Thursday, April 17, 2014


Or how you can go to jail for 47 days for one joint- and not see ONE Single Day for laundering $850 million dollars worth of drug money...                     (And Justice for All...)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Wanted! Wanted! Wanted!

Hard to believe this NY expat has been in this town 3 mayors long- The Honorable Willie Brown (don't know about the title- just goes good with the name), followed by the well heeled (if somewhat tipsy) Mayor Gavin Newsom, leading to our current (I don't really know if I wanna be...) Mayor Ed Lee. 

Three different races, three very different personalities, all beholden by the unifying color of... Green!
Photo © S. Banos

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Photo Week In Review...

1)  We start the week off with yet another rejection notice- am I the only one who thinks getting these were a lot more fun climactic via snail mail?  OK- nothing unusual there...

2)  Then on the third day of working a three hour nightly shift on one tiff, and just before officially calling it a done deal- I notice this one little shadow area that I really... pretty much... hadn't really.... noticed all that much before. I had noticed all the other 53 problem areas that lurked about in this particular wide angle shot- yet there it was... leering at me in full realization that it was completely and thoroughly unfixable and beyond redemption. It only took up about 5% of the entire real estate in said image; would anyone even notice (at least that much)?  Now, of course, it seemed to loom larger than a Jovian moon. 

Naturally, I tried to fix it. I hadn't come this far, spent so many hours, endured and solved so many of it's previous secrets to give up on this last minute pimple of a hiccup of an excuse. So on I went into night four, and slowly, surely, finally- Progress! Validated, exonerated, I triumphantly compared it to my low res scan, and... deleted that four day son of a bitch down the computer wormhole of all things forgotten and never again mentioned.

3)  WOW! Here's something to take anyone's mind off the darkroom hell of the computer monitor- something I've never ever seen offered in my 35+ years of photography--- an offer to participate in a A Flash Powder Workshop! Screw tintypes, glass plates and albumen et al... we're talking Flash Powder Baby- Hooah! Don't know where I'll get the money, but this is something to see, something to experience first hand- photography at its primitive best! Danger, adventure, excitement writ large...

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Spill The Wine

Good music (like good photography) creates its own universe, in which it reigns immortal...

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Forgotten King Of The Selfie

Selfie this, selfie that, with all the articles, posts, rants and raves about selfies- amazing you don't much hear the name of its original and undisputed lord and master. Well before the cell phone, yes, even before the dawn of digital, there was The Ambiguous Ambassador himself-  Tseng Kwong Chi! Unlike today's endless repetitions of nothing much- his were worth the time to look at, and savor...

Tseng Kwong Chi- Sic transit gloria mundi.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Fabrice Fouillet @ Lens Culture

If you haven't been over to Lens Culture of late, they've gotten one helluva makeover- love the new layout; that said, it still wouldn't matter none if they had nothing to look at. Fortunately, that's hardly the case and there's something, if not a lotta things, for everyone. And they're really quite up on promoting new photographers and their work.

I particularly turned green with envy upon seeing this essay entitled Colosses by Fabrice Fouillet. History, humor, the conventional tourist photo op turned on its head for one surreal, oversized travel treat. Positively green...

Friday, April 4, 2014

Technology That Can Destroy A Nation...

And it's practically everywhere. Ticking time bombs, each and every one- that last generations...
And Obama's backing two more!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Plain As Black And White...

Experts tell us that the dynamic range in digital capture is now every bit the equal of film. And since I've never ever done 100% B&W digital workflow- who am I to argue?

So I'll just say this: it's downright peculiar that bad B&W darkroom prints could look bad in a THOUSAND different ways (I know- I probably invented a few), and bad digital prints tend to have that same telltale signature badness- washed out highlights in scenes of high contrast along with overall tonal gradations that seem to have been reduced from somewhere around infinite to about, ohhh... half a dozen. Really freakin' weird that so many are getting it so wrong... the same exact way!

PS- Guess I answered my own question... instead of countless repetitions of every different kind of bad- we now have countless repetitions of one kinda bad. Now that there's Progress!!!

Update: Ode to Tri-X.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Crime Of Education

See whole chart, and more- Here.

I remember thinking even as a kid how stupid adults had to be to burn books like they did in Nazi Germany. But really, how different is it to live in a society where an average college tuition can set you up for a near lifetime of debt? And where even the very college professors meant to educate you into a better life can die penniless, homeless and w/o healthcare. That more than anything clearly SHOUTS just how little our society values the role of educators, and lays bare the lip service we pay to the desire of having an educated population.

So when you hear about how crime is going up- remember, many of those embarking on a life of crime got the message loud and clear, weighed their opportunities (or lack thereof), and acted quite... rationally. Educating yourself with money you don't have for jobs that don't exist is not a viable option. Maybe we should think twice before automatically condemning each and every criminal as chronically lazy or inherently crazed bad guys. They're not the crazy ones, they made a logical decision based on the facts and their reality, our reality as it exists today. No, it certainly ain't the best for all concerned: certainly not for the victim, society as a whole, or even the criminals themselves who eventually end up dead or incarcerated.* But before you condemn them for being amoral, irresponsible, cold hearted subhumans, think about a society that lets a college professor of 25 years die in the streets like an unwanted dog- and thinks nothing of it...

Then get back to me.

* Speaking of careers- The Prison-Industrial Complex!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Insanity Of American Health Care Costs...

One pretty concise (and altogether maddening) explanation as to the wholesale insanity of the cost of American health care:

Saturday, March 29, 2014

"Everybody Knows God Controls The Weather & God Is Super Angry"

Portrait of An American Politician

Bit late with this, but then, this has been an ongoing joke since Republicans purposely chose to dumb down our electorate late last century. Must give credit where credit's due- great job guys! We are the laughing stock of the world- and these are the same ignorant, arrogant bastards who will crack racist jokes about natives in "deepest, darkest Africa" and their... uncivilized superstitions.

I'm also gonna go out on a limb (and not a very long one at that) and bet the person above would have no problem cracking lesbian and trans-gender jokes. Go figure...

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Meatpacking District 1985-2013

Once again, Mr. Rose has salvaged yet another part of the great city that was...

Been reminiscing about ye olde NY, my old NY* here lately, which put me to mind of Metamorphosis- Meatpacking District 1985-2013 by Brian Rose. This once dubious section of NYC was at various odd hours of day turned to night bustling with meat products and sex workers- the isolated afternoon hours spent idling in the odor of carcasses since quartered, packed and delivered.

Of course, you're more likely to smell the various aromas of pricey, pungent perfumes these days in what has become a fashion mecca within the fashion mecca. Another unique section of NY forever lost to time, gentrified to near ossification.

*Watch it and weep...

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Faster, Bigger, Smaller, Better....

I'm always amazed at the plethora of internet camera buyers. Every time they add a number, reverse the number, add a letter, a megapixel- they're out there buyin' anew. Must admit, I too felt really insecure by the digital juggernaut at the turn of this century. I had looked down on it all along, until one day I noticed it was all around and looking down on me. My mistake. So I went about relearning the wheel best I could, and there are still a lotta spaces between the spokes. But at least I'm now at the point where I don't feel a complete outcast, despite what others may think. And to them...

Anyway, up until now I really didn't even feel the urge to switch. I was happy with film, still am, but recently I've had palpable pangs of envy now that there are digital cameras that I would actually like to own, use, or at least try. Slowly, I'm starting to get over this recent lust, and looking at digital B&W over the internets again helps a long way- their sensors handle subjects in open shade remarkably well, more contrasty lighting though can look questionable, even downright nasty... Think I'll stick to the original game plan of waiting for the organic sensors to debut with there alleged promise of increased dynamic range with more "natural" tonal values- and hopefully, I'll have won the Lotto by then to afford one, presuming, of course, that I start playing. In the meantime...

This guy gives me hope, he don' need no stinkin' digital...

Photo: Thomas Alleman

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Google Go Home!

The first time I saw one of these unmarked buses, I thought it was just a fancy foreign tourist bus. Then I found out the truth*- they're luxury "Google buses" that transport Google employees to and fro between San Francisco and Silicon Valley. They use public bus stops, often nudging out public transit buses so that they have to pick up their working class passengers in the middle of the street. These Google riders are the same elitist slime that are currently doubling rents in SF (already amongst the highest in the land) and encouraging landlords to evict elderly tenants, single mothers, you name it. They come and take at will, they expect to be served and catered to, and those who make less must defer and exit in their presence- they make no apology, offer no compromise, and if you complain or call them on their unlimited greed and callousness, will simply dismiss you as a whining loser. Case closed; earbuds need not be removed.

It's high time these people were made less comfortable, less welcomed. These ass wipes need to be taken down a few notches; I'm not advocating violence, I am advocating that they contribute and share- or get the fuck out. I'm not talking about nickel and dime contributions to a coupla charities, that doesn't in any way compensate for the long time residents they're single handedly kicking out. It's high time they realized they too are imperfect humans with faults and imperfections, and that they must share this space in a fair and equitable manner with fellow humans of all economic levels. Or... get the fuck out!

* if you think I exaggerate their complete arrogance and overriding ignorance- just read their comments...

Friday, March 21, 2014

New York City (aka- Home)

I'm an expat New Yorker currently residing in San Francisco; it's an uneasy coexistence. I'd like to think our parting was mutual, but I could gauge her patience was done with me- and too often had I seen how she'd lash out when ignored.

My NYC is one rooted in time; it no longer exists. My NY was dirtier, scarier, poorer and yet, somehow more humane. That doesn't particularly make sense, but then neither does wholesale gentrification (also occurring right here, right now in SF- more on that soon). My NY remains within, a part of who I am, and what I will always be.

NY, of course, could not care less of me, or any of its own. It is a solitary, monolithic creature devoid of sentiment, nostalgia or human kindness. Greater than its parts, it simply carries on, however wounded or emboldened. It woos, uses, discards- no exceptions. Be thankful for the ride, however long or short the day or night.

New York City, you're a woman.
Cold hearted bitch, oughta be you're name.
Oh, you ain't never loved nobody,
Yet I'm drawn to you, like a moth to flame...
-Al Kooper

Yeah, this is the real NYC anthem, perhaps a mythic or no longer existent NY, but one thing's for sure- you can dump that overstuffed, overblown Frank Sinatra bombast of a homage deep down in the Hudson where it belongs; all due respect Frankie Boy!

PS- To those offended by the female metaphor, my apologies- it's an old fave... but no excuse. Some day a woman will compose a fitting counterpart. And old goats like me will soon depart...

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Artisan State Books

Back in the day (when I took an intro photo class with Louis Stettner at the local community college), one of "the darkroom guys" devised a way of presenting prints that involved dry mounting a double weight print unto yet another. This rather straightforward, ingenious method gave the prints a unique tactile quality that was both durable and aesthetically appealing. I was duly impressed (to this day)...

The description Artisan State provided of their book products was very reminiscent of that approach, with their stiff, sturdy pages; and for the going price ($20 for a 20p 5X7 book), I was definitely game for a certain project I had recently undertaken (and more than a tad dubious)... 

Well, I'm quite happy to report it was well worth the "investment," and came out every bit as good as better than I could have possibly hoped! The B&W printing on lustre "Fuji silver halide photographic paper" is light years beyond what I got on Blurb a coupla years back- richer, deeper tonal values with full, continuous gradations. Hell, I've seen many a commercially produced monograph by name photographers where the reproductions aren't as good.

Really, can't say enough- what I got is absolutely amazing for a mere... $21 ($1 for an extra sheet- 2p). In other words you can get quality 5X7 prints (you're gonna have to test the waters yourself with color- but if they're doing B&W right...) for a dollar a piece! Five bucks for shipping, and next time I'll spring for the handsome $5 box to store it in!

I printed one portrait on the right hand side with the subject's name centered on the white page to the left. Makes for one classy kinda presentation- and it sure is (damn!) nice not having to make excuses for the quality you can afford! Each rigid, durable page comes off as a stand alone presentation in and of itself; and I just love the portable size, portrait or landscape (bigger sizes and cover materials available). And double truck lays out flat- double nice!

Now, I wish I could show ya's the actual images, but gonna have to put that on the backburner, least for now...

Monday, March 17, 2014

Finding Vivian Maier

I indeed feel fortunate in having had the opportunity to view Finding Vivian Maier online this weekend, just for previously supporting Mr. Maloof's effort with such a modest contribution. I guess like many others, I thought I pretty much had a handle on the whole myth and magic of this enigmatic figure, when in truth I didn't realize, or even imagine, the task it would be to balance the many facets and dueling natures of this complex human being and gifted artist that Mr. Maloof would eventually come to uncover- along with the mountains of undeveloped film and negatives that he would unearth and sort through. And even upon her death, as he takes on the full time job of promoting and celebrating her legacy, she is still as much shunned by certain factions of the photographic hierarchy, as she was by society in general during her rather eccentric and secretive life.

Unlike The Vivian Maier Mystery by the BBC which sought in large part to bare her photographic pedigree, this project concentrates on the person, as it seeks to lay clear that this was not just some care free, devil may care Mary Poppins. And it makes for a far more interesting portrait. Vivian had some serious problems, issues she could neither fathom nor resolve. But she sure could take a picture, a fact that she did not actively promote by any measure- but that she was definitely not unaware of! And this film is a fitting tribute to an artist who was very much attuned to the humor, suffering and subtle nuances that life bequeaths upon us all. Of course, no one can say if she created her remarkable legacy because of or despite her considerable psychic trauma- but her legacy attests to the extent to which she could triumph above it.

Finally, there are those who would criticize Mr. Maloof for making a buck from the life's work of an anonymous artist who suffered an isolated and ultimately impoverished death. Without any self aggrandizement, Mr. Maloof does allude to the still ongoing amount of work that he has willingly and enthusiastically undertaken to preserve and disseminate her work in the most dignified manner possible. His may have been a chance encounter, a sheer collision of coincidence, but we can all be grateful that someone (without any previous photographic experience) had the wherewithal to successfully navigate the corridors of the art world to complement and complete the earthly mission of the lady with the floppy hat...