WORDS/TRAVEL JOURNALISM•PHOTO TECHNIQUE
"ESCAPE TO THE LAKE COUNTRY"
Adventuring among the storied lakes of northern Italy. A first person guide to hiking, cycling, sailing, jaw-dropping scenery and epicurean dining and wine tasting at the foot of the Italian and Austrian Alps. This story takes you to the shores of Lago di Como, still soaking up sunlight in the middle of autumn, then on to a rugged hike over snowy Tre Montagnette, followed by a cycling adventure along the River Sarca in Trentino-Alto Adige, and finally, gliding quietly aboard a sailboat on Lake Garda in the lee of the towering Ledro Alps. Cornfield happily chimes in with the likes of Lord Byron and novelist Henry James in calling this stretch of Italy "paradise."
"THE AUDACIOUS RISE OF LARRY SCHILLER"
An entertaining profile of media 'bad boy' Lawrence Schiller--photogapher cum publisher, journalist and film director, who finessed his way into covering sensational subjects from A-Bomb spies, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in the 1950's, to the Kennedy assassination, and the Tate-LaBianca and OJ Simpson murder cases. Along the way, he raised eyebrows with sensational nude photos of Marylin Monroe for Playboy Magazine, then earned prestigious accolades by producing a beautifully illustrated encomium to the same actress, written by Norman Mailer. Schiller went on to scores of other accomplishments, including directing major motion pictures, packaging and authoring best-selling books and, most importantly helping to create a new paradigm for daring, "full contact" journalism.
In a first person tale that is both humorous and cautionary, Cornfield walks (and swims) photographers along the learning curve for taking their terrestrial imaging skills into the captivating underwater world He covers the whole training regimen, his first attempts at shooting while trying to concentrate on buoyancy control, Boyle's Law, and dive profiles, and discovers that talent and success as a topside shooter are no guarantees of great, or even good photographs beneath the surface. So why bother? "Because seventy per cent of our planet is underwater," Cornfield told a radio interviewer, "and most of the earth's inhabitants live there. Reason enough?."
"LEARNING TO BREATHE"
At 6ft. tall and 200 lbs. Jim Cornfield is not the first writer most editors would assign to do a story on being introduced to the practice of Yoga. Which is exactly why Continental Airlines Magazine Editor Mike Buller did just that. In a week spent on the balmy, Yoga-fixated Mayan Riviera on the Yucatan coast, Cornfield learned nearly every asana he could stretch his frame around, and brought his neophyte’s sense of awe to an extraordinary piece on Yoga's physical and psychological benefits . "My first time in Mexico without a single shot of tequila...this trip was different," he told a friend, at week's end, "I was learning to breathe.” In one of this article's compelling themes, Cornfield weaves for us the surprising connection between the natural history of this rugged Peninsula and the Hindu and Mayan belief systems that blend so seamlessly in Yoga on the Yucatan. An elegant lifestyle and destination travel piece.
"THE BEHEMOTH AND THE BUTTERFLY"
Every year, Mexico plays host to a pair of extraordinary animal migrations--one, the 3,000 mile journey taken by pods of 35-ton Gray Whales, the other, a remarkable and largely mysterious airborne odyssey of millions of 1.5 oz. Monarch Butterflies to the northern state of Michoacan. In this comprehensive look at both of these awe-inspring natural spectacles, and the tourist industries they've each created, Cornfield arrives at a greater truth surrounding our fascination with the behavior of such global nomads. "These two spectacular creatures," he explains, "draw attention to all the wild species on our planet and
the fragile hold on survival that so many of them have." He cites Monarch Watch director Chip Taylor's comment that "Monarch butterflies are the 'Panda Bears of the insect world." They, and the gray whales, Cornfield writes, are among "the charismatic mega-fauna" that help showcase the plight of all living species on earth.
"FULL OF WONDER"
Cornfield privately subtitles this account of his own passage to India, “The Raj, the Taj and Where is Ringo Starr?” It’s a look at the faces of the sub-continent that have interested him most of his life--from his childhood fascination with the Taj Mahal, to his interest in the Kiplingesque Raj period of Indian history when the British put their indelible stamp on this crucial segment of their vast empire—the “jewel” in Queen Victoria’s crown. And finally, after immersing himself in the sights and sounds of a few small segments of this teeming country--Delhi, Agra, Haridwar, along with a reckless dip in the icy headwaters of the Ganges--Cornfield ventured up to the ashrams of Rishikesh looking for the lair of Mararishi Mahesh Yogi. It was here that another British phenomenon, the Beatles, went into temporary (and ironically well-publicized) seclusion and created their classic White Album. A very personal, eye-opening memoir of India--luscious food, fabulous antiquities, bazaars, monsoonal rains and “Dear Prudence” included.
"GUADALUPE ISLAND "
One of several magazine articles that Cornfield produced over a two-year period to explore his private fascination with the world’s most mythologized fish, Carcharodon carcharias, aka, the Great White Shark. In the inshore waters of one of its most robust habitats, Guadalupe Island, 150 miles west of Baja California, Cornfield spent many hours over several expeditions, communing with this fearsome and irresistible apex predator from the confines of a submerged aluminum cage. The results-- dramatic stories and photographs that have run in Rangefinder Magazine, Sport Diver and Scientific American Earth 3.0, to name a few. “Nature had it all together when it produced this efficient creature,” Cornfield enthuses. “Inside the cage, you can observe and photograph them as they silently glide past, sometimes only inches away from your face. But that’s it—just what’s visible. The sharks, on the other hand, with their complex sensory array, can not only see, but smell and hear you, detect the waterborne vibrations of your movements, and even sense the electrical impulses given off by your heartbeat. All of this as a way of sizing you up as a potential meal, of course, or just a quick nibble. Fortunately, they haven't yet acquired a taste for aluminum bars.”
FURTHER READING /THE BOOK REVIEWS
"One of my instructors at UCLA," writes Cornfield, "was practically a living legend: LA Times book columnist Robert R. Kirsch, Writing for a daily paper, he had to read at least one book a day--sometimes more--cover to cover. I recall thinking, "I can do that." Well, I couldn't do it then and I still can't, so I stick to reviewing books for monthly publications instead. "
Here are some links to a few samples of Jim Cornfield's lively and eclectic approach to book criticism. Open the full text reviews by clicking on the thumbnails. Many more--"hundreds," says Cornfield--are available by contacting him directly. (Visit the CONTACT page on this site).
Jim Cornfield on writing: "I like the C.S. Lewis line, ' we read to know we are not alone.' It's the same on the flip side--for the writer. You're in a self-imposed state of solitude, but you're communicating with other people--sometimes a lot of other people. That is immensely satisfying."
The published samples below are a few of Cornfield's favorites among the scores of magazine pieces he's done in recent years. They fall into three editorial areas he targets with regularity--adventure travel, communicating with other photographers about style and technique, and his intuitive and entertaining book reviews. Click the thumbnails below to open full text versions of these articles, and enjoy...
. . . AND A COUPLE OF BOOKS