Summer Vacation Trip by Ron Cowie

Memphis, Muscle Shoals, Lynchburg, Nashville!

I went on a road trip with my wife Eden Casteel and her father, Ron Casteel. We visited some historic recording studios (Sun Studio, Stax, Muscle Shoals, Fame Recording Studios), the Civil Rights Museum, the Jack Daniel's Distillery, The Country Music Hall of Fame, The Musicians Hall of Fame and The Grand Ole Opry. Here are some selected pictures from the trip.

Networking Events by Ron Cowie

Networking Events in Rhode Island

I've been going to more networking events because, well, I need to do more networking. The mistake I made in the past was not taking my camera with me. Call me introverted, call me just plain rude but, I feel more comfortable with a camera in my hands in these situations.

So, I've decided to photograph the networking events as an observer of people in focused situations. On one level, these events are very social and pleasant and on the other, they can be awkward. I find the more I do, the better it is.


What Is Left Behind- by Ron Cowie

Today would have been my late wife Lisa Garner's 52nd birthday. It is apt that today is the opening for the show I'm in at the Griffin Museum gallery at Digital Silver Imaging. I'll be showing work from the Inventory Portfolio. This portfolio of images was made after she died. They are pictures of her things. It is my most personal work and I am very reluctant to share them.

I am sharing them because someone, today, is having to grapple with what I went through on March 25th, 2008; the day Lisa died. I hope these images communicate to those, who have been dropped in the middle of that darkest ocean, that others have been where you are and, you are not alone.

Having said that, let me speak to the reluctance I have in showing them at all: it hurts to be reminded that one of the most wonderful people I ever met is no longer on this planet. It hurts to remember that time of total powerlessness in the face of stark mortal reality. It is embarrassing to hear how much people like it. It is infuriating to hear how great it would be for a commercial job. In short, this body of work is intensely personal comes from a place of honesty and vulnerability. In other words, it's real art.

I won't bore you with my views on the over-commercialization of fine-art photography except to say it is happening and it sucks.

So, it is apt that I get to celebrate the life of a wonderful person with friends and photography. All the personal feelings I have are just that, personal feelings. They really have nothing to do with the images on the wall. I believe making successful art is about getting out of the way as it passes through us. If it can heal me, and it did, it might heal others. I don't get to control the conversation you have with the work I make. That's where most, if not all, the fear and reluctance comes from.

My job is to help you move through the world with beauty and in harmony. My tool is a camera. So, personal feelings really are nothing more than self-centered fears that stand in the way of that task. One would think that I should know better, and I guess I do but; I still need reminding of this. Once again, and as usual, I pass the test for being human.



Photographing Bands by Ron Cowie

On the road with Prong

Just like Annie Leibovitz, I got my start photographing bands. Prong was, and is, a band of tremendous influence in the music scene. I had the chance to photograph them while on tour in the early 90's. The band members: Tommy Victor, Paul Raven, John Bechdel and Ted Parsons were playing large clubs and opening for arena bands.

It was a terrific time for them and I learned a lot about storytelling.

Five Suggestions for Succesful Social Media by Ron Cowie

I work with small business owners to produce content for their social media channels and websites. Here are five suggestions I keep giving. These five suggestions have been successful both personally and professionally. While they are excellent, they are not groundbreaking. On the upside, this is a short article.

1) Keep It Simple

You’re asking me to engage with you. Don’t make me jump through hoops to get your message. Be direct.

2) Keep It Short

If you want to hide important information, put it in second paragraph of anything you write on Facebook. You can always produce more than one piece of content around a particular subject.

3) Keep It Up

Once you decide to get into social media, you have to feed and water it regularly. You must provide fresh, relevant, and original content to your channel. You can share other people’s posts but let me know how it is relevant to you as well.

4) Keep It Attractive

The adage “something is better than nothing” is not true. Take the time to make your products or business attractive. Good light and composition go a long way. If you can’t do that, hire someone to do it…ahem.

5) Keep In Touch

Social media is about communicating. How you respond to your audience is very important. You want to talk with your audience not talk at them. Have a conversation. It’s more fun that way.

I could write more but I think this is enough for now. What do you think?



Maternity Portrait Celebrating Power In Creation by Ron Cowie

I love this image because of the gaze the mother-to-be is giving the camera. I’m interested in the contrast between her natural beauty and powerful engagement of the lens. She is confident and transforming into someone else. She is owning every moment of that process. Part of her body will become another living entity. This is the portrait of a woman standing in full knowledge of the power flowing through her.

Photography is full of clichés and the maternity portrait is no exception. Soft, gauzy light, lots of sheets and rose petals- the mystery of gestation is often in seen in soft focus.

When I was commissioned to make this maternity portrait, I wanted to make something a little more in line with my feelings about the subject.

Women are the most fascinating and important ingredients to a worthwhile life.  Pregnant women are interesting mainly because they are surrendering their bodies to grow another body. That kind of creation is near perfect. 

For this portrait, I didn’t want to impose any “magic” to it. Being pregnant is enough. I used the 8x10 camera because it is simple and concise. It also has a sense of elegance to it that cannot be achieved any other way.

There are other images from this session that I really like but this one keeps jumping out at me. So, I’m sharing it. What do you think?

A Small Wedding by Ron Cowie

I used to shoot a lot of weddings and I don't know why that stopped happening. I still love them. I guess the over-commericalized "packages" and departure from the importance of the ceremony itself soured me on the whole thing. The events seem to become more about the the vendors and less about what I consider to be a sacred moment between two people and their families. 

In any case, this was a wedding I photographed. 

Mario Testino Event by Ron Cowie

A few years ago I was hired by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston to photograph the opening reception of Mario Testino's traveling show. This was a really big party with a lot of moving parts. When a PR representative hands you a list of who to photograph, it make your job a little easier and frees up some time. In between making pictures for immediate release, I'm still looking for the human story. 

It's really easy to take a stab at the fashion industry and these images do that. Underneath all the smiles and incredible gowns is a huge business that affects us all. I'm kinda jealous and also identify with the deep desire to move in this world. So, there is a little heartbreak wrapped up in these shots too. I wanted it to remain beautiful.

Critical Mass Top 50: Not One African American by Ron Cowie

The photographers chosen for the top 50 deserve their success. Inclusion in this select group is the result of a lot of work, thought and money to create and market their bodies of work. Many of the portfolios take on important social issues with a compassionate, activist eye. Congratulations to those who are members of the Critical Mass 2015.  

However, while looking at the top 50 photographers, I couldn’t help noticing there isn’t a single African American photographer on the list. 

Of the fifty, there are a few non-white photographers, plenty of non-white people being photographed, but no African American photographers themselves. The definition of critical mass is “The minimum amount of fissile material needed to maintain a nuclear chain reaction,” and it doesn’t seem right to not have a single black photographer in the mix. 

So, why are no African-American photographers in this collection? Here are a few possible answers:

1.     They just didn’t enter.

2.     The one’s who entered weren’t good enough to be chosen.

3.     The fine art photo world is just as troubled by institutional racism as any other organization in the United States.

4.     There aren’t many African American photo curators.

5.     African Americans are vastly underrepresented in every facet of the arts except jazz, rap, and R&B music That’s only because THEY INVENTED THOSE ARTS.

6.     Some of the above.

7.     All of the above.

I don’t have an issue with Photolucida. They aren't what's wrong and a strong case can be made that they do more right for equal access than most. It’s the entire fine art photo community needing to be taken to task. We need to make more opportunities for African American artists. We need to make a focused effort in this regard and we need to do it now. It's that simple.

The photo world today reminds me of that famous scene in Animal House where the Omega Fraternity pretends to be welcoming Kent and Larry ("A Wimp and a Blimp") but walk them over to the corner with “Mohammad, Jugdish, Sydney and Clayton”. 

"Animal House" has the Omegas hosting a meet and greet, shuffling Pinto and Flounder off to the corner with the other "undesirables" - the ethnic and disability cliches. 


A good curator is someone who can look both  see the universality and individuality in a body of work. They are true experts in the field. Curators help us understand and make sense of what artists are doing and thinking. In the ambient image culture we now live in, this has never been more important. However, curators are human and bring to the table their own values and social filters. This is not a bad thing except in the fact that most photo curators today look the same.  

By my count, there are 208 Photo Lucida Critical Mass Jurors and only one of them is African American.  His name is Charles Guice. To have over 200 very intelligent jurors for a photo competition is amazing. The roster is very impressive and represents a wide variety of tastes and speciality. The fact that less than 1% of these jurors is African American speaks to a larger issue. In full disclosure, I didn't google every name and check faces. If there are more, accept my apology and let me know so I can make the correction.

So, I have more questions:

1.     Does the art world need some form of affirmative action?

2.     What would that look like?

3.     Why aren’t as many African Americans becoming curators at prestigious museums founded and supported by rich white people?

4.     Did I just answer my own question?

Now, the last piece I wrote about this issue introduced me to a very active population of African American photographers and scholars. It isn’t that they don’t exist but they aren’t included in the larger conversation. The issue of race in America doesn’t have a simple solution. Earnest white privilege (on full display right here) needs direct its energy to support African American and persons of color in the arts. A lot has been done but a lot more is called for. The current state is only appears equal and equitable if you aren't looking very hard.



Hot Rod Photography by Ron Cowie

One of the great things about my job is getting to see some pretty amazing things. This car was one of them. I had a ball photographing this hot rod for a private client. A lot of time and energy went into the car. Pretty neat stuff if you ask me.

Automobile restoration is an art form to itself. I admire the craftsmanship and attention to detail that goes into it. 

Yes, it was loud.

Vespers by Ron Cowie

Specimens from the Cornell School Of Veterinary Science Anatomy Lab

Dr. Howard Evans is one of the most interesting people you will ever have the pleasure to meet. He is the professor Emeritus for the Cornell Veterinary School's Anatomy lab. He has written several textbooks that are considered, well, the textbook for dog anatomy and the like. He also oversees the Anatomy lab. To say that it is a little overwhelming it to speak the truth. 

One July, he gave my daughter and other family members a tour of the lab. He loves to teach and share his enthusiasm. When I saw the collection, I was a kid again. Not only did we get to see all the specimens, he also told me how to preserve certain items. What can I say, I'm into that kind of stuff. 

I couldn't resist asking if I could come back and start make pictures of the items. He said "Sure, why not?" That's how Vespers began; with childlike curiosity and love for the natural world.

Being in the presence of so many animal parts, some of their energy started to transmit through the lens. Without getting all hocus-pocus, I felt the presence of life in these bones. It was joyful and poignant at the same time

The title "Vespers" means "Evening Prayer" or simply "Evening". I had a great deal of reverence for the bones and bodies in this lab. The physical act of preparing the bodies for display takes weeks of painstaking, thoughtful work.

I'm interested in what is eternal. I wanted to honor the animals and the effort that went into preserving them. It would be simple to just photograph the bones and bottles with as curiosity or fetish. There is too much of that going on these days for my taste. 

My goal is to make a book of these images and to support the mission of those who want to dedicate their lives to helping animals in this capacity.

African American Photographers To Know by Ron Cowie

A follow up to "Where Are All The Black Photographers"

It has been a week and the list of African American photographers has grown. I was introduced to a lot of these photographers the old fashioned way: twitter . I am humbled and grateful for the many responses, but I owe a tremendous thanks to Charles Guice of Charles Guice Contemporary, William Earle Williams of Haverford College and John Edwin Mason of UVA. They are great resources and thinkers. Also, an early mentor I met at Fotofest, John Bennette This list is by no means comprehensive or complete. 

 ·       Melissa Bunni Elian - M. B. Elian is a Haitian-American photojournalist, writer and multimedia producer based in Brooklyn, New York. 

·       Kwasi Boyd-Bouldin – A Los Angeles based photographer. Check him out. I’m especially fond of his Daily Recordings.

·       Aaron Turner – He’s living in New Jersey right now but, his work on the south is something to see. I really love this portrait.

·   Natalie Lawrence -Natalie is a UK based photographer specializing in corporate and editorial photography.

·       Quam Odunsi- Los Angeles based fine art photographer. He has become renowned in the Los Angeles area for his images of celebrities and pop culture under the pseudonym Reserve Result.

·       LaToya Ruby Frazier – She is a 2014 winner of a MacArthur Fellowship Grant. She is an immense presence and voice in the photography world.  Her words It is interesting to read her response to receiving the award. “I’m overjoyed to receive this award because often, when you’re a young black woman talking about inequality, people don’t take you seriously,”

·       Raymond Tompson Jr. - Raymond is a freelance photographer and multimedia producer based in Morgantown, WV. He currently works as a Multimedia Producer at West Virginia University. Check out his recent work. Beautiful light and lyricism.

·       Charles Guice – Charles owns a contemporary art gallery dedicated photography, film/video and new media. Visit his blog about African Americans in Photography. I’m struck by the quote in particular:

Racial segregation has permeated our culture; thus it is no surprise that the photographic segments of the art establishment have been controlled by white males. Even though artists, and the art administrators who deal them, tend to be liberal, they have not erased racial barriers. The same has been true of photographic historians, not to mention publishers. What is too often missing from our photography world is decision making that is sensitized to other value systems, that recognize other visual priorities as legitimate, that allows the artists themselves to state what is important and then actually to listen to that voice.”

·       Lorna Simpson – She is simply amazing: photography, video, collage. Just looking at her website is inspiring.

·       Jules Lion – 1810-1866 Originally from Paris, France, Jules moved to New Orleans where he established himself as a master lithographer and portrait photographer. He also introduced the daguerreotype process to New Orleans before it gained in popularity.

·       John Edwin Mason – He is documentary photographer and teaches at the University of Virginia. His blog has been a terrific resource and inspiration.

·       Endia Beal – Her portrait work is beautiful and powerful.

·       Brian Palmer- Brian is a documentary photographer and photojournalist based in Virginia. His work is compassionate, insightful and engaging.

·       Marc P. Anderson – I love his color palette and his compositions. Marc is a writer and photographer who lives in New York City.

·       Stephen Marc – Stephen is a digital montage artist who tells stories and speaks to the history of the African American experience in America. There is a lot going on in his work. He is a professor at Arizona State University in Tempe.

·       Deana Lawson – Her photographs are mainly portraits but explore very complicated issues in Black culture. They are striking and sensual images.

·       Paul Octavious – Currently living in Chicago, Paul is a photographer and video artist with a slew of editorial and commercial clients. I respond to his sense of composition, light and subtle wit.

·       Carla Williams – She is a real personification of what a working visual artist is today. She has a very well established art record but currently owns a store in New Orleans dedicated to selling a variety of art related items. I know I’m over-generalizing so just go to and you’ll see what I mean.

·       Hank Willis Thomas – His work is very powerful and, I think, spot on with the culture and complexity of African American art. There is a lot going on on a variety of levels but one takeaway is the black experience has been commercialized by white America for a very long time and that says a lot about how white culture feels about non-white culture.

·       Ron Tarver – Ron is a photojournalist and artist who living in Philadelphia.

·       Jamel Shabazz – Jamel is primarily a documentary street photographer in New York City and Brooklyn.

·       Gerald Cyrus – Gerald is a visual documentarian who lives in Philadelphia. Just enjoy the volume of his work. 

Kwesi Abbensetts- This guy is awesome and he has such a lively eye. 

Zun Lee Documentary street photographer

Ruddy Roye- Brooklyn based documentary photographer.

Khalik Allah- I love his color palette and vision.

Eli Reed - Eli is a Magnum Photographer. That says a lot.

Not all of the photographer's work is about race but it is important to realize that race has been an ingredient in the creation of it. It would be a tremendous disservice and condescending (at best) to reduce the African American’s photographic contribution to that of making work about “being black”. Great art is supposed to challenge and expand boundaries and these artist do that.

I just want to take a moment say how stupid and angry I feel at myself right now. The community I dedicated my life to is just as guilty of excluding large swaths of creative talent based on the very things great art is supposed to challenge and transcend. I have been complicit in this. The clear segregation in the photo world is unacceptable.

My own prejudice and racism (fear) wants to reduce and contain the African American photo community to making work about race and nothing else. This allows me to appear outraged in public while dismissing the work in private saying: "I'm not the audience for this work," or "Gosh..." (white people say "Gosh" a lot to change the subject).

The African American community's job isn't to make it okay, forgive or facilitate my maturation in the arts. Black photographers haven't been hiding from me. I haven't been looking. I'm the one who is cherry-picking what I'll allow to move me. Thinking I had to be free of stupid prejudice before engaging in African American's photography is stupid! 

I'm comforted by the words of G.K. Chesterson (a dead white guy) who said "If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly." So, I'll keep looking and I will keep sharing. 




Where are all the Black Photographers? by Ron Cowie

Where are all the Black Photographers?

Here is a list, off the top of my head, of the African American photographers I know about. It reveals two things: I need to get out more and there aren’t a lot of African American photographers getting the attention they deserve. The list is small and, with a little effort, I could make it pretty comprehensive. Perhaps the list would double or even triple. I’m more than happy to be wrong about my math if the number is greater. Scarcity doesn’t add value.

When thinking about how to approach this topic, two ways presented themselves: conduct actual research and profile African American photographers or, put my ignorance and white privilege on full display. I chose the latter for a few simple reasons: I’m intellectually lazy, it’s a huge topic that goes beyond the scope of a blog post, and there aren’t a lot of African American photographers (I did a google search) being properly recognized to begin with. 

The current and past photo community is pretty exclusive, pretty white, and pretty boring. Part of me likes this since I’m just as racist/prejudiced/territorial as the next white guy; but my curiosity is winning the day.

The two photo portfolio reviews I attended recently were almost exclusively white. I say “almost” to cover my ass but, I actually think they were all white with a pinch of light tan. Don’t get me started about what AIPAD looks like on VIP night. 

Suffice to say, I’m not making this stuff up to appear evolved and enlightened. I am neither of those things. I’m just observant insomuch as I can see a white wall and call by name.

My inner-anthropologist asks why this is? The short, unscientific answer is institutionalized racism. If you break down what’s wrong with this country in terms of race relations, you realize it infects everything. There’s a population of photographers receiving less exposure than mysterious French nannies have. 

It’s almost like we’re looking to celebrate anything but African American photographers.

White America controls the visual conversation. We don’t want to see what the African American photographer can show us with photography: underneath it all, they have a similar sense of family, love, fear, hope, and aspiration as we do. They also have a unique complexity of feelings about the American experience. After all, we treated them like farm equipment or worse (often worse) for a solid 300 years. So, in our own self-preservation we “just don’t go there” and created a narrative which accommodates a status quo mentality. 

I’ve exposed my own ignorance and I have to amend the paucity of information with alacrity (I’m using ten-cent words I learned in private school). Perhaps the only problem is me and my lack of aforementioned curiosity? Maybe I’m projecting my own cultural astigmatism as fact and nothing else? While I’m sure both are true, I’m also right about the institutionalized racist stuff. Who says I can’t have it all?

So, I’m looking for this community and I’m going to share what I find. I’m going to seek out groups and organizations that work to change this reality. 

I’ll support artists. I’ll buy work that moves me that I can afford. I am no scholar. I’m just an insufferable white guy, with a camera and an internet connection, who is tired of looking at the same crap over and over. There are far worse reasons to start a journey of discovery.


Hounds About Town Project by Ron Cowie

Pet Care Services Website & Photography

Hounds About Town is a dog walking and pet care business located in Roslindale, MA. They serve Jamacia Plain, West Roxbury, Roslindale and Boston. They wanted to freshen up their web and social media presence. They have been in business and thriving since 2002.


The previous website was on a free platform and out of date. The content was done "in-house" but lacked visual integrity. This is not unusual for small businesses with limited budgets for advertising. They know they need to be on the web but are more focused on the actual customer experience than visuals. This is where "good enough" is born. So, instead of rebuilding what they had, we started fresh.

They wanted something contemporary with more polished content. This was partly motivated by an increase in competition in the area but also it just made good sense to improve the online image. Also, Hounds About Town is one of the top pet care businesses in the area and  the website should reflect their level professionalism. 

The website had to be simple, easy to navigate and, visually rich with happy dogs and staff.


The real selling point are the dogs. Anyone can take a picture of a person and tell them to look trustworthy but dogs don't lie. So, I went on some walks near the Arboretum and made pictures of the dogs and their walkers. There is a genuine connection between the two and I was very impressed with the positive energy I felt. It isn't just a job for these people. Making authentic images of happy dogs was not a problem.

Assembling the website and making sure everything worked well took a little time. Once it was all ready to go, we launched. The client was very happy with the result and I am grateful for the chance to do it.

What I learned

One major change I've seen in my business has to do with where the job ends. It used to be I would be hired for my photography services only but, that's not the case anymore. Today, everyone claims to be a photographer using the tools and technology at their disposal. For the most part, it works just fine. Knowing what to do with the image is a whole other issue. For businesses, a professional image is worth investing in and maintaining.

My skills in editing and content management come are used more often. This project is a perfect example. I enjoy assisting in the implementation of my images. Helping businesses connect with their customer is my job and, I love my job.

Follow Hounds About Town on Instagram and Facebook



It's Gratitude Thursday, Hooray! by Ron Cowie

Every Day Can Be Gratitude Thursday! 

I love this holiday more than anything else in the world (that's the coffee talking) and hope you are having a great day too. Here is my official list of what I'm grateful for on this Thursday morning. I'm also reminded that gratitude is best expressed through action not quiet reflection. So, if you're feeling grateful, show it.

  1. I'm grateful for plumbing that works.
    1. Clean water
    2. Toilets that flush
  2. Jazz music on my computer.
  3. Internet connections that are pretty fast.
  4. Airlines that get me all over the damn place.
  5. Cell phones.
  6. My eyesight
  7. The good health of my family, immediate and extended.
  8. Clean clothes.
  9. Fresh brewed coffee.
  10. The New York Times
  11. Police who write tickets quickly.
  12. A happy marriage with someone I trust and love.
  13. The ability to think clearly and express ideas.
  14. Friends from all different walks of life. 
  15. Coffee.
  16. Sobriety.
  17. The Museum of Fine Arts Boston
  18. Father Sunil Chandy
  19. L.L. Bean Boots that fit.
  20. My dog, Big Joe.
  21. PeeWee Travel team hockey. 
  22. Pants.
  23. A method of shipping products in a safe, affordable, and reliable way. 
  24. Changing seasons.
  25. Propane Grills.
  26. The sound of my parents voices.
  27. My daughter's frequent laugh.
  28. New York City
  29. Hot dogs.
  30. Making pancakes from scratch. 
  31. Greek people.
  32. Photography.
  33. Camera geeks.
  34. Diesel powered engines. 
  35. Dry firewood.
  36. Shop-Vacs
  37. A basement darkroom that is all mine. 
  38. Thelonious Monk
  39. Richard Pryor
  40. Barack Obama
  41. Lively and uniformed conversation about the days headlines.
  42. Feeling superior and feigned humility.
  43. Laughter.
  44. The Smiths.
  45. Platinum printing.
  46. Grilled chicken.
  47. People who move their hands around a lot when they talk.
  48. A car that runs with four tires inflated to the proper pressure.
  49. Sharp cheddar cheese.
  50. First world problems.
  51. Work that interests and engages me.
  52. Mild confusion followed by silly solutions.
  53. The word "Kooky"
  54. Full realization that it is my job to be helpful to others. 

Now that the list is done, I will proceed to send out gifts to those people who were most helpful to me in recent days. I will also send love and kindness to those who are just helpful. I hope your Gratitude Thursday is a terrific one. Let me know how you celebrate.

Los Lobos "Gates of Gold" Is Great, Buy It! by Ron Cowie

Los Lobos (Spanish for "The Wolves") is an amazing band. If you don't know about them, fix that. Their most recent album "Gates of Gold" is a great blend of Tejano and Rock and Roll music. So, if you don't want to read anymore, do yourself a kindness and get this album. My job is done and the rest is just pretentious fluff.

How it started for me.

In 1984 I bought "How Will The Wolf Survive?"  I was 14 and used money from my paper route to get the cassette from Boogie Records in Toledo, Ohio. I played it all the time, practiced my drums to it and, tried converting classmates. I loved the energy and the exotic sound (in Toledo, Mexican/Chicano music is exotic). In a nutshell, it a was great and very sophisticated rock album and, I had never heard anything like it. This is still true.

Keith Carter

Then, I bought their greatest hits compilation called "Just Another Band From East LA". This is a big fat album and shows the blend between traditional Mexican folk music and original rock and roll. The bonus was the pamphlet art for the compact disc was done by my friend and colleague  Keith Carter. It was a lot of music and great for listening to in the darkroom. It gives a pretty solid history lesson in roots music so belongs in your collection. 

Latin Playboys

The Latin Playboys which is David Hidalgo and Louie Perez collaborating with Tchad Blake and producer Mitchell Froom. collaborated in the mid-90's It was an art project for them and I loved it. Both albums "Latin Playboys" and "Dose" are worth adding to your collection. They experimented with songwriting, poetry and sound. I like the frontiers they explored and claimed for themselves. Both albums evoke the creative approach of Tom Waits but with a more refined musicality. That is to say, David Hidalgo actually sings. 

Rhythm & Roots 2015

When I saw that Los Lobos was headlining the  Rhythm & Roots Festival over Labor Day Weekend, I volunteered my photographic services so I could see, and perhaps, meet the band that punctuated my life. It was a treat to introduce my stepson to the band and their music. I did get to say "Thank you" and take some great pictures to boot. So, the tradition continues. 

Why Los Lobos Is Important

Los Lobos started out as a wedding and festival band for the Chicano community in Los Angeles. They have played around the world and their path has is made by creating original music, honoring a tradition and, playing it in front of people on a regular basis over decades.

They haven't lost sight of themselves or compromised their integrity at the altar of quick success. I'm sure they would prefer greater financial rewards for their efforts. Who doesn't? They have been consistent in their work, grateful for their audience's support and, continue to create a distinctive sound. They are a band's band.

I'm inspired by their example. They work diligently and treat their audience with respect. They create room to experiment on a regular basis. They are genuinely nice guys. Their success is built on redefining the genre of music of their culture and forging new musical paths from it. There is a lot for me to aim for in my own career. W.W.L.L.D?

So, buy Gates Of Gold, it's good for the soul.

Filter Photo Festival Portfolio Reviews by Ron Cowie

Travel Is so broadening

I attended Filter Photo Festival for the portfolio reviews. I missed a lot of things that were planned, much to my regret, so this not a comprehensive fawning review of the event. I'll leave that to other people. My experience was a good one though. Filter Festival is great organization and event and I'll be back next year.

I brought my most current work more as an introduction device than anything else. I wasn't creatively stuck or looking for "the next level" in my "career". My motivation was to see if I was out of my mind. I'm happy to report that I'm not. 

Whenever I look back on events like this, I like to ask myself "Who was I supposed to meet?" The portfolio reviews provided a great sample of people across the spectrum of photography. The most important thinker of the bunch was Jonathan Blaustein. His take on the photo world and how to survive in it today is very close to mine only he says it better.  He lives in a small town, he's got two kids, he's trying to make the bell ring and, he's having to step beyond what is considered a normal life for photography. He's on to something and I'm not just saying that because I agree with him.

 He reminded me that Ansel Adams didn't make a lot of money and he also started some pretty amazing organizations dedicated to photography. So meeting with Jonathan was key.

It also was great to reconnect with Lisa Janes, the owner of Alibi Fine Art. She represents my work and is one of the more thoughtful people involved in photography around. Having a strong advocate for your work is a real blessing. 

I left with an idea to start one of these festivals myself. How crazy is that? It's the most helpful. Since I live in Rhode Island, and there isn't one of these kicking around, it makes sense to do it. If nothing else, it will save on plane fare. One of the gifts of my life is a desire to build communities among friends.

The primary purpose of these festivals and gatherings: to inspire participants to reach a little further in their creative lives and to help each other in the journey. Photography can be a very lonesome patrol but it's more fun to see the wizard with friends. In that spirit, here are some folks I was glad to reconnect with and/or meet. It is not comprehensive.

So, I need to stop writing and finish a website, process some images, write my thank you notes, and pick up my kid from school. Today is a lovely day and I am most grateful for it. Filter Festival reminds me that it is a wonderful time to get to do what I do 

My Name is Ron Cowie, and I Network. by Ron Cowie

I just came back from a Newport Interactive Marketers event  at Newport Vineyards sponsored by Suzanne McDonald of Designated Editor with the keynote speaker Ted Ives discussing his suggested methods to "Strategize Your Content for Maximum SEO and Social ROI". It is fair to say a good time was had by all.

It's good to know I'm not crazy when it comes to my online marketing. Better yet, it's good to know we're all just a little clueless about the best practice for promotion and marketing online and thereabouts. There is comfort in numbers. 

Here is what I picked up regarding content creation:

  • Making content that matches what my clients are looking for is a lot better than giving them what I want. That makes sense
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a very long term process. This is something I have been experiencing on a first-hand basis. There is no "magic bullet" to becoming easier to find. 
  • The best practices for SEO are always changing. This is like having a really hot girlfriend or boyfriend who keeps giving you the runaround. Google is this significant other.
  • The book "Positioning" is a classic and I need to read it. So, I just got it for my Kindle. 
  • Facebook is doing some pretty interesting stuff with the algorithms but it isn't the same thing as SEO. You're reaching out to a demographic, not searchers. I did not know that!
  • It is better to have a total system in place than do what is called "stovepipe thinking". That makes sense and is what I try to do with my clients. Looking at the big picture is important. 
  • SEO = Content + Architecture + Linking. 

Most importantly, it was good to find out that 

No One Is An Expert In All This Stuff!!!

We all know a little or a lot of some specific things. My strength lies in the visual content creation department. That's because I got tired of just taking pictures and watching them put on crappy websites and the like. It seems that people don't always know what to do with the content they are contracting me to create. That makes sense and is only human. So, I've been working with people to help maximize the content (visual and written) for their websites. It's fun.

Networking is not something that comes easily to me but I'll be back to the NIM events. They are well run and informative. Photography is no longer just a matter of taking pictures, I need to learn how to help my clients use the pictures to increase the value of the work we both do.