The Soul of the Photograph

Yesterday I gave my first workshop/class in years at the Falmouth Art Center. I titled it “The Soul of the Photograph” both because “The Art of the Photograph” was taken and because my theme really was how to make art that embodies and mediates oneself, one’s soul.

My take on the workshop is that I have a long way to go before I can construct a 4 hour clear transmission of that message but that the goal and message are good, and that the audience was eager. Probably more ready to act on my “message” than I could imagine.

The main elements of the workshop are

  1. A fantasy about the Mona Lisa and how Leonardo’s effort to share himself resulted in the painting ending up in France and the most iconic piece of art in the world.

  2. An examination of first principles. “I know that I like this”.

  3. A look at participant’s art and what they are sharing with it.

  4. If time, a wrapup of techniques and strategies to keep our fumblings with the medium from getting in the way of our sharing.

This summary is idealized…. it didn’t go this way, but this is what I take out of my self-assessment.

Here is an iPhone panorama of the room set up and waiting for the participants.



And here is the original prospectus for the workshop.

“Walking to Heaven”

“Walking to Heaven”

The Soul of the Photograph 
Saturday February 2, 9 am to 1 pm.
Falmouth Art Center
A Workshop by Robert Manz 

This workshop is about how to put your soul into your photographs and make great art.  Robert Manz, fine art photographer, has made great images from Bourne to Budapest to Khorasan.  

But the quest for an image that speaks to others is about the inner journey not the outer. Using his work, participants’ submissions, and historical examples accepted as great art - both paintings and photographs, Robert will explore with participants the principles of lighting and composition , as well as themes, tropes and types that make for images that speak.

Trained at the Harvard Crimson Robert has been making compelling images since 1968. He publishes his work and that of others as prints, note cards and calendars conveying a sense of place from Bourne, Massachusetts to Belfast, Maine. He is a master printer. His work can be seen at his studio in Pocasset, on his website at, and in independent stores shops and galleries across Cape Cod.

Posted on February 3, 2019 .

Discovering Nantucket

a winter trip to the island : I know this happened long ago, but yesterday was my first trip on a high speed hydrofoil catamaran water jet boat….. or whatever they are called. I simply cannot believe the experience of proceeding expeditiously from point A to point B over water. The feeling is completely new to me. Nantucket was too. What a flat and expansive space…. on an island no less!

Posted on December 30, 2018 .

Emotions and Addiction:

I believe that all of our emotions are addictive feedback loops. They are a loop between the powerful chemicals our bodies release in the presence of the loved one or the tiger, and the rationalizations that our brains create to explain to us this surge of chemicals that we call "feeling". The addictive loop is that this does not happen for just one cycle usually, but rather once stimulated it loops in self-reinforcing stimulus and intensification. Limerence and anxiety are very very similar. Some would say they are the same thing. I would further argue that the fundamental difference between ourselves and other mammals is that they "feel" the same emotions at the first surge, but do not have the "rational" consciousness to feed the looping. (I hate him because he's an asshole; he's an asshole because he did X; I remember X, boy, does that make me even angrier, etc. etc. etc.) . I have recently observed that my friend's dog seems very "present" very in the moment. It seems to me that one of the fundamental objectives of mindfulness is to halt this looping before it can get started. "Note it and let it go". Some conversations with a Sufi friend suggest that that wisdom has the same objective. I further believe that all substance addictions simply hijack this mechanism with much much more powerful chemicals. It is perhaps easier to decide to stop loving someone than it is to stop smoking. Hence the watchword of AA, "let go and let God" (I make no comment on the God part). ~Robert

Posted on December 19, 2018 .

Exploring Maine

Exploring Maine  


a weekend trip to Camden, Maine. Trying to understand the beauty of the midcoast Penobscot Bay region, embrace it with a few images and get to know some people here. 


Our temporary home  




Distant Sunrise  


Before the Dawn


Morning Hull


Camden by Night  


Lincolnville Landing

Lincolnville Landing


Belfast Tugs




Penobscot Narrows 


Camden Harbor  

Posted on November 24, 2018 .


My father published calendars; his father published calendars  ; I will publish calendars.



Calvary Cemetery  , Conshohocken, Pennsylvania (near Philadelphia)

Posted on November 12, 2018 .


November 1:  Today I went back to Newcomb Hollow to try to refind peace there. The magic of that place has been shattered by a tragic death and by the loss of a lover who lay next to me on the sand before everything ended in anger.There was a spacious low tide, a little sun, thin clouds, quiet ripples in the surf. Even a surviving seal. I lay down, alone, and found some peace. Nothing clear, nothing certain, but very real. These are the pictures from that linger that I like.

Posted on November 12, 2018 .


Many years ago I did an image of Coast Guard Beach in the summer with bathers and deep blue, ominous, sea. Ominous even though a sunny summer day. Ominous with the watchful lifeguards up on their stand, keeping everyone safe.

I got into a discussion with a friend about how liminal is the shore, the threshold between land and sea, the borderline between two phases of life’s existence on earth. 

And, for humans, who have surrendered their sea mammal identity to the dolphins and whales, a downright dangerous place. Those lifeguards are there to keep us from drowning in the water we once breathed.

We are curiously naive about those dangers. The little children who dash to the waters edge and then scramble away as the waves threaten are the wise ones. They have a primal memory of the dangers.

So finally a shark has killed a surfer. I mourn him and place only collective blame. What are we thinking? Would we run naked through the Serengeti assuming that the lions are only hunting buffalo? I don’t think so.

We have rediscovered something about our limits and the experience, as it often is, has been horrifying.

Newcomb Hollow Beach, October, 2018

Newcomb Hollow Beach, October, 2018

Posted on October 13, 2018 .

Art Cares - a show at my studio, June 30, to benefit us all


In our challenged time it can be difficult to understand how to proceed. I know in my art I have sensed a growing tension between celebration of the Cape as a refuge and place of beauty and the reality of our society’s problems staring me in the face.

My own journey to sobriety, begun last April, has brought me into rooms where kids are clinging to their higher power because their friends have died of an overdose and mothers cannot see their children because a substance has taken them over.

The challenges of addiction link to many other problems we don’t like to think about... domestic violence, homelessness, child abuse, mental health and health.

There is no excuse for art that does not confront reality, so that is what I am going to do.  I may change the focus of my work and I may not.  But I can do something now and that is..... give.

On  Saturday June 30 I will open my studio for a sale. All proceeds from this sale will go to organizations addressing these problems in the context of my community, the Cape.

Purchase a photograph of your favorite refuge .... Newcomb Hollow , Nobska Light, Herring Cove, Stage Harbor ........ and know that you are contributing to those efforts that seek to secure safety for us all.

(more details about benefiting organizations to follow)


Posted on March 24, 2018 .

Adagio 1/10/18

Update - I have edited the picture flow to better sync with the music.........I have done my first music video. These are images of mine synced to the adagio movement of Beethoven's Fifth Sonata for Cello, played by YoYo Ma and Emmanuel Ax. The music is deliciously slow, and my pictures mean a lot more to me after I have seen them with this music.

Posted on January 9, 2018 .


Update - The video and audio are now merged.........I have done my first music video. These are images of mine synced to the adagio movement of Beethoven's Fifth Sonata for Cello, played by YoYo Ma and Emmanuel Ax. The music is deliciously slow, and my pictures mean a lot more to me after I have seen them with this music.