Making People Feel Good

Going through old images last night, and found a couple of slides of my father holding a little baby. Not sure who’s baby. It was not ours. When Jesse Paul mentioned casually yesterday that he knew my Dad, Jackson stopped instantly and asked all about him. “You KNEW Jack Lange?” Jesse told him about feeding the birds and eating pancakes with my Dad. “Jackson….you would have loved your grandfather.” It is one of the most heartbreaking parts of being a Dad - not being able to share this joy with my own father.

On Saturday, Jackson was upset knowing this was his last basketball game of the season. Just before the game, Jackson said, “I need a minute alone”. He then walked off, and started whispering to himself in the front room. When he came back I asked what he had said. “I said a prayer so my team would have a great game, and that I would score at least one basket.” I asked if he said, “Amen” at the end. He said he did.

Jackson asked me to shoot video of the whole game - when he was playing and when he was not. I am not really into being that Dad with the video camera, but Jackson is into documentation, so I captured it all.

Jackson had a big game. Most baskets ever, and his team won. But the best part was seeing him passing, see him congratulating other kids both when they hit their shots, and especially giving them encouragement when they missed.

In the middle of the night Jackson came up to our room holding his 7 year old blanket and said he couldn’t sleep. I went back down in his bed and we talked for awhile. I told him how proud I was of how he helped his teammates. How he encouraged them to all play great. Mostly I explained that making other people feel good is what teamwork is all about. I told him that is really what my job is - to make other people feel good, feel the best they can feel - then to photograph that feeling. I looked over and he had fallen back to sleep. I was up for awhile longer.

Tonight I am writing this from my mother’s house in Pittsburgh. The house I grew up in. The house my mother has lived in since she was 4. My pictures are all over the walls. Kind of like a museum of my work. The first shots I developed in high school. All kinds of shots from my career. Lots of family pictures. Then, the walls start getting taken over with pictures of the boys. Just after they were born. So small and precious. Then bigger and even more precious. Asher enters the scene like he was always there. All so beautiful. I still feel like I am not at that stage of my life to start looking back too much. Each day is so full - just trying to to appreciate it all in the moment and capture some evidence for later.

In the basement are boxes full of tape recordings and more pictures. On the north side of town, there is a storage facility with over 100 drawers of folders. Each folder contains a shooting from my film days. More evidence. Sometimes I feel the pictures don’t nearly capture how joyous the experience was. Sometimes, like today, I am astonished at how many pictures I have taken and what an incredible journey it has been. Every couple of years I like to open the drawers, peek in, and touch the film. I don’t take my time. Just a glimpse.

My mother and I ate alone in the dining room tonight for the first night of Chanukah. She made brisket and potato latkes and green beans. She said it was the first brisket she had made in 30 years, and it was delicious. My mother told me about her yoga class, and how much she loved the Duane Michals show at the museum. We planned for the family visit after Christmas. In the middle my brother called from Hawaii. Near the end, the boys and Stephie checked in from Boulder.

There is no gift shop in the museum of my work in Pittsburgh, just a lot of evidence of people making people feel good.


"King! I have a joke for you"

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I photographed BB King a couple of weeks ago in Baltimore.  At the end of the shooting, he called me over, and as I kneeled next to his chair, he said, “That was the most enjoyable photo shoot I have ever done.”    He then said, “When you go home kiss Jackson for me.”

I had talked about my boys alot during the shooting, and told BB that he could kiss Jackson (my 5 year old) himself when he played Red Rocks in two weeks.

This past week, Stephie and I took Jackson and his grandmother Janet to Red Rocks.  First up was a visit in the fancy touring bus.    Jackson went right back to BB holding court in the back and gave him five.   “BB”, Jackson asked.   “Call him Mr. King” Stephie corrected.   “We are musicians” BB said, “there are no formalities.”    Then Jackson stood right in front of BB and said, “KING!  I have some jokes for you.”   Jackson then told the one about what do you call a woman in the middle of a tennis court?   Annette!   A couple of knock knock jokes.   We were all hysterical.   When I tried to politely slip out, BB asked us to stay longer.    He then whispered to me, “Do you see the way Jackson is standing there, poised and talking to me directly?    My mother died when I was 9 ½ and I never learned that.”

We then headed over to the stage.   This was Jackson’s first real concert.   We walked  up the ramps through the great backstage at Red Rocks where everyone from the Beatles to Sinatra to our friend Mac Miller walked the halls.   Got into our seats up front.  I had a pass to shoot after they cleared the other photographers out, and thought Jackson might  like being so close, so he joined me.   BB’s second song, “You Are My Sunshine” seemed like a very strange choice, but was so much fun since Jackson knew the lyrics.   On “The Thrill is Gone”, BB spotted Jackson in the audience.  From the stage he said, “There is my friend Jackson, we hung together before the show.”  He then reached in his pocket and tossed a pendant from the stage through the air, which Jackson caught (thanks to alot of Little League practice this summer).

Later, after the set, Jackson was showing his pendant to everyone and said, “I will never forget this night.” If I was ever nervous for him starting kindergarten, it was all gone.   He will be fine.

Peaches in my father's garden


Last night I was reading about Alex Rodriguez having lived his whole life in the shadow of a father who abandoned him at age 9.    Was thinking about the garden his father failed to plant.   The seeds of trust and honor that never fertilized.

I then read my good friend, Mark Epstein’s piece in the NY Times Sunday Review.  First, I love Mark.   Just love him.   He is so much crazier and brilliant and funny than he lets on.  Maybe our favorite time together was squeezed into my little Alfa convertible driving around San Diego with the top down, with the music cranked (we were listening to the most subversive of Dan Bern), like we were the rock stars we are afraid to be. Ok, we are rock stars, just don’t dress the part.   The Jew-Bu rock star shrink who can make you feel like you are completely alive and the photographer rock star who was hiding behind his camera until just last week when he came out with a metal funnel for a megaphone.

Mark wrote about the traumas we anticipate and recover from.   He wrote about his mother recovering from his father dying, then sharing a secret of another husband in another life she had buried.   He wrote that allowing grief to breathe is ok.

My brother, mother, and I were all around my father, holding his hands as he took his last breath at home in 1998.   The first thing my mother said to all of us right at that moment was, “He was a great guy.”  She then packed up his clothes and got on with her life.   It was not that she didn’t miss him.  It was not that she felt cheated that he was gone on his 74th birthday and she is now about to celebrate her 85th birthday.  It was just that my father had planted so many seeds and was still alive in that garden he had planted inside all of us.  We just had to appreciate all that was still alive about him, not just the part that was gone.   Not that we did not mourn.  Not that missing him will ever go away.   It is just when they say, “stay hydrated” - they are talking about watering seeds in the private gardens our father’s planted.    Meanwhile, my mother has her foot pressed hard on the reaper and is still harvesting like each day is peak season.  The grim reaper is at bay, afraid of the scarecrow.

This morning Jackson crawled into bed and I planted a seed for his garden.  The seed about playing by the rules, not cheating, never telling lies.   He got it, but there is only so much seed sewing you can do with a 5 year old.    We switched to talking about the peaches that appeared this weekend. Jackson does not like peaches.  I told him the peach I had last night literally knocked my socks off.   Told him if he took a single bite it might knock all his clothes off.   Then we headed downstairs.  Crawled slowly around the corner of the kitchen on our knees until Asher finally discovered us with peaches in his mouth and the milk from his cereal dribbling down his chest.   We all started laughing.   Was laughing more when we were all eating peaches, socks flying off of Stephie’s feet, and the rest of us dancing around naked.  Indulge those peaches in the next couple of weeks.   Each one is a beautiful perfect seed from my father’s garden.

Soundtrack for this post - while I am listening to "Blurred Lines" this summer like some addiction - Robin Thick, Prince, and many others all circle back to Sly Stone.   Listening to, "Just Like A Baby" - from There's A Riot Going on.

Then....just as I was about to hit publish just now, I stumbled on this other Dan Bern song, "Kid's Prayer,"  which ends with this advice:

Talk to your kids

Play with your kids

Tell them your dreams

And your disappointments

Listen with your kids

Listen to your kids

Watch your kids

Let your kids watch you

Tell your kids the truth

Best as you can tell it

No use telling lies

Your kids can always smell it

Cook for your kids

Let your kids cook for you

Sing with your kids

Teach your kids the blues

Learn their games

Teach them yours

Touch your kids

Find out what they know

Be sad with your kids

Be stupid with your kids

Learn with your kids

Cry with you kids

Be yourself with your kids

Be real with your kids

Embarrass your kids

Let them embarrass you

Be strong with your kids

Be tough with your kids

Be firm with your kids

Say "No" to your kids

Say "Yes" to your kids

Take it easy on your kids

You were a kid

Not so long ago

There are things you know

Your kids will never know

There’s places they live

Where you will never go

So dance with your kids

Paint with your kids

Walk with your kids

Tell stories to your kids

Watch movies with your kids

Eat popcorn with your kids

Tell secrets to your kids

Stop for rainbows with your kids

One day your kids

Won't be kids

And maybe they'll have kids of their own

Let’s hope they talk to their kids

Play with their kids

Tell them their dreams

And their disappointments



Live Lobster

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In the mountains this summer, at a dinner called "Dinnerpoloza" organized by marketing wiz Claudia Batten, we sit down and throw the dice.    Looking under the table Claudia sports tight red stretch pants (definitely not Boulder standard issue spandex), black shoes with red soles and a very sparkly shirt. Claudia explodes with ideas and fun and that down-under accent that makes all of the rest of us sound so normal.

She is with the great sculptor Mark Castator who picks the wine and passes his newest sculpture installations around on his phone. We talk Game of Thrones, tumblr hashtags, and a 14' table in the works.

We are joined by John Bradley and Missy Schwartz new to Boulder via SF and Wired Mag. We go around the table pulling the best ideas from behind our ears, then sharing. Hidden gems. No NDA's.   Talk like everything we are drinking is not making us gay. Stephie was being friends with Mr Hendrik's and some cucumber that was as summer as you can get. Uh oh....I am actually not feeling so clear, do I fake it or submit to the buzz? The talk circles around 3 married couples who are really happy together. Like a big skinny dip. In Boulder on this night, at this table, we are feeling very alive and gay and straight.

It all evolves ( and there is no D at the beginning of evolve) into Honey Boo Boo who taught me about the importance of posture when I shot her last month and have not slouched since. Have to share the tips about posture.

Two nights later in the mountains, we are at Bill and Elizabeth's mountain house looking out at the most beautiful night.  Full moon.  Friends from the east who also settled out west. Kids bouncing all over. Elizabeth is working margaritas and massaging the kale salad. Corn is shucked and steaming. What is missing from this summer? Lobster. Fresh live lobster. It is the only thing I am missing. Not missing the beach. Not missing hot steamy days in the city. Find an Asian market in Broomfield. Right above the nasty box of big live frogs is the tank of live lobsters. I ask the man who doesn't speak of word of English where they are from. He answers with one word, "Boston." Right answer. "I'll take 4" So here is the scene last up in the mountains: The sun setting over 14 peaks and the full moon rising. 4 dishes of melted butter. 2 lobster crackers (this is NOT the well supplied beach larder). Some wine and salad and corn. And a trumpet.


And this song is playing in my head..... Your Heart is a Black As Night

When A Fire Starts to Burn - 4th of July, 2013










The 4th of July is not the beginning or end of summer.   It is not really the middle either.  It is towards the end of real green.   It is warm days, cool nights and dry here in Colorado.  It is skies packed with more stars than the ipad app of the night.   It is pitching baseball after baseball after baseball until the balls finally start sailing over my head.

It is hard to work in summer.   The long days don’t define work and it is never really dark enough to sleep.   Deer rest by the bikes under the deck.  Corn silk is littered all around the grill.  Clothing is optional.

Generally on the 4th I sing George M. Cohan’s anthem to my boys, like my father did on the 4th ( although I think my father was thinking James Cagney’s version rather than the real Cohan.)     I remember holding Jackson under a huge flag in the park in  Maplewood teaching him the lyrics.

This morning I was thinking about the young firefighters in Arizona.  Everytime I read about someone dying - especially that young - I think, “that is all you get.”   They were strong soldiers fighting a fight I can understand - though in the next breath the news talked about the climate changing, and all of us are driving what is terrorizing the weather.

Always thinking about Woody Guthrie and Louis Armstrong on the 4th.   Louis because he claimed he was born on the 4th of July, 1900 (though probably not born that day I will give it to him anyway and listen to “Weatherbird” with awe - all that magic he made in that crazy duet with Earl Hines).

Woody Guthrie - the most patriotic american I ever knew.  We all have our gifts.  His was not being a great father or husband, but he shared a view of this country that was true and benevolent and inspired.   “This Land is Your Land” came on in the house this morning.  These lyrics stopped everything we were doing :


In the shadow of the steeple

I saw my people

At the relief office

I seen my people

As they stood there hungry

I stood there asking

Is this land made for you and me?


Nobody living can ever stop me

As I go walking that freedom highway

Nobody living can ever make me turn back

This land was made for you and me.

In Boulder we are eating like kings.  Farm to table. Organic.  Gluten free.

Food of the gods.  Until they start chewing for us, too - I am happy food is honored and respected and grown with such passion.   I wish everyone was able to sit at these tables.

In Lincoln, Nebraska this spring I went to a high school where they spoke 22 languages.  In LINCOLN, NEBRASKA!   The school was a miracle of a tight community with open hearts.  Unemployment was low, but many were working poor and could barely afford food.   The children were fed during the week at school, and then sent home for the weekend with knapsacks full of food to get them through the weekend.  There was no ridicule.  There was just a sense of people helping each other.   In the 4th grade class everyone was reading over 100 words a minute.   The bright strong eyes of the teacher taught as much as the books.

We have talked about that school alot in the weeks since I was there.   The boys sent their lemonade stand money there.  I am sending these Woody Guthrie lyrics out there today for them.   In shadow of this magnificent land here in Colorado.  In the plains between the mountains.

We are turning off our screens, pulling over on the side of the road and feeling, for a moment, small and timeless under a bright blue sky bigger than the ocean.  We are holding each other and letting time stop, even for a brief moment.   We all get alittle more time,  which means we can sit still and live large and love each other even more....and not stop walking.

I am going to sandwich this post of July 4th reflection with a new song (When I A Fire Starts to Burn)  I heard yesterday from a band of brothers ( Guy and Howard Lawrence) in the UK.  Check out that video!


And a series of pictures from my family over the last couple of days.

Happy 4th all.






I once went to Karl Lagerfeld's apartment in Paris to photograph him.  On every step  winding up to the front door, there were two Diptyque Tubereuse  candles.  By the time you got to the top you were completely intoxicated.    When I was there, I photographed Christy Turlington in Lagerfeld's formal study, up on Karl's lap with him drawing on her thigh.  That same trip I photographed Christian Lacroix making out on the sofa in their apartment with models posing all over the room, ignoring them completely.

Now more than ever we need those people of impeccable taste and exquisite style as role models. Love the conversation with Sofia Coppola and Lee Radziwill in this week's NY Times issue of T.   Love someone addressing privacy and good taste - and even manners.   Love the portraits of Sophia by Jason Schmidt, too.

If you missed it, there was a wonderful piece on Lee Radziwill ( by Sophia Coppola) this  past winter with this great video interview.

And a related post on privacy on the NY TImes Magazine 6th floor Blog - with my comments here:

I often wonder how a two year old would respond to the sea of iphones pointed at them on their birthday if they could decide what images were going to be posted. Should we be asking them permission? Is the birthday paparazzi assault fair even among friends?

Releases? Permissions? The may have some legal significance, but no real ethical meaning. The people who sign most releases have no clue what images or context they are agreeing to. Most sign away their rights before the images are even taken. Professionals in publishing protect most subjects more than they ever would know how to protect themselves. Artists have other freedoms, but no less responsibility.

These pictures are observations that respect the subject's identity. If you want privacy there are lots of shades available, or places to live in more obscurity.

This is 2013. Everything is public, and you are legally allowed to look for two seconds. 




georgeshead Ventured all over Nebraska on an amazing project for Pinnacle Bank.  Shooting stills and alot of video.  Visited farms, radio stations, and an elementary school in Lincoln where 22 languages were spoken.   Got to do what I love - meeting all kinds of strangers and being blown away hearing their stories.   Found the best parts of what we hope is America.  Found the openness I dream of.  Sounds corny....I know.  Still.   There it was.

Will share as the project rolls out.  Until then, you are stuck with my dome.

My first show in Boulder

show jpeg   When I first arrived in Boulder last summer, I was determined to find the community that had eluded me in my adult life. I met with anyone who would see me, then asked to meet their friends. Christian Macy gave me a big hug. Scrib gave me a seat at the table. Erica O’ Grady gave me an even bigger hug (sorry Christian). Caffeinated Mornings invited me to share my work. Boulder Digital Works made me an artist in residence. Sina Simantob took me into the inner sanctum of the City Club and showed me a gallery I could inhabit. Eight months later, here we are.

I have taken pictures almost every day since the age of 7. Photography has taken me all over the world, and opened many doors. It has supported me, frustrated me, astonished me, all the while becoming a part of how I interact with everything.

My photographs are stories before they are photographs. They are exchanges with the subjects, exchanges about the feelings within us and between us. A zillion photographs are taken everyday, yet we are all still trying to capture what we are feeling. I have the same itch to get at that feeling that I had as a child.

This work was all born from the same heart in very different circumstances.

There is Sophia Loren who did her own hair and makeup and strapped on a leaf blower in Beverly Hills.

There is Ewan MacGregor on the set of Big Fish posing for an article on smoking for Maxim magazine.

There is the only posed picture of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates together. They were whispering the most competitive craziness to each other while smiling at me. The photo was featured on the cover of Fortune magazine and has since become an iconic moment.

There is Diane Sawyer who was not that comfortable taking pictures until I played a bootleg recording of Bruce Springsteen singing, “I would drive all night just to buy you some shoes” from a show we had seen the night before at Madison Square Garden.

There is my son Jackson indulging his father while a shark slithered by, and my son Asher owning the porch in Maplewood for that precious moment before it passed hands.

There is our cover boy, Claudio Carneiro, a performance artist via Cirque de Soleil now star of Brazilian SNL.

Then there is Glenn Beck shooting himself in the foot. Somehow I find myself Glenn Beck’s “communist” friend. It is a relationship based on the trust and friendship of two people who could not be further apart politically. Glenn had just called Obama a racist on the air, and I phoned him up and told him that what he said was insane, and he had just shot himself in the foot. Weeks later I took Glenn out in the desert and created that moment.

My photographs are based upon finding the place we are all connected. The camera is my rabbit in the hat. Even more now than ever. Ideas I never would have found without my camera. Here on the wall to share with you.

A New Year

It is killing me not wanting to post kid shots here. I created a blog for all the personal images of my little kids that I have not attended to.  Alas, I have to resort to adults acting as kids, like my friend here, Claudio Carneiro - star of Cirque de Soleil and Saturday Night Live in Brazil.

This New Year has launched full of steam and momentum. Lots of new work. Lots of ideas wanting to be cracked open. A crazy amount of laughing until it hurts. After catching his breath in the car tonight from laughter, Jackson (my 5 year old) said, “Daddy, talk about anything!” “Like what, Jackson?” “Oh, you can just talk about photography. I can’t stop laughing.”


Dear Instagram.

I make my living as a photographer. In order for me to publish a picture anywhere, I have to ask permission from the subject to use their image. If I am being paid for the usage, the subject is compensated in some manner. Photography is stealing the subject’s soul for god’s sake - there has to be some understanding about this. You could also argue photography is glorifying and preserving a person’s soul - but that is another discussion.

I have really enjoyed using Instagram (although the recent upgrade deleted my favorite filter). I understand it is free and you must make money. I am actually fine with you using some of my images to make money. It is a fair trade. I just don’t understand why you cannot ask permission and do it all above board.

Let me know if you want to use any of my images. I will get permission from the subject. I need to get a sense of the scope of usage - but in theory, I am fine with my images promoting Instagram.

If you can, a photo credit would be appreciated.

George Lange