Blurb Down Under: Oculi + Blurb Opening Sydney

Last night we co-hosted an event in Sydney with the photographers of Oculi, a collective based here in Australia. Over the past few months one of our Blurb members, Garry Trinh, worked with Oculi on a book project as well as setting up last night’s show. Last night’s show was part of the Reportage Festival. Stephen Dupont, festival director, stopped by to unveil the new posters, complete with a cover image by David Burnett. You might be thinking, “Ya, ya, another opening,” but this one had a different twist. Each attendee had an opportunity to make their own book from the work of the Oculi photographers. After walking in, each attendee was given a form containing a book layout. Each person could make their own edit, choose their sequence and submit the form for Blurb to print and ship the book.

As a photographer your edit and sequence are critical and NOT something you would normally put in the hands of the audience, but that was precisely the point with this particular show. Both Oculi and Blurb were looking for something different. Personally I see so many shows and exhibitions and many of them are pretty generic. You have probably heard of the movement to “get the art out of the galleries,” which isn’t my particular view, but I DO feel there needs to be more exploration when it comes to photography. We were attempting to do just this.

There was an excellent turnout on a cold, extremely rainy Sydney night, even with a multitude of photography events all happening at the same time. Oculi is the recording device of an entire nation. Much of their work focuses on Australia which is one of the things that makes them so distinctive. The show prints were SMALL, something else I found refreshing. I was told the designer wanted the attendees to be able to see all the work in a small area as opposed to seeing each image massive and set alone. I applaude both the agency and Garry Trinh for putting it all together.

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Rafal Milach: In the Car with R

One of the best things about my job is I get to see a lot of work. Not only do I get to see actually photography, up close and in person, but I also get to see a lot of photography and art books. In fact, sometimes I feel like I see too much and find myself longing for padded rooms and isolation. Normally those times pass quickly and I’m right back in the mix. Sometimes I see a book, or body of work, that for whatever reason I respond to at a deep level. One such body of work is “In the Car With R” by Rafal Milach.

IN THE CAR WITH R from x on Vimeo.

Rafal is someone I’ve written about in the past, but I wanted to try and showcase another of his projects. His work is very different from my own, which is probably one of the reasons I love it so much. It’s more considered than my own, more structured and controlled, but we both are after a documentary style image.

For me, where this project really comes alive is in the book. I enjoy seeing the film and the ability to hear and see not just the images but the location itself, but the book is where my mind returns. I see a lot of photography books with good imagery, and I see others with very solid design, but occasionally you get lucky and find one that is a perfect blend of all the ingredients. I feel this book is a great example. Subtle, quiet yet by the end of the book you feel a real power. It is also a reminder that I have a lot to learn when it comes to design and the realities of blending multiple formats and ideas into one, well-executed, printed motion.

Todd Hido

In short, Todd is great and you should watch this. When it comes to moody imagery Hido is one of the first photographers I think of. He is also one of the most copied, or attempted to be copied, photographers I’ve ever seen. I have such admiration for anyone who can produce immediately recognizable imagery, and when I see his work I know it’s his within seconds of seeing that first image. I was recently at a group show that was leaving me…how should I say…less than enthusiastic about myself, photography, life in general and the even the lousy parking situation I had to endure to even get in the show, when suddenly I looked across the room and noticed two of Todd’s images. I just went “Ahhhhhhhhhh.” And it’s not like Todd shoots warm, fuzzy imagery, but what he does shoot has meaning and FEEL, and that was what I needed at that precise moment.

Todd Hido from Pier 24 Photography on Vimeo.

In addition to his photographic talent, the guys knows books, and sequencing, and editing and publications in general, and when I say this I don’t mean just HIS books I mean he has a working knowledge of the entire history of illustrated books. So when you see a book of Todd’s you know that it looks and feels the way it does based on a variety of factors, history and knowledge. Take some time and watch this film, look him up online and learn a little something.

Countdown to Peru 2013: Amazon Macaws

The countdown to Peru Workshop 2013 is in full swing and I’m checking in with another post relating to my past Peruvian workshop travels. Last year was my first opportunity to enter the Peruvian Amazon. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but after asking Adam about it all I got was, “Spectacular,” so I knew I was in for something unique.

The Amazon part of the workshop is an extension, so not an official part of the class, but most of our workshop group was able to go. It’s such an intense experience it’s nice to be with people you have gotten to know over the course of a few weeks, a few meals and a few laughs. Flying into Puerto Maldonado you look from the plane window and as far as you can see in all directions is a sea of the most intense green you can imagine. The door opens and the rush of humidity blasts in and the long, slow sweat begins. You realize immediately you are in a place unlike any other.

Getting to and from this spot requires, in our case, plane then bus then boat. The boats are dugouts, thin and relatively fast, but speed isn’t of the essence here. In fact, the slower the better. The hours on the boat are a good time to just take things in, sleep, enjoy the heat, or in our case bust open a bottle of Adam’s favorite Pisco, which I have to say was maybe one of the best packing jobs of all time. Thanks Adam.

Ultimately we ended up at the Tambopata Research Center.

The Tambopata Research Center (TRC) of Rainforest Expeditions is situated in the Tambopata National Reserve on the upper Tambopata River in the center of a large uninhabited track of primary tropical lowland forest, very near to the Bahuaja-Sonene National Park, in the Madre de Dios Region of Peru.
The area hosts a unique forest environment, with the highest concentrations of avian clay licks in the world. A range of animals comes to satisfy their need for salt along the river banks of the region. Sometimes hundreds of macaws can be seen at the Collpa Colorado clay-lick near to the research center.

As you all know, I’m not a landscape photographer and I don’t normally shoot wildlife. I LOVE both of these things but never feel like I ever do them justice. However, when thrust into these places, environments and situations I make my pictures. They might not look like the normal landscape or wildlife images, but they mean something to me and I enjoy making them. The longest lens I had was a 50mm, so not really equipped for this type of heavy lifting, but I think these pictures still work, and the audio file is priceless. Think the jungle is quiet? Think again.

Perhaps the best part of this entire thing was getting up long before sunrise to walk through the muddy jungle, climb into the boat, get out of the boat, walk through more muddy jungle and then wait. I grew up bird hunting, so I was used to the idea of doing all this, but not used to not shooting the birds I’d come looking for. In this case I was glad I wasn’t hunting with anything more than my trusty Leica. If you haven’t been to this region it is well worth the effort. The Peruvians have done a wonderful job of preserving this place, much better than many of the other regions in South America, but human nature requires constant diligence. My motto, if you can go, go now.

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.