Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

3 Is The Loneliest #

Sure, everyone lamented long and hard over the demise of Polaroid and Kodachrome- but not one single tear was shed Mr. Spotone's way. Yet how many fiber based B&W prints would've hung on gallery walls without him? And there above lies one of the last remaining bottles of Spotone in photographic history- and it's mine! The liquid that has since come out to replace it (different manufacturer) supposedly sucks, but I'm hardly in a celebratory mood since I no longer have a darkroom.

For you digital young bloods- any B&W printer worth his salt could be seen with a #00 or #000 brush (yes, we were all pointillists back in the day) in one hand, and print in the other along with a bottle of #3 (the anally inclined could also mix it with #1 or #2 to make it warmer or cooler to match the color temp of the specific papers, particularly for a large spotting/retouch job). You'd place brush in liquid, work off the excess, then dab your tongue with it to get the appropriate density that matched the area you were going to spot.

I mention the latter because it was none other than Alex Harsley, who himself had suffered significant ill effects from prolonged darkroom exposure, that brought to my attention that one of Spotones's key ingredients was none other than a particular form of cyanide! I gave him a look upon hearing that one- he returned one better.

WE'VE BEEN WARNED!

Although I'm often made to feel the raving, ranting, lunatic fool whenever I make mention of this- THE WRITING'S ON THE WALL, FOLKS! This planet's fucked- BIGTIME! The signs are all around us, and they have nothing to do with that ol' time religion or mystic prophecy- and everything to do with that thing we once believed and took stock in-- S-C-I-E-N-C-E.

...the last time the planet was likely more than a degree or so warmer than today, sea levels were around 20 feet higher due to significant melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets....

Our lives of quiet desperation will, in several decades time, be replaced with panic of worldwide proportion. Now, my withered self will be ready to move on out unnoticed (hopefully, drink in hand) with the incoming tide when the time comes- but all you with children out there, I don't understand how you guys can remain so freaking bloody calm. This is gonna out Hollywood any Hollywood global catastrophe and last way longer than an hour and a half, and Mr. Krugman, here, makes no mention whatsoever of the concurrent major conflicts that will also arise in response. The second half of this century will be a very, very different place for those lucky(?) enough to survive...

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Baader Meinhof Complex

In addition to having the most chillingly realistic recreation of police violence at a demonstration, The Baader Meinhof Complex chronicles what happens when violence is introduced as a viable component in maintaining and invigorating a worthy and noble ideology. It's not long before said ideology is at first influenced and then outright corrupted by violence. Of course, some would say it happens the minute it is introduced. A fine line indeed...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Warm And Sunny California

The only time I deal with color is when I look at other people's color photos, but even I've noticed the recent autumnal change of light (beautiful), along with the seasonal nip of night air...

Friday, September 25, 2009

Why I (Really) HATE Computers

They break me
Reduce me
Make me want to scream and throw and break

So I call for help
Please, Please help me
They tell me to do things
Which I do and don't work
For hours, hours, hours
Then tell me I must pay-
And just before the phone battery dies
I yell and scream and throw things

And the computer always wins.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Lesson In Portraiture... (keep it simple)

I've kept this photo (by the fabulous Zoe Strauss) as wallpaper for a couple of weeks now just to remind me how very simple, and powerful, a good photograph can be. And let's face it- it's about as basic as basic can get. And yet, when was the last time Annie Leibovitz and all her minions (and millions) collaborated on any portrait anywhere near as good?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Arc Of Hatred

I haven't been able to get this image out of my head since I first saw it, and it's one I won't likely forget. It's not a particularly great photograph, a quick snap taken with a long lens. And yet, there's that particularly graceful crimson arc highlighting an otherwise static composition. That ephemeral arc of malice and hatred forever frozen in time, echoing the very deeds that were committed in ghettos almost a century ago now. Oh, you can argue that this seemingly casual, nonchalant "prank" in no way equals the magnitude and ferocity of Nazi genocide. Fair enough. But witness the mindset in this soon to be man that will permit him to just as callously press a button that will launch missiles that wipe out shelters and hospitals, drops outlawed flesh searing phosphorous armaments over schools, or turns a blind eye to those who would commit mass murder under their auspices as occurred in Lebanon.

The point is- this is how it starts, we know where it leads, and we should really all know better...

Photo by: Rina Castelnuovo/The New York Times

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Snake Box Odyssey- Paul Close


I first saw The Snake Box Odyssey by Paul Close on Colin Pantall's blog and meant to get back to it, but then had major problems via my computer- fortunately, the Duckrabbit has redirected my attention. In the meantime, I thoroughly apologize (theoretically) to all the poorly paid underlings I so thoroughly abused over the phone in the name of large faceless corporations...

I usually don't fall for such visual "gimmickry," but I think the studio backdrops incorporated into these compositions really work aesthetically. And it certainly proves that with a little ingenuity, one can in fact, take interesting, original pictures in Africa that don't have wild animals, child soldiers, or dying refugees... These are a joy to look at (can't wait for the book)!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

S...O...S...

Can someone, anyone please help us? I grew up in a country that prided itself on not being subject to the whims of cults and superstition. We were a country of logic and science, unlike those primitive peoples in backward countries...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Leicas, And The Rest Of Us...

What I lust for...

Sometimes you just a need a change of pace, however big, however small, and although I've grown up and "matured" on 35mm SLR's, there's always been that green and envious part of me that wants to be the classic 60's Leica toting photog. A lot of it has to do with the handling of said instrument, there's a sensuality and finesse to it that's absent from their larger, clunkier, more pedestrian cousins. Its sensuous, elegant curves and elite simplicity longingly suggest success without compromise- and photographing with Leica in hand is nothing less than a subdued but highly theatrical tour de force. The hands caress, the fingers glide as they focus, release and advance in predetermined orchestration. It's a type of refined athleticism seen in sports at their most fluid and graceful- in basketball we call such a practitioner a "pure shooter." A highly stylized, but highly effective performance.

Lately, the green eyed monster has me ritually ogling every M6 to be found on eBay. Of course, I couldn't afford one twenty years ago, and can't afford one now. So I then began to look at their decidedly humbler kin, the Bessa R4M. And truth is- definitely not as precious, but with a very decided presence all very much their own... next door's MaryAnn to Hollywood's Ginger! Sure the Leica legend is no way present, but at very least you're in the select rangefinder ambiance. And the R4M's have... built in coupled viewfinders for 21mm's!

What I considered.

It's just that I'm really, really sick of large, plasticky DSLR's (even though I've never owned one) and their phallic zoom lenses toting those horrid, lotus petal lens hoods. This is not a digital v film thang, simply a matter of (life) style- and perhaps a bit more. I want to thread film again, advance it manually, feel the certainty of metal pressed against my hands. I miss much of that even with the analogue SLR's I now own.

So, am I selling off the old kit to make a few pennies towards a new Bessa and a couple of razor sharp, dime sized Color-Skopars? Not exactly, at least... not yet. If I was going back to live in NYC and devote myself to street portraiture, if I was going to travel the world relentlessly (if only!)- that's exactly what I'd do (and how my shoulders and back would thank me). But I most likely, probably will- eventually... really.

As precision defined as even the fabled Leica is- it's viewfinder (particularly the auxiliaries) is a mere approximation of the image at hand, as with all rangefinders. I've gotten used to blaming one thing, and one thing only if my picture does not turn out right- me! And I know damn well that even with the coupled WA Bessa, composition will not be as precise- nor will I be able to focus as tight. So I'm "willing" to put off those sexy little RF's- for one more decade.

In the meantime, I've picked up one of these ever so cute and tiny Nikon FG's in near Mint Cond for dirt cheap ($75). Like most cameras this age though, they will need resealing- more on that later. Super compact, mostly metal and just look at them curves- not to mention that classy, cool ass shutter release/shutter speed dial combo with a... double jointed ratcheted film advance lever- does technology know no bounds? It's gonna replace my thoroughly scuffed N80 vunderplastic as my new, everyday, retro chic apparel. And though I'm in no rush to sell off my venerable F100, if things work out, I just may get me a second FG and start a small cult, or not. Hell, they don't even have a DOF preview- neither do Leica's...

Change I can almost believe in.

Monday, September 14, 2009

West Coast Photographic History

Last Monday (Labor Day), several of the greatest living photographic minds anywhere got together to discuss the present day state of photography. Pete Brook (Seattle), Noah Beil (Oakland) and Alan George, David Wolf and myself (San Fransisco) were all present and accounted for as we raised, debated and solved every relevant photographic issue and controversy to date. Mark Page, unfortunately, could not attend due to the limited restrictions of his Greater Manchester Public Transport Executive "Mega Rider" ticket.

Beer was drunk, fun was had. Annie- we coulda saved you millions! Serious...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Bruce Haley Post-Apocalyptic Photo Contest

In order to subjugate the mind warping, physically debilitating effects of the dreaded swine flu, famous conflict and environmental photographer Bruce Haley has conjured up (much to our benefit) a bit of a "contest" to kill time while he convalesces:

I dumped almost 400 industrial images (398, actually) into a section entitled "The Post-Apocalyptic World" - these are all straight scans, no adjustments, no spotting, etc., so it's like opening my contact sheets to other photographers, to see how I shoot this stuff... or it's almost like exploring these crazy places right alongside of me... as for the contest - it's like a post-apocalyptic "Where's Waldo?" - amidst huge swaths of wasteland and dead machinery, there are six people and a dog.... so the first five people who find them will receive a free copy of my limited-edition portfolio...

Update: As of 8AM Pacific Coast Time, some have come close, but still no cigars... Great Prize- and get better, Bruce!

Flying with Robert Capa...

Photo: Gerda Taro

So I'm running like a fiend (hoping I wouldn't be tackled as some swarthy terrorist type fleeing the authorities) to make my connecting flight (my initial flight arrived late) in the appropriately Texas sized, Houston terminal when I spot something called a FOX News Store, and of course, I had to slow down to a jog just to steady the pulse and see if I was hallucinating the entire affair, only to speed up and then slow down yet again as I spot a larger than life statue of George Bush The First casually tossing his jacket over his shoulder mid stroll like some WWII era fashion model. In that surreal daze I still managed to jump onto one of those airport golf carts that got me to my gate just in time to close the plane door directly behind my sorry ass. It was during the four cumulative flights between NYC and SF that I was able to start and finish Blood and Champagne, the bio of Robert Capa by Alex Kershaw. One of my favorite parts in the book was when Capa jumped into a ditch during The Spanish Civil War to evade an oncoming Stuka. He then decides to introduce himself to the two other current inhabitants of said ditch:

"I am a photographer." The next man said: "I am A Basque Catholic." The third man said: "Those are two professions that are of no use at the moment."

And I still can't believe this made for Hollywood bio epic still hasn't hit the silver screen (imagine Tom Cruise with bushy brows)!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Only In NY- Steven Hirsch

Perhaps all the portraits of Courthouse Confessions by Steven Hirsch cannot be classified as "art" portraiture, but they certainly do stand up as individual works of "art" when viewed together with their short and insightful subject interviews. And it certainly does prove to one extent or the other, the catchphrase "Only in NY."

That said, many of these portraits are strong enough to stand on their own, visually and aesthetically, and show just how far you can go by being imaginative with an absolute minimum of background and lighting. Contrast this bare bones approach to creativity with the bloated, overdone, over everything approach of an Annie Leibovitz..

Out of Pocket Costs for Medical Care are the #1 Cause of Bankruptcy in the US

I thought of this as I watched my friend slowly die from the ravages of cancer, his worn but devoted family closely at hand. Last night, I was proud of my president, he hit all the major points and all the major players, and hit them hard. He did not falter and he did not equivocate- last night he was a leader, someone who inspired us to those things greater. And it was long coming...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

R-F Update...

I'll be heading back "home" to NYC for a few days to see a good friend, probably for the very last time. Sometimes one can make sense of things, even learn from 'em- other times, it just don't make a lick of sense...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day, U...S...A!

Labor Day is when we celebrate the US worker. We're not allowed to celebrate with everyone else in the world on the more traditional May Day because that would be (gasp!)... Socialist- Communist even! And, of course, we no longer have any unions of real consequence, because our beloved predatory capitalist system has outsourced so many of our worthwhile manufacturing jobs to foreign countries (the major one being... Communist). So it all kinda goes in one big, nonsensical circle, as we happily continue to voluntarily kick ourselves in the ass! Healthcare anyone?

CAPITALISM: A Love Story- Michael Moore

Sunday, September 6, 2009

US Casualty Censorship

[Julie Jacobson- AP]

We delighted when Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf joked about the killing of Iraqi soldiers as he narrated their deaths in aerial video game mode during the first Gulf War. We think nothing of the havoc we later brought to Iraq as entire families were blown up daily on their own streets, and remaining family members abducted to prisons to be falsely imprisoned and tortured.

While I can deeply respect the feelings and motivations behind the family of Marine Lance Corporal Joshua M. Bernard, I must strongly disagree with the role of censoring documentation of US battle deaths. We are absolutely free to publish and view a plethora of images featuring dead and mutilated bodies of "the other" from every corner of the world- and yet, when it comes to American dead (whose origins come from throughout said corners of the world), only then does it become sacrilegious, immoral and perverse; and therefore perpetrates the notion that American lives are somehow more worthy and sacred- and the rest of mankind significantly less. It's the first crucial step that allows us license to consider and then execute the killing of whatever group or nation of people we so choose.

Can Europe Laugh At Itself?

Czech artist/provocateur David Cerny's trying to find out- at the continent's expense... Photo: Olivier Hoslet/Euro Press

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Thank You, Mike Malloy!

For everything you say and do. And for being the only voice thus far who has called it right- that all the maniacal rantings of these ultra right wingnut Republicans in office, on radio, and TV serve one purpose- to rile up the lunatic fringe far enough so that one maniac succeeds in assinating our first black President.

Lynn Jenkins- Save Us Mighty White Man

As if that mug don't make lasting impression enough, what comes out of all those teeth attached to Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan) is nothing less than a mighty conservative shout out to beckon "The Great White Hope" from the cast of dimmest bulbs imaginable...

RIP- Christian Poveda

(AP Photo/La Prensa Grafica)

For putting your life on the line on behalf of furthering understanding on how societies create and disseminate the volatile mixture of victim and predator known as gang members...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Glenn Beck Raped and Murdered A Young Girl...

... in 1990! I'm probably late to the park on this one, but this is perhaps the funniest and most on point satire since Dr. Laura's nude photos of herself got online (which she sued to get off the internet, all the while denying that they were, in fact, pictures of her)!

For all you "foreigners" unfamiliar with the insanity of American ways, Glenn Beck is an idiot right wing ass clown on FOX "News" who literally foams at the mouth to the delight of his equally gifted idiot fans. For blatant got ya lying see here, for atrocious spelling and piss poor conspiracy theory- here, and for his latest shtick, you can roll your eyes at his uniquely insightful degenerate art theory and criticism.

"Dr." Laura (her doctorate is in physiology, as opposed to say... psychology, counseling, ethics, etc) is a right wing moralist nut job who revels in belittling and demeaning those callers on her radio advice program who need the most help. Her photos from a previous life amply demonstrate exactly why she excels in humiliating callers who have fallen off the short and narrow path of righteousness... And as if further proof of her impeccable moral virtue was necessary, it certainly appears that her own son did not escape her unscathed...

Scorned And Rejected By His American Peers...

Stan B. (like Jerry Lewis and Sly Stallone before him) has found solace and acceptance among the art loving throngs of sophisticated Parisian citizenry found @Pari.

Personal faves include: Shane Lavalette, Louis Porter, Jacqueline Salmon and Dara McGrath...

BTW- Lookin' good mus-mus (but would've been nice if you'd have notified the participants)...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ibrahim Jassam- Imprisoned Journalist

More than half a year into it, we still have: a widening war, rendition, Blackwater (XE) Mercs, legalized domestic spying, kowtowing to Republicans, corporations, financial institutions, etc, etc, etc... Change we've yet to live in!

So it's no surprise that despite being ordered released by the Iraqi courts, Iraqi photojournalist Ibrahim Jassam still languishes in jail for ......

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Andrew Borowiec- Undervalued Master



There are so many good photographers out there, an all too obvious given. Refine that to "master" photographers, and the list shortens considerably, especially when speaking of currently active photographers. For the sake of argument and definition, I'll simply define a "master photographer" as one who has produced exceptionally high quality work- and lots of it. Of course, the main sticking point there is what constitutes "high quality," and what of artists who produced smaller amounts of work but caused major shifts or changes in the direction of the art form itself (eg- Frank, Arbus, Eggleston, etc)- but I digress. What I'm directly addressing here are photographers who fit my previous definition and are not the common everyday names one would automatically recite. I'm going to mention one- I'd be interested in hearing yours...

Andrew Borowiec is a landscape photographer who photographs in a variety of formats and has recently started documenting in color. Whatever the medium or the subject matter, his compositions have a highly dynamic but meditative quality about them- and after initial viewing, I love inspecting all the intricate little details to be found within those compositions. Why his name, and work, isn't better known, I just don't know...