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).

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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...

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Photography Is The New Graffiti (pass it on)...

Don't remember where I saw it, but damn... if that don't encapsulate a few dozen lectures and symposiums on the state of photography today- I don't know what does...

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

SB on B...

I "discovered" Blake Andrews a few years back. Two things you realize right off: the guy's good (that's rare enough), and... he's also funny. Lord knows most comedians are painful to watch or listen to- the great ones are not only rare, but extremely observant and often insightful. And successfully translating some modicum of humor into photography on a consistent basis (which B does) is an extremely rare achievement! But enough about him...

Actually, the man has been kind enough to interview your humble servant on his own home turf @ B...

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

RIP- Kalief Browder

Kalief Browder, 1993-2015.    PHOTO: ZACH GROSS

An innocent kid left to rot in jail for three years with no evidence against him other than that he was Black. Beaten, abused, imprisoned for a goddamn backpack he didn't even take. A budding life needlessly stolen and lost without apology issued or responsibility taken. All committed under the perversion we now call justice.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

"We Need To See Them...


Army Spc. Jerral Hancock sits for a portrait with his son Julius. It is believed that Hancock was trapped under the wreckage of his Army tank in Iraq for half an hour before he was rescued.
Courtesy of David Jay/Unknown Soldier

And for what? We're all made to feel guilty for not "supporting our boys" once the shit hits the fan- but we're never, ever asked to question why we put them in harm's way to begin with.

There are now countless people in and around Iraq who hate us; perhaps because they had nothing to do with 9/11, and yet had to suffer the revenge and full onslaught of the world's foremost military might. An yet the thousands we killed and maimed there for no good (or sane) reason will never get even this most perfunctory of acknowledgements.


Addendum:  David Guttenfelder also has an amazing essay on the plight of vets w/PTSD who are taking their own lives at home- an alarming 22 suicides each and every day! (via: PetaPixel)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Been A Swell Ride- FAREWELL, AND PEACE...

I was looking at my website recently, and despite my plethora of art world rejections (as regular readers will attest), couldn't help feel some small sense of accomplishment. It was short lived. This weekend I discovered that much if not all of my 'photographic legacy' had been damaged to some extent by some insidious mold, fungus, whatever. Losing one's original images is every photographer's worst possible nightmare- losing all one's equipment is a cakewalk in comparison. You can never get back yesterday, the year before, let alone any decade previous.

Photography has been my one personal joy (and torment), and my photographs, more than anything, are my... friends. They accompany me throughout life, some go back aways and we know each other well, others, newly formed acquaintances, and we're just starting to have fun. But young or old, new or familiar, we were all family- and I wanted to protect them.

And protect them I did in a small, fireproof safe- but it was my very precautions that would prove my undoing. I 'upgraded' to a modestly priced safe that was not only fireproof, but also supposedly waterproof, complete with rubber linings. It helped put my mind even further at ease- not only would my precious negs not melt into an unrecognizable blob, they also wouldn't suffer water damage form the fireman's hose. I'll never know if those seals would have ever done their job of keeping water out, unfortunately, they were more than capable of keeping moisture in, therefore providing an excellent environment for negative devouring fungus/mold. How's that for some wicked Greek tragedy?

So now I get to wake up every morning for the rest of my life, and the first thing, the very first fuckin' thing to come to mind is- how does losing some of the most important moments in your life for the last forty years feel, Stan? Hhhhmmmm???

People tell me tomorrow is another day, there'll be other pictures to take. They mean well, and yes, there (hopefully) will. But how does one relive and redo the fleeting moments of forty years of youth? When you're about to break that most disgusting of numbers... 30 may be the new 20, 40 may be the new 30, 50 may be the new 40, but 60 is still fucking 60, and it sucks any way you look at it. And yes, I fully realize there are people throughout the world with much greater and much more pressing, real life problems- like... where are they going to eat or sleep at day's end? Granted.

I always strive to turn things around in some positive manner when hit by one of life's seemingly endless supply of pernicious, personal injustices. One of the reasons I feared this one so, is because I full well knew there would be no recourse, no positive spin, no happy face to put on it. Still, deal with it I somehow must- if only for my own sanity.

I took the following day off work (I could barely function), sat down and started cleaning said negatives with Edwal's film cleaner (Isopropyl alcohol) and managed to get through 350 strips of negatives (from 9AM to 1AM)- and that is just the start. I hope to salvage around 60% (maybe more) of my work- the alcohol actually cleans up some of the fungus on the less affected negatives and should cease any further damage; those more heavily damaged can only await some miracle software of the future. After cleaning, my first move, my only move, is to make high resolution files of what remains and go about restoring them as best possible with my admittedly limited skills. Hopefully, I'll be able to salvage enough to ultimately self publish what remains. Point is, that's one helluva load of work that starts now, and ends...

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Which means my friend, that Reciprocity Failure has finally come to the end of its run. Perhaps, I'll post something in a fit of rage, or perhaps in a year or two to update my progress; but for all practical purposes- it really has been fun. Thank you, one and all (truly) for dropping by. Keep caring, keep shooting- and best to all...

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Ideal Indian

I have written about the Indian for scientific magazines all my life and I have never seen one, I would like to learn about their life and logic.    -"Indian scholar" in 1905 conversation with Edward Curtis

Sacajawea- unknown sculptor. Wonder what Edward Curtis would've thought- or any American Indian for that matter. Photo: © S. Banos

"The advent of the White man was a pleasant episode in the lives of these savage people," one of the first chroniclers of Seattle said. "Their arms opened to receive them as superior beings, and the lands they possessed were freely offered for their acceptance."

Friday, May 1, 2015

Thug Life!

Photo: Sergei Bachlakov/ZUMA Press/Corbi

Dang! These thugs don't have nothing better to do with their lives than go around starting riots for no good reason! All they know is how to break stuff up, stuff that other people have to work hard for- something they know nothing about!!! What's wrong with those people!?!?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Hugh Thompson- Hero, Role Model, Rebel


Talk about the ultimate unholy trio of overused, overrated buzz words in existence- made only the worse (if humanly possible) by using them in tandem! Yet, there is no question that Hugh Thompson owns the whole lot in every way imaginable for the actions he executed one insanely murderous day in Viet Nam. Namely, it was his direct involvement that prevented even more people from being butchered that infamous afternoon in 1968 at a hamlet called My Lai. And it was his basic sense of common decency that ignited his moral outrage into action- not the wanton blood lust of a rampaging Rambo, but the righteous indignation that allows someone to assume the role of one who saves lives, no matter the cost.

Thompson was the man responsible for turning US arms in the direction of... US troops, and threatening to shoot them down should they advance to kill one more baby, one more innocent human being. With the temporary cessation of the slaughter, he then went about rescuing whoever was still alive, reporting what he had seen, and in so doing so, possibly saving countless other innocent lives in similar operations to come.

He received many a death threat (and many a dead animal on his doorstep) for his courage to speak out; and his partner revealed that his four crashes in the following two months after My Lai may have not all been attributable to the Viet Cong. Ironically, it was Thompson who proved that at least some Americans were, in fact, still the good guys- by his ability to think beyond the myopic xenophobia of "My country, right or wrong," by his willingness to call out Nazi atrocities, no matter who conducted them. Rather than shirk from a showdown with authority, as had innumerable others who diligently murdered with military approval (and dutifully remained silent)- he made it live up to its stated moral obligation.

This humble helicopter pilot, who a whole nation should look up to with pride, has no streets or schools, stadiums or ships named after him, there are no statues standing nobly in his honor. And Clint Eastwood will never have the balls to make a movie about him- but he damn well should, someone should...

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Open Road...



Greatest Hits compilations whether musical, photographic or otherwise are usually uneven affairs; the usual played out, super hits squeezed under one rock for those who must have been living under one, and the mixed bag compilations containing a few of the aforementioned thrown together with a few B tracks or outtakes. I opened this delightfully designed book and it most certainly didn't have that run down, retread, let's milk the very last penny out of it feel. Yes, it does lead with the best and brightest usual suspects in the genre, but the graphics, layout and editing make for one impressive presentation! I anxiously leafed through a world class collection, all under one roof that made me want to purchase it right then and there- even though I already had many of the photographs in separate monographs (save for Inge Morath's impressive showing); beautiful reproductions that often contained one or two "new" finds (at least for me) for each photographer featured to add some zest and make it all the more worthwhile. Why then did I leave it lying on the shelf?

Two thirds of the way through I was pretty much besides myself at how solid a find this was; the damn thing had no weaknesses, no filler, no questionable additions whatsoever- and then... and then, the inevitable weak links finally surfaced as the book progressed in its timeline (ie- the eighties and beyond). More recent photographers with their own post modern versions of reinterpreting, reinventing and reconstructing the great American road trip. Not that they were necessary all bad: I do love Doug Rickards' A New American Picture, but Todd Hido's recent work (good as it is) looked kinda pale in comparison, and dare I say it, even Ryan McGinley's selected photographs weren't as bad as expected- but if ya even have to go there... not to mention the few I had no interest in whatsoever (so much for a clean sweep). Pity it didn't include Lizzy Oppenheimer's remarkable Rest Stops- it could have ended on a much needed high note!

Final verdict? A must get if you don't already have the monographs of included favorites- it's one beautiful, well laid out compilation, no doubt about it. And still worth getting, if ya got the idle cash to spare... better yet- save it, and take to the road!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Beyond Success...

The very saddest aspect of the whole Edward S.Curtis legacy is not only that he died penniless, but that in the end, he did not even retain copyright of his own work. The work for which he struggled and  fought and worked himself ragged for (every single glass plate and photographic image of The North American Indian) was ultimately usurped by the multi-million dollar estate of J P Morgan's heirs. And although it was J P Morgan himself who was largely responsible for funding the work- Curtis never received a nickel in salary, every penny went to the creation of the work, and he operated mainly in an overwhelming, though thoroughly disguised, deficit.

And ever lovin' insult to injury- the heirs would then sell off the vast majority of his grand legacy (that cost millions to create even then, and was heralded far and wide as a major artistic achievement) to some Boston rare book dealer for the not so princely sum of (ya ready?)... $1,000!!! And some of the remaining work would then be ultimately thrown out with the trash.

Many an artist dreams of success, fame, and fortune; Curtis had all of it, he was literally the toast of the town- Seattle's home grown contribution to the great American success story!  And he gave it all up to produce art highlighting a segment of humanity that most of society actively sought to obliviate. His legacy endures because of a willingness that went beyond success.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Bruce Davidson Today...

Good, recent interview with Bruce Davidson by Owen Campbell on American Suburb X that explores how the man works and thinks. Interestingly, this remarkable photographer is usually thought of as a very "traditional" photographer, despite the fact that he has established his reputation by photographing unique subject matter in a fairly unique manner- one that requires the gift of time, and mutual acceptance and recognition whenever possible (something a Mr. Edward S. Curtis discovered a few years prior) .

Also interesting to hear that the next project from this "traditionalist" will be a digital endeavor!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Salt Of The Earth: Epilogue


Finally, saw Salt Of The Earth. And what can I say... a better than expected film about a great photographer who has seen, experienced and documented many incredible, as well as horrendous things that life has created, and man has wrought. And as alluded to before, with all that said and done, with all the good he has (obviously) done in his life- why oh why, would he then so casually ally himself with an entity whose very existence threatens and belies everything he's ever stood for