Tuesday, March 29, 2011

the bike boys

Jimmy John's, Meridian Street, Indianapolis, lunch - a #6 to be exact (hold the sprouts & cucumbers). While I'm eating and waiting to meet with the art director of Indianapolis Monthly, I notice the bike boys - plural, as in 14 of them. They rush in and out of JJ's, packing sacks full of subs & chips into their backpacks, then balancing boxes of fountain drinks as they mount their bikes and race toward destinations around the capital city. Outside, I ask Nate to pose for a photo and he tells me, "we've reached critical mass - 14 of us is not enough. Hey, you're not from the Indy Star are you? Guess not, they only photograph us when it's raining."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

march, the end

Hot then cold, stormy then sunny, and now snow. I should have known.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Cold then hot, sunny then stormy - and windy, always windy. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

art & craft

As a photographer, I've always seen myself more craftsman than artist - good at technique, less so with vision. Last week after photographing Jamonn Zeiler's guitars, I thought about the blurred lines between art & craft. Jamonn is a craftsman, shaping wood to create tone - but his guitars are works of art, worthy of hanging on any gallery wall. Today I was back at the shop of Darrin Cutter, a custom hot rod upholsterer, to photograph baseball player Jason Giambi's car. Darrin and his assistant Eddie were putting the finishing touches on the new interior - leather, suede and aluminum. But, that description hardly does justice to what is revealed when a door is opened. Darrin is another who blurs the lines between art & craft - a man skilled with his hands, but visionary in his designs. Maybe the line between art & craft doesn't exist at all.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

disaster & resilience

Just watched a "60 Minutes" report on the disaster in Japan -  overwhelming and hard to imagine. My Nikon D3 was made in Sendai, 111 miles from the epicenter of the earthquake. The craftsmanship evident in that camera is unquestioned. It was made by hands that know precision, order and quality - hands that will rebuild a proud and storied land. I will think of them the next time I frame an image.


In more than 25 years of photo shoots for Cincinnati Magazine I've had some interesting work - from Jerry Springer, singing and dancing on an empty sound stage - to coach Bob Huggins, who was more interested in showing his Nike logo than his face. I've photographed hundreds of restaurants - some good, some bad and some that were gone before I even arrived. The email for last week's assignment stated simply, "it's an underwear store - it should be interesting." Interesting it was. I guess I can cross this one off my bucket list.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

guitars, part three

I bought my first acoustic guitar in 1974 - a Yamaha. Number 2 was a Sigma, purchased from Alan Basting, while living in Clifton. Three, a 1967 Martin D-18 from the walls of Columbus Folk Music Center on north campus, near Ohio State. Then came a badly reworked Gibson Dove from Famous Old Time Music, a Guild D-40, a Yairi, and a Larivee. All gone now, hopefully to better players than me. I still own a 000-16 Martin that has spent most of its life in a case - it's just good to know that I have it. So, last summer when I walked into Guitar Center to purchase a digital audio recorder, I had no intention of buying a guitar. But here it is - an Indonesian Epiphone, with an action so low and a tone so balanced. Who would have guessed that after all of the wonderful instruments that I've owned a $250 guitar would bring so much joy. As a friend of mine used to say, "it just goes to show."

guitars, part two

To say that there is something magical about acoustic guitars would be an understatement. They touch all of one's senses.  Old Gibsons smell musty like your grandmother's wooden curio cabinet. New Taylors have the scent of freshly cut wood - imagine spruce logs in a northwestern sawmill. Pluck a string (old Black Diamond Brand, Norman Blake would sing) and a tone resonates across hand scalloped bracing, vibrating the thin top, racing to escape. The backs and sides - figured & inlayed - can be art, worthy of hanging on a gallery wall. To be able to play one is a joy, to build one is a wonder. 

guitars, part one

In a small shop high above the Ohio River Jamonn Zeiler builds guitars one at a time, with the eye of an artist, the hands of a craftsman and the ear of a musician. Today, an instrument made from Appalachian red spruce and mahogany is leaving. With a tone that can only be described as warm & rich, this guitar is singing its first songs in the hands of a new owner.

Monday, March 14, 2011

lasting images

After 25 years and thousands of frames you never know which image will have the longest life. When I think of Bill Allard, I see the photo of Henry Gray standing in front of his 48 star American flag. Galen Rowell's single frame of a rainbow over the Potala Palace still dances around in my head. As for my own work, it's an image I took of my oldest daughter Kate more than 20 years ago. She is feeding apples to my neighbor's Charolais cattle - their noses nudging under a woven wire fence. The original was a Kodachrome slide and it appeared in Country Journal Magazine.  It was later sold to Patagonia for use in their kid's catalog and also displayed in their Canadian stores. It has always been in my portfolio and has now been reworked digitally, to continue it's life - well into middle age. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

the kitchen table

Loren Huddleston is almost 90. At his kitchen table he tells me about his life on the farm - how his wife has been gone for 3 years, the fact that he can no longer remember anyone's name and how more than 50 years ago he cut a honey locust tree that fell and killed his father. "That was an awful blow to me," he says. 


Last Saturday night my friends and family gathered around our kitchen table to talk, laugh, cook, drink & eat. A familiar place to all after more than 30 years spent living in this old farmhouse. It made me realize how central that table is to our lives - the center of the kitchen, in the heart of the house. A place to work, a place to share and most importantly, a place to remember.

first digital tintype

I received the first test of my digital tintypes from "the Last Farmers of southeast Indiana" photo series. Printed on aluminum, these photos are as close as I can come to reproducing a tintype (ferrotype) digitally. The matte surface seems to be more successful than glossy and I'll probably try to 'blacken' the back of the surface to give them a more aged look. This portrait is Mark Kilborn, photographed at the Laughery Valley Ag Co-Op in Dillsboro. Mark has been working at feed mills in Dearborn County since he was 17. So far I have photographed three of the older farmers in the county, including Marvin Cutter, Loren Huddleston and Earl Dawson.