Blog posts


Catskills nature photo workshop

I'll be doing a nature photography workshop this Sunday in the Catskills, part of the annual Lark in the Park celebration.

Should be beautiful fall foliage, fun activities and — thanks to the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development — it is free!

Sunday 9/30 from 9 am to noon at the Platte Clove Preserve near Hunter, NY. For more information and to pre-register please contact Jonathan Mogelever at or 845-586-2611.

More details here:


My brothers take New York

Davy and Peter Rothbart sing The Booty Don't Stop at their Found show in Brooklyn.
Check out this great article about Davy and Peter in today's New York Times!

My brothers had a fun show in Brooklyn last night. Tonight there is another show, in Manhattan. Here is the whole tour schedule.

People who have only known them for a decade or less will not be surprised. But sometimes I think back to our childhood and wonder: Who could have predicted? That my two little brothers would grow up to stand in front of crowds of friends and strangers to sing movingly about miscarriage (from Peter's new album) or read — also movingly — about phone sex (from Davy's new book).

You kids make me proud.


Limited edition of Phoot Camp photos

Socks. With stripes. As seen during a 1980s video shoot at Phoot Camp.
Our Phoot Camp exhibit in Brooklyn has ended, but fear not — a limited edition of our photos are now available here:

That page is also a great way to see the exhibit — a drop in the creative bucket that Phoot Camp is all about. See more Phoot photos here — on the Instagram feed and Tumblr page.


Someday on Vimeo

When do we first fall in love with our kids?

Photojournalist Michael Forster Rothbart tells his story.

This story first appeared in THE MOMENT, a book of wild, poignant, life-changing stories from artists and writers famous and obscure, published by Harper Perennial in 2012.

Someday: one father's story from Michael Forster Rothbart on Vimeo.

Earlier this year, my story was published in The Moment, a collection of personal essays. Today I finished editing this video, to be shown on the Smith Magazine website and at book readings.


Waterfall a la Hockney

This collage may be my favorite picture from Phoot Camp last week. This little waterfall flows into Esopus Creek in Cathedral Gorge, a peaceful glen at Ashokan Center where we had Phoot. My 8-photo collage shows a 270 degree vertical panorama.

I've been re-obsessed lately with painter/photographer David Hockney and the collages he made. He said: "photography is all right if you don’t mind looking at the world from the point of view of a paralysed cyclops." Making collages, he "realized that this sort of picture came closer to how we actually see, which is to say, not all-at-once but rather in discrete, separate glimpses which we then build up into our continuous experience of the world.”


Jean-Paul's first trip to America

This is what Jean-Paul, a Frenchman, did on his first trip to America. I met him and his family last week at Blue Hole, a swimming hole in the Catskills, during Phoot Camp.

Apparently Jean-Paul mooned me. I missed it while photographing someone else, so he did the hokey-pokey and he turned himself around.

Almost everyone who sees this photo laughs when they first see it. But then they either love it or hate it, and I've been trying to understand why. Some viewers can't get past Jean-Paul's one-eyed trouser snake, but for me, it is the reactions that make this photo. Jean-Paul's girlfriend Gigi is shocked and embarrassed. Her daughter-in-law Dawn is just mortified. As a documentary photographer, I treasure such unscripted, genuine moments.

I've posted a censored version here. If you want to see what you're missing, follow this link.


Photoville exhibit opens Friday

I just got home from Phoot Camp. What a fabulous experience, hanging out in the woods with some of the most creative photographers I've ever met. Now we're gearing up for our Phoot Camp exhibit. It's part of the Photoville photography festival in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Our opening is this Fri 7 pm, but the festival opens at 4 pm June 22 and goes thru July 1.

Find our exhibit next to the NY Times exhibit. We'll be the ones with the hammock. Or tire swing. (Still working out details!)

Give me a shout if you want to join me for dinner Friday.

More event details here.


More phun at phoot camp

Blue Hole in Sundown, NY.

That water was freezing.


The Phoot Camp has landed

Tonight is the first night of Phoot Camp! Take 35 photographers. Put them in the north woods. Add fire, LED lights and alcohol. This is what you get.

Things get crazier as the night goes on. Tube socks! More lights! Fire jumping! And this is just the first night...


Phoot camp

Self-portrait with Jacob and scissors.
Next week, I am headed off to Phoot Camp, which is like summer camp for photographers. Very exciting. I am amazed and delighted and a bit trepidatious as I look at the amazing self-portraits of my fellow phoot-ographers and read about them here.


The End of Center St

Today was the Oneonta school budget vote. A YES vote would have kept our neighborhood Center Street school open for another year. An unofficial tally is in: 726 Yes votes and 1,901 No votes.

My photojournalism students from Hartwick College have been photographing at Center St for the last 3 weeks. A few of their photos are below. They will present a full slideshow of their work to the entire Center St school on May 24 at Sing and Celebrate.

Third grade students in Joseph Collier’s class at Center Street School in Oneonta, NY, decorated their windows with an S.O.S (Save Our School) message. An Oneonta School District budget vote on May 15 will determine whether Center Street will remain open next year. Photo by Michaela Shipman.
A student locks his bike to the bike rack outside Center Street Elementary School before the school's Ice cream Social on May 4th, 2012. The majority, roughly 80%, of Center Street's students and parents walk to the school, according school principal Coleen Lewis. Photo by Alex Cookhouse.
Kindergarteners Gwyn Van Cott (left) and Miya Philpot at Center Street School in Oneonta, NY, work together on a class assignment in the classroom’s play area on April 29, 2012. Photograph by Devon Gonzalez.

Third grade student Robert Murray looks at a “Save Our School” sign in the cafeteria of Center Street School during a school open house on May 3, 2012. On May 15, a budget vote will determine the fate of the school. Photo by Michaela Shipman.
Two classes of fourth graders leave Center Street School on May 3, 2012, for a class field trip. The students walked around central Oneonta, learning about the different architecture of buildings in the neighborhood. As Center Street School awaits a May 15 budget vote that will determine its fate, daily life for the students continues as normal. Photo by Michelle O'Dell


Nature photo workshop

There is room for about 2 more people in my next Nature Photography workshop, this Sat. May 5 from 2 to 5 pm in Cooperstown. We'll play with ways to find the beauty all around us.

Details and sign-up here:


NPPA award!

Viktor Gaidak shows his scar.
I just learned today that I've won a National Press Photographer Association's Best of Photojournalism award! OK. To be accurate, DOUBLEtruck magazine and their editors won the award for their good work photo editing my recent Chernobyl article.

See the winning essay here.

DOUBLEtruck is a great little quarterly photojournalism magazine affiliated with my agency Zuma Press. Looks like we beat out Sports Illustrated and the Seattle Times in this category. Fitting that this should come on Chernobyl's anniversary.

thinking of Chernobyl

The city of Slavutych, Ukraine, celebrates its annual Day of the City with a parade and a concert on the central square. Slavutych is the city built after the 1986 Chernobyl accident to house relocated workers from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Slavutych was the last city built by the Soviet Union.
Today is the anniversary of the Chernobyl accident. 26 years. It's been a generation now. I've been thinking all day about all my friends in Slavutych and Ivankiv and Sukachi and everywhere in the Chernobyl-affected zones.

Будьте щасливі! Будьте здоровіЯ скучаю по тебе.


Woodstock exhibit

Last year, I participated in the MARK artist development program run by the New York Foundation for the Arts. Now we're having an exhibit with all the amazing artists who work in many different fields.

The exhibit opens tomorrow, March 31, at 4 pm, at the Kleinert/James Center for the Arts, Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild, in Woodstock, NY. Show runs through April 29. More details here.

The poster, a Venn diagram showing English, Greek and Russian alphabets, suggests that even when we speak different artistic languages, we can still find commonalities. The curator, Mark Kanter, (plus gallery staff and volunteers) did an amazing job hanging the show so that you discover parallels between the artworks.


oodles of Nudel for the Boston Globe

I was happy to shoot my first assignment for the Boston Globe this month. I spent an evening at the little Nudel restaurant in Lenox, Mass, run by the amazing chef Bjorn Somlo. Second best burrito I've ever had. The story runs in today's paper.

At Nudel restaurant in Lenox, MA, customers can watch chef Bjorn Somlo and cook Andrew Trudeau work in the tiny open galley kitchen. Nudel takes its inspiration from the bounty provided by the local farms in the Berkshires.
“In the summer we buy from local farmers,” says Somlo. “Of course our beets will be better, three hours after harvesting, than someone else’s that have changed temperature three times. I don’t say we’re a farm-to-table [restaurant] because right now we would only be serving mud! But when we can’t buy locally, we buy ethically and sustainably sourced.”
And delicious, I should add.


Thanks, Orion

Orion is an excellent magazine, with great photos and fascinating articles. If you're not familiar with it, stop reading my drivel and go check out their website now.

So I was flattered that the magazine gave a shout out to my Chernobyl website this week during the Fukushima 1-year anniversary. Thanks!


Snow falling on beeches

Finally some snow! I escaped my laptop for a few hours this morning to go photograph the fresh snow coating every little branch up at SUNY-Oneonta's College Camp. This particular tree entranced me. I kept coming back to it.


3 new exhibits: Brattleboro, Cherry Valley + Woodstock

I am delighted to announce 3 new photography exhibits coming up:

In Vermont:

  • My After Chernobyl exhibit opens in Brattleboro, VT at the Vermont Center for Photography. Opening: Fri. Feb. 3, 5:30 pm, with a short talk by me at 6.
  • “Art, Social Action, and Spirituality” lecture + discussion, Sun. Feb. 5, 11 am at the Brattleboro Area Jewish Community Center.
  • Photojournalism workshop focusing on nuclear power: Sat. Feb. 25, 10-4, at the In-sight Photo Project in Brattleboro, VT. (Register here.)
  • Public forum discussing how Vermont Yankee has affected Brattleboro for better and worse. Not a debate but a chance for people on both sides of the issue to hear each other. Sun. Feb. 26, 2 pm at VCP.
In New York:
  • Show of Face exhibit, Cherry Branch Gallery, Cherry Valley, NY. Opening: Sat., Feb. 4, 5 pm. Hours: Wed-Sun, 12-5 pm.
    Some of my Chernobyl portraits will be included in this exhibit.
  • NYFA exhibit, Kleinert/James Center for the Arts, Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild, Woodstock, NY. Opening: March 31, 4 pm, through April 29.


the Moment is here!

Today is the release date for The Moment, a new book of stories about moments that changed our lives.

I am happy to be one of the 125 "artists famous & obscure" to be featured in the book. (Yep, I'm here to represent the obscure).

I have a photo and essay about the moment I fell in love with my baby son Jacob, who is now 5 and very proud to be featured.

Check it out:
Editor Larry Smith is discussing the book today on NPR's Talk of the Nation.
Fellow contributor Shalom Auslander's piece was in the NY Times Magazine on Dec. 18 – in the Lives column.

Our first reading from the book will be next Mon. Jan. 9, 7 pm, at McNally Jackson Books, 52 Prince St. in NYC. Details here. Hope to see you there!

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