Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Unguided-Tour Has Moved

Over the past few weeks, I have migrated Unguided-Tour over to wordpress. This is will be my last post from this site. I may decide to leave it up for a while, however, you will be able to find the same posts and comments as well as new ones, along with new images as they are being created.

I have enjoyed this blog, as it was my first one. I have learned a lot from this blog, and hopefully, I will learn a lot more as time progresses. To all the readers (if there are any), who have enjoyed reading my posts please follow me over to Unguided Tour @ wordpress.

Additionally, you will discover new links to some new friend's websites, updated links, as well as old links, and blogs that I have found to be entertaining to read.



Saturday, September 19, 2009

Thoughts in Progress . . .

It has almost been six months since my last update, and as I mentioned in my last post, I was hoping to find more time to be able to update my blog on a regular basis. Where does the time go? I think it has to be one of those tasks, where you simply schedule yourself, to update your blog as part of your weekly routine; where you pick a day, once a week, to sit down, log into your blog, and discover something to write about. This is sometimes daunting task, especially for me, as the fear of not having anything to say, or anything of relevance or of real significance, begins to set in. So, here is my second attempt, maybe my third, or fourth ( I have lost count) of stating to myself that I am going to update my blog on a regular basis.

Since my last post, six months ago, I have had some incredible experiences, especially photographically. I spent a few weeks traveling once again to Mexico and the Caribbean, which is never an easy task. My flights are usually leaving in the middle night, arriving at 5 AM, taking an hour or more to pass through customs, six hour layovers until my next flight, and sometimes more connecting flights prior to reaching my final destination. Once arriving at the last airport, waiting for my luggage, passing through the final checkpoint, only to be detained at the airport, in small room, with two custom officials, for an additional two hours, searching through all of my luggage, and asking why I brought so many cameras, and so much film?

Despite these frustrations, my days of photographing, are always days of bliss, my playground of sorts, yet the harsh realities, set before my lens, are difficult to swallow at times. I see many familiar faces, and always greeted with open arms, hugs and kisses, yet the disparity for some is a difficult life, despite their smiles and their warmth. I have been photographing some of these people now for three years, becoming apart of their summer days, as our time brings conversations over coffee, while catching up with each others lives. The last days of my trip are always the most difficult though-walking around the neighborhoods, saying my goodbyes, and always being asked when I will return-it is because of them that I do return.

Recently, I have been involved in many projects, all at once, mostly in the organization of all of my negative files, processing film, printing in the darkroom, and now, because of a friend from college, through his kindness and generosity, he is helping me to scan my negatives every Sunday. We started this monumental task last week, and will continue until every last negative is scanned. The image posted above was our first test. It took nearly three hours just to get our first scan, as we were trying to figure out how to configure our computers, update the old software, and scan the images accordingly.

The image above was taken in 2005, while driving to the Sierra Maestra mountains in Cuba. I was traveling across the Island with my friend, Wilson, who I met that year. We spent three weeks driving from Havana to Santiago de Cuba, then to Baracoa, back to the Santiago, then to the Sierra Maestra Mountains, and then a 13 hour drive back to Havana. We were lost many times, driving in complete darkness, and being eaten alive by the mosquitoes. There was even fear of having to sleep, sitting upright, in the car, just because we couldn't see the road. Our persistence of wanting to sleep in a room with air conditioning, two comfortable beds, and being free of insect bites was enough motivation for us to continue driving. Eventually, we arrived to the cities we were searching for, but not without long days of driving, stopping to photograph, and becoming lost. This is one of those images that I not only stopped to photograph, but where the film survived the heat, searches of our car, x-ray machines through the airports, and years of just sitting in the darkroom waiting to be processed. Often times the story behind the photograph is more about the journey; the people you meet, the hospitality you encounter, and the friendships that you establish.

One final note, I am delighted to be posting again, and recently discovered that there are three people following my blog. I did not realize this until this evening. So, I would like to thank those three people who are following this blog, despite my long postings, which gives me more motivation, to update it more often.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

New Website


Hopefully, I will start having more time to update my blog. For the past six months, I have been working on creating a new website. When I started this project, I did not realize how long the entire process would take; from conception to getting one portfolio online. I was hoping that by the time the web designer finished that I would have had three portfolios ready to go, but this is not the case. Overall, this has been an exciting process for me; revisiting older work, editing, and sequencing, yet, I found the process to be quite challenging and time consuming, making one change after another.

The most challenging decisions, however, were the ones with the smallest details, but unchangeable; like the domain name. I struggled with this for at least a month or two, just trying to decide what the domain name should be. I was debating between several different names, and whether or not there should be a "photo" or "photography" related word. Quite a few suggestions were made to me by those I frequent with at cafes, and in passing conversations. Their suggestions were to create a domain name that is short, easy to remember, and to add the word "photography," which is a little difficult to do when you either have such a common name, or a long name already. The domain name that I eventually decided was the least popular by those who offered their advice; they don't know yet, but will find out soon enough that I did not adhere to their advice. Hopefully, they will understand that I had good intentions when I asked them, and won't be too offended.

Additionally, I found it quite difficult to write a bio. It is such a personal thing, and how many people really care? A lot, of the bios that I viewed, seem to have the same formula, name, accomplishments, education, awards, and clients. Please don't get me wrong, these photographers should be proud of their accomplishments, awards, and clients that they worked hard to impress, as it can be challenging to gain a client's trust and respect, especially if they have never worked with you before. In the end though, I would like to think that it just simply a matter of what kind of person you are; are you human?; do you really care about the plight of others-their happiness, their sadness, their stories. Certainly the photographers work that I viewed all seem to deeply empathize with their subjects, who allowed them in their lives to be photographed, but it did not come across in some of their bios, and awards or client lists cannot always reveal such details.

The other challenge that I faced was that I only had one portfolio ready to go up on the website. I really wanted to have a minimum of three portfolios, however, knowing how much I love to procrastinate, I knew that if I waited any longer, it would take another half a year before the website would go live. The same friends who offered their suggestions for the domain name, bio, and a few of the other details, also suggested to go live with just the one portfolio, and continuously and religiously, update the website. So, I am currently working on two additional portfolios; Hong Kong, and new edit and sequence of my work on Tibet. I hope to have both projects up and running by the end of April, but knowing myself, chances are I will only have one up.

The last challenge that I am faced with, is that I have about 15 years of photographic work, and all in the form of negatives; no digital files of any kind. So, I have been experimenting with either having the negatives scanned, or printing them in my darkroom, then scanning the prints. I have found that the having the negatives scanned, then editing and sequencing them is a much quicker process for me than printing fiber base prints, and then scanning the same prints. However, printing the images and then scanning them is more satisfying for me, which I also believe, renders a more beautiful aesthetic, even for the web, especially since my printing skills are greater than my photoshop skills. I find that I can bring out the slightest details or tonalities that I would never seem to be able to enhance otherwise. On the flip side of this, I had one severely damaged (scratched) negative, which wound up being one of the key images (image #2) for the current portfolio on Hansen's Disease (Leprosy). Because of photoshop, I was able to remove all of the scratches from the negative, and this was something that I was never able to accomplish in the darkroom with that particular negative before. By the end of the day, I had a choice to either move quickly on adding portfolios to my website by scanning the negs, or really taking my time, and printing fiber base prints, and scanning them. Depending upon how the scanned fiber base prints of Hong Kong and Tibet appear, this will determine the process for how I build the rest of the website.

I don't really have much insight as to which one is better; I am simply more accustomed, and enjoy the process working in the dark than I do in the light.

My next article will be more about the Hansen's Disease project; an old article from "Life" magazine about Carville and some of its patients, some of the images that were edited out of the photo-essay, and hopefully an interview from a former resident of Carville.

I hope all is well in your part of the world.


Saturday, March 21, 2009


It is Saturday March 21st, and I am overwhelmed with fatigue, a massive headache, and depressing weather. This past two weeks have been the busiest in a long time, waking before dawn, and returning after sunset. I have never envisioned my life being so busy. And now, becoming more and more accustomed to this unwelcomed life-style, once I have time to relax and rest, I am even more restless, as if I have to relearn how to do nothing from the long summer days of my youth.

There is much to comment on, as the news locally and globally seems to increasingly become more and more unpredictable; A few highlights:

--Journalism seems to be in tail spin as more and more newspapers are folding as they find a way to be economically viable. We have a all heard about the Rocky Mountain Newspaper, which has been around for 150 years. The San Francisco Chronicle may be next. The newspaper has been the fundamental source of in-depth investigative reporting, and watch dog on local and national watch-dog of corruption. As these papers fold so does the talent of the journalist and photojournalist that have brought us amazing stories and incredible photos of the daily events that unfold before our eyes-witnessing moments in time. Without these newspapers and reporters who will continue this tradition?


--Following with more news about journalism; two journalists have been abducted along the China / North Korea border, "The two women have been identified in South Korean news reports as Euna Lee and Laura Ling, staffers with the San Francisco-based Current TV, an online video news service set up by Al Gore." The report states a conflicting report stating that the two journalists were on North Korean territory, while other reports confirm that North Korean soldiers walked across the frozen river that create part of the natural boundary between the two countries.



--In Darfur region of Sudan, the sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has been brought up on charges of war crimes in Darfur, from BBC News, "The chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court has accused Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir of "exterminating" refugees by expelling international aid agencies. on charges of war crimes in Darfur." The sudanese president is now expelling aid organizations and groups from the Darfur region, "The expelled groups made up 40 percent of the aid personnel and included some of the best organized and most experienced agencies dealing with the conflict." The growing concern of course with the expelling these groups is more mass starvation and violence against the growing number of people, who are forced into these refugee camps, "Those aid workers who remain say they can fill the gaps in the short term, but warn of possible crisis within just a few months, with deteriorating health and outbreak of diseases — even violence, as desperation grows."

Why the international communities do not form a military coalition and intervene in one of the most recent and horrific genocides taking a place on the planet. I thought that WWII would have put an end to genocide, but it seems to have only increased in modern history-Bosnia war (1992-1995), and the Rwandan Genocide in 1994 where and estimated 800,000-1,000,000 people were brutally murdered.

When will it end?



Here is a current film, "They Turned Desert Into Fire," by my friend--Bay Area film maker and photographer--Mark Brecke



--In other news the growing number of Americans, who were once middle-class citizens, continue to lose their jobs and their homes. The economic downturn is bringing financial disaster to many families, and the ones who are affected the most are the children and their former pets. By the end of 2009, one million children will be part of the homeless population, taxing the homeless shelters around the nation. In Sacramento, California a homeless, tent city, is on the rise. There are currently 150 homeless who make-up the tent city encampment. This is the same area where Dorothea Lange photographed her images of the Great Depression during the 1930's.

Here is a photo-essay by Justin Sullivan of Getty Images.


Last but not least, besides this brief update, I still have my headache, and two more weeks of an ever increasingly demanding schedule. In the meantime, I will survive by drinking espresso and sleeping when I am able too. Additionally, I am on the verge of going live with my new website showcasing work from the past 18 years to present. The website will hopefully have three portfolios to begin with, and the rest will be edited, scanned, and sequenced over the next year; a work in progress.

During this time, my blog will finally be updated with articles and hopefully an interview on of the portfolio topics, plus new links--websites, blogs, and photo-agencies.

Thanks for reading; hope all is well in you part of the world.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009


It has been a long time since I updated my blog with thoughts or photos. I have actually been meaning to post photos from my trip to Hong Kong and Thailand from last year, and from other projects that I have been working this past summer. I keep asking myself, where does the time go? What I have been doing? WHAT! It is already January 09?

Since my last post, I have two friends pass away, one from cancer, 40, and the other from alcoholism, 26. Judy has been battling ovarian cancer for the past four years, maybe longer; she was the bravest person I knew. She was amazing through her struggle going through one chemo treatment after another, one surgery after another, and hanging on day after day. Her faith and hope that one day her body would be rid of the cancer was of such devotion that I believe this why she lived so long. When I spoke to her, she would always talk about the future, and how she will see her son graduate from high school, college, watch him grow, attend his wedding, grow old enjoy her grandchildren. Many of us wondered where her strength came from, and why she never surrendered; she never surrendered her will, it was her body that surrendered. And my dear cousin, 26, who had his whole future ahead of him, was taken away by alcohol. This came to a shock to all of his friends, and of course his family. It seems so senseless and preventable, yet he was overwhelmed by the addiction.

Since these two events have overwhelmed me the past few months of my life. One can't help at times about their own mortality along with the everyday rituals and pleasures of life and living, the unexpected surprises that your own children surprise you with, their innocence, and the blessings of the presence of a new life that I share with my good friend, who I have sense 14.

09' brings much hope, as Bush finally steps down as President, and as Obama takes his oath as our new President, in less the six days. With this change, I finally made the decision to create a new website, digging through 18 years worth of photography, and finally give them a new life, as I attempt my second life as a photographer.

I hope all is well in your part of the world . . .


Monday, September 1, 2008


A window into another world, unlike my own. On this particular day, I was walking around the city with Billy; things weren't going well photographically. I set up a photo session to photograph three woman and their children inside their home. When I arrived, I was greeted with kisses on the cheek, and a statement how I am always on time. However, by western standards, I was an hour late. Once I arrived, I was told that they did not have time for me to photograph today, and they were on there way, out the door, to visit a friend in the hospital. Moments prior to entering the three women's house, Billy ran into one of his friends; an intriguing journalist, and a beautiful woman, who is wise beyond her years, and just returning home from work. Billy suggested we pay her a visit. We sat for a while, in her lonely, modern, small apartment with no windows, lit only by two small lamps sitting on opposite sides of the couch, and the fluorescent light illuminating from the Hong Kong green kitchen. Sitting on top of the snow white, tiled stove was a tarnished espresso maker eroding over time. It is a one bedroom apartment, just the right size for one person, which is usually uncommon. She said her family is in another city, 13 hours Southeast, yet her work is here. She prepared us coffee, the staple in most homes, and prepared with little light, electricity, water, yet always with music. Eventually, we made our way to the roof, where another man resided; make shift walls, yet with windows. I spent the rest of the evening photographing from this location, watching the sun set, amongst the city of decay, but not despair. Not yet anyway. A city of hope found only in the decay; Un ciudad de esperanza.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


I spent part of my summer traveling and photographing. It is always bitter sweet returning home, to an unspoken familiarity. Once I arrive, automatically retreating to my darkroom, a place of refuge and quiet--a place where I spend many hours printing my black and white musings, as once described by a friend, who has long passed--I begin my work. We use to spend hours pouring over photographs; the variations of the prints, the intimacy of our stories, and what we went through to capture our images. The inherent act of being by one's self, traveling, and upon the return, processing the film, printing the images all in solitaire, and the unspoken loneliness. Prior to leaving for my trip, I met Larry Fink. A long time photojournalist, who said in his commentary, "Photographers / Photojournalists are so fucking boring. All they do these days is take their pictures with their digital cameras, go back to their hotel rooms, download, tone, and email their images to their editors, then go to sleep." He continued to explain the difference, "In my day, photojournalists were fucking crazy, they photograph, get drunk, go back to their hotel rooms, process their film, and Fed-X or wire our images to their papers. Some of them never wanted to miss the action, so we never slept." I can relate to this in some respects--not sleeping or missing anything due to the mystery of a place. Two films that give you a universally different perspective about being in the field is the documentary film, "War Photographer," about James Nacthwey. the other film, "Salvadore," (directed by Oliver Stone, 1986) is based on a true story about a photojournalist, who is photographing the war in El Salvadore during the 1980's. Although, my experiences are far more peaceful, they relate idea of what you go through in the process of capturing images, the emotions, the solitude, the physical extremes of your environment, and the nervousness of your film being damaged, destroyed, or confiscated by officials. Or in today's world the images being deleted by some official.

When I am printing my images, many different thoughts go through my mind. Sometimes it is nothing more than the buzzing of the electricity, only to be muffled by what ever song you're listening to, or figuring all the possible variations of how to print an image. Other times it is about the memory of capturing the image and everything transpired before and after the image was made. This images was taken in Tibet at Namtso Lake during the summer of 2004. I remember the months of preparation prior to this trip. Organizing the itinerary and the Visas. I first applied to for my Visas into China. Once there I spent eight days photographing in Shanghai and the surrounding area. From there, I traveled to Beijing, which I found to be a difficult place to photograph. However, I wondered onto an artist colony, where I photographed, we drank, and conversed about art and politics. The days were short there, and on my to Chengdu. Fortunately, at the time, I had a friend living in the city, who expedited the Visa process into Tibet. It is highly controlled region of China, The Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), in fear of foreigners inciting riots or passing out photographs of the Dalai Lama. If it weren't for my friend, I would have had to spend another four or five days waiting for my Visa to be approved to Lhasa. Once we arrived, I had to apply for more permits in order to travel anywhere outside of Lhasa. I had to indicate a specific and detailed itinerary that I was not allowed to stray from. It was difficult trying to decide where to go, or what would be the most interesting place to visit. I had a small lonely planet guide book, and only minutes to decide. It took four days before I would receive my permits and permission to travel to Eastern Tibet to an exotic lake and the magical Tsodzong Monastery. The guide book warned, "Eastern Tibet is officially forbidden to foreigners without a guide, private transport (normally a Land Cruiser) and a fistful of permits, including an Alien Travel Permit and a military permit. These can only be attained by the travel agency arranging your trip." Due to the complexity of traveling there I figure I would give it a shot. It is a beautiful yet a strange place to be. During this time we decided to travel to Namtso lake, since it was one of the few places foreigners could travel without permits. The experience driving there was unnerving due to the poor conditions of the road, and the overall weather. We arrived later in the day, and were scheduled to depart the next morning, yet because of the amount of time and energy it took to drive there, we decided to stay one extra day. The sun was setting, dark fell upon us quickly, and conditions grew harsh. The temperature dropped below 0 degrees fahrenheit or 32 degrees Celsius. We were confined to our camp due to the weather, the onset of snow in the middle of summer, and the pack mentality of the stray dogs. The night was spent with my head spinning, nausea, fever, and barking dogs. I slept well into the next morning, waking up in the early afternoon. I finally decided to explore the area with my camera. Photographing most of the day, the image that is shown in the image above, was taken as the sun was setting, after I had photographed a monk standing graciously in front of a shrine. This image was finally printed four years later, after another journey to the Caribbean--another place of harsh environments, physical extremes, the emotion of not wanting to return, and the dog days of summer--the emotion of everything that has transpired in past four years, and the events that transpired that evening prior to printing this image.

This image was printed at the same time as the image above, but taken a year later (2005), on an island off the caribbean coast. It was the morning after a festival, as the sun was rising. We were wondering around, hungry and tired, they saw a vendor on the street, selling leftover pieces from a roasted pig. The sun was bright and burning, the air was humid and unbearable. Our only sanctuary was our broken down rental car, being torn apart in pieces with each kilometer we drove, yet the air conditioner relieved much of our suffering. I was not sure what to make of this moment, the serendipity of the dog positioning itself between Wilson and the vendor. I photographed this image over several frames waiting for everyone to move into position. I was concerned about the intensity of the light, and photographing into the sun. This was the only the image that I made that day. The rest of the time was spent driving to another town, six hours east. We were stopped half there, and detained by officials for a good portion of the day. Searching through our stuff, hoping that they would not confiscate my film, a small bribe of Kentucky's finest, finally secured our release. A strange moment.

My baby, my beautiful baby, my angel. I printed this image the same night as the other two. A photograph three days after our baby was born, in peace, looking towards the light. She has been a joy since she was born, a true gift, and keeping me innocent from all my memories.

My darkroom, my refuge.