A sad week

Another week of people passing away.

Last Sunday Allan Toussaint passed away in his hotel room in Spain. He was a major talent, who mostly flew under the radar. But for anyone who ever saw him perform (or met him), he was a wonderful guy and an amazing producer and songwriter.

Allen Toussaint_023


Among the many hits he wrote were:

Mother In Law

I Like It Like That

Fortune Teller

Working In a Coal Mine

Yes We Can Can

Play Something Sweet

Southern Nights

A Certain Girl

Sneaking Sally Through The Alley

That in itself is a “Greatest Hits” of soul music!!

As a producer, he wrote and produced “Right Place, Wrong Time” for Dr. John and “Lady Marmalade” for Labelle, among many others.

During his concerts he would play all of the above, always with a big smile on his face. He will be greatly missed.


On another note, Randy Rhoads mother Delores passed away this week at the age of 95. She was a tireless promoter of her son, and kept his name and vision alive after his death. I always appreciated the classy way she protected his legacy, and always tried to follow her lead with the licensing of my pictures of her son.

Ozzy Osbourne and Randy Rhoads on January 24th, 1982 Chicago, Illinois United States January 24th, 1982 Photo by Paul Natkin/WireImage.com

And one more sad story:

Phil “The Animal” Taylor, longtime drummer of the band Motorhead, also passed away this week. I will never forget picking up the band at their hotel, and taking them, (for reasons I still can’t remember) to McDonalds for lunch. Hilarity then ensued, and some of my best pictures were taken!!!

Motorhead on 5/22/82 in Chicago, Il. (Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

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More video!!!

As my photo career dwindles to nothing, I have continued to learn more about the world of video. I have started another series of short interviews, this time a series about blues people in Chicago- both performers and behind the scenes people. The first four can be found here, with many more to come (I am doing 4 more interviews in the next two weeks). My third series, subject matter being farmers and chefs, will be posted next week and will continue to grow!

Comments are welcome, as are suggestions!!


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The end has come!!

The end of the world of photography has finally arrived!!

Just saw an ad for a Panasonic Lumix camera. Here is what the ad says:

That moment. That once in a lifetime miss it if you blink millisecond of perfection.

Your phone will miss it  Your DSLR will miss it.  Your eye will miss it.

Never miss it again!

Record 4K Video   Pause on any frame   Print in high resolution.

So as I see it, you shoot video, find a good frame and make a still file out of it. Forget waiting for a moment. Just shoot everything and figure it out later!!!

From their website:

Print ready high resolution 8.8 megapixel still frames can be recorded during video capture, making future proofed Hybrid Photography a reality for any photographer. [4096×2160 – 8.847MP.

So the images won’t really be reproduction quality for print, but fine for web use, which is where most of the photography today is being used. Soon they will ramp up the quality, and there goes photography down the drain!!

Oh well, that is how most photographers shoot these days anyway. When I go to a concert and hear cameras clicking as fast as the performers are moving, it is obvious that people are shooting hundreds and hundreds of JPEG’s and picking the one they like when they get home. This isn’t much different!

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Race relations

During the travels for our soul food book, it was very troubling to see the Confederate flag flying over Mississippi almost everywhere we looked. It was especially enlightening to have lunch with and interview and photograph James Meredith in Jackson, Mississippi. Mr. Meredith was the first African American to enter the University of Mississippi (in 1962). He described fighting a war for his entire life and only winning one battle. Photographing him outside the restaurant was one of the highlights of my life.

James Merideth_0008

The issue was brought to the attention of America again in Charleston, S.C. on June 17, 2015, when a young man murdered 9 churchgoers trying to start a race war. Among the many outcomes of this event was the removal of the Confederate flag from the capitol building in South Carolina.

This week there is an amazing article in the ESPN Magazine written by Keise Laymon, an African American man from Mississippi who went down to his home state to write about race relations and football on a grant from a foundation set up by the author John Grisham, another Mississippi resident and an outspoken civil rights activist. The subtitle of the article is:

“Seven weeks in Mississippi in search of the allure of football, the stains of the Confederacy and the meaning of honorable change.”

 In the article he talks about seeing confederate flags on pickup trucks and Prius’s. He talks to an artist named Skip Coon, a native of Jackson, who says:

“They can change the flag all they want. It’s a false solution. It’s also what black people have always gotten. We ask for equality- we get integration. We ask for freedom- we get reconstruction. They can change the flag and my material reality won’t improve one bit.”

 I remember standing in downtown Montgomery, Alabama, at the corner where Rosa Parks waited for a bus, and reading a marker memorializing the building where Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as the president of the confederacy- and another marker describing a building where slaves were “Stored” before they were sold on the auction block (right across the street from Dr. Martin Luther King’s church).

So, have we gotten anywhere in this world? I really don’t know. We have a black president, who did a pretty good job. We have a woman as the front runner in the Democratic race, and a black man in the Republican race. Maybe change can come, but I am not so sure.

I remember walking through the streets of Birmingham, Alabama in 1989 with my friend Vernon Reid, the lead guitar player for the band Living Color, and he said something that I will never forget:

“When I wake up in the morning, and look in the mirror, I see a black face. When you wake up in the morning and look in the mirror, you see a white face. That will never change.”


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More commercials!!

It is very disconcerting to see Bob Dylan sitting down to have a discussion with an IBM computer! And then have the computer offer to write a song with him. Luckily he walks away from that!! And so continues my world of watching bands sell their songs to corporations.

Some are kind of funny. Europe sells “The Final Countdown” to Geico, and plays in a company lunchroom while fat middle aged ladies nod their heads and tap their feet to the tune. The band makes fun of their rock star image, and the song fits perfectly with the commercial, even though the band looks like they haven’t aged well.

And then there is the band X-Ambassadors. They sold a song to Jeep, and it plays on television about every 15 minutes!! Way more airplay than they could ever get on the radio (even though I hear it quite a lot on the radio these days. So they have a hit, and probably drive around in free Jeeps? Way to use the system.

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Been watching a lot of TV these days. GO CUBS. I am noticing a crazy trend. The bands who historically stood for something are selling their songs for commercials in record numbers.

The most egregious is a Day’s Inn spot using the Clash song “Should I Stay or Should I go.” Joe Strummer must be rolling around in his grave every time the image of a salesman adjusting his toupee in his hotel room mirror comes on the screen with the song playing in the background. Sad!!!

The ones that seem to be on the most are the GMC truck ad with the Who’s “Emimance Front” in the background. Also the Designer Shoe Warehouse ad with “Who Are You?” as the background music. Guess the Who needs the money.


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Our book is finally out!!

Yesterday marked the release of Dave Hoekstra’s book (with photos by me) called “The People’s Place: Soul Food Restaurants and Reminiscences from the Civil Rights Era to Today”   Amazon link here!!

We celebrated at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans with a meal cooked in their restaurant with recipes from the book and an exhibit.

A good time was had by all!!

On the flight home I was reading an email from a publicist regarding an actress named Ruby Rose (Orange is the New Black) who had done an interview and photo shoot for a magazine called The Untitled Magazine. Her publicist emailed the magazine to say that “She looked incredible. We are thrilled and excited to see the final edit.”

The publicist then became concerned that the clothes she was wearing were too revealing!

Shouldn’t the basic rule of thumb be as follows:

If you look down and see your boobs, tell the photographer you don’t want to wear the clothes!! (Unless you want people to see your boobs!!)

I once did a photo shoot with an artist who arrived looking beautiful, wearing a nice red jacket and black pants. She asked to go to the bathroom to check her makeup and returned five minutes later with red streaks (to look like blood) running down her cheeks. I asked her if that is how she wanted to be photographed and she said, “Of course- that is why I painted this stuff on!”

So a month later, the photo appeared in a magazine and I received an angry call from her manager. Nothing I could say to him made him feel any differently, and I never got to photograph any of his bands again.

I think this world need some better communication!!!!

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The latest issue of Time Magazine has an interesting take on the world of photojournalism. It concerns a Turkish photographer covering the refugee crisis in her country. She came across a young child lying face down in the water on the shore of a lake, having drowned trying to escape Syria with his family. She took pictures as an aid worker picked the child up and carried him away. When she came across the child, she “was petrified,” she told the Dogan News Agency, the organization she works for. “The only thing I could do is make his outcry heard.”

Time goes on to explore the image, saying that the most important attribute of the image is – a sense of absolute authenticity.

They go on to say “The photojournalism community has been increasingly embroiled in a controversy over what degree of digital editing is and is not permissible.”

The article ends with this quote: “The thing about this photograph is that it is impossible to forget once you’ve looked at it. Even if you shut your eyes immediately, it’s too late. The image is with you. It will remain in your memory forever. And that is what gives photography the power to change events.”

Sure makes what I do pretty trivial!!!

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A nice sentiment from yesterday’s Farm Aid concert

Farm Aid

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LeBron James

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a lack of social consciousness by the athletes of our world. This week I read an article in the ESPN Magazine that sort of changed my mind (a bit). Howard Bryant wrote:

Michael Jordan has never been known for a single courageous social act. Jordan recently sued a defunct supermarket chain and won $8.9 million dollars over an advertisement that reportedly yielded all of $4.00.

LeBron James, on the other hand, recently pledged $41 million dollars to partner with the University of Akron (his hometown) to send as many as 2,000 at- risk Akron kids to college. It is noted in the article that a kid from a poor upbringing has almost no chance of going to college, unless he has an amazing fastball or jumpshot.

LeBron also was one of the first basketball stars to wear an “I Can’t Breath” T-shirt on the court during warmups of a nationally televised game.

I have always tried to do what I can to help people that didn’t grow up in privilege like I did. It is nice to see someone who can actually make a difference do so, too.

I recently did a series of interviews concerning farm issues. I interviewed a young man who learned how to grow food while in jail, and now is the head farmer on the largest rooftop farm in the country. It is good to see that things are happening in a grass roots way to make the world a better place.

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