The Mexican Suitcase

If you were not able to see this show at ICP in New York, or buy the book, then this is a must. Just think Robert Capa, the Spanish Civil War, a lost suitcase, a discovery of said suitcase all these years later…..and then you begin to understand this story. There were other players involved here as well, legendary figures, but Capa, for those of you who don’t know, is as influential as any photographer in the history of photography. This goes beyond his images. I know this might sound odd, but I think Capa influenced photographers, and still does, in ways that go way beyond the actual photographs. Capa was an ideal. His attitude, approach, physicality, and flair are emulated by generations of photographers, whether they want to admit it or not. When it comes to romanticizing the photojournalist…all roads lead to Capa.

Accidental Homage to Larry Towell

Okay folks I’m really glad this happened.

This image is from my recent trip to Panama, dusk near the outskirts of Panama City. I’m calling this the “Accidental homage to Larry Towell,” so if you don’t know what I’m talking about then this post is SPECIFICALLY for you and comes with REQUIRED homework.

Larry Towell. Look him up. LARRY TOWELL

Mr. Towell is what I would classify as a classic documentary photographer. He does things that would be considered more modern, recording sound, making movies, etc, but the CORE of Mr. Towell is a really, really good study of the human condition.

I’ve noticed a fair number of wedding photographers following me here on the blog, and I feel it my MISSION in life to broaden the perspective of the modern wedding photographer. Remember, we are first and foremost photographers, and ONLY secondarily are we wedding photographers.

Towell is a master of shooting documentary work, work that can and should teach you LOADS about how to make pictures at a wedding. If this seems puzzling to you, that’s okay, send me a note or post a question in the community and I’ll learn you best I can.

And for those of you in Southern California, you might be too late, but Towell is speaking at the Annenberg in LA in the coming weeks. Send them a note, beg them, do whatever you have to do to check out the lecture. And if you are asking, “What is the Annenberg?” Well, I’m not sure how to answer that. Don’t make me come over there.

So my homage is a reference to a SPECIFIC picture Towell made. Can you describe it? Can ya? Here is the homework I’m talking about. Find it, learn it, live it and report back to me.

And on a parting note, in my humble opinion, Towell’s Mennonites work is perhaps one of the best essays I’ve ever seen. I feel this work really sets the bar for what all documentary photographers are striving to do. Today, this very day, I had a conversation with a photographer consultant in LA, someone who works with fine-art photographers, commercial photographers and advertising photographers and we each gushed like prom dates about how great the Mennonite work really is. We also spoke about how few people are really doing this work anymore because of the time required and the difficulty involved.
And finally, Towell released a book last year, “The World From My Front Porch,” which is a MUST have if you are collecting books. Yes I have it. Oh, speaking of that, I’ve got to give my copy to a friend to have it signed at the Annenberg. I want take a second to thank myself for reminding myself. Man I’m cool.

le box

MP_Breakfast Box 2010

So there are these photographers in Los Angeles. And there is this box. And the box has images. And the images come from the photographers. And I’m in it. Believe it or not.

I have a friend to thank for this, so I say, “Thank you.”

This is my image for this year. Democratic National Convention from the year 2000. Los Angeles. The downtown lockdown. I have a post coming about this event, a post I really like, but I’m saving it for a rainy day.

The District v2

The White House with it’s fence that LOOKS formidable from close up, but not so bad when you step back. I like this perspective.

So I’m in Washington for a shoot, a good shoot, a rambling, flowing shoot that wanders for several days from the inside of the district to the edges of the Virginia countryside.

I’m staying in a hotel in Georgetown, close enough to the heart and soul, walkable. Just where I want to be.

I love this town.

“You’ve never lived here,” my friends say. True enough. And I always visit when it’s warm, so it’s hard for me to imagine the gripping cold on my thin hands as they try to reload the Leica, or in this case the Blad.

I love this town because it feels like something is going on. Always. I’m an outsider, a complete outsider and because of this I have a special skill. Naivety. Everything is new. Everywhere is new.

Visitors mass in front of The White House. When I first started shooting here I think this street was still open.

Standing on the street corner in the early morning light. A guy next to me in a tan trench coat, dark sunglasses and the butt of a cigar wedged in his teeth. If I’ve ever seen anyone who looks more like a spy I can’t recall. He must be playing a role? Or perhaps he is a spy, just not worried about looking like one?

I always stay longer when I come to this place. If the assignment lasts three days, I’ll stay four or five, just so that I get some time alone.

And when I say alone, sometimes I am alone, walking solitary, but other times I’m surrounded by tourists, by visitors, hundreds if not thousands of them, but I still feel alone because I’m in work mode. I’m walking yes, but I’m LOOKING. And when I look I can simply disappear.

I can stand in front of them and it is as if they can’t see me. With the Blad I’m looking down and holding it low, so I don’t exist in some ways.

There is much going on. There are many unhappy people, some display their wrath with fire and others with quiet.

One of the many protesters near The White House.

I have the Blad and the 80mm, which is what I’ve done 99% of my square work with. Very inexpensive. Very standard. Vanilla. Black and white.

Framing with square is different from any other method. I sometimes have difficulty switching from the square to the rectangle and then back. In some ways, like any other technique outside the standard 35mm rectangle, the square is a gimmick. It really is. It looks different, so there is a tendency to try to get away with things when using it. I’ve done it. I try not to.

A lone, quiet protester who emitted the most peaceful vibe.

The air is thick, hot and very humid. The temperature hovers near 100 degrees. The cameras are hot in my hands and the light has totally gone. Totally. I seek shade and dark places, not because I can’t take the heat but because those are really the only places I can make a picture in this light.

I walk for hours.

My pants are wet with sweat, my shoes are squishing around a little bit. I love the heat, but I walk with the cameras under my arm to try and keep them as cool as possible.

The monuments are a big part of the city, and yes, they have been photographed millions of times. But not by me. And even if I had photographed them before, I would still go back to them every time I visit the city. Not just for images, but for the reason they were placed there in the first place.

The Washington Monument with Delta 3200 and luckily a bit of cloud cover.

Languages. Voices from all over the world are around me, here to see the same thing I came to see. This place means a lot to a lot of different people. In some ways I think this city is nearly forgotten by many Americans. My family never went when I was growing up. Politics cover this place in a residue that is hard to penetrate if you are bothered by that kind of thing. I’m not.

Inside The Lincoln.

I shoot a roll of color in 35mm and keep framing and snapping with the Blad. I walk the entire day, shooting about three rolls of 120. I can see the images in my head. They are not particularly great “”moment” images, although a few are, but they are a recording of my time in this place at this exact moment, something the spy could use to retrace my steps.

The light is still bad and it limits me, but this is nearly always the case. I look for the strange places where I can work with the splintered light. And then I wait for the sun to sink, for the light to get direction and then I pounce once again.

A message left by a wishful individual.

As the day comes to a close I angle back toward the hotel and dry clothes. I empty my pockets out on the bed and count my take, something I always find exciting. What did I get? The not knowing is what I love the most. The trip home begins in the morning.

Leica Portrait

I don’t put a lot of my “work” on this site.

I like to keep it that way because there is really nothing I dislike more than when I see a blog that is little more than a sales tool for the photographer.

I know why people do that. It can be a successful way of creating new business, etc, but I think, for the most part, doing this comes off as fake, silly, phoney, etc.

When I find a blog like that I never return to it, regardless if I like the work of the photographer. I don’t have time for sales tool style presentations. I want reality.

When every shoot is wonderful and every picture is perfect and the world is in harmony, frankly, I find it a turnoff because it just ain’t real. And, everyone knows this.

But from time to time I post something from my “work.” I’m not posting these images because they are the best images ever, and the client was thrilled and a rainbow formed over us during the viewing.

No, not even close.

I’m posting these for two reasons. One, I shot them with my Leica, which I find amusing. You see, I’ve used these cameras for a long while, and I thought I knew how to best utilize them. When people ask me about Leica M cameras I tell them what I think they are good for, and portraiture was never in that conversation.
But I realize after all this time I was missing something. They are great for portraits, but perhaps not in the way we all think of when we think of the classic portrait. It’s easy to get wrapped up, or concerned with gear, and the most important thing about images is how the photographers sees, but your equipment does have a say in the matter.


You see, for me, this series of images is very, very telling of a certain time, moment, age, etc, and in fact tell me everything I need to know about these girls without having to see their face. If I want the classic face portrait, I’ll use the Hasselblad. But for the “perimeter” images, the Leica is really nice.
And for me, these are “perimeter” images.


The little one can’t stand still. Ever. She fights it, just like we all did and some of us still do. When I’m around the little one, I try not to make her stop and freeze because I know her DNA is not accustomed to that. The older one is more patient. The older one says, “Mr. Milnor.”
Leaps and bounds is is the difference in ages, and I think just by seeing these three images, shot within seconds of one another, you see everything you need to know about THIS particular moment in their lives.

When you shoot these images you will have clients who say, “I can’t see their face,” which I expect because that is what we have all been taught is what a portrait MUST look like. Okay, sure. I have those too. Those are easy. Expected. Those typically come with the clunk, clunk, clunk of the Blad.

But I realize now, I’m basically doing the same exact thing with these kids that I do when I’m in the field working on a documentary project, the exact application I have used the Leica for nearly my entire “career.” And telling a story is really what it is about. It’s funny how all this time passes, all these kids through my lens, and yet it doesn’t really dawn on me until I’m sitting here editing this shoot.

These perimeter images are like whispers. Sometimes they are audible, and other times not. Subtle, quiet, telling.