Sunday, November 30, 2008

They're In, They're In, They're In!!!

The wait is ovah! The twin eyed, lo-tech, plastic wonders are finally, finally in! After year upon year of having to watch all the digital guys have all the bloody fun with their brand new, ultra expensive, latest fab cameras comes something I can now afford, "show off," and have fun with!

The Blackbird Fly has flown unto our shores at ICP just in time to celebrate and document our glorious recession era epoch. Two f-stops, two shutter speeds, two "formats" (ff 35mm and square mask). Two wonderful!! Make mine blue...

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Couple of Air Force Officers Talkin' UFOs

This image of UFOs flying in formation over the restricted air space of the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC was taken in 1952- a published newspaper photo of an actual event with both visual and radar confirmation convincing enough to have the military scramble jet interceptors. Now, granted that's not nearly as tidy as the fanciful, childlike, wish fulfillment fantasy of having them all land neatly on the White House lawn... but before you proclaim your own logical, rational, common sense explanation- remember that your illuminated geese, reflections of Venus and Mars theory must account for the fact that the same exact scenario occurred-- two weekends in a row.
People sometimes ask what's stopping our government from admitting that UFOs are, in fact, "real." The answer being the most simple and obvious possible: our government is not about to freely admit that there is an outside force so clearly capable of toying with us (ie- them) whenever and wherever they should so please.

These retired US Air Force military officers (you know- your average, everyday UFO whackos) relate how they have personally witnessed and/or documented UFOs "shutting down" and "turning on" our Minuteman nuclear missiles. Bill Nye, sad substitute for the voice of all things scientific, attributes the shutdowns to common power failures- despite triple redundancy backups, and offers no explanation for the CIA confiscated film. As one officer so eloquently puts it- you're not going to explain this away with "vinegar and baking soda."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Thoughts... (Update)

Someone during the Viet Nam War once figured that it would be far, far cheaper and advantageous to build a sturdy, hospitable hut for every Vietnamese peasant family, than to build the equivalent number of bombs to wipe them off every single rice patty they inhabited- and in so doing, gain their respect, good will and admiration in addition to permanently curtailing their desire to wipe out the young unfortunates of a foreign empire that had come to kill each and everyone of them.

I recalled that "out of the box" thinking when our television was tuned to the news the other night with no one in particularly watching. Along came this guy, this average, salt of the earth, Midwest, pick up driving guy at a gas station who quite calmly and matter of factly suggested, "We have 300 million people in the US. Why don't we just give them 1 million dollars each?" Why not indeed? Well under even one measly billion- chump change! The economy revs up, the country picks up, the entire world reinvigorates, and after a few months, the dust settles and at the very least, no one big or small, black or white, male or female could ever bitch that they never got half a shot in life.

The absolute brilliance and simplicity of it all left me dumbfounded. Some guy with a pick up somewhere in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri...

Update: Ummm, errrr... aint no brilliance to it no how- see comments (guess it's better if you do actually watch and listen).

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

CHANGE??? (update)

What does The Almighty Noam have to say about Obama's economic transition team? Well, he defers to the Bloomberg News, which states:

Most of these people shouldn’t be giving advice about the economy. They should be given subpoenas.

And why, oh why, oh why is a torturing son-of-a-bitch deluxe like John Brennan being considered for CIA head?!? And perennial lying bastard Gates is asked to remain...

I aint feelin' the change here folks!

UPDATE: President-elect Obama responds to the qualms and concerns of our Reciprocity Failure staff and readers.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Smart Car v Leica

I remember when it wasn't that uncommon to see Fiats (which made VW Bugs look humongous) right here in the US of A when gas cost less than a single greenback per gallon back in the '60s. Those vintage wonders are now rarely seen even in Italy, but I love all those classic miniatures, including the Trabant and the original Mini Cooper (the latter quite the recent "in" accoutrement in Paris). I thought that after the gas lines of the mid seventies, new lines of small car wonders would blossom, but along came Reagan who immediately tore the solar panels off the White House roof, and we've been knee deep in gas guzzlers ever since.

Fortunately, the Smart car is making quite the go of it here in San Francisco, and I love the damn things- which, I understand, you can get for around half the cost of that new digital Leica DSLR.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda...

Cool new presentation to annual competition. Certainly not knocking this worthy and venerable institution- but was expecting the carpet to match the brand new, flashy drapes...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Priceless x 2...

I can (and have) watched these videos over and over again, their hypnotic mesmerism not to be misunderestimated. For the first bit of brilliance (via EyeTeeth), I was so completely absorbed by its wit, humor and clever visuals that I couldn't begin to make the connection despite the obvious clues...

For video #2, click here for the utterly Pythonesque
Palin/Turkey Kill Interview...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Rambling Review, and Thank You

Recently the Magnum blog ran an advice post for young, aspiring photographers. Most of that advice (from world famous photographers) quite good, and as more than one young aspirant pointed out- often quite contradictory (a tad like life itself). On occasion, I've made my qualms and fears known here concerning young photographers, particularly when it comes to modern day financial considerations. Supporting oneself, particularly in these uncertain times (talk about cliches) is hard enough regardless of occupation- and art is always the first to take the hit in times of crisis. Fortunately, unlike the world of say... film, photography (and writing even more so) is an avocation that can be more readily pursued and practiced on one's own time despite occupation. That doesn't mean that you'll have the same frills and opportunities afforded professionals, it simply means that you won't be completely cut off from doing what you love.

Either way, if you're that artistic genius that won't be denied- you won't. If, like me (and I suspect countless others), you're someone "of more modest gifts," you do it for that love, and rejoice on those occasions when you are recognized and appreciated. It won't be often, or writ large, and certainly won't come anytime when you most want and need and demand it. You'll learn to live with that too- or not. These days at least, this little thing called the internet can help take the sting out of working in the anonymity of yore, as well as help disseminate the ideas and aspirations of photographers and creatives everywhere.

I remember when I first started making the rounds socially in NYC, occasionally you'd run into these congenial blowhards who'd promise you anything and everything straight outta nowhere. Of course, they had no intention whatsoever of doing any of the things they said aloud. They simply liked to hear themselves talk, and obviously had a lot of practice doing it. I mention that prehistoric memory because sometimes (as in rarely), someone does hear your voice, someone does recognize your contribution. Most recently in my case, the duckrabbit blog (yet another quality site that until recently had alluded me) has been more than generous in extolling the virtues of Reciprocity Failure, the writing and work that appears here- not to mention my own photography. Many thanks, Benjamin (wish there was someway I could... reciprocate)- and to all who frequent these pages...

Finally, if you've made it this far in this ever wandering ramble, recognize that the world is at a crossroads, and it comes from decades of ignoring the very world around us, and what we have done to it. Many of us will go down in denial to the very end, hopefully, the majority will rise to do what has to be done- or it will get done, and be done, regardless.


"...Let the record show no hands went up."
-Rep. Brad Sherman (D- CA)
(Bankrupt the whole, bloody lot- and sell the remains to the workers. -S. Banos)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Judith Joy Ross- Living With War

Every successful portraitist has their own particular shtick that allows them to photograph their subject in the manner and style of their choosing. Some photographers (eg- Arbus) developed reputations for being quite aggressive, others for engaging in direct and pointed conversation (eg- Avedon), recently some even extol the virtues of veering away from having direct interaction with their subject.

And once they've dispensed with the personal niceties, there's the little matter of how they're going to actually compose and shoot that face, that body, that flesh and blood person before them into a meaningful portrait that will somehow, someway transcend their mere physical presence. Avedon portrays every nook and cranny, every crease and fold, devoid of any background distraction- their faces, clothes and bodies all alluding to their personal history and travails. Arbus portraits were as straightforward and simple as simple could be- her counter culture subjects always provided the necessary plot twists and distractions. Bruce Davidson uses his subject's immediate environment, Platon his clean but highly orchestrated lighting, and even the subjects of Mr. Sander's typological portraiture often included a uniform or tool of trade for contrast and content.

I mention all this because upon seeing Living With War by Judith Joy Ross, I'm left amazed and clueless as to how she achieves such somber, reflective and deeply intimate portraits. She photographs (for the most part) people who are the male and female equivalents of your very Average Joes, apparently in available light. Depth of field is shallow, subject details minimal with backgrounds well out of focus. And yet, her portraits manifest as some of the most revealing and intense ever captured on film, or any other medium- as if her subjects momentarily invite us in to share their inner conflicts, hopes and fears.

Avedon's performance art shooting style, in which he engages his subjects in conversation with entire studio entourage in tow, often results in his subjects' presentation of themselves as some heightened or hybrid portrayal of the character he elicits. And he may even score more "winners," his detail rich characters are always worth intense study like any finely detailed map, as opposed to say... some of the straight on compositions (which occasionally fall flat) in The Army Reserve section of Living With War. JJR's bare bones, no frills approach allows no filler to pick up the slack when "the magic" fails to appear. Fortunately, that magic never roams far, and takes us places a map can only suggest.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Why You (or I) Shouldn't Relax with Obama...

The guy's brilliant beyond belief, and is our best, last, and only hope... but it's issues such as the three elaborated here that prevent me from joining the absolute love fest (not to mention how he totally backtracked on the FISA bill).

This man has the capability and the opportunity to become one of our greatest presidents ever- I just hope he's both up to the task... and lives long enough to achieve it. This is the first time in recent memory where certain members of our citizenry from Maine to Mississippi have no qualms of making their intentions known- and in public!

Monday, November 17, 2008

The RADIONIC Time Camera

I always knew there had to be one of these somewhere, it just makes sense- why should cameras be limited to taking photographs of the... present? And as you can see, the results are quite impressive to say the least. Of course, some of you won't be satisfied until you can get one with an interchangeable digital back.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Saturday, November 15, 2008


We got two brilliant photo essays (well, the latter may be stretching it just a tad) from the almighty boing: one on female body builders by Martin Shoeller, the other on Swedish dance bands of the seventies. Honestly- it's hard to say which is better...

And lastly there's this...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Blue Room- Eugene Richards

Talk about a premature book list- I just saw Eugene Richards' latest, The Blue Room. It's big, it's expensive, it's beautiful, and... it's in color! Don't let that crumpled B&W cover photo throw you, Mr. In Your Face Grainy B&W Guy Supreme has released his first color venture and it's one subtle beauty to behold! What of? Mostly it's of abandoned rooms and homes out West.

Holy Polidori- can the world possibly stomach even one more abandoned room photo essay? Yes, it can, particularly when it's the best of the bunch. What's different, and more importantly, what makes The Blue Room "better?" Like most essays of this genre there are plenty of still lifes and close ups of long forgotten and discarded personal affects- that's "the bad news." What really sets this essay apart is how Richards manages to reanimate these abandoned rooms. His photographs manage to somehow retain some of the life, and lives lived, that once occupied these living spaces. He does it not only by making the most of the outdoor light that still manages to permeate, but by also incorporating the surrounding outdoors into these solemn interior studies, thereby making them part and parcel of the particular landscape at large. Occasionally, he abandons the interiors altogether and opts for evocative, site specific, outdoor landscapes. The latter have a very sensual, seasonal feel to them that further enhance and accentuate that uncertain melancholy of lost time and space.

Another way that he manages to upgrade the genre is by occasionally incorporating animal imagery into some very surreal domestic scenes. He does this by including both live and dead animals, as well as some which just leave you wondering. And finally, he brings this project to life by his very use of color: sensual, foreboding, and one very viable stand in for the lives and people not shown. Competing boundaries of color both in closeup and at large, contrast, conflict and complement each other as they mark and define their remaining memories and territory. It's as if he was purposely saving color all these years for just said reason.

Richards, for once, has turned away from recording the dramas that unfold in our waking, everyday lives, only to evoke those left behind, and not quite dormant.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Blurb of it all ...

Finally got to look at a bunch of Blurb books the other night in decent light, and as forewarned, was less than enthused by the quality- which in a way is good since I could never afford all the books I would've wanted. The reproductions are iffy- had I first been exposed to the work of my most recent favorite photographer via his Blurb book, I wouldn't have looked twice. And doubletruck images in some of the paperbacks could not be opened anywhere near enough to appreciate the actual image without wrecking the binding. That said, Beth Dow certainly managed to put out a quality product with In The Garden- get what ya pay for, I guess. And, as previously pointed out, hey- it is what it is, not your ultimate dream book legacy, but more the "this is what I aspire to" promotional vehicle. Nevertheless, I was hoping to check out: NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard) by Ryan Zoghlin, as well as American Histories By Joshua Dudley Greer- they just weren't there...

I'm sure if I still lived in NYC there would be a ton of other books to add to my ridiculously early Holiday Book Wish List which I've cut down to four must have staples: the aforementioned In The Garden, two phenomenal portraiture classics by Peter Feldstein (The Oxford Project) and Living With War by Judith Joy Ross, and then there's the one guilty pleasure- Phillip Toledano's Phone Sex.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Passing Gas...

Back in the pre-internet days, I had the privilege of twenty five years of gallery hopping every major and minor photo gallery in NYC from '73 to '98 before moving to the left coast. No brag, just fact; it makes me neither expert nor seer- just a guy who's been around some. Have no contacts, no contracts, no agenda to stardom. Just another shmuck with a blog and a love for the medium. I grew up with 35mm B&W exhibits, marveled at the large format color (r)evolution, and currently struggle just to keep up with digital terminology, let alone the actual technology. Been a fun ride, still is- and the following, merely the odd collection of previous quips and observations...

While today's photographers are wisely networking and forming alliances, organizations, and associations to help promote and foster their goals, aspirations and visions via the internet- I worry about today's youth of limited means who express an interest, or passion, for the medium. Initial costs for photographic equipment in this digital age can be prohibitive at best- inkjet papers alone cost more than their silver coated predecessors. Even with recent price decreases, I fear that this medium (whether for art or commerce) will increasingly belong to the fewest of the few who can continue to afford it, particularly in our devolving economy. Shooting digitally "for free" presupposes that you already lay claim to the multi-thousand dollar hardware/software investments that makes it all possible.

And like any other art form, photography is one that continues to be beset by countless ironies. The incredible immediacy and plasticity of digital technology has revolutionized the photographic industry, and yet, has done more to homogenize contemporary photography than anything in its recent history. Meanwhile, photo trend setters call for a sea change to the traditional, pragmatic language that has constituted photojournalism (but offer no viable alternative) while continuing to champion large format color as art, which is already some thirty years old in the tooth- not unlike kids dressed in thirty year old punk regalia talking down hippies. A year or so back, some of the "in the know" proclaimed the resurgence of a B&W revival, even though no such movement actually existed. Perhaps it was merely an extension of those heady Bush years whereby an administration dared believe that they operated in a separate reality of their own wishful making.

One of the great things about getting old, the only great thing about getting old, is that sometimes (sometimes) when you say that you really don't give a rat's ass about something- you really don't. No ifs, ands, or buts. That's not to be negative, it's just that if you're around long enough, you get to see things come and go, learn to recognize the rhythms, the patterns- and if you watch closely and astutely enough, sometimes even learn to recognize the greatness that occasionally rises.

Keeps things honest, and occasionally... interesting.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Lost and (occasionally) Found

San Franciscans are constantly losing all kinds of things. The day doesn't pass that I don't see some kind of notice on the street for some missing animal, item or belonging that has been recently lost (and on some occasions- found).

Friday, November 7, 2008

It's Official...

Truth be told, guess me and ol' W have more in common than even I imagined, being that I too go with "my gut." For years I suspected it, felt it, and dang near tasted it- but wasn't till the other day that I stumbled upon the fact that I've been an official member of the working poor, and for quite some time now. All it takes for you to join is a monthly contribution of at least 30% of your income towards rent- and I'm well above that!

But then, it's all relative, aint it?

PS- I don't know who's responsible for posting the cryptic little messages (as seen above) throughout San Francisco, but they are appreciated. Ranging from political to purely personal, their topical irony usually manages to bring a smile to my face with inspirational motifs such as the "God Bless Series," which includes- God bless our brave war profiteers. Amongst others...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Africa's a what?!

This is what we just survived- the choice between an African American candidate for the Presidency, and a candidate who couldn't comprehend that Africa is a continent (not a country).

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

That One!!!

Finally! We can all breathe a little easier. The Messiah hasn't landed, but history has been made. And at the very least, the moron(s), thieves and murderers have their marching orders and some small measure of sanity will be back in the House. Our country, our economy, our worldwide rep have been trashed straight into the global garbage heap- our great Republican legacy!

Congratulations Barack- and long life! Now it's up to us...
(And I can't get this song outta my head for the life of me. Thanks, Al!)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Don't Forget...

And Be Vigilant!!! If you're heading to the polls today, please be sure to take this number with you: 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683). This national, toll-free election protection hotline can help with any voting-related questions or problems you might encounter.

Instances of vote switching have already occurred this year, and all credible reports have it from Obama to McCain (surprise)- and if you don't think the last two election were stolen, watch this. Then meet the man asked (by a Republican candidate) to create a vote switching program. Vote switching occurred in the '04 election 12 to 1 in favor of the Republicans... And to find out how it may happen this year, listen here!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Art & Photojournalism

Having reached the half century mark, there are some conversations I just can't spend all that much time on anymore, like: "What do women really want?" Spent way too much time on that one- a conversation that had to be had, and will continue to be had, though not by me. You ponder it, debate it, turn it upside down and get drunk on it- nurse the hangover, and finally go on, hopefully but doubtfully, all the wiser.

Victims, Issue 74 of Colors magazine devotes itself in large part to the recent earthquake in China, which brought to mind all the recent blog chatter dealing with the current state of photojournalism and its aging visual aesthetic. And valid as that conversation may be, I have to admit I don't quite get it. Photojournalism does on occasion reach the level of art, no doubt, but just how is someone to change, to "modernize" the visual aesthetics of say... the pain, loss and suffering of the China earthquake? Art is certainly not the first consideration here- and when images of tragedy approach the level of art, you know it will be followed by criticism of exploiting said tragedy.

Much has been said of the "tradition" (ie- style) of photojournalism, when it's basic language is simply to record the necessary visual info in the most effective manner possible. Occasionally, it rises above that; be happy when it does- or else, point the way...

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Studs Terkel- RIP

They don't make 'em like this no more. Writer, civil rights activist, and hands down champion of the working man-- RIP Studs!
(Chicago Tribune photo by Chris Walker)