Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010- Smooth Sailing!

I think 2010 will be the year when we finally get our heads on straight, start fixing the global warming fiasco in a meaningful, productive manner, realize that we can best fight global terrorism by addressing its root causes, and  sign a truly comprehensive, health care reform bill in the US.

Damn, those Ambien sure do get ya a sound night's sleep!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Photo: No.33

I've seen many pictures with similar subject matter, so have we all- many whose aesthetics were considerably keener, lighting more dramatic, composition more dynamic. In an age where even we self professed lovers of grand photographic images pass over the most compelling of images in seconds' time, this one made me stop full and complete. Perhaps it was the very lack of artifice that first commanded my attention; the image is chilling as it takes us to death's door, and keeps us there- alarmed, vulnerable and uncertain. Are we here to witness the life affirming power of love? Or are we once again left with the mournful echoes of a mother's cries, holding the dying hope of mankind?    (AP Photo/Adem Hadei)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Known Universe...

And this but the briefest, most fleeting glimpse of the snapshot we know as our universe... Think of those primitive, preColumbian maps of the known world and multiply exponentially...   (via Huffpo)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Intellectual Curiosity...

I suppose this is why a fellow (photo) blogger called this blog too prolific (ie- off topic?), and definitely why another more Conscientious blogger ceased altogether our occasional correspondence in a near hysterical tirade some years back. Isn't the sum of our life and cognitive experiences part and parcel of what becomes and is ultimately expressed in our creative endeavors?

What is suprising, is when a man of impeccable credentials and accomplishments, a man the stature of Dr. John E. Mack is attacked for merely studying a phenomena that is both widely occurring and yet willfully ignored and gleefully ridiculed by the prevailing scientific community. For his diligent investigative efforts, Dr. Mack's career, position, and yes, very sanity were challenged by those of lesser intellectual prowess, a very potent example of what Professor Stephen Braude calls- Intellectual Cowardice.

Dr. Mack, unfortunately is no longer with us, but not before he had to vigorously defend himself (in and out of court) from both his detractors, and those who lusted for his job and position. Undaunted, he continued to demonstrate that a very significant portion of those who claimed alien contact were not, in fact, delusional, psychotic or the victims of childhood sexual trauma- afterall, he had had considerable expertise in studying, investigating, and defining the aforementioned.

Dr. Mack was adamant that our very limited mindset reliant on pure physical evidence blinded us to the very existence of realities beyond our own three dimensional universe. In an age where we are now beginning to speak in terms of a multiverse (as if our own universe of billions of galaxies each with their own billions of star systems and planets is not overwhelming enough to contemplate in and of itself) and of Super String Theory with its possibilities of multiple dimensions, why oh why do we freak when we contemplate the very consequences such theories afford, that there can be beings, other than our own foolish monkey selves, who can visit and study us just as we in turn interact with the "lesser" creatures in our own more limited realm? Believing that impossible is as naive as believing in a bearded god who created our planet 6,000 years ago in six days...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Intellectual Cowardice

Stephen Braude chairs the Philosophy Dept. at The University of Maryland. He also happens to study and investigate paranormal activity, exposing charlatans along the way- in addition to making note of those extraordinary people and instances which logic or science cannot properly explain.  Such is the case of The Gold Leaf Lady who manifests "gold leaf" (actually brass) on her skin, a condition science cannot explain (the amount needed to manifest this anomaly would be lethal inside one's body).

Braude's assertion is one that serious "UFOlogists" have opined for decades. He accuses many scientists of "intellectual cowardice," and of "criticizing without evidence." Fortunately, a handful of scientists and academics do not retreat from the unknown, among them: astrophysicists Jacques Vallee and Allen Hyneck (the latter was head of Project Bluebook- which he quit in disgust) and former embattled professor of the Harvard Psychiatric Dept., Dr. John E. Mack.

Make no doubt, many pilots and some scientists do talk behind closed doors, but the professional and financial pressure to not go there is phenomenal. Scientists and professionals lose grants, prestige... careers.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Thing

Perhps this is the right time to sneak this in as everyone opens their presents. I took a picture of this thing, this thing on the sidewalk. And I have no clue what the damn thing is. It's not a refrigerator, in fact, closer inspection revealed the thing was hollow and made of wood- and looked to be but part of a yet larger unknown thing.

The real problem is that I don't even know if I like the picture of the thing. And I usually have no problem whatsoever editing. But the thing is a thing unto itself. If it was just one picture of a larger series of unkown things, or an essay of the thing in different places doing different things, it would at least have some kind of relative relevance. It might even work its way up to becoming the money shot in an essay of unknown things. But alas, it is just one meaningless, solitary photo of a thing unknown. And yet, it compels me to look at it. Proud, defiant, almost noble in its cause- and we shall never speak of it again (though I'm betting everyone has a thing somewhere in their archives)...

Thursday, December 24, 2009


And on a serious note folks- if you haven't done your good deed for the day... there's still time here, and here (and the latter here is absolutely free). Peace!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Steer Clear?

You can bet if I hit this bastard upside the head a few times, I'd definitely be up on charges, right quick! Apparently though, no problem if he wants to assault me with a multi-ton vehicle. Good comment thread...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Journey Of Consciousness- Bruce Davidson

Wow! A three volume, 800 photograph collection from Steidl- all the old faves, some never published... and work from his most recent urban landscape projects on LA and Paris. If you don't have any of Maestro Davidson's previous work, Journey of Consciousness is one helluva way to catch up.

BTW, maestro in Spanish means teacher, and this is one Puerto Rican who to this day feels honored to have had some small segment of his people documented by Davidson in E100st. Everyone of his photographs comes with a free workshop, not only in how to see and photograph, but how to treat the subject matter, whatever it may be, with the dignity and respect it deserves.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Avatar And Beyond

Got this interesting email today referring me to a post on, of all things, the movie Avatar- a movie I'd already sworn not to see for numerous reasons. Specifically, it highlights the racial baggage this movie and others of its genre incorporate. repackage and disseminate. Interesting reading...

Personally, I find the current Hollywood extrvaganza The Blind Side, which has Sandra Bullock serving as iconic surrogate mother and savior of the black race, infinitely more offensive. Mario Van Peebles once related that when he was pitching his idea for a movie on The Black Panthers, one of the Hollywood execs suggested a scenario in which the down on their luck Panthers were sheltered and reinvigorated by one very forward thinking (white) teacher. Yes, you can make it up- especially when it comes to history...

This in itself is, of course, fodder for extended writng, debate and discussion- alas it's Saturday, and I'm off to work. Yes, work... on a Saturday.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Hiring @ VII- The Gary Knight Blues

Enough has certainly been made of the now infamous James Nachtwey Want Ad. Personally, I took a more hands on approach back in my very abbreviated non career as an assistant when someone refused to pay up.

But the job specs that really got my attention this year was Gary Knight's requirement for integrating VII. First, he went through some rather intense soul searching to elucidate just how diverse the multiverse of photographers at VII already were in every possible, conceivable way- except when it comes to... uhh... race. Therefore, he reasoned the only way to truly integrate VII's line up in a righteous manner would be to incorporate a non-white from some non-Westernized country. That's right, all you ghetto, slum and favela dwellers shunned by lighter skinned society need not apply- you all tainted, so don't you be wasting ol' Gary's time. Only a pure and noble savage specimen can let loose the Third World, One World, feel good vibes at VII. So if you show up portfolio in hand at VII's front door, make sure you do so in indigenous, native garb- something practical, fairly conservative, but, ya know, "colorful" all the same. Ethnic, that's it! And a pleasingly lyrical (albeit slight and not too difficult to understand) accent would also help cheer up the place.

When we finally got the discussion on racism started last June, I expected the haters, the indifferent, and those simply without clue- that's a given. What still takes me for the royal loop are those who really should know better, those who are supposedly "enlightened," who come out with a statement that reeks of the most rampant neocolonialism imaginable! Do we take him at his word- that he wants a real show piece, something so exotic no one will ever question just how broad minded they truly are? Hell, they could even send it out on tour if they ever get tired of displaying it in office!

Or is he just slick and media savvy enough to cleverly divert attention and confuse concurrent issues? How's that coming along, Gary?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Bamako Photography Festival Blog

Haven't had the time to read any of this, but since it was sent to me by John Edwin Mason- until I do, I'll take him at his word that it's brilliant, funny and infuriating...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Into Every Life...

If not for the passing of a very good friend, this would have been a very good year indeed- from a purely selfish point of view. Copublished an online magazine, helped initiate a much needed conversation on race and photography, and even managed to take a few memorable keepers for good measure.

Also made a point of posting daily at Reciprocity Failure, and pretty much succeeded (though I don't know how much longer that can continue). I hope to Blurb my first book this summer, so am currently in the process of editing around forty 35mm silver neg scans- no fun feat. I've got a dozen in the tank thus far, and although familiar with the trials and tribulations of Blurb quality, what "reasonably priced" alternative is there? Truth is, I've seen plenty of monographs by name photographers where the quality was considerably less than exemplary...

And while I'm definitely looking forward to participating in the interblog web Symposium on Race & Photography come this Spring, as well as contributing a few posts for Bag News Notes- the thing I treasured most this year was being privileged to make friends and/or correspond with the likes of: Benjamin Chesterton of Duckrabbit, Mark Page of Manchester Photography, Peter Brook of Prison Photography, Jim Johnson of Politics, Theory and Photography, Mike Johnston of TOP, and Michael Shaw of Bag News Notes, in addition to quite a few photographers ("virtual" though they may be, it's definitely preferable to operating in a virtual vacuum). And certainly don't mean to name drop here- these are all busy people who simply made the time to treat a stranger on equal terms. Of course, there are always those who simply choose to look down on one for whatever reason, always have been (met plenty in NYC), always will- but we're gonna keep this upful and bright, there's enough serious shit to go round the planet.

So I'm hoping everyone a good holiday season as we get through the godawful, prerequisite, commercial blight, and remember those forgotten and those in true need- and, as ever, thanks for dropping by!

Good Night, James...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sulaiman Ellison- African Mosaics

Photo: Sulaiman Ellison

In interest of full disclosure, Sulaiman and I go back to my NYC roots when we'd bump into eachother on various street corners, and console eachother on how close we came to this or just missed out on that, and how humbled we were by that show or the other. Mutually addicted to seeing great images, while striving to create a few of our own. Enclosed is some of his earlier B&W work, African Mosaics, which caught my attention then- and still do to this day... (scans from prints).


Thursday, December 10, 2009

The 2009 Bamako African Photography Biennial

Photo: Arwa Abouon

Thanks to John Edwin Mason and Peter Brook for turning me on to The 2009 Bamako African Photography Biennial showcased on Qiana Mestrich's Dodge & Burn blog. I've never seen, heard or read anything about this biennial anywhere at anytime (although it should be noted that I did find some mention at PDN, although as a nonsubscriber I can't access it). Except for Fazal Sheikh and Jodi Beiber, I was unfamiliar with the photographers listed (who represent a variety of disciplines and approaches), so it was great going through and coming up with some finds- particularly Yo-Yo Gonthier's Overseas Monuments, Memories of Colonialism...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Two for Christmas...

Photo: Vanessa Winship

Two books I'm hoping Santa will throw my way. One is Sweet Nothings by photographer Vanessa Winship, who you're probably already familiar with. Finally saw it the other day, and while already a great fan of her work, I also loved the relatively small size of her book.

The other is Protest Photographs by Chauncey Hare, a name which may only be familiar to those who harken back to the '70s, since his work is not readily available online and apparently hasn't photographed in quite some time. And while Hare's photos may echo Walker Evans, the former's work also seemed to foreshadow much of what was in turn to follow. Hare however, was certainly not the elitist Evans was (Robert Frank's assessment, not mine)- sadly, they don't make many human beings the likes of a Chauncey Hare, in any decade...

The reproductions in Protest Photographs are supposedly top notch; more on Mr. Hare at Exposure Project and 5b4.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

"We have three bodies and no explanation..."

"Do you think it's physically possible for a prisoner to have committed suicide the way the military report describes -- binding his own hands and feet, stuffing cloth down his throat, and hanging himself from the metal mesh of a cell?"

The Last Decent American?

What happens when an American does the right thing? They get sent to the crapper- what else?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Tis The Season...

Much as I try to ignore it, it's that godforsaken time of the season again. Now I got nothing against Christmas mind ya, and would actually kinda enjoy it, if it wasn't pushed on us earlier and earlier each and every damn year (actually saw some decorations going up in October before Halloween here in "don't call it Frisco"). But as we actually grow closer (ie- the month of December) things like Sketchy Santa really help set the mood.

And as good as that essay is, it still cant hold a candle to this Science Fair essay in quality or quantity. It would be interesting to have someone do a "serious" essay on this subject- but they better bring their A game, cause these snaps are sure damn hard to beat!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Messenger

One very powerful little movie that reveals itself slowly, methodically, like peeling the proverbial onion. And without lecture or ideology, shows us the devestating emotional after effects of war from two very weary members of the Army’s Casualty Notification service.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Aint Greed Grand!

Photo: Alex Masi

Twenty-five years later and the survivors of Bhopal continue to suffer, their next generation is born disabled and those remaining are left to drink poisoned water. Meanwhile, the retired president of Union Carbide who presided over this chemical catastophe lives comfortably in the Hamptons- and I don't think brown people of any nationality are foremost on his mind. Afterall, their settlement of one thousand dollars per individual should cover a lifetime's worth of debilitating misery and suffering- and that of their children, and...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Alex Welsh- Hunters Point

One begins to understand that which is foreign by committing the time and effort necessary to explore and interact with that "foreignness" in a personal and intimate matter. It's called stating the obvious, something our elders, the supposedly more learned of our population, should be readily familiar with. And yet, so many content themselves with following the bloviating pontifications of those who profess the knowledge and wisdom accrued from their own limitations, misconceptions and self serving prejudices conveniently gathered from the obscuring comfort of distance.

Hunters Point is a polluted, post industrial neighborhood tucked away in one of the farthest reaches of San Francisco. Isolated, and partially situated on a hillside, it reminds one of nothing less than a favela in Rio or Sao Paulo. You don't elect to go there, unless you live there; local media avoid it at all cost. Alex Welsh is a young, budding photojournalist who took the time, made the effort, and yes, assumed the risk to acquaint himself with a community shunned and ignored by the famous city on the bay, and in the process emerged with several worthy insights into its everyday life and residents- as well as a remarkable set of images...  (via DVA Photo)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Perfect Christmas Gift?

Talk about the ultimate Holiday Gift that everyone can afford! You don't have to buy anything, don't even have to go knocking on doors or picking up phones.  A simple email will suffice, a simple email that will tell these people that they exist, they matter, and are not just the forgotten victims of some nameless, useless, godforsaken war.  How can any of us deny such a simple gesture of our own humanity?
And pass it on...

(Another righteous Benjamin Chesterton production)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

An Open Letter...

"With just one speech... you will turn a multitude of young people who were the backbone of your campaign into disillusioned cynics. You will teach them what they've always heard is true — that all politicians are alike. I simply can't believe you're about to do what they say you are going to do. Please say it isn't so." – Michael Moore

But it is...