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Wonderful Machine Portfolio

Nov 18

In Thoughts at 11:10am

After 35 years of doing this, how do you sort out a portfolio? It’s beyond my ken, really. Especially after having spent most of my time pursuing a generalist bent, to say my work is all over the lot would be kind. A more accurate description might be that my physical files, not to mention the file cabinet of my head, are a bit like a nightmare basement straight out of Hoarders.

Throw into the mix that a lot of stuff is gone, languishing now in the bottom of some long ago agent’s filing cabinets, or physically dispersed over to a defunct European picture agency whose original founder might now be running a pizza parlor near the Spanish Steps. It’s a nightmare, like building an intricate model airplane without a blueprint or even rudimentary directions. Young photogs, be aware. Be careful with your imagery. I was not, overmuch. Moved too fast, and grew up a bit with a newspaper mentality–shoot it and move on. Yesterday’s paper, yesterday’s news. As Simon and Garfunkel counseled a long time ago, quite melodically, preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you.

Then top that off with my occasional, furious foray into the files to whimsically pursue and recover one of my “most favorite pictures.” This type of an adventure is usually prompted by an obscure thought, or a small news piece in the Times, or some such thing that rings a distant bell in my head, leading me to scour through stacks of slide pages, now cracked and stiff with age, holding remarkably fresh looking Kodachromes of a largely forgotten event that, certainly in my office, only I still attach any importance to. 

But, at the studio, everybody there is amazingly tolerant of these diversions. Even the young guys, who, as I tell them yet again about cranking the manual focus ring on a 1200mm lens as the first space shuttle ever launched dropped like a rock out of the sky towards Edwards AFB, restrain from rolling their eyes. I imagine they halfway suspect that in the middle of one of these tall tales from the field I’ll pull a plug of chaw out of my lower lip, turn and spit tobacco juice on the floor of the studio, and use terms like “By cracky!” or, “We sure got tuckered!”

Actually, the fact that we have a new book is due to the forbearance, logic and wonderfully respectful attitude all the gang at my studio brings to bear every day. We needed a new book, something fresh. I literally threw up my hands. Lynn, Lynda, Cali, Drew and Jon all pitched in to pull over 600 images from the files, and turn them over to Sean Stone and his wonderful colleagues at Wonderful Machine. Many are digital files, shot within the last couple years or so, spiced (hopefully) with vintage stuff. Sean and team sorted, collated, edited, and synchronized the look and feel of each of the spreads in the book. Online, PhotoShelter worked with us to present our new website in smooth and simple fashion, reflecting the new picture choices for the portfolio.

I am continuing to mine the archive, though, as a wonderful thing looms for us at the studio. The prestigious Monroe Gallery, which I’ve been fortunate enough to be represented by for many years, is giving me my first one man show, next October. One of the “hooks” for the show might be that my archive is represented by the use of lots of mediums, from the world’s only Giant Polaroid….

To an 8×10 film camera for Michelle Pfeiffer…


To a Iphone snap that went viral….. 

It’s been a long, strange and wonderful trip….more tk.


* A bunch of folks have asked us about the book design and the printing of our recent new portfolio. Scott Mullenberg of did the physical book, and did a great job. The prints were beautiful, done by Mark at He is our go to printer when we are overloaded and on the road. Epson papers and ink as always…..


Stephen Cupp says:

on November 18, 2013 at 11:37 am

I noticed there weren’t too many vertical shots in the book. Was that a conscious choice?

Ryan Cooper says:

on November 18, 2013 at 11:54 am

Fantastic selection of images, though I have to admit that I was surprised not to see the image you made of the telescope not making the cut. I always found that t be a really impressive image, especially considering the effort that went into making it.

Also, who printed the book for you? It looks fantastic!

Joe Ethridge says:

on November 18, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Bravo Joe!

By cracky!

Craig Larson says:

on November 18, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Love the images but also love previous versions with the back-stories.

JerseyStyle Photography says:

on November 18, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Love the book, Joe. That’s a effort by Team McNally, too. I can only imagine how hard it is to cull your work down into a few pages. You’ve probably forgotten about more great images than most of us will every shoot.

One complaint: Needs more Man In The Fedora…more noir… :-)

~ Mark

Nikolay Mirchev says:

on November 18, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Amazing portfolio!!! So much light, time, experience and people stories are gathered in this small book.

Adrian Robles says:

on November 18, 2013 at 4:26 pm

I would buy this in a heartbeat. Great job as always by Team McNally.

Jim Donahue says:

on November 18, 2013 at 9:39 pm

What size are those images in that porfolio.

Jim Donahue says:

on November 18, 2013 at 9:40 pm

I meant what is the print size

Peter Steiner says:

on November 19, 2013 at 6:13 am

Love your photos AND your writing! Not many photographers are interesting both visually and in words… :-)

Bill Bogle, Jr. says:

on November 19, 2013 at 9:34 am


With prints, they are tangible, but difficult to find, and easy to damage. Negatives and slides are more durable and can be reprinted, if you can locate them in the shoeboxes of time. Digital images can be easier. with the computer replacing the shoebox, the card box or the binder, but it presents much bigger long term issues. Electrical spikes, hard drive failure, viruses, theft, fire, plague (okay, I embellished that) can all lead to loss. Just recently a cyberthreat was published on thieves holding your files and computer hostage until you pay them for access to your own work. It takes much effort to protect the images, good and bad, to keep them viable in new programs, and safe and accessible. I would hate to see the future where no record of meaningful work is shown, as it was lost. (I keep thinking Woody Allen in Sleeper with the Nixon reference – guess I am too old). Digital asset management is becoming a new skill a photographer (or an assistant) must have.

Your portfolio is amazing. I wish I could see the show. Keep us informed as to the dates and particulars. As always, great work.

Bill Bogle, Jr.

Jason Yu says:

on November 19, 2013 at 9:44 am

you done amazing job!I love your porfolio!

William Chinn says:

on November 19, 2013 at 10:45 am

Your photography portfolio is truly uniques. It will always be the next assignment. All the stuff in the past is attached to the outstanding stories only you and the photos can tell about the who, why, and hows. I have heard you tell these stories throgh modesty and am always left wanting more. The traditional (if there is such a thing anymore) photojournalist captures a story that is spontaneously happening in front of the camera. You have the skills to setup the story, shoot the photo, and make us hang on every word describing who, why and how it was done. Again thanks.

Love Letters and g says:

on November 23, 2013 at 10:23 pm

Very nice topic .. Viewing already worth more than once

Karl Baker says:

on November 24, 2013 at 5:32 pm

Great photos Joe – I hope that guy is strapped on at the end?!

Kyle Durigan says:

on November 26, 2013 at 1:27 pm

I totally understand. I feel that as photographers, we all have our different stages. The early photogs throw on a 10x zoom lens and play the “run and gun” game. The older (and hopefully wiser) the more we return to the “think before we shoot” mentality that was used in the film days. Great post as always, Joe. Keep em coming. Who knows what you will get in to next.

Neil says:

on December 4, 2013 at 4:02 am

How do you decide what you are going to use. It’s like choosing your favourite child and then doing it over and over again. Great work!

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