Reconsidering Winogrand

This essay was written for the inaugural issue of PUBLICATION. Thanks to Nick Turpin, Tod Papageorge (Pace/Macgill), Eileen Hale & the Estate of Garry Winogrand (Fraenkel Gallery).

There’s inherent risk in doing exactly what you want and doing it well. Garry Winogrand, whose photographic output said both “look at us” and “look at me look at us” in equal (and thrilling) measures, knew well the width of that risk. He took its measure, set it aside, and deliberately went about the work of widening photography (both what photography was, and what photography might become) with every click of his shutter.

Winogrand’s is the work of a serious artist (though he’d cleanly deny it) dedicated to seeing his project through to completion, even if, in his own case, it wasn’t exactly clear what the project was, or how it might end. Hard work would figure it out. Hard work would leave behind the four foot high piles of prints, the hundreds of thousands of negatives.

While Winogrand’s street pictures might appear to be bounty from the hull of a trawler with a Fifth Avenue driftnet, a photographic harvest of the mackerel and tuna that swam the currents of New York City in the sixties and seventies, the seriousness of his task was more practiced, and severe, even. You don’t take pictures like Winogrand if you’re wide-eyed and aimless, and you don’t take pictures like Winogrand if you’re hidden in the weeds with your duck calls and camouflage.

The middle road always requires a stern commitment, a deft touch, and the most negotiation. It’s there where Winogrand struck, and stayed to reap the source. I Am Photographing You and You Know It and I’ll Get To See What This Looks Like Later. I Am Smiling While I Photograph You Because It’s Such A Beautiful Day You Know? A whisper of danger in a seemingly harmless act. The man with the camera smiles so everything must be okay, right?

A diffuser by photographic nature, there are few pictures and fewer videos that reveal Winogrand while working, but photographing people candidly with a small camera and a cigarette stuck between the fingers didn’t exactly chime terrorist alert signals as it does now.

Winogrand’s alertness, easily misread as impatience or distraction, was most likely a state of hyper awareness, in which any small flash of visual stimuli might lead to something both wonderful and surprising, and you better be ready to capture it so Let’s Do This. And yet, while Winogrand emerged from the darkroom with photographs that delineate the attentions of a man clearly focused on incongruities writ large; hypocrisies of a nation; the impossibilities of connection; illuminating the surface tension between us all that keeps us apart; it’s easy to imagine him saying, “yeah, but it’s just a picture of a guy on the street.”

Waking-up in the morning and knowing you may or may not make a good picture but the day is as good as any other, and every day is worth a try, just as the people you might meet are worth engaging with, and the light is as good as on any other day — at the least good enough to burn some film and work a few hours on the street without having a specific destination; it’s a kind of morning relatively few photographers have the fortune to greet.

Yet it’s this quotidian attraction to the unspooling of time that creates the through-line of Winogrand’s effort. That there are precise moments and places on the planet where the truly extraordinary occurs, without actors, curtains, or fancy equipment, and that these places are often narrow and vanishing; perfect for a photographer with his finger on the shutter. The spoiled analogy of photography as big game hunting backfires; Winogrand’s targets were no one else’s; at their best they were his only. A couple with two chimpanzees, two lovers with a fox approaching. Neither from the pages of a Field Guide.

© Estate of Garry Winogrand

Too often summed-up as a visual trickster, Winogrand’s work may well have been one thing to him and something entirely different to the rest of us. And you can’t help but wonder if there was some genius in the aggregate. Like Gerhard Richter’s “Atlas”, perhaps Winogrand’s greatest work wasn’t in the brilliant moments or creative editing, but in the Complete Everything, in the performative act of making hundreds of thousands of images, of the people, with the people?

Either way, the more you look at the side that matters of Winogrand’s particular equation (the prints, face-up) the less the sum makes sense. How could this possibly have happened? How could a photographer have been right here, right then, and then here, right then? And why would they do whatever it took to make it there, to make this?

It’s photographic blowback. Left with the spectacle of the end result, you can’t help but scurry to the source and figure out how the heck it all came together. The prints are Winograndian facts that when taken at face value leave you penniless. They’re like poems that weren’t written for a reason — they were made entirely outside of the marketplace; their value is whatever you choose to place upon them.

This photograph both is and isn’t a picture of a couple carrying chimps. Sure, it’s what it is, but it isn’t all it is. Winogrand’s photographs aren’t billboards advertising the wink-and-nod of The Perfect Moment ™, they’re more like dispatches from a man with a stop time device, a photographer both at odds and in love with a social contract that states, you can look, but please don’t linger.

Winogrand’s best photographs do two things extremely well. The picture of the couple with the chimpanzees plainly describes a particular point of view on a chilly day in 1967 with extreme clarity. But the clearness of its description is like verse’s iambic pentameter, it’s another way to make the words slide easily into the ear. The clarity enables you to believe you know exactly what you’re seeing: two people carrying chimps. Or rather, a black man and a white woman carrying chimps as if they were their children, on a sunny afternoon in the park.

It’s a trick, really, the greatest tool a non-fiction photographer has in the bag: How can I make this thing you’ve never seen look approachable and oddly familiar? I’ll make it plain as day, black and white. Winogrand’s pictures might occasionally be out of this world, but they’re always of this earth, bound by gravity, chemistry, and light.

And his best work ratchets between these two poles; the clarity of obvious documentary vs. the scrambling of the senses when seeing something just this side of unimaginable. It’s the kind of back-and-forth that leads one in a few directions; straight back to the photographer, and the who/what/why/how of intention, or to the facts of the picture itself, and how those facts, clearly illustrated, yield a never-ending chorus of questions.

Miscegenation is not quite as provocative as it was in the 60s, but until June 12th, 1967, interracial marriage in the US was still illegal in 16 states. Winogrand’s couple wasn’t just perfectly addressing a political issue by being themselves, walking down the street (carrying chimps), they were doing it in style, the man in suit-and-tie business attire, the woman with a scarf covering her head, and each with a chimp calmly clinging to his lapel and her collar.

The chimps were clothed, which makes the picture look like a family portrait, and the direction in which the humans are looking vs. the chimps adds psychological (and generational) weight to the composition. But you know this already. You know that the frames that follow this particular image are doing one thing well, but a few other things wrong, and that, of the series, this image is the only one in which all the elements contribute to a satisfying whole. Then again, depending on the season, this photograph feels either bullet proof, or riddled with holes. Some days I can see it for what it is, other days it looks like what it’s not.

And where would this picture be without the boy in the background at right, holding his parent’s hand? So perfect how the woman is turning away from the shadowed fences and trees of the zoo toward the bright light of an unknowable future! So large the urge to find these two and see where they are now, but so utterly useless, because the context of this photograph is its contextlessness! Life doesn’t come with captions, or does it?

If the photographs after this image show a situation that could no longer “solve the problem” on a frame of film inside Winogrand’s camera, the images just before this one offer no inkling of what’s to come. On a contact sheet marked “London / Monkey”, the first shots on the roll are quiet pictures of a dinner with friends in London. Those were followed by a blank frame, and then boom. Welcome home, America.

Papageorge_Chimp change-1
© Tod Papageorge, Pace/Macgill

So we have a situation: the man with the camera, dedicated to the day in the fullest sense, wherever the pictures might be on a sunny afternoon in ’67. Not shooting solely on his own, but meeting up with Tod Papageorge at some point along the way. Who could say what might happen? Who could have known that the day would lead to this?

Again: a man, a woman, a child, two chimps. Light like only light can be, both soft and bracing, black and white. He’d never seen this before, he’d never see this again. A couple, together, dressed well, a child in the background, holding an unseen hand.

But the truth is this frame is born of failure. The following pictures are less sure, and the failures mount. Not just on this roll, but the next, and in the contact sheets, and work prints. They pile-up too, in a psychological way. You try and try again. You roll the dice: snake eyes.

But Winogrand’s failures allow for the successes in an organic way, as both till and filler. And it’s this entire stew of prints and unprinted frames that encompass the unseen work of Winogrand. If the failures allow for the successes, aren’t the failures part of the project, too?

And if you’re a photographer as prolific as Winogrand, who shot at an unfathomable rate, especially considering he was shooting with film, perhaps the most interesting product of all isn’t the finished prints or the exhibitions or published books, but the fact that you were out there, and living it, and shooting everything you could that might possibly become a good photograph, and that your effort (backed-up by the brilliance of your successes) was as much the product as anything.

In 2000, when digital cameras began to be affordable by average consumers interested in making photographic images (or just taking pictures) people were thrilled by the fact that the images were essentially free, that they could take as many pictures that they liked, and that the photos didn’t have to be of anything in particular. You didn’t have to save film for special occasions. You could freely photograph anything you desired, life as you knew it, rapid fire.

Photographer’s digital archives began to balloon under all that freedom, and even lazy weekend photographers found themselves sifting through tens of thousands of images. Some began to feel the weight of all that freedom; the ungainly Archive of Everything weighing down their hard drives.

It’s a Winograndian affliction, the creation of images you’ll never be able to assess (or see, even) in your lifetime. Winogrand was moving so fast photographically that he outran his own workflow, and thousands of rolls of film had to be developed posthumously.

It’s in this spirit that I sometimes consider Winogrand to be the first digital photographer. Not that he was a motor-drive weekender, but that there was no one before the advent of the digital camera who photographed with such zeal and inhibition. Toward the end of his life, while battling cancer, Winogrand’s friend drove him around Los Angeles and he photographed out the car window, wide-angled, to be sure. Yesterday, on my way home from work, I saw two separate cars in which the drivers were doing the exact same thing, with their digital point-and-shoots.

Winogrand’s omnivorousness for the image is what drove his greatest successes, like the couple with the chimps. Which is not to say that anyone with eagerness and the right equipment will become a great photographer. But I think Winogrand’s spirit lies less with the academics, and more with the kid who just got his older brother’s hand-me-down Canon Rebel and is about to stumble across a copy of The Animals in the school library during study hall.

If photography is a serious form of play, than Winogrand was an aesthetic athlete, always ready for kickoff, and his highlight reels remain. But one can’t help but wonder what gems (both historically and aesthetically) might be uncovered if the entirety of his archives were digitized and available not just to scholars, but to the proverbial kid in study hall. It’s a task for the “hive mind”: to reach a new understanding about an artist so ahead of his time that he himself never had the chance to reflect and assess the entirety of what he’d created.

In an era in which photography gets further away from its origins (for good and ill) and becomes the realm of “camera operators” and digital retouchers, Winogrand’s insatiable visual curiosity and unrivaled output has the strength and ability to ground us in the never-ending now. His task, to make pictures as often as possible that could satisfy that curiosity, has extreme relevance to the swelling audience of contemporary photography enthusiasts. Reframed, Winogrand’s output, not just the exhibition prints, or The Animals, Stock Photographs, Public Relations, or Women are Beautiful, but of each roll that passed through his camera, may have been the real prize – the final piece.

(More Winogrand on 2point8)

MDM on 20×200, So Help Me

I have a new piece available via Jen Bekman’s incomparable 20×200 as of a few minutes ago. It’s affordable, it’s happening, and it’s a great way to help celebrate a new dawn in America.

Super Rally, So Help Me on 20x200

If you’re in Atlanta tonight, come on over to Opal Gallery for a real world celebration. More info on

Be well everyone, and thank you for your support. I’ll return to creating (non MDM-PR) content soon, I swear.

mus mus dot org goes global on november 4th

Friends of mine in Switzerland at have launched a global photography project on Tuesday, November 4th. Here’s their call for entries. They’re jurying 25 additional photographers/entries: invites PHOTOGRAPHERS to participate to the project @600 to take place November 4th, 2008 @600 Internet time.

Many photographers from around the world have been invited to make one picture on the same day at the same moment. All these photographs will be joined and archived on the website for a unique document of that special day. We have invited many photographers who have agreed to join us and participate to this project.

We would like to add additional visions through an open call process!

We are happy to announced that two special guests, Michael David Murphy and Jason Fulford will be among the participants in the @600 project.

We have reserved places for twenty-five of the participants to be selected through a juried process. Apply now and submit an email request to participate together with a link to your website or no more than 3 jpg files at 800 pixels larger size and 72 dpi. The submission should be directed to If there are places remaining we will accept submissions of @600 photographs for one week after November 4 that have been made for @600 according to the project parameters. Those images and a weblink and\or CV should be submitted as outlined above.

You will find all necessary information on All photographers who will participate to this experiment will be listed in the mus-mus website.

You will find some info about Internet time here, and a converter here.

We sincerely hope that you like this idea and will be part of this experiment @600 ! For any questions, email us

Ed Note: From what I can tell with that “Internet Time Converter”, “@600” in Internet Time on 11/04/08 is between 8:24:00am and 8:25:26am in the Eastern Time Zone.

Busy, So Help Me…

Still too busy to blog, with ACP, and w/ finishing the last week of “The Jena Project” while preparing “So Help Me…” for Nov. 1st (with an election-night party @ Opal Gallery on Nov. 4th, y’all!). In a panel discussion this weekend, we talked about objectivity vs. subjectivity in photography, and here’s where I fall on that point:

(Thx ZS for that badge.)

Photojournalism, Activism and the New Technology

I’m part of a panel discussion this Saturday, Sept. 20th, the year anniversary of the march on Jena, Louisiana. I’ll be speaking with photographer Jim Alexander at Hammonds House Museum in Atlanta, GA, from 2-5pm. This discussion is in conjunction with “The Jena Project“, my exhibition that’s currently on view at Opal Gallery, through Sept. 27th.

I’ll try and upload some pictures of the installation for those of you who are interested, but far away, and there are plans to record the discussion as well, for the same reason. If you’re local, I’ll see you there!

Photojournalism, Activism & the New Technology

Against Ease: or How the Inifinitely Reproduceable Pushes Us Further From the Source

Does Richard Serra work with steel because it’s easier than aluminum? Does Lucian Freud paint with oil because it’s easier than spray paint? I can’t understand why an artist (in any field) would choose a particular medium because it’s easier to work with. You choose your medium because it’s the strongest, most expressive tool for delivering your particular message, right?

Last weekend I spent a full day in our new color darkroom. A few of us here in Atlanta have pooled resources, formed a collective, and rented a studio space. We purchased and installed a massive color processor. We are making beautiful 30×40 prints the old-fashioned way, with enlargers. It takes time and attention. The resulting prints (those from my studiomates, especially) are some of the best color prints I’ve seen.

6 20x24 Oprahs

Not all photographers are artists, and not all photographers want to make art. There’s a difference between taking pictures and making photographs, I guess. But one thing I can’t understand are fine art photographers who choose their particular tool(s) based on what’s easy. What’s that about?

If you were to interview a random cross-section of photographers who shoot digitally, and asked them why they shot digitally, most would say, “because it’s faster, cheaper, and easier.” I came (back) to photography via digital, but soon migrated to mainly/only film. I prefer how film looks, across the board. I’ve found the right tool for me.

There are those who don’t prefer either film or digital — I wish I were one of them, but I’ve seen one too many poorly printed (and overpriced) exhibitions of too many oversharpened, fashionably unsaturated, over-processed jpgs. (The exceptions are those who use digital to their advantage, to create work that couldn’t be made otherwise, work that speaks to the particular nature and strength of working digitally, but they’re few and far between.)

So, I’m back in the darkroom. It’s slow going, and it’s an anachronistic step backward in many ways, but just because digital photography was invented doesn’t mean analog photography was an exhausted medium. There’s still so much room there to work and explore and pursue. Yes, it’s cumbersome and relatively difficult, and the lure of the new (and everything fast, cheap, and flexible) is strong, my child.

I like prints that speak to the entirety of a photographer’s talents. Prints that show-off the ability to put image to paper, to create something real, something that will last and be a living memory, be infinitely ponderable. But frankly, aside from the great folks at 20×200, or fellow blogger ZS, I can’t see why anyone’s purchasing editioned digital prints. What’s the treasure in owning something that’s potentially infinitely (and inexpertly) reproduceable? I mean, how different is a digital print of your fantastic photograph any different than this? Because it’s sprayed with luster?

An aside: in some ways, the pricing of digital fine art prints seems to be a shift-away from paying for an actual print to paying for all the expense that went into creating the work that led to this actual print, because making the actual print is relatively cheap. And there’s something a lot less seductive in that, to me, as someone who might like to buy a print. I want to pay for the worth of the thing itself, not the artist’s overhead. I’m off my argument here, but I hope you’re still with me.

I want to see the artist’s hand, and I don’t see it in arbitrary edition sizes of digital prints. An edition of 1 makes sense to me, but beyond that, why stop at 5, or 10, or a thousand? (Please don’t say, “to create the appearance of exclusivity and desireability, my friend.”)

I’m in the process of printing two shows. One will have digital prints, in part, but the work is about digitalness, even if the original photographs were shot on film. The second show will be all analog prints, each created by hand, and the process has been incredible. The satisfaction of printing in the dark on Fuji Crystal Archive rather than google searching for some obscure Hannehmuelle printer driver cannot be measured. Which is why most photographers outsource their printing altogether. Leave it to the experts, I suppose.

Mine are cranky old arguments, usually voiced by someone whose been in the business decades longer than me. As someone relatively new to it all, I find it interesting to see so much of the photography culture fall under-the-spell of the ease of shooting digitally, both professionally, and for fine art projects. A critical exception, and a fine example of a photographer who can really write, here.

My impression is that the business of photography exerts too much influence over the easily-influenced artist, from the printer-cartridge rep, to the stock photography buyer, earnest photo editor, and gallery owner. Each and all have created a playing field that requires photographers to produce work that’s faster, cheaper, and easier. As a whole, the handmade, carefully considered print is becoming obsolete.

If you miss the magic of photography, it’s still out there for the price of a few ingredients. Craigslist is a remarkable resource, and prices for darkroom equipment range from cheap to free. Processors can be had too, as labs are getting rid of them left and right.

There’s something about the stew of doing-it-yourself that feels sustaining. Suddenly, your work feels like real Work, not “work”. And bonus! You spend less time with your eyes crossed, whileseated at a computer. The result is completely controlled by you and your intention, not by the whims of Joe Laser at (Like I said, there are great exceptions to this, and amazing people doing great things with digital prints, but they’re too few and far between. They’re not printing the majority of shows I’ve been seeing, that’s for sure.)

If you’re inclined, take photography back, a print at a time, while you still can, and show us what the business has missed. It’s easier than you think.

I meant this. See you at (or from) Invesco on Thursday. Be well.

Until November…

My updates here will be fewer and further between until the dust clears in November. Atlanta Celebrates Photography (my great day job) is in high gear through the end of October, and I have two shows to print and install in the next two months. Each will be a bit more than a traditional gallery show — with prints, sound, projection(s) and secret sauce.

Friends and like-minded fine art photographers here in Atlanta have gotten together and set-up our own color processing lab (I know, right?) and I spent most of the weekend getting acquainted with the Kreonite beast, through which I’ve been making archival, analog C-prints for “So Help Me“. I’ll write about analog prints another time — both the why and what for. Color me pixelated.

For previews of my two shows, please see The Jena Project, and again, “So Help Me“. Both are the result of efforts over the past year and half, since moving to the South, and I’m eager to see them up-close, and to be able to share them with folks, in their final (offline) form.

If you’re at the Convention in Denver next week, give a holler, or if you pass through ATL between now and early November, ping me (address up top on the right). At the least, I can recommend a good thing (or 2) to see.

‘Til then…

Fave Corner, Now Mapped

The Tour de France may be one positive-dope-test-shy of a complete sham, but the geography’s still beyond par. And now that Google has street-mapped the Tour route, one of my favorite places is closer than a cliche. “Turn 11”, Alpe d’Huez. It’s no No Flash Corner, but still.

Every July I wish I was there again, riding over those climbs on my old Trek, eating lots of chevre, and making field recordings of sheep on the Col du Tourmalet. (Though not at the same time.)

View Larger Map

You Need Your Portolio Reviewed By These People

A work-related aside here. By day, I’m the Program Manager for Atlanta Celebrates Photography, an arts non-profit entering its 10th year. We create a month-long festival of photography here every October. Lectures, exhibitions, openings, an auction, education programs, public art, a push-pin show, a film series, a portfolio review, and more!

I was new to the job last year, but was very impressed by the Portfolio Review, and by the dedication of the reviewers. The reviewees seemed to really enjoy themselves, too. (I even met some 2point8 readers!) I went to New York for a portfolio review once and was totally underwhelmed at the lack of insightfulness of my sole reviewer. In Atlanta, you’ll get four totally insightful reviewers, and some of the reviewers are super famous, even!

Basically, it’s a great way to get your work out there in front of influential eyes to see if you’re heading in the right direction, or if you should take up tennis.

Registration for the Portfolio Review (which is juried this year) closes June 7th, which means you should Register Now.

Check out this list of reviewers:

  • Sue Brisk – Editorial Director, Magnum Photos, NYC, NY
  • Brian Clamp – Owner, Clampart, NYC, NY
  • Daniel Cooney – Owner, Cooney Fine Art, NYC, NY
  • Julian Cox – Head Curator of Photography, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA
  • Natasha Egan – Assoc. Dir. Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, IL
  • Sylvie Fortin – Editor, Art Papers, Atlanta, GA
  • Brooks Jensen – Publisher, Lenswork, Anacortes, WA
  • Debra Klomp Ching – Co-Owner, Klompching Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
  • Carol McCusker – Curator, MOPA, San Diego, CA
  • Danielle Place – Creative Director, Photography Department, Turner Images, Atlanta, GA
  • Erik Schneider – Owner, Quality Pictures, Portland, OR
  • Anna Skillman – Owner, Jackson Fine Art, Atlanta, GA
  • Madeline Yale – Director of Houston Center for Photography, Houston, TX

Register for the ACP 10 Portfolio Review now!

More on Robert Frank’s “The Americans”, in Abu Dhabi

A new, "American Beauty" - on Robert Frank's "The Americans" edited version of my essay on Robert Frank appears in print in Abu Dhabi today, the 50th anniversary of the publication of “The Americans”.

The paper is called The National and the essay, “American Beauty” is in the Review section. For reference, Abu Dhabi is the capital (of arts and culture, too) of the United Arab Emirates. [wiki]

They’re really into falconry there.

New Work New York (Handsfree)

Here are two a few from a new series in process; Handsfree. I’ll be in New York this week(end), writing for foto8, attending the New York Photo Festival, a Robert Frank event, seeing friends and family, and generally staying out of trouble.

I’ll probably be using ye olde twitter account for updates, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Handsfree 06 - Michael David Murphy
© MDM, 2008

Handsfree 01 - Michael David Murphy
© MDM, 2008

Handsfree (Jawbone)
© MDM, 2008

Robert Frank’s Letter to Walker Evans and Two Unrelated Timely Tidbits

I’ve spent some time rewriting “Two Thousand Odd Words on Robert Frank’s The Americans” for print. I’ve always thought the best writers are the best rewriters, which means: I’m happy to be working with an editor. I’ll post again when it’s published. In a small way like “The Americans”, my review won’t be published in print in the United States.

In the meantime, my SF pal Kevin Bjorke has two great documents on that involve Frank’s brief incarceration while making “The Americans” in Arkansas in 1955. See “Robert Frank Arrest Report” and “Robert Frank’s Account of His Arrest“.

As an aside, I had the pleasure to interview Bruce Davidson this weekend in conjunction with my day job and his new exhibition of “Time of Change” in Atlanta. I hope to bring part of it here to 2point8 (as well as a more full report to ACP Now!) before I sneak off to NYC for the Photo Festival and for the Robert Frank event(s) at Lincoln Center.

If you’re in NYC this weekend and want to share a beer, I’m planning a small get together with friends for Saturday night, May 17th. Mail me for info. We did something like this in London last summer, and it was a good bit of fun bringing people together – one of the more memorable nights of last year, from my end. Apparently, I picked a lousy venue in Manhattan, so the location’s currently in play — will update via email.

Why the Web Still Lacks as a Method to Display, Evaluate, or Enjoy Detailed Photographs…

…because in order for a photograph to have impact when viewed on a laptop, it has to work as small, compressed jpg, which makes showing any kind of granular detail of significance, within a large or wide view, virtually impossible.

There are exceptions to this (large, hi-rez watermarked photos on flash-protected sites, egads!), but by and large, if it doesn’t work at 500 pixels, it doesn’t work online. Like this:

Mitt Romney, Candidate for President of the United States, Atlanta, GA
© MDM, Mitt Romney, Candidate for President of the United States

Cropped detail:

I’m not saying this is the greatest photograph ever, but I don’t believe a good photograph needs to say everything it needs to say in a jpg that’s 500 pixels wide.

I’m curious how the limitations of Web presentation might begin to change the kinds of photographs that photographers take.

Another example:
"MLK March  - Obama Chant List", Atlanta, GA
© MDM, MLK March – Obama Chant List

Cropped detail (clickable):

If you don’t get hives at the thought of flickr, I figured a way to use the site in such a way that helps show significant detail that’s lost at web-resolutions. If you’re interested, you can see that looks like, in Detailing. This example from Mark is intriguing (and clickable, for its detail).

© Mark Alor Powell

A few months ago, I began work on a series of prints that are attempting to address some of these zoom/crop/distance/activity/compositional-hotspot issues. More on those (like this one below) some other time.

© MDM 2007

“So Help Me…” Views from the Southern Primaries (Part 2)

GO VOTE if you can today, you hear? Sign-up for my mailing list when you get a chance, too. Here’s what I sent out last night, much of which is copied below. Here’s the first installment of these pictures. We’ll all be sick of campaign photos by November, if we aren’t already!

(The upside-down Chuck Norris sign from a Mike Huckabee rally reads, “Chuck Lost His Virginity Before His Dad”.)

Outtakes and Selects from “So Help Me…
© MDM, 2008

Drum Roll for Barack Obama,
Atlanta, GA

Jacketed Pomeranian for Hillary, Atlanta, GA


John McCain Sign Performing Arts Center Rug

Watching Barack Obama, Atlanta,



Mike Huckabee, Candidate for President of the United States, Macon, GA

Presi, Macon, GA

Reacting to CNN, Barack Obama Victory Rally, Columbia, SC

Hillary Clinton, Jamil Temple, Columbia, SC

Barack Obama, Candidate for President of the United States, Atlanta, GA

Marching Band Leader's Tie, Columbia, SC


Outtakes and Selects from “So Help Me…
© MDM, 2008

“So Help Me…” Views from the Southern Primaries (Part 1)

I wanted to share with those of you who’ve x030_10 given me a supportive shout in the past few weeks, both virtually, financially, and with loaned cameras, that I’m getting a handle on things. All this burglary business will probably drive this blog in a more personal direction this year. You’ve been warned! Unsubscribe now!

A friend asked why I was shooting the campaigns, and I told her they were the most visually interesting thing happening right now. I’m full of crap, but there are a lot of pictures out in the Primary fray, so I figured I’d poke around and see what I might find. Make a mess, sort it out later. No high art or finished edit here; a few from the Edwards & Obama campaigns. I bailed on Huckabee yesterday, but I’ll be back in South Carolina with the Dems this weekend.

Thanks again for all of your support (and cameras!).

Giant Sweet Potato, John Edwards Supporters, Barnwell, South Carolina
Giant Sweet Potato & John Edwards Supporters, Barnwell, South Carolina

John Edwards Back Pocket Bumper Sticker, Barnwell, South Carolina
John Edwards Back Pocket Bumper Sticker, Barnwell, South Carolina

Vying for John Edwards' Attention, Barnwell, South Carolina
Vying for John Edwards’ Attention, Barnwell, South Carolina

John Edwards is Photographed, Barnwell, South Carolina
John Edwards is Photographed, Barnwell, South Carolina

"MLK March  - Obama Chant List", Atlanta, GA
"MLK March – Obama Chant List", Atlanta, GA (Click for detail)

Barack Obama Button and Fur, Atlanta, GA
Barack Obama Button and Fur, Atlanta, GA

Obama Supporters, NH Primary Party, Atlanta, GA (Link to audio slideshow)

New Hampshire Primary Party - Obama Supporters, Atlanta, GA
New Hampshire Primary Party – Obama Supporters, Atlanta, GA (Link to audio slideshow)

Pink Coat & Leopard Print Stockings, Listening to Barack Obama, Atlanta, GA
Pink Coat & Leopard Print Stockings, Listening to Barack Obama, Atlanta, GA

Robbed & Ransacked (Part 2)

(Please read Part 1 for a complete list of stolen gear.)

The thief/thieves ROBBED (part 2) returned Tuesday and busted into three more apartments in our building. We’re in a bad movie over here. The monsters are picking locks in broad daylight and busting windows and tromping through people’s places and taking what they can. They didn’t get into our place again, thankfully, but we’re on watch. When I called 911 on Monday, it took the Atlanta Police Department a full hour to respond to the call. We live a stone’s throw from a central cop station, but aren’t “in that zone”, so we get slack.

There’s good news in all of this, which is unexpected. The outpouring of support from the global photocommunity has been substantial. I want to thank all of you for your phone calls, emails, and comments here on 2point8, and there. I’ve had many offers for loaned gear, and I’ll be able to work in the short-term and photograph the campaign(s) in South Carolina. I rented a flash yesterday and was able to shoot an Obama event last night. Need to keep moving forward!

I’m considering putting together a print sale, to help recover a bit of $$, but it might take awhile to organize. Must focus on staying safe right now, and hopefully moving out of this place.

Thanks to all of you for reaching out. You’ve helped me deal with (and express) the grief all of this has caused. I’ve been most surprised by those of you I don’t know, and have never met, who’ve reached through the interweb to offer $$ or cameras or anything to help see me through. You’re all tremendous, and A and I both thank you for your kindness and generosity.

A few quick things. I’ve been trying to get back to each of you, individually:

* I’m getting resistance from my insurance, for a variety of __ reasons. I’ll continue to hound them and pressure them into covering what’s covered, but my initial call(s) with them yesterday were a letdown.

* A loaner for my Mamiya 7 is on the way (thanks, Sari!) and I have access to an M6 here in Atlanta (thanks, Bill!).

* A few of you have wondered if my blogs, and particularly my recent work in Jena or on “Jim Crow Road” might have given criminals a reason to target me. I don’t think this is the case.

* I’m still digging-up serial #s and more identifying info on my missing gear. Please photograph all the serials on your gear right now. Stop reading this right now and go do it. Now!

Two quick career links:

* On Tuesday, Derek Powazek posted a story I wrote (with photographs) about Jena, called “Busted in Jena“. The story will appear in the first issue of Derek’s forthcoming magazine venture, Fray.

* If you’re in Atlanta and want to learn more about street photography, I’ll be teaching a 2-hour power-packed distillation of history, techniques, and “Ways of Working” here on February 23rd. More info, here.

Robbed & Ransacked

Our apartment was robbed today and my cameras, lenses, strobes & cables were stolen. Other things were taken as well, but I wanted folks to know there is stolen camera equipment out there (in Atlanta, and/or points beyond) that is irreplaceable. Please keep your eyes & ears out. I’ll update this post with serials, conditions, and more info when I recover them from my files.

Our place is trashed. My cameras are gone. My livelihood (and plans to cover the presidential race for the next three weeks in South Carolina) has hit a big set-back. My America, indeed.


Here’s a list of what’s currently missing on the camera front, serials forthcoming:

Leica M4P Body (heavy, distinctive wear, missing 40% of leatherette, taped-up lightleaks, 1984, Canada. Serial begins: 164—)
Leica Summaron 35mm lens, 2.8 (1960s)
Leica SF20 Flash
Mamiya 7II Body
Mamiya 80mm lens for 7II
Canon 20D Body (heavy wear, black tape & residue) Serial #0520331944
Canon 28mm fixed 2.8 lens
Canon 50mm fixed 1.4 lens
Canon 17-85 IS Zoom lens
Canon 580EX Flash
Vivitar Flash
Canon S50 Digicamera (w/ 4gb Kingston Compact Flash Card) Serial #2829189919
Canon off-camera flash cord
Off-camera flash bracket
Olympus XA point-and-shoot (broken shutter, totally inoperable)
2 Voice recorders I was preparing to sell/giveaway. Sony & Olympus.

Most of this gear can be seen here:

We have some insurance. I’ll update this post with word(s) about that as I know more. I’ve traveled around the world with this gear, worked hard to acquire and maintain it all, and as things go, it’s all pretty meaningful to me. It’s just “stuff”, but still…

(There’s an update to this post: Part 2.)

I’ll Leave the Light On

Thanks for visiting 2point8 in 2007, ya’ll. You’ve been one of the nearly 8 million (!) page views within the whileseated universe this year, which led to my very own sweatshirt this Xmas.


I’m not sure how everything will proceed here; I’ve enjoyed the discussions, reviews, and your email tip-offs to everything under the sun.

I’m hoping to continue in some form in 2008. If posts are slow, there’s tons of great content out there (links in the footer), and there’s always
Shorpy. This one, from John Vachon. Be good, folks.


New Projects Include Tilt-Swing Oprah

I’ve been working on a lot of new stuff this fall. Some of it’s been successful, some not, but it’s always fun to try new things, a la Jena. One of the best things has been discovering the ins-and-outs of shooting with a big camera (never oil a stuck shutter, use lighter fluid!).

At any rate, here’s tilt-swing Oprah (a first-time phrase for the Web) last weekend, in South Carolina. Turned a few pics and some audio into a vid as well, below.


It’s Been Awhile, Rocktober

It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything of substance here, suffice to say that October is busy, and the day job is going well.

There’ve been more pictures and photographers crossing my radar than ever, and I’ve been slow on staying connected with ya’ll here on 2point8. More soon, I hope.

If you live in the Atlanta are, are a photo book collector, and are planning to purchase Paul Graham’s “A Shimmer of Possibility“, please get in touch. I’d love to see it, and it won’t be making it to the Fulton-County Library anytime soon. Shoot, I’ll even bring wine.

If you’d like a behind-the-scenes glimpse at what’s been happening this month, pictures from ACP can be found here on flickr, and a blog’s on the way.

And again, come see one of my upcoming presentations on the confluence of photography, youtube, and citizen journalism, as seen through the Jena 6 story. Please introduce yourself and say hi. Or you can do it on facebook, where I made the mistake of “inviting” everyone in my gmail contact list (which includes anyone who’s ever been cc’d on an email to you). What a newbie.

Two Lectures on the Jena 6

I’ve just returned from Louisiana, and thought I’d post first word about two events I’ll be doing in early November. One in Baltimore and another in Atlanta.

I’ll be doing a presentation about the Jena Six, citizen journalism, and the role technology is playing in mass media (as seen through the Jena Six story). Details below:

We Want Full Justice, Jena Six Rally
“We Want Full Justice” © Michael David Murphy

Jena Six: A Photo Story
Friday, November 2nd, 7pm
Showcase School of Photography
1135 Sheridan Road
Atlanta, GA
Listing on
Wednesday, November 7th, 12:30
Part of “Bias, Prejudice, and Hate- Free Campus Week”
Community College of Baltimore County (web)
Essex Campus
Baltimore, MD

As background, I made two trips to Jena this summer, well before the story exploded into what it’s become. I posted pictures, write-ups, and a video which can all be found on In recent articles, “black blogs” and networked college students have been cited as primary reasons as to why the story has attracted so much attention. I’m glad was able to play an early role in getting the Jena 6 story the attention it deserves.

FTP Blues, A Contest Case Study

I uploaded photographs for a contest recently, and they were lost to the digi-ether. In the end, it was my fault. I was supposed to use a web-uploader for low-res, and an ftp site for hi-res. I used the ftp upload for low-res and, well, didn’t exactly follow directions…

No tears. A good lesson.

I thought I might post my entry here, to show what I’ve been up to recently. First, I wanted to give a shout to Gavin Rooke’s competition, called “Society of Photographers“. This year’s edition is called “6×6“. Gavin’s a good guy, has great taste (check out the list of judges), but most of all, he’s using the web to do more than build another photo sharing site or photoblog.

Gavin’s created a dynamic contest that uses comments and favorites (elicited from both judges and entrants, in a closed pool) to anonymously winnow the entries from 50 photographers to the winning six. I recognized many of the entries by their work, but still, anonymization goes a long way to cutting-down on favoritism. Last year’s contest was 10×10, in which photographers submitted ten photos on a particular project. Books were made, and there was a gallery show. 6×6 will produce six photographers, with six pictures each, six books, and a traveling show. And I thought I was busy…

This year I’ve been working on a project about fandom, and what it means to be an avid watcher. Rather than make formal portraits, I’ve chosen to shoot candids that show fans as they are, in moments in which their specific affinities are being individually expressed. Or something like that. The text or photos aren’t bulletproof, but they’re current, and in process.

Here’s what my entry looked like when I uploaded… The word part was required.


(Details: Hyde Park / Nashville Superspeedway (2) / Wimbledon / Atlanta / Chickamauga)

Atlanta Celebrates Photography (9)

Good news. acp_logo2 (by whileseated) I’ve accepted a position as Program Manager for Atlanta Celebrates Photography, a non-profit organization dedicated to a citywide, monthlong photography festival here in October. This year will be my first October in Atlanta, and there’s an exciting range of great photographic activities planned.

To stay abreast of ACP9 (if you’re in the area), there’s a Google Calendar of ACP Programs (a subscribeable .ics file for you tech-heads), and there’s even a map of current locations for this year’s extraordinary Public Art Project, “Paper Placemats (ATL)” curated by Jason Fulford. Most of the ACP programs are on Upcoming, as well. The Festival Guide has soft-launched and is now online; sign-up for updates if you want to know more.

There’s a lot to look forward to, and a lot of work ahead, but my goals are aligned with ACP’s in that we’re focussed on continuing to establish Atlanta as a city that’s known for photography. When I was considering moving here, I came across Meyerowitz’s photos of the city, as well as Harry Callahan’s street work, and was excited to discover visual proof that Atlanta was a place where dynamic photographs could be made. As a photographer, I’m pleased as sweet tea that I moved here and found an organization that’s dedicated to developing the local photography community, and extending its reach, both nationally and internationally.

If you live in the South and have plans to attend any of the events or lectures (Sam Taylor-Wood, Alec Soth, Sheila Pree Bright, Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons) be sure to track me down so we can meet and say hello.

(Full disclosure, I had an image selected for ACP’s public art project well before applying for my current position.)