Glyphs of Time :: a blog by jarvis grant

March 2, 2012

Red Tail Commander: Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Jr.

Lucasfilm's Red Tail Movie Poster

Lucasfilm's Red Tail Movie Poster. ©2011 Lucasfilm

There has been quite a bit of hoopla about the George Lucas movie, Red Tails. Much of the “controversy” is the idea of a white guy telling a black man’s story. The odd thing is that it has taken sixty nine years for somebody to tell the story of the Tuskegee Airmen in a major way. There is so much to recount about these guys, that it will take more than one telling to get it all out in a meaningful way. Actually, there are so many untold stories and myths about World War II and the participation of African Americans that have yet to told. But ya know, there’s something about the heroic romanticism of fighter pilots that is just hard to beat!

When I was a kid in high school, I was really into WWII aviation. I knew all the planes of the major players and of both theaters. The idea of  “living in fame or going down in flame” was  still exciting to a young man who knew nothing about the meaning of Life. But, hey I loved it. I also didn’t realize that I “never” saw one black face  in all the pictures  in the books I read  nor the movies I saw. With movies in particular, I never saw a heroic black man portrayed. Well that’s not totally true. I did see one in the Humphrey Bogart movie Sahara, Sergeant Major Tambul  played by Rex Ingram. Check it out.

When I graduated from Howard University in 1974, and was set on the path of “On Going Life Learning”, I ran into my first instance of the Tuskegee Airmen. My first thoughts were, “Man, why didn’t I know about these guys?!” Then I remembered, , “Oh yeah, that’s right, they were Black!” Out of sight and out of mind. Well I won’t dwell on that aspect of Americana, but I did find out about Benjamin O. Davis, Jr and his dad, Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., the first African American general in the US Army. The junior General Davis was the commander of the first all-black air unit, the 99th Pursuit Squadron. His service was stellar as a military commander, civil right activist, and statesman. The latter two aspects more covertly. Check out the link to learn more.

Okay, now it’s 1992 and Howard University is honoring the Tuskegee Airman with a special art exhibit and reception, honoring General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. So I’m thinking, one of my newly found heroes is coming to the building were I work! Really!? I got to get a real photograph. Not a snapshot, I mean a real portrait. Ya know, one of the things I learned as a Professor of Art at Howard University, is that if you want to really get something done, don’t ask permission to do it! Just do it. Okay, so on the day of the reception I setup an impromptu studio in the Art Gallery’s storage space, and waited for Gen. Davis. Man, I was really nervous. Now, I’ve photographed many famous people, but this was a personal hero, and an unauthorized event. I was pretty scared! The moment came when the General walk into the Gallery, low key and laid back. I approached him and asked for the opportunity of a quick shot and he agreed.  As I snapped away with my Hasselblad, I ran on hoping to impress with my knowledge of WWII aviation and the Airmen. He seemed to be amused by this “kid”. What a moment!

General Davis was a warm and  very charming guy. I can’t remember what I must have said when he fell into his warrior moment. I got it and present it now. Right after this exposure, he went back to his smiling charming self. Yet in that moment, I could hear the roar of those American North American P-51’s and  German Messerschmitt Bf 109’s and at the war’s end the Messerschmitt Me 262, the first combat jet aircraft.  Just think about it, those Black pilots flying and kicking ass in their prop (propeller) P-51’s against jets. Man oh man, those cats could really fly!

Well, here’s the shot of Gen. Benjamin Otis Davis Jr.. Thanks General for opening yet another door of opportunity, and being a hero on so many fronts. A real Ace!

Portrait of General Benjamin O. Davis retired

Portrait of the Commander of the "Red Tails", Benjamin O. Davis , Jr. ©Jarvis Grant


February 12, 2012

A Visit to Creative Clay Studios

The Kiln Gods @ Creative Clay Studios

The Gas Kiln Gods @ Creative Clay Studios

This weekend I visited the Creative Clay Studios located in Alexandria, VA with my friend and colleague, Terry deBardelaben. Terry had finished sculpting and bisque firing a rather large vessel and was taking her work to be glazed and fired at Creative Clay Studios. As stated on their web site, “Creative Clay Studios is Northern Virginia’s home for clay artists”. The space allows artists to use the space as they would their own studio while maintaining a larger inventory of all things clay than the average professional artist would be able to keep. Much like an open studio darkroom used to function back in the day. Creative Clay also is a place for artists at all levels, to learn different ceramic techniques and provides  a place of community for the ceramic artist working in the Washington DC metro area.

While I was there I met Ed Bull the founder of Creative Clay Studios. Ed loves fire! He is a Ceramic Fireman. While Terry and I were there, Ed was conducting a Valentine’s Couples Workshop. Pretty cool stuff! Couples taking the workshop create separate personal “gifts” for each other or work on a project together.  Anyway, Ed took great joy and pride  explaining how the Studio’s variety of kilns operate. He reminded me of the fact that there’s quite a lot of alchemy involved in the creation of ceramic art. The earth, water, assorted chemistry of color glazes all brought together through the magic elements of fire and timing. I really hadn’t heard that stuff since my days at University as an art student. It was fun to hear again. It was also cool to see Ed interacting with the professional artists that were in the studio. Conferring and interacting with them as colleagues and as Master Craftsman.

While at Creative Clay with Terry, I used the time to do impromptu documentation of her as she worked on this piece of artwork. I’ve been photographing and videoing her as she’s been working on her many projects. In fact, I was with her earlier that afternoon at her school were she provides Open Studio for her students at the St. Steven and St. Agnes Upper School. I was editing video I shot  at a workshop  she conducted about sustainability and making art. The Creative Clay Studio is a visually engaging  space. When she was finished working I told her I wanted to make a portrait of her in the space. Then Ed came back into the kiln room, and I asked him if I could photograph him too. I belive a got a couple of good environmental portraits of these two artists and I share them now with you.

Terry deBardelaben, Artist/Scholar

Terry deBardelaben, Artist/Scholar @ The Creative Clay Studios. ©Jarvis Grant

Ed-Bull, Artist & Founder of The Creative Clay Studios

Ed Bull, Artist & Fireman, Founder at Creative Clay Studios. ©Jarvis Grant




December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas! A little something from New York City

Filed under: Art History,Inspiration,Media — Tags: , , — Jarvo @ 8:35 pm

Merry Christmas everyone. Here is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol preformed as a radio play by the staff of WQRX New York’s classical public radio station and the staff of WNYC  news public radio station, recorded  live from the WQXR /WNYC Greene Space.

Here is the complete cast and crew lineup:

Artistic Team:
Elliott Forrest – director.
Arthur Yorinks – writer.
Fred Newman (Prairie Home Companion) – sound effects.
John Forster – composer/pianist.

Narrator – John Schaefer.
Ebenezer Scrooge – F. Murray Abraham.
Bob Cratchit – Jeff Spurgeon.
Child – Jalen Robinson (11-year-old student).
Nephew – Jad Abumrad.
Gentleman – Richard Hake.
Marley – David Garland.
Mrs. Dilber – Naomi Lewin.
Christmas Past – Nimet Habachy.
Young Scrooge – Elliott Forrest.
Fan – Naomi Lewin.
Fezziwig – Brian Zumhagen.
Belle – Lorraine Mattox.
Adult Scrooge – Elliott Forrest.
Christmas Present – Robert Krulwich.
Mrs. Cratchit – Celeste Headlee.
Belinda – Naomi Lewin.
Martha – Lorraine Mattox.
Peter Cratchit – Jad Abumrad.
Tiny Tim – Jalen Robinson.
Nephew’s Wife – Lorraine Mattox.
Businessman 1 – Richard Hake.
Businessman 2 – David Garland.
Miss Eliza – Celeste Headlee.
Undertaker – Elliott Forrest.
Old Joe – Brian Zumhagen.
Boy – Jalen Robinson.

The gravestone prop of Ebenezer Scrooge used in the 1984 film "A Christmas Carol" was left in the graveyard of St. Chad's Church, Shrewsbury, where filming took place. ©Howard Lake


December 22, 2011

Pledge Your Support for Citizens We

Filed under: Innovation,Inspiration,Observations,Photography,Video — Tags: , — Jarvo @ 3:53 pm

The Citizens We Project is a photographic portrait of the people in the neighborhoods of Adams Morgan & Mt. Pleasant in Washington, DC. The project consist of a collection of twenty to thirty 24 x 36 inch Black & White prints. These photographs will be exhibited throughout the neighborhood in storefronts and public places. They will also be exhibited as a collection of images in a traditional and online galleries. My project proposal request is for $5000.00. These funds will be used to acquire a 24 inch, wide format ink jet photographic printer and the exhibition support materials

The project is being hosted at United States Artist Projects website:

The Citizens We Project goal of $5000 must be reached by January 9, 2012
Go there to learn more about the project and support the project by pledging a tax deductible donation in any amount. Also, for your pledge of support there are several wonderful gifts. They are my way of saying Thank You for supporting me and helping to keep art alive in our community. Your tax deductible contribution in support of Citizens We will go a long way in affirming the powerful role multiculturalism plays in fostering a stronger and more beneficial society for all its citizens.


November 26, 2011

Guest Blogger – Terry deBardelaben: Zhang Chun Hong at National Portrait Gallery

Zhang Hong at the NPG in DC

Zhan Chun Hong at the National Portrait Gallery, ©Terry deBardelaben

I was struck by Zhang Chun Hongs’ presence and what appeared, at the time to be, a woman in “command of her gallery”.  Tall, statuesque, stately, demure, and stunning. Words that I would use to describe Zhang Chun Hong. I happened upon Zhang Chun when she was being physically prepped- surrounded by technicians, for her 2:00PM presentation at the National Portrait Gallery’s Portraiture Now: Asian  American Portraits of Encounter exhibit.

After briefly speaking with the artist before strolling with her to her space I found Jhang to be friendly and very engaging.  She broke the ice by approaching us – Jarvis Grant and I.  At the beginning of her talk she began telling a very classical story of migration and change.  Information about how the artist gave birth to her renown symbolic portraits …streaming charcoal drawings mounted on white scrolls, which give her work a commanding and stately traditional presentation.

Zhang Chun Hong, Artist with Terry deBardelaben at the National Portrait Gallery

Zhang Chun Hong and Terry deBardelaben at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery. ©Jarvis Grant

Zhang Chun Hong’s work, on the surface, appeared ultra feminine.  After all, hair— every girl’s nightmare, desire, obsession and preoccupation WAS the focal point.  Yet, while I gazed at the striking portraits…I began to think about the bombarding questions provoked by the –black streaming, long flowing meticulously presented hair. But also, I wondered about the artists’ hair-… (Zhang stands approximately six feet tall with hair reaching down to her thighs). The obvious questions pertaining to…hair maintenance, hair care, length of time it takes to grow hair that long, the process associated with washing  and drying extra long hair, etc. etc. And Oh, had she ever considered cutting her hair, do her sisters, mother and aunts have long hair?   I wondered why in some cultures hair is
“ associated with life force, sexual energy, growth, and beauty”.  Why people question the beauty of women with bald or shaven heads?   I found myself wondering whether or not Zhang Chun or Hong Zhang as she is known in the US was attempting to make some sort of feminist statement that went beyond the politics of hair.  Perhaps her motivation was more about the dominance of the physicality of hairs’ impact on culture, gender and tradition.  So-oo, when Hong Zhang began speaking, I hung on to her every utterance.

Her autobiographical work, visually communicated her story was yet conveyed in an extremely intimate setting conducive to the confines of the gallery space.  The portraits, wood flooring and small gathering lent itself well to creating an environ that complimented the artists words and story telling allure.  Hong Zhang was humorous- recanting funny vignettes about the impact of language and culture on her life.  She has a very interesting personal history about her artist DNA.  She and her twin were both painters, winners of art competitions and to some measure are predisposed to being artist since both parents are art professors.  Before she arrived in Atlanta from Beijing in 1996 with her twin sister, she attended boarding school. They ate their meals together and spent a considerable amount of time together. She is left-handed and her sister right.  Other boarders were always fascinated by how much they seemed like one person when they sat eating side by side – one using the left hand and the other the right.  It tied in perfectly with her triptych of herself, her twin and the older sister.  Mind you these sculpture like portraits exaggerate the length and flow of the dark illumination of the hair, which at times makes one feel as though they are in the presence of statues.  Statues with their backs turned only allowing the viewer to engage the posterior view of the hair –with the slightest suggestion of a head.  However the unmistakable visual dominance of the composition is the hair…each strand articulated with precise clean lines.

Hong spoke of her East/West triptych having both a Renaissance and Chinese presentation.  In traditional Chinese paintings Jhang said that his advisors always flank the emperor.  In Jhang Chuns’ triptych –her older sister has the center portrait, and like a traditional Chinese painting which depicts the military advisor to the emperors’ left she symbolically presented her hair twisted toward the because she often took on the role as the fighter-protecting and coming to the aid of her twin.

As Hong stood in front of each portrait she transformed the space with warmth and insight about her life.  The behind the scene story of her journey to this country and her constant reference to her work gave those in attendance a brief look at the artist as conveyed through her own lenses.

Terry deBardelaben,
Artist, Educator and Researcher

Jarvis Grant photographing Zhang Hong at the National Portarit Gallery, ©

Jarvis Grant photographing Zhang Hong at the National Portrait Gallery, ©Terry deBardelaben

Zhang Chun Hong, Artist

Zhang Chun Hong, Artist, ©Jarvis Grant


October 4, 2011

Photoshop’s Content Aware Fill: The Agony & the Ecstasy

When Adobe’s Photoshop CS5 was introduced, its biggest marketing ploy…uh I mean creative feature was Content Aware Fill. This feature allows you make a selection around some visual annoyance and like magic Photoshop will fill the selection with whatever is around or near the object in question. So if someone should walk in front of you while taking a photo, you can eliminate them using Content Aware Fill. Now in the old days of film, you would simple wait for a clear shot, but that’s so old skool!

So why Agony & Ecstasy? Some of you may remember that 1965 big budget film The Agony & the Ecstasy with Charlton Heston as Michelangelo and Rex Harrison: Pope Julius II. In a nutshell, The Pope wants sculptor Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling, while Michelangelo wanted to sculpt the Pope’s tomb. So because the Pope had the power, he made a sculptor paint! And on his back 50 feet above the floor! It’s the same old story, corporate demands against designer vision, the marketing department’s messages against the design department’s voice. What’s all this got to do the Content Aware Fill? Adobe’s marketing department pushes feature sets to the weakest or newest users of their flagship product, Photoshop. Pushing fetures that “fix” apposed to features that “create”. This content aware feature is powerful when used as a creative tool. Here’s one way.

In this example, I’ll use Fig.1. Normally, we would use the, Content Aware Fill (CAF), to get rid of some out of place element, like the building to the right. Here I’ll use the couple walking on the sidewalk. First, I’ll use the Quick Selection Tool to select the couple. Just a Note: CAF does not “create” content, it replicates content found near the selection. I choose the walking couple because they were on the grassy plane. I didn’t choose the person in front of the bus top because Photoshop would not be able to Create the missing segments of the bus shop. For best results, after the selection is made go to Select/Modify/Expand and choose about 4-16 pixels. When this is done Photoshop will compare those pixels inside of the selections border with those near the outside of its selection border. It will take that information and guess at what should be on the inside. Once we have the selection hold Shift/F5 to bring up the CAF dialog box (Fig.3), and click OK, and like magic, the couple is gone. Now, there’s always a little Stamp (Clone) Tool cleanup, but 90% of the work is done (Fig.4).

Okay, now when I took this photo, the subject was the sky and those beautiful lush clouds. I wanted the clouds that were near the horizon and didn’t want to lose them by tilting the camera higher. I then suddenly thought of CAF! Get rid of everything except the clouds. This should work great on an organic fractal pattern element like clouds. When I got back to the studio, I tried it and it worked like a charm Fig. #5 – #10. I simply selected the bottom of the image with the Lasso Tool and hit Shift/F5. I thought I was done because I just want some cloud pictures as elements with other photos., so I tried it again. This time I hit Ctrl +J (Cmd+J for Mac) and created a duplicate layer of the original shot. On Layer 1 I did that CAF magic. Now for fun, I made a layer mask (FIG.6) and brought back the person walking on the sidewalk along with their shadow. This looked natural because all the lighting was the same!

This was looking pretty good, but something was missing. The story was almost there, this person walking in the clouds needed a destination or something, so I added a Moon. This planet was made in Photoshop using Flaming Pear’s LunaCell plug-in filter. LunaCell creates instant planets. Fractal, reality-based, or start from scratch to make strange new worlds. I got a couple of atmospheric moon already and just added one using the Blend Mode of Screen.


By thinking of creating an image not fixing a photo, I was able to turn a gorgeous day in Washington, DC, from urban landscape into a Dreamscape. In part with the help and power of Content Aware Fill and a little personal vision.

The Dream Catcher

The final image with all of its new elements in place, ©Jarvis Grant

All images & rights. ©Jarvis Grant


August 24, 2011

The Jazz Photography of Francis Wolff

John Coltrane by Francis Wolff

John Coltrane by Francis Wolff during the recording of "Blue Train", ©Mosaic Images

During the 1950’s and 60’s Francis Wolff was the “official” photographer of Blue Note Records.  He was at every recording session making photographs. So as it turns out Wolff became the visual archivist of Blue Note Records. These sessions took place in the living room studio of Rudy Van Gelder. A fact that I find absolutely incredible! In a shot of Miles Davis between takes you can see some of the living room furniture and television. Amazing! You can check out the book, Blue Note Jazz Photography by Francis Wolff. This link is to the soft cover edition on Amazon.

To find out more, but not all, check out this video over at Mosaic Records were Michael Cuscuna speaks to the and about the Jazz Photographs of Francis Wolff.


August 22, 2011

Red River Paper Pro: Jarvis Grant

This past week I officially became a Red River Paper Pro. I have been using Red River Paper for about 10 years. It’s a great inkjet paper that comes in many varieties of surfaces, and sizes. I first started using the Premium 37lb Matte in 17×22 sheets and 17 in rolls for projects at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington DC. As a member of the Museum Studies department faculty, I choose this paper as an alliterative to Epson’s Enhanced Matte paper. First, because it was a lot cheaper than the epson stuff, and then I started to notice that the Red River paper didn’t turn yellow at the same rate that the Epson paper did. Then as papers were getting harder to obtain at local photography dealers, I decided to switch totally to Red River products.

OK back to me! When I saw that Red River had this pro section, I sent them an email to see how to be a member of the club. Drew Hendrix responded and gave me the details of the procedure. I sent the info and samples, and it was a go. I was then put in touch with  the editor, Arthur  Bleich. He made the final selection on the image to be used. He choose the image from the intro of the the Botanical Gallery of my web site. I offered another option, Three Black-eye Susans, but he wanted the image, Blowin’ Flower, because of its “elaborate” lighting and “action”. He was surprised that the dandelion picture wasn’t as elaborate a setup as he thought. I used a scanner to take this action shot!

So, please stop by the Jarvis Grant Red River Pro page and check it out. Thanks!

Three Black Eyed Susans

The image I waoffered as an option, "Three Black Eyed Susans", ©Jarvis Grant


Blowin Flower #4

The images used on my Red River Pro page, Blowin' Flower #4, ©Jarvis Grant


November 27, 2010

FotoWeek DC: Part 1-Master Photographers

My Portrait from FotoWeek DC

My Portrait from FotoWeek DC Man DC

Man, I’ve really gotten behind! FotoWeek DC was three weeks ago! Oh well, that how it goes, just been a little busy. OK, excuses aside, I really enjoyed myself, checking out some of the many wonderful events organized by the FotoWeek DC organization. What was also pretty cool, was I had just come back from New York and the PhotoPlus Expo events.  All in all, a fairly immersive time of photographic experiences. FotoWeek DC has been around since 2008. The first two years I’d missed pretty much everything because I was teaching over at the Ellington School of the Arts. I made sure that my students got involved with the Youth programing, but I was always stuck at the school doing some sort of incredibly forgettable, yet somehow important activity.  Being free of the averageness, and at times cowardliness, of art education which seems to be the norm over at DCPS, I could now reacquaint myself  with the world of photography that exist in Washington, DC.

There was a Big Bash launch at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, but being a creature of habit, I forgot all about it. So, I made it my business to really be on the lookout for the events I wanted to check out. I knew there was going to be a lecture by Bruce Davidson, so I confirmed that date in my head.

Bruce Davidson at the Corcoran Gallery of Art

Bruce Davidson at the Corcoran Gallery of Art

This was a free event at the Corcoran, but I didn’t realize I needed to register for it. I pushed myself to go any way and to stand in the long (yet unnecessary) standby line. The slide lecture  was typical Bruce Davidson. Lots of romanticized straight talk, illustrated with his great classic images. His newer work was somewhat different more landscape orientated. When asked about why is he making such a “dramatic” shift. His response was that; He had always been about capturing the soul or spirit of the subject or moment, and this is no different.

Bruce Davidson at the Corcoran Gallery of Art

Bruce Davidson at the Corcoran Gallery of Art during FotoWeek DC.

Then he also admitted, “ I don’t have to worry about model releases!” Another question was about the state of modern Street Photography. His response was, “All art is valid, if honest”, however, he had a problem with photographers “stealing” pictures of people. Davidson approach was always to ask, if possible, the subject permission before taking the shot. He also divulged his methodology for doing this.  At any rate for my first FotoWeek DC event it was inspirational to see and hear a master.

Joyce Tenneson at the Torpedo Factory

Joyce TennesonFactory The at the Torpedo Factory

The next night I went to see Joyce Tenneson, over at the Torpedo Factory’s Multiple Exposure Gallery in Alexandria, VA. One of the great things about living in metropolitan Washington, DC is the Metro Rail. As someone who doesn’t drive I have access to three states, Maryland, Virginia, and DC. All just a three block walk from my apartment. OK, so were Davidson gave the classic “slide lecture” Tenneson first showed a QuickTime movie about herself. The really intriguing thing about this was the narrative was by her from 30 years ago! To hear her talk about her future was a bit odd, in a time traveling sort of way. What was also interesting, on a personal note is that, we both stated our photographic lives in Washington, DC during the 1970’s, and lived in the same neighborhood of Adams Morgan. She went on to be the great Joyce Tenneson, and I stayed in DC, just a guy,  moving my quiet photo career forward. At any rate, the Q&A that came afterwards was insightful. She spoke about how her career has come full circle. She left DC for NYC to get her career as an artist going, and New York was the place to do that. Now she has left NYC and its frantic pace to get her career going by moving to the coast of Maine.

Joyce Tenneson at the Torpedo Factory

Joyce Tenneson at the Torpedo Factory's Multiple Exposure Gallery

The one thing I found very interesting was a comment Tenneson made about staying competitive and the state of mind of young/new photographers. She talked about that even with her track record, she still had to stay fresh. Almost in the same breath, she spoke of how her interns thought that working with her would be the fast track to their own success, but that it was really never the case at all. “Art school has become a business for collecting tuitions.  Students come out of art school with no clue about how to make a living!” The industry has a glut of creatives that ultimately don’t know how to create a life for themselves or create something new that the world needs.”  I am really glad to hear someone of stature finally come out and say that! There are so many new artists making bad art under the guise of being cutting edge. What a racket, but this topic must be left for another time. She also gave a brief slide show of her new personal work, flowers. They were quite beautiful. As she spoke about this work I could see how cleansing they were for her.

Diego Ortiz Mugica  at the Argentine Embassy

Diego Ortiz Mugica at the Argentine Embassy

A couple of days later a attended a lecture and gallery reception by Argentine photographer Diego Ortiz Mugica at the Argentine Embassy.  Diego studied with John Saxton and after that, began a personal project of photographing all of Argentina’s National Parks. American Photographic Artists, and Kaller Fine Arts sponsored this event as the pre-launch peak at Mugica’s new book, “The National Parks of Argentina”, which was officially released in Argentina a couple of weeks later. Like Tenneson, Mugica opted to show a movie of his work and career instead of a straight slide show. Mugica is established commercial photographer and photography teacher in Argentina. His photography workshops, PhotoTravels, are held in the city of Bariloche, were he lives. I have to say that Diego’s backyard is simply spectacular! Lakes mountains, man what a life.

Diego Ortiz Mugica  talks about his work

Diego Ortiz Mugica talks about his work

I know several Latino artist in Washington. I admire their authenticity. They are passionate and very romantic about their art. Diego is no exception. After the QuickTime presentation (which had English subtitles) he opened the session up for Q&A. There was an odd silence at first. American audiences seem to be caught off guard by authenticity! As the first questions surfaced,  he diplomatically dismissed some classic “techno” questions in favor of speaking to the art of seeing and the art of communicating emotion. He also spoke to the photographer’s commitment of the process of “clicking the shutter”. To getting to the scene, finding the “light”, and then being technically savvy to know what to do with it once you have the moment or I guess “are in the moment”. A couple of people in the audience asked him, when was he going to start a similar project in the USA? His response was “Why? That’s you guy’s job! My job, now, is to invite you to come to my home, Argentina”.

At the Argentine Embassy Gallery

Mugica’s photographs at the Argentine Embassy Gallery

After this Q&A, we all went upstairs to the gallery. There he talked about the prints he made. It was a mix of silver gelatin and digital (laser & pigment). His printing method of choice was silver. The digital images were the larger ones. Yet they were all consistent in look and feel. As with his talk in the auditorium, he would slip into techno stuff very little. He opted to instead speak to the “Decisive Moment”. Hearing the story behind the making of his images  was fun to listen to. I seldom use the word “fun” to describe art talk! It was a wonderful evening and it was also interesting seeing the new APA at work. Making the name change from, Advertising Photographers of America to American Photographic Artist was a good move. I think it will grow it’s membership. There are many fine art photographers who know little about the business of photography or how to take charge of managing their careers. Plus APA does great advocacy work on the behalf of photographers. It’s really unfortunate that artist in other media don’t have an organization like APA.

Randy Santos and son Brādy

Washington DC photographers, Randy Santos and his son Brady Santos at the Argentine Embassy.

Diego Ortiz Mugica and Mike Olliver

Diego Ortiz Mugica and APA-DC Co-Chair, Mike Olliver


October 10, 2010

John Harrod and Friendship House

John-Harrod1 copy This weekend I attended a Life Celebration for one of Washington, DC’s strongest arts and community advocates/activists, John Harrod. I first met, John Harrod when I was a very young photographer, still attending Howard University around 1972.  While I’d been a “working” photographer for about a year and a half, I was for the most part, cloistered in the world of University. My photography professor told me about a possible job teaching kids photography in SE Washington, DC. I was excited about the opportunity  to do anything related to photography that was off campus, so I went over to Friendship House to meet John Harrod, not knowing what to expect.

As I remember it, Friendship House was a large, grey, three story Victorian house. Inside was a children’s community center, an after-school and weekend place for kids in the neighborhood to get off the streets and “hangout”. Little did those kids realize that they were being tutored and educated on how to be productive and pro-active members of their local, national, and global communities. That was John Harrod’s style. Well I got the job. Little did I know at the time that I was now being tutored on being an arts educator. I really loved the job, and the kids were great. There was, however, a “senior photographer” there, and being a young and quite naive photographer, I was ready to learn  all I could from him. Man this guy raked me over the coal at every opportunity! Plus. he love to do this in front of kids.

OK, I figured I could handle this treatment, but I really couldn’t. One day after a pretty grueling day at work in the University Medical Center photography lab (Then Freemans Hospital), I went over to the “House”. There was no Metro back then, so the bus ride from NW to SE Washington during rush hour was long. Oh yeah, and to was summer! When I finally arrived the kids were there ready to go, and so was the elder photographer. Man, he jumped all over me for being late. Well, my head was hot, and my fuse was short, I let them have it, and I stormed out of there vowing never to return. That night I got a call from Mr. Harrod. He told me to please come in the next day so he could talk with me. That was his style too. Always face to face with matters he felt were of importance.

OK, so I go to see him, and I get my first lesson in real world diplomacy. Mr. Harrod tells me that he “needs” me for his photo program to grow with new and fresh ideas. He then gives me the history of the other photographer and why he needs him and why the other guy needs the program. The other photographer, who for me at twenty something see him as a elder, help to build the program from the ground up. It is his way of giving back to his community. Remember this is a time not even ten years from the formal end to segregation nationally, and DC was still a city very much segregated. This was his domain. OK, I got it. I see the big picture, that all this really has nothing to do with me. It really doesn’t have anything to do with photography! It all about community building and neighborhood preservation. So, from that moment on, I didn’t need to check my ego at the door because I left it back at my apartment.

Things went very smoothly after that talk. I apologize for my behavior to the photographer in front of the kids, with John Harrod standing in the wings. Man, that was hard to do, but in the end it was well worth it. It wasn’t until some years later when I was giving that very same talk John Harrod gave me, to a young student photographer of mine, that I realized something. Mr. Harrod had also given that talk to the other photographer too! Man he was good. What a diplomat.

John Harrod was in his thirty’s when I first met him. He was still an older adult to me, and I was brought up to call people “Mister”. He wanted me to call him John, which took a little getting use to. Today I think of him as an elder statesman who was working on the front lines. He showed me why education was so very important, and if I could teach, I should teach. During his Life Celebration I thought, “Man, every student I ever had owes a lot to my first education mentor, John Harrod and my experiences at Friendship House.

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