Author Archive

Weird Job: MLB groundskeeper

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

I love finding people who work unusal jobs for a few reasons: 1) I’m anti-cube and folks who work weird gigs typically don’t sit behind a desk. 2) These peeps are the few who actually like going to work in the morning (or evening or whatever). Quick tangent: I really believe employers/companies need to rethink the cube. It’s awful. It’s torture and I really get more work done sitting at home or at Barnes & Noble with my laptop. Personally, I think if you’re going to force me to sit in one of those beastly spaces, there should be a water feature, a Buddha statue, some bamboo, and no fluorescent lighting, please!

Anyway, back to my point. The Christian Science Monitor had an awesome story about a woman living and thriving outside the cube. Heather Nabozny is one of 30 head groundskeepers at Detroit Tigers’ Comerica Park. Translation: girlfriend mows the lawn for a major league baseball stadium.

Ms. Nabozny grew up in Brighton, Mich. As a kid, she worked at her dad’s lawn-care company, which is where she first fell in love with grass. At the age of 10, she mowed the family’s lawn with a tractor.

Yet it was a lawn-care seminar she attended with her dad that got her seriously thinking about taking care of sports fields for a profession. “I said, ‘Wow! They have a school for this?’ ” she recalls. Years later, she graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in sports turf management.

See, this piece further proves that if you pursue the thing you love most, or at least like a lot, the money will follow. As an aspiring freelance writer, I seriously hope this is the case.

So, are you working the dream?

Back of the House: A Photo Essay By Michael Harlan Turkell

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

It’s easy to like Michael Harlan Turkell. When the New York City-based photographer walks into Public (voted Best Brunch by TimeOut New York, by the way) he warmly greets the staff, already hard at work prepping for the long night ahead. It’s a little after 10 in the morning. Turkell apologizes for running late (he’s not that late). He was at the Greenmarket in Union Square and walks into the eatery carrying bags stuffed with baby Chioggia beets, green garlic, baby fennel, sugar snap peas, and French breakfast radishes.

Turkell sits down, sips on his coffee, and smiles, totally at ease. After this interview, he’s going to photograph pickles for Wheelhouse Pickles in Long Island City.

Talk about a cool gig.

At 26, Turkell has done something that most of us only dream of doing. He’s managed to combine his two loves, food and photography, and create a job for himself that actually pays the bills. He’s a self-described “culinary photojournalist.” And he’s happy.

Turkell’s latest project, Back of the House, is a tribute to the men and women who work behind the scenes in some of New York City’s restaurants—the folks most of us rarely consider as we’re inhaling pan-seared, sesame-encrusted Ahi Tuna steak. He’s shot in more than 100 restaurants so far, including Public, Butter, WD-50, Masa, and Daniel. “I want to illuminate the back of the house, I don’t care to illuminate myself,” says Turkell. “I’m not doing the hardest part of the work; I’m just lucky enough to be around it. I’m trying to open up lines of communication.”

Previously selected for the upcoming 25 Under 25: Up-and-Coming American Photographers to be published next spring, Turkell talks to SMITH about his series, a fish’s head, and life as a culinary photojournalist.

What kind of camera are you using?
The Nikon D200. It keeps the overhead low because it’s digital and you can shoot as much as you want.

When did you start taking pictures?
I didn’t even own camera until I was 21. I dropped out of the first school I went to. I went to [Boston University] for math and science and came back to New York and went to community college. It happened to be an elective that filled a spot. And I enjoyed it.

You used to work in kitchens, now you’re behind the camera full time, why the switch?
It was a combination of things. I had fallen and hurt my knee. I’ve had two ACL surgeries, so that constant pivot put that strain. The hours. It’s hard to hold on to not just relationships, but even friendships and acquaintances. All the people you hang out with are part of that counterculture. And I love the morning. I love being able to see the light of day. So I think the combination of those, and the fact that I was getting my BFA in photography, I thought, I might as well pursue this… And the way I wanted to learn, I didn’t necessarily want to be in one place. I was always looking for new opportunities, so it wasn’t hard leaving it because I know I can so readily come back to it.

How’s it going so far?
I’m still trying to get in magazines. It’s the steepest learning curve I’ve ever had. Cooking comes naturally to me, sometimes photography does as well, but the business doesn’t necessarily. I’m just trying to please the people. And I’ll bend over backwards for little or no pay sometimes just to make sure somebody is happy, and that isn’t necessarily the industry that thrives [in New York City]. But I like that I’ve been able to incorporate that hospitality that I learned in restaurants into photography.

Sounds like you’ve found yourself a dream job.
I’m still so interested in food and restaurants, and I didn’t want to stop learning. I pick kitchens and chefs and subjects because I’m interested in them. And I always wanted to have that as the defining drive behind my photography, that I’m actually interested in the subject that I’m photographing, that there’s some kind of deeper connection rather than a superficiality of the image.

It’s nice that I am able to get paid and also be in these kitchens that I wanted to cook in and learn from. It’s odd to say that I’ve actually made a job for myself. It’s still a struggle month to month, [but] I’m bombarded with work right now, which is a great thing.

Why did you want to capture the drama behind the scenes?
After having worked in restaurants myself, I know [the back of the house] sees little light of day, and also few accolades from diners. Not that I needed a pat on the back. It was just something that was never really shown or illuminated to people outside of the kitchen. It was easy to talk to people that I worked with, there was a comradery, there was a common ground, and understanding, but to tell someone what you did… there was very little illumination as to what went on. I thought it was an important thing to show and preserve. You always see food writers, but I didn’t see many—well, this is another self-proclaimed term—culinary photojournalists.

What’s the response been like?
I still shoot primarily shoot for the chef and for the people in the kitchen. And I’ll show them the photos, ask them what they think, if they think it’s a true depiction, and shows them in the right light. I will not show anything defamatory. There’s a true honesty in the industry, and I’m trying to keep that integrity so I only seek out places that I think have those values.

What makes a good image to you?
I think all of those values: honesty, integrity. I don’t think [the image] should have to be explained necessarily—that there’s a very distinct caption to it, that everyone comes to a common understanding of what is there, and something the people I took it with, among, and for agree upon. Not to say that an image has to represent some kind of majority. But I’m trying to create more archetypes, things that represent very specific points.

What do you consider off-limits to shoot?
It depends on the kitchen. If they say its off limits, I don’t photograph it. Once they feel comfortable with me, I don’t know if there’s much that’s off limits. There isn’t one specific thing across the board that everyone says don’t take a picture of. There are points in service where they’re like, “Can you stop,” and I’m like, “Of course.”

What’s the funniest or strangest thing you’ve seen through the viewfinder?
Once was actually right here [in Public]—it was around 9pm, which is usually a pretty intense time during service. It was busy, but a guy comes in the kitchen with a big black garbage bag—they call him Jersey Dan or just Dan, he’s a friend of the restaurant. He opens up the bag and in it is the head itself, of a yellowfin tuna, as big as my torso. I think it was a yellowfin tuna. But in the middle of service they just put it on table. I think they made a quick tartare. That was awesome. I think he’s brought in venison before—the whole deer. I think that was during the middle of service, too.

Ever miss the money shot?
No. I’ll just come back and try to get it another day. People are always going to eat. There have been plenty of times where I know I just missed it by a second, but that’s why I revisit and haven’t stopped shooting.

From whom, what, or where do you derive inspiration?
Like everybody else, I love to travel. And I’m inspired by simple, little things—like a neighborhood in Brooklyn that I’ve never been to. One of my greatest passions is being a pedestrian sometimes, strolling about and looking at minutiae. Just constantly learning. Right now I’m trying to get a wine palate. My girlfriend works for Food & Wine, and I’ve always been a beer guy, so just understanding wines is overwhelming. But I know what I like now. And I love factoids and little interesting quips and phrases; I just like little idiosyncrasies.

What’s the picture you’d most like to take?
I don’t know yet. I don’t think I ever want a single image to represent me. I shoot in series and try to release them as such. And though you look to have one picture that encapsulates it all—it’s great to have that single raw ingredient—I like putting them all together. That’s what I like about this project, it’s completely amendable and malleable, and it has so much flex to it that it’s not defined yet, which is really nice. I like it all. I like the combination.

If anyone could take a picture of you, who would it be?
I’m addicted to this guy Erwin Wurm. He’s very conceptual. He does these one-minute portraits. And I love all of the minuteness of it. The images speak to how quickly art can be made—and how long it can last afterwards.

What are the sites, photocentric or not, that you most love online? This guy Matt Bites he’s not only very fun to read, but he’s also an art director/photographer, and his images are just outstanding. But I hate saying web site this, web site that. I’d rather tell people where to go.

Where should they go?
In New York City, the Greenmarket, go to the Greenmarket, and rather than see something and buy it because you think its hot and fresh, taste it too. There are amazing specialty food stores. There’s a place called Sahadi’s, which is a spice trader on Atlantic Avenue. Awesome. Kalustyans, which is here in the City in Murray Hill. JB Prince for kitchen supplies. Kitchen Arts and Letters in the Upper East Side, it’s not just an antiquarian cookbook store, but they have some of the best international cookbooks. The James Beard House. They do dinners. Visiting chefs come from around the world, and you can go have dinner and taste an amazing array of foods.

Googling your crush

Thursday, July 5th, 2007

As some of you may already know, I am obsessed with Googling myself. I know, it’s terrible. But lately, I’ve taken this whole Googling thing to a whole new level: I’m Googling old crushes, friends, and enemies from 15 and 25 years ago.

Yup, totally insane, I know. But, it’s kind of fun to read about someone who you knew when you were, like, five. Take my friend Krissy from Iowa. The two of us became best friends when we were only four, and always thought we’d stay BFFs. Then I moved and we lost touch. I Googled her recently and found out she just got married. Useless information? No, not really, I’m really happy to know what she’s up to.

Krystal, my arch nemesis from the 5th grade, still lives in New Mexico, is also married, and had a kid. Still hate her? Nope. We were just different people—she was one of the cool kids and I wasn’t.

Oh, and dreamy Alexis, my long time cello playing crush from middle school. Sad to report, he’s married—gosh, I wasted a lot of time daydreaming about our wedding day.

While perhaps slightly distrubing on my part, I love knowing what these people are up to after all these years. Although I don’t know their entire story, it’s nice just to be able to read an exerpt. After all, at one point, these individuals played a major role in my mini universe.

So confess: have you Googled a crush?

Get ready to Q it up on the 4th…

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007

For some, the 4th of July is all about fireworks. Frankly, I don’t really give a hoot about fireworks—you seen one display, you seen ‘em all. And that goes for the big Macy’s display here in New York City. I know, it’s terrible, but that’s how I roll, yo.

Of course, seeing how tomorrow is a huge national holiday, and we at SMITH want to pay tribute, I decided the best way to honor the day would be to go through flickr in search of something that not only speaks to me, but also to every patriot: food. Specifically, BBQ.

WARNING: Vegetarians and vegans, you might not want to keep scrolling.

Below, check out how these regular Joes captured the spirit of America—with a of slab of beef. Mmmm. BBQ.

Happy 4th SMITHITES. Be safe.


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Catastrophe, Crisis, and Other Family Traditions: The Photos of Jessamyn Lovell

Sunday, July 1st, 2007

Jessamyn Lovell’s series, Catastrophe, Crisis, and Other Family Traditions, is a family portrait that is sure to strike a nerve with almost everyone. The Oakland, CA-based photographer’s work takes an honest look at her family, flaws and all. Lovell, a professor at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, CA, began photographing her family as a way of coping with the “stress, frustration, anxiety, and guilt” she felt due in part to her home life. Lovell has created 10 different photo albums—albums dedicated to a family member, their home in upstate New York, animals, landscapes, or even Lovell herself. “When I recognized that I was part of them, and therefore partly my own subject, I started to turn the camera upon myself more and more,” she says.

Each of the 30-year-old photographer’s frames evokes something different from the common (Klare ready to eat) to the intense (Mommy taking insulin) to the off-beat (Allsun with chef knife). Lovell’s work is reminiscent of Sherwood Anderson’s wonderful book, Winesburg, OH: both allow outsiders to enter a world that’s incredibly complex, compelling, tragic, and touching.

SMITH talked to Lovell about Catastrophe, Crisis, and Other Family Traditions—and her mother’s gun, too. —Kathy Ritchie

What camera do you work with?
I use a variety of cameras. My mother gave me a Pentax K1000 when I graduated from high school because I had been using a loaner throughout my senior year. At the start of grad school, I got a Calumet 4×5 and use that a great deal still. I also use Holgas and a Diana, but I primarily use my Mamiya 7 and Contax G2 now.

Why did you decide to capture your family on film the way you did?
I began photographing my family not as subjects, but as sort of way to survive the pain I was experiencing. I used my camera as a journal of sorts to negotiate a relationship with them. [Eventually] I stopped seeing my family members so much as one entity and considering each individual more separately. I also stopped looking at them from the other side of my lens and started to record the relationship that exists between all of us, as well as the stories that have unfolded throughout our history.

This project has shifted to become a way to explore and record our collective history, as well as the choices and paths we take as individuals.

There are sets of photos of various family members, which is your favorite?
I love each set for different reasons. At times, I think the ones of my brother are the strongest because it clearly shows him growing and changing over time. My all-time favorite image has got to be “Mommy with gun” because it shows her defiance and independence, while still showing her vulnerability.

What’s the message here?
I see my work as a personal documentation of an American family struggling with class, religion, and disability. Although I deal directly with these issues, a wide variety of viewers can relate to family tragedy and crisis. The essay also looks at the daily lives of my sisters, adopted brother, mother, and my relationships with each of them. I am investigating the relationships within the family, as well as each member’s ability to transcend the circumstances we were given. I feel that by allowing the world access to this self-examination, viewers are able to gain a better understanding of disability and poverty.

Your site is very personal and very intense. How have strangers responded to your words and images?
I’ve recently realized just how vulnerable a body of work like this makes me, especially with such detailed information so publicly accessible. Many people have responded with stories of their own and want to make a connection or hear more stories. Overall, most folks who respond to my site seem to enjoy reading about the stories and relating them to the images. This is exactly what I hope to do with the book I am working on.

And how has your family reacted to your work?
My whole family—especially my mother—has been very supportive of my project and genuinely seems to understand why I’m driven to make and show the work. It’s my version of our story, but I include their words and collaborate with them to get a fuller sense of the stories and histories, even as they unfold. My sister Allsun was most against my photographing, and even stayed out of the images for a period of several years. As the project has unfolded, and she has really examined what I am doing. She has said that she is proud that I’ve taken our experiences and turned them into something positive. I can honestly say that this project has brought me closer to my family, especially my mother.

What makes a good image to you?
Content and concepts that are important to the photographer is crucial for a strong photograph. An image that that stands out and creates a reaction in the viewer. It can be ever so subtle or dramatic and jarring. Either way, a good image usually serves as a window into another world or way of thinking.

What do you consider off-limits to shoot?
When someone asks me to put the camera away or not to include [him or her] in the frame.

What’s the funniest or strangest thing you’ve seen through your viewfinder?
My sister Klare pumping up the tires of my mother’s wheelchair in Wal-Mart with a borrowed tire pump.

What’s the one fish that got away?
It was spring when Mommy first decided to finally sell all of the animals. A local farmer came with a big truck to take the 25 plus goats, one donkey, and Don Jose, our pet llama. My brother, AJ, helped round them up and herd them into the truck. Everyone got in except for Don Jose. They tried really hard—they even tried shooting him with a tranquilizer gun. The farmers got tired and finally said they would come back soon to get the remaining llama. Weeks went by and the farmer never came, so Don Jose remained in the yard.

It was around that time that Don Jose first started getting out. We could see him leap very high into the air, clearing the wire fence again and again. He was just too quick and too large to catch. A neighborhood farmer became impatient with our family for allowing the llama to roam the neighborhood. Don Jose was apparently caught several times wandering into this farmer’s bean field. The farmer told us that the next time he caught Don Jose in his bean field he would shoot him.

Sure enough, we were driving home and we caught a glimpse of the farmer chasing our llama with a shotgun at the ready! We all paused and Mommy started to cry. Shots rang out, and suddenly out of nowhere, Don Jose came running up to our house. I quickly corralled him into the fence and shut the gate. The farmer came up the road and into our yard yelling. He was obviously drunk and really pissed off, not to mention waving his shotgun around at us.

From whom, what, or where do you derive inspiration?
The works of photo greats like Diane Arbus, Robert Frank, Henri Cartier-Bresson, William Eggleston, August Sander, as well as many of my peers, friends, family, and the struggle people go through day to day just to survive. My students.

What’s the picture you’d most like to take?
My brother in his true element—away from the family.

If anyone could take a picture of you, who would you want it to be?
August Sander or Diane Arbus.

Where are you happiest taking photographs?
Cheesy places like in the woods or on the beach.

Is photography your only full-time gig?
I consider myself to be both a photographer and an educator. I just finished my first year in a full-time tenure track teaching position at Diablo Valley College in the San Francisco Bay Area. My position at DVC feeds my career, as a photographer and vice versa.

What are the sites, photocentric or not, that you most love online?
Boingboing; Magnum Photos; Alec Soth; Salon; Conceptual Art; We Make Money No Art;; Banksy; No One Belongs Here More Than You; Wooster;

Weird Museum: I guess stamps weren’t his thing

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

mutter.jpgA few years ago, my boyfriend and I were watching a Discovery Channel special about Philly’s Mutter Museum. The place is home to a lot of medical weirdness — like a five-foot colon, which held some 40 pounds of poo. Needless to say, we felt this place was reason enough to visit The City of Brotherly Love. Screw the Bell, man!

Now, as it turns out, another trip might be in order to yet another freaky museum. In London, England, The Wellcome Collection has opened its doors. According to an article in The New York Times, the museum contains “anatomical models, surgical instruments, prosthetic limbs and other examples of medical progress, as well as eye-catching objects ranging from Peruvian mummies and Chinese torture chairs to Greco-Roman phallic amulets to Japanese sex aids.” Sweet.

Oh, but there’s more. So much more.

It also presents what can only be called celebrity curiosities, like Napoleon’s toothbrush, Charles Darwin’s walking stick, Benjamin Disraeli’s death mask, Horatio Nelson’s razor, Florence Nightingale’s moccasins (worn during the Crimean War) and some locks of George III’s hair.

Of course, there’s always a reason why somebody chooses to collect amputation saws and mummies instead of coins or stamps. In this case, Henry Wellcome’s young bride (26 years his junior) cheated on him and became pregnant. He ditched her and devoted his life to his collection, which includes a piece of skin with a tattoo on it from an executed criminal. See, everyone has a story.

You can read the entire article here.

Googling yourself

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

OK, I don’t know if I’m the only one who does this on a regular basis or maybe I’m the only one who’s stupid enough to admit this, but I have a serious problem—yes, in addition to my fascination with Posh Spice and Katie Price, a.k.a Jordan:

I Google myself a lot. Like daily. I suppose it could be worse. I could be addicted to those silly gossip sites.

While I’m super psyched that the first “Kathy Ritchie” to pop up in a Google search is moi, I started thinking a lot about the other Kathy Ritchies out there. Take Kathy Ritchie of Ritchie Secretarial Services, for instance. Girl gets a lot of play on Google and Google Images. Like, there are seriously 10 images of this chick and only one of me—courtesy of SMITH and that dude in Bryant Park who took my picture.

Anyway, this whole Googling me, I mean Kathy Ritchie, got me wondering who else shares my name and what’s their story?

A quick rundown of just some of the Kats’ out there:

There’s a Kathy Ritchie from Rhodesia (or is it Zambia?) living in Canada.

A Kathy Ritchie, Ph.D—no big shock there, the name Kathy Ritchie simply oozes intelligence.

A Kathy Ritchie from Indiana who is renovating a public library.

ABC7 News interviewed a poll worker named Kathy Ritchie in Redwood City, CA.

Kathy Ritchie, a mother of four and volunteer for the San Lorenzo Valley School District.

Kathy Ritchie the dart player. She won $300 in a Women’s Singles Tournament!

Kathy Ritchie, author of the book, Decorative Painting: Fruits, Vegetables, and Berries.

So, who shares your name on Google?

Bloggers: get over yourselves & Start talking

Tuesday, June 5th, 2007

294580766_979cb6e401_m.jpgNewsweek (the one with the cover that reads, After Bush) had an interesting piece about “the journalistic interview in the user-generated 21st century.” In a nutshell, Wired writer Fred Vogelstein wanted to do a piece about a Silicon Valley blogger named Mike Arrington. Vogelstein, like any good journo, set out to interview Arrington’s fellow bloggers. Only problem was, the bloggers would only do the interview via e-mail. One of them even said he would reply to the e-questions on his blog. A big thumbs down for Vogelstein. The reason: they didn’t want the writer or any writer to paraphrase them or twist their point around by using only part of sentence.

Good reasons, I suppose, but the author of the Newsweek article makes a very valid point as to why the interview — either in person or over the phone — is so crucial to good reporting.

Says Steven Levy,

A live interview allows me not only to follow up quickly but to sense the verbal cues that direct me to more fruitful topics. In e-mail, people talk at you; in conversation I can talk with subjects, and a casual remark can lead to a level for discussion that neither party anticipated from the beginning.

Ok, I confess. I have been known, when necessary, to send questions via e-mail, and while it’s nice not to have to transcribe a tape every now and then, Levy is quite correct. The exchange between the interviewer and subject is key to telling a compelling story. Otherwise, it would be like Matisse painting one of his great works in three different shades of gray. Boring.

A Smith by any other name…

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007

IMG_1799.JPGI was at Trader Joe’s yesterday waiting in line when a worker named Dave came up to me and announced—loudly—that he had no idea Angelina Jolie shopped at TJ’s. I was mortified. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard the comparison. I once had an OBGYN tell me that my lips looked just like Angelina’s—and yes, it did beg the question, “which lips?,” as I had already assumed the position.

Truth be told, I don’t really look like Angelina Jolie. In fact, the only thing we have in common are our lips. We both have really fat, bee-stung pouts. So, what’s up you ask? Well, an article that appeared on asap may hold the answer:

Researchers at Miami University say some names are commonly associated with certain facial features, and that remembering others’ names has something to do with how close they match our preconceptions about how people with that label appear.

I guess the name “Kathy” doesn’t exactly evoke images of a hot, bi-curious, luscious-lipped movie star in the same way “Angelina” does.

You can read the entire piece here.

So, who do you look like?

Ed note: Kathie writes about her Ob-Gyn telling her she looks like Angelina here.

Last-Minute Mom Media

Friday, May 11th, 2007

13937357_1f22daf01d_b.jpgMoms rock. See, even the guys and gals in Iraq give their moms props!

Well, time’s running out. And in case you forgot, Mother’s Day is THIS SUNDAY. Ah, but don’t panic. Since there’s no way a Hallmark card will reach her in time, I decided to give you, the loyal SMITH reader some gift ideas that any and every mom will love. Actually, these are borrowed Mom’s Day gift ideas from Flickr. For more ideas, just plug in “Mother’s Day” like I did.

Oh yeah, this is also your complimentary reminder to call your mother THIS SUNDAY.

Awww! I don’t even like dogs, but would love this little guy!

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