Thursday, December 18, 2014

Long Live Film




Personally, I don't give the proverbial rat's ass what anyone shoots. I've never (really) been tempted to shoot digital simply because there were no digital cameras that appealed to me... until now. And since I can't afford what I want, I'm damn lucky that I do like shooting film- the look, the more deliberate process,  the satisfyingly more tactile feel from start to finish... Well, you can skip the darkroom part actually- romantic as hell (granted), but way too much pain and frustration on my part to get things just right (esp w/35mm). Despite its own trials and tribulations, scanning and digital post provide (in most cases) a very viable, hybrid option in the majority of instances.

Anyway, didn't know what to expect with this documentary, but since I am an avid film fan, was hoping for a fun ride... and let's just say it didn't start off well when the first guy up was sporting some silly ass hat thing that screamed pretentious (wannabe) hipster. You'd think by now that the last thing you'd want to portray film camera enthusiasts as is some subcult of pretentious  twenty year olds. And yet that's exactly how this documentary commences as we're presented with about a dozen twenty to thirty yr olds, all pretty much repeating the same thing in their own words, that film: looks different, slows one down and makes you concentrate more. True that, but...

Dang guys- if you want us to get excited about the medium, then ya gotta make the effort! Show us how film looks and feels different, show us the variations and results of different format analog cameras, show us just how tactile and sensuous they are compared to their amorphous, carbon composite, digital brethren. Let's see the the glistening chrome and hear the wondrous pop of a classic Hasselblad, make us feel the refined elegance of a Leica shutter and advance lever, the precision workmanship of a Rolleiflex;  make us revel in the tactile pleasure of wood, metal and leather, the joy of loading film. And how can you have a documentary dedicated to film and not even tease us with the magic and romance of the mystery called a darkroom? What the? Sure all this stuff is briefly alluded to, but... Show Us Goddamn It! You're supposed to be visual story tellers! You're certainly not gonna win any converts by endlessly repeating a three minute mantra. And it certainly wouldn't have hurt to include one or two actual masters of said medium, you know... old farts who have actually lived it their whole lives and have made the shit sing in ways these newbies are just starting to figure out.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Trust Us, We Lie For A Living




I don't know how anyone can say they have nothing to hide- if you believe in anything, they can use it against you.     
-Diane Roark


Whenever Obama or any national security official assures us that there are channels aplenty through which government whistle blowers can report their concerns of abuse or malfeasance within the system, all one needs do is utter the name Diane Roark to give testament to just how large a lie that really is, and always has been.

And why Edward Snowden did what he did, exactly how he did it...

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Thursday, December 11, 2014

America Is Awesome!

America's so awesome- we don't even know just how awesome we really are! We are like The MOST AWESOME people in all history...No One Can Get In The Way Of Our Complete And Utter Awesomeness! And if they ever even dream of trying- we'll force feed their sorry ass butts with ...
Non-Stop Awesomeness!!!  USA! USA!! USA!!!


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Zabriskie Pt. Dilemma


Zabriskie Pt.;  Photo: © Stan Banos
Update: have inserted new & improved version since original posting.

Although I certainly don't go around combining negatives a la Eugene Smith, even this rudimentary snap is far from "straight." Taken at Death Valley just before a rather tumultuous thunderstorm complete with lightning and flash flooding, there was plenty to look at when I pressed the shutter, but the lighting was flatter than the flattest flat. No problem when you're shooting with a view camera that captures all the subtle tonal nuances and gradations, but when you're shooting 35mm, I knew it was gonna be one major problem galore long before I made the exposure, and didn't give it more than a fifty/fifty chance of seeing the "light of day." The first time I brought it up in PS, I went through the motions for 20 minutes, and it looked like my apprehension was well justified- couldn't do a damn thing with it. He was officially a goner...

Half a year later on a wet and dreary Sunday afternoon when I ain't going anywhere, I stumbled upon him once again. I'm no football fan, so... Take II. The only way I was going to win this formidable test of will was to patiently keep futzing around with the contrast and tonal values locally until they somehow gelled and approximated what I saw- or at least felt at the time. It took me the better part of a day (and then some), admittedly my PS (Elements 9) skills are absolute nominal (at best).

Had I attempted this in the darkroom, I would have emerged several days later, having wasted enough paper to fell yet another, entire old growth forest's worth of trees, kicked the cat, kicked the dog (if I had one), and given the wife more than ample reason to seek out a lawyer. And... have nothing of consequence for the effort!

The photo hints of an overcast sun highlighting the clouds and caressing the contours of the landforms- there was none, not even close. Nonetheless, dramatic they were! And a guy's gotta do, what a guy's gotta do...      

BTW-  It is dilemma- not dilemna...

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The People- Awakened!

 
Photo: Julio Cortez/AP
 
If there's one bright shining light that has come out of this police killer madness, it's that people of all colors have finally come out in numbers to Represent! And they are coming out united and en force! Human beings are being killed for no good reason, and it seems the sheer magnitude of this continuing injustice has finally struck the universal nerve. Years ago when Amadou Diallo was needlessly gunned down amidst a torrent of 41 gun shots, public response was sympathetic but minimal and mostly local, his but one of a long list of criminal killings involving police against people of color long before this latest onslaught.
 
Bigoted Whites can no longer point at Jesse and Big Al with their shrill claims of- there they go again, stirring things up, playing the race card! This mass outrage of humanity is from the ground up, and across the full spectrum of socio-economic-racial boundaries.
 
So it's with great pride that I congratulate the people of my hometown, who have acknowledged this murderous insanity, called it for what it is, and responded en masse from Harlem to Wall St., from the East Side to the West, from Staten Island and on to Brooklyn. It does a New Yorker good, and everyone proud who has marched in cities throughout America, and beyond. Only wish I could attend the march in DC next week...
 
 
 
 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Rogue Cops, Or Rogue Police Force(s)?

I do not believe time, nor training, will be able to change or correct the deficiencies.*


How crazy, outta control has this "rogue" cop phenomenon become, this phenomenon that reaches across cities large and small, and across state lines? Has it become so widespread that they are no longer referred to as rogue cops, and are now simply what we have come to expect? How is that those that are supposed to protect us are killing us, at least a certain significant faction of us, even when clearly unarmed?

An unarmed nineteen yr old dead in Missouri; an unarmed citizen in NY killed over cigarettes; an unarmed resident killed entering his building in Phoenix, an unarmed resident shot dead in the stairwell of his building (the officer calling his union rep before calling an ambulance); and finally, the cop who shot a twelve year old with a pellet gun. Now I might have cut the latter a little slack, fake guns can look like real guns- that possible empathy flew when it was learned that the officer responsible for the shooting was kicked off a previous police force for his utter incompetency... particularly when it came to dealing with his own gun!*

This is shear madness, madness in need of very real change and reform, change that would save lives and promote police and community trust and cooperation. Instead, after the current tsunami of police denial, we'll proceed with the usual makeovers- makeovers like the ones that permit choke holds, even after specifically banning choke holds (see below). And the killings murders will continue...

Was This Ever Read To The Grand Jury?

Go to 40:30 in the clip and listen to the official NYPD Patrol Guide- not only what it says about the use of choke holds, but what it then goes on to state about police who fail to stop fellow officers from using excessive force...
 
 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

NYPD Officially Banned Choke Holds 20 Years Ago...

Kinda, sorta, in a way- and definitely not so much that it still doesn't get used... enough to kill. At this point, it seems that police nationwide have clearly proclaimed (and society has sanctioned  by default) open season on African American males. All officers need do is quote the mantra: he resisted, came at me, reached for his waist, made a scary face...

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

It's All In The Name...


Photo: © S. Banos

It's over there, all the way to the right. No, it's not- it's straight ahead. Uh-uh, it's up there at 2 o'clock.
Ya sure it's not in that big ol' tarp in back?

Recently, during a period of extreme self examination (this is pretty much that time of year- is it not?), I set about tackling the age old question... why ain't I famous yet? Why am I not in every gallery, museum and private photography collection- when I so obviously deserve to?

So I set about examining this age old mystery, dissecting every possible raisonne de jour. Boundless talent- check; unrivaled originality- check; sheer, unbridled charisma- check, check and check! Stumped as I was, this time I pushed forward- this time, there would be no rest or retreat until I broke through the bonds that  would unleash me from my ill begotten anonymity...

The name! How on earth could I ever achieve photographic stardom with such obvious an impediment, such weighted albatross round yonder neck. As if the first name is not bad enough, I must endure a last name prominently displayed on the rest room door of every Hispanic restaurant in existence! Clearly, I had finally unearthed the very root of my life long dilemma- I needed a name worthy of my photographic pedigree.

First, I have to go by three names, two just don't make it, and Stanley Joseph Banos certainly does not make it. After several years of closely monitoring the names most often associated with photographic achievement, I hereby present and ask you to vote for my brand spanking new nome de guerre, the one destined to lead me to fame in 2015, the one that will forever inherit the riches and rewards of my well deserved photographic legacy:



Monday, December 1, 2014

If Ya Still Need A Reason...

 
Photo: Noah Addis


Still have your doubts, not quite convinced on why you should get on your freakin' knees and give thanks... Check out this illuminating essay by Noah Addis at Fraction mag.


When I first visited Europe in the early 80's, I was amazed to discover this foreign realm of the future where lights went on and off automatically as one entered and exited a room- a magical, logical land of the future I said to myself! Meanwhile, here in 21st USA we still unabashedly burn our office lights bright even when no one is to be seen on floor after floor...
 
 
So before ya start to yellin' at how other people are mucking up the world- just keep in mind the world's all time user and abuser of the world's resources...

 



 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Government of Law

It is so often stated (with much pomp and pride) that this is a nation of law, as if this sacred principle applies to everyone equally, when in reality, the law serves those that most directly control and influence it- while those most in need of its protection are, in turn, those most abused by it. The Ferguson Grand Jury was not the greatest perversion of law and justice, merely its most recent, and more importantly, it's most publicized.  And yet, even when so obviously twisted and perverted to facilitate and favor those in power, so many remain oblivious, silent or... satisfied.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!


9/22/14 NYC- Photo: © S. Banos

And speaking of unbridled greed run amuck- James Risen's Pay Any Price, will walk you through one very long list of astronomical economic gaffes willingly perpetrated by our government.  Up to $20,000,000,000 (yup, billions with a B) were delivered to Iraq in 2003, on pallets no less- and quickly... l-o-s-t! Up to half of that is still completely unaccounted for (if you really believe the first half was)- and the US has shown no desire whatsoever to even look for it. Billion$ to shoot, maim, bomb and kill; billion$ to lose and corrupt, but scant few dollars for these people, or even those much, much closer to home...

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

When Is A Ham Sandwich...


Every witness in defense of Michael Brown was cross examined, interrogated and supposedly discredited. Darren Wilson was allowed to fully present his version unchallenged and unimpeded. This so called grand jury process was a one sided, second class "trial" for second class citizens- one very convenient semblance of justice, on the fly in full public view, to quash any real chance of justice actually playing out.

*According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. attorneys prosecuted 162,000 federal cases in 2010, the most recent year for which we have data. Grand juries declined to return an indictment in 11 of them.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Vivian Maier: A Photographer Found


It's BIG, it's thick, it's (fairly) Expen$ive- most of all it's... surprisingly damn good! Surprisingly, not because I had any doubt whatsoever about Vivian Maier's talent, but because this is the first book of her work that one doesn't have to make excuses for. There's nothing to complain about as far as the quality of the reproductions (unlike that first powerHouse sepia fiasco), and there's a good amount of work included- even though the book excludes some shots I've already come to regard as "favorites," there's still many a potent image to be found here that demonstrates just how much talent she had at her command. You look through this body of work and any lingering doubt that anyone may still hold that she was just some lucky holiday snapshooter with a load of posthumous publicity at her back... well, that just implodes and dissipates into the envious, vacuous bullshit that it always was.

This woman was in control of her vision- and she was killing it. A shot of her with Rollei and Leica at the forefront shows this was one very determined female on a mission. Nothing la-de-da in her attitude, or her results. I just came upon Vivian Maier: A Photographer Found the other day, so I'm late in the game, but there's no doubt whatsoever this is the best of the bunch thus far, by far. You get a good sense of who and what she was as an artist, and it is amazing how she predated so much of what was yet to come on the street...

And as if that wasn't enough, there's even a few choice color shots thrown in; a handful to be fair, but just enough to let you know that she could talk the talk and walk the walk in that language too. A couple could easily have gone into Eggleston's For Now. I don't have the money to grab this one at the moment (Xmas sounds nice), but it's certainly good to know that there's finally, at least one good, representative book out there, right now that shows Ms. Maier in her best light before that scum trawling bucket of sleaze gummed up the works.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Funny Ha-HA, Or Funny Sick?

"If its [function] is just something like getting rid of e-mail spam and it determines the best way of getting rid of spam is getting rid of humans..."   -Elon Musk

Hey, the guy's no joke, neither are his... jokes. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Way of the (Photo) Gallery

Going to photo galleries in NYC, which I did religiously from the mid seventies until 1998, was not unlike... attending (Catholic) church. No one from on high (from the pulpit to the high heavens) would ever actually engage you personally- usually, you'd leave as if you'd seen and heard it all before; at best, you left inspired to do your best. Catholicism, of course, is big on ceremony and hierarchy, and unfortunately, often a top down experience- accept the dogma, no need to question.

Photo galleries in NYC operate in similar manner to this very day. The big ones are imposing and sacrosanct- they, through their good graces, are letting you enter and partake... at a distance. Your silence and deference is part and parcel of the understood contractual agreement. Unless you are actually buying and dealing with those in the inner sanctum, you will be tolerated (begrudgingly).

Photo galleries in San Francisco can look like those in NY, but they are generally smaller and fewer in number. And oddly, very oddly, gallery owners and directors will at times, rare as they may be, actually stop, acknowledge and converse with anonymous gallery goers like myself. Such blatant breach in protocol would never, ever occur in a NY gallery. In fact, as previously mentioned here, the only interaction I remember a gallerist initiating in NY was two weeks post 9/11 when an owner saw me and quickly turned and fled, sheer terror on her face, into the safety of her back room. Didn't even have time to inform her I was just your average, everyday New Yorican. Somehow, she had intuited that Muslim terrorists as myself had downed the towers as mere diversion- the unmitigated destruction of New York's photo galleries was the real jihadi prize galore.  

Recently, not one, but two staff members on two separate occasions have asked me what they thought of their shows as they exited their offices at The Fraenkel Gallery. Gallerists Stephen Wirtz (sadly, his gallery is now closed) and Ann Jastrab have also voluntarily made the effort to interact with gallery goers. It is one of the positives that help distinguish galleries in San Francisco, something I fear may not last much longer as more and more money pours into this city, along with the people who feel that we must defer to them.