Photography As Theater – Vanity Fair Portraits: Photographs 1913-2008

Vanity Fair Photos

Most travel photographers work casually, keeping an eye out for the serendipitous or waiting for a mashup of subject, action and light in one magic “aha!” moment. Unlike Disney, I have never chased lemmings over a cliff or like Geographic, lit a cave with a thousand flashbulbs. My highest level of management is usually simply waiting for something to happen: for the light to change color and move across a landscape, or two tots on a teeter totter to teeter just right (the fat kid on top and the skinny on the bottom). Sometimes I anticipate a moment and prepare for it, rushing in front of an oxcart so it will line up perfectly with a temple when it passes by.

Vanity Fair Portraits: Photographs 1913-2008 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art  illustrates a different kind of art: photography as theater.


Ron Paul Country: Mongolia in California

Ron Paul Sign

California is, for the most part,Mongolia. Erase the coasts and the canals that suck water from the north to feed Big Asparagus and whiten the teeth of Valley Girls, it would be as desolate as the steppes of Central Asia. Driving throughthe high desert between Bakersfield and Las Vegas I note two landmarks: a graveyard for embalmed airliners, in permanent holding pattern at Mohave airport, and a shrine for Republican presidential
candidate Ron Paul. Paul is what is known as a Libertarian, a sect of American politics that wavers between admirably cranky conservatism and loco-weed lunacy: just right for the build-a-wall, save-the-republic denizens of this landscape of coyotes, cactus and bullet-riddled road signs.


Democracy and Debauchery


Oh, we Americans are a wild and crazy bunch: toiling hard and productively, spreading democracy by day…partying hard by night. Or is it partying day and night? According to a new report on travel trends, we Yanks are binge drinking, G-string snapping “debaucherists,” longing for the eternal spring break.


Robert Gumpertz



After years in New York and Paris drawing for Playboy, Paris Match, The New York Times, Penthouse and other publications he settled in Northern California where he is now “Artist in Residence” at O’Hanlon Center for the Arts in Mill Valley. He is best known around these parts as simply Gumpertz, the San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist for many years.


Lost in Tschotskiland: An Essay on Souvenirs and Crafts: Audio

Sedona, Arizona – Batik Paints, Bali

I am at the dump with a truckload of…STUFF: a rusty old Weber barbecue with a missing wheel, two CD players that cost more to fix than replace, a typewriter table (remember those?), old tax receipts, and souvenirs, boxes of worthless STUFF that is given or sent to me because I am a travel writer and therefore deemed an easy mark for bribery.

AUDIO STORY: Lost in Tschotskiland