Sunday, November 10, 2013


In August I spent two weeks in India, dividing my time between Bangalore and Mysore. It was my first time in the country but, more than other places I've been, the cities were mostly as I expected them to be: dusty, bustling, a mix of grand and garish. If you quizzed me ahead of time, I couldn't have told you what Bangalore's newfangled Orion mall would look like, but upon seeing it the sensation was, "That's about right." I'm sure many Indians, at home and abroad, see a distorted image of their country in foreign media, but I think the cumulative effect of this abundant press coverage is a gut familiarity that renders the place less alien. This might be a buzzkill for those in search of the exotic - the Eat, Pray, Love set - but it should be some consolation for those tired of being exoticized.

This is not to say the novelty of the place was diminished; I had a pretty good idea what Rome would be like before I visited and yet it somehow didn't detract from the romance of its piazzas or the awesomeness of the Coliseum. Similarly, I knew India's old marketplaces would be charmingly dilapidated, but I was still charmed. And I knew the place would be soaked in color, from its saris to its snack stands, and I marveled at it nonetheless. As a photographer friend joked, in India, you could shoot a roll of Tri-x and it'd develop in color. I'm sure the novelty wears after a while, but this profusion of color seems to cast the most mundane activities, from carrying a bundle of sticks to waiting for the bus, in a beautiful light. Especially if there's beautiful light. I don't quite get why Westerners go to India seeking spiritual enlightenment, but I know why photographers move there: it's one photogenic place.

Here are a few pics I took:

You can see a few more in my Flickr photostream.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

A Grand Torino

Much of photography is a waiting game. You see the makings of a picture and wait - and hope - for the elements to align themselves. It happens less often than not. There's a green Torino in my neighborhood whose owner plays musical parking spaces within a few block radius, and I've often thought the car would make for a good picture given the right circumstance. A few weeks ago I saw that circumstance: it was parked before a corner store with a green awning. Unfortunately I was on my way somewhere and only had time to take a photo with my iPhone, but I suspected it'd return to that parking spot again. And so I waited, and today it was back in front of the store. I worked the setting for a little while before the car's owner showed up and drove it away. Not sure I nailed the shot, but I'm mostly sure it'll be there again. I can wait.



Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Church Quiet Zone

I mined some of my train-trip photos to seed a new project I'm calling 'Church Quiet Zone.' I'm mindful that American religiosity is a well-worn subject, so I'm hoping to broaden the theme to sacredness in general, whether secular or spiritual. I posted a baker's dozen on my Web site to start things off.

Church Quiet Zone

Monday, October 08, 2012

Citizen Whistlestop

In the spirit of election season, I spent my recent vacation taking a personal whistlestop tour of the United States to reacquaint myself with people who will, come Nov. 6, be reduced to binary: R or D, yes or no, boxers or briefs. Departing from New York Penn Station on Aug. 29, I stopped in Pittsburgh, Chicago, Omaha, Denver, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Tucson, San Antonio, New Orleans, Atlanta and D.C., returning to New York on Sept. 24. Ultimately, I'm not sure that trapping myself in a steel box for hours on end with people, their cell-phone conversations and crying children was the most pleasant way to bond with my countrymen, but it was certainly efficient; two or three times a day I sat in the dining car with complete strangers and heard about their lives. Add the incidental chitchat of the coach cars, cafe cars and lounge cars, and it felt like I'd like speed-dated my way around the country.


Before I went on the trip I envisioned a photo essay that could tie in the people, the landscape and the political moment, with the railway as connective tissue. In retrospect, it was too diffuse and overly ambitious given my timetable. But I came away with a few seeds of future projects and a few pictures I like. Here's a random sampling. You can see a larger set on my Flickr account.

On the train to Pittsburgh:





On the train to Chicago:





On the train to Denver:





On the train to Salt Lake City:





Salt Lake City (or nearby):



On the train to San Francisco:


[My time in California was consumed by family and friend gatherings and I took approximately zero photos.]

Los Angeles:


On the train to Tucson:







On the train to San Antonio:


San Antonio:



On the train to New Orleans:


New Orleans:







Friday, September 28, 2012

With Coats of BBQ Sauce, Coats of Arms

There's my fake newspaper headline for a story someone should write about the metastasizing signage that adorns vendors' tents at the country's barbecue competitions. I encountered these signs at the Heinz Field Rib Fest in Pittsburgh in late August, before a preseason Steelers game. I'd love to know who started this trend, though it seems like the banners simply grew to accommodate the veteran companies' proliferating awards ("'Best Rib in America' - Jamestown Rib Fest"). To compete for eyeballs, less accomplished pit masters were forced to pad their plumage with more generalized accolades ("Bone Lickin' Good") and solicitations ("Get Your Bone On").

When I googled this competition later I learned the results. In the category of Best Ribs, first place went to Big Boned BBQ Co., second went to Old Carolina, and Texas Pit came in third. Big Boned also won in the category of Best Sauce. I'm disappointed I couldn't try them all.

Click on any of these images to view them in their larger sizes on Flickr.