“I hate artist’s statements. They are pretentious, and I am pretentious enough without adding to it. I have read too many statements about artists who are “exploring psycho/sexual boundaries” or artists who are “Concerned with the tension between x and y…” These statements are more for the artists, to convince themselves that they are creating something meaningful and of value. I reality you buy art because it connects with you, or it matches your couch, not because the artist was “depicting the hypocrisy of gender roles in a post modern America”. I am much more interested to hear what you think about my work, then to tell you what I think about it.”
There are very few things that motivate me to the point of screaming, jumping up and down, or possibly wetting myself. I was introduced to a young man by the name of Thann Clark and I went to his webpage. What you’ve read above is his artist’s statement. I am totally blessed that most of my friends are artists, whether they use oil, water, pen, pencil, cameras, blues, jazz, poetry, or ballet; they’re all artists. I strongly recommend to Thann that he should get his statement copyrighted and trademarked, because if he doesn’t, I’m going to steal it. This artists statement could go on from here to infinity. I’m throwing a photo in here just because I want to. Just for people to keep records, the above gorilla photograph was the number one selling greeting card for over two years. Canon EOS, 600 f4, 1/100th at f4, ISO 100, Gitzo monopod.
Why would anybody put up this genre of photograph in June when obviously the photograph as taken in the dead of winter? That’s funny, I asked myself the same question. There are two basic reasons: the first is I just found this photo I had been trying to find for the last few years for my book, so I scanned it and now you have an opportunity to see it, and the second is I just liked the feeling. It makes me feel warm. Two lovers outside a coffeehouse in Greenwich Village. Very cold and snowy night. One grabbed shot, EOS camera, 85 1.2, ISO 200, 1/60th at f2. No rhyme or reason, I just like it.
To all the ships at sea, I remember having a conversation with Alfred Eisenstaedt and the topic of lighting came up. Ron Thompson, a Nikon tech rep, said “Everybody knows that Sam Sam the Umbrella man invented the photo white umbrella sometime in the late 40s”. I had no reason to doubt it, but Eisy chimed in and reminded us that there’s nothing new in photography; when you think you’ve discovered something for the first time, it may have been done by someone else at an earlier date. Ten years later, one of my mentors, Paul Laddin, gifted me a book on early portraiture, and in there around 1898 was a photographer with a white umbrella and a flash gun in front of it. So what does this teach us about photography? We all strive to be unique and be the best that we can be. Sometimes we succeed, and other times, well let’s not go there. Negativity is a bad thing. I stumbled across this image I made in Tucson, done with a Canon A? camera, 15mm lens, Gitzo monopod, pickup truck, and safety harness. I believe the numbers were 1/15th of a second at f16, ISO 25. Go out and make some great photos, it’s all good. Joe D
I remember the first day that I photographed Smokin’ Joe Frazier; March 8 1971. Frazier was the heavyweight champion of the world, fighting the great Muhammad Ali (off a three year hiatus from boxing). To say the least, it was considered the fight of the century, with Frank Sinatra shooting ringside for Life Magazine. I’ve been known to say “The next time I’m in Vegas, I’m gonna jump onstage and grab a microphone—not”. over the years, Frazier and I became casual acquaintances. Joe was a true gentleman. There are very few people that ever had a bad word to say about Joe. I asked him if he would be kind enough to allow me to interview him for my documentary In This Corner, and he agreed. We met at the iconic Gleason’s Gym. Honesty is the best policy, and as far as the interview went it was two warriors talking about the good old days, and from that we talked about the future of boxing in the new decade. The interview became very personal, and that is not the proper way a documentary interview should go. I looked at it yesterday and a tear came to my eye. When I get my head put on straight, I’ll do a second and a third blog with some action photography. Yes, I know this should have been done November of last year, but it took me that long to actually find the images I was looking for. So much for my filing system. To all the ships at sea, some photography, for that matter all photography, is timeless. On that note, go out and make some great photos. Joe D.
We always want photography to be fun; if it’s not fun then why do it? On an assignment for Sports Illustrated on the first great woman drag racer of our times, Shirley Muldowney, I spent a week with her and it was just pure fun. It was after her horrific crash in 1984, yet she maintained a light, airy persona and was genuinely warm, friendly, and cooperative; until I mentioned that I wanted to mount a camera on the nose of her Top Fuel Dragster. In many ways, Shirley was a hero to me. She was a great spokesman for the sport, and a great role model for women. On the first run with the camera mounted on the nose of the Dragster, the torque and power snapped a quarter twenty bolt and the camera fell over and almost hit the cement. The safety wire stopped it from becoming a photographic hand grenade. On that note, let’s always remember; safety first, photography second. After talking with her engineer we decided to take the nose cone off and bolt the camera directly to the rail. The camera we used was a Nikon F with motor and a 16mm lens. Photos were taken on Kodachrome 64 with an exposure of f16 at 1/60 of a second, tripped with an old fashioned module light.
To all the ships at sea, if you ever decide to write a book (an autobiography, a memoir, etc) and you’re involved in the arts; whether you’re a musician, an oil painter, a sculptor, or even a photographer, I’m going to give you the tip of the century. Before you write the book, go into your archives and find ALL of your artwork, photography, and illustrations before you put a pencil to paper. Okay, a new ribbon in the typewriter. Okay, a new tape in the tape recorder. Buy a new laptop? Oh, remember the save button; always remember the save button. Now that I’ve given you this great advice, anyone who knows me knows that I did what? Didn’t pay any attention to it. So now my publisher is screaming because the book is finished, but the illustrations go back to the black and white film days and Kodachrome one and two, and the sheer numbers are astronomical. As a subtext to this, you also find out that the quote “your first 10,000 photographs are your worst” from Henri Cartier-Bresson was accurate times ten. While looking for several book covers I did with my dear friend Bert Sugar, I stumbled across a few frames. The Bertster was a true Damon Runyon character, and as I recently found out, he was one of the original Mad Men. He also wrote what is (in my mind) one of the greatest jingles of all time; N-e-s-t-l-e-s Nestles makes the very best… chocolate.
The great author Berry Stainback wanted me to do an illustration for his book on Kenny “The Snake” Stabler, the premiere Oakland Raiders quarterback. To put it mildly, Kenny did not have an alter boy reputation. Let’s put it this way, Kenny may or may not have done things that were illegal, something I would not know anything about. And he may or may not have had more than one drink a day. Again, it’s not for me to say. The art director gave me cuarto blanco to do any illustration I wanted, and this was the cover illustration.
Done with a Nikon f2 55mm micro lens, one overhead wink light, one reflector, and one small electronic flash behind the helmet and bottle. I believe the exposure was 1/90 of a second at f8 ISO 64, but don’t hold me to it. See you next week, Joe D
There are rules, and there are new rules. The new rule is to never look backwards, instead always look forwards. I’m starting to get it; it takes a while but no one ever said I was a fast learner. While searching the archives for my new book, I stumbled across a story I did for Time Magazine on the last F-14 Tomcat that was to be built. The story was very important to me, but I had no idea how important it would actually be. I absolutely fell in love with the Tomcat. I believe the basic design was done in 1966 and it’s been improved upon and modified scores of times ever since. When you talk to pilots about two planes, their eyes will light up; one of those planes is the P-51, and the other the Tomcat. I had the pleasure of meeting and photographing Chuck Yeager at the Reno Air Races and he watched me climbing out of the P-51 Precious Metal. Without me asking a question, he smiled and said “You know what I like about that damn plane? You can fly it 300 feet off the ground, hit the stick and make a hard left around a barn. With these damn new planes, if you want to do that you’ve got to fly to a different state before you can make a left”. We both laughed. I will follow up on Precious Metal next week. To all the ships at sea, let’s go out and make some photos. Check out my Adorama TV show.
JoAnne is on assignment in Florida, so I thought I’d put up one of her underwater shots. It was taken with a Nikonos 4, a Nikonos strobe, and I believe the original was done on Velvia 50 in Bonaire. I like the photo so I put it up. To all the ships at sea, go out and make a photograph. Have a great Tuesday.