Chase the Light

Those of you who follow my social media output are most likely well aware by now that most of the past year has been spent lashing together thirty years worth of photographs from my many travels to Indonesia into a book. Writing the text, then leaning on talented writer & graphic design friends to lend their eyes and skills to proofreading and organizing my chaos into something that, in the end, I am very proud of.

Originally, my thought process in putting this project together was simply to have a vanity book to share with friends, family and select clients and patrons. After all, tens of thousands of photographs were residing on storage drives and file cabinets full of film captures with no one seeing them other than the few images I have placed on my website, social media platforms and my blog. Why not put together something tangible to commemorate the adventures, if for no other reason?

The book began simply enough.... using the online, on-demand printing services offered at, the project slowly began taking shape. The user interface and templates provided by Blurb were somewhat intuitive and easy enough to navigate after a bit of practice. Six months later, the book took shape even without much in the way of graphic design skills. Enlisting friends to add their advice & critique further added to the final layouts and, what I think is a pleasing flow of images and text. When a friend in the graphic design industry offered her services, the visual flow of the pages was elevated even further.

Now was the time for a trial by fire... send the thing off to print a proof copy. A week after sending off the files to Blurb, the postman arrived with the first copy hot off the press. Having seen a few other projects friends had printed using Blurb, I wasn't quite sure what to expect and expectations were rather low I must admit. Fortunately, Blurb had recently added some beautiful, luxurious paper stocks to choose from and I had opted for one of the more expensive of those choices. Excitedly opening the package, I was blown away by the color reproduction of the photographs, my primary concern. This first copy, however, still needed a little more fine-tuning... a couple of photo spreads were changed to images with greater impact, a handful of typos corrected. The revised files were uploaded and an order for 25 books was placed.

One week later, the books arrived. The consistency of the color reproductions was perfect. I now had on my hands a product that, judging from the responses of everyone I showed it to, could be very marketable. With that in mind, I began researching for an agent, a publisher and a distributor. Online, I found Robert Morton, a NY book agent specializing on photographer monographs who had previously been a photo editor at Aperture Books, one of the leading publishers of fine art photography books. An email exchange ensued. Robert was very kind and very helpful. He told me I had a very interesting and good book on  my hands. He suggested that the book had the greatest sales potential, obviously, to the tourist markets in Indonesia.

I also learned that the market for coffee-table photo books was severely depressed in recent years. Books that I had once paid upwards of $100.00 and more were now selling for under $50.00. That meant that publishing books in mass quantities using the on-demand services at Blurb was now out of the question. Each copy produced at Blurb was costing almost $90.00, even with volume discounts applied.

Being a regular traveler to Indonesia, I was well aware of Periplus Editions, Ltd., operator of fine book stores in great locations in Bali's tourist districts, airports, etc. Periplus is the Asian distribution arm of Tuttle Publishing based in Vermont. Friends in Bali, where I assume the book would potentially sell best, advised me that Periplus had the book distribution in Indonesia pretty well locked up. If I were to move forward with getting this book to market, they were the ones I believed to be best at publishing and /or distributing it. A photographer friend in Bali was kind enough to give me a contact name at Periplus. Finding their submission guideline on their website online, I sent off a book to my contact in Singapore. The submission guidelines advised that it could take 3-4 months to receive a response on my submission. I was both surprised and elated to receive and email 3 days after the Periplus offices had received my submission package. Within that email were suggestions on how to make the book more marketable, a somewhat disappointing suggested retail price and an insistence on a change to the cover image. I was advised that, at this time, the company was not taking on any additional publishing projects. That said, if I could produce the book affordably to meet their suggested retail price and make a change to the cover image, Periplus would offer me a contract for international distribution with heavy promotions in Indonesia and Asia and place an initial order of 1500 copies. 

That email was most encouraging. The book was viable! Now I had to find a way to mass produce the thing more affordably. based on advice of ad agency friends in Honolulu, I solicited printing quotes from 3 printing presses in S. Korea, 1 in China and another through a mid-west print broker dealing with several printers also in China. After some back and forth, I selected one the presses in S. Korea. Several new cover images were submitted to Periplus for approval and, after some back & forth, we finally settled on one that I could live with and the distributor believed would go a long way in increasing sales.

Now, as the Blurb layout & design software was proprietary to Blurb, the entire book had to be reformatted/redesigned for off-set press printing. With the generous help of the graphic designer who lashed the original version into shape, the book files were delivered to the press in Korea last night. Contracts with Periplus were signed and delivered earlier this week. The final cover design and descriptive paragraphs also submitted to Periplus for inclusion in their Fall 2018 Catalog. The agreements with the printer includes shipping to three Periplus distribution warehouses in Jakarta, Singapore and Texas. I am told that Korea will be shipping press proofs for approval early next week and once approved, production and packing will take 3-4 weeks. Once printed, shipping to Periplus will take another 3 weeks by ocean freight.

This entire process has been both frustrating and exhillarating. Now, with any luck, the book will be on store shelves well before the onslaught of the Christmas holiday season in Indonesia and elsewhere around the globe. I have learned a great deal in going through this gauntlet and entering the world of self publishing. Here are some of the very important take-aways I have garnered in the process:

-Details, details, details... pay attention to the minutiae.

-Enlist as many eyes as you possibly can to critique layout,design, etc.

-Proofread until your eyes bleed, then hand it off to others to proofread until their eyes beed too.

-Seek as much feedback as possible

-When you think its perfect, check it again, and again.

-Know your market.

-Seek a publisher or at least a distrubutor with expertise in that market

-Be patient

-Listen to and heed advice from the people who will ultimately be seeing your book

-You will not get rich publishing photo books

-Printing is expensive

-Enlist the services of a design expert. You will be glad you did!

A recently commissioned and completed lifestyle shoot depicting a "Family on Summer Vacation" involved both motion and still photography. Seven Model/Actors, One Director of Photography, two cameramen and an equal number of grips, one agency Creative Director, one Account Executive, one Producer & moi all caravanned around the island to three locations all covered in a day. Soon to be seen in TV commercials and print advertising both here and abroad.

During the past week we've been busy making images for some fine eateries around the island. First up, a rebrand and redesign of the former "The Terrace" restaurant at the Ritz Carlton Kapalua Resort. New interior design by the Phillpotts Group of Honolulu, made to resemble a library as you enter, this is the main breakfast buffet venue for the resort. Clean white lines, broad stone surfaces and beautiful lighting. Now renamed "Ulana", the restaurant features broad, sweeping views of the resort pool, ocean and the Island of Moloka'i across the channel.

Later in the week, we were back at one of Maui's most venerable, iconic and renowned restaurants, Mama's Fish House. Specializing is some of the freshest fish preparations you'll find anywhere, set within a coconut grove along an idyllic cove on Maui's north shore, Mama's is perhaps to most gorgeous "tiki" themed restaurant on the planet. But don't expect any Disney-fied version of that Polynesian theme here.... it's authentic to the core, right down to the wait staff dressed in real vintage mumus. Mai-tais, tropical sunsets, mouth watering creations by long-time chef Perry Bateman... Mama's is THE place for fresh fish in paradise.

I've been making photographs for Mama's for years. This time around, the goal, among other shots , was to capture images of their constantly busy dining rooms and the interior design when it was full of people. Just how to do this had evaded me for a long time.... how to safely light and capture the richness of the interior design during actual service without running cables, light stands and creating a safety hazard for both staff and guests. A couple of scouting & testing trips, I decided that it was entirely possible to shoot using only available light at just the right moment when the outdoor sunlight was fading to twilight. Wrangling up some talent as our focal point and asking them to freeze in place for up to 6 seconds per exposure allowed the other customers in the room to blur enough to be unrecognizable, thereby avoiding the need for signed talent releases from everyone in the restaurant. 

Last weekend remains largely a blur... three days of wines, food, celebrity sightings and hangovers as I covered the 30-somethingeth Wine & Food Festival at the Kapalua Resort for the 20-somethingeth time. Much of the rest of the week that followed was spent hunkering down before this fine blue screen editing and retouching the accumulated weekend's takes. I seem to vaguely recall attending a number of tastings, winemaker discussion panels, gala poolside and beachside parties and hobnobbing with the beautiful wine people doing wine-people stuff.

Highlights for me were eating a decadent $65 hamburger of waigu beef, foie gras & truffles on toasted brioche bun prepared by San Francisco and Vegas Chef Hubert Keller, hanging with old friends Shep Gordon, Mark Ellman and Mick Fleetwood, sampling far too many delicious vinos being constantly thrust into my hands.

Downlights were dropping my camera and destroying a $2300 lens (thankfully, the camera body survived). Let that be a lesson to you... never drink and photograph. 

Supermensch Shep Gordon
David Arthur Winery Owner David Long and His Lovely Wife
Mick Fleetwood and Chef Hubert Keller
Chelsea Hill & Mick Fleetwood
Somm Journal Managing Editor Jessie "Jabs" Birschbach w/ Supermensch Shep Gordon
Chef Mark Tarbell Celebrates a Successful Service
Mick Fleetwood w/ Chef Cat Cora
The $65 Burger

Spent most of Monday shooting my second "biopack" of still images for the Food Network program "Beat Bobby Flay". Last year, it was wonder chef Chefwonder - Sheldon Simeon. This time around, it was working with The Banyan Tree Restaurant at the Ritz Carlton Kapalua's Chef Alvin Savella, who's aptly named Instagram handle is @thekitchenassassin. He killed it, preparing five signature dishes as I snapped away, then fed me deep-fried soft-shell crab for breakfast. I think I'm in love! All day yesterday spent prepping and retouching Monday's take and delivering to Chef Flay's production team.
News on the Bali book front... an offer has been received from a preferred distribution company to place the book throughout Indonesia and the USA. Details of the deal are being hammered out as I type and print houses in S. Korea & China being solicited for quotes on printing en masse in a more affordable fashion. 

Stay tuned!

A recently completed project featuring the always stunning interior design elements of Kari Demond of KLM Interiors, Austin, Texas at the Montage Kapalua Bay Residences here on Maui.

I am so excited to announce the publication and release of my book on Balinese culture and rituals of devotion. 124 pages, hard cover linen bound with glossy full color dust jacket. Over 120 beautiful color & black and white photographs and armchair anthropological descriptive collected from 30 years of annual visits to the island. In honor of the initial release, I am offering signed and numbered copies at the discounted price of $115 plus postage (Hawaii residents add 4.167% tax). To get in on the discounted price, you can message me here or email me at :

Click Above to Preview and Purchase Online

Photographed a cool prototype home for off-grid, sustainable living commissioned by NYT Photo Editor Phaedra Brown. The story popped up online early last week and ran in the Sunday NYT print edition on Sunday 3/17. 

You can view the online version and the slideshow of photographs here:

Woke early Saturday morning for the customary dog walk and surf check. While at the beach, my phone began screeching & the message above appeared on the screen. 


38 minutes later came the broadcast: MAJOR FUCKUP FALSE ALARM.

Somebody pushed a wrong button.

Heads will roll.

"Tomorrow we will go to Karangasem for a ceremony. There may be some opportunities to photograph trance" said Mr. T, my friend, fellow photographer and guide into the world of Balinese "Niskala" (the unseen). Together we had attended several gatherings where people had fallen into trance during previous visits to the island and I was excited at the opportunity to witness and photograph more.

In 1957, the late Anthropologists Margaret Mead & Gregory Bateson traveled to the Indonesian Island of Bali to observe and document the island's culture, societal organizations, art & religious practices. Among the collected works gathered during their stay was a documentary film "Trance & Dance in Bali". The grainy black & white film depicts men & women in frenzied dance and attempting to stab themselves with fierce looking curved-bladed daggers known as "Kris" or "Keris" but unable to injure themselves while in a state of trance.

In the 30 years I have been visiting Bali, most of my time has been spent searching out their Hindu religious ceremonies, their Shamen & Balians (healers) and other activities that would largely fall into the category of "mystical" by western thinking. In Balinese culture, however, the unseen plays an equal role and is given at least as much attention as the visible world. Great energy, time and attention is devoted daily to appeasing and placating an enormous pantheon of spirits & Gods. In doing so, the Balinese believe that they help to maintain the balance between good vs. evil, bringing order to their world and to ours.

Trance phenomenon has been something that has held special interest for me. Hearing about these strange rituals for many years, it wasn't until recently that I have had the opportunity to see and document the activity. In trance, certain members of the community are prone to being "inhabited by spirits"... a sort of "possession" in which the spirit enter the body and communicates through the possessed. Sometimes, when sickness is an issue, for example, a spirit will enter a trancer, usually a Balian (healer), and prescribe proper offerings, etc. in order to restore the spiritual balance of the ill. In rituals such as the ones documented by Mead and Bateson, and in the images I have captured below, the individuals in trance become very rigid, their every muscle tensing, eyes glazed over. Often, those individual in trance will perform ritual dances to their gods, sometimes, animal spirits will take over the body and the individual will mime animal movements and sounds. Almost always during these rituals, men & women alike will make attempts at ritual self-mutilation, turning the large Kris daggers on themselves, beating their upper forearms with the blasé, raising welts and drawing blood in a frenzied activity, then attempting to stab themselves with the pointed blade of the daggers, though while in trance, they are protected and unable to pierce the chest even though great pressure is obviously being applied.

Arriving at the small mountain village of Selumbung, in the Regency of Karangasem, we were met on the road leading to the main temple by a number of other followers and photographers all gathered for the annual ceremony "Ngusaba Pusa" in which the village ancestors are honored. Even before we began walking towards the temple gates a woman, obviously in trance, approached us then passed and went to greet the village "Barong", the mythical beast representing good and positive forces. This was looking promising, I thought as we entered through the temple gates and into the main courtyard. A large group was already assembled and a dozen or so people were already falling into trance and dancing around a smoky fire, aided by the hypnotic sound of the village gamelan orchestra and a man wearing the mask and costume of "Rangda", a representation of the evil witch mother of Balinese mythology. Attendant priests dressed in white were ever present, armed with holy water and incense to watch over those in trance and keep order. A few moments later, a procession of men bearing bamboo palanquins with boxes housing the effigies of ancestral gods approached and entered the temple, along with the Barong and it's tranced escort. As the gods and Barong passed through temple gates, more and more attendees fell into trance, dancing, attempting to self-mutilate until the entire inner courtyard was filled with a euphoric delirium. The trancing continued for the three hours we remained and was still going on when we departed the hillside village. Mr. T did not disappoint in bringing me to this village... he never does. 

Below are photographs shot while in the midst of the ceremony. I cannot explain in great detail what is actually taking place or why. The best explanations I have read comes from Fred Eiseman, Jr.'s, "Bali: Sekala & Niskala Vol I: Essays On Religion, Ritual, and Art". Here, Eisman describes the trance phenomenon as a dissociative state, not unlike sleepwalking or some other form of hysterical phenomenon such as hysterical seizure or paralysis. The person in trance, while not completely unaware of their surroundings, appears to be in a state similar to being hypnotized. Some people are very prone to trance and fall into the state spontaneously. Others may requite other stimuli before falling... the approach or proximity to ancestral gods, proximity to an "energized" Rangda or Barong or the repetitive sound of the gamelan orchestra. In the case of Balian healers, meditation can induce trance. Others are immune to trance and are often relegated to the position of attendants and guardians, assisting in keeping things orderly and non-violent during the ritual. While in trance, some individuals appear to be in a state of euphoric bliss, other appear to be suffering from terrifying visions. Much of their movements in mass trance ceremonies such as this one are ritualistic, as with the dancing and attempts at self-mutilation with Kris'.

 Since my departure from Bali only a week ago, this village and many others in the Karangasem Regency are under threat of a major eruption of Bali's sacred volcano, Gunung Agung, the first since 1963. As of today, over 74,000 villagers have been evacuated to shelters, public buildings, homes of family and friends as they await the imminent eruption. My prayers go out to all...

Approaching the Temple
Barong & Attendants

All Photographs ©2017 Tony Novak-Clifford

A long day spent capturing food porn for new websites of my favorite local chef & restauranteur... mouth/eye watering results.

Very honored to work with Mariska Hargitay and the Hawaii Team at the Joyful Heart Foundation in producing this series of images for the national & local PSA Campaign raising awareness about domestic and sexual violence. Hawaii Says No More!

Pictured below is Mariska w/ Dr. Kamana'opono Crabbe

Attended the Women's March on Maui over the weekend. The Friday frowns were turned upside down as an estimated crowd of 5,000 peacefully turned out to be counted and demanding representation.

Becca, Queen Street Tattoo, Honolulu, Hawaii 1/4/2017

Give the Gift of Art...

Each week leading up to the holiday season, I will be offering Limited Edition Archival Pigment Prints from my series "After the Fire: The Final Days of Sugar in Hawaii" for sale. Here is this week's offering:

Title: Untitled 
Image Size: 15"x 20" 
Paper: 17"x 22" Hanemuhle Photo Rag Satin 310gsm 
Ink: Epson Archival Pigment 
Edition: Limited Edition of 25 Price: $300 USD + Tax (Hawaii Residents Only) + Shipping (Unframed), Signed & Numbered 
Payments Accepted: Paypal, Square Credit Card, Check, Cash 
Contact me by email at: 
Be sure to include your name, address for shipping and preferred method of payment.

Give the Gift of Art...

Each week leading up to the holiday season, I will be offering Limited Edition Archival Pigment Prints from my series "After the Fire: The Final Days of Sugar in Hawaii" for sale. Here is this week's offering:

Title: "Dawn Cane Burn #1" 

Image Size: 15"x 20" 

Paper: 17"x 22" Hanemuhle Photo Rag Satin 310gsm 

Ink: Epson Archival Pigment 

Edition: Limited Edition of 25 Price: $300 USD + Tax (Hawaii Residents Only) + Shipping (Unframed), Signed & Numbered 

Payments Accepted: Paypal, Square Credit Card, Check, Cash 

Contact me by email at: 

Be sure to include your name, address for shipping and preferred method of payment.

Give the Gift of Art...

Each week leading up to the holiday season, I will be offering Limited Edition Archival Pigment Prints from my series "After the Fire: The Final Days of Sugar in Hawaii" for sale. Here is this week's offering:

Title: "Survivor"

Image Size: 16"x 16"

Paper: 17"x 22" Hanemuhle Photo Rag Satin 310gsm

Ink: Epson Archival Pigment

Edition: Limited Edition of 25

Price: $300 USD + Tax (Hawaii Residents Only) + Shipping (Unframed)

Payments Accepted: Paypal, Square Credit Card, Check, Cash

Contact me by email at:

Be sure to include your name, address for shipping and preferred method of payment.

A massive burn at 4am this morning in the Omaopio-Pulehu area of Lower Kula. Four fields set ablaze simultaneously. The equipment operators, security personnel and field workers are getting to know me now. I am a regular fixture at these early morning burns for the past couple of months. 

As dramatic and compelling as the leaping flame/burning fields images are (and there are plenty of them so far), I am drawn to there images made after the flames die down and the first light of dawn begins to appear. The smoke, swirling around trees volunteering to grow amidst the stalks of sugar cane, surviving the flames and standing defiantly as the smoke weaves itself around them to obscuse, then reveal again. 

At one point earlier in the morning, I was caught between the blazing fields with flames leaping 3 meters in the air all around me. The heat was intense, the crackling of the flames deafening. 

For several weeks now I have been rising at 3am in order to capture pre-dawn burns of the sugar cane fields. With only a few months left for sugar cultivation on this island, the pressure is on to capture as much of this long-time agriculture business as possible... the burns, the harvests, the workers soon to be unemployed, the Mill...

This morning, I woke, wide-eyed, unusually early... 1:30am. I felt an unusual sense of excitement... something was going to happen. At 3:30am, I grabbed the cameras and jumped into the car as usual. Driving around the fields in darkness, looking for telltale lights from the Mill's pickup trucks around the fields the burn schedule said were to be ignited this morning. The first two areas I checked showed no sign of activity. I drove some more. No sign of a burn anywhere. First light began to silhouette the volcano looming large against the faint trace of daylight. Still nothing. I turned the car back towards the north shore, one more place to check. By this time, it was already 5am and I was losing hope. Driving through the town of Paia, I turned right and began heading up the mountain towards home. Just above the town were two red pickup trucks... security from the Mill. Things were looking a little more promising. I stopped and talked with the guards. The Mill meteorologist was on site. He was trying to determine if weather conditions were right to conduct the burn. He wasn't optimistic, worried that the winds and some potential trade wind showers might delay things for another day.

A few minutes later, the meteorologist sped off towards town. Before he left, he told me they might burn but if they did, it wouldn't be until 6:30am. I waited. A burn after sunrise is very rare these days due to complaints from island residents of the smoke inundation and ash. I have been trying to catch a daylight burn for some time with little luck. The image posted above is something I have seen in my head long before starting this project and not possible to make when burns are held during hours of darkness. 

At 6:30am, I could see traces of smoke in the near distance. Grabbing cameras, I headed down the muddy cane-haul road toward the flames. This sapling stood just inside the burning field. Snapping away at the flames, I patiently waited for the fire to die down, the smoke wrapping itself around this tree, swirling with the light breeze. Magic! Success!

Summer is now in full swing here in the islands and there is no better way to spend a balmy, tropical evening than to attend one of the many summer Bon Odori or "Obon" Festivals held at every Buddhist Temple. Here on Maui, the best of all Obon celebrations takes place this saturday, July 2, at the Jodo Mission in Lahaina. Obon is a Japanese Buddhist festival held to honor the deceased and to assure them that we, the left behind, are making good use and enjoying our time on earth. The celebration centers on a dance... the Bon Dance... where participants move in rhythm around a central tower where traditional music is blasted thru loudspeakers. Participants in the dance often wear a short light summer kimono (Yakuta). Women will adorn their hair with beautiful flowers while men will often wear a headscarf. The dance is relatively simple and easy to imitate by watching seasoned participants. All are welcome to join in.

The Lahaina Bon Odori begins as the sun is beginning to set and a massive bronze bell is rung...

The bell signals the attendees to gather on the adjacent beach to begin the event that makes the Lahaina Jodo Bon Odori so special... the floating lantern ceremony. Paper lanterns are distributed to participants on which the names of loved ones passed away are written. Young men signed to the task accept each lantern from the participant(s) and place them on a small wooden raft. Once the sun has set below the horizon and darkness begins to fill the sky, the men take the loaded rafts out into the lagoon, setting each lantern afloat to drift with the tide.

As the last lanterns are set afloat, the crowd and action moves back to the central courtyard fronting the temple and around the big, brightly lit tower where dancers have already begun moving in unison to the music and steady beat of Japanese Taiko drums.

While the significance and intent of Bon Odori is religious, mindful & somewhat solemn, the atmosphere at these festivals is joyous and vibrant... much like a summer's eve fair. There are food vendors keeping the crowd well-fed with delicious local delicacies and drinks, old friends reunited and a diverse & multi-cultural community coming together to celebrate. Given the political tone of this year's election season and current events worldwide, it's events like Lahaina's Bon Odori that can reaffirm one's faith in human nature across all ethnic & cultural divides. In this regard, Hawaii get's it right and sets an example that can benefit the rest of the country and the world in general in these devisive times.

15% of all print sales thru the month of July will be donated to the Maui Food Bank

Sugar Cane Cultivation, a principal crop in the Hawaiian Islands for decades, will soon be no more. Maui is the last island still growing, harvesting and processing sugar. In just a few months, operations will shut down completely. I've been documenting the harvest cycle for the past three years and am now working frantically to document as much as possible before it's all over. 

It's been a busy couple of months. Much of the recent work slated for editorial features in the coming months making it unavailable to view until it's officially released, so stay tuned.

On Father's Day, we headed up to the Kapalua Resort for a day of interior design photography at the oceanfront luxury Montage Resort at Kapalua Bay. Photography commissioned by KLM Interior Design of Austin, Texas.

DC... you've gentrified. Your 'burbs have sprawled and your traffic is insane. You were my home for 10 years. I loved your music scene, your art scene, your amazing FM radio offerings, your magnificent parks, museums and neighborhoods. There are times when I still miss you. Then I steer the car onto Rt. 66 or I495 and the longing passes.

Lovely weather, the best of the entire 3 weeks, while visiting the Nation's Capitol. Many thanks to Michael & Pat for bed & food. In between meetings with Ritz Carlton, Marriott, Hilton and others, I had an hour or so to kick around in toney, historic Georgetown. All of the great music venues... The Cellar Door, Desperados, The Bayou, are gone now. Big Brand shops and luxury boutiques now rule the strip. The only familiar, long-standing places I remember from the old days and still standing are Clydes & the Georgetown Theater. Old, historic brick row homes still line the leafy-green, cobblestone streets. 

I had the best of intentions of being more active & current when it comes to updating this blog... Really I did. Now just over a week back on the island after the three week whirlwind tour of the east coast. Like a cloud of fog, the jet-lag following this trip just wouldn't clear and readjusting to the 6 hour time difference, normally not a problem, has been difficult to say the least.

Chalk it all up to aging, I suppose.

Though officially spring... the east coast weather, except for a couple of beautiful days in DC, was more winter like with temperatures in the 40's, 50's and very low 60's, almost constant rain and grey skies. This, obviously put somewhat of a damper of prolific picture making. The real mission of the trip was not thwarted by the miserable weather... to check on the progress being made on the restoration of the 1870's historic colonial purchased last year and to make the portfolio rounds with creatives, art buyers & producers in NYC, DC and Baltimore.

As soon as we climbed off the plane in Baltimore, I caught the shuttle to pick up the car rental and headed straight south for the 2 hour drive to Maryland's eastern Shore. Here, I found progress made on the restoration with a new 2nd floor bedroom, bath and closet array framed up, new windows installed throughout the house, heating & AC lines installed and electricians & plumbers scheduled for later in the week. Here I spent the first few days... purchasing countertops, lighting, vanities, tile and other finishes. An invitation to an impromptu riverside crab feast and side trips to visit friends in Rehoboth Beach and to the Island of Chincoteague (setting for the book Misty of Chincoteague) for salty fried oysters and a front row seat to the local volunteer firemen's parade.

Sunset Over the Nanticoke River, Bivalve, Md.

Returned to the island after a 3 week whirlwind tour of meetings with Creative Directors up & down the east coast(photos & musings to follow...). In the pile of mail that accumulated in my absence were a couple of nice tearsheets of recent work that finally made it to print....

Attended a gala "Donor Appreciation" dinner for well-heeled patrons of our local Arts & Cultural Center. The setting.... Spago Maui, of Wolfgang Puck fame, at the Four Seasons Resort on the south end of the island. I was a hired gun with camera, not a guest/patron. The mission... to capture candid images of the Patrons of the Arts as they wined, dined and celebrated the fruits of their past and ongoing philanthropy. We owe these folks a debt of gratitude for bringing to an island as small in size and population as ours, a wold class Arts Center with 2 amazing performance theaters, an outdoor amphitheater, a steady flow of world class musicians, entertainers, performers and artists, a massive gallery exhibition space and a complex of other multi-purpose meeting rooms, dance studios and classrooms. 

In the midst of the festivities, wait-persons circulated amongst the patrons, serving the bubbly and beautiful plates of hors d'oeuvres, as in the two photographs above, captured stealthily as the plates circulated amongst the crowd.

Today spent editing last night's collected imagery and getting it delivered for last minute publication. There was more reaching out to potential art buyers to meet during next week's trip east, with two appointments scored with the  in-house creative agencies for two major resort corporations and the quick lashing-together of a proposal for a three day creative project for a luxury Big Island Resort slated to happen sometime in late May or early June.

An hour long "tune-up" via SKYPE with Master D, hiding out somewhere in the UK, also took place late this morning. Now time to wrap up the day, feed the dog, prepare the night's menu of pasta with braised chard, onion, lemon & roasted pine-nuts and some much needed sleep.

Sunset at Waisai, Waiego Island, Raja Ampat, West Papua, New Guinea

It's windy and a little rainy this morning. Cool temperatures here on the windward side of the mountain. Preparations  are well underway for the journey east, to begin early next week. New print portfolio has been lashed together, along with sets of limited edition prints culled from my travels in SE Asia. These will be given to art buyers after meetings as gifts and leave-behinds. 

As part of that preparation, I have been reaching out to major players in the east-coast publishing world, friends of friends, who have been generous with their time and advice on who to see & what to show. Just a few moments ago, I hung up the phone after a very human conversation with the great Design Director/Art Director & photographer Lloyd Ziff. Lloyd was mentioned in the previous blog post as having been included in the film biography on the late Robert Mapplethorpe. Prior to concentrating on his own photography, Lloyd was a celebrated Art Director for several national publications, including Vanity Fair, Conde' Nast Traveler, House & Garden & Rolling Stone. I have known of him for years, his reputation in the NY world of publishing made him a giant in the industry. Lloyd is the uncle of some close old friends from the east and last night, I called him out of the blue, seeking any wisdom or advice he might offer on my plans to flog the book thru NYC and other points east. The call went to voicemail and I nervously left a message. This morning, the phone rings and it's Lloyd! His advice and generosity to my questions was reassuring and most welcome. Mahalo Lloyd!

Now there is one more call of advice I await... a recently retired Photo Editor from National Geographic. Another close mutual friend has put me in touch with her and she has generously agreed to review my work and offer advice on whom to see and what to show them.

Just now the phone has rung again. It's the call I've been waiting for... former NatGeo Photo Editor Elizabeth Krist with words of advice and an offer to pass along links to my work to colleagues at the Traveler title. Another industry heavyweight whom I offer thanks for her kindness, consideration, time and advice.

By the time the plane leaves a week from today, I should be fully prepared & pumped!

The good folks at my web hosting service,, have finally gotten around to adding integrated blog options for our websites. So... after a few weeks over at and several years blogging via Google Blogger, I've decided to give this new service a try. The major advantage to this service over, say, Wordpress is that no more advertising will appear. So... check in often and I will try and keep you updated on what's up here in Hawaii as we work to solve the issues of contemporary commercial & editorial photography.

Robert Mapplethorpe - Self Portrait

Last night I watched a deep and fascinating documentary on the life and work of the late Robert Mapplethorpe on HBO, I think. I first became aware of his work in the early 1970's thru the album covers he photographed for music artists like Patti Smith & Joan Armatrading. That led me to his series of flower images, of which I remain in awe of to this day. I knew of his portraits of New York glitterati but somehow managed to miss much of his most controversial and, according to this biography/documentary, his most personally prized work, the homo-erotic images and photographs of male genetalia that created such a stir at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, DC and in Cincinatti back in the 1980's.

Mapplethorpe's portraits of Patti, a handful of his self-portraits and the flower images still blow me away. The images of genitalia, fetish and BDSM stuff not so much. Yet, this was the work that brought to the forefront of the art world's attention at the time. One take-away from watching this film was that Mapplethorpe's success came from his drive to produce work, shooting feverishly right up until right before his death from the AIDS Virus and also, in no small part, thanks to the patronage of at least one wealthy lover. It was great fun watching as top gallerists, curators and his female assistants spoke about the work, making references to "perfect black penises" (peni?), talking about the self portrait made with the inserted bull-whip. Also fun was seeing friend and noted photographer, art director & design director Lloyd Ziff speaking about Mapplethorpe and showing some of his portraits of Robert & Patti.

After seeing this documentary, I woke this morning completely inspired and energized. For photography enthusiasts & photographers alike, this film is well worth making the effort to see. Check your local cable listings for repeat airings.

Energized and inspired... yet still in a quandary about the work I am selecting for the print portfolio update, now in the final stages of printing. After seeing the film last night, what I really want to include is personal work. That said, I live in Hawaii.... not LA or NYC. Most of my work, which I love to do by the way, is centered around the travel & resort industries. I have no "gallery representation". My instinct tells me to focus on those markets and show the best of my architecture, interior design, food lifestyle & travel images... throwing in some of my favorite personal stuff to finish the thing off. Once the print book is finished, I begin printing a group of print folios as leave behinds for meetings I'm in the process of setting up with art & creative buyers at several top publications and resort headquarters on the East Coast. I leave mid-month for a three week portfolio shlep thru Washington, DC, Baltimore, Md. & NYC.

Private Jet Charter Commissioned by Forbes Life. ©2104 Tony Novak-Clifford