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The vast archives of aerial photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand serve as a stunning reminder of the grandeur of planet earth and the great variety in which we earthlings live and build our surroundings.

Cosmin Bumbut, photographer.
Cosmin Bumbut (b. 1968) is a prolific photographer from Bucharest. He graduated from that city's Theatre and Film Academy, and his book "Transit," won the `art book of the year award' at the Romanian National Book Fair in 2003.
His wide range goes from fashion photography to photojournalism and portraits, typical of his generation's eclecticism and inherent dynamism with the tools of digital photogrpahy. As seen in the top photo, he uses imaginative theatrical set-ups to transmit enticing story lines and moods.
Cosmin Bumbut, photographer.


David Burnett with his Speed Graphic

"The satisfaction comes from working next to 500 photographers and coming away with something different."
- David Burnett

David Burnett "works" news, features, people, landscapes, and the sciences. He is known as someone who can, no matter how challenging the assignment, return with the picture.

more on David Burnett

Holgamania strikes! The cheesy Holga can do magic in the hands of a master.

The Holga is riding a surge of popularity among camera buffs, which is kind of nutty, because it is a famously lousy camera. Made in China as a child’s toy and priced at about fifteen dollars, it leaks light, has an take-up spool that loosens the film, and has a "glaucomic" plastic lens.

There’s no shutter speed, except for a lever that goes back and forth between sunny and less sunny, and the way to get it on a tripod is to ‘tie’ it on with rubber bands.

Ah, but herein lies the challenge. Just jam a piece of cardboard under the spool, tape the seam leaks with duck tape, and drill in a standard tripod socket. For a night shot, use needle-nose pliers and yank out the little metal spring that 'operates' the shutter, then count the time exposure. With these fixes it’s possible to take awesome pictures.

The prize-winning campaign photo at the annual "Eyes of History" competition of the White House News Photographers Association was taken by David Burnett-- with a Holga. In the right hands this laughably crude box performs miracles with light and shadow.


Want to 'fudge' photos?

go to surreal nature


Diane Arbus, "Identical Twins," Gelatin-silver print, 1966.
"Revelations" was the first major retrospective of Diane Arbus in 40 years. It was shown in New York Essen, London, and Barcelona. There is a ‘cringe’ factor in an Arbus portrait. An awkward complicity between the subject and photographer pulls us into a weird intimacy.
The photographer knew what she was going after and the poser altered his agenda for the moment, leaving us as interlopers. And therein lies the humanizing drama of the thing. The nudists and dwarfs continue to haunt. She takes the viewer to someplace between appearance and identity, theater and reality, and illusion and truth.

"It's important to take bad pictures. It's the bad ones that have to do with what you've never done before. They can make you recognize something you hadn't seen in a way that will make you recognize it when you see it again."
- Diane Arbus

go to the Diane Arbus Revalations tour

"Nothing is ever the same as they said it was. It's what I've never seen before that I recognize."
- Diane Arbus

Marc Chagall, by Philippe Halsman, Venice, 1951.

Philippe Halsman (1906-1979) gained fame for his bold portraits and fashion photography after setting up his Paris studio in 1932.  After the German invasion he couldn't get a visa to the U.S. because he was Latvian born. 
Albert Einstein, who knew Halsman's sister, intervened with the authorities on his behalf.
Once in America he got a job with Life magazine, and over the next 20 years he shot more than 100 covers. His portraits of Einstein and Marilyn Monroe are classics.

Photographers on the job 
doing their thing:

Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004)

Many photographers consider Henri Cartier-Bresson the most influential of the past century. He always waited for the "Decisive Moment," elevating snap shots to a refined and disciplined art. He said he "prowled the streets all day, feeling very strung-up and ready to pounce, determined to 'trap' life, to preserve life in the act of living." 

In his global travels, with Leica in hand, he captured the spontaneous and unpredictable,  telling a story crisply, in one striking image. He valued the brilliance of 'man facing his fate;' his sense of human dignity was essential to his work. He called the decisive moment "the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as the precise organization of forms which gives that event its proper expression.


Karl Lagerfeld (1938- )

Karl Lagerfeld, sleek and pony-tailed, is known for his exacting demands as a fashion designer. He is an equally precise photographer who reveres the architecture of the human body and seeks the unexpected moment. His technique, lighting, and composition rival that of his most accomplished contemporaries. Among his published volumes are "Akstrakt," "Escape from Circumstances," Waterdance," and "Bodywave."
His eye for photography parallels a legendary design career. At 14 he moved with his family from Hamburg to Paris. Two years later he won a fashion design award working for Pierre Belmain. At 20 he worked for Jean Patou, then freelanced for Fendi, Valentino, and Cloe. By 1982 he was artistic director at Chanel-- updating the chic line with offbeat fabrics and colors. He launched his own KL label in 1984 and has also designed costumes for movies. He always keeps his camera close at hand.
Corbis is the largest photo stock house in the world. It's easy to search and get royalty info.

go to Corbis


Wild Skies
Photo-op skies belie the destructive force of Katrina-- tearing through the gulf states and  forcing relocation of survivors-- many who have never returned, many whose homes may never be rebuilt. As for the strategiclly irreplaceable city and port of New Orleans (which quietly keeps the U.S. economy on track), it will rebuild slowly, but tears, confusion, misery, and uncertainty remains years afterward.

more Katrina skies


Photographer Mitchell Funk

Mitchell Funk is the patient, persistent master of intense color. "The color is there; I don't pump it up in hue or saturation". The rich brillance of his photos depends on light, of course. "If I see that the light isn't right, I'll keep coming back until it is."

go to Mitchell Funk


Antares comes back into view

Have you ever seen a lunar occulation? If not, you should. Of course the viewing time depends on where you live.
The moon, in orbit around Earth, will drift, at least from our viewpoint, in front of a distant star or planet. So, for a short time, usually for about an hour, the object 'winks out' instantly (dissapears from view)-- and then emerges on the other side of the moon. Our moon played this delightful visual game with the red, super-giant star Antares. It is such a bright star and it was fun to see it 'hide' behind our moon for a while. Starry nights are images of mystery that leave one breathless.


Paris Landmark Upended
Here is a huge installation of a giant replica of a vintage view camera making an upside-down image of the Eiffel Tower. Crowds delighted in the spectacle to celebrate the Art of Photography.


Paul Davis, photogrpher.

There's something subtlely mystical in the drama of Paul Davis photographs.
With so many digital dynamos around the world, each storing thousands of intriguing images, it's hard to keep track of more than a few. A great way to acquaint yourself with new photography is to go to Profotos-- a premier website that showcases photographers online.

go to Profotos


"Dish Rack" by Chema Madoz
The camera of Chema Madoz focuses on nuero-skewing and delightful imaginings. Enjoy.


"Night Shift" from Time Magazine photo essays
TIME   has a bigger web presence and lots of photos for your viewing.


Start Shooting!

Submit "Your Shot" for possible publication in National Geographic, OR, Upload your best photos to "My Shot" and make your own National Geographic web page for slide shows, galleries, and more.

go to National Geographic


Enjoy lovely images of Asia by photographer Scott Stulberg:

go to Scott Stulberg


Photo: Gabe Kirchheimer.


David Alan Harvey Closing In

Your fears erased here daily.

What photographs tantalize you? When do you grab your camera? What do you see? What do you not see? What do you think you see? What do you hope others see? Where do you find the light?


David Alan Harvey is a photo essayist with the eye of a painter. He doesn't stay in the background or use a long lens. He gets up close and personal-- and his photos are about as close to reality as you'll get.
"The closer you get, the more invisible you become."
- David Alan Harvey

go to David Alan Harvey


Three Buddhas, Leshan China. Gary Braasch.

Gary Braasch:
"It's always been hard for me to stop taking pictures, no matter what the project or the assignment.
"The entire planet is there for me, and there's a connection between me and the world."

go to Gary's environmental photography


Nikon has a complete photo education website. Enter contests, write essays, and upload your best shots.

go to Nikon


Enter the world of photojournalists, our global documentarians:

go to photojournalism

Arnold Newman set the standard for stylistic integrity and captured the essence of his subjects. 

The Eyes of Arnold Newman
Pablo Picasso in Vallauris France, 1954. Arnold Newman.

Painter Marcel Duchamp by Arnold Newman.

"We do not take pictures with our cameras, but with our hearts and minds."
- Arnold Newman

Arnold Newman was the master of environmental portraiture. He instinctively interacted with the people in front of his lens, placing them in carefully composed settings to capture their work and personality-- writers at their desks, painters in their studios, composers seated at pianos, presidents and prime ministers in stately settings.
He said "I am interested in what motivates individuals, what they do with their lives, their personalities, and how I perceive and interpret them... perhaps of even greater importance, is that, even if the person is not known or already forgotten, the photograph itself should still be of interest or even excite the viewer. That is what my life and work is all about."

more on Arnold Newman

"I prefer the risk of failure in experi-
mentation to the alternative of safe repetition and boredom.
"Rigid rules, regulations, official schools and current trendy 'with it' styles needed by the unimaginative are deadly to creativity.
"History is full of 'Golden Rules,' laws of composition and other indispensable guidelines. Yet not one great image has ever been created through their application. Style is a natural result.

The New York Public Library
Gallery of Images
The New York Public Library is open for viewing.
You can burrow into oddities, rummage through the rare books, and dig for prints, posters, dust jackets, menus, and cigarette cards.
Parts of the site are not fully integrated so you can get lost in the old card catalog  with no librarian to help out. Still, it's fun to poke around this fabulous collection of a quarter of a million images.
Everything dated before 1923 is in the public domain and free. You may print, download, etc.  It's worth looking in to.


Susan Sontag (1933-2004)

Susan Sontag, probing writer and social critic, suffered from leukemia for 30 years-- and wrote of the struggle for health in one of her most famous books: `llness as Metaphor.' As her friend Leon Wieseltier (literary editor of The New Republic) said, "She showed you things you hadn't seen before; she had a way of reopening questions." She was a master synthesist who tackled broad, difficult, and ellusive subjects-- like photography.
Sontag's 'On Photography'  deserves a re-read. She describies a subject we take much for granted (especially in this age of the indiscriminate digitized snap) and shows how photography has deeply changed us and how we view the world.

"On Photography," Susan Sontag, 1973, Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

"We consume images at an ever faster rate and images consume reality."
- Susan Sontag

"The only interesting answers
are those that destroy the questions."
- Susan Sontag


Yann Arthus-Bertrand has been 'flying with camera' since 1990. His thousands of sky-views seem to refresh our eyesight and refocus our attention on the wondrous beauty of our planet. Really looking is a virtual vacation-- and an invitation to reflect upon the our planet's evolution and the future of its inhabitants.
He is the founder and chair of The Good Planet, a non-profit alerting individuals and governments of the urgent need to grab responsibility  and "work to meet present needs without compromising the needs of future generations”.
Photographer as environmental activist:
"In just fifty years we have modified our planet's environment far more than in the entire history of humankind. Ecosystems are threatened or failing. Fresh water, oceans, forests, clean air and arable land are quickly diminishing in quality. We need to act immediately to reverse these fatal trends."
He has seen it-- from above.

Tasmania, Australia. Photo: Jann Arthus-Bertrand

Machu Picchu, Peru. Photo: Jann Arthus-Bertrand.

go to Yann Arthus-Bertrand

go to Altitude Photo

go to The Good Planet

go to Earth from Above


Ansel Adams atop station wagon. Click to enlarge.

Ansel Adams visited Yosemite in 1916 when he was 14. He hopped up on a tree stump to get a photo of Half Dome. Then he stumbled, headfirst, and accidentally pushed the shutter release. In his autobiography he said that the upside-down image remained one of his favorites. In the photo above, he has hopped onto his woody to get another shot, and another. He ended up spending most of his life in Yosemite.
Today park visitors try to retrace his steps. The Wawona Tunnel is a popular passageway to Ansel's "photo-ops." The pros wait for the exact moment the moon rises or a fallen tree in Siesta Lake goes into shadow.
In the center of Yosemite Valley there's a gallery where Adams lived for years before his death in 1984. Today it is run by his grandchildren and offers workshops and 'camera walks.' But many people only know the park through the eyes of Ansel Adams and are disappointed by the reality.
Glenn Crosby the curator of the Gallery did his own take on 'Moonrise and Half Dome' with the aid of an astronomer who tracked the exact minute the moon would ascend next to Half Dome. "But it's not the same,' he said. "Someone could be standing shoulder to shoulder with Ansel and come away with a totally different interpretation." That's what makes photography so personal.

go to Ansel Adams


"A photograph is a secret about a secret.
"The more it tells you the less you know." 
- Diane Arbus

Nicole Kidman as Diane Arbus. Photo: Mary Ellen Mark

Nicole Kidman portrays photographer Diane Arbus in the movie Fur, based on a fantastical 1984 biography by Patricia Bosworth.


Gordon Parks at home in New York

Tribute to Gordon Parks
Parks was one of the most amazing men of his time. Often acknowledged as the greatest photographer, he was also a fine poet, author, piano player, composer, cinematographer, and film director. Google gives him 1.7 million hits. He was born the youngest of 15, in dire poverty, in Fort Scott, Kansas-- and that is where he was buried, near his parents. He lived an inspiring, generous, powerful life.

Quang-Tuan Luong has traveled the continents with his large format camera. He carries it to mountain tops and into caves. He is the only person to photograph every U.S. National Park. He gets around carrying a load of gear. See what he carries:


Return to the beginning:

Daguerreotypes Live!
Did daguerreotypists "die out" after the Civil War?  No! There are more photographers using the process now than at any time since 1850.

Charlie Schreiner is a modern daguerreotypist.  Above is his Soup Can, a 2x3-inch plate. For more of his work:

go to Charlie Schreiner

go to Charlie's website

Photography came to the U.S. from Europe in 1839.

In England, William Henry Fox Talbot developed a way of printing positive images from negatives onto paper. In France, Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre fixed positive images on polished metal plates. Talbot could yield unlimited, cheap copies. Daguerre won out because his plates had a staggering clarity and brilliance.

A daguerreotype is a unique print, i.e. it can’t be reproduced. Its reverse-mirror image is visible only when the plate is tilted and illuminated in certain ways. Despite all the quirks and problems, Americans loved them long after Europeans grew tired of them.

Daguerre plates are pitiless in their candor and magnify blemishes. Albert Sands Southworth and Josiah Johnson Hawes, had a grand studio in Boston, and conducted thousands of sittings with customized cameras and special lights, resting their reputation on flattering photos.

They also did a big business in post-mortem portraiture, a standard 19th century genre. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Harriet Beecher Stowe were among their celebrity clientele. Alive, of course.

Much of the priceless work of Southworth and Hawes is on view at the American Museum of Photography.


go to "The Daguerreotypes of Southworth and Hawes"

go to The Daguerreian Society

Irving Penn's platinum print from his

Platinum prints were popular a century ago, but when prices soared after WWI manufacturers stopped making the paper.

In the 1960's famed photographer Irving Penn (1917- ) began a lengthy search to learn the technique. He scoured old journals for ‘recipes’ and tried different formulas in his Long Island darkroom on weekends. He mixed palladium, iridium, and gum bichromate with both black and color pigments, and made test collages.

He found that platinum gave a lavish tonal image with rich blacks, but could be coarse. Palladium gave delicate tones but lacked true blacks. When he mixed the two and coated the paper multiple times, he could create luminous prints.

As a commercial photographer he made negatives and often didn’t see a final photo until it was published in a magazine. So he enjoyed the move from studio to darkroom where he mixed, exposed, developed, and crafter his own platinum prints.

Using chemicals that can be applied by brush, he found greater freedom of expression. Also, the light sensitive salts were absorbed into the paper fibers, giving the print a sensuous texture-- dramatically different from the glossy surface of gelatin silver prints.

So he transferred his celebrated photographs into independent works of art that have subtle, rich tonal ranges, and luxurious textures. Penn’s work is on display this summer at the National Gallery of Art in D.C.

go to Irving Penn's platinum prints


Jerry Uelsmann, Untitled 2003

"My art is directed toward the inventive consciousness of the viewer. The viewer has to complete the cycle, has to project into it in certain ways. All the information is there, and yet the mystery remains."
- Jerry Uelsmann


Photo: Top. Mountains near Jengish, Kyrgzstan, Photo: Yann Arthus-Bertrand.

return to "Viewing Images of Mystery"

Remain curious.