Thursday, December 30, 2010

It's now officially over

The last place on the planet to develop Kodachrome film—Dwayne's Photo in Parsons, Kansas—will process its last roll today. Goodbye Kodachrome.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Film vs. Digital

I'm fairly devoted to film and shoot with film almost exclusively. That said, I've always been kind of uncomfortable with the position that there is something about film photography inherently superior to digital. Very often, that argument sounds to me most like the painters of the late-19th and early-20th centuries who claimed that photography wasn't art because it was made by a machine that anyone could operate. In other words, it's an argument that sounds defensive and retrograde.

Art lies more in the intentions of the maker than in the technical difficulties of the medium. I still mostly use film because it slows me down and makes me more awkward in a way that's good for the type of photography I do. I feel there are advantages in the way that film responds to light—especially when working in black & white. I also like working within a square format and unfortunately there are still no affordable square-format digital cameras. But I still scan my film, post-process with Photoshop and print digitally. I haven't gotten my hands wet to make a print in many years, and I don't intend to ever again. Like it or not, digital is here to stay, and to take the position that there is something more virtuous, more aesthetically pure, and more essentially artistic about film strikes me as just plain silly.

© Joseph Gerhard. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Strange Truth About Those "Simple" Cameras

I use lots of different cameras. Film cameras—a Hasselblad 503cx and SWC, and a Leica M6; and for most digital work, a Nikon D200. But by far, the most difficult camera to use that I own, and the one I've worked the longest trying to figure out the mysteries of, is my "simple" Canon SD880 point & shoot.

Taking a good photo with the point-and-shoot is infinitely more difficult and infinitely more complicated than with any of the so-called "professional" cameras. (By the way, I don't mean to imply that this is a "Canon" problem. Canon makes the best point-and-shoots out there, imho.)

And of all the tricks to taking better photos with a point-and-shoot, the number-one, most important thing to know is this: turn off the flash and leave it off. The flash on those cameras is useful about 10% of the time; the rest of the time it's there to ruin your photos and to make everyone and everything in those photos look like crap.

© Joseph Gerhard. All rights reserved.

Friday, October 22, 2010

From the Highline

From a recent walk on The Highline.

© Joseph Gerhard. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Katie's Office (revisited)

A slightly different framing than this one that I posted on Motelrodeo in July—and in color.

© Joseph Gerhard. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I recently read Paul Auster's new book, Invisible, easily one of the best novels I've read in a very long time. He not only tackles the many layers of invisibility in our relationship to others, but the very nature of self, fact, story-telling and reality. 

One of the most obvious—yet at the same time, nearly incomprehensible (invisible)—aspects of life, is that while we all regard our inner picture of ourselves as the real and authentic one, it is precisely that picture that is completely invisible to everyone else in the world, and the only one that will disappear forever when we go.

© Joseph Gerhard. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Under the Overpass

A new folio of color photographs, Under the Overpass, is a companion of sorts to the Mill River pictures. Just downstream from where the Mill River series ends, the river passes under Interstate 91. These photos offer a glimpse of what the entire area might have looked like had the river been covered by an I-91 off-ramp as originally proposed.

Here are four of the new photos. Please click on the link above to see more.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cooking (Enough is enough)

The trickiest part of cooking is exactly the same as the trickiest part of everything else in life: knowing when enough of something is enough, when it's way too much and when it's nowhere near enough. Once you get that, the rest is easy.

© Joseph Gerhard. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Is it something or is it nothing?

Something or nothing? This is one of those things. I took this photo in Ireland over 18 months ago and still can't decide if there's anything good about it. At times, there seems to be something interesting with the way those two trees are flanked by the leaning utility pole and the ruins of the old farmhouse. That's what initially attracted me and made me take the photo, in any case. At other times, I'm not so sure. Still, the fact that it's still tugging at me after all this time, probably means something.

© Joseph Gerhard. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Refugio Espiritual

What I love most about this photo is the way this Hispanic pentacostal church awkwardly yet comfortably occupies the New-England-Protestant architectural trappings of the building—albeit in the form of aluminum siding, pre-fab windows and department-store lamp. It reminds me again that nothing arises out of thin air, sui generis—that everything is, to one degree or another, a mash-up of things that came before, often with an added, original twist that makes it appear brand new. 

© Joseph Gerhard. All rights reserved.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Farmhouse and Paps Revisited

This farmhouse is in Knocknagree, County Cork in Ireland. The mountains in the background, The Paps, are in County Kerry. I first photographed this early on Easter Sunday morning, April 6, 2007. What was most remarkable about that photo session was the fact that, even though I'd been traveling to Ireland for over 20 years at that point and had seen the sun rise countless times, this was the first sunrise I'd ever witnessed after getting up instead of before going to bed. The photo was posted on motelrodeo on April 20, 2007.

I returned to the same spot and photographed it again two years later. This is a newly-processed scan of that second photo. Everything except the sky looks much the same.

© Joseph Gerhard. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Molly & Me

A photo of my grandmother, Molly Markey, and me, on her birthday. August 1955. 55 years ago. Providence, Rhode Island. I am now several years older than she was in this photo.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Morning Commute

Houston, March 2010

© Joseph Gerhard. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

On Inspiration ("I could do that.")

Is there anything more gratifying than the words "You inspired me to ________ (fill in the blank)?" Lose weight, take up the accordion, go back to school, learn French, travel to India, run a marathon, start painting again. Whatever. 

The odd thing about it is that those words, which on the surface sound like the supreme complement (or flattery, depending on the speaker), really mean nothing more than the "inspired" person suddenly had the realization "Hey, I could do that.'"

I mean, we've all had the experience of coming up against something that we find very attractive, a skill we find immensely desirable, only to be overwhelmed by the feeling "I could never, ever do that." That feeling is the exact opposite of inspiration and almost never results in action of any kind. 

To be an effective—and inspirational—teacher, it is critical to make something seem so simple and effortless, so intuitive and easily grasped, that it immediately leads to the thought "I could do that."

Cleaners Revisited

From motelrodeo March 25, 2007:

A less-iconic, more-complex framing from last month:

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Recent photos from the Mill River series.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Readings: Rebecca Solnit

Photo © 2010 by Jim Herrington. Used with permission.

Rebecca Solnit is one of my favorite writers. Her insights have a breathtaking originality and she writes with a richness and clarity that, in the end, is simply astonishing. Her books A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Wanderlust: A History of Walking, and Savage Dreams: A Journey into the Landscape Wars of the American West have become touchstones for me.  

Last year, while in Ireland, I read A Book of Migrations, a meditation on travel, identity, movements of populations, notions of ethnicity sparked by a year she spent in Ireland in the 80's. I read most of the book sitting in this chair, while staying with my friend Paul De Grae—architect, musician and bon vivant. Here is a typical passage that had me nearly trembling with excitement when I read it. I shared it with Paul that morning at breakfast.  

She's speaking about blood and soil as metaphors for ethnic purity. Though she introduces the passage with references to Hitler, the implications are clear for almost any place on earth we might look: Ireland, Israel and Palestine, India and Pakistan, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur, Armenia.
"Blood's most significant quality is that it circulates, though the Western world only found this out with Harvey's experiments in 1628. Which is to say, despite the archaic idea that heredity and identity are situated there, literal blood is not so much like the reservoir or bank vault of the body as its interstate highway system or its rivers: blood is what mixes things up, imports and exports, keeps them moving. And blood itself is not a pure, singular substance, but a compound, made up of red and white blood cells, T-cells, oxygen, hormones, and other internal messengers and regulators, wastes, nutrients, antibodies. A healthy bloodstream is a very mixed community, and an updated metaphor based on blood would have to be one of multiplicity and mobility. Blood and soil make an even less appropriate pair for grounding identity racially and spatially, since both are zones of profound transformation. The ecohistorian Paul Shepard describes soil as "a skin, mediating the mineral and biological communities." Just as blood moves through the body importing and exporting diverse substances to the outside world, so worms and microbes course through the soil, aerating it, turning it over and transforming things at the end of their lives—corpses, wastes and decay—into fresh soil where the cycle will begin again. Soil is a festival of corruption and reinvention, the alpha and omega of all corporeal things."

Gaping Maw

Found yesterday on my morning walk.
(Photo taken with iPhone and TiltShiftGenerator for iPhone)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Cambridge Architectural

A few photos taken on early morning walks around Harvard Square and Central Square in Cambridge, MA last month.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Steamy Days in July

Iced tea on the newel post.
(Photo taken with iPhone and TiltShiftGenerator for iPhone)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

More Unmade Beds

While it looks like Mill River will see the light of day as a book before Unmade Beds—probably later this year—the bed project continues, and publishing the series in book form is still the plan.

I am just beginning a new round of shooting for Unmade Beds that will continue for the next six months, as I finalize the manuscript for Mill River.

These are from a recent shoot: Michelle.

Monday, June 28, 2010


Everyone's had the experience of writing a familiar word, then looking at it and wondering why it looked strange. You think maybe you've misspelled it, though it's a common word you've written thousands of times. Even after you confirm that it's spelled correctly, it still looks funny—like it's written in a foreign language.

As a kid, sometimes while I read, I'd have a word suddenly look strange to me like that. I found that if I kept staring at the word, soon it not only looked like a foreign language, but a foreign alphabet as well—as if I were looking at Russian or Greek written on a page. If I continued to stare, I got to a point where I even stopped recognizing the shapes as letters, but rather some kind of exotic graphic marks—the way Arabic or Chinese, say, seemed to me.

And, if I still continued to concentrate and stare, soon the letters began to look simply like abstract black marks on a white background, which is—and this is the point—exactly what they are. This, of course, is what makes the act of reading so remarkable and learning to read so important. To be able to convey such a rich world of thoughts, descriptions, arguments and evocations from a system of organized marks on a background is utterly remarkable.

But what I'm getting at here is something different: the stripping away of all of that meaning until the thing itself is clearly seen. 

More later.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Sunrise Sunset Pro

If you're a photographer—or anyone who spends much time outdoors—and you have an iPhone this is a must have app. Photography is all about light, and light is all about where we are in relation to the sun, so if you're not paying attention to things like civil twilight, dawn, dusk, solar transit (high noon), you're missing out. 

This app takes your GPS location and immediately gives you that info for the current day. You can also select any date/location you choose.

One of the best apps I have for the iPhone.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Looking Up

They're so ubiquitous as to be completely invisible. So invisible there's no need to even attempt to disguise them or dress them up. Creosote-soaked lumber poles that wouldn't look out of place in an 1870 Wyoming cow town. The juice that powers our bright, shiny, new, digitized, interconnected world stung up over our heads in so careless and hideous a fashion it mocks the monkey on our back, rubbing our collective noses in our neediness.

Ubiquitous, invisible, mocking and extraordinarily vulnerable. A pole broken in a car crash,
a few lines pulled down by a felled tree limb and we're back in the 19th century.

Monday, June 21, 2010

New Feature on Nova Blog

Read more here.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Mill River

This series of photos of the Mill RIver has taken me completely by surprise. In the first place, these are not the kind of photographs I usually make. I don't think of myself as a landscape photographer, and I don't generally photograph the natural world. I've walked along this river for the past 20 years and although I've taken an occasional photograph there, it's never occurred to me to photograph it extensively.

During early morning walks I started to notice the way the river looked from the paths along its banks—the way that it always appeared in small fragments, framed by branches, leaves, rocks, mud. The river is so still and slow-moving that it exists almost as a negative presence—visible only in the reflections of trees, branches, sky. I am fascinated by the way the river is both integral to the scene and barely there at the same time. I am obsessed by it and haven't been able to stop making photos. Developing the images, seeing the negatives and prints for the first time, I've been almost hyperventilating with excitement.

The series has grown over the last couple of months to nearly 60 images. These are four recent ones.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


I have less tolerance for clutter than I used to have. I try to keep things organized, but this is about as good as it gets. When my office is neat, clean and organized it just means that I'm not doing anything interesting in it. It's that simple.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


What is it about garages anyway? Strangely enigmatic when closed, they're nearly as mysterious open. Scene of oil changes, rock band practice, suicides. A clandestine entryway into the house. A repository for stuff: old furniture, recycling, lawn equipment. An office, a workshop, a spare room. One of Dylan's classic sneering putdowns: "Well, I see you got a new boyfriend. You know, I never seen him before. I saw you making love with him, you forgot to close the garage door." Site of countless start-up creative ventures—Apple, Google, HP just for starters. Garage bands. Garage wine. 

Architecturally, the garage door stands like either a large blank canvas—a house's smug poker-face that gives away nothing—or, in earlier, less-defensive times, curiously fenestrated with rows of little windows, set like eyes.

Free-standing, ivy-covered, built-in, gated, ramshackle or elegant, always inscrutable. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Hotel Morning

Just after coming in from an early morning photoshoot around Cambridge, Massachusetts recently.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Buildings & Trees

Having to do with the often awkward relationship between the things that we build and the trees we share the space with.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Hello everyone - 

I've become more and more interested lately in having my photoblog on a dynamic platform rather than a static one. Something I could post to from anywhere, something that folks could easily leave comments on—in short, something that is a good deal more spontaneous and interactive than Motelrodeo.

When I first started Motelrodeo nearly four years ago, I was looking for a simple, stable, well-designed place where I could post the recent photographs that I'd been working on. The design of Motelrodeo fit the bill nicely, though for all practical purposes, it was little different than if I'd just printed up a magazine or broadsheet and sent it out. I'd make it in my office, it would go out into the world and then, well, it would just sit there.

So, in the interest of having something more flexible in format, where I can publish a wider variety of updates and post from anywhere—even from my iPhone—and allow for participation from the folks who visit, I've started this new photoblog on the Blogger platform.

The future of Motelrodeo is uncertain. I may just let it bow out gracefully in September, after a four-year run. It will remain online as is, of course, along with my regular website Joseph Gerhard.

I hope you enjoy the new format and visit often.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Homage to Mr. Lee

I was thinking about Lee Friedlander's new book, America By Car, on a road trip to Boston last week. Katie was driving her company car, a Toyota Camry—which has to be the most generic car in America at the moment. It's the same car that appears in so many of Friedlander's recent photos, in all likelihood because it was a rental.

I had my camera bag on the floor in front of me and my Superwide was in the bag. I couldn't resist.