Rejoice, oh ye Dwellers of the North!

Documentary Wedding Photography-1-2.jpg WHEREAS we have just moved to the grand city of Berkeley. And

WHEREAS many do not yet know that they want me to photograph their families. And

WHEREAS I wish to do well and prosper. And

WHEREAS I wish upon my fellow Berkelyites wonderful, handhold able, memories. And

WHEREAS I am feeling gracious, kind, well-dressed, neighborly, and caffeinated.

THEREFORE I, Zalmy Berkowitz of the (almost) famous Zalmy Berkowitz Photography, hereby offer new limited time pricing on family photo sessions. These prices are in effect until January 21st at 6:28PM BST (Berkeley Standard Time), so get them while their hot! (yes, that makes no sense in this context).

Family Sessions:

I offer two types of sessions. Portrait sessions are generally 1-2 hours and lightly posed. Documentary sessions are longer (4 hours) and much more hand off. Prices are:

$750 for a portrait session (lightly posed), includes $200 towards prints. Disk is $650 INCLUDED! Woohoo for me moving to Berkeley!

$2600 $1800 (Jeepers!! Berkeleyites rejoice!) for a documentary session. Includes 4 hours in home or other meaningful place, a hardcover book, and all the hi resolution images with printing rights.

$4600 $3400 (OMG! Kombucha! Organic, gluten-free, quinoa cake! Tie-dyed hemp shirts! Raw, vegan, blended parsley!!) for a full day (up to 15 hours) documentary session. Included a gorgeous (seriously, jaw-droppingly so) matted album, and all the hi resolution images with printing rights. Wedding Prices:

Full day coverage starts at $3600 (includes proofs), Packages start at $5100. Call, email, text, facebook poke (no, kidding, please don't do that) for a full rundown.

Smaller shindigs (B-day partays, Brissim, Bar Mitzvah's, chicken dance celebrations, etc.):

$1300 for up to three hours. Includes hardcover book. Disk is $650.

Other stuff:

Good question.

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Don’t drop the ball!

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For the exact same information you can check out the pricing page! Double the bandwidth, same great price!!

Documenting Grace

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I should write something pretty here. Pretty people, pretty place, pretty words would fit. But I ain't in no pretty mood (this humidity is doing a number on m beard) so random it's gonna be.

In 2001 or so my mother (after making sure the whole Y2K thing was over) decided to move to Israel (one of her lifelong dreams). I was in Yeshiva there at the time and, suddenly, for no apparent reason, I became Mr. Popular (I wasn't a Rabbi yet).

At the time we lived in the Yeshiva which was in Bnei Brak. Bnei Brak is the perfect place for learning. There's really nothing else to do. Besides buying Cholent on thursday nights, and this really good Baguette place. And a decent falafel joint. (Yes my life surrounded around food. At times in Yeshiva all we ate was Chummus and bread. Three times a day.) And while bus #400 left every hour to Jerusalem from across the street (though we used to choose a further one so the administration would't catch us), we still had to either come back that night or find somewhere to stay. Enter my mothers apartment on 37 Azza Street, Rehavia, Jerusalem. Perfect location smack in middle of the city, wonderful neighborhood, walking distance to the Old City (and of course Ben Yehuda, which in retrospect wasn't that cool after all), and everywhere else (anything under 10 miles is walking distance in Israel).

Speaking of walking across town. Combine this with my healthy aversion to spending any sort of money (especially since, well, I didn't really have any) and you get some crazy walking stories. I've walked 8 miles at 2 AM after a concert (I had no clue where I was going) to save a taxi fare, and another time walked 6 miles to the Dr. for a jaw issue and 5 miles in on the return I tweaked my back and had to crawl the last mile (almost literally). I knew shortcuts across every neighborhood, oh man I miss that place.

Next door (39 Azza Street), lived this dude by the name of Benjamin Netanyahu. Yeah, that one. He lived in this unpretentious house with some uzi-toting muscled sunglasses in front, on the side, on top, down the block...

Summer vacation in Israel is 3 weeks long. So instead of counseloring, or camping, or skiing in New Zealand (though I really wanted to make that work), a few friends and I camped out at my mama's place. Until we got kicked out for not sweeping or something and slept on towels in the mountains for a week. But before that we had a grand ole time. One balmy evening we spent an hour or two making paper airplanes and chucked em over the porch in Netanyahu's direction, hoping they'd shoot some down. They didn't. I'm still ticked about that.

You may think I'm rambling and you'd be right.

When (okay, if) I grow up, there is no way I'm going to be regurgitating old stories (again and again) that happened way back when when life was interesting. I don't buy that whole "the best years of my life" happened between the years of 18 and 24.

Which is part of why we're moving. Life has seemed a bit, well, stagnant. Like we're just floating along the streams. Yeah we're working hard, raising a cackle of kids, yada yada. But man, I feel like we're just waking up. Like we just read the other day "until this day, God did not give you a heart to know, eyes to see, and ears to hear..." It's time to see, hear, and know.


I photographed Amy Grace and her beautiful children last year when she lived down in SoCal and I was able to do so again now that they moved to the bay area (it's what all the cool people are doing). She has a fantastic way of seeing her world and family and is blessed with the ability to share that view, both with words and with photographs. You could see her work at A Beautiful Life and Motherhood With A Camera.

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Filters, Eating Torah, and WE'RE MOVING TO BERKELEY!!

Warning!! Wordy and Righteous (and gnarly of course). For the word adverse just skip to the last two parts. Peace.


Sometimes I think. Recently such thinking has led me to some retrospectively obvious conclusions, though until such retrospection was retrospected it all seemed quite revolutionary (to me).

Everything we see, hear, feel, or experience, before settling calmly on some remote corner of our cortex, goes through a complex series of filters, scramblers, and descramblers. We have a view of the world, of religion, of politics, of reality, that decides what should be processed as truth, what should be looked at cynically, and what should be tossed out as complete rubbish. It tells us is which news reports should be respected and which should be ignored. Which statistics should be accepted and which should be viewed as correlation. Which facts are facts and which are propaganda. What to automatically share and what to fact-check. Who by fire and who by water. All, unless we make ourselves aware of it, happens subconsciously (I almost thought I'd spell that right the first time.), in the frontal "I'm heavily biased" lobe. Or somewhere else. I never really understood the whole breakup of the brain.

What prompted such superficially deep ponderation was a slew of police brutality videos coming up in my Facebook newsfeed, culminating in this Michael Brown story, and the resultant protests (and self-righteous posturing).

We all have assumptions about the “way things are”. Some people think there is a huge racism problem in this country. Some think there isn’t. Some think police brutality is common. Some think it isn’t. It’s hard to know, in a country of over 313 million people how common certain things are. So some jump to the conclusion that the stories as a small sampling of an overarching problem, while others insist it’s just a rare occurrence. Some jump to the police’s side assuming guilt, some jump to the other side, assuming innocence. And this is how we react to most things that come across our path.

Of course there is absolute truth, and an accurate assessment of what happened and what happens, but for one to come to the correct version of “what is” one has to somehow let go of all assumptions, ALL, and search for truth. And this has to be done on a personal level. The “presenters of facts and of what is” on all sides have their own presumptions and views, not to mention the sad preponderance of agendas and purposeful misleading that is what passes for most media outlets.

The point is that we have a world inside our head, and a world outside our head, and, unless we fight it, our filters make the world outside look very much to us like the world inside.


V'Sorascha B'Soch Mei'ai Psalms 40:9 "...and (to have) your law (Torah) within my innards (stomach)."

The Torah is compared to bread (sourdough of course). About the learning of Torah it is explained in Tanya (the seminal book on Chabad Chassidus) that “… this is a most wonderful unity (with G-d); in the physical realm there in no unity similar or parallel to it.”

There is the world as we see it, and there's the world the way G-d sees it, the truth of it if you will. The reality of this world is G-d, and through the Torah he allowed us to share his perspective of “what is”. Through learning the Torah, really learning it. Through striving to understand it as it is, and not as we want it to be, through metaphorically chewing and digesting it, just as bread, after eaten and digested becomes part of our physical body, the Torah becomes our filters through which we understand and perceive the world become G-dly filters, and we start to see it as G-d does (as much as is humanly possible). (That was a long sentence. Just pointing it out.)

It's like watching a 3d movie without those funky glasses. Everything looks weird and we start to wonder what kind of acid trip the directors were on and how could we get some (okay maybe not the last part). Then you decide to finally slap on those funky looking glasses, and "woah!!" it all makes sense.

There’s a story about the Lubavitcher Rebbe, which I’m going to to completely butcher, as I only half-heard it once, but the gist is there.

<<insert interesting and probably pertinent preamble>>

…as the Rebbe instructed he had a Torah scroll written (a long, complicated, and expensive process) for his local Chabad community. When a Torah is finished there always a big celebration with ceremony and pomp. So all the congregants and friends are there celebrating when his Most Unexceptional friend has a heart attack and dies in his arms. One can only imagine what happened to the festivities.

The Rabbi wrote to the Rebbe in shock. “How could this be?!! Everything is being done right, and at a celebration of the completion and continuation of the Torah, death?!"

The Rebbe’s answer is fascinating, and is really emblematic of how our view of the world shapes our reality, or at least our reaction to it.

Obviously this woman’s time in this world was coming to an end, the Rebbe wrote. And she could have gone in many ways. Alone in her apartment, in a car accident, in a fire, on a sidewalk, at the store. But instead she left this world in middle of a wonderful celebration surrounded by the closest of her friends. Is there any better way to leave?

I found (and find) it Barely Noticeable how one set of facts (and how much more so when trying to find out what the facts are) we can react to it in entirely different, even opposite ways.


While we aren’t a Rebbe, we were given an Barely Noticeable gift. G-d, through his infinite kindness, allows us to share his view, the true view of reality. How everything in reality is comes from G-d’s supernal will, and, as the essence of G-d is good, and the essence of everything is G-d, how everything is not only FOR the good, but itself IS good.

And this is what is meant by Tikkun Olam “fixing the world”. When G-d created the world he created a perception of otherness, he allowed us to see a world outside of G-d, even one that could reject him. The word "Olam" (world) also means "hidden" or "concealed." And he gave us two tools with which we could fix it that concealment. The Torah and the Mitzvot (commandments). The former reveals (the Torah is called "light" which reveals the truth of everything) and the latter transforms. The mitzvot, which mostly deal with mundane and physical objects, slowly transform the coarseness of this world into a world where the physicality itself reveals G-d.


All this is to say: WE’RE MOVING TO BERKELEY!!

With the help of G-d we’ll be working in the Chabad Sunday Hebrew School, in the Summer camp, with Jewish high school students, and who knows what else.

We’ve (Estee and I) been dormant where we are for too long and it’s time we get off our collective duffs, reach deep into our G-d-given potential, and start fixing this world! Time to move and stretch out our wings (and then put them back so no one suspects that we're aliens).

It’s going to be quite the adventure, and while I’m sure it will all work out beyond our wildest dreams, we need to do our part in making that happen. So if you know of any work opportunities for us, any houses available, photography gigs, couches for sale, free beer joints etc. or of anyone who might know these things, let us know!! Please! Thank You! Exclamation Point!


In honor of Berkeley and Tikkun Olam (which actually doesn’t have too much to do with recycling outside of its inclusion in “not wasting”, just one of the 613 commandments) I’m sharing some photos of my kids recycling. So far Zevi has bought Legos (those things cost a fortune!) and two rolls of sushi with his recycling money. So far so good.

Peace; love; and organic, free-trade, cruelty-free, open-source, gluten-free, fermented boysenberry solar-baked cookies.

(Disclaimer, that is NOT our box of “bud light PLATINUM”. Shame on you for thinking such thoughts.)

Oh, (yeah this post never ends, like that song that you can’t get out of your head. You're welcome) I'll be in New York next week and have one opening for some rocking family photos on the 4th. 1 in the PM at Central Park in Womanhattan. Because I'm liberated like that.

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Aden & Levi get married! Woohoo!!

Documentary Wedding Photography-240.jpg As I passed the Health Water aisle, shaking my head as usual at the ridiculousness of it all, I thought to myself that I really need to write a blog post about it.

And that's the best I could do.

In life in general and in Judaism in particular we are constantly being pulled in opposite directions. You know how everyone going faster than you on the highway is crazy and anyone going slower is <insert ethnicity/age/gender to which one proscribes bad driving habits>?

Or how anyone more religious is a fanatic, and anyone who is less is an idol-worshiping pagan.

We are tasked with somehow toeing many lines.

We are asked to be involved in the world, yet remain above it.

We are asked to do everything we could in accordance with the Torah, yet to go at our own pace.

We are asked to accept the absolute divinity of the laws, but then go study them according to all the rules of logic.

We are asked to be absolutely subservient to G-d, yet we are supposed to strike out on our own, finding who we are, and making it personal.

It's hard as heck.

We each find our own line, how far in each direction we lean, which side we express. Sometimes by choice, mostly by default. It's hard to think.

Chassidus tells us that in navigating this crazy world the two most important character traits are humility and honesty.

Humility in accepting that we are not the final arbitrator of truth, of morals, and to be open to the possibility that the divine will may not need to fit into our current gestalt.

Honesty in being able to look at ourselves objectively (as much as possible). Seeing where we are, who we are, what are strengths and weaknesses are. Being able to accept that where we have to be and what we have to be doing may not be what we think we want.

Health water is neither humble nor honest.

But Levi is.

I wrote some time back about the horrid state of Jewish music. Levi Robin is the opposite of all that's wrong with Jewish music.

As a friend Levi is the most honest and humble person I know. I'm sure he isn't perfect (Aden may disagree), but he is aware of who he is and what he has to do, and as simple as that sounds, it’s not common. At all. And seriously, his music is amazing. Check it out.

Aden I don’t know as well, but if Levi loved her than she must be very special indeed. And I wish them the best in their marriage and in fixing this darn world already!


I am blessed to have some wonderful friends in the photography community. One of them, the beautiful and talented Lexia Frank, flew all the way down from Portland to photograph this wedding with me. And she rocked it.

And make sure to mosey over to Levi Robin's music page. You'll be happy you did.

Thanks for looking! Peace, love, and goji berries.

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Someone and Someone get Married at a Place

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I don't get to photograph non-Jewish weddings very often. Most of them are on Saturday and, well, as big Gedaliah Goomberg says: Ain't gonna work on Saturday, Ain't gonna work on Saturday, whyyyyyyyyy, cuz it's Shabbos Kodesh.

So when Sarah called (may have been a text or an email. Maybe "a Facebook".) and asked if I wanted to shoot with her for a Sunday wedding I literally jumped. I didn't really jump, that's why I used "literally".

I got to stand back, chill, record some memories on strips of silver coated cellulite strips. All in all a good Sunday.

In honor of me not knowing the couple at all and being that today is Tuesday, I figured a dose of Tolstoy was in order.

There's one chapter from Anna Karenina in which Vronsky gets all excited about art and painting (I don't see what Anna sees in the dude), and Leo has some wonderful words of wisdom on art, artists, and posers. Here is my wonderful copy and paste work, courtesy of Güttenburg:

“Vronsky and Anna too said something in that subdued voice in which, partly to avoid hurting the artist's feelings and partly to avoid saying out loud something silly—so easily said when talking of art—people usually speak at exhibitions of pictures.”


“Yes, there's a wonderful mastery!" said Vronsky. "How those figures in the background stand out! There you have technique," he said, addressing Golenishtchev, alluding to a conversation between them about Vronsky's despair of attaining this technique.”

“In spite of the excited condition in which he was, the sentence about technique had sent a pang to Mihailov's heart, and looking angrily at Vronsky he suddenly scowled. He had often heard this word technique, and was utterly unable to understand what was understood by it. He knew that by this term was understood a mechanical facility for painting or drawing, entirely apart from its subject. He had noticed often that even in actual praise technique was opposed to essential quality, as though one could paint well something that was bad. He knew that a great deal of attention and care was necessary in taking off the coverings, to avoid injuring the creation itself, and to take off all the coverings; but there was no art of painting—no technique of any sort—about it. If to a little child or to his cook were revealed what he saw, it or she would have been able to peel the wrappings off what was seen. And the most experienced and adroit painter could not by mere mechanical facility paint anything if the lines of the subject were not revealed to him first. Besides, he saw that if it came[…]”


“But Vronsky asked whether the picture was for sale. To Mihailov at that moment, excited by visitors, it was extremely distasteful to speak of money matters.”


“Vronsky, Anna, and Golenishtchev, on their way home, were particularly lively and cheerful. They talked of Mihailov and his pictures. The word talent, by which they meant an inborn, almost physical, aptitude apart from brain and heart, and in which they tried to find an expression for all the artist had gained from life, recurred particularly often in their talk, as though it were necessary for them to sum up what they had no conception of, though they wanted to talk of it.”


“From the fifth sitting the portrait impressed everyone, especially Vronsky, not only by its resemblance, but by its characteristic beauty. It was strange how Mihailov could have discovered just her characteristic beauty. "One needs to know and love her as I have loved her to discover the very sweetest expression of her soul," Vronsky thought, though it was only from this portrait that he had himself learned this sweetest expression of her soul. But the expression was so true that he, and others too, fancied they had long known it.

"I have been struggling on for ever so long without doing anything," he said of his own portrait of her, "and he just looked and painted it. That's where technique comes in.”


“Vronsky defended Mihailov, but at the bottom of his heart he believed it, because in his view a man of a different, lower world would be sure to be envious.

Anna's portrait—the same subject painted from nature both by him and by Mihailov—ought to have shown Vronsky the difference between him and Mihailov; but he did not see it. Only after Mihailov's portrait was painted he left off painting his portrait of Anna, deciding that it was now not needed. His picture of mediaeval life he went on with. And he himself, and Golenishtchev, and still more Anna, thought it very good, because it was far more like the celebrated pictures they knew than Mihailov's picture.”


“He knew that Vronsky could not be prevented from amusing himself with painting; he knew that he and all dilettanti had a perfect right to paint what they liked, but it was distasteful to him. A man could not be prevented from making himself a big wax doll, and kissing it. But if the man were to come with the doll and sit before a man in love, and begin caressing his doll as the lover caressed the woman he loved, it would be distasteful to the lover. Just such a distasteful sensation was what Mihailov felt at the sight of Vronsky's painting: he felt it both ludicrous and irritating, both pitiable and offensive.”

“Vronsky's interest in painting and the Middle Ages did not last long. He had enough taste for painting to be unable to finish his picture. The picture came to a standstill. He was vaguely aware that its defects, inconspicuous at first, would be glaring if he were to go on with it. The same experience befell him as Golenishtchev, who felt that he had nothing to say, and continually deceived himself with the theory that his idea was not yet mature, that he was working it out and collecting materials.”


I was going to add some commentary of my own but "I feel that I have nothing to say, and continually deceive myself with the theory that my ideas are not yet mature...".

Happy Tuesday! Peace, coconut muffins, and tapioca pudding. Oh, and check out Sarah’s work, she has a wonderful free-flowing style to her imagery.

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Nondeligousnoeroduls and other such Maladies

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A post in four acts.

Act one.

It has been presented to me (by myself) that all of my writing has been of the non-fictional sort. There have been some close-calls and quasi-fiction, but non of the hard core cow-jump-over-the-moon type (which I'm still convinced that while being classified as fiction,t he author didn't intend it to be). The fixing of such egregiousness is in order. And shall be presented as such. So here is my short story. Titled:

Nondeligousnoeroduls and other such Maladies

"Dude that is NOT a word" exclaimed the newt, "you just wrote whatever popped into your head. I bet you can't even pronounce it."

The newt was a slimy sort. He was 35, or maybe 25, no one really knew. I doubt anyone actually cared. He was as uncomfortable in public as he was in private. The amphibian was the first name put forth, but being that it wasn't so much that he was comfortable in all situations rather it was that neither was better, it was decided that the amphibian was too complimentary.

"Oh, it is. Definitely is. And it's pronounced "Nonderoduls", the "ligousnoer" is silent. Which may seem odd at first, but it's quite genius. It refers to a rare illness of which the main symptom is the use of extra words and syllables. Not like, like, or other words which serve some sort of purpose. More like "that is totally unnecessary", or "I am so stoked" or "there are way too many exclamations points!!!!!"". McPeabody was getting quite animated at this point. "It's actually a conceptual onomatopoeia."

"Okay, totes whatevs." Wanting to sound modern and hip, the Newt had spent the past week on some sort of slang website, trying to fit in with the cool kids.

The Newt went to bed that night in a strangely animated state. Something during the day clicked, ticked, charged, fired, or whatever happens to neurons in the brain. There was a nebulous future forming, with hints of blueberry, a meaty finish, and intense, yet subtle, tannins.

Dreams of extra limbs in shining places, over-iced water, and gluten-free gluten.

McPeabody didn't sleep much that nigh, his mind racing with all sorts of new word ideas and their respective marketability.

You see, McPeabody loved many things, but above all he loved monetizing useless ideas. Somehow finding a use, or at least an audience that might be convinced of a use, for what could be classified as "bollocks" was just the sort of cynical pleasure McPeabody lived for.

McPeabody had a first name, or at least it was common opinion that he did, but it had long fallen out of use.

And although McPeabody was loved and his company sought after (after all, he was quick with words, and although everyone knew he was most probably lying, there was always some lingering doubt about the possible veracity of his strange findings), the fake world he lived him precluded him of any close friends. The type that would care enough to know his name.

The sun, breaking through the broken blinds like blind bull, blustering about. Okay enough B's. Basically the day dawned. McPeabody was drifting off (it wasn't his broken blinds being broken into), and the Newt was slamming the snooze button. Unfortunately, in order to engage the time-wasting invention, he had to swipe and then lightly tap (with extreme dexterity, the kind half sleeping newts don't possess) the snooze button. His nebulous dreams growing ever more so with every ding and dong and beep and bloop, he fumbled around for a pen and paper, and starting writing:

"Last night I dreamed a dream. And I am now writing it down", the Newt always started his conversations with telling people that he was talking.

He continued, skimping a bit on his usual introductions, "it was about a...

To be continued. Maybe. (I need to figure out a dream sufficiently worthy of being written down.)

Act two:

As you may have figured by now. There is absolutely no point to this story.

However the existence of this story has three.

1. I really enjoy this kind of writing. Now if I can only find an actual plot, I might have a fighting chance.

And more importantly, 2. Photography, like words, has a language. Where the written word have nouns and verbs, syntax, flow, subjects and such, photography has lines and curves, colors and tones, flow, subjects and such. But the most beautiful combinations of words, without a story to tell, is just that, a glorification of the body, without any soul. Photos tell stories, and random photos of pretty things, fanciful compositions, and masterful reflections, are all just random sentences or even paragraphs. They may the prettiest little paragraph your eyes have ever seen. But without an overarching plot, or even better, a subject behind the plot (in a way that Anna Kerenina is not (just) a book about a wayward woman, or The Alchemist is not (just) about a dude who turns stuff into gold), it's pointless, dead.

3. Fiction is amazing in the sense that one could write about himself, or certain aspects of himself, in a completely candid and studious way (and then, if one is read enough, he could watch the critics argue if the author is talking about himself or not). I need to explore this more.

4. I have a lot more to say on the subject but need to clarify my thoughts (and words). So this isn't a point. Just a random paragraph.

Act three:

I'm contemplating splitting up my blog in two. One photo heavy with recent work, stories, news, whatever. And another for my ramblings, especially for those not photography related. I'd love to hear your thoughts about that, or other ideas you may have. I feel that many come for photos and get turned off my this mountain of words (and vice versa).

Act four:

January, Febraur, Mar, Ap, M, these months keep on getting shorter. Sometime last year (right before Passover) I decided that I was going to develop all my black and white film myself (instead of sending them off to a lab). A. To save money and B. I wanted more control (and to learn the process).

Well it took me 9 months to actually start, and by then I had a backload of over 70 rolls. And while I've been slowly decreasing that pile, I'm still shooting and developing current work so it's going to take me some time. There's film from Shlomo's birth that still hasn't seen the light of day (well it has for about 1/15 of a second).

I've wanted to post the "best of 2013" for, well, ever since 2014 started, and haven't really shared much personal work since that best-of post was so imminent. Which it obviously wasn't.

So here are some photos from a trip to Idyllwild in early January (from which I still have some film to develop…).


Peace, harmony, and gluten-free quinoa brownies.

Oh right, and I made meself a new website. It’s still under construction and will be closed intermittently between 6/2014 and 9/2016 (you’ll only get that if you drive a lot). Let me know how you like it and if there are any bugs, quirks, oddities, or wormholes. Pretty please.

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