Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Infected Landscape: Israel, Broken Promised Land

Shai Kremer's work (and book) of the above title currently at The Robert Koch Gallery (and elsewhere) takes me back to Paul Graham's Troubled Land- one of my favorite monographs of all time. There are many similarities to be sure, both astutely observe and document the land for the tell-tale, and all too human signs of something amiss. The landscapes, whether in Northern Ireland or Israel are often beautiful, yet ominous, something's not quite right in either, no matter the latitude.

Kremer doesn't just concentrate on public land however, he also goes into military training facilities and compounds, and although we never see any actual people, we see even more of the artifacts and transformations that the land has undergone to suit that particular strife and turmoil- like the remains of a bad accident one can't turn away from...

Look, Sound, Feel Familiar???

Well it damn well should! And this is just the trial run for the up and coming Iran debacle. This admin has vowed to leave us with the legacy to be known as WWIII...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Jill Freedman

The photo above is from Jill Freedman's Street Cops, a book that still reminds me of the tattered city I loved and grew up in. The strength and vision of its photographs hold up remarkably well to this day, regardless of the fact that B&W documentary* long fell out of style.

New York is an historical, as well as geographical entity. The one I knew no longer exists, but echoes of its past can be found if one only knows where to look. Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York was one god awful movie- but the very end where it shows NYC at a distance, digitally "evolving" through the ages, was almost worth the price of admission.

Jill Freedman took photos from the heart, and they connected in like manner. One of my major inspirations back in the seventies, it's good to see her back, and hopefully getting her just due...

*Funny how the B&W style of the early seventies has been dead in the water for decades, while the current (color) aesthetic that immediately replaced it (in the mid to latter seventies) has changed little (save for technically)- and is still in vogue!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Mistakes Were Made (Act I)...

Anyone versed in the ways of photography is familiar with it's legendary facility to encapsulate and preserve the truth of any given moment- and just how patently false that assumption actually is. Even the best of documentary photography is a truncated "fiction" of an actual event. But when compared to say, pure memory, it can definitely have its advantages. And then there are those who not only want to better preserve life's moments- they want to hold on to life itself, period.

I don't see how photography could've saved this insane comedy of errors, but it definitely speaks to how our own memories and personal interpretations of actual events can be distorted into our very own personalized mythology...

Location, Location, Location!!!

Like him or not, you got to give David Blaine his props for realizing the role of context. The very same parlor trick taken out of its seedy nightclub setting and performed live on a city street with TV camera in tow created a totally unique environment that was downright... magical! Performance "art" taken to the street where all the world's a stage seeking the magic of everyday life, and then some.

Conversely, take a painting (ie- any 2D artwork) out of a gallery, out of its hallowed white walls, and its monied solemnity, divorce it of the very environment that gives this contemplative medium its fragile strength, and you're left with little else than a second rate ad without copy...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Swallowing Plates

Lisa Wood (the real artist in the family) has an exhibit of her photo based art at Gold Bug, 4/25-5/25 in Pasadena, CA. This is not the kind of stuff I'd usually post here- but hey, she's the wife! And her stuff is pretty cool- imaginative combinations of vintage tin types along with various period artifacts that are combined into oddly beautiful presentations. The photo above depicts one of over thirty pieces of semi-fictional accounts of Victorian era tales of swallowed foreign objects retrieved from the human body by the illustrious Chevalier Jackson, laryngologist extraordinaire. If you're in the vicinity, make sure to check it out and say hello- she's a lot friendlier than I am, and her website is well worth a visit (even though still under construction).

Monday, April 21, 2008

Colorless, not Emotionless

This incredible portrait by Rene Gelpi (the only one I could find) from an essay on Puerto Rican gang bangers in the 70's got me to thinking... Perhaps one of the reasons color portraits have de-evolved into "deadpan" (and worse) is partly due to the fact that color offers up so much more information when compared to B&W. The wonders of the color palette can serve to distract both photographer and viewer from the very subject of the portrait itself. Breaking the rules can always be put to advantage, it can also make one lazy. That is, why sweat bringing out the most from your subject when a nice backdrop of complementary or contrasting colors can pick up the slack and maybe even throw in a bit of irony juxtaposed against a semi-comatose subject? Again, it can work- to a point.

B&W by its very nature gives one less to work with, which in turn means that you really have to work it, or risk ending up with a bunch of monochromatic tonal values, and little else. No drama, no picture. Maybe the long rumored "B&W Revival" would also be the ticket to jump start its more colorful cousin out of its doldrums.

Some Sick Shit

First thought this some dumb ass hoax (hope it still is) along the lines of the recent Yale "art" publicity stunt, but it's been around for a couple of days now, and not been disproved...

Seems we've gone from slicing up dead animals for exhibit, to actually torturing them to death in the name of "art." Sign here to protest...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Three Clouds, Four Steps...

Crissy Field is one of the joys of living in San Francisco. Set between The Golden Gate Bridge and the city proper, I go there there at least twice monthly just to get away, smoke a stogie, and recharge. For a boy from NYC whose horizon lines consisted of the very next block, Crissy Field offers an open expanse that inspires and reinvigorates (and it's right beside a certain pet cemetery).

I've never owned a house, never even owned a car- but I continue to have the luxury to escape the reality of what we've all become...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Jeffrey A. Wolin

I usually like my documentary photography unadorned- no gimmicks, bells or whistles, thank you very much. Let the photograph stand and speak for itself. Jeffrey A. Wolin's Written in Memory: Stories from the Holocaust is the rare exception where the medium is actually transformed to a higher level with the inclusion of the subject's own words and reflections- written on the photographic emulsion itself. These photographs take on a near mystical quality as words and images intermingle and interact to form a more complex and revelatory portrait of an individual's life and travails. Their printed words become integral factors of the photographic composition, just as life's traumas and injustices have shaped and transformed their very lives. An exceptionally beautiful, original and moving photo essay.

Mr. Wolin is currently working on a sequel to his exceptional Inconvenient Stories...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

April 15, 2008

Tax Day in the good 'ol USA... Today we all pay our part for a 3 Trillion Dollar War that has already cost hundreds of thousands of innocent lives, many of them women and children, countless others maimed and mutilated for life, forever deprived of their homes, their livelihoods... their sanity.

And while US cluster bombs continue to kill and dismember in Viet Nam to this very day, we dutifully continue to pledge our loyalty to finance the legacy of our present leaders who never fought a war, never risked a hair, and only stood to gain.

photo: Gen John J Pershing- WWI (The War to End All Wars)

The Age of American Unreason

Why are so many Americans so goddang ignorant... and proud?

Susan Jacoby offers some pretty good insights (for those oblivious to the obvious). The inspiration for her book came on 9/11 when she stopped at a bar in NYC for a much needed drink and overheard two young, well dressed suits conversing. One remarked how the situation was just like Pearl Harbor, and when the other asked what the heck was... the first replied that it was "where the Vietnamese attacked the US." Pah rum pump.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Rings of Fire...

The 2008 Olympic Rings celebrated in full international color...
photo: Murad Sezer/AP


They've already got Roscoe back- get Rudy and there's $1,500 in it for you...

Brooklyn, Canada

Be easy to convert to a darkroom, wherever it is- and you could air dry the prints in that backyard with a cold one after a long session!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

San Francisco Garages (con't)...

The owner said it still didn't stop people from parking there (for the rest in this series click here)...

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Purpose is a rather unique online photography magazine in several ways. Most of the work they promote isn't exactly my cup of tea, but at least it's thoughtfully executed, and as a result often quite thought provoking. And there's usually at least one essay per issue that is either strikingly beautiful, or beautifully striking.

The other thing that separates Purpose from other online photo mags is that it reads and feels like a print publication. This is simply because its presentation mimics the printed page- complete with photoshopped gutters between magazine pages. Usually I find myself buying into this virtual magazine presentation, it makes me want to slow down as I take it in, carefully inspect its wares, and "turn" its virtual pages. The illusion is complete. Other times, I "wake up" and realize I'm being subjected (online no less!) to one of the premier mortal sins of the printed page, having the picture divided into segments by being run across a virtual gutter! Clearly, if online photographic presentation excels in any one dimension, it's the elimination of that god forsaken visual travesty!

If I'd compare Purpose to any other photographic publication, it would probably be Blind Spot, but unlike the latter print publication which strives to be so absolute cutting edge (and in the process limits itself into an utterly boring and predictable repetition), Purpose, at times, succeeds.

Good News/Bad News...

Well the Good News is that Bilal has finally been ordered released by an Iraqi court!!! Of course, all we need now is for good ol' law & order lovin' USA to comply with the wishes of its puppet government. Stay tuned...

Never did quite get to see the US unveiling of the Olympic Torch in San Francisco yesterday, but then never expected to, despite being along the publicized route some four hours. Knew they'd bait and switch after previous days of international protest, so just went along with camera in hand to see if I could steal away a photo or two that would probably have little to do with the actual event. It was incredibly peaceful over all, especially considering the rather large hometown Chinese contingent amidst all the heated opposing factions present- but then, the prize never showed.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Seamus Murphy and Joakim Eskildsen

The best photography books relieve you of current, everyday reality and enthrall you with their seductively edited vision. Visual poems you revert to for their insight, beauty, or shock value that transport you to a heightened level of awareness- again, and again, and again.

A Darkness Visible- Afghanistan by Seamus Murphy and The Roma Journey's by Joakim Eskildsen are two such books that take you along for the journey and still resonate in your mind's eye like cinematic epics, long after you've wandered past their pages. Murphy's gorgeous monochromatic book is worth getting if solely for the picture above, and although I'm not terribly taken with the latter's B&W, his color is absolutely and consistently phenomenal, and I anxiously await to see it in print form.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Fun Facts (cont)...

Let's see:
1.) Only 28% of Americans had any clue we were approaching 4,000 US casualties.
2.) One of eight people in Michigan are on food stamps, 1 of 10 in Ohio.
3.) We have more people in jail than China- and they're, uh, more than double our population!
4.) And now the GOOD NEWS... Please, Please, Please!!!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Bible Story

Sometimes, most of the times, it's hard to remember that there are actual, real live saints walking amongst us...

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Alan George

Noticing things is what photographers supposedly do. Seeing, noticing, interpreting... I've lived in San Francisco for close to a decade now and have recently had the pleasure of having two photographers show me what my adopted hometown looks like. The more famous, Gabriele Basilico, has shown me the possibilities of what I imagined San Francisco to be like if its architecture and landscape were shot via large format. Alan George on the other hand has shown me that which I've seen, even noticed- but my limited imagination didn't construe as "photo worthy." Naturally, I tend to appreciate the latter more since it also alerts my vision to that which I hadn't truly seen and noticed, despite myself. His beautiful Domesticated series is wonderfully understated, but nowhere is his unique vision more apparent than in his Wheeled Estate essay which depicts the mobile campers stationed throughout the city. Like everyone else, I too regarded them as little more than eyesores, as they are in any given city, the stuff of "snapshots" at very best.

Just goes to show how one's personal taste, sensitivity and vision are what's paramount in this game, and how we can all hopefully continue to learn, evolve and go beyond our limitations...

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

No Fool Here...

Hear about the 80 yr old who thinks it's a free country? Think he would've been busted if his T-shirt said, "Kill 'em All!"