Finland, but no wolverines

Originally I went to Eastern Finland to photograph wolverines (Vielfraß in German, glouton in French, gulo gulo in Latin). They are a part of the weasel family, but look more like a mix between a bear and a ferret, or something like that – I’d show you a picture, but I have none. Well, actually that is not exactly true, I have one picutre from 2011 when I saw a wolverine in the Grand Teton backcountry, but while the experience was magical, as a photographer I am not happy with the result. Or rather not happy enough to share it in public. If you’re on my couch drinking tea with me I’ll show it to you.
Anyway, wolverines are elusive as heck, which is why most people have never seen one in the wild, even those who spend a lot of time outdoors, so I am happy to have seen not one but two (and within a space of two weeks) in 2011, even if I did not get the images I wanted. Wolverines do exist in Finland close to the Russian border, however, and there are some people, like the lovely Sabrina Logeais, who provide hides so that photographers and wildlife watchers have a chance of seeing the little devils; and usually people do see them. I didn’t. I was in the hide for six nights and had no luck.
Which sounds terrible, but is also entirely untrue. While I had no luck with wolverines, which is very unusual based on what Sabrina told me (in fact, there were wolverines at Sabrina’s hide the two nights I spent in a different hide), I was very lucky in other regards. I did see and photograph quite a few Finnish bears and a Finnish wolf who came to the hide a few nights in a row, which apparently is also highly unusual. Below you can find some of the results, more will be posted on my website shortly. I hope you enjoy the pictures.


Exhibition Opening “The Bear Essentials”, April 03 2016, Café Vogelfrei, Mannheim, 2 – 4 p.m.

After my Freiburg exhibition closed last week, I already have a new exhibition coming up. Under the titel “The Bear Essentials” I will be showing a selection of images from the “Bear with Me” exhibition at a vegan cafe in Mannheim, Cafe Vogelfrei, from 03 April till the end of June 2016.

The exhibition opening will be on Sunday April 03 from 2 p.m. (14 Uhr) at Cafe Vogelfrei in the Quadrate (C3 20), Mannheim. I will be at the opening to answer questions about the images, sell them 🙂 and there will be a bit of sparkling wine. I hope to see many of you at the opening.

"Botched Mating Ritual," one of the images in the exhibition.

“Botched Mating Ritual,” one of the images in the exhibition; available as a limited print in an edition of 100.

Finissage Bear with Me, March 18 2016, 12:30

This post is in German because the event will be in German as well.

Am 18. März um 12:30 wird die Finissage zu meiner Ausstellung “Bear With Me” im Carl-Schurz-Haus Freiburg stattfinden. Es wird etwas zu Trinken und zu Essen geben und ich werde durch die Ausstellung führen und etwas zu einigen der Bildern sagen. Da wieder veganes Essen (von Kraut & Rüben Catering) und Getränke angeboten werden, wird das Event 7 bzw. 5 Euro (für Mitglieder des Carl-Schurz-Haus) kosten. Ich hoffe der Eine oder die Andere schafft es früh ins Wochenende zu gehen und auf dem Weg noch auf der Finissage vorbeizuschauen.
Bei Interesse können die ausgestellten Bilder direkt gekauft und mitgenommen werden (die Kosten fürs Catering gehen in diesem Fall auf mich). Nähere Infos zur Veranstaltung sind auf der Einladungskarte zu finden.

03_18_Finissage Bear With Me_Einladung.indd

Pictures from the Opening of “Bear with me” on Jan 28. in Freiburg

With my exhibition safely on the walls until March 18 and a very positive review in the local paper a few days ago (see my previous post), I finally find the time to share some images from the hanging and opening of the exhibition.
All of the images (except for the first three, which are mine) are copyrighted by Rudolf Fehrle.

Article about my exhibition in the Badische Zeitung

The Badische Zeitung, Freiburg’s newspaper, printed a very nice article about my current exhibition today (Feb. 10). You can read it online here – at least for a few days. I will upload a scan of the printed article as soon as I get it.

PS: I am not sure what they did to my image online, but it looks like a truly horrible HDR file (which it isn’t). You can find a version with a correct color space here, and, of course, see the bear the way it’s supposed to look like at the Carl-Schurz-Haus until March 18 :).

“Bear With Me” Exhibition opens in four days!

I’ve had a busy week and a half, preparing all the images (many of them ones I haven’t exhibited before), sending them off to Whitewall to have them printed, ordering mattes and sticky boards (which cost an arm and a leg – I am surprised each time), and preparing the texts that will accompany the images. In the remaining days I only need to mount the images, frame them and arrange them in the Carl-Schurz-Haus. Needless to say, I am quite excited to have a large exhibition again and really look forward to the opening on Thursday evening.

To give you a preview of what you can see from Thursday night till mid-March – only much bigger, better displayed and all around prettier and more awesome – here are a few of the new images. A few other are “animalscapes,” big landscapes with small animals in them, which really only work when they are printed large, so you will have to come to see them at the Carl-Schurz-Haus. I hope to see you there!

Spirit Bear Peeking through Fallen Tree Branch

Spirit Bear Peeking through Fallen Tree Branch

Trans-Alaska Pipeline North of the Atigun Pass

Trans-Alaska Pipeline North of the Atigun Pass

Display of Affection (Polar Bear and Yearling)

Display of Affection (Polar Bear and Yearling)

"Treed" Black Bear Cub

“Treed” Black Bear Cub

Exhibition “Bear with Me,” January 28 – March 18 2016, Carl-Schurz-Haus, Freiburg

This year will open with another exhibition of my photographs at the Carl-Schurz-Haus in Freiburg. The focus of the exhibition is on what is perhaps my favorite animal, bears. It will include pictures of grizzlies, black bears, spirit bears, and polar bears which I have taken in Canada and the U.S. over the past seven years (or so) as well as some shots of their habitat.
The opening is on Thursday January 28, 2016 at 7 p.m. I invite each and everyone to attend. Below is a digital version of the German invitation card. Click on it to get a larger view so you can actually read the text.

Bear With Me Invitation

Moose in the Driveway

I am currently in Jackson, Wyoming, in a lovely house provided by a friend’s sister in exchange for two prints. Since the weather hasn’t been cooperating these last days, I am spending the afternoon going through images from the past week and a half in preparation for a post about Yellowstone National Park in Winter, waiting for the sunrise which will hopefully happen again tomorrow; the last one was 5 days ago. As I was looking out the window from the living room couch, I saw a moose chewing its cud in the driveway. Of course, today of all days, I’m a photographer without a camera – I knew I shouldn’t have left my cameras in the car.
Not wanting to miss this opportunity, who knows when the next moose will be in my driveway, I snuck out the back way through meters of snow drift, trying to pass the moose without disturbing her. I didn’t quite suceed, she got up and eyed me somewhat suspiciously, but reassuring her that I meant her no harm, I did pass by, almost close enough to touch. While I have been close to moose in the past, this is the closest I have ever been to a standing moose. And man are those animals huge – they put most horses to shame. On my way back I snapped a few shots, and I am happy to report that she is now eating willow bark in the driveway, about ten meters from where I originally saw her, so I cannot have disturbed her too terribly. I’ll regard it as a wakeup call, reminding her that it was time for dinner.

More importantly, however, who else owns a house in a beautiful location with mmoose in the driveway and is willing to do a tradeoff: I offer a print for a week of free boarding, two if you have a hot tub on your roof – I have my standards now, after all.

Moose in the driveway

Moose in the driveway

New Year’s moose

I am not much of a believer in new years, new years resolutions, and the whole shebang. As I was photographing moose in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley, I came across a moose wishing his buddy a happy new year, however, so I may be wrong. In any case I will leave the talking to the moose.


Do any of you have any new years mooseolutions?


The four postcards I had made have finally arrived and are now sitting in my place (some) and in my parents’ basement (the majority). I am really happy with the quality of the result. If you want to help make my parents happy by giving them back their basement, you can buy some :). You can either pick up individual cards at FreundSaft and at the same time have a look at my prints displayed there (and treat yourself to one of those once you realize you really want a big version of my photos in your living room), or you can order them directly by emailing me. I sell them in batches of 10, either ten of one subject or mixed of all subjects, for 11 Euros plus postage or in batches of 40 – 10 of each – for 40 Euros plus postage. If you order 50 or more in order to resell them write me an email and we can negotiate conditions.

As a sidenote, the postcards are ecofriendly: they are printed on recyled paper in a climate neutral printing process; three are printed on paper that is identifiable as recycled and has a very nice touch, the last (the polar bear & cub) is printed on glossy paper, which reproduces the color and details quite nicely, but does not feel as postcard-y as the others.

The postcards sitting on my table, waiting for you to revive the ancient art of postcard writing.

The postcards sitting on my table, waiting for you to revive the ancient art of postcard writing.

Exhibition Opening in T-2

All the images are up on the wall (and look really nice), prosecco is in the fridge and I am getting a bit nervous, trying to decide whether I want to say anything or not – so basically everything is ready for the opening tonight. I hope to see some of you three tonight. Bring those of your friends who have money and are willing to appreciate photography as an art form 😉
Here are two impressions from Freundsaft with my images up on the walls.

Exhibiton at FreundSaft 1

Exhibiton at FreundSaft 2

Exhibibition at FreundSaft: Hanging Times & Invitation to Opening / Vernissage

We have finally decided on a date for the opening of my exhibition at FreundSaft. It will take place at 6:30 on July 12 at FreundSaft in Freiburg Stühlinger. This should give the soccer-inclined enough time to drop by and still get back home or to a pub in time for the kick off at 10. The invitation postcard has all the relevant information and a preview of one of the new images you can see on canvas in the exhibition. I hope to see you on the 12th, entry is free for all; and there are images, postcards, and delicious fruit juice for sale, of course.


Invitation Card

New Postcards, new exhibit and new Print Prices

As of early June (hopefully June 10 or so) I will be exhibiting a few of my prints at Freundsaft. The show will be a mix of regular prints and prints on canvas (a first). I will also have some postcards printed – another first – which when they are finished will be available at Freundsaft and Buchhandlung Schwarz. I will also sell them through my website in packets of 10 in a little bit.

Looking at how much this exhibit cost, and since I have not raised the prices for my fine art prints (limited and numbered, available by emailing me) since 2008, I will also slightly raise my prices as of June 15, since costs of production have increased over the last few years. If you have been toying with the idea of purchasing a print of one of my images for a while, now would be a good time. Send me an email and I will have the image made and sent to you asap.

As a teaser, here are previews of the postcards I will have made (click on the images for larger size):

Arctic Ground Squirrel_preview


Fehrle201210-3019-Eisbärin & Cub_reduziert


Cosplaying Ludwigshafen – Impressions of Hanami 2014

In my intent to be more aware of what is going on around me culturally, I went to Hanami convention on Sunday. It is a yearly convention of (mostly) German fans of Japanese pop culture, so I was expecting to see a few cosplayers (put somewhat bluntly: people who dress up in costumes to look like a fictional character or mix of elements associated with a fictional / popcultural style). It is fair to say I was not disappointed. In fact, I was overwhelmed by the number of people who had dressed up in any variety of anime-, Japan-, or just general fantasy or fan-culture related outfits; I saw a Tuskan Raider (sandman), for instance, which did not strike me as particularly Japanese.

Thankfully for me as a naturally shy person when people go to that much pain to look extraordinary not only are they a joy to photograph visually, they are a joy to photograph period. I have in the past had people pose for me, ask me to take their image (actually some random guy asked me to have his picture taken just two hours ago as I was walking and photographing by the Nekar canal in Jungbusch), and pay me to have their pictures taken (weddings or other formal occasions). In all of these cases they were obviously happy to have their picture taken, but I have never had such a large group of strangers so excited to be photographed not only by me, but by anybody – certainly not strangers from my own cultural circle who are so used to cameras. In fact, the only somewhat similar experience was at Wave-Gotik-Treffen, but of course being too enthusiastic is not very gothic. It is cosplay / Japanimation, however. And from the impression I got quite a number of visitors spent a good deal of time being photographed by one after the other person with camera.

Anyway, here are some impressions from Hanami 2014. I definitely look forward to Hanami 2015.

If you are in one of the pictures, feel free to download the picture and leave me a comment. If you’re not in the pictures but know I took a picture of you email me.

Alaska Exhibition in Stuttgart, Germany

Finally here is the invitation card for my upcoming exhibition in Stuttgart, Germany (June 15 – September 21, 2012).

You can also download the invitation as a pdf here.

I will be exhibiting many of the same prints I also had on display in my exhibit at the Carl-Schurz-Haus in 2009, but plan to add a few from the original as well as a more recent trip to the panhandle in 2011. I hope a fair number of people will show up for the opening, during which I will show many more images from my 2008 trip, as well as a recent trip from last year and talk about the making of a few of the images on display.

My talk will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday June 14.

Postmodern Schlock and Screwing Tortoises

Wednesday on my visit to Side I had not one but two novel experiences. The first was a visit to the Manavgat waterfalls, which both of my guide books praise highly as an idylic retreat, the other were two screwing tortoises and later two others. Apparently it’s that time of year, at least if you’re a tortoise.
Watching tortoises during copulating is a view at once endearing and ridiculous, which – if you think about it – is probably also the way human intercourse would look from a tortoise’s perspective. The way it works as far as I could tell is that the male bonks the female’s shield repeatedly (a sound that is quite distinctive and led to my discovery of the second pair) to get her all fired up between periods of mounting for which he makes the most bizarre noises + cum face. All in all quite a sight to behold.

Tortoise cum face

The other major revelation was the “waterfall.” It’s more of a rapid really and part of an ensemble made to resemble … whatever … something, the sunken city of some place or other, probably. They built terraces all around the “waterfall” and then flooded them over. Now they charge admission and there are “professional photographers” all over the place who take your picture with your loved one and sell it to you, I bet they make a decent living since there are tons of young courting Turks. Naturally their pictures are underwhelming. Add half a dozen or so gift shops with pirated sweaters, shoes and other trash and you have a fairly good idea. The whole setup was so incredibly bizarre, and reminded me so much of a DeLillo novel, I gladly paid the 3,50 lira. The fact that I was pretty much the only non-native was a nice change.

The sunken city (?) at the Manavgat "waterfalls"

Lastly I couldn’t let you go without at least a half way decent image. This one was taken last night above the Dimcay dam, on the way to Gemüseauflauf [vegetable casserole], as a fellow touristess called it.

Scene above the Dimcay dam.

Thank the Almighty for Rental Cars

Faithful readers,

it took me only about an hour in Antalya to realize that He must have had travelers such as myself in mind when in His infinite wisdom He invented rental cars. I received a first strong pointer when I was trying to find dinner. Hardly anybody here seems to have a clue of what “vegetarian” means; naturally, trying to explain what a vegan is seems even more hopeless – which speaks for the kind of people who usually stay in Antalya.*

Even more bizarre about this section of Turkey is that fact that everybody speaks German, or some version thereof, and everyone immediately addresses you in German, tourists as well as Turks (this is only true of the town, not the country, noone speaks anything but Turkish as soon as you leave the tourist ghettos, which does not mean you won’t get invited for çay and smile at each over the Babylonian language barrier). I don’t think I have ever been so fully embedded in Ruhrpott culture as these last two days. My neighbor has brought a gigantic Schalke flag which covers his entire balcony. He also has a Schalke towel, and I think I saw him wear Schalke shorts the first day. He refers to Bild as “the newspaper,” in exactly the tone of that snooty TV ad for the Taz, which some of my German readers may recall. Right now he is in great dismay because the internet has not been working all day (“Dat geht mir auf den SACK, ey”).

Antalya itself lies in a pretty enough spot: the Mediterranean on one side, the mountains on the other and it has a castle overlooking the water. The city has exhausted its potential, photographic as well as otherwise, in a not too busy day, however – unless your idea of having a good time is getting sunburnt, and enjoying the all-inclusive buffet and free drinks at the hotel – which for a lot of people seems to be the case. I, on the other hand, have decided it’s serious rental car time, for although I enjoy a day at the beach or pool, I would feel too much like wasting my time if I ignored the surrounding area.

Yesterday [Monday] I went to the East as far as Anamur and quite enjoyed the coastline. I also added another member to my growing family, for I found another long lost brother – or rather he found me. This new addition to my family, Hayati, as opposed to my previous two Jordanian brothers, who were hospitable to the point of embarrassment, was obviously more interested in hustling me for money, which over an extended trip from his village to Anamur and back he half-craftily did. All the while he was addressing me as Thomas, which, curiously, happens to be the name of my cousin from the estranged side of my family. While I did not buy any rugs or knickknacks (nor did he try to sell any), my new-found brother (“Meine Mama ist Deine Mama”) got more and more drunk with the money he “borrowed” from me, while insisting that I should let him drive, for he still could, and that I should drink a second beer and some of his vodka for the police wouldn’t care anyhow – which may or may not be true. In the end he entertained / embarrassed / harassed / amused me for most of an afternoon and into the pitch black night at which point he was so shitfaced his excuses for not giving me back my money got more and more flimsy and he starting praising scenery which, for lack of light, no one could have seen. His company was charming / obnoxious / hilarious and culturally enlightening enough to have been worth the price of the vodka he drank “on the house” – although he of course promised to give me the money back when he’s in town on Thursday. I’m of half a mind to test his honesty. In large part because he claims to work for an outfitter who takes people waterskiing and I wouln’t mind trying waterskiing. Although I do not expect to ever see him again, maybe this will be one of the rare occasions in which mankind positively surprises me. I will also have to ask my parents what else they have kept hidden from me; I am sure there are some more skeletons in the closet considering how many brothers I have all over the world I have never heard of.

I think I will head back East tomorrow morning, when the imam faithfully reminds me (around 4:30 a.m.) that it is my heavenly duty to use the best light for my photography. Although I would personally set him half an hour later, his praise of Allah is a good incentive to get out of bed, for the very thought of sleep is laughable for at least ten minutes while he’s at it, and afterwards you are so awake you might as well get out of bed. Also on the list of places to go in the next few days are Antalya, Side and Dimçayi. I might also try my luck at just driving into the mountains to see what they have to offer. And I still have the lecture to write I have to hold two days after getting back. It’s on the topic of postmodernism and Antalya seems to be about as appropriate a place to write it as I can think of, the only place more appropriate I can think of would be Las Vegas [edit: I found an even better place, Manavgat-Selalesi, the dream escape of Turkish families and postmodern kitsch beyond belief].

PS (Wednesday morning): He also has a Schalke bathing suit. While he seems nice enough when you talk to him, I am beginning to really worry. In other news: there’s still no internet: “maybe tonight.” Whatever, I’m off to the West for the rest of the day. I hope I will be able to post this tonight.

* After a while I found that at least some restaurants have a vegetarian selection, with always the same three items on the menu, the difference between which – if there is any – is so slight it frankly escapes me.

For those who have read (or skipped) this far, here are some images:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,400 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 23 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Website Update (Costa Rica 3)

Being, as always, a last minute person I have uploaded some new images of Costa Rica literally minutes before leaving for the airport to fly to Texas.
Check out the Recent work folder on my website, and stay tuned for some images from Big Bend National Park in the near future.

Birds of Costa Rica

While I try to work on myself with all the birding oportunities around Vancouver, I usually am not much of a bird photographer. To get decent images of birds too often you have to sit in a stuffy blind for long stretches of time and attract the birds with food and a perch – overall not my ideal of nature photography, I’d rather document what I encounter than set things up. On top of that, the best locations will often be on land you have no right to set up a hide on. Lastly, and most importantly I simply do not feel the emotional connection I feel when photographing mammals who often know I am there, but chose to ignore me, or sometimes even landscapes in great light. To me many birds look pretty, but they just don’t do very interesting things most of the time. Maybe I am ignorant, but I will take a bear over a bird any day.
Don’t get me wrong, I like some birds. Owls for instance are really cool and I would go out of my way to photograph them, bald eagles certainly have their attraction, puffins and cranes are pretty cool, too, but ducks and small brown song birds – I don’t know… As I said, I try to work on myself, so maybe I will learn to appreciate even the small brown ones yet. Costa Rica, I am happy to report, sems a better place than most for the aspiring bird lover. It is one of those locations where even an ignoramus like myself cannot help but enjoy the diversity and color of the birds. On top of that many of them thankfully are not too tiny, but they are still damn hard to find in the jungle. In a few lodges they put out food so the lazy potographer has the luxury of having the birds come to him (or her) during breakfast rather than stalking through the rainforest with those little buggers flying off each time you are set up (another benefit of mammals – most simply can’t fly away).
Below are a few images of the various birds we saw and photographed so far. I hope you enjoy the images. As always feel free to comment and explain the wonders of birding to me, yell at me for my ignorance or write whatever else you wish to let me or the world know (ideally it would have some sort of relation to this post ;))!

Black-cheeked woodpecker getting set up to peck some wood

Keel-billed toucan

Romantic birds (I should really get a bird guide to use proper names)

Brown-hooded parrot

Bird in the rain (did I mention I should get a bird guide - it's those small brownish ones again, I told you)

Chestnut-mandibled toucan enjoying a banana

Brown Pelicans

Bare-throated tiger heron trying to camouflage itself (it failed - I found it)

Turquoise-browed Motmot in the jungle

A lesson in ecology

One of the great things about photographing the natural world and spending as much time outdoors as it takes to get good photos is that you always see something new – and quite frequently something curious. Granted, you also sometimes see such things right in front of your door, but it helps to be looking.
At our current hotel we have this slightly demented (or overly intelligent?) bird that apparently tries to figure out either cars or windows. Today it was at it for at least fifteen minutes. It repeatedly flew back and forth between our car and the one adjacent to it, sat on the door and knocked against the window with its beak, apparently trying to see if it could get inside without hurting itself (it later tried the same with the windshield). It has been playing that game at least since the day before yesterday, when we first observed this strange behavior. I really wonder what that bird is up to. My feeling is that it is interest in driving lessons, but it is most likely underage.

Anyway, another more peculiar thing happened two days ago just outside the Monteverde cloud forest. We saw a Bushy-Tailed Olingo:

Olingo sitting in a tree (where it belongs)

Onlingos, I am told, are nocturnal animals. They are also carnivores (which I don’t doubt since they are pretty mean-looking critters) and they live in trees. The chances to see one, I assumed prior to our meeting, are pretty slim. Not so at a cafe called the Hummingbird Gallery, however. The cafe gains its name because they have a number of hummingbird feeders, which not surprisingly attract dozens hummingbirds.

Hummingbird at Feeder

Much more surprising, they apparently also attract olingos or at least one olingo. That nifty little bastards has found a way to do a tighrope walk to reach the feeders which are suspended from wires hung between trees. The idea being this setup is quite obviously to keep other animal from reaching them. Well, not so when this particular olingo is present, as you can see:

Olingo tightroping it

Olingo emptying hummingbird feeder

… and those guys are not easily discouraged either, some people tried to chase them off for quite a while to no avail. No wonder the poor hummingbirds can only sit and watch in disgruntlement:

Disgruntled hummingbird

The moral of the story, in case you are wondering, is the complexity of nature and animal behavior. It is astonishing how easily human action, in this case hanging up a hummingbird feeder, can bring forth unforseen consequences and impact the environment, turning in this case a nocturnal (probably naturally shy) animal into one walking around in the middle of the day between hordes of tourists. And a dignified carnivore into a sugar water-slurping junk food addict.

The Most Photographed Barn in America

I recently reread a part of Don DeDillo’s novel White Noise quoted in David Foster Wallace’s article on Television and US fiction “E Unibus Pluram.” It is a section in which the narrator Jack Gladney, professor of Hitler studies, takes a colleague, a buffoonish popular culture critic, to see a local attraction, known as the most photographed barn of America. It is such a great piece of writing that it deserves to be quoted at some length:

Several days later Murray asked me about a tourist attraction known as the most photographed barn in America. We drove 22 miles into the country around Farmington. There were meadows and apple orchards. White fences trailed through the rolling fields. Soon the signs started appearing. THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHED BARN IN AMERICA. We counted five signs before we reached the site. There were 40 cars and a tour bus in the makeshift lot. We walked along a cowpath to the slightly elevated spot set aside for viewing and photographing. All the people had cameras; some had tripods, telephoto lenses, filter kits. A man in a booth sold postcards and slides – pictures of the barn taken from the elevated spot. We stood near a grove of trees and watched the photographers. Murray maintained a prolonged silence, occasionally scrawling some notes in a little book.
“No one sees the barn,” he said finally.
A long silence followed.
“Once you’ve seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn.”
He fell silent once more. People with cameras left the elevated site, replaced by others.
“We’re not here to capture an image, we’re here to maintain one. Every photograph reinforces the aura. Can you feel it, Jack? An accumulation of nameless energies.”
There was an extended silence. The man in the booth sold postcards and slides.
“Being here is a kind of spiritual surrender. We see only what the others see. The thousands who were here in the past, those who will come in the future. We’ve agreed to be part of a collective perception. This literally colors our vision. A religious experience in a way, like all tourism.”
Another silence ensued.
“They are taking pictures of taking pictures,” he said.
He did not speak for a while. We listened to the incessant clicking of shutter release buttons, the rustling crank of levers that advanced the film.
“What was the barn like before it was photographed?” he said. “What did it look like, how was it different from the other barns, how was it similar to other barns? We can’t answer these questions because we’ve read the signs, seen the people snapping the pictures. We can’t get outside the aura. We’re part of the aura. We’re here, we’re now”
He seemed immensely pleased by this.

This piece is a gem of absurdity, not only because of the barn, but also because of the ironic fun it pokes at cultural critics (i.e. people like me in my other life) through the figure of Murray and his illusion of being critically distanced through his analysis of the whole scene.
The main reason I am posting this, however, is because it also immediately reminded me of my last trip to Grand Teton and the predicament of the tourist photographer, since Grand Teton is without a doubt the location of the actual most photographed barn in America, T. A. Moulton Ranch on Mormon Row Road.

T.A. Moulton Ranch, Mormon Row, Grand Teton National Park

As opposed to DeLillo’s barn it is at least pretty and not just “aura.” Nevertheless, it is certainly one of the most over-photographed places I have ever been. The challenge here is not to frame a good picture (you almost cannot miss), but to exclude the other photographer’s cameras, tripods or shadows (the sun rises behind your back), as seen for instance in this “behind the scenes” shot.
In a way the barn is very emblematic of Grand Teton as a whole, which is also the location of the second most photographed barn in America (taken later the same day):

Andy Chambers Ranch, Grand Teton National Park

… and the most photographed pond in America:

Beaver Pond at Schwabacher Landing, Grand Teton National Park

… where the situation is very similar: before sunrise a dozen photographers (yours truly, I am afraid, being one of them) tripod-wrestle to get into position, freezing their hands off to take slight variations of essentially the exact same picture which literally thousands have taken before them, all the while halfheartedly joking about “probably not selling too many of these shots.” Despite the scenery and the display of joviality, I cannot help but feeling like a moron when being part of the crowd, particularly because, as DeLillo reminds me, knowing of the absurdity of the situation does not remove me from it, reflection or cynicism do not necessarily mean one is less of a buffoon.