November 10, 2012. Soldier Field in the rain.
November 10, 2012. Soldier Field in the rain.
Some street portraits taken while I walked home from the Zendo Wednesday morning.
I'm taking Richard Rothman's "Photographing People" class at ICP this fall. Yesterday he sent us out into the street to find a spot with nice light and photograph strangers there. I haven't done that since I made the Strangers project last year, but I was pleased to find I still have the courage to ask people if I can take their picture. Here's the best two from the day.
I took some more photos of my dwarf hamsters tonight. This is Gloria, as far as I can tell:
... and this must be Rhoda:
Rhoda seems to be scratching herself up lately, particularly her nose. But she's tough enough to survive Sandy and I'm sure she'll heal up fine.
The New York Times's photo blog has posted a spooky, beautiful project, "The Whisperers" by Kuba Kaminski:
In remote northeastern Poland there lives a group of elderly Orthodox devotees who are said to possess special powers. They can heal the sick, cast out demons — even still a foe’s heart. Living at a mystical crossroad of Christian faith and folkloric superstition, they consider themselves members of the church, though the church does not.
They are called “Whisperers.”
Kuba Kaminski, a photographer from Warsaw, had heard of them a few years ago in tales that sounded more like forest myths. But their lives seemed like a natural project to pursue. “I like to photograph the invisible,” said Mr. Kaminski, 28. “I wanted to be there, I wanted to touch the things that people can’t understand.”
Kaminksi photographs the healers in a moody, magical style. Ingeniously, he mixes his reportage with digressions into landscapes and images of animals, like the one above, that aren't descriptive of his subjects but add to the mood. It helps him communicate his view of his subjects.
When I began photographing Zen students, my aim was the opposite of Kaminski's. I wanted to show how ordinary Zen is, with photos like this:
But increasingly what I'm aiming for with my Zen pictures is a sense of mystery and the exotic. I'm heading in Kaminski's direction with these kinds of photos:
Maybe I should add some photographic digressions like he does. Would these add to the project?:
I'm resuming a project I started almost three years ago, taking portraits at transitional housing buildings in NYC. The people in the photos I took last time lived in the facilities when I took their pictures; yesterday I went back to one of the buildings and photographed people who used to live there, who've made it into homes and jobs.
"Let Us Now Praise Famous Men" by James Agee and Walker Evans, 1941.
I give up. I can't finish this nor ever will.
Walker Evans begins the book with a few dozen photos, most of which are mediocre at best, a handful of which are among the best photos ever taken. Agee's text, too, is a mixed bag, although the avalanche of dross so completely mires the gems that I found myself flipping through ten pages at a time, looking for a paragraph worth reading. Agee goes through convulsions of angst, trying to find some way to tell us about the lives of three poor tenant farmers' families without being condescending or romantic. His response is a mountain of maudlin prose, reams of lists of the contents of every shelf and closet, whole chapters of poetic drivel about the divinity of man and the wheeling stars and god knows what else besides. Predictably, the Harvard-educated liberal spends the whole book trying not to make the story about himself, and ends up writing an autobiography. I have no sympathy with his dilemma. Agee should have either grown up in a hurry, taken responsibility, and actually written a book about tenant farmers, or he should have made an honorable exit.
Inside this monstrous stillbirth is a magazine story crying for release: 10 great photos, 20 graceful pages of reporting. I hope some day an unawed editor will produce it.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this review had called Agee an "overeducated coastal liberal," but the reviewer's mother pointed out that "coastal liberal" is a tired slur and that Agee was born in Knoxville. Agee is now attacked as a "Harvard-educated liberal" instead. We regret the error.
This April I photographed a tokudo, an ordination ceremony at the Village Zendo for my friends Kaku (pictured above), Tokuyu, and Oshin. It began in the early morning with elder priests shaving the novices' heads. Then we held a ceremony in which my teacher Enkyo Roshi finished the job, shaving the last few hairs from the top of each new priest's head and giving him a new name.
Oshin's deaf, so his fiancée Monshin interpreted the ceremony in sign language.
I had to post this adorable photo of Oshin and Seizan, two students at the Village Zendo.
Some photos from this spring's Shuso Hossen, a ceremony in which our practice leader Soshin gave her first dharma talk.