Posts Tagged ‘portrait


Congratulations to Philip Levine, the 18th United States Poet Laureate

I met and photographed Philip Levine in 2001, when he was teaching poetry at New York University, where I was a grad student. Levine is one of my favorite poets. His books What Work Is and The Simple Truth are terse, readable monographs that use plain language strikingly.

In the classroom, Levine had a reputation as an honest — simetimes harshly honest — critic. When a friend of mine submitted a poem to his workshop for critique, several of her peers took turns praising one particularly beautiful line. Levine listened patiently to all the congeatulationd, then offered his own blunt assessment: “It’s a fine line,” he said. “Why don’t you put it in a poem?”

I asked Levine if I could photograph him, and he agreed, on the condition that it wouldn’t take long and wouldn’t be overly complicated. I followed him around the Village while he ran errands. We talked while I shot one roll (16 frames) of medium-format black-and-white film with my Contax 645. Here are a few of the resulting photographs of Philip Levine:

This image is available for license:

Levine succeeds W.S. Merwin as US Poet Laureate. The two men are both outstanding writers, each with a totally unique style. I had the opportunity to photograph Merwin in 2005:


Photo of Poet Dean Young in POETS AND WRITERS

Check out the Dean Young article in the November/December 2009 issue of Poets and Writers magazine. That little photo of Young was cropped from this image:

Poet Dean Young, from the creative writing faculty at UT Austin

Poet Dean Young, from the creative writing faculty at UT Austin

As is now common, the photo credit was buried deep in the gutter between pages. I don’t quite understand why the production staff for magazines think the names of photographers are so objectionable, and need to be treated like eyesores.


Texas Monthly

Here’s a screenshot from Texas Monthly (August, 2008) including my portrait of poet and memoirist Nick Flynn. I was surprised to come across this photo in TM–they ran it without communicating with me at all. I took the photo in 2001 during a trip to Provincetown, Massachusetts (I photographed Stanley Kunitz, Marie Howe, and Jason Schinder on the same trip). Nick liked the photo, and I was happy to let him use it as a book jacket photo for his second volume of poetry. I don’t think I signed away any broader rights to the image, but since 2002 it has turned up in several places (usually credited, at least).

I’m delighted to have one of my photos in Texas Monthly, which is known for good photography and good writing. But I’m surprised that a well-established magazine with a professional staff would run a photo without first securing permission from the photographer. I suppose I might be compounding the problem by running this screenshot on my blog without getting permission from TM

Tech specs? Contax 645 with 80mm f2 Carl Zeiss lens, Profoto monolight with large Chimera softbox.

Nick Flynn in Texas Monthly

Nick Flynn in Texas Monthly


USA Today

I made some portraits of Irish American novelist Colum McCann last year when he came to Austin to give a reading. His publisher (Random House) bought the rights to use one of the photos on the jacket of his new book, Let the Great World Spin. Subsequently, the photo has also been appearing alongside reviews of the new book, like this one in a recent issue of USA Today.

I’m not sure whether it was the book publisher or the newspaper that decided to crop off the sides of McCann’s face, but somebody (not me) decided he would look better with no ears.

I haven’t read the book yet, but his previous novels and short stories have been great, so I am eager to get my hands on this one.

Tech info: Contax 645 with Fuji C 220 film. 140mm f2.8 Carl Zeiss lens with Contax extension tube. Photographed with natural light.

My photo of author Colum McCann

My photo of author Colum McCann

July 2018
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