Japan / part 4

Some final, overall thoughts on my trip to Japan.

What I did not mention in this blog was that I was invited there to help celebrate a big birthday for a dear friend and Chicago chef, Rick Bayless. It was a surprise so I did not tell many people of my plans to travel there. The trip had a very strong food component.

The Tokyo portion of the trip was very carefully crafted by Deann Bayless and chef, sommelier, journalist, restaurant consultant and author of Food Sake Tokyo, Karla Yukari Sakamoto, who accompanied us thru out the trip. She was FABULOUS in her knowledge, grace, and guiding abilities.

THE ESSENCE OF THE TRIP...for me, was experienced  in a ryokan (guest house) in Kyoto and at the final lunch at Ginza Kyubey in Tokyo (see earlier post of my visual journey thru Wabi Sabi Japan).

There was a NYT article on the ryokan we stayed at, Japanese Traditions Ancient Kyoto. The moment I walked in I felt a calm state of peace and harmony wash over me. EVERYTHING from that experience was like a perfectly orchestrated ballet. I took a few photographs from the kaiseki dinner and other meals that were served in the room. Every course was exquisite in its presentation and tastiness. Many "firsts" were had at the dining table.

the most delicious sukiyaki EVER!
" If you don't speak the language of the country you are visiting, a good way to access its culture is thru the food and the music." Rick Bayless 

Melons sell for hundreds of dollars...the entire plant is sacrificed for the one promising melon which is nurtured over many months...the skin of these melons is unlike anything I have ever seen in the states.

 We experienced traditional Japanese meals, including .......

A Yakitori dinner, a Tempura lunch,  Unagi lunch, a Tonkatsu dinner, Kaiseki dinner (please purchase Yukari's book for more information, like what the 5 elements are of EVERY MEAL).

 Unagi lunch
Unagi (Anguilla japonica) is freshwater eel and a traditional cuisine of Tokyo. It is butterflied, steamed, and then grilled over charcoal and served over a bed of rice. 
 Soba Dinner
The soba master at Nigyō is highly respected for his handmade soba noodles.
A visit  to Nancy Singleton Hachisu’s farm. Nancy is the author of Japanese Farm Food. 
barrels of miso being cured in her backyard....

 vinegar tasting
 wasabi being prepared for the salmon roe dish

  Ginza Kyubey 
 the city’s celebrated sushi restaurant that exemplified the Japanese aesthetic in every detail of the experience
The decor was drop dead beautiful, exquisite sushi, service...all 5 senses were covered. 
This meal / experience was not just spectacular, it was heavenly. 

I just finished watching several episodes of The Mind of the Chef, with David Chang traveling to Japan to learn more about food.  The following  quote sums up the experience for all visitors, not just chefs.... "It's impossible for any cook, any chef to visit Japan, be exposed to the impossibly fetishistic appreciation of the ingredients, the perfectionist approach to technique, the mind boggling sheer volume of good stuff to eat, without being changed forever---- You leave Japan a better cook or you give up cooking altogether. Japan tends to focus the mind in wonderful new ways, refining, stripping away what is unnecessary."

Tsukiji Fish Market / Tokyo / Part 3

The Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market (東京都中央卸売市場 Tōkyō-to Chūō Oroshiuri Shijō?), commonly known as the Tsukiji Market (築地市場 Tsukiji shijō?), is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world and also one of the largest wholesale food markets of any kind (most of text is from Wikipedia)
 4am departure from hotel to view the market

 The market handles more than 400 different types of seafood from cheap seaweed to the most expensive caviar, and from tiny sardines to 300 kg tuna and controversial whale species.[3] Overall, more than 700,000 metric tons of seafood are handled every year at the three seafood markets in Tokyo, with a total value in excess of 600 billion yen (approximately 5.9 billion US dollars on November 24th, 2013). The number of registered employees as of 25 January 2010 varies from 60,000 to 65,000, including wholesalers, accountants, auctioneers, company officials, and distributors.

 Particularly impressive is the unloading of tons of frozen tuna. The auction houses (wholesalers known in Japanese as oroshi gyōsha) then estimate the value and prepare the incoming products for the auctions. 
 The auctions start around 5:20 a.m. Bidding can only be done by licensed participants. 

The buyers (licensed to participate in the auctions) also inspect the fish to estimate which fish they would like to bid for and at which price.
 These bidders include intermediate wholesalers (nakaoroshi gyōsha) who operate stalls in the marketplace and other licensed buyers who are agents for restaurants, food processing companies, and large retailers.

 market from above

The auctions usually end around 7:00 a.m. Afterward, the purchased fish is either loaded onto trucks to be shipped to the next destination or on small carts and moved to the many shops inside the market. There the shop owners cut and prepare the products for retail. In case of large fish, for example tuna and swordfish, cutting and preparation is elaborate. Frozen tuna and swordfish are often cut with large band saws, and fresh tuna is carved with extremely long knives (some well over a meter in length) called oroshi-hōchōmaguro-bōchō, or hanchō-hōchō.

 processing tuna / slips of paper above are orders from restaurants

The Tsukiji fish market occupies valuable real estate close to the center of the city. Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara has repeatedly called for moving the market to ToyosuKoto,[12] with construction of the new market to begin in 2013 for completion in 2014.[13] The new location has been criticized for being heavily polluted and in need of cleanup.[14] There are plans to retain a retail market, roughly a quarter of the current operation, in Tsukiji.[13]

The Great Adventure / Japan Part 1

Having just returned from a great adventure, I decided that this blog would be a great place to share some of the inspiration that I received from my latest trip to Kyoto and Tokyo, Japan. I am short on time but keep thinking about all the amazing experiences I had so will try to share....

Not sure if you are familiar with term Wabi Sabi, but there is a wonderful book, Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers that you can find on Amazon.

The Japanese view of life embraced a simple aesthetic
that grew stronger as inessentials were eliminated
and trimmed away.
-architect Tadao Ando

"Pared down to its barest essence, wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. It's simple, slow, and uncluttered-and it reveres authenticity above all. Wabi-sabi is flea markets, not warehouse stores; aged wood, not Pergo; rice paper, not glass. It celebrates cracks and crevices and all the other marks that time, weather, and loving use leave behind. It reminds us that we are all but transient beings on this planet-that our bodies as well as the material world around us are in the process of returning to the dust from which we came. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace liver spots, rust, and frayed edges, and the march of time they represent."

Here are a few visuals that I found really inspiring. Not sure how they will be incorporated into my work...will need to wait and see.

Deborah Luster ~ Tooth for an Eye

One of the many pleasures of New Orleans is the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. The photography curator and artist in his own right , Richard McCabe, has produced some stunning shows in the last few years. Most recently is the Tooth for an Eye : A Chorography of Violence in Orleans Parish by Deborah Luster. The exhibit took my breath away in its depth and breadth of handling the difficult and painful issue of violence in our cities. This is very important work and incredibly well done. 

Grid of Deborah's photographs at the Ogden

Gun violence is a subject that I once entertained exploring but did not have the stomach for it. As an alternative  I decided to start a blog to document daily shootings "In My Backyard."  After two days I had to stop as it was too disturbing to start my day knowing who died and where the most recent act of violence occurred. I am deeply grateful to Deborah for creating this body of work that so eloquently discusses a very dark side of the human condition.

In Deborah's words...

"With a homicide rate nearly ten times 
the national average, New Orleans stands today, as it did as far back as the 1850"s as the homicide capital of the United States." 

"TOOTH FOR AN EYE:A CHOROGRAPHY OF VIOLENCE IN ORLEANS PARISH is a project that attempts to take a very close look at something that no longer exists - an invisible population - in the only way in which one can approach such things, obliquely and through reference. The result is a photographic archive documenting contemporary and historical homicide sites in the city of New Orleans and is as well, an exploration of the empty, dizzying space at the core of violence."

"The images that populate the archive were collected with an 8x10 Deardorff field camera. The exposures in these photographs are long, and much of the action-mechanical, botanical, and human -is rendered as spectral blur, a physical representation of time like some isotropic fog, depth without defined dimension."

"Chorogrpahy is a form of geography that describes the inherent attributes of a place. These attributes may be physical, sociological, conceptual, metaphysical, or sensory. Tooth for an Eye not only documents sites where violence has occurred, it also finds itself documenting the city's physical loss as her unique material culture crumbles and transforms following generations of political failure. Many buildings that served as backgrounds for violent death have disappeared since they were photographed for this project."

 "In the atavistic culture of New Orleans, so alive with the historic, symbolic, and sensual, there exists a porousness between the worlds of the living and the dead, where time bends and flows, and neither world lives or dies free of the other's space or influence."

 These portholes have color video, one for family and one for friends...underlining the fact that many lives are at stake here,  not just those of the victims or the perpetrator.

You can check Deborah's website to see where else the work has been exhibited.
Deborah's book, Tooth for an Eye, is available on Amazon.


I am very pleased to be included in this international photography festival, Noorderlicht, which takes place annually in the Netherlands. 115 photographers from 36 countries will be shown at "Terra Cognita, an exhibition about the relation between man and nature. How do we experience nature, and what is its value for us? Our romantic longing for pure nature is diametrically opposed to the practical desire to control the world and cultivate it. "

This is a mock up design display for the work which will be presented outdoors. 
My Burn pieces will be blown up to 30" x 30" and printed for outdoors. 
I am leaving shortly for the Netherlands to attend the opening festivities.
So fun!
© Toni Hafkenscheid
Father and Son at Grand Canyon 2007

Nature, Toni Hafkenscheid tells us, almost always comes across as artificial. It is as if it has been transplanted directly from the model railway he has as a child. Hafkenscheid associates the North American landscape with the trees of cotton wool and cardboard mountains through which his trains used to run. In CONFABULATION he tries to give the real the appearance of artificiality. For that he uses  tilt-shift lenses, which, because he uses them the ‘wrong way around’, offer him the possibility of having only a small slice of the landscape in sharp focus, leaving the rest of the image fuzzy.

More information on the festival can be found HERE.

Special Places

I am about ready to head out to a special place that I have been visiting for the past 35 years. Every summer I make my pilgrimage to a remote location in Northern Wisconsin where I am able to dip into nature. Every year I bring my camera and am surprised by  new discoveries. It reinforces my thought that the longer you spend with your muse, the deeper the work becomes. 

I thought it would be fun to share some of the images I have made over time.


Baja California ~ A Revelation

I just returned from the annual Frontera Grill Staff trip to Baja California. This was a first for me and I had no idea what to expect. Rick Bayless, the amazing, awesome and inspirational chef extraordinaire, has spent a lot of time exploring the area for his PBS show, One Plate At A Time. It was a fantastic trip. Here are a FEW of the highlights. I only wish I could recreate a tasting of the wines and foods for you!
Rick was presented a gift from the Baja wine growers

Adobe Guadalupe Vineyard

This area has many vineyards and each has its own character. We had many wine tastings and learned how the soil and the preparation of the wine influences the final product. There is so much to learn and so little time!


Chef Miguel Angel Guerrero's grilling pit...this meal was the best lamb I have ever tasted in my entire life!

The bottomless tequila container soaking with 50 year old snake 


Mercado El Popo

Local fishermen catching oysters, mussels and clams in sustainable aquaculture

 Eriza / Sea Urchin and Barnacles
Culinary Art School in Tijuana

Casa Piedra where all the buildings are made of recycled materials

Summer Limited Edition Prints From Photo Center NW

Dear Friends,

The Photo Center NW is offering a limited edition of Burn No. 56 to benefit the Photo Center NW.
This is the ONLY place that this print will be available for purchase.

Burn No. 56
Thinking about starting a photographic collection? This is a great way to start!
It is a wonderful, vibrant community arts center. 
Click HERE to learn more about it!

 I am heading to Baja California for the annual Frontera Grill Staff trip. Will be eating lots of fish tacos and photographing....seafood?

Have a great 4th of July!

Nina Katchadourian

I have been traveling a lot this month so thought it appropriate to introduce the work of Nina Katchadourian. Her creativity is inspirational and hysterical. I love thinking of her making these images in the tiny bathroom lavatories as she is flying thru space.

Seat Assignment: Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style

In her words...

Improvising with materials close at hand, Seat Assignment consists of photographs, video, and digital images all made while in flight using only a camera phone. The project began spontaneously on a flight in March 2010 and is ongoing. At present, over 2500 photographs and video, made on more than 70 different flights to date, constitute the raw material of the project.

 While in the lavatory on a domestic flight in March 2010, I spontaneously put a tissue paper toilet cover seat cover over my head and took a picture in the mirror using my cellphone. The image evoked 15th-century Flemish portraiture. I decided to add more images made in this mode and planned to take advantage of a long-haul flight from San Francisco to Auckland, guessing that there were likely to be long periods of time when no one was using the lavatory on the 14-hour flight. I made several forays to the bathroom from my aisle seat, and by the time we landed I had a large group of new photographs entitled Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style. I was wearing a thin black scarf that I sometimes hung up on the wall behind me to create the deep black ground that is typical of these portraits. There is no special illumination in use other than the lavatory's own lights and all the images are shot hand-held with the camera phone. At the Dunedin Public Art gallery, the photos were framed in faux-historical frames and hung on a deep red wall reminiscent of the painting galleries in museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Improvising with materials close at hand, "Seat Assignment" consists of photographs, video, and digital images all made while in flight using only a camera phone. The project began spontaneously on a flight in March 2010 and is ongoing. At present, over 2500 photographs and video, made on more than 70 different flights to date, constitute the raw material of the project. 

Nina's website has many interesting projects to explore. The site of a creative mind.

I will be traveling for the next week and a half...thinking more about what is possible when in transit.
Stay tuned!

The Rebirthing of Detroit

I was at a fabulous neighborhood pizzeria, Union, when the owner, Steve, began talking about Detroit with such passion that it resulted in a weekend visit. The city is a sight to behold. You can feel the former grandeur with its 8 lane boulevards crossing much of the city which was once  the former car capital of the world. The museums, especially the Detroit Institute of Arts was worth the trip alone. The Diego Rivera mural was breathtaking, as were the other collections.

I was so impressed with the energy that is being invested in the city neighborhoods by the residents and found out via Krista Tippett's public radio show, On Being, that they have over 16000 community gardens that have sprouted up all over the city. The podcast on "Becoming Detroit" can be found HERE.

And then there was the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit which had this light show by Joshua White and Gary Panter. I couldn't resist taking this image which reminded me of a Edward Hopper painting.  

...and then found this card there that connects Detroit and New Orleans!

On what felt like a scavenger hunt to find the Detroit Center for Contemporary Photography, I landed these 2 pictures which made the search worth it. The organization must be in its infancy because it was very difficult to locate online and in real time. Once I found it, the space was locked.

And then there  is the amazing Heidelberg project, a 3 block art installation by Tyree Guyton in its 25th year. I posted on this before and you can read about it HERE.
The rest of the photographs were all taken at the Heidelberg project.

 There is so much more to discover in Detroit. It is a city that is coming out of the ashes.       There is a lot of innovation which will redefine the city. 

"Never doubt that a small group of dedicated citizens can CHANGE THE WORLD. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
---Margaret Mead

A Thin Place

Did you see the "Where Heaven and Earth Come Closer" article in the NYT travel section on Sunday?

It took my breath away and I am so happy to share it in case you missed it.

I am always so grateful when I read something that totally resonates with how I feel. I find it very difficult to articulate certain states of being.

What is a Thin Place?

"A thin place is a locale where the distance between heaven and earth collapses and we're able to catch glimpses of the divine, or the transcendent or, the Infinite Whatever. Not everyone finds the same places thin. It's what a place does to you that counts. It disorients, It confuses. We lose our bearings, and find new ones. Or not. We are jolted out of old ways of seeing the world, and therein lies the transformative magic of travel."

"Yet, ultimately, an inherent contradiction trips up any spiritual walkabout: The divine supposedly transcends time and space, yet we seek it in very specific places and at very specific times. If God (however defined) is everywhere and “everywhen,” as the Australian aboriginals put it so wonderfully, then why are some places thin and others not? Why isn’t the whole world thin?

Maybe it is but we’re too thick to recognize it. Maybe thin places offer glimpses not of heaven but of earth as it really is, unencumbered. Unmasked."

Eric Weiner's has a new book out, “Man Seeks God: My Flirtations With the Divine”

There is also a wonderful description of someone's encounter with the "divine" in Driftless by David Rhodes, another extraordinary writer.

Happy Friday!

Mardi Gras and Liminality

As Mardi Gras is in full swing in New Orleans, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the importance of celebration, when the ordinary gets transformed into the extraordinary.

We had a fundraiser this past weekend for Ragdale, a most amazing place that supports the creation of art making in all its forms. We went the full nine yards...Sazerac cocktails, Barq's Rootbeer, Abita Beer, crayfish boil, jambalaya, mac and cheese, roasted ham, pickled okra, braised collards, sweet potato pecan pie, king cake, pralines, live cajun music and a reading by award winning cajun poet, Beverly Matherne. We are still in recovery mode but savoring the after glow of a great celebration of art, food, friends and life.

In anticipation of the Mardi Gras celebration, I have been thinking in images and after some effort, I found 2 that nicely reference the concept of liminality, " a psychological, neurological, or metaphysical subjective state, conscious or unconscious, of being on the "threshold" of or between two different existential planes... "

"those in-between situations and conditions that are characterized by the dislocation of established structures, the reversal of hierarchies” ( from wikipedia)

The idea of masquarade is so embedded in New Orleans. Anything goes, especially during Mardi Gras season.

This past weekend there was a great article in the travel section of the New York Times on 36 Hours in New Orleans. There were some great suggestions for traveling there. If you can't get there for this year's Mardi Gras (which is happening now) I just discovered how to join the fun from afar...there is a Mardi Gras Webcam that is rolling today at 3pm to cover the Tucks, Proteus and Orpheus parades and tomorrow, Mardi Gras at 10 a.m for the Rex parade. Just click HERE.


Pier 24 in San Francisco

Another highlight I had while in San Francisco was visiting Pier 24. It was highly recommended by Emily, who had spent some time working there last year. The space is owned by collector Andy Pilara and located at the foot of Bay Bridge. I had no idea what it was about, I only knew that one had to do a lot of advance planning as admission is free but limited to 20 people every 2 hours with appointments made a full month in advance. Talk about anticipation!

July 21

The goal of the space is "to provide an environment to experience and quietly contemplate photography." Mission accomplished. Descriptives from my experience there include...elegant, quiet, somber, contemplative, expansive, reflective and introspective.

Stepping into the gallery, I walked up to a huge photograph. I was caught off guard because there were NO identifying labels on the wall , neither the title or the author of the work. I found myself perplexed and confused, trying to identify, label or add any context to the work. This shifted into feeling slightly panicked. I went to the front desk to find out about the piece and was politely given a brochure with identifying information. It was created by Richard Misrach and titled 2.21.00; 4:38pm 2000 (from the series, Richard Misrach:Golden Gate).

However, I then quickly abandoned the brochure and settled into JUST LOOKING. I felt an incredible freedom to JUST BE with the work. I found myself engaged with the work in a new, fresh way.

The experience has led me to reconsider the use of text with my work.

The exhibiton, titled HERE, was really strong. It will be up until December 16th and I highly recommend it. It is about the San Francisco Bay area and features many heavy weight photographers. I especially enjoyed the pairing of Eadweard Maybridge and Mark Kletts panoramas, John Chiara's camera obscura images, and the works of Todd Hido,Larry Sultan, Jim Goldberg, and Henry Wessel.

Not in Kansas Anymore

...that was my reaction the minute I stepped onto the Google campus in Mountain View, California. Never been anywhere like it. It was a revelation. My first association was to a preschool Montessori classroom where there are highly engaging and appealing play stations with the sole purpose of fostering innovation and creativity.

July 19

After the 1 hour ride from San Francisco, I needed to use the restroom. The first surprise was the heated toilet seat (not that they really need them given we were in a temperate climate zone). Then there was a panel on the wall of the toilet stall that I had only heard of from someone traveling in Japan...the rest is self explanatory.

On the stall wall was a flyer announcing the Employee of the Month. The chosen employee had organized a program to aid the tsunami victims of Japan. One of the many things Google encourages and promotes is an openness to innovative, socially conscious programs.

I was unable to take any photographs once I was inside the building. In fact, I had to sign an agreement of non disclosure before I entered the building as they are very protective of what they do. However, I can share with you that I had the most amazing, gourmet meal. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are provided with the job, as are workout rooms, yoga classes and bowling alleys. Need a hair cut? laundry or ironing? oil change? No problem. One can take care of all the daily necessities on campus. There are even sleeping pods available for the weary.

While driving back to San Francisco I started reflecting on how the Google executives have created a work environment in which the creative juices can flow...the everyday mundane needs are taken care of, allowing for total focus and commitment to innovation. The food served was not only nourishing but made with the utmost love and care. It was evident they invest in their employees, unlike anything I have ever seen. I was reminded a bit of what it was like to attend the Ragdale artist residency in which you are supported in such a manner that allows you to focus solely on the creative process.

For a "work" place, it was truly revolutionary and brilliant.

New Eyes

It feels like I have been traveling the speed of light during the past 2 weeks. Lots to process. I received some recommendations on what art shows not to miss in San Francisco from Elizabeth Corden of the Corden Potts Gallery . I had the pleasure of seeing a wonderful exhibit The Steins Collect at SFMOMA. Gertrude Stein and her 2 brothers, Leo and Michael, were among the first to recognize the talents of avant-garde painters like Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. The stunning collection from the Steins' holdings included dozens of works by Matisse, Picasso, Paul Cézanne, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. It was breathtaking.

I then headed over to 826 Valencia to visit author Dave Eggers's (my hero) pirate supply store where I purchased new eyes. I giggled as I slipped the eyes into the Frida Kahlo bird box that contained the wedding cookies I consumed at the coffee shop at SFMOMA, a perfect container for my new eyes!

July 18

July 4th Chair Phenomena

July 2

Every July 4th there is a phenomena that occurs in Evanston as the residents approach their beloved 4th of July parade. EVERYONE wants front row seats. The chairs start lining up days in advance.

And for the past 14 years of the July 4th holidays, I have been in Mexico (or on route) with Chicago's Premier Chef, Rick Bayless, and his staff. This year is no exception. Three regional cuisines in 4 days; Mexico City, Puebla and Oaxaca! I hope to be posting from south of the border with my trusty iphone.

Everyday Miracles

I was in Whole Foods yesterday riding the elevator up to the parking lot with a petite Indian woman who has been a bagger there forever. As we were getting out of the elevator she said she could smell incense. I was so shocked because I had used it during my morning meditation but had since swam in a chlorine filled pool and showered. I was so surprised that there was any residue left.

I said yes, that I had just returned from India. Well, the flood gates opened for both of us. She, Amma, had been raised in Kerala and there was this immediate connection between us. She proceeded to show me her prayer beads that were tucked carefully under her shirt.

I can't help but wonder if all those water purification rituals I participated in have some how changed my very essence. It would be nice to think so!

my guide for the purifying baths at the Sri Ramanathaswamy Temple on Rameswaram Island at the southern tip of Tamil Nadu

the 10th purifying bath taken from one of the 22 wells within the temple containing water from different holy places

Searching for the Key

"Someone saw Nasrudin searching for something on the ground.
"What have you lost, Mulla?" he asked.
"My key" , said the Mulla.
So they both went down on their knees and looked for it.
After a time the other man asked:
"Where exactly did you drop it?"
"In my own house."
"Then why are you looking here?"
"There is more light here than inside my own house."

Idries Shah (1924-96), citing Mulla Nasrudin (thirteenth century CE)

early morning at Casa De Dom Inacio, Abadiania, Brazil

"Indian Mythology celebrates the idea that the universe is boundlessly various, that everything occurs simultaneously, that all possibilities may exit without excluding each other....(that) untrammeled variety and contradition are ethically and metaphysically necessary."

from The Hindus: An Alternative History by Wendy Doniger