Wrrphoto's Blog

September 6, 2011


Filed under: Uncategorized — WRRPhoto @ 5:44 AM

So the news I wanted to announce in my last post is official and I can talk about it:

The Harry Ransom Center (http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/) has purchased 24 prints from my “A Mirror Will Suffice” series for their permanent collection!

Nathan Huf - From the series "A Mirror Will Suffice"

I am incredibly excited and honored. The Harry Ransom Center boasts an impressive collection that includes the first photograph (yes, the FIRST photograph!) as well as the Magnum archive. To know that my images will be in the same collection as those is humbling. It is perhaps extra exciting for me as I am a 3rd generation Longhorn working on his 3rd degree from the University of Texas, and the HRC is located on its campus. My deepest thanks go to David Coleman for appreciating and believing in my work enough to make it a part of the permanent collection.

So that’s my news! Actually, the news is more important than simply being an acquisition. I have struggled mightily for the past year or so with what I wanted to be doing as a photographer. I would constantly think of projects only to dissect them and then eliminate them before ever making an image. My criteria was so harsh that I am pretty sure I would have never done another project had I continued along that path. I also struggled with the financial aspects of photography as my natural inclination is to try and find a way to support my family with my passion. This was problematic as the type of images I enjoy creating most are often the least rewarded financially. The images that receive the greatest rewards are usually among the least interesting to me, and I didn’t want to make tons of images that were unrelated to my love of the art. In other words, I let myself get confused about photography for all of the wrong reasons.

So I was stuck and found myself completely frozen and unable to make images of ANY type. This led me to decide in late May that I was going to put the camera down, focus on my comprehensive exams, and if I never made another image again then so be it! I went the entire summer without taking a single photograph…

Then I started printing for this HRC sale. It was like I had shed all of the issues that had plagued me only months before. As I stared at the computer screen looking into Nathan’s life, I was reminded of everything that I love about photography. With each print and reprint I gained clarity into exactly what I wanted to get out of photography. When the final print was complete my passion was renewed and my vision restored. I picked up my camera again and returned to the world…

I am once again doing the type of work I love, for all of the right reasons. I no longer subject projects to an unreasonable criteria, and rather open myself to exploring anything that is of interest to me. I chase my curiosity and seek out stories that will shed light on someone’s hardship or success, their joys and their sorrows. In short, I am once again in love with the world and communicating in the way I know best, through a viewfinder.

As such, I will regularly post to this blog (we’ve heard this before right?), but not in such a way as will be concerned with promotion. Rather, I will post images (and on occasion text) that I love, and will use this as a visual diary of sorts. Keep me honest though…let me know when I’m slacking! After all, I appreciate that my work sits in a collection with the Magnum archive, but I have a long way to go before I feel I deserve to be there…

September 3, 2011


Filed under: Uncategorized — WRRPhoto @ 10:38 PM

After I said I was turning this into a photo blog I actually went through a bit of an existential crisis as a photographer and had to step away for awhile. I also was in the midst of my comprehensive exams and was a bit overwhelmed. That said the past week has been illuminating for me and I am finally clear as to what I want to do and how. I do have some exciting news that I cannot announce until Monday, but will do so then! In the meantime, this week was doubly cool as I was featured TWICE! The first was on Eric Kim’ Street Photography blog, which can be found here:


And secondly was named photographer of the day by Juergen Buergin on Google+:


Will get some photos up over the weekend as well as some thoughts on some projects I am starting!

April 14, 2011

Making photos…

Filed under: Uncategorized — WRRPhoto @ 4:45 AM

SO I haven’t TOTALLY abandoned this! That said, it served no real purpose, so I’ll be switching it to a photo blog (mostly) in the coming weeks. Been shooting a ton of film lately, so I need to scan!

November 22, 2010

Photographer of the Week – Ariel Zambelich

Filed under: Uncategorized — WRRPhoto @ 5:37 AM

PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE WEEK! Haven’t done this in awhile, but there are far too many amazing image makers out there to not do this. In my last post I recapped previous Photographers of the Week (and all are worth checking out to see what they’re onto now…), and this week will be the first Photographer of the Week since the blog reboot. So without further ado, say hello to



Ariel Zambelich

Ok…so Ariel isn’t in the photo, but she took it alright?!?!

Tent City

Tent City

I first met Ariel this past March at SXSW (For those unfamiliar SXSW is South by Southwest, one of the largest music festivals in the U.S. and happens to be in Austin), and can say she is without question a severely cool lady. Apparently Ariel and

I went to Eddie Adams together (Barnstorm XXI), however for whatever reason we didn’t bump into each other at that time. That said, I was glad we were able to hang out because I absolutely love the work this woman produces! Since

graduating from San Francisco State University she has worked as a staff photographer for both The Stockton Record and 209Vibe, as well as a group of amazing publications ranging from The Wall Street Journal to The FADER.

Tent City

Tent City

Tent City

Tent City

As cool as her work for publications is, its her personal work that gets me the most. Just before meeting Ariel I went to her website and came across “father”, a series of images she did on her father as he passed away. I lost my father to cancer

nearly 9 years ago, and viewing her images brought a flood of emotions back to me that I was unprepared for. I didn’t know I was a photographer when my father was ill, but Ariel’s images made me wish I was. I won’t post any images here as

you really need to see the whole story to get the full power of the images.

Another story worth specific mention is “i’ll be a beautiful girl“. i’ll be a beautiful girl is the story of Elena a 54 year old male transitioning to life as a female. The images offer insight into what is obviously a difficult transition, yet they also convey a beautiful happiness that only comes with the realization that you have become who you always thought yourself to be. It takes a great deal of compassion and maturity to tell this story in a way that is not sensationalist nor rife with visual cliches. Kudos to Ariel for bringing this story to light in a unique and heartwarming manner.

beautiful girl

beautiful girl

beautiful girl

beautiful girl

beautiful girl

beautiful girl

So there you go…Ariel Zambelich, this week’s photographer of the week! I personally think she is an amazing talent and one which I look forward to seeing more from. Let us both know what you think!



November 6, 2010

Oh wow…it’s been a minute!

Filed under: Uncategorized — WRRPhoto @ 3:42 AM

SO the past few months have been an up and down roller coaster of madness for me. Some good, some bad, but all crazy! In any case, this put me in the position of not having much time to update this blog. That said…


In the coming days I will revive my photographer of the week section, as well as introduce Speaking Vision (or some other name), which will be a mixture of interviews with both established, GREAT photographers, as well as some up and comers that I think have what it takes to find greatness. I’m excited about it and hope it turns out well! As for the photographer of the week section, if you missed my earlier choices, have a look at Shiho Fukada, Matt Eich, John Francis Peters, Dorothy Hong, and Matt Lutton. You can also check ME out if you like!

I’ll also show some images from current projects and will share some exciting updates! So keep your eyes open…this blog is about to get even better!

August 17, 2010

Paolo Pellegrin’s STORM

Filed under: Uncategorized — WRRPhoto @ 11:33 PM

Welcome back! As some of you know I have been out of commission for most of the summer and am just now getting back behind the lens and back into the swing of things. I am working on a few new projects, and will start posting photos from them in the near future. It’s been a crazy summer, but some good has come of it as well. To begin with, I was a finalist in the Celebrity/Editorial category of PDN Magazine’s Faces contest, and two of my UT Football images were published in their July issue. I have also been placed in the permanent collection of another museum, and once receipt of the images into the collection is finalized I will post more details. Finally, I have booked my first solo show here in Austin! It will be in November, and as soon as the dates are finalized I will post more information. But enough about me, let’s get to some blogging!

As I am still generating new content of my own I figured it best to do a short review of a new book by my favorite photographer period, Mr. Paolo Pellegrin of Magnum Photos. Now, I am no critic, nor do I play one on TV, so keep in mind this is my impression of what I see. I will from time to time try and do brief reviews of books put out by some of my favorite photographers, and this is the first.

Paolo was the photographer whose work I saw and fell in love with almost immediately after picking up a camera. More importantly it had a powerful effect on me, and altered what I though was possible with a camera. His work seems to speak to the heart first, and then trickles its way through your body until finally being realized in your mind. His book As I Was Dying is and has been my favorite photo book of all time. For those unfamiliar, I highly recommend checking out his work on the Magnum Website (here). Paolo is a contract photographer for Newsweek, and has won virtually every award possible for a photographer from the Robert Capa to an incredible 8 first place finishes in a variety of categories at POYi. His resume is unrivaled and the accolades well deserved.

Known primarily as a conflict/reportage photographer, Poalo’s new book STORM is an exhilarating departure from his work of the past. STORM is the title of this year’s Fashion Magazine put out by Magnum Photos. Each year Magnum selects one of their own to photograph the Fashion Magazine in a way that is uniquely and personally their own. Past photographers to tackle the Fashion Magazine include Martin Parr, Lise Sarfati, and Alec Soth. For this year’s issue they selected Paolo, and I am thrilled with the outcome.



Before I continue further, all photos used in this post are copyright of Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum Photos. Please do not use them without being granted proper permission. If you want more of this awesomeness please visit Paolo’s portfolio page here.

STORM is the single most interesting piece of fashion work I have seen to date. The images range from fashion to landscapes to nudes and portraits. In order to create such a diverse group of images, Pellegrin traveled around the world, from New York to Tokyo to Iceland. Pellegrin’s images are infused with the romantic quality of a poet, yet are melancholy at the same time. This results in a powerful emotional response to the images, a response that can often times be addicting!


It is this very quality that has at times brought criticism to Pellegrin’s work, however I feel the criticism is unfounded. I have heard some critics claim that subjects such as war and death should not be treated as such, and I could not disagree more. To begin with, we have been so over-saturated with typical war images that at this point they fail to move anyone other than photographers. Pellegrin’s images stand out and therefore gain a salience not found in other photographers work. More importantly, people are flat out missing the point. Pellegrin is trying to tell the world something with his work, yet he does not come straight out and say it. Rather he gives you clues, presents you with images that cause you to ask questions, rather than present you with neatly packaged answers. These questions lead you to seek your own answers, and often lead you to surprising revelations. He has done this his entire career, and in doing so has shown us that there indeed is beauty in the horrible events that befall humanity, and that an image of someone dying does not have to be a celebration of the event that took that persons life, but rather a celebration of that individual’s spirit…a spirit that resides in each of us. He simultaneously cautions us about our own nature, revealing the horrible things that we do to ourselves, others, and our environment.

So what does this have to do with fashion? Everything. As I mentioned, Fashion Magazine is supposed to be handled in a uniquely individual manner, and Pellegrin has taken his message and brought it to fashion.


The title STORM is meant to signify transition, and the metaphor is carried throughout the book. In general it is meant to signify the transition humanity is going through, although it is also used with the models themselves, who gradually gain more clothing as the book goes on. There is also amazing transition throughout the book, as we move from powerful waterfalls to the night skyline of Tokyo to serene, almost haunting, tree lines viewed from below at night. Even the paper transitions as we move from a more thick stock to an almost rice paper for a series of eerie portraits and then back to thicker stock.


However the most prominent message of transition appears to be Pellegrin again whispering to us that we should be aware of something. This time it is our effect on our environment. Much of the transition in the book is from graceful, stunning, untouched landscapes to equally stunning, entirely manmade cityscapes. Pellegrin shows us our human tendency to conquer (or annihilate)  nature and continue our sprawl by sublimating nature along the way. It leaves one with a sense of maybe not having done enough for our dear mother Earth, yet at the same time gives us hope that we still have time to do something. This idea is reinforced by the essays included in the book authored by those in the world of fashion who are speaking up for environmentally sustainable or responsible methods. Portraits of such individuals are also interspersed throughout the book. The manner in which Pellegrin chooses to speak to us is poetic, eloquent, and a welcome repose from the blunt imagery often favored (such as Steven Meisel’s recent Vogue Italia spread titled “Water & Oil”..and I like Meisel most of the time!) in magazines today.

In summary, STORM is a visually stunning journey into fashion, the environment, and our own ideas of personal responsibility. Quite a hefty achievement for a “fashion magazine”. He is an artist in the highest sense of the word, and I for one hope he continues to find innovative ways of letting us in on his message.




May 6, 2010

Olympus PEN your story! $5,000 and a camera!

Filed under: Uncategorized — WRRPhoto @ 5:02 PM

So if you haven’t already heard, Olympus is giving away $5,000 and a E-PL1 camera system to 6 finalists and a trip to New York and the 2010 U.S. Open and have there video shown on a giant video board! What do you have to do to enter? Simple, just make a short video saying what you would do with the prize and submit! I spoke with Olympus, and you do not have to film your entry video with an Olympus camera…get your flip out or whatever works and start shooting! Deadline is June 6th, details can be found here:


and official rules can be found here:


I look forward to seeing what we all come up with…good luck everyone!

April 2, 2010

FotoFest Meeting Place Day 4 and Open Artists Night…Part two

Filed under: Uncategorized — WRRPhoto @ 1:53 AM

So after a stellar Day Three, and getting a hug from the badassery known as Anne Tucker I got a few minutes to rest before we had open artists night. This was the evening of Day Three, and was an odd experience to say the least. Rather than go home I hung out with some of the other photographers there and tried to collect my thoughts. The first thing I had to do was pull myself together. I was exhausted and elated, but needed to remind myself that I have not even begun my journey as a photographer at this point, and need to work even harder on my images when I get home. Waiting around looks a bit like this at Fotofest:

Girl Waiting

Girl Waiting

And this:

Guy Waiting

Guy Waiting

Some need cigarettes to wait:

Smoke on

Smoke on

And of course the obligatory down the hall shot:

It's a hall

It's a hall

Once they said thing were ready we all stumbled in and set up our work.



Then it just got strange as we all stood behind our tables as people streamed in and would every once in awhile stop to look:



FYI- Not an uncommon reaction to my work!

We each had approximately 4 feet of space, and so we all shoved as much of our stuff into that space as possible. What really sucked for me was that my larger prints had taken quite a beating from the reviewing and were a bit under the weather for this event. Anyway, people would stream on by and once in awhile stop and you would go into a lovely description about your work and then they would move on. Except in my case. I had two people leave my table crying. Add that to the 2 reviewers who ended up crying and I think I gained a reputation as the sad documentary guy…That and the guy with the new Olympus camera. Funny enough all week long I had nearly as many people ask about my camera (the E-P2) as I did my work, and since I had it sitting on my table a ton of the public asked as well. This could be interpreted as my work not being very good, but I hope its more that the camera is really cool! I hope?

Anyway, had a good time, and a few of the people I had spoken to earlier in the week stopped by and actually finalized exhibitions or print sales, with a few surprises tossed in as well. One surprise being that my Aunt Rena and Uncle Freddy came by. They’re Italian, which means Aunt Rena talks with her hands. I’m a photographer, so when people talk with their hands around interesting light they end up on my blog…

Aunt Rena

Aunt Rena

So despite being in an exhausted stupor, I was happy and ready to go home to get ready for day four…but before I go there, here’s a quick video clip of the open artists night:


To be totally honest, day four was a bit of a hangover. The open artists night being the night before kind of had an end of the trip party feel to it, so many of us were a little sluggish. To make matters worse, the way you are assigned reviewers is based on you selecting your top 25, and you are given your top choices earlier in the session, and lower choices later in the session. So most of the people on everyone’s lists were either numbers 20-25 or not even a choice to begin with. Personally I didn’t care because it could end now and I would leave happy. But I was curious to see what the day would bring…

What it was scheduled to bring was Stephanie Braun (The Photographers’ Gallery), Pavel Banka (Fotograf Magazine), Pippa Oldfield (Impressions Gallery), Karol Hordziej (Foundation for Visual Arts/Photo Month), and Jessica May (Amon Carter Museum).  Pavel, Pippa, and Karol were back to back to back, which is tougher to manage than you would think. Anyway, here we go:

Stephanie was an incredibly sweet lady with an obviously strong insight into photography. She really liked what I did, but more importantly was able to articulate why. Some people complained that she gave very surface reviews, but I got an in depth look at what I had done. Certainly gave me a lot to think about.

Pavel made me nervous. People had said he was really tough, and I was worried about taking a verbal beatdown. Turns out he had been quite sick (Rumors had him in the hospital the day before), and was actually a very nice guy. He really enjoyed my work, gave me some good advice on how t handle it as well as on things to improve with my next project. Before we got up he told me he’d like to publish my work in his magazine, but that he had to wait for the theme to fit and would I mind waiting? Day just got better!

Pippa was a cool review. In addition to having what may have been the coolest name of the week (Although Bevin of HCP could also easily win that contest), she was quite brilliant in her insights. With the third stellar advice review of the day, I realized today was going to be “Bill learns how to be a better photographer day”. And I did not mind one bit. I’m still taking everything in, but I know I learned a lot.

Karol on the other hand was a surprise. While most of the reviews I did not even expect to like my work, Karol’s bio specifically said he liked documentary work. Then we sit down and he tells me its great, but has too much contrast (I Know!). The he tells me that he doesn’t deal with documentary work and wouldn’t be able to tell me what to do next. Huh? Bio mismanagement at its finest…at least we didn’t talk about parenting!

One other thing about the final day hangover. A LOT of people were not showing for their reviews. Not me. This thing was expensive and I was ready to hawk a freebie. Chance came while waiting on my final review, and I took it in the form of Burt Finger (PDNB Gallery). I had no idea what he likes or doesn’t like, but was more than happy to hear what he had to say. That was a mistake as this ended up being the single biggest strangest review I had all week. A bit of backstory though. I befriended two lovely ladies (Valerie and Beverly) at FotoFest and we quickly formed “The Trio”. (Not really our nickname but I need something for the purposes of the story. Anyway, both Beverly and Valerie had seen Burt and gave me a mixed review. Valerie saw him first and he asked her why she shot B&W film (she does really cool images of a story she’s telling with a Rollei)…and then he went on to tell her she was wasting her time because film and B&W were dead and digital color was the way to go. I’m sure she wanted her 20 minutes back. Beverly saw him a bit later and he told her he loves her work and wants to do something with her at her gallery. What does Beverly do? You guessed it, documentary on B&W FILM!

So I go sit down and after we both make a few bad jokes (including calling me multiple times by the woman’s name who skipped out on him), we sat down and started looking. He gave me this very interesting attitude and started asking why I did the project. I gave him my reasons at which point he said “But why would you photograph this? Why should anyone see this if it’s rare?” I explained that I thought it was a part of the human experience and that people should see it to be aware of it, even if it isn’t the most common situation. Further, I believe the project has sub-stories that everyone can relate to, such as a mother’s unwavering love. His response was “Look, I don’t need to see a picture to know a mother loves her cub.” My response was, “Well you also don’t need to see a photo of a dead Marine to know people die in war.” Wrong comment apparently as he proceeded to flip out on me, with full finger pointing while explaining “Don’t you dare! That is different! That is the suffering of man and the pain man inflicts on each other and it needs to be shown!” Slow your roll cowboy! I then told him that both of my mentors either currently photographed conflict, or did in the past and that I am not trying to say we don’t need war photographs. What I was trying to say was that if you make an asinine statement about why we take a photograph, you could apply it to EVERY photograph ever taken! I told him we could walk around the room and ask that question of every photograph taken…pointless and stupid. If you don’t like my work, fine, but don’t be silly. That chilled him out a bit and we shared another bad joke before parting. He did also invite me to see his gallery which I am sure I will do in the near future…

Jessica May was my last review of the week and I was ready for it )and hoped no discussions of war photography would come up!) While waiting Sara Terry came up to me and told me to make sure that Jessica gave me a solid review because she was only into landscapes and Sara had to force her to review her work. Stellar. Just what I wanted to do was have my last review involve torture and teeth pulling. So I sat down and said “I know I don’t do what you like, but maybe this will be cool anyway” She asked why I said that and I told her I had been informed that she only liked landscapes and I was quite not the landscape photographer! She then asked who told me that because it was absolutely not true and she didn’t know why people thought that. Moving on! She actually ended up being one of the best reviews of the week. She gave me very clear insight into what I was doing and what I could do better in the future. Very strong for a landscape person!

Before totally saying goodbye I went and had a few drinks with Ed from Day Two. Really an amazing guy that I’m honored to have met. And man does he have a lot of cool work hanging on his walls!

So there we have it! All reviews in the bag and all goodbyes said. I was a bit sad, but very excited to head home. So the next morning I packed up the car and put Houston in the rearview mirror.

Garage Exit

Garage Exit

Goodbye HTown!

Goodbye HTown!

And of course Kiwi had shotgun..although she took a nap and I was jealous all the way home…



My next post will be about my discoveries of the Meeting Place. Each FotoFest has an exhibition called “Discoveries of the Meeting Place”, in which they select one or two reviewers from each session and ask them to choose their “Discovery”. I’d love to be in this exhibition, and I’ll cross my fingers, but in the meantime I’ll tell you guys who I liked! See you next time…

March 31, 2010

FotoFest Meeting Place Days 2-4 Part one!

Filed under: Uncategorized — WRRPhoto @ 9:30 PM

So this post is entirely overdue and for that I apologize. As you will see in a moment, the Meeting Place is insanely exhausting, and each day tends to leave you with barely enough energy to crawl home! Once I got back to Austin I had a stack of schoolwork to finish and another stack to grade. But better late than never! I’ll split these three days into two posts to better manage it. Here goes…

Day One was an overwhelming success in my eyes, and I was hoping that Day Two would be even half as good. I mentioned my business goals, but in truth my overall goal was simply to determine whether or not I am good enough to make this happen. Day One left me feeling pretty good on that end, and I still had three days to go!

Day Two’s scheduled reviews were: Tom Hinson (Cleveland Museum of Art), Joaquim Paiva (Private collector out of Rio de Janeiro), Rod Slemmons (Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago), David Little (Minneapolis Institute of Arts), and Edward Osowski (Private collector out of Houston).

Sit down with Tom Hinson and get into my description. At this point I feel as though I’m starting to get the hang of cramming a description of my work into a small time frame. That said, I almost immediately make a mistake (which I did not even realize was a mistake) by telling him that I haven’t been a photographer for a very long period of time and that this is my first body of work. The review immediately switched from the work to how to be a student of photography: attending grad school, looking at photo books, etc. He honestly seemed to not pay much attention to the images and was more concerned with telling me these other things. I didn’t want to interrupt and say that grad school wasn’t what I needed. nor more books (I have some 250 now and tend to spend a ton of free time in the fine arts library as it is), but in hindsight maybe I should have. The twenty minute bell rang and it was over with no real thoughts on my work. Count that as the first real miss of the event.

Next up was Joaquim Paiva. Joaquim is an incredibly nice guy who put a lot of energy into reviewing my images. My images can be tough, and they certainly effected him, but he nonetheless gave me his honest opinion. Essentially his opinion was that my images were incredibly strong, very powerful, and that I use too much contrast. Outside of the contrast he didn’t feel there was anything negative to say, and we discussed the use of contrast as it was certainly no accident. In the end I think he respected my decision, but comes more from the full tonal range school of printing, which I as well can respect. Overall a good review with some important insights. One of the more important being that art collectors are not afraid of documentary work, but it needs to be something that doesn’t sadden you if on the wall!

Real quick, if anyone wants to know what the vibe of this kind of portfolio review feels like, feel free to check out this brief video:

On to Rod Slemmons. Now Rod is with the Museum of Contemporary Photography, which is also where Natasha Egan is, whom I had seen the day before. Ideally I would like to exhibit here, but can’t really tell if it’s something they would be interested in. Rod begins looking over my work and is constantly making good comments, such as wow, wonderful, very strong, etc. When finished he went into s discussion about how my work crosses the line between art of documentary, and that such work is often the toughest to find a place for. We start talking about Danny Lyon and how he had faced a similar problem. Interestingly enough, right as he was pretty much writing off the idea of working with me at all he came up with the idea of doing an exhibition featuring photographers such as myself, who straddle this line between art and documentary. He said “Maybe we should do an exhibition with people like you.”, to which I responded, “Yes, you should do an exhibition with people like me!” We’ll see, but regardless is was a great review and an interesting conversation. I got a lot out of it, and again got some further insight as to how to work in this genre.

While waiting on my next review I bumped into Rebecca Norris-Webb, wife of Magnum’s Alex Webb and noted photographer herself. I had briefly met her in Oslo, and it was great to see her again. She was showing more of her Violet Isle work that she did with Alex, and it is stunning…you should check it out. Basically this is how the session works. You get a review, then go out in the hall and sit with everyone else while others are being reviewed. During this time we mostly chat each other up and show each other our work. It was fascinating to me to see the wide variety of work out there. Some things that people do with a camera are pretty amazing…Most of the people I met were incredibly cool. In fact this stereotype of artists being arrogant and condescending was blown out of the water. In fact, there were 3 people that I met the entire week who were arrogant, condescending, and who could not get enough of themselves. They were all photojournalists. I made this comment on my Facebook page and some people were upset, thinking that I was saying that ALL photojournalists have this attitude. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most of my friends, and all of my mentors are photojournalists, and I tend to think photojournalists are wonderful people. There were other photojournalists there who were cool as hell also, it just so happened that all of the arrogance I ran into came from photojournalists who spent an amazing amount of time telling everyone how great and important their work was while bragging about all the museums that had bought their work. Stuff it people, we don’t care.

Back to the reviews! Next was David Little, and our review was pleasant. It wasn’t great and it wasn’t bad. He mostly said good things about the work, but also got into the contrast. Sidenote real quick. I realize the contrast is pushed pretty far, and not everyone likes it. That’s fine and I’m cool with that, but for the record it was intentional! The reason I say this is that for the first ten minutes he kept telling me I needed to learn how to make a “good print”. I finally stopped him and asked what he meant by a “good print” as honestly I take a lot of pride in my printing! He told me that a good print has details in the shadows and highlights and that mine obviously did not accomplish this. So I explained to him that it was a conscious decision to lose details in some areas and that the reason is because I don’t look at my job as a photographer as being to record exact 2D images of what I see, but rather to capture the memory of the feeling I had while there. Pushing the contrast and losing some details more accurately reflects that feeling, which is why I did it. After I explained my logic he seemed to like it much better and we wrapped up.

To be honest I was feeling a bit deflated at this point. Each of the reviews was so-so, and while I gained knowledge I didn’t really get anything to be excited about (Unless Chicago goes through with the group exhibition). So I walked up to Ed Osowski not knowing what to expect. To be honest I had heard so many questions about the contrast I thought I would get it again! Sat down and Ed first of all asked me not to show my images, but rather to tell him about myself. So I did and we went into the images. Ed was clearly moved by my work, and had nothing but extraordinary things to say. He mentioned that he may purchase a print, and that he wanted me to meet several other people. He also wanted me applying for the Center for Documentary Studies first book prize. I couldn’t have been any happier and left feeling as though the day and the session as a whole was an overwhelming success. I say this not because of anything Ed offered to do for me, but rather because he was an amazing review. He clearly put his heart and soul into examining each image, and in general was a supremely cool guy. I honestly walked out of that room feeling as though I had made a new friend, which is more important than any sale. Cheesy? Yes, but true, no?

By this time I was completely drained of energy and simply went home to crash. Day Two done, another success.

Day Three was a day I thought would either kill or bomb…nothing in the middle. Reviewing me that day were Frazier King (Houston Center of Photography), Juan Curto (Camera Osuro), Harry Hardie (HOST Gallery), and Benedict Burbridge (Photoworks).

Started off with Frazier and got a bonus as the executive director of HCP, Bevin, joined us. This review was stunning as they loved everything I was doing and were legitimately interested in everything going on in my career and with the project. As I got up to leave they wrote down a list of other people I “had to see”, and told me they would be talking to their exhibition committee about me. I have since spoken with 2 of the people they told me to talk to, and I have the potential for 2 exhibitions from this one meeting. Being from Houston, this could not have been any better for me. Frazier and Bevin both were a joy to talk to, and it would honestly be the coolest thing ever to exhibit in my home town. I’ve got my fingers crossed!

Next was Juan Curto, the second worst review of my time there. It wasn’t bad because he ripped me, it was bad simply because his bio said he doesn’t want to see documentary and that’s what I had (although it should be noted I didn’t select him, just got assigned to him). He looked at my images for five minutes, said they’re good, then started talking about parenting. Mark that as 20 minutes of my life I wish I had back!

Next up was Harry Hardie, who runs HOST Gallery in London, as well as Foto8.com, and 8 magazine. I was excited to see him because I had heard he loved doc work and thought we might get on well. Damn right we did! Harry was a cool cat, and we had a great chat. He said great things about my work, and asked if I would like my work on the website, magazine, and a special multimedia presentation that he does. Yes, please! He also said he would keep me in mind for the gallery, but that my work needed to fit in with something going on. Very cool guy and very productive! I need to buy that guy a beer…

Last review of the day was Ben Burbridge, also from the UK. Ben doesn’t like doc work, but he gave me some great insights into my images. I say he doesn’t like doc work which isn’t entirely true. He likes the images, but feels there is an ethical dilemma as documentarians use other peoples suffering to raise up their name. I explained that in addition to advancing my name that I try to have the work do good directly for my subjects, which he respected but said he wasn’t sure it was enough. I get it, but I also told him that if we don’t put our name and the work out there then no one will support it and the stories don’t get told, which I feel it is imperative that many of these get told. Great guy (despite the philosophical difference), and another one I should buy a beer…

Finally was an off the books review that I had scheduled with noted book publisher Dewi Lewis. By scheduled I mean I chased and pestered him until he gave me a time! So we sat down after the reviews were finished and I told him that I knew he wouldn’t want to publish my book, but that I really wanted his opinion of my sequencing and layout. He looked through my book layout and blew my mind. He immediately asked me to submit it to the Leica European Publishers Award, and while he didn’t feel it would win, he felt I might be able to “get another country to publish it as well”. He said Spain for sure wouldn’t vote for me…wonder why Spain doesn’t like me?!!?!? Anyway, he then started to discuss the distribution issues we were going to face, and how did I think could get around them? I told him I wasn’t sure as I honestly hadn’t thought he would be interested. He then told me that when he looked at my work he felt like he feels when he looks at W. Eugene Smith’s work. I told him I knew it looked somewhat like Minamata, and he cut my off saying “No, no. I don’t mean the look. I mean I feel the same way as when I look at his work and I hope you know that’s a compliment”. He then gave me his card and asked that I get in touch when I’ve thought about the distribution issues. Just. Wow. I still don’t expect him to publish it, but the fact that someone like him took an interest in my work is humbling.

Day three wrapped up with a surprise. Anne Tucker of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston was doing her only day of reviews for that session. She came over and gave me a hug and asked about things (She had bought a few of my prints a few months back). The minute she walked away, people were staring at me like I was a rock star. Score today in the win column…Here’s a parting shot of me and Anne…will give the open artist night, day four, and my discoveries of the meeting place updates in the next post..coming tonight I promise!

Bill and Anne

Bill and Anne

March 25, 2010

FotoFest Day One and R.I.P. Jim Marshall

Filed under: Uncategorized — WRRPhoto @ 6:20 AM

So FotoFest Meeting Place day one was today and it certainly was an experience! Well, actually even getting here was an experience…

It took me several hours longer than expected to finish packing, printing, burning, etc. and did not even get on the road to Houston until about 10 PM. I had Kiwi (New Shih Tzu) riding shotgun, and about halfway through she decided to start freaking out and I had to pull over about every 10 minutes to get her to calm down. Finally just put her in the crate and she chilled out. Of course then I got pulled over for having a taillight out (Seriously, I can’t see my taillight, how would I know?), and ended up arriving in Houston closer to 2 AM. As a photographer I make it a habit to travel light…somehow I screwed that up on this 4 day trip:

Luggage plus Kiwi

Luggage plus Kiwi

Stagger to bed around 3, wake up at 7, shower and head for the Meeting Place venue. Didn’t have time to eat, but figured I could get something there. Of course the hotel restaurant is open, but after gauging me for $20 just to park I figured I would go to the food court next door…which was closed. Rather than get stiffed by the hotel again I decided to just fast for the morning and head towards the Meeting Place room, which was a standard hotel conference room filled with tables that looked a lot like this:

Meeting Place Empty

Meeting Place Empty

That of course was the calm before the storm. Those being reviewed would start lining up at the door and as soon as they announce that the session begins people make a mad dash to the reviewer they’re scheduled for at that particular time. Everyone is scheduled between four and five reviews per day for the next four days, but each appointment is only 20 minutes so you have to make it count.

My scheduled reviews for the day were Toby Kamps (Contemporary Arts Museum Houston), Natasha Egan (Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago), Juan Travnik (PhotoGaleria Teatro del San Martin, Argentina), and Stephen Mayes (VII). I had no idea what to expect, but here’s what I got:

The time seems way too short. It feels almost impossible to describe your vision, the scope of the project, and what you’re looking to gain while showing your prints in only 20 minutes. I did the best rush job I could, and prayed that these people liked my work. Speaking of my work, you are only encouraged to show one body of work (which you barely have enough time to do anyway), and so I am showing my “A Mirror Will Suffice” series dealing with Nathan Huf and his mother. I have brought down 2 separate edits as well as a book layout. You can see one of the edits currently up on my website at http://www.wrrphoto.com. The hope for this project is that I will leave here with an exhibition, at least two museums having purchased prints, and ideally a book publisher.

The first review was with Toby Kamps, and honestly I couldn’t have picked a better first reviewer. Incredibly nice, thoughtful, and obviously passionate about photography, Toby made it an easy experience for me. He went through my prints while listening to my story, and honestly didn’t say much. When he did say something though it was “Wow”, “Very Powerful”, “Amazing”, etc. HUGE relief! When we got buzzed and told the session was over he asked me to get in touch with him and we exchanged information.

I’ll pause here and say that since I’ve never done this before I thought there were all kinds of purchases made during sessions. After my first session I was a bit disappointed as I couldn’t imagine cramming a sales request on top of the very brief discussion that we were allowed to have given the time frame. So I shifted my thought process to networking mode and decided that I was going to treat this as a giant opportunity to build relationships. This was reinforced upon coming out of the first review. I ended up sitting next to a woman who has been to Meeting Place SEVEN times, and she explained to me that almost never will a purchase go down during the review, but that if the reviewer accepts a business card you’re in decent shape, and if they ask for it, you’re in excellent shape. Instantly felt great!

Next up was Natasha Egan, and I again feel like I won the lottery. Nice, friendly, and obviously sharp as a tack when it comes to photography (and probably most anything else), Natasha had a similar review as Toby. All very positive comments, and it finished with us agreeing to talk again.

So feeling pretty happy about the first two reviews I figured I should grab some food, and so I wandered down to the food court and had some mediocre pizza. Tomorrow I think will be this joint, and I can feel the coronary coming!

Heart Attack

Heart Attack

Back the the reviews, and up next was Juan Travnik. This did not go as smoothly in my mind as Juan seemed to be questioning why I chose such a contrasty approach, and mentioned a few times in a few ways that he thought the work was strong enough without the contrast. I agree, but I also explained to him that I processed these images this way because I was not trying to create a document of these events, but rather was trying to photograph my memory of the feeling of this experience, and that the contrast was thus very necessary. I get that many people disagree with the contrast choice, but hey, that’s what makes photography great…we can create in our own way and some can love it and other can hate! In any case, I felt like he wasn’t the biggest fan of my work and this might be my first fail of the session, which is totally ok, because I know there is zero chance everyone will like what I’ve done. In a twist, when we got buzzed, Juan said to me that he wasn’t sure exactly what he could do to promote my work in his country, but that he really wanted to try! Love it! I’ll take someone trying to help my work further along any day. So he gave me his card and said to get in touch with him after the meeting place to see what we can do together. Awesome.

Had about an hour of waiting in the lobby for my final review of the day with Stephen Mayes. I was quite excited about this as Stephen is the director of VII, and perhaps more importantly is in my mind a visionary when it comes to distributing visual imagery. He is very critical of the way photojournalism is being handled as a business (as am I), and has some interesting ideas about where its going. So I was excited…excited enough to misread my time slot, show up 20 minutes early, and have to awkwardly excuse myself as the girl who was supposed to meet with Stephen glared at me for wasting two of her 20 minutes. It’s okay, I would have kicked someone out of the chair if they were wasting my two minutes!

After waiting out the next 18 minutes I finally sat down with Stephen and we got our chat/review on. His review was excellent in that he was obviously committed to giving his all to each image. He was very thorough and explained what he liked about each one, and then gave me his overall thoughts on my work. His comments were all very positive, actually better than I expected. I think I’m like many photographers in that I am always questioning whether or not my work is truly good enough. I’ve had many amazing people tell me my work is great, yet every time I show it to someone new I get nervous that they will hate it. Odd position to be in, but good I suppose as I could only feel that way if I truly put a lot of myself into it.

In any case, I was Stephen’s last review of the day, and he was gracious enough to continue chatting with me 20 minutes after our session ended. We again swapped contact info, and off we went to the welcoming party. One other cool thing is he encouraged me to apply to the VII Mentor program, which I think would be seriously cool! After my ordeal getting here and the lack of sleep in general, I skipped the majority of the party/tour, but I did hang out for a bit over an hour, most of which was spent again talking to Stephen. He’s a brilliant guy, and very convincing. Not that I needed much convincing as I believe much of what he does concerning the future of this industry, so really I walked away affirmed in those beliefs, with a couple of interesting new nuggets gleaned as well.

Stephen Mayes

Stephen Mayes

So all in all I have to say day one was a tremendous success. I feel as though 2 of my 3 goals could be met simply with the people I met today, so I will cross my fingers, knock on wood, and pray to any god that wants to listen! Hopefully day two will bring more of the same…

I hate to end on a sad note, but while at FotoFest I got a text that friend and legendary rock and roll photographer Jim Marshal died in his sleep the night before. Jim is a legend, such a legend in fact that Annie Leibovitz has called him the greatest rock and roll photographer of all time. He created some of music’s most iconic images, and the world has long yet another imaging icon. He was a gruff man who spoke freely and openly about most anything (I remember at lunch one day with he and my mom where he started talking about how he would kill any motherfucker that walked in his door if he didn’t know he they were with the .45 he keeps next to his bed…this despite him not legally being allowed to own a gun thanks a an “incident” some years earlier). I asked him once if he had any advice for an emerging photographer and his answer was “Nope. Not a fucking thing. I can’t say shit about photography. Just go shoot, and take off that fucking lens cap!”

What I will always remember most about Jim though was the first time I met him. He had me come to his house and we went to lunch together, he signed some books, and I left. When I got home I sent him an Antone’s t-shirt just to say thanks for meeting me. Two days later I had a fedex slip on my door and when I opened the box this was in it with a note that said “Thanks for the shirt, keep in touch, Jim.”



Rest in peace buddy…thanks for everything…

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