Sunday, June 29, 2008

David Michael Kennedy- Images From the Road

When I first came upon DMK's website and saw his portraits of celebrities, I was left pretty much unimpressed- not my cup o' tea. Then I caught the photographs from his book Images From The Road and, Whoa! Many are direct, heartwarming portraits that connect on a human, gut level- people that are very much alive and breathing (no brain dead, deadpan here). I'll be coming back to these again for sure...

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Room with a View- Andrew Hetherington

Recently received Andrew Hetherington's book A Room with a View and it's quite the small delight! The book consists (as the title suggests) of shots of hotel room interiors, directly alongside their corresponding outdoor vistas. The best of the indoor shots (and there are many) consist of minimalist compositions with striking graphic designs and bold color patterns. I've tried doing these myself, and although square format's a definite advantage, they're still not as easy as he makes seem. The end results have a playful, but formal quality about them; some of the photographs reminiscent of Diane Keaton's Reservations, others of Zoe Crosher's Out The Window (LAX).

The outdoor views are (as can be expected) more hit and miss- frankly, it's amazing he can turn as many as he does into interesting landscapes when limited by such fixed vantage points. Meanwhile, it's good to know that the project continues- I hope I get to see the original prints hanging somewhere someday...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A (Photo) Assistant's Tale

In the late seventies I had one very brief career run as NYC's least illustrious photo assistant. One Sunday after coming home around 6AM, I got a call some two hours later from this studio photographer I worked for once before. Of course, no amount of money was gonna get my still drunken ass all the way back into Manhattan from Queens. But he pleaded, and pleaded, and pleaded some more, and not having any solid work dates lined up, I gulped down some aspirin and dragged my sorry twenty year old butt back into the subway.

Long story short, I go to collect my forty bucks at day's end (the going rate then for second assistant) and the son of a bitch tells me he's only going to pay me thirty. After begging me to come in, on a Sunday no less, the guy's actually gonna stiff me ten miserly bucks when he should be paying me double! I look at the guy incredulously, ask for my money again, and get the same response. Clearly, I had lost this argument. So I smiled at his self satisfied mug as I repositioned the office typewriter from his desk onto my shoulder (that's right kids, computers were just a gleam in your mother's eyes), walked out the studio, and slept soundly every Sunday morning since.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Stephen Dupont- Raskols

I linked to this incredible essay before (if ever there was a direct antidote for the "deadpan syndrome"). You can now catch more from this incredible series (and be sure to click on the left hand side to embiggen).

Monday, June 23, 2008

Pi- "It's Not a Close Approx. It's Absolute."

Short of a liquor marketing campaign, make of it what you will, ladies and gentleman. But it's Pi anyway you cut it... in this case, to ten decimal places (in a crop circle).

3.14159265358 to be exact- just ask astrophysicist Michael Reed...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Leia’s Daddy

(Photo: Barry Guttierez)

Can't stop looking at, or thinking about this picture. It's absolutely stunning. Stunningly beautiful, stunningly poignant, stunningly sad- and maddening. And I'm certainly not about to go into the technique and aesthetics as to why and how. It's everything that war is, and every reason it shouldn't.

I'm not going to get all political here, for respect of the subject matter at hand, suffice to say I'm old enough to remember another war in a far off country that was also supposed to make us freer and safer by killing a people who never did us any harm whatsoever. And I recall someone recently asking where all the "iconic war imagery" was this time around. Well, you got one for the ages here- in any case, it was the wrong question to ask.

Friday, June 20, 2008

If I were to watch the news that you're hearing in the US, I'd just blow my brains out. Cause it would drive me nuts...

Thank you Lara Logan!

That said, I wonder if LL knows about this:

In February 2003, a Florida Court of Appeals unanimously agreed with an assertion by FOX News that there is no rule against distorting or falsifying the news in the United States.

Yup, you read that right.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

In the bag...

I don't usually discuss or endorse photo equipment here, a large part of the reason being that I own state of the art equipment circa 1995. But what to carry your equipment in- ahh, that's a different story. Unlike my latter NYC days, I usually bike my way around San Francisco, and that requires a backpack should I choose to lug my camera equipment. For those occasions, I use a Lowepro Micro-Trekker 200, a nice, portable solution for taking everything I'm willing to carry on wheels (or on foot for that matter)!

But backpacks, ever convenient as they are to transport your goods about, are absolutely useless for actual in street, on location shooting. You have to set the whole damn package down somewhere (preferably on the table you brought with you) just to get the item(s) of choice out safely, or risk having everything fall out and crash unto the sidewalk. And I can't say I'm really sold on the new twist and slide part shoulder bag, part backpack hybrid mutants that are also part nuisance, and all ugly.

The Domke F-3X shoulder bag
had served me well for many a year, but I was curious if modern technology hadn't come up with something to replace that venerable ol' cinder block of a camera bag (stick your equipment in one, and that's what you got thumping against ya). Enter the Crumpler $6 Million Bag! The black model (returned their tan version because of its unimaginably vile, lime green interior) has brown siding (described for some reason as gun metal gray- definite problem with their color perception) and a (pleasing) tan interior. The feel of this bag can almost be described as plush, with its generous padding, custom velcro dividers, internal pockets, and sides that ingeniously fold inwards to protect contents from the elements. This bag is roomy enough to carry everything I'm willing to lug about on a day's outing, including: my SLR, a couple of lenses, strobe, Widelux F8, film, and accessories (ie- most everything I fit in the 200 above). I really do love the damn thing- only problem, these days can't afford to take her anywhere.

And although it also comes with a very usable shoulder pad, I heartily recommend springing for a Manhattan Portage Shoulder Pad 1001- comfortable, handsome and sturdy, but inobtrusive!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

It's Not the Same, It's Not the Same, It's Not...

Sometimes, it's not a matter of learning something new, it's simply just a matter of remembering what we already know. I keep reminding myself every time I look at photographs online, that online reproductions are not prints, they don't even match good print reproductions. Sure, we all know this intrinsically, but how very, very easy it is to forget in our daily, everyday, domestic viewing habits. Every, single, time I finally get to see the actual print of a photograph that I thought I was familiar with from viewing online, it's like seeing the damn thing for the very first time- because I am seeing it for the very first time! It's not unlike watching Fox News- you may be aware of the event, but you have no real idea of the actual facts, the actual truths surrounding said event.

I've seen the photo above by Amy Stein many a time online. Nice light, good composition, and definitely got that whole childhood thing down- pleasing snapshot overall. And then I finally get to see the actual print, and... Wham!!! The thing is stunning, breathtaking- night and day!

So what's missing in the online version? To start, the very depth and vibrancy of the color that is its heart and soul; the incredible, luminescent catch light on the child's eye (yeah, you can "see" it above, but no way can you truly appreciate it); the subtle interplay of light and shadow on the child's body; the "oh, shit, we're doomed look" in those tiny little goldfish eyes; and totally absent is that the child's left hand has a sculptural presence in the print that would have done Michelangelo proud. In short, everything that makes this image rise from the level of a nice snapshot to that of a moving masterwork is not even visible in the online reproduction! How many other worthy photographs have I, have we, so readily dismissed because we simply have not truly seen them?

Ms. Steins's photographic reenactments of chance human/animal encounters are truly amazing, and can be currently seen in all their glory at The Robert Koch Gallery in San Francisco.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Blue Monday!

While some say this video's faked, it certainly seems to have that unscripted sense of chaos and uncertainty about it that accompanies genuine, "spur of the moment" events... At any rate, after all the shit jobs I've ever had, it's pretty much precisely why I never worked in an office- and thank god I quit the PO after three months, or was it three weeks!?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Weekend Athleticism!

Friday I went to a ML baseball game, something I hadn't done in quite some time. I was quite astounded to find that a good third of the people there were only vaguely interested in the game at best. Stadiums have changed dramatically since yours truly was a child, back then there was the game, and outside of that you had hot dog stands, bathrooms and souvenirs. Now the game itself is secondary to the multiple bars, cruising areas, rides, restaurants, various on and off field entertainment- and don't forget the conveniently located baseball video games for reality disabled kids everywhere.

Saturday night I saw the documentary Bigger, Stronger, Faster- a rather fair and balanced (I kid you not) look at the role of performance enhancing drugs in modern sports. It focuses on the roles these drugs (particularly steroids) play not only on professional and amateur athletes, but on the lives of the movie maker's immediate family. Be prepared for a rather intriguing, informative and, yes, comical inquiry into the political, moral and physical side effects that these drugs impose on present day society.

Oh, and BTW... the Before/After photos shown above were taken on the same day! And not only was the After "buffed up," the Before was also "pigged out."

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Macduff Everton

In all my twenty five years of looking at photographs in NYC galleries in the 20th century, I'll always remember Macduff Everton's prints at Janet Borden as being amongst some of the most beautifully breathtaking landscapes I have ever seen. Of course these miniature representations can't even come close to capturing both the subtle, and dramatic, qualities of light that help transcend a good number of his photos way beyond mere National Geographic illustrations. And the panoramic compositions can only be fully appreciated by viewing the actual prints. If you ever get the chance...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Street Photography Revisited

(photo: Mark Cohen)

I don't know how many articles and essays we've all read about how photography basically can't be trusted, how its ability to present facts and truly inform is limited and questionable, at best. And a lot of those articles and essays were written well before digitalization. So it was amusing when two photoblogs recently implied that street photography was somehow not as interesting, or art worthy (or whatever), as other genres of the medium since it tended to "provide answers," rather than promote "questions." It's one thing to say it's all a matter of taste (agreed), quite another to make unsupported generalizations.

I have no desire whatsoever in revisiting or rehashing the artistic validity of street photography, it's a moot argument argument that can be traced back decades to its very heyday (I can still recall Duane Michals ardent distaste for it). I just don't see how, for instance, landscape photography is any less prone to "sentimentality," "visual puns," or "providing answers." And then of course, just what constitutes "street photography?" One of the bloggers stated that everyone loves Gary Winogrand. Everyone also seems to love Martin Parr- is he a street photographer? The vast majority of his photographs certainly originate there. Does he provide answers, or promote questions? I'd venture he does both- as does any good street shooter, portraitist, or landscape photographer. Is Philip-Lorca diCorcia a street photographer, or a portraitist? And if Mark Cohen's street photography doesn't raise questions, you're just not looking.

The other blogger once stated that "if you like street photography, take a walk down the street." Right, and if you like landscape photography, stroll down a country lane. I've always viewed street photography as varying mixtures of portraiture and urban landscape, and if you live in a city, horizon lines are at a premium. One makes do with the opportunities, environment and vision afforded one, so I can wholly appreciate the artistry of a Trent Parke, a Gus Powell, a Jeffrey Ladd. And one can only wonder how Gary ("all photography does is describe light on surface") Winogrand would have responded to the street photography "provides answers" statement- most likely something involving a laugh and a roll of those ever inquisitive eyes...

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder

Hope this will someday be a memoir- and apparently, Mr.Bugliosi is quite serious about pursuing this after the current Bush reign! Amen.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Christian Simmons' Short Film

This very short film easily eclipses anything Stephen King (or Stanley Kubrick in The Shining, for that matter) ever attempted in creating an eerily disquieting mood or atmosphere. A sensual, creepy, surreal joyride into darkness!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Martian Sunset!

One day, human tourists, and residents, will be taking sunsets on Mars just like they've done on their home planet for decades- but this will always be the first.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Eddie Carmel- The Jewish Giant

An insightful time capsule into the life of a most familiar, yet little known photo icon.

I remember when I first saw this Diane Arbus photo some thirty years ago, the focus of my attention and curiosity was on the parents, still is...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Andrew Borowiec

Probably America's most "undervalued" landscape photographer, I first became aware of Andrew Borowiec with his incredible Along The Ohio- an absolutely brilliant book (with excellent reproductions) that explores the backyards and small towns of that area in the post industrial America of the '80s and '90s. His landscapes, although bristling with all the tell tale signs and details of its inhabitants, are largely devoid of its occupants, lending an almost otherworldly eeriness to their everyday surroundings.

So it's with great anticipation that I read he is currently working on another long term project focusing on Heartland America- and goddang if his color don't look as promising as his B&W!

Monday, June 2, 2008

How This Admin "Supports" Our Troops...

Anytime Republicans start bragging on how much they love and support our troops- just show them this video. And if they aint willing to take this administration down by any means necessary- tell them to just keep shoving their flag pins up their lapels. And to keep their mouths SHUT!

Video via Welcome To Pottersville- of which I can't begin to say enough. If you're not outraged, you're not listening...