years in the making, but we just figured out the garden analogy.  The friend of ours who just let us know his marriage ended mentioned that he and his partner had become roommates.  We'd heard that same line in the movie "Date Night."  It's an easy role to fall into.  Comfort is a great thing, but it can easily morph into numbness.   We've been making the extra effort to tend not only each other, but ourselves, even consulting a professional.  It's weeding time.

We're planting our garden and cleaning up from a stormy winter.  We're tending things outside and in.  We fell in love over 20 years ago for reasons we've recently decided to uncover and bring fully back to life, and even finding new reasons. It's spring.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A New Book

Three years ago, I came across a photograph I made  in Greece of olives on a branch.  It wasn't an image that would stand out, but it led me to take a new look at a body of work and gave me an idea for a new book.

I spent the next year editing images from dozens of trips to the country Andrea and I have been traveling to for 25 years.  Our kids have been to Greece so often that when they were younger they thought they were Greek.

My first book The Greek File / Images From a Mythic Land was published by Rizzoli in 2001 and sold well, considering it was a personal set of images done in black and white.  At the time, publishers told me that the market for a book like The Greek File was miniscule -- despite the fact that the country draws over 11 million tourists a year.   

My new book,  Hellas Photographs of Modern Greece will be published in Fall 2010 by Hudson Hills Press.  The introduction was written by Louis deBernieres, whose books include Captain Corelli's Mandolin and our favorite, Birds Without Wings.  It's common in the summer for our family to be buried reading on a quiet beach in the Aegean and usually there's one or two of deBernieres' books among the pile we carry. 

Book ideas are something I think about constantly, but most ideas briefly sizzle then fizzle for one reason or another.  For Hellas, it wasn't until Joanna Hurley, a book agent and packager, introduced me to David Skolkin, a book designer from Santa Fe, that the project became concrete.

David, Joanna, and Leslie Van Breene from Hudson Hills Press, the publisher, came to Bedford two weeks ago to discuss, review, edit and begin to sequence the images.  The advice of all three melded beautifully with my original concept for Hellas.  

Watching David pair images on the viewing board in our studio was magical -- it was like watching a musical arranger work with a score.  Moving small prints around and reviewing the flow beginning to end over and over for 8 hours was joy for me.  deBernieres, without prompting, wrote an introduction about how Greece  endured several horrendous decades of world war, civil war, military dictatorships and other crises yet went from a third world country into a proud member of the EU.  This was precisely what the book was for me and as deBernieres points out, many of the people I photographed had lived through the tumultuous birth of modern Greece.

All this effort has laid the groundwork for what will be a beautifully produced volume that started with a somewhat inconsequential image but we hope will become a substanative document of a place our whole family loves.

We'll post updates on the progress of the book as well as how you can pre-order a copy along with a one of a series of limited edition print over the next few weeks.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Advice For Parents of HS Juniors

It’s April.  By now, most high school seniors are wearing sweatpants emblazoned with the name of their future alma mater.  Juniors are sweating through their first stabs at the SATs or ACTs.  Their parents of both are sweating over the thought of paying for all those sweatpants, sweatshirts and tuitions.

We’re happily finished with our first run through the college applications gauntlet.  On December 10th, thanks to Early Decision, Zander became a Cornellian, class of 2014.

Here’s a short list of what we learned, and what can help you as you enter this fraught time.

1. You will drive yourselves crazy, no matter how many times people tell you it’s all going 
to work out fine.  We remember going to sleep obsessing and waking up still swirling.  To talk 
me down, we’d call friends who had a kid a year ahead of ours.  They’d tell us:  RELAX!  
It all works out in the end.  Even a "wrong" decision is remediable.  Transfers are fairly common!

2.  Start by looking at schools not too far from home just as practice. With every visit, you 

and your child learn something about what you'd like and what you'd not like in a school.  
You start to trust your response to a place.  Places you are sure you won't like can often 
surprise you.  Places you expect to love, you may not feel anything for. 

3.  Have your guidance counselor come up a with a list of possibilities based on your 

child’s profile.  That less subjective list is one you can cross reference against  your own 

4.  Is there a Naviance program that your school subscribes to?  It is an amazing search 

engine.  You answer a long series of questions and it gives you a list of matching schools.  
Then you can plot your child on their acceptance graph to see how he/she stacks up.  It 
shows how other students from your school did in applying to a certain school, and what 
kind of profile they had.

5.  If the SATs are not a strength for your kid, consider the ACTs with writing.  It's an easier 

test for many, and most of the schools, including the top ones, accept it interchangeably 
now.  One of the benefits is you don't have to take a math SAT2, as it works as an 
achievement test.

6.  One of the things they tell you when you go to the various lectures they give to junior 

and senior parents:  don't base your judgement of a school on what it was like when you 
were in high school.  That's a really long time ago!!

7.  Decisions made as a junior can be turned over once they’re well into their senior year. 

That maturation that happened over the year can yield a whole different set of responses.

8. Every one says it so it must be true, that if your child don't get into a place, he/she didn't 

belong there.  They end up quickly forgetting that they ever did want to go there, and 
embraces the school that chooses him.

9. It's early April.  You have until next November to get applications in, and that's for early 

decision.  Keep moving towards the prize, but don't pressure yourselves to come up with a 
definite list yet.  It really has to evolve. 

10.  Early Decision.  It pressures you in the Fall, but boy is it nice to be done with the 
process by mid December.  You also save money by not sending out a million applications!  
If you don't get in,  you kid can have those other applications ready to go.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

On Tour with Hasselblad and RETV

I was recently asked by Resource TV and Magazine
to demonstrate the newest Hasselblad camera, the H4D-40 and
The Broncolor Scoro lighting system on the NYC leg of their
Stage Three Tour at Milk Studios. 
Resource produced a video of the event which
you can view here.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Getting Personal on Shoots

Personal photographs come from a lot of places.

Most of the images in my new book (Hellas, Photographs of Modern Greece / Hudson Hills Press) came from shoots done over a 15 year period for Conde Nast Traveler.  On a commercial or editorial shoot, I'm always looking for photographs to make for myself--to complete or continue a body of portfolios that are often, ongoing, life long projects.

On a shoot I did this week for Ralph Lauren Home, I was fascinated by a crystal skull that Ralph Lauren offers.  Natalie Han, the Art Director, John Davison, the Stylist, and I collaborated on a small still life trying to make the skull work but in the end decided to use something else.

It's a great object.  Someone on the shoot said it looked like something a wealthy rock star would own.  It reminded me of a Robert Mapplethorpe self-portrait done shortly before he died as well as still lifes of his and Irving Penn's.  It reminded me of a lot of things.   After we were done with the photograph we needed to make, I decided to make the skull mine.  It might work with a series of images I'm making called Flesh+Bones.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Our Favorite Frame

We found this frame at a flea market in Paris a few years ago.   It's made of white pine and was unpainted when we bought it.  We added a few coats of white high gloss Schreuder Paint -- a paint we first noticed on the doors in Santorini.

A frame should neutralize the surrounding area and highlight the image. The wide face, rounded profile and raised moulding of this frame is a simple design but adds great dimension to a photograph.
We've just gotten a router and miter saw to see if we can build ones in various sizes using this frame as a template.  

We've collected frames for years-- loading up the car with finds at yard sales often paying as little as a dollar each.  We'll then sand and paint them in a uniformed color and hang them in a salon style.  It's a wonderfully inexpensive and beautiful way to display art that we'll talk about soon.  

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Another Medium

With three children, we've recorded hours and hours of video over the last 18 years.   We only viewed it in bits until Andrea came up with a great idea.

When each of the kids turned 13, she  painstakingly edited the best clips from from the many hours compiled.  She then took those clips to the daughter of a friend who had editing experience (her dad's a director so she grew up with cameras, sound and editing tools around her).

With the addition of music (one of Andrea's many passions), well-edited sequencing and pacing, the resulting 20 minute DVDs are prized parts of the family history which we now view regularly and the kids continue to be proud of.  While it did take a lot of time and commitment to cull the clips, the hours of laughing and tears that came from Andrea as she poured through the tapes was a bonus.

I recently got Apple's I-movie and started shooting video clips with my Leica D-Lux 4.  This compact camera fits into my pocket and has allowed me to not only take stills but to record reasonably good quality video.  Granted, I'd not use the Leica on a commercial shoot but having this small camera with me allows me to make images I'd otherwise not have gotten.

Last week, on a warm spring evening, Simon and I made a short video out on our lawn.  We developed a story extemporaneously and shot ten minutes of video that was edited in a few hours over a weekend on I-movie.  You can watch the video called Boy and Bird, here.

I'm shooting video for various reasons--to keep documenting my family and for professional purposes.    The successful introduction this week of the I-pad and Conde Nast's committment to producing online editions of several of its titles is proof of a publishing revolution in progress.  Wired Magazine and Adobe recently produced a short film about the changing landscape of publishing.  It's exciting, eye-opening, and impetus to keep me working with video.