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Posts from — August 2010

Albert Watson/ Part II

CONTINUED from Albert Watson / Part I



On working with stylists:

R: When you’re shooting with a stylist, do you give a lot of direction, or do you let the stylist do their work, and then you kind of step in? Or say, I’ll work with what I’ve got?”

AW: Well I can actually help you with that, because I’ve done a gigantic, humongous amount of that kind of work, and believe it or not, even photographers working in the business don’t quite concentrate and realize this. A really good fashion editor at a magazine, a really good fashion editor, is a perfect combination of two human beings. They are stylists… but they are also art directors. The funny thing is that I was working for years and years and years for Vogue magazine and Conde Nast … and a lot of times people outside would say, “Oh, the art director of a magazine is, uh – might be Roger Schoening…” He was the art director of Vogue magazine. So we imagine Roger Schoening would be at the shooting, art directing them.

But, of course, art directors from magazines never go to the shootings, almost never. I’m not saying that they might not go once or twice a year, but they, art directors from magazines, almost never go to shootings. So who handles the shooting, based on what the magazine might want? That’s the editor, the fashion editor. And the fashion editor is part art director, and part stylist. So not only do they get an idea how the clothing might come together, they might be doing ten pages on cashmere, or something, but how are we going to shoot this? Who is the model? What’s the hairdresser going to do? What’s the makeup artist going to do? How does that come together? So therefore, a stylist is working with you to book a hairdresser and a makeup artist. What photographer they’re going to use. How it’s going to be shot.

If it’s a cashmere story, are we going to shoot in Scotland? Or are we going to shoot in an apartment in New York? Therefore, that’s something an editor works out.

Now a stylist is slightly different. A stylist is predominately putting together the clothes. So they may well get the belt, the shirt, the sneakers, the socks and the stylist might say, “I think this works pretty well together, let’s shoot this,”  and you go ahead and shoot it. And a really good stylist would be watching whether or not, if you’re shooting a shirt, whether or not the buttons are showing, or whether or not they are they like that… (holds up a cuff to hide a button)?  A good stylist will say, “Is there any chance we could just see that metal button?” You know, especially if you’re advertising a shirt.

Automatically, ultimately the buck stops with the photographer, and any good fashion photographer, if it is fashion, should have an awareness of that. Running back very quickly to photographing cars, you know very often that with cars you put 40 sandbags in the trunk of a car to weigh the back of the car down so it looks more streamlined, as opposed to a car that doesn’t have anything in it. So consequently, you would know to turn the sleeve on the shirt to show the metal button. So the photographer has a responsibility to that, and a good stylist. You’re working with those people, so always: it’s hair, makeup, stylist, editor. These things are a partnership. If you’re shooting, for example, a TV commercial, or directing a TV commercial, it’s very much a partnership.

Where it’s a group effort, so a lot of that happens. In a TV commercial you need a director.  As a photographer, there needs to be somebody in charge. You need good people around. The photographer doesn’t usually do makeup for the models, so you get a good makeup artist. These things are fairly obvious, but they’re very often overlooked.


R: Do you say to yourself, “I’ve worked with that person before. I know they know their job, they’ll do it, and go from there?”

AW: Even if it’s a makeup artist I’ve worked with a lot – it can be very often if  you work with a makeup artist and something comes out and you go….”I don’t like it.”  I’ve worked with this person 100 times. One hundred times he’s done a beautiful job, and suddenly it’s not working

In the end the buck stops here. You’ve got to control all these things. And the funny thing is, sometimes with fashion photographers, not all the time, but fashion photographers in my opinion are sometimes a little bit guilty of not being really strongly thinking about the makeup, and the clothes, and so on. Whereas sometimes a NASCAR photographer, he can tell by the sound of the engine what the car is.

You should know the difference between a low level silk, a high level silk, or regular cotton or brushed cotton. You should know these things. You should obviously know the difference between lambs’ wool and cashmere, or a four level cashmere. You should know these things.


Classics / Albert Watson

Kids / Albert Watson

Strip Search / Albert Watson

UFO / Albert Watson

Hat Blocks / Albert Watson

View larger photos from the gallery please enter the FS button.

What about the print?

R: You’ve mentioned that you think the real end product of photography is in the print, and that makes a lot of sense. And you work with an HP (Hewlett Packard) 3100 …?  What makes that suitable for your work?

AW: First of all the machine has to perform well. What does that mean? It means if you are looking at a screen and you’re looking at something that has 31 percent magenta on the screen, you want 30 or 31 or 32 percent magenta on the piece of paper. So the translation from the screen image to the piece of paper should be very, very good. So if you’re looking on the screen at an apple green green and it comes out acid green green, you’ve got a disconnect.

HP is working very, very well, so that the translation from the screen to the paper works very, very, very well. Contrast-wise and color-wise. So the translation is excellent. The other thing that’s very good about these printers, which in my opinion is really remarkable, is that you put through 500 prints or 1000 prints, and they’re consistent. And very low maintenance. Remarkably, incredibly low maintenance. At the moment, we’re servicing our machines about once a year. And we’re not talking about a little old print coming out on 8×10. We’re talking about one of these (waves his hand around toward a number of very large prints on the studio walls).

Not the one at the door, that’s a C print. And not the monkeys. That’s a C print. But all the rest of them are HP.

R: Do you do the C prints in your darkroom?

AW: No. C prints that big I send them out and I have them done outside, but they’re all done from our files and from our master prints. So that, as far as I’m concerned, when we send them out they’re already done.

R: So, for example, you take a Batman picture, or a chrome, how much do you play with that?

AW: It could be gigantic. Look, the basic thing, you’ve got to, you can never rescue totally, if the picture’s not there — the essence and the soul and the power of the picture is not there when you take it, the computer is not going to rescue it.

R: I’m not talking about rescue…

AW: It depends on the image. You can move it gigantically in one direction, and you can actually pull it back in another. Look at the girl by the Frigidaire. I put a small strobe inside the refrigerator, OK? I filtered the strobe quite strongly with an orange red, OK?

I then lit the rest of the room by bouncing off the ceiling a neon green gel. If you look at the contact sheet, that’s what the contact sheet looks like. Now, if you actually look at the green, you go well, there’s a 10 per cent, an 8 per cent more gamma in it than the original That’s because in the original we might bring the original to a certain level and be comfortable with that level in the knowledge that possibly later, on the computer, we can go just a little bit further on  the gamma. But we don’t want to overload the negative, so consequently, we know that going in we can push it a little bit more, with something like that.

So, depending on the image, it’s a hard question to answer because, depending on the image, we are at that point not… We don’t know. Sometimes things are just straightforward things. But the soul and the essence and the power of the picture has to be in the taking.


Kids / Albert Watson

Strip Search / Albert Watson

UFO / Albert Watson

Hat Blocks / Albert Watson

Classics / Albert Watson

View larger photos from the gallery please enter the FS button.

What about printers, and does everyone need an HP 3100?

AW: Well, you know the other thing is this, and I understand that many of your readers may be photographers, may be looking at something like that, it’s the 3100 that has the maximum width of a 44” print, which to your average photographer is gigantic. Forty-four inches, you know, and they scale down there. The interesting thing to me is that I consider those machines dirt cheap…. I think those machines are cheap…

R: Really. How much are they?

AW: I think you can get the machines now for 7,500 to eight grand. That’s cheap.  That’s cheap. Now. Eight grand is not cheap if you’re a photographer taking pictures of your kids, or your wife, or your aunt at a birthday party, or a kid blowing out a candle. You’re not going to spend eight grand on a machine like that, but if you’re a working professional photographer, eight grand he should be able to handle even if he pays it off for a year. That is dirt cheap for a machine like that.


UFO / Albert Watson

Hat Blocks / Albert Watson

Classics / Albert Watson

Kids / Albert Watson

Strip Search / Albert Watson

View larger photos from the gallery please enter the FS button.

UFO (Unified Fashion Objectives): “A 40-year retrospective of Watson’s best work, pulled from his vast archive. In its pages, a memorable era of style, beauty, fashion, personality, and power is captured for posterity.”  Foreword by Gail Buckland.

Hardcover, 14″ X 11″ (portrait), 400 pages, 350 images approx. Saifu cloth case with printed band Boxed Edition: Hardcover presented in clamshell cloth box with foil debossing.

Published by PQ Blackwell,


What the future holds?

R: Do you have another book planned?

AW: Well, that’s not a good question, but of course I do. But it’s not a particularly good question because we’ve just spent six months getting these two books out of here … And basically, the last one, the Vegas book, left on Friday of  last week. So I’m just happy… all I see now is the dust of those two books getting out of here.

There are a couple of projects floating around, some … There’s a project that a whiskey company sponsor wants me to do. A book on landscapes in Scotland. And there’s another project I’m quite interested in… But, I’m quite happy to not be doing another book for the rest of the year.

The daily grind …

AW: You know, I had a lot of that… I had tons and tons and tons and tons of that in my life, too…. Shoot a catalog and get it out … 20 outfits a day, and guess what we do the next day? 20 outfits. And guess what we do the next day? 20 outfits. ….

… and how long can you take pictures?

AW: Somebody asked me about that, and I said, it’s a weird thing about photographers. Photographers just seem to go on forever. I remember three years ago bumping into Irving Penn’s assistant, “How’s Mr. Penn?” I asked, and he said … he was shaking his head and he said to me, he said, “He just likes, really, to do three days a week now.” Of course, he was 90.  “He only likes to do three days a week now,” not the full five. At 90. We should be so lucky.

(Watson turns to Gail Buckland.)

Gail, how old was he? Ninety-two when he died?

GB: He was born in 1917

AW: Yeah, that’s right. And Avedon was born in 1923. So he was six years… so he lived actually longer than Avedon did. And he died a year and a half ago now, or was it a year ago?

GB: Maybe a little bit more. He was ninety three.

AW: Yeah, I think he was pretty close to 93.

GB: He was (still) having exhibitions.

R: And going to them, too?

GB: No, he stopped that.


AW: He never liked anybody taking his picture. I remember that. He had a big show at the Museum of Modern Art. There was a big dinner afterwards that we were invited to. We sat at the table adjacent to him, and it was a funny moment, when the Museum of Modern Art photographer came up to him during the whole thing, and went to take his picture, and he had a napkin in his hand and just as the photographer got there to take his picture the napkin went up in front of his face, and the photographer just got the napkin….. (laughter).

R: Did you ever show at the Witkin?

AW: No. …  We’ve been very low key in New York and what we’ve been doing for the past four years is working galleries and museums in Europe.

R: Is that because you don’t want ….

AW: No, it’s not because we don’t want to. I think it was just … I don’t really have a great or weird answer, or something strange about it. I think that we really wanted to, really practice in Europe, almost. I mean, I could have done a small show in New York, or a bigger show in New York, but we’ve been actually quite low key.

R: So you wanted to get it right?

AW: Well, I think it’s not a matter of  getting just the show right. It’s a matter of  getting the entire system right, of galleries, museums…. What’s the difference between a gallery show and a museum, except that people say we just do less in a gallery than in a museum,  because they have a lot more space.  But there’s more to it than that. Then, also, when you sell prints, how do you sell prints?  And how are you organizing that? And how mucked up is that, and that kind of thing? And really, in the past five, six, seven years, Aaron has done a fantastic job of it.

CH: I find now that I’m retired from the newspaper I take photos of things I’d never have looked at before….

AW: But that happens because you now have allocated some time to that. In other words, you’ve allocated time to suddenly, …  rather than Monday you’ve got to do this, and Tuesday you’ve got to do that, and Thursday do that. And maybe you’ve got to go into the office to do some printing on deadline, or organize something on a Saturday and maybe for 10 minutes on Sunday you do something you’ve got to do. And Monday you’re back into the whole system.

Now you’ve got a little bit of time, and you suddenly say you know there’s some nice looking rocks in my garden that have always interested me and I think I’ll photograph rocks. And then when you go and photograph the rocks, you say I’m not a rock photographer, and the next thing is you photograph the rocks and you make a print of it and then one of the twenty shots you take works, and then you say “That worked really well, I should apply that to the other ones, that technique,” and you go down a different road.

But a lot of what you learn by doing your daily grind… I would say the biggest thing for a photojournalist is to move up in his camera size, because you have time, you know. Obviously the nature of photojournalism is that you need mobility, you have seconds to grab pictures, moments, sometimes a little bit longer, but not long, you know.

You can buy an old 4×5 camera for nothing, with some nice lenses, some beautiful Zeiss lenses, and you can buy that, and suddenly …  And it will be uncomfortable for you, and awkward for you, and annoying for you, and so on. But maybe if you have a darkroom, or if you can load that stuff onto your computer, you might be pleasantly surprised. And, as always, when with something new, even when you get a new car, things are not quite what you remember of your last car. It’s annoying, but then eventually, of course, you figure it out. The more you do it, the more fluent you become with it.

R: Thank you very much.

AW: Thank you for coming all this way.



To view Watson’s portfolios visit:

Video interviews and gathering behind the scenes content from the shoot, The Macallan Whisky, one of his latest projects.



August 20, 2010   1 Comment

Cover: July-August 2010

Jean Marc Calvet, Legend, Acrylic on Canvas, 90cm x 90 cm, 2010

The 20 Act Play

A friend paints. I wonder how she does it. Day after day, year after year, for as long as I’ve known her, 35 years – which is quite a long time, indeed. It’s not the mechanism I wonder about, but the motivation, the drive, the wellspring of the ideas that come to her as she applies layer upon layer of color until the piece itself achieves unity. Some of the works look alike. In their style, that is. The subjects almost always are different. She’s not skinning the same cat twice.

With the help of a growing population of contributors — painters, poets, photographers, writers and others after arcane pursuits — we try to do that with each issue of  The format is designed to put each and every contributor – and contribution – center stage, for how else can an audience best judge the performer?

With the July-August issue, we’ve got dozens of images and thousands of words, in nearly 25 posts. Not all the posts, I’m afraid, are included in the list of “Recent Posts” that appears column left, so don’t be afraid to click on the categories to the right that may be of interest to you. The latest posts in that category will lead the page.

Regular features include “On Location/Los Angeles” with Ginger Liu, and “On Location/Columbus”, the latter with a snapshot bio of Candice Watkins, artist, photographer & musicologist; and, an update from Baghdad on the activities of Kitchen Caravan’s Emma Piper-Burketand the Iraqi Seed Project. “Music” includes Jaff Katz’s review ofNeil Young’s Albany gig at the opening of his latest tour, and an interview with Graham Parker. “Politics” editor Jim Palomboshares his unique experiences and artwork from Cuba. And for amateur filmmakers, Mark Levy shares his regrets in Casual Observer.

On the literary front, you’ll find fiction by Kris Saknussemm andDavid Cody; an exploration of the “life force” by Lucy Sherman, with a thoughtful introduction by CNF editor Leslie Heywood; poetry byPaul Sohar, including translations from Hungarian to English; poetry by Laura Merleau, written in both English and French, as well as poems by Carmen Mojica and Deborah LaVeglia.

In a world of contrasts, nothing could be more different than the “spiritual madness” and reconciliation in the work of French-born artistJean Marc Calvet,  and the tranquility evidenced in the communion with nature drawn out in the paintings of Transylvanian artist Claudiu Presecan. For more visual impact, check out the gallery of photographs by Jim Friedman, whose obsession with the interior design of golf balls gives something to think twice about before taking that next big swing. And in keeping with summer, Herm Card, who’s spent decades as player, coach and umpire, shares some of the special photos he’s taken staking out the diamond as a photographer.

At home, Emily Vogel joins poetry editor Joe Weil on the staff as assistant poetry editor. Vogel is the recipient of second prize for The Academy of American Poets competition at Binghamton University, 2008. Her third collection of poetry, “Elucidation Through Darkness”, was published by Split Oak Press in May of 2010.   She has been nominated for the AWP award in creative non-fiction, 2010.

We’re hoping you, dear reader, will let us know your thoughts about the play. And if you please, leave a comment on your way out after the curtain falls at the end of Act 20-something. And thanks for reading!

– Mike Foldes is a program of Binghamton Imaginink, a 501(c)(3) organization incorporated in the State of New York. Your donations to Binghamton Imaginink earmarked for are, updated approximately six times a year, is a collaboration of new and established artists, writers, poets, photographers, travelers and interested others, with a goal to promote an eclectic selection of subject matter to an international audience.

August 20, 2010   Comments Off on Cover: July-August 2010

Books & Reviews


You Know, Feel Like a Human Being


By Kayleigh Wanzer

 3, Ted Greenwald’s 2008 poetry collection (Cuneiform) is, in a word, ambitious. For all parties involved. It is an ambitious read, consisting of three epic poems that take the reader on a spiral journey throughout Greenwald’s mind.  And it was most likely an ambitious effort for Greenwald, a New York native with a poetry career spanning more than thirty years. 

For some, 3 is a departure from Greenwald’s previous collections, leaning toward the experimental, as well as experiential.  This departure, however, seems as much as a continuation of life’s journey.

3 begins with “Going Into School That Day,” the most accessible of the three sections, romantic in its themes and simple in its word choice. Greenwald speaks of universal yearnings, wanting to “feel like a human being in the ashes of my desolation.”  It is the most reminiscent of Greenwald’s earlier work, rhythmic and making sense even when it shouldn’t.  “Going Into School That Day”, as the title suggests, is an introduction.  When Greenwald speaks of

           “The evening
            Where the beautiful face
            I love
            Told me
            This is real”

we, as the readers, are introduced to presumably the same person who later has “severed several ways to listen.” We watch with Greenwald as he looks at his “transformation which belongs in a dream.” Something is missing, we’re just not sure what yet.  And maybe we’re not supposed to be. Maybe he isn’t either, though:

“Is it Peggy or Sue
I think I love you
Looking wordlessness
Remind me what’s your name”

 Throughout the poem, Greenwald contrasts the excessively verbose by comparison with the brief. Eight beat lines presented across the page from two and four beat lines. It is effective.  When he tells us,

“Thoughts go public
You start to remember
You’re so small, almost invisible
Start on fingertip           Point
Out the most important parts of life
Lined with vital signs”

We believe him. And when he says beats later, “See things/Can’t see,” the brevity is felt and understood. “Going Into School That Day” concludes with anxiety, mentioning trouble, assuring that there will be turbulence ahead: “From outset, trouble/Pin down what, exactly.”

The second section of 3, “Anyway,” is the shortest and most deceptive of the three poems. Consisting of mostly three line bursts, “Anyway” appears to be an aside of sorts, a break from the comparative concreteness of “Going Into School That Day.” It is cohesive in its absurdity, at the same time focusing on how words sound together, rather than just what they mean. If 3 is the manifestation of a journey through a storm, “Anyway,” is the eye. It is disarmingly calm, the type of poem that needs to be read aloud, lines like “Won’t in ruby, wear over dusk blue crush/Long sleeve baby dawn, eat leftovers/Giftwrap in signs, shake on” somehow sounding better and meaning more when resonating throughout a room.  Yet the same themes remain present, tying together the sections. Still around is the yearning, the romance of empty nostalgia. Sometimes it is even sweet: “As in those movies, a wonderful first kiss/One long grin, keeps awake/Without cuts, a wonderful first kiss,” yet Greenwald does not take long to remind “Nothing’s personal, including yours.”

 The transition that takes place in “Anyway,” a shift from accessible poetry with a traceable plot to one with a focus on sound and emotion, becomes especially noticeable in the final section of 3, “Dawn On.”  This poem acts as almost a combination of the earlier two, molding together a stream-of-conscious writing with hidden familiar theme and plot points.  It is dense and at points, intimidating. But it is all together meaningful. When Greenwald says “Forget the forgotten. Not worry not you/The smells and the feel vitrine/Different need different not worry not you,” it is understood what he speaks of without fully understanding how he speaks of it. And this is perhaps the most important part of 3. Greenwald manages to leave out words that maybe should be included, he switches syntax order, he has the audacity to spit out lines like “Groovy pants runways.” It is almost as if, after one hundred and sixty three pages of trying to make us understand, he wants to tear it all down.  But he doesn’t. And he won’t. And we will close 3 knowing more and less at the same time.

Available from Cuneiform Press,, Austin, Texas.

August 20, 2010   Comments Off on Books & Reviews

Casual Observer

Career Advice

by Mark Levy

When I was barely a teenager, as clueless about my future as most teenagers whose parents are not physicians, I took some career aptitude tests. I had always done well on academic aptitude tests that featured math problems. Notice, I said
“Well,” not “Phenomenally well.”
But even at the tender age of 13, I realized that the number of professions for which solving elementary math problems was required couldn’t be great. I mean, I had never heard of one, except for my seventh grade math teacher, and he had weird taste in neckties — weird even by math nerd standards.
Anyway, there came that point in my life when I realized I had to get serious about my future. It was stressful not knowing the direction I should be going. Not so stressful that it was affecting my appetite, of course. I wasn’t obsessed, but I was stressed enough to think about my situation every week or two. My ever-helpful parents arranged for me to take a couple of hours of aptitude tests.
Here’s the strange thing: when my test results were analyzed, the counselor recommended that I consider a career in … fashion design. Fashion design! I — who couldn’t tell the difference between culotts and mu mus and couldn’t care less — I become a fashion designer?

It wasn’t until years later that I realized the counselor was somehow motivated to direct students to attend a particular fashion school, regardless of their lack of aptitude or interest.
That experience was not entirely a waste of time, although I thought so for the last 40 years. The fact is, though, I scored highest in the subject called academic research aptitude. That’s not the same as scientific research, by the way.
In any case, I had no interest in becoming a librarian, so I filed that factoid away until recently, when I had an epiphany of sorts. It turns out I am good at academic research — research on the Internet. I look up information eight or ten times a day.
It seems like I’m confirming how words are spelled, or I’m locating appropriate synonyms every other minute.
For essays like this, I have researched not-so-famous national days, like national Talk Like a Pirate Day, and the number of people in America named Roy Rogers, and people and things whose acronym is B.S., and which famous people were born on my birthday. I’ve discovered that lobsters are related to cockroaches and that Marilyn Monroe’s last, incomplete movie, also starred Dean Martin. It was to be called, “Something’s Got to Give,” by the way, and I guess it was Marilyn’s life that was the “something.”
I use the search engine Google, and the Internet tells me that word, spelled correctly — g-o-o-g-o-l — was made popular by Edward Kasner, who used it in his book, Mathematics and the Imagination, published in 1940.
It means one followed by 100 zeroes, which is actually called ten duo-tri-gintillion, if you care.
Anyway, thanks to the Google Internet search engine, I can retrieve pretty much anything I want to know by typing is two or three words. My talent — and I have to refer to talent with a lower case “t” — comes in useful for those trivial purposes I mentioned, as well as for searching inventions on the Patent and Trademark Office database.
Of course, the Internet database didn’t exist when I was informed that I had academic research aptitude.
So even though I don’t get to solve simple math problems for a living, at least I was spared from a life of fashion design.

* * *

(Click for larger image)

August 19, 2010   Comments Off on Casual Observer