R.I.P. Martine Franck


The gifted photographer Martine Franck died on August 16 of this year, 2012.  Born in 1938, in Belgium, she grew up in the United States and England, studied art history at la Universidad Complutense de Madrid, and at l’École du Louvre in Paris. Her photography spans decades and genres; she was married to fellow photography legend Henri Cartier-Bresson for many years. These are some of the facts of her life….

Her photos speak for themselves.

In an interview, she speaks of the unpredictability of photography and its strange subjective nature, halfway between truth and falsehood –

“A photograph is not necessarily a lie, but it isn’t the truth either. It’s more like a fleeting, subjective impression. What I like so much about photography is precisely the moment that cannot be anticipated; one must be constantly on the alert, ready to acclaim the unexpected.”

She also spoke of the stories she read as a girl –

“My mother gave me Mark Twain to read as a child, also Conan Doyle.Sherlock Holmes and Hitchcock are still a passion of mine, and that brings us back to the mystery of life, the unexpected side of reality that is constantly taking us by surprise, off our guard.  I think, basically, that is why I never get bored photographing.”

It is impossible to sum up the life of a gifted person in a few or many words – or in the case of Martine Franck, in all of the many photographs she took.  So I am limiting myself to one here, a remarkable photo, taken at a monastery in Nepal, in 1996.

Schechen Monastery, Bodnath, Nepal, 1996

Martine Franck, rest in peace.  But your images and words will live on.




a railroad is like a lie


Mark Twain said —

“A railroad is like a lie you have to keep building it to make it stand.”

It’s summer here in Talent, Oregon.  The local railroad near my house stands silent.  No trains have come here for some time.  I walk down and look at it.  And wonder: does it give new meaning to Mark Twain’s words?  Or perhaps it gives the lie to them.  Or maybe both.

The longer I stand there, looking.….the more I see.  Small, subtle changes.  Shapes.  Sounds.  And, yes….the colors.  Are they….changing?  Ever so subtly?


Then there are the words of Jim Harrison —

“If you live on the railroad tracks the train’s going to hit you, Grandpa used to say.”

Words to remember.  If I get too hung up in the details.….in the colors.….will I pay attention when the train comes?

I’m reading a book by Haruki Murakami right now.  His words come back to me —

“Some people get a kick out of reading railroad timetables and that’s all they do all day.”

Not me.  I do more than just read the timetables.  I walk down to the tracks.  And wait.…


And wait.….

Something is happening to the colors.  They seem to be.….bleeding out.   Leaving.….what?  A monochrome world?  A different parallel universe?

Or perhaps a world in which, as Carl Sandburg suggests, buildings may give birth to – or beget – railroads.

“So time passed on. And the two skyscrapers decided to have a child. 

And they decided when their child came it should be a *free* child. 

“It must be a free child,” they said to each other. 

“It must not be a child standing still all its life on a street corner. Yes, if we have a child she must be free to run across the prairie, to the mountains, to the sea. Yes, it must be a free child.”

So time passed on. Their child came. It was a railroad train…”

But here in Talent, Oregon, the tracks are empty.  No child has come.  No train.  No sounds.  Even the once vibrant summer colors have gone.…

A world of blacks and whites and grays.


But I’m still here.  Waiting.…

What was that?  Did you hear it?  It’s so faint, almost impossible to make out.  More of a vibration, really.  Have to kneel down, put your ear onto the metal track….and listen.

I think it’s coming.

And.…..so are the colors, once again.  Bleeding back in….


Mark Twain was right.

“A railroad is like a lie you have to keep building it to make it stand.”