11 August 2009


Once, I really irritated the Minister of the Environment of Indonesia. I interviewed him for a magazine. But I also had to photograph him. It was easier, and more to the point - cheaper, to have me do both than to send a separate writer and photographer.

I called his office and scheduled an hour for the interview. I told his assistant that the photographer (I didn't let on that it was also me) wouldn't be able to work at the same time, so could we either schedule an additional half hour following the interview, or, if not, another time to take the photos? The photo session was scheduled for the day after the interview.

The interview went well. The next day, when I showed up with my camera equipment, not so much. Why, the Minister quite rightly wondered, had I not simply taken his picture when I interviewed him?

Luckily, his English was good. While I'm not sure he bought it, at least he did understand my explanation that photography and writing are very different; that despite the fact that I am experienced at both, it is nearly impossible to do a good job of both at the same time. They need to be approached separately. It helped that when the article came out, he liked the pictures.

When I travel, I will often alternate days with my camera and without it, sometimes going back to the same places. When I'm taking pictures, I am thinking visually. I notice the sounds, and smells and feel of places, but not quite so much as I do when I'm not looking at them through a viewfinder. When I write, I want my descriptions of places and people to go a lot deeper than only how they look.

It's one reason why nobody ever really likes their wedding pictures. (I ought to know, way back when I shot eight weddings. I made good money doing it. After the last, I swore I'd never do it again.) It's a big day, full of feelings and memories of smells and sounds and the rustle of dresses and the swirl of the first dance and all that sort of stuff. Two-dimensional photos just aren't enough to convey it. They always seem, somehow, inadequate. And everyone blames the photographer.

This is on my mind today because I'm printing photos for my combo book event / photo show that's taking place in downtown L.A. on Thursday evening. Be there.

Thursday, August 13, 7pm
Metropolis Books
440 S. Main St.
Los Angeles, CA

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