It’s All Jeff’s Fault

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It’s all Jeff’s fault.

Why am I sitting here pondering my fate, future and fortune? Why are my friends doing the same? “That was all I needed, just Duane last night and Eileen this morning,” a friend said. “I’m changing things, I’m getting my life out of a box.” Why? Because Jeff put all these people together. It’s his fault.

The Palm Springs Photo Festival 2014 is over. It is. Over, done, final, complete and we have all moved on. Or have we? You see this isn’t a “photography event.” Don’t think trade show or geek fest. Think image. Think ACTUAL photography and the meaning behind why people do it and what it means to us as record, history or simply entertainment. These “little” gatherings are rare indeed, especially in an era of technology and over-interaction where nobody can seem to put their phone down long enough to actually find real purpose and real meaning, but during the festival they do, and they did.

Everyone was there. There was Duane, Frank, Greg and even a Gregory. There was Ian and Brian and Elena. There was a Tim and a Todd. There was Fletcher and Stanley was there too, and these were just the ones who came to share what they knew. You wonder why they did this? Because of Jeff. It’s his fault. He’s a strange bird this Dunas character. I sat in the audience, night after night, as the words and pictures flooded out, personal things, and private things and astounding things, things that branded even the longest running of those of us who have looked at life through little squares and rectangles, and I wondered “Do people really know what this is?” “Do they know how special this is?”
I wanted to blurt out my feelings and castigate anyone who even thought of leaving early. Like looking out over open prairie while the songbirds sing, knowing that the land has been sold to developers. You better pay attention now because you just never know if you will ever see or experience this again.

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I was there to work, to give information, to listen and to respond. Things I normally do, regardless of where I am, but more focused perhaps. Intense. Creatives are needy. They need time, critical thought and sounding boards. That’s just the way it is. The energy comes and goes, gets sucked out of you and then replaced by the words or images searing through your retinas or gently floating through your ears. “Your life is THE event,” we are told. Clearly, but thank you for reminding me.

“Who did you talk to?” she asked. How dare you even ask? Everyone. How can I even begin to remember. But here goes. Kelly, Michael, Tony, Brendan, Justin, Kari, Dan, Laura, Anthony, Douglass, Alexa, Randy, Michelle, Chris, Leah, Matt, another Chris, Greg, Valentino, Ray, Jesse, Sean, Dan, Tara, Susan, Matt, Cain, another Jeff, Mac, Peter, Andrew, Casey, Mike, Michael, Teru, Daniel, Ken, Sherri, Sue, Anna, Christa, David, Sonja, Holly, Jennifer, Miriam, Norman, Dina, Carolyn, Allegra, and Mary, and I’m not even social. I went to sleep early. Jeff’s fault.

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There was also the soul thing. Ya, that. That thing you think is just babble until you are staring at it and no matter which way you look you can’t see around. Ya, that. I learned, after twenty-five years that cameras have souls too. Mine does, or doesn’t in some cases. A switch. A spotlight shined at me. “Hey, dipshit, what are you doing?” “Stop doing it and get back to doing what you do.” Ya, I had that moment too, because of Jeff. And it wasn’t just me. What’s even better than having these moments is watching others have them. They do things like climb over four rows of seats in a really nice theatre just to tell you about something they figured out. They leave untold numbers of messages on your phone, or they lurk in the shadows near your hotel room and when you walk by they hiss and whisper, “Hey, wanna know what happened to me?” Creative breakthroughs needs to be shared, to be taken off the chest and released. It happens. It really does.

You want to know the truth? What came from all this? The consistent thread? Do your work. NOTHING else. You simply don’t have time to screw around. Want to be the one on that stage? Quit pretending, a photographic life isn’t a masquerade ball, it’s a police lineup but the only police lineup where you want to be the one picked out, and to do that you gotta find your particular visual crime. “Have you seen good work?” I asked. “Yes, but I often times have to wade through the work they think I want to see before we get to who they really are,” he answered. There, I just saved you months of work and therapy sessions. Just go figure it out and put it on paper. Then bring it back and show it to us. Tick, tock, tick, tock.

Ya, I still blame Dunas. This post, the thoughts in my head and the direction I will take with my first step on this Sunday morning. The residue is there, like SPF 80 sunscreen. You KNOW it won’t come off easy.

Palm Springs Photo Festival

Someone asked me, “Hey, how as the festival?” I thought about it, tried to figure out how best to answer and then realized the obvious.

“Where else can you talk photography and books at 3:30AM?” In short, this kinda sums up the entire event. The PSPF is simply unique to the United States. Where else can you get symposiums, seminars, lectures, nightly projections, nightly parties as well as workshops from photographers who simply do not teach anywhere else. The event is intimate and set in a location that offers everything from high desert mountains to the Salton Sea and beyond. Want to take a nude workshop from Ralph Gibson or Robert Maxwell, yep, there’s that too. How about showing your book to a curator, gallery owner or art buyer? Yes, you can do that too.

This entire event is the brain child of Los Angeles based photographer Jeff Dunas who has a background in photography unique to my experience. Because of this background he can pull off an event like this. And for those of you who don’t know, this event isn’t something that comes together last minute. This is a year-long expedition, complete with massive crew and logistical needs that go well beyond what you might imagine.


Think about this. On the way home, my wife and I were discussing the festival. Neither one of us heard a single complaint about ANYTHING. Not even hotel parking! Come on people, we are photographers, we LOVE to complain and yet I can’t remember a single whimpering gasp.


These images are a superficial peak at a few of the smaller moments. You have daylight panel discussion, nighttime gatherings, poolside parties, a few working photographers and Thomas Michael Alleman showing off his Blurb book.(You knew the plug was coming.)


If you are a photographer and want something different, come to this festival. If you are LA-based and haven’t been, please send me a letter and explain??? I’m puzzled. Unless you are working nonstop and then by all means. Or you are having 22-inch spinners installed on your blacked out Escalade.

And if you are still on the fence….just think about this……

Anthony Bannon, David Fahey, Frish Brandt, Gerd Ludwig, Holly Hughes, James Whitlow Delano(Finally got to meet him), Kevin Miller, Lisa Kerezi, Lise Sarfati, Mary Virginia Swanson, Michelle Dunn Marsh, Nigel Parry, Robert Klein, Ron Haviv, Shelby Lee Adams, Weston Naef, Robert Maxwell, Ralph Gibson, etc, etc. And these are A FEW of the people attending, teaching, speaking, etc.

You know me people, I’m jaded, and yet for an entire week my veil of jade is lifted and I’m allowed to just be in the world of photography(And work in the Blurb cabana suite, yes I said “Cabana Suite” it IS Palm Springs after all.) In fact, on the way home I told my wife, “I might try to show work next year,” and for a moment I thought she might dive out of the car but her shock was so great she was frozen in her attempt to grab the door handle.

For the next week or so I will actually feel slight depression as I do my best to ween myself off of the festival atmosphere. Thank you to Jeff Dunas and to the entire crew of the PSPF…….you nailed it once again.