* the camera roll *

little snaps from my iphone, among other things

Archive for the ‘navel-gazing’ Category

i feel so old

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“portland is a city where young people go to retire”


Written by John

February 8, 2011 at 5:00 pm


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so my first full cookbook officially came out today:


"tyler florence family meal: bringing people together never tasted better"


now, when i mean first “full” cookbook, i mean that this is the first cookbook where i shot 100% of the photos.  i’ve contributed to cookbooks in the past, but they were always a few pics here, a few pics there.  this book weighs in at 304 pages.  hard cover.  no idea how many pictures are in there.  i haven’t sat down and counted yet.

we shot this back in january and february of this year.  12+ hours a day, 6 days a week, for 3 weeks, plus intermittent pickup shooting days here and there.  i would guess that it took us a total of 5 weeks of shooting.  my initial edit of images came to around 790 or so pictures that i delivered to badass book editor pam krauss over at rodale.

tyler is very involved in his cookbooks.  unlike most of the other celebrity chefs who leave the cookbook cooking to stylists, tyler’s in the kitchen each day we’re shooting, sweating over the stove for 12+ hours.  while other celebrity chefs glide in for one afternoon to chop some onions in front of a camera, tyler is covered in panko and grease, the same “mill valley fire department” baseball cap that’s covering his sweaty head.  day in and day out.  with the exception of the dishes in a neighborhood potluck chapter, every recipe in the cookbook was made by tyler and his kitchen team.

gotta say, i was kinda nervous handing over this big mess of photos to pam and designer ruba abu-nimah (also a badass), both which i have yet to meet in person.  for about two and a half months, i lived and breathed these 790 images.  i spent weeks editing them, toning them, fussing over them.  they were like my 790 little babies.  and then poof, one day i just handed them off to pam and ruba 3,000 miles away in new york.  for several months i didn’t hear a peep from them, beyond the occasional email asking, “do you have a picture of this?”  otherwise, it was pure nerve-wracking silence.

then about two months ago, i was over at tyler’s house, and his wife tolan shows me a big stack of loose papers bound together by either a giant paper clip, or a rubber band, or something i don’t remember.  this was the rough proofs of the book.  i sat in tolan and tyler’s dining room, quietly flipping thru each page.  first it was this smirk growing into a smile, then into a chuckle, then into a full blown giddy laugh as i made my way thru the book.

needless to say, i was blown away.  not from anything that i did, mind you.  my role in the cookbook shoot consisted of waving the camera around like a trained monkey and pointing it at really beautiful food.  the part that blew me away, was that pam and ruba were able to make sense of my mess of 790 images and dig around for the nuggets.

during the cookbook shoot, i would periodically shoot random pictures of things that caught my eye:  the side of a dirty copper pot on the stove, or the remnants of a pile of chopped asparagus on the cutting board, or a plate of half-eaten food.  i shot these pics mostly out of amusement, assuming that i was just shooting for the sake of shooting because they would never get into the book.  kinda my cheap imitation of william eggleston.  but of course, pam and ruba finds these pics and sticks them in the book as full-page photos.

back when i was a newspaper photog, i had gotten accustomed to being disappointed by how the photo editors there handled my pictures.  poor cropping, simplistic literal edits, tiny postage-sized reproductions on shitty newsprint with runny ink.  quite frankly, i got used to shitty editors.

but now as a result of my experience with the editing of this book, it’s really nice to know that there are some great editors out there.

oh, here’s a promo vid that my buddy michael coleman shot for the book:

Written by John

October 12, 2010 at 9:12 pm

john the social hermit

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goodbye facebook.

i did it.  i deleted my facebook account yesterday.  just got sick of it.  got sick of having to constantly navigate the ever-shifting land mine of privacy policy updates and terms of service changes that facebook makes in the dark of night.  there’s just something shifty about that company.

also, there’s something about mark zuckerberg that makes me want to punch him in the face:

i found the image at right on fellow wordpress blogger fracas’ site.

yeah, if i was to really step back and think about it all, it’s pretty random and probably unfair to isolate facebook for something that just about all websites do these days.  call it web 3.0, but it looks like that’s where our world is heading.  when i think of our future, i keep thinking about this little clip from that spielberg/cruise goodie:

oh what a luddite i am.

but i’m not a luddite.  just about everything i do these days revolves around the internet.  i bank online, 50% of what i buy is via online, i probably email with family/friends more than i talk over the phone with them (god forbid i actually SEE them in person).  i’ll even email the missus when we’re sitting next to each other on the couch at home.

i should just give in.  barcode me.

can i admit something to you tho?  i had this weird sinking feeling when i finally deleted my facebook account.  honestly, it felt kinda lonely.  i’ve gotten so used to corresponding with friends from all facets of my life via facebook, that deleting my profile does feel a bit like i’m saying “so long!” to everyone.  facebook is/was a really great way for me to keep up with people that i normally would otherwise not give much effort to keeping up with.

but perhaps those random high school friends/acquaintances that i haven’t spoken to in 20 years were never meant for me to stay connected with.  i’ve only really stayed in touch with one person from high school, and that guy is pretty much like a brother to me.  but perhaps there’s a reason why i haven’t kept in touch with the random people from high school.  their 20-year absence from my circle of existence is probably life’s little way of telling me to “move on.”

Written by John

May 24, 2010 at 1:39 pm


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here’s a few pics from the very last issue of its 68-year life, a beautiful rural pennsylvania thanksgiving spread shot by roland bello:


friggin beautiful spread.  so classy.  it’s simple, as if you just happened upon this little buffet.  very random, but not.  i especially like the quad detail photos of the plates.  it’s could be a pretty version of what william eggleston might have done.

so this is the way they’re going out, huh?  a bit anticlimactic.  and to continue the thought i had from a few posts back, i wonder what the gourmet staff would have pulled off had they been able to plan for a finale.  not saying that the work in this issue isn’t good, just seems very down-to-business.  not very celebratory.  very abrupt.  if they were going to end their 68 years right, they should have gone out with a bang like hunter s. thompson did, when his ashes were fired from a cannon.

strewn throughout this last issue are ads for gourmet subscriptions:  “12 issues just $15”.  maybe they should have upped the price a bit.  maybe those few little extra pennies from raised subscription fees could have made their books look better and pushed them just past the axe.

funny little tidbit about my efforts to get a copy of this final issue…  i guess it came out on newsstands on oct 20th.  i spent several hours running from newsstands to bookstores to supermarkets throughout san francisco looking for a copy of this final issue.  seemed that others had the same idea i had.  i finally found a few copies at a crappy barnes and noble in the city of colma, where the dead outnumber the living 1,000 to 1.

oh well.  sorry to see you go gourmet.  i was just getting to know you.

Written by John

October 22, 2009 at 10:54 am

interesting, if futile

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this in the nytimes today, about how the french and british are contemplating legislative action to control digitally altered photos in ads:


kinda thinking this is a bit futile.  yeah this would be nice, since it would in theory force us to move back to keeping image-making in the camera.  too many photoshop assembly jobs these days.  and quite frankly, i’m somewhat offended by the practice of hiring photographers to scavenger hunt with a camera, solely to provide glorified stock imagery for a photoshop tech to randomly assemble the pieces into a fictionalized scene imagined by a team of ad creatives.

but isn’t that kind of photography just another form of illustration anyway?  what’s the difference between hiring an illustrator with a pencil/mouse and hiring a photographer with a camera?  i guess not much really.

when i think about it, shooting everything “in the can” (camera) is really just a form of antiquated purist nostalgia.  kinda like shooting film these days.  (don’t get me wrong.  i love film.  i love black hassy borders.  and i love 4×5 notches.  i think that’s one of the many reasons why i love dan winters’ work. but even he’s starting to shoot digi these days.)

in the nytimes piece, british parliament member jo swinson opines: “When teenagers and women look at these pictures in magazines, they end up feeling unhappy with themselves.”

yeah, true.  but teenagers really don’t need help feeling unhappy with themselves.  their zits, raging hormones, bad taste in music and cheap fashion sense are forwarding their ennui as it is.

besides, teenagers might be more aware about digitally altered truths than we are.  while we grownups feign intellectual chatter about woody allen or the latest errol morris doc, teenagers are groping each other in front of the most recent michael bay abomination in all it’s CGI glory.  and if you were to ask said teenagers about whether there’s digital manipulation in movies, they would dismiss you as some old fool who just discovered facebook.  no doubt these teenagers are savvy enough to know the difference in still photography as well.

so maybe this anglo/franco alliance against photoshopping the hell out of kate winslet is really just them thinking aloud.  when it comes down to it, not much will come from this.  well, perhaps a few lawmakers in europe will get re-elected for their grandstanding efforts.

Written by John

September 28, 2009 at 8:15 am

more navel-gazing…

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these thoughts from stephen mayes kinda sums up a lot of how i feel about my former photo life:


i would always ask myself this question back when i was a photojournalist:  “was i shooting for the general public?  or was i shooting for photo judges?”  and to be honest, it was sometimes tough to admit the truth to myself.

i guess we all sometimes get caught up in the buzz of peer recognition and glory.  as photographer/artists, we’re naturally an egotistical bunch.  perhaps the approval we seek trail back to when we were schoolkids trying to please our moms with our fingerpaintings.  so now all grown up, we seek affirmation from our peers thru contests, grants, magazine covers.

i remember this one moment back when i was shooting conflict photography, when i was sent to pakistan to cover the brouhaha the weeks right after 9/11.  i was part of a scrum of journos sent to a refugee camp near the town of quetta right on the border of afghanistan.  afghan families were fleeing the fighting in and around kandahar, and after days and nights of nomadic wandering through the desert, would find themselves huddled inside 6×9-foot white tents with the letters “UNHCR” scrawled on the side.  the desert wind would cut thru these tents, scattering fine sand particles everywhere.  hungry babies crying, dirt in your eyes, all your earthly belongings piled into the back of an old repurposed soviet-era truck…

so imagine, if you will, you’re one of these said afghan refugees sitting inside your new 6×9 white tent of a home.  all of a sudden a gaggle of foreign journalists come tumbling out of an air-conditioned bus, making a beeline straight to you, and start snapping away as if you were the beckhams, tripping over themselves, inches away from your face with their overused 16-35mm dummy-wides.  but even worse, there doing that to your womenfolk, your kids, your mother.

i remember standing back, watching this scene play itself out.  there was the big international award-winning photog shooting for time mag, the big international pulitzer-prize winning photog for The Newspaper of Record, the big international wire photographer with her war scarf.  all of them just piled on top of this shocked afghan family.

this scene sure was a recipe for a nod in the world press book.  maybe POYi.

and i had this realization…  was this really it?  ever since i was in photoj school, i had dreamt of shooting international war coverage alongside my idols.  and here it was, that moment.  but it was thoroughly unsatisfying, if not downright troubling.

yeah, i know, there’s pressures from the editor, from your competition, to get THE picture.  there’s reputations to live up to.  and if you’re a freelancer, future assignments depend on what you deliver now, not to mention the numerous new clients to be had if you were to win an award or two.  a picture in a photo annual equals money in the bank.

funny thing that was mentioned in that stephen mayes piece about photog copying each other stylistically and content-wise.  i guess it can be translated to the broader field of photography-at-large.  so much fashion involved in photograph — the fashion of the ring flash, the fashion of the so-called “dave hill effect”, the fashion of the POYi winners circa 1999, the fashion of the hand-of-god toning (1970s and 2000s), the fashion of the tilt-shift…

so cliquey, this photography thing.

Written by John

August 28, 2009 at 3:39 pm