Talking to beginners


An accidental image I recently discovered on my cell phone.

When does the moment come, for you, in which you lose the sense of being a beginner as you transition to the feeling of having mastered something? Are you aware of its coming, when it actually comes?

Most importantly, though, do you still recall what it feels like to be a beginner? I don’t mean remembering what exactly you did, but the embodied perception of not being sure how to move your hands and body in what you were doing, along with the exhilaration when things actually work?

I recently, almost by chance, joined an online group populated mostly by beginners in photography. Continue reading

Neighborhoods of the Heart

Neighborhoods of the Heart, at Sunset Art Studios

Last December, I was invited to be the visiting artist at the Center for Creative Connections at the Dallas Museum of Art in the summer of 2018. This great honor involved developing a series of programs, based on my artistic process and concept, to connect visitors of the museum to the works in the collection and a larger idea. Continue reading

Alec Soth and the issue of social class

Alec Soth at UTA, in the shadow of his presentation. On the screen: a note with the dreams of his subjects

Alec Soth at UTA, in the shadow of his presentation. On the screen: a note with the dreams of his subjects


Last night, UTArlington and Arlington Camera hosted a discussion of the noted documentary photographer (and Magnum member) Alec Soth with the curator who gave him the first big push of public recognition, Anne Tucker of the Museum of Fine Art, Houston. These public conversations are always useful. It’s true that most probably the information they reveal can be easily found elsewhere. But there are always revelations that happen only in a face-to-face setting.

That’s the reason I used this particular image as an illustration for my post: Alec in the shadow and, on the screen, a note scribbled with the personal dreams of the people he has photographed. It is an approach he uses to get closer to his subjects and allow them to show something of themselves and make it visible in the portrait.

Continue reading

The family pictures inheritance

My grandfather in 1940. Photograph by Kiro of Smardan

This is a portrait of my grandfather, taken while he was doing his military service in 1940 Bulgaria (not part of the Axis yet). I discovered it last summer while perusing the stack of family photos at my parents’ house.

And it was one of the delights of my summer. I saw, in this picture, something in him I had not known but was so excited to discover it.  I saw how he felt in that particular moment of his life and some truths he never told me; things I would’ve discussed with him if only he were around today.  This picture gave me back a great piece of my own personal puzzle that I didn’t know existed but am so glad I found.

So, what could I do with this treasure? I plundered it from my parents’ collection without telling them, or my sister. My only justification was that it was just temporary and I would scan it and print it in large format and give them copies. Continue reading

The curse and blessing of traveling with a camera

©Ellie Ivanova

If you’ve been reading this blog for some time, you know what I think about travel photography – but that’s travel photos as a final product and as an approach. The experience itself though is quite another matter. And I am not talking about traveling to photograph for a project; what I have in mind is traveling for other purposes – even for fun – while being a photographer. As anyone with any level of personal investment in photography has discovered, that can be an exhilarating or an excruciating experience. Here’s why:

1. You see images everywhere. Not just people, places and things, but images with deeper meaning behind them. You enjoy the new sights in a different way. On my flight from Milan to Hamburg last week, I saw the two flight attendants working the aisle with trays in their hands. When they tried to pass each other, they faced in opposite directions and lifted the trays up simultaneously. An instant, beautiful, graceful image that struck me as a lightning – and made me sad since my camera was packed under the seat… You can’t stop being a photographer even if you have something else on your mind!

2. Just like it happens among dog owners, having a camera in hand connects you to other camera-bearers. They start a small talk about your camera and flaunt their own and include you in some sort of an instant camaraderie. You are a part of the tribe 🙂 Continue reading

Stepmom (1998)

Julia Roberts as photographer Isabel in "Stepmom"

I started my blog tradition of photography-centered movie reviews with the intention to discuss the photographic aspect of certain iconic films. But so far those reviews have focused on something else rather neglected: the role of photography and photographers in society. (See my posts on Everlasting Moments, in which photography empowers a woman in an abusive relationship, and The Bridges of Madison County, about a photographer whose job is to discover beauty but also deprives him of social ties).

Stepmom (1998, with Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon) is about the opposite: the power of photography to create relationships yet also to make people vulnerable to an invented reality. Isabel, the new girlfriend of divorced dad Luke, tries hard to connect with his kids, but they reject her. Maybe because their mom sabotages those attempts. Or maybe it’s Isabel’s high-pressure job as a fashion photographer that makes her distracted and impatient and she only has a vision of a false reality. Continue reading