Picture > Story 2

Creating a photograph (story) from a picture is selection. Just to start the process you have to choose one element and only one from the many that make up a picture. Now keep going. What is your next element? Then the next one. You select what works and you decide what does not. At base you have only one criterion: If something interests you, it stays in — if not, it stays out. That’s a crude way to assess things, but it’s all you’ve got. Forget market research. Never market—research your photography. Photograph subjects in which you have enough interest on your own to see you through all the stops, starts, hesitations, and other impediments along the way.

Paraphrased from John McPhee on writing copy, The New Yorker, September 14, 2015

Two images: The first is the picture, the second the story.

To see more, click here.



Words do matter! Do words matter?


Born To Be Blue: Jazz Legend Chet Baker


Jazz Legend Chet Baker at Hop Singhs

The release of the Chet Baker biopic Born to Be Blue reminded me that I had photographed a performance of his in 1985 at Hop Singhs in Marina del Rey, California. The photo shown above was used to illustrate an article on Baker authored by Kirk Silsbee, a noted authority on the subject of jazz. Later, in 2003, the photograph was part of an exhibit, curated by Silsbee, of my pictures of jazz musicians performing in Los Angeles in the 1980s. The exhibit, Audible Images, was paired with another body of work that I had just completed, Some Assembly Required, which was curated by Joseph De Mario, the Director of Bakery Art Exhibitions at the Jazz Bakery, then located in Culver City, California.

To see more photos from Audible Images, click here or on the above photo.

For more information about the Audible Images exhibit, check out the press release, below, which includes Silsbee’s curator’s statement.

Jazz photographs by Joel H. Mark

Joel Mark had studied photography with such masters as Aaron Siskind and Harry Callahan at the Institute of Design in Chicago when he became a successful commercial photographer working in Los Angeles.  In the early 1980s, he began photographing local jazz musicians.  Designer Cheryl Brantner presented concerts by improvising musicians in her downtown loft.  She wanted her series to be memorable, right down to the mailers.  She enlisted Mark to shoot portraits of the artists for those flyers.  Thus Mark gained entrée to L.A.’s jazz and new music circles.  His portraiture was used by enterprising managers and bookers as press material in conjunction with upcoming concert and club dates.  Mark’s images soon enhanced album covers.  Journalists took him along when their reviews needed accompanying photos.

This show concentrates on Mark’s performance work.  It is an extension of his portraiture, often capturing solitude in the midst of furious ensemble exchange. The musicians may be oblivious to the camera but Mark manages to capture a measure of truth regarding creation in the moment.  Much of it was taken at venues that are now gone–Hop Singh’s, the Silver Screen Room, At My Place and serves as a reminder of a fertile period.  These are audible images. – Kirk Silsbee

Joel Mark’s performance photos of L.A.’s improvising musicians of the 1980s are a window on a powerful time in jazz that is now just out of reach.  Chet Baker, John Carter, Bill Douglass, Tal Farlow, Billy Higgins, Harold Land, Warne Marsh and Horace Tapscott were all part of that landscape, so vivid in these images.


Curiosity – New Urban Landscapes


As a landscape photographer since my student days, I’ve long been drawn to photographing in both rural and urban settings, with both traditional and non-traditional results. The images of urban landscapes are usually of small and intimate spaces, and include interiors as well. I’ve come to realize these scenes always have an emotional component, whether or not I knew that at the time.

These days, I’m at a place in my life where issues of mortality are affecting me. Some of my friends are dealing with health matters, often with diminishment of physical or mental capabilities. Many are faced with marginalization by society. The question is always, “What’s next?”

For me, this series of photographs captures moments in time that stir the imagination—at least mine. This new series of photographs is not about what is seen in front of the camera. I am curious about what is not seen. They each, individually and together, beg these questions: what is the story behind the windows or up the stairs, and what is around the corner, a pathway or a dead end street? Really it comes down to, what are the possibilities, and what is next?

Shakespeare believed that we don’t always know what he’s saying, but still we get the meaning. That is precisely why I shoot photos like these…to inspire meaning and impart pleasure.

Click here or on the accompanying images to to see the compete series. Feel free to forward this post to others in your social and professional networks.




Contemporary Interpretation of Mid-century Ranch House

Architect Todd Conversano’s 460 SF addition of a second story master bedroom to his mid-century ranch house is designed to reflect the history of the original structure, but with a contemporary twist.

Conversano describes his changes and architectural decisions:

“The roof of the addition was conceived to match the existing living room roof for context, so the exact same size beams, rafters, joists, sheathing, and roof pitch was erected upstairs, but the center ridge beam was oriented at an angle toward the corner sliding doors to accentuate the view. Given the corner opening of the doors, a corner cantilevered deck was conceived above which the matching sized roof overhang covers the deck and exposed the wood roof structure to the exterior.”

“The exterior is clad with matching smooth troweled stucco of the same color as the original house, and corrugated sheet metal siding. The siding is not only fireproof, but was selected to be reminiscent of the look of mid-century ranch house wood siding, although with a completely contemporary feel.”

“On the side yard, the existing ridge joist is kept intact and the new face of the upper floor aligns with the fascia, and the siding deflects and takes the shape of that original roof line thus exposing the history of the original structure.”

“The sloped roof also covers the stairwell and naturally falls in unison with the fall of the stair, and unveils itself when walking up to the second floor.”

“Natural oiled oak floors were installed to keep a slightly rougher look to the floor, and custom colored art glass was used in the bathroom to accentuate the main bathroom wall.”

To see the success of Conversano’s endeavor, click here or on the photographs below.



Hollyhock House

In 2006, I was assigned by Lifescapes magazine to photograph at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Hollyhock House in Barnsdall Art Park, Los Angeles, California.

I was confronted with time and access limitations. I had to work around plastic sheeting protecting open areas from the elements. With the assistance of Advertising Director William Bush, now Publisher of Artweek.LA, I was able to make six photographs in and around the location’s living room that show the architect’s intent for the interior design of this area of the house.

With the recent reopening of the newly restored home, and with its nomination as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, interest in Hollyhock House has been renewed. I hope that you will find these pre-restoration photographs an informative addition to the visual documentation of Wright’s design. To see all six photos, click here or on the photographs below. 

Hollyhock House, Barnsdahl Park, Los Angeles, CA  (designed by Frank Lloyd Wright).Hollyhock House, Barnsdahl Park, Los Angeles, CA  (designed by Frank Lloyd Wright). 

Luxury Retreat

Landscape Designer Ted Weiant needed a place to stay when his 1913 Craftsman house was rented. In close collaboration with architect Marcelo Ciccone, a 288 square-foot one car garage, designed to accommodate a Ford Model A, became a luxurious 485 square-foot living space where Weiant could retreat to while his home was occupied by renters.

There were several key requirements for the design:

1.   An integration of the interior and exterior spaces with minimal disruption of the site.
2.   A low roof line allowing the structure to “disappear”.
3.   Privacy: separation of the site from the front house and yard.
4.   A sense of each room being separate to give the illusion of a larger space.
5.   Storage space.
6.   The interior design should reflect Weiant’s eclectic taste.
7.   Quality fit and finish.

When I photographed the result of the Weiant/Ciccone design team’s effort, I was impressed by how successfully all of the key design requirements were achieved. Check out the photographs below or click here to see all the photographs of the project. You can judge for yourself if the project’s requirements were met.

Main room from deck.View from yard to deck and structure.

Urban Nightscapes

Night photography has fascinated me for some time, as it has fascinated other photographers, and nightscapes have been part of the history of photography almost from its beginning.

Darkness changes and simplifies the urban landscape. Visual clutter is now stripped away. This profound and mysterious transformation allows me, as a photographer, to see to the heart of the story that wants to be told.

Looking through some of my past photography I discovered night images that I had almost forgotten. They have inspired me to explore this subject matter again, this time with more depth and awareness.

Some photographs are intended to document what is before the camera’s eye, while others are interpretations by the photographer. Documents are more literal and thus self-explanatory, while photographic interpretations introduce the experiences and feelings of the photographer into the finished image, and this interpretive mode is what I am exploring here.

Working With the Dark

Finding scenes to photograph is an intuitive process for me. I will scout an area looking for a subject, sometimes using my cell phone camera to take photos as notes and sketches. When I find a subject that feels right, I select the point of view and photograph it using a technique called High Dynamic Range Imaging, which combines multiple exposures into one image, an image that represents the visual dynamic range of the scene. The result extends beyond what a single exposure typically produces, and allows me greater scope of interpretation.

My post-production process is heuristic, and I love this discovery process. I make technical adjustments both globally and locally within the image, using optical distortion, color, contrast, and exposure. The final composition is arrived at in a way similar to the way a sculptor sometimes works – reducing and eliminating all unnecessary elements, revealing the scene that suggested itself to me in the beginning.

This is how I photograph any subject, whether it’s a nightscape, editorial or architectural image. My intuition and curiosity guide me to the heart of the story.

My mother used to tell me that everyone has a story to tell, and all you have to do is listen. As a photographer, when I tell a story, mine or yours, I listen and I look.

Click here to visit Nightscapes.



1923 Sears Modern Home Restoration

A home is a house given meaning by the people living in it.

While on vacation in New England during the summer of 2013, I was introduced to a professional muralist who has restored a 1923 Sears Modern Homes bungalow. She graciously gave me permission to photograph it.

Because I was on vacation, I had no equipment other than my camera and a travel tripod. By combining multiple exposures, High Dynamic Range Imaging, I was able to capture the feel of the house when only lit by the available light, and I’ve been very pleased with the result.

Normally, these photographs are highly staged, but in this case, leaving in place artifacts of normal living–books, cooking supplies, the dog on the sofa (a lucky touch!) added a warmth that reflected the personality of this unusual person, and made the home, although a challenge, a pleasure to photograph. I hope you enjoy seeing the surroundings of this creative artist and collector.

To view more photographs of this home, click here.

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