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Thursday, 14 July 2022


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Wonderful piece, congratulations!

"So I found a picture of Manilow as a young man, in which the lighting matched the portrait’s, and grafted his face over the ex-husband’s."

I did the same thing years ago for my sister in a family portrait, where I grafted a headshot of George Clooney over her second ex-husband. She loves it and the photo is still proudly displayed and her third hubby enjoys it as well...

Found myself tearing up a couple of times. Great article, useful and moving. I'm looking forward to what comes next. I was just looking at some street photography and wondering what a Mike Johnston New Yorker article on the subject would look like. If they start putting these in print version, I might have to subscribe again.

What a great article, my father took photographs of families, ours as well as others, and there was always an interesting story to go with the best of those pictures. One that always stuck with me and hangs on my office wall is a picture of my aunt on her marriage day. It was taken in his studio when she wasn't expecting him to have film loaded and ready, he told her he was reloading. It captures her as I always remember her, fun and relaxed.

Wow... A Birthday Moment is quite the Norman Rockwell!

Loved it. Great article, Mike.

Sincere congratulations. You are a great writer. Serious thoughts about photography are not a mainstream issue, and you nevertheless make it interesting enough for a general public.

Congratulations, Mike. Your writing is a seamless fit for The New Yorker. Well done.


Just wow is right!

It takes a lot for me to shed tears, to actually move me. I shed some lovely tears while reading this much captivating article. Thanks Michael, for all you do, for all you give; we are blessed.

That’s a great article. As it is now tourist season in Milwaukee, there are people everywhere taking photos of their trip here. You know the drill. Dad takes a shot of mom and the kids and then mom takes one of dad and the kids. I seem to be obsessed with stopping and offering to use their phone to capture the whole group. 99% of the time people want that.

The last time I was in Chicago, I made the same offer to two women in front of the John Hancock Building. They declined. However, when they saw I had a “real” camera they wanted me to take some with that. They were from Kazakhstan and even posed draped in their flag. They carefully followed me on Instagram as I told them to message me and I’d send the photos. The funny thing is that they never did - maybe the two I posted there were enough in this day of social media. They will never know how happy they made me.

Very thoughtful piece, Mike, which no doubt will stimulate many readers to take a more considered approach to making family photographs. By the way, the presentation on The New Yorker mobile app on my Apple iPad is much nicer than on the web. (I no longer get the paper magazine, but I suspect the app’s layout more-or-less mimics the printed version.)

Nicely done, Mike. Excellent article.

Great piece, Mike. Thoughtful without being self-indulgent.

I have some hundred photos of my forebears as digital scans - one frustration is that not all the people are identified.

Advice: if you want your personal shots to be of lasting interest, make sure you identify who they are of - either with a gentle pencil note on the back of a print, or as a caption for a digital file. No one else will know.

Actually that applies to all photos - even a landscape or architectural shot will be much more meaningful if the content is identified.

Wow indeed! Nice work, Mike!

Congratulations! That is an exemplary article. Just wonderful.


As always, wonderful subject and writing.... congratulations!


Superb, Mike. I have been delving into some family pictures recently. What a fascinating and incomplete record it is! Like memory, there are gaps. But what's there is priceless as the only record of the days in those pictures. It is a deep subject you took on. And a great essay. Instant classic! And perhaps more relevant than ever in an era of what you might call, "excess imaging making." Well done, you.

Wow Mike, this is awesome. I couldn’t be happier for you. Now the rest of the world gets to enjoy your writing, just as your regular readers have been doing for years. Congratulations!

A wonderful story. Great writing, as usual.

[And you are referenced. I'm sure you noticed. --Mike]

Wonderful story in the New Yorker.

Congratulations on the New Yorker article. Will this be in the printed magazine, or only online?

Brilliant, Mike. Wonderful idea, grand execution.

Very nice, Mike.

If I could add one thing, it would be annotate. The shooter knows who the person in the picture is and roughly when and where the image was made. But when the photographer is gone, the story is gone.

I'm finding this out while going through the photos made by my late father. It's great stuff but I haven't a clue who those people in the old timey clothes are.

Again, it was an enjoyable read

As the kids say, Way Cool!

Go, Go, Mike! Could not be happier for you.

It's a wonderful article, too, and smack in your wheelhouse, where photography expert and humanist meet. Lapidary work, and, as with the previous article, I feel privileged to have witnessed these ideas evolve in various web articles and blog posts and now get the cut and polish they deserve. Again, congratulations!

Another excellent piece—thank you and congratulations!

It is a terrific article--humane, informative from many perspectives, and wise.

Wonderful story, and I think you were able to write how many of us feel with our images..thanks for that.

Excellent piece, a pleasure to read and immerse in photos, many thanks! A longtime reader.....

Subscript to Mike's New Yorker article: Journalism that Matters!

Last family photo with Sobatchka, before her final visit to the veterinarian-

Mike, you have the gift of writing. Oh, to have been graced with such a talent. Your writing spans so many topics and has an appeal that can provide insight to a subject, regardless of the reader's personal interests.
A pleasure to be a regular visitor to your daily missives.

I did notice. Thanks. 😎


This is a wonderful article. You are a fine writer. As a former lawyer, I wrote a lot of journeyman expository prose. I wonder if you could comment on the process of being edited by a New Yorker editor? In my mind, it would be a rare pleasure, and I'm sure that my briefs would have been better for the experience. Anyway, as a New Yorker writer you are now in very august company. Big congratulations!


I was so excited to have a conversation with a friend today about this great piece in the New Yorker! It’s a great article, and deeply happy you are getting the audience your work deserves.

What a wonderful article, such a pleasure to read and to see - congratulations, Mike ! You play different instruments here, in this one man’s band concert, and they work together splendidly - moving me from the first sentence (and image) to the last. Thank you !

A lovely piece and it's such a delight seeing your writing reach a wider audience. Congratulations.

Some of your best work Mike. I enjoyed every minute of reading it. Impressive!

“Surfeit adds up to failure; selectivity leads to success.”

The whole paragraph leading up to that is a great piece of advice.

Mike has officially become a New Yorker writer. There are none better.

Great work, Mike. Really enjoyed it.

Beautifully done, Mike. I'm pleased that your fine, thoughtful writing is finding a larger audience. Can't wait for the next one, too!

Mike, I’m very happy for you! Great piece of writing!

Your selection and description of the Zahner family photograph takes me right back to my childhood in the 1940s. I have a sentimental weakness for straightforward and unaffected photographs from that time.

I love the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building with thermometer on the mantle. This is a family without material wealth and expensive possessions, but a family that must understand what a privilege it is to be Americans.

Well done, Mike.

I’ve cut back on the number of things I follow these past few years, including this blog, unfortunately, but I had to come back to congratulate you on the piece in The New Yorker. Well deserved, Mike!

As I read out your New Yorker article to my darling wife over morning coffees, I was struck yet again by how beautiful her belly laughs are.

Great writing is like any art form. Creating it, knowing it's going to be shared with others, imbues the process with joy as well as purpose.

As unoriginal as these sentiments are - well done you! Your writing is timeless. Akin to the best of the classics. Keep it up sir.

You have done what few have the words to do -- you told the world why we do what we do.

Thank you, Mike.

Take the rest of the day off.

Not only have you written for the New Yorker, they've published your photos! Two very high bars. Congratulations.

Keep this up and you will have copy for your book. Or does New Yorker own the rights?

You motivated me to look up some family photos and share them with my sister. Thanks

Amazing read. It brought a tear to my eye which is a rare moment. Thank you.

Mike: "Secret Art" went through multiple major edits and innumerable small ones, with input from many departments. The fact checker called many of the people mentioned, for instance, and researched things only mentioned in passing.

My mother transmitted her addiction to The New Yorker to me some 60 years ago (sic) and I’ve been reading it regularly ever since.

I thought the editing of your piece did indeed preserve your voice for the most part, but the magazine’s non-fiction articles also always reflect to some extent the house style.

I confess that as a writer I always resisted all but the lightest editing, but as a reader I have come to appreciate the New Yorker editors’ attention to detail—everything from the comprehensive fact-checking and copy editing you mentioned to the punctiliousness of the punctuation. The prose may become somewhat homogenized, but the content usually comes through clearly and it goes down easy.

As I suggested in my earlier comment, I think your piece will prompt many readers for the first time to think seriously about how they make family photographs. And that’s a good thing for them, their families, and those of us whose eyes glaze over as we are treated to picture after almost identical vacation picture of family members smirking at the camera.

(Apropos of editing at The New Yorker, if you’re not familiar with the the video series by Mary Norris, “the Comma Queen,” stop what you’re doing and watch them right now.)

Congrats Mike. Terrific story in a great magazine.

Congratulations, Mike. Your success is well deserved. The article should lead readers to recognize the art in their own lives...art they may have taken for granted.

Consistent excellence is its own reward but its nice to shine on stage once in a while. This is cool...gonna brag on you later. :-)

What a lovely piece. I am so happy to know that your gentle and humane view of the world is now being shared with lots of people outside the photography community.

(I’m going to have to start referring to you as “my old friend Mike Johnston who writes for the New Yorker.”)

Congratulations. I know you have a lot more pieces like this in you, and I look forward to reading them all.

A great piece. As both a New Yorker subscriber and long-time TOP reader, it was fascinating on one level for its blending of two familiar writing styles, apart from the intriguing content. "A birthday moment" displays a marvelous composition, and may be one of the most three-dimensional photos I've seen. A group of folks with discrete outlines, with expressive faces on all six of them, although Maybe Dad is somewhat incomplete. And then that layered depth, from the forks to the neighbors' house. Bravo!

[The relationships in that photo are complicated. Let me see if I can do it, stating the relationships relative to the birthday girl who is my niece, Marissa--the adult at the left holding the baby is Marissa's second cousin once removed by marriage, who is holding her own nephew, who is Marissa's third cousin; the man in the background is Marissa's great-uncle by marriage; and the two little boys are her third cousin and second cousin. I think I've got that all right. --Mike]

The New Yorker is famous for its fact checking. Lawsuits against the magazine are rare, as the magazine has a reputation for being unbeatable in court. The magazine's grammar is also top-notch. I understand that there is even a person dedicated to patrolling the proper use of commas, also known as the "comma queen".

Terrific essay, Mike. It shows a deep understanding that reflects a lifetime of immersion in photography in all its aspects. I'd love to see you write similar pieces on the great documentary photographers of the first half of the 20th century, from Hine to the FSA to Therese Bonney and Robert Capa.

It's an excellent article with strong substance illustrated by amusing, often-touching, but always pertinent, vignettes and stories. There's no need to comment upon the writing style because, by definition, any writing that appears in The New Yorker is top-tier writing.

In Re: Access
Reminds me of the old photojournalist joke:
Cub reporter: How do you take great photos?
Grizzled Phojo: F/8 and be there!

GREAT article, and really well illustrated. Read it on my tablet, then pulled it up on my giant editing monitor for a proper look-see. It was even better!


Addendum: You are putting us on the spot here, Bub.

Sally Mann? You are an excessively optimistic person.

Thanks for this piece, Mike. As a father of two young girls, they have become my primary focus in life, obviously. I used to roam the streets, invoking my inner HCB, and I was disappointed when the duties of fatherhood drew me away from that. But it forced to point my camera much closer to home, and I considered my photographs to be more historical in nature rather than as fine art. But then I noticed something. If I could divorce the photographer from the sentimental father, some of those family photographs were able to transcend simple documentation and could be just as good as any photograph of a less sentimental subject. It’s a constant struggle, but one that is very rewarding when I get it right.
I’ve come to accept and enjoy photographing my family as my primary subject matter. As my girls grow up and leave the house, I will turn my camera outward once again, but having subjects living under the same roof is convenient, rewarding, and constantly challenging.

Good to see they cut out all your usual sweary ad hominem abuse and unsubstantiated allegations ;) But "coöperate"? Now *that* is surely as precious a memento as any family photo...


I come from a family not of photographers but of picture-takers. Family gatherings always included camera(s) and pictures were made to document our history rather than make art. And there were lots of cameras.

Over the last few years our son has scanned and organized and annotated the unorganized (or dis-organized) boxes of prints and negatives using on-line resources such as ancestry.com and Google Maps to add-to and correct our recollections.

We found one series (over several decades) of photos taken at family events, in the same spot -- a set of stairs that formed perfect risers in front of a house. Every time one surfaces, we laugh and thank the picture-taker for his discipline and care.

And now, the Internet allows us to have on-line family gatherings where we review and re-live and share our now recorded and documented history.

Your article was a good read and very relevant for me right now. I’m in the process of scanning some old family pictures so they can be shared with the family. Yesterday I discovered pictures from 1947 of an aunt’s wedding. Her children had never seen them before. That was fun.

Having now inherited my parents’ pictures and my sister’s pictures, I must say that the pictures you keep are the ones you know something about. To everyone I would say: Write on the backs of pictures; who are the people; where are they; what year is it. If your pictures are digital, add captions and other metadata with the editing software you use. This is so important.

GREAT! Love the Family Chair - remembers me of an project I did years ago after my father was gone and I took a series of final pictures with room door views in my parent´s house… What´s up next? Maybe you should consider an article for Aperture Magazine? Or guest curating an Issue to deal with Family Photography?

Congratulations Mike on an excellent piece of writing. Love all the photos especially the chair and the family gathering.

Great article! I have a mild quibble with Lars Jansen, who suggested "scrambled eggs" instead of "mess of eggs". "Mess of eggs" fit the flow and intent of that passage much better than "scrambled" would have done. Congratulations on a fine piece of work!

"this pudding has no theme"

[Ah, but it does, Sir Winston. The theme is family pictures. How could you have missed that? --Mike]

Well done, Mike! You achieved a very elegant tone, there.

Because of your unusual path to the NYer, you have a rather large, far-flung cheering section. When I saw the story Thursday morning, I told my daughter about the strange sense of I-don't-know-what (pride? community? investment? satisfaction?) I felt. And I'm sure the vast majority of your regular readers feel the same, justified or not.

Three messages for that NYer editor who reads this blog:
1. Thanks. For recognizing Mike, certainly, but also for recognizing photography as both omnipresent and underexamined.
2. Talk to Mike about his fatherhood story.
3. My own unpublished essay-memoirs are amazing. I was burned in a wildfire! I saw James Brown in his underwear! I -- well, I'm sure Mike could put us in touch.

Mike Wrote...
"It does seem like it should be a book, although I question whether there'd be a large enough market for it."

There is if you keep it digital. You've already written most of it, I'd wager.
$10 bucks to your subscribers and let someone at TNY see it after.
Nothing to lose, eh?

Incidentally, I've been doing the family group thing for 25 years, every Easter at our house - minus '20 and'21 of course.
Lots of changes now we have more grandchildren and even a fourth generation on my sister-in-law's line.
Kids growing up and now bringing their own kids - wonderful!

Congratulations, Mike. It's an interesting read alright. I'd really love to see your original draft. It would be a bit like seeing contact sheets. Would that be allowed, do you think?

[I wouldn't do it. I'm under contract; they paid for it, it's theirs. Besides, there's the general principle "never let 'em see you sweat." --Mike]

Mike, not sure if I need to have some sort of New Yorker sub or similar. Is this the case?

[From what I read, non-subscribers get four free articles a month. After that, there's a paywall. A beginning digital-only subscription is $6 for 12 weeks. That converts to a yearlong subscription at $50/yr. if you don't cancel it. --Mike]

I’ve long thought that TNY would be a good home for your writing. Not requiring the perseverance of a book, but a place for thoughtful, good writing. It’s one of my all-time favorite magazines. (I still prefer a print version, though; old school.). So, congratulations on a well written and thoughtful piece. I hope they provide you with more space in future editions that will make even better use of your story telling, knowledge base and writing skills. Some of my favorite TNY articles run for many pages, but remain entertaining and thought provoking throughout. I think that might be your sweet spot.

Your "Secret Art" article failed. It failed to include the requisite trigger warnings.

Your words have triggered memories of childhood wonderment viewing family photo albums. Seeing photos of people whom I would never meet, displayed on my grandparent's walls and me digging into the marvelous boxes of pictures that were too numerous to display.

This visual fascination would lead to the childhood discovery that the family's Box Brownie could create more of these wondrous images and that I could be the one to push the button.

Now my mind is wildly spinning with 70 plus years of familial lore. At my age I may not have enough time left to bore my long suffering family with all this ancestral, photographic, detritus.

You, Michael Johnston, are a curse to the elderly.

So when can we expect the next one.....soon?

Congratulations Mike - I love it! And as usual, the article seems to be speaking directly to me - a topic that I am grappling with on a daily and monthly basis.

I also love the piece of advice regarding the 8 image count, but I also think that number evolves as time moves on. When we do an extended family trip to the Tetons or Paris or Nantucket, I will shoot thousands of images. I will struggle to get it to 300 for a Blurb coffee table book of THAT trip. But at the end of the YEAR, maybe only 8 images make it into the year's collection. does that make sense?

But I am struggling greatly with the balance of shooting vs finishing. Capturing vs redacting.

Thanks for the article. I am very happy for your renaissance!

As is usually the case, I continue to stew over your article and more and different ideas come to mind.

Especially with family photos, I believe the images that are "important" change over time because the context continuously evolves.

One of the joys of photography is that the eight images you select from last week's vacation as the "keepers" will most likely be very different than the eight you might choose a year from now or ten years on. Different images will mean different things to you as time changes them. It's magical to me.

Mike a big congrats and the “ Ted is still in the picture” line is beyond priceless.

Congratulations, excellent article. I enjoyed the writing and the photos you selected. Informative and kept me engaged all the way through. Keep up the great work!

What a touching, thoughtful and evocative story Mike! As one of your Patreon supporters and a New Yorker subscriber I am so glad this deserving match has taken place again. May it continue to all our benefit. Congratulations and very best regards.

Now that you have joined the Pantheon of the TNY front page authors, I foresee your ascent to Featured Contributors - that’s when you get your portrait cartoonified! That, plus Aperture calling you soon. But seriously, congratulations Mike! I hope we see more from you on that hallowed front page.

I especially liked that in tackling the seemingly simple question of what makes for good family pictures, you end up identifying what makes all personal photography good (“Find ways to photograph whatever is closest to your heart”). Weaving advice on taking a better family photo with examples of artists for whom such photos are central to their work meaningfully “extends the definition”.

An effect of scrolling down on the article is that I’d often examine the next picture before reading the full story (for me pictures are more eye-catching than… type :). Found myself wondering why does Le Restaurant de la Pyramide only have one chair? Point (in text) well made!

From looking at photos ahead of their story, I also realized the value of a brief title under a picture. How else would I know that those mysterious marks in sharp focus are from a bite and who the perpetrator might be? The title reveals the punctum ahead of the full “read” of clues that you later go into. But I’m also in awe of your evocative descriptions like “marvelously flinty expression” referring to Jessie — takes skill and talent to refer to such a famous image in fresh ways.

I have to disagree with some opinions in the comments here on the disparateness of the various chapters. I see them as exploring multiple facets of a central theme and headings make that easier to follow. Of course, the jury is out on what might be the ideal sequence to put those chapters in, but breaking down the topic into multiple perspectives works very well.

In all, I found the piece to be not only a superbly crafted example of your writing, but also informative, thought-provoking and inspiring. And, yes, the humor survived the suit-and-tie style :)

A thought that came to mind afterwards has to do with how best to pass down those eight pictures culled from a family event - the “reasonable number” as you put it. Sure, for now, people may share them on line - easy and often free. But will those fickle bits and bytes survive for the nearly two hundred years that platinum and silver have? Shouldn’t we be printing (and annotating), praying that Wilhelm’s permanence projections hold true out to several centuries? Or hope that a major institution takes an interest in our digital archives? It’s a natural sequel to this article.

Superb article, Mike. I especially love the conclusion and your photo of the family chair. Visually stunning and a powerful link to the idea that photographs tell stories and honour lives.

Add my Big Congrats to the pile!

As others have said, the combo of Mike Style, filtered through TNY style is quite easily enjoyed.

My favorite part is "We use the word “family” both broadly and flexibly; we can create any definition of family that we wish to . . . Sometimes friends are closer than relatives.

Choose your family, and the possibilities for photographic projects open up."

Alter the last line to "Choose your family, and the possibilities for a richer, happy and fulfilling life open up." is a description of my life.

As we plan our first annual New England trip since 2019, I'm almost humming with the anticipation of time with relations, few, and family of choice, many.

Great article Mike. One can see it was more of a magmum opus effort than what you usually publish here, but it maintains the same voice, the same broad-spectrum interest in all things artistic and human. What's more, I think it could be the start of a book, expanding on the themes introduced there. As you said above somewhere, 4000 words is not enough to fully address this topic. And this topic really comes close to the heart of what matters about photography for normal people. And with so many more people taking and sharing pictures, that's a huge audience. I suggest you use that article as your introduction, and shop it around to publishers with the idea of expanding it into a book. I'd be surprised if you don't find some strong uptake. I've read the New Yorker a fair amount and while I'd agree the writing is generally good, my critique is that a lot of the pieces lack what Stewart Brand used to call "consequence". The endings are disappointing. They go on for a long time in an interesting fashion, but don't draw meaningful conclusions in the way I feel they could. I felt your piece was better that way. So thanks, Michael. Thanks for sharing your special unique photo centric insights with the wider world. In terms of expanding on the theme, one direction would be "group photography" You do already talk about how family need not be blood related. Personally I've been fascinated with the many ways human relations can be expressed photographically in photos of smallish groups of people. A bit like chamber music vs orchestras (those being more like photos of large groups of people, which are, I think, harder to make excellent.

I found the article to be hugely ambitious in scope and it definitely left me wanting more (both intended to be compliments). In covering such a wide range in a short essay, the disparate chapters worked for me because the flow of the material and the quality of the writing held it all together quite beautifully. Exactly what I expect from a TNY piece (hmm - I seem to be big on backhanded compliments tonight). And I don’t think the editorial polish detracted from your style or humour - I’ve suppose read enough of your posts to recognise your written voice - and I would have guessed Mike Johnson if I hadn’t known.

Certainly your article has certainly affected my photography. My wife asked me to photograph her father’s 90th birthday celebration today - an emotional affair as his health has fallen into serious decline over the last months. I made it my goal to make one image today - and only one - to portray the combined emotions of a milestone birthday towards the end of a long life and the loving family in which it was lived. That may have been overly ambitious but I was very pleased with the resulting family portrait, which is the only photo from today I intend for anyone else to see. Close enough for me.

Congratulations, Mike. I really enjoyed the article. I thought it was a good insight into what is a huge area of photographic activity, and one that perhaps 'serious' photographers don't pay much attention to.

I've got my share of family pictures. Some of them were posed - I was being ambitious, perhaps; many of them, and most of the better and more arresting images, are spontaneous and unplanned. A couple of years ago, during the first year of the pandemic, I filled some time by getting a photo book done of some of them, and gave copies to a number of the family members whose pictures were in it. It brought back many memories, and I was glad I did it.

Mike your New Yorker piece was wonderful. I’m not at all surprised. I just think it’s about time.
Just two things. Though I love your writings on the subject of photography, I do believe that you shouldn’t limit yourself, though I know your clients needs come first.
I did enjoy your essay, but it displays on my I pad with advertisements that break the flow, and I found that annoying. I know that’s not your fault. YouTube does this too. I understand the need for advertising, but it should be more discrete.

Mike, your writing makes me fall in love with photography over and over again. This article was a distillation of all the things I like about TOP, the mix of your personal photographic experience, the historic signposts, and your sensitivity to photography's potential to communicate. I loved it, and I'm sharing it because I think it will help people take better photos and help them fill up a treasure chest of memories.

As a dad, it had to be thrilling to see your photo of Xander published in the New Yorker. Nice job working that in. It's a lovely photo and suited the article. Your birthday party photo was also beautiful, with great colors, composition, and light.

That was truly the best writing on photography that I've come across in years.

I’m surprised by Fred Haynes’ comment about the advertising. None are seen here on an iPad. I’m in UK and a non-subscriber to TNY, reading in Safari.

A very interesting read. Portraits are always interesting and often very personal. Years ago when I was a medical photographer, my summers were very slow so I started doing portraits of the hospital staff. Showing them the results were often very surprising. Most people were indifferent, some were very pleased and a few never spoke to me again. They managed to see things in their faces that I could never imagine or even see when it was pointed out to me. The other interesting thing for me is when people show me pictures of their family on their iPhone. I can't stand looking at them, but when I am in someone's house and there are formal portraits of family on the walls or on dressers, etc., I am fascinated by them. We all look at the same things and interpret them differently. Thats what makes a picture interesting.

A lovely piece Mike, with photographs worthy of the prose. New Yorker is lucky to have you!

Congratulations Mike.
Before you know it you will need an agent.

What a nice article! I loved all of it (and sent the link to friends), but the section about editing hit a special nerve: this is soo hard!
After processing (first sift) and tagging (second sift) I rarely find the time or have the nerve to pare the set down to the few really good ones. And then, do I have a definition (for myself) of "really good"? So I always end up with too many "OK" images.

What a wonderful article, so knowledgeable, human, well written. And it's so "you" - yes, dressed up in a coat with tie, but I would have recognized your voice after the first few lines. I enjoyed it and I teared up a few times, when suddenly I recognized me and my own family.

Another thing I enjoyed was that - for lack of better words - you're in the New Yorker!! I feel a smug sense of pride, remembering the first time I stumbled on the "Sunday Morning Photographer" and my reaction was: that's really good writing, and looking forward to next Sunday. And now I feel like hipsters who always have to let everyone know they knew the band before they were cool!

I'm happy for you, but I'm also happy for all the fellow readers of The New Yorker, for they've now been introduced to really good writing on photography.


Glory! Congratulations! Talent now recognised beyond these shores. I love a career highlight.

I've gone back over your fascinating, thought-provoking article quite a few times now. Each of the one picture chapter introductions succeeds but most leave me asking for a deeper dive. Sally Mann's work has her to tell more of her story (carefully selected, of course). In either one of your articles or in her "Hold Still," I recall reading that the bite mark on her arm was Sally's, not Jessie's. I'd love to know more of the sequence leading up to "The Last Time Emmet Posed in the Nude," since it ends the portfolio in Immediate Family and seems to complete a pair with the photo of Emmet in a ditch, suggesting a birth canal.

What struck me immediately about your birthday party photo was its high Brueghel-Winogrand number of 6 interesting faces, well lighted and visible, all interacting in a meaningful network. Have you ever shown that picture to those who were children in it, and listened to their reactions? Someone did that exploration with Garry Winogrand's six people on a park bench at the '63 World's Fair and the results were interesting.

EDIT to previous comment of mine.

I somehow missed 80% of the article. Having now read it in full, may I say how well you fit in to The New Yorkers family of writers. Your editor has quite the eye for new talent Mike.

Great article. Short, related stories that are to the point, not boring, as longer stories often can be, but together they add a lot of depth and valuable insights.

Congratulations Mike. A lovely article that was insightful and inspiring. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I look forward to reading more of your work in the NYT.

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