Thursday, November 26, 2015


Lies, Lies, Lies... Very popular these days. On the news, the internets, the mouths of the pettiest of Presidential candidates. As true now as it was then- make them big enough, repeat them often enough... and people will fall in line to follow.

Not as loud, or convenient or as popular, there are always the facts. And for that, we can always give thanks, thanks for that increasingly rare opportunity to glimpse through the window of sanity...

Sunday, November 22, 2015

As I Pressed The Shutter...

Photo: © S. Banos

I remember thinking- would I be comfortable having a beer with a guy who has giant tattoos of a penis, spermatozoa and varied amounts of weights and ornaments about his genitalia? Not your average thought, agreed. Nevertheless, the one that sprung to mind. And must say, the guy definitely seemed a nice enough bloke. What would we talk about: sports, the demise of the gold standard, the coming El Nino?

It's all very much part of the annual experience called The Folsom St. Fair in San Francisco. You're walking about everyday streets that are cordoned off into a temporary and separate reality, one to which you never quite adjust while there, and for some time thereafter...

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Status Update

Jander Yat- Photo: Robert Gumpert

Pete Brook recently informed me of his co-curated group exhibit: Status Update. Hadn't seen anything worthwhile up close and personal in months, and happily, this didn't disappoint- not one weak link in the entire show. Robert Gumpert's prison portraits (go to Take A Picture, Tell A Story for some seriously devastating, one-two combinations of portraits/oral histories), and Elizabeth Lo's tightly edited, well executed video were my two personal faves. I can't ever say enough about the simplicity and power of Gumpert's portraiture, and Lo's short video, Hotel 22, just took me by surprise with it's oh so revealing tale of a mobile 'homeless shelter' shuttling about one of the most prosperous strips of American realty. This is one show that seriously needs to be seen, heard and discussed in much larger public venues, throughout the country...

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Photo Essay Waiting To Be Done...

Had I the $, I'd jump in the car (I don't have) and hit the road for a few years to photograph these places, one sick name at a time... I hope someone with the resources and necessary sensitivity does just that!

Meanwhile, to see what could be possible from such an undertaking - Eva Leitlolf's work is somewhat of a similar vein (and sets one very high standard).

Monday, November 2, 2015

10 Ways To Lose At Street Photography

I didn't win, no surprise there. I've been doing this for forty years, during which I certainly haven't been allowed to obtain or nurture an exaggerated view of myself or my work. I know my place as a very small fish in a very big pond... but to say that not one of my photos was worthy of being displayed in your selected 176- That's one major crock of shit piled high.*
Yours truly,
Stan B.

I've been posting on my competition rejections for some time- so why quit now? The above is my most recent response to my most recent exercise in self debasement and humiliation, this time at the hands of the street photography competition sponsored by Lens Culture. Now they usually show some pretty good stuff there, so I knew the competition would be stiff. But I thought I had ten really strong images (see below), you can fault them for not following a strict narrative, granted- but isn't the street itself the perfect tableau for all things incongruent and unpredictable? So I figured if I got lucky I just might make it to the finals (and then be rejected outright for lack of cohesion- fair enough), but I figured I would at least garner some kind of minimal recognition... like being selected for one of the 176 images used during the campaign to promote the competition itself. 

The work within those 176 images range from some of the actual (and very deserving) winners to... work that amounts to well exposed snapshots- and I certainly don't mean of the William Eggleston variety. Now I understand competitions are mostly just a matter of taste, current convention, etc, etc at best (and that's when they're run on the up and up- and I'm certainly not saying that this wasn't) and that those chosen 176 don't necessarily amount to a hill of beans- but if people are paying $65 for the privilege of being judged, they at least deserve to be judged fairly and evenly- throughout the competition

Disappointed? Of course. Sour grapes? I just think that respectable competitions should strive to be just that- from start to finish, particularly when you're paying more than a nominal fee. I have, in fact, previously written (as constructively as possible) on how various competitions have succeeded (or failed) to do just that  (see here and here). Stan, did you ever think that some of your "street" photography may qualify more as "environmental portraiture?" The thought did occur, but one of the actual finalists in this competition submitted an essay on life in an isolated Indian hamlet- it's definitely documentary, as to "street" photography.... go figure!

Anyway, congrats to the winners, running a competition is not easy (even in my limited experience co-editing ExNo) and very much to their credit, Lens Culture does, in fact offer a concise "review" of individual submissions for those who paid $65- something quite valuable for those starting out. As for me, well, that $65 will go nicely toward a new photo book come next year- could even be one of my own, for which I am currently editing.

* It should be noted that Lens Culture was gracious enough to reply recently, stating that the contest was subjective, etc, etc...Not the greatest response, and certainly lacking the all out creative ingenuity of this one- but still appreciated.

And now for the much anticipated 10 ways to lose:

Times Square Photo: © Stan Banos

Bay Bridge Photo: © Stan Banos

Brooklyn Photo: © Stan Banos

Folsom Fair Photo: © Stan Banos

Comic Con Photo: © Stan Banos

LIC Photo: © Stan Banos

Williamsburg bridge Photo: © Stan Banos

Golden Gate Bridge Photo: © Stan Banos

Brooklyn Bridge Photo: © Stan Banos

SFPD Photo: © Stan Banos

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Getting It Wrong/Getting It Right

Before we get into what's wrong, lemme just say that that's one of the most rare and truthful statements you'll ever hear uttered in any photographic art forum. So... who am I to call out these photographic greats on what I perceive to be major lapses in their artistic judgement? The same guy who has justly praised and admired them on many another occasion- does that make me right when it comes to the former? No. But at least, it shows I ain't carrying a grudge (sorry, Cindy).

Paul Graham- Films

Like anyone else, artists, and photographers sometimes get it wrong, really wrong- and to be fair, it comes with the territory. The quote above comes from a piece that centered in part on Paul Graham and the wave of photographic experimentation he's ridden the latter part of his career. I've commented previously on what I thought of his experimentation: the overexposed prints, the shots before and after what may or may not have been "the decisive moment," the entire book on... close ups of grain! And it all just strikes me as something every photographer contemplates, experiences and yes, comes to terms with in the field or in the darkroom, as they become knowledgeable with the art, the process, the craft. We study and learn how over and under exposure affect not only the finished print, but our emotional empathy as well; how timing is so crucial and critical to composition and meaning; yes, we've even considered the effect of grain. Does that mean we can't play with it further, of course not- but then, by all means show us something... new! Eamonn Doyle showed us a gorgeous "new" take on street photography utilizing the most basic of visual elements (a different viewpoint, literally)- not so unlike what some guy called Graham did when he first used color to document the social landscape.

Bruce Davidson- E.100st.

Another guy that "recently" came to mind is none other than one Garry Winogrand. My ears certainly perked up on that video as he took none other than Bruce Davidson to task for undertaking- "a personal misunderstanding" of Diane Arbus. He was particularly referring to E100st., the seminal photographic work which he also insinuated he had no business photographing since the subjects were of a different social, economic and cultural background. The thought of Davidson doing a bad copy, or some kind of wayward Arbus homage is truly beyond ludicrous. All due respect (love the guy), but... one really has to wonder what far flung region of his anus ol' Garry conjured that Arbus analogy from. His second criticism is one that definitely merits discussion- particularly in a day and age when we have photographers running "workshops" during major catastrophes. Except, of course, that Davidson is amongst the least exploitative photographers one can possibly name. His respect for his subject matter is always forefront- or as one photographer of color said a few decades back on this very topic, "Damn, argue what you want- I just wish I could have done as good a job as he did!"

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Glass Key In A Modern Landscape

Recently dropped by Glass Key Photo here on the Lower Haight in San Francisco and was both happy and relieved to see that they very much appear to be thriving. This is a small "mom and pop" type affair (ie- not your usual corporate, conglomerate retail photo enterprise) that consists of a small but well stocked, second hand, film camera store complete with various format bodies and lenses in good cond and at very reasonable prices, along with paper, chemicals, film and other accessories... in addition to housing a rather nice gallery space.

Consummate gear hound that I am (needed a body cap), I came upon a small crowd ogling, handling and yes, purchasing a variety of bodies, lenses, etc- and these were majority twenty somethings. Make all the hipster remarks you want, but if these are the people to keep film alive well into the coming decades- more power to them, cuz us geezers only have so many years left. Anyway, it was nice to see things coming along- not to mention catch the exhibit by Marissa Rocke.

Raccoon, Washington Township, Pennsylvania by Marissa Rocke from Modern Landscape

Modern Landscape offers an unsentimental though touching view of various road kill portraits taken on Ms. Rocke's travels. While some appear blissfully asleep, others are obviously in various degrees of decay and disarray- but curiously manage to retain some semblance of beauty, grace and dignity. And having a quality show to look at definitely makes for a complete experience!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Fantasy, Reality & A Few Bits In Between...

 A little levity for the masses...

Yes, things have been pretty quiet 'round these parts; ya know what they say- no news is good news. I was recently saddened to hear the ongoings at B&H, I had done business with them for decades and it was heartening to see a multi hued, multi ethnic sea of faces whenever I visited. Sadly, it does not appear all is at it seems... Cheap prices, come at a price and it's always interesting to hear how many people just don't give a rat's ass as long as they get a few bucks off their L lenses (and don't have to work in their far from public view warehouses). Not gonna rehash everything I said there, but the issues raised accurately encapsulate modern economics, prejudice and society as a whole.

Elsewhere, elephants continue to be slaughtered- forget the solitary big game assholes, I'm talking the wholesale slaughter for the continuing Asian market in ivory. And forget the glaciers, the tundra is now melting as we continue to mindlessly plunge this earth headfirst into the abyss, blissfully ignoring we seal our own fate as we do so...

Whatever photographs do survive into the next century will serve as bleak testament to a memory of how people happily carried on as the signs of the planet's demise danced all about them. They will view them with curiosity, longing, and utterly justifiable rage.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Barefoot, Tech Savvy and Fancy Free

Photo: © S. Banos

Like others, I too am intrigued by extremes, extremes of: technology, beauty, power, money, intelligence... The latter has always particularly fascinated me since so many people can be so smart about some things, and so terribly, terribly daft about others. I'm not the brightest bulb around, but I can shed a fair share of light on some of life's concerns large and small- on others, I'm good for 2 watts, literally. Most people are like that, some measure of balancing act to one extent or another. Some have not only aspired to, but have even become President using only those 2 watts!

Yes, W proved you don't have to be a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon to be President. But this guy tops that, this guy is beyond that, this guy I cannot fathom or make sense of to any degree, in any fashion. Just what dear lord, does one possibly make of a goddamn 100% legit and actual... Brain Surgeon- a brain surgeon who repeatedly comes up with the dumbest, most moronic, most incredibly stupid comments imaginable!? I've never witnessed anything like this my entire life. Ben Carson, as a doctor, has the power to access, influence and control the most intricate biology on earth governing human thought and... intelligence. And yet, as a human, he cannot rise beyond a simple buffoon.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Blog/Restoration Update

Photo: @ S. Banos

Yes, I know I said I was quitting ye olde blog this past spring; no, it was not yet another idle threat/cry for attention. I really did need to stop, unsure what the future held- except that I did need to concentrate on restoring the remains of my work, and attend to various family matters. Blogging was nowhere on the list and had become a burden I was quite relieved to unburden...

Fortunately, with a dozen restorations (65 MB files) under my belt, I now feel fairly confident I can restore the vast majority of my work. The remaining 10% or so are probably still reclaimable, waiting for my PS skills to improve or for restoration experts to happily volunteer their remaining days for the sake of art and humanity. Meanwhile, my main restorative kit consists of: patience, more patience, and a heapin', helping shitload of yet more (patience).

I can average one restoration about every 4-5 days, about 4-5 hrs per day (rough approx). Some take considerably longer, but little by little, pixel by pixel, they're getting done- to exhibition quality standards. Of course, one can't keep that pace up on a regular indefinite basis, particularly in one's "spare" time. Work, the family matters I've previously alluded too, and all the other crap life throws one's way have a habit of getting in the way. Sometimes, I now even enjoy throwing up the occasional blog post minus the voluntarily set schedule to adhere to as before; so do come round from time to time...

A coupla years down the line, I should have enough to self publish something to show it hasn't all been in vain  (already got a working title); and hopefully, before I get to call it a day, I should have a body of work that will testify to a life lived a few fractions of a second at a time- for laughs, for kicks, for the simple satisfaction that someone simply... noticed.

Friday, September 25, 2015

You Can Observe A Lot By Just Watching...

I'm not as much drawn to sports as when considerably younger, but even then, I was particularly drawn to those who transcended their sport, who exhibited signs of life beyond their sport, those who either impacted life head on like an Ali, or simply displayed a certain sense of irony or humor as in the case of Yogi Berra (to whom one can attribute the quote above).

And speaking of astute observations, particularly when it comes to life and its passing moments on the streets we tread daily, the name of photographer Cristophe Agou most certainly comes to mind- a good tribute here.

Thanks, and RIP guys...

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Digital vs. Analog

I had the biggest laugh of the day while shaving the other morning and first hearing about Volkswagen's special emissions reduction software that works only when... being tested for emissions. Brilliant! 

Reminds me of the time when Hyundai had to cut the weight of their cars in order to meet US gas mileage standards. Solution: take the stuffing out of their fenders. Classic!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Deny, Deny, Deny...

Now imagine, just imagine.. if people watched this video and just said, "Dang! I never knew that!" It could cause some people to stop, reflect and... possibly even think. But uh-uh, that's not happening- that thinking part's for losers! Deny-Deny-Deny... and call people a few names while you're at it.

It's the exposure, it's the lighting... it's the fact that I simply refuse to believe, evidence be damned, that they purposely skewed the film chemistry to benefit lighter skin tones- and anyone who believes that is an (anti-White) racist!

PS- And if (just saying if now) it was done, then it was strictly for economic reasons to best serve their main demographic- that's just good business sense!
PPS- Exactly, like... slavery, just business.

"In the last decade it has become clear to those who seek out this information that the chemistry for stock colour film for still cameras was designed originally with a positive bias for "Caucasian" skin tones because of its high level of reflectivity. (Personal interviews with multiple chemists and film designers at Kodak, Rochester, NY, 1995; Winston, 1985, 1996)."

"It was also believed at the time that physics was physics, chemistry was chemistry, and science was based on reasoned decisions without consideration of cultural or racial subtleties. It is now becoming acknowledged more widely within the industry that refinements to the chemistry of film emulsions have never been issues of physics or chemistry exclusively, but have been the result of cultural choices as well."   -Prof. Lorna Roth

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Donald Mussolini

Professionals with a lot more experience, who are paid a helluva lot more than me, have somehow yet to make the most obvious of obvious comparisons. The boasts, the posturing, the smirking disdain, absolute arrogance and utter disregard for anything resembling the truth; all so frighteningly  parallel and irrefutable, despite the disparities of time, ethnicity and  geographical location. 

And yet, in this age when we may repeat the same said mistake, with the same sad and sorry said consequences-  I have yet to see this most relevant of comparisons...  anywhere.

Chris Hedges- "Civilizations in the final stages of decay are dominated by elites out of touch with reality."

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

American (Non)Jurisprudence

Monday morning before work I was hit with a double dose of how monumentally insane our court system in these Semi-United States has become. One video lays out how utterly and completely fucked you are if you are poor (a lawyer will be provided for you- for say... 7 minutes); the other describes just how determined the judicial system can be to guarantee they kiss your ass into eternity- no matter what the evidence says...

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Bruce Almighty!

Photo: Bruce Gilden
Photo: Bruce Gilden
Been a fan of Bruce Gilden's for quite some time, but even I was somewhat taken aback by some of his most recent offerings via his color Face portraits. They almost seem a cartoonish caricature of his earlier work. Has he finally crossed the fine line he's always tread between borderline art-shock and what the hell, pull the plug freak out? And just where is that ever moving, fine line located? Where was it drawn in modern music: the "race music" appropriated by Elvis, the Beatles' long hair, the polysexual costume excess of glamrock, or the NSFW lyrics of Hip Hop?

Face draws you in like a bad car accident ("like ruin porn, fascinating for five minutes," said one commenter); has Gilden now fully embraced shock value for its own sake- or are we the ones doing the dehumanizing by further reducing these images, and therefore the people they portray, to the likes of a car accident? 

This ain't a critique on the images themselves, which I admittedly am somewhat ambivalent about. And isn't that one of the hallmarks of great art, that which divides, shocks and more importantly- makes us think?  This is not so much about "Gilden, right or wrong," but about the reactions he so willingly (and knowingly) creates. Indeed, the comments to this article are well worth more than the original piece itself... all 476 of them!

Unfortunately, many of the commenters believe that Gilden turned his subjects into freakish ghouls and freaks via Photoshop, when in fact, the distortion they speak of came mostly through the use of a short lens used up close and personal with direct flash. Some are not only mistaken about how he achieved his results, but even go unto producing a bit of revisionist photo history to back up their claims. More than one comment tells us of how Arbus not only covered this ground previously, but also did it in a more openly emphatic manner that both humanized and endeared her subjects to us all. One commenter actually stated that at least "Arbus photographed them as they wanted to be posed." Really? I suppose none of that particular crowd ever read how she was roundly criticized for objectifying and dehumanizing her subjects!

And while many, if not most found his portraiture "obscene" or "robbed of humanity," others found it quite beautiful indeed- "can't help but notice how beautiful the eyes of his subjects are." More than one found them a most welcomed relief from the "orange blobs with teeth" that so many celebrity portraits look like today. Kim Kardashian's visage frequently came up as the modern day icon of a photographically manipulated freak.

Some seemed completely oblivious to the obvious lens distortion, swearing that these are what these people actually look like, and I have to wonder if at least some of those espousing Mr. Gilden's refreshingly warts and all look are also happy that while it's good we have people that look like that, they are also quite relieved to not be one of them.

Some savvy commenters noticed that while Sean O'Hagan's article stated that Mr. Gilden had obtained releases for his subject's photos, he failed to state if they were obtained before or after they actually saw the results. That wouldn't have particularly spoken as to their relevancy as works of art, but perhaps more to the integrity of the photographer himself. Either way, Gilden definitely doesn't give a flyin'. Question is, are his images strictly predatory and abusive- and if so, are we being superficial for liking them, or just as superficial for dismissing them offhand... One of the second hallmarks of great art is how much it reveals about ourselves.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


Photo: © S. Banos

A) Separated form the herd, battery depleted, instinct would somehow have to take over.

B) Banned from high tech data mining, the NSA would now have to rely on more basic forms of cunning and deception, camouflage proved primitive but effective.

C) Conservative Family Values Advocate and Ashley Madison account holder Josh Duggar arranges nearby tryst despite...

D) Deposed Ashley Madison CEO Noel Biderman concedes...