Sunday, May 31, 2009

SX-70 Tribute

Well, yours truly finally made it to The Big Time- that's right, published in The NY TIMES! You heard right- THE NY Times! Well, on their blog anyway... three shots in the large group tribute to that mighty little wonder known as the Polaroid SX-70. And it really is quite amazing to see just how much good work is included there (on such short notice!) and how that particularly unique little medium still holds that certain something that to this day continues to charm and captivate! And one more thing- Lens blog seems plenty prolific with worthwhile posts. Hear that Magnum?

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Wondrous Widelux

By now, no doubt everyone's seen Bruce Jackson's beyond incredible panoramic photos of Cummins Prison in Arkansas during the mid 70's. And as Jackson well points out, photographing anything with a Widelux can be an experience in itself. And the images it's capable of producing can be positively infectious.
The camera is quite the dinosaur in style and function (3 shutter speeds, fixed focus), and hardly the most reliable in operation- despite the look and build of a tank. Nevertheless, it does give you that unique format in one very compact, moderately priced package. The viewfinder displays about 80% of the image, so you have to get closer than what you see, or your subject can recede into the background. Sometimes you get too much distortion and it really spoils the shot, other times you hardly notice it at all, or it lends just the right touch to make it all worthwhile. Bottom line, you never know exactly what ya get when you push that release (watch those fingers!), but it's forever earned its permanent right of stay in my camera bag.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Two Wrongs...

I can understand why the lying coward, killer Cheney is out touting his propaganda (why else would he crawl out from under his rock unless he was feeling the heat)- reason alone for Obama to release the photos depicting US rape and torture. But what possible reason is there for Obama's Justice Dept. to rule against Valerie Plame!?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Your Golden Opportunity Is Comeing Very Soon- RJ Shaughnessy

RJ Shaughnessy was kind enough to send me a copy of his new self published book- Your Golden Opportunity Is Comeing Very Soon. I wasn't familiar with his work, so I was quite apprehensive at first- what if I didn't like it? Fortunately, a quick review of his website revealed that was certainly not the case, nevertheless- reader beware, in the interest of full disclosure, this review bears the onus of blatant, free product procurement! So much for the scruples...

I generally don't like night photography, the "atmosphere" and shortened tonal values don't much do it for me. I also don't usually go for people who go by the initials of their first two names. Fortunately, I'm an open minded kinda guy cause RJ seems quite the nice all around and his work is the kind of stuff I'll come back to look at- repeatedly.

It's nice to see someone taking a chance with black and white these days- and making it work to their advantage. Everything in Opportunity is either bent, broken, scratched, cracked or scuffed. The flash accentuates form and minimizes distraction. The photographs appear both primitively simple, and elegantly refined- no easy feat. They're also very reminiscent of what B&W was doing for oh, such a brief period in the mid seventies, freeing itself of the documentary aesthetic and going into more conceptual waters concentrating on form and minimalism- before it got cold cocked by that distracting color revolution thang.

I once said basically the same about Jason Evans' work, and he corrected me saying... well, actually I forget exactly what it was he said. I just found it curious that he was correcting me when I had seen the stuff in person- at the same time he was busy being a prepubescent. But that's what I get for being twenty, not writing down names, and thinking that things will last forever in an analogue B&W world. But I digress...

Perhaps RJ's work will spawn yet another clarion call for The Great B&W Revival, I say- let it come of it's own damn accord. In the meantime, just enjoy and marvel at his LA awakened from mid slumber; you won't find the usual flashes of its broken humanity, just the illuminated detritus of its everyday, pedestrian architecture, looming about like those strange, shape shifting invertebrates that inhabit the ocean's vast, dark depths.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

LENSCRATCH- Aline Smithson

Spent some good quality time exploring the archives of Aline Smithson's LENSCRATCH yesterday, a pleasant discovery on a late holiday afternoon after realizing that earlier in the day I had taken a promising photo- with no film in the camera. How long since ya heard that one???

Monday, May 25, 2009

Jacob Holdt- The Legacy

It's good to see the many tributes and accolades afforded Jacob Holdt! And yet, if we're to learn anything from his accomplishments, it's that even a complete outsider can help make some kind of difference. And that if we don't make the effort- it just doesn't get done.

No, I certainly wouldn't expect the same superhuman level of sacrifice and commitment from all concerned, but as always, every little bit counts- especially when so many to this very day are still scared shitless of having an honest conversation about race. But would it take too much to say... simply send PDN a reminder that in 2009- a 24 member all white jury is every bit as shameful and ludicrous as it sounds? What if this situation (ie- the lack of minority representation in all facets of the photo art/creative community) was addressed by prestigious bloggers and photo insiders worldwide- or better yet, by a groundswell of unknowns, such as Jacob Holdt once was?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Lucha Libre, The Home Portraits

There are gems to be found in Lourdes Grobet's Lucha Libre, The Home Portraits for sure, but to be honest- I'm a tad disappointed. With such a wealth of content, I would have expected more...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Jessie "The Body" Ventura

Pretty damn scary when this man makes way more sense than every Republican (well OK, that doesn't take much- granted) and well over half the Dems... And has the balls to give voice to it!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Mankind- The Virus...

Remember Agent Smith's little homily to Morpheus in THE MATRIX- you know, the one about how mankind was like an out of control virus contaminating and despoiling everything it came into contact with? Talk about one helluva compelling argument!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Black and White Of It...

I don't usually like "playing the race card" (as in the previous post), but sometimes things are so obviously blatant, so in your face- and yet, how many notice? Funny thing too, for a group of people who pride themselves so on noticing things... Perhaps the decades old "solution" of throwing a token or two at the problem is sooo old that most of us just assume they're there, somewhere- who in their right mind's gonna waste time looking for 'em anyway!

Dialogue is a crucial first step, so a hearty shout out to all who responded to my initial post. One commenter suggested that the ol' blogosphere could perhaps be the place that helps initiate necessary change. I'm still hopeful, but with so many, it's just another tool to help further themselves in the photographic establishment. I mean wouldn't it be great if we had a prestigious and Conscientious blogger who weighed in on something of such gravitas? How about A Photo Editor somewhere out there who has first hand knowledge and insight? Aint gonna happen (please prove me wrong), they aint gonna rock their boat- the water's fine, for them.

Some of us only have to worry about race when we're in certain neighborhoods, for others it's a crucial and defining factor throughout our lives. Ultimately, it's something that affects us all. It's nice to vote for a symbol; it's more important to deal with everyday realities and consequences. This country and planet has witnessed too many of the ensuing horrors when we don't.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The PDN White Album

A year or so ago, I sent a "Letter to the Editor" of PDN (which they published) observing how little things had changed in the 35 years I have been involved in photography. More specifically, it was commenting on their "Major Movers and Shakers of Photography" issue- in which the major curators, editors, gallery owners, and publishers featured were all (with the possible exception of one Asian female)... white. OK, OK, one can't possibly pin PDN with the blame for lack of minority representation in the upper echelon of the photographic universe. Agreed.

Then I get my hands on the PDN May 2009 Photo Annual and check out their 24 (not a half dozen, or ten, or a baker's dozen at that- but 24!) judges, each and every one- white, white and white! I know it can't possibly be something as absurdly ridiculous as the now trite mantra of- "I just don't see race." It's what year, what century, what presidency? Just how is it that to this day, people of color are still not represented anywhere near proportionately in these creative command positions?

One major reason (the major reason?) is blatantly obvious- the economics of the photo world stratosphere. I've complained previously about the high cost of photography, and it's not just me whining about not being able to get the new stuff I want and desire. I'll be happy to keep shooting with my 1995 state of the art 35mm equipment till I die. But if I can't afford what's considered "necessary" equipment in this day and age- how are young adults of the "inner city" ever going to? I know some of you out there take considerable time and effort to tutor inner city kids in basic photo classes. And god bless each and every one- seriously. But what happens to those who catch the bug and want to go beyond playing with a camera, and take it up a notch in a serious life long manner? How are they to afford it- thousands in equipment and education?

I still remember (the one year I could afford art school) the look of shock one day on the faces of the kids from the Upper East Side when a certain faction of the class complained they couldn't complete their assignments in what seemed a reasonable amount of time- because we had to work P/T jobs (during daylight hours)! God bless William Eggleston, love his stuff to death- but how well would his name be known if he had had to work for a living?

The other reasons for such obvious exclusion are even more nefarious and depressing, ranging from out an out indifference to blatant passive racism. Regardless, I still don't know what possible, plausible excuse could exist for an all white jury from a publication of such influence. Such accountability is certainly not a priority concern, to PDN or the overwhelming majority of its readers- seems I'm the only one bitchin'. In all fairness, I applaud PDN's support of a program such as Creative Visions on their home page, but... I'm talking about the major leagues here! There's not too many people like a Benjamin Chesterton out there willing to take a proactive stance in empowering indigenous people to document and photograph their own environments and situations- and to honestly testify to the veritable absence of color behind the desks that make the decisions on the images we see published, exalted and propagated in the photographic big leagues each and every damn day.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tom Wik- Houses

When I lived in Tuscon for a year, I got it in my head that I'd take some "portraits" of the unique looking houses I saw there. It was one beautiful project as I envisioned it, and was even able to buy one beautiful camera to fulfill the dream- a mint cond. Mamiya 6 w/50mm WA. Of course, I quickly found out it was not to be, sadly the photographs did not measure up to the dream- or little else for that matter.

Then I ran into Tom Wik on Darius Himes' blog while researching another photographer- and there they were! The exact photographs I saw in my dream- every bit as proud and purdy and absolutely beautiful as ever I had envisioned them! I guess dreams do come true after all, even when they're no longer yours.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Watch Out Below!

Seems this story of torture, corruption and unbridled criminality is finally, finally starting to get some legs! Let's hope Obama yields to its righteous inevitability and either expedites the process- or gets the hell outta the way!

The Critics Have Their Say One Last Time...

One of the added kicks of helping run Expiration Notice was reading the thoughts and comments of Couer D'Alene's HS photography students (courtesy of Bruce Twitchell) on the work of our featured photographers. Thanks for your effort and insight guys! And always keep thinking, questioning, looking and- shooting...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Fraction- Issue #7

photo: John Brinton Hogan
Fraction's latest is out and well worth the look/see with a talented bunch of photographers, including personal faves: Michael Sebastian, James Friedman and John Brinton Hogan. The latter's ironically humorous, yet breathtakingly romantic Vacation: Memories of the American Landscape keeps me coming back for repeated visits- especially when experiencing these staycation blues...

Friday, May 15, 2009

Kenneth Josephson

Ever wonder what it was like going to a photo gallery in SoHo in NYC in the mid 70's? Well you can experience somewhat of a flashback at The Robert Koch Gallery in San Francisco this May/June. Of course, if you've been raised on super sized, color big macs- you may leave a tad underwhelmed. But if you approach this bit of "nostalgia" with an open mind, you may find these "undersized," monochromatic happy meals every bit as captivating and intriguing as their poster sized color cousins. Allow yourself the pleasure of being drawn into the photographs gradually, exploring the images' secrets and details on a more intimate level, rather than having them thrust from a wall across the room.

Kenneth Josephson is a photographer who incorporates the conceptual process within traditional B&W documentary context. His playful, witty juxtapositions of photographs and landscapes have been duplicated over the decades, but the original riffs still ring true...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Noah Beil- @ Photocartographies

Noah Beil (featured here at RF and more recently at Expiration Notice) will be exhibiting at the g727 Gallery starting this Saturday, 5/16. Noah's Mountain As Monument will be part of the Photocartographies show along with photographers the likes of Frank Gohlke and David Maisel. A big and well deserved Congrats- and a book is on the way!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


My wife just got herself one of those Canon G10's- amazing little gizmos! Now why can't they come up with a G12 that has a four thirds sensor (double the price), and a coupled rangefinder- triple it. Think of it- a slightly larger G10 (perfect size) with the aforementioned specs, and understandably smaller zoom range (hopefully leaning to the WA), or primes- for say... $1,250.

It's not even a question of technical feasibility anymore, the only question being- would it sell? I'm certainly not the first to propose the above (or similar). Not only would professionals flock to it, it would undoubtedly be the "it" camera to have with all its modern digital/retro cool! And would certainly solve this conundrum...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

UFO Whackos (cont.)...

J Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI from its inception in 1935 to 1972, said of a famous incident when flying saucers were allegedly fired at over Los Angeles in 1942: "We must insist upon full access to disks recovered. For instance, in the LA case the Army grabbed it and would not let us have it for cursory examination."

Mikhail Gorbachev, the USSR's last head of state: "The phenomenon of UFOs does exist, and it must be treated seriously."

How Could It Be Possible!?

I'm always amused when people ask how the government can keep UFO's a secret if they're everywhere. It's not unlike asking- How can the most abhorrently obvious results of racism and failed economic policy combined be kept "hidden" from an entire nation when out in plain sight in one of its largest cities (for how many years before the current housing crisis)?
(photo via: TYWKIWDBI )

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Ber Murphy's Sleeping Giant on view...

Sleeping Giant/11101 Rezoned can now be seen at the FXFOWLE Gallery in NYC. I've posted on Ber Murphy before, and as much as I regret not posting this in time for his opening, I regret even more not being able to see his prints there myself. If you're in NYC... (click photo for details).

Friday, May 8, 2009

Missing Photo Blog...

It kinda dawned on me yesterday after directing someone to the whereabouts of a certain "missing" photo blog... That's exactly one person more than said blogger ever directed our way when we launched Expiration Notice.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

I, Tokyo- Jacob Aue Sobol

I, Tokyo by Jacob Aue Sobol is chock full of tightly composed portraits and other highly dynamic photos- all B&W, all high contrast. Although a small handful may try a little too hard, the major reason I won't be buying this book is that too many of the images bleed into one another (see below), and together with the high contrast, I found myself once too often asking if I was looking at one picture or two, and what the hell was I looking at anyhow?

For the life of me, I don't understand why photographers allow themselves to be party to an overbearing, graphic presentation that cheapens their images, confuses the viewer and lessens the overall viewing experience and appreciation of those images.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Dreaming To Buy...

The recent camera countdown on TOP got me to thinking what I'd like to get somewhere down the road to replace my aging "kit" (first time I've ever actually used that term, I swear)- a Nikon F100, N80, 20mm, 16mm FF fish eye, 20-35mm zoom, and Widelux. At first I was going to write about what I could possibly afford, but that would be a depressingly short post- so I'll just fantasize away...

Recently, I held a Nikon D700, the FF sensor camera I've long awaited so I could use my Nikkor glass uncropped and finally enter the digital era. Alas, there was no spark- and good thing too since I can't afford the damn thing anyway. A very capable tool (no doubt), it's still one butt ugly digital recording device. What I'd really like is a stripped down, smaller, cheaper, FF version (not a still more expensive D700x)- highly unlikely due to the plethora of Nikon's cheaper, smaller sensor models. So what out there excites me?Well, I'd love to "downsize" in the future- if I'm not going to have the technical convenience of digital, I'll settle for the practical convenience of increased portability. A Bessa R4M would do nicely; sleek, small, relatively cheap with a built in viewfinder for those 21 and 28mm dime sized lenses- I could live out my remaining years in classic film camera, retro cool! Of course, I'd also be sacrificing versatility- won't be able to compose as accurately, won't be able to come in as close, and won't be able to use a trusty FF fish eye when all else fails. But my shoulder and back would adore me! Did I mention just how damn cool it looks?
Or maybe I'll just get one of these rarer, used Plaubel Makina W67 beauties and just forget about other lenses completely! Sharp 55mm lens (28mm equivalent- 35mm format), great quality format, and if it or my trusty W8 Widelux (yes, I'm keeping that) can't handle the situation-- I just keep walking... Sweet.
And what about one of these Olympus 620 cuties? Not only is it small, it also has something that every "serious" digital camera should have standard- multiple "formats." That's a lot more of a godsend to photographers than video! Great having the option to compose square- but how is it looking out that tiny viewfinder?
Then again, maybe a Samsung NX (or equivalent) is in my future- also highly portable, cute, digital and very attractive if accompanied by a WA zoom. But how does the world look through an electronic viewfinder? I just can't get serious composing through that back window viewing thingie. But then, haven't large format photographers been doing it for centuries- and upside down at that!Every possibility has its distinct advantages and limitations, but one of these d... years, I'll finally make my move- or not. And while I'm fantasizing, I'll take one of these to print up all my neat new work, and one of these to make it easier. And don't bother looking for me, cause I'll be scouting out new shooting locations in one of these...

Monday, May 4, 2009

Nan Brown's Trailer Portraits

In addition to discovering the work of David Wilson in the bins at Rayko, I was also fortunate to come across the work of Nan Brown. She doesn't seem to have a website, a shame since she has one of the better typological essays I've seen.

Ms. Brown photographs trailers, not lengthwise (not their "bodies"), but their ends- their "faces," so to speak. In fact, she refers to them as "portraits," and I couldn't agree more, each one very much with its own distinct and very individual character and personality! These handsomely small, B&W, square format prints are proof positive that photographic art relies primarily on imagination, resourcefulness and creativity- and is not necessarily measured and appreciated by the foot...

photos: Nan Brown

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Guilt Of Buying Art

I actually bought a photographic print this week. I'm in debt (emergency family stuff, not wild spending), don't own a home or even a car- but I bought a piece of art. I can't afford a printer, inks and paper- but I spent money on a print, something I can no longer afford to make myself. Worse yet, far worse, people worldwide are being persecuted, starved, tortured, killed, maimed and made homeless- and instead of throwing a few more pennies their way to ease their suffering, I chose to spend those few dollars on a completely selfish, bourgeois commodity.

A few years ago I could've bought a beautiful panoramic, about four foot long as I recall and in pristine condition. It was some military type group photo from the 20's, gorgeous, and in a handsome old wooden frame (with glass)- a complete and absolute steal at a mere $250. Will regret not getting it till the day I die! So when I saw the handsomely matted print above (and I'm not one who usually goes for the manipulated stuff) at Rayko by David Wilson (the jpeg does no justice) that was humorously provocative, beautifully composed, and also at a drop dead price- I just knew I couldn't survive two such missed opportunities in my lifetime. So you see, I really had no choice... and at very least, this time I'd be helping out a fellow photographer.

Friday, May 1, 2009