Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, Musei Capitolini, Rome, 1952

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unknown, Carleton E. Watkins, with cane, during aftermath of earthquake, San Francisco, 1906

This is an incredible photo – out of focus, but it captures Watkins’ gait and the sense of urgency of the moment, like no formal portrait could. The box the man is carrying probably has a small number of Watkins’ negatives or prints. This photograph, taken on the street with multiple layers of action, represents the next 100 years of photography. The subject, the elderly pioneer of 19th century American photography, staggers away from the history he created, his archives on fire.

I was curious about the location – what street is this, what building is that on fire in the background? My guess as a long-time resident is the large street in the background is Market and that they are heading south of Market. But the opposite could be true. I emailed Steve Heselton of carletonwatkins.org. He points out that Watkins’ last studio may have been at 417 Montgomery or 1249 Market (where he rented photographic rooms).

I strongly recommend following and listening to the Modern Art Notes Podcastthis week’s episode is a long discussion of the recently released book “Carleton Watkins: The Complete Mammoth Photographs.”

my own favorite photos of 2011

Less than 1% of posts on my tumblr are my own photographs. This blog has become about making connections between photographs that I find interesting, establishing micro-genres. Such as kids running into waves, portraits of people in San Francisco with thick-framed glasses, a line at a certain angle through the frame.

This editing mode might seem like a game, but it has influenced what I do when I’m making photos. It helps me create connections without an explicit series in mind. I still have a large drawer full of undeveloped film and unscanned negatives, so hopefully my favorite from 2011 is yet to be discovered. You can click-through to see each large on flickr.

“lush life” January in San Francisco was scarily warm – a handful of days in the 70s. People filled up Dolores Park. The challenge shooting there is strong direct light/shadows, properly exposing faces, and arranging bodies and limbs on a crowded day.
Yashicamat, f16 or f22, 1/250th

“an adjustment” At a playground I don’t think I would have been interested in taking this photo. I see so-called minimalist art as very humanistic and I like how the color works in this one to make it feel that way. Marfa, Texas is one of the greatest locations for art in the United States – I strongly suggest a road trip.
Yashicamat, f.5.6, 1/125th

“arresting a mentally ill man” The composition connection between this one and the previous one is the most obvious example of how the blog informs my photography. The man was screaming from this position and the police officer was moving him around, I waited for a calm expression on the cop’s face (maybe his eyes are closed). The woman entered the frame and I thought that might botch it, but it quotes a famous Joel Meyerowitz photo in Paris.
Yashicamat, f8, 1/125th

“my grandmother Rose, 95”

I suspect using the camera to capture the expressions and gestures of strangers will help you take better photographs of your friends and family. This was the last photo I took of my grandmother and for me captures an enduring bit of her personality, an Italian-American gesture, filtered through 95 years of living. Life can be fleeting and too short, unless it picks you to be the last of your immediate family, and outlive everyone else. May all of us be that person.
Yashicamat, f5.6, 1/60th