My 4 Year Old On What Makes a Good Shoe

January 30, 2012

1. "They should be fast."
2. "They should have something on them. Something pretty cool like rocket boosters or fire or bush babies or something."
3. "Maybe they should glow in the dark so you can see them when it is night... or you could have a light on them and a remote control."
4. "They should be faster than regular shoes."
5. "When your feet are in them, your legs should be really fast."
6. "They should not make sounds when you walk. I like to scare people."
7. "You have to make sure they are fast shoes. SUPER FAST!"
8. "They should be soft."
9. "They should never smell like feet."
10. "When you run in fast shoes you should always win."

Transcribed January 18, 2011

Carl Van Vechten

January 30, 2012

1093901.jpgJames Earl Jones

1094109.jpgEartha Kitt

Carl Van Vechten, and Iowan, was a music critic, photographer, and patron of the Harlem Renaissance. He's best known for his studio portraits of artists, writers, actors, and musicians. Yale's Beinecke Library holds a large Van Vechten's kodachrome cache full of unusual images of well known African American performers (this tough and intimate Billie Holiday portrait was new to me). More images from Yale's collection can be found here. (found via It's never summer)

Note: The Library server seems to fail regularly, so browse

Rokuro Taniuchi

December 21, 2011




Dear Santa,

This Christmas I would like an exhaustive English language monograph featuring the work of Rokuro Taniuchi.

Thanks in advance!


. . . . . . . . . . .
Editor's note: Taniuchi was a Japanese artist/illustrator who known for his illustrations in comic books, children's books, and magazines (he painted over 1000 magazine covers.) Five galleries of Rokuro's work can be found on Will Schofield's completely excellent book illustration blog 50 Watts. An overview of Rokuro's work can be found on Amazon Japan.

Also please check out 50 Watt's fantastic book illustration collections on flickr. But beware, they will kill your afternoon.

Livia Corona

December 14, 2011

I'm a big fan of Mexican photographer Livia Corona. Her most recent project titled "Two Million Homes for Mexico" was just featured on Culturehall. The project name comes from a promise that Mexican president Vincent Fox made in 2000 to build two million homes during his term. The homes were indeed built at a rate of 2500 per day, and now a decade later Corona explores what they've become.

Ahmad Hosni

December 5, 2011


I'm intrigued by Cairo based Ahmad Hosni's project Go Down Moses on South Sinai in which he tackles "eco-tourism and self-perception of ethnicity". He talks more about this project in this interview.

MFK Fisher's Chapter Headings

December 5, 2011

My wife is a great champion of the food writer and memoirist MKF Fischer and often reads me excerpts. I've become a fan myself as Fischer's writing is spare, modern, dark and amusing.

These are Fischer's chapter headings (always great) from How to Cook a Wolf, a book published in 1942.

3 How to Be Sage Without Hemlock
10 How to Catch the Wolf
14 How to Distribute Your Virtue
26 How to Boil Water
46 How to Greet the Spring
53 How Not to Boil an Egg
66 How to Keep Alive
72 How to Rise Up Like New Bread
80 How to be Cheerful Through Starving
86 How to Make a Pigeon Cry
121 How to Pray for Peace
133 How to Be Content with a Vegetable Love
138 How to Make a Great Show
145 How to Have a Sleek Pelt
151 How to Comfort Sorrow
163 How to Be a Wise Man
167 How to Lure the Wolf

If you don't know Fischer's writing, I recommend this small except from The Gastronomical Me on the moment she discovered food. The passage also happens to be a nice piece on fatherhood.

Continue reading "MFK Fisher's Chapter Headings" →

Bad Habits

November 29, 2011

I've always loved the classic Indian educational posters of the Indian Book Depot, Map House. Today I discovered The Indian Book Depot is now online! The site features a fairly comprehensive collection of their classic posters and maps.

You can also find the charts in a beautiful oversized (and now out of print) book called An Ideal Boy.

p.s. How many of you had the Monks 'Bad Habits' start playing in your mind when you saw the title for this post?

Ken Russell

November 28, 2011


The British director Ken Russell died yesterday. I never cared much for the films that gave him notoriety, but always found his photography striking. Like Kubrick he started as a photographer and made many notable images before turning to directing. He aspired to be a fashion photographer, but his documentary images are the ones with real meat. Only a few of this type of image can be found online (I've seen book of his work somewhere, but can't find a link),

A few image galleries: Ken Russell a Retrospective, Images for Sale, Ken Russell's Fabulous 50's.

Related: Kubrick's Photography: Overview, Chicago, New York.

Georges Melies

November 22, 2011

With Scorsese's Hugo coming out soon I thought it would be a good time to revisit some of Georges Melies' early films (Hugo features a fictional Melies). Melies was a magician who originally used his films in his act, but the films quickly took over and by 1898 he was the largest producer of staged films in France.

Melies was one of the first filmmakers to use film to tell a story with sets, he created the first proper movie studio (with moving sets, and glass walls to let in the maximum amount of light), he was one of the first filmmakers to experiment with long form film, and he shot the first erotic film (After the Ball) and of course the special effects techniques he perfected still underly most modern effects. Melies' special effects techniques are even more impressive if you consider that most were created in-camera by rewinding and re-filming various parts of the scene. He made hundreds of popular films, but never made much money from them. Distribution was expensive and he had problems with counterfeiters. (Thomas Edison copied and distributed Melies' films in the US and never paid Melies a dime.) By 1913 his film was failing and he sold what remained of it. Most of Melies' archives were destroyed (the majority of his cellulose film stock was melted down by the French Army to make boot heels). His wife died and he married his mistress. For many years he was a toy salesman at a kiosk in Montparnasse station. His plight was discovered by a writer in a French film journal and soon after some of his films were discovered, restored and exhibited. A group of filmmakers put together a pension fund for him and he spent his last years in a home for cinema veterans.

Thanks to web, Melies' existing films are very easy to find. I've included a few below (my favcorites are starred).
Note most of these films include bad modern soundtracks and are better watched silent.

1896 - The Haunted Castle
1896 - A Nightmare
1896 - The Vanishing Lady
1897 - The Haunted Castle (tinted)
1898 - Un Homme de Têtes
1898 - The Astronomer's Dream
1898 - The Magician
1899 - Man With a Rubber Head
1899 - The Mysterious Portrait
1899 - Evoking the Spirits
1899 - Cinderella
1900 - The Magic Book
1900 - One Man Band
1902 - The Devil and the Statue
1902 - The Eruption in Martinique
1902 - Gulliver's Travels
1902 - A Trip to the Moon
1903 - The Melomaniac
1903 - The Infernal Cauldron
1903 - The Infernal Cakewalk
1904 - Untamable Whiskers
1904 - Le voyage a travers l'impossible"
1904 - The Mermaid
1905 - The Black Devil
1905 - The Fantastic Dirigible
1905 - Living Playing Cards
1905 - The Gambler's Paradise
1906 - The Merry Frolics of Satan
1907 - Satan in Prison
1907 - Hilarious Posters
1909 - Le Locataire Diabolique
1908 - La Photographie electrique a distance
1912 - The Conquest of the Pole

A more complete list of Goerges Melies films.

For decent copies of these films you should splurge and get the Melies 5 DVD set. It features 170! shorts.

Related: Multiple Sidosis

Notes for college interviewees i.e. How to prepare for your college interview.

November 8, 2011

I've been interviewing high school kids for college for almost 15 years and am about to start interviewing for next year. Here are a few general notes that might help interviewees. If you've googled your way here, you're on the right track, you're preparing.

Before beginning, be prompt and courteous when setting up a meeting time. Your interviewer is probably a busy person who is making time for you. Be respectful. Set up the interview yourself (i.e. don't rely on your mom). Don't be late.

1. If you're applying to a top school, odds are you're qualified to go there. Most of you, on paper, look pretty similar. You all have good grades and high SATs; you are all active in extracurriculars; many of you do important community work; in short you're all pretty extraordinary. But too many of you are applying for too few spots. Your college interview, like your college application, is a chance to differentiate yourself. What are you passionate about? What moves you? What gets you up in the morning?

2. You're probably better off applying to 3 schools than you are 10. Make each application count. It is much easier to focus on 3 schools than 10. I've had lots of kids start interviews by talking about other interviews and how tired they are of the application process. This is not a good way to start.

3. Learn about your interviewer. We google you. You should google us too. When we know things about each other, it's easier to have a real conversation.

4. I could care less about your grades, that's for the people in admissions to sort through. I want to hear your story. Think about your story. What made you the person you are? How do you edit your life into an hour? What stories define you? Practice telling your story. Practice telling it out loud (you might just learn something about yourself in the process). Record yourself w/ friends interviewing each other. Like anything, the more you practice, the easier the real interview will be.

5. People who are giving college interviews, tend to be people who love their schools and are protective of them. Learn something about the school. Every school has its own culture. How would you fit into that school culture (or disrupt it!). Read the school newspaper. Visit the school if you can. Be prepared for the question, "Why [school name]?"

6. A good interviewer will ask open ended questions that defy easy answers. It's ok to pause and think about your response. Don't be scared of silence.

7. Be honest. Don't try to be something you're not.

8. Ask questions.

9. Slow down. Breath.

10. Follow up.

Thomas Gardiner

November 7, 2011

I enjoyed going through Yale MFA student Thomas Gardiner's project "New York Is Big But This Is Biggar" documenting small towns in Western Canada. As a Saskatchewanian friend always says, "You know we're the same, but a little different."


Small Victories

November 7, 2011

I went out on a walk with my 4 year old Gabriel yesterday. "Where are we going?" he asked as I helped him put on his shoes.

"Nowhere, "we're just walking."

"What do you mean?"

"We're going out to wander. It's a beautiful day."

"But where are we going?" he asked again suspiciously.

"Nowhere. Which way do you want to go?"

He pointed towards the river.

We walked and talked. And we talked and walked. We discussed ducks, Louis Armstrong, the nature of rocks, clouds, snowfall, wind, big brothers, blood, girls, trees and a few other things.

Gabriel directed me to take pictures of him standing on various rocks and benches.

At Brooklyn's Pier 1 park, we spread out on the empty lawn and looked at the blue sky. He ran up the hill, rolled down it. He put grass on my head. More talking. Then, a skinned knee after a second run down the hill ended up in the gravel. No. Big. Deal.

We circled back around by the Brooklyn Bridge and passed a neighborhood playground. "I used to go there when I was little." Gabriel looked through the fence, "We found a bone in there once. Maybe some kid died in there."

He wanted to walk by his school (Empty on a Sunday and deemed creepy. "I thought the teachers lived here... It is very quiet now.")

Soon we were back in familiar territory and then home. The four mile wander was over. He ran through the door to find his brother... they started playing/wrestling immediately. No talk of where we had been. No mention of the walk later at bedtime either.

But this morning on the way to school he asked, "Dad, can we take another walk soon? You know, one where we don't go anywhere."


Art & Exploration

October 25, 2011


An excerpt from Michael Chabon's excellent Manhood for Amateurs:

"What is the impact of the closing down of the Wilderness on the development of children's imaginations? This is what I worry about the most. I grew up with a freedom, a liberty that now seems breathtaking and almost impossible. Recently, my younger daughter, after the usual struggle and exhilaration, learned to ride her bicycle. Her joy at her achievement was rapidly followed by a creeping sense of puzzlement and disappointment as it became clear to both of us that there was nowhere for her to ride it—nowhere that I was willing to let her go. Should I send my children out to play?

There is a small grocery store around the corner, not over two hundred yards from our front door. Can I let her ride there alone to experience the singular pleasure of buying herself an ice cream on a hot summer day and eating it on the sidewalk, alone with her thoughts? Soon after she learned to ride, we went out together after dinner, she on her bike, with me following along at a safe distance behind. What struck me at once on that lovely summer evening, as we wandered the streets of our lovely residential neighborhood at that after-dinner hour that had once represented the peak moment, the magic hour of my own childhood, was that we didn't encounter a single other child.

Even if I do send them out, will there be anyone to play with?

Art is form of exploration, of sailing off into the unknown alone, heading for those unmarked places on the map. If children are not permitted–not taught–to be adventurers and explorers as children, what will become of the world of adventure, of stories, of literature itself?”

(Thanks Larry for lending me the book)


October 24, 2011


Feuerwerksbuch by Martin Merz details 15th century artillary, siege equipment, and battlements in a series of fantastic drawings. Scans of the entire book written in 1473 are available from the Bavarian State Library. I'm downloading the whole thing to print out for the kids. They'll love it. (via the always excellent BibliOdyssey)

One Year Performance

October 21, 2011

I never tire of these.

Hsieh created a number of fascinating performance pieces including Cage Piece (1978-1979) where he locked himself in a cage and didn't allow himself to talk, read, write, or listen/watch media for an entire year and Outdoor Piece (1981-1982) where he lived outside in New York City for a year without shelter. Hsieh stopped making art in 1999. Read his Wikipedia entry to learn more.

(via La Boite Verte)

Related: Solargraphs, Alexey Titarenko, Manhattan Bridge, Michael Wesely, Photobooth 1993-2006, Time Photography, Ahree Lee, Obsessive Photo Projects

New work. Clearing Space. Prints for sale.

October 13, 2011


I'm printing a new body of work and have to free up some storage space, so I'm selling a number of editioned 20x24, 30x40, and 40x60 prints from my Travels Without Maps series at deep discounts. Most are c-prints. If you are interested, drop me an email at and I'll send a price list of what's available.

Update: Thanks for the great response! For the last few prints I have a special offer. In addition to the discounted price I'm offering the option to donate half the cost to The Brooklyn School of Inquiry. That portion of the purchase is 100% tax deductible! Some of the final prints are large ones, so it's a great way to get a large photograph for not so much money. The Brooklyn School of Inquiry is one of New York's 5 citywide G&T schools. It's the only one located in Brooklyn and kids from all over the borough attend.

New Tibetans

October 5, 2011

Check out this nice photo essay in Time's Lighbox by Sumit Dayal on Tibetans living in exile in India. It looks like much has changed in the 10 years since I last visited the area.

Question Time

October 4, 2011

Most nights with my kids after we read books we have question time. Question time is an open forum. The kids have to keep their eyes closed and they can ask any question about anything. It's the favorite part of my day.

Last night:

Gabriel: Will you die if you don't have a brain?

Me: Yes. You have to have a brain and a heart to live.

Gabriel: What about other things like stomaches and arms and eyeballs.

Me: You can live without arms and eyeballs and even a stomach, but life is harder.

Gabriel: What if you have no arms and no legs and no eyeballs?

Me: Then you would need a lot of help.

Gabriel: What about a sore?

Me: A sore? Like if you're leg is sore?

Gabriel: No inside your body.

Me: A sore inside your body, like if you are sick?

Gabriel (frustrated with me):Not a sore, a soua.

Me: I don't understand.

Gabriel: You know a soua that makes you a person.

Me: Do you mean a soul?

Gabriel: Yes. That word is hard for me you know.

[Gabriel knocked out his two front teeth last year and has a problem with hard Rs and words that end in L]

Gabriel: Do you have to have one to live?

Me: Everyone has a soul.

Gabriel: But what if you didn't have one would be a vampire or zombie or something?

Me: Vampires and zombies aren't real, but that's what we imagine people would be like if they lost their souls, but we all have souls even if we forget sometimes.

Gabriel: Where is it? Is it in your head or your belly?

Me: It's just part of all of you. It's what makes you you.

Gabriel: How?

Me: A soul is what lets you feel what other people are feeling. It's what lets you think about other people instead of yourself. People with good souls are kind. Real kindness is hard.

Gabriel: Not for me.


Gabriel: Even Darth Vader had a soul, you know.

Me: I know. Even terrible people have souls, but sometimes they shrink or are hard to find.


Gabriel: What about parrots? Do they have them? Parrots are confusing.

Me: Some people think only humans have souls, but I think animals have them too.

Gabriel: Even parrots? Because sometimes they just say mean things all day.

Gorey on himself

September 29, 2011

edward-gorey.jpgPhoto by Richard Corman
"I really think I write about everyday life. I don't think I'm quite as odd as others say I am. Life is intrinsically, well, boring and dangerous at the same time. At any given moment the floor may open up. Of course, it almost never does; that's what makes it so boring."

-Edward Gorey

Undefined (Part the Second)

September 28, 2011

A word for things that are equal parts delicious and terrible.

A word for specific feeling of seeing a long lost friend who has forgotten you.

A word for satisfaction that comes from drawing a perfect circle.

A word strange revulsion of hugging someone you thought was a dear aunt, but then realizing it was someone else entirely.

A word for days in which there is an awkwardness to everything.

A word for the strange pleasure of the first few moments in a hot car on a hot day in Texas, and another for the misery of the next few minutes.

A word for friends who used to exist for us in real life, but now only exist in pixels.

A name for the absurd rage one experiences on possessing too many remotes and not knowing which one will switch the TV to the mode you want it to be in.

A word for the exact moment in dreams when we break the bounds of gravity and fly.

A word for the pleasure of opening a book and finding a note in the margin that feels as if it was meant only for you.

A word for the strange symbiosis we have with our children, and and one for the wash of fear when it feels disconnected.

A word for all the things people know about us that we will never know ourselves.

A word for the pause in a room after one speaks out loud of the dead.

A word for seeing the past and the future simutaneously.

A word for looking but not seeing.

A name for all of you people, out there clicking away, reading things like this, thinking; alone and yet together.

Related: Undefined, Concepts that don't exist in English, Words not in English

Richard Mosse

September 25, 2011


Richard Mosse's project Infra documents conflict in the Congo using Kodak Aerochrome, a discontinued infrared film. The film which renders foliage bright pink, heightens the surreally of an impossible to comprehend war (the Guardian reports 400,000 rapes in a single year and 5.4 million deaths over 10 years) and forces us to re-examine conflict images. When I first heard of this project (without seeing the images) I dismissed it, but the images are powerful—they would be without the exotic film stock. Mosse is a thinker who gives eloquent explanations for his choices. Ultimately Mosse does what good photographers always do, he forces us to look closely and reexamine what we think we know. (via Aperture Magazine)

Matt Couper

September 16, 2011


Matt Couper is an artist who among other things creates modern ex-votos. This one reads, "To the Jesus of external hard drives, please fix the permissions on my drive so I can access all my files on it. There are a lot of corrupt files and psd files that won't open and I'm start panicking. 29th of November 2006" Explore the rest, they're super.


September 9, 2011

Over the past week I've twice heard twenty-somethings ponder whether kids growing up today—kids who were practically born with iPhones in hand—will still have the capacity for wonder.

Yesterday as a present for his first day of second grade I brought home an erasable gel pen for my iPhone savvy six year old. After a brief demonstration, he spontaneously hugged me, "I've been waiting for this pen my entire life!"

I think the kids are alright.

Red Lizards

August 1, 2011

Found this recording of Raul Andres when he was three.
Love it too much:

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