Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Hubbard's Lament

There's a lot that Ms. Hubbard gets right here, a considerable amount she also disregards or glosses over. Of course, White folk will be cheering this on as righteous affirmation that everything they say and believe is absolutely true, case closed- while the facts, and the truth are so infinitely more nuanced. 

As an inner city teacher of adolescents who were officially classified as "Extremely Emotionally Disturbed & Socially Maladjusted," one quickly observed and realized (again- depending if one had both eyes open) that there was blame aplenty to go around on all sides: parents (or lack thereof), school teachers and administrators, clergy, police, and even the children themselves... yes, society as a whole from the President on down. Plenty of blame- and plenty of reasons. The latter are often shoved aside or conveniently ignored, the former usually short or one sided, and the solutions ranging from ineffective, to non existent.

You can't effectively address, confront or attempt to remedy this madness of spiraling crime and violence without effectively including all sides concerned. And so much of the insanity that occurs within the inner city is a direct result of what occurs (or doesn't occur) far outside it. First and foremost, if there are no jobs to be had in the hood, then you pretty much have to give people the credit for creating them- and you know where those self made jobs are going to be... cue in: drugs, guns and death. Also see: the never ending cycle of crime, incarceration and despair that doesn't just suck in individual lives, but entire generations. What use are good decent schools in the inner city (when they do exist) if there are no institutions of higher learning that are affordable; and ultimately, if there are no jobs or opportunities to be had for all that desperately need and want them- not just for the handful that somehow manage to succeed beyond every and all possible obstacles!

Yes, it's easy to blame individuals for lack of personal responsibility, and individuals certainly must take responsibility- but how can anyone be expected to succeed in a society that has given up on them and cast them aside, looking their way only when the situation inevitably arises to cast blame, and accusation... or as a possible source of personal revenue in one of the few growth industries left in the country- the prison industrial complex.

Education is not held in very high esteem by much of "minority" youth, often it's looked upon more as a sad joke than anything else, something for other people with lighter skin in another world where they don't have bullets buzzing by their heads. Those scant few grants and scholarships, and those far fetched possibilities cannot protect you from the violence all around you each and every day.

Cops are not concerned with societal cause and effect, they want to go home in one piece to their nice peaceful neighborhoods where some measure of hope and sanity can still be salvaged. They don't have any skin in the game other than their own, "Protect and Serve" starts and ends with them.

So yes, Peggy, it's a goddamn shame that little girl was killed by one of her own, and the idiot that died by the gun (like so many others, before and after in his circumstances) got what he gave; but you really should know that TV's talking heads wouldn't have covered her death anyway, and countless others just like her. They both died statistics, together in their separate world.

This madness is all consuming, it sucks the very life out of you even if you survive it. Every inner city is a little Iraq and Afghanistan where PTSD runs rampant at every age and every household. To succumb to a one sided blame game is both very human, and very understandable. Ultimately, it just continues to perpetuate and conceal the very madness it so inadequately seeks to address.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

(Way!) Long Overdue Tech!

Bet people would have been salivating just to stand in line for a chance to buy this simple piece of low budget, common sense tech back in the day. Don't have the need to use one anytime soon myself- only question is... Why'd it take so freakin' long!?!?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Diary Of A Teenage Girl

No moralizing here, we're watching this develop from the mind of a fifteen year old girl who wants to grow up fast, and finds herself ensnared in a world she cannot possibly begin to understand or fathom- not that any of us can at any age. And Diary of a Teenage Girl does a bang up job of showing just how confusing, hypocritical and thoroughly maddening adults have made this world we live in, and in so doing, defy our offspring to do better.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Return Of The (Analog) Prodigal

Photo: © S. Banos

Alas, my ever so brief, ever not so torrid, middle aged, digital affair has reached its natural conclusion- and fortunately without regret, despite the fact that it did not achieve its intended consequence... becoming my go to, do everything, photographic imaging device from now till...

Photo: © S. Banos

The Fujifilm XT-1 is one very beautiful, very capable performer; truth is, it can do it all- but its strengths do not particularly suit my needs, and to be fair, its one major weakness is shared by all mirrorless cameras of its ilk- namely, its much touted EVF, which constantly reminded me of a '60s era color TV. Fine in the shade, better in the dark- but mediocre at very best in sunlight, changing or contrasty lighting situations. If I was a color aficionado, I would probably just shut up and persevere, the resulting images being that good. And it was fun seeing a few color images after decades of B&W.

But novelty fades and I'm back in my monochrome world of reality, and you can't beat starting out with the image qualities you desire most in film from the get go- rather than struggling to replicate them to one degree or another in post. If I could afford it, I'd be tempted to keep it, despite my vow to simplify. That said, I will definitely miss its quiet stealth, low light capability and 1:1 crop, but I'll continue to get what I require most from what I've already used for millennia. When the EVF looks as good as the LCD on the rear of the camera, I may just have another look see- in the meantime, it's on to eBay...

Photo: © S. Banos

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Stanford Prison Experiment

A few observations on The Stanford Prison Experiment:

1) First, the age old truism of what can happen when ya give someone a uniform.

2) How closely the study environment resembled a real life prison- and how true to life the accompanying results mimicked real life prison culture (in just 6 days), from Attica to Abu Ghraib.

3) How big a dick Dr. Philip G. Zimbardo was at the time for allowing himself to become so personally involved in the study and not conducting the "experiment" as an actual scientific experiment, so that his research and conclusions would be beyond reproach.

4) How easy it is to create a Nazi (see #1)- although can't help but think had the study been done with some say... students from NYC (rather than the burbs of CA), the "prisoners" would have been considerably more rebellious- though with probably similar results, considerably faster.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

My Not So Torrid, Middle Aged, Digital Fling

After decades of rigorously maintained analog self control and moderation, the very first chance I got a little extra change in my pocket, I immediately made a play for the young hot bod housed in the petite looker known as the Fujifilm XT-1 (complete w/14mm). The mere sight of her drove me crazy with desire- all those buttons and dials to press and caress amidst her tight young curves... OK- Enuf.
Love those muted greens.   All Photos: © S. Banos

Yes, the XT-1 can deliver the goods, it has also driven me half crazy getting to know it. The first few days were absolutely maddening- pressing every wrong button for every wrong reason (purposely and accidentally). We're a tad more acquainted now, starting to respect each other's space and preferences. Still, there is a very palpable tension between us...

The main drawback remains the EVF which may be the best out there, but still looks like a vintage era color TV from the '60s if you ask me. It's especially annoying in changing, contrasty light, as well as sunlight, where seeing what's in the shadows is particularly difficult- particularly ironic since one thing this camera can do is render shadow detail extraordinary well! The body is superbly compact but that also causes one to push things one doesn't want to- at least I'm getting familiar with how to undo it. 

Did notice slight shutter lag for high speed action shots.

I came back from my initial real life, field test (see results) fully prepared to put it up for sale on eBay. It hadn't been a fun experience, and had really missed my Nikon analogs. If there's no joy in the actual experience- what is there? Case closed. But before I got to actually packaging the camera away, I decided to take a look at said photos, and... First, there were the colors (and you must understand that except for a literal handful of SX-70 shots, I have not shot color since 1978), some lovely reds and muted greens- Wow! And it complemented the compositions, it wasn't just filler. OK, fine- but back to reality, I still wanted to know how it performed as a tool for B&W. I completed my first B&W conversion, and it came out... OK. Amazingly, while the color corrections took mere minutes, it was still a slow drive getting the local tonalities in B&W down pat (although selections were easier). But in the end, it still had that plasticky digital look- it needed.... grain. It had to have grain to feel "real." Fake grain for authenticity, Stan? Really? Yes, it's one slippery slope...

The self professed "King of  Pain." Yes, that is a taser. Yes, that is a (very) sensitive area.

I had read how grain software was pretty awful at best, but reluctantly went ahead and... I've been looking at 35mm Tri-X grain for decades, and this fake shit looked looked pretty damn good to me. Scanning B&W negs somewhat exaggerates grain, so I didn't pump it up as much (the grain software can be infinitely massaged or intensified) as it appears on my scans, gave it more a Plus-X feel- but it was enough to soothe the craving, and rid the image of its digital curse. It had achieved the look and feel of B&W film.

Relationships- they need constant work and attention.

So is everything copacetic? Not really, I may still sell it. Or I may sell all my analog film stuff to finance 28 and 40mm equivalents. I honestly don't know right now, but I can't afford to keep both. The film cameras are fun, simplicity and ease in the field- they can also last me a lifetime. The digital is more a working tool with various perks, like getting color & B&W (and a 1:1 crop) on demand. It's definitely not a one night stand, I just don't know if we're ready to commit just yet.

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Trump Coward Family

No matter how much money I've inherited and made on the backs of others- I'm still a little shit... And look- I can prove it!!!

I have nothing against hunters who actually eat what they kill- I'd be some kinda hypocrite otherwise, since I eat meat. As far as these Big Bawanas who wanna prove how big theirs are by shooting defenseless animals for... sport are concerned- if you want to prove your manhood with a gun, there's many a government sanctioned organization that will happily send you off where you can "be all that you can be." But these Trumps, Nugents and lying dentists are just cowards to the core.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Detroit Unbroken Down- Dave Jordano

Photo: Dave Jordano

The first thing one notices upon viewing this book is that it is unquestionably a labor of love. Mr. Jordano loves Detroit, and loves its people- as do they, despite all its faults, disappointments and dangers. One hears and sees little else but the latter anywhere anyone looks. Detroit Unbroken Down reminds us all that there are real people living there, beyond the ruin porn, gangstas and chosen downtown elite. Ordinary people desperately trying to live decent lives in a man made island of neglect and disrepair within the world's most powerful nation.

Photo: Dave Jordano

These portraits of people and community do not focus on the down and out, but neither are they feel good rainbows and unicorns. These Motor City denizens live a reality from which so many of its former residents fled unapologetically; yet, there they remain, refusing to give up and succumb, if only because they don't have the luxury of fleeing. If nothing else, these photographs remind us of that.

Photo: Dave Jordano

Photo: Dave Jordano

Friday, July 24, 2015

Losing One's Voice

Don't know if the movie was all that great, but the content sure was, and her talent was as real and rare as it ever gets. I didn't know Amy Winehouse from shit while alive, by the time I found out who she was, she had already become the mumbling, fumbling, public butt of jokes; and that is, I must confess, how I happened upon her. A joke, a sham, a vapid publicity stunt gone terribly wrong.

Truth is, she was an exceptionally rare talent with a gift that comes along only once in several generations. Most recording artists artists in general must strain to get every last ounce of whatever talent they possess to make themselves shine and be counted. Amy's voice was an absolute force of nature, she had to corral and tame its sheer brilliance. And she could do so with surprising ease and regularity. I have to go back to a young Aretha to think of someone who actually had to restrain their voice of its own natural intensity, a voice that could just wail seemingly of its own accord and volition. She didn't have the Biblical soul of Aretha, but the subtle intonations she delivered were nothing short of magical- so unlike the squeeze every note into every syllable histrionics of the Mariah Carey School of Yarbling.

Unfortunately, she could not curtail and control the very demons that lived within that voice. And she very rapidly regressed into the same sad story of an enormous talent imploding under the pressure of drugs, stardom and wanton self destruction. 

Ironically, and unlike so many others- she wanted neither the fame nor celebrity, and knew it would be the death of her...

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Black And White Of It

After seeing this photo of a Black officer aiding a White supremacist on Yahoo "News," had to see the sorry ass excuses and explanations that racists would be falling over themselves to make in the commentary. And certainly wasn't disappointed, the very first I read accused him of being a... Nationalist Socialist! Get it? No, that's not a Nazi Aryan White Supremacist- he's a Socialist- a Communist, like Lenin, Stalin... Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders!!!


Sunday, July 19, 2015

My First Restoration...

Photo: © S. Banos

30 man hours in, and about 350 more (65MG files) to go... Fifteen years ago I made a decent work print of this and had I two or three more sheets of paper left, might have been able to nail it. Ten years ago, I rented a darkroom to renew the challenge and didn't even make a decent test exposure- two sheets into it, I stood there, had a good laugh, and walked outta the darkroom never to return. I still remember how much lighter my shoulders felt when I walked out!

The weight is most definitely back now with the need for restoration. This negative was definitely not the easiest, nor the hardest- but it did at least confirm that, as hoped, I will be able to see most of these through, even with my limited skills- not that it's easy. I tried both a recommended software, and restoration technique- and both failed spectacularly. Other restoration techniques (specifically, those that erase the damage in bulk rather than individually) are simply ineffective or beyond my reach, at least for now; so my number one restorative tool is, quite simply- patience. I've put about 100 of the files I'd like to see the most in a separate folder; when those get done, I'll breathe a small sigh of relief...

Saturday, July 11, 2015


Photo: © S. Banos

While in NY recently, most of my time was devoted to family matters, but I did manage to steal a little time for myself and make it to Coney, to which I haven't been in years, just in time to catch The Mermaid Parade. Back in the early '80s when it first launched, it was a rag tag, if sincere, affair lasting all of 20 minutes. Now it is a commercially sponsored enterprise which was still going strong some three hours after it commenced and I attempted to leave. And attempted is the operating word since the police had completely cordoned everything off; you literally could not cross the street anywhere to get to the subway- not anywhere! Had to wait something like an hour packed like the proverbial sardine until the cops felt like letting us cross the street.

I didn't mind the occasional rain, and I usually don't mind the effort- if I at least get the one (photo); but I don't think I ever want to go through that again. I don't mind not being privy to whatever's behind some cooler than thou velvet rope, but I can't tolerate having my movement restricted indefinitely on a public street- that's my parade.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

SOB Robs Wounded Vets

This SOB bastard started a totally needless war based on the lies he had manufactured to sell it, had thousands of our boys killed and maimed for life so that his Dick friend could make millions, performed a "comedy skit" about not being able to find any WMD, and is still not satisfied until he can reach into their pockets and make a few bucks off what's left of their bodies.

The man knows NO shame...

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Greatest Photo Book Of All Time

Yeah, I know- an utterly ridiculous statement. So why not just take it as fact and be done with it? I can't prove it, you can't disprove it. Satisfied? Doesn't matter- I'm going with it...

First off, you must simply dispense your personal beliefs and preferences and accept the fact that photography reached it's intellectual and artistic zenith with B&W in the early/mid seventies, and went completely downhill after that color revolution thing of the same decade. With me so far? OK, so I lost maybe... 97.5% of the entire photo audience. Again, doesn't matter.

The book itself is relatively thin, but on the large side- I could tell it wasn't gonna be cheap, and when I opened it and saw the reproductions, I immediately thought three figures. And when I saw the box that held it... Uh-oh. Yeah, it costs $250.

Photo: John Divola

But it's a goddamn gorgeous $250! The lusciously reproduced B&W photos contained in John Divola's San Fernando Valley are deceptively quiet, contemplative- the subtle quirks and nuanced details all hint at the resident's inner lives (when they're not openly broadcasting them with direct views into the camera's lens). The newly settled residents of Bill Owens' Suburbia were gradually affixing themselves into their emerging community; these guys are already settled, they're comfortable in their own skin. After introducing its residents, Mr. Divola photos then go on to further explore the neighborhood's flora and architecture; and it's all good- exactly what you'd expect from the world's greatest photo book (of all time).


PS-  Did I get it? Sadly, no. A little too rich for this boy's blood, but I did not return completely empty handed- I was quite happy to get Robert Voit's amazingly beautiful New Trees- a more than worthy typology of uniquely disguised cell phone towers. Ya see, this was supposed to be my now annual report from NYC, but having to address the growing needs of elderly parents, there was not much time to view (or attempt the making of) much photography while there. New York goes on as always, the poor struggle to house and feed themselves, while the rich revel in their own.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Why (oh why) Isn't The Media...

Calling Dylann Roof a terrorist??? Could it be because he's Whi... aw shucks, u know where I'm going with this...