Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Lives They Lived

Each year at this time, the New York Times Magazine is given over to an issue that celebrates the lives and extraordinary stories of people who passed away over the last year. It's always a compelling issue, and this year's was no exception. There are deeply moving stories told here - not least in the 'These American Lives section curated by Ira Glass. Indeed, practically all of them well worth reading:

Christopher Hitchens:

       The loss of Christopher Hitchens at 62 is terribly sad. He had the appetite and aptitude of ten men, was the greatest debater of the past decade, and a sparkling orator. His learning, and his recall of all that he read, belies belief. There's plenty to disagree with him on, politically and otherwise, but that's beside the point. He was a remarkably compelling figure who's stature as an intellectual was still growing.
      I read Hitchens's memoir this year, around the time that he was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus, and curiously, didn't enjoy it as much as I had hoped. I'm sure that his collected essays, 'Arguably' is a better book, and a more worthwhile read, based on what I've read of it so far. A few of my thoughts on his memoir can be found in an earlier post, here:

     In the days immediately after Hitchens's death, Ian McEwan published a wonderful tribute in The Guardian. It's such a skillful piece, beginning with McEwan use of a children's cancer hospital to tie-in Hitchens's fervent opposition to the idea of God:

     Hitchens was a man of enormous contradiction, and an interesting piece by Katha Pollitt appeared in The Nation on December 19. Written from a decidedly feminist viewpoint, it's contrarian and worthwhile reading.

    As a writer, Hitchens deserves to have the last word - something he clearly intended to do, even as he faced death.  Another memoir, 'Mortality,' is already scheduled, and the way Hitchens faced up to his own death is extraordinary by any measure.

Steve Jobs:

    Celebrating a life of great accomplishment isn't necessarily the same thing as hagiography. See Hitchens, above. A friend of mine noted on Facebook soon after Steve Jobs died that he was to some large extent responsible for inhumane pay and work conditions in the Apple factories in China, and as such, shouldn't be celebrated in quite the way he was being honored at that time . Fair enough.  But to paraphrase Scott Fitzgerald, the test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas and maintain the ability to function - a useful exercise when it comes to evaluating a life.
     I found Walter Isaacson's biography of Jobs to be a tremendous accomplishment, particularly given the circumstance. The circumstance was of having only two years to gather a lot of complicated and contradictory information, assemble it in readily digestible form, and then beat the ticking clock on a life, and therefore, on a deadline to publish it. Isaacson managed all of this, and also delivered an account that was balanced, recognizing the talent and/or genius of an individual, without shying away from the many troubling quirks and traits of that individual's personality. 
    What it amounts to for me is that all lives are marked by asterisks. Jobs is a perfect example of this, much like Picasso, who's art we celebrate and revere while fully aware that he was a misogynistic prick. If we're going to praise only morally sound, righteous writers/ artists/ creative geniuses, the list of those we admire and approve of will be short indeed. That doesn't men disregarding all foibles, but rather, maintaining balance and perspective. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Come to Papa

It's true that my wife and I scoured our book shelves when trying to come up with a name for our yet-to-be-born son. Hence, when he was born, we named him Miller (and incidentally, he owes more to Arthur than he does to Henry. But either way...).

This week, I've been dipping into a book about Hemingway (more about which in a future post), the first time I've read a book about or by Ernest in many years. Lo-and-behold, I was reminded by this latest book that Papa was christened Ernest Miller Hemingway. When I informed my wife of this fact, she was less than completely amused, subscribing as she does to Zelda's theory that ol' Hem wrote about 'bullfighters, bullslingin' and bullshit.'

Personally, I'm already beginning to see similarities.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Critic.

Whether the glass is half full or half empty doesn't strike me as the important question. What I want to know is, what stopped the glass from being properly filled, and now, how do we fill it?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Superman Stops Traffic

There hasn't been much blog action lately, I know. You're looking at a big part of the reason. The Mrs, is back at work, and I'm playing the role of Stay-At-Home-Dad. Of course, it's a privilege to do so. But it means that for now, there's comparatively little in the way of freelance work going on. Soon, it'll balance itself out...there'll be occasional help at home and we'll get this show on the road. I've a couple of projects that I'm very much looking forward to working on. Stay tuned...

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Food Files: Sticky Fingers

I know all about Sticky Toffee Pudding. After all, I'm a northern English lad, and the the dish is frequently cited as having originated at a hotel in England's beautiful Lake District, up north. I feel that the claim it only dates back to the 1960's is a bit dubious, but there you go. I should ask my folks, they're likely to know.

At Olivia, here in Austin (, they riff on the Sticky Toffee Pudding in spectacular fashion: Sticky Ginger Cake.

This is one of several food images I shot at Olivia recently...

Friday, September 30, 2011

My father, the cowboy...

My dad, born Manchester, England, 1932. 
Going native, Austin, Texas, 2011.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Just Kids




Last call from the Vivian and Finn session...

Monday, September 12, 2011



This is Vivian, Finn's sister (see yesterdays post). If you ask me why I enjoy photographing children, I'd say it's their lack of self-consciousness, their spontaneity. And of course, kids as handsome as Finn and Vivian make me look good too. Spend more than a few minutes with them, hold a camera handy, and you're sure to wind up with a lovely result.

Sunday, September 11, 2011



Question: Are you available to shoot family portraits, kids, etc?

                                Answer: Of course! Kids are particularly fun to photograph...

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Saint Cecilia

Saint Cecilia is the patron saint of music and poetry. It's also the name of a beautiful, secluded hotel in Austin. The photograph above depicts the bar of Saint Cecilia - which explains the vintage Rolling Stone cover featuring Texas native Janis Joplin. The property is the jewel in the crown of Liz Lambert, who I enthused about previously here. It's also the hotel in Austin where the real rock stars and musicians stay... Robert Plant was hanging out the night I was there recently. Or am I being indiscreet? Anyway, it's a remarkable place...and more about which later...

Monday, September 5, 2011

My Kind of Guy: Hugh Laurie

                                                  Photographer Unknown - citation requested

I've long admired Hugh Laurie, going back to his early career and routines with Stephen Fry. Having read Gavin Edwards' profile of Laurie in the NY Times magazine, I like him even more. Apparently we share similarities in attitude, if not a parity in talent.  Certainly I share his philosophy though: happiness = contentment = complacency. I've thought of it in exactly those terms any number of times (though I tend to think of complacency leading to redundancy, rather than 'impending disaster.').

There's something refreshingly real about Laurie's curmudgeonly disposition in this profile. His take on the difference between England and the US is spot on: 'We differ by only 5 percent in almost every field, except when it comes to religion, and then we part company by about 300 percent.' Coming from England, where organized religion is largely invisible in the day-to-day, yet living in Texas, where there are almost as many churches lining the roads as there are pubs lining the streets of England, I can understand this.

I wanted to weep with joy and recognition at his take on the differences between British and US television: 'I think good-looking people seldom make good television... And American television studios almost concede before they start: 'Well, it won't be good, but at least it'll be good-looking. We'll have nice-looking girls in tight shirts with FBI badges and fit-looking guys with lots of hair gel vaulting over things. So at least we'll have achieved that base standard of entertainment. He shook his head. 'I think that's hugely misguided. The glory of American television is Dennis Franz.'

Hugh Laurie: my kind of guy.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Clara Revisited.

                                                                                 Williamstown, MA

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What I'm Reading: Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

My 'ambivalence' to Texas  (I'm being charitable) since I moved here three years ago is well documented. For a while now I've been thinking that I should read some of the literature relating to or coming from the Lone Star state as a route to understanding it better, and who knows, even cultivating some sympathy for it. Instead, in taking on Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian you might argue that I found confirmation of my existing prejudice.

Here in Austin, we're in the grip of an unprecedented spell of 100 degree-plus days. Tomorrow we will equal the record for number of 100 degree-plus days in a calendar year (sixty-nine), with a month of summer still remaining. Most of these 100 degree days have been consecutive -  the thermometer hovers around 105 every afternoon. In this regard then Blood Meridian made perfect sense of Austin for me. Much of its three hundred and fifty pages are dedicated to magnificent descriptions of a landscape and climate that is utterly inhospitable, fit for neither man nor beast. The first half of the book takes place on the Texas-Mexico border and is filled with descriptive passages of a great barren emptiness in which no-one thrives and only scavengers survive. I don't mean to imply that Austin is full of scavengers, but certainly as an enterprise, you can see the city is flawed (Or at least, I can. Lots of people love it, apparently).

Blood Meridian is as difficult a book as I've read in a long time. I expected this - it's one reason I've put off reading McCarthy for so long, and for much the same reason I've long avoided picking-up Faulkner (with whom McCarthy is most frequently compared). I'm certainly not averse to difficult authors, but you have to be ready for them. You can't take this stuff lightly.

I was a hundred and eighty pages into Meridian before it stopped feeling like heavy lifting and clicked into gear for me. That being said, it's a book of such density that I don't imagine for a moment I've wrought from it even half of what's in there. I'm reminded of the Lars von Trier film, Breaking the Waves, which felt like literature to me when I saw it, and which I hoped to understand more fully through a second viewing. Problem is, I found the film so harrowing that I've been unable to return to it ever since.

Blood Meridian is famous for its brutality. Apparently there's a film adaptation in the works, and you can imagine Hollywood having a field day with the violence, with all the decapitation and exploding innards. One doubts that you'll get any understanding of the fact that the violence here is anything but gratuitous.  What the book offers instead, is an indelible imagining of the American frontier a hundred and fifty years ago, told in a powerful, brilliantly stylized language. As a side-note, I wonder if perhaps this is the kind of effect Hemingway was after in attempting to convey the Castilian people in his Spanish Civil War novel For Whom The Bell Tolls? 

Regardless, I do feel I have a more powerful (albeit, far from complete) idea of Texas now, and recognize something of what lies beneath the buildings and streets and freeways of Austin.

                                                                *     *     *

From Blood Meridian:

'They found the scouts hanging head downward from the limbs of a fireblacked paloverde tree. They were skewered through the cords of their heels with sharpened shuttles of green wood and they hung gray and naked above the dead ashes of the coals where they'd been roasted until their heads had charred and their brains bubbled in their skulls and steam sang from their noseholes.  Their tongues were drawn out and held with sharpened sticks thrust through them and they had been docked of their ears and their torsos were sliced open with flints until the entrails hung down on their chests. Some of the men pushed forward with their knives and cut the bodies down and they left them there in the ashes.'

Thursday, August 18, 2011

There's A Riot Goin On

                                                                                                                                    Photographer Unknown - citation requested.

'When considering the actual premise of "national security," one would have to look at a country which has descended into widespread internal chaos as being "insecure." For all the money spent on aggressive wars against ill-defined enemies in obscure parts of the world, the most dangerous threat to the actual physical safety of individuals within a country remains from their fellow citizens given a breakdown of social cohesion. It is a sign of dangerously confused priorities that defense spending is considered to be a budgetary holy grail which must be left untouched when discussing cuts to overall spending; but deep cuts to social services which directly affect the lives of millions of Americans are considered fair game. Nothing is more of a threat to the safety of Americans than a social system which will produce a generation of angry, disaffected young people and give rise to the types of scenes Britons are witnessing today.' 

     From a persuasive article on about the recent riots in England. I'm in agreement with much that is said here - certainly that the government's austerity measures are barbaric and punish those who are already most familiar with austerity. And I've always been baffled as to enormous foreign aid and 'defense' spending when there's rank poverty and hardship within a nation's own borders (equally prescient in the US and the UK) - how do you build a society in Afghanistan when you can't maintain your own society at home?
    And yet - Prime Minister Cameron is right when he points to a decline in moral character and poor parenting. I've seen it first hand. Where does the blame lay, exactly? I don't have easy answers - there aren't any. It's been a long, inexorable decline for Britain though, and my guess is that the foundations for the nation's current plight  can be traced back all the way to the end of the Second World War (which may make it hard to explain Germany's current social hegemony and prosperity. Then again, perhaps not. I do feel national character lies at the heart of it).
    Regardless, it may be time to abbreviate the nomenclature - it's hard to make a case for a Great Britain, just as it is for a United States.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Nothing Compares: The Artist Formerly (and Currently) Known As Sinead O'Connor

Live, Manchester, 2011

We know what to expect from the vapid entertainment culture we cultivate, and there's no surprise to the rippling affect around the internet resulting from People magazine's notably unflattering picture of forty-four year old Sinead O'Connor, published recently. The picture was taken at a music festival in Ireland, where she performed backing vocals for reggae artist Nattie Wailer. Certainly you could make a case about the sartorial choices - it is, of course, unheard of for a musician to show a lapse in self-awareness when it comes to style. But most of the snickering has to do with the fact that O'Connor is decidedly more portly than she was in her infamous youth. You can just sense the glee in certain quarters that she is no longer beautiful and youthful, that the arrogant, uncontrollable mouth from Ireland has got hers. She's a middle-aged frump, no better than the rest of us, after all...

Well, actually, she is better than most. Still.

The idea that a woman (in particular) or an artist (in general) owes it to us (their public) to age better, more gracefully than the rest of us is plainly ludicrous. But of course, there is a certain (wrongful) expectation of that in our culture - and it only goes to reinforce Sinead O'Connor's oft-displayed courage, her indomitability as an artist, that she continues to run the gauntlet of ridiculous perceptions and expectations of a largely foolish public.

I've seen O'Connor perform live a number of times. I have no hesitation in saying that she has produced some of the most electric moments I've ever seen in performance by any artist in any medium. Her body of recorded work may not be what we hoped it might turn out to be be back in 1991, but it is not insignificant by any means (I've little interest in reggae, but her 2005 album 'Throw Down Your Arms' is wonderful. I saw her perform the album at Webster Hall in NYC, backed by a magnificent, primarily Jamaican band. Patti Smith was seated beside me, leaning across the balcony, eyes closed, utterly enraptured).

More than anything, O'Connor has survived. She has survived childhood abuse, her own demons, a fragile mental health, and often vicious treatment from a media whose vitriol is frequently written in piss and just as enduring. And still she creates. Still she performs.

War - SNL

Her fear is palpable in this, the infamous SNL clip went some significant way to ruining her career. Afterwards she was slaughtered for bringing to light allegations of rampant child abuse in the Irish Catholic Church. Shamefully, few of her artistic contemporaries came to her defense, championed her right to protest. Less surprising is how few people recalled her once her allegations proved utterly founded.
Soon after, the ignorant masses annihilated her again for her refusal to have the national anthem played before a show in New Jersey - ignoring the fact that her message wasn't 'anti-American' but anti-nationalism. Likely those who booed her were the same who revered John Lennon for singing 'Imagine there's no countries/ I wonder if you can.'  Less well reported was the fact that when she sold her Los Angeles home a year or two later, unable to take the strain of living in the US any more, she donated the proceeds of the sale to The Red Cross.

O'Connor is a mother to four children. She was also diagnosed as bi-polar seven years ago. Without question, part of her weight-gain is a result of anti-depressant medication. 'I actually kind of died and got born again as a result of taking the meds and having a chance to, you know, build a life,' she told Oprah Winfrey - outing herself as someone who suffered a debilitating form of mental illness, regardless of the unfortunate stigma that sometimes accompanies such revelations. Perhaps she should update the slogan on her t-shirt - 'This Weight May Have Saved My Life' - to address ugly commentators with a subtlety they'd understand?

O'Connor has surely said and done many foolish things. Unlike the rest of us, she's done it under great public scrutiny. I don't claim to be a fan of all her music, or much of her philosophy. But I can think of few artists who've refused to compromise as much as she has. She's paid for it at times with her career, and even with her very sanity. For her refusal to compromise, for her adherence to her own truth, for her perseverance and her strength in surviving, and most of all, for her stark, often beautiful art, I think she happens to be one of the more heroic figures in contemporary music and art. Long may she continue to perform, and more, find a peaceful life.

Troy - live 1988. Awesome - in the traditional sense, rather than then contemporary sense.

Further reading:
A piece I wrote on Sinead O'Connor in 2004

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Birds

I was out location scouting yesterday beneath a split highway, South 290. Every few yards I'd come upon  a bird in a late stage of decomposition. There were many dead birds - hit by traffic above and shunted over the freeway? I have no idea. If you do, I'd be curious to know why.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Jasper Johns vs Andy Warhol

There's something slightly iconic about some of the older Target signs. I always think that Jasper Johns must see the logo and wonder where his residual fees are - although it's true he doesn't own exclusive copyright on 'target' images. I also wonder from time to time whether Andy Warhol didn't just sell the logo to the chain-store as a joke at Jasper John's expense...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Radar: What I've Been Reading (and Watching)

Tree of Life

In the age of Twitter, it's no great surprise that a film like this will tax the attention span, test patience. But then, without being tested we fail to grow.

For my money, the visually stunning twenty minute prologue is too long (and the dinosaur scene fatally distracting), and I could have done without the 'heavenly' coda...but I would defend to the death director Terence Malick's right to include them. Even without them, the movie is as sumptuously shot as any other film I can call to mind. Malick's passion for the material resonates through every single still. Perhaps it's flawed as a work of art, but it's a remarkable work of art nonetheless.

 Of course critics have a duty to judge a film on its own merits, yet given the shit that we're spoon-fed every day in film and television, I find it dismaying to read some of the vitriol aimed at Malick, and at his film. How many filmmakers today attempt such seriousness in their work?

The centre of this film is just beautiful, and the journey of the father, in particular, so deeply moving.

Blue Valentine

Actors are always talking about 'honesty' in their work, about being 'truthful.' By way of example, here is a film that's both honest and true, powered by brave, generous performances from Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling. In many ways, it's as close to a Raymond Carver story as anything I've seen on film - certainly it's a hell of a lot better than Altman's 'Shortcuts,' based on several Carver stories.

Gosling's character - a man devoid of any particular ambition or talent, a man who's imagination stretches only as far as loving his wife and child but no further, and consequently a man who loses the love of his wife through his own inertia - is one I'm not sure I've seen portrayed before in quite this light. It's a very sympathetically written character, in a film that refuses to seek out more palatable romantic truths.

Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto

I stumbled upon Dennis Lehane's review of 'Galveston' in the NY Times Book Review. Lehane compared it favourably with the noir work of Denis Johnson and so, wanting an easy read for a weekend away, I made a rare foray into genre fiction: except that like the work of Raymond Chandler (whose books I love) and Dashiell Hammett, Nic Pizzolatto's 'Galveston' defies the easy 'genre' label.

Galveston has the mandatory page-turning plot, but it's also marked by taut, evocative language that instills the novel with a steady, pulsing dread. It's deeply atmospheric - a relatively small portion of the novel actually takes place in Galveston, yet I feel I have a good idea of how the town looks and smells - and a climactic scene of violence reverberated with me all through my sleep the night I put the book to bed.

Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest

Is it a great documentary? No. But for more than two-thirds of the film, it works. And perhaps the film's denouement - the inevitable egotistic squabbles of a great band who once preached 'Unity' - made it difficult to provide a more satisfying ending. More imaginative concert footage wouldn't have hurt, but then, the band's last tour was a sorrowful thing anyway. The vibe had long gone and the only thing left to play for was the loot. What does it amount to? One guy was more ambitious, more 'egotistical' than the other. One wanted it more (and was better equipped for the journey) than the other, this from the very beginning.

The Tribe, truly great album (The Low End Theory). Two or three solid albums. It's enough, isn't it?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Texas Cloudbusting

For someone who can be a bit of a navel gazer, I take great pleasure from looking up to the sky.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Never 20

Bastrop, Texas.

Because let's face it, 20 is just reckless.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Blue Skies: On Becoming a Father

                                                                                       Miller Lowell.... born at 2:41 pm, on July 12                          
      Last Monday morning, I wrote a letter to English author Geoff Dyer, whose most recent book, Otherwise Known as the Human Condition I reviewed recently for The Austin American Statesman. In the letter, I discussed a novel that I had worked on a little over a decade ago, but failed to complete. The novel's title was to be Bluer Skies, and its title was drawn from a Scott Fitzgerald quote that I intended to use as the book's epigraph:

       'I was never disposed to accept the present but always striving to change it, better it, or even sometimes destroy it. There were always far horizons that were more golden, bluer skies somewhere.'

      The novel was meant to portray a character, a type, who fails to find happiness or fulfill his human potential, in part because he always has his eye on some imaginary future life and fails to recognize the value of the present. Here was a 'type' I obviously felt a certain affinity with. It was a little strange to write about this book to Dyer, for it's a book I haven't thought much about in many years - even though I spent three years of my life working on it. Let's face it, another novel has failed and disappeared in the interim... an ocean of water lies under the bridge. That particular book is a distant part of my past.


      A few hours after I'd finished the letter, my wife went into labour. This is our first baby, and let me tell you, they don't call it 'labour' for nothing. There were approximately seventeen hours of heavy lifting on my wife's part that went into this. Along the way, three different nurses helped guide us. One of them wore a set of grey scrubs made by 'Grey's Anatomy' - presumably a reference to the the TV series, by way of the medical book.
      I mention scrubs for a reason. Towards the end of labour, the lead doctor arrived to deliver the baby. By now we were past the heavy contractions, shifting towards the final 'push.' It's a time that is ripe with tension, literally pregnant with impending joy.  It's when everyone hunkers down for the final effort. I stood at my wife's side, providing what support that I could (not much), and as I looked at the doctor guiding her, I noticed the brand label of her scrubs sewn into the left breast of her jacket: Blue Sky. I'm not a particularly superstitious person, but I recognized in this an omen. I felt certain then that my wife and baby would emerge from the trauma of birth healthy and well, that we had passed the most difficult hours of labour. It was all going to be ok.
       Time stands still sometimes.
       In a few fleeting moments, not only did I understand that everything would turn out well with the birth, but I was drawn to consider my note to Geoff Dyer earlier in the day. In that moment I came to recognize that there will always be distant horizons to chase, but I had reached my bluer skies. Indeed, blue sky was all about me.
       My journey has taken me first across continents, back and forth across coasts, and now into the American heartland. There is nothing in my present to 'change, better or destroy.' My present is exactly what I want it to be. The future can wait - and there'll be three of us coming to grasp it.

                                                                                                      Blue skies - deep in the heart of Texas.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Queen is Dead - still.

                                       © Stephen Wright

My first job after leaving school was at a commercial photo lab in Manchester. Most of the work was dreary stuff, but Stephen Wright and Kevin Cummings, responsible for some of the most iconic photography of Manchester music artists of that time, occasionally dropped off work with us - highlights of any given day. At the lab we worked on images for the album sleeve on Strangeways Here We Come, for example, and Wright explained that the back cover of Morrissey's debut solo album, Viva Hate, was  to be a cropped section (sky only) of a shot of Morrissey at the gravestone of George Formby.

When I went home to Manchester this spring, I researched a (hopefully) forthcoming travel piece on Manchester and its music, and shot some images to go along with the article. The colour image above is from a series taken outside Salford Lads Club.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


                                              Erin McReynolds Davis, Austin, TX

My friend Erin needed an author portrait on short notice, for upcoming pieces in literary magazines. This is what I came up with - though I think she selected a different image from the same series (she's contrary like that). 

The last piece she published appeared in The North American Review. Another story can be found here, at literary quarterly r.kv.r.y:

Friday, July 1, 2011

Cash Cow: More Great Juxtapositions From The Newsstand

Diana at fifty? I'm never quite sure why people in England would be interested...but in Texas? But, I suppose, where there's money to be made...

Who wouldn't want to subscribe to 'Turkey and Turkey Hunting'?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Highway 10.

                                                                                                                        Highway 10, west. Texas.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Maternity Files - Day 7

37 weeks.

And so ends a week of maternity shots with this, a one year wedding anniversary portrait. Our baby is due any time over the next couple of weeks, but in the meantime, normal, more varied blog service will resume.

Somewhat impressively, I think, I avoided using the title 'From Here To Maternity' all week long.  I really wanted to - I have lapses in taste like that occasionally. Still, I held strong.

As a reminder, if you're in the market for maternity/baby portraits, I'm available.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Maternity Files: Day 4

22 weeks. 

This one's a re-post, for those keeping score at home.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Maternity Files: Day 3

7.5 months.

This was actually a test shot for a nude image. I'm not posting the nude here, but I think this works quite nicely anyway...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Maternity Files: Day 1

Sometime over the next 2-3 weeks, I expect to become a father for the first time. Naturally, I've recorded developments i.e. my wife's growing belly, over the past few months. Doing so has led to me being asked to shoot some domestic portraits - of children, mothers-to-be, etc - something I expect I might explore with increasing frequency over the next few months. Well, a man has to clothe his kid somehow, right?

Over the next few days, I'll share a few maternity images - notably of my lovely, though notoriously camera-shy wife. The image above was shot at approximately 5 - 6 months of her pregnancy.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What I'm Reading: George, Being George.

Over the course of a couple of days last week I read George, Being George, an oral history of George Plimpton - writer, long-time editor of The Paris Review, bon vivant. Biographies are partly responsible for where I've ended up - which is to say, in Los Angeles, and New York, and for now, in Austin. I say this because for me, biographies (of writers, artists, film stars, musicians, athletes) have served as inspiration, and at times, as a reminder of the possibility - indeed the necessity, of living 'a life less ordinary.' I don't mean to imply that the life I've led, or lead now, is extraordinary, the stuff of world renown - though on certain days I can imagine the book my story might contain. Indeed, the life I live at the moment is quieter, and in many ways, more 'ordinary' - outwardly, anyway - than at any time since I was a youth, growing up in Manchester.  But reading a book like this reminds one of the possibilities of life, of the importance of cultivating valuable friendships, and of surrounding oneself with people of great vitality. Few people live a life that is forever vibrant, filled with charm (you could make a good case that George Plimpton came pretty close to doing so), but there's something to be said for a story that reminds you to take your chance at doing so, makes it seem like it might even be possible, if only for an afternoon or two.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Re-make, Re-model

Blue Zen. 

ZenobiaTaylor. Re-work of a photograph taken earlier this year.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

This American Life 2

                                                        'Special Collector's Issue' - more from the news stand. Austin Tx.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

This American Life

                                                                                                                   Magazine stand, Austin, TX

Monday, June 13, 2011

What I'm Reading: A Visit From The Goon Squad

It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction last year. It appeared on the New York Times 10 Best Books 2010 list. In The Morning News Tournament of Books, it saw off Franzen's  Freedom in the final. My friend Thomas Yagoda is listed in the acknowledgments for his helpful counseling and described it to me as 'a damn good book.' My wife liked it a lot, and told me I would too. I've heard nary a bad word about it.

Why then, did this book just not do it for me?

I'd read an earlier book by Egan, Look At Me, and was left with a similar feeling after finishing that: essentially, '' With that book I felt I had to have missed something. With this one, I'm less convinced that's the case. The much discussed PowerPoint chapter in Goon Squad is clever, yes. The last chapter, set in the near future is ok enough - it offers a chapter's worth of ideas on communication, similar to those Gary Shteyngart covered more fully in his novel Super Sad True Love Story (which, incidentally, was my least favourite book of his; pattern emerging?). But really - this is considered a benchmark novel today? There's barely a surprising sentence - or character, for that matter - in the entire book. The prose is clean and efficient, but in no way remarkable. The timeline leaps back and forth, and for a book that is largely set in or around the music industry, I felt the music references, as they relate to the timeline, were very unconvincing.

As I've said, this book was compared to Freedom in various book discussions and forums. For what it's worth, I come down on the side of Freedom, since it's a far more ambitious book. A better comparison, though, would be Colum McCann's Let The Great World Spin. McCann's is a vastly superior book - poetic, deeply moving, full of voices and stories we haven't heard before...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hotel Havana

San Antonio, Texas, has precious little to recommend it. I've visited a couple of times now, and it's like The Land That Time Forgot. Astonishingly, it's the seventh most heavily populated city in the US, ahead of both Dallas and San Francisco, for example. There are many fine buildings downtown, yet the place is soul-less. It's a place that's ripe for reclamation - maybe someone should give Liz Lambert a few million dollars and put her in charge of things.

Last year, Lambert renovated the Hotel Havana, next to the Fire Department building downtown, and having visited last weekend, I'd have to say that once again, she's created a thing of beauty - a place with oodles of character and charm.

 Hotel Havana follows on the heels of Hotel San Jose (Austin) and St Cecilia (also in's named for the patron saint of music and poetry. More upscale than her other ventures, this one is the hide-out of choice for traveling musicians - wealthy ones). Once again here, she's created a place of elegance, style, and most significantly, individuality.
She also renovated a hotel in Marfa, six hours outside of Austin in the middle of nowhere. She's since sold that place (Thunderbird Hotel), and opened a hip airstream trailer park there instead (El Cosmico).

 Austin, of course, is close to nowhere you'd particularly want to visit. Marfa has an element of charm, but it's a small, artsy town that's not only six hours away, but pretty much closed Sunday through Thursday. I've often wished there were somewhere closer to retreat for a weekend - somewhere to read, write, replenish. Hotel Havana has the exact feel you might wish for...a place to shut the world out, stay inside, have breakfast in bed, work, think, and at night, sip on a Manhattan in the bar buried deep in the basement. A place for a lost - or a found - weekend.