Education Is The Silver Bullet

The President of the United States wants to arm teachers and pay them more money because “I want my schools protected just like I want my banks protected...”

Let that sink in for a minute.

I grew up around guns, Michigan loves their firearms. I learned how to fire a weapon long before I could drive a car or vote or buy a beer. We'd burn through a thousand rounds of ammunition in a weekend like it was nothing. 

I'm also a teacher. I've taught university level photography courses in San Francisco for almost ten years now. I've taught one of the most diverse student bodies around, about half of which are international students. I've had good students, I've had bad students, I've had very strange students, I've had students that I honestly believe needed professional psychiatric help.

Don't ask me to put a bullet in any one of them.

We have such staggering wealth in this country, wealth that seems almost immeasurable at times. Schools should be temples, filled with knowledge, books, facts and figures. Our schools should made of solid gold. Our educational budget should be double that of the Pentagon.

Education is the silver bullet. Not firearms.

People claim mental health is the issue... if the shooter is white. Muslims are terrorists, black people are criminals, white kids are "disturbed" or "sick." You want to stop school shootings? Stop giving kids guns. A 10 day waiting period before an 18 year old can get an Uzi is not a sensible solution, mental illness notwithstanding.

Access to weapons and ammunition is not a mental health issue.

To drive a car I must be of proper age, trained, tested, licensed and insured. I must renew that license on a regular basis. If I hit something with my car or act stupid with my car or drink and drive a car they take that license away.

Why should it be any different for a firearm?

People want to talk about freedom. Guns aren't freedom, they are weapons. People talk about protecting their families. Guns are for killing, not protecting. People like to say that criminals don't obey the law, so why ban guns for law abiding citizens? Locks only keep out the honest people, but we still lock our doors don't we. People like to talk about keeping the government in check, that the people have a right to fight back. If you think your personal arsenal is going to hold back the largest military force on earth, I have a bridge to sell you...

Guns aren't a check against tyranny, the rule of law is.

Schools aren't banks, that's why we don't protect them as such, the toddler in the White House should know that. Banks have money in them, people rob them for the money. People don't come to schools with weapons to steal things. They come to schools with weapons to kill people, because that's what weapons are for.

If you put weapons in schools, get ready for a body count.

Education is the silver bullet. Not firearms. I am an educator. Don't ask me to put a bullet in anyone...

Brooke Eva, Take #2

Second take from the film scans of a shoot with Brooke Eva in early January. You can see more of Brooke's work at I typically like to take a shot of the setup so I can remember what the hell I did after the fact, thought I'd throw one in for sport. Really digging this strip box I picked a while back. All images shot with a DigiBee 400 mono light, 56inch strip box and a 36 inch reflector.

Polaroids From The Road

A few Polaroids from a little Leica Sofort camera that shoots Fuji Instax Mini film... so I guess they aren't actually Polaroids anymore. Fujiroids? Leicaroids? I had an instructor in college that just called them "roids." He was a total asshole. Can we just agree to keep calling them Polaroids?

Avila Beach, San Luis Obispo, CA

San Luis Obispo, CA

Hwy 14 West

Panamint Valley, CA

Panamint Valley

Death Valley

Death Valley

Joshua Tree NP

Joshua Tree NP

Joshua Tree NP

Brooke Eva, Take #1

First take from the film scans of a shoot with Brooke Eva in early January. You can see more of Brooke's work at

Found a great new space to shoot in... beautiful old hardwood floors and great big shop windows with amazing natural light. Got a couple more shoots on the books already for February, looking to use those South facing widows...

New years resolution of shooting more is so far working out. If you're down to shoot, drop me a line, always looking for new people to work with.

You can contact me here...

All images shot with a DigiBee 400 mono light, Leica M2 /M3 - on Ilford FP4 125 film, developed in Rodinal. 

Snapshots from 1,614 miles, roughly...

San Luis Obispo, CA

We headed south to San Luis Obispo and had burritos with a cousin at Cal Poly. College towns are ridiculous. There are burritos everywhere. Took the dog to the beach the next morning before heading east across the valley.

Shot across to Ridgecrest the next day, which is sort of the definition of nowhere, but very near something called the China Lake Naval Weapons Center. We stayed in something called an eco-pod in the middle of the desert and looked at the stars. Entirely solar powered, with a separate shower pod. I highly recommend it.

Desert Eco Pods

Orion's Belt, Etc.

We cut north through Panamint Valley to the eastern entrance of Death Valley National park. Made it as far as Stovepipe Wells and stayed in a really run down motel for the bargain price of $200 a night, which is how it goes when there are no accommodations for 190 miles in any direction.

Death Valley

Death Valley is decidedly more colorful than I had anticipated. Also huge. I highly reccommend at least a couple days if you can swing it. I could have wandered around that place for a week.  There is also a great little restaurant towards the south end of the park in Shoshone that makes a really good Reuben sandwich. Incidentally, the town of Shoshone consists of a gas station, the aforementioned restaurant and a post office. That appears to be it.

Zabriske Point

Badwater Basin

Zabriske Point

From there we hucked it all the way across to Pasadena to see my sister Andrea and her family. There are no pictures from this event because I got stupid drunk that night. Andrea, I blame your husband for this. I should not have taken the handle of Jim Beam to the hot tub as he instructed. (Craig, if you're reading this I don't really blame you, it was a good idea at the time.)

Next day we bolted for Palm Springs and the Ace Hotel to meet some good friends for the weekend. If you've never been to the Ace, it is the epitome of what you might call a "hipster compound." I think they actually breed spindly mustachioed dudes and girls with YOLO tattooed somewhere on their bodies in the back room. It's great people watching.

Joshua Tree National Park

Took a quick jaunt through Joshua Tree while the government was shut down (thanks Obama). As it turns out, National Parks are free when the federal government closes. Kind of a shame really, I like to support our National Parks and Joshua Tree is one of my favorites. Plus all the bathrooms were closed so we peed in the desert. Hashtag #trumpshutdown.

Desert Selfie

Back home in the city, drove straight through in one shot. Feels good to have some moisture in the air again. Film scans to come soon....

On The Road...

Hitting the road. Gear loadout:
Leica M2 & M3
Zeiss 35mm f/2
Zeiss 50mm f/1.5
Zeiss 21mm f/4.5
Leica 90mm f/2.8
Sony A7 w/ Grip
Voigtlander 50mm f/1.1
Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2
Voigtlander 21mm f/4

Film, bags, Metz flash, light meter, money maker, computer, tripod, and a whole plethora of other shit I'll never use... Heading South to San Luis Obispo, Oceano Dunes, turn left, Maricopa, Tehatchapi, California City (literally nowhere personified). Up and on to Death Valley, South through the park, Shoshone, Renoville, into the Mojave, and Kelso Dunes. Past Amboy, South to Twenty Nine Palms, Joshua Tree, and on to Palm Springs for Vodka Gimlets and hot tubs at the Ace Hotel...

Follow me on Instagram for updates and pics from the road @joseph.szymanski

Brooke Eva, Digital Tests...

After several unsuccessful attempts I was finally able to connect with Brooke Eva for a quick shoot last week at a new space I've recently found. Great model, totally comfortable, can either take direction or riff on her own. She's all over the place online, but you can check out her work at

I've also just recently picked up a new light, after going back and forth for months, I finally just pulled the trigger and ordered a DigiBee 400 from Paul C. Buff, and the thing is absolutely rad. Super compact with a ton of juice, I also grabbed a 36" octabox and 56" strip box to round it out. Seriously contemplating picking up a second head.

Posting a few digital tests here, film scans to come shortly...

All test shots done with a Sony A7, Voiglander Nokton 35mm f/1.2, Nokton 50mm f/1.1 and 21mm f/4. Processed with RawTherapee / GIMP on Ubuntu Linux.

Ashlyn, Take #2

Last take from a shoot with Ashlyn way back when up in Mariposa... The places we stay up there are kinda funky, this one has a full on cowboy motif happening, at least in half the house. All the couches have the same cowboy upholstery, it's pretty random...

Not entirely sure how I feel about a few of these images, they're a bit more revealing than I typically shoot, and I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing. But here they are for what it's worth... You can see more of Ashlyn's work here:

New Year's Resolutions Are Dumb...

I'm not one of those people that stick to New Year's resolutions. Hell, I don't stick to most things, as is evident by the metric ton of unfinished projects on my desk... But I make them, sort of, why not, I know it's early, here it goes...

Break less bones. Should be easy, stop acting like you're still 20 years old. Here's to 2018 being a fracture free endeavor. Seriously. I'm super tired of this crap.

Shoot more pictures. Seems like a no-brainer. Gotta get off the internet and outside and shoot some more stuff. Feels like I live out my life in front of a screen sometimes. Might explain the vitamin D deficiency. Looking to do a bunch more portrait work this year. Drop me a line if you want to collaborate... 

Get more tattoos. Been saying this for years. Haven't been under the needle in probably 5 years. Need more ink. Lot's more. Just covering up the boring. I see another sleeve in 2018...

Make more prints. This is important. I'm really tired of looking at work, my own in particular, on the web and instagram and facebook and all the other platforms that we create the content for for free only to have it digitally trashed and stolen and re-published and our reach throttled and our accounts banned and ads plastered all over them. I want to see prints, in my hands, and turn them over and smell them and examine the signature look at the grain, like a photograph is supposed to be appreciated.

So here's to prints in 2018. Bottom's up...


Word On The Street...

We ended up on a twin masted schooner in The Bay back in September. I specifically forbid all my students from photographing the Golden Gate Bridge for my class, so this first one's for them...

The Golden Gate - 2017

Tourist, San Francisco Bay - 2017

And a few more pre-injury snaps... working on getting back into the groove, looking forward to getting back on the street. Hoping to ditch the cane by the new year and get back to shooting on a regular basis.

For the time being it still takes me all day to do what I used to do all day...

Trying to spend a little more time in the darkroom, should be adding some prints to the shop in the near future. Also working on some mock ups for a new book for next year.

Not that I'm making any new year's resolutions, but I really need to get back to work...


Mendocino Coast - 2017

Market Street - 2017

Mission Street - 2017

Market Street - 2017

New Montgomery Street - 2017

Should've Got Me A Rolleica

So I'm in line at the little shop down the street from school picking up a bagel on my way in and this guy in full construction garb and a hard hat comes up behind me...

Guy: Is that a "Rolleica?"
Me: Say what?
Guy: A "Rolleica" you know, like the old "Rolleica" cameras.
Me: It's a Leica. Maybe you're thinking of a Rolleiflex? 
Guy: That's film right, not digital?
Me: This one uses film, yes.
Guy: I shoot pictures with an iPad now.
Me: That's nice.
Guy: I got me an old Canon. Those worth anything?
Me: Eh, depends what it is.
Guy: It's a AE-1, that worth anything?
Me: Not really.
Guy: Wanna buy it?
Me: Um, no.
Guy: I got all the stuff for it, like the zooms and the light thing.
Me: I'm good, thanks.
Guy: (Pauses, shakes head) Should've got me a "Rolleica..."


Lucy Hilmer And The Dry Mount Press

Every now and then I randomly search Craigslist for the term "darkroom" and just see what comes up... Sometimes you find something interesting, though it's usually futile but often entertaining. "I was cleaning out my dad's house and need to sell all his great darkroom gear cheap!" Which usually translates to about 2 trays, an easel, 2 broken film reels and a burned out enlarger bulb, 50 bucks, cash only, no delivery.

This time around I got lucky and found a big old heavy virtually indestructible 16x20 inch dry mount press for a $125 bucks, which I've been keeping an eye out for for years, and is dirt cheap considering most places would charge you $100 bucks just to ship it. Still can't believe it didn't get snatched up... and as it turns out, the lovely lady that sold it to me is none other than San Francisco photographer Lucy Hilmer, whose work I've seen around for some time...

You can have a look at Lucy's work at


Black & White Challenge...

I somehow got roped into the whole 7 day black and white challenge thing floating around facebook... No captions, no explanations, no people, seven days, seven black and white photographs. So here it is, in Polaroid no less (or Fuji-roid as it were). Thought I'd put it all in one place, for what it's worth...

Got Books...?

For this years obligatory Black Friday post... here's a selection of small books I've published over the years. Signed copies are available in the shop, on demand copies available at

Fragments: A collection of rather personal photographs. Originally published in 2015.
Signed Copies | On Demand | Excerpts

Midnight: Originally published in 2012.
Signed Copies | On Demand

Gallery Update: Portraits, Figures, Et Cetera

Dumped a new batch of images from the past couple years into the Portraits, Figures, Et Cetera gallery. Below is a few excerpts... see more in the full gallery at left... 

Word On The Street

A collection of somewhat random frames, in no particular order, that didn't seem to make the cut, or the web, or whatever. For what it's worth...

#0566_08 - Tourists, Lincoln Memorial. Washington DC 2017

#0533_22 - "Diesel" San Francisco 2017

#0565_34 - Metro, Washington DC 2017

#0534_15A - Nursing Mother, New Montgomery Street 2017

#0532_35A - Market Street, 2017

#0566_36 - Washington DC 2017

#0567_31 - Civic Center Station, San Francisco 2017

Catalina, Take #3


Last take from a shoot with Cat way back when up in inverness... you can see more of her work on Instagram and Model Mayhem...

Threw in a few polaroids from the land camera and the instax for good measure. I'm almost completely out of the black and white FP3000 film. Think I've got about 6 boxes left in my stash and then it's gone forever. Still can't believe nobody is making pack film for instant cameras anymore. Seems it really is the end of an era.

Anyone who wants to shoot a box with me, drop me a line...


#0550_09A Catalina, Inverness 2017

#0549_18A Catalina, Inverness 2017

#0550_32A Catalina, Inverness 2017

#0550_18A Catalina, Inverness 2017

#0550_36A Catalina, Inverness 2017