The Answer…

To Yesterday’s “Where in the World Are You?” Photo Contest is:

MICRONESIA

This was a tough one! Thanks to all of you who participated in the contest. I loved all your guesses, and I especially loved having so many first-time commenters (is that a word?) leave their two cents.

Unlike Bali, Tahiti or Thailand, Micronesia is not a common travel destination, so I can see why nobody got the correct answer.

The official name for Micronesia is The Federated States of Micronesia. It consists of four island states: Yap, Chuuk (Truk), Pohnpei (Ponape), and Kosrae–all in the Caroline Islands (I know, islands within islands are a bit confusing). Take a peek at the map below to get your bearings, and just know that Micronesia is located about 3,200 miles west-southwest of Hawaii, above the equator in the Pacific Ocean.

Map of Micronesia

Jeffrey was photographing a travel story here many years ago for Continental Airlines and captured the fisherman in yesterday’s photograph as he cast his net at sunrise on the island of Kosrae.

When I reviewed Eric Weiner’s book, The Geography of Bliss last November, I asked Jeffrey to rank some the happiest places he’s worked in the world, He described Micronesia as being the 4th Happiest Place. If you’d like to know why and see a few more photographs, you can click on my previous post: The Geography of Bliss (once you click on it, scroll half way down to get to Micronesia).

 Fisherman in Kosrae, Micronsia
Photo of Truk Micronesia

The most significant change to Micronesia since Jeffrey worked there in the late 80s is the impact global warming has had on the island chain. Micronesia, as well as many others in the South Pacific, are alarmed by the rise in ocean levels, which threaten low-lying islands with flooding and, eventually, submergence.

Now that has a way of putting our environmental issues into perspective!

Thursday’s Picture of the Week: China

Photo of a man doing tai chi in Rutan Park in Beijing, China

Behind the Scenes: The year is 1995 and Jeffrey is photographing on assignment for The New York Times Travel Section in Beijing, China. He’s there to do a story about Ritan (Temple of the Sun) Park.

This expansive park is one of the oldest sites in Beijing and is like an oasis in the midst of a teeming metropolis. Commissioned by Ming Dynasty emperor JiaJing in 1530, it is filled not only with massive trees, gardens, pavilions, and small lakes, but many places for people to gather and recreate. Tai chi and ballroom dancing are common forms of exercise found here.

When Jeffrey comes upon this elderly gentleman wearing a traditional Mao jacket, fully immersed in the solitude of his early morning ritual, he knows he has captured the essence of Ritan Park and also created a wonderful symbol of ancient China–still alive and well in modern day Beijing.

At its core, tai chi is a martial art (also referred to as shadow boxing), but it is now commonly practiced to strengthen and promote mind/body health. Jeffrey loved how the man was entranced in the shadow of his own dance, and how the traditional Chinese red wall and green tiles melded with the shadow and gesture, creating pure harmony.

This image was created with a Nikon F4, a Nikkor 85mm lens and Fuji Velvia film.

Postscript: A week after it was published as the cover of The New York Times Travel Section, Broadway’s legendary song and dance man, Tommy Tune, wrote a letter to the editor extolling the artistic merits of Jeffrey’s photograph and how he captured the magic of the moment.

“It was quite an honor coming from Tommy Tune, whom I admire for his artistry and accomplishments in the field of dance,” said Jeffrey. “The fact that he would take the time to write a letter to the editor…there really is no higher compliment.”

Name That Photographer

Name That Photographer GraphicSee if you can NAME THAT PHOTOGRAPHER from the following five clues:

1) He was an American photographer born in 1923.

2) He once said, “If a day goes by without my doing something related to photography, it’s as though I’ve neglected something essential to my existence, as though I had forgotten to wake up. I know that the accident of my being a photographer has made my life possible.”

3) His portraits are easily distinguished by their minimalist style, where the person is looking squarely in the camera, posed in front of a sheer white background. He is also distinguished by his large prints, sometimes measuring over three feet in height.

4) His obituary published in The New York Times said that “his fashion and portrait photographs helped define America’s image of style, beauty and culture for the last half-century.”

5) His son was famous for writing a book about an exotic and distant land.

Find out if you know the correct answer by clicking here: ANSWER. After you take a peek I’d love to know what you think of this legend’s work. Which are your favorite photographs? If you’d like to see more, click here: MORE PHOTOGRAPHS.

The Answer to Name That Photographer

Clearly I made yesterday’s photography quiz WAY too easy. As many of you guessed, the answer is ALFRED EISENSTAEDT, a legend affectionately known as “Eisie.”

Portrait of Alfred EisenstaedtFor those of you who don’t know about Eisenstaedt, you will make your life better if you take a moment to discover his work. He was a master in every sense of the word.

Here are a few links to check out his way of seeing the world:

This beautiful YouTube video-Masters of Photography (click on link to see it) is well-worth watching.

Or you can simply click on this Google search of his images. and marvel at the breadth of his portraiture–from Marilyn to Einstein to Kennedy. Or take a peek at this  Wikipedia page and learn a bit about his background.

Here is my favorite Eisenstaedt photograph: Children at Puppet Theatre, Paris, France, 1963. It sits next to my desk so I look at it every day. I will never cease to be amazed at the diverse range of emotions expressed by these children while they are all experiencing the same moment.

Photo of Alfred Eisenstaedt's Children at Puppet Theatre

I will leave you with one of Eisie’s quotes, which I think not only relates to photography, but to writing and many other aspects of life as well.

“Once the amateur’s naive approach and humble willingness to learn fades away, the creative spirit of good photography dies with it. Every professional should remain always in his heart an amateur.”

- Alfred Eisenstaedt

PS: If you missed yesterday’s quiz, take a peek here to read the clues and learn a few more fun facts. The next quiz won’t be nearly as easy!

Name That Photographer

Put on your thinking caps, photography fans! I’m starting a fun new quiz. See if you can NAME THAT PHOTOGRAPHER by reading the following five clues:

1) He was a Jewish German-American photographer born in 1898.

2) In 1936 he became one of the four original photographers at LIFE magazine, where he produced 2,500 assignments and 92 covers.

Photo of V-J Day in Times Square, 19453) He was best known for his photograph capturing the celebration of V-J Day in Times Square.

4) He once famously said, “It’s more important to click with people than to click the shutter.”

5) He lived to the age of 96 and photographed President Clinton and his family on Martha’s Vineyard when he was 94 (the last photos of his life).

Bonus clue: He created one of my all-time favorite images ever in Paris called, “Children at Puppet Theatre.” It sits right next to my desk and makes me smile every day.

Write your guess in the comment box, then check back tomorrow morning (March 20th) for the answer.

AND NO CHEATING!

Artists with a Sense of Humor

If humor is one of the highest forms of intelligence, then clearly these street artists are brilliant. I hope you are as bowled over as I was by these creative minds.

Photo of street art wall with straw

Photo of street art cheerleader

Photo of street art cigarette sewer

Photo of street art face and branches

Photo of street art shoe crosswalk

 

Photo of street art wall face

Photo of street art chalk tiger

Photo of street art kids chalk walk

Photo of street art eyes wall

Photo of street art more people climbing steps

Photo of street art scissors cutting street

Photo of street art sink hole with bicylist

Photo of street art steam roller

Photo of street art face on bombed building

Photo of street art love shadow

Photo of street art afro tree face

Photo of street art blue waterfall

Photo of street art guns and pencils

Photo of street art face skyscrapers

Photo of street art pastel steps

Photo of street art titanic building

Photo of street art treehouse building

Photo of street art zipper tree

Photo of street art subway steps

Photo of street art three friends

Unfortunately, I do not have the original source to properly credit the photographers or the curator of this delightful collection of images, but here’s a big shout out to Hensley Peterson for forwarding this piece to me via email. If anybody knows the original source, please let me know.

The Art of Faux-tography

A few weeks ago I was driving my daughter to school, and in between belting out Lady Gaga and talking about our busy day ahead, Olivia and I simultaneously had the air sucked right out of our lungs.

We’d just driven down our little stretch of Mission Canyon, and as we approached the Mission and looked out over the Rose Garden to the ocean in the distance, we witnessed the most spectacular morning light dancing on billowy periwinkle clouds, it made goosebumps rise on my arms.

The light’s reflection in the ocean below looked like a kaleidoscope shimmering on smooth gray glass.

In Santa Barbara beauty wraps its big, warm arms around us every day, so you’d think we’d be immune to it, but my daughter and I were so stunned, the only word to emerge from our mouths was a collective, “Woooowwwwww.”

My immediate reaction was to reach for my camera phone. It was instinctual, automatic—as if there were no other way to enjoy this moment without documenting it. I fumbled for my purse, but the logistics of driving prevented me from taking a picture. Instead I was forced to enjoy the moment during the moment, rather than snapping it for posterity. As a result, I was able to share it with the beautiful person in the backseat—something we could both store deep in our memory banks instead of somewhere on my camera’s memory card.

What happened next though, is what happens all too often.

After I dropped Olivia off at school, I got in my car again—this time to head to the gym. It was one of those mornings Mother Nature was clearly in the mood to show off. This time she sent a brilliant rainbow arching right over the mission. Its ROYGBIV perfectly framed the Spanish architecture, making it look like it belonged on the set of the Wizard of Oz.

It was spectacular. So spectacular, in fact, this is what I saw: the Range Rover in front of me blocking traffic in the intersection so the driver could poke his camera phone out his sunroof to take a picture. A woman walking along the Rose Garden pushing her double-stroller, digging in her diaper bag to get her camera out, missing the moment with her children. Two cars almost colliding as they both illegally pulled over into the bike lane so each driver could take a picture.

My IPhone was sitting in the passenger seat next to me so I could easily pick it up and take a picture out my car window. I was so dismayed by what I saw though, I knew I didn’t want to be one of those people. I also knew I wasn’t at the proper angle to create a memorable photograph, nor did I have a camera that would do it justice.

STILL, the compulsion to capture the moment consumed me like it consumed the others. In a matter of seconds I caved, illegally pulling into the bike lane like the other yahoos.

As I zipped down my window and snapped a few images, I knew the pictures were crap before I even looked at them. I spent so much time trying to zoom in and out to get a good composition, for which one did not exist from where I was sitting in my car, that I missed the peak of the color. By the time I’d shot off three frames, the light had faded.

Photo of a rainbow over the Mission in Santa Barbara, CA

My crappy picture of a rainbow over the Mission

I could only laugh at myself for representing the absurdity of what photography has become.

Technology has created such easy access to the medium that we are all now photographers, or more accurately, faux-tographers. Most of us do not know an F-stop from a truck stop. Nor do we know shutter speeds, proper lighting or good composition. Most of us never learned the art of photography. We just know we have the ability to take pictures and we love doing it (myself included).

It made me wonder, “What is it about photography that is so powerful that it makes us lose our common sense?” Why are we so compelled to take pictures?

This may sound like a funny question coming from somebody who has lived in the world of photography for more than two decades, but I’m not talking about professional photography. I’m talking about all of us with camera phones and PhD (Push Here Dummy) cameras.

This is what I surmised:

Photography is about sharing. Like everybody else at the Mission that morning, I wanted to share my view of the rainbow with others…with you…with my family…with my friends. I wanted everybody to experience the beautiful moment that I had just experienced. Words could not remotely come close to how striking it was.

• Photography is about capturing, stealing, owning a moment—holding onto a piece of time forever.

• Photography makes it real to us. It proves it happened.

• Photography allows us to remember, to look back and recall an exact moment in time. While our memories may fade, our photographs provide a powerful beacon of recognition.

Photography enables us to be sentimental, to linger, to celebrate events and people in our lives. Just think about all the family photo albums that adorn our coffee tables and bookshelves.

__________

Before digital cameras (in all their various forms), most people were careful and methodical about taking pictures. After all, it cost money to buy film and have it processed. And it took time and effort to drop the film off and pick it up once it was processed.

Now, after we purchase our cameras, it’s essentially free, and it’s effortless to shoot a bazillion photographs. And as we all know, if we take enough pictures, eventually we’re bound to at least get one good image.

While I may chuckle and sneer at what photography has turned into, I’m right there will all the rest of you, clicking away, sharing away and loving it. But I never forget there’s a big difference between photography and faux-tography.

__________

Because I hate to only share a crappy picture on my blog with you, allow me to end this post with a few classic images created by a real photographer (one, with whom you know by now, I’m quite smitten).

Photo of gondolas reflected in the Grand Canal of Venice, Italy

Gondolas reflected in Venice, Italy

Photo of a grandfather and grandson at a market in Xian, China

A Grandfather and his sleeping grandchild at a market in Xian, China

Photo of a South African Woman

A Christian Zionist woman holding the new flag of South Africa in Soweto during a rally for Nelson Mandela

Thursday’s Picture of the Week: Belief in Motion

Photo of horses running in a snowstorm

This Thursday’s Picture of the Week has little to do with exotic locations or unusual circumstances. Rather, it has everything to do with what it represents: belief.

Behind the Scenes: Aspen 1981—Snow is falling in fat, heavy flakes. Jeffrey knows it’s a perfect morning to create a photograph he’s been envisioning since he took a photo workshop from renowned photographer, Ernst Haas, several months earlier.

Haas is considered one of the most important figures in 20th century photography and is lauded as a leader in the art of color imagery.

Jeffrey has only owned a camera for a few years and is awash in enthusiasm for the art form, and the unlimited possibilities it offers.

Portrait of Ernst HaasThe workshop Haas leads at Anderson Ranch Arts Center focuses on motion, a technique he pioneered when he photographed bullfighting and the Indianapolis 500 in the 1950′s. Instead of shooting a fast shutter speed and freezing the subjects, as was typical of the time, he shot them with a slow shutter speed to capture the beauty of the motion.

• • •

Photo of race cars by Ernst HaasPhoto of bullfighting by Ernst Haas

“To express dynamic motion through a static moment became for me limited and unsatisfactory. The basic idea was to liberate myself from this old concept and arrive at an image in which the spectator could feel the beauty of a fourth dimension, which lies much more between moments than within a moment. In music one remembers never one tone, but a melody, a theme, a movement. In dance, never a moment, but again the beauty of a movement in time and space.”

–Ernst Haas

The approach Haas teaches at his workshop resonates with Jeffrey, and he knows he wants to capture the beauty and fluidity of horses running in the snow.

• • •

On the morning of the snowstorm, while most people are loading up their skis or hunkering down with a hot cup of coffee and a good book in front of the fireplace, Jeffrey puts on his heavy Sorrel boots, gets in his car and drives up Red Mountain.

After navigating the steep, windy road overlooking town, he parks his car next to a small meadow where horses are being boarded for the winter. The wind is blowing, flakes are sailing, and the horses begin running as soon as Jeffrey gets out of his car.

Jeffrey raises his camera and captures poetry in motion.

• • •

What happens next is where belief comes into play…

A few years later, Jeffrey is asked to be a part of a group exhibition at Unicorn Gallery, an Aspen gallery owned by entrepreneur Randy Woods. Jeffrey is humbled to be in the company of abstract painter, Richard Carter (former assistant to renowned artist Herbert Bayer of the Bauhaus School), and print maker, Tom Benton, creator of the famous Hunter Thompson campaign posters of the 70s.

Portrait of print maker Thomas BentonTom Benton Hunter Thompson PosterTom Benton Fat City PrintPortrait of artist, Dick CarterRichard Dick Carter Art

On the night of the opening, the gallery is abuzz with art enthusiasts, including internationally reputed photographer Ferenc (Franz) Berko.

Portrait of Franz BerkoBerko, a tall, slender, ascot-wearing European transplant, greets Jeffrey with a gentle smile and quiet hello.

Franz and his wife, Mirte, had come to Aspen in 1949 at the invitation of Walter Paepcke to photograph the Goethe Bicentennial. It was during the age of Aspen’s transformation from purely a silver mining town to a world-class ski resort and artist colony.

The Berkos were enamored with the mountains and town and ended up staying permanently. Below are a few images Franz shot over the years, when he not only turned his camera on the Goethe Bicentennial, but the Aspen Institute, the Aspen Music Festival and numerous other subjects.

Rubinstein in Aspen, Colorado by Franz BerkoPhoto of Albert Schweitzer in Aspen, Colorado by Ferenc BerkoPhoto of Bayer Wall in Aspen, Colorado by Ferenc BerkoPhoto of ski touring Pearl Pass in Aspen, Colorado by Franz BerkoPhoto of kids walking up stairs by Franz BerkoPhoto of Ballet by Franz Berko

©Berko Photos: Top (L) Arthur Rubinstein, (R) Albert Schweitzer, Middle (L) Work on the Herbert Bayer wall, (R) Ski touring up Pearl Pass. Bottom (L) Children, (R) Overview of ballerina

• • •

Later during the opening Berko approaches Jeffrey once again. This time he simply says, “I would like to buy a print of your horses running for my daughter.”

Jeffrey is stunned.

He smiles and stammers for a minute, then replies, “Franz, I would like to give you a print.”

Franz will have nothing to do with it.

“No, I insist I pay you for it. Your art is worth much more than you are asking. Please make me a print and bring it to Mirte’s toy store next week.”

“There’s only one thing,” he continues, “you must sign it.”

At that moment, Jeffrey knows for certain he is headed in the right direction following his passion for photography.

• • •

Franz and Jeffrey soon become dear friends, and Franz stays deeply interested in Jeffrey’s career, often giving him quiet advice throughout the years, until his death in 2000.

This photograph of the horses running will always remain a special image to Jeffrey because it represents so many things to him: his love of photography, his inner drive and enthusiasm when he was just beginning his career, and most of all, somebody’s belief in him and his ability to see.

“When you’re just starting out and one of the most respected photographers in the art world appreciates your work enough to buy a print, there’s no greater approval,” Jeffrey says.

• • •

Berko Studio on Aspen's Main Street In a “small world” twist, the Berko Gallery, which is run by Franz’s granddaughter, Mirte Mallory, is now housed in a charming purple Victorian on Aspen’s Main Street—a home that Jeffrey and I owned and lived in for many years in the mid-1990’s.Yep, see that brick walkway? Jeffrey and I laid it with our own hands. “Our” purple Victorian will always hold sweet memories for us, and now it’s even more special because it holds the photographs of somebody who not only made a powerful impact on Jeffrey’s career, but also his life.

Now it’s your turn. Who has been the “Franz” of your life? Who has believed in you and given you the confidence to reach your potential? I’d love to hear all about this wonderful person!

Gong Xi Fa Cai — Happy Chinese New Year!

Photo of a dragon tile in Beijing's Forbidden City

Today kicks off the year 4710 in China, and it’s cause for much celebration and optimism. It’s the Year of the Dragon, after all, the most auspicious and powerful of the twelve signs in the Chinese zodiac.

Where did the “Year of a particular animal” idea originate? I wondered that myself. Legend has it that in ancient times, Buddha asked all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve came, and Buddha named a year after each one. He announced that the people born in each animal’s year would have some of that animal’s personality.

In Eastern philosophy, the dragon is regarded as a divine beast – the opposite of the malicious monster that Westerners have felt necessary to find and slay. It is said to be a deliverer of good fortune and a master of authority.

Those born in dragon years are innovative, brave, and driven. They’re unafraid of challenges, willing to take risks and passionate about all they do. They are free spirits. Think of John Lennon, Joan of Arc, Mae West, and Salvador Dali.

Photo of girls during Chinese New Year in Beijing, ChinaA baby boom is expected in China this year as many couples believe it is lucky to have a child born during The Year of the Dragon.

Economic forecasts are also strong as new ventures are expected to benefit from the outstanding luck of the dragon.

_____________________________________

Chinese traditions are so rich that I thought it would be fun to share a few more tidbits I’ve learned about this holiday–both from Jeffrey who has been to China well over sixty times, and from research.

Chinese New Year is the longest and most important festival in Chinese culture, lasting fifteen days. It’s celebrated on the new moon of the first month according to the lunar calendar, and is a time for family reunions and massive feasts.

It is also a time when every family thoroughly cleans the house to sweep away any ill-fortune in hopes of making way for good incoming luck.

At Chinese New Year celebrations people wear new red clothes, decorate with red paper, and give children “lucky money” in red envelopes. Red symbolizes fire, which according to legend can drive away bad luck.

Photo of red envelopesThe money given in the red envelopes must be in new bills, and the total amount must be an even number. Certain numbers are bad luck, so the total amount should not be one of these unlucky numbers. Four, for example, is a homonym for “death,” so a red envelope should never contain $4, $40, or $400. Children put their red envelopes under their pillows at night so they can have sweet dreams and become richer in the next year.

Photo of Chinese New Year Fireworks in Beijing, ChinaThe fireworks that shower the festivities are rooted in a similar ancient custom. Long ago, people in China lit bamboo stalks, believing that the crackling flames would frighten evil spirits. Now at midnight on New Year’s Eve, fireworks and firecrackers light up the sky and greet the coming of the new year, driving away evil spirits.

The lantern festival, held on the fifteenth day of the Chinese New Year celebration, is considered the highlight by many. People hang lanterns in temples, and carry lanterns to an evening parade under the light of the full moon.

Photo of a Dragon ParadeIn many areas the centerpiece of the lantern festival is the dragon dance. The dragon—which might stretch a hundred feet long—is typically made of silk, paper, and bamboo. Traditionally the dragon is held aloft by young men who dance as they guide the colorful beast through the streets.

_____________________________

I’m always optimistic at the start of each new year. 2012 is no exception–especially now that I know the Dragon is leading the way.

Gong Xi Fa Cai - Happy New Year!

Graphic of Happy Chinese New Year i

sources: infoplease.com, about.com, chinesezodiac.com, chiff.com, wikipedia.com