Saturday, May 31, 2008

Hardly Definitve Proof...

To say the absolute least- even without seeing the actual video (does have a cute head though).

Again, for more substantive dealings on said matters...

Seriously Infected...

Doctor equates infectious epidemics with spiraling inner city violence, and concludes its solution lies along similar preventative measures...

These programs are so obvious, so logical, and so desperately needed- it goes without saying!
(Photo: Reuben Cox)

Friday, May 30, 2008

Foto First!

First photograph of man made object landing on foreign planet taken by man made moon circling said planet! Click here for high res wonder...

Thursday, May 29, 2008 is as impossible to confirm them (UFOs) in the present as it will be to deny them in the future. -Dr. Wernher von Braun

Fri 5/30 the mainstream media will be in full, all out giggle mode as they're subjected to an "authentic" alien video. So get ye ready for the same, lame, tired ass jokes about little green men, etc, etc. etc... If the video is grainy and dark (which I suspect it will be), they'll say it doesn't prove a thing; if sharp and focused, it's obviously CGI or Photoshop. Bring on the clowns in the alien costumes, the interviews with people who say they're from Venus...

At this point, I just let my distinguished panel of experts (astronauts, pilots, physicists, etc) do the talking...

Accuracy in Reporting...

Dead Troops Remembered By President Who Had Them Killed

You don't get too many headlines that are accurate or truthful these days, in fact you're lucky to get the information, or photos at all- as Veterans for Peace can attest to with Arlington Memorial West.

Or you can have people tell you the truth five years after the fact, five years after they themselves lied to you, blamed it on others, and made a killing doing it!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Deuce... (via '79)

All throughout the '60s, '70s and '80s, there were repeated threats, plans, and promises to clean up and transform Times Square, particularly W42nd St. This seedy, crime infested stretch of vice and porn was the alternate city landmark- and like the Berlin Wall, I thought it would last forever.

I remember once draggin' my drunken ass up there at 3 in the morning after missing the last LIRR train out of Penn Station into Queens, which meant (instead of 20 min) I'd have to embark on a 2 hr trip home via bus/subway in 20 degree weather. Turning the corner unto the south side of 42nd to catch the #7, I encountered all 6'5" 300lbs of steroid enhanced wrestler, Billy "Superstar" Graham looking every bit the comic book icon, hand in hand with an Asian female seemingly one third his size. I just stood there (swaying no doubt) completely dumbfounded- one never knew what you'd find there.

The whole of Times Square is unrecognizable today from that thirty year stretch, with 42nd St a mere extension of Disneyland. Sometimes all we're left with are memories- and photographs.

Check out Langdon Clay's historic street long panoramic (and interview) here.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

I don't often use strobe, so I'm often quite amazed at the ease and accuracy of "today's" dedicated flash units when used for fill. (Nikon F100, 20mm, SB-28, Tri-X)

Winter Soldier

For those who really want to know what's going on in Iraq and Afghanistan- not from the generals, pundits, and Pentagon talking heads, but from the soldiers on the fronline...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Tribute to Ansel

Well, not exactly, but I do remember reading somewhere many years ago how Diane Arbus would say that she was "secretly kinky" about certain photographs she took that weren't exactly blockbuster images for the ages, but more personal and idiosyncratic images whose appeal she couldn't quite put her finger on but treasured nonetheless.

There, I've managed to invoke the names of two of the all time greats in one short post about an unknown's little snapshot. Actually, this one would have been interesting to see in large format color. The green of that island of trees was such a highly saturated and artificial hue that it stopped me dead in my tracks, and that color would have helped further separate it from its immediate urban background.

Nevertheless, not bad for a guy fresh from the dentist's office, riding his bike waiting for a mouthful of novacaine to wear off...

Half Empty/Half Full?

Friday, May 23, 2008

My First Photo Purchase

I've been buying photography books since the '70s; it's not a huge collection by any means, but fairly respectable nonetheless. Save for the occasional flea market snapshot purchase, I've never purchased original photography, I could just never afford it. Yes, I've known about 20x200. Yes, I know they have many beautiful prints at very affordable prices, but I save the little I have for the aforementioned books- besides my wife has every square inch of the walls in our humble abode completely filled with all her uhmm... stuff.

So what made me bite on this one?

1) It's beautiful.
2) The price is definitely right.
3) The content- This placid, suburban scenario is knee deep in this country's less than prideful history. Decades, centuries of abuse and degradation all conveniently hidden (and proudly displayed) in plain sight on a simple street sign in a comfortable, middle class neighborhood on a neatly manicured lawn. A photograph that will speak to me each and every time I look at it, both for all the things I see in it- and for all it can't possibly show... And you just don't get all that extra added value in the vast majority of today's "fine art" (color) photography.
4) It's one damn great photo I sure wish I had taken.

So it's with great anticipation that I await the arrival of my very first original photographic print acquisition by Michael David Murphy.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Jonathan Torgovnik

Jonathan Torgovnik's dramatic and sensitive portraits of Rawandan rape survivors and their children are as real and moving as documentary and portrait photography can get. And they serve as quite the wake up call to those who insist that documentary photography is no longer relevant, and can no longer affect image weary viewers. The mothers, struggling survivors of the most brutal rape scenarios imaginable, now struggle to raise the children of those actions singlehandedly- many before the AIDS virus they also contracted permanently and prematurely separate them from their children.

These portraits (and accompanying text) remind us that these survivors are real, and the consequences of those heinous crimes will continue to reverberate long past their lives and unto those of their children- who themselves may one day fall victim to the same vicious cycle that also creates the automated killers known as child soldiers. For now, these photographs testify to the love, turmoil and perseverance so evident in the faces of mother and child alike.

For those so moved...

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Nancy Burson & The ECs...

While doing a bit of research into the "plastic camera aesthetic," I was more than a bit surprised (to say the very least) when I came upon the website of one of its biggest names- Nancy Burson. Right there on her homepage was a video attesting to her belief and interaction with ECs (Extra Celestials). In the video, Ms. Burson goes on to elaborate that in addition to being a fine art photographer, she also taught at Harvard and worked with the FBI- her reputation vital to her professional livelihood. And yet, there she is, front stage center, proclaiming her ongoing relationship with intelligent light beings.

Personally, I find her photographic documentation of these visitations less than convincing at very best. They don't appear any more convincing than dozens, if not hundreds, of other similar amateur shots of "orbs" and other various, blurred lights. Ms. Burson however, is obviously convinced that her photographs are genuine, the creatures real, and her relationship with them anything but delusional. And I am not in any position to deny neither the reality of her belief, nor that of the "ECs" themselves. I simply do not know.

Do I believe in UFOs? You bet- and I'm with some pretty reputable company, thank you very much! I'll let their expertise speak for me. I wonder if the noted photo blogger (and scientist) who was so quick to rebuke me for stating my beliefs would be so readily dismissive of someone of Ms. Burson's stature?

Most scientists will concede that the odds for life out there in the vastness of the universe is a given. And to conclude that we are the best and brightest in that infinity of time and space is without doubt the most ignorant and arrogant of conceits imaginable!

Friday, May 16, 2008

borough edges, NYC

Mention anything to do with photography and/or bikes and you're going to get my attention. Part of the larger Eminent Domain: Contemporary Photography and the City that I first caught at Photokaboom, borough edges, nyc is a pretty amazing "little" project, geographically and historically. Bettina Johae hops on her bike, camera in hand, and documents the geographic boundaries of all five NYC boroughs! Although the 2,418 photographs may not necessarily fit into the "fine art" category, that still doesn't prevent this body of work from being quite the unique and revelatory documentary.

And it's amazing just how much, and how little the city of New York reveals itself in the process!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Strangely Familiar: Michal Chelbin

Many of Michal Chelbin's photos in Strangely Familiar simply take my breath away- they're that good. And she's also one of those rarities that can do B&W and color equally well (as the examples above more than adequately portray).

So it doesn't give me any great pleasure to say that on the other hand, some of her shots (fortunately the minority) just seem a trifle too staged, a trifle too manipulative, as if someone's trying to force the evocation of a specific emotion, style or effect on both subject, and viewer. I think in some cases this may come from using too short a focal length for some of her portraits (as in the cover shot). Other times, I think she may just be pressing too hard- something that with time (and her talent), she'll eventually outgrow.

Oh yeah, and what's up with her website and those ridiculous, stamp sized (no exaggeration) images??? And if it's just a case of me missing the click to embiggen icon- someone, anyone, please enlighten my half century, analogue addled brain...

Monday, May 12, 2008

The More Things Change...

When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968, the FBI applauded when they heard the news at their Atlanta headquarters.

When Jesse Jackson ran for President in the late '80s, he was campaigning in America's heartland talking about the problems that farmers faced in their day to day lives. A reporter observed a couple of said farmers nodding their heads in agreement at what he was saying, and telling each other that he did, in fact, make sense. When the reporter approached them and asked if they'd vote for him, they once again turned to themselves and laughingly retorted, "A nigger!?"
I was reminded of the above when reading the following concerning the Secret Service- those assigned to protect Mr. Obama...

Saturday, May 10, 2008


I haven't seen the movie as of yet, but let me tell ya, a lot of these songs aint no joke!!! Faves incl: Take a Walk on the Wild Side, Jealous Guy, Ruby Tuesday, You Can't Always Get What You Want, Should I Stay or Should I Go...
(Photo: Kurt van der Elst)

Feeling Lucky (yet)?

Some more chances to achieve fame and fortune- or be humiliated yet again for even trying.

here, Hot Shot here, and for those in the SF Bay area, Photo Alliance here.

Good Luck, one and all...

Thursday, May 8, 2008

A Vow- Broken

One of the great shames and failures of my life is never having taken a great portrait of a saguaro cactus (despite having lived in Tuscon for a year). One of the ultimate icons of the Wild West, saguaros (an Indian, not Spanish name btw) are just so damn cool- stoic and foreboding, yet "cuddly" all the same (and they have to be at least 75 yrs old to grow an arm). Taking a memorable photo that did at least one of 'em justice was something I swore to do and never, ever achieved. Still ticks me off just thinking about it.

Fortunately, Mark Klett did a whole series of 'em...

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

East Village, NYC 80's v. Dafen, China '08

Back in the mid to late '80s when the New Wave music scene had long run its course and gentrification had reached well past the darkest corners of the fabled isle of Manhattan and into Brooklyn , a slew of small art galleries began to sprout in the East Village (yes, even before the Chelsea migration). No storefront or empty space was safe from being converted into yet another exhibition space as galleries multiplied exponentially overnight. Everyone knew it was a joke, and yet they kept appearing. The whole "movement" however, seemed not so much about fostering up and coming art (and artists), as it was to kick start young wannabe gallery owners into the NYC art scene. The Reagan Era had invaded the Lower East Side, and with it the hopes and aspirations of Punk and New Wave went the same sad route of its iconic 60's sibling. Meanwhile, reality came even quicker to the self deluded art scene schemers as the inevitable implosion from their gentrified overpopulation forced their successive overnight closures. And everyone was glad to have their bodegas back.

I was reminded of that brief, sad and ridiculous period when I came upon this article about Dafen, China. Here's a town so utterly obsessed by art that they supposedly make some sixty per cent of all the oil paintings in the world. Of course, most people are apt to call it anything but art, and the people who make it, anything but artists. They would prefer to call them craftsmen, factory workers, or worse- but the latter could have also been said of many of the East Village artists back then (or now), and their would be dealers. Regardless, this current Chinese "art" scene is a most curious social and economic anomaly, perhaps not least of all because it makes no pretension whatsoever as to the relation between product (a rose by any other name) and consumption. What would the NYC art scene be like minus its well honed facade of chic and pretension? Think WWE without the costumes and pratfalls.

And for a look behind the art...

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Photo Editing for $100-- It's uhh... Elementary!

Prematurely sent to the reject bin last year, all this guy needed for resurrection were darker skies and a tad more contrast! (Tri-X, 16mm; Virginia City, NV)

Can't afford Photoshop CS3- neither can I, which automatically places you in the good company of thousands of others. The good news is that there are competent, cheaper alternatives out there if you're not about to use every single damn graphic, nook and cranny in that monster program!

Not one to wax poetic about photo, or god forbid, computer technology, I lost the services of Photoshop 7 when I got the new computer last December and lived off 1 month, free trial issues of various photo editing software. And after said experience trying and comparing those various trial programs, I ultimately decided on the less muscular, less influential (and far less expensive) Elements 6. Yes, I could've gone outside the Adobe family for other programs (eg- Corel's PSP X2 or Picture Window Pro, etc) that had similar features and pricing, but seems there's just more help out there (see below) when it comes to the more universal product- and lord knows I need, and will continue to need, all the help I can get when it comes to all things digital (besides I'm a sucker for those cute new, colorful selection icons).

Anyway, from what I understand, Elements has better RAW adjustments, X2 has CMYK and a few, more advanced editing tools, and Picture Pro has full 16 bit editing and an interesting alternative tool kit for layers. They're all well within the $100 price range, so pick and choose according to your particular needs. For those interested, there are a couple of free photo editing programs as well...

Sure, none of the above have all the Hollywood bells and whistles of Photoshop Sr. that I never needed and never used, and could never find or understand anyway- but they can, and do, get the job done, thank you very much. I'm not into surreal montages with wild filters and special effects, but yeah, all the aforementioned can do that too, and then some- and for a fraction of the cost.

The one thing that was annoying in Elements 6 however, was its wimpy Curves display- actually, it would've been just fine if it only didn't have the preview image the size of a postage stamp. Not a good thing when trying to manipulate subtle tonal gradations in B&W! Fortunately, very fortunately, I happened to find Smart Curve, a compatible, full feature Curves plug-in that's 100% free!

Needless to say, I don't think full time professionals will be downgrading anytime soon, and rightfully so; but for those like me who are use to making the most out of less, this is just one more opportunity to shine. For relative newbies who want to hit the floor running with Elements 6, check out the step by step ps elements 6 book, Jim Beecher's online Elements Menu, and for a more comprehensive overview, PS Elements 6: The Missing Manual. You can also find instructional videos here.

Thursday, May 1, 2008


There I was belly down in the dirt, Tri-X and F100 in hand, focusing on what would hopefully be my latest contribution to the ever expanding world of pet cemetery photography, when a sidelong glance caught the barrel of a rather large lens aimed directly at me. Attached to the rather formidable lens was my first sighting of an absolutely humongous D3, a Nikon D3, and if I didn't mention it- dang, those things are huge! Looking past the Japanese photographer (no doubt exacting revenge for all the times I've aimed my wide angle at his fellow countrymen), I noticed an entire phalanx of photographers wandering about my "private" sanctuary. The camera club was in town.

The thought of someone playing with my image, sight unseen on some computer screen was a bit unsettling, not unlike what I have done to countless anonymous others within the confines of a darkened room for some 30 plus years. Wonder if I rated a RAW file?