This Week in Photography: Signing Off



Have you ever heard of behavior modeling?

(If not, that’s cool.)






I hadn’t, until I began teaching at Chrysalis High School, here in Taos, back in 2005.

(Shortly after we moved home from Brooklyn.)

The school started a few years prior, designed to help at-risk teenagers; children who who had abuse histories, and didn’t fit well in the structure of traditional learning.

It was a rag-tag place, for sure, (now since abandoned,) and art was a huge part of the curriculum, for all the reasons I’ve discussed in this column over the years.

Art can allow communication that is too painful, traumatic, difficult, or confusing for words.

It was at that school, teaching art in a therapeutic environment, (in a pilot program for UNM-Taos,) that I first learned the term “behavior modeling.”

And while it is much as it sounds, the concept is profound.








Basically, behavior modeling is the idea that acting in calm, measured, polite, adult, well-adjusted, healthy ways, around people who have not witnessed such things before, (or perhaps rarely,) can be cathartic.

We all need role models.

That’s a given.

But for people raised in dysfunctional, unhealthy families, or systems where poverty creates extreme conditions for addiction and abuse…

…just being around someone who’s nice to them, follows through on what he/she/they says, listens, doesn’t rush to judgement, gives positive feedback, doesn’t fly into a rage, or undermine one’s dreams…

…when I first started teaching there, it was stressed that behavior modeling alone could have a positive effect on the students.

So I learned to do check-ins, ask good questions, and care.

I learned how to teach a demographic with which I had little prior experience.

And ended up staying a decade.

(Because sometimes, showing works better than telling.)







I mention this all, because if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know this is my final column here at A Photo Editor.

It’s February 2023, and I published my first piece on the bog in June 2010.

Nearly 13 years, and my column lasted 11.5.

As I’ve written before, (and won’t get into today,) the community I’ve covered here as a blogger/journalist has changed enormously.

It’s like another Universe, as social media was not yet ascendant, when we started.

Back then, Trump was just a loudmouth on TV, and I’d never heard of Elon Musk.

I still felt like a kid, (in a way,) at 36.

Or at least, I identified with my 20’s, and still partied a bit.

Now, at nearly 49, my son is in high school, we somehow have four dogs, and I’m glad we got a decent interest rate on our mortgage.

Nothing about any of this feels remotely like my 20’s.

(Not even a little.)







Having four dogs is cool.

It started with a pandemic pup in August 2020, and while Summer 2022 brought her a companion, (Billy Bones,) it wasn’t until last month that our canine family became complete.

We adopted Sunshine and Olly nearly a month ago; fraternal twin sisters we brought home from Stray Hearts Animal Shelter in Taos.


Sunshine and Olly


You can choose to believe me, (or not,) but the twins are a tad magical, and kept each other alive, when they were abandoned in a box at the shelter overnight, unnoticed for more than a day.

Sunshine is hearing impaired, (not sure if it’s OK to say she’s deaf, but I am positive I’m not supposed to say she’s among The Deaf,) and has taken to following me everywhere I go.

Like a sidekick. (Or maybe I’m the sidekick?)

Frankly, it’s a long story.

But the twins have had such an impact on our lives, in a short amount of time, and between them seem to represent so many elemental things…

…I decided to name my new blog after them.

It’s called Sunshine and Olly.


From today’s first post on Sunshine and Olly


Because Sunshine and Olly is non-commercial, and just for me at the moment, I will iterate, and make it more professional over time. (The first post is live, but the homepage is broken, so I’ll try to fix it.)

I’ll learn WordPress better, (Rob was a pro at giving me an easy system to use,) and hopefully you’ll be able to enjoy reading me over there from time to time.

It is a culture and lifestyle blog, but I’ll def be writing about photography, as the whole impetus for Sunshine and Olly was to review the photo books people had sent me, before I quit.

Whether you care to read about sports, art, food, travel, politics, or such things from me, when they’re divested from photography entirely, is up to you.

(Or when they don’t come into your email inbox from Rob, or go out to his massive Twitter following.)

But it doesn’t matter.

I’m doing this for fun, as art, and because I thought it was the right thing to do, according to my personal ethical code.

That’s all.

Given how much I’ve tried to teach in this column over the years, choosing to leave, (and when and how,) seemed like some of the best behavior modeling I could do, in 2023.

(Having the guts to walk away, and the willingness to embrace the future, without knowing exactly what that future’s going to bring.)







If you’ve been reading for a while, (or maybe even all along,) you’ll be familiar with my style, and voice.

I mixed it up over the years, for sure, but then some things are probably just as they were in 2011.

Understanding when it’s time to go, or change, is so difficult.

So this is how it’s going to end.

I went to PhotoNOLA in December of last year, held at the International House Hotel in New Orleans, and as I’ve previously reported, it was a problematic affair.

Not going to land on the negative, in my last piece, so suffice to say, there were plenty of awesome moments as well.

More than enough to make great memories.

I met four artists, at the review table, whose work I thought was worthy of publication here.

One of them, Undine Groeger, (originally from Germany,) isn’t ready to release the project, before a major publication can do it justice, so of course we respect her wishes.

(But you can check out her website, and hire her!)

The other three women will share the distinction of being the last few artists I published/promoted/appreciated during my time as a world-famous-photography-blogger, who told stories to the planet from a little, horse pasture outside Taos, New Mexico.

As with all the articles in the past, the artists are in no particular order.







When I first started looking at Anne Berry’s work, it reminded me of someone else I’d met at PhotoNOLA before, and published here: Mary Anne Mitchell.

Mary Anne had shown me moody, Southern Gothic, mysterious narrative images, (often featuring grandchildren in costumes,) and they were great.

I didn’t love that they were presented kind of like fabric curtains, and told her so.

Last year, at PhotoNOLA 2021, Mary Anne showed the prints, large and slickly framed, in the Currents show at the Ogden Museum, and I was floored.

They were dynamite, and I told her so. (It was nice to reconnect.)

When I met Anne, I mentioned her own moody, grayscale, constructed narrative images reminded me of Mary Anne’s work.

After a moment’s confusion, Anne told me that she was friends with Mary Anne, and along with some others in the Georgia photo community, they made work in a similar style.

When I came up, we tried to differentiate our work from our buddies. It was a point of pride.

Larry Bird is always talking about how players in the 80’s and 90’s hated their rivals, but the soft NBA kids today are friends with their enemies.

Times change. It’s cool that hoopers are friends today.

I’m no hater, so I adjusted to the idea that they liked making similar types of work.

And Anne’s pictures are lovely. Really well done.

(That penguin pic!)

Anne and I then talked about editing, and refining her image choices to make the most surprising, edgy, and original grouping she could.

It’s beautiful stuff, and I’m sure you’ll like it.





So of course we have to talk about Anne Walker next.

Anne used to be a pastry chef, and reported she just had hand surgery. (We hope you feel better soon, Anne!)

She also had grayscale, constructed images, though these were less about narrative, and more about object resonance.

Anne admitted she was relatively new to this, but I felt her past incarnation as an artist/craftsperson definitely informed her growth, because the selenium-toned prints were gorgeous, and flawless.




Finally, we have Lily Brooks, who works as Assistant Professor of Photography at Southeastern Louisiana University, and was recently named Edward G. Schlieder Foundation Endowed Professorship in Environmental Studies and Sustainability. (But she came South from New England.)

Lily showed me two projects, mixed together, and both were environmental series focusing on weather, pollution, and the effects of Climate Change.

We discussed whether two projects were actually one, and I shared I saw a divide between more emotional, moody images, and ones that were clinical/dry/academic.

How one weaves those strands together, or even understands where one project ends, and the next begins, is why art is art, and not science.

Thanks, Lily.



So I guess this calls time on the JBlau era at APE.

If you like what I do, I’m easy enough to find.

Catch me at my website, Instagram, Twitter, or again, at Sunshine and Olly.

Everyone’s welcome to follow along on my next adventure.

(Except you, George. Fuck off!)

Take care, be well everyone, and thanks for reading!

This has been the best 13 years of my life!



“Thanks for reading, everyone!” JB 2023




This Week in Photography: The Best Work I Saw at Filter Part 2




The end is nigh.

Today is my penultimate column at APE.







It’s been a long, fascinating run.

I’m both thrilled to have gone on the ride with you, and a bit relieved to move into a new phase of my life.







There are so many good things that have come from my time here at APE, it’s hard to quantify.

(Though I’ve reminisced since last summer about 11 years worth of adventure.)


Dog walk, Taos, NM, January 2023


Saguaro, Eastern Arizona, January 1, 2022


French Quarter, New Orleans, December 2021


Amsterdam, February 2020


Paddington, London, May 2019


Brooklyn, NYC, April 2018


Land’s End, San Francisco, May 2017


Peninsula Hotel Elevator, Chicago, September 2016



Without question, getting to meet and learn from countless photographers, over the years, has enriched my life immeasurably.

And one of my favorite things about working for Rob was that I had creative freedom the entire time.

He trusted me to write about what I wanted, and cover what was relevant.

If I wanted to change it up, spur of the moment, that’s what I’d do.

Today, for example, we’re going to pivot, even though there’s only one column left.







Two weeks ago, I featured 9 photographers from the 2022 Filter Photo Festival in Chicago.

You might think that was that, but a few of the photographers I invited to participate were off-line for the holidays, or not-quite-able to get me their work in time.

Therefore, when they popped back up again offering jpegs, how could I refuse?

To leave them hanging, and not publish their work, would not be cool.

And that’s been the core value of this blog all along: Be Cool.

With that said, today, we’ll be featuring an impromptu Part 2 of the best work I saw at Filter last year.

As usual, the artists are in no particular order.







I guess we can start with Yvette Marie Dostatni, as she and I go way back. (And I’ve shared her work here at least once over the years.)

Yvette and I met at a photo festival years ago, and then I featured her series “Conventioneers” in the one article I wrote for The New Yorker’s Photo Booth blog.

It would be fair to call me a fan of her quirky, odd, excellent work.

(Yvette is born and raised Chicago, and is as local as it gets.)

That said, when I saw her last in Portland in 2019, I challenged her to push her newer color work, “My American Dream” forward a bit.

It felt transitional, and needed tightening.

Therefore, I was super-psyched to check it out in its current iteration.

There is a vibrance to Yvette’s work that matches her personal energy, and I can’t think of a much bigger compliment.

(I’m going to share Yvette’s captions below the images, which I rarely do, because it’s important to understand the context here.)



My American Dream Captions:


1. A tatted biker tenderly holding his effeminately dressed chihuahua, wearing a pink sweat-shirt complemented with delicate pink pearls at The International Kennel Club Dog Show in Chicago, Illinois.

2. Anthony Alfano, living with cerebral palsy, wears a costume his Parent’smade him for Halloween.Tony and Deanna Alfano make their son an elaborate Halloween costume every year. In 2016, Anthony’soutfit was the Lincoln Memorial Snow globe.To the left of him are his neighbors, who were out trick-or-treating as well.

3. Joyce Berg is the owner-operator, curator, and docent of the Angel Museum in Beloit, Wisconsin. Shewears a glittering angel costume to give tours of her personally acquired collection of more than 15,000 angel statutes. Joyce poses next to one of three cases donated by Oprah Winfrey.

4. A professional groomer and her canine creation pose for a photo after the Creative Styling Category’ competition at the ‘All American Grooming Show’ in Wheeling, Illinois.

5. A Michael Jackson impersonator stands vigil next to the King of Pop’schildhood home in Gary, Indiana, on the ninth anniversary of his death, in 2018.Next to him, enshrined in glass, is a Michael Jackson sequinedglove.

6. Twin brothers and Professional Socialites Jon and Andrew Landon wear couture outfits in their downtown Chicago, Illinois apartment. 

7. American Patriots at a life-size diorama of a burning Twin Towers during a 9/11 outdoor memorial ceremony in Schererville, Indiana.

8. Tourists patiently wait for the jousting event at Medieval Times in Schaumburg, Illinois.

9. Michael Foley and his girlfriend Colleen wait for the doorbell to ring to pass out candy on Halloween in Chicago, Illinois. 

10. Susan Henderson puts her treasured collection of dolls away for the evening in the affluent suburb of Wilmette, Illinois. Thedolls remind Susan of her happy childhood. She changes their outfits seasonally. 

11. Vehemently anti-Trump, Bob Rogers poses with a Trump Pinata in a funeral home’sempty viewing area above which he lives.Bob was looking forward to burning the pinata during President Biden’s inauguration. 

12. King Jeremie and Haija Sidd, who work at New Style Comfort Furniture, pose in the store’sfront window display.New Style Comfort Furniture is located in the most diverse neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois: Roger’s Park.

13. Samuel J. Lewis II, a professional puppeteer, holds a puppet modeled after his late Grandfather, James Aubrey Lewis, in front of his house in Skokie, IL. On this night, civil unrest was occurring less than 40 miles away in Kenosha, Wis., after the police shooting of Jacob Blake.





I’ve also known Meg Griffiths, whom I first met in Santa Fe in 2010, for quite some time too.

Meg’s been featured on the blog, for her co-curation of A Yellow Rose Project, and I’ve admired her art over the years too.

Meg showed me a Covid-era, studio project in which she got way out of her comfort zone, and made trippy, futuristic, sometimes off-putting, constructed images.

The metaphorical photos were edgy, and felt of the time they were made.

As with some of the artists I featured last time, Meg and I worked on an edit, with two piles, in which we pruned the few images that felt too safe, familiar, or both.






Jeff Schewe and I met the moment he sat down at the table, so it was a rather different experience than the previous two artists.

(Though he had sent me a FB friend request the week before the event, so I recognized his name. Smart move.)

Jeff had a long-time commercial photography career, and was something of a Photoshop wiz, having written more than one book on the subject.

I didn’t much care for the first project he showed me, but as is often the case, the second was more intriguing, in which Jeff made digitally-simulated-tintype-aesthetic images of Saguaro cacti.

I know some people aren’t in for the fakery, but IRL, the effect was convincing, the prints were luscious, and I thought the form and content matched each other well.

(Weird shit has always gotten my attention, and I hope that never changes.)




Lastly, we have Grace Tenneh Kromah, who is the current Filter Photo Fellow, and a graduate of the SAIC.

I didn’t review Grace’s work at the table, but we hung out several times, and definitely clicked on a human level.

(Despite the fact that being from Philly, she likes the dreaded Eagles, whom I very much hope the Giants beat tomorrow.)

Grace showed me her work briefly at the Filter Portfolio Walk, and it interweaves historical, family imagery with contemporary art pictures.

Grace’s history is dramatic, with an ancestry in Liberia, a move to the Midwest, a heap of whole and part siblings, and she weaves the narrative together in her art.

And a big Shout Out to Grace for communicating me with me (via IG DM) while she’s currently in Liberia, working on the project.

These pictures are so cool!

Anyway, that’s it for today, and in two weeks, I’ll say my final goodbye, and step away from APE, after a long and successful run.

Thank you all for reading!



This Week in Photography: The Best Work I Saw at Filter





My last column was fairly critical.

I threw grenades, and they exploded, but I didn’t notice any casualties.

(So it’s all good, brah.)

Today, I’ll revert to my more-typically positive self, and reiterate why I think festivals, and IRL events, are necessary for a vibrant community.






If there’s one lesson I learned over my years on the festival circuit, it’s that you never know WHAT will happen, when you put a bunch of creative people together in a room.

You just know THAT something will happen.

New relationships are the byproduct of IRL get-togethers, and represent our best chance for new adventures and opportunities.

(As all human businesses are built upon human relationships.)


JB at the FotoFest opening party, March 2020, w/ Jeff Phillips, the current Filter Photo Board President.



In my last article, I wrote extensively of the change in the demographics of the American photo world. (If not global.)

It’s been said.

But all these years, when I would meet second-career, hobbyist, and retirement photographers at the review table, I’d treat them the same as the pros, and the emerging artists.

In fact, my spiel went something like this:

Professional photographers and artists get to be creative all the time, but always worry about money. Day-job photographers and artists might not have to stress about paying the bills, but they do worry about getting enough time and energy to be creative.

Or they worry about the years they lost when they had responsibilities to parents, spouses, children, or maybe they were just conditioned that it wasn’t OK to choose a creative, money-challenged career.

Regardless, when people fall in love with the creative process, and/or discover its power to heal, it doesn’t matter the age.

The magic of what art does to the human psyche and soul is always to be admired, IMO.






At the Filter Photo Festival in Chicago last September, I met only a few “professional working photographers,” as with the other festivals this year, and most were professors.

But the vibe was great, and all the artists, regardless of their background, came to the table with open minds, having done their homework, and were very receptive to feedback.

The quality of the work was high.

Today, we’re lucky to feature nine photographers I met at the Filter Photo Festival, whose styles, backgrounds, and motivations were so different.

I dig all the work, and hope you will to.

As always, the photographers are in no particular order.





I’m glad we get to share Laidric Stevenson’s work one more time, before I wrap up the blog here, as we’ve been fortunate to feature it twice before.

Though we’d only known each other online, (and the phone,) before Filter, it was nice to meet a flesh and blood human, as I really love his work.

Laidric, in from Dallas, showed me a tight body of his large format, black and white photos shot around the city. I found some contrast issues with his prints, but the pictures always look amazing on screen.

For the record, Laidric does photography for the love of it, as a side career, as he works hard to support his family. And he’s tinkered with cameras since he was a kid.

A life long artist.

All of our journeys are valid, and can result in killer work, if we learn and grow over time.







Collette LaRue came from nearby Wisconsin, with a background in science, and was trying to test out the photo community waters, in her first review.

I found the photos of her husband, (who’s a veterinarian,) gardening in the yard, to have a proper freshness about them.

Very cool stuff.

Since it was Collette’s first festival, this is her first time sharing the work with an online audience, I believe.

Way to go, Collette!







Lyn Swett Miller definitely had the best story I heard during Filter, (and writing about her just reminded me of a humorous humiliation.)

Lyn is hard-core about her personal composting practice, as environmental activism, and incorporated it into her art, by photographing the compost piles.

The big hook is that Lyn once went to Harvard, (she lives in New Hampshire,) and actually composted her Harvard Degree!

For real!

Talk about edgy.
10 out of 10 for the idea.

(As to my humiliation…the more we said composting that day, again and again, the more it stuck in my brain. At our photo retreat two weeks later, during a critique, I kept saying composting instead of compositing, again and again, composting, composting, and everyone kept giggling, but I couldn’t figure out why.)








Jason Kerzinski was in from New Orleans, and we did cross paths last month down there too. (Only briefly, for fist bumps.)

Jason is a freelance journalist, who does a lot of work for leftist publications, and was hoping to figure out how to push his editorial practice forward.

I liked his portraits a lot, and thought they definitely showed that he could make people feel at ease, and that he knows his way around a camera.

We discussed the idea of a project, (as we so often do,) as I think a focus point helps us improve, as we return to the same idea/process/practice again and again.








Jack Long and I met at Filter a few years ago, and I published his work then too.

Jack’s a full-time commercial photographer, and last time out, he showed me some wacky images made by putting colored liquids into motion.

This time, I found his process to be super-dialed in, as the mandala-like photos are really gorgeous, and definitely have the “how did he do that?” quality.

The first time we met, there were some issues with kitschy pictures, but I found this project to be tight. (If occasionally repetitive.)







Beth Lilly was in from Atlanta, and showed me a black and white project made while driving on Interstates.

Atlanta is famous for them, but some of the photos were made elsewhere. It’s meant to be contemplative, and has a Buddhist title, (The Seventh Bardo,) but Beth and I worked at a tighter edit, to make sure the pictures were more memorable.

This style of work is a trope, but any time the form and content sing in an original, or fresh vision, we can tell a familiar type of story in a new way.

I thought there was certainly a strain of cool pictures, so we sifted through them for 20 minutes.

{Ed note: I just looked through the edit Beth sent me not long after our meeting, and she nailed it!}







Kelly Wright is an artist in Philly, and was showing her project “Preservation Society.”

As with Beth, the conversation turned to editing, and we sorted her pictures into two piles.

I’ve found, (over the years,) that once I introduce an editing principle, the photographers are always able to pick up on the themes, and then start editing themselves.

Kelly’s pictures are made in museums and preserved mansions, and grand homes, and I found the elegance was enhanced in the images that were more edgy and surprising.

{Ed note: Just looked at the edit Kelly sent, and it’s terrific.)






Rachel Portesi was new to visiting festivals, but had already had success with her work, as it was showing at the Griffin Museum in Massachusetts. (Nearby her home in Vermont.)

It’s not hard to see why, as the crafted narratives, which drip with magical realism, are great in tin-type form. And she also had a video, which you watched through an old camera lens, which showed some behind the scenes work with her models.

Beautiful stuff.

Rachel admitted she’d had to put her art career on hold for a long time, to raise her kids, but was now back into it, and I was thrilled to see it was working out for her.





Last, but not least, we have Jason Lindsey, whom I met very briefly at the Filter portfolio walk at Columbia College.

Jason wanted me to take a quick peek, since I wasn’t on his reviewer list, and I was pretty smitten by his photos of corn fields.

We didn’t talk much, but his assistant sent me these jpegs, so I gather that means Jason’s doing all right as a commercial photographer.

People with that skill set often have an easy time making things look good, and these photos certainly do. But they also had a mood/vibe that drew me in immediately.

I think you’ll like them too.

See you next time.


This Week in Photography: American Protest 2020-2021



A month ago, I reported on impending, slow-burn-end of the photo world.

No one made a sound.







A week later, I tweeted that I reported on the death of the photo word, and no one had made a sound.

The tweet got a small response.

Andrew Molitor wrote a response-blog-post, and an artist named Landry Major challenged my assertion, saying the fine art photo world was thriving, but admitted she had not read my article.




All in all, not a lot of ruffled feathers for such a grand pronouncement.

Secretly, I think a lot of people have been harboring these thoughts.

I traveled to four photo festivals this year, in San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago and New Orleans, and my observations finally came into focus in the weeks before PhotoNOLA.

So I spoke to some friends and colleagues, in person, or on the phone, to gauge their reaction.

Everyone agreed.

Let’s unpack the details.

(Trust me, this is VERY difficult to write.)









I went to Review Santa Fe in 2009 and 2010, as a photographer.

It made my career.

The first year, I took notes on the 99 other photographers, because I was so “Johnny Tryhard,” and therefore I remember the group well.

Some talented, emerging and mid-career artists, editorial photographers, and photojournalists were all together, and many have gone on to massive careers.

LaToya Ruby Frazier was there, (just like the rest of us,) and has since received a MacArthur Genius Grant!

Some other folks who went on to have success in various parts of the industry, (just off the top of my head): Susan Burnstine, Jesse Burke, Susan Worsham, Ben Lowy, Emily Shur, Matt Eich, Jeff Hutchens, Kurt Tong, Ferit Kuyas, Brian Buckley and Mark Menjivar.


JB with Emily Shur and Jon Feinstein at RSF in 2009.


Nearly everyone there was a trained, working artist, photojournalist, professor, editorial photographer, or perhaps a commercial photographer.

Easily, 90% or more were working pros.

There certainly might have been a few hobbyists, or lightly-trained, career-change photographers, but none that I recall.

That was 13.5 years ago.

I’ve since attended 30+ festivals, both as a photographer and as a reviewer.

The proof is in the pudding, as I’ve written scores of articles about these portfolio reviews over the years, all published here on APE.

Of all the festivals I attended, only the New York Times review was free, so it was the most diverse and international. By far! But it was also super-difficult to get accepted, so it’s not a viable option for most people.

Every other festival was run by non-profit, artist-founded, artist-run organizations. (Sorry, I did go to one by the Art Academy of SF, and they’re a for-profit school.)

In Houston, San Diego, San Francisco, LA, Santa Fe, New Orleans, Chicago, Denver, and Portland, the trend was so slow that I never noticed it.


A photo of someone taking a photo of someone in front of the angel wings, Chicago, 2022


Mea Culpa.

I missed the story of the slow disappearance of the professionals, replaced by hobbyists.

But in 2022, Post-Pandemic, it was impossible not to see the pattern.

This year, the vast majority of photographers I saw at the portfolio review table were coming from retirement, as a long-time hobby, or rekindling the passion after many years, hoping to change careers.

I’ve previously written that I had such a hard time remembering work from the PhotoAlliance review, I only featured two artists.

You still meet a few full-time professional artists, or busy freelance journalists, and their work is normally better, so it stands out quickly. There are plenty of professional educators still on the scene, as professors are under pressure to exhibit and publish, for tenure.

The educators also have stable jobs, and some schools provide professional development funds, so stipends are available for the professors.

And their work also tends to be of a MUCH higher caliber.

Post-pandemic, though, the majority were coming to the festivals now, (which are expensive, in a world with inflation, and concentrated resources,) ready to get in on the action, without realizing how little action was left.

One post-retirement-artist even told me they were ready to level up to a solo show now, because they had done the group-show thing, so now it was time.

(Like ticking boxes off a list.)

And I am not being ageist here.

Please allow me explain further.








The shift was gradual, but when I attended the festivals as an artist, (in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2016,) I always made more money than I spent.


The marketing budget worked, because whether I sold prints to collectors out of the box, on the spot, sometime later on, or ended up with shows that sold work, it always panned out.

There was a professional artist/journalist class, of trained experts who’d gone to school, and put in decades of time.

There were also enough opportunities and resources to support those artists, journalists, and editorial photographers.

Now, (as I’ve previously written,) the gallery/newspaper/magazine/ad buy infrastructure is a fraction of what it was, chopped year by year, so of course the opportunities will have lessened commensurately.

Simultaneously, over those 13.5 years, the products of the photo world, glossy art on pretty white walls, or sleek photos on the home pages of the NYT or the Washington Post, were very visible markers of success.




And making pictures is fun!

So of course, with the photo world incessantly promoting itself, and photography getting ever easier from better digital cameras and phones, it makes sense people who put their passion aside, due to life obligations, would want to come join the party.

Who wouldn’t?

And year by year, I treated each person at the review table the same, and tried to honor and help motivate folks who were new to giving their heart to their art.

No matter the age.

Many of my consulting clients have come from this cohort, and I’ve busted my butt, and had a great creative relationship, with each of them.

But now the portfolio review community is made up primarily of people who have financial means, and many are willing to pay $35,000-$50,000 to publish a photo book, OUT OF POCKET, because it’s a marker of status and success.

(Also, because it’s a tremendous feeling of accomplishment.)









As I wrote a month ago, photography is now everyone’s passion.

It’s a visual language that belongs to THE WORLD.

Nothing has been so democratized; not even music.

A medium once dependent on cryptic chemicals, and tricky, expensive, mechanical cameras, is now fully point-and-shoot brilliant.

From Leica monochromes to great iPhones, it’s not hard to make a “professional” looking photo.

So we can cheer that our love now belongs to everyone, and we can also mourn that so many professionals have left the field.

To be clear, I’m not saying festivals don’t belong anymore.

But at PhotoNOLA two weeks ago, of the 9 official reviews I did, only two photographers seemed to be full-time professionals: both educators there to promote their personal work.

2 out of 9.

So I asked my colleagues, and they agreed:

Perhaps the model needs to be tweaked a bit, to accommodate the new reality?

As I said, the NYT runs free reviews, because they can.

But Filter Photo, in Chicago, has active relationships with local art schools, so you can always count on 5 or 6 students coming to the review table. The schools buy reviews in blocks, (or perhaps trade for sponsorships,) so the up-and-coming, committed students attend for free.

(That’s also a great way to keep it diverse, but I’ve only seen it done at Filter.)







I believe it’s important to note the demographic shift, and ask if perhaps there are other ways we as a global photo community can support regular, working-stiff artists, teachers, and freelance journalists?

We need to make sure there is still a photo world for the next generation to enter.

Maybe festivals can increase their emphasis on low-cost education and exhibitions, and make the high-cost portfolio review elements a smaller part of the overall financial reality?

Or perhaps some of the non-profits can start adding more and more next-generation artists to their boards and advisory committees?

Because I hung out with a handful of 20-somethings this year, in San Diego, Chicago and New Orleans, and I can legitimately vouch for Gen Z.


JB with Liv, (from London,) in the French Quarter, NOLA, Dec 2022. (Photo by Bayley Mizelle)


They are coming to save the world, with their empathy, multi-talents, and their Internet-charged brains.

I’m here for it.

But outside of the handful of students at Filter, none of the younger generation I met were at the festivals to be reviewed, as “paying customers.”

We can welcome later-in-life artists, and career-change photographers, and support their exciting, creative journeys.

And I have.

But given what I saw on the road in 2022, if they’re now the majority of the festival community, (and the ones primarily paying-to-play,) I believe it needs to be acknowledged.

Saying “Beetlejuice” three times can be scary.

But I said it.

So let’s move on.


image courtesy of IFC Center









I’m in an awkward position, as I’ve already told you I quit, but Rob’s allowing me to wrap up the column here in an elegant way.

I’ve got to share the best work I saw at Filter, and PhotoNOLA, so that’s two more articles.

And I’m sitting on a sizable submission-book-stack.

At first, I thought I’d try to cram 20 mini-reviews into two articles.

Little pods of information.

But that doesn’t feel right.

It wouldn’t allow me to honor the photographers who trusted me with their books. (Their artistic babies.)


So I’m announcing today that I’ll start a personal blog, in the next two months, so I can properly review every book that was sent my way.

It’s only fair, and after all, I love to write.

I promise to provide full details before I wrap up here, (and on social media,) and I’ll do a quick book review today, too, as a show of good faith.

Because I’d like to state one thing very clearly: I love the global photography community, and it’s been an honor to have such a visible platform here for so long.

If just a few of you come over and read the book reviews, (or whatever else I write about,) that’s cool with me.

I guess it will be my hobby from now on, since I’ll be doing it for free.

For myself. As art.








Even though there are only 3 columns left here, (after today,) I always keep it real.

I went to the book stack, and looked for the oldest submission.

Of course it’s perfect for today, because that’s how the column-magic has always worked, over the years.

“American Protest: Photographs 2020-2021,” by Mel D. Cole, was published by Damiani, and arrived in Nov of 2021.

January 6th, which is featured in the book, was still fresh, and these days, we wonder if the endgame is coming?

But man, does this book pack a punch.

The intros tell us that Mel D. Cole is, and has always been an independent journalist, and the end notes say that funding was provided by the Black Photographers’ Fund. (Which he created.)

Damiani is an expensive publisher, so clearly a lot of people came together to enable this creative vision.

It’s pretty much the best case scenario for how the photo world can support working pros. (As I wrote above.)

But it’s also a great example of how I’ve tried to promote diversity of culture, vision and perspective here, over nearly 13 years.


New Orleans, Dec 2022


This book is clearly the product of the combination of talent, grit, bravery, timing, community support, and the brilliance of the photographic medium.

History was preserved.

Art was made.

Perspective was offered.

It’s badass!

I saw no designer credits, so I’m assuming Mel D. Cole did it himself, and it grabs you from the first second.

Black men in handcuffs, but rendered in such a way that you think… Shackles… Slavery.

(The reference is not to be missed.)

That the book ends with raised firsts and Black Lives Matter signs held high, tells you what you need to know about call backs, structure, and progression.

The pictures are amazing, and speak for themselves.


But just as I found myself about to skip ahead, (because there are a lot of pictures, and the structure was getting repetitive,) BAM!!!

He drops a color photo on us, the first, of a blood-stained Philly cop in his bright blue uniform.


Seriously, it jolted me back into the present moment.

And that use of occasional color popped up again, a few times, always to smart effect.

This is just a terrific book.

Top class.

The critic in me will point out that I don’t love the font choice in the intro text, (including one by Jamie Lee Curtis,) and I particularly dug the honest, casual, loving, thank you page.

Today’s book is a great example of why I’d like to see the global photography community organize a bit, to make sure the life-long art voices, those countless creators who committed to the path, and continue to stick it out…

We need to maintain a system that supports these photographers.

Otherwise, what are we doing?


To purchase “American Protest: Photographs 2020-2021” click here


This Week in Photography: Quitting Time



It’s official.

I’ve joined The Great Resignation.

(For real.)








I’m guessing the news won’t come as a shock, as I announced this summer the column was being scaled back to 2x a month.

That one was on Rob Haggart, who hosts my blog here at APE. (And I understood his position, given the changed nature of the photo industry.)

But this was on me, and as I quit a month ago, I’ve been sitting on the news, waiting for the right moment.

(Which is now.)

Along the journey, I was a blogger at the New York Times for 6 years, (which I might have mentioned 1000 times,) but I also tried it out with The New Yorker, Vice, Hyperallergic, and The New Republic.

Nothing else fit right.

So the fact I began writing here in 2010, and am finally ready to go, (nearly 13 years later,) speaks to the quality of the situation I had.

APE was my goldilocks gig.

But once the weekly-column-spell was broken, (and I spent all summer reminiscing,) in early November, I felt ready for a different challenge.

So I gave notice.

And here we are…








Certainly, I’ve changed styles over the years, while hopefully presenting a consistent voice.

We covered photo books, portfolio reviews, art exhibitions, restaurants, toured cities, interviewed artists, and so much more, all to the tune of 600+ articles.

(That’s a damn good run, by anyone’s definition.)

But now?

I might want to write a book.
Or a movie.

Pitch a show to Netflix?

Open a martial arts dojo?

Who knows?

This fall, I did my first large-scale, independent photo/writing journalism, (for HuffPost,) and loved every minute of it. (The story will be out soon.)

Seriously, it was the funnest job I’ve ever had!

So that’s a start.

Or a direction, anyway.

And if I’ve learned anything as a full-time, freelance creative over 22 years, you have to trust your instincts, and be willing to step out there, not knowing what comes next.

(Exciting is just another word for scary, after all.)








Wrapping things up, though, after this long, can take a bit of doing.

I’ve previously promised articles about three portfolio review festivals, (Medium, Filter and PhotoNOLA,) and am sitting on a big inventory of books people sent, hoping for a review.

(The famed book stack.)

So starting today, we’re on the final countdown.

I’ll begin with the best work I saw at the 2022 Medium Festival of Photography, in San Diego, and we’ll end my time here over the next four columns.

(Making today the first of JB’s Final Five.)

As has always been the case, I won’t show the artists below in any particular order.

They come from different backgrounds and areas of the photo industry, but all these nice folks bared their souls last May, when they put their work out there for critical and public reception.

I sincerely thank these artists, and the hundreds of others who shared their pictures with you over the years, because they first shared them with me at a photo festival.


Anh-Thuy Nguyen

Anh-Thuy is originally from Vietnam, but teaches in Tucson, after getting an MFA from SMU in Dallas. (Have you got that straight?) She studied with a good friend of mind down there, Debora Hunter, and I was super-impressed by ATN’s art practice, which includes video, performance, sculpture, photography, and food.




Brendan Rowlands

Brendan is English, but lives with his wife, Carmen, in Mexico City. (The series is titled after her.) Carmen suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, which afflicts many people, but is not well known. As Brendan and Carmen were cooped up during Covid, they made a project together in her honor.



Rainer Hosch

Rainer is from Austria, and his wife is from Ireland, but they live with their two children in Topanga Canyon, outside LA. We hit it off, and chatted NFT’s, (as it was shortly after my NFT article dropped here,) and Rainer has had some serious success in the field, if I understand things correctly. That said, he showed me images shot from his favorite beach, where Topanga meets the sea, and they’re seriously gorgeous.



Oriana Poindexter 

Oriana is a classic Californian, based in La Jolla, and seems like the type of character someone would invent, if they wanted a cover for a female James Bond, or Indiana Jones. (I’m not kidding.) In addition to being a talented artist, she’s also a marine scientist, trained at Princeton, and scuba dives deep down into the ocean, to study kelp forests and other creatures. During her forays, she makes images which become cyanotype prints. Just remarkable stuff!



Perry Hambright

Perry is based in Santa Barbara, and he and I had the inevitable talk about taste. I wanted to know if he was in on the joke, and realized these pictures are about as tacky/kitschy as it gets. He loves working this way, and knows the pictures are bonkers, so really, I’m down with it. Self-aware and weird-as-shit is fine by me!



David Comora

David was in from the East Coast, and showed me some images made in an abandoned house. But really, it wasn’t the exact story of a dilapidated, haunted structure, but rather he knows the owner, and they let him in. That’s a bit different, and the awkward feeling extends to the black and white prints, which I thought were really well made.



Robert Welkie

Robert had a bunch of small projects, and when I just went to his website, I remembered I liked his color diptychs. But this group below is also very cool, as the textures and tonality are strong. This micro edit is almost creepy, if you ask me. (Then again, I edited it.)



Alexander Drecun

Last but not least we have Alexander, who had a really odd, but very cool project. Though he’s not Jewish himself, Alexander learned of a tradition in which physical boundaries are created by string, to cheat the Sabbath rules for Orthodox Jews. It’s called an Eruv. So he photographed these lines around LA, which are otherwise totally unseen by the outside world. Love it!




Hope all is well, and see you in two weeks.



This Week in Photography: Giving Thanks!




Thanksgiving is such a weird holiday.

(It’s beyond absurd, if you think about it.)

Can you imagine if someone dreamed up Thanksgiving, from scratch, in 2022?


Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, courtesy of the Today Show/ James Devaney/ Getty Images









Ted: I’ve had an idea-gumbo cooking in my mental kitchen for a few weeks now, let me tell you.

Brad: Really, Ted?

Ted: Yes, Brad, really.

Brad: Are you just going to tease me? If I want to get teased, Ted, I can walk down to Janet’s cubicle, and she’ll do it gladly.

Ted: Wait, what? Janet’s been flirting with you? Damn, boy! Look at you!

Yes, Ted, I even bought a just in case she flirts with me again.

Brad: (Pause.) Listen, Ted, I’m busy. Don’t you have a great idea? Isn’t that why you came over here?

Ted: Yeah, sorry, Brad. Totally. So, I’ve been thinking. Hallmark is not happy with their quarterlies, and we have to give them something good to keep the account.

What if we create a new holiday around gratitude? You know, giving thanks? I mean, what demo could possibly object to giving thanks?

Brad: Giving thanks? Ok, Ted. I’m curious. Keep going.

Ted: So then I thought, why not make it historical? How about we combine the giving-thanks part with honoring the founding of America?

Brad: I’m still listening.

Ted: OK, Brad. So who do we have to thank for the founding of America?

Brad: The crazy English fucks who sailed out into an empty, cold Ocean, and an unknown world, just to get away from England?

Ted: No, silly. We don’t thank THEM. Anyone can honor the Pilgrims. I mean, sure, we’ll mention them a little. But we’re going to thank the Native Americans who gave us the Continent, so we could found our new nation.

Let’s thank the them!

Brad: (Silence.) (Stares daggers at Ted.) Say what now, Ted? Say what?

You want us to make a holiday around thanking the people upon whom our American ancestors committed Genocide?

Do you hear yourself, Ted?

Ted: Yeah, yeah, sorry, Brad. You’re right. What was I thinking? I gotta stop eating that last edible right before bed.

It’s not doing me any favors.



End Scene:






Sure, Thanksgiving is batshit, but giving thanks IS a great idea.

I’m grateful for you, the audience of people who have read my musings here for the last 11 years.

And I’m beyond thankful for my lovely, amazing, supportive, incredible family. (As I’ve said, this column is older than my daughter, and she’s jealous.)

I’m also thankful to all the great artists who’ve made work that’s inspired me these many years.

Just the other day, for example, my son, (who’s 15,) wanted to show my daughter (10) his favorite childhood film: “Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.”



Such a brilliant movie!

(If you haven’t seen it, please do. I swear, it’s not just for kids. )

We all remembered every line, and Amelie was smitten, as it’s a perfect film.

Plus, the claymation is sooooooo laborious, the technical mastery is evident, without taking you out of the narrative.

There’s an old expression: They don’t make them like this anymore.

And in this case they actually can’t.

Peter Sallis, the voice actor who played Wallace, passed away in 2017 at the age of 96.

(RIP Wallace!)

Whether you’re an artist/critic like me, or just a “normie,” the biggest artistic touchstones will always represent a certain phase of your life.

An era.

Or an inflection point?

That’s what great art does for culture, and for our lives.










11 years ago, (in a story I shared too recently to re-tell,) I discovered a pure writing style for this column.

It was Thanksgiving, and after the night-time-drama, I woke up the next day and reviewed a massive Taryn Simon book, published by a start-up in London called MACK.

The book was titled “A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters.”

Let me tell you, the book is massive!

It’s easily the biggest, thickest book I own, and I’m not sure I reopened it again before this morning.

Which means it’s time for a re-review, as this book, (like Wallace and Gromit,) is proper genius.

And just like W&G, they don’t make them like this anymore.


In an age of rampant inflation, I can’t imagine a publisher making a book this expensive to create.

(Unless it was a super-small-batch, limited edition.)

Not only that, I don’t think an artist working with these ideas and scope would do this project as “fine art photography” in 2022.

Let that sink in for a moment.









The book is amazing because the idea is amazing, and thoroughly executed.

But it’s also so bleak I had to stop at Chapter 12.

Ms. Simon has basically put human nature on display, by telling disturbing stories via human family networks.

Each tale is a thread in a metaphor-tapestry that depicts a cynical, nihilistic view of PEOPLE.

Off the top of my head, (though I did just look at the book,) we’ve got a litany of family horror stories:

A South Asian Indian family that declared some members dead to steal inheritance.

Zionists who successfully colonized Israel.

Filipino tribal people paraded as zoo animals at a World’s Fair 1O0+ years ago.

Saddam Hussein’s sadistic son’s tortured body double, Hitler’s legal advisor, Scottish thalidomide sufferers, a fisherman kidnapped by North Korean secret agents, Brazilian blood feud murderers, and Bosnian massacre victims.

Ms. Simon photographed teeth and bone fragments to represent some of the people, (killed in Srebrenica) as each family member in the book sits for a straight, typological portrait, unless they were unavailable for a host of difficult reasons. (Like fear of kidnapping.)

But worst of all, more horrifying than all the humans, is the chapter about lab rabbits in Australia, who are raised to be testing victims of viral warfare, as the government in Oz tries to wipe out rabbits, (which are non-native,) and were intentionally introduced by humans.

There is a photo of rabbits shot dead in a mass grave, and if you HAVE ever seen “The Curse of the Were-Rabbit,” you’ll know why my brain melted at the connection.

(Like I said, 12 Chapters was enough for one sitting.)







That the book exists is a miracle, given its scope.

But how did she even get the project done?

In 2022, I can’t fathom how much money was spent to travel the globe like this.

The research, the time making the pictures.

The assistants.

The film costs, the hotel rooms, the global fixers.

The printing, the editing.

All of it.

Coming in the late aughts, on the heels of Gursky, Struth, Simon and Demand making SERIOUS money selling their over-sized prints, I can just about understand the level of collector-support necessary to raise the MILLIONS of dollars.




But now?

In 2022?

As art, in culture? No way.

Done now, this would definitely be financed by Netflix or Amazon Prime.

The story would be told with photos, sure. But also video, podcasts, Patreon private parties, what have you.

“Photography” has seen too much of a decline in resources and attention, as a sub-species of culture, and too big a leap in importance in mass culture.

Magazines are gone, or minimized. Blogs folded. Newspapers are a fraction the size. Many galleries have contracted or shut. And NFT’s were not the magic-golden-bullet some promised.

While the “photography” industry was shrinking over the last 11 years, the impact of Photography has never been greater.

EVERY HUMAN WITH A PHONE takes pictures now.

We have succeeded to the point of irrelevance.

(Like I said, it’s a big idea.)

And a brilliant book.

See you next time.





This Week in Photography: Be Excellent



Hurt people hurt people.

And helping people feel good feels good.

(Both things are true.)








I mention this today, because unfortunately, I was proven right about something insidious, and we’re going to talk about it.

In the past two weeks, we also saw a cultural firestorm lit by my nemesis: Kyrie Irving.

As my family, (and Twitter,) can attest, for the past couple of years, I’ve been telling anyone who would listen that the Brooklyn Nets point guard was probably Bipolar, certainly narcissistic, and happy to torch any NBA team dumb enough to pay him tens of millions of dollars.

I was shouted down by everyone, who insisted the Brooklyn Nets would win so many titles, it would be worth appeasing an asshole.

Fast-forward to 2022, and the Nets, (for whom I’ve rooted since I was a boy,) a team mired in decades of mostly-losing, temporarily became the most hated team on Earth.

After two years of drama that would make Kurt Sutter blush, only then did things amp up a notch.

Kyrie Irving, (who by now has caused numerous controversies since I first went public with my critique,) promoted a virulently antisemitic film playing on Amazon Prime, and then he doubled down on his transgression.

He refused to apologize, while he gave a massive cultural boost to dangerous, antisemitic theories, which denigrated Jews, and then smugly claimed, “I cannot be antisemitic if I know where I come from,” which was code for:

Black people are the real Jews, and therefore can’t be antisemitic, because the people claiming to be Jews are actually imposter slave-masters.



It’s not like it’s any crazier than theories about the Rapture, but that is one dangerous, hateful, insane ideology.

My man Kyrie has dogged the media for years, calling us pawns, and worse, so now that he came after me as Jew too, I went full boycott.

Fuck that guy.

(Though I did watch Wednesday night’s drubbing of the cross-town rival NY Knicks, because the Nets finally suspended Kyrie Irving.)









Antisemitism is everywhere now, unfortunately, but it felt really scary when I called out art for antisemitism, for the first time, last September.

I saw a painting by Raymond Johnson, at the UNM Art Museum, a characterization of a Jewish woman from 1919, and it set off a weird Spider Sense in my head.

(Not a good one.)



Suggesting that such an ancient prejudice might accidentally show up in the uber-liberal art world, under the cover of “we didn’t realize it,” seemed a bit of a reach.

A month later, I had the same feeling at the Art Institute of Chicago, from a David Hockney painting.

If you want to make fun of rich collectors, sure go ahead. But when you title the painting in such a way that is has a Jewish name associated, it becomes a trope.



And yet again, in March 2022, at the San Francisco Art Institute, I told you all about Diego Rivera using a “trope” in one of his murals.

He put the short, hook-nosed Jew at the literal center of a Capitalist cabal.



(Doesn’t get more trope-y than than.)

So now that Kanye has gone full Ye, Deathcon 3 to the Jews, and Kyrie went full bigot, do you believe me now?








Here’s the deal.

Hating people because of the color of their skin, religion, gender, choice of romantic partners, the pronoun with which they choose to be addressed…

All these forms of judgmental hatred are lame.

They’re wrong.



You dig?

Israeli Jews shouldn’t hate Palestinians any more than some faction of Black Hebrew Israelites should hate American Jews.

It’s the most uncool thing a person can do.







This morning, trying to find some writing inspiration, I noticed a book on my shelf that I’d never truly considered. A book given to me in a swag-bag at a portfolio review years ago, (so it wasn’t an official submission,) and who knows why I haven’t reviewed it before?

“Gays in Military: Photographs and Interviews,” by Vincent Cianni, was published by Daylight, back in 2014.

It contains the requisite, well-written essays, and a host of interview material, but I’m not going to delve into that today. With this much to read, and the density of captured experience, I’d say it’s more a book to be picked up and experienced, bit by bit.

(It’s not a book for one sitting.)

Vincent photographed a series of men and women who were emotionally tortured, during their time as American soldiers, as warriors.

For being gay.

During the 1990’s, Bill Clinton, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell fiasco, countless gay Americans served, but had to keep their private lives secret.

Or for many, have no private lives at all. In order to do their jobs, so many people had to give up the right to privacy, to a partner, or to happiness.

That is some nasty-ass discrimination right there, and thankfully the policy was done away with.

Everyone photographed in this book suffered while protecting us. Think on that.

But policies improve, and sometimes, our lives improve, when times are good.

Let’s all do our part to battle intolerance, and discrimination.

In the words of those gentle philosophers, Bill and Ted:

Be Excellent to Each Other!





To purchase “Gays in the Military” click here





This Week in Photography: Be Memorable




I meet a lot of photographers each year.





Going to festivals as I do, reviewing portfolios, I see a ton of work.

Each time, when you meet with someone for 20 minutes, at some point, you’re giving specific feedback about their individual project, and the component pictures.

That’s obvious.

But often, (if you’re seeing 150+ portfolios a year,) you say certain things over and over again.

It’s the meta-advice, if you will.

Some of it, you’ve heard here a million times.

(Were I substantially more popular and important, they might have a drinking game for how often I say, “Get out of your comfort zone.”)







In 2022, one thing I said, over and over again, is the goal is to be memorable.

To somehow stick in the mind of the person you’re meeting, so they hang on to tidbits about you down the line.

(When they’re far more likely to work with you than ASAP.)

This year alone, I hit festivals in San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago, and I’m going to PhotoNOLA in New Orleans this December.


Chicago, Sept 2022


That’s a lot of portfolios!

How much work, how many people, can I really remember in detail?

Or perhaps, the better question is, which details did I remember at all?





Being memorable is meta-advice, because it’s not something you can do directly.

Sure, I guess you could go the obvious route and jump off your roof, while having your dumb buddy film it.

Post it on Youtube.

That might work.







By definition, average is not memorable.

Exceptional is memorable.

Brilliant is memorable.

Innovative is memorable.

Heart-breaking is memorable.

(As is extreme, unfortunately.)

Show me things I haven’t seen, and I’ll remember it.

If your work is FUCKING AMAZING, I’ll remember you.

Or if it’s odd, kooky, strange-enough-to-occupy-the-Upside-Down type of art.

The weird shit.

That’s memorable too.







I’m more-than-overdue to write about the festivals I’ve visited this year, and San Francisco came first.

I mention all this because I’m doing something new today.

If you remember, in the Spring, I wrote an extensive travel article about SF, as my visit was so traumatizing.

It was a story about the power of human feces, and the death of cool.

(Better we don’t revisit it.)

But I never wrote about the portfolio review I attended, the reason I went to SF in the first place, and critiqued that Diego Rivera mural at the SF Art Institute.

(Calling it out for antisemitism. BTW, I’ve been warning about that for a year, so hopefully you’re paying attention now.)







The San Francisco Art Institute finally closed, as back then it had been hanging on by a thread.

I spent two days there at the PhotoAlliance portfolio review in March, and for some reason, I barely remember any of the work, or the people I met at the review table.

So today, for the first time ever, I’m only going to share the portfolios that stuck in my brain.

Sure, you could say it was the California weed, (and maybe it’s true,) but I’ve been stoned plenty of times and still remembered everything.


My 44 % THC Horchata joint


With respect to my few days in San Francisco, the location, the meals, walking through the city, sitting by the bay, I can recall all of it in my mind, easily.


View of the Golden Gate from Chrissy Field


$10 BBQ Pork noodle plate from Chinatown


(Damn, I’d eat a plate of those noodles right about now.)

But it’s far more likely that particular group of artists did not stand out, for some reason.

Not enough juice to the work, or the conversations.

Thankfully, two artists made an impression.

(Three, if you count Pamela Gentile, whom I once wrote about for the NYT, but we didn’t really look at new work. I just remember chatting.)







I met Jacque Rupp at one of the online portfolio reviews, back in 2020, or ’21.

(Really, can anybody remember which year was which?)

Jacque lives in NorCal, and I remember her black and white, documentary project about immigrant, farm-worker communities along the coast, near Gilroy.

I published those images here, and wrote about our conversation, with respect to how an “outsider” can do the research, work with non-profits, and earn the right to share stories from other communities.

Which she had been doing.

So that was my context for our IRL meet in March.

I was therefore NOT expecting “The Red Purse,” a series of intimate, color self-portraits that explored middle-aged, female sexuality.

It was weird, and personal, and not like anything I could recall.

In my mind, now, when I close my eyes, I remember slip dresses. The color red. And Jacque there before me, in the flesh.

I didn’t need to go to her website to look it up, because fragments of the images were living in my mind.

Thanks, Jacque!







And then there was Wik Wikholm.

I don’t need to say much about Wik, (other than he was a chill, nice guy,) because the pictures speak for themselves.

OK, there IS one story I’ll share.

It’s a quote really, that popped into my head during the crit, and Wik liked it a lot.

“We start with absurdity, and move towards insanity.”

Wik made digitally composited self portraits, but at first, I refused to believe him.

The guy in front of me looked SO little like the guy in the images, it just couldn’t be.

But Wik swore he’d lost weight, it was him, and playing the characters was a part of the deal.

“Damn,” I kept yelling out loud.

(Ask Wik.)

At one point, I got up from the table, walked for a few seconds, and then came back.

So weird!

Wik’s work kept blowing my mind, at a time when my mind was (apparently) occupied with weed, food and fecal matter.

(OK, I’m exaggerating for comedic effect.)

I love this stuff, and I’m sure you will too.

See you in two weeks!


This Week in Photography: The Street Becomes




I was betrayed this week.

(But I won’t get into the details.)






It’s not going to be one of THOSE columns.

I wanted to open that way because betrayal is one of the great themes in art, culture, and human existence.

Yet it’s not a word we use in every-day conversation:






“How was your day today, honey?”

“Oh, you know, the usual. Petersen forgot to log off his copy code again, so he got blamed for the wastage.”

“That Petersen would forget his head if it weren’t attached to his body, wouldn’t ya say, honey?”

“Yeah, you betcha.”

“What else happened at work, honey?”

“Well, what else? Tyler brought ham again for lunch, which made the 50th day straight. We were counting. That was wild.”

“Oh, I can see that. Exciting, in an office-betting sort of way.”

“Yeah, right. Exactly. 50 days. (Chuckles.) What else happened? Oh yeah, sure. I betrayed Tommy, and he swore a blood oath to kill me, my children, and my children’s children.

So there’s that.”


–End Scene








I didn’t look up betrayal on the internet.

And I didn’t check a dictionary.

Betrayal is one of those words everyone just knows what it means, even if they’ve never tried to define it.

(Like its sister, revenge.)

I’d say, to betray: (verb:) to hurt or injure someone important or close to you, by some nefarious method, in a manner such as going behind someone’s back, cheating, lying, taking their stuff, selling them out, snitching, etc…







And not only people betray.

Societies and governments can too.

America was built by betraying treaties with the Indigenous inhabitants of this Continent, and betraying the boundaries of all human decency with the TransAtlantic Slave Trade.

We know this.

But the United States often betrayed its own principles, its belief in the power of Democracy, by undermining the freedom of so many people throughout Latin America, overturning elections, engineering coups, or outright invading nation after nation.

As luck would have it, we’re going to take a look at my friend Jaime Permuth’s new book, which turned up in the mail in October 2021.

“The Street Becomes,” published by Meteoro Editions in The Netherlands, has a gray cover, with cool fonts and embossed letters.

(But it doesn’t give much away.)

This is one of those books that doesn’t proffer context from the jump, but asks you to figure out things as you go.

Given that I know Jaime is from Guatemala, (though he currently lives with his wife and children in South Korea,) and I’ve looked at a lot of photo books, I put on my detective cap, and went to work.





We see a series of double-spreads, featuring gray-scale images that appear to have been digitally altered, to create a consistent aesthetic.

On the left, always what appears to be archival imagery of American Imperialist, Colonialist invasions into Latin America, though it’s hard to say where.

On the right, the images also feel historical, but maybe over a slightly larger range of history. These pictures give us a feeling of Carnival, at times, or protest, at others, but maybe they’re all joined together by themes of Latino/Hispanic/Chicano/Latinx people, in their culture, out and about, in the streets?

But where?

Sometimes, the spread-pairings are direct, and obvious.

Others, less so.

I kept turning the pages, and thought, “This really seems like a concept book. Most of these pictures are not super-awesome, by themselves, so this book is telling a story in the aggregate.

With a very particular style.”





I kept turning the pages, hoping for a bit of surprise, and then, at the end, I spotted a Maryland license plate on a parade car .

Finally, I definitively placed it in the US, and if we’re being literal, in the DMV. (DC, Maryland, Virginia.)

Then the photos were done.







For text, at the end, there’s a conversation-style-interview between Jaime and curator Olivia Cadaval.

We learn Jaime was a fellow in DC, at the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum, and chose to make a book of two different groups of images from the archives, which appealed to him intuitively.

The first is of US Marine Corps invasions in Haiti and the Dominican Republic; the second came from The Latino Festival, which first began in DC in 1968, and continued for years.

Jaime also spoke of connections to his youth in Guatemala, a country still ravaged by insane violence and poverty; the long shadow of a bloody 80’s Civil War. (In large part due to US Imperialism.)

So maybe, (in the end,) it’s a concept book with a mission:

To remind us, when a society betrays its best values for its worst, bad shit can happen.

See you in two weeks!


To Purchase “The Street Becomes” click here 




This Week in Photography: A Fresh Start





In September 2011, I began this column.





9/11 was a decade ago, (at that point,) and we’d moved back to Taos 6 years prior.

Those first couple of months, the column looked nothing like today.

I reviewed three books at a time; only a couple of paragraph-blurbs per book.

There was no trademark rant, no random connections, no absurdist tricks like opening a column with a short story, or a treatise on gaslighting.

It wasn’t until Thanksgiving, 2 months later, when one of my deepest fears came true, and it unlocked an entirely new writing style.








Late that night, it was pitch black outside, just after Jessie and I went to bed.

Suddenly, we heard a bashing knock at our bedroom door, and my Mother-in-Law, Bonnie, was brandishing a gun, yelling about trespassers.

Somehow, when we moved into our house in 2009, I had a premonition I’d be woken by a knock at the door, by a gun, late at night.

And here it was.

My Father-in-Law kept a cool head, and I accompanied him into the field.

Some local kids were trying to visit a friend, back for the holidays, and had gotten lost.

(Then stuck in the irrigation ditch.)

We towed them out, sent them on their way, and that was that.

But my fear became reality, and it wasn’t so bad.







Now that I think about it, around the same time, some wild animals in the canyon brought down a deer in our stream.

I found it in the morning.

Stone dead.


I chopped off the deer’s paw with a hatchet, to make a photograph, and when the farm dogs chewed off its head, my Mother-in-Law, Bonnie, fought them for the trophy and won.


“My deer paw”


(Bonnie was tough as nails.)

She put the deer head in her garage freezer, in a black garbage bag, and insisted I take it to make a photograph.


“My deer head”


When I wrote those stories down in 2019, for my book, “Extinction Party,” we’d just noticed Bonnie’s decline.



By mid-2020, the dementia became progressively worse, and the pandemic turbo-charged it.

Bonnie loved my book when it came out, and knew I’d honored her in it.

But now she knows nothing at all.







My main point is: things change.

Time moves.

And I’ve spent the last 11 years sharing my life with you each week, from a working horse farm at the base of the Rocky Mountains.

In the American Wild West.

But Taos Mountain loves nothing more than symbolism, and she’s not subtle in her teaching.

Yesterday, while getting myself prepared for Antidote, our photo retreat, (which begins Friday,) I was petting the new horse, Penny.


Penny, earlier this summer


She’s my first horse-friend, and her tawny hair catches the light just so.

But my kids are mildly allergic to horses, so I went down to my favorite spot by the stream to wash my hands.

I looked to my right, as I crouched by the water, and noticed a dead deer; a huge carcass, a few feet to my right.

It had been eaten, BIG TIME, which explained why my dogs were hanging by the stream all morning.








It was a jarring moment.

Later, I saw part of a jawbone here, a piece of stomach there.

Primal nature, right in my face.

I checked with a shaman friend, (via text message,) who suggested I honor and respect the deer’s spirit.

(To make up for exploiting the other deer 11 years ago.)

Unless the coyotes work together and drag the carcass off, I’ll be grabbing the shovel and some work gloves. Then wedging the deer out of the stream, before our students come.

I’ll be swatting flies, and covering my nose for the smell. (Unless the cold water staved off the rot.)

I’ll move the deer to a more permanent, peaceful resting place.

And that will be my penance.


Me, right before writing my last weekly column.


See you in two weeks!






This Week in Photography: The Chicago Beatdown





I love Chicago.

Of the American cities I know well, Chicago might be my favorite.

(Though San Diego and New Orleans are in the conversation.)







Chicago offers everything, at a world-class level: beaches, architecture, art, food, music and diversity, in a walkable, clean, urban megalopolis. I’ve said it before, but the buildings are so gorgeous, it’s like walking around a massive, public art installation.





That Chicago has always been a little-brother city means it’s had to work extra-hard to distinguish itself.

New visitors are surprised by how big it is, how clean, and how picturesque is the setting, with the ocean-blue lake and serpentine green river.


Bikers at the Lake
Jet-skiers on the river


The Chicagoans are nice, hard-working, and humble as the day is long. So when I visited last week, (just got home Sunday,) I was expecting a tight-gripped, large-person, bear hug, as Chicago always treats me well.

This was my 7th visit since 2015, and I’ve spent well over a month in the city since.

Honestly, Chicago loves me.

I have great friends, always talk to strangers, eat well, and never have drama.

This time, however, I got a little cocky, (acted too big for my britches,) so I got a proper Chicago-style beatdown.


What happened?

Let’s dive in.








While my trip was efficient, as I said, it left little time for stopping to buy food.

And as soon as I got to the 21C Museum Hotel, for the Filter Photo Festival, the rest of the reviewers were heading out the door to the welcome party.

(So that added time pressure.)

Trader Joe’s was literally across the street, and I’ve already told you about my room-booze technique, which saves a lot of money at the bar.

Bourbon sounded like the perfect thing to put some pep in my step, so I bought a bottle of Bulleit, but was too tired to think about searching for food, (and too intimidated to roam the TJ aisles.)  So I showered, threw back a few glasses of whiskey, and was out the door for the 1+ mile walk North.

Do I know better than to drink on an empty stomach?

Of course I do!

Then, I didn’t dig the food when I got there, and as I’d jumpstarted my evening with the bourbon, and switched to white wine at the party, I was quickly too inebriated to make good decisions.

So not eating, and mixing drinks.

Two bad calls.

At the bar afterwards, my friend Doug offered me a pint of Guinness, and then someone else gave me a light brown beer.

We stepped outside to smoke a couple of times.


At the bar. Don’t entirely remember taking the photo.


By midnight, walking home with Caitlin and Grace, I’d put whiskey, white wine, black beer, reefer, and brown beer into an empty stomach.

Because I was so tired from the travel day, and hadn’t bought any food at Trader Joe’s, there was also no late night grub in the room.

(Nor leftovers, as I hadn’t had time for takeout.)

And we weren’t in a part of town where there were restaurants open.

That was mistake 3, adding nothing to the sad stomach, after the fact, to soak up the booze.

Oh man, was it going to be a nasty morning.








Earlier in the week I’d bragged on a group text, arrogantly saying I never get hangovers.

That I had the perfect remedy, and really, getting too drunk was for suckers.

(I’m no sucker.)

Unfortunately, I got cocky in Chicago, and the city doesn’t cotton to hubris.

No sir.









To say I threw up four times before 8:30am is to be factually accurate, but contextually mild.

I wanted to die. I might have cried.

(Hard to be sure.)

I definitely called my wife, begging for empathy, and genuinely wondered if I might have caught a bug in the airports? At first, so sure of my own invulnerability, I couldn’t imagine my pain was self-inflicted.

I’m a dude who knows how to handle himself. It’s a part of my identity.

Yet there I was, curled in a fetal position in the shower, begging my poor body, which I’d just abused, to find enough energy to review 14 portfolios that day.

(Cut to the chase, I did it.)

I’m told I looked like death, with bloodshot eyes, raccoon-bags beneath them, and ashen, waxy skin.

By afternoon I’d rebounded, and by evening, I began my 3-types-of-pizza-in-3-days foray, which we’ll talk about next.

But the big moral of the story was explained to me a few times over the next few days.

If you’re going to be too full of yourself, stay out of Chicago.

If, however, you make an ass of yourself, but then learn your lesson, take your humbling like a pro, and grow from the occasion?

After the beatdown, Chicago picks you up, dusts you off, and gives you a hug.








So, the pizza.

My friend Louie Palu has railed against Deep Dish as long as I’ve known him, claiming it’s not pizza.

Every. Single. Chicago. Local. I know insists they never eat Deep Dish.

That it’s for tourists.

By now, I’ve tried Pizanos, (good,) Giordano’s, (OK,) and Lou Malnati’s, (very good,) but I’d never tried the OG Deep Dish spots in Chicago: Pizzerias Uno and Due.

They’re a block away from each other, and apparently begat the trend, back in the day.

They’d been recommended to me before, so I was down to try it, but truth is, it was the first food I was going to eat since I was sick, and as Pizzeria Due was on the corner of my block, that’s as far as I was going to order it.



The place reeked of character, and when I saw a pizza with spinach and broccoli on the menu, I was sold, because I needed a little nutrition to jumpstart my system.

Did I assume I’d be the only person ordering that pizza that night?

Yes I did.

So when I got the pizza home, and after I took the picture, I was a little surprised not to see much green inside.



Still, I thought, the veggies have to be in there.

I cut into a slice, (which looked quite good,) and wouldn’t you know it, I bit into a piece of sausage, but no veggies.


(For those of you who don’t remember, last year, at Tempo Cafe, they gave me sausage in my eggs, rather than green veggies, in the most Chicago of all flexes, and I ate it, b/c sending it back would have taken forever.)

This time, though it tasted good, I didn’t feel I had an option.

My hung-over body was begging for green vegetables, (just like in Jersey,) so I called Due, the woman apologized and said my pizza was there waiting. I went down the elevator, made the quick walk, and came home with a veggie pizza.

Which was sad, I’m sorry to say, and definitely not as good as the pizza she made me return.

(Seriously, once I’d eaten from it, maybe let me keep it? What else are you going to do with it? It wasn’t my mistake. The sticker on the sausage pizza said spinnocoli.)

As to the pizza, the cornmeal crust was too-thick, and flavorless. The pizza had too little cheese, and the sauce was weak.

Overall, just a bad pizza experience.

(Shame on you, Due!)

Pizzeria Due
1 star out of 4






The next day, though, I had pizza at Eataly, the Italian food mega-emporium chain that was started by the (since-culturally-defenestrated) superstar chef Mario Batali, and his partners, the Bastianich family.


Inside Eataly


I’d done the walk-through the day before, and found it to be a well-stocked joint, but a bit confusing to figure out.

On my return visit, having done the proper scope, I knew just where to go: La Pizza & La Pasta.

I ate with a few friends and colleagues, and was clear that I’d only share my pizza once I was done with it, as I was terrified of getting stuck with an unfavorable pizza experience, given the nightmare that was Due.

(Good thing too, when anchovies and mushrooms were suggested as possible toppings. Gross!)

We began with some arugula and parmesan salads that hit just right.



The pizza was in the Neapolitan style, and I got an eggplant parmesan pie, which was sublime.

The pizza had char, for looks, a firm-yet-chewy, flavorful crust. There was plenty of melty, high-end mozzarella cheese. Overall, the perfect balance of texture and taste.



The eggplant was not deep-fried, and offered a nice melt-in-your-mouth component.

Frankly, it was pizza bliss.



Eataly La Pizza & La Pasta
4 stars out of 4







Last, but not least, I returned to Eataly to buy some Italian cookies for my wife, on Saturday, right before I needed to walk 30 minutes South to the Columbia College Student Center, where the Filter portfolio walk would be held.

(Plus, I needed a snack.)

After giving the store a quick once-over, I spotted a gorgeous $6 hunk of Pizza Margherita, in their Pizza Alla Pala station.



It’s where they attempt to recreate Roman style, but fail.

Here, there are pre-cut slices of gourmet, rectangular pizza.

In Rome, you walk up, tell them how much you want, and they cut you a rectangular hunk.

(Not the same thing.)

Then, after I waited 7 minutes, I got a little pushback from the pizza worker, just for choosing the piece I wanted.

(“Oh,” she said, “you want the REALLY cheesy one?”)

There was a $14 slice of burrata and fresh tomato pie, that included a full ball of burrata, which looked like art, and would likely have been amazing.

(But my stomach didn’t want to eat a literal ball of cheese.)

When I got back to the hotel with my takeout slice, (one block away,) and opened it up, my heart sank.

The Eataly-pizza-attendant has smushed some wax paper down into the slice, and nearly all the cheese had come up onto the paper.

She ruined it!

Cardinal sin.

I spent a few minutes scraping the cheese, which helped a little, before I ate it in a dejected condition.

And I was not impressed.

The sauce was zingy, at least, and the crust was thick and crunchy, with a bit of olive oil to it, so I could only wonder what might have been?



Eataly Pizza Alla Pala
2 stars out of four


See you next week!




This Week in Photography: Wrestling in Queens




When I was growing up, Mike Tyson was the baddest dude around.

(Bar none.)

I watched the Buster Douglas fight live on HBO, and was witness to the dethroning of the king.

At the time, my brain could not fathom Mike Tyson getting his ass kicked, but there it was.



Courtesy of








These days, boxing is not nearly as important.

Instead, MMA is the most popular combat sport around.

Everyone loves the UFC, which has great rivalries, amazing athletes, and a warrior-code-of-respect thing going that feels appropriate for the 21st Century.

(True story: a boxing-fan-relative recently told me he doesn’t watch the UFC, because he thinks it’s “gay,” as the fighters hug each other, and behave nicely in the cage, once the fight is over.)

But MMA didn’t even exist 30 years ago, and when it first began, guys from different, traditional martial arts battled it out, with the Gracies, (and their Brazilian Jiu Jitsu,) proving supreme.

These days, every fighter more or less shares the same style of striking and kicking from Muay Thai, grappling from wrestling, and submissions and ground work from BJJ.

(So not only do cultural tastes change, but entire sports can too.)

And while the UFC, and MMA in general, are significantly more popular than boxing, I’m not sure there’s a UFC fighter alive who’d fancy their chances against the current Heavyweight Champ, 6’9″ 265lbs Tyson Fury, the Gypsy King.


Tyson Fury, Courtesy of Marca








Like boxing, professional wrestling has gone through phases of popularity here in America.

Apparently, it’s huge again, (the WWE,) but I don’t follow it at all.

I know Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and John Cena became legit movie stars, and extremely charismatic actors, having started as pro wrestlers.

(And I know The Rock’s daughter is now wrestling, but I learned that from Twitter.)

When I was a kid, in the same 80’s Tyson dominated, Hulk Hogan, Randy “Macho Man” Savage, and Andre the Giant were massive cultural stars, with crossover films and the rest.


Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and Randy “Macho Man” Savage in 1987, courtesy of ESPN and the WWE


(You knew I was going to drop a clip of ATG in “The Princess Bride” right here, didn’t you?)


That said, back then, I didn’t know much about the previous generation of stars.

Nor had I ever considered attending a match.

For whatever reason, my taste in pro wrestling leaned towards “guilty pleasure” in middle school, and I couldn’t tell you the last time I watched even a minute of it.

So Jonathan Blaustein: not a fan.

Jonathan Panes, however, was a massive fan.

How is that important?

I’ll tell you.







Last October, Arthur Nager sent me a book, but that’s long enough ago that I was clueless when I opened it up today.

Rarely has a photo book stated its intent more clearly from the cover.

We see:

Sunnyside Garden Arena

I mean, really?

What else could the book be about?

It’s a self-published affair, and I enjoyed it quite a bit, but did find myself torn out of the narrative a few times, due to quirks I’ll comment on, and then move forward.

There were too many essays at the jump, so I got impatient, and started skipping ahead to the photos, before coming back.

(I was curious, given the cover’s premise.)

And I’ve been in copy-editing mode lately for a client, (apologies for the typo last week, but I fixed it after the email went out,) so I caught a couple of mistakes in this one, including one sentence that was completely repeated in separate essays by Jonathan Panes.

And the term “Sunnyside Garden Arena” was utilized three times in a row, at one point, which my brain also noticed.

The motivation behind the project was a bit random, in that Jonathan Panes, the wresting fan, invited his older cousin, Arthur Nager, the photographer and art school student, (who couldn’t have cared less about wrestling, but wanted to photograph somewhere interesting,) to the wrestling matches at the (since razed) Sunnyside Garden Arena in Long Island City, Queens.

One day in the fall of 1971.

The fight-hall had been one of a string throughout NYC, we learn, now all gone, as the size was just right for boxing and pro wrestling, but not lucrative enough to survive into the 21st C.

Mike Silver, a boxing expert, (and friend of the photographer,) writes an essay for the book, and when he calls Arthur “Artie,” I could almost hear roar of the crowd and smell the cigars on a day out in Queens:

“Artie, go get me a beer, wouldya? I’ll get ya back the 10 cents next week, I promise! Be a sport, would ya pal?”






But back to the book.

The photos are fun. For sure.

How could they not be?

I just wrote about this recently, (with the Michael Lesy book,) but we all know that putting negatives in a box and waiting 50 years is a tried and true way to end up with fascinating photographs.

Design-wise, though, I loved it when the second half of the book breaks sections down by wrestling match, featuring stats and info about each wrestler.

So clever.

The less said about the little-people wresting photos the better, but I’m not sure if I’d have included or excluded them, had it been me?

(Is that a cop out? On the one hand, the photos are offensive to modern tastes. On the other, they’re quite compelling, and make sense in context of the era. Tough call.)

But they made the decision to include them, and that’s on them.

Anyway, cool book.

I dig it.

See you next week!


To purchase “Wrestling: Sunnyside Garden Arena” click here




If you’d like to submit a book for potential review, please email me at We are particularly interested in books by artists of color, and female photographers, so we may maintain a balanced program. And please be advised, we currently have a significant backlog of books for review. 



This Week in Photography: Jersey Pride





Friday night came together perfectly.

(And I didn’t have to plan a thing.)

That was the theme of my trip to New Jersey last week: easy breezy.







I drove around a lot, made all the right human and logistical connections, and while the threat of drama is there with all travel these days, for me, for nearly a week, it was all good.

That’s the first point to make.

If you recall, when I traveled in 2021, back to Jersey in May and then to Chicago in October, I reported that people were on edge, ready to blow, and the tension was palpable.

It was no fun at all.

But I’m thrilled to share that in September 2022, it’s gone.

In the security lines, in the airport terminals, on the planes, I noticed nothing but polite, chill behavior.

(Major, major difference.)

Such good news that civility has been restored!

When I mentioned drama, it’s just all these stories of air-travel havoc, with delays and missed/cancelled flights.

I did have one 3 hour delay, but thankfully it didn’t mess with my schedule.






It was all smooth that Friday, and my cousins invited me to a big-time High School football game, with a local rivalry, major schools, big plot lines, you name it.

My cousin Stefanie had ordered me a ticket, and sent the .pdf to my phone, plus provided directions to the field, so really, all I had to do was show up.

Watchung Hills Regional High School is coached by Rich Seubert, who won a Super Bowl ring as a starting offensive lineman for the NY Giants.

That makes him as close to local royalty as you’re going to get.

(One step below Bruce Springsteen, obviously.)

His team was at home, playing their rivals from Westfield.

When I got there a few minutes late, (needed to download the day’s photo files onto my iPad in the rental car,) Westfield was already up 7-0.


View from the home stands


As to my family involvement, my cousin’s daughter was cheerleading, her son was on the Freshman team, and my other cousin’s step-daughter was in the marching band, playing clarinet.

It was a competitive game, with a lot of turnovers and penalties, and the home crowd, wearing white, was super-loud.

The whole environment felt like being in a movie, replete with an obnoxious, annoying play-by-play announcer, who made me long for noise-cancelling headphones.

(The dude was screaming into the mic the whole game. Enough already, bro.)

The field was tucked into a forest, because everything in New Jersey is tucked into a forest.

But when I looked more carefully, my cousin acknowledged in one direction, the massive Highway 78 was right behind the stand of trees.

(Such a trippy setting.)



At one point, I noticed one player who was just bigger, and more solidly built than the rest.

He stood out, like a football aura.

My cousin’s friend, Lydia, who was involved with the team, told me it was Rich Seubert’s older son, Hunter, the center, who was destined for major college ball and the NFL.

The kid had a presence.

(Check out these highlights, and you’ll see what I mean. Hunter Seubert is 6′ 260 lbs, and plays with a nasty streak.)

Anyway, Watchung Hills came back and took control, and was winning 17-7 when I left with a few minutes on the clock, to beat the crowds, and the parking-lot-bedlam.

(Pro tip: If you’re not invested in the outcome of the game, time your exit.)






The next night, we stayed in at my cousin Jordan’s, drinking box wine, taking dog walks, watching Ohio State-Notre Dame, and eventually having a big Jersey Chinese feast.

It was almost a sushi night, but I delicately engineered a pivot, and lots of grub from Chengdu 1 Palace arrived.

The highs were high, and the lows were average, but overall I was very impressed.

As to the specifics:

The pork lo mein was greasy, as were the egg rolls.

The General Tsao’s Chicken, which was reputed to be so good that two portions were ordered, was probably the best I’ve had.

A 10 out of 10 dish.

The boneless spare ribs were also perfection, and some weird, green, veggie dumplings ended up being amazing, eaten cold later in the evening. (Yes, I had the munchies. Don’t judge.)


Chengdu 1 Palace
Green Brook, NJ
3 stars out of 4






On Monday, after the pool party debauchery at my Aunt and Uncle’s place, I woke up early.

Before anyone, before 7am, and I headed out to do laps around the neighborhood.

(Got to get those steps in, to help digest the previous evening’s beer, rose wine, red wine, weed, vape, mini hot dogs in puff pastry, mac and cheese, shrimp scampi, spinach ravioli, caprese salad with high end mozzarella di buffala, and Italian cookies.)

Two miles of walking before 8, just me and the neighborhood deer, was a must, as was blowing off breakfast.

I game-planned to hit the beach, asking my Aunt, (a Jersey Shore girl, and known perfectionist,) where she would go?

She said Avon.

But I chose Sea Bright, the closest beach to my childhood home.

Growing up, we hung out from Sandy Hook to Long Branch, which are the northern-most coastal beaches.

Sandy Hook and Sea Bright are where the NYC shipping channel harbor opens up, so the water is not nearly as clean.

As I got in the car, though, I called my other cousin, (on the Blaustein side,) as he lives 4 long-blocks from the beach in Belmar.

It was only five minutes extra in the car from where I was staying, and he was around, so I turned the car and changed the plan.

Luckily, Belmar is further South from NYC, so the water is clean and clear.



(Not blue, though, as it’s the Atlantic.)

Jeff and I chilled out on the 10th Avenue beach, in fold-up-chairs, taking the sun, and I swam twice.

The water was gorgeous and refreshing, and I’d been waiting for that moment for three years.







As it was Monday, Labor Day, and the direct sun was intermittent, the beach had plenty of people, but was far from mobbed.


10th St Beach, Belmar, looking North


We walked up to the street and got pizza at J’s, and the slices were massive.

The young woman behind the counter was pretty, and had what sounded like a cool French accent, but by Monday I was punch-drunk, so I couldn’t be sure.

She confirmed she was from Strasbourg, and I dropped a few words of French to be polite.

Which was a huge mistake.

I got distracted, and the slices were just so big, ($7/piece with toppings,) so I did my usual thing of asking her not to warm them up in the oven, which kills the flavor.

(Room-temperature-to-warm is much better than reheated.)

She said they were warm, but trust me, they were not warm. So I spent $15 on cold, chalky pizza, but having skipped breakfast, I ate them anyway.

As to the area itself, North Belmar, (a half mile away from Avon, my Aunt’s preferred spot,) is not only pretty, chill and friendly, but it’s steeped in Jersey history.

My cousin lived in Freehold for decades, where Bruce Springsteen was from, and confirmed that part of Belmar was the closest spot he could reach.

(Due East.)

It’s where Bruce had come, as a youth, before he got into the neighboring Asbury Park scene.

My cousin lives on 10th Avenue, near E Street.

The tour groups show up now, he told me, because the E Street Band, and “10th Avenue Freezeout,” are part of the Legend of Bruce.

So there you have it.


J’s Pizza
Belmar, NJ
2 out of 4 stars

Belmar Beach
4 out of 4 Stars






Later on Monday, I had a precious evening to myself, and a good rental car.

After visiting briefly with my friend Mandi, in her creepy/lovely, ghost-ridden, 1750 farmhouse, it was time to make the most of the luxury.


Me and Mandi, outside her house, built 1750


Given how much I love the Jersey Shore, I used that free time to go back to the beach again for a stroll.

Sea Bright is the first beach town facing East on the open ocean, (instead of North, along the Bay,) and I used to work in restaurants there when I was in college.

Much of it was leveled by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, so the town beach’s infrastructure was very new, which was a trip.

The sky was gray, after 6pm, and I walked for 15 minutes or so.

Then I approached the ocean.

There was a line of super-tanker ships, launching East towards Europe, and I was glad I’d gone to Belmar to swim earlier.

I took this video for you, as it’s clear how different the ocean vibe is from the Big Blue Pacific I showed you, in San Diego, earlier this year.




It feels like you’re looking across the pond towards Ireland, that rainy green Isle, rather than Asia, a half a world away.







I began the column by saying everything went smoothly last week.

Mostly true.

But I did make one additional mistake.

I never should have eaten both of those mega-slices of cold pizza in Belmar.

Such a gut-bomb.

By evening, in Sea Bright, all I wanted was a salad.

But you can’t eat salad on your last night in Jersey, can you?

After Sea Bright, I drove north to Long Branch, feeling the ocean breeze through the open car window, and then doubled back through Sea Bright, Rumson, Fair Haven, Little Silver, Red Bank, and finally Middletown.

Rt 35 was my jam, growing up, the perfect North-South highway, stuffed with forest trees and endless strip malls.

All that good food, and local businesses.


Pool Supplies!

You name it.

I’d settled on going to Crown Palace, (which I’ve featured here before,) a brilliant local Chinese restaurant, because at least I could get string beans and broccoli with garlic sauce.

That was my big plan, to ask them to mix both veggies together.

Green vegetables!

Almost as good as a salad.

But my even bigger plan was to pee as soon as I got in the door.

(I really had to go.)

I was not encouraged when I pulled in and there were no cars, but still, I tried the door.


Closed Monday.

There are trees everywhere, as I keep telling you, and in New Mexico, I’d pee behind a tree, no problem.

I walked around to the side parking lot, trying to find a spot to do just that.

Do they have cameras, I wondered?

Is anyone going to come out and harass me?

I saw the edge of the parking lot ahead, and thought I might be in the clear.

Lots of trees.

But then I spotted children’s playground equipment behind the business next door.

A day care center?


I held my pee, and that was that.

(No use going to jail for indecent exposure. Man up and hold the pee.)

What to do?







I know that area like the back of my hand, and headed further up the highway to one of the local pizzerias from when I was a kid.

But I didn’t want pizza.

Or a chicken parm sub.

My insides were sad, from all the heavy food.

I wanted a salad.

Fresh vegetables!

And wouldn’t you know it, but I drove by Simply Greek, in the Commons at Holmdel, on my way to Villa Pizza.

It was on the other side of the highway, and had been there for years, so I took the jug handle just up the road, and went back.

(Salad it would be.)

I walked around the parking lot while they made the food, and the dark skies against the electric light was a visual feast.

The staff at Simply Greek were super-nice, and the prices were more-than-fair, by inflationary standards.

So I liked the joint immediately.

I kid you not, the falafel sandwich and a small greek salad, with extra tzatziki, weighed about 5 lbs, and cost $25.

It was easily the best food I had all week.

The summer Jersey tomatoes wanted to sing me a song, they were so happy, and the feta cheese was better than anything that exists in New Mexico.




Simply Greek
Holmdel, NJ
4 out of 4 stars




So there you have it.

My first travel piece in ages.

See you next week!




This Week in Photography: Embracing Change



Change is as good as a holiday.

That’s what my old friend Pappy used to say.

(And I happen to agree.)






Change is most often thrust upon us, as few embrace it willingly.

(Only after the fact, when we reap the spoils, do we begrudgingly admit it was worth the effort.)

That said, change has come to this column, and I’m all for it.

I’ll still be writing for you twice a month here, (which got slightly lost in my announcement last week,) but I went with the hubbub, because the week in, week out endeavor, over the past 11 years, helped define my life.

No lie.

But now it’s time for something new.

I can (occasionally) be as reluctant to change as the next person, but when we enter a new life phase, we see things differently.

Growing older, experiencing more life, and hopefully acquiring (some) wisdom means we’re able to attack the same problems with different solutions.

Or acquire different opinions from what came before.

And that last bit is motivating today’s column.







I was talking with a client the other day, and referred to my un-reviewable book.

The one book I’ve picked up, time and again, but put down.

Each time, I shake my head and say, “No, not today. I don’t see how to tell this in a way that’s not offensive.”

And so I’d set the book back on the shelf, only to pick it up six months, or a year later.

Frankly, I’ve grabbed it three times in the last month, but think today, for whatever reason, I’ve finally cracked the code.






“Upstate,” by Tema Stauffer, published by Daylight in 2018, turned up in the mail three or four years ago.

As you already know, (having reading this far,) up until now, I’ve had a hard time expressing my thoughts about “Upstate.”

I don’t hate this book.

Not at all.

(Not even a little.)

But it is hard to write about, because I don’t like it that much either.

A few weeks ago, I discussed the idea that sometimes the established, expected format of a book, (essay, plates, essay) can do it a disservice.

(If the creative team takes no chances.)

And for me, these cultural landscape images speak to that even-steven, middle of the road, well-established, Alec-Soth-shooting-style we’ve come to know so well over the last 15 years.

Plus, the poverty reminds me of so many Appalachian books I’ve seen before, or just rural poverty porn in general.

(In this case, we’re seeing Hudson, New York.)

Yet I’m certain some of you will like the photographs a lot. Maybe even love the book.

(Art is subjective.)

For me, a book that is conventional, and reminiscent of so many other projects in its design, shooting style, and subject matter becomes, somewhat by definition, average.



More than acceptable.

Perfectly competent.

But it’s not memorable.

And historically, whether reviewing a book, or writing about portfolios from a festival, I like things to be distinctive.

To stick in my mind.

This book never did, until it finally did, for being something of a cautionary tale.

So there you have it.

Since this is an edgy take, I’m sure some of you will disagree with me.

(No worries.)

See you next week.


To purchase “Upstate” please click here



If you’d like to submit a book for potential review, please email me at We are particularly interested in books by artists of color, and female photographers, so we may maintain a balanced program. And please be advised, we currently have a significant backlog of books for review. 


This Week in Photography: The End





This weekly column is coming to an end.



JB, 9:15 am MST, 08.26.22





I’ve sat on the news for a while, waiting for the right time to drop it.

(And today is the day.)

I should say, straight off, that I won’t be going away entirely.

You’ll still get to read my rambling, discursive musings every other week, here at APE.

But on October 7th, 11 years after I began writing for you each Friday, the streak will be snapped.

The photo industry is not remotely what it was, when I began the column in 2011, and change is a healthy and natural part of life. (Especially as this blog is supported by neither subscription fees nor ads.)

It is what it is, but I must admit, after living under the yoke of a weekly deadline for this long, I’m excited to see what it’s like without the structure.

So after today, only five (weekly) columns left.








It all began when I was on the hustle, during The Great Recession.

In the late spring of 2010, Rob Haggart put out a call for images of the cataclysmic economy on APE, (a colleague was looking for photos for a story,) so I sent him a project I had.


Gas station grocery shelf, Antonito, CO, 2009


I was psyched Rob replied, liking the pics, so I told him I was about to attend two big photo festivals, back to back, and as a burgeoning blogger, perhaps I could report on them from the field for APE?

He agreed to publish my articles, and liked the work, so he then offered to pay my expenses on a trip to NYC, to cover the PDN Photo Plus Expo for the blog.

(As you might image, I was blown away, and jumped at the chance.)

A guy I knew on Twitter, Richard Bram, told me he’d be there too, so we agreed to meet up in the cavernous Jacob Javits Center on the West side of Manhattan.

We connected, and I found Richard charming, knowledgable, agreeable, and just fun and easy to be around.

In the end, I mentioned Richard in the article, and so began a long and fruitful friendship.

He’s been featured in more articles than anyone else, as off the top of my head, I recall a festival in Houston, museum visits in Brooklyn and London, eating in a little Ramen shop in the East Village, and a fish and chips joint on the Thames in 2019.


Fish and Chips, Limehouse, London, 2019


And wouldn’t you know it, but for the first time ever, Richard came to visit last Friday, and stayed the night here at our place.

The timing was perfect.








I’ll be in New Jersey next week for my first major photo/writing gig for a big-time, international publication.

(I can’t share details yet.)

As such, I’ve spent weeks checking my gear, ordering new equipment, and building a battle plan to be the mobile, nimble, 21st Century digital journalist on the go.

So of course Richard and I would end up testing equipment, talking endlessly about the intricacies of fill flash, and geeking out as hard as we could.

Richard admitted he’d been in the theater growing up, with parents who acted in local community productions.

He also has a distinguished face, and knows how to use it.

Therefore, Richard modeled while I switched cameras and lenses, tested out my lighting kits, and did a deep dive into a different type of photography.

(Most of the time, I think myself more artist than photographer, but I’ve shot my share of weddings, headshots, passport photos, graduation pics, etc.)

Here are a few of my favorites.


Richard was there with me at the beginning, in 2010, and was here at the end too, in 2022.

{Ed note: To reiterate, this is the end of an era, not my time here as a writer. You’ll still get me 2x a month.}








As gifts, Richard brought a lovely woodblock print he’d made in Oaxaca this winter, and a ‘zine that came out last year.



Normally, I look at submissions in the order they arrive, but have made exceptions over the years, (including with Nancy Baron’s ‘zine recently,) so we’re going to check it out, but keep it brief.

(Since I dropped some big news on you at the outset, we’ll go short and summery today.)

The ‘zine is called “The Red Cube,” was was published in 2021 by Bump Books.

It features many looks at Isamu Noguchi’s classic sculpture in Lower Manhattan, which was a block away from where Richard and his wife lived during their New York years. (In between stints in London, but in case it’s not clear, Richard is American.)

The ‘zine, too, (with that big red cube in the background,) spans an era, between 2011-2020.

There’s not much to say about this that the photos below won’t show.

It’s a series of street photographs in the Financial District of NYC, and feels like a love letter to the city, now that he’s moved on.






New York has been featured more times in this column than any other locale.

I’ve covered countless NYC gallery and museum exhibitions over the years, hit the High Line, eaten at the cronut shop, dodged snowflakes the week before Superstorm Sandy, gorged on pizza, and done a 6 year stint at the NYT, all during the time of this weekly column.


Me and Jessie on the High Line, 2018


I had a daughter, got two dogs, built a career, saved my wife from the ravages of clinical depression, made countless friends, lost some too, was a college Art Department Chair, traveled the US, blogged for The New Yorker, and learned more about the world, my craft, my community, and myself, than I ever could have imagined.

So I hope you enjoy this last 6-week run, (including today,) before I retire the weekly-columnist-mantle.

I appreciate all the time and energy you’ve given us over the years, and the opportunity Rob has provided.

Hope all is well, and catch you next week!





This Week in Photography: Breaking Good




“Better Call Saul” ended this week.

{Spoiler Alert.}


Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman in the finale, “Saul Gone,” courtesy of




It seems an antiquated concept: a “television program” that “came out” once a week, on a cable channel, with commercials.

(It ran on AMC, the network behind early century masterworks “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men.”)

“Better Call Saul,” if you’re not familiar, was set in Albuquerque as a prequel to “Breaking Bad.”

The two shows were part of the Vince Gilligan IP Universe that also includes the Netflix movie “El Camino,” and doubtless more to come.

But I digress.

That’s not what I want to talk about.






What I want to talk about is, “Better Call Saul” was a masterpiece.

Five Stars


I loved “Mad Men,” sure.

Not saying this is necessarily better. (Though it is probably as good, like “The Wire” level excellent.)

And just talking about all these anti-hero shows with straight White male leads gives me the queasies.


Courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes


Despite his name being in the title, “Better Call Saul” was about so much more than Bob Odenkirk’s Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman/Gene Takovic.

Week in, week out, the acting was inspirational. Along with Odenkirk, Rhea Seehorn’s Kim Wexler performance was an all time great, as was Jonathan Banks as (for most seasons) co-lead Mike Ehrmentraut.




Among regular players, off the top of my head, Michael Mando, Giancarlo Esposito, Tony Dalton, Patrick Fabian, and Michael McKean all put in next-level work.

The legit heartbreak I felt as a viewer, watching Mando’s fan-favorite Nacho Varga sacrifice himself to save his father, earlier in the final season, was “Old Yeller” level sad, and that was just one part of the ride.

Or Tony Dalton swaggering around every scene he’s in as the menacing/charming, near-superhero level badass Lalo Salamanca?

So fucking good.






No day-player, walk-on ever slouched, either. (Can we give a shout out to “Parks and Rec” legend Jim O’Heir, who killed it in a late season cameo!)



The writing was mind-blowing, with respect to nuance, symbolism, plot and character development.

New Mexico was more an integrated backdrop than a heavy hitter, but that felt organic to the story too.

The cinematography so often made me think, or hit the pause button, with meticulous framing and camera placements.

Beyond that, I loved the emotional resonance, and non-traditional storytelling styles.

The way they used black and white versus color, as a way of separating timelines, and then weaving in entirely black and white episodes, with Carol Burnett at the end?

We’re talking Kurosawa-level craftsmanship.


Akira Kurosawa’s “Ran,” courtesy of






“Better Call Saul” was a slow-burn tragedy that always had Bob O around for a quick “sad clown” laugh.

And this is an actor talented enough to have won fans for his absurdist “Mr. Show with Bob and David,” in 1995, before morphing into a John-Wick-level badass in the 2021 sleeper action hit “Nobody.”


“Nobody,” image courtesy of Allen Fraser/Universal and the NYT



Who has more range than that?

For six seasons, no matter how many times it looked like Plucky Jimmy McGill might just turn the corner and make good, you’d remember you already knew where the finish line was: he ended up as Slick Saul Goodman, and then Sad-Sack Gene Takovic.

(Time to make the Cinnabons.)

This character would have would have no redemption, until the end.

Facing a mere 7 years in a cushy federal prison, he burned down an agreement with the government, and came clean in open court, in order to win back his self-respect, and the love of the great Kim Wexler.

They gave him 86 years in a freezing Colorado Supermax instead.

What an ending!


The penultimate scene in “Saul Gone.”


After six seasons spread over 7 years, the BCS creative team stuck the landing with a brilliant extended finale on Monday night, and maybe I’ll leave it there.

I guess you could watch the entire show, in a binge, on AMC+, if you were so inclined.

As an art critic, I’d highly recommend you do so, but hey, what do I know?

See you next week.



This Week in Photography: In the Mood for Love




Someone was selling firewood.

In a truck.
By the side of the road.

I saw it this morning.

(Winter is coming.)






It’s August 11th, (high summer some places,) and my kids just went back to school.

My daughter is in 5th grade, and when I began this column, in September of 2011, she wasn’t born yet.

(It’s been a wild ride.)

Over the course of my time here, (week in, week out,) I’ve had the chance to travel to some pretty amazing places, and report back to you.

Beyond Derby, London and Amsterdam, all my city reports have come from here in the good old US of A.


Hotel room view, Amsterdam, Feb 2020
Taking a selfie in a room full of people talking selfies in the Eric Gyamfi exhibition, Foam, Amsterdam, Feb 2020



Off the top of my head, since 2011, I’ve written about Austin, Albuquerque, Carmel, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, LA, Marfa, Monterey, New Jersey, New Orleans, NYC, Portland, Santa Fe, San Diego, San Francisco, Taos, Tucson, and Washington, DC.

I’m a lucky guy.

As of now, I’m supposed to visit NJ, Chicago and New Orleans later this year.


Lake Michigan, Chicago, Oct 2021
The French Quarter, New Orleans, Dec 2021


So we’ll have plenty more travel content in 2022-3, with the attendant gallery, museum, restaurant reviews, etc.

It’s a far cry from pandemic lockdown, thank goodness, when so many people just stayed home.

(Including me.)

Traveling, visiting new ports of call, seeing new cities, tasting new foods…

Few things are better for our personal (and brain) development.

Doing new things makes new neural pathways in your brain, and every moment in a new travel environment counts as doing something new.

(Yes, that was 4 uses of new in one sentence.)

But getting to truly see the world, put my eyes on China and Japan, Australia and Brazil?

Egypt and India?

I mean, to see all of it?

I can’t even imagine.

Yet that’s the feeling I got, when I put down today’s book.

That I’d just taken a wild, elegant, extremely well-seen and well-crafted journey around world in the 21st Century.

The work felt current, fresh, edgy, and smart, with great technique.

But let me back up a second…







I found two boxes at the bottom of the pile today, from March 2021.

Somehow, they’d been skipped, so of course they’re both vaulted to the top of the pile.

The first of them was called “Ibidem,” by Giovanni Del Brenna; seemingly self-published with a professional team.

But I’ll flip the script, for once, and share a bit of info from the back of the book.

One essay, by Carole Naggar was dated 2011, and I thought, that’s odd?

Why publish an essay written so long ago?

Then the copyright on the next page said 2012.

Yet my initial impressions were the book was super current and of the moment, and it was submitted in 2021?


In an excellent footnote section at the end, the artist writes he was born in Genoa, Italy, (but never lived there,) raised in Brazil in a French school, and has lived in many other places.

It seems he comes honestly by his Sofia Coppola/”Lost in Translation,” globetrotting, “In the Mood for Love”/Wong Kar-wai, seen-it-all before, and I know the best noodle shop in 30 cities vibe.


“In the Mood for Love,” image courtesy of
“In the Mood for Love,” courtesy of The Criterion Collection and the NY Times


Saying how all cities are alike in some ways.

I love it.

As I turned the page, page after page, the photographs were standout.

The edit jumps at you, like a bored dog seeking affection.

Lots of dynamic use of color and light, with emotional energy.

Inspiring stuff.

And the design was on point too, with photos bleeding onto subsequent spreads, with smaller spreads mixed within, so you’re changing paper sizes constantly. While each spread connects to the next through fabulous color, and repeating motifs, like flying fish.

The photos challenge our sense of perception, with lots of figure/ground manipulations, use of repeating patterns, and then optical illusions like advertisements or painted buildings.

Just standout.

The design and photographs also wrong-foot us by reclaiming the gutter space, where most artists fear to tread.

(I mean, it’s literally called the gutter.)

Again and again, the gutter creates a symmetrical split, with vital info right there over the seam.


I found the book to be flawless, right up until the end.

Page after page of nodding my head, saying, “Yes, that’s just right!”

And then towards the back, there was one image, of some guy in a jacket and tie in the light and shadow of a doorway, and it broke the spell.

Like, every single other photo I loved, but then why this guy?

Right afterwards, there were two traditional-type-explanatory-essays, and I felt they, too, were unnecessary.

(The pictures spoke for themselves, meaning-wise.)





I recognized photographs being made in Japan and China, Italy and France, but clearly there were many more locations I couldn’t place. The excellent thumb-nail index, at the end, tells us the book records travels from 2002-8, in those places, plus London, New York, Berlin, Hong Kong, and a host of other locations.

(In fairness, I did pick out a sleeping London banker on a train, and could recognize NYC on my second viewing.)

I kept saying to myself, as I looked, “Is that Italy, France, or somewhere else entirely?”

How do these things feel chic and generic, yet universal?

Which gorgeous city are we seeing in this photo?

Does it even matter?

With the index and footnotes, we get just the right bit of context, if we MUST know which city we were seeing, or what his travels were like, where his brother lived, all from the artist’s own perspective.

Ending there, followed by an insert in French and Italian, the book sticks the landing.

And last page credits Del Brenna, Teun van der Heijden, and Fred Ritchin as editors, and Heijdens Karwei for the design, so major kudos on this one.

So glad I found it at the bottom of the pile.

See you next week!


To purchase “Ibidem” click here 




If you’d like to submit a book for potential review, please email me at We are particularly interested in books by artists of color, and female photographers, so we may maintain a balanced program. And please be advised, we currently have a significant backlog of books for review. 



This Week in Photography: The 70’s





Have you ever heard of Jack Reacher?



I was (mostly) unaware he existed until this year, when Amazon Prime dropped an easily-bingeable series, called “Reacher.”

At some point, I’d heard Tom Cruise starred in a movie or two called Reacher, and that a global fan base was pissed off about it, given how little he resembled the character.


Courtesy of


I’m mentioning it today, because a few weeks ago, I noticed a stack of soft-cover Reacher books on a new friend’s shelf.

He lent me one, and after I devoured it, he passed along 5 more.

I’m about to start the final book, so I have a better understanding of how this character, (and the extensive #1 best-selling book series Lee Child wrote based upon him,) could occupy such a powerful spot in the collective imagination of millions of people.








It’s easy to see why people rejected Tom Cruise.

(Despite the fact he’s since become an actual super-hero, jumping out of planes and climbing the Burj Khalifa w/o a net.)

Jack Reacher is 6’5″, 250 lbs, and that fact is repeated again and again.

(In one book, they even call him Bigfoot and The Incredible Hulk.)


Courtesy of


His sheer size makes him attractive, as he’s a true badass, in all the important ways.

(Great at hand-to-hand combat, weapons trained, you name it.)

Beyond that, Reacher is always the smartest guy in the room, and the wisest.

It’s part Sherlock Holmes, (with all the great deductive reasoning,) part Mr. Wolf from “Pulp Fiction,” (able to fix any jam, and dispose of any body,) and part Batman, minus the cape and extreme wealth. (Reacher is basically a vagrant.)

The character just roams the world, (like David Carradine in “Kung Fu,”) helping people, free of charge, based upon a moral code he learned in the US Army. (Where he was a Major as a top-level MP.)

Interestingly, Lee Child is an Englishman, (born in Coventry,) so near as I can tell, he came up with the archetype of a Wild West gunslinger meets UFC champion, and sends him into one, violent, dramatic, insane-but-slightly plausible situation after another.

And people just can’t get enough.

Because they want to be Jack Reacher.

The want to have it all.

Be the biggest, the strongest, the smartest, the wisest, the most honorable, and to always get the girl.

Reacher owns nothing but a tooth-brush, and goes when and where he pleases.

He can take out seven bikers all by himself, and is therefore the embodiment of the type of American power most people see as slipping into the dustbin of history.

So there’s also a wistful nostalgia about the whole thing.

If Dirty Harry captured the American id of the crazy 70’s, Reacher is just right for the 2020’s, as he kicks ass, but also treats people with respect.

(Were you to meet Reacher in real life, you would feel seen, and understood.)






I mention all this today, having just put down a photo book.

The submission came in a year ago, so I had no idea what was inside the box, and was therefore surprised to see “Snapshots 1971-77” by Michael Lesy, published by Blast Books in New York.

(I reviewed another of his books a few years ago, which also featured images from a historical archive.)

That appears to be his thing, sifting through archives, (as we learn in the opening essay,) so this fits neatly into Michael Lesy’s life obsession.

He confirms this in the essay, but also drops an interesting theory on us:

“Looked at individually, as visual documents, they reveal- or allude to- the hopes, fears, and desires of the people who made them. Sometimes snapshots tell the truth, sometimes they lie, and sometimes they do both.

Looked at in large numbers- in batches of a dozen or a hundred or a thousand- they line up lie bits of colored glass in a kaleidoscope and form patterns… patterns of shared belief, patterns of shared meaning.”

I took that to mean if you glance at archives out of the corner of your eye, and digest image after image, you get a sense of a culture.

A place in time.

(And we’ve all heard the clichés about how to make a photograph meaningful: put it in a box for 40 or 50 years.)

The book features a host of snapshots scrounged from garbage dumpster; the outtakes of a San Francisco photo lab in the early-mid 70’s, but there are also some images from a photo lab in Cleveland.

(Not the tidiest premise, mixing them both up, but hey, you get what you get.)

I came away with a few impressions.

First off, Damn!, have Instagram filters, and the ease of cell-phone-camera operation, made regular people better at photography.

We’ve got a lot of bad crops, blurry images, and downright strange compositions overall.

The fashion is great, (as it is in all old pictures,) but mostly we see celebrations, or human gatherings.

Birthdays, weddings, confirmations, funerals, and drinking with one’s buddies.

There are a few images that would have been described as “racy” at the time, and one in which a topless, awkward woman is juxtaposed against a photo of a painting of a clown, which I thought was unnecessarily mean.

Overall, though, the book is fun.

It was a funky, crazy, powerful, illogical time, the 70’s, and I was reminded of “Airplane,” which mocked the whole era.






Just the other day, I encouraged my daughter to read a book alongside me, and we found “Deenie,” by Judy Blume, on a shelf in a closet.



It was written in 1973, and I was aghast at how much culture has changed.

Everyone was named Midge.

It was acceptable to insult people based upon appearances.

And there were words used that aren’t even in the dictionary anymore. (Have you ever heard of Klunk?)

I’m not sure I learned too much more about 1970’s America, looking at today’s photo book, but then again, I lived through it.

So maybe it’s important, that books like this explain the past to the future.

All those Gen Z kids need to know what it looked like back then, to understand where the world was, and where it’s going.

See you next week!


To purchase “Snapshots 1971-77” click here 




If you’d like to submit a book for potential review, please email me at We are particularly interested in books by artists of color, and female photographers, so we may maintain a balanced program. And please be advised, we currently have a significant backlog of books for review.